Traditions matter, more even than the ships, troops, or equipment. Traditions translate into the wisdom to select and appropriately use the tools our intelligence allows us. We’ve all seen the videos of soldiers giving a chimp an AK-47
, then fleeing in terror as it proceeds to bang off rounds willy-nilly. Technology is a force multiplier for tradition and manpower, not a magic wand The chimp would never have killed them, but their own panic (not to mention poor choices) certainly increased their danger.
In Wargaming and game design, I rarely see military traditions considered on the whole, but embedded in unit design. In some cases, this factor is weighed very little. I am certainly open to
Tau Fire Warrior
opinions as this is an observer’s topic, not a fighter’s, but I believe this makes our games worse at teaching the history and factors which led up to the conflicts we study. I will cite Warhammer 40,000’s Tau army as one that seems to reflect a strong tradition, with the “Mont’ka” targeting and disruption via precise commando-style strikes or the “Kauyon” army lists which attempt to trick and funnel their opponents into kill zones of massed fire. I believe this is because of the thinner lore of the Tau, and their introduction as essentially a lore piece in that space-marine-centric system.
Consider this: With the decline in baseball’s popularity and physical sport in general in the States, grenade-throwing competency has been soured
. That’s an essential tool in house-to-house clearing and even many SWAT or police actions! Sure, I’d still expect a US trooper to have competency, but perhaps not the dependability a commander might desire. When traditions are neglected, it is the dependability which drops and thus it affects planners the most by introducing variance to common scenarios.
I propose that instead of army books that go on at length defining units, we introduce command-level resources that can be “bought” just like units from a pool. Say we’re looking at American GIs in a WWII-era wargame. In general they have X stats, but with veteran or elite they come with one or two points that go into a Tradition pool. You buy things out of that pool that apply to the whole army: Close Combat attacks for infantry might receive a benefit, or your infantry might be more practiced at digging in and hunkering down, or night fighting, or at engaging at longer ranges. Perhaps they are armed to the teeth, with soldiers carrying personal weapons and dirty tricks while their commanders look the other way or encourage them further. Not only would this speed up the finicky design and balance testing, but it would also increase the ambiguity of optimum play. It is noteworthy to me how much better static wargames which focus on one battle or campaign represent this unity between an army’s roots and its effectiveness as a unit instead of the natural devolution to “hero” style units and specialized commanders that more or less have superpowers on the tabletop! Still, as a lover of the theoretical and the near-infinite customization of Wargame systems, I muse on the formation of a system in which you can make any battle you can think up happen. I think a set of rules for forming your own factions, special units, and campaigns ought to come standard in the “universal” Wargames, but ah, how I digress!
I’d like to leave you to consider these comments concerning the Chinese navy by Steve Green at Instapundit
, a news roundup I enjoy:
“Building the ships and planes is one thing. Training up the crews and aviators, perfecting doctrine, and instilling institutional knowledge and esprit de corps take longer.”