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A Quick Look At Wargames.


Anton Coetzee


Definition of Wargames.


Game played by military and civilians, to re-enact a past or future battle, with different yet similar, objectives of victory with either historical data or simulated imaginary data according to set rules, regulations, and assumptions, on boards, setup replica miniature battlefields or computers. These games where overseen by either umpires and or computers. It is a means of not only, to conquer, capture and destroy an opposing force, but most importantly on defence - how to protect and defend ones own forces from defeat and possible total annihilation.


Introduction to Wargames.


Is it possible that, Wargames, in a different format, were popular long before prehistorical man could walk upright and communicate properly ? Did it originate when cave man plotted and practised within his own conclave with grunts and gestures on how to hunt and kill for the basic essentials needs, i.e. Food, shelter and woman ?


Did it later evolved further, for the capture of transport ? (the forerunner of the horse). And let us not forget ways to attack other groups of fellow man to take spoils - be it food, better shelter, livestock or slaves and for defence against attackers ?




Wargames, in varying formats, evolved where more civilised man (early BC); the Greeks, Alexander The Great, the Romans and then in AD, the Mongolians, Atila the Hun, Genghis Khan the Vikings and more recently Napoleon and Hitler. They captured, conquered and created great empires where civilisations rose before being over thrown by another conquer.


The forerunner of present day Wargames was refined into games as Chess by the Chinese. Chess evolved from a group of central Asian board games.


Xiangqi: A board game that originated in China, sometime prior to the 3rd century B.C. This game is still played in various forms throughout China, Korea and Japan. (Some say it originated as early as 1500BC, although in a different format)


Chaturanga: 6th century Sanskrit word, referring to the branches of the Indian Army. This name was also used to describe a gaming board, which was used at that time in India for various games.


Chatrang: A board game that was played in Persia in the 7th century. This game is precisely the same as the Indian Chaturanga board game, the only difference being the Persian name.


Shatranj: Arabic name given to chatrang by Islamic Persians and Arabs sometime in the middle of the 7th century.

Early modern Chess was developed on the Iberian Peninsula, a derivative of Shatranj, which was brought there by the conquering Moors. It then became a European game with some more refinements. (Pre-gunpowder combat)


In the 17th Century AD more elaborate games where created. Military chess with toy soldiers, With little carved pieces of wood or stone, later silver and gold made by craftsmen, with loving care, representing Man and Horse armed with sword and lance. Then, even later, weapons such as guns and cannons where added. Theses games where mostly played by Royalty and Senior Military Officers.


Kriegspieler: (a German invention)  18th century game played on a 3600 squares representing the Franco - Belgian border of that time and later with real detailed maps. With figurines made mainly from tin and or lead - allowing not only royalty and the military elite, but the general public to play as well. Until early 20th Century (mass productions - the industrial revolution strikes again) plastic moulding took over churning out millions of identical figurines for not only adults, but also, children to "amuse" themselves.


According to some sources, two types of Kriegspieler evolved -

Rigid Kriegspieler (Umpires, rulebooks and set regulations) and

Free (With human umpires allowing free thought, unconventional methods and means - Made for more exciting and faster games). The modern game.


Present Day.


 In the 21st century, computers and other technological wizardry (mostly used today by the majority of the armed forces) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) have taken over with simulation software. More versatile and results are more easily validated - rerun to obtain statictics, which has made many of the old, trusted ways and means obsolete.


The old methods with players gathering in a suitable game room, has been replaced with a Computers and monitors or projected on a screen, which are able to show simulated 3 Dimensional views (3D), a side section and overhead view to name a few. Even more sophisticated equipment allows IR (Infrared views) - you name it and modern technology can be programmed to present the required view and viewing angle. Typical of today's modern war room, equipment ready rooms or briefing rooms.


The art of simulation of military Wargames is not restricted to the army, (battle of Waterloo of 1815 AD or battles of WW1 and WW2), for example, but also of naval (battle of Trafalgar 1805 AD) and other great battles on the High Sea's of the past. But nowadays of the airforce (Kuwait / Persian Gulf war 1991 and Bosnia 1998/99) and soon, maybe space - (Spacewars). In addition, modern Wargames, can be played solely by computer, by two forces - typically red and blue with computer acting as referee or just one force against the computer. In more advanced scenarios multiple forces can be programmed to participate in a variety of scenarios and configurations.


Recent conflicts, e.g.: as in Kuwait and Bosnia / Kosovo - where armies, navies, and airforces of not one but many countries (NATO) took part. All this was done within the basic framework of Wargames, but on a much grander scale and with processing power of incredible powerful computers as super Crays, which, in a blink of a eye can resolve million's of possibilities of one variable of change in a plan on the overall effect.  With the ever-powerful computers (the no longer humble PC) networked together spanning, not only a few local computers, but of different military forces, bases, countries, and also continents e.g. (NATO).


Gone are the days where groups men or women would partake in a scenario where items / little markers would be shuffled around on a board representing events and battles, as during pre and including WW1 and WW2 (World War 1 and 2).


But what of the non-military side ? What about the wargames or gaming enthusiast ? What about games designed by software companies played on stand-alone or networked computers or across the Internet by the computer enthusiast ? Are these not the wargames of the future ? It is only recently been possible to really re-enact, say, the Battle of Britain, in its full glory with the event of the multimedia computer. Likewise many other Battles of the Past will soon, or are already, been played out in glorious technicolour and 3D sound. Software houses are kept busy providing the graphics and infrastructure to re-enact these battles. More and more people are being drawn to Wargames, wargamming or gaming as it is better known, later to be come possible enthusiasts. Is this the next generation of wargame experts whom will take us into the next Millennium?


The Future


With the end of the "Cold War", the breakdown of the Berlin Wall, Unification of Germany, the break away of various "Russian Republic's, with 'detant' and glastnos are the order of the day. Doe's the old order of Us (NATO and other non-communists countries) and Them (Russia and communist block countries) no longer exists ? Will it be an Eastern and Western (Islamic and Christianity) conflict that we must now prepare for in the future ? 


Or is it a case of First world countries trying to bring peace to more and more warring third world countries as Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and more closer to home Angola ? Or do the changes in Russia, under acting president, Vladimir Putin, represent another Us vs. Them threat ? Could it become the nuclear war ? Will it be a conventional war, but controlled by Computers over-seeing and directing all activities in the field ?


In Conclusion.


Are we prepared for the next generation of war ? Will this be WW3 ? Most importantly, who will be the enemy ?  How are we going to prevent this war ? Can we prevent it ? Has sufficient preparation, planning and researched gone into the all the possible alternatives ? Have all the consequences and possible end results from simulated Wargames been taken into account ?  Has there been enough time to study all the alternatives and prepare contingency plans ? This war could have an affect on not just warring countries, or continents involved, but the whole world.


Food for thought.


More closer to home - what if we had simulated a real Wargames exercise before we had entered in Lesotho in Operation Boleas - September 22 1998 ? - What advice could have been given beforehand to the Military Commanders to prevent the mistakes and logistical errors which occurred ?  Why where certain critical Government members and departments kept in the dark until afterwards ?


We have the capability, equipment, commitment, and the means, but did we implement the necessary planning and most importantly, did we study all the consequences associated with the preparation for this military operation ?


Finally, before entering the various regional conflicts in Southern Africa, such as Rawanda, Burundi, Angola and now the (DRC), maybe our various political figures should evaluate the pros and cons more thoroughly, before committing the country, the military, and the people into such binding, long lasting and financially crippling decisions. These decisions not only effect military personnel, but their families, the average citizen and our country, and let us not forget the country and its people being invaded.


Disclaimer and Note.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those solely of the author. This material is copyrighted. Any comments, any omission or additional information, can be made directly to the author at e-mail: tronajc@juno.com


About the Author:


Born in East London South Africa, now living in Ontario Canada - Spent over twenty years in the technical field - mainly Radar and later Electronic Warfare - more recently mainly in the Information Technology .. Most recently, a brief spell with Wargames, thus his interest in Information Warfare, Electronic Warfare, Wargames and related fields. Presently working full time in related Service industries.





The Internet.

1                    http://www.fas.org/irp/wwwinfo.html

2                    http://www.psycom.net/iwar.1.html

3                    http://www.uta.fi/¬ptmakul/infowar/index.html


4                    Bulletin Boards - Various posts.

5                    Various Newspaper - The Star, Pretoria News, Beeld, Business Day,  Sowetan, the Daily Mail and Guardian and the Globe


History of Chess:


6                    http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/toys/chess.html

7                    http://ahs.aps.edu/Clubs/Chess/History.html

8                    http://www.hyw.com/Books/WargamesHandbook/9-b-hist.htm

9                    http://www.cfcsc.dnd.ca/links/milhist/index.html 




10                http://www.warweb.com/cas.html 

11                http://members.toast.net/jab/ 


Additional reading.

1                    Wargames -Thomas B. Allen.

2                    War Games Through the Ages - Donald F. Featherstone.

3                    Jane's Defence.

4                    Aviation Weekly and Space Technology.