For the past three years, Maj. Michael Muller has used TacOpsCAV, a militarized
version of the commercial TacOps game, to teach everything from standard operating
procedures and battle drills to intelligence information tracking, decision-making.
Muller is a Marine Corps armor officer who teaches at the Armor Captain’s
Career Course at Fort Knox. He prefers the user-friendliness of TacOpsCAV, in
which he can generate training scenarios on a low-end PC, to the official JANUS
ground combat simulation in the base simulation center.
TacOpsCAV is a platoon-level ground combat game where players simultaneously
input their orders each turn using a point-and-click interface, and the computer
then resolves their orders simultaneously.
Muller uses TacOpsCAV to illustrate lessons to his students. In a small scenario,
he might have “five or six guys will play actual commanders, while the
others play artillery observers or battalion headquarters, plus a couple to
play the bad guys.”
One scenario ran for three days. Players spent the first two days planning
their moves. “The neat thing was that we had the planning at the same
time as some of the fighting,” Muller recalled. “During the planning,
the reconnaissance fight began, and based on the information they received,
the players revised their plans for the main attack that followed.”
Adding a low-cost touch of realism, Muller bought several handheld radios from
Radio Shack for $40 apiece. “You put your commanders in separate rooms.
They use the radios to convey information. Every player has some information,
so you [see] how well they build their intelligence picture.”
Muller credits JANUS as being somewhat more realistic than TacOpsCAV, because
it flows in continuous time, versus the other game’s turn-based system.
Yet Muller said this is more than outweighed by the accessibility of TacOpsCAV.
Muller even used the game to settle an argument with a colleague over whether
an armored cavalry squadron is more powerful than a Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“Oh, the MEU won.”