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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

2 Level PIP system

Operational Warfare Thought of the Day

I was reading an excellent set of books on the Soviet War Machine published in the West after the fall of the wall, and one little paragraph of that book has stuck with me ever since.

In a classroom in the Soviet Tank School, and instructor addresses his young officer Cadets with a tactical problem :

... So, you are in command of an Armoured Division driving the capitalist / fascist lackeys back from the Motherland.

The battle is in progress, and as you are sitting in your command vehicle - there is not much you can do but wait.  You have at your disposal some assets such as the Divisional rocket battery, a squadron of attack helicopters, and a reserve battalion of tanks.

After the morning's fighting, the first reports filter back to you in your command vehicle.

The first Regiment reports - "Have met some enemy resistance in this sector, and we are locked in a fierce battle with the enemy. The enemy appears to be weakening. With some extra support, we can break through the enemy lines, otherwise we may remain locked in battle for the afternoon"

The second Regiment reports - "Heavy resistance in this sector - We are taking heavy losses. With some support we can hold our position, otherwise we may be in trouble. More losses and the regiment may break".

The third Regiment reports - "Light resistance in this sector. After a short fight, our tanks overran their positions. Currently advancing in strength. Nothing further to report".

Now, young Cadet .. decision time. You have these additional resources available, so to which sector shall you employ them ?


Most Cadets are horrified at the state of the 2nd Regiment, and tend to want to put their resources there to save them from annihilation.

The more savvy Cadets suggest throwing the reserves into helping the 1st Regiment achieve its breakthrough ... therefore winning the battle in 2 out of 3 sectors.

A lone voice from the back of the class, cold-heartily writes off 2nd Regiment as a loss, leaves 1st Regiment to fight it out, and throws the reserves in to support 3rd Regiment.

"Correct" says the instructor ... you must reinforce success, at all costs.


How did you go ?   Classical Clauswitz of course, 'Maintenance to the aim' and all that.  That theory predates Soviet attack doctrine by over a century, if not way before the hon. Mr Clauswitz put quill to parchment.

Which brings us back to the gaming table, and playing the operational level.

In the feel of command at this level, it is a bit like a coach during a football match. You make all of your contribution to the game in the change rooms before the match ... but once the whistle has blown and the team is on the field, all you can do is watch and bite your nails.

You do have some reserves sitting on the bench, and can influence the game by changing the team around in response to events on the field ... but it is not a real time reaction. There is a lag between your actions, and those actions which are immediately next to the ball.

The players on the field - they are the only ones who have a real time reaction to events, and you can at best cross your fingers as the coach and hope that luck is on their side.

To simulate this 2 level approach, I use 2 levels of PIPs in the operational game.

At the top level - the Corps commander, he has a pool of Corps reserve assets, and a pool of PIPs that are to be spent throughout the day.

At the lower level - the Divisional commander, he has a set of orders for the day, and his own set of PIPs that are to be spent throughout the day.

So as a Corps commander, you issue orders to each Division at the start of the day ... but once the day is rolling, intervening is hard to do.  There are only 4 game 'moves' during each day, so its not the end of the world, but it does reward forethought.  These 'game moves' are simply - Dawn, Early, Noon, and Late.  There is a Night move as well, but that is only available at large cost .. its there for emergency or desperate moves.

During the day, the Division will follow the orders to the letter, but has a pool of PIPs that it can use to activate some level of common sense and initiative of it's own.  These PIPs can be used to alter the line of advance, alter the formation, or employ Divisional fire support against targets of opportunity.

If an unseen enemy is contacted through the day, the Divisional commander may spend 2 PIPs to enter into an assault against that enemy.

The Corps commander also has a store of daily PIPs, which are typically spent to employ Corps Assets during the day - Corps artillery, Air strikes, activate reserve formations, etc.


I am thinking about other ways that the Corps commander can spend his PIPs to assist his Divisions .. capturing the feel of the Soviet Tank Cadet's little tactical dilemma above.

Spending Corps level PIPs on employing Corps assets is fine, that makes perfect sense.

Should the Corps commander be able to 'send PIPs' down the line to give his Divisional commander more flexibility perhaps ?  Maybe not ... If the Div commander rolls a '1' for the daily PIPs, then thats just the way things roll, and there is little the Corps commander can do about it until the following day.

Anyway, something to think about ... looking forward to playtesting various problems using this 2 level PIP allocation scheme, and see how it plays out.

Comments welcome.


  1. Another solution to the 'Pass the PIPs down the line" question might be something like this :

    - At the start of the day, Corps commanders roll PIPs first. They can then allocate spare PIPs down the line to given Divisions, before the Division rolls.
    - Divisional commands then roll for their PIPs, and add any Corps PIPs that are passed down.

    Bit more of a gamble there ... I like that approach.

    This represents the Corps commander 'taking command' of a Division, by giving that Div most of his attention through the coming day.

    He does this at the expense of the other Divisions, as well as giving up some flexibility in employing Corps artillery or airstrikes through the day.

    Should be interesting ....

  2. Steve, have you looked at the Polemos series of rules from Baccus6mm? They have a system of PIP being send down from higher command, giving the overall commander a chance to influence the actions of his sub-commanders. Might be some useful ideas there.

  3. Actually the US - Soviet doctrine late '70's - '80's stressed the "24 hour battle". Not sure how this would affect your night emergency actions. D. Isby's book on the Soviets is very good and US military published much on the subject, both official and unofficial in Infantry & Armor Journals.