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    Avatar photoluigi cavallo


    Dear All,

    I am computational chemist interested in applying war-game strategies to chemistry.    I remember that some years ago there was a paper describing a strategy used by a team in a war-game challenge.   Basically, the team distributed his resources into a fleet of millions of small vessels with a small weapon, rather than building a super-powerful machine sucking all the resources.

    Even though a large fraction of the small vessels were destroyed, the strategy of distributing the resources as much as possible led the team to win the challenge.

    Unfortunately, I do not know if my memory is correct, in the case which was this challenge, and if there was any scientific paper describing the strategy.

    I wonder if any in this forum is capable to help me.



    Avatar photoWhirlwind
    Avatar photoThorsten Frank

    Uh, Luigi, you are opening a can of worms here. It is very likely that you refer to the occurence and book linked by Whirlwind because it´s the case that cauesd a monster wave (without really changing the problem). Another publication that tackles your question is “Why Defeating Insurgencies Is Hard: The Effect of Intelligence in Counterinsurgency Operations -A Best-Case Scenario” by Kress and Szechtmann but sadly only in an appendix and “Hierarchic parameter structures for military operational analysis by Hämäläinen which sadly vanished from the net (and everywhere else).
    And the numbers of papers in Conway´s game-of-life simulating such things are countless (and variations like reaction-diffusion-systems) and given your background you know about them much more than I do.

    "In strange grammar this one writes" - Master Yoda

    Avatar photoCerdic

    Ah, the good old quality v. quantity conundrum.

    Its interesting that you can see the same concept in nature. For example, how do you ensure you have surviving offspring? Some fish lay thousands of eggs at a time and then abandon them. Almost all will get eaten, but one or two will survive to become adults. At the other extreme, Great Apes have very few young but invest a lot of time and resources in rearing them.

    Or a slightly more wargamery example; Tiger or Sherman?


    Avatar photoMr. Average

    As in, a “Tiger was worth four Shermans, but the Americans always brought five?”

    I think the Millennium Challenge Exercise is what you’re thinking of, but I don’t know if the lesson learned is really medically applicable, in that counterinsurgency is defeatable by tactics that are not purely military, so such an analogy is not really sustainable beyond a surface level. That is to say, low tech can beat high tech in battle, but it doesn’t mean that sustained logistics and psychological, political, and diplomatic tactics wouldn’t end run such a circumstance, and one does not negotiate with an invasive species or a biological pathogen.

    Avatar photoMartinR

    Umm, before getting too excited, the success or otherwise of a swarms vs big things strategy depends on the relationship between resources and combat power. These relationships are non linear and the non linearity has varied over time ie sometimes swarms work (T34s) and sometimes they don’t (Dervishes vs Lee Metford).

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoTony S

    I think this is what he’s referring to?


    Buried deep in the article, search for “Trillion Credit Squadron tournament”.  Fascinating article, even if not what the OP was trying to remember.



    Avatar photoMr. Average

    That actually sounds much more like what the OP was referring to. Although again I’d caution against taking the analogy too far since this is exploiting a system of constructed rules to win at the margins, and the physical universe is not a construct, it’s a set of immutable natural laws (not all of which we fully understand).

    Avatar photoTony S

    Well, the computer programmer who wrote a statistical analysis program to discover the winning strategy, freely admitted that.  (I know it is called an “AI” in the article.  However in the 8 bit world of 1981, it was most definitely not an AI).

    “Eurisko was exposing the fact that any finite set of rules is going to be a very incomplete approximation of reality,” Lenat explained.

    But read the entire article.  Basketball and Traveller are indeed both finite artificial environments, where rules loopholes can ruthlessly exploited.  The Middle East in WW1 and a database of 202 asymmetrical conflicts in history are however quite real world, and support the article’s thesis.  The article’s author, by the way, is Malcolm Gladwell, a very insightful gent.   He actually expanded this article’s thesis into a book.




    Sounds like Ogre.

    Avatar photoluigi cavallo


    Indeed, Eurisko and the Traveller tournament is what I had in mind.

    I spent hours on the web unsuccessfully, trying all possible word search combination.

    Human brain still better than google-brain…

    Thanks a lot to all for the help.


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