Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made in basis of a comparison, ask:*

(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral Law?
(2) Which of the two generals has most ability?
(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
(5) Which army is stronger?
(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

-Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter 1 “Laying Plans,” 12-15.

Let’s address these questions individually:

(1) Sovereigns and the Moral Law.
Avoid untrustworthy players. Sometimes they are hard to detect. Sooner or later, however, their shenanigans will come to light.

Huge problems arise when one of these players becomes a sovereign (the person running the game or game master) and has forces on the tabletop. Opposing players in these sorts of games are just putting themselves up for abuse.

A good sovereign is impartial and trustworthy. She lets the game play out according to the tactics of the players—even if she has her own miniatures on the tabletop.

(2) The Generals
An experienced player has a better chance of winning than an inexperienced player. Hands down.

In wargames which have more than one player per side, there should be single Commander-in-Chief, preferably one with the most experience who knows the rules.

(3) Heaven and Earth
Heaven: What time of day are you playing the game? Are you comfortable at the tabletop? Is the area around you noisy or quiet? All of these things can affect your performance.

Earth: How are your troops deployed? Your opponent’s? Can they reach cover? Are they in good order? Where is the best spot on the tabletop to fight the battle? Where is the worst?

(4)  Discipline
Do the rules of the game give you complete control over your army? Or are there “activation rolls” you have to do each turn? Do your troops have a favorable “morale” rating?

(5) Which army is stronger?
Numbers do not necessarily equal strength. Yes, there are games where you can overwhelm you opponent by sheer numbers, but the cost will be high. Be prepared to suffer lots of casualties and plummeting morale both in-game and from any allied players.

(6) The Training of Officers and Men.
How many “elite” units do you have deployed in your miniature army?

Can you and your allied player able to commit to a battle plan and objective? Or do you play the game as you go?

Have you read the rules?

(7) The Constancy of Reward and Punishment.
How do you handle a player misbehaving at the tabletop? What if a player bends, breaks, or ignores the rules?

Does everybody shake hands after the game? Give compliments to those who displayed good tactics?

Do you let players use unpainted miniatures on the tabletop?

Next on The Art of Wargaming: 3 Ways to Escape from Wargaming Hell.

*Although widely available, the Lionel Giles translation of The Art of War contains errors. The original line ended with “in this wise:.” This makes no sense, so we took the “ask” from The Art of War, translated by Ralph D. Sawyer.