An aspect of War Studies literature which has hitherto received little academic attention is the corpus of several thousand conflict simulation games published in recent decades. Further details of these simulation games may be found at www.grognard.com
and at www.consimworld.com
. Professor Philip Sabin has been working in this field for many years, as detailed further in this document
and in his major 2012 book on Simulating War.
He is a consultant on the subject for the UK Ministry of Defence, lectures internationally on the topic, and co-organises the annual Connections UK conference for over 100 wargames professionals from around the world, as detailed here
. He was recently contracted by the British Army's new Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research to design a Camberley Kriegsspiel with which officers may practise battlegroup tactics.
In September 2003, Professor Sabin began teaching a radical new option course on conflict simulation within the Department's MA programmes.
Students discuss the utility and ethics of conflict simulation, and attend classes on topics including understanding historical campaigns, modelling conflict and command dynamics, and writing simulation rules.
Each student must complete an individual project (analogous to a course dissertation) by designing their own complete mini-simulation of a historical battle or campaign of their choice.
This involves researching the history, geography and orders of battle in the engagement concerned, studying existing simulations of the same or related engagements, and choosing simulation mechanisms which come together to create a realistic but playable representation of the actual events. Students are required to make their simulations as short and simple as possible, which adds to the challenge of capturing the essentials of the conflict itself. Just as published conflict simulations go through extensive development and playtesting, so the student projects are played and commented on in draft form by other class members and by Professor Sabin himself.
What makes this project so educational is that the students must develop a deep analytical understanding of the dynamics underlying the real battle or campaign. They must address issues such as logistics, force-to-space ratios and intelligence, and must make judgements as to how close-run the actual battle was, how different tactical or strategic choices might have affected the actual outcome, and what pressures led the actual commanders to make the decisions which they did. The project requires a unique blend of painstaking analysis, legalistic precision, and intellectual and artistic creativity. The students must then reflect on the choices they have made within extensive designer's notes.
Four of the simulations already designed in this course have now been published commercially. These include Andrew Mulholland's 'Assault on Narvik' (1940) and Arrigo Velicogna's 'An Loc' (1972), which appeared in issue 14 and the 2009 annual of the journal Against the Odds.
In 2016 Jaakko Bjorklund's '1631: An Empire in Flames' was published in issue 127 of the French journal Vae Victis
. The other pblished student simulation is Garrett Mills' 'Roma Invicta?' about the first 2 years of Hannibal's campaign in Italy (218-216 BC), a revised version of which, co-designed by Professor Sabin, was published by the Society of Ancients
in March 2008. Further student simulations are in line for publication in the future.
Some of the other simulations by past students are available below for free download. By very kind permission of the designer, Dale Larson, some of these simulations use the freeware programme Cyberboard to handle the graphics and to make them playable on the computer screen. You will first have to download Cyberboard from Dale's website. Then, just download the simulation zip files below, unzip them into your Cyberboard folder, open a scenario (.scn) file with CBPlay.exe, and away you go!
If you would rather produce a hard copy of the simulations, there is a second list of zip files containing printable maps and counter sheets, as well as the simulation rules. Note that most simulations are available only in Cyberboard form or only in print form.
Access both sets of downloads here
Note that the simulations remain the copyright of King's College London and the individual designers - you may not post them elsewhere or use them for any commercial purposes, though you are welcome to provide links to this website (NOT to the individual simulations). Note also that most of the students had no previous experience in conflict simulation, so you should not expect their designs to be perfect - they represent the students' best efforts to come to grips with this genre while also studying several other Masters courses. The simulations are offered 'as is' and we cannot answer rules queries or pass on individual feedback, since the students have now moved on to other things.
Professor Sabin has published several simulation-based studies of the mechanics of ancient land battles over the past 15 years, culminating recently in his major book Lost Battles: Reconstructing the Great Clashes of the Ancient World (Hambledon Continuum, 2007). This shows how simulation techniques can make an important contribution to our understanding of these ill-documented engagements, through the radical new approach of comparative dynamic modelling. Further details of the book may be found on the Lost Battles page,
together with free graphics downloads to supplement the work.
In August 2009, Professor Sabin published Empire, a very simple grand strategic simulation of the Macedonian and Punic Wars, which can be used alone or linked with Lost Battles to set the engagements in a broader context. Empire and Lost Battles were published together in a deluxe boxed edition in 2011.
For more, see The Society of Ancients website
You might also be interested in Professor Sabin's mini-simulations of the entire Second World War in Europe or of the Eastern Front, 1941-45, which he uses in his BA course on World War Two as well as in the MA option. The second sim is a different, much shorter and simpler version of the Eastern Front simulation previously posted on this site. The two are available for free download below, under the same conditions as for the student simulations. Both contain printable as well as Cyberboard versions.