Integrating Tactical Intelligence into Board Wargaming

By Brant Guillory 24 Jun 2006 0

What is Intelligence? What is Tactical Intelligence?

Intel is critical information needed to make decisions; that information is currently unknown, or known but likely to change. Tactical intelligence is specific to the battlespace in which a commander operates, and is needed to make decisions of a direct military nature, involving the employment of battlefield operating systems to accomplish his mission.

For example, a commander may not know the strength of the enemy's force at all - a situation common in naval combat. In this case, he is dealing with a "pure" unknown. In another case, he may be familiar with the enemy's initial strength, but following attrition for maintenance and expected harassment and interdiction fires, it can be expected that the enemy will hit the commander?s main defensive belt at something less than full strength, but the exact strength is uncertain.

Another common occurrence in reality, but rare in games (especially historical ones because of the way that scenarios are designed), a commander might have a fairly complete enemy order of battle ? and his reconnaissance may even have eyes on the enemy ? but he has no idea what the enemy objective is.

In any case, that commander has information about the enemy that he needs. That information is intelligence. It's often developed through inference, and it's rarely an exact science. Based on what can be seen, what does that tell us about the enemy's strength, intentions, and capabilities? Based on what is known, what can be extrapolated?

These are the challenges that commanders face in a real-world intelligence development environment.

Just a note, before I go further. While I have experience working in the tactical intel world for ground maneuver combat units, this article is not intended to be a full explanation of all aspects of tactical intelligence. It is also not intended to be a doctrinal primer on the "official" US Army intelligence process. Although much of the terminology is based on US doctrine, the concepts are more universal.

How can gamers use Intelligence on the battlefield?

Intelligence answers key questions on the battlefield that are needed to make timely and appropriate decisions during the fight. These decisions are made at, or before, "decision points" on the battlefield. These decision points are the points at which one course of action must be chosen out of the available options and there may be multiple decision points. Following are two examples:

A simplified offensive example: I need to kill the enemy to accomplish my mission. My tanks are my best killing system, but they move slower than my helicopters. If I want to get my tanks into position, I need to commit them either left or right before they get to the city. In order to decide which way to commit my tanks, I need to know where the enemy is. Therefore, the location of the enemy's main body of forces becomes a key intelligence requirement, and the highway interchange outside the city becomes my decision point, because I must decide by then which way to commit the tanks.

An example in the defense: I have a reserve of several AT weapons. Based on the rate of travel for those AT systems, it will take at least 20 minutes to commit them to reinforce one of my two main defensive positions. Therefore, I need approximately 20 minutes warning in order to ensure they get to the fight in a timely manner. If the enemy's doctrinal rate of march is 20 kph, then I have to have someone watching the enemy's movement approximately 7 km forward of my lines, in order to tell me which way the enemy is going. My decision point is no longer based on my movement, but rather on the enemy's movement.

Typically, intelligence requirements and decision points are based on knowledge of the enemy's doctrine. If the enemy tends to approach the battle in a certain formation, then uncovering part of that formation allows the intel section to predict where the rest of the enemy forces are. If the enemy tends to guard her flanks with wheeled ATGMs on the high ground, then the presence of wheeled ATGMs on the ridge may be an indicator of where the enemy's flank is, allowing the intel geeks to template the rest of the enemy force, and narrow the area in which to focus his commander's main effort.

One technique that has worked well at the battalion level and below is to develop at least two different enemy courses of action. Usually, these courses of action revolve around the enemy's most likely course of action and the most dangerous course of action, as determined by enemy doctrine. A gamer will want there to be some definite differences between those courses of action, because he needs observable cues that clue him into one or the other. This does not mean that he should build artificial differences into the courses of action just to distinguish them. Usually, the "most likely" is straight enemy doctrine; the "most dangerous" course of action is how the enemy would fight the battle with perfect intelligence on your unit.

Once these two sketches have been developed, they are overlaid on top of each other on a map (so that they remain to scale and tied to specific points on the ground). Where the courses of action diverge, the player has his areas of interest, where observing enemy actions can cue the player to enemy intentions. Where the courses of action converge and overlap, the player has projected engagement areas, since it is expected that the enemy will travel through that area regardless of their course of action. This is called "predictive analysis" ? using analysis of the enemy's doctrine to predict the actions on the battlefield. However...

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