View Full Version : "Principles of War"

Apr 01, 2004, 01:52 PM
Foreword: I've seen several articles and threads on this site that offer "advice based on principle"; they generally seem to offer pointers on this or that type of war or warfighting technique, or use of a specific unit. While it's all good stuff, I offer this as a framework for discussing or studying Civ warfighting that is independent of unit types or eras. These are "real-world" military principles, as I see them applied to Civ War.

My study of military history and readings of Sun Tzu, Von Clausewitz, Rommel, etc. lead me to two conclusions: First, discussion of "styles" or specific techniques should be secondary to fundamentals. For example, there are many variations on the use of combined arms, but the subject is revisited often in the forums so that a new player can get an explanation of the basics of combined arms (usually followed by lots of valid techniques). The second, more compelling conclusion: Only about half of anybody's real-world "Principles of War" apply in Civ War.

When I say "Principles of War", I'm not talking about specific "tactics" or "strategy", or the styles of fighting battles and campaigns. I'm talking about the timeless principles that were inked in the day of spear and sword, and hold true in the day of smart weapons and grunts who are better educated than yesteryear's generals. Here they are, more or less as they were taught to me:

1) Objective
2) Offensive (or "Initiative" or "Attack")
3) Concentration of effort (or "Mass")
4) Economy of Force
5) Maneuver
6) Unity of command
7) Security (or "Security and Reserve")
8) Surprise (or "Surprise and Deception")
9) Simplicity

To these I have seen other "principles" added; I generally regard these as important, but not central, considerations. For example: Flexibility (fits w/ maneuver) Cooperation, Logistics, Morale. Though important, they are not the necessarily stuff of war-plans. (Though logistics is extremely important.)

(Sidenote: A recurring problem with military doctrine is that there's always some colonel who is trying to re-write it to make general. Rarely does one come along who is as bright as a Patton or Rommel, let alone von Clauswitz or Sun Tzu. End digression.)

"Unity of Command" is a non-issue in Civ war, and "Simplicity" almost goes without saying in Civ war to anyone who has studied Civ units as the relate to the real thing. "Surprise" generally only lasts for one round in a Civ war, and "Maneuver" in gameplay is necessarily over-simplified. As much as I like maneuver, flanking and enveloping schemes are usually less effective than a straightforward attack in Civ war. (Has anybody here managed to replicate Hannibal's double-envelopment maneuver from Cannae in a Civ battle?)

So, for Civ Warfare, I offer these "Principles of War" for your consideration:

1) Objective
2) Initiative
3) Mass
4) Economy of Force
5) Security
6) Logistics

Far and away the most important principle above is Objective. If you don't know what your warfighting goals are, the other principles won't help much.

I would give Mass a close second in importance. Simply put, mass involves concentrating sufficient forces at a critical place and time to achieve objective. Alternatively, in involves concentrating your forces sufficiently to act decisively... A stack of 15 will like attack (or defend) more decisively than 3 stacks of 5... (Lee dividing his force at Chancellorsville is a rare and brilliant exception that entailed a logistics advantage enjoyed by Lee...)

I view Initiative as equally important in the defense and offense. The key is fighting on your terms. There are some well developed postings and War Academy articles on defensive tactics that maintain initiative; drawing the enemy into "killing fields", etc. Good stuff.

In some of my "combined arms" posts, I touch on two key principles - security, and economy of force.

Economy of Force should be looked at from two standpoints: Force Preservation, as well as the more classic "Don't take an objective with a Corps when a Division will do". Fast units that live to fight another day are huge force preservers... balancing this principle with Mass seems tricky sometimes.

When I take additional (not extra) infantry along with my Combined Arms Task Forces, I'm bringing them for Security. What I don't need to protect the stack and secure conquered cities, I can use to form picket lines to block railroads and keep the enemy out of my rear area. Likewise, I don't fortify my central cities with more than one unit, I secure them by not letting my enemy anywhere near them.

Another important security consideration - I always try to maintain a reserve, in case the enemy's counterpunch is heavier than I expected, and I've suddenly got a stack of his horsemen/knights/cav outside one of my cities. It's also a royal pain if he manages to slip a transport near my shore and drop off a stack of something just as those core cities (finishing a troop's worth of tanks) slip into disorder from war weariness...

For Civ war, I added Logistics because it is so crucial (since maneuver and other strokes of human genius are unavailable). It does little good to take his cities if I cannot reinforce them... and a continuous supply of fresh units is essential to maintaining an offensive. It is important to note that this should be a continuous process in peacetime; infrastructure, ship positioning... in the industrial and modern era, it's why my AI rivals see individual, empty transports out in the middle of the ocean, for no apparent reason...I may only have a transport load of tanks, but if I can put them on any shore I choose on my very next move...

So there they are, my "Civ III Principles of War for Real Life Concientious Objectors" ...or something like that. I hope some of you find this useful.

Apr 01, 2004, 04:10 PM
Good article! :)

I'm missing one element though from Sun Tzu that is very important in Civ:
7) Knowing your enemy.

Apr 01, 2004, 04:43 PM
actually, that's helpful, but not neccesary. the main point was so you could counter horses w/ spears. as there are no unit type 'A' vs. Unit type 'B' bonus (in civ3 anyway) it's kinda a moot point. although it is helpful to know basic information about the strength of thier army in offense, and defense. but all required information can be bought for ~70 gold (spy)

Apr 02, 2004, 08:25 AM
Good article. I too, am a student of military history and have tried to apply 'The Principles' to the game. I think the game is a bit abstract to use all of them. You'd have to switch to a strategic/tactical map for each battle to fully employ all.

Apr 02, 2004, 08:41 AM
@Mano3: Thanks for your thoughts - as a 'student of military history', do you think I have portrayed these "principles" fairly and accurately? (I'd really like your perspective on this, either in the forum or in a PM/email.)

I think some of the "level of detail" is simplified to keep the warfighting playable while making room for the non-combat aspects of the game. For example: Rather than "lines of communication" or "supply trains", units simply have a maintenance cost. Either a direct cost (gold per turn in democracy) or an indirect cost (cities/towns support X units, but the cities make less gold...)

@Ribannah: Thanks for the compliment. I'm a big fan of Sun Tzu, and think The Art of War is perhaps the best ~80 pages of military strategy ever written. Your post refers to one of his most timeless passages.

Having said that, a problem (of sorts) is that one generally needs to study some of the other (more voluminous and/or 'dated') "principles" based works to fully appreciate Sun Tzu (see Clausewitz). Another problem with Sun Tzu (as far as an "article" goes), is that it lends itself more to taking a point and expanding on it, rather than condensing the whole thing into a thumbnail sketch of "principles".

For these reasons, my article has an admittedly "western" flavor. Perhaps there is someone on the board who writes better than me, understands Sun Tzu better than me, and could figure out how to integrate some of Sun Tzu into this thing. (Or come up with an even better set of "principles" for Civ War...) I'm certainly open to editing this thing based on feedback in this forum...

As great and timeless as The Art of War is, even Sun Tzu goes well beyond the scope of Civ war. His little technique of beheading the emperor's favorite concubine to get the other ladies to get in line was an effective means of enforcing discipline that is (fortunately) not necessary in Civ War.

It's not that I find Sun Tzu "obtuse" or irrelevant, just a little harder to relate to Civ warfare in this manner.

Apr 03, 2004, 07:40 AM
Objective - easiest of the bunch. You have to have an objectve and a plan to achieve that objective. A basic that can be done in CIV.

Mass - another achievable in CIV, unless you underestimated your opponent's strength (Clausewitz's 'friction').

Initiative - very important, but a bit hard to pull off in CIV. The only way I see this happening in CIV is if you initiate the war with all your troops in the right place of your choosing. Again, 'friction' will make or break you here.

Economy of Force - very good analysis here and something I had to learn in CIV. Getting those hurt units to survive and fight another day is very important, as is having a reserve to fill in theri place. Watch your attacking and moving. How many times have you moved a unit into enemy territory, but it runs out of MPs, then you take the city with other units and now that unit is stuck because you moved prematurely?

Combined Arms Task Forces - CIV's combat system makes this one a bit clunky to pull off. It does help, but the 'friction' always pops up again!

Logistics - As we say in the USAF, "You can't without Supply!" I like the idea of some sort of supply system. My choice would be being able to trace a supply line back to any of your cities would keep a unit fresh. If there is no supply line, then the unit loses a HP per turn out of supply. Having a 'supply unit' with your force could alleviate this.

All in all, good job Scoutsout! As for your questions on Sun Tzu, that's a tough one. There are so many interperations. If you really want to confuse yourself, pickup "The Military Maxims of Napoleon", or any lectures by John Boyd.

Apr 04, 2004, 04:15 AM
Sorry guys, but this is by far to theoretical. This is so basic that it is not of real value for Civilization 3 at all.

On this scale, you could also start quoting Sun Tzu or Clausewitz. But this would overrate Civ3's military fighting system and the AI's smartness.

I agree with Mano3: "I think the game is a bit abstract to use all of them."

Yes, only the basics stay the same and are rather common sense, e.g. "know your enemy".

Sorry, I appreciate the knowledge and work you put into this, but it simply does not make too much sense for Civ3.

Apr 04, 2004, 10:05 AM
Originally posted by Longasc
Sorry, I appreciate the knowledge and work you put into this, but it simply does not make too much sense for Civ3. Hey, you were fair and polite in that critique, and that much I appreciate!

Apr 04, 2004, 10:19 AM
Originally posted by Longasc
Sorry guys, but this is by far to theoretical. This is so basic that it is not of real value for Civilization 3 at all.

Sorry, I appreciate the knowledge and work you put into this, but it simply does not make too much sense for Civ3.

No problem! :)

It's still fun to converse about though. It's a rare find to discover folks that really study warfare and the philosophies behind it.

Apr 04, 2004, 09:23 PM
Originally posted by Mano3
Good article. I too, am a student of military history and have tried to apply 'The Principles' to the game. I think the game is a bit abstract to use all of them. You'd have to switch to a strategic/tactical map for each battle to fully employ all.

Ever tried MTW ? At expert level you almost gotta be sun tzu to win lol

Apr 05, 2004, 08:47 AM
What's MTW?

Apr 06, 2004, 02:40 PM
Medieval: Total War.

Combat in the Middle Ages, split up in a strategy and a tactical part.

In the Tactical part you have a 3D Terrain map and you command your units in real time - but it is no RTS, it is rather slow and you can pause when you want.

Xen could play the Byzantine Empire, or the French - some nations have unique troop type, e.g. the English Longbowmen.

The principle is quite scissors-paper-stone,

Knights can tear through normal Infantry and everything but not against a dense formation of spearman or anything with large spears or pikes.

There are scenarios to play and historical campaigns plus the "heart" of the game, where you move units over a map of europe and fight then in the 3D view in different provinces.

You will love to smash a lot of enemies by attacking from the rear, charging down hills or curse the enemy when assaulting enemy castles, uphill, no cover and well, I hate it... figure out why. :)

Medieval: Total War and the Add-On Viking Invasion now ship together in a "BATTLE COLLECTION".

I love this game. You can go on Crusades of drive back the Crusaders, whatever you want.

ROME: Total War will feature a sophisticated 3D engine, MTW is rather bad graphically.

This will be about Rome, Carthage and so on - MTW is about the darkest Middle Ages, early, high and late Medieval period. At the end you get also some cannons.

It is not soo good in Multiplayer, but fighting 2 vs 2 once was really great - the whole screen cluttered with dead horses... hrhr.

Crecy, Agincourt - you can replay all those Battles.

This is THE game for you, Mano3. It has some flaws, but it is rather unique and I can really recommend it any historically interested wargamer.

Apr 06, 2004, 03:08 PM
Thanks! I'll give it a try.

Apr 21, 2004, 12:48 PM
I agree with the ideas presented but civ3, on higher levels, restricts the more agressive aspects of your post. The AI has a higher unit support than the player will have and a higher effective spt than the player will have. This forces the player into using SoDs and "points of weakness" or "kill zones" to bleed/bait the opponents army while taking minimal losses.

Effective war becomes trench warfare rather than blitzkrieg.

Apr 29, 2004, 01:05 AM
IMHO, its a good article. For example:
Short Term : Gain as much land as possible (building a lot of cities)
Middle Term : Get as much lux as possible.
Final Term : Conquest!!! or building SpaceShip or whatever :D
Initiative(for me :D)
all players would set their own initiave. How many of u dont set the initiative when you wanna attack your enemy? Especially when there is no RR? Even AI has their own initiative when to declare war :D
Its also a good point. And someone already discuss it in the forum. U better send your attacking units to one direction rather than separate them N and S (I know, in some cases its arguable).
Economy of Force
I dont understand (because my english is not so good, so I have no comment)
Once you get your objective (such as luxs/resources), for sure we like to hold it. And we like to secure our border as well. We are not going to place a warrior/spearman on the critical city in modern area, are we ? :D
Rush : harbor/airport once you got an important city for logistic support (lux or resources) :D. I know it's also arguable. Most will rush temple/marketplace. But at least it would be high priority in CivIII players.

After all, direct or indirect, most of CivIII players (who already play quite often), have already implement it. IMHO, its a good article for a new player as well as "old players?" :D. Its summarizing all we need in CivIII games (war wise).

No offence, this is just my opinion.