Applying Sun Tzu to Paradox Games
by Phoenix Dace
This month we'll be looking at the second chapter of Sun Tzu's Art of War. Again, remember your version may vary based on different translations (mine is by the Denma Group).
Chapter Two: Doing Battle
In sum, the method of employing the military-It costs money to raise an army, in real life and in Paradox games (except maybe Hearts of Iron). What can be gleaned most from this passage of the Sun Tzu is that your economy has to come before your army. You can't fight a war and have a worthwhile army without a good economy first. You have to have the money to raise and then maintain that army for the entire course of the war, which could be a long time. Obviously, the detailed descriptions of lacquer costs, etc. are unnecessary in a Paradox game, but the same principle (you need money to get troops, you have to have an economy before you can have a military) stays the same.
With one thousand fast chariots, one thousand leather-covered chariots and one hundred thousand armoured troops to be provisioned over one thousand li-
then expenses of outer and inner, stipends of foreign advisors, materials for glue and lacquer, and contributions for chariots and armour are one thousand gold pieces a day.
Only after this are one hundred thousand soldiers raised.
When one employs battle-The Sun Tzu advocates fast, decisive victories with as little loss of life as possible, which is also a good thing for a Paradox player. Finding ways to defeat your enemy without losing large numbers of men is a good thing, leaving you at an advantage since you still have an army capable of campaigning. You also want to find ways to make your campaigns short, even if it makes them brutal – the less time you have men in the field, the less it costs you.
If victory takes long, it blunts the military and grinds down its sharpness.
Attacking walled cities, one's strength is diminished.
If soldiers are long in the field, the state's resources are insufficient.
Now if one blunts the military, grinds down its sharpness,In the time of Sun Tzu, the feudal lords were the rulers of many states in Northern China. Sun Tzu portrays them as fickle allies, swiftly transforming from allies into backstabbing enemies. Here he is pointing out that leaving a weak military is a one-way ticket to getting attacked. Your enemies can see when your military is weak, and in Paradox games (especially Victoria and Europa Universalis) they will take advantage of that.
Diminishes its strength and exhausts its goods,
Then the feudal lords ride one's distress and rise up.
Even one who is wise cannot make good the aftermath!
Thus in the military one has heard of foolish speed but has not observed skillful prolonging.Going too fast into battle (or not spending long enough planning your campaigns) will get your military ground down and weakened. Spending too long prolonging the battle or campaign will do the same thing. Sun Tzu advocates skillful use of speed (not 'foolish speed') and definitely says prolonging is a bad idea.
And there has never been a military prolonging that has brought advantage to the state.
And so one who does not thoroughly know the harm from employing the militaryThis one's a bit misleading. What the Sun Tzu is actually referring to is the use of military force and its advantages and disadvantages. A general must know both the advantages and disadvantages of using it, and how to use these to his own benefit. The general must be aware of how things could go wrong (disadvantages) and how to turn those into ways for things to go right.
Cannot thoroughly know the advantage from employing the military.
One skilled at employing the militaryThis has less application to Paradox games, because we don't really worry about feeding our armies. What the Sun Tzu is saying, though, is that you should not take the burden of bringing food with you, and instead use that effort for more military equipment or soldiers. Take food from the enemy, and it will strengthen your army. I suppose you could apply this to a game like Europa Universalis or Crusader Kings, where you can pillage land to earn money and use this money to supply your troops.
Does not have a second registering of conscripts nor a third loading of grain.
One takes equipment from the state and relies on grain from the enemy.
Thus the army's food can be made sufficient.
A state's impoverishment from its soldiers-Here the Sun Tzu extends the 'take food from your enemy' bit from above. Again, less relevance to Paradox games than other passages, except maybe using plunder to fund your armies.
When they are distant, there is distant transport.
When they are distant and there is distant transport, the hundred clans are impoverished.
When soldiers are near, things sell dearly.
When things sell dearly, wealth is exhausted.
When wealth is exhausted, people are hard-pressed by local taxes.
Diminished strength in the heartland,
emptiness in the households.
Of the hundred clans' resources, six-tenths are gone.
Of the ruling family's resources-
Broken chariots, worn-out horses,
Armour, helmets, arrows, crossbows,
Halberds, shields, spears, pavises,
Heavy-ox drawn wagons-
Seven-tenths are gone.
Thus the wise general looks to the enemy for food.
One bushel of enemy food equals twenty bushels of mine.
One bale of fodder equals twenty bales of mine.
And so killing the enemy is a matter of wrath.This is a good one. You don't have to kill all your enemies to win, and it doesn't give you advantage. The Sun Tzu values victories without loss of life on either side – you can win without having to kill your enemy, and in many cases you have to choose between one or the other. You can chase down that thousand-man army, or you can besiege the enemy's capitol. One will lead to victory, one will lead to prolonging.
Taking the enemy's goods is a matter of advantage.
And so in chariot battles-Again, a bit too small-scale for Paradox games. We don't get to capture equipment and re-use it. We do, however, get to capture land and use the manpower, resources, etc. from it. Lesson: learn to use the land you have captured, as Sun Tzu uses the people and equipment he has captured. In this way you can gain advantage.
When more than ten chariots are captured,
Reward him who first captures one.
Then change their flags and pennants.
When the chariots are mixed together, ride them.
Supply the captives and care for them.
This is what is meant by “victorious over the enemy and so increasing one's strength.”
And so the military values victory.A summative passage. By victory, the Sun Tzu means 'capturing whole'. Prolonging has already been explained. The Sun Tzu values defeating the enemy without ever actually engaging him in battle. When battle is absolutely necessary, make it fast to prevent prolonging. In EU3, if you can win by letting the enemy enter your lands while you siege all his lands and force a peace without ever fighting, go ahead and do it. You will have captured whole his lands, without prolonging the campaign with unnecessary fighting.
It does not value prolonging.
And so the general who knows the military is the people's fate star,A fate star is apparently, according to the commentary in my translation, something that control the time of death.
The ruler of the state's security and danger.
The general who knows the military knows how to use everything the Sun Tzu discusses, in this chapter and others. He knows how to use the economy, all the way down to how to actually defeat the enemy in a campaign or battle. In this way, he controls the life or death of his nation and people. Like you, at the helm of a Paradox nation.