After that, comes tactical maneuvering, than which there is nothing more difficult. The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, misfortune into gain.

Thus, to take a long and circuitous route, after enticing the enemy out of way, and though starting after him, to contrive to reach the goal before him, shows the knowledge of the artifice of deviation. 

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter VII: Maneuvering, [3-4].



After deployment, have you ever looked at the tabletop and thought: “Okay, what the hell do I do now?”

Sometimes plans fall apart at first sight of the enemy, as opposed to first contact.

Mastering the rules will help, but they can only get you so far. Many wargaming rules only show you how to maneuver around the tabletop, but not why.  Your overall strategy and tactics are up to you.

Unfortunately, rules mastery takes time and effort. The Bearded Bastard, for example, had been playing wargames at least a decade before I arrived on the scene. For a typical game, he knew how to win using the rules. You could learn a lot by playing against him, but if you tried his tactics from one game in another, he already had a countermeasure, so you didn’t really get to see the fruits of your knowledge.

Back in those days, I just remember how everybody was so focused on the rules. They poured over the rulebook(s) to find that little loophole or extra modifier to defeat The Bearded Bastard.

What we should have been doing was reading The Art of War.

We should have picked up books from Osprey publishing covering the basic military history of the periods we gamed in.

You can learn a lot about tactics reading biographies of military commanders. How did they win? What lessons can be learned from their losses?

It’s these stories which transcend the rules and can help you when playing against more experienced wargamers.

This knowledge, once I let into my thick skull (which took years), would help bring about the defeat of The Bearded Bastard…

Next on The Art of Wargaming: Lessons from Peter the Hermit.