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Monday, October 21, 2013

Games for Asymmetric Warfare

Although sports and games are often likened to war, there is one great difference: symmetry. Sports and games are set up so that both sides begin with equal strength with skill determining the outcome. The purpose of this is to even the odds between the players so the game is more interesting. However, in war, it is common for the opposing armies to be very different in structure, size, leadership, technology, and so on. Asymmetric warfare is a popular catchphrase these days, but it's redundant- warfare in general is asymmetric.

I think it would be useful and fun to create games to model asymmetric warfare. One idea I had was to take the game of chess. One side would have the usual pieces and the other side would start with one row of pawns in the normal place. But, that side would also have 40 extra pawns in reserve and could add them one at a time to its back row. I wonder what strategies both sides would create to deal with this situation. What strength of pawns would be enough to overwhelm even the best chess player?

Another possibility would be a variant of the Battleship game. One side would have the normal set-up and the other side would have only a patrol boat. However, that side would be know the location of all the enemy ships. The side with more ships would be allowed to take two shots per turn. I wonder whether firepower would win over intelligence in that kind of set-up.

Of all the war games, I think Stratego does the best job of simulating the fog of war as well as the importance of deception. A good way to make Stratego more interesting would be to give each player some equal number of resource points at the beginning and let each player purchase units as they see fit. Since each player has no idea what the opponent will be throwing at them, would they buy a variety to balance their strengths or would they focus on only a few unit types?

A good war game should incorporate aspects of supply, morale, terrain, mobility, uncertainty, surprise, luck, and intelligence. I know of no such game at the moment and I would be interesting in seeing one.  

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