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.
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 ...
"... 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.
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.
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).
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 mission2)backup plan 13)backup plan 24)GOTH plan 1 (Go TO Hell=GOTH ie: when Demon Murphy starts to play...he will, rest assured)5)GOTH plan 26)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.
"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.
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".
"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...
"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.