Wargaming and the future of the After Action Report

The future is already here; it is just not evenly distributed.
– William Ford Gibson

Almost every day, but more frequently as of late, I wake up to find some surprising advances in technology. Yet, I wonder how well those advances are being integrated not just for commercial businesses, but by the government – and the military? My last post concerned the use of commercially available wargames as a tool for training, reporting and evaluating military situations. As noted, we would take a look at how it could also be used to enhance “situation reports”.

What I intended to do and am going to do are two different things – as I managed to find, at long last, the most impressive “After Action Report” EVER – and while it is in Spanish, it can still be classified as representing “The Art of War” — in this case, The Art of the Operational Art of War. That is a 90 page After Action Report (200 Mb of content) covering The Battle of the Bulge on The Operational Art of War.

While that does not comply to the technical format of a Situation Report (SitRep), it is easy to see how it could – if a picture is worth a thousand words, adding graphics to a SitRep should help provide context.

Alas, even that AAR is fairly “archaic” – wonderful as it is, it is possible to do far better. It would take some work and not being particularly adept at graphics – more time than I have available in the present.

No More Paper Tigers

The English 2nd Parachute Battalion, 3rd Commandos - after a hypothetical fight against the Argentinian forces at Goose Green:

Or for something a bit larger - the 5th Panzer Division from World War 2 with “wear and tear” near the Rhzev Salient.

These two screenshots only focus on unit detail - which within the “game” environment is a click away.   In wargames past, a unit was a unit either at full strength or dead.  TOAW is able to show what is in the unit, it’s relative skill, supply and readiness and a “relational value” of its usefulness against different types of threats.

In World War II, Russia fielded well-over 500 Infantry Divisions, over 150 Infantry Brigades (several types), a few hundred tank brigades in addition to about 40 Mechanized or Tank Corps, not to mention… 31 Artillery Divisions.  All of that (and more) is handled by TOAW at the individual squad, heavy weapon and vehicle level.

The present version of TOAW is able to handle 2,000 units per side with each unit being allowed up to 24 line items in its TO&E.  A future version of TOAW is being considered that will handle up to 10,000 units per side.

Zoom Out - Zoom In

Need the big picture?  (This is the small big picture - click the image to open the big big picture in a new window)


The middle-sized picture?  (Click image to enlarge)


A much closer “bird’s eye view”?  (Same here)

 More detail?  (And here - to conserve space)


This could all go into a couple of very different directions, potentially all of those directions, depending upon what is wanted or needed.  The above is what is available within the game, but the word of the day since about 1998 has been Convergence - the integration or using of two or more technologies together. 

Going back to the Spanish After Action Report for the Battle of the Bulge -we can see a lot of creative uses of that wonderful invention we call “the Screen Shot”.  With even free software like Photoscape, the basic screenshot can take on entirely new levels of meaning - adding text, other illustrations, or even made into an Image Map to where every item in the screenshot is clickable - and will take you to more specific information — which could be anything from:

  • a traditional SitRep,
  • a Satellite view of the actual area,
  • specific units,
  • specific people in the units,
  • hierarchical diagrams,
  • real-time collections of their Facebook, Vkontakte or Twitter posts.
  • real-time or archival videos of soldiers or drones in that area.

Some people in the DPR did not get the memo to be careful about their social network postings.

In turn, all of this could be fed into a pausable video clip to provide a chronological context… of everything.

With a little bit of extra effort, a lot of the military data could be fed into Excel spreadsheets for further analysis.

This is all probably within my own ability to do, though the last time I actually tried creating an image map was back around 1998.  It was not so simple then and I have, until recently, absolutely no reason to make one.   This dog is having to learn a lot of new tricks this year - starting with video editing, but I look around and see that it is very difficult to keep up with the world of 3-d printers, halographics, robotics and the Internet of Things… say nothing of how all these things could work in tandem to the point of making this presentation archaic, too.

I know my presentation here is sort of lame in spouting off about what is possible without providing real examples.  Should I have to?  Maybe…  and maybe I will, but it calls into question so many things.

How much data is too much data?  I ponder that quite a bit - but when a battalion is deployed to the front lines without rations… I’m sort of disposed to think that some officers could benefit from the very freakin’ basics of operations… but then these are probably the same officers who have their lunches brought to them by people in their chain of command so that they aren’t deployed to the front lines.  Just sayin’.

How exact does a model have to be?  I question this one a lot more.  If a butterfly in China flaps its wings, what is the result here?  Or in other words, what is the impact on the outcome of World War II if a 1942 Soviet Rifle Brigade is missing a single anti-tank rifle?   How about 100?  A 1,000?  Would missing an entire Front make a difference?

It all depends, but it all depends most upon Decisions.  Decisions are usually based upon some combination of Knowledge, Experience, Emotions and Gut-Instinct - not all of which will apply for the same reasons in any given situation.  Emotions?  When you end up playing someone you know is the “Master” in whatever, there is a good chance you will feel intimidated.  If you know you are outnumbered 3 to 1, odds are you will engage differently than if you outnumbered the enemy 3 to 1.


Exponential - on what it is.  If you plan to win, you research.  So, how effective is an anti-tank rifle against a World War II tank?  Not very… but when you have a whole lot of em, totally different story.  If that’s the best weapon you have available without getting up close and personal with a tank, well you tend to look for opportunities to put it to best use.  The detail is limited only to our ability to question what needs to be defined.  What do we need to know?

Is that information useful?  Probably.  Can it be fun?  Yes.  And in a competitive environment, it can also be scary.

Throughout history, there have been units facing far greater odds who have come out on top.

And we make movies about them…

For your amusement… some World of Tank videos:

Six Shots - 4 Kills

Hetzer - World of Tanks - 15 Kills

Evel “AMX-40″ Knievel

Spartans - What is Your Profession?