I have mentioned it before: I’ve been a wargamer for about 45 years. From my perspective, the hogh point of that was when I used to bicycle down to Read St, home of Avalon Hill games, and playtest Squad Leader, which I still regard as the best regiment-level tactical game ever made.
One characteristic of the good games is that they have a model of some sort for morale – the tendency of people in battle to sometimes break and run, or cower, or see that the guy next to you just broke and ran, then you drop your weapons and run them, muttering in your language of choice, “fuck this …” Back in my napoleonic miniatures phase we had a guy who could say “di di mau” in seemingly every language from Zulu to French (“sauve qui peut!”) etc., it was great fun when the enemy disintegrated into an out of control rabble.
The models are all different. There was one game, Patrol, in which getting your men to move at all was an accomplishment and often hilarious. Your fire-team would decide that it was time to leave the ditch just in time to get flanked by enemy hussars, etc. ha, ha, merde alors!
At some point or another, the men in a unit have each seen a friend, on fire, trying to get out of a tank before its too late, but at that point it already is. It sharpens your suspicion that the lieutenant has no tactical sense and that makes getting the squad moving forward take a bit longer than getting them moving backward. When morale begins to collapse, it can just mean that units start hugging comfortable places. Units melt into the field and disappear. Years later when old men talk about Waterloo, you prefer not to mention that you were there.
Around 5% casualties is where it starts to kick in. At around 5% everyone has lost a friend. Maybe they were standing right next to them, and were just a little faster getting out of the armored personnel carrier and now they’re ineffective in combat simply because they’ve realized that they’re only there for the personal aggrandizement of some motherfucker with a $200 million yacht. If he wants Kyiv so bad, he should have bought a tin hat of his own.
And so it goes. The Russians went in with 150,000 troops and have over 7,000 killed and a lot more casualties. These are not hardened killers full of hate, like the men who marched to Berlin and left a trail of dust behind them. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that it’s right around now that the Russian military is going to start moving just a little bit slower. They won’t break and run (need about 10% casualties for that) but enthusiasm will be waning. I mean, really, would you like to ride in the back of one of those APCs? They look pretty flammable, let me sit closest to the door OK?
The Russians are already losing momentum, and have switched from trying to maneuver, to blasting stuff flat. That won’t win any battle, so I guess I’m saying the Russians have lost. 150,000 troops can’t hold a populated region the size of Texas, they’re spread too thin and they know it, and the troops will be figuring it out.
Putin’s going to negotiate for Ukrainian neutrality and a promise not to join NATO. Ukraine will agree and the CIA will funnel loads of weapons to them. If Putin doesn’t start to play nice, that porous border will equate to Ukrainians sneaking into Moscow with military weapons and taking the insurgency home to Russia – just like the Georgians did. The lines on the map will move a bit here and there but the Russians should have invaded, taken ports and power stations and airports as non-violently as possible, then started negotiating.
I spent last night in Corvallis, at a place labeled “ANGRY BEAVER” well, hell yes. Time to hit the road down the coast to Bandon.