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Posted on Oct 30, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

The Practical Art of Moving Armies – On the Computer Screen

By Larry Levandowski


Of all the concepts presented, focus is probably the most abstract. It is the idea that in logistics there are no “half-measures.” Your job is to build a logistics engine that points towards your strategic goals, and has the depth to sustain operations to the end.

A good logistician does not believe in a “guns and butter” approach to war. In war, there are only “guns” In Civ IV for example, while at war, do not try to balance peace and war economies; you are either at peace or war. In war, switch all production to combat units and buildings. This will hurt you if you are in a protracted war, so the goal in warfare, is to win quickly

Adopt a “push” supply system. In peacetime, it is efficient to only use supplies as they are needed. So supplies are only “pulled” when they are expected to be used. In war however, it is “better to waste than want.” War is not a business and is unpredictable. So when sending supplies to the front, send many more than actually needed. It is never a bad idea to have too many supplies in war.


Finally, point your logistics engine towards the strategic effort. Some games allow you to set “rally points” for factories and production facilities. When this is possible, set these points to terminate at your stockpile just behind the point of action. That way as units are produced, they automatically move to the stockpile.

The Toolbox in Practice

So let me show you how all of these concepts work in practice with an example from a recent game of Civilization IV.

It is 1325AD, and the Malanese Empire, having peacefully coexisted with the neighbors until now, has decided it is time to take apart the Persian Empire to the south.

In Civilization IV, Malanese preparations for invasion of Persia
are almost complete. Along the border, a broad route has been
established with forts protecting the stockpile (a city). Once
the invasion begins, all cities will be switched to war based production
and the Malanese will spill across the border

Routes: While still at peace, the Malanese use an “open borders” treaty to send four scouts into Persian territory to map roads and terrain. Based on this information, the Malanese king decides to approach by land. A good road does not exist, so during his preparations for war, the Malanese king has workers build a road into Persia (in Civ IV, your workers are allowed to build roads in other countries). He also has workers build forts at strategic points to protect the road from enemy attack.


Since a land route is chosen, and in Civ IV, capacity only affects sea lanes, this is not a concern.


The Persian King, having a good survey of enemy territory, decides to take four of the enemy cities, then force a peace. He calculates that he will need 24 units, and he establishes a stockpile just off the border. All cities are then set to produce combat units and as they finish, the units are moved to the stockpile.

Raiding forces are also set up to quickly seize the Persian iron and horse resource squares, and also cut roads that the Persians will need to reinforce their cities.

Four workers are also made available to the attacking force to build additional roads and forts as the Malanese advance into Persia.

A good mix of forces are produced; axemen, swordsmen, and catapaults to meet all contingencies.


When he is ready to strike, the Malenese King declares war, and sets all production to building a good mix of land combat units. Regardless of need, units are always sent to the stockpile.

The Attack

Upon declaration of war, the attacking Malanese attacking force spills out of the stockpile and over the border. At the same time, cavalry units run out to take and destroy the Persian iron mines and horse pastures. Additional cavalry are sent out to destroy roads and other key resources.

A few low strength units are held back, in the forts to protect the supply routes.

The Malanese juggernaut quickly takes the first city. Lost units are replaced from the stockpile, and the next two cities are targeted. They fall quickly as well. The Persians are now on the ropes. The Malanese king decides to push for an end. Taking the last city, the Persians now have only one city left. Deciding to keep a “limping Persia” alive, the Malanese end the war with diplomacy.


Logistics is a dimension of strategy that many games do not often get to play. But in those few gaming gems where the designers have let us play the logistics game, you will find my “toolbox” of concepts to be very handy. See you on the battlefield!

Author Information

Larry Levandowski has been an avid wargamer for the last 30 years, and personal computer hobbyist since his father brought home an Apple II, in 1978.  He spent the 1980s as a Captain in the US Army’s Transportation Corps, and knows a thing or two about loading ships and running truck convoys.  Fluent in Japanese, he worked for many years in Japan in the information technology industry.  His Army Reserve duty at the time was planning logistics for the next “Korean War”, as US Army Transportation Liaison Officer to the Japanese Army’s Chief of Staff. His military career now far behind, he still works in the information technology field for a global logistics company, plays PBEM opponents in several games, dabbles in WWII miniature wargaming, and lives in the perpetually sunny suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona.

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