The two old computer game I would like play again…

…are Balance of Power and Sun Tzu’s The Ancient Art of War.

 I bought BoP for the Mac and played a cracked version of AoW on PCs.

It was a SlashDot post that got me thinking.

BoP is due a new version using updated ideas (terrorism, CT, globalization, economics) and techniques (game AIs, fuzzy logic). It was also a blast reading through his book and the asumptions for formulas he made.

AAoW was a sort of a real-time war game with simple tactics and strategy, combined arms,  and a bunch of different AI-opponent (historical generals). It was challenging, but not as time consuming as Civilization.

BTW, the  XYZXYZXYZ looks like alot of fun to explore.

Update: I removed the screenshots to both games. The assholes at the site (who I gave credit to for the photos…which they do not own copyright to anyways) dropped the images for commercials instead. What a bunch of fuckers. I removed mention/links of them because I do not want to drive any traffic to them.

Update Update: I have reconsidered per the comments below.

Update: Screenshots for BoP are here and here


15 Responses

  1. Nifty old games!

    The problem with Balance of Power is that my $50 million agricultural aid package to Nigeria kept ending in nuclear war!

    Hidden Agenda [1,2] was very, very good.


  2. Heh…I think with the vast improvements of gaming AIs, the game could improve greatly.

    I think I played Hidden Agenda also. It sounds familiar. I don’t think I spent hundreds of hours on it though.

  3. The reason that they did was because you were hotlinking their images. there is no reason to fume on this regard.

  4. You are probably right. On the other hand, it would have been so little traffic, I am surprised they even bothered. I did credit them and provide links to their pages.

  5. Navin: The more I think of it, you are correct.

  6. I never heard about any of these games before.
    The game I cut my teeth on when it came to actually trying to translate matters of tactics, strategy, and logistics was Rome Total War’s Europa Barbarorum mod. And that is no guarantee that I spelled that correctly.

    Reading various novel depictions of combat and strategic decision making, after having gotten some raw source primers like The Art of War or what not, provided an intellectual understanding. But it was only ever the actual exercise of your brain in figuring out tactical problems that truly got me the real grasp. The intuitive grasp and not just the intellectual understanding.

    There was an age of difference between understanding why armies will run away and actually figuring out the variables for yourself utilizing a simulated set of premises. Once you have acquired such a skill, it still doesn’t mean that your analysis of real world combat will be accurate. No, for that, you need real world premises, psychological profiles, and constants. Rome Total War had a “morale” variable that could be influenced, such as cavalry charges from the rear, in order to rout a unit. But in the real world, that “morale” is a key component of human psychology and that is a key component of the human soldier fighting a war. And when we are talking about how human beings think, now we get to Colonel Boyd.

    But, if you do it the other way around and cut off it, what you get is an intellectual understanding sourced from being “told” what is true or not. You don’t get the intuitive access of figuring out things for yourself that war games and exercises provide.

    It’s one fundamental difference, I believe, that constantly separates armchair commanders from combat leaders. Combat leaders must make decisions on the spot, without the luxury of second guessing themselves with hindsight data not available at the time. Armchair generals are naturally able to look back and start second guessing things with the data at their disposal. But the key difference here is that there is no mental obstacle preventing armchair generals from placing themselves at the spot and making the call. Not unless people decide to let such an obstacle be created.

    The resources are there. it is just that most people don’t utilize them. They are not motivated enough. Or perhaps, they are too motivated to consider that what they know is all that they would ever need. Or that what they know is superior to what the combat leaders at the front knew when they made their decisions at the time that they did. A particular form of tunnel vision develops, as we should all know by now considering the arguments over the proper strategy for Iraq.

    An imagination and a proper intellectual understanding of battle and tactics is nice, I suppose. But imagination needs life experiences to form the proper context. It is very hard to imagine a combat situation if you have never been required to make a decision, on your own judgment, come hell or high water. It is very hard to visualize the fury and chaos of war, let alone the consequences of the fog of war, unless you have been in a battle yourself. But that is what training is for: to simulate actuality with non-actuality. Good training is itself its own particular doctrine and art. To provide life experiences that are not 100% the same as reality, but which can be substituted for reality to produce the same lessons and habits as a real experience would have.

    As one example, if you compare the experiences of running from a mob with leading a cavalry charge, you would normally not get a connection. I have not led a cavalry charge nor have I personally seen what the tons of armored horseflesh would do to unprepared infantry. But I can extrapolate the tactics and the psychology of the mob to the morale breaking point of an infantry regiment that has been flanked in the rear by heavy cavalry. It is not a perfect rendition, but it does not need to be. All that needs to be valid is the foundation itself, the foundation of the experience. If my experience with mob psychology and group psychology is correct, and if my understanding of the tactical situation and psychology of an infantry regiment vs a cavalry charge is correct, then I can make the right connections between them.

    We have all been in groups and we all know how people behave when they are part of a group as opposed to when they are alone. We have all heard about or even seen how a mob can act. We have been amongst crowds and have witnessed their peculiar Brownian Motion (whether it results in stampeding someone to death or not).

    The leap is not all that great if you are familiar with both sides but simply lack an interface between the two.

    Btw, Balance of Power’s “American Eagle” and the “Russian Bear” was pretty amusing in the pics.


    It really helps when learning about ancient tactics that utilized ancient weaponry that is so foreign to modern day culture to have a game like Rome Total War be able to show you just what exactly a cavalry charge is supposed to do. The technology is very useful. And there is certainly something to be said for requiring a student to actively do something rather than just passively imbibing the knowledge.

    I mean certainly you will never learn about real military realities by watching modern day movies like 300. They are meant for entertainment but they will never tell you what war truly is or how it is fought. That’ll require at least some life experience for the dots to connect.

  7. Ym, I am bit older then you. 😦

    The two games I mentioned, where more at the strategic and operational levels.

    I think there is a lot of room for operational / tactical planning games. lLot of Armed Forces reform types, also call for a free-play exercises to evaluate and give more realistic training.

  8. The repetition and variation of online games and live free-form exercise can exericese the thinking of the potential leader and build up fingertip feel for making decision.

  9. What do you mean by “live free-form” exercises?

    Would this mean two human players are playing against themselves?

  10. Yes.

    There are several US DoD reforms also pushing for free-form ex3efrciers that bit unit vs. unit in free-form (mostly no-script) exercises to challenge the commanders and discover the best.

  11. I always found the idea of “scripted” war games to be hilarious.

    “You can’t do that, that isn’t in the game plan”


  12. I think the Author-former-army is Vandergriff or something like that. He outlines a a different way of doing officer slection, rtraining and promotions.

    Also, I think Lind in a paper on a true light infantry marine corps, had promtions slanted 60%-40% between two battaliions based upon who one the free force-on-force game. The winning side got more promotions all the way down.

  13. One of the un-reported, from the MSM at least, facets of Petraeus’ rise in the ranks is that he now sets promotion policies. Or at least, he can promote proven combat warriors to flag rank, which will have the same effect decades down the road.

    This is something the “Army is broken” crowd don’t want to talk to the American people about.

  14. I remember reading that he was on the Col and Brig General promotion boards.

  15. THis might be the sequel of sorts for BoP – Balance of Power: 21st Century

    You begin on September 12th, 2001. You are the President of the United States and your job is to advance American interests, as expressed in a list of policy goals. These policy goals can be found by clicking on the Things button. Each of these is a policy of some sort, with its “owner” (the country that would actually do it) listed first. The USA’s own policy actions are at the top of the list. If you select any of these policy goals, you will see a lot of text explaining exactly what it entails. The desirability of that policy goal to the USA is also displayed next to the bold text Undesirable_Desirable. You want to make certain that the policy goals that are desirable are eventually executed, and the ones that are undesirable are never executed. For now you can just skim through this list, but in order to do well in BoP2K, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with each of these, even those that don’t appear to affect you. Why? Because you will need to make deals with other countries involving some of those policy-treaties.

    Your first task is to select which policy goal you want to pursue first. You’ll see the incomplete sentence: “I” followed by a menu entitled “Do What?” listing two choices: “set goal” and “set goal to prevent.” The first means “I want to set a goal for something I want to achieve.” The second means “I want to set a goal to prevent something from happening.” Select the first menu item (“set goal”) and a list of twelve policies desirable to the USA is presented. This being September 12th, 2001, you want to get your hands on Osama bin Laden. Select that option and click on the little period button that appears. (It means: “period—end of sentence—that’s what I want to say.”)

    Now the Storyteller (in the guise of Fate) gives you some information that will help you. It says: “Fate presents background briefing about Afghanistan: its government is medium-small popular and its insurgency is small powerful. The government’s resistance to your attempt will be super-huge.” On the right (purple) side of the window, your “Do What?” button lists twelve possible actions you could take. That’s a lot of choices!

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