Commanding Chaos

Chaos to Order Header 2

If you are used to Wizard of Oz (all knowing, all powerful) wargames, you might be taken aback by all the confusion in Pub Battles.  It is just a big mess!  How can I even formulate a coherent plan and follow it like this?  The chaos is very distracting and can easily get you off your game.

After a turn or two, you can find yourself running around in crisis mode.  Racing to from one fire to the next, trying to keep them out.  If you find yourself in this boat, you have surrendered the initiative to the enemy.  You are reacting, not acting.  This path leads to defeat.

Yes, you do need to have a plan.  You need to keep your eyes firmly focused on the forest.  The leaves constantly smacking you in the face can be very distracting.  It is critical that you maintain your focus.

Let’s look at an example.  You are running Knyphausen’s Wing.  The enemy gets a bad break in the turn sequence.  He is wide open and vulnerable for an instant.  Do you strike?  Seize the moment?!  Let’s say you do.  You take out a Colonial piece, establish a crossing and seize some heights!  That’s great right?

NO!  Not if it doesn’t fit your plan.  What are Knyphausen’s orders?  Demonstrate and tie down Colonials along the river.  What?  But we scored a point and are tying down even more Colonials now.  What is wrong with that?

It doesn’t fit the plan.  You got lucky.  What if the Colonists get lucky next?  What if your little beach head, that you are so proud of, suddenly gets trapped and obliterated by a double move?  How many pieces will you lose?  3?  Now your side is down by 2 points.  You were supposed to be just demonstrating, remember?  That means you aren’t supposed to be making or losing any points.  Now you’ve lost 2!  Cornwallis has to make up for that.  Your opportunistic, whimsical lunge may have just lost the battle!

This situation applies to the offense too.  Let’s say Cornwallis’ opening attack gets very unlucky.  He misses his timing.  The Colonials roll lucky in combat.  Bam, bam.  You’re down 2 blocks and haven’t taken any ground.  Game over?  Give up and try to attack with Knyphausen instead?

No.  Stick to your plan.  It is a temporary setback.  A bad blow.  The tides of luck will flow  with you next.  Re-group, shift your line, then attack.  That is the plan.  If you are persistent, your offensive will crack the enemy line and you can push forward.  A lack of persistence is the greatest cause of failure.

Ok.  Lesson learned.  Always stick to the plan.  Never get distracted and move off of that right?  No.  It’s not that easy.  Here is a great lecture from the Army War College:

This is one of the toughest decisions commanders face.  Change or persist?  There is a time to change the plan.  Mead saw this at Gettysburg.  He seized the opportunity.  McAuliffe persisted at Bastogne.  Another right call.

It is easy for us to sit here with the benefit of hindsight and say when it worked and when it didn’t.  How do you know looking ahead into the dark unknown?  Did Custer persist too long?  Should he have changed sooner?  Would it have mattered?  Is it possible that persisting and losing is the best option?

Share your thoughts and ideas below in comments!

2 thoughts on “Commanding Chaos”

  1. That’s always the trickiest point for me. Scrapping may seem like a good idea, but it usually involves “unmoving” to extricate oneself from the original plan. Is the cost/benefit of switching plans worth the wasted effort of changing horses mid-stream? Brandywine has a knack for forcing me to choose!

  2. I have often thought that when people talk in hindsight about Gettysburg, that it was a forgone conclusion, they are forgetting about the unexpected twists of fate that so much hinged on. What if the men of the First Minnesota hadn’t paid with their lives to buy those precious minutes to save the union line? How was Lee to anticipate the determination of Joshua Chamberlain? To say that Lee was foolish for fighting at Gettysburg is to discount the unexpected heroics that tipped the scale.

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