about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Own Worst Enemy

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Wargames enable us to replay a situation over and over again, as long as it amuses us. In most cases the principle variable, even if you are trying a new "strategy," is the randomness of the roll of a die, or dice. Few games do much to create a "fog of war," and most allow you to watch the unfolding of the enemy's operations with a high degree of intelligence. That is to say the abilities of any given enemy combat unit are known. This applies whether the game is a high order strategic game such as "War in Europe," or a low level tactical game such as "Sniper," or whether the game pits cruisers and destroyers against opposing cruisers and destroyers in "Iron Bottom Sound" or "Star Fleet Battles," or Sopwith Camels against Fokker D-7s in "Richtofen's War."

We go into any of those knowing much of what our own forces and the enemy's forces are capable of, the only real variable being the randomness of the die.

Does not mean we lack the ability to surprise our opponent by doing something "unexpected" or finding a "wrinkle in the rules" to exploit.

We are, however, often blind to one critical opponent: Ourselves.

If you have a run of victories you can become complacent, and complacency can lead to disaster.

One game that was published by the old "Simulations Publication Incorporated" was titled "Tank." Each game piece was a single tank and the "simultaneous movement" plotting system was used. One of the scenarios pitted a force of 22 Sherman tanks against a smaller force of Tiger tanks in mixed terrain. I was well aware of the history of such encounters, and the expected my Shermans to take heavy losses, but the first several times my opponent and I played the scenario my Shermans easily overwhelmed and destroyed his Tigers. Sadly for me, it became fixed in my mind that my Shermans would always destroy his Tigers, obviously the game was "broken."

What I was failing to allow for was that my opponent had been making a tactical mistake based on the Tiger's reputed invulnerability to Shermans, the result being that he had kept advancing his Tigers expecting to crush my Shermans with his heavy guns while my shells bounced off his armor. The result being that my Shermans were swarming his Tigers because of the closure rate.

My opponent finally figured out the flaw in his reasoning, and in one of the last games we played, instead of advancing with his Tigers, he turned to his left (my right) instead of boring in for the kill. This might not have been overly disastrous (I will never know as we never had another opportunity to play the scenario before we parted ways into the real world on our graduation). Unfortunately, I "knew" that my Shermans would swarm his Tigers and destroy them. The problem was that this time the Tigers were sitting back at range and not closing, and my Shermans were quickly reduced to so many piles of scrap. Not all of them. I no longer remember what my total losses were, but I did come to realization that my confidence in victory (because I had always won before) was seriously misplaced, and at some point broke off the attack and retreated my remaining Shermans from the map. I did not attack to my total destruction, but I know I lost heavily.

I was beaten, however, less by my opponent than by my own self delusion. My Shermans had always beaten the Tigers in this scenario before, and therefore would do so again by swarming them as they had before. My overconfidence due to my previous successes against this opponent and these tanks with this force several times previously blinded me to how dangerous the Tiger tanks really were, and my cardboard subordinates paid for my Hubris. I was my own worst enemy.