Colonial Twilight: a bot for the FLNbot

coltwibox2

BGG user Curt Sellmer has created a program that automatically implements the FLNbot that Vesa Arponen made for Colonial Twilight. He says it handles the details of ‘bot decisionmaking, and is similar to a program he created for the expansion to Volko Ruhnke’s Labyrinth game,  Labyrinth: The Awakening: 2010-?

It supports the the Short, Medium and Full scenarios.

It will run on a MacOS terminal, a Linux terminal and the Windows console as long as the Java JVM is installed and the path to the ‘java’ executable program is referenced in your PATH environment variable.

For more information and to download the built package, go here: https://github.com/sellmerfud/coltwi

Scroll down until you see section heading: “Downloading the package”. In that section is a link to the “built package” which is a zip file.

Finally, here is the discussion thread on BGG where he introduces the program, and where players (that’s you, cousin) will discuss questions and problems, when encountered.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2095115/software-runs-fln-bot

Thank you for your work Curt!

 

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CFP: Connections-USA 2019

This is reposted from an email received by Tim Wilkie, a Great Guy who is organizing the Connections-USA conference.

I’ve posted many times on this blog about how interesting and valuable these conferences are, at least to me. You should consider attending, if you have any interest in how government (primarily the military, but the lessons are often widely applicable) uses wargaming.

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Connections 2019 will be hosted by the U.S. Army War College at the Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA, August 13-16.

Connections is an interdisciplinary* wargaming conference that has been held annually since 1993, with the mission of advancing and preserving the art, science, and application of wargaming.  Connections participants come from all elements of the wargaming discipline, and include those in the military, government, academic, private sector, and commercial hobbyist fields.  By providing a forum for practitioners to share insights and best practices, Connections works to improve gaming as a tool for research, analysis, education, and policy.

Presentations on any aspect of professional wargaming are welcome.  The 2019 conference theme is Futures of Wargaming, and with that in mind, presentations on wargaming future events, advances in wargaming techniques, wargaming to train future leaders, and related topics are especially encouraged.

Please submit your proposal via the Google Form at the following link (which contains additional information):
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeyDQazE8CCsGmzjKorpEdaB1eQF9ijsKOdnYwMC5JnL8-uOg/viewform?usp=sf_link

It is by no means necessary to have attended a previous Connections conference to participate as a speaker.  More information about past Connections events and current updates on the status of planning for Connections 2019 can be found at the conference website:
https://connections-wargaming.com/

Feel free to pass this along to those who you think might be interested, including posting this in appropriate places online.  For additional information or any questions or concerns, please contact me at timothy.wilkie@ndu.edu

Timothy Wilkie
Research Fellow
Center for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL)
National Defense University
timothy.wilkie@ndu.edu
(202)433-4865

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*[best thing I read on the Net yesterday, from “S**t Academics Say”: “We’re all two drinks away from becoming interdisciplinary.”]

“Grom-444”

burned-out-soviet-tanks-1956-600x377

… was the radio signal sent to Marshal Konev to begin the military operation to suppress the Hungarian Revolution, on 4 November 1956.

62 years after the event, there are three games on the Soviet crackdown and I have designed two of them:

  • Operation Whirlwind, which has been available in one form or another since 2002 – see here for the historical scenario Operation Whirlwind: more historical scenario.;
  • Nights of Fire, which is due out in, umm, probably February 2019; and
  • Budapest ’56, half of a two-game set on “Cold War Battles” by Joe Miranda (the other game is on Angola in 1987). It uses the “Modern Battles” system that has been used by first SPI, then Decision Games, to cover dozens and dozens of battles. Doesn’t work particularly well to show urban warfare, even when it was used by The Great Dunnigan in Berlin ’85, but that’s just my opinion…   https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/23378/cold-war-battles-budapest-56-angola-87

Finnish Civil War is on sale, while the snow flies

Katalog 1

Cover of #84

Compass Games is having a sale, from now until January 15, 2019.

Paper Wars #84, containing Finnish Civil War, is among the items and it’s marked down to $33.00!

Enter the code HOLIDAY18 when you order to get the 30% discount.

https://www.compassgames.com/paperwars/issue-84-magazine-game-finnish-civil-war.html

Go here for the entire catalogue of sale items!

https://www.compassgames.com/holiday18

The (Im)Possibility of War in the Mega-City, by Ty Bomba

 

Issue #9 of Counterfact magazine has a game in it called War in the Megacity, designed by Joe Miranda. It’s in the mail now. On October 27, editor Ty Bomba posted the short piece quoted below on the publisher’s Facebook page, as his take on the subject (permalink  https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1130023770514214&id=189803314536269&__tn__=K-R)

 

The (Im)Possibility of War in the Mega-City
By Ty Bomba

Back in 2014, then US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno set off what amounted to a metaphoric explosion of activity within the military-analytical community. He did so when he authorized the online publication and distribution of a 28-page pdf titled “Megacities and the United States Army: Preparing for a Complex and Uncertain Future.”

The study, co-authored by six of his staffers, pointed up a problem that had critical tactical, operational and strategic aspects. That is, after defining “mega-cities” as urban locales with 10 million or more inhabitants – there are 20 of them today with another 25 likely to have grown into existence by 2025 – the authors lamented the fact the US military in general, and the army in particular, had no doctrine for how to wage war in such places.

The standard formula for attacking a hostile city of smaller size – surround it, and then take the area inside the pocket sector by sector – won’t work in these huge conurbations because they’re simply won’t be enough troops on hand to isolate such vast spaces. The document (still available online by searching on its title) went on to list problem after problem, never intending to offer any solutions but, rather, simply to pose all the relevant questions that had been identified.

Since then, numerous writers – both from within and outside the US military – have offered more. For example, in 2017 one writer, under the auspices of West Point’s Modern War Institute, proposed an exact order of battle for a combined-arms battalion specifically constituted to fight in megacities. (That’s also still available online by searching under its title: “It’s Time to Create a Megacities Combat Unit.”)

Even the International Committee of the Red Cross commissioned a study on the subject, titled “Future War in Cities: Urbanization’s Challenge to Strategic Studies in the 21st Century.” Its focus is on the “development of military methods of operating in cities using appropriate rules of engagement that embrace international humanitarian law” (and, we might add, good luck with that).

As it turns out, an older study, one done at the US Army War College way back in 2001 and titled “Urban Operations: Tactical Realities and Strategic Ambiguities,” may already have shown the practical impossibility of any sustained US military involvement in fighting a ground battle for a mega-city. It used a combination of historical case studies and training exercise analyses, and its grim conclusions ran as follows.

A typical rifle company of up to about 200 combatants can be expected to seize a similarly defended city block after about 12 hours of combat. Total casualties among the attackers – personnel missing, killed and seriously wounded – would average 30 to 45 percent during that time, depending on the competency and ferocity of the defense. At the end of it, the survivors in the attack force would need to be temporarily withdrawn from the frontline for rest and regrouping.

At most, by straining mightily, the US Army might be able to concentrate some 180 assault companies, along with another 60 or so from the Marine Corps, to use in a fight for any one mega-city. Each army or USMC division averages 27 such companies, while an armor division could form a dozen or so. Thus the entire infantry force of the active duty US Army and Marines could be expected to be effectively burned out after about 20 days of steady mega-city combat, with total casualties suffered while doing so at about 15,000 to 22,000.

Even after all that, the conclusion offered was an overall victor in such a battle would likely only emerge through attrition, or when the suffering had reached a point where small margins of difference between the opposing forces’ staying power (morale) became the deciding factor.

Given the phenomena of “casualty aversion” that’s overtaken Western societies since the end of the Cold War – that is, a general unwillingness by electorates to sustain any government prosecuting a war longer than one election cycle or bloodier than a relative handful of total deaths – and it can be seen it’s effectively impossible for us a society to engage in that kind of war.

The only exception would be if the stakes involved were readily perceived by a majority the electorate as truly and fully existential at the national level. In turn, to get to that level, you have to posit near science fictional scenarios, such as the Chinese landing en masse along the US west coast or armies of Jihadis surging into Europe’s cities. Short of such epochal hypotheticals, one is hard pressed to name any mega-city anywhere on Earth the control of which would be important enough for a US administration, or that of any other Western democracy, to be willing to sacrifice so much to get it.

Mega-city wars will therefore likely remain the domains of criminal gang turf fights and civil wars fought among groups with nowhere else to go. Until such time as aerial and ground drones and autonomous robots are further perfected, no Western democracy can make war effectively in mega-cities.

The current issue of the on-paper edition of CounterFact Magazine (no. 9) has as its main topic “War in the Megacity.” It offers both a longer article on this subject and an in-depth wargame that can be played solo or against an opponent. Those interested in that kind of deeper exploration, should go here:

http://ossgamescart.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=5&products_id=114&fbclid=IwAR1nA9D5i3nZbOqWFFvxCkSV-hBieH8g7_8JlM08SLwrGqrciAyHWjX1vtc

I find I cannot disagree with what Ty has written here, having read some time ago all the articles and papers he cites, and more besides. Yes, we will not see the entire rifle-company strength of the US Army and Marine Corps squandered in an enormous mega-Aachen, or even a restaging of the Second Battle of Seoul (not least because Seoul is ten times the size it was in 1950). Ridiculous notion.

Ty published the designer’s notes to the game over on Consimworld some time ago, wherein Joe seems to be walking back the game’s initial impression that you are fighting a massive, primarily kinetic battle for a huge city (wherein Fallujah or Grozny would fill only three or four of the map’s 30 abstract sectors). He uses the triple-CRT, units-rising-and-falling-in-strength method first done in James Dunnigan’s game Chicago-Chicago!, and reused by him in LA Lawless, Decision Iraq, and by me in Greek Civil War (this last by order of Decision Games, though somewhere in between my submission and eventual publication there were a lot of changes to both my game and to Joe’s system, including collapsing the 3 CRTs into one, and radical changes in unit typology and abilities). He also speaks of the ridiculous troop-to-space ratio in a city of 10 million or more, but does note that the troop scale in the game is brigades (thousands of uniforms) vs. crowds (tens of thousands in size); even the guerrilla units are estimated to be a thousand or more fighters (though in fairness, because it’s a Joe Miranda near-future game, there are also small detachments of “”Fifth Generation” troops whose weaponry, and sometimes their own physicality and mental states, have been enhanced by leading-edge technologies.”).

http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?14@@.1ddb038b/479

But I added the emphasis in Ty’s penultimate paragraph. Megacities will not be the arenas where entire brigades and divisions square off against each other, but they will see a great deal of low-level irregular conflict, by and among irregular forces, who will be opposed much of the time by uniformed forces in modest amounts. However, I do not share his enthusiasm for autonomous robots.*

Joe and I are on the same wavelength on a lot of things, but often we differ considerably in our design approaches to the same kind of problem. To my mind, a more realistic and sobering pair of books to read on this subject are Planet of Slums by Mike Davis and Out of the Mountains by David Kilcullen (especially his chapter on the Tivoli Gardens operation in Kingston, Jamaica). What would be interesting from my point of view would be a game in a megacity that emphasized limited intelligence, surveillance, building and degrading organizations, positioning and threats, information warfare, for both insurgent and counterinsurgent. All precursors to kinetic operations, which are kept to a minimum. So far the megacities in the world that have experienced problems severe enough to see actual conflict involving their national militaries have all been outside of NATO, and the conflicts have all been pretty one-sided; government moves in against insurgent gangs, they scatter obligingly and civil disorder continues, though turned down to a dull roar until the uniforms leave and the gangs return.

I tried to do this in one of my first games, Tupamaro, which took place entirely within one large city (1.5 million, which was kind of large for 1968). And maybe that’s more typical of what went on in Baghdad (pop 6-7 million, give or take) for years. This was my thinking in developing the “Maracas megacity” module for the District Commander system over the last couple of years, available here for free PnP at least until Hollandspiele publishes it some time in the next few years.

New free game: Maracas

*PS: I mentioned this before, but here again is mention of Crisis at Zefra, a conceptual book written by a science fiction writer named Karl Schroeder in 2005 for the Canadian Armed Forces about how Canadian soldiers would deal with asymmetrical threats in the imaginary African city-state of “Zefra” in the near future (2025). Again, a bit too goshwow with respect to the technology for me – nano-this and nano-that – but these things are valuable just by having been written down. Here’s a copy:  Crisis-in-Zefra-e and the work is also available at Schroeder’s website at http://www.kschroeder.com/foresight-consulting/crisis-in-zefra/Crisis-in-Zefra-e.pdf .

 

 

Colonial Twilight in Warsaw!

A Distant Plain in Warsaw!

Last year Piotr Bambot, a teacher who uses games in his classrooms and sometimes engages with members of the Polish military for their professional development, reported on his use of A Distant Plain with a group of officers and senior NCOs from the three main services.

Recently he did much the same thing with a similar group, using Colonial Twilight. He ran three games at the same time, each game was played with teams of five or six.

Bambot4821

Piotr gives initial instruction. Apparently the head-grabbing went away after a while.

Piotr said that many of the participants, some of whom had had several Afghanistan tours, appreciated the mechanics used to mimic insurgent actions. That’s always good to hear.

 

Thanks so much Piotr, and I am glad to hear that they found the games useful!

BambotRangi

Piotr thoughtfully provided a photo listing the ranks of the players, so you can get an idea of the the intended audience.

Back from Connections-UK 2018

Well, that was a great time! Connections was great, went better than I expected.

Rex Brynen did a very good report, and the Connections-UK website has audio and some slide decks.

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2018/09/07/connections-uk-2018-conference-report/

http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/2018.html

The first day was the megagame – “Green and Pleasant Land” by Jim Wallman. It concentrated on UK government internal operations as they dealt with different natural and artificial crises and emergencies – floods, a death in the Royal Family, and some nefarious doin’s as well. I had fun as the the “Adversary” (Russian) Minister of Defense (Phil Pournelle played Putin). Before the game began, Anja v.d. Hulst and I “bugged” seven tables in the UK Government room with sticky notes – they had no game function but when the Cabinet found one of them they panicked and withdrew to a secure bunker. Their nuclear submarine fleet had just put out to sea so we didn’t know what they were up to! Uh oh…

P1110580a

Photo: Tom Mouat

Second day was my “Game design as Journalism” presentation and later, the dialogue between me and Volko Ruhnke. It went far better than I ever thought it would, I had been spinning so many brain-cycles over it I thought it was no good. But I never want to talk or write about Creativity itself ever again, it’s easier just to make things.

There was also a game fair: I had brought giveaway copies of Guerrilla Checkers, which attracted quite a few people, and got two fellows into a game of Second Lebanon War.  “We are Coming Nineveh”, which we had playtested a couple of days before, was also on display. (two right photos: Tom Mouat)

LCols and me

With LCol Neil Stevens and LCol Ranald Shepherd, all looking very pleased with ourselves.

On the third day, I chaired a plenary session on “validation” that featured two presentations by people who had used my work. The first was by two LCols in the British Army who had used A Distant Plain as a training aid for their staff officers to give them some appreciation of the complexity of the Afghan situation, and in the second John Curry talked about recent games that examined the Ukraine Crisis… I am quoted as saying I got it “half right and half wrong.” (Yes, just don’t ask me which half is which.) Even if the games are not a perfect mirror of historical reality I felt validated myself and was very grateful, as always, to hear about my stuff being used in contexts outside sheer entertainment.

Before and after the conference, I had a day or two to enjoy London… I went museum hopping. At the Imperial War Museum I saw this:

dummy

“Douglas” the ventriloquist’s dummy.

“Douglas” and his handler have quite a story. Arthur Harden joined the Artillery and served in the 59th Division’s Divisional Ammunition Column. He was a hobby ventriloquist and entertained the troops with Douglas (possibly named after Douglas Haig) when out of the line. His commanding officer recognized the morale-maintaining function of the dummy and took him on his orderly room staff and promoted him to Sergeant (Harden, not the dummy). Harden said later, “The Colonel enjoyed Douglas so much that he prevented my posting elsewhere and mildly discouraged my taking a commission.” It certainly saved his life, though Douglas’ case has a hole in it from a piece of shrapnel (hidden in this shot).

https://www.forces.net/news/creepy-dummy-entertained-soldiers-during-ww1

ram1

The kids didn’t quite get the point.

I also went to the National Army Museum, which was quite fun. There was an interactive display where a CGI drill sergeant from the Guards would come out and berate you (in clean language) over your sloppy drill when you stood on the footprints.

ram2

Wellington’s cloak and barometer. Also, the skeleton of Marengo, one of Napoleon’s horses.

 

ram3

T.E. Lawrence’s robes and dagger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also went to the Victoria & Albert and British Museums, but did not have a lot of time to spend in either. I liked the 20th century design rooms at the former and just went to the Roman Britain room in the latter to take some pictures for my dad.

I also went to Richmond, to see a puppet show in a barge moored in the Thames river. The barge is brought up into London during the winter for shows. Very talented puppeteers.

puppets

Puppets from earlier shows hung on the walls.

On my last day I went out to suburban Dagenham to visit David Turczi, where we talked about our newest projects and played Root, a very interesting asymmetric game by Cole Wehrle. I didn’t really know what I was doing but still won as the Cats, on a Domination card.

Now, back to work!