by Jim Lundsford
<You can purchase the game in the StrategyPage Wargame Store
Decisive Action, recently released by HPS Simulations, is a realistic, tactical simulation of modern division and corps level combat. It has many unique features, which sets it apart from any other simulation of its kind. These features include its use of military maps, combat and logistics modeling, employment of official military symbology, terms, and graphics, unique approach to fog-of-war, and its powerful game editing system. The extraordinary game design reflects the designer's experience and the purpose of the game: to provide both the serious wargamer and the military professional with the best representation of the true nature of modern combat at the division and corps levels in an entertaining and playable way. Recently, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College purchased 1300 copies of the game. Every student in this year's class will receive their own personal copy of the game and it will be used in the classroom as the low-cost tactical simulation of division and corps combat operations.
The new commercial release of the game owes much of its design to the original game I developed for use at Fort Leavenworth. As a tactics instructor, I wanted something I could use in the classroom to help students experience important lessons without having to rely on discussion or practical exercises. Experience is always the best teacher and the only division-corps simulation exercise the students participated in during their ten-month course was Exercise PRAIRIE WARRIOR, the school capstone warfighting exercise. PRAIRIE WARRIOR uses the Army's Corps Battle Simulation (CBS) and is an expensive exercise involving over one thousand officers and support personnel.
The initial version of Decisive Action was successful and it was used for several years in the classroom. Since the original version did not have a computer-controlled opponent, student groups fought each other over the college LAN. During its initial use, I gained many insights into improvements that were needed in order to market a stand-alone game to a wider audience. The new version has two-player "hot-seat" and play-by-email options as well as human versus computer-controlled Red or Blue opponent.
The commercial game, still true to its military origins, stresses many important aspects of modern U.S. Army doctrine:
- Art of Command
- Principles of War
- Tenets of U.S. Army Operations
- Forms of Maneuver
- Targeting Methodology
- Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB)
Don't let the terms intimidate you. Most serious wargamers already have an informal but strong understanding of these subjects. Even military professionals sometimes need a good reference, so I included electronic copies of four key U.S. Army field manuals (FM) on the CD. These include the principle references for division operations, military terms and graphics, and IPB. Like all games, there is no guarantee of winning, but gamers will be more successful if they understand these subjects and apply them in an intelligent manner.
The game simulates tactical operations. By U.S. Army definition, tactical operations take place at corps-level and below and generally last hours or days in duration. It's important to note that the game is not a simulation of the operational level of war. The objective of the player is to win a battle? not a campaign. Each turn in the game represents two hours of combat. Most games will be over after ten to twenty turns (1-2 days.)
Decisive Action uses actual tactical maps for the game display. I chose this approach because commanders and staffs use maps and I wanted to make the game look and feel real. I also wanted to make it as easy as possible for players to construct their own scenarios. Although I included four geographical playing areas in the game: South-west Asia, National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin California, Eastern Kansas, and central Germany, players can create their own game map by importing any scanned map image (.bmp/.jpg). For more realism, the underlying terrain database displays latitude and longitude as well as the military UTM grids.
The game divides the map into one-kilometer squares instead of hexes. Terrain is classified for movement and combat using an expanded military terrain classification system. In addition to the standard military terrain types (unrestricted, restricted, and severely restricted), I added rivers, bridges, urban terrain, and deep water. The addition of these terrain types was necessary to reflect the impact terrain has on game-play.
The default view does not display the terrain classification on the tactical map, but the player can toggle on/off a colored overlay to view the effect the terr