Confront your soldiers with the deed itself; never let them know your design. When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; but tell them nothing when the situation is gloomy.
Place your army in deadly peril, and it will survive; plunge it into desperate straits, and it will come off in safety. For it is precisely when a force has fallen into harm’s way that is capable of striking a blow for victory.
Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy’s purpose.
By persistently hanging on the enemy’s flank, we shall succeed in the long run in killing the commander-in-chief.
This is called ability to accomplish a thing by sheer cunning.
–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter XI: The Nine Situations, [57-62].
Was my persistence, all of those years, worth it? The first defeat of the Bearded Bastard happened by accident. The second, by design. [insert link] Then I defeated him twice more, before we had our final game.
Prior to playing that last game, I noticed how much our little group of wargamers had changed over the years. Blowhard Von Blowhard was gone, having never painted an army of his own. So was Cannon Fodder Joe. The regulars had slowly been moving on.
A new generation of wargamers had joined the ranks, wargamers who had never experienced what it was like to be crushed by The Bearded Bastard. All of the old feuds were passing on into memory, along with the games of old.
I’d started mentoring some of the newbies, telling them how to get decent start in the hobby. Of course, I didn’t tell them everything; I showed them how I won.
Just as The Bearded Bastard showed me how to win, had I been wise enough to watch and learn, instead of digging in a rulebook for an obscure rule, or needlessly arguing and complaining why a scenario was unfair.
He was waiting for somebody to finally stand against him.
That last game, just like others where I had deliberately won, was played in near silence.
It was a Hundred Years’ War scenario, and it was the best game I believe I’d ever played despite it ending in a near stalemate. I barely eked out a victory by capturing his C-in-C, Joan of Arc, on the very last turn of the game.
Then we shook hands and smiled.
“Well done,” he said.
A week or two later I moved out of state, never to play against The Bearded Bastard again. I had to find other wargamer, some of which proved to be as challenging as The Bearded Bastard.
Yet wargaming would never be quite the same.
Next on The Art of Wargaming:
Wargaming. Life. Death. And All That.