The Art of War in Middle Earth

 

Sun Tzu's Art of War in Tolkiens Middle-Earth

Overview

Around 2500 years ago, Sun Tzu produced a collection of principles of conducting war which have endured through the centuries and been collected and published as The Art of War.

Many transaltions exist but the one I am most familiar with was initially published around 1910 by Dr. Lionel Giles of the British Museum.  I have copies in a couple formats including an ebook which I keep on one of my devices all the time.  I find this a very good reference because it not only provides Dr. Gilies translation and notes of Sun Tzu's original work, but also include notes from eleven anchient and modern Chinese commentators and Dr. Gilies own comments on those as well.  As a collection I have found these multiple perspectives very useful in developing a better understanding of the broader truthes behind what are often very brief and direct statements. There have been many, many more translations and discussions of this classic since then and I hope to some day look around to see if there are any others I enjoy that add to my understanding.

The Art of War in Modern Life

You don't need to be a military general to find applications for many of the principles of Sun Tzu. There can be many applications for The Art of War in life. The basic concepts of understanding and focusing on the true goals, identifying and sizing opposition and obsticles, and maintaining the discipline and focus to stay on the track can be useful in everything from personal training to managing a project at work.

I have been an avid strategy and war game player since the age of 12 or so. There are so many challenges in such a game (movements, strengths, weaknesses, rules and randomness, opponents, etc.) that they have always been an enjoyable mental exercise, be it a simple game of Checkers or Mancalla or a multi-day session of an Avalon Hill classic.  Although I always considered myself a good player, once I discovered Sun Tzu's work in my later teenage years and began to understand and apply his principles in the scope of gaming, I found myself approaching my hobby at a different level.

That is not to try to sound conceited in any way. I have never maintained an "undefeated record" and would never expect to. Once I am introduced to a new game and have time to understand the rules, units and basic tactics I generally do find myself winning more often than not.  However, I will always have games where I am defeated either by a more skillful player or by a failure of my tactics or simply the fate of unfriendly dice.  But even in these situations I often can fall back on Sun Tzu's Principles to understand the events that lead to my defeat and how I could have handled them to perhaps achieve a victory next time.

The Art of War in Middle-Earth

Applying Sun Tzu's Principles to the

War of the Ring and Strategy Battle Game

In the middle of 2006 I was introduced to the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game by Games Workshop (LotR SBG) for short.  When Games Workshop released the War of the Ring rule set in 2010 our local players picked that up as well. I discuss the game itself, including overview of units, game play, tactics, etc, at different parts of this site.  Here however you will find notes from me regarding my study and application of the Principles of Sun Tzu's Art of War to the game.  While many parts of the Art of War deal in terms of managing, supplying, and commanding large armies (of real humans, I might add) across entire campaigns, the Strategy Battle Game and War of the Ring games are little plastic and metal figures that are at your full command. For that obvious reason many paragraphs in the Principles will not be appropriate.  That is why there will be many gaps in the list below.

For those Principles I have detailed, I have also tried to include some of the commentary by Dr. Gilies or his ancient counterparts, in addition to my own notes on applying the Principle to the either SBG or WotR.  As I started this discussion when I was just playing Strategy Battle Game, and am only now giving TacME a much needed revision and getting active again with updates, many of the articles here will be my original SBG based versions.  I will be updating them with War of the Ring notes as I continue.