When the position is such that neither side will gain by making the first move, it is called temporizing ground. In a position of this sort, even though the enemy should offer us an attractive bait, it will be advisable not to stir forth, but rather to retreat, thus enticing the enemy in his turn; ten, when part of his army has come out, we may deliver our attack with advantage.
With regard to narrow passes, if you can occupy them first, let the be strongly garrisoned and await the advent of the enemy. Should the army forestall you in occupying a pass, do not go after him if the pass is fully garrisoned, but only if it is weakly garrisoned.
With regard to precipitous heights, if you are beforehand with your adversary, you should occupy the raised and sunny spot, and there wait for him to come up. If the enemy has occupied them before you, do not follow him, but retreat and try to entice him away.
If you are situated a great distance from the enemy, and the strength of the armies is equal, it is not easy to provoke a battle, fight will be to your disadvantage.
These six are the principles connected with Earth. The general who has attained a responsible post must be careful to study them.
–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter X: Terrain, [6-13].
Heeding the above advice, and the advice found elsewhere in The Art of Wargaming, can make your games boring.
No, really. It can happen.
Imagine two players, who’ve been well-versed in tactics and strategy, facing off against each other. Who’s going to make the first move?
Or two players who’ve played each other so much they know each other moves by heart?
I’ve played in a few games where neither side makes a move. A World War I trench warfare scenario comes to mind; where it was suicide for either side to go “over the top.”
If one player occupies the high ground, a narrow pass, or a strategic fortified position, wisdom and logic dictate he should not move from the spot. And wisdom and logic dictate the opponent shouldn’t attack him, especially if the attacker and defender have an equal number of forces.
To make these scenarios playable (and not boring), the attacker should have more forces than the defender. Otherwise, the attacker is at a severe disadvantage. Depending on the kind of scenario played the attacker should outnumber the defender at least 2-to-1, if not more.
The exception: sieges. Even if the attacker outnumbers the defender 20 to 1, I still wouldn’t play a siege.
Next on The Art of Wargaming:
The Six Calamities of Blowhard Von Blowhard, Part 1.