This reflection is prompted by last week's Franco-Prussian War game of the battle of Loigny/Poupry (1870). Rather than picking out various aspects of the game to reflect on, this time I've picked out just one to discuss in a little more (slightly rambling and disjointed) depth: the 'pivotal moment'. I'll give a brief summary of the game, then get to my point.
Loigny/Poupry was one of the first major battles of the Republican phase of the war, after the fall of Napoleon III. The French Army of the Loire was therefore a mixture of regular troops (depot battalions or units such as the Foreign Legion, freshly arrived from Africa) and masses of newly-mustered, relatively poorly-trained and -armed gardes mobiles. It faced a German army that was by now battle-hardened and had honed its skirmish tactics. The Loire campaign was directed at breaking the German siege of Paris. This battle saw the Army of the Loire hitting a Bavarian covering force that was then rescued by other German contingents. Consequently it makes for a nice open game where both sides are bringing forces onto the table and have to manoeuvre in their respective efforts to break or hold the line.
Nine captioned photos below the map tell the tale of the game, followed by reflections at the end if you want to jump straight to those.
I think the pivotal moment really has to be a high-stakes
decision. (Me citing an artillery bombardment rolling a 12 was a bit of a
'Decided at deployment': well, it's not really so black and white, you're rarely necessarily doomed. It's more a case of poor early decisions skewing the odds against you for the rest of the game.
To offer an analogy, imagine a battle as being like a long-term illness, where the disease is the enemy.
'Decided at Deployment' might be the fact that you became a chain-smoker at the age of 12, making it harder to fight the disease for the rest of your life and likely it will kill you.
'Ebb and Flow' would be just trying to manage it with diet, exercise and medication, to more or less effect - maybe ending in a draw (live to a decent age, albeit quality of life a bit diminished).
'Pivotal Moment' - that's the decision to go under the knife for that kill-or-cure operation.
Safety professionals use a 'bowtie diagram'
in which multiple possible Mechanisms can lead to a single critical Event that can then have multiple Outcomes. Our situation is similar except that the Event (the Pivotal Moment) generally won't result from one Mechanism but from the cumulative effects of several contributing circumstances (activation failures, an exposed flank, a battery's fire slackening from low ammo ...). It then has multiple ramifications, more so than a lower-risk decision elsewhere that does not change the situation so dramatically.