Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting. 

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter 3: “Attack by Stratagem,” [1-2].

Back in the day my wargaming friends and I would ponder and debate about what The Bearded Bastard would do next.

Like the great generals of history, The Bearded Bastard hardly ever launched and all out frontal attack. He favored fast-moving units–cavalry, skirmishers–anything that could get around his opponent’s main battle line and attack from the flank or behind.

During a game it was just a question of when and where.

Often, this tactic would cause morale failures in the game with whatever set of rules we were using at the time. Make a morale check with a penalty for being outflanked by the enemy. Oops. Your unit routes. Perhaps even your whole army.

This was the first morale failure.

The real morale failure happened inside of each of us. Oh sure, we’d talk, complain, and debate about The Bearded Bastard–but we’d enter each game with the same losing attitude.

The Bearded Bastard would win anyway. It’s just what he did.

This attitude made it all easier for The Bearded Bastard to win.

Of my friends, I was the most guilty of being defeatist. I recall saying in one game, “Oh look, he’s outflanking us again. Why do I even bother?”

One friend immediately said: “You’re really not doing that bad. You just get discouraged too easily.”

Once, after listening to me complain about The Bearded Bastard at length, another friend told me: “Dude, he’s got you second-guessing yourself. You’re too worried about what’s he’s going to do. You’re reacting to him. You need to figure out what you’re going to do. Make him react to you.”

It was some of the best advice given to me. Too bad I wasn’t in a good mental state to take heed.

This happens though. Many wargamers just give up without fighting.

Which is okay if you’re the one who’s winning–at first. Winning does help with one’s confidence.

But after winning most of the time, I believe even The Bearded Bastard–though he was winning all of the time–was getting a bit tired of watching his opponents give up before the game was even close to being over.

Next on The Art of Wargaming: “Sieges: A Rant.”