Public Choice

, Volume 179, Issue 3–4, pp 175–194 | Cite as

The attack and defense of weakest-link networks

  • Dan Kovenock
  • Brian RobersonEmail author
  • Roman M. Sheremeta


We experimentally test the qualitatively different equilibrium predictions of two theoretical models of attack and defense of a weakest-link network of targets. In such a network, the attacker’s objective is to assault at least one target successfully and the defender’s objective is to defend all targets. The models differ in how the conflict at each target is modeled—specifically, the lottery and auction contest success functions (CSFs). Consistent with equilibrium in the auction CSF model, attackers utilize a stochastic “guerrilla-warfare” strategy, which involves attacking at most one target arbitrarily with a random level of force. Inconsistent with equilibrium in the lottery CSF model, attackers use the “guerrilla-warfare” strategy and assault only one target instead of the equilibrium “complete-coverage” strategy that attacks all targets. Consistent with equilibrium in both models, as the attacker’s valuation increases, the average resource expenditure, the probability of winning, and the average payoff increase (decrease) for the attacker (defender).


Colonel Blotto Weakest-link Best-shot Multi-dimensional resource allocation Experiments 

JEL Classification

C72 C91 D72 D74 



We thank the Editor of this journal and two anonymous referees for their valuable suggestions. We have benefited from the helpful comments of Tim Cason, Subhasish Chowdhury, Volodymyr Lugovskyy, Ariel Rubinstein, Tim Shields, Nat Wilcox, seminar participants at Chapman University and the University of Texas at Dallas, as well as conference participants at the Economic Science Association meeting, and the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics conference. We also thank Stanton Hudja for excellent research assistance. Any remaining errors are ours.

Supplementary material

11127_2018_618_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (284 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 283 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Economic Science InstituteChapman UniversityOrangeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Economics, Krannert School of ManagementPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.Weatherhead School of ManagementCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

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