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A&A as a training tool for ROTC cadets



  • Hello all, I’m currently an ROTC Instructor at a university and am also an avid gamer. I’ve been playing military strategy board games for years and am truly convinced it has helped me as an Army officer to developed key tactical/strategic concepts of warfare. Plus, it’s a helluva lot of fun!

    To the point of my post. As an instructor I’m offering “additional instruction” to any of my cadets who are interested in not only playing the game (global 1940 2nd ed), but also to develope their ability to foresee and understand the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th order effects to the decisions they make. Not to mention key concepts like massing, diversion/feint, logistics/supply, staying power, timing, holding actions etc…essentially all the key things that I think would be useful for an actual military commander to know while putting it in a format that is going to get a typical 18-19 year old cadet to participate.

    I’m wondering if anyone has done anything like this before and if they have what were some of the things they did to maximize the limited amount of time they had with their “students”? I’m also planning on incorporating games like flames of war, conquest of the empire, and perhaps a game a friend of mine and I created in college based off of the medieval time period. Ideas anyone?



  • There’s a retired Col. That teaches WW2 History here in NJ he also set something like this up 🙂


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    I recommend Peter Perla’s book “The Art of Wargaming: A Guide for Professionals and Hobbyists”.  As the title indicates, it covers both hobby wargaming and professional wargaming (the latter meaning wargaming as a military training tool).  He looks at the history of wargaming and at the theoretical considerations that go into designing wargames.

    For your purposes, you’ll find particularly valuable his discussion of wargaming levels.  These range from the higher-level strategic games (in which the players represent the national command authorities of the opposing sides) to the lower-level tactical games which operate down to the level of individual squads.  Obviously, the instructional purpose of professional games will vary greatly depending on the level of the game and the level of the players.  A related point is that the higher you go in game levels, the more the processes involved are abstracted because the forces being represented are larger and larger.  A tactical game might resolve combat by simulating the process of individual weapons being fired at individual targets.  A strategic-level game, depicting whole army groups, might resolve combat by simply comparing overall force ratios in a very abstract way – so the modeling involved is very different.

    For your students, by the way, intermediate-level operational games (which tend to depict even in a theatre of war) might be a good choice for some of what you describe in your list (for instance logistics).

    Keep in mind that hobby wargames, even though they can be very big and complex from a mechanical point of view, still tend to be very simplistic (from the point of view of a professional soldier) at simulating warfare.  I’ve heard the argument, for example, that the comparison which can be made between Axis and Allies and professional wargames is the same comparison which can be made between the classic board game Monopoly and the kind of university-level business simulation games which are sometimes played as exercises in Masters of Business Administration programs.  Hobby wargames are primarily designed to be fun to play, with any lessons learned about warfare being treated as a bonus; professional wargames are intended to be teaching tools (or in some cases planning tools to test new concepts and strategies), with no aim of being fun.  This isn’t to say that a hobby wargame can’t be used professionally to teach useful things to military students, but the limitations of these games have to be kept firmly in mind.

    Anyway, good luck with your project and, as I said at the beginning, do check out Perla’s book.



  • My comment may be off topic, but I never understood those German officers off playing war games during D-day when they were already involved in a real war.



  • @Young:

    My comment may be off topic, but I never understood those German officers off playing war games during D-day when they were already involved in a real war.

    Training while you sleep your enemy is training to kill you.
    Just cause your in a war traning never stops. You allways implement new tactics that your enemy is using agenst you.so you stay a head!



  • @CWO:

    I recommend Peter Perla’s book “The Art of Wargaming: A Guide for Professionals and Hobbyists”.  As the title indicates, it covers both hobby wargaming and professional wargaming (the latter meaning wargaming as a military training tool).  He looks at the history of wargaming and at the theoretical considerations that go into designing wargames.

    For your purposes, you’ll find particularly valuable his discussion of wargaming levels.  These range from the higher-level strategic games (in which the players represent the national command authorities of the opposing sides) to the lower-level tactical games which operate down to the level of individual squads.  Obviously, the instructional purpose of professional games will vary greatly depending on the level of the game and the level of the players.  A related point is that the higher you go in game levels, the more the processes involved are abstracted because the forces being represented are larger and larger.  A tactical game might resolve combat by simulating the process of individual weapons being fired at individual targets.  A strategic-level game, depicting whole army groups, might resolve combat by simply comparing overall force ratios in a very abstract way – so the modeling involved is very different.

    For your students, by the way, intermediate-level operational games (which tend to depict even in a theatre of war) might be a good choice for some of what you describe in your list (for instance logistics).

    Keep in mind that hobby wargames, even though they can be very big and complex from a mechanical point of view, still tend to be very simplistic (from the point of view of a professional soldier) at simulating warfare.  I’ve heard the argument, for example, that the comparison which can be made between Axis and Allies and professional wargames is the same comparison which can be made between the classic board game Monopoly and the kind of university-level business simulation games which are sometimes played as exercises in Masters of Business Administration programs.  Hobby wargames are primarily designed to be fun to play, with any lessons learned about warfare being treated as a bonus; professional wargames are intended to be teaching tools (or in some cases planning tools to test new concepts and strategies), with no aim of being fun.  This isn’t to say that a hobby wargame can’t be used professionally to teach useful things to military students, but the limitations of these games have to be kept firmly in mind.

    Anyway, good luck with your project and, as I said at the beginning, do check out Perla’s book.

    I very much agree with the entirety of your post. I plan on having a range of experiences, from say A&A to games like flames of war which are more tactical platoon/company level fights.

    I’m trying to get a few things out of this which may be a bit ambitious, but I’d sure like to try.

    First, I want them to grasp the basic concepts of military type operations. I’m working with mostly college freshmen here so these kids are very limited in that science.

    Secondly, I want them to see that the enemy isn’t going to play their game. So playing against human, thinking, opponents has value I think.

    Third, I want them to have to work together and come up with a plan as “alliances” (or for my purposes, team members) in order to defeat their opponents.

    Fourth, I want them to exercise their brains, these games I think cause players to have to be able to use multiple facets of their intelligence which translates into judgement calls. I think developing things like good judgement and weighing ones options are a pretty important character traits to have as a leader in the Army.

    Finally, I’m hoping I can spark an interest in some of them with history, military science, and operational art. I don’t want to have to spoon feed them. I want them to take their own initiative and find out their own answers…and I can just nudge them in the right direction.

    I can’t simulate combat in any real sense, but I’m hoping I can get them to start thinking about their roles as future LTs. Whether it is high intensity or COIN, I think the things I’m trying to instill should help either way.

    Thanks for the feedback everyone and I’d sure like to hear even more thoughts on it.



  • @Whitshadw:

    @Young:

    My comment may be off topic, but I never understood those German officers off playing war games during D-day when they were already involved in a real war.

    Training while you sleep your enemy is training to kill you.
    Just cause your in a war traning never stops. You allways implement new tactics that your enemy is using agenst you.so you stay a head!

    Sure… but in this case, their pretend war cost them the real war.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '13 Moderator

    You might be right YG.
    Cannot remember how many Division heads were at that war games conference in Rennes, but I am sure one died trying to return, if not two. Think it was a 7th Army do, not solely Marcks 84 xxx.
    Will have to check who died. Think it may have been the commander of the 711 Static Division.
    Rommel was celebrating his birthday in Germany! The Allies really got lucky there.

    No disrespect to your thread and original post meant Redleg13A



  • @wittmann:

    You might be right YG.
    Cannot remember how many Division heads were at that war games conference in Rennes, but I am sure one died trying to return, if not two. Think it was a 7th Army do, not solely Marcks 84 xxx.
    Will have to check who died. Think it may have been the commander of the 711 Static Division.
    Rommel was celebrating his birthday in Germany! The Allies really got lucky there.

    No disrespect to your thread and original post meant Redleg13A

    No offense taken.

    A few things on your conversation though…

    1. The war was pretty much over by the time of d-day.

    2. Soldiers don’t fight 24/7 throughout the duration of a war.

    3. The german high command actively condoned participation in such events because they were good for officer development as well as socializing among the officer ranks.

    4. Even if it DID cost them the war, so what? That’s a good thing right?

    During the little down time I had during my combat deployments I played poker and sometimes strategy war games, does that mean I helped lose the war in Iraq? If you believe that, well, I’ve got some beachfront property to sell you in Arizona! Lol

    Let us keep these things in perspective, one shouldn’t assume these officers knew the time and place of where d-day would occur for if they did I’m positive they would have forgone the games and fought the war.



  • As a new Lt. in the Marine Corps and having just gone through the training and avid player of AA, I don’t really think the board game isn’t the greatest wargaming tool. I would recommend playing the miniatures for both the land and sea. I think there are more strategical, operational, and tactical decisions to be made. There is a variety of units with different abilities. The game play is differentbut requires a better understanding of the enemy’s abilities and how to exploit those weaknesses.



  • @munchie19:

    As a new Lt. in the Marine Corps and having just gone through the training and avid player of AA, I don’t really think the board game isn’t the greatest wargaming tool. I would recommend playing the miniatures for both the land and sea. I think there are more strategical, operational, and tactical decisions to be made. There is a variety of units with different abilities. The game play is differentbut requires a better understanding of the enemy’s abilities and how to exploit those weaknesses.

    Not even as an introduction?…remember, these kids are in the crawl phase and are 4 years from being LTs. What’s your branch if I may ask?



  • That’s true about it being an introductory game. I am in the Marine Corps. Maybe as the cadets advance in their understanding of tactics and strategy, but I still would recommend the miniatures game for more advanced cadets.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Redleg13A:

    Secondly, I want them to see that the enemy isn’t going to play their game. So playing against human, thinking, opponents has value I think.

    Third, I want them to have to work together and come up with a plan as “alliances” (or for my purposes, team members) in order to defeat their opponents.

    One method you should consider to accomplish these goals is to play A&A using a two-room/two-board set-up, or some other kind of rule variant that allows for the partial hiding of information from the players.  The general idea is that you have a board in one room for use by the Allied team and a second board in a second room for the Axis team, with you serving as the referee / go-between.  The purpose of this arrangement is to temporarily hide from each side information about the composition and location of the enemy’s forces (for example: what new units he bought and where he placed them).  Conventional A&A games have the defect (from a military simulation point of view) of being “open” games in which both sides always have perfectly complete and accurate information about the enemy’s dispositions.  This is not only unrealistic, it also makes deception and surprise – two vitally important force multipliers in real warfare – impossible to achieve. Hiding information would fit with your goal of teaching your students that the enemy isn’t going to play their game.  The two-room set-up would also contribute to your goal of teaching them to work as a team as part of a multi-nation alliance, whose discussions are kept secret from the opposing alliance (and vice-versa, since their discussions remain secret too).


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @munchie19:

    I would recommend playing the miniatures for both the land and sea. I think there are more strategical, operational, and tactical decisions to be made.

    The A&A miniatures games are essentially tactical in nature and local in scope.  They might have a few useful things to teach about the operational arts, but I find it hard to see how they would relate to strategy, which in principle is concerned with the planning and prosecution of wars rather than the fighting of individual battles.



  • @munchie19:

    That’s true about it being an introductory game. I am in the Marine Corps. Maybe as the cadets advance in their understanding of tactics and strategy, but I still would recommend the miniatures game for more advanced cadets.

    I know you’re Marine Corps, what I meant was specific branch, like IN, AR, FA etc…


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Young:

    My comment may be off topic, but I never understood those German officers off playing war games during D-day when they were already involved in a real war.

    The best way to understand what they were doing is to rephrase “playing war games” as “conducting a map exercise.”  They weren’t in Rennes to have fun at a weekend A&A gaming convention; they were there to study theoretical Allied invasion scenarios and possible German responses to them.  So what they were engaged in was a perfectly valid planning exercise.  The problem wasn’t what they were doing; the problem was that, by bad luck, it happened to take place on the same day as the Allies landed in Normand, with the result that several high-ranking officers were away from their normal posts.  If D-Day had occurred on June 5 (as was originally planned) rather than June 6 (due to weather considerations), many of these officers would still have been at their posts raher than in Rennes.



  • @CWO:

    @Redleg13A:

    Secondly, I want them to see that the enemy isn’t going to play their game. So playing against human, thinking, opponents has value I think.

    Third, I want them to have to work together and come up with a plan as “alliances” (or for my purposes, team members) in order to defeat their opponents.

    One method you should consider to accomplish these goals is to play A&A using a two-room/two-board set-up, or some other kind of rule variant that allows for the partial hiding of information from the players.� The general idea is that you have a board in one room for use by the Allied team and a second board in a second room for the Axis team, with you serving as the referee / go-between.� The purpose of this arrangement is to temporarily hide from each side information about the composition and location of the enemy’s forces (for example: what new units he bought and where he placed them).� Conventional A&A games have the defect (from a military simulation point of view) of being “open” games in which both sides always have perfectly complete and accurate information about the enemy’s dispositions.� This is not only unrealistic, it also makes deception and surprise – two vitally important force multipliers in real warfare – impossible to achieve. Hiding information would fit with your goal of teaching your students that the enemy isn’t going to play their game.� The two-room set-up would also contribute to your goal of teaching them to work as a team as part of a multi-nation alliance, whose discussions are kept secret from the opposing alliance (and vice-versa, since their discussions remain secret too).�

    You read my mind. That’s in the works for the future actually.

    Once they get the strategy thing down, I’m actually going to start incrementally bringing their understanding down each echelon so they can really get an understanding of their place in the scheme of things. A good buddy of mine and I are planning on doing the “room” idea instead it is going to be through skype and with flames of war. They’ll get a map, an OPORD, a few “UAV” photos from above, and few “scout” photos on or near their mission objective. Each player will act as a PL with one acting as the CO. I’ll be the acting “BC” and as the OCT. My buddies 400 miles away have the game in front of them and will strictly just move the pieces(all these buddies are prior service NCO’s with combat experience and a VERY good understanding not only operational level competencies but these games as well). The cadets will be required to fulfill their mission objectives with incomplete information, in a “fog of war”, against thinking opponents.

    Now, this is at least 6 months down the road. From now to then I’ll just gradually build them up to the point where they can start grasping the “big” picture through basic strategy up through advanced strategy. From there We’ll see what happens.

    As an aside, I had my first additional instruction class was last Friday and one of the cadets lamented after playing 1940 Global for a few turns “Wow, I have a whole new appreciation for generals, they have to think about a lot of sh*t!”


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Redleg13A:

    As an aside, I had my first additional instruction class was last Friday and one of the cadets lamented after playing 1940 Global for a few turns “Wow, I have a whole new appreciation for generals, they have to think about a lot of sh*t!”

    Very eloquently put.  I recall that Perla’s book says something about this subject; if I remember correctly, he says that officers who run professional wargame sometimes have reservations about letting lower-level officers play higher-level ones in wargames, for fear that they’ll become so enthusiatic about the higher-ranked job that they’ll lose their motivation to do their real lower-level job.



  • @CWO:

    @Redleg13A:

    As an aside, I had my first additional instruction class was last Friday and one of the cadets lamented after playing 1940 Global for a few turns “Wow, I have a whole new appreciation for generals, they have to think about a lot of sh*t!”

    Very eloquently put.  I recall that Perla’s book says something about this subject; if I remember correctly, he says that officers who run professional wargame sometimes have reservations about letting lower-level officers play higher-level ones in wargames, for fear that they’ll become so enthusiatic about the higher-ranked job that they’ll lose their motivation to do their real lower-level job.

    LOL, noted. Of course, any good PSG is going to make that LT understand their necessity and DO their freaking job.

    Also, I plan on going over the tedious stuff too, simply because their is certainly a gap between commissioning sources, the school house, and then operational units. I’ll try to cover things like CONOPs, range planning, SI inventories, effectively forecasting and utilizing a training calendar, being an IO, counselings/NCOERs, services/dispatches, additional duties etc…all the ankle biter stuff that normal LTs have no idea about and learn through blunt force trauma at their units. I’d prefer to get these students ready before hand, instead of setting them up for a sink or swim situation.

    The way I see it, they have 4 years to prepare themselves to become officers…they need to take ownership and do whatever they can to get themselves ready. Not just be spoon fed crap from guys like me.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Redleg13A:

    LOL, noted. Of course, any good PSG is going to make that LT understand their necessity and DO their freaking job.

    And the point could also be made to these young officers that, by doing a good job in their assigned duties, they will improve their prospects of career advancement and of eventually being promoted to the rank whether they’ll get to do the stuff they found so interesting in the wargame as a simulated general (or whatever).



  • Just got the numbers of those who say they’re going to participate this Friday. I have 39 cadets in my MS 1 class and about 20 of them plan on attending. I may pick up stragglers from the other MS levels but this looks promising. I had 5 last Friday, so it seems the word has gotten out!

    The unfortunate thing is that I have to do this on my and theirs “off the clock” times. I start at 1700 and go until completion or until midnight, whichever comes first. I know I likely won’t get beyond turns 3-4 doing of these game with that time frame. But, what I am doing is letting them make their mistakes or successes, annotating every move by every player, then afterwards having an AAR type open format to critique/analyze/ recommend each players gameplay. It’ll be student led with me directing the conversations to teaching points that fall in line with strategic/military principles.

    Hopefully with this, I can lay a foundation for them to build off of so they can start understanding big picture concepts. As I scale it down over time they should be able to really grasp their roles as PLs in the grand scheme of things and how their presence, decisions, successes, and failures can ripple all the way up to the strategic level. They may be young, but I think if that can sink in, they’ll take their oath of office and duties and responsibilities much more seriously.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Redleg13A:

    Just got the numbers of those who say they’re going to participate this Friday. I have 39 cadets in my MS 1 class and about 20 of them plan on attending. I may pick up stragglers from the other MS levels but this looks promising. I had 5 last Friday, so it seems the word has gotten out!

    The unfortunate thing is that I have to do this on my and theirs “off the clock” times. I start at 1700 and go until completion or until midnight, whichever comes first. I know I likely won’t get beyond turns 3-4 doing of these game with that time frame. But, what I am doing is letting them make their mistakes or successes, annotating every move by every player, then afterwards having an AAR type open format to critique/analyze/ recommend each players gameplay. It’ll be student led with me directing the conversations to teaching points that fall in line with strategic principles military principles.

    Sounds great – let us know how it goes.  Again quoting Perla from memory (his book is very applicable to your situation), I think he states that professional wargames aren’t necessarily played to a predetermined completion point in the game scenario; it’s sufficient for them to be played only as far as is required by the learning objectives.  So not getting beyond beyond 3 ot 4 turns isn’t a problem you should worry about.  He also says that one of the key differences between hobby wargaming and professional wargaming is that post-game analysis and critique is a crucial component of professional games – so you’re entirely correct in planning for this element.



  • Should definitely post results and maybe pics :).



  • OK, so I’ve had 2 sessions since last time I posted about this and there is definitely some progress being made. I had 15 cadets show up on both occasions (over 1/3 of my class!) and they were definitely into the game.

    One specific example of a teaching point was when one of the cadets playing Russia decided to put all of his troops he could along the border with Germany before being attacked. I asked if he was sure he wanted to do that and he replied “of course”. So, knowing what would happen I let it play out…which it did as expected. Germany smashed through that line and all of a sudden he had virtually nothing between Eastern Poland and Moscow. At that point I stopped the game for a few minutes and asked everyone what they thought and asked the cadets specifically what he learned…Needless to say, the hamster wheels were burning some midnight oil!

    They are also learning about “forecasting” as well. We all know you have to buy your units up front before the combat phase and I witnessed some very interesting buys…or even lack of buys and their consequences as well. After 2 rounds I stopped the gameplay for a minute and talked to them about the duties and responsibilities of being an Executive Officer in a Company or Battalion and that being able to forecast needed supplies, equipment, maintenance schedules etc was crucial for the successful operation of whatever contingent one is working in. Then I explained that when you’re buying your units at the beginning of your turn, that’s essentially what you’re doing. Lightbulbs seemed to go off simultaneously and I started to see much wiser purchases in line with whatever their national/coalition objectives were.

    The UK lost his entire fleet around the Isles so decided to buy nothing but Strategic bombers for turns 1-3. He basically just committed himself to bombing the industrial centers in West Germany and Paris which really created a headache for the German player as he got further into the USSR.

    The Japanese player was not aggressive at all and only attacked into Russia on turn 1 with a very small force and was actually repelled causing long term consequences for him throughout the duration of the game. He quickly found himself out of position and facing a much stronger China since they had essentially 2 full turns of building infantry to bulk up their defenses.

    I think many of them now realize that there needs to be a balance of aggressiveness and caution in order to maximize their effects on their opponents. After I explained that if the enemy is reacting to you as opposed to the other way around it allows you more tactical/strategic flexibility and denies it to a large degree to your opponents.

    I think in the in a couple of weeks once these players have a full understanding of the game mechanics and a better grasp on key concepts I’m going to introduce a fog of war. I’m will buy another game board and have the axis play on one and the allies play on the other(in another room or in a divided room). They will only be able to see enemy units in provinces adjacent to ones they own with units in it. That way they will not be able to see what units their opponents buy, or where large enemy formations are unless they border the province where they’re located. I think this will really cause them to have to think about what they’re doing and also try to anticipate what their opponents will do…as we say in the Army “the enemy has a say!”.

    More to follow in the next couple of days.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Thanks for the update on how your project is going.  It’s great to hear that it’s proving to be a valuable and engaging teaching tool.  I like the fact that the game illustrated the principle that a defense in depth is generally superior to a linear border defense when dealing with a mechanized attack.  The part about forecasting supplies reminds me of similar principle I once read in a list of advice points intended for Navy commanding officers: “Always know where your next load of fuel is coming from.”  Looking forward to hearing about the forthcoming fog-of-war elements, which will add more realism to the exercises because it will let your students come to grips with the fact that, in actual war, commanders are usually working with imperfect information about enemy dispositions, intentions and capabilities: bits of correct information blended with other intelligence that is fragmentary, incomplete, contradictory, or even just plain wrong.


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