SIMULATION TECHNIQUES IN THE MODELLING OF PAST CONFLICTS

Professor Philip Sabin, in!"s Colle!e Lon#on

I have been using simulation and gaming techniques in my teaching of strategic studies and military history for many years, and such techniques now form a central element of my teaching and research. Modern computing capabilities play a significant role in this approach, but (despite common perceptions to the contrary) simulations do NO need to be entirely computer!based. Manual simulation techniques are often more accessible and effective. he "ey is to stri"e an appropriate balance between intellectual and technological innovation, and thereby to attain the best of both worlds. #imulations and games complement more traditional forms of teaching and scholarship in three principal ways. $irst, they involve users more vividly than does mere passive absorption of written, oral or even video material. #econd, they reduce the hindsight problem which can afflict %linear& approaches to history, and they provide a forceful reminder of the contingent and uncertain nature of developing events. hird, they require modellers to develop a logical, comprehensive and wide!ranging understanding of what happened and why, and so they can often highlight neglected questions and provide a more robust basis for comparative analysis. #imulation gaming is particularly appropriate for the study of war, because war and games are both dialectical strategic contests between opposing wills, each struggling to prevail. ' his is why (lausewit) said that %In the whole range of human activities, war most closely resembles a game of cards&. * Military forces and defence analysts have e+ploited this similarity for generations, and they use wargaming techniques routinely for training and planning purposes, though the forward!loo"ing and classified nature of this wor" greatly limits its utility for historians of past conflicts., housands of unclassified manual and computer wargames have been published over the past -. years for use by enthusiasts "een for a vicarious e+perience of warfare, and such simulations now cover virtually every past battle and campaign./ his undeservedly neglected material does offer an important resource for innovative scholarship, as long as three associated problems can be overcome. $irst, as with 0 and film production, the dominance of commercial over academic considerations means that standards of accuracy, research and referencing are highly variable. #econd, the populist nature of the material gives it a ma1or image problem compared to more academically familiar techniques such as game theory, mathematical modelling and operational analysis.- hird, there are severe logistic challenges associated with library provision, classroom employment and non!e+pert utilisation of simulation materials, compared to more traditional media such as boo"s, articles and videos2303s.
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#ee .(ornell 4 .5llen (eds.), War and Games, (6ochester N78 9oydell, *..*), which includes a chapter by myself. (. von (lausewit), On War, edited and translated by M.:oward 4 ;.;aret, (;rinceton8 ;rinceton <niversity ;ress, '=>?), p.@?. , #ee .5llen, War Games, (Aondon8 :einemann, '=@>), ;.;erla, The Art of Wargaming, (5nnapolis8 Naval Institute ;ress, '==.), and http822www.au.af.mil2au2awc2awcgate2awc!sims.htmBgeneral. / #ee http822www.grognard.com, http822www.consimworld.com, http822www.wargamer.com, and C.3unnigan, The Complete Wargames Handbook (New 7or"8 Dilliam Morrow, *nd ed., '==*), posted online at http822www.hyw.com29oo"s2Dargames:andboo"2(ontents.htm. #ee, for e+ample, .#chelling, The Strategy of Conflict, (O+ford8 O+ford <niversity ;ress, '=?.), and #.9iddle, Military Power, (;rinceton8 ;rinceton <niversity ;ress, *../).

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The Cambridge History of Greek and "oman Warfare. hence my preference for manual simulations which are less visually stri"ing but usually far more accurate.>). and the finished simulations are posted on the course website for anyone to download.. and by giving readers the s"ills they need to design their own simulations 1ust as my M5 students and I currently do. 3ecember -th. simulation and gaming will doubtless continue to be controversial and poorly understood. (#lough8 5ctivision. thereby overcoming the absence of this material from traditional libraries and archives. * vols. hird. and design their own mini!simulation of a battle or campaign of their choice. thereby helping with their own teaching and research.brainiac. My various 95 courses use simulations as a means to an end. *. *... his synergy applies not 1ust within teaching. is an invaluable tool for the graphic design. #ee also .? #econd.-) because of their mass!mar"et focus. designed for e! mail play of published wargames.com. > #everal past student simulations have been or are due to be published commercially.ac. (Aondon8 :ambledon (ontinuum. but also between my teaching and research. :..van Dees 4 M. De focus on manual simulations to avoid any need for programming e+pertise. I have built up my own personal collection of over a thousand published simulations which I may use for my own research and as a resource to lend to students. My ne+t boo". which build on the techniques developed by commercial designers. and the associated website at http822www. *.unic or #econd Dorld Dars. by setting simulation techniques in their proper theoretical conte+t alongside game theory and operational analysis.. ((ambridge8 (ambridge <niversity .#abin. * . 3ale Aarson&s freeware programme %(yberboard&. :igher Fducation 5cademy wor"shop. and develops a radical new simulation!based approach of %comparative dynamic modelling& to help resolve the intractable scholarly controversies over the ill!documented battles of antiquity."cl. readers can actually refight the battles for themselves. I use mainly my own personal designs.html. his also allows me to post simulation components online so that students and others may use them in their own time. but my e+perience demonstrates how a 1udicious and balanced combination of intellectual and technological innovation can bring real and highly synergistic benefits.u"2schools2sspp2ws2consim. hence greatly increasing the degree of class participation. 5s with other novel scholarly techniques..html. for ? years I have also been running an M5 option in which students study conflict simulation as a sub1ect in its own right. but which are much simpler and better documented so as to ma"e them more accessible and acceptable within an academic conte+t.#abin.u"2schools2sspp2ws2staff2ps!lostbattles.Dhitby (eds. > http822www. :owever. to illustrate topics such as aerial dogfight tactics or the strategic dynamics of the #econd . will go even further.. and there is also tremendous synergy between my use of simulations at 95 and M5 level E the same simulations (including one student!designed one) are used for both. Sim#lating War.I have sought to overcome these daunting obstacles in several ways. (#lough8 5ctivision. and e+periment with different reconstructions and assumptions in order to gain a greater insight. and I have 1ust started employing some of the M5 students as assistants to help me run several 95 simulations simultaneously. @ Instead of simply being presented with yet another set of personal %hunches& about what occurred. especially those where accuracy is sacrificed for :ollywood!style dramatics.>). $irst./) and Call of %#ty &.. My recent boo" ost !attles e+pands on traditional scholarship li"e that in the Cambridge History of Greek and "oman Warfare which I also recently co!edited.@ ? his flaw is particularly evident in computer games li"e "ome$ Total War. I lay great stress on identifying the limitations and methodological flaws of published simulations. <niversity of Darwic". *. rather than employing published simulations %off the shelf&. but the students do use computers routinely for the graphic design of their maps and counters. @ . online sharing and on!screen testing of our own simulation designs E see http822cyberboard.). ost !attles$ "econstr#cting the Great Clashes of the Ancient World."cl.ress.ac. *.