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posted by mrbluze on Wednesday March 26 2014, @04:50AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the no-really-I-am-actually-doing-work dept.
An anonymous coward links to an article from the Economist about "American officials who play board games to understand war:

Paul Vebber, a gameplay instructor in the navy, says that in the past decade the government has started using strategy board games much more often. They do not help predict outcomes. For that, the Pentagon has forecasting software, which it feeds with data on thousands of variables such as weather and weaponry, supply lines, training and morale. The software is pretty accurate for "tight, sterile" battles, such as those involving tanks in deserts, says an intelligence official. Board games are useful in a different way. They foster the critical but creative thinking needed to win (or avoid) a complex battle or campaign, he says.

The article goes on to explain that board games are advantageous over computer-based games for what is essentially a simulation:

...you can constantly tweak the rules to take account of new insights, says Timothy Wilkie of the National Defence University in Washington, DC. With computer games, this is much harder. Board games can also illuminate the most complex conflicts.

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  • (Score: 2) by GungnirSniper on Wednesday March 26 2014, @04:57AM

    by GungnirSniper (1671) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @04:57AM (#21339) Journal

    I've always thought SimCity gave me urban planning experience.

    • (Score: 1) by meisterister on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:51AM

      by meisterister (949) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:51AM (#21372) Journal

      I've always thought SimCity gave me experience in pelting a city with meteors. FTFY.

      --
      (May or may not have been) Posted from my K6-2, Athlon XP, or Pentium I/II/III.
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by c0lo on Wednesday March 26 2014, @05:14AM

    by c0lo (156) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @05:14AM (#21343) Journal

    Board games can also illuminate the most complex conflicts.

    Yes, that they can... but only a little and only if you set them afire (so that they can cast a light).
    These games (be them board or computer based) will never tell the suffering of those that go through a war experience.

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by unauthorized on Wednesday March 26 2014, @10:19AM

      by unauthorized (3776) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @10:19AM (#21420)

      That's not the point. No matter how much of a tree-hugging hippie you are, you can still have conflict thrust down your throat by an external aggressor. Warfare is rarely willingly indulged by all parties.

      As dehumanizing as it sounds, the suffering of individual people takes a back seat when the <insert bad guys> come to burn down your city.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by c0lo on Wednesday March 26 2014, @11:03AM

        by c0lo (156) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @11:03AM (#21431) Journal

        As dehumanizing as it sounds, the suffering of individual people takes a back seat when the <insert bad guys> come to burn down your city.

        In the context of the TFT(itle), just how a board game can make one "understand the war"?
        I'm actually afraid it is quite the contrary, it won't make you understand the war but offer you the illusion you are "prepared for it", therefore there's no need to actually understand it.

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday March 26 2014, @12:41PM

          by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 26 2014, @12:41PM (#21452)

          "just how a board game can make one "understand the war"?"

          From extensive experience there are three ways:

          1) Given this set of rules which when followed from T=0, you can follow the rules and make historical decisions and end the game at T=something with a historically accurate result. Then stop making historical decisions and see what happens. Much as DnD/Pathfinder is kind of making up a fantasy story as you go along, these guys are making up an alternative military history as they go along. Explore all the aspects of the confederates making just one more big push at the battle of gettysburg. Would they have likely "won"? What else would have resulted? And this covers from really zoomed in tactical picture to world wide picture, depending on game of course.

          2) Given an axe to grind and some noobs to teach, here's a "fun" way to pound that info into their head. What does DVG's Alexander teach you about logistical support problems in the ancient world? What does GMT's COIN series teach you about the practical problems of insurgency / counter insurgency in modern warfare? You have to kind of stay on track here, going all far out isn't necessarily going to mix well with the rules. But you can still learn something, if you don't already know all about the axe to grind.

          3) When its all done, nothing was really accomplished other than destroying a lot of time and equipment. Am I talking about real war or wargames? Both, obviously.

          The biggest illusion problem is the old GIGO problem. If the game designers have irrational rules, you're going to end up with irrational experiences leading to irrational beliefs.

          There are of course rules ranging from realistic to unrealistic and unfortunately that mapping has nothing to do with the mapping for "fun". I own a copy of a semi-legendary german naval WWII solitare simulation game "Steel Wolves" and its very realistic but frankly not the most fun thing to play. In fact its pretty frustrating. And that might be a very realistic portrayal of life in the german navy in WWII. I can see the pentagon point of view that the most educational war games probably do require paying the players to participate, vs the civilian ones mostly being fun enough that we pay near three figures for games.

        • (Score: 1) by unauthorized on Thursday March 27 2014, @10:45AM

          by unauthorized (3776) on Thursday March 27 2014, @10:45AM (#21976)

          That's a strawman argument. I'm arguing that simulating the horrors of war aren't all that helpful to a future general than learning how to deal with cunning enemies and shifting conditions, not about overconfidence issues.

          Wargames are simply one method of training available. There are in no way perfect, but they are also one of the few methods available. Field experience aside, there are no obviously superior ways to practice such skills. It certainly makes sense to include a multitude of learning methods, but in the end, it's better to have some poor experience than none at all.

          So no, you won't understand warfare from playing wargames. But you sure as hell will understand it better than someone whose only military experience is Call of Duty. Skills are not binary states.

          but offer you the illusion you are "prepared for it"
          This is a very interesting (read:insubstantial) claim. Do you have any evidence that mock training leads to significant overconfidence? Do you have any evidence that such overconfidence leads to more errors? Do these errors out-weight the errors committed due to lack of training? And most importantly, how are you sure that this cannot be alleviated through proper training techniques?

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Thexalon on Wednesday March 26 2014, @11:49AM

        by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @11:49AM (#21440)

        Warfare is rarely willingly indulged by all parties.

        Try "never" willingly indulged in by all parties. The civilian population in wherever the war is taking place has absolutely no say in the matter. And if some kind of draft is involved, then neither do many of the combatants.

        Also, there is the simple fact that some wars can't be won, even if you fight them: If the US nukes more of Russia than Russia nukes the US or vice versa, then almost everybody is still dead, because the long-term effects of the nukes in the atmosphere will do in both sides and everyone else caught in the middle (except for those few who survive in the bottom of some of our deeper mine shafts, so long as we don't have a Mine Shaft Gap!)

        --
        The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
        • (Score: 1) by unauthorized on Thursday March 27 2014, @10:50AM

          by unauthorized (3776) on Thursday March 27 2014, @10:50AM (#21977)

          I prefer to reserve absolutes for mathematically provable claims. There is no reason as to why it's impossible to have a war where all parties participate by choice, it's just extremely improbable given human nature.

          • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Thursday March 27 2014, @01:54PM

            by Thexalon (636) on Thursday March 27 2014, @01:54PM (#22047)

            To disprove an absolute, you'd need a counterexample. There simply isn't one in recorded human history. That's as close as you'll get to an absolute in any non-mathematical field of study.

            --
            The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by NCommander on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:08AM

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <mcasadevall@soylentnews.org> on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:08AM (#21360) Homepage Journal

    My dad and I used to play wargames when I kid (he was in his younger days an huge wargamer) and I occasionally pick up and dust one of games off (World War II being my personal favourite given the sheer scope of it). While I won't pretend that any wargame (with the possible exception of The Campaign for North Africa [boardgamegeek.com]) can accurately simulate a battle, its a good way to build up an instinctive way of out of the box thinking, risk management and such, and while my father and I generally evenly matched, occasionally, I'd ruin his day. To this day, I don't think he's ever forgiven me from that one game where he failed to knock France over, and the USSR managed to declare war on him ...

    Actually, looking back now, I think a lot of it helped me personally learn with delayed gratification and managing to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In basically any game with a historical start option, 30-41/42 is very much Axis time, with the Allies basically trying to stay above water. Poland and France will almost always fall, Japan's invasion of China well under way, and the USSR generally takes horrific losses to the better trained Axis units (World in Flames has an Operation Barbarossa which gives you an idea of how much the Soviets bled during the start of the Great Patriotic War). It isn't until the first winter post-Barbarossa or when the United States enters does it become Allied time.

    That being said, such things can't be taken alone in a void. Unless you're working with completely fictional battles, we have the advantage of hindsight, and knowing how the real ones played out. I know for sure Poland will collapse, and that France is likely doomed not long after. This is why I'm fond of games like Diplomacy [boardgamegeek.com] or Days of Decision [boardgamegeek.com] which force you to play the political game, to work with (or against) fellow humans vs. re-enacting historical battles. It is (at least in DOD) possible to get really off the wall scenarios (with the slight disadvantage that Days of Decision can create an unbalanced World In Flames game if those are used in tandem.

    Incidentally, I'm hoping to start a DOD3/WiF:FE PBEM game within the next week. First major war game I've played in ages ...

    --
    Still always moving
    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Boronx on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:34AM

      by Boronx (262) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:34AM (#21369)

      "... and France is likely doomed not long after."

      This is a false lesson. It's only the lack of historical knowledge that doomed France. Its army was as big as Germany's, with as many tanks and planes of as high a quality. Only blinkered leadership led to their destruction. Boardgames and computer games can't enforce poor decision making, so they compensate by falsely weakening France so that they can't win.

      Heck, if France had merely invaded Germany in Fall of '39 while much of the German Army was tied up in Poland, it would have won easily.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by NCommander on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:52AM

        by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <mcasadevall@soylentnews.org> on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:52AM (#21373) Homepage Journal

        I'm aware of the historical truth, there's a reason this period (Germany DOW on Poland until its DOW on the Netherlands) is referred to as the Phony War. The fact is the Allies suffered from a lot of bad leadership (then again, the same could been said for allowing Hilter to run a muck, ceding Czechoslovakia, and other minor countries before they drew the line on Poland). That being said, Hilter gave FDR a free hand to intervene in Europe and get involved, so the idiot ball went both ways.

        I'm of the opinion that had President Wilson's Fourteen Points been headed, World War II would have been avoided (or been a much smaller conflict). The fact is though the Germans saw the Treaty of Versailles as a national insult, combined with the world-wild economy dropping out that created the right situation where Hilter, or another like him could come to power. The French and British demanded a dismantled Germany instead of a lasting peace; the United States returned into isolationism instead of joining the League of Nations, and finally the previously methoned phony war.

        Books have been written about the failure to take the preventive actions required to prevent the war from happening. It's a pity only hindsight is 20-20.

        --
        Still always moving
        • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:54AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @07:54AM (#21388)

          had President Wilson's Fourteen Points been [heeded]

          ...e.g. having the USA join the League of Nations
          (a century-old case of the Congress ignoring the smartest guy in the room).

          -- gewg_

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by rts008 on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:13AM

      by rts008 (3001) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:13AM (#21404)

      I will grant you the learning basic strategy aspect, and patience and determination you alluded to, and DOD having off the wall scenarios(a point worth returning to), being aspects of war games.

      In context of TFA, I'll agree that they are all good teaching tools...but they are extremely limited.

      While they can teach someone to plan effective strategy and tactics, they fail miserably in one major regard: "Murphy's Law of Combat"

      Any combat veteran can tell you...Demon Murphy rules the battlefield.(returning to above referenced point)

      A big part of Demon Murphy's power comes from human decision making, and encompasses too many variables to compute. (note:rules for the war games)
      A 'perfect plan' only exists until you introduce humans, then it falls apart. Maybe Bender had it right to 'fix' this: "Kill all humans." (joking)

      "We did not know enough about the weather in advance", "Who knew that idiot would cancel the supply run!", "Why did we get a shipment of desert gear in the arctic?", SNAFU is Demon Murphy's domain...forget that at your own peril!!!

      As a combat vet who also was responsible for mission planning and execution for my unit, I can assure you that no matter how much you war game, no matter how good at it you are, all of that falls in the toilet with the first mission...and every one after that.

      Compare it to a university degree, then having to get 'on the job training for the real world' when you actually start a job.

      What to do:
      1)plan the mission
      2)backup plan 1
      3)backup plan 2
      4)GOTH plan 1 (Go TO Hell=GOTH ie: when Demon Murphy starts to play...he will, rest assured)
      5)GOTH plan 2
      6)Bend Over and Kiss Your Own A** Goodbye plan(because no one else is going to be around to do it)

      A side note:
      As they taught us in special forces training..."If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying!"
      Translate that as Kirk's solution to the Kobayashi Maru exercise:

      "Saavik's response is, "Then you never faced that situation...faced death." Kirk replies, "I don't believe in the no-win scenario." Despite having cheated, Kirk had been awarded a commendation for "original thinking."(wikipedia)

      Kirk would have recieved an 'Outstanding" rating on the evaluation from my instructors. :-)

      BTW, good luck with your gaming next week, sounds fun...maybe I will have to check out DoD.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by VLM on Wednesday March 26 2014, @12:47PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 26 2014, @12:47PM (#21454)

        "While they can teach someone to plan effective strategy and tactics, they fail miserably in one major regard: "Murphy's Law of Combat""

        I think you'll be surprised to learn they tend to be a spectacular success at this. If you ever play a game like this, or even watch a game on youtube, you'll see lots and lots of dice rolling and the game designers seem to take a perverse thrill in being able to randomly screw up even the simplest plans.

      • (Score: 1) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @02:59PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @02:59PM (#21536)

        no matter how much you war game, no matter how good at it you are, all of that falls in the toilet with the first mission...and every one after that.

        Perhaps you didn't war game enough, and/or are not good at it. The more they are played, the more accurate they are re:rules of the game. Some war games are still woefully inaccurate because they ave not been played enough to take all variables into account. War games are valuable; they teach things. They may not be that valuable in your opinion, but they do have value. I disagree that all of this value "falls in the toilet with the first mission...and every one after that".

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday March 26 2014, @12:54PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 26 2014, @12:54PM (#21457)

      "Campaign for North Africa"

      I LOLed at the BGG line "Playing Time 60000 minutes"

      The 80s were a magic era for ultra long format wargames. Roughly contemporary with that era, some friends of mine were into an epic starfleet wargame, name of which I forget, simulating in great detail the battle between the federation and the romulan star empire. Took them the entire summer and they didn't nearly finish.

      Around the same era there was a full WWII simulation, again, takes the whole basement for almost real time to play thru. 10K counters and statistics like that.

      One thing I do know about wargames, even the "normal" duration ones, is in a battle between the common american housecat and some counters, the cat always wins. So I never got into this "takes 4 years to play the game" deal.

      In this modern era of "print posters on demand" and laser cutting and 3-d printers I've got an idea stuck in my brain that I could produce and CC license a pretty good epic scale wargame in the 1000 hour class. Maybe someday when I retire...

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday March 26 2014, @01:03PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 26 2014, @01:03PM (#21463)

        "name of which I forget"

        I searched and its Federation and Empire. And a game only takes 5-10 hours unless you buy the 20 or so add on packages so you can tactically simulate star fleet marine individual combat instead of just rolling the dice to see if you take the station, or tactically simulate resource production and logistics instead of just rolling dice. Then, if you own and use all the addons, one game takes all summer. I think the romulan star empire was winning when they went back to school.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:08AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:08AM (#21361)

    Remind me of this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennium_Challenge _2002 [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/sep/06/usa.i raq [theguardian.com]

    p.s. for some reason I had difficulty finding it with Google but could find it with Bing. Google is getting crappier.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @03:05PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @03:05PM (#21540)

      You should be using startpage.com anyway.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:53PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:53PM (#21771)

        When their database, algorithm, and syntax catch up to Google, they will be a real alternative for search.
        Oh, and when they have Cached pages like Google does.
        ...and the JavaScript-driven nature of their pages (beyond the first page) sucks.
        ...and needing a cookie to change your preferences to more than 10 results per page sucks (again, no accessible Address Bar syntax).

        I often use ixquick.com (same ownership, as I understand) for image searches now, after Google stopped providing direct links to the actual images.
        Again, it is JavaScript-driven 8-(, but all you have to do to dodge that is whitelist ixquick.com/js/jquery*.
        An extension that reveals the actual link you're clicking on and allows you to Ctrl-click those is also a nice thing.

        -- gewg_

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by lil'wombat on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:52AM

    by lil'wombat (1664) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:52AM (#21374)

    I remember a summer of Axis and Allies. WWII in near real time. By the time you gave orders, moved pieces, resolved combat, we could get only one or two rounds completed in an afternoon. Of course it was lightning fast compared to Statis Pro Baseball. If I only has an hour to live I'd want to spend it playing Statis Pro Baseball, because it would fell like forever.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by ls671 on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:06AM

    by ls671 (891) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 26 2014, @08:06AM (#21392) Homepage

    Oh my god, seriously? Centuries ago Kings and Emperors used to play chess to exercise their mental warfare faculties.

    --
    Everything I write is lies, read between the lines.
  • (Score: 1) by Daiv on Wednesday March 26 2014, @12:01PM

    by Daiv (3940) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @12:01PM (#21443)

    This completely explains why I've spend thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of hours playing Civ!! Between Civ II, III and IV (and all the expansions for each), I could challenge even the best 'American Officials' in war and probably win! I know it's not a board game, but it might as well be.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by githaron on Wednesday March 26 2014, @01:44PM

    by githaron (581) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @01:44PM (#21489)

    Wouldn't video games be better for this? It would help with the "Fog of War" aspect of war strategy. With board games, you see everything.

    • (Score: 2) by JeanCroix on Wednesday March 26 2014, @01:49PM

      by JeanCroix (573) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @01:49PM (#21493)

      With board games, you see everything.

      That's why I always sink your battleship.

      • (Score: 2) by githaron on Wednesday March 26 2014, @01:59PM

        by githaron (581) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @01:59PM (#21495)

        I somehow doubt Battleship is anywhere near what they were talking about. Battleship does not have enough elements of strategy.

        • (Score: 2) by JeanCroix on Wednesday March 26 2014, @02:02PM

          by JeanCroix (573) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @02:02PM (#21497)
          Obviously, but my point is that there are simple and well-known ways of configuring board games so that one does not "see everything."
  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:14PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26 2014, @06:14PM (#21632)
    The powers-that-be are using board games to plan for current conflicts because of their extremely flexible nature. I have yet to see a successful set of "house rules" for a video game, but everyone I know plays a slightly different version of monopoly.

    One of the games mentioned by name in the article is Persian Incursion [boardgamegeek.com]. It is enjoyable for those who like to plan, analyze, and try out different tactics. It is not something I would break out at the family dinner table.
  • (Score: 2) by sl4shd0rk on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:00PM

    by sl4shd0rk (613) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @09:00PM (#21749)

    The only board game they play is Monopoly