Central War Gaming Blog

Central War Gaming Blog

 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fall Land Nav Training Dates Announced

We've finally gotten our stuff all lined up and have a training date. All day October 14 and the morning of October 15 we'll be doing a day/night land nav course.

This is what you might call tactically oriented. It is for teams, and aside from navigating involves communications and planning, and some degree of stealth like use of light discipline.

This is an open enrollment course. Spread the word far and wide. Anyone you work or play with who gets lost a lot or doesn't want to go into the woods should come so they learn new skills and are comfortable there.

If you haven't trained on these skills for a few years, you can probably use a refresher.

Near town so you can stay civilized, and KC area people can probably even sleep in their own beds.

And we're keeping it as cheap as we can, only $25, with a map and take-home course printouts.

Learn more, and sign up here:
http://centralwar.com/events/TrainingOct17.shtml


Assuming this all goes well and you all come and bring some friends, we'll have more of these. We'll have training in other regions, we'll do more advanced courses, and more topics.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pick Your Date

We're getting things lined up for a good land nav training course, but want to make sure as many of you can attend as possible.

This first training course will be:

  • in the KC area
  • from mid-morning Saturday to lunchtime on Sunday
  • will end by midnight Saturday (unless you get really lost in the woods) so you will have a chance to sleep
  • will have on-site (tent) camping, but will also be close enough to town for you to get a hotel room
  • no food will be provided, but meal breaks are baked in so you can run to town for those if you wish also

Once we get the location locked in, we'll be sure of fees but expect $25 for the weekend.

Now, you tell us which dates you can attend.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Okay, Let's Try Something Else

Much to our disappointment, we haven't gotten the turnout we require to put on a good event. So, we're cancelling operation King Rail 17, not because we won't make enough money, but because we refuse to put on bad events.

For paying players, with the activities and immersion promised, we aren't going to run overly-small events that disappoint you. All those who signed up will be getting refunds in the next few hours.

We're not quitting entirely so don't give up and/or be sad. But after two cancelled games in just a few months, let us talk a bit more about what this means.

We still believe that the world needs more serious war gaming, or serious MilSim. Whether to fill an unmet need between re-enactors and the more woodsball paintball and airsoft gamer, or to provide useful training value, we think it's a good thing, and won't be going away soon. We have enough of a community expressing interest that if we could get you all to the same place, at the same time, we'd have an awesome event.

But, we're not sure that ever happens, so do think we're going to have to shift gears instead of proposing and cancelling events over and over, taking money and refunding it to you.

Our general plan is:
  • One "core" game a year, in April
  • Start putting on mass-market games
  • Collaboration and consulting
  • Begin offering training events
  • Continue with the community 

Core War Gaming Events

We call the Ardean/Kitoy set of events the "core" events. Yup, that's our jargon but we're being open so have to explain that to you.

We're going to cut back to only trying to make one a year. It'll be the event just cancelled, or the same as Swift Fox 16, in April and probably always at D-Day Adventure Park in Oklahoma.

Later, we'd love to expand this, by having events in other locations, at other times of year. If you know that you have a good group up in some other part of the country, but need us to run or help run an event, contact us and we'll discuss how we can make it work.

This is also likely to stay airsoft for a while.

We are unlikely to run another MILES event any  time soon, but if you think that's a great idea, we're a community! Rope your friends and comrades together and if you get enough we can put one of those on still, sure!

Mass-Market Gaming Events

We're never going to do weekend pickup games, if only because we don't have a place to put them on or a heavily local group to turn out every weekend, but we are going to attempt to make a more accessible event to bring in those not sure they can handle a core CWG event.

This will (probably) be along these lines:
  • One night, not two. Saturday mid-morning to Sunday mid-day
  • Offer camping off the field for those who do not feel comfortable playing full time; go back to the camp to reconsolidate, reload, and rest.
  • Have more than two sides; think guerillas, government, peacekeepers
  • Have relaxed uniform requirements for some sides, and essentially no field equipment requirements (sleeping bags, food) for most players; bring food to the campsite, and a place to sleep but it can be a bright colored tent or your car
  • Allow more guns, and more or less require Kalashnikovs for at least one side 
  • And maybe even have scored objectives, so we can declare winners and losers 
Expect to see this announced in the next month or so. If you have other specific features you want, or you can promise us enough players so want to bring it to your local area, or anything else about it, contact us or add comments here.

Collaboration and Consulting

We don't have any of these lined up quite yet, but have been talking lightly to a few folks about having collaborative events, in order to explore different regions, different scenarios, and different audiences. It's not totally different from the above section on being more mass market.

And we're happy to discuss this with anyone. If you have a field, a good regular group, and think a deeply immersive 2-3 day day/night event would be a good next step, contact us about creating a joint game.

And at the lowest level, we can help you make better milsim events yourself. Even to logistical support, making maps and so forth. If interested, contact us and we can talk about it.

Fieldcraft Training

As discussed recently on Facebook, we want to start offering training on topics others do not offer easily. General fieldcraft, land navigation, communications, tactical vehicle driving, and anything else you come up with. If the first of these go well, expect a regular series, maybe 3-4 a year.

We'll also consider adding some more conventional tactical training such as night vision familiarization, shooting (airsoft and live weapons) and so on.

These won't be free, but we'll try to keep them cheap. $20 is the sort of fee we're talking about but will vary based on our costs. Expect us to offer basic support like water, as well as maps, handouts, etc. But you will probably have to handle food and housing.

These will be based in locations near civilization, and will have breaks planned so you can run off to get food at a restaurant, and sleep in a hotel room. No camping required, though we'll try to also have sites that allow it when we can to save you money.

If you have input on this, of course you can comment, but also please take our survey on fieldcraft and training events. And yes, we're willing to travel to your part of the country, if you can actually promise a certain turnout, enough to make it worth our time and gas money.

Blogging, Facebook

We are also very interested in keeping the community up and running. Expect more nerdy blog posts on the vagaries of war gaming, on modern tactics and more.

And if you like what we've been trying to do and are sad, don't be. Again let us reassure you we're still around.

And you can help. Just keep subscribed to this blog, or to CWG on Facebook (or both). Add your own interesting posts on tactics, and share equipment that seems relevant. Tell your friends and consider better ways, places, fields and rules to make events work well.

And tell us what you think. We won't necessarily DO everything you say, but we're accepting of every idea you might have, and enjoy talking to you all.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Simulating Ambushes, Near and Far

Last week I wrote about the principles of scale in war gaming and simulation systems. I made some references to the effect specific terrain features have on the scenario, and implied tactical considerations of that without getting into too many details. Today, let me explain one of them to you.

Ambushes are considered to be one of two types: near and far. Near ambushes you react to by running over them, far ones you react to with range weapons or support, and withdrawing. But the definitions of which is which are where things can break down.


I've seen specific distances used, or "grenade throwing range" as a definition. And I've specifically seen good, smart instructors say you simply cannot have a far ambush simulated in exercises (some admit it maybe works with MILES). 

FM 7-92 even says that a near ambush is one in grenade range, and includes in the react-to-ambush drill that you throw grenades and smoke. But it leaves this out for far ambushes. 

But those are incorrect definitions, and lead to worse training and no one getting proper experience. Instead, the definitions I think are right are: 
  • Near ambush – Ambushers can be easily assaulted as they are nearby, without difficult terrain or obvious obstacles in the way. React by:
    1. Returning fire 
    2. Using smoke to obscure your position and actions, and grenades to distract and kill the enemy
    3. Troops in the kill zone turn and assault through the enemy position as soon as grenades fire
    4.  Troops outside the kill zone continue firing upon the enemy position until friendly forces over-run the enemy position, then lift or shift fires
  • Far ambush – Ambushers cannot be easily reached due to distance, or obstacles. React by:
    1. Returning fire
    2. Using cover, concealment and smoke to reduce the effectiveness of the ambush fires
    3. If available quickly enough, using elements not in the kill zone to direct fires and destroy or displace the ambushers
    4. Withdrawing from the kill zone  
This definition allows us to accurately simulate both types of ambushes just fine with short range systems, such as paintball, Simunitions, blanks-and-yelling, or airsoft. This is important not just for the exercise or game administrator, but for tactical commanders as both options are available to you still. 

I have seen this happen on several occasions in fact, to great effect and to great training value. Near ambushes are largely unchanged, but far ambushes are different. The ambushing unit: 
  1. Sets at nearly the maximum effective range of their weapons
  2. On the other side of an obstacle such as a creek, embankment, marshy area, etc. 
Distance is actually irrelevant. Your "far" ambush may have troops set up 20 yards from the crossroads you are ambushing, because that is as far away as they can be to bring fire to bear effectively, and the steep-sided creek between the two is effectively impassable.

When the ambush occurs, the troops in the kill zone may be able to clearly see the enemy forces just a few dozen yards away, but will also be able to tell they cannot be reached. 

As an aside, simulation grenades are often very lightweight so have a reduced range, thereby adding to the scale effect. 



Complex terrain occurs in reality just like this. If I was setting up an ambush I would certainly want to make sure you could not assault my position, regardless of how far away I was. This has happened many times in our most recent wars, with walled garden plots, and frequent irrigation ditches providing obstacles to reach enemy forces who are quite nearby, per conventional definitions of ambushes. 

Do not hew too hard to doctrine and rote memorization of facts and drills. Think about why things are the way they are, how environment and circumstances get their vote in the battle, how you can exploit the situation, and how the enemy can use this all this against you. 



Monday, February 27, 2017

Scale in War Gaming

War gaming has a long and storied history, and one that you may have bumped into without realizing it. If you played D&D with figures or especially games like Warhammer of any era, you are just participating in the modern version of an 18th century aristocratic past-time.


Enlightenment era gentlemen used their spare time, and the principle of acquiring knowledge as being a good thing, to study all sorts of things. One of them was understanding of military tactics. They did this by building (or having built, I assume) tabletop terrain and staging battles with figures.

In the book-heavy era, many of them—despite being senior officers when wars would come—rarely drilled and never visited the actual battlefields. And they never made up new battles, or tried new tactics, but entirely and studiously re-enacted the actual events as best they could, taking months or years to position the figures carefully based on a reading of all the available literature.

This was not a nerd hobby, but something to be proud of and worthy of discussion. You'd show it off to visitors, and have arguments as you may decide from one account the artillery observer was on the front face of the hill, whereas the conventional wisdom is that he was co-located with the command staff on the crest.

Upon such details, was the stage set for disasters when modern weapons and tactics emerged.

War Gaming Units


From this came a few basic principles everyone followed in their war game modeling. First and most obvious is that the model is at scale. There are unverified reports of a few insanely wealthy individuals grading land to resemble foreign battlefields and staging a version of re-enactments, but really all we're talking about are tabletops, so the battlefield is obviously much smaller.

They also do not have a toy soldier for each individual on the battlefield. At the scales involved, the soldiers would be a millimeter or two tall, would be a vast ocean of figures to handle, and most of all, who cares about individuals?

This is critical to understand. At a battle-tactics level, as the general running or re-enacting a battle, no individual man is directed to do anything. Units move about the battlefield. So the fusilier figure above is not what he seems to be, but a Company of men—the smallest maneuver unit at the time—equipped as such.

This is reflected in today's war gaming as well. Warhammer, for one, still calls figures "units" and while they do not quite explicitly say so, a close reading of the rules and understanding of the mechanics indicates this is what it is all based on. This is why a wounded individual becomes less effective, slower, etc. instead of simply dropping out of the fight.

Field Exercises at Scale

While it is similarly rarely discussed openly, the same application of scale is basically true for real-world war gaming, from military FTXs to airsoft games.

By "scale" I mean it in three ways:

  • Distance — Ranges are expensive to operate, and complex to monitor so smaller spaces are easier to handle. Many simulation systems have reduced range so must necessarily be used in reduced scale environments. 
  • Units — Smaller than realistic units are often employed, with Platoons taking on Company objectives, for example. At the least, they are slices of a war, with that Platoon pretending they are part of a larger effort, which exists only on paper or the radios of the exercise administrators. 
  • Time — There is limited time to get away from the office or use the range resources, so most exercises and games take place over an un-realistically short timeframe to assure it works for cost and schedule of everyone. 

While there are events which are broadly full-size actions, they are special events run relatively rarely at places like Ft. Irwin, because of the difficulty and expensive of moving large scale units. I still claim they are run at a reduced time scale, at the least.

Reduced Scale Ranges 

Even with the "near miss" beep from MILES, the most accurate simulation systems (on the receiving end at least) throw actual projectiles. These actually keep people's heads down, cut branches and ricochet, so are better at simulating the effects of incoming fire, but of course for safety cannot have the range or penetration of real bullets.

That means Simunitions or airsoft must have reduced range. I round this is about 10:1 scale—the guns are effective to no more than 30 yards, and typical battlefields today rarely find actions past 300 yards, so it very roughly works.

Building effective war games requires understanding this scale factor. A lot of people who do admit that Simunition and airsoft are effective training systems will append it with "especially indoors." While true (systems like MILES are frustratingly ineffective, and potentially dangerous at indoor ranges) this misses out on a lot of opportunity.

At CWG, we always set up events with projectile systems like airsoft in close country. Whenever possible, we use terrain with small, close hills and steep valleys. Flat ground is wooded, and we avoid stretches of open ground more than about 50 m across.

Clearly, sometimes we have longer ranges where you can see each other. We try to keep them to looking hilltop to hilltop, or across terrain features such as a difficult to cross creek. You cannot shoot at each other due to range, but that's okay because you cannot maneuver on each other easily (or at least cannot do so while staying in sight the whole time), so the oddity of the range limits of your weapons doesn't become obvious.

This also pans out well if other weapon systems are employed. Grenade launchers, rockets and mortars can have ranges 2-3 times larger than rifles, as they do on the real battlefield. Everyone knows this—and we keep enemy capabilities secret, so you never know what the enemy may have. In practice, we see that units sighting each other at longer ranges will generally run off and hide to avoid being counted, or in case there is a long-range system available which will soon come down on them.

We even imply this 10:1 scale with the maps we issue for our events. We have grid lines and grid reference values along the sides at 100 m, instead of 1 km.

Time and Units

I also think the 10:1 ratio is a good rule of thumb for time and unit sizes as well. A very good event can be held in a weekend, with 20 people on a side. But no real world action would involve patrolling an area (notionally, with scale) 20 km wide with a light Platoon for a weekend. Even in a third world it would take a Battalion more like a month.

All that means is that we can simulate real world actions with smaller units, in smaller timeframes and they do not seem silly or ineffective. Imagine if one part of the scale was off. Say we had a huge piece of land, and could shoot accurately 800 m away so it worked. It would be boring to have 20 soldiers per side fighting over an area 20 km wide for just a weekend; you'd never see each other, and would end the event bored and tired.



Most war gaming uses these principles, but often without understanding what and why they are doing it. Explicitly understanding the issues and limits of your systems, terrain, range and individuals can help you generate a more effective, focused and enjoyable training exercise or game for everyone.


Monday, February 20, 2017

War Gaming for Education, Training, and Fun

Ardean attendees participate in an After Action Review, just after ENDEX (End of Exercise) discussing events of the weekend, what went well and what could be improved in the future. 


Many of you coming to CWG events are doing it for fun. And we're all good with that. Once the boring and frantic administrative tasks are done, we enjoy coming out into the field with you also.

But I also come out to train, to confirm my training or equipment works, or to prove I have training biases or bad habits. Much of how we've set up the events is designed to make them better simulations of combat—so much that we also call them Field Training Exercises (FTXs) just like the Army does. Because if you come to the event with the right mindset, you can getting training value out of them as well.

While we use several simulation systems, the fact that we use airsoft makes a lot of people giggle about the paragraphs above, and dismiss the events entirely. I mean airsoft? That's for fat kids on the one day a year they aren't playing video games in the basement while covered in Cheeto dust, amirite?

Well, no. Airsoft is a tremendous simulation system with otherwise unachievable cost, flexibility, and safety. Range is the biggest issue but can be worked around by selecting good environments, and understanding the value of scale in design of the scenario, and events. I'll discuss scale in detail in a separate post later on.

Getting Off the Range

Think of the other thing that is often looked upon with disdain by the shooting community. Taking too much of a lesson, or having training handicaps from time on "the square range." We all know you can only learn so much about how to fight, work together, communicate and explore the use of your gear while pointing one way only, and staying in your lane.

This is important for safety when there are real bullets, but in the real word there's no real downrange, but the enemy can be anywhere. You do try to not shoot your team mates, but sometimes you do have to shoot over or around them.

At CWG, all of our war gaming events are in the field, creating this complete environment. The enemy isn't standing still across a flat gravel lot, but is moving, and hiding behind trees, and hills. You have to use microterrain to maneuver yourself into position.

Airsoft is not just some toy but is part of the range of systems that provide what is called a force-on-force simulation. That is the term used for the ability to shoot at other actual people without killing them in training environments.

All FoF systems have their upsides and downsides. Often a key downside is safety, with many of them requiring hearing protection, and firing much more dangerous projectiles, which require lots more protective equipment. Some use real guns as the host, which requires a lot of safety checks and can encounter legal and regulatory issues. Many systems are restricted to certified end users, so are not easy to use.

Anything that fires projectiles has to consider where they go, so has to be done on a range of some sort, with restricted access and a backstop or enough room for the projectile to run out so it doesn't hit anyone or anything outside the range.

Some systems are insanely expensive to acquire or the consumables are too expensive, so are clearly out. Many organizations, even military forces, still train at least in part with blanks. Just blanks. Or even empty guns and saying "bang," both for cost, and safety reasons.

Airsoft is cheap, quiet, and safe. The short range means you need few range safety precautions to protect bystanders. At very close ranges, airsoft can hurt a lot, but rarely injures anyone as long as minimal precautions about power (speed) of the guns are enforced. Eye protection has to be worn all the time, but for me, it's the same eyepro I wear when shooting for real, so isn't really a burden.

A Full Engagement Suite

The other thing I really like about airsoft is how broad the weapons selection is. No, not that you can get all sorts of guns, but that you can get hand grenades, and grenade launchers, land mines, and rocket launchers, even mortars.

Many simulation systems simply do not offer these, and for the rest they are again wildly dangerous or expensive, so even military units rarely encounter anything but rifles and machine guns.

As a civilian enterprise, open to the public, we also cannot easily give you even machine guns in MILES; blank firing guns are guns to the regulatory agencies, so that's out.

Airsoft lets you work with a team for real. Not a bunch of guys running around with rifles, but coordinating the different resources; setting the base of fire with a machine gun, using grenades to try to distract and drive the enemy, and maneuvering on the enemy with your riflemen.

Living in the Woods

Most other events, and the use of practically all FoF systems, are run as brief exercises. A few minutes or a few hours of shooting and running around, then the exercise is suspended and everyone leaves the field, removes safety equipment and takes a rest. 

The lower safety requirements for airsoft also mean we can safely and effectively make you all live in the woods for days at a time. 

In my time at many FoF events and on the range, I've seen far more injuries arising from the protective equipment than I have from the simulation systems. Armor, helmets, gloves and groin protectors make you hot, so we get heat casualties. Full-face (paintball-style) protective masks reduce visibility so people run into branches, fall into holes and trip on things. 

Airsoft just requires the eye protection. And if you cannot handle that full time, then the pellets are so light they are stopped by even the thinnest layer of nylon, so simply set up a tent, go inside and zip it up. Even if the enemy assaults your camp, we don't allow them 

It's fun and educational to go through a shoot house, get charged by a robot to demonstrate the 21 foot rule, or have a shootoff with other students. But being immersed in the environment changes entirely how you act, and what options become available to you. 

Getting The Most Training for Your Time

Our rules and equipment requirements are partly to promote a safe environment, but partly to encourage you to get the best experience and the most training value out of is.

For one example, we don't use white BBs. Why? Because you can see them. I rarely can see bullets in flight, so we issue you dark BBs. You have to use your sights, just like on a real gun. Better zero that AEG.

Oh, you can see tracers? Good point. Our machine gun ammo is white, with glow in the dark at about 1 in 5 so you can see them, day or night.


How can you get the best training bang for your time with CWG? Almost any way you want. As long as you stay reasonably within the equipment requirements, you can use the uniform, web gear and equipment that you use for other events, own already for self-preparedness, or use for work in the military or police.

Myself, I bought hardly anything specifically for CWG events except the unit shirts. I make sure that my weapons are as similar as possible to my real guns. For example:

  • I use realcaps so I make every shot count. I mostly fire semi-auto, also. 
  • My slings are already modified to be modular so I don't have to buy a dozen $50 slings. I have the attachment hardware on all my airsoft guns as well, so just click one on. 
  • Sights are decent knockoffs, but the magnifier is my actual EOTech G.33 as it clips onto any rail and doesn't need to be zeroed. 
  • I use my actual IR laser. It's not re-zeroed so I don't mess it up for my real rifle. But it's close enough for typical night fighting ranges.

Talk to your team about your plans. Use actual hand signals, radio prowords and codebooks, or try out a tactic you never get to try alone, on the rifle range.

And I think, talk to the community. Plan in advance, talk about what happened afterwards so you

We will have a brief after action review when the event is done, but keep on thinking about what you learned or what surprised you. Keep discussing, and asking questions about it so you are better prepared for the next event, or the next time you go shooting for real.



Monday, February 6, 2017

Announcing our April Event: Operation King Rail 17

Today we're pleased to announce our annual signature event, the spring airsoft field exercise at D-Day Adventure Park. 

As usual, this is a 3 day long 24 hour per day immersive milsim event. You will move, sleep, eat and fight in the field, straight through from mid-morning Friday to lunchtime on Sunday. 

Set in a fictitious environment to avoid the “that’s not how they really did it” comments, CWG creates a military operating environment by modeled itself on snippets of fact drawn from real armies, conflicts, and countries. From the moment you arrive till the moment you leave, you are surrounded by and living the life of a light infantry soldier deployed in the field, fighting in a modern, low-intensity conflict.

You will choose to take part as a dragoon of the Ardean 23rd Frontier Guards, or an infantryman with the Kitoi 4th Expeditionary Protective Area Brigade. Each side has it's own specific options, requirements, advantages, and disadvantages, but you may find it easier to think that one side is OD green or Multicam and carries M4s, the other side wears Woodland and carries 7.62 battle rifles. 

Who may participate? 

Anyone who is 18 years of age or older on the first day of play, pays the fees, shows up on time, and abides by the rules and equipment requirements. All registration is first come, first served so sign up today!

How much does it cost?

The total event fee is $125. There are no hidden fees; though we offer certain things for sale they are optional. You will have to provide all your equipment, and even food, but we do supply BBs.

Where does it happen? 

We are please to announce that King Rail 17 will again be held at D-Day Adventure Park in Wyandotte, Oklahoma. No doubt, there are a great many of you who have played at D-Day before. It is an amazing facility with a lot of really impressive infrastructure.

We will be operating on a 1000+ acre playing field with 45 miles of roads and trails. There are towns, an airfield, steep hills, green valleys, streams, ponds, and lots of space. 

Many of you think you are familiar with D-Day from Swift Fox 16, any of several East Wind events or other airsoft games. But as with last spring's game, we intend to plan for something a bit different, and will use somewhat more challenging and different terrain than you may be used to. 

Why 24x7?

CWG wanted to put together an immersive event, without the need to take a whole week off work or school. Many weekend games take a long time to get started, and pause at night, but we'll have it all set up when you arrive, and run the game straight through so we can squeeze the most out of a long weekend and still be practical.


By actually running for almost 3 days we maximize our field time and get the most value out of our weekend vacation time. By running through the night, we get to use skills that are rarely exercised, and those of us with night vision (or who rent it) get to fully use your equipment for a change. 


If you cannot attend for the entire time, that's fine. Built into the schedule are two reinforcement times where new squads can enter play later. Let me tell you, the guys in the field will love fresh reinforcements! Its their chance to nap, and your chance to take up the slack on patrol

Why should I go to Operation King Rail 17?

You should come to a CWG event because you are looking for a challenge, an experience, a place to actually do all the things you trained so hard to master before this.

If you are looking for a full war gaming experience that can take your milsim preparations to the next level, sign up for Operation King Rail 17 today.

To sign up now, or read more about the event, visit: 

http://centralwar.com/events/KingRail17.shtml

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