Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Maneuver Warfare Handbook

I read most of Lind's Maneuver Warfare Handbook this evening, and as usual when reading this prompted a few thoughts relevant to gaming (although, unusually, more ideas related to my job - maneuver warfare applied to software development looks like a particularly weird, German flavor of Agile I expect).  The quick summary is that maneuver warfare is a mode of fighting which emphasizes distributed action rather then central control, and which has a few standard tools (mission orders / commander's intent, schwerpunkt, and the search for gaps in the enemy's surface) to make that organizational structure work.  When used properly, the more rapid reaction times of unit leaders closest to the action (who no longer have to wait for high command's permission to act) allow them to out-react their adversaries, forcing confusion, panic, and defeat.  Also emphasized are adaptability to circumstances and initiative by small-unit leaders.  This allows a smaller force to defeat a larger one by capitalizing on failures in enemy command and control.

Which sounds a lot like the sort of thing a human force in Domains at War could use to defeat the numerically-superior orc force in Battle of the Teeth, for example.  Create and exploit weaknesses in their formation as a result of their poor command and control, punch through, kill their commanders and force morale collapse.

Some of the small-unit fire-and-maneuver examples also had me thinking about Stargrunt again (where suppress-then-assault is king), though to some extent using ranged units to disorder troops in Domains at War is similar, and the section on never doing the same thing twice reminded me of the Starmada metagame of old (and that one time I cloaked ships but didn't move them, because my opponents were used to cloaked ships reappearing on their flanks and rear and had started turning to counter).

There was an excellent line about how attrition-warfare forces seek to engage and destroy the enemy "where and whenever" possible via superior firepower, which reminded me of 3.x gamers and how hard it is to get them to refuse a battle when they start playing ACKS.

One thing that I haven't gotten much sense for while wargaming has been friction (and in general properly confusing fog-of-war), though.  To some extent Starmada's written orders created some of this, because it was easy to goof and put your ships out of position.  Unfortunately, that's about as far as serious fog-of-war and friction can go without becoming a huge pain on the tabletop.  Computers could handle the sheer volume of chaos required better, but most computer wargames these days are not for audiences interested in unpredictability (to the point where some players argue that a good competitive RTS should have no randomness).  Perhaps I ought to write one.

In any case, pretty good book.  Very to-the-point!

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