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  Fun and Games

The Battle of the Fulda Gap was probably the most heavily war gamed scenario of any battle in any war.  How to fight and win a tank battle in a maneuver box roughly eighty miles wide by two hundred miles long?  You are out numbered by a factor of 5.5 to 1.  The opponent has capable equipment, sound judgment and enormous mass; you have better equipment and more skilled soldiers plus the traditional advantages of the defender, shorter lines of supply, knowledge of terrain and ability to shape the battlefield. Success depends on whether the Dutch, German, British and American forces, sharing very little common equipment or language can prevent the Soviets from shattering NATO in the main battle area and then breaking out into Germany west of Frankfurt.  At the western end of the box was the Rhine River and France, at the opposite end was the east - west German border, the region just northeast of Fulda. The geographically correct name for the corridor entry point would have been the Eisenach - Bad Hersfeld Gap.   Bad Kissingen and Daley barracks usually is included in the southeastern corner of the map box. At stake is the future of Europe, this was the largest battle ever visualized that never happened.

How to train for this possibility?  How to even begin to visualize the size and scope of the battle, to test your plans,  tactics, equipment  against the weather and terrain with any sort of  validity?  Questions that have haunted the minds of leaders and commanders from 1951 to 1991.  Beyond command discussions and CPXs, a new approach based on an old idea began to address this issue in the 1970s.  It was a child's pursuit tailored to a high stakes question.  It was the stuff of generals and armchair generals.

Thousands of unknown troopers have maneuvered everything from individual tank counters across foam rubber terrain boards to divisions in collision as modeled by super fast computers  trying to account for hundreds of variable factors influencing the first minute of the First Battle of the Next War. From 1978 to 1991, if you were at Fort Leavenworth or the Army War College for more than a week, you probably could have participated in, helped to develop, modify or critique a simulation event or written an after action report on yet another iteration of a training simulation of the Battle of the Fulda Gap,

Seventeen year old kids have achieved complete Soviet victory in less than two hours of scaled maneuver, seventy year old men have brilliantly commanded the Eaglehorse through a series of delaying actions and spoiling attacks to thoroughly frustrate the Soviet attack.  For about twenty dollars, you can simulate the battle with a nicely detailed board game thirty years old.  For a few more dollars, you can fight the battle on your PC and endlessly experiment with whether the 2/11 ACR GDP positions would have survived the first five minutes of Soviet assault.  The PC based computer game, available on E Bay, is amazingly more sophisticated than the first computer assisted simulation that the Army brought to Daley Barracks in 1978 to drive an Eaglehorse CPX training event.

Millions of dollars and thousands of both military and civilian personnel are allocated to constantly refining simulation events to support the needs of current Army training. Along with the arrival of the digital battlefield, the importance of simulation based training is probably the single largest leap forward in Army training methods in fifty years.  We present a series of brief articles that survey game and computer simulations from both the active Army and hobbyist perspective.  As always, we seek to find the Eaglehorse on the terrain board, on the game board and on the computer screen.  Ever want to command the Eaglehorse, run the Regiment or try your skill as the V Corps Commander circa 1985?  Here's  your chance. 

Kriegspiel and the US Cavalry, 1914

CAMMS Event, Daley Barracks, 1978

Where's My Beer, Where's my Battalion? Strategy and Tactics 1980

RAM Power and Warp Speed, the Future Now

The Lead Soviet Regiment has been Destroyed at Bad Neustadt

Tank Combat PC Based Simulations

Hot off the Press

Kriegspiel and the US Cavalry 1914 - return to top

Chess, dating from the 1st Century AD, is one of the earliest battle simulations archeologists have uncovered.  The origins of the game are in both China and India.  Other games using miniatures and rules of engagement appear across Europe in the 18th Century and as the Industrial Age opened, the German military pioneered a recognizable combat war game aptly named Kriegspiel,  as the study of the art and science of warfare began to merge. The game was added to the training program of the Army War College in Washington DC at the end of the 19th Century.  The United States Navy also played a significant role in developing wargaming and simulations in miniature to train officers at their War College in Newport Rhode Island during this same period.

  An officer at the map table during a Kriegspiel exercise, 1914. Scientific American  

The magazine, Scientific American, followed the opening weeks and months of the First World War with nothing short of rapt enthusiasm for the new technologies.  Upwards of 40% of each issue was devoted to discussion of weapons and  tactics of the "grand war"; the reporting is amazing detailed and almost completely devoid of any mention of casualties or death.  All of Europe at war was a grand spectacle and airplanes, submarines, vast forts and huge cannon seemed to have sprung  from the pages of "futurist-novelists" .  One magazine issue featured a three page fold - out to show the reader the actual diameter of a massive German artillery shell.  The Plains Wars of the 1870s and the Spanish American War had faded from the American conciseness and all of this war technology was very new, very exciting and very far away.

The 5 December 1914 issue of Scientific American contained a detailed account of the American version of Kriegspiel as adopted by the Army.  The following blocks of text borrowed from the longer article indicate that the Army was ready to explore the innovative training device but slow to grasp the realities of the opening days of the First World War.

 "The Red and Blue force student commanders briefly see the main, fully detailed battle map, established at a scale of six to twelve inches per mile depending on the type of scenario being studied.  The commanders and staffs then leave the main room to follow the battle with their field maps, draft their plan and brief subordinates.  Umpires and other student officers actually maneuver the pieces on the map."

 "For locating the positions of the various troops in the exercise or placing them rapidly, a very ingenious system has been devised by our officers.  For instance, when it is desired to show a long column in march, the various elements of the command are represented by oblong strips of cardboard, cut exactly to scale, a distinctive color or combination of colors for each branch of service, pinned one behind the other on a long strip of wood, which when laid on the map intact, covering exactly the proper distance. When it is necessary to deploy, to form line to the front, the sections are taken from the strip, one by one and pinned to the map in their order of reaching the line. "

"A deployed line or line of skirmishers, is represented by small beads, strung on wires which may be bent in any shape to conform to the condition of the ground on which they are supposed to occupy.  Individual pieces of artillery are indicated by single red headed pins; a battery by a crimson strip of cardboard." 

  Somewhat indistinct in the scan, the top is the storage area for various cardboard strips and counters used to represent units on the map board during Kriegspiel. Then, the special game clock and below, a gauge with various scaled templates to plot distant over time for cavalry, infantry and wagon movements. Scientific American  

The article then recounts the actions of a horse cavalry rear guard problem as studied in the simulation. Captain Blank is the Blue force Commander trying to delay a fresh Red attack on an infantry division with his depleted cavalry units.

"He looks at his map, eagerly scanning the winding contours which mark the hills and valleys, and quickly settles on a nearby wooded crest to make his first stand.  Then he issues his orders, writing them out for the umpires, although under service conditions they would probably be oral, with a decided snap to them.  His time scale, cavalry at a gallop, shows him that the position, one half mile away may be reached in two minutes, and the yellow headed pins gallop to the designated high point, under the hand of the umpire."

"... all the time the deployment was in progress (( the pursuing Red force coming under initial fire from Blank's squadrons and moving into an attack formation )) Blank's troopers dismounted and his artillery was pouring fire into them, delaying them further.  At about the time the enemy deployment was complete, Blank's orders were written again.  His battery limbered up and his troopers mounted, one regiment at a time, and galloped up the road, closing on the main body, where they took another position, and in a few minutes, the regiment that had been left behind to act as the guard to the rear guard, came up and joined them.  Blank so far has gained a mile and one half delay for the infantry."

At any point, the article continued,  the umpires may end the exercise to discuss the major teaching points that the action had revealed; the discussion was of equal importance to the actual board play of the problem.

One hundred years after printing,  the article is filled with unintentional irony.  The full  account of CPT Blank's cavalry delay problem reads as though they were wargaming the Battle of the Shenandoha Valley in 1863, not preparing for the trench warfare, poison gas and machineguns that defined the combat experience of  the American Expeditionary Force  in Europe in 1917.   The article speculates that somehow, America might be drawn into the war and, in the wonderfully ornate language of the period concludes,

"To a layman, it might appear ridiculous to watch the seriousness and concentration of an earnest class of student officers, poring over a map and aimlessly moving little pins and blocks about it pictured surface.  But in the hand of those men the safety of our country lies, and the state of our preparedness for war, with our tiny army. Our army now numbers thousands - these gentlemen play the map game with hundreds of thousands, what we would require in time of war, and they know that such a number is necessary  -  and strive their mightiest to learn how to hold the enemy in check with our little handful until the volunteers can be trained, which takes months!  May the day of sacrifice by deferred!!"

  An officer at the map table during a Kriegspiel exercise, 1914. Scientific American  

On the same page that the article ended, a two paragraph feature noted that with England and Germany now at war, hundreds of English language teaching positions had opened in Germany and any American with an interest and the skills could easily find employment.

With only minor changes, Kriegspiel continued in use with the Army as the principle map based force on force training simulation for officers through World War II.  The Museum of the Naval War College at Newport has an excellent display covering the development of wargaming as applied to the Fleet. Due to security concerns, the museum is currently open by appointment only.

On the Internet, there are a number of very good histories of the origins of wargaming and developments in both the United States and elsewhere through the 19th and 20th centuries.  A very detailed yet readable account can be found at this link:

CAMMS Event, Daley Barracks, 1978 - return to top

Although the men of the 2/14 ACR had their share of CPXs, map exercises, terrain " walk and talks " and sand table exercises, modern war gaming or the more correct,  digital simulations with variable outcomes,  was not introduced to the armored cavalry until in the Summer of 1977.  A training team from the 75th Maneuver Area Command was passing through VII Army in Germany with a computer and terrain board combat simulation called CAMMS, Computer Assisted Map Maneuver System.  For the Blackhorse, the first exposure to this new training device was at Downs Barracks, understandably it war gamed a potential Soviet attack through the Fulda Gap

  SSG Badal, in threat uniform, and SSG Stafford consider a problem on the board. --Rick Badal  

CAMMS,  aimed at exercising the battle staff and decision making capabilities at the battalion / squadron – brigade / regiment level,  featured a gymnasium full of molded foam terrain board sections pieced together roughly resembling Germany.  Over the hills and through the fields, controlled by the Lts and Platoon Sergeants, plastic pieces at the section and platoon level were maneuvered in battle with Soviet counterparts controlled by members of the S2 / R2 staff.  At this level, it certainly was very similar to the cavalry Kriegspiel exercise of CPT Blank.   On the handstands, in the M577s,  commanders and staff worked to understand the battle as reported by the platoon leaders and issue the appropriate FRAGOs and Operations Orders.

 Unit movements and the results of direct and indirect fire were unsorted by a bank of early model personal computers networked to a portable mainframe all of which were operated by the CAMMS support staff.  The following year, CAMMS  came to Daley Barracks as the simulation was fine tuned to support a  squadron level tactical scenario.

 Bob Stefanowicz

 As I recall, the CAMMS training team passed through on a yearly cycle, and for many of us, it was our first exposure to PCs in use at anything other than the Math Lab level.  The simulation was a command and staff event, I directly participated only one year, during the subsequent visits, I was on the secondary staff or a Troop XO and therefore, exempt from the sim.  I think the exercise ran for three 12 hour days, each game phase to include movements and resolving the combat took between thirty to forty-five minutes. 

  Another great view of the proceedings at the terrain boards. Anyone recognize the guy with the broom? --Rick Badal  

 The Soviet forces were controlled by personnel from the Eaglehorse S2 shop and they mimicked threat tactics and doctrine. The simulation fairly accurately depicted our basic nine map sheet group, somehow, the portable foam terrain board sections had been configured to match our maps and there was an  agreed upon initial scenario of an attack with the squadron fighting a delaying action.  I had only completed the Armor Officer's Basic Course a few months earlier and we had encountered  nothing like this. 

 I am pretty sure the first year, we used land lines rather than FM to communicate to the TOC and one or two platoon leaders or platoon sergeants were responsible for the company / troop counters on the board.  On the second visit of the team, I vaguely recall discussion of special low power FM frequencies being allocated to the simulation.  Everything was assembled in the gym at Daley; there was a system of filling out slips of paper indicating who was moving where and with what intent, these were given to the CAMMS support staff who then ran the data into the computers and waited for the printers to spin out the results of the fight.  In terms of portability, this was the day when a portable mainframe would just barely fit in a 35 foot "pup" semi trailer.

The computer actually counted off each tank or PC as it was destroyed or disabled;  there may have even been a  % of combat effectiveness factor tallied after each phase.  For the platoon leaders and key NCOs, the level of sophistication of the sim at the terrain board level left a lot to be desired in terms of what you actually learned.   Tanks in a prepared battle position could be destroyed in a matter of minutes at long range, a recon section caught in the open at close range  might escape unharmed.  Cotton balls laid in a line represented obscuring smoke, you could use this on the maneuver board but the mainframe did not have an algorithm to factor the smoke effects on visibility in combat. I think combat results during "darkness" were first figured as daylight engagements then, the results were reduced by 45%.  As said, it was primitive but it was a start. 

  SSG Stafford and unknown Eaglehorse trooper during CAMMS event at Daley, 1979. The image shows the foam terrain boards and the ever present clip boards used to carry movement data back to the training staff for input into the computer. --Rick Badal  

Having said this, the real benefit of the event was to generate the reports and information necessary to drive the planning and decision making process of the CPX.  I imagine the guys in the S3 shop and the CP were kept rather busy.

Looking back, the software and computer logic certainly had limitations but the experience was an interesting diversion and at the time, I do not believe that any of us imagined just how sophisticated and important simulations of this nature would become in future training and battle planning.  CAMMS existed in refined forms well into the mid 1980s.  At Fort Leavenworth, as computers with greater memory and  faster processors became available, the Army devoted considerable effort to devise more realistic simulations and computer assisted events to assist training at all levels.   

To learn more about  CAMMS and the interesting history of the 75 Maneuver Training Command, follow these links:

Where's My Beer, Where's my Battalion? Strategy and Tactics 1980 - return to top

Robert Stefanowicz

The visit of the CAMMS team did not fully satisfy the war gaming instincts of some of the officers at Daley Barracks during that period.  In retrospect, this may have at least partly been because you could not rest an open can of beer on the CAMMS terrain boards! 

The mid 1970s through mid 1980s period represented what is now recalled as the " golden age " of table top war gaming designed for the consumer market.  Many of the officers coming on to active duty in that period had played the games of the major manufacturers, Avalon Hill,  Strategy  & Tactics and SPI while in school.  The Army developed small unit simulation, Dunn - Kempf was not part of Armor Officer training but cadets from both the  Military Academy and ROTC usually recall there were several copies to " goof around " with; exposure to table top gaming was very common.  At both the Border Camp and the BOQ, someone always seemed to have a copy of Gettysburg Day 3,  Panzer Blitz  or  Pike and Archer in their briefcase just in case once the duty day was done, someone wanted to roll the dice and start the bloodshed. Some of the NCOs were involved in this also.

  A composite image of box art of various 1970s games modeling "modern" combat in Germany.  

The games from that era were more sophisticated than you might imagine, this was both their strength and weakness.  I recall that by 1985, there were over two hundred titles, the average retail was low, maybe $8.00 and you could explore history and warfare from the Crusades well into the future with fantasy gaming series such as Battle for Mars.  There were clubs, magazines and conventions devoted to the hobby.

Regardless of the publisher, the games followed a  basic similar framework.  The map board was a very good but not absolutely accurate depiction of the actual terrain.  Even now, the game map sheets  I have retained that show the Bad Kissingen - Fulda - Wurzburg - Hof region are more than passable for recalling locations of the major cities and towns.  Having said this, the maps  were not as detailed as a 1/50 000 scale military map.  There were no contour lines, small towns and villages were left out if the population was under 10 , 000 people.  The major wooded areas, rough terrain, swamps were retained. 

Overlaid onto the map was the hex shaped system which, like a more complicated version of a chess board grid, provided the basic organizational framework.  The units, depending on the game being played, could be battalion sized, company / troop down to squad or single armored fighting vehicle.  The designers took great care and were justifiably proud of  the level of accuracy they rendered in the order of battle.  The " modern " games in my attic are a quick reference for what  were the combat battalions in the V Corps.  Likewise, the Soviet forces were modeled as accurately as a civilian game designer might be able to determine from the period, unclassified sources.

  A composite image of box art of various 1970s games modeling "modern" combat in Germany.  

The actual play of the game allowed for one player to move then resolve combat, followed by the same sequence for the opponent.  Each company, troop or battalion, represented by a  counter on the map,  had certain strengths and weakness that reflected the true capabilities of  the actual unit.  A mech infantry company counter had very good " through woods " movement capability, much superior to a tank company, but pair the two in a fight on open terrain and it's see' ya mech!  Allow the mech unit to set up a prepared position in a city and attack with the tank company and it's quite another story. The results might be  further skewed by whether a unit had recently been resupplied, subjected to NBC attack or had previously been reduced in strength by earlier combat losses.

 For anyone with an interest in military history, the games allowed you to recreate a historical event perhaps hundreds of years old and bring it to life as no history book could.  The results might not always follow what actually occurred on the battlefield.   A hidden value of the S & T published games was the rule book often  contained a wealth of writing from prominent historians recalling the events and circumstances of the actual battle or campaign simulated in the game.

  Map detail showing Bad Kissingen, blue, Bad Neustadt, red and border, black arrow. During the play of the game, not much goes on in this corner but it is fun to see the area recalled.  

Some of this can be difficult to explain unless you have at least some limited background in gaming.   In terms of modeling battles, the devil is in the details. For example, in a battle everyone recalls, Custer's 7th Cav must be very skillfully maneuvered along the Greasy Grass River game board  to " win " Custer and the Sioux; winning is determined as surviving long enough for Reno and Benteen's columns to attempt a rescue.  The game pieces available to the two players accurately represent what was on the field for the actual event, they move or fight with the relative ability of their actual historical antecedents.  If you play the game exactly as Custer commanded, you will lose 100% of the time. The Lakota Sioux held all the cards in 1876 and in the " modern " game, they hold most of the cards again.  On your table top or on the field of battle, skill is important, luck is important.  I read that even among the most dedicated players, Custer loses about 75% of the time, but every now and then, he salvages his command at the last minute, here's a partial game hint, if CPT Benteen rides his horses into the ground trying to reach Custer ...

The war  games of that 1970s and 1980s period were certainly more than games of chance, they were closer to simulations with several accurate possibilities modeled.  The more detailed games became so complicated in the interest of realism and accuracy that even Lts and NCOs with a very good knowledge of the tactics and terms, could easily become lost in the rules. The 11th ACR was a featured unit in many of the games that modeled war in Germany, the unit prominently appears in: Fulda Gap, Fifth Corps and Division Commander.   Of particular interest to members of the Eaglehorse, the S & T game Fifth Corps: Soviet Breakthrough at Fulda, published in Sept - Oct 1980 featured the 2/11 down to the troop level and the game map is very familiar to any veteran of the unit in  Germany.

  Here's were the cardboard carnage occurs, Fulda and just above and to left, the cork in the bottle, Schluctern.  

 In this game, you are playing the Fulda Gap scenario of a Soviet attack targeting Frankfurt.  Bad Kissingen, Fulda and Bad Hersfeld appear on the eastern 1/3 rd  of the map sheet. The individual unit "counters" are at the company and battalion level with most of the Corps represented. All of the combat units of the 11th ACR are present as Troop level counters.  There are no markers for the individual HOW batteries, they are modeled as a  single FA battalion.  There are no counters for the headquarters units, logistics are heavily modeled into the game but there are no individual counters to represent the assets.  This is a game of maneuver and combat, with logistics built into the rules but not widely represented on the map sheet. 

The game is controlled by a "clock" consisting of nine 12 hour blocks or turns.  Within each time block, the Soviet player may move his pieces in the attack, he is limited by the types of terrain he is on, the types of units he is moving and their logistic strengths.  If a Soviet unit moves into a hex adjacent to a NATO unit, it must stop until the combat is resolved.  Combat is resolved by a roll of the dice and then determining results against a rather complicated " combat results table ".  Results vary from complete annihilation to partial loss of combat power for the units engaged to no loss of power but either attacker of defender forced to move back one hex.   Once the Soviets move and combat is resolved, the NATO player may move his pieces and the next round of confrontations is resolved.  Once both players have had their move and combat phase,  a single 12 hour block is completed. Sequenced against the " clock ", various reinforcements become available at certain turns.

  Unpunched cardboard unit counters showing what the V Corps commander has at his disposal. The units of the Blackhorse are found in the right column.  

In many ways, all this resembles a much refined version of Kriegspiel played by officers at the War College prior to WW 1, with the exceptions that there are no umpires and both players, by being able to see the full map sheet and location of all units, have the God's Eye View of the battle. If you are a true enthusiast and attend a convention to play on the tournament level, the fog or war is introduced by umpires controlling a master map board while the two opponents play in separate rooms with only their own forces and enemy forces in contact visible, the " double blind option ".  What worked in 1900 is still the logical solution one hundred years later.

As the game progresses, "victory points" are accumulated by both sides by achieving certain tactical goals; for the Russians, seizing certain key terrain areas, destroying specific NATO units and so on.  NATO victory points are accumulated by defending certain areas for specific periods of time and attriting Soviet tank strength. Very infrequently is the game decided by a dramatic " sweep from the map of all enemy forces " usually it is a matter of a  few last additional points squeezed out in the last 12 hour block. 

For novice gamers,  the problems arise with a rule book which for this game consists of 17 pages, each page containing three columns of data and information broken down into paragraphs and sub paragraphs. Just to have a general familiarization with the game requires  a 40 minute careful read of instructions and rules.   Obviously, with more experience, the lower the learning curve, but as games go, and V Corps was typical of many, to play required a lot of work; it was detailed and complicated.  Here is the one funny story related to the topic from my days in the Eaglehorse.

  Just to give you an idea of the rules and procedures that govern the game, here is an excerpt.  

One Saturday night in 1980, a group of the usual suspects were at the "group home" a bunch of  other Lts shared.  We were casting about for activities and one of the gamers suggested a simulation he had just received that he thought would be interesting to play.  The game was called Wurzburg and modeled the 3rd Infantry Division's defense of the city against a Soviet attack focused on the Gramschatzer Wald region just east of town.  It was infantry in paradise, fight in the woods-fight in the city.  I think the game was modeled to the company level and the map detail was astounding, particularly when compared to our military maps.  The US player won if he successfully bogged the Soviets down for nine game turns, Sovs won by pushing the US out of the woods and then taking all or most of Wurzburg. 

About ten minutes into the public reading of the rules, one of the Lts who later went on to a very full career to include command at several levels announced in command voice with eyebrows arched, " Well!  I have another idea.  Lets play a game involving cards ... and involving poker chips ... and involving beer!  And if we can't find the cards or the poker chips ... well that's OK to!! "  Needless to say, the usual suspects indulged in the usual activity.

  ... and the sub paragraphs discussing nuclear weapons. Like golf, some work must go in prior to finding the enjoyment of the game.  

There are any number of good web sites devoted to table top war gaming, a good place to start is this site, just explore unitl you find the niche you are looking for:

RAM Power and Warp Speed, the Future Now - return to top

Army Simulation Supported Training - Thirty Years in Ten Minutes

Robert Snedden LTC (Ret)

What does the commander want to achieve?  Simulation support training is based on the same two things as every other training event-the training audience and the training objectives. 

A model is an approximation of reality.  A simulation is a model run over time.

The simulation is the training aid, not the training.

May, 1975.  Kriegspiel to Dunn-Kempf

Young officers in combat units participated in tactical war games played out on scaled terrain board using miniature vehicle models and dice rolls to adjudicate conflicts.  Red and Blue moved pieces, rolled the dice, removed the losers and then considered their movements for the next turn.  This was not much different from what you could buy in a local hobby store.  Umpires unsorted disputes, enforced artificial terrain and obstacle effects and generally made the participants play nice.  Weapons effects (probabilities of hits and kills), fire support, logistics, air support, intelligence and environmental effects were nonexistent.  "Real time" and the fog of war were also missing.  The US Army was doing business the way the Imperial Japanese Navy war gamed the battle of Midway in the '30s and the German High Command looked at Channel invasion scenarios in the '40s.  It's just that not much funding and development had been devoted to simulation development during Vietnam.  It took a while to get the wheels moving and for technology to be adapted to our needs.

May, 1978. CAMMS and CAMMS Evolution

Young officers in combat units participated in tactical war games played out on scaled terrain board using miniature vehicle models and a machine called a computer to adjudicate conflicts.  In reality, the computer was closer to a high end calculator but it kept the random dice rolls out of sight and it did attempt to factor in pH and pK, possibility of a hit and possibility of a kill.  The other limitations were still there but at least a starting developmental framework was found.

May, 1984.  Corps staff personnel participated in CPXs that used a computer to model Red and Blue combat operations.  A group of role players huddled around DOS based input terminals ready to call information back to the corps staff in the various CPs.  It took days to feed the STARTEX data into the computer, logistics was largely ignored, weather effects and terrain were rudimentary at best, the staff had little chance to influence operations in real time but the electronic battlefield had arrived.  A hybrid of several "stove-pipe" models had been cobbled together to produce combat operations information for staff training. 

Times, they were a-changing and Fort Leavenworth devoted ever more resources to exploring computer driven simulations.  Real computers and interactive simulation models were on the way and the virtual battlefield was beginning to emerge. Bulky, temperamental and incredibly limited by today's standards, these early machines could consider weapons effects, weather, line-of-sight, terrain effects and obstacles as they applied algorithms to tactical operations.  Platoon and company level simulation models such as ARTBASS and JANUS eliminated the game turn by introducing dynamic real-time interaction.  Battlefield awareness, risk assessment and timely decision making started to mean something. 

Corps Battle Simulation (CBS) and Brigade and Battalion Simulation (BBS) 1990.

Building on what was learned and ever more capable hardware, the Army began to make simulation supported multi-echelon training a reality.  These early legacy simulation models were limited by computer capacity, modeling effects and operator expertise.  Work stations were DOS based input terminals coupled with raster map images projected on separate monitors.  Simulation development tended to focus on combat unit training requirements, e.g., force-on-force, fire support, air defense, air support, chemical operations and the like.  Logistics, medical support, maintenance activities, vertical and horizontal engineering and CSS, combat service support,  unit activities in general were glossed over or not included in the models. 

As an aside, this "tooth driven development" continues in part today.  Efforts to develop CSS oriented simulations have resulted in a number of largely incompatible models developed in isolation and problematic to run in confederation. In other words, logistics simulations modeled for training transport battalions did not necessarily work well with a medical logistics computer model and nothing matched entirely with a Corps level logistics model. The goal is to have all Army simulations seamlessly fit together and totally interactive;  we have made good progress with the combat sims, the support and logistics simulations have yet to be fully integrated.  A good deal of effort in the last ten years has been devoted to rein in the chaotic development process and control funding to produce a limited family of simulations that will support total Army training requirements.  We were fighting the old battle of getting everyone in the simulation business  to speak the same language,  use the same parameters, use the same rules. 

Strategic deployments and tactical employment began changing in the early 1990s as the simulations evolved to match the current threat.  The Contemporary Operating Environment (COE) replaced the conventional Warsaw Pact threat and the Fulda Gap.  COE postulated an asymmetrical battlefield populated by a bewildering mix of conventionally trained forces, partisan activities, local militia, criminal bands and individual nutcases.  Improved C2, command and control, systems were being fielded.  Offense and defense gave way to raids, sweeps, patrols, searches and other aspects of Security and Stability Operations (SASO). Form followed function and US Army training support requirements changed to meet the new tactical environment.  Simulations began to incorporate aspects of the non-linear battlefield and the presence of digital C2 in units.  Two sided scenarios (Blue versus Red) were being replaced by multi-sided forces on the simulation battlefield. Technology was being used to network virtual trainers into Synthetic Theater of War (STOW). 

Synthetic Theater of War:  STOW

By 1998, Windows operating systems and point-and-click menus were replacing the DOS menu screens and commercial off the shelf (COTS) products were replacing proprietary hardware and software.  Digital terrain and larger zones of conflict (play boxes) were being added.  Improved CSS requirements (expenditures, maintenance, medical evacuation and treatment, etc.) had been fully incorporated and were being improved with every version. 

Simulation development addressed training needs at all levels, starting with the individual soldier.  Increasing training demands required a hierarchy of simulations, each with capabilities and limitations and each designed to support selected training audiences.  Databases for high resolution entity based models such as JANUS, JCATS and the neophyte OneSAF can portray tactical activities at the individual level (soldiers, vehicles, weapons systems, sensors, communications devices, etc.).  Aggregate simulation databases such as BBS and CBS are used to support staff training exercises and are generally used portray the "normative" unit size (squad, platoon, etc.) being tracked by the primary training audience.

It's almost 2005 and as computers have improved, so has the ability to replicate the myriad military activities faced by the current generation of warriors.  Graphical user interface (GUI) has improved, making it easier to run the simulation and keep it from detracting from training.  Software exists that more closely approximates "ground truth".  Simulation stimulation of digital C4I (colloquially known as Run Time Manager-RTM) is a reality. 

Sophisticated simulation models interfaced with digital C2 and running on complex networks requires dedicated Battle Simulation Centers (BSCs) with the appropriate technical support. All Active Duty installations and many Reserve and National Guard posts now have a BSC.  FORCOM has a program that utilizes Battle Projection Centers (BPCs) to provide distributed simulation supported training to Reserve Component units throughout the US.  Some Active Duty posts now have Battle Command Training Centers (BCTC) with the capability to provide full integration of the Live, Virtual and Constructive (L-V-C) training venues.  Technical expertise at these BSC's and BPC's is provided by full time civilian contractors.  Since my retirement from active duty, I have been involved with the staffing of these training venues as a civilian contractor.

Operational requirements have resulted in highly detailed interactive simulations that can support multi-sided training events that include traditional combat operations as well as digital C2 stimulation, urban operations, insurgents, civilian riots and a host of other combat, combat support and combat service support activities.  Having said all this, however, an interesting lesson can be learned from the current situation in Iraq.  If your simulation is sufficiently detailed, you can model and present as a training environment any of hundreds of variable scenarios.  For the training to be truly useful to the troops, the variables must match the realities the soldiers face on the ground. 

It is most assuredly not your father's Oldsmobile anymore, the Fulda Gap may have disappeared as an active simulation model for commanders, however, if required, the scenario could be quickly resurrected, updated and integrated into the most advanced simulation programs.  Having trained with CAMMS as a the H Company commander in 1978 and now professionally involved with simulation support for the active and reserve force, the level of change and sophistication is amazing.  In 1978, we were horse and buggy, today, we are as robust as a Humvee and faster than a 2005 Porsche

The Lead Soviet Regiment has been Destroyed at Bad Neustadt - return to top

Cars that start with a hand crank are all well and good, museum pieces for sunny Sunday afternoons but not really daily drivers.  This also applies to combat games, why worry about all those cardboard counters marching across a paper map when the digital age has arrived!

What follows is provided by the game designers of  HPS and it shows just how far things have come.  They have created a series of PC based games that very closely follow the board games of the 1980s except much has been upgraded and simplified.  Among their creations, and currently available to the public, is a fully developed Fulda Gap game that includes the Eaglehorse squadron.  I asked them to create a scenario that focused just on the old squadron area and it was included in their presentation.  The actual expansion pack necessary to play the Meiningen Gap variation will be made available by HPS shortly.  So while the kids in your house may settle down on Christmas Day with Bloodstorm for PS2, (certainly in keeping with the Season!)  how about treating yourself and that new PC to a game of North German Plain 85.

Fulda Gap '85

Tank Combat PC Based Simulations - return to top

Just Remember, F6 Fires the Coax!

PC based simulations of NATO vrs. Warsaw Pact forces are, by and large, refined versions of map board based gaming. The level of sophistication is amazing but this is simulated combat reminiscent of the dim white interior light of an M577 as the radios buzz and the counters move across the map boards. Warfare at the soldier - tank and platoon level is a distinctly different sub set of the computer gaming industry.

“ First person shooter “ style games have come to dominate the market, every major developer has dozens of products available configured for both portable gaming devices such as Game Boy and desk top PCs. Only a year or two away, versions of these games will be available for the new generations of cell phones featuring gaming options.

The look and style of these games is familiar to anyone who has even casually wandered through the local Walmart or consumer electronics meglo - mart. On the screen, you see “ your hand holding the weapon “, using the controls, you maneuver the character through alley, street and battlefield, firing whenever the enemy appears. Some games are more realistic than others, the opponents range from the Wehrmacht to the Soviets to the Taliban to space invaders; as you blast away, it ’s a fire fight, a free for all, a gore for all! Kids and young adults love these games, new titles are always appearing but it’s not quite “ gunner - SABOT … !!”

A noteworthy and sophisticated variation of this type game puts the participant in command of a tank. Game designers have been tinkering with the format for years with varied results. Two of the more popular titles, Panzer Commander and M1 Tank Platoon II, are on my shelf. Ancient by the standards that electronic games are judge by, they nevertheless still offer some entertainment value.

Panzer Commander is dated and feels it, but it’s fun to choose to be either a Russian, German, Brit or American and have your tank modeled as a Sherman, Panther or T 34. The game clatters along, the terrain modeling is cartoon - like but the tank on tank fights are really pretty good and, actually learning to operate the sim is a fairly simple process. I keep an old PC around just to goof off with this game. A few years later in the developmental cycle and decades forward in the scenario, M1 TP II provides a “ quick and dirty “ trip down memory lane if for a minute, you may have forgotten just how difficult it can be to lead a platoon and fight a tank, even if just in simulation - in your home for only half an hour before supper.


A great history and review of PC based tank on tank combat simulations was recently posted at George R. Bradford’s AFN News web site. “ Pete “ really knows his stuff and the review is a fascinating insight into the development, strengths and weaknesses of these consumer oriented simulations that are several steps above the “ first person blaster “ Nintendo style games.

“ Pete “ on PC Based Tank Combat Simulations

I played my share of tank sims and here's the run-down with info based on my experience and what I’ve gathered from the gaming magazines and other gamers. Your best bet if you're unsure, is to run each game by and see how they rate. I like Amazoners because they can be fairly blunt and honest. I usually don't buy anything three stars and below. I played all the below, not anymore though. I bought the below because they were by far considered REAL TANK SIMS, not action games or arcades. I played all sims with a joystick...first a simple two-button one and then Microsoft's ForceFeedback Pro joystick when that came out. All the below tank sims have artillery.

* M1 Tank Platoon: This is by far, IMO, the best tank sim ever made but most likely won't work with Microsoft XP. The graphics are extremely dated though (EGA), but the physics, AI ( artificial intelligence ), gameplay, and manual were top-notch. I could've sworn that the enemy USSR AI kind of had a brain of its own, never attacking from the same direction or splitting up when not expected. You can really shoot straight and on the move and M1s seemed to really have the true first-hit-rate of 90%. Tanks take damage, etc. There is weather, fighting at night, fog, horizon differences, etc. You can award medals and crew performance increases (like 120mm reload times) as your crew survives more missions. Yes, crewmen die. Best of all, I won many times with just four M1s, two M2A2s, and artillery against 35 T-80s and BMPs. The enemy AI gives you a good fair clean fight...hey, these were the 286-386 PC days. The enemy was literally in red-colored tanks and APCs, but no one really cared at the time. Thumbs up for this “ oldie but goodie “! Microprose was the developer.

* iM1A2. Interactive Magic's (defunct company) iM1A2 also probably won't work on XP. iM1A2 was a "step-up" from "M1 Tank Platoon" and some designers of M1TP went to a North Carolina game startup and worked on iM1A2. The graphics are way better than M1TP (no red enemy tanks), but the AI not. Most enemy AI would just drive straight for the objective, no maneuvering whatsoever, and if your driving the other way, you'll be literally two tank columns passing in the daylight (if you see them, that is). Even the last enemy AI APC would just drive to the obj (usually a hill) and just sit there waiting for you to come by and kill it. With like 100 hills in a map, it'll take a long time to find that lonely enemy APC and kill it to end the game if you drove off somewhere! So, yup, the game boiled down to drive somewhere else, wait for about thirty minutes, find a far hill overlooking the obj, and then fire away! If you sat on the obj waiting for the enemy to come, you'll be shredded due to sheer USSR numbers.

The game physics were pretty watered down from M1TP with shots often missing unless you were stopped or at a crawl. This game had NO effect on crewmen performance (believe me, the flat-rate 120mm reload time could be pretty annoying). The platoon AI was okay, but the enemy AI sure stinked. I think there were only one A-10 and SU-25 and they almost always got shot down quickly because the game designers wanted you to do the most tank-killing work, not CAS. Thumbs down (unless you can get it cheap)!

* M1 Tank Platoon 2: Microprose went "belly-up" and was bought over by Hasbro (yes, the Mr. Potato Head maker ). M1TP2 was an attempt to revive the glory days of M1TP...oh...after five years elapsed. Hasbro cobbled up what was left of the M1TP team (but like all winning Super Bowl, NBA Champs, and World Series teams, the M1TP team scattered to the four winds). The fact is, M1TP2 had a lot of hype with awesome 3D graphics: AH-1s, USMC LAVs, troops that moved, A-10s, AH-64s, AAV7s, Humvees, etc. The problem is, M1TP2 WAS NEVER COMPLETED! THE GAME WAS SHIPPED 80 -85% DEVELOPED --- BUGS AND ALL were packaged up and sent to retail! Hasbro knew this...they sold it anyway and boy did that piss off the M1TP2 players! Worse of all, Hasbro offered no patches or additional versions!

I played it and to say it wasn't complete was putting it lightly. For instance, say your Humvee scouts spot the enemy tank column (USSR again even though the Cold War ended) 3,000m away on the overhead map at the bottom right corner of your screen. You're on the top left corner. OK, so you start to moving into a position and 10 seconds later you look at the map. The enemy moved to the top middle of your screen! Enemy time warp! Enemy teleportation! Wow! Now they're shooting at you on your flank! Not only that, the AH-64 and AH-1 had a hard time finding their targets, and even when overlying them, they wouldn't shoot! The A-10...what a dope! It would fly up the vulnerable rear of the enemy column only to U-turn and fire into the front of the T-80s (and into the thickest part and frontal ERA armor, doing no damage...duh!), and only fire two Mavericks when you can see about eight Mavericks on the wings. The A-10 never fired its gun at tanks, only at SU-25s (of course never hitting it)! After firing two Mavericks, the A-10 would just fly around until it got shot down...some air support. Really dumb AI on both sides.

And never tanks mind shooting straight. Your M1TP2 M1 seemed to lack any form of stabilization and you had to stop to fire and hope to hit. Even then, each shot missed wide, giving the M1TP2 M1s an amazing first-hit-rate of like 10%! Insane! Even worse, one of the first enemy hits was almost guaranteed to damage your fire-control computer and laser rangefinder...NOW a legitimate excuse on why your shots go wide, eh? These are just some of the gripes gamers had and boy did they flame Hasbro for releasing half a plate despite all the hype. M1TP2 quickly disappeared as junk to many of these games. Thumbs WAY DOWN although some patches were later developed to solve some of the problems!

Then came the long hiatus with no tank sims, I guess it was part of the peace dividend. Many thought EA Games and Jane's would make a tank sim. They never did and Jane's no longer partners to make games. In reality, small start up company or large developer, new games are expensive to create and the lead time requires that a splash occur and plenty of copies are sold at the initial retail price. It began to look as though tank on tank modern combat games weren’t on anyone’s developmental table. First - person - shooter sims like "Rainbow 6" and fantasy games like Warcraft and Starcraft had come to dominate the market but developed on a kitchen table, a very interesting new product, Steel Beasts, appeared.

* Steel Beasts: SB is made by a VERY SMALL company. The entire game was programmed mainly by two guys (one full time!). Wow! For one guy, this game's pretty darn good. Best of all, IT WORKS AND IT'S FINISHED.

But the "Army of one" shows: no air support, no weather, no night fighting, none of many of the features found in the other games. But what SB did was make a playable game and add true physics. You can command a platoon of Leopard 2A4 or M1A1s and even fire the TC's MG from an open hatch! Troops realistically MOVE and shoot and (dis)/re-embark from APCs, something the previous games didn't, which used symbols or cardboard cutouts to denote infantry. The game had 3D forests of trees that you can drive through and mow down or hide in. In previous tank sims, there were no forests and you had to go around the few 2D trees that were there.

But being so real, you'd quickly find out how vulnerable tanks can be. Artillery and RPG fire can immobilize tanks and many times I was stranded before even encountering the enemy. Situational awareness was often pretty bad for the US too. The enemy AI often attacked in four-five prongs/groups and there's no way four M1A1s, two M3A2s, and four M2A2s can defeat five huge groups of T-80s bearing down on three objs!

Enemy AI was so great, I often thought what Civil War General George McCellan often said, "I need more men!" If you killed off five-out-of-six Sov dismounts from a BMP squad and destroyed the BMP in a forest, that lone enemy soldier would then fire his AK-47 RIGHT into your gunner's sight, rending you blind! Hooray for him and the game's enemy AI! Boo-hoo for you because you have to kill this lone soldier before he plinks out something else, not to mention five T-80s bearing down on you too...and oh, yeah, the soldier just called down artillery too so after he took off your sights, he's running deeper into the forest! ( Have a nice day :-). That one Sov soldier deserves a medal!


Realistic, yes, but I found that with my Micro Soft Forcefeedback Pro joy stick combo control, I had to literally track the T-80 with the crosshairs even AFTER firing, meaning that the sabot kind of acted like a TOW missile. In M1TP, the sabot flew so fast that once I pushed the FIRE button, it'll fly to target...not so with SB. I also found the COAX not that accurate compared to M1TP, and with smart enemy AI soldiers, this could get annoying.

Another issue I have with SB is the lack of a campaign or story. You play single battles from a list of maps and you have to achieve objectives in each battlemap. After you win, so what? You just get stats so SB has a "hollow" feel to it because there is no war to win, no bragging to tell, just survive and win the objs. I often found SB a "mission impossible" compared to the other tank sims I've played...M1TP even on "USSR elite" setting.

The graphics are decent (what'd you expect from one programmer?) and there's MOUT towns, (often "Monopoly-like" houses), to fight in. Too bad the moving soldiers don't shoot out windows though. But you can roll over houses and fire HEAT to set them on fire (just like M1TP). The other tank sims often had one or two houses, not a town like SB.

Thumbs way up, and given the choices out there, this is the tank sim that will probably work on a new PC. Check to see if it can run on XP though. So … you can see that many criticisms over realistic game play have been addressed but other aspects of the sim lagged behind where M1 Tank Platoon had advanced the state of the art.

But wait...

For a couple of years now, there is talk of a Steel Beasts 2 from the same company which will have air support, weather, night fighting, etc. We asked for a lot in SB2 on their on line discussion group ...a whole laundry list...everything from paradrops to UAVs to 18-man AAV platoons to thunder and lightning. This talk has been going on for a long time and IMO, it'll be ready when you see it in stores. I no longer follow up on the talk because with one programmer, who knows when this game will be ready. Nonetheless, my advice is to wait for an online review before buying. SB2 is supposed to be such an advance over SB1 because the tank gameplay physics and AI is pretty solid in SB1. SB2 is meant to add the eye candy and more units. Will it work, remains to be seen.

As far as I can see, Steel Beasts 2 is the only realistic tank sim in development.

“ Pete “ certainly deserves 7 / 5s coverage on the topic area. Things have come along way and as game designers continue to exploit new technology available to both develop and play the sims, hopefully, the market will support their efforts. This takes us back to 1978.

As a new platoon leader in Bad Kissingen, we were actively training for Level 1 gunnery at GTA. The “ dry “ TCQC Course, mechanical training, crew drill and discussion were identical to gunnery prep training as it would have been conducted twenty years previous … with one exception. At Ledward Barracks in Schweinfurt, they had a very recently installed “ computerized “ gunnery simulator and in a miracle of cross Corps cooperaton, the tankers of each Eaglehorse platoon had been allocted a brief training window.

On the appropriate day, we stacked the gunners and TCs into the back of a duce and made the drive over to Schweinfurt. If you are of a certain age, you may well recall the popular bar - then home version of “ pong “, sort of a computer version of ping pong. I am convinced that the gunnery trainer we used was developed by the same design team.

The device was a large TV screen consol with a tank gunner’s Cadillac control attached to the front. Superimposed on the screen was the M32 primary sight reticle and parading by, ducks in a row, were a series of tank target silhouettes. There were two variable adjustments, one increased the speed of the duck parade, and the second created a random rocking to the sight picture, to simulate movement over rough terrain. As I recall, to register a “ hit “ required placing the reticle somewhat in front of the target but, as my NCOs quickly pointed out, the gunner’s sight picture was no where close to what was really required to hit at GTA … or anywhere else. We arrived, we fired, we signed off on the attendance sheet, we complained and we left.

In the modern day, at the major troop installations, the complexity of computer based simulation for M1 - M2 - M3 gunner training and TC / platoon leader, platoon sergeant battle environment training is astounding in terms of realism and ability to actually train, review performance, re - train and then modify the scenario. Back at the meglo - mart, we will keep patrolling the aisles and checking out the on line topic boards for the “ next - big - tank - sim “ … one last tip, game realism is always enhanced by eating cold chill - mac prior to booting up!

Hot off the Press - return to top

From the Boston Globe, 8 Dec., 2004,  a article that describes how civilian war games can be modified to assist troops training for duty in Iraq.  Everything from recruiting to infantry training to the future designs of gunner's controls has been heavily influenced by Play Station, X Box and Nintendo.  Computer based simulations are no longer just the stuff of generals and staff officers.  The digital Army seamlessly reaches the most junior trooper with a combat MOS.

War Games 2.0

Cambridge firm designs combat simulator to help soldiers bound for Iraq.

Hiawatha Bray
Boston Globe
8 December 2004

The driver of the supply truck never saw the rocket propelled grenade that hit him.  But his escort, a heavily armed Humvee, spotted the insurgents almost as soon as they opened fire.  The Humvee's gunner aimed his machine gun and fired, wiping out the bad guys with a click of his computer mouse.

It's not Fallujah, it's Cambridge, home of BBN Technologies, the legendary firm that helped develop the Internet and electronic mail.  Now BBN is designing realistic combat computer games designed to help save lives of US troops patrolling the streets of Iraq. "It's not a source of entertainment," said Bruce Roberts, who heads up BBN's DARWARS project. "It's serious stuff."   Robert's team put together his combat simulator in just seven months; it is already being used to train soldiers destined for Iraq in places like Fort Lewis in Washington State.

  Soldiers in Fort Lewis, Wash., use BBN Technologies computer game DARWARS Ambush! in military convoy operations training. Jason Kaye photo / Northwest Guardian / Boston Globe  

DARWARS takes its name from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon agency that funds unusual technologies that might have military value.  Much of BBN's early Internet research was funded by the agency, and BBN has long been a major recipient of agency's dollars.

The Pentagon agency invested $1.5 million in the game project, which has so far produced DARWARS Ambush!, a combat simulation game for training up to 24 soldiers at a time in military convoy operations.  The BBN team that produced Ambush is also working on a version to teach the skills needed in foot patrols.

The DARWARS idea began with Ralph Chatham, a former sonar researcher who joined the Pentagon agency three days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.   Chatham had been impressed with the success of advanced military training programs like the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calf.  Every major unit in the Army gets this kind of training every three years, said Chatham.

"I wanted to see if I could create a program that allowed us to bottle that and export it," he said.

The best way, he decided was to capture the experience of veterans inside a computer game that any soldier could play.

His goal"was to train the voice in the back of the head of every solder to be aware of what might happen of where an ambush might occur," Chatham said.

In January, Chatham got the funding to go ahead.  By March he'd settled on BBN as the best organization to over see the effort.

"We zeroed in on the convoy ambushes as the first place to start," said BBN's Roberts,"because such ambushes had taken a particularly heavy toll of American lives."

  BBN Technologies combat game includes realistic looking landscapes and cities with deserts and stone buildings like those in Iraq. images / BBN Technologies  

For gaming expertise, BBN contacted Total Immersion Software Inc., an Alameda, Calf., company founded by Stephen Blankenship a former police officer who later became a senior producer for the leading game maker Electronic Arts.  He founded Total Immersion to offer his gaming expertise to the US military, call it"a way for us to sort of contribute to national security in a tiny way."

BBN and Total Immersion modified an off the shelf game called Operation Flashpoint which was created in the Czech Republic in 2001.  The game was readily available from software retailers, it could be run on any late model PC, and it let players create their own combat scenarios.

BBN and Total Immersion dumped the original game's Cold War scenario and created new landscapes and cities with deserts and stone buildings like those found in Iraq.  The streets are occupied by Iraqi militiamen with AK - 47s and women in long robes and veils,  The vehicles in the game are Army trucks and Humvees, and American troops wear desert camouflage.

Like many popular games, Operation Flashpoint can be played by  multiple players linked over the Internet.  In the same way, DARWARS Ambush! allows soldiers to practice either against computer generated threats or against fellow soldiers who play as insurgents.

Robert's team combed through after action reports of American troops in Iraq to lean the latest deadly variations on the insurgents improvised explosive devices or IEDs.

  Army trucks and Humvees occupy the landscape in the DARWARS Ambush! combat game. BBN Technologies  

"A unit was on a convoy," said Roberts,"and discovered for the first time that an insurgent had hung an IED behind a sign on the road.  Nobody had ever seen that."  That bit of experience is now imbedded in DARWARS Ambush!

So is the use of radio controlled toy cars packed with plastic explosive. Soldiers have also found that Iraqi rebels like to put curbside bombs right at street corners, to catch trucks as they make tight turns.   DARWARS Ambush! plants roadside bombs the same way to teach drivers to stay close to the middle of the road at all times.

Roberts said that new scenarios can be continuously added and solders may be trained to modify the software for their particular units, creating modified versions of the game tailored to their specific challenges.

Fort Lewis, Washington, home of the 1st Bde of the 25th Infantry Division has so far trained about 100 soldiers using the game.  Some of them are presently deployed in Iraq.  Lieutenant Colonel Tony Schmitz, chief of the Mission Support Training Facility at Fort Lewis said it's too early to say whether there have been any benefits.  But he's impressed with the software's potential.

"We are always looking for new ways to train soldiers," said Schmitz.  "The new generation of soldiers who are used to playing videos,  the Nintendo generation would be comfortable with it.  Plus it's cheap."

Chatham, of the Pentagon's agency, said that time will tell whether DARWARS Ambush! can save lives.  But he says he's already seen its impact on soldiers who've played the game.

"I know there's a captain now who knows that he's mortal,"  Chatham said.  I watched him rocking back and forth in the after action review knowing he got killed in this simulation.

Chatham hopes that the experience will keep that captain and his soldiers alive on the battle field.


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