Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:

  1. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. 
  2. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. 
  3. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. 
  4. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. 
  5. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign. 

Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know thyself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter 3: “Attack by Stratagem,”[17-18].

You learn about yourself playing wargames, if you pay attention.

How well do you handle adversity? Do you have a choleric temper?

Are you using wargames to vent your frustrations from real life? Or can you just play the game?

Why kind of player are you? Do you like attacking or defending? Do you have a preference for a given troop type?

In those early games against The Bearded Bastard, I didn’t mind losing so much–I was newbie wargamer. Yet as the losses mounted so did the frustration.

What was I doing wrong? What the Bearded Bastard doing right?

I discovered that he liked to outflank you. He also knew how to calculate the odds of the dice in his head.

Yet knowing these facts did little to help. My anger would cloud my judgement. It would be a long while before I had my first victory against The Bearded Bastard.

At some point in a game of Seven Years’ War I’d inflicted over 40% casualties on The Bearded Bastard’s forces. He had done only 25% to mine.

“You’ve won,” he said.

I was surprised. But that time in my wargaming career I’d all but given up on winning against The Bearded Bastard.

I’d didn’t even know how I had won. It just happened. Unfortunately, it would be another few years before I learned the real secret to beating The Bearded Bastard would have my first real victory–one that didn’t happen by accident.

Next on The Art of Wargaming: How to Go Beyond the Possibility of Defeat.