Saturday, 1 August 2015

Manouvers on the table top

I was watching this splendid Interwar Pathe news footage of British Army trials/manouvers-
at the always interesting Vintage Wargaming blog.
By what criteria do the umpires decide who wins and loses? Has anyone ever tried to game manouvers on the table top and with what success?


  1. Thanks for putting me on to that site (it is splendid) and to the Pathe videos.

    An interesting question about wargaming a wargame on the table. I just finished a Cold War classic, Dragons At War, by Dan Bolger, who in 1982 was a US Army company commander attending the National Training Centre in the Arizona desert. A very interesting book on how contemporary armies train to fight against specialized OPFOR (Opposing Force) units that are trained in the doctrine of the probably enemy. Much of the umpiring is done by MILES gear, which is basically laser tag equipment that tracks kills on personnel and vehicles. In the days when those Pathe videos were shot, umpires would be officers and senior NCOs who would walk around and determine kills based on what they could see. There is a vignette of this process in David Niven's wartime film, The Way Ahead. This practice was in use as late as the NATO REFORGER exercises in W Germany. In his book, Bolger makes the point that umpires and commanders would often get into protracted arguments, and that most umpired exercises basically degenerated into cross country races to objective points, with minimal tactical considerations. The training Bolger describes in Dragons at War was much more realistic, although some factors (airstrikes, minefields, etc) still had to be adjudicated by observer/controller personnel (i.e., umpires)..
    How you would game such a thing on the tabletop would be an interesting exercise. To simulate the stress of a military exercise, you'd ideally want an experienced gamer, preferably someone with military experience as an OC (Observer/Controller), watching one side's players perform under a challenging scenario, and then do a quite detailed debrief /analysis of their performance afterwards in an After Action Report.

  2. I have seen this sort of thing done. Indeed I participated and run (lawn) games about the Experimental Mechanised Force on exercise. The game tested players abilities to co-ordinate movement and communications - clearly tricky tasks even while not under fire!
    By the way, I echo Michael's endorsement of 'Dragons at War'.