Modeling Political Influence in Command

Political restrictions and influences have always played a part in war, and several Command scenarios have taken this into account. To what degree political difficulties should be implemented depends greatly on the context on the scenario. The tools a scenario designer can use include: geographic restrictions, point penalties, indirect political effects and the briefing.

Geographic Restrictions

No-navigation zones have been frequently used to simulate off-limits areas. These work, but are imperfect. They have an inherently “gamey” and crude quality to them. Especially in earlier periods of time with vastly inferior navigation, this can lead to unrealistically good awareness on the part of the units involved.

This is not to say that no-nav zones don’t have their uses. I’ve used them without any regrets, and they work for “simple” issues. A “Don’t fly over Iran” instruction, when the targets are not anywhere near the Iranian borders can work for no-nav zones. In this case, the instructions are clear, and since the target is far away from the restricted area, there’s less chance for panic to lead to a mishap.

What can work better than simple no-nav zones is having consequences for entering the restricted area. The official scenario “Operation Lightning Strike” illustrates this well-go anywhere but over Pakistan to hit the nuclear missiles, and you will face the wrath of that country. Lua has made the possible responses more varied and effective.

Point penalties

Point losses for violating the specified orders are common. To what degree they penalize the player should depend on the context. My own scenarios have ranged from a response that amounts to “Eh, try not to hit any civilian fishing boats even though they’re reporting your position to the enemy anyway” with no actual point losses should the boats actually sink for a 1940s sense of ethics, to a “Any loss of either civilians or an E-3 AWACS with a large crew will cause the scenario to be failed”, for a mission conducted by an under-resourced country that cannot afford an American backlash.

There is a middle ground, and exactly how much depends on the nature of the forces involved, and what the political situation is. The comparative restraint or ruthlessness of an army often goes against the stereotype of how it “should” behave.


One of my attempts at innovation was modeling an arbitrary restriction-in the first Rollback scenario, non-stealth aircraft were not to cross the 31st parallel except in case of emergency. What I did was painstakingly create “unit enters area” triggers for all carrier aircraft except the A/F-117 stealth fighters themselves, and assigned those to an event that led to a small point loss for the American side.

This illustrated a violation without being an immediate scenario-ender, and allowed for certain types of aircraft to be deployed while others were incentivized to stay behind in a way that a cumbersome no-nav zone could not accomplish.

Combinations like this have many possibilities. A Vietnam War intrusion into Chinese airspace could trigger a massive point loss, a flavor message saying that President Johnson wants to give you a good talking-to, and huge numbers of J-5s scrambling to guard their airspace. Better keep a better eye on landmarks next time, Mr. F-105.

Indirect political effects

Politics is more than just direct restrictions. Politics can influence force skill (altering the proficiency of certain units), deployment (which can range from interservice rivalries shutting one branch out on one end, or an Eagle Claw-level pileup of including everyone whether it really makes sense or not on the other), and command structures (best achieved by multiple sides that do not necessarily have access to each other’s data). As this is “background” politics as opposed to obvious limitations, the scenario creator would (as I have often done) be entirely justified in not mentioning it in the briefing.


Briefings are excellent at simulating a political mood. They can be vague and even wrong on purpose. Similarly, flavor events can enhance the desired tone even if they have no effect on the scenario itself.

In conclusion, there are many tools at a scenario creator’s disposal for simulating the effects of political influence on a battle gamed out in Command.