Thoughts on Command Scenario Design

Of all the excellent features in Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations, the scenario editor stands out. Both comprehensive and easy to use, it allows a vast amount of scenario creation and experimentation. In fact, it’s so fluid that many of my “scenario plans” have turned into nothing but me fooling around in the editor, seeing how a flight of Corsairs do against a moderately defended fuel depot instead of making the Preah Vihear escalation I’d really wanted to do.

Having made many scenarios and played many more, I’ve formed many opinions on scenario design, what makes a good scenario, and what my favorite types of scenarios are. Now I finally hope to share those opinions.


The diversity of time periods and conditions in Command makes explicit quantification of what to put in a scenario difficult. However, one constant in very good scenarios is a “just right” level of forces under player and enemy control. This balance is hard to achieve. If the forces on the player side are too weak, and they can only win in the absolute ideal conditions, then the designer has done something wrong. If the forces on the player side are too strong and the outcome is never in doubt, only the exact losses, that is also an issue.

Ideally, the player’s forces should be in that state where they can win, possibly handily, but need to use intelligent tactics to do. Note that what this is varies considerably on the scenario, as well on the author’s perceptions. While I prefer “legitimate” force reductions over “Give the player a ton of assets but punish them severely if they lose anything”, the latter can and has worked (See the official scenario Shamal for an excellent example).

One type of scenario I like is the kind where the player has limited resources. The scenario The Battle of the Turtle Islands, where you must play as the severely under equipped Filipino military and start at a disadvantage is a favorite, and one of my creations is the Regaining Honor, where the US is the antagonist and the protagonist is Yemen’s out of date, less-trained military. Oh, don’t worry, it’s not impossible, you’re only facing wallowing drones-at the start.


This is almost as important as mechanics, arguably even more so. I’ll open up with my favorite scenario, Randomizer’s Deter, Detect, Defend. This is a pull-out-all-the-stops nuclear war scenario. The Soviets are sending their bomber fleet, you get countless unidentified contacts on the radar, and-then a message pops up telling you to watch for civilian aircraft en route to the US. Great. Now which of those contacts is a nuclear bear and which is innocent? Just that message sets up the atmosphere, and contributes to the feel of making it seem like something more than a robotic assembly of units and dice rolls.

While the mechanics alone can contribute to atmosphere in many ways (from the genuine “Oh shit” feeling of being on the receiving end of stealth technology to the darkly amusing scene of watching an enemy frigate set for indiscriminate firing blow up whales), messages can add that special touch.


Unfortunately, my tastes are almost the exact opposite of many wargaming fans. I’m wary of 1980s WWIII scenarios and direct ripped-from-the-headlines scenarios, especially ‘big’ events. This is not to say that I won’t play or make those types of scenarios, but that I regard them as not my first priority. While there are actually relatively few of the infamous 1980s WWIII scenarios in Command itself, the presence of that period in decades of wargaming has left an undeniable stamp.

The thought process I have is “Here’s this gigantic simulator that can do so much, and people just want to reenact technothrillers for the five millionth time.”

Obviously, smaller/regional conflicts have their limitations too-there’s only so much you can do with a tiny air force and a few patrol boats against another tiny air force and even fewer patrol boats, but I like to look broadly. Computer limitations also play a role in my ability to play big scenarios, but I have managed-in many cases, it’s just a lack of interest in such a well-worn topic.

Even with WWIII scenarios, I prefer earlier ones with more obscure units than the usual Backfire/Oscar/AEGIS motion.

Finally, and this is a personal preference, I often like to give my units, on the occasion that I’ve named them, fictional names that suit the unit (So fish or cities for a submarine, personal names for an American destroyer, letter-names for a British destroyer. Unfortunately, units that have just a numerical designation are much harder).

With regards to realism, I’m pretty-strange-. I like either historical or “could possibly happen, however unlikely” scenarios, and occasionally use really weird and out-there scenarios (My “ancient Greek” Ancient Armies, Modern Weapons was really fun to make, and refreshing because I did not have to make anything historically accurate). As with the 1980s WWIII ones, I do sometimes get annoyed at scenarios that have premises that sound like wish-fulfillment technothrillers more than anything else.

All Together:

Naturally, all the factors together add up to what makes a scenario excellent. Unfortunately, all factors adding up together can lead to the nightmare of scenario designers-scope creep. The fear of being overcome by creep, together with the previously mentioned computer limitations, makes me make my scenarios small and frequently improvised.

In many cases, such small scenarios are satisfying. But of course I dream of bigger scenarios, including one very frustrating project that I hope to see but have so much trouble making. That scenario is tentatively titled “Rollback”, and is based off of alternative plans for the Iraq War that would feature a native opposition doing the ground fighting while American airpower flattened Saddam’s army. (In real life it was a hopeless pipe dream).

Some of it is just time constraints, but some of Rollback doesn’t feel “right”. A ground element involving the basic land AI? Do you make the Iraqis a historically strong or historically weaker? What’s the right balance between either too tough or too boring? Even though it appeals to me in theory, in practice it’s become more frustrating, to the point where I may just do a similar “style” scenario in a different locale that I feel more comfortable in. Other scenario authors have broken too-large games into smaller, more focused scenarios, and Rollback may very well meet a similar fate.

Command’s scenario authors have taken advantage of the simulation’s power to offer a variety of games. However, if I had to offer an opinion for a feature that was underutilized, it would be political restrictions. Political restrictions have always been a part of warfare, and Command offers more potential for realizing them than either I personally or other scenario authors have taken advantage of (yet).

Even this is a small complaint. Command’s scenario potential is very good and has been fulfilled very well. A good scenario should make the player feel like they’re experiencing more than just a well-done simulation, and there are ones in the game that accomplish this with great effectiveness.

Changjing Strike, 2016

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Energy Pricing and Conflict: Inverse Co-Relation for OPEC

Dozens have been killed in a gun and bomb attack during prayers at one of the biggest mosques in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, officials say.

This attack is unsurprising given the falling prices of oil. What I expect to see is an increase in acts of terorrism in export-revenue dependant oil-producing nations. The past few months have seen increases in subsidization for tanker operators as there exist net-costs for operators to transport oil to refineries, even with all the additional tax exemptions and incentives we’ve been seeing put in place over the past 2 years.

Simply, the world has too much oil to meet current demand capacity, and cutting production won’t do anything to impact that in the short-term. You’ve got 2-3 month shipment delays and refinery backlogs for deliveries already awaiting processing, with 5 years’ worth of fully-paid projects in development that you’ll have to see finished before you’ll see a natural reduction in production capacity.

Why has oil rebounded from its low around ~40 during its late-2008 & early 2009 price collapse? Several economic factors, such as provision of liquidity and direct economic stimulus increasing the perception of future demand in traders and their data systems.

One of the major bottlenecks which had been maintaining that price rebound had been energy transport capacity and shipments to refineries. Since the liquidity issues of 2008-2010, China has been over-subsidizing production of energy transport capacity through several SOEs & SOE affiliates. Until China cuts back on production of transport production, you’ll see declining prices for energy. Hell, even then there may be too much excess capacity and too many emergency deals for pipeline development in exchange for sub-market purchase agreements. For instance, in Finland you already see Russia exporting energy at a 50% markdown from market oil rates. … 89584.html

This is unsustainable for Russia, and they know it. So why do they do it? Desperation. What alternatives does Putin have? He can unilaterally decrease production; that results in Russian default. He can allow the ruble to hyper-inflate to meet debt servicing obligations; this likely gets him deposed at best, killed at worst. Capital controls were already imposed when Putin began his Crimean adventurism; he required 51% to 80% minimum Russian ownership of corporations, forcing firesale to Russian investors and acquiring temporary boost in foreign reserves in lieu of long-term foreign currency funding stream, which has already run out.

Putin can do a deal with Erdogan to divide black sea energy control in order to shore up domestic support in elites due to long-term development potential; in fact, I called this as likely when Erdogan received a visit by Biden earlier this year, and today I see Putin is in Ankara: … 65427.html

Putin could try firesale listing to the Chinese and long-term, under-price pipeline development deals, however, any increases in energy export capacity reduce energy prices due to present over-capacity issues. Simply, any deal which China takes will involve the Chinese requiring Putin to provide a hostage by listing assets in Hong Kong denominated in RMB, yet the Chinese have their own issues with foreign currency reserves and increasing rates of change.

It isn’t the absolute value of the foreign acceptable assets you hold which underpins perception of your ability to meet debt servicing obligations, its the rate at which your holdings of and liquidity with acceptable assets changes, and the rate at which Russia has been expending its foreign currency reserves has rapidly increased since 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

So why do I predict a rise in terrorism over short-term? Simply, there may be a snowballing of global capital flight and rapidly emerging liquidity crisis in key economic sectors for unstable nations far too reliant upon high operating margins in energy extraction, transportation, refinement, distribution, and consumption. With OPEC nations, none are in position to cut production and thereby cut rate at which foreign currency is obtained. Let’s break down why using OPEC members as examples. Since this discussion began with a terrorist attack in Nigeria, we’ll circle back there first.

Via Table 3.6, OPEC’s data: … tion3.html

Note, figures current up to 2013.

Nigeria, 1753.7 kilo-barrels daily … dium=email

Nigeria faces increased rates of government expenditure due to upcoming elections. This lowers the value of Nigeria’s currency and lowers rate at which Nigeria acquires foreign currency. Why are elections a currency-lowering issue for Nigeria? Well, Nigeria is a corrupt country run on personal patronage networks which are heavily linked to extended family ties without institutional development through which to filter natural tendancy for humans to favor family in hiring decisions. What that translates to in practice is that Nigeria must hire extended families directly via government employment in order to secure patronage blocks and influence elections.

Further, with decreasing margins for energy shippers, due to China’s over-subsidization of additional shipment capacity as a form of economic stimulus and usual system dynamics Chinese patronage networks, Nigeria has had to increase rates at which it subsidizes energy shippers, meaning that Nigeria has reduced operating margins for its energy exports and therefore reduced government revenues, necessitating a slow-down in patronage hiring due to reduced capacity for government expenditure. In order to increase capacity for expenditure, Nigeria would be required to raise revenue via matching increase in net effective taxation rates through a progressive taxation structure to offset reductions in domestic consumption, or by engaging in a central bank monetary policy of currency devaluation (as proxy for taxation upon lenders and subsidization for borrowers’ relative value of debt servicing obligations), both of which are extremely unpopular and will cause elites to move assets through less-accountable taxation structutes willing to enforce purchase exemptions.

Again, practical terms, this means that Nigeria’s central bank and other government institutions with high gross-revenue capacity will have individuals whose power base is reliant upon the continued expansion of patronage networks using increased rates of revenue siphoned off through their official positions. However, with reduced gross revenue coming into the ministry, one advances more swiftly through investments in alternative institutional structures or via borrowing heavily and repaying debt through an ever-ballooning cycle of total obligations owed until an individual is forced into default. In a game with the stakes of Nigeria, default means death and investments in alternative institutional structures means funding insurgency operations such as Boko Haram. Examples: … &pid=71619 … vis.97142/’s-son-assassinated-in-dubai.95864/

The alternative? Fund State Security Service & pro-government paramilitary groups to carry out extra-judicial elimination of non-network patronage bases in order to consolidated your position:

My takeaway? Decreasing rates of patronage in authoritarian states with cultures that do not surpress family institutions are correlated with increasing rates of insurgency once insurgency begins operations and coordination with ambitious political elites.

Implications of Nigerian example for other OPEC member-states? When regional insurgencies are operationally active and have ties to your domestic elite, without excess capacity in ability to commit emergency capital infusions into patronage practices, political order begins to unravel. KSA, Kuwait, & UAE have been financing anti-islamist military government in Egypt, which has reduced state capacity to expand patronage networks to counter dissent and factional infighting during periods of declining gross revenue for key institutions essential for government revenue. Inability to implement inflationary or effective net taxation structures to generate government revenue and expand tax bases’ consumption habits forces ambitious to finance para-statal organizations as means to purchase influence and patronage networks with higher perceived rate of return than under existing state framework.

In conclusion,

1) Energy prices declining due to excess capacity at all levels of vertically-integrated energy industry

2) Declining prices require power sharing or increased energy production to offset

3) Unwillingness or inability to institute structural reforms and share power during times of plenty forces capital flight during times of declining growth rates

4) Capital flight offset by increasing energy production

5) Increasing energy production with excess transit capacity forces prices to return to operating margins for extraction operations

6) Decrease in prices increases instability in autocratic systems of power due to higher perceived return on power consolidation through non-state mechanisms

7) Attempts at power consolidation among elites, shoring up of popular support, or policies for both will most likely result in decreased revenues with increased expenses

8) Mismatch of expenditure rates and revenue rates forces increases in revenue until global energy market is operating at-cost or operating under-cost until foreign currency reserves expended or state collapse

9) Therefore, increased rates of violence as individuals fight for larger piece of shrinking wealth rather than implementing policies to expand wealth base

Suggestions for policies to rectify structural issues within current framework of nation-states, using tools presently available:

1) Global carbon tax.

2) Institutional collapse. Results? Civil war, elite/capital flight, foreign invasion: Pick two.

3) Acceptance of energy pricing single-digit % above operating costs as “new normal”

That’s about it, and why Russia is stuck invading Ukraine, ISIL & other jihadi groups attacking more frequently, and why inflation in America is on track to remain at ahistorically low rates: Global capital flight to safest nation of them all forces deflationary trends in USD. Simply, America is safe, rich, and on trend to continue getting richer at accelerating rates as global flight to America continues and our energy costs rapidly decline.

The rest of the world? I’d highly recommend becoming an American ally.

Russians in the Coral Sea

Uninvited guests: Varyag & Shapshonikov, both Russian ships are cruising towards Brisbane in concert with the G20 forum. Two Australian frigates, the HMAS Parramatta and Stuart, are enroute to “flank and monitor” Russian activity.


The Varyag is Russia’s Pacific flagship: a Slava-class guided missile cruiser. Very mean looking with her 16x Anti Ship Missile tubes loaded with SS-N-12 Sandbox missiles. These missiles outrange anything in the Australian arsenal; land, sea or air.

And the Marshal Shapshonikov is a Udaloy-class guided missile destroyer.

Along with Varyag and Shaposhnikov are auxiliaries Fotiy Krylov (a tug) And Boris Butoma (Boris Chilikin-class tanker).



HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154) and HMAS Stuart (FFH 153) are both Anzac-class frigates.

How to defeat a multimillion dollar over the horizon radar system? Cruise around it. Russian warships circumnavigated around Papua New Guinea to take up their current poise in international waters off of Australia’s eastern coast.

The Historical Gamer

My friend TheHistoricalGamer has a video on Command! Give it a watch and if you like historical wargames please subscribe to his youtube channel.

He plays Iron Hand, a scenario focusing on a hypothetical Russian SEAD attack on Azerbaijan.

The Strategic Aspect of Supercruising Flight

BY Ben R. Rich
17 through 20 February 1976


The vulnerability of aircraft to missiles and radar controlled guns was vividly demonstrated in the 1973 Mid East War where 443 aircraft were destroyed in eighteen days. Simulations show that the survivability of aircraft increase primarily with increases of speed, altitude, maneuverability and ECM. These have been confirmed by experience with the SR-71, the only United States supercruising military aircraft. There are other secondary factors that contribute to survivability such as the various aspects of stealth and size, reaction or response times, etc.

The physical and aerodynamic requirements for efficient supersonic flight vehicles ail result in increases of flight altitude with increase in flight speed and vice versa. Speed increase is necessary to meet the mass flow requirements of air breathing propulsion systems. Super-cruiser parametric studies show that as cruise speed increases above Mach 2.0, altitudes for efficient cruise exceed 50,000 feet.

Let us now review the threat to vehicles which cruise at high Mach number and high altitude. Figure 1 depicts Soviet missiles, gun, and aircraft capability vs. altitude. Shown on the right hand column are typical cruise altitudes for strategic aircraft as a function of speed. The data show that for altitudes below 60, 000 feet, aircraft aire vulnerable to a multiplicity of weapon systems. Focusing on the USAF’s only current supercruising aircraft — the YF-12/SR-71 series, which cruise above Mach 3. 0 and 80,000 feet — I will limit my comments to these aircraft. The aircraft has maneuver capability better than 2. 5 g’s. The double delta planform of the SR-71, as shown in Figure 2, is designed, with sharp leading and trailing edges; no right angle intersections, inclined vertical fins, etc. to achieve a low radar cross section. The aircraft, illustrated in Figure 3, is constructed, with over 20 percent of its surface area, of high temperature composite material to give a radar cross section under 10 square meters. The anti-radar design background was given in a paper delivered by Kelly Johnson to the Radar Camouflage Symposium at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on October 3, 1975, entitled “Reduction of Radar Cross Section of Large High Altitude Aircraft. ” (5)

Air-to-Air Threat

Currently, there is no real operational air-to-air threat to the SR-71. Let us consider the Soviet’s most advanced aircraft, the MiG-25 FOXBAT. Figure 4 provides an overview of the main elements of the intercept problem. Figure 5 gives the operational steady state and zoom envelopes of the FOXBAT. If you assume the pilot sitting in the cockpit on alert, the FOXBAT climbout and missile performance are shown in Figure 6. The data show that it takes 8 minutes from brake release to reach its maximum steady state cruise altitude, assuming no maneuvering. Also shown are the FOXBAT radar and the AA-6 missile characteristics with its aerodynamic and seeker limits. The shaded area shows the limited attack zone against a cruising SR-71. To better appreciate the time and distances involved, Figure 7 shows the FOXBAT climb characteristics on a head-on, fly-over attack against penetrators approaching at speeds up to Mach 6. Just during the time required for the FOXBAT to reach its cruise altitude (8 minutes), the Mach 3.2 aircraft has penetrated 240 nm, while Mach 6 attacker has penetrated 480 nm. The data assumes no evasive maneuvering by either aircraft and instantaneous reaction by the FOXBAT. The effect of maneuvering is shown in Figure 8. This figure assumes that the SR-71 makes a 45 degree weave maneuver. Using FOXBAT performance characteristics, from airborne alert, and for various start locations, the figure shows that no clearly successful intercept can be made. It can be generally concluded that the air-to-air intercept problem is at the present time extremely marginal versus a high supersonic Mach number maneuvering target.

Surface-to-Air Threat

The Surface-to-air missile intercept problem also needs to be considered. Figure 9 shows the SA-2 missile footprint for three nonmaneuvering target speeds/altitude combinations. The way increasing speed/altitude reduces SA-2 capabilities is apparent from the diminished size of the vulnerable area. If you take a vertical cut of this same SA-2 envelope, Figure 10, the effect of speed and altitude are shown. No intercept is possible at speeds above Mach 3.2 and altitudes above 90, 000 feet.

Any type of maneuver considerably reduces the SA-2 capability as was shown in the Viet Nam war. In the several hundred flights over the Hanoi -Haiphong areas, no losses or damage were experienced. Discussions with regards to the SA-5 GAMMON missile exceed the classification of this paper. The above discussion is limited to nonnuclear missiles, no attempt will be made to discuss the nuclear threat.

Strategic Applications for Supercruise Aircraft

There are three strategic missions for a supercruising aircraft: reconnaissance, surveillance, and offense or strike.

The SR-71 is currently performing the reconnaissance and surveillance mission for the USAF Strategic Air Command. The aircraft has been operational in the South East Asia Theatre for over seven years. During the Viet Nam war, it made several hundred combat flights over North and South Viet Nam. During the 1967 Mid East war, operating from the Continental United States, the SR-71 completed several successful overflights of the Suez-Sinai battlefronts. In all these operations, the SR-71 suffered no loss or damage from any hostile action. Since its first flight in 1964, the aircraft has approximately 5, 500 hours over Mach 3.0.

Let me show you how we can exploit supercruising for the strike concept.

During 1965-1966, the YF-12 interceptor successfully demonstrated the firing of missiles from over Mach 3. 0/80, 000 feet. The YF-12 successfully launched 13 AIM-47 missiles (Hughes GAR-9). Twelve successful shots, direct hits or lethal near misses, were achieved on subsonic drone targets flying at sea level to 40, 000 feet over land and sea. The one failure was attributed to a guidance malfunction.

Figure 11 shows a strike version of the SR-71 — called the Bx — with four AGM-69A SRAM missiles. The range of the SRAM missile can be extended by a factor of 4 when launched at Mach 3. 0 and 80,000 feet, as shown in Figure 12. This significant improvement in range derives from the large potential and kinetic energy imparted to the missile by the high altitude and high speed of the aircraft at cruise. The current SRAM is a nuclear missile with no terminal guidance. The CEP’s are therefore not sufficiently accurate for high target kill probabilities; for example, at 100 nm range the CEP is approximately 1,500 feet and at 300 nm it is approximately 3,600 feet. However, with pre-launch navigational update and new improved gyros, these CEP’s can be halved. Accuracy can be further improved, of course, by terminal guidance, the discussion of which is the subject of other papers.

In summary, the super cruise concept when applied to the strategic strike mission can be complementary to the B-1 mission. It provides a highly survivable weapon system and could dilute the Soviet defense system.


Although the discussion has been on strategic missions, the lessons learned from the SR-71′s operation can be applied to a Tactical Supercruiser or an Advanced Tactical Fighter. Significant improvements have been made during the last few years in supersonic aerodynamics, propulsion, materials, avionics and stealth technologies. All these items tend to improve performance and survivability for advanced supersonic aircraft. There can be no doubt that the SR-71 survivability factors: supersonic speed, high altitude, high stealth, maneuverability and ECM will also provide a high probability of survival to aircraft performing tactical missions.



Wargame of the Year Stream

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Episode 2.1: The Caliphate of West Africa