War Games

One of the dilemmas facing military planners and strategists is how to prepare for war. Increasingly, that planning is undertaken by simulations and war games which approximate real situations in order to allow the planner to anticipate what might happen under various sets of circumstances. In WAR GAMES, a point made clearly is that war games and simulations are not intended to predict, but are instead used most effectively to help planners understand and integrate political and military components of various conflict situations. Underlying that point is the belief that if various situations can be anticipated and understood, they can be dealt with successfully.

Thomas B. Allen draws upon history to illustrate the significance of war games. He describes his own experiences as a participant in a military war game, an example noteworthy for the picture the author draws of the other participants and the atmosphere of the game. He offers some interesting and insightful anecdotes regarding the relationship between “recreational” or commercial games and the so-called “real” games played by the military. He also raises some important caveats about the limitations and dangers of gaming and simulation.

Allen’s presentation is straightforward; he writes for the general reader, explaining acronyms and technical terms that would be unknown to those outside the national security area. The world of military war games traditionally has been shrouded in secrecy for reasons of national security; Allen admits the reader into this private world, providing a tour of an environment that is both alien and intriguing.