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Wargaming => Professional Wargaming => Topic started by: blackndecker on August 22, 2020, 11:20:17 AM

Title: After Action: MORS: Designing Tactical Wargames Course (August running)
Post by: blackndecker on August 22, 2020, 11:20:17 AM
I had the good fortune of being able to pause my vacation again (after doing so, sort of for the Connections Global event) to attend the August virtual running of the Military Operations Research Society's Designing Tactical Wargames class. The course was led by Peter Perla, Sebastian Bae, Phil Sabin, Ed McGrady, and Paul Vebber. It was a three day course running from 0930 to 1730 (or longer) and conducted over Zoom. The course link is below, but as you can see the registration fee was not insignificant but came with some assurance that it also included continuing education credit at a university (I think I heard VCU, but honestly wasn't worried about it). (

Day 1: Perla kicked off the first day which was focused on ground warfare with a game focused on Phil Sabin's Block Fight game that looked at urban warfare. The class was broken up into groups, sent to different zoom breakout rooms, and then paired off room vs room to plan and then execute the fights. Block Fight is a typical Sabin game, focusing on breaking down a key concept into a fairly easy to learn and play game. His emphasis is on elegance rather than onerous detail or complexity. Afterwords, Perla offered a presentation on ground warfare and Sebastian Bae also presented on different aspects of the issue. Afternoon, the group focused on Sabin's Take that Hill! design.

Day 2: Mainly led by Phil Sabin, Phil kicked off the day with a detailed discussion of air warfare and wargaming. I'm a shameless Sabin fan -- shameless, I say! -- so I pretty much hung on his every word. Good discussion of Lanchester and his weaknesses and other challenges with air warfare games. Sabin has a unique ability to relate a deep expertise on war studies and try to break them down in wargaming terms (his articles in Battles Magazine on stacking etc are must reads). Sabin led the group in a partial run of his mod/reskin/reboot of Phantom Leader, IAF Leader, and Wing Leader which he calls SAM Strike! (which Phil's package suggests might be published in some form (NFI)). If you've played his Canvas Aces-series of games, this is a modern outcome of that. A great exercise. McGrady followed up with a meaty brief on Gaming modern air combat operations.

Day 3: was focused on naval warfare and was Paul Vebber all day. This was a very long day, but Vebber broke the course down into separate groups to think about different design exercises one of which involved his Subhunter! design. This was a 100+ slide day that laid out some key ideas that designers needed to consider. Very technical at times. Very detailed.

As usual, the chat discussion was also pretty interesting with both the instructors as well as other key luminaries in the wargaming community periodically chiming in thoughts and ideas.

Overall, I'd give the course good marks, although with some caveats. There wasn't a class agenda socialized so you never really knew where you were at in the course day, what was next, and when the next break would be. Zoom was Zoom, but I found the groups to be a bit too big and there wasn't a chance to interact with different group partners. Your group on day one was your group throughout the course. Maybe in person this would work better, but virtually it kind of made it difficult to encourage collaboration. Some of the slide decks were only available after the presentation was given...but almost all of it was available. And Vebber allowed access to a drive of several dozen wargaming references. My last "complaint" was that I think the course tended to emphasize "designs" over "designing." It was only on the last day that there was a deliberate effort to get students to think about designing and to try there (group) hand at it.

If you have the coin/funding and time, I'd recommend the class. I think alot of the concerns I articulate above probably will get worked out as the instructors and MORs get used to the medium and have a chance to consider the feedback they were given. I'm happy to speak offline about my experience, but cannot pass along any of the course materials.
Title: Re: After Action: MORS: Designing Tactical Wargames Course (August running)
Post by: bayonetbrant on August 22, 2020, 11:25:12 AM
Sounds excellent. Wish I could've done it too