04 April 2012

GameTalk - PsyOps

Note: this week marks the 1-year anniversary of GameTalk - and we're not bored yet!

How many games have you played that used or modelled psychological operations against the enemy? Gondor by SPI allowed the army of Mordor to catapult severed heads into Minas Tirith to demoralize the Westernese. Any other (perhaps less morbid?) examples?

By: Jack Nastyface


S O said...

I remember a turn-based "Age of rifles" battle sim. The own troops felt more secure when they were backed by a friendly line of troops behind them and troops easily panicked when attacked from the side. the latter is a more frequent game mechanic than the former.

The Steel Panthers series had at least in one game a game mechanic that forced tank crews to panic when their tank got hit often. This was most relevant in a ridiculous example of game mechanic gone wrong; Mathilda tank crews were safe from small calibre gun shelling, but they panicked. In reality, dozens of non-penetrations would have reassured them.

Some other games featured panicking units; the panic can often be induced by causing huge losses. For example, in the King Arthur RPG/strategy game you could decimate a melee unit of 36 with arrows and they'd break and run when reduced to 5-15.

Brian said...

Without getting into the whole structure of morale rules, which most miniatures rules sets have in spades (board games too, but a bit less so), there are a few examples of games where one side can affect the enemy materially with "non-lethal" attacks.

The Gondor example is best, taken right from the original book actually.

I recall a scenario of the old Metagaming Microgame "Sticks and Stones" covering a ritual battle where both sides engaged in unarmed combat (presumably a lot of threat displays and hooting and bad language, such as you can see outside a student pub most weekend nights), until someone actually got injured or killed - then the game was over.

My own COIN-related games at the operational-strategic level have menus of non-kinetic operations where one side can affect the other's popular support or cohesion through different methods.

The best psychological warfare of all, though, is not modelled in the game but which takes place in the mind of the other player! This is where games with a heavy fog-of-war element really come into their own.

Jack Nastyface said...

I admittedly thought this might be a tough question with few examples, but I thought it worth asking.

The basis of psy-ops is to positivley or negatively effect morale. Many examples of psy-ops exist in-real-life...Vlad the Impaler "staked" enemy soldiers to show his ferocity; pamphlet bombing goes back to at least WWI; and US troops blasted heavy metal music at Noreiga to get him to surrender...but so very few games model these efforts.

I like the role that morale plays in some of the new mini games. Last weekend I played a game of Legends of the Old West and watched with satisfaction as my opponents henchmen ran from the board after I had gunned down his last "hero". That satisfaction was based more on how the rules modelled "realistic" possibilities.

I also note with interest that the Somali player in Day of Heros can issue his units a ration of Khat to enhance their performance.

Yours in gaming,

Jack Nastyface