TL;DR: Wargames are a great way of learning about history and the conduct of warfare on all levels (tactics, operations, strategy) in a simple, safe, easy to setup environment. This is a multi-post series that presents some wargames. This article focuses on strategic wargames. You can find the rest of the series here:
- Part 1: Introduction
- Part 2: Historical Wargames
- Part 3: Tactical Wargames
- Part 4: Operational Wargames
- Part 5: Strategic Wargames
- Part 6: Conclusion
Strategy often comes too short when conducting professional training. Apparently, it is the least important aspect of warfare for officers, as field grade officers are busy with tactics, staff officers are rather concerned with operational art, and most don’t make it to general. Still, it is an important part of the conduct of war and understanding strategy leads to a better understanding of the intent of the leadership of the nation, why things happen between the nations the way they happen, and how that influences military operations. The following list is not exhaustive, but it represents the absolute essence of strategy games.
It’s the spring of 1901, you are the leader of one of the great powers. Prepare for war! Diplomacy is a game with very simple rules and a huge following, apparently, even JFK and Henry Kissinger liked to play it. Most of what happens off the table, as players make agreements and forge alliances with each other. The mechanics are simple, but the learning factor is huge. Diplomacy is the ultimate game of diplomacy, as it teaches that nations don’t have friends, only interests, and that trust has to be earned.
Learn more about Diplomacy here.
Rise and Decline of the Third Reich
Rise and Decline of the Third Reich (or short: Third Reich, TR) is THE World War 2 grand-strategy game. It is big and complicated. Players assume the role of leader of one of the Axis or Allies and are not only responsible for military operations, but also for supply, diplomacy, and a myriad of other things. TR has a lot of crome, meaning lots of tiny special rules that are supposed to give the game a unique World War 2 feeling and setting, but that complicate the playing system.
Learn more about Third Reich here.
Twilight Imperium (TI) is one of the most successful and highly acclaimed board games of all times. Now in its 4th edition, it is still going strong. Set in a sci-fi universe where space travel has become commonplace, 3-6 players can choose from a myriad of species with unique characteristics, desires, and needs. The rules are rather simple and can be learned quickly, and the sci-fi universe divorces the game from current biases and assumptions that one might have about real-world settings, giving players the unique possibility to focus on strategy itself. The objective of the game is simple: become the new ruler of the known universe and lead your people to victory. But achieving it requires skills in diplomacy, warfare, and strategy. TI has a system of strategic objectives and victory points in place that does not solely focus on warfare. Players are assigned unique objectives (public and secret), as well as a common set of objectives, and gain victory points by fulfilling those objectives. This is a great tool abstracting the dynamics of decision making in a space empire (or a nation state, if you like). Players can’t just blast their way to victory as in so many other “strategy” games but have to really plan out their course and use all tools available to the leader of a nation.
Learn more about TI here.