Friday, 1 July 2016

Tactics Night

This week I got to take part in an interesting "professional" wargaming activity that I thought my readers might be interested in. Some of you make know I'm a naval architect as well as a wargamer, and part of my job involves lecturing to and supporting the MSc. naval architecture and marine engineering courses at University College London. Part of the course involves a ship design exercise where students are given a set of requirements and a budget and then have to design a ship within those constraints. Due to the nature of the course a number of the ship designs are warships, generally advanced types looking 10-20 years into the future (so there are lots of UAV carriers, ships with rail guns and laser weapons, stealth ships, trimarans, etc.). In the last couple of years the ship design exercise has been topped off with "tactics night", a wargaming event where the students get to see how their designs might fare in action, achieved through the medium of wargaming. I have encouraged and supported this approach and earlier in the year took part in a short wargaming exercise where the students in one team  learned the shortcomings in their design as it was at an early stage and received some very valuable pointers for improvement. So I was rather pleased to be asked to lay the OPFOR in Tactics Night 2016, along with two of the UCL research staff, Santiago and Veronika. The students used their ship designs from 2016, we used some of the designs from the 2015 exercise.

3D printed models of the forces engaged

Things look tense in the OPFOR command centre

The scenario was fairly straightforward, the students had to escort an amphibious force to an amphibious area of operations in preparation for an assault, aiming to reach one of three beaches along a 100+ nautical mile coastline (we didn't know exactly where they were heading). Our smaller force had to stop them, a "green" force of neutral merchant ships was there to confuse the issue, and the game was played within a strict time limit of 3 hours (representing the political will of Blue force - not achieved the aim by 9pm? You lose!)

A simple yet effective set of rules was developed by UCL's Dr Nick Bradbeer that translated the ship designs into workable wargame stats and layouts. The game was played out on the floor of the main naval architecture lecture room with excellent "dressing" provided by Lucy Collins, one of the research assistants, in the form of red lighting, "ops room" screensavers on the room's computers and sound effects, so there was quite an atmosphere! Our OPFOR team was in the same room but closeted behind a screen and moving our forces on a map. Nick also did wonders creating 3D printed models of  the ships taking part.

I won't describe the game in great detail, only to note that there was a tense and extended search phase where our respective UAVs and UCAVs sought to find the enemy - a phase that we won as we located the students' carrier and hit it with an all out 18-missile strike (some appalling die rolling by our side for weapon hits but enough to achieve a mission kill), and the neutrals came front and centre as one of their merchant ships was boarded and captured, and a second was inadvertently blown to pieces having been close to one of our stealth corvettes during a missile attack - the missiles decided the large radar target was a better option than the ghostly radar trace and homed on the merchant rather than the corvette. With world opinion turning against them, plus a burning carrier, the game was up for Blue Force and the game ended just before the 9pm deadline.

It was an excellent night, thoroughly enjoyed by all. And from the players perspective it was an excellent learning opportunity, one that we will develop and continue in future years.


  1. Nice report and it sounds like it was a lot of fun. I'm very jealous, I never get to have fun like this at my job.

  2. Excellent use of Wargaming in a learning environment.

  3. Fascinating stuff- I've long been interested in such applications of the hobby.



  4. I was put off Modern naval Wargaming because of the huge distances involved but this sounds ideal... are the rules available to the public?