Friday, April 24, 2015

Introduction

   A year ago, I had no interest in war. While I graduated with a history major several years ago, I was more focused on political intrigue and American history. This all changed after I decided to dig into World War One a bit after trying a great game called, "To End All Wars" for the PC. The game allowed you to create Corps and Armies with ease and does a great job of showcasing the grand strategic tribulations that made the war so deadly. With this game grew an interest in military conflict in general, and for the past year or two I have dedicated myself to the study of military engagements through war gaming and reading.

    Why war games? How can a game teach us anything about conflicts that took place decades, if not centuries ago? Can we gain any insight into how battles could have been won or lost? The answer to most of these questions is yes, but why war games? War games, in the purest sense of the term, allow you to recreate historical scenarios through mathematical probabilities tethered to reality. I can think of no other way to "watch" a war in progress, and see how things operate from a command point of view.

    Lets take the example of Waterloo, which was the fateful end of Napoleon's reign. What brought Napoleon to his knees was the unexpected interjection of Bulcher's Prussians on the weaker French right flank, before Napoleon had a chance to disorder and overwhelm Wellingtons British troops on the opposite end of the front line. War games afford us the unique opportunity to see how things could have gone differently, and also provide the assurance of proof given that the rules are tailored to reality.

The battle of Waterloo.
   The map above shows how Napoleon was completely unprepared for the Prussian onslaught, having to move Lobau's troops to intercept the Prussians at Placenoit. As we all know, it was too late for the French to recover. Being unable to counter attack, Napoleon's reign came to an end after being sufficiently routed by the Allies. Unlike Napoleon, we have the benefit of history, and we know that Bulcher's Prussians are coming. What if Napoleon had advance notice of the incoming Prussians and shored up his right flank? The implications of simple military maneuvers, such as I've described, have far reaching consequences. The course of history would have been completely changed had Napoleon took better steps to reconnoitre the battlefield.

   This is why I find military history so fascinating. No other kind of crisis, only war, can produce earth shattering changes to the course of history. Small things have big consequences, and it speaks highly of generals who are able to take note of this and shift their plans on the go to fit the situation. If any of us are to truly understand the world around us and how it came to be, one must study the literal maneuvers of humanity's single largest tribulation, war.

2 comments:

  1. Nice map, nice write-up and great post!

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    1. Thank you Phil! Blogging is new for me so I appreciate any advice! Hoping to post another one tonight.

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