Being a wargamer is all about simulating battles. It doesn’t really matter if you fancy Orcs versus Elves or Space Cowboys versus Space Bugs or if you actually prefer historical based armies and battles. We can all agree that the genre or period is irrelevant as long as there is a good fight to be had.
My personal inclination is towards WW2. It is the period that fascinates me the most (followed closely by ancient warfare) and on which I have read the most. It is also heavily represented in my collection of books (right next to Terry Pratchet) and I do like to refresh my knowledge from time to time by browsing through it. As a confession the first books in my collection were purchased by me 18 years ago (when I was 14) and Liddell Hart still is one of my favorite authors in style and substance. Through his “World War II” books (volumes 1 and 2) I discovered much more then numbers upon numbers but also considerations regarding the will to fight of the troops, the morale and the tactical advantage that gave the upper hand most of the time to one side.
It is easy to assume (and it is always the case with junior wargamers) that better equipment means a better “troop” or a better “unit”. It is indeed very easy to fall into this trap. How many times, while having a beer, did the discussion run like this:
– Well, in my opinions the Germans could have beaten the Russians easily without the Allies interfering.
– How about their number advantage though? They outnumbered the Germans 4-5 times at least.
– Nonsense, look at the quality of the equipment that the Germans had! Even the basic Panzer IV could have held its own against the T-34 by the end of the war.
– But the Russians had superior artillery and by the end of the war total air supremacy!
I’m going to stop now because you can see where this is going. We mostly obsess about weapons and equipment and we compare that ruthlessly in deciding which unit is “better”. Truth is, there are other factors that come into play in a fight, as demonstrated over and over by history. We don’t use them often because those are not something that we know for sure and their interpretation often leads towards even more subjective analysis. It’s easier to just say that archers using a Longbow will decimate Sling armed skirmishers, that Pikes will always win against Swords and that Light Cavalry is virtually invincible in front of melee Infantry.
However, let’s talk a bit about TENACITY.
I define Tenacity as the will to fight displayed by a certain unit or army. I want to underline that for me Tenacity and Morale are not the same thing (at least not in this analysis). Morale handles how confident are your soldiers of winning the fight in front of them while I view Tenacity as a metaphorical energy bar which is depleted during the fight. It’s not Stamina also, in case you rushed to yell at the screen in the hopes that I will stand corrected. That energy bar is not a physical attribute but more of a strength of will/mind factor. Maybe it will be easier for me to make you understand by throwing a few rankings out there:
Cautious: these guys will obey your orders and will charge or defend a position like the good soldiers that they are. However, as soon as enemy fire intensifies or casualties start to mount they will likely stop advancing or retreat from their positions. As an example I would probably say that this was most of the Allied Soldiers in 1945. The war was clearly over, the Germans were retreating, and there was no point in bravery or pushing your luck.
Determined: these guys have a job to do and they will do it. Whatever mission you give them they will strive to accomplish it regardless of losses or enemy presence. What they will not do is fight under impossible conditions when victory is clearly lost. When surrounded they will most likely put up a fight but will eventually surrender in a hopeless situation. I’d say this attitude was the dominant one among all soldiers from all armies during WW2.
Stubborn: the mission and the fight are above the individual for these guys. Charging an impregnable enemy position or defending against an outnumbering enemy does not impress them. When engaged in a fight these guys will fight start to end, either winning and driving the enemy back or buying time and enemy lives with their own lives. For WW2 I’d commend the British 1st Para at Arnhem (of course), Waffen SS troops most of the time (during Zitadelle, during the Battle for Berlin, etc) and to be completely fair I’d also nominate the Soviet divisions fighting at Stalingrad.
The second item that I’d want to bring to your attention is TACTICAL SKILL.
As troops fight and become more experienced they also learn how to use terrain or other factors to their advantage to gain a tactical edge over the enemy. Sure, you can easily say this is just the experience level of the soldiers however I feel that Tactical Skill really explains what I actually want to represent. You see, there’s not much use to your thick sloped armor if you engage the enemy tanks on point blank range or worse, they are flanking you. There’s countless examples where the Russian tanks surprise the German Panther’s and quickly overrun them while we can all agree that in open field and with the Germans on the defense those T-34’s would be toast pretty quick.
Conscript: only theoretical training has been given to these troops. Sure, they know that they should take cover and that flanking is good however they will easily fall into traps deployed by a clever enemy and they are slow to react to the ever-changing battlefield conditions.
Regular: some solid combat action has been had by these troops. Notions as covering fire or fire and maneuver are not unknown to them and they can identify dangerous situations when they see them. They will not enter an ambush area unprepared and they will expect the enemy to do its worst in all circumstances.
Veteran: there is simply no way that you can surprise these guys. Even when they are walking in an ambush they are actually baiting the enemy into a much more unfavorable situation that becomes clear as soon as the first bullets start flying. When they are attacking they do so utilizing full cover and flanking moves and when they defend there’s generally not much that can be done to avoid huge loses against their positions. Lastly, they are able to always deal severe blows to the enemy even when fighting on equal terms and usually they can simply chip away at an attacking force through judicious tactical retreats.
And here it is my friends. The “unquantifiable factors” that actually do more (in my opinion) for simulating a conflict then the actual equipment that the troops were using. Next time we will actually take a look at various pairings between different types of units (with varying levels of Tenacity and Tactical Skill) and see how we can logically draw some conclusions on who would win.