by I. L. Holdridge
I am eagerly waiting for some gaming club to try using TacOps to run a multiplayer military style Command Post Exercise (CPX) for a dozen or more players. Here is my thinking on how it might be approached. I'll leave the development of the dirty details to you.
*Needed: Two large player/command teams (US and OPFOR), and two small control teams (US and OPFOR), four rooms, and two Macs connected by Appletalk network. Each team is located in a different room. If you had access to one very, very large room you could accomplish the same thing by putting the four teams in different corners. The objectives of separation are (a) for no team to be able to easily overhear the conversations of any other team and (b) for the command teams to be unable to micro manage their control team.
*Either create a custom scenario or use any of the existing scenarios.
*Create a paper copy of the battle map for each player team to use in its CP. To do this load up a scenario that has the map that you want to use, turn on the 1000 meter grid (without numbers), delete all units visible on the map, and do a series of screen captures that save the entire map to disk in screen sized pieces. Then, open up a paint program and copy and paste the pieces together into one big map. Add the grid line numbers along the border along the four sides of the map. Print the map at 175% to 300% so there is plenty of room for marking it with grease pens or transparency pens, tape the paper map pieces together, and either mount the finished paper map under hard plastic (poster frames are good for this) or laminate it with adhesive coated clear plastic film (a cheap roll of clear plastic "shelf liner style contact plastic" will do fine). Also print or Xerox a large stack of maps done at a reduced size so that the whole map fits on one sheet of paper. These miniature maps will prove very useful for facilitating communications between the command teams and the control teams.
*The battle is fought on the two control team Macs. Command team members may never look at the control team Mac screens. Command team members follow the battle by translating reports from the control team into plots on the command team's paper map - the CP sit map. Members of opposing control teams may never look at each other's screens. Command teams send verbal or written orders to their control team on what they want to be done in the next few turns. Command team instructions to the control team are given as realistic field orders and fire support request approvals - not detailed "this tank will shoot at that tank" game play talk. The control team then uses its best judgment to enter orders into the game to fit the intent of the Command team. When the control team needs fire support it requests it from the Command team (unless the command team has already authorized direct support artillery). Battle reports and situation reports are sent from the control teams to the command teams verbally by intercom ($20 Radio Shack models are fine) or if intercoms are not available by short paper messages or by shouting orders through a door way. The idea is for the control teams to receive instructions and for them to report the game movement and battle action in a realistic, highly abbreviated way. The command teams do not give detailed orders and they do not get detailed, blow by blow battle reports. You might allow the control team to report and the command team to sketch instructions graphically on one page miniatures of the battle map.
*The more people you have available, the more realism you can have in how the exercise runs.
*In a perfect setup, each control team would have at least two or three members. One person to sit at the Mac and one or more people to act as battle observers and communicators between the control team and its command team. The communicators might take the roles of ground commanders reporting in or taking orders from on high.
*In a perfect setup, each command team would have a CO, a S2, a S3, a Fire Support Coordination Officer, and several communicators/clerks/S shop assistants. The CO processes the big picture and provides intent. The S2 maintains the enemy OOB plot on the sit map - this will most likely cause him to be the one constantly pressing the control team for enemy spot reports, the S3 maintains the friendly situation plot on the sit map and helps the CO pass instructions toward the control team. The Fire Support Coordination Officer tracks the on map and off map arty situation, ammo supply, takes calls for fire from the control team, and assists the CO and S3 with passing instructions toward the control team. I use the phrase "passing" because if the control team hustles properly and if your "staff" guys in the CP want to have time to think and plan then they will have to leave the actual talking to the control team to the CP "communicators".
*For max realism, limit the amount of time allowed for the control team to enter orders and to start each combat phase. Use a cheap chess timer at each Mac. At the end of each combat phase each control team starts its timer. Or use the orders turn timer built into the TacOps game. Set it for at least five minutes per one minute game turn until everybody gets in the spirit of things. Work toward getting the timer down to one or two minutes for a very realistic exercise - this will in effect turn the exercise into virtually a real time war and can only be done if lots of people are involved as communicators. Caution: do not use a timer if there are people playing who can not handle being yelled at once in a while <grin>. Use of timed turns will absolutely introduce stress into the game - people may start living their roles - you need to decide up front if this is really the kind of gaming experience that you want your group to have. If you use a timer, you might consider having at least one ten minute admin break per hour during which all command team personnel must leave their CP room. Also, if a timer is used then you may need to double or triple the game length setting for victory adjudication because you will start to see the command groups falling behind the action curve (just as they do in real life) and map movement and firefights will start to slow down (just as they do in real life). I have been in and I have run the control groups for battalion and regimental level CPXs for real - some involving hundreds of players and control group personnel. If you try what I have outlined above, you will experience a better and more realistic exercise than most of the ones that I was involved in while in uniform (other than the field exercise with real troops <grin>) .
Go for it.
*Option for fewer people. Dispense with the OPFOR command and control teams and just have one person (maybe two) run the whole OPFOR side of the war while sitting at the OPFOR Mac.