So my military experience is minimal, almost three years as a part-time member of a UOTC twenty five years ago. I came across Paul’s problem then, but as the 19 year old. Since then I’ve had a moderately successful career in civil service delivery and leadership roles. I went through a graduate management trainee programme and at 29 took over a passport office managing people twenty years older than me, and with their entire career in passport operations. So I’ve largely seen this problem from the 22 year old graduate perspective.
What does the Army need?
I suppose part of the problem is that the army prepares for lots of contingencies. It can’t see the future, so it tries to provide personnel with a variety of skills and experiences that it can adapt to the challenges of the day. Generally it’s pretty good at it.
As I see it the British Army tries to provide the following from its personnel
General officers capable of commanding Divisions and Corps in an all arms mechanised war
Mid level officers (Captains and Majors) with deep expertise in specific arms to provide staff and training roles
Highly specialised SNCOs that can train an army, and can also train the officers
Soldiers that can turn their hand to a variety of roles, including light infantry, aid to the civil power, full on mech war, etc.
You’ll notice in the list that there isn’t really a need for Lieutenants. They’re a feeder grade for the officers that understand their arm. In turn those officers become the trainees for Generals.
There are two important groups of personnel, both of whom typically have 10-20 years of experience and a deep command of their area of expertise. The SNCO/WO group are unrivaled in the mechanics and administration of warfare. They know every single soldier role in their arm (from direct personal experience) and also what all the officers up to Major should be doing.
The other group are the Colonels and Generals. They’ve mastered integration and using multiple arms to complement each other.
Both these roles can’t be trained for overnight, or even over a couple of years in peacetime. Most of those that enlist will never do either role, either because they don’t have the right stuff, or because they get lost because they aren’t recognised early enough and given the right postings to develop their talent.
How is this different elsewhere?
So the army tries to anoint people as potential generals when they join up. It does this through the commissioning process. Other organizations do similar things with graduate and management trainee programmes. Where these differ is that looser hierarchies allow more room to manoeuvre. Also people can shift jobs to get promoted or acquire skills when they choose. This is not an option for soldiers.
In a civilian role you’d almost never face the problem of the 22 year old geography graduate telling the veteran HR manager what to do, unless it was the boss’s kid. Even then you could appeal to the boss.
What Could the Army Do?
Probably many things. Here are some ideas maybe worth chewing over:
Don’t let 2Lt/Lt have command over anyone with more than two stripes. (i.e. acknowledge that Lieutenants are trainees and that Sergeants and Warrant Officers are not)
Give WOs rank equivalence to Lt (OF2). This is a small change but signals clearly to the junior officer that they should listen and learn from their SNCOs.
Do away with WO in the service support side (like HR) and commission experienced SNCOs to directly command the functions. Arguably you could also refuse to accept 2Lts into those arms, send them to the infantry instead.
Stop commissioning people straight out of school/uni. Make them do a year as a private, a year as a corporal and then do the commissioning course. Also don’t allow people to do AOSB until they’ve got a stripe up.
Over the last 48 hours I’ve seen a lot of people calling for us to just intern the terrorist sympathisers now. The knee jerk reaction followed the Manchester bombing and repeated after Saturday night’s drive by stabbings at London Bridge. The feeling was that if the security services knew who these people were they should just arrest and intern them now.
When to Intern?
The UK last resorted to internment in 1971 in Northern Ireland. It backfired spectacularly. We’ve apparently considered it a couple of times since then, for example in 1990 we considered interning Iraqis in the UK after Kuwait was invaded. We’ve also considered it a few more times since then. There are probably some situations where internment is a good idea.
With a well defined group to intern
Where there is popular support for the process
Where there is the capacity to sort those that we need to intern from those that are benign
Where we can safely contain all those that pose a threat in as short a time as possible
Who to Intern
The major problem with interning Irish Republicans in NI in the early 1970s was that we didn’t have a reliable list. We asked the NI government to tell us who to intern. They were part of the problem, and they gave us a list of people involved in protests. The handful of actual IRA people on it were tipped off by sympathisers and escaped the round up. The fact that the community knew we’d botched it made it easy for the IRA to recruit because the Catholic community? could see we were acting against them.
This might not happen if we used people on watch lists for good reasons. However we’d need to double check them all before moving to arrests. We’d also need to guard against grudge denunciations. The last thing we’d want is to help the terrorists recruit. Getting this right is a very had problem, and one that officials are wary of.
Political Support to Intern
Right now this is probably easy. The media have coverws suggestions that we intern terrorist suspects positively?, and there are recent incidents of terrorism that back these up.
Where this gets harder is in ensuring that safeguards for our freedom as a country are maintained. Magna Carta is a fundamental principle of our Constitution. No-one should be detained without trial, and acting to intern suspected terrorists cuts against this. It has been fiercely debated? in Parliament several times in the last fifteen years.
Currently we can hold terrorist suspects for up to 14 days without charge, and make temporary orders to restrict their freedom (TPIMs). The TPIM orders are house arrest, and we’ve currently got six people affected by them. That’s about 1% of the publicly admitted watch list (there are apparently 500 people being actively watched).
Even if Parliamentary approval was given for a more interventionist approach we still need to decide the process for internment. What standard of evidence will we apply to deciding what constitutes grounds to intern someone? Clearly this needs to be less than the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt. If we could meet that then we could charge them with conspiracy and other offences and put them on trial. We do this for a couple of hundred people each year, about 60% get convicted.
There are two other standards in play, there’s reasonable suspicion (probable cause to Americans) and the balance of probabilities. The trouble with the former is that it will throw up a lot of false positives. The latter needs us to have more information, and brings the opposite risk of false negatives. It’s a hard problem, but presumably soluble in the same way the security services currently make tricky decisions about resource allocation.
Capacity to Intern
If we can work out who to intern, and get buy-in, how do we go about it? For a start we’d probably want to look at the lessons from Operation Demetrius, and probably also operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rounding up suspects is labour intensive. You don’t just send a couple of coppers out with a van and a list of addresses. There’s an intelligence operation to find and fix the suspects. This needs to be followed up with as many simultaneous? raids as possible. Each of those raids needs 10-20 police or soldiers to conduct. They’ll need to secure the area and then a small team will need to effect entry and secure the suspect. Given the terrorist angle they need to be prepared for some suspects to be armed, so they all need to overmatch anything suspects might have.
If we decided to intern all 500 of those being actively watched then we’d need about 7,500 police and army to deal with it. There would also be a need for additional investigation staff to directly interview and prepare cases against those that were arrested.
Once word gets out there will be a backlash. Some suspects will get away. Some relatives or friends of those arrested will protest. Others might even join in. 1971 saw rioting and shootings in the wake of the arrests. Any actual terrorists that escape will no doubt launch attacks. The recent attacks have mostly been low resource, knives and vehicles, so any competent adult could launch one on a few minutes notice.
Where do we intern
Even if we find them all, where do we put them? The best place is in a prison where they can be segregated prior to being interviewed and decisions being made about their release or continued detention. One of the lessons from Demetrius was that putting together potential sympathisers with actual terrorists helps them to recruit. So you’d want to avoid that. That means a period of isolation from other internees until they’re graded either for charge, release or extended detention.
That said, UK prisons seem to have capacity issues. So who would you release early to make space?
Cyber warfare has been on my mind for a few weeks, even before the WannaCryptor incident. It’s been there because I’ve been looking at the innovation context for a digital service I’ve been designing as part of my T317 end of module project. That service is for government, and one of the risks is that someone will try to attack or subvert it.
The other thing that has brought cyber warfare to my head is the forthcoming general election in the UK. There are signs that both the UK referendum on the EU and the US election night have been affected by cyber warfare.
What is Cyber Warfare?
The popular view is hackers in a basement tracking people, bringing down other computer networks and stealing money. They do impossible things with a few clicks of the keyboard. Taking over CCTV cameras, planting data, or stealing it. The black hat guys use viruses, phishing and social engineering to empty your bank accounts and steal your life.
Personally I don’t buy that image. Bits of it certainly happen. There are a whole load of criminals out there looking to make a profit out of people. But it isn’t as easy or as glamourous as TV would have us believe.
Cyber isn’t Warfare
I see Cyber as a buzzword. It isn’t a new phenomenon. Like a lot of other things it has become much easier to do at scale with the spread of the internet. Warfare is the domain of the military, and implies state sponsored violence from at least one of the parties. Even in small insurgencies the insurgents are acting for political reasons in what they see as their national interest. As that famous Dead PrussianCarl von Clausewitz put it, war is the continuation of politics with other means. So for something to be defined as warfare there needs to be some sort of political dimension to it.
Cyber on the other hand is more of a police and intelligence services matter. Sure, malicious effects on certain systems can cause deaths and injuries. However it’s more about information and criminality than state sponsored violence or politics. There are daily cyber incidents, and they are almost all criminal in intent.
As I see it Cyber has the following potential components
Defence against threats (as multi-pronged as the threat landscape)
Information operations to persuade people to a point of view (AKA propaganda)
Intelligence gathering, both passive and active
Disruption of physical infrastructure – e.g. stuxnet style attacks, also control of things attached to the internet (IoT is scary)
Facilitation of criminality, whether stealing data/money or supplying contraband or illicit goods or services online
WannaCryptor Wasn’t Warfare
While the details aren’t entirely clear on this incident I think there’s enough data to be certain that WannaCryptor wasn’t an attempt at cyber warfare. I’m pretty sure about that because both of the sheer scale of the infection and the ransomware payload. If it had been political then it woul have been more closely targetted, and there would have been a message attached to it (other than give me some bitcoin). WannaCryptor infected hundreds of thousands of machines across 150 countries. That’s pretty much all countries developed enough to be able to access the internet. If you watch the video of the spread it goes round the world with office hours. It’s more Pandemic than planned campaign.
There’s an outside chance it was planned, but I doubt that it was intended to operate at the scale it did. It would need a top level authority to create that level of impact to deflect suspicion from it being state sponsored. There’s a high likelihood that several affected states will be putting significant effort into tracking down the culprits. Not all will be looking to put them in front of a court.
This is an area that should really be in our own hands, in much the same way that we close our doors and windows at home. It’s down to all of us to recognise the threats and act to prevent them. Clicking on links in emails is the digital equivalent of flashing a wallet in a dodgy part of town. Sensible people just don’t do that.
The secret of Cyber, or Digital, or IT, or computers, is simply that they are communication devices. Anyone can talk to anyone else directly. There’s no border, no internal policing, nothing to stop a dodgy person directly contacting you. So everything needs defending directly. (See Castles in the Sky for my poem about security in the cloud). Every moment of every day carries the risk of compromise. Cyber is like a permanent counterinsurgency, except with viruses, phishing and social engineering in place of IEDs, ambushes and informers.
Cyber as a buzzword
I’ve claimed there’s no such thing as cyber warfare. There are parallels with real warfare though, and cyber operations can, and do, support military campaigns. That doesn’t make it a military thing though. Civilians and intelligence services support military campaigns too. There’s probably also a need for a civilian equivalent of the reserves for the cyber security people, whether defensive or offensive.
Security is millennia old. IT security is decades old. Cyber is simply the latest buzzword to make it sound sexy and attract funding. That’s a good thing, because it can affect us all directly and indirectly. So we all need to pay it some heed.
Security isn’t hard. It just needs you to think about it, and ask questions. Most importantly, don’t let the fear grip you. Fear makes us react irrationally.
My ‘cyber’ credentials
There are a lot of instant cyber experts out there. I’m not one of them. I’ve been working for the UK government in IT related roles back to 1995. This has included being part of the Departmental IT Security Committee when we did Y2K and being on the forefront of designing and building secure digital systems for part of the UK Home Office. I’m a professional member of the British Computer Society. There’s a lot about IT security that I don’t know, I look to the experts I work with on that, but I definitely know more than most of the media pundits you’ll have read recently.
Mass mobilisation for a world war level conflict would need the country to repeat what it did for WW1 & WW2.
Discussion I’ve read on twitter amongst those interested and knowledgable about defence (a mixture of serving officers, military historians and political observers) suggests that Britain has a real problem with the level of defence spending and decaying of capability for mass mobilisation to support a world war level conflict.
Years of small wars on the back of the 1990s ‘peace dividend’ has prevented major equipment changes. The British Army is still using many of the same armoured vehicles that it had in 1989. They’ve had internal upgrades, and improved control systems. The lighter vehicles have fared better because there were urgent operational requirements for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Britain was in a similar state to now in the early 30s. After WW1 we didn’t want to go to war again. The army was small and didn’t have any of their kit replaced. With few exceptions in 1933, when Hitler came to power, the British Army was using the same kit that it had ended the world war with in 1918. The recognition of the nazi threat lead to an abandoning of the ten year rule (where we funded our armed forces on the assumption there would be no major war for at least ten years).
Appeasement was a policy not of keeping Hitler happy, but of buying us time to re-equip and expand our armed forces in preparation for mass mobilisation. Through the late thirties a massive programme of expansion and re-equipment went on. In 1938 Britain spent 7.4% of GDP on Defence , which is three and a half times what we are spending now. This doubled in 1939 to 15.3% – not all of which was after the declaration of war in September. By 1941 it was above 50% and it stayed there for the duration.
The nazis were seen as an existential threat, so the public were willing to support mass mobilisation for world war two and accept the sacrifice of additional taxes to pay for the war. Income tax doubled from a basic rate of 25%, which is similar to the current level. I think it would be fair to say that Britain could only afford mass mobilisation for world war three if we could see an existential threat to the country.
Without an existential threat, today we could field one armoured Division with air and naval support. We can’t move it anywhere in a hurry without hiring civilian cargo vessels. Against certain countries that division would be an annoyance, but it certainly wouldn’t stop them doing what they wanted, just impose a stiff price.
Once it was destroyed, we’d be at their mercy. Either that or we’d be strongly considering our nuclear options. That said, anything that caused us to commit the 21st century British Expeditionary Force would almost certainly trigger the NATO mutual defence clauses. So there would be more than just the UK involved.
What does 2% Buy in Defence?
Britain is signed up to the NATO commitment to spend 2% of our GDP on Defence. Through some accounting adjustments we spend almost exactly 2% including some overseas aid. The actual defence budget of £38bn for MoD is likely to be about 1.9% of GDP this year. Almost 40% of that is spent on acquiring equipment, notably the aircraft carriers, trident submarines and F-35s. Between these three huge ticket items there isn’t much capital left.
As at 1 April 2016, the British Army had a trained strength of 79,750 regular personnel and 23,030 reserves, lower than it has ever been since before the start of the 20th Century. The Royal Navy and RAF both had slightly over 32k each, for a total armed forces trained strength of 168k personnel (very few of whom are reserves).
MOD reported that in 2015-16 it spent the following on each of the services:
You’ll notice that the totals don’t add up to the whole Defence budget, but that’s because I’ve left out the civilian elements and the long-term strategic acquisitions.
Mass Mobilisation of Our Armed Forces
There’s two ways to look at this, one is a simple uprating of what we currently have by the amount of extra money we might be able to spend and decide whether that would be effective. The other is to look at what we might need and then see if we can afford it.
For either of these tests you need to have an adversary in mind. When you get into it, quality and will to fight affect the answer. It’s not completely about raw numbers. Maybe someone somewhere has done the work to compare the economic strengths of warring powers and what that tells you about outcomes. I doubt it’s clear cut that the bigger economy always wins, but as a general rule it works.
What could we afford?
Britain is currently the 5th biggest spender on Defence worldwide, and our economy is 5th or 6th dependent on currency fluctuations and Brexit impacts. So there aren’t many countries that ought to be able to scare us, even if we can’t field enough troops to round up their military.
The UK GDP in 2016 is around £1.9 trillion. During WW2 we spent over 50% of GDP on the war effort. We taxed people more, borrowed heavily, and the economy also grew significantly from the war expenditure. I’m not sure that we could quite get to 55% on Defence, we’d still have the welfare state to fund, albeit some of it could be diverted to the war effort. We could also up the total tax share from around 37% (according to Treasury’s analysis the public sector spent £713bn in 2015-16) to match that WW2 55%. That could bring Defence spending to 20% of GDP.
Other sources of funding:
The Welfare budget The UK spends about £250bn on welfare, over a third of our public expenditure. Most of it is on pensions and disability, neither of which would reduce as a result of a world war. We do spend £3bn of it on unemployment benefits, and another £27bn on Housing Benefit, both of which might come down a little if there was mass mobilisation. We could perhaps squeeze 0.1% of GDP out of the UK welfare budget.
The NHS At £162bn annually this is the next largest chunk of public expenditure. At best some of the NHS will become defence medical assets, and the people will transfer to support those we’ve mobilised. Not to mention the inevitable casualties. In practice we’d probably need to spend more on the NHS, or make some really tough choices about priorities.
Borrowing – in 2015-16 we spent £45bn on debt interest. If we borrowed enough to capitalise the interest for the duration of the war then we could add this amount to Defence budget.
Efficiency Gains If the rest of government was asked to cut around 10% of their budgets then we could perhaps add another 3% of GDP to the war budget.
So where does all this get us to? About twelve times the current defence budget, so we could significantly increase the size of our armed forces. On a straight multiple that would give us about two million all ranks from mass mobilisation. However I expect more of them would go into the army than either the RN or RAF for the simple reason that it will take longer to produce ships and aircraft to support that level of expansion than it would to produce army equipment.
Britain’s approach to World Wars
Historically we have form. Britain doesn’t maintain its armed forces between major wars. We keep a training cadre and enough to cope with the various small wars we get involved in. When the big war happens we do mass mobilisation of reserves and recruit anyone we can find. Typically it takes 18 months for us to form the million plus citizen armies we need to stand alongside our allies.
Many people (especially civilian politicians and voters) probably consider the idea of a major war very unlikely. We felt the same in the 1920s. Further, they probably also consider that if one did start that it would go nuclear (or find a diplomatic peace) well before we could train and equip the recruits to expand our armed forces. During the Cold War this was almost certainly true.
What it means is that we’ve given up on necessary infrastructure to do mass mobilisation. We’ve stopped building military aircraft and tanks in the UK. We’d also struggle with a lot of other equipment, like small arms. Our wider manufacturing base is also shot, so the scope for repurposing factories to scale up production is also limited.
As an example, the British Army writes off small arms on a 10 to 15 year period. That means that normal production will be about a tenth of the current size of the armed forces need. So if everyone needs a rifle then we need 200k rifles for the regular and reserve. Let’s say we have a factory that makes 20k rifles a year, just to replace worn out stocks. When you scale up your armed forces through mass mobilisation to 2 million trained personnel then you suddenly need to build 1.8m extra rifles in under six months, and increase replacement levels to cover expected losses from accidents and combat.
We’d also need to find plant, machinery and skilled people to set up factories to produce gun barrels, armour, heavy vehicles, jet engines, aircraft and the complex electronics that make them all work. We’ve got some capacity just now, but it’s all based on small orders delivered over a decade and sharing with other states.
Unlike WW2 the UK doesn’t have broad manufacturing capacity that can be diverted to war production. The UK economy is dominated by service industries, mainly banking. Manufacturing accounts for less than 10% of the UK economy (compared to almost 80% from services).
The extra kit would be a 50% growth in total manufacturing capacity, more like 10-15 times in the specific industries that could produce it. There would also need to be a massive upgrade to chemical & electronics plants to produce military ordnance. It would need to do this almost overnight, we’d need more kit for training people, never mind fighting a war.
There’s room in the British economy for a significant increase in military spending if we faced an existential threat. There’s no political will to spend more than the 2% we’ve committed to via NATO.
The UK doesn’t have the economic base to support significantly increasing manufacturing to equip a scaled up armed force. Nor do we appear to have sufficient spare kit in stock.
Overall, I’d say that we’d need at least a couple of years run up to mass mobilisation. If it ever happens then I hope we get that long. In the meantime, we could do with investing in our manufacturing base. That would make it easier to gear up, and also grow our economy. A strong economy is a better indicator of strength than defence spending.
If we were to start bombing Syria, alongside a number of our allies, what would happen?
Well we can see that because others are already doing it. We also have experience over the last twentyÂ years in bombing from the former Yugoslavia to Libya. We know that bombing Syria would work best if it was in direct support of ground troops. This provides the best impact, because it minimises targetting mistakes and it also aids the ground forces to make progress with fewer casualties. We can see this operating in Iraq just now.
The other side we can see in other nations bombing Syria. There has been a lot of criticism that both the Russians and the French are hitting the wrong targets, things of little or no military value. Some of this is clearly propaganda from those that oppose their intervention. However there is a point here that without excellent targeting intelligence the value of some of the things you bomb will be insufficient to justify the strikes. The US are not bombing Syria as heavily as they are bombing ISIS in Iraq. This is because they recognise the limitations on their intelligence. I believe that the US bombing Syria is political tokenism rather than something that they feel has strong military value, the same is almost certainly alsoÂ true of the French.
The UK military teaches “selection and maintenance of the aim” as the master principle of war. At the moment we seem to lack a clear strategic aim. Daesh have painted the West as a blundering enemy. Based in the experience of locals over the last 14 years this isn’t obviously false. Getting involved as a knee jerk reaction and solidarity for others isn’t a good enough substitute for a clear strategic goal. In fact it will serve as a recruitment call for Daesh, both in the UK at overseas. We’ve already tracked hundreds of British Citizens leave the UK to fight in Syria, we don’t really want any of them to bring that fight back to the UK.
That said, I believe that we should develop a clear strategic goal of stopping Daesh wherever they are operating globally. However the best way to do this is not a limited military action, but a concerted effort to stabilise other countries. Politically we seem to recogniseÂ that, but the public narrative hasn’t quite caught up. Also, when conducting military operations we should obey one of the other principles of war “Economy of Effort“.
If we want to provide peace and stability in the Middle East we would be better with a lot of preparitory diplomatic work to build an effective coalition of Arab states. We need to help those with positive democratic leaning to establish their credibility with their people so that they don’t end up falling to military or theocratic controls. We also need to help them to fight the disruptive elements in their own countries and their neighbours.
The best military intervention we can make is to train and arm more locals. Help them vet recruits, extend and firm up the rule of law and avoid arbitrary rule. This has advantages that the locals provide their own solutions, and we are seen as builders rather than destroyers.
No Bombing Syria – Yes to Building Stability
In conclusion I think we should vote against bombing Syria tomorrow, but instead move the narrative to building stability across the region. We need to position the UK as a builder for the future. It is in everyone’s best long term interests.
Last Saturday I was control for East Asia for Watch the Skies 3. This picked up where Watch the Skies 2 left off, with some modifications to rules and briefings etc to make it flow much better. There were a number of obvious improvements, the media being a prime example.
There were more journalists all on the same GNN team and they had the technology to pull it off. As well as a laser printer they also had a projector and screen for their twitter feed. This made it easier for people to follow the headlines. There were also several hardcopy single sheet newspaper issues too. Here are some sample tweets from GNN
Another feature was that everyone knew the aliens were there. So the emphasis of game play was different. There was only one attempted SIF interception in our region. That was foiled by Vietnam escorting the alien shuttles in to land. After a couple of turns people gave up entirely on this and all the SIF where just used to scout.
Cetaceans featured in Watch the Skies 3 also. The aliens had been in contact with them in Watch the Skies 2. By the time WTS3 started there was enough translation to allow human – cetacean dialogue, albeit slowly and under controlled conditons. In East Asia this manifested as a Vietnamese embassy to the Cetaceans built in the Spratly Islands.
One thing about both the very large Watch the Skies games is that it is practically impossible to know what was going on. As map control I can only tell you what was going on at my map. I literally have no idea what the player teams for my region were doing away from the map, nor what happened in other regions.
We had two natural catastrophes in our region. There was an earthquake in Taiwan in turn 2 and then around turn 6 another major earthquake followed by a tsunami just off the Philippines.
In the Taiwanese earthquake we had a good international response and more than enough humanitarian assistance. However sorting the cracked nuclear reactor out took longer. The issue was that it needed a scientist to sort it out. So the first scientist along didn’t have anything suitable for fixing up nuclear reactors. He did have a disaster recovery advance but it was about people and psychology rather than engineering. I ruled that this helped solve the application of aid, but couldn’t solve the nuclear reactor problem. The second scientist just had lots of genetics and biology advances. A third scientist with the advanced disaster recovery, which also included engineering finally fixed it.
When the Philippines tsunami hit it was much worse. Many Cetaceans were washed ashore around the affected area, not just in the Philippines. The scale was larger as well, but fortunately the UN were ready for it. A side effect was also a series of criminal gangs trying to profit from the disaster. The Philippines was offered military aid to deal with this from both Vietnam and Indonesia, which it accepted. It took some months but law and order was restored. Generous donations (49 Megabucks in total, plus four aid teams) sorted out the infrastructure repairs too.
Throughout this there were several other things going on.
International cooperation was sorting out sea pollution
Covert action stirred up trouble with the Chinese, lots of special actions being used covertly against the Chinese government
South Korea attempting to persuade North Korea to re-unify
Pollution was a new factor in Watch the Skies 3. This was in part because sea dwellers were now played characters and there was a need to have something that showed human impact on them. The basic mechanism was that each sea area had a counter on it with six strength points. People could attempt to clean up the pollution at 3 Megabucks a time. However unless there was political agreement to limit pollution from all nations bordering a sea area the pollution regenerated a strength box every turn. In practical terms the pollution limitation manifested as a cap on country income (PR) one level above the start level (PR=6).
In East Asia there was a treaty agreed fairly early on, certainly pollution clean-up started during the aftermath of the Taiwan earthquake. I think that this was driven by Vietnam’s diplomacy with the Cetaceans. The PR cap only seriously affected two of the nations in East Asia and then only in one turn. Both it turned out had other things to achieve that cost them a PR level that they offset by their increase. They had deliberately decided to implement the reduction to stay within the cap when they were next eligible for an increase.
As in Watch the Skies 2 South Korea put a lot of diplomatic effort into reunification. I ruled that they had moved the North Korean officials from being hostile to the idea to where they were prepared to discuss it with the Dear Leader. This took most of the game.
Dear Leader was quite taken by the offer to unify Korea. He had always known that all the people of Korea would welcome him as their Dear Leader. When it was broached that perhaps that wasn’t what the South Koreans were suggesting he was less than pleased. The head of mission found himself facing an anti aircraft cannon.
On realising that the Dear Leader was a major obstacle to reunification South Korea decided to smooth the path. A sniper team were sent North and successfully assassinated the Dear Leader. However, this just enraged the new Dear Leader who mobilised North Korea and started throwing rockets and artillery shells over the border. Fortunately the game ended at that point…
One of the things that I often do when I am writing a story is to sketch a map of the area where the story takes place. This helps me to visualise what the characters will be able to see. The thing is though, you can’t just bang down stuff randomly (well you can, but it isn’t realistic – you want your world to be realistic don’t you?)
How settlements form
Typically people build houses where there is shelter from the elements, adequate supplies of food, water and fuel. They also like to build them in easily accessible places for the most part. All villages and towns grow from farmstead, places a farmer, and his family, decided to settle.
However not all of these farmsteads ends up as a village. There are loads of outlying farms in populated countryside, some of them are ancient or at least built on the remains of an ancient farm. What distinguishes those that get bigger?
There’s an element of luck, but mainly it is because they either have an abundance of some resource or they lie along a convenient route. Trade is the reason most of our towns exist. Certainly this is true of the most ancient ones. There exceptions to this, but these tend to be modern capital cities (Washington DC being an example) or new towns intended to displace people from densely populatedinner cities (like Milton Keynes, or Cumbernauld).
Look closely at the next handful of villages you drive through. There is a clear difference between an extended farm
with houses for the labourers and a proper village. Villages tend to have a focal point, usually a green space, but sometimes a market square. Modern villages still have them, there will be an open area possibly with a children’s play area. Around this there will be a Church, possibly a pub, a shop or two and often a war memorial. Even if there isn’t an open area there will be a cluster of the Church (with graveyard), a pub, shop and war memorial. These will be surrounded with houses, perhaps along a single linear road. If there is a second cross road this may also have houses along it. The cross roads (sometimes a Y) will often run on two sides of the Church, or the village green if there is one.
Optional extras, depending on the size of the village
village hall (needs about 1,000 residents to be viable);
school (needs a couple of hundred kids aged 4-11 within five miles to work);
more shops and pub (scale up shops per 200 inhabitants, and pubs per thousand);
larger villages have more streets, keeping everything within minimum walking distance.
Of course when you are world building for a story you make the village suit the narrative that you are conveying. It doesn’t really matter if the shops, pubs or anything else is economically viable. If you need an internal rivalry then two pubs might be a way to do it. If you need a football team, or a Women’s Institute then write in the Pavilion and pitch, or the village hall or whatever you need.
A key feature of villages is that typically people know who there neighbours are, and in the smaller more settled ones far outside the commuter belt, the lineages of all the residents. Or at least some of the inhabitants know all of that. This can be a feature for interesting stories. The other thing that happens in these sorts of communities is that the smarter kids leave for university and jobs in the big city. Some of the others join the services (including some of the smart ones) and go away that way. Often they reappear later in life, retired in their forties, or professionally qualified as the local GP, district nurse, solicitor, entrepreneur, mechanic. A good way to bring people in without having to make them complete strangers to the rest of your characters.
Towns are a whole different order of magnitude different. They don’t scale into villages, there is a sort of multiplier effect with proper towns. Almost every old town that I have looked at, and I do pay attention on my travels, is based around a market, and very often also a river crossing.
Towns tend to be on the nexus of trade routes, and they draw in people from surrounding villages for markets and also specialised trades. As well as being bigger than villages, especially with the tradespeople, they also have a lot more in the way of amenities. There will be a square, with a town hall of some sort on it, and often also a church. In many modern towns the square has been infilled, usually with parades of shops, descended from the market stalls that once stood in the same place.
Like the villages the towns are often formed around a cross roads, this can be two sides of the main square, or sometimes they join at one end of a widened high street and then split out after the shopping area (Reigate in Surrey does this, the A25 and A217 being the primary routes).
Another key feature of a town, other than being astride a trade route, is that it tends to have an abundance of something useful (or it did have in its early days). This could be something simple like weavers in a sheep farming region, or a watermill in an arable area. There ought to be something. This might not matter to your story though and you don’t need to worry about it much. However it could also be useful as a hook, or a clue.
How I draw maps
Firstly I think of the sort of place that I need for my story, and the key locations I need it to have. Once I’ve listed those out I get myself a blank sheet of paper (although I do sometimes use squared paper).
Pencil usually starts with some outline topographical features (which way is uphill, where are the water courses).
Then I put the focus of the village/town on the map, along with some routes. I see this as growing the town organically.
Next down are the key locations I need relative to each other. I then fill in the gaps between them with the other necessary parts of the village/town. i.e. the pubs, shops and civic amenities. If it is a mediaeval walled town then I add these in now as well.Â If there is a need for industry I also stick that in too.
Lastly I add in some houses for the people to live in, making sure to put the bigger ones upwind of the town (the richer districts of towns/cities tend to be upwind on prevailing winds because the rich folk can afford to build where the air is sweeter). I try to put in at least one building for every ten inhabitants, in modern times maybe two to three times that much, we live much less densely these days, even though there are more of us.
At Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group we design and play a lot of games involving game money. We do this to the extent that we often joke that all you need for a game are CLWG members and some (play) money. Â By definition none of this is real, but in game terms it is always genuine. There is never any question that some of it could be fake. For more modern games involving high value government expenditures this is definitely fine, but in some of the games we play it would make for an interesting dynamic if it turned out we couldn’t rely on the value of the coins.
So while my daughter was playing with my stack of play money (see the photo above) I was thinking that I could run a game, probably in a fantasy setting, where the different players had briefings about what they saw as acceptable money. Â I thought it would need to be a trading game, perhaps with merchants from different parts of the world with their own coinage, and supplying things to either each other or to city/principality governments. I could brief them about the relative values they had for each of the types of coins, and I could also suggest to some of them that damaged coins, or those where the paint had come off, weren’t worth as much (or were even totally worthless). This would add an interesting dynamic to the game, especially if the briefing wasn’t too widespread. An additional possibility would be to deliberately add in counterfeit currency and have someone try and pass as much of it as they could into circulation.
Three turns per year, March â€“ June (Spring), July to September (Summer) and October to February (Winter).
Small offensives can be prepared and launched within one turn. Large offensives take a turn of preparation and then take a whole turn of offensive action. Small offensives can be carried on into large offensives.
Battles are fought in phases.
Preparation: divisions are allocated to the line, first wave, second wave, exploitation, training and reserve tasks
All divisions of a particular kind are the same except for level of experience and training. This can be open to the player as it was generally well known which units were the most effective and had the most offensive spirit.
Special training can be given to units to allow them to be competent at tasks, e.g. building fortifications, pioneer tasks, tank support, amphibious landings etc. The number of turns that they get in this task should be recorded separately from that of infantry training.
Infantry divisions take one turn to raise, cavalry and artillery take two turns. Ideally more training should be given before a unit is used in combat. A minimum of three turns of training is suggested before committing a new Division to the assault.
Experienced 6 time in major offensive (including defending)
Veteran 8 Several major offensives
Both the number of turns training and the combat experience are required for the troops to be considered at the higher training state. Note that the training state is just a label and not a guarantee of performance.
Taxation â€“ can set a proportion of GDP to be spent on government. Level has effect on popularity, standard of living, economic growth, industrial output.
Loans â€“ need to be repaid later but avoids some of the problems with increasing taxation. Can also inject foreign capital into paying for the war which increases overall resources available to any particular nation.
Can conscript or get volunteers. Quality issues with conscription but increased numbers may offset that. Volunteers make more aggressive units, conscripts more passive ones. Has impact on economic growth, popularity & industrial output. Also issue of womenâ€™s rights if they are mobilised for the war effort.