By discovering the enemy’s dispositions and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy’s must be divided.

We can form a single united body, while the enemy must split up into fractions. Hence there will be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole, which means that we shall be many to the enemy’s few.

And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits.

The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few.

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter VI: “Weak Points and Strong, [13-16].

One day, The Bearded Bastard and I were on the same side. It was a multi-player Seven Years’ War scenario as I recall, and we unleashed hell on our opponents.

I got to watch The Bearded Bastard’s tactics for once without being on the receiving end. He knew how to keep his opponents divided, uncertain where to defend.

Everybody knew the Bearded Bastard would somehow perform an outflanking maneuver. But where? And when?

The standard tactic is to have the cavalry on the wings. But in this game he put our cavalry in the center.

“What are you doing?” I said.

“You’ll see. Just hold firm on your flank with your infantry.”

Our opponents focused all of their attentions on me, the weakest link. They pushed back my forces, and The Bearded Bastard had to pull back our cavalry in the center. It looked like we were going to be divided and conquered.

But this was a ruse.

It was they who were divided. One player advanced his forces too far forward from the other player’s.

The Bearded Bastard had devised a classic Hannibal scenario, by pulling back in the center to draw the enemy forward to expose their own flanks to the infantry on our wings.

Our cavalry returned just in time to force their battered units off the table.

“We won,” I said in disbelief.

“You can’t claim any credit for that victory,” said one of our opponents, as he started packing up.

And he was right. It was the Bearded Bastard’s idea. And I asked him, “Why didn’t you tell me your plan beforehand.”

“I didn’t have to. If I did, they might have overheard. Or you might have gotten mad you were going to be the anvil and I the hammer.”

He may have been a bastard, but he had a good point.


Next on The Art of Wargaming:

Playng to Win vs. Playing to Avoid Losing.