War Games

Our Guest Blogger—GPO’s Public Relations Specialist  Emma Wojtowicz—takes a look at the U.S. Naval War College publication on war gaming.

This recently reprinted publication from 1966 has not only been reborn, but has also received a face lift to make it look like the relevant book it still is today. Do not let its age fool you.

Fundamentals of War Gaming is a third edition reprinted publication by the United States Naval War College that explores the history and practice of war gaming.

To put it simply, war gaming is like the game of chess. This book applies the chess board to war scenarios exposing readers to the fundamentals of war gaming. Chess pros learn how their skills can be adapted to conceptualize military operations and novices receive an introduction on the theories and practice of war gaming.

War gaming is more prevalent in today’s society than one might think and I am not talking about war-related video games.

A few examples include:

  • The recent one year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden reminds us of the news coverage from last year that detailed the way Navy Seals prepared for the mission. Creating a replica of bin Laden’s compound and practicing and simulating different scenarios is the practice of war gaming.
  • For fans of the Hunger Games books and movie, the hunger games tributes strategize how to use the skills to eliminate their opponents and the game makers use their futuristic technology to manipulate the tributes to do and go where they want them and that is war gaming.
  • Perhaps the best example of war gaming is in an episode of the television series the West Wing. President Bartlett is playing chess with Sam Seaborn and he equates the game of chess to a military situation that he is confronting in the Taiwan Strait. President Bartlett repeats, “see the whole board,” “look at the whole board” which is crucial when playing the game of chess and when strategizing for diplomatic and military situations or war gaming.

Figure: 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in Iraq with giant chess set. — 8 October 2005. Source: SoldierChess.org, a charity that sends free chess sets to deployed troops

History and popular culture has familiarized us with the concept of war gaming, but the publication Fundamentals of War Gaming provides a broader picture. Before World War II, the Naval War College relied on manual games such as chess and other board games to train and prepare officers.

One chapter in the book is dedicated to the history of chess and war gaming focusing on the use of war gaming by individual countries as well as the Naval War College. World War II and the various types of warfare used during the war led to the need for more sophisticated ways of training.

The development of computers, in as early as the 1950s, changed the war gaming methods from manual to simulated gaming using NEWS, or the Navy Electronic Warfare Simulator.


Image: NEWS or Navy Electronic War Simulator. Source: Defence Talk

Fundamentals of War Gaming contains various charts and graphs depicting the statistical methods of war gaming and also historic photographs showing the evolution of war gaming from life-size chess boards to giant computer simulators.

This well-rounded portrayal of war gaming appeals to a large audience from math-oriented chess fans to history buffs. It may be an older publication, but it is still an interesting read and relevant today. Like I said, don’t let its age fool you.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THIS “The United States Naval War College Fundamentals of War Gaming”?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

12 Responses to War Games

  1. […] Society through a Comic Lens, The Nuttall Tick Catalogue, Dr. Seuss, U.S. Army, Sprocket Man!, War Games, and Ponzimonium. You'll chuckle over the odd, quirky, ironic or inadvertently funny titles of the […]

  2. Kampanie edukacyjne says:

    Valuable information. It was pleasent to read. Thank you :)

  3. Peter Mantu says:

    Great blog indeed. I have a question though. Is it possible for me to get a copy of Fundamentals of War Gaming if I reside in South Africa? I think I am interested in this reading…thanks and keep up the good work!

    • GPOBookstore says:

      The U.S. Government Online Bookstore ships worldwide. Click on the Display International Price link when you are on the product page for The Fundamentals of War Gaming http://bookstore.gpo.gov/products/sku/008-046-00269-0. After you add the book to your shopping cart, start Checkout. Then simply provide your International Billing Address and choose the type of International Shipping desired (Standard shipping is included in the price of the book). After we receive payment, we will ship the book to you in South Africa.

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  7. games says:

    I think it’s interesting you bring up Hunger Games as a popular example of today’s prevalence in society (which it is), but don’t forget the popular, yet many years old movie, War Games that was a very big hit and focused around just this type of game. That was the first time I realized that someone would even do that type of thing.

    • GPOBookstore says:

      I guess this a generational issue. Our guest blogger is of the “Hunger Games generation; I, too, came from the “War Games generation” and was struck at the ending line and motto of the movie spoken by the computer, “Joshua” to “Professor Falken”:

      “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”

      • Michael McCanr says:

        Watching the Hunger Games Right now. Pretty good movie, Kinda like the short story called “The Lottery”

  8. Mick McCanr says:

    that is where the pawns came 4m?

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