I have just uploaded the first General Staff: Black Powder gameplay and artificial intelligence (AI) video. We will be publishing on Steam. Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions or comments.
I have just uploaded the first General Staff: Black Powder gameplay and artificial intelligence (AI) video. We will be publishing on Steam. Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions or comments.
The holy grail of military science is an algorithm that calculates the optimal point of attack upon an enemy’s lines. In German, the word is Schwerpunkt and is commonly translated as “the point of maximum effort.” I have written extensively about Schwerpunkt previously in this blog, in academic papers and in my doctoral thesis.
MATE (Machine Analysis of Tactical Environments 2.0, the AI behind General Staff: Black Powder) is now able to calculate Schwerpunkt to a new, substantially greater, degree of accuracy. There are a number of reasons why this is now possible, but the primary cause must be the ability to analyze the battlefield in 3D and to accurately map where every unit on the map can project its force. Indeed, for many years now I have looked at the problem of computational military reasoning (AI for tactical situations) as a force projection problem.
Below, is a visual representation of the total force projection of all units at Gettysburg, Day 3 (July 3, 1863 0600 hours):
If we ask MATE to determine the Schwerpunkt for the Confederates in the above situation, it responds with:
And adds the following commentary (edited for brevity, the numbers are the Premise Statement ID#s. This is basically a logic trace of MATE’s thinking):
8|∴ The enemy does not need to capture more Victory Points. 9|∴ The enemy will be on the defensive. ... 22|The enemy's flanks are anchored. 23| +  ∴ Frontal assault is the only remaining option. ... 25|COA: Battle Group #1 (Mixed) assigned objective Weak Point Calculated by ROI coords: 551,232 ... 33|Red Battle Group #1 is opposed by Blue Battle Group #6 34|Red Battlegroup # 1's strength = 21,663 35|Blue Battlegroup # 6's strength = 13,635 36|Red Battlegroup # 1 has a numerical advantage of 8,028. Red has a 1.59 / 1 advantage over Blue Battle Group #6. 37|Distance to objective is 1,029.86 meters. 38|The maximum slope along the line of attack will be on an upward slope of 3.64%. 39|The attacking avenue of approach will be in enemy ROI for 541.18 meters. 40|The greatest enemy ROI along the avenue of approach is: 1,276.00 . 41|There is an unrestricted avenue of attack.
In other words, MATE has found a path to its objective that encounters the least amount of enemy projection of force. MATE would much prefer to flank the enemy position but it has calculated that this is impossible (#22, above).
ROI (Range of Influence) is calculated using values set up for each unit in the General Staff Army Editor and running a 3D Bresenham line algorithm to ensure that there is direct Line of Sight (LOS) to that point.
It is because every unit has an accuracy curve attached to it we can exactly map out the overlapping fields of fire (see above) and we can precisely calculate how long each attacking unit will be under fire and its intensity. That is how MATE chooses the optimal attack point: the path where its troops will be under the least amount of fire.
When MATE is presented with a tactical problem it first determines what it needs to do to win; is it on the offense or defense? On the offense, MATE will next check to find the enemy’s open flank and, if there is one, are there any crucial choke points on the flanking route? If MATE is unable to ‘fix and flank’ the enemy, and it has determined that it must be on the offensive, MATE then calculates Schwerpunkt (above). With this new Schwerpunkt algorithm the last big piece of the offensive AI puzzle is in place. Ironically, much of MATE’s defensive calculations involve first figuring out how to attack itself and then countering what it determines are its own optimal moves against itself (see this blog).
As always, please feel free to contact me directly with comments or questions.
General Lee, at Gettysburg, said: “the enemy have the advantage of us in a shorter and inside line and we are too much extended.” – quoted by Major General Isaac Trimble.1)Isaac Trimble, Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 26, Richmond, Virginia: Reverend J. William Jones, D.D., MATE, the AI behind General Staff, came to the exact same conclusion:
I have been porting TIGER 2)Tactical Inference GenERator, the AI behind my doctoral thesis and my DARPA sponsored research from C++ to C# and integrating it into the General Staff: Black Powder wargaming system. I have been doing this via the method of first creating a scenario typifying a specific attribute (exterior lines, exposed flanks, choke points, etc.) and then porting the actual code over and feeding it the scenario for analysis. Gettysburg, Day 3, is the canonical example of exterior and interior lines.
So, first a significant number of Subject Matter Experts (combat commanders, tactics instructors at military academies, etc.,) agree that there is an attribute called ‘Interior Lines’ and that it is exhibited by the Union (Blue) forces at Gettysburg, Day 3. We then create an algorithm that can detect such an attribute and convert it from C++ code to C# code (and substantially rewrite and improve said algorithm in the process) . We then create a Gettysburg, Day 3 scenario using the General Staff Army Editor, the General Staff Map Editor and the General Staff Scenario Editor and feed the scenario3)In Computer Science lingo programs are machines that consume data / tokens to MATE, the General Staff: Black Powder AI. These are the results:
The first time that I presented the Gettysburg, Day 3 scenario as Red to MATE it refused to attack. The enemy has interior lines (1.4, or 40% greater is pretty significant value), you’re attacking uphill (slope > 7%), your attacking units are under enemy ROI (mostly batteries of 12 lb. Napoleon canon shooting explosive shot and then canister and then double-shotted canister) for over a kilometer. Attacking is not a good idea. To get MATE to attack I had to go back to the Map Editor and create a number of new Victory Points; specifically the places where significant roads (Emmitsburg Road, Cashtown Road, Baltimore Pike, etc.) enter the map. Then I went in to the Scenario Editor and assigned appropriate values and current ‘ownership’. Saved it all and fed it back to MATE and the, above, is what I got.
The only way for MATE to win (as Red) is to attack large Victory Point areas (Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge) and hope to destroy significant numbers of Blue (Union) forces along the way to meet the victory conditions set in the Scenario Editor:
Anybody who has built a wargame scenario (and I suspect there are more than a few among the readers of this blog) know the drill of going back to edit the OOBs, starting positions, victory conditions, etc. I would just like to say it’s pretty painless using the General Staff Wargaming System. The various editors all integrate seamlessly like Microsoft Office products (they were written in Microsoft WPF by Andy O’Neill who is a Microsoft Gold Developer).
But, the real question that this raises is: why did Lee attack on Gettysburg, Day 3? Blue (the Union) not only had interior lines, an elevated position, but they also had anchored flanks (see #22 above). MATE is running out of options at this point. If you look at the top screenshot you will see yellow numbers in yellow circles. These represent MATE’s three ‘weakest points’ in Blue’s line and it’s not much.
So why did Lee attack?
James Longstreet’s From Manassas to Appomattox states absolutely that
All that I could ask was that the policy of the campaign [Lee’s invasion of the north] should be one of defensive tactics, that we should work so as to force the enemy to attack us, in such good position as we might find in his own country, so well adapted to that purpose, – which might assure us of a grand triumph. To this he readily assented as an important and material adjunct to his general plan. [p. 331]
So, Longstreet, in his autobiography, is saying that Lee agreed that at some point in Pennsylvania, the Army of Northern Virginia would find a good solid defensive position and let Hooker (they didn’t yet know that Meade was the new commander of the Army of the Potomac) smash his army to pieces upon it. James McPherson in, To Conquer a Peace: Lee’s Goals in the Gettysburg Campaign writes:
“In a conversation with General Isaac Trimble on June 27, when most of the Army of Northern Virginia was at Chambersburg, Pa., and when Lee believed the enemy was still south of the Potomac, he told Trimble: “When they hear where we are, they will make forced marches…probably through Frederick, broken down with hunger and hard marching, strung out on a long line and much demoralized, when they come into Pennsylvania. I shall throw an overwhelming force on their advance, crush it, follow up the success, drive one corps back on another, and by successive repulses and surprises, before they can concentrate, create a panic and virtually destroy the army.” Then “the war will be over and we shall achieve the recognition of our independence.”
The argument is that Lee, on the morning of July 3, 1863, found himself in a terrible strategic situation with very few options. It was imperative that Lee must, “destroy the [enemy] army;” nothing less than a great triumph in enemy territory would do. In Lee’s only official report of the battle of Gettysburg, written on July 31, 1863 he states:
The enemy was driven through Gettysburg with heavy loss, including about 5,000 prisoners and several pieces of artillery. He retired to a high range of hills south and east of the town. The attack was not pressed that afternoon, the enemy’s force being unknown, and it being considered advisable to await the arrival of the rest of our troops. Orders were sent back to hasten their march, and, in the meantime, every effort was made to ascertain the numbers and position of the enemy, and find the most favorable point of attack. It had not been intended to fight a general battle at such a distance from our base, unless attacked by the enemy, but, finding ourselves unexpectedly confronted by the Federal Army, it became a matter of difficulty to withdraw through the mountains with our large trains. At the same time, the country was unfavorable for collecting supplies while in the presence of the enemy’s main body, as he was enabled to restrain our foraging parties by occupying the passes of the mountains with regular and local troops. A battle thus became in a measure, unavoidable. Encouraged by the successful issue of the engagement of the first day, and in view of the valuable results that would ensue from the defeat of the army of General Meade, it was thought advisable to renew the attack. . . .
Lee was in for a penny and in for a pound. This was not the defensive battle of Longstreet’s choosing. This was now Lee desperately trying to, “throw an overwhelming force on their advance, crush it, follow up the success, drive one corps back on another, and by successive repulses and surprises, before they can concentrate, create a panic and virtually destroy the army,” but now the enemy had, “retired to a high range of hills south and east of the town.” The Union had flipped Longstreet’s strategy 180 degrees and it was they who had, “force[d] the enemy to attack [them], in such good position as [they] might find.”
I will create some other Gettysburg scenarios including ones with the Union and Confederate cavalry available. While not historical, it might make for some interesting gameplay and Human-Level AI decisions.
As always, please feel free to contact me directly with comments.
Napoleon has humbugged me, by God!” Lord Wellington swore. “He has gained twenty-four hours’ march on me!” 1)David Chandler, Waterloo: The Hundred Days, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York 1980, p. 85 And, indeed, he had.
The Armée du Nord, racing north on the roadnet from Paris to Brussels, now occupied the crucial strategic ‘central position’ between the Anglo-Allied army under Wellington assembling at Quatre Bras in the west, and the Prussian army under Blücher at Ligny in the east. Napoleon, outnumbered by the combined forces of Wellington and Blücher only had one realistic option: destroy his opponent’s armies separately before they could combine and destroy him.
Napoleon divided the Armée du Nord into two wings (the left commanded by Marshal Ney and the right by the Emperor, himself). The Imperial Guard would serve as the strategic reserve. In our previous blog, we showed the MATE (Machine Analysis of Tactical Environments) artificial intelligence analysis of the battle of Ligny.
The positions in the above screen shot come from the West Point Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars and Chandler’s Waterloo: The Hundred Days. I’ve ordered Mike Robinson’s The Battle of Quatre Bras, 1815 (which is very highly regarded) but it’s coming from Europe and will be a while before it arrives. I’ll update the positions accordingly when it arrives.
Today MATE is going to show off a new trick that it learned.
The salient points of MATE’s analysis of Blue (Ney’s) position at the battle of Quatre Bras are:
In other words, Battle Groups #3 and #1 will be the Enveloping Force and Battle Groups #0 and #2 will be the Fixing Force as illustrated in the above graphic from the U. S. Army Field Manual 3-21. Algorithms for implementing this maneuver (an early version of MATE) first appear in my paper, Implementing the Five Canonical Offensive Maneuvers in a CGF Environment.
And MATE’s new trick? It’s in line #25, above. If there is a Battle Group that is composed entirely of cavalry and horse artillery, and it is close enough, it will be used as the spearhead for the flanking maneuver.
But, in this situation (Ligny, above) MATE has calculated that Battle Group #1 will get to the crucial Choke Point (labeled in black, above) before the reserve cavalry Battle Group #4 will arrive and would create a tremendous bottleneck at the very choke point that MATE wants to quickly capture. Consequently, the cavalry has been left in reserve.
Can MATE read and analyze any battle map from history?
No. MATE is integrated into the General Staff Wargaming System. MATE can only ‘understand’ Order of Battle (OOB) tables created in the General Staff Army Editor, maps created in the General Staff Map Editor and scenarios created in the General Staff Scenario Editor.
What is meant by a ‘human-level’ artificial intelligence?
Perhaps you have heard of the famous Turing Test (from Alan Turing’s Computing Machinery and Intelligence). In it he describes, “The Imitation Game,” where a computer is in one room behind a closed door, and a human is another room behind a closed door. A third person, the ‘interrogator’, can only ask questions via a teletype (an ancient I/O device consisting of a keyboard and a printer) and must determine in which room the computer is and in which room is the human. In Turing’s original paper the interrogator would ask questions of the two subjects such as, “Please write me a sonnet on the subject of the Forth Bridge,” and, “Add 34957 to 70764.” Currently, no Artificial Intelligence (AI) could pass such a test; the subject area is far too broad. However, it has been my thesis, that an AI could pass such a test if the subject area is restricted to a narrow field of human endeavor, such as commanding units on a battlefield. If, in the above Turing test, the computer in one room was replaced with MATE, the human in the other room was replaced by Napoleon, and the teletype was replaced by the General Staff Wargaming System, I argue that MATE could (or soon will be able to) pass such a test (subject matter experts would not be able to discern if it was MATE or Napoleon giving orders).
Can MATE analyze current military situations?
Though MATE came out of the TIGER (Tactical Inference GenERator) project funded by DARPA, it is currently set up specifically for the General Staff: Black Powder project which limits analysis to scenarios in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is intended that this project will be followed up with General Staff: Modern Warfare to specifically work with 20th and 21st century combat.
|↑1||David Chandler, Waterloo: The Hundred Days, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York 1980, p. 85|
There are many reasons that I am intensely interested in this particular American Civil War battle fought on less than twenty square miles wedged in between the Potomac River and Antietam Creek. The battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862) exhibits a number of significant battlefield attributes which I use as base line cases to test algorithms used in creating a human-level tactical artificial intelligence 1)MATE: Machine Analysis of Tactical Environments. Specifically, Antietam definitively demonstrates 2)see http://riverviewai.com/download/SidranThesis.pdf the following attributes:
For example, in a blind survey of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), it was overwhelmingly agreed that the RED (Confederate) left flank at the battle of Antietam exhibited the attribute of ‘anchored flank‘ 3)a flank that is attached to or protected by terrain, a body of water, or defended fortifications. and other positions, such as RED’s (Russian and Austrian) left flank at Austerlitz SMEs overwhelmingly agreed that the flanks do not exhibit the attribute of ‘anchored’ and are, therefore, unanchored. Once we have an example of an anchored flank and another example of an unanchored flank we can begin testing algorithms to detect the attribute of an anchored flank.
In my doctoral thesis (above) I demonstrated the algorithm 4)see pages 45-6 http://riverviewai.com/download/SidranThesis.pdf for detecting the attribute of anchored and unanchored flanks. I have made a number of substantial improvements to the original algorithm since then which are now incorporated into the current MATE.
We have recently posted analyses of other battles that did not exhibit the attribute of an anchored flank (Ligny and 1st Bull Run, or Manassas). MATE correctly recognized that Ligny and Manassas do not have these attributes.
The tactical situation for Blue at Antietam is quite different than Blue’s positions at Ligny and Manassas (is it not curious how often Blue is the attacker in wargames?). The key difference, of course, is the lack of an open flank to attack. MATE will always attack an open flank if it can. Without an obvious objective, like an exposed flank, MATE will next look at opportunities to fulfill victory conditions. For Antietam, as Blue, MATE sees the situation like this:
Below is a list of statements, predicates and conclusions generated by MATE during the above analysis with my commentary added on the right:
I recently added a set of algorithms that recognize the composition of battle groups and exploits any possible advantages. For example:
At Ligny, above, MATE has recognized that Battle Group #3 and Battle Group #4 are uniquely cavalry (and horse artillery) battle groups and are to be used differently. While Battle Group #4 is held in reserve, Battle Group #3 will snatch Balatre. Though it is valued at only 10 Victory Points, MATE realized that no enemy force could oppose it. That said, I can still hear the voice of my old chess tutor, Mr. Selz, warning me against ‘pawn snatching’; that is grabbing a minor point that can lead to defeat because the position was not thoroughly analyzed. MATE, however, is correct in this analysis and can safely seize the objective.
While, at Antietam, Battle Group #1 (all the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac commanded by Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton) is frozen ‘in reserve’. This is not a case where MATE can snatch a pawn. MATE looked at the situation and said, ‘nope’, there are no unattended Victory Points to snatch and there is not an open flank to exploit so, the default setting is ‘in reserve’.
This leads to the interesting conundrum: what exactly was the Union cavalry at Antietam doing? Honestly, I had never really thought of it before. Now, when I look into the question I find, Was McClellan’s Cavalry Deployment at Antietam Doctrinally Sound? This monograph argues that McClellan massing his cavalry in the center for a great coup de grâce exploitation of a breakthrough across the Middle Bridge was acceptable within the framework of Jomini’s theories as taught at West Point before the Civil War. But, then it is countered with this:
In Landscape Turned Red, Stephen Sears has this to say: Shortly before noon, McClellan had ventured to push several batteries across the Middle Bridge, supported by Pleasonton’s cavalry and a force of regulars from George Syke’s Fifth Corps. He was nervous about the move-it was taken against the advice of Porter and Sykes-and he cautioned Pleasonton not to risk the batteries unduly. As an afterthought, he asked, “Can you do any good by a cavalry charge?” Pleasonton wisely ignored the suggestion. – Sears, Stephen, Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam, New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1983. page 271. (as cited in above)
Would a great massed cavalry attack across Middle Bridge have been suicide? Or brilliant? For the first time in memory I took the 1st edition of McClellan’s Own Story off the shelf and discovered… nothing. McClellan died suddenly of heart failure just as he was writing about Antietam and his memoirs end abruptly with very little insight into his side of the story. But, using cavalry to support horse artillery – rather than the other way around – seemed a bit odd.
I do not know of any other great cavalry charge in the American Civil War than Sheridan at Five Forks (above). Is this what McClellan envisioned at Antietam? Would it have worked? Could American Civil War regiments have formed square against a massed cavalry charge?
Moving on, let’s drill down to the Course of Action (COA) for Blue Battle Group #3 (Burnside’s IX Corps) at Antietam:
The above is MATE’s output that concludes with the COA for Burnside’s IX Corps. Perhaps, the greatest mystery of the battle of Antietam is what took Burnside so long to take this bridge (now forever linked with his name)? It is true that there were numerous, futile and bloody attempts to cross it. Note that MATE, above, recognizes the bridge as a critical Choke Point. When MATE sees a Choke Point that is within the enemy’s control (see statement #8, above, “Chokepoint (bridge) is under Red’s Range of Influence ROI = 5958″ and 5,998 is very high ROI value) it brings up artillery (see statements #9, #10, #11, #12, above). All the artillery in the IX Corps is to be within 630 meters of the objective. Why 630 meters? Because at that distance it is guaranteed a 50% accuracy rate. This rate, by the way, was set in the Army Editor:
So, MATE says 5)I apologize but I find it easier to describe how the AI works using such phrases as ‘thinks’, ‘says’, and ‘decides’. It’s not worth straining over. Trust me, “My objective is a Choke Point. I’m not sending my units into a meat grinder. I’m sending artillery to a point where they are guaranteed a 50% accuracy per volley and have a clear 3D Line of Sight to the target. This is how I’m going to project as much force as I can at the objective.” War is about force projection. MATE knows this. Is this a better plan than what Burnside actually did? Yeah, it is a lot better with a far greater probability of success. I’ve stood on that plain just east of Burnside’s Bridge and thought that nine batteries of 12 lb. Napoleons aimed at the crest of that hill just beyond the bridge would provide a substantial amount of force projection and covering fire. About half an hour of force projection followed up with an infantry assault would probably take the bridge.
I once described good AI as: Don’t do anything stupid, fast. MATE is doing that. I think MATE is on the way to beat most human opponents because humans do stupid things, fast.
We’ll see. Should be an interesting journey.
|↑1||MATE: Machine Analysis of Tactical Environments|
|↑3||a flank that is attached to or protected by terrain, a body of water, or defended fortifications.|
|↑4||see pages 45-6 http://riverviewai.com/download/SidranThesis.pdf|
|↑5||I apologize but I find it easier to describe how the AI works using such phrases as ‘thinks’, ‘says’, and ‘decides’. It’s not worth straining over. Trust me|