Chris Palmer, Sam Fuson, Ed Duffy, and I staged an officer professional development event for the officers of the 114th Signal Battalion today. There were two main purposes for the event: team building and learning some tactical lessons. Sam is the human resources officer (S-1) for the battalion, and he organized the event. He and Ed set up the table before Chris and I arrived. Chris and I brought the troops, set them up, and ran the game for the group. Afterwards I conducted an After Action Review with the officers.
We ran an event like this about 18 months ago for the same battalion; however, only four of the officers from that game are still in the battalion, so mostly they were novices. We used Look, Sarge, No Charts: WWII (which Chris Palmer, Dave Wood, and I wrote) for this game. LSNC: WWII seems to be a good set for conducting this kind of event, because the rules were easily learned and the players could focus on the tactical situation.
The scenario was based on the fighting around Lvov in 1939 Poland. The Germans arrived at Lvov and began to surround the town. The Germans occupied high ground near the town of Zboiska and shelled Lvov. Among the Polish defenders was the 10th Mechanized Brigade. When the Russians arrived a few days later and completed the encirclement of the town, the Poles surrendered.
In our scenario, however, we presented a hypothetical situation that required all three forces (German, Russian, and Polish) to maneuver. There was no coordinated operation between the Russians and the Germans in reality, but we wanted to create a scenario that provided some interesting tactical challenges.
The table was shaped like a “T” with the Russians and Germans pushing across the top of the “T” to seize the town of Zboiska in the center. In the meantime, the Poles counterattacked down the vertical part of the “T” to seize the high ground and destroy the artillery batteries shelling Lvov.
The officers, ranging from second lieutenants to majors, quickly grasped the rules. Very few of them had ever played war games before this event. After just a few turns, they were running the game themselves with Chris, Ed, Sam, and me just answering the occasional question.
This is the fourth time we’ve run this scenario, which was originally designed for Cold Wars 2011 next month. Each time it has played very differently, but the outcome has been in doubt until the end. We conducted an After Action Review after the game and discussed a number of tactical lessons.
In one case a Russian infantry battalion was completely wiped out by two defending Polish battalions. That Russian battalion was supposed to create a penetration through which the Russian tanks were supposed to push. The officers quickly adjusted their plan and pushed the tanks through another penetration. We’ve noticed that often gamers will focus on killing enemy troops instead of the mission. The Russian objective was the town of Zoiska. Interestingly, the Russian commander made the decision NOT to race for the town, since he would arrive without infantry support. Instead he pushed left and right from the penetration. It was exactly the right tactical decision in this case. On the other flank, the Germans, however, tried to root the Poles out of some woodlines, which they could have easily bypassed with their panzergrenadiers and tanks. The Polish commander, instead of a frontal assault on the Germans defending the artillery on the high ground, used one battalion to fix the Germans while pushing another around the flank. It was the only time we’ve played this game when the Poles managed to take the high ground.
It was interesting to see how a group of Army officers approach the game. During the AAR, they seemed to have learned a few tactical lessons and have had a good time.