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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Preparing your sons

Good fathers hope their sons will know peace, but prepare them for war:
“There is a beast in every man, and it stirs when you put a sword in his hand.”—Jorah Mormont

Men were made for violence. It’s part of why they were created. To protect the weak. To fight for themselves and for nations. To compete and to win.

Do you know why men like football? Why they watch boxing? Why Romans watched the gladiators slaughter each other? Because part of men was made for violence and their instincts draw them to it. We cannot suppress human nature. We cannot half-embrace who and what we are—how God made us, and how we are built.
It's fun to play Advanced Squad Leader. But as the late, great Jerry Pournelle taught us, there will be war. And while it's important to learn how to shoot a shotgun, it's arguably even more important to be able to competently direct a combined arms attack on a fortified position, particularly when there is a time limit and enemy reinforcements on the way.

We're just beginning Turn 3 German of ASLSK S24 Sherman Marches West and the outcome is still definitely in doubt. He hasn't found my anti-tank gun, but I foolishly left my PzKpfw IIIN with its 75mm popgun fending off the assault in the center, where it is presently bouncing shells off advancing Russian armor while my late model Tiger 1 is holding down the fort doing nothing on the left flank. But while I haven't managed to deal out much damage, I have been able to chew up two turns without taking any losses, and now I have two platoons of reinforcements arriving.


But win or lose, next up will be our first campaign game, Decision at Elst. And by the way, the latest version of VASL, 6.4.2, running on VASSAL 3.2.17, truly is a work of art. The practical functionality of VASL is still amazing to me even though I've been using it since rk first created it more than 20 years ago.

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33 Comments:

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother March 20, 2018 11:51 AM  

Excellent. I emailed you last year asking where to buy new ASL sets, and you gave me some good scoop.

I played Ambush, Naval War and many of the Avalon Hill board games in high school. Classic stuff.

I have Squad Leader in my book shelf, and I'll start my boys on that first.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan March 20, 2018 11:53 AM  

Meat space training, and for small unit tactics for the respectable citizen I recommend Max Velocity Tactical.

Blogger VD March 20, 2018 11:57 AM  

I have Squad Leader in my book shelf, and I'll start my boys on that first.

Strongly recommend ASLSK instead.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother March 20, 2018 12:01 PM  

SK?

Blogger slarrow March 20, 2018 12:04 PM  

Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit, looks like.

Blogger Clint March 20, 2018 12:05 PM  

Starter Kit

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother March 20, 2018 12:16 PM  

Got it

Blogger Crew March 20, 2018 12:16 PM  

How many of us would freeze up with indecision when faced with a chaotic stream of info coming in and the likelihood that whatever you do men on your side are going to die?

I suspect it takes a special kind of person to handle that situation.

Anonymous Anonymous March 20, 2018 12:17 PM  

I seem to recall someone once saying "Si vis pacem, para bellum".  Or words to that effect.

Blogger MadMax 1861 March 20, 2018 12:26 PM  

I didn't know that Avalon Hill was still around. I still have my 1970s Blitzkrieg, Kriegspiel, Panzer Leader and Panzer Blitz games, but haven't played them in decades. We had a war games club in junior high. I wonder how many public schools still have that?

Blogger tihald March 20, 2018 12:36 PM  

Avalon Hill is kinda still around. ASL is now done by Multi Man Publishing. Which is owned in part by Curt Schilling.

I still have much love for ASL, but currently the Band of Brothers system by Jim Krohn is the apple of my eye for squad level WWII.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother March 20, 2018 12:36 PM  

Awesome

Blogger Daniel Paul Grech Pereira March 20, 2018 1:34 PM  

I can't even get people to play Risk.

Blogger Cubby8126 March 20, 2018 1:49 PM  

Hey vox, is this a downloadable game or board?

Blogger Last Redoubt March 20, 2018 2:07 PM  

VASL is awesome - I've done multiple games of Divine Right, Ogre, GMT's Talon, Space Empires 4x, and COmmands and Colors, and even Blood Bowl Team Manager on it.

Support for ASl and for GMT games in general is outstanding - they ask you to please buy the game but the GMT modules are not hobbled by stupid restrictions (like not having the card text).

Blogger Vaughan Williams March 20, 2018 2:39 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Vaughan Williams March 20, 2018 2:41 PM  

RISK is fun. Main lesson I learned from the Big USA map is that whichever team reaches the Mississippi first, wins. (Working your way in from the coasts) Wonder if that bit of knowledge would apply in a real life civil war. Also, don't get trapped in the NorthEast or bogged down in the SouthEast. Also, Texas is almost always too much trouble to bother conquering. Save it for last.

Blogger peppermint88 March 20, 2018 2:49 PM  

Risk is symmetric, oversimplified, random, and boring. StarCraft is none of those things. CounterStrike and Overwatch are asymmetric in objectives.

Geopolitics is the furthest thing from symmetric, on every level from basic units to situations, of course people want to play games that are asymmetric. A game between a stronger and a weaker opponent can always be made balanced by requiring the stronger player to take less than x amount of time or lose less than x amount of stuff.

Getting the rules right for balanced asymmetric games is the biggest thing computerization of gaming has done for us.

Blogger R Beisert March 20, 2018 3:27 PM  

I've been thinking a good long while about raising my potential sons, and I take your advice on this to heart, Vox.

I've also got a reading list ready for them that contains The Art of War (for teaching mindfulness of the conditions of all forms of battle), the various collected writings of William S. Lind (for the considerations of modern forms of conflict), and Alinsky's Rules for Radicals (for training on how to best an established and vastly more powerful force).

Any thoughts on the list? Things to add, things to modify?

Blogger Hammerli280 March 20, 2018 4:58 PM  

@19: My recommended reading list would include:

a. "On War" by Carl von Clausewitz. Get the Howard/Paret translation, the earlier ones are junk. Read Books 1, 2, and 8, as well as the commentaries on them. Clausewitz is THE go-to for the interrelationship of politics and war.

b. "Some Principles of Maritime Strategy," by Sir Julian Corbett. This is the best work on overall naval strategy out there, covering conditions which Mahan's works neglected.

I'm tempted to recommend Thyucidides' "History of the Peloponnesian War", but only a few portions...and I don't have a copy handy.

If you're looking for insurgency and counterinsurgency, the USMC "Small Wars Manual" is one of the best works on the subject. It may date to 1940, but it covers everything - which is why it was reprinted for the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd March 20, 2018 5:36 PM  

For the reading list, consider Von Dach's Total Resistance.

Anonymous Anonymous March 20, 2018 7:09 PM  

I think combat simulation games could be a good teaching tool, but I also think that the value gained from playing such games depends on the quality of the teacher. That is, someone with actual combat training (and, better yet, experience) could use such a simulation to teach the fundamentals of small unit tactics. An experienced teacher would also know how little like real battle such a simulation is.

Given that caveat, some teaching is better than no teaching at all, and at least you are making people aware that there is something to be learned. Most people who talk about the coming troubles have no idea of how unprepared they are. Having guns and a pile of ammo does not make you prepared for war. A bunch of guys with guns is not a squad, or a platoon. It is an armed mob that will be wiped out by a much smaller well-trained and led team.

I think training would have to go further than board games, though.

Anonymous Anonymous March 20, 2018 7:27 PM  

On a lighter note, games are fun. I used to play combat simulation games like the old ones from Atomic Games (Operation Crusader, Velikye Luki, and Stalingrad come to mind) via email. These are, of course, not tactical level simulations, instead they are usually said to be at the level of "operational art". Norm Koger put together an excellent game that was really a toolkit for building your own scenarios, and lots of people published their own scenarios.

The whole strategic game thing seems to be passe' these days. I guess there's Call of Duty, but I've never felt attracted to that; there seems to be a cloud of nerd rage that surrounds it. I wouldn't mind getting back into playing strategy games of all sorts via computer networking. Hey, maybe games could come after comic books?

Blogger Marcus S Jones March 20, 2018 8:00 PM  

Enjoying Memoir '44 with my nine year old. None of the complexity of ASL but lots of historical scenarios, fog of war from the cards and time to swap sides and replay in a gaming session. I'd recommended it as a gateway to more involved games when they get older.

We've sometimes ended up with historical results by inadvertently following the historical tactics.

Blogger Dirk Manly March 20, 2018 10:43 PM  

@13

"I can't even get people to play Risk."

Feature, not bug.

Find someone who likes history. History buffs tend to love historical wargaming.

Blogger Dirk Manly March 20, 2018 10:45 PM  

"RISK is fun. Main lesson I learned from the Big USA map is that whichever team reaches the Mississippi first, wins. (Working your way in from the coasts) Wonder if that bit of knowledge would apply in a real life civil war. Also, don't get trapped in the NorthEast or bogged down in the SouthEast. Also, Texas is almost always too much trouble to bother conquering. Save it for last."

Risk is an abstract game disguised as a wargame.

Blogger Dirk Manly March 20, 2018 10:49 PM  

@20

"If you're looking for insurgency and counterinsurgency, the USMC "Small Wars Manual" is one of the best works on the subject. It may date to 1940, but it covers everything - which is why it was reprinted for the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns."

By that time, the USMC had 30 continuous years of practice. There is probably no better time point in a western military for someone to write such a manual, as every single member of the USMC who was on his 2nd enlistment or later probably had some experience in the various wars the USMC was involved in down in and around Central America.

Blogger maniacprovost March 20, 2018 10:55 PM  

Speaking of conspiracy theories, I suspect that there is no such thing as ASL and Vox has been trolling us non-wargamers with screenshots from a Super Famicom game for years.

Blogger Dirk Manly March 20, 2018 11:04 PM  

@28 maniacprovost

Uh... google is your friend. ASL was first published by Avalon Hill in the mid 1980's (After the Cross of Iron and GI: Anvil of Victory expansions made a complete, unfathomable, self-contradictory mess of the rules).

Blogger Last Redoubt March 21, 2018 12:05 AM  

For those interested in playing - I have a discord server set up. Is there anyone here I can pass a link to so it just gets disseminated to interested ilk?

Blogger Thot March 21, 2018 12:14 AM  

I was playing age of empires with 2 friends a while back. We had some small skirmishes and I pulled back to my main camp. I watched my two friends have at each other. Meanwhile I built my defenses and built a thick layer of farms, as a blockade. I then started constructing of my "Wonder" ,placing it in a forest. I watched as they clawed desperately at my defenses and tried to harvest trees to reach my "Wonder" before time ran out. Each messaging me to try to make a deal against the other. As I watched and taunted them I wondered if this is the same reaction the Japanese would have had if they had an inkling of what had been coming. Anyway it taught me to always take advantage of your enemies confusion and short sightedness.

Blogger Peter March 21, 2018 9:43 AM  

Teach your sons how to shot, how to reload ammo, how to start a fire, how to butcher a deer, what plants are edible, how to build shelter, purify water... then how to carpenter, how to fix cars, how to metal work, weld... play real games in the woods... hide and seek, evade... how to camo.. read a map , use a compass, navigate via stars, how a sail, how to fish.. teach them hiw to make a thermal shield so the ir scopes cant see them, ...... there is a pile of things to learn before teaching them video games...

Blogger D. Bay March 21, 2018 4:49 PM  

Vox, you ever played The Long Dark? It's a pretty great wilderness survival game.

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