A Treatise on Warfare in the NationStates World

Mar 17 2006.



It is becoming increasingly apparent that in order to back up our foreign policy with anything material, we must have an effective military which is capable of taking on practically any other power in the world and coming up on top. Britain in the real world has long had the ability to do this, but we should not assume that simply because we share the name and cachet that we too are capable of doing the same. History has proven that we are not. Palestine was a battle that only occured because of incompetence both on the defenders’ side for not moving in on time, but on ours for choosing an inactive and most likely disloyal delegate who was not there to eject the offending nations once they entered, and once it had become apparent that they failed to do what the intended. More recently, we have lost several battles against Warzone occupying forces. The current state of our forces is abysmal.

I must say that, as a one-time Commander-in-Chief, I should shoulder some of the blame for this. There have not been enough training exercises and in particular not nearly enough ‘live fire’ practises to test and refine our military skills. This need not be the case. As well as training, however, an entire effective military system must be built up, as must common knowledge throughout our forces of what they must do in order to succeed, along with increased manpower and activity. This includes, among other things, a government which knows when and where the military ought to be employed and an effective intelligence and counter-intelligence service to allow us to out-manuever as well as out-fight out enemies. In short, we must build an invader organisation within our region-state, as that is what an effective military requires. That is what the RLA has done, and that is what we must do in order to succeed.

Key Elements of Attack and Defence

Although I hesitate to bring it up, for it is not the most politically acceptable phase in the history our region, when I was in The DEN that organisation succeeded not through weight of numbers, but by skill and experience, as well as activity. I doubt that at any one time there were more than 15 or 20 people who could be regularly called upon with the leadership having the ability to reasonably expect them all to turn up. The DEN managed to be successful despite this because it understood how NationStates warfare worked, and because it had an extremely efficient counter-intelligence branch.

The essential element of a great defence is altertness (“activity”). With a delegate who is constantly active and refreshing the page for his region throughout the entire possible time of an update, a single delegate with a single endorsement would be able to hold any region even with the entire combined might of the armies of NationStates arrayed against him. The defender, as in real life, has the advantage in NationStates. Not only can he eject any number of nations moving into a region he wishes, but he will retain the delegacy even if the attacking force’s endorsement count is equal to his own at the time of an update. This means that in practise an attacking force requires n+2 UN nations, where n = the number of endorsements the defending delegate has.

Fortunately for the attacker, however, a delegate is rarely active throughout the entire update, especially one who is not expecting an attack. For this reason, organisations like The DEN have historically had little real trouble in finding targets if their direction is essentially random and the act of invading matters more than any end result caused by the invasion. It is not so simple when there is a specific target in mind, as the specific target is more than likely to be expecting either you, or someone with the same aims. We have seen this when attempting to attack FCS-held Warzones. As FCS is not altogether popular, the delegates are fairly alert and wary of attack.

The way to deal with this, if it is possible at all (against a resolute delegate who can log on every day and cover the entire update, a direct attack is essentially impossible unless you are fortunate and they are somehow prevented from accessing the internet) is for the attacker to gain the element of surprise. On NS, as in RL, surprise is one of an attacker’s greatest weapons. The primary way of attaining surprise is through attacking very close to the update, although this is much harder now that updates are difficult to predict.* Attacking close to the update decreases the chances of the defending delegate detecting and ejecting you and also decreases the chances of allies of the defender moving in nations to counter your endorsements, or blanket defender organisations doing the same.

Thus we see that the key element of attack is surprise, the key element of defence to counter surprise is alterness and the defender always retains the advantage.

Consolidation Complications

The key elements of NS warfare as described above are true to either a ‘native’ defender or a foreign power defending his position in a region. However, the latter scenario has some added complications. Firstly, and most importantly, the natives are unlikely to support you and are likely to endorse each other and aid the attackers. This means that the attacker needs far fewer UN nations to get through in order to take the region. There is also the possiblity that natives may rally around behind a single endorsement target and endorse him for delegate when they either did not want or did not think to do so before the invasion. This necessitates the defender delegate to either retreat, or have more troops sent in to bolster his position, as ejecting large numbers of natives risks moderator action that will end the defence anyway. In addition, natives will often pass on any password that is set to foreign powers, as non-native delegates may not impose passwords without the knowledge of the natives.

All of this and the high chances of being attacked repeatedly leads to a ‘seige mentality’. It becomes impossible for the region to be truely open as this invites attackers disguised as ‘recruits’ to move in and also creates additional possiblities for the native nations to cause trouble for the defender delegate. It is essentially impossible to hold a region indefinately if the natives of that region oppose your presense and even if you do manage to hold it for a long time, there is little producitve that can be done with the region. Indeed, the region is likely to return nothing but at the same time suck up large numbers of troops required to garrison it against inevitable attacks by foreign powers. If, however, the natives of a region are on the side of the ‘invading’ power then it is practically impossible to lose for exactly the same reasons. Warzones are somewhat unique in that they do not have any of these problems, as there are no natives, and blanket defender organisations rarely care about them.

Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence

Counter-intelligence is vital for any real military force. If an enemy power has spies in your military machine and they know the target before the attack then your ‘surprise’ is completely destroyed, and they know precisely when to be ‘alert’. Loyalty can be tested through ‘dummy attacks’ and observation and the chances of any information the footsoldiers receive being passed on in a useful fashion to the defending delegate can be reduced by giving out specifics of a mission only a short time before it actually takes place.

The observant reader with a good memory will, however, be questioning why I mentioned in the ‘Key Elements’ section the great counter-intelligence ability of The DEN when an RLA spy managed to work his way to the very top of the DEN high command and become Field Marshall and who may still be Field Marshall today had another defender organisation not blown his cover. The truth is that The DEN did haev an extremely efficient counter-intelligence division that I myself witnessed succeeding numerous times. The truth of the matter is also that it is impossible to catch a spy through conventional means who does not act in any way differently from genuine members and attempts to simply work his way to the top and occassionally pass on information about the odd attack whose failure could be put down to bad luck.

What The DEN was never much good at (and never really tried to be much good at) was direct intelligence. The best way to catch a spy is to have a spy in the enemy’s spy networks. The best way, too, to know when to attack (when an ultra-altert delegate will be away from his computer, for example) is to have people listening in on conversations that go on on the enemy’s private discussion forums. The murky world of intelligence and counter-intelligence is not for the faint-hearted, but when it works to your favour it becomes the most potent tool in your arsenal. You may need troops on the ground to actually conduct an attack or defence, but without access to an efficient intelligence network, you will always lose to a power which has one.


In Great Britain and Ireland we have been far too lax in building and developing the military aspect of our region. We seem to expect that our name and our excellence in law making and governance (which do truely stand head and shoulders above what most of the rest of the NS world has to offer) will grant us some divine right to do well militarily too. This is not the case and I hope we are at last beginning to realise it. If we want to be a world power that can condend with the might of the RLA and other such organisations, we need more than just good Imperial and recruitment policies (although we need them too). We need an efficient, dedicated military backed by an efficient, dedicated intelligence service which are elements of this region in their own right and not just tacked-on extras that we feel we ought to have.

Rule Britannia
God Save the King

*(There was once a time when people could amass and, keeping in contact over MSN, move in mere minutes before an update, but this is sadly no longer possible as the Moderation staff have, in all their objective wisdom, decided to make invasions progressively harder and defences progressively easier.)