A new CNAS report by Stacie Pettyjohn, Becca Wasser, and Chris Dougherty outlines findings from Dangerous Straits, a recent strategic-operational wargame exploring a fictional 2027 war between China and the United States over Taiwan.
The wargame, hosted by the Gaming Lab at CNAS, in partnership with NBC’s Meet the Press, illuminated the dilemmas that U.S. and Chinese policymakers might face if China were to invade Taiwan, along with the strategies they might adopt to achieve their overarching objectives.
The wargame indicated a protracted conflict rather than a short war is likely if China decides to invade Taiwan. Neither side felt as though it had lost, but both had depleted their missile inventories, sustained significant losses, and still needed to resupply and rearm forces under attack. Preventing China from a quick triumph over Taipei did not equate to an American and Taiwanese victory.
Drawing from the findings of the wargame, the authors assert that the United States and its allies and partners must take several steps to change the Indo-Pacific military balance in their favor to deter China from invading Taiwan and prevent war. These steps include the following:
The U.S. Department of Defense should make sustained investments in long-range precision-guided weapons and undersea capabilities, while also enhancing the resiliency of its posture in the Indo-Pacific region and deepening planning with key allies and partners.
The U.S. Department of Defense should plan for a protracted conflict and develop ways to reduce the risks of inadvertent escalation with a nuclear armed China.
The U.S. Congress should enable key improvements in the Indo-Pacific through the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and should help shape Taiwan’s military posture.
Taiwan must improve its defensive capabilities by investing in asymmetric, resilient, and attritable capabilities; increasing training for its active and reserve forces; and by stockpiling key weapons and supplies.
The Pandemics and Borders Project is an international and interdisciplinary research group, based at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Canada, studying the use of travel measures during public health emergencies. The team bridges the fields of political science, economics, public policy, infectious disease modelling and genomics. The team is recruiting for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in border management and global public health. The Postdoctoral Fellow will contribute to national and global efforts to understand and better respond to global health threats by conducting ground- breaking research to inform future border management.
The team invites recent and near PhD graduates with expertise in social sciences and/or public policy. The ideal candidate will have knowledge and experience of mixed (qualitative and quantitative) methods applied to public policy issues. Experience of risk assessment or simulation-based gaming is an asset.
Wargames aren’t employed only by the military. Corporations use them to explore business decisions; government policymakers use them to simulate major events, including pandemics; and they have a role in disaster relief. “The UNHCR has made efforts in various cities to help with the influx of Ukrainian refugees and provide relief to civic centres and to other spaces housing many people and aid workers,” says Lily Boland, co-designer of Don’t Fear the Reaper Drone. “Wargaming and/or simulating some of these crucial aspects of refugee aid work would certainly help organisations like the UN and local institutions to prepare for these scenarios in advance.”
What the situation in Ukraine has shown the world is that the outcomes of military action are becoming less predictable. Russia’s command and control strategy has been found wanting, while Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s innovative and playful use of social media has increased awareness and support for his country in a way that would have been tough to forecast. As Banks puts it, “I’m a huge believer in using historical case studies as much as possible, but a lot of the problems we’re facing in the 21st century are not ones that we have any ready guides for.”
As the world becomes ever more unpredictable and prone to disruptive global events, perhaps new strategies and solutions will be discovered in games like these.
The clear lesson from the war game is that the United States needs to strengthen its conventional capabilities in the Indo-Pacific to ensure that China never views an invasion of Taiwan as a prudent tactical move. To do so, the United States will need to commit to maintaining its conventional military superiority by expanding its stockpiles of long-range munitions and investing in undersea capabilities. Washington must also be able to conduct offensive operations inside the first and second island chains even while under attack. This will require access to new bases to distribute U.S. forces, enhance their survivability, and ensure that they can effectively defend Taiwan in the face of China’s attacks.
Moreover, the United States needs to develop an integrated network of partners willing to contribute to Taiwan’s defense. Allies are an asymmetric advantage: the United States has them, and China does not. The United States should deepen strategic and operational planning with key partners to send a strong signal of resolve to China. As part of these planning efforts, the United States and its allies will need to develop war-winning military strategies that do not cross Chinese red-lines. The game highlighted just how difficult this task may be; what it did not highlight is the complexity of developing military strategies that integrate the strategic objectives and military capacities of multiple nations.
Moving forward, military planners in the United States and in Washington’s allies and partners must grapple with the fact that, in a conflict over Taiwan, China would consider all conventional and nuclear options to be on the table. And the United States is running out of time to strengthen deterrence and keep China from believing an invasion of Taiwan could be successful. The biggest risk is that Washington and its friends choose not to seize the moment and act: a year or two from now, it might already be too late.
The Serious Play 2022 conference will feature a series of post-conference skills workshops, including one on wargame design.
In this workshop, the depth and breadth of wargames for military contexts will be discussed. Military trainers and member of Defense Acquisition University faculty will join forces to help attendees understand the development of these types of games for a wide range of applications.
Bring your idea (or use one of ours) and spend the day working with a team of experts in wargaming and game design to create a wargame that will allow for you to address your training or game concept.
By the end of this workshop you should be able to create a prototype baseline of your idea and have the tools to develop it further.
A special feature of this workshop will be the discussion and demo of a tabletop wargame about a competition between the U.S. and China over artificial intelligence created by graduate students in Security Studies at Georgetown University.
Adjunct professor Kerry M. Kartchner and 16 BYU students gathered at the Kennedy Center on May 18 and were separated into four groups representing Ukraine, Russia, NATO and the United States. Kartchner asked the students to discuss two nuclear crises scenarios, which were fictitious and for educational purposes only.
After receiving each scenario, the groups went into different classrooms and discussed the aftermath of the respective crises. Appointed diplomats from each group communicated with other groups to determine needs, demands and possible outcomes. After the private discourse, they came back together to negotiate.
“This is the first time we’ve done a simulation in this class,” Kartchner said. “It was a success; they asked all the right questions.”
Kartchner, who teaches several political science classes each semester depending on the needs of the department, said his favorite part of the simulations was seeing students discover the real world applications to principles they discussed in class.
Kartchner also said simulations are an important part of political science classes because they allow students to think through issues from the point of view of the organizations they represent.
“It can be frustrating, but it’s very realistic,” Kartchner said. “Often the information is incomplete or inaccurate, and there’s no good answer.”
Chris Engle—inventor of the matrix game—recently developed a short handout on how he runs such games for Origins Game Convention War College. He was kind enough to share it with PAXsims.
The game, Thor’s Hammer, (not related to the commercial e-game of the same name), set in Norway and Sweden, was designed by game-design students at Georgetown University in cooperation with the Department of Sustainment and Force Management at CGSC. CGSC’s Department of Simulation Education assisted in the design and development of the game.
“The game teaches that sustainment is more than a logistics function,” said Lt. Col. John Lord, DSE director.
Wargames are an effective teaching tool because they engage students, play into the student’s competitive nature, and make learning fun, explained Todd Guggisberg, team leader for CGSC Team 17 and lead instructor for the elective.
Lt. Col. Chris Baldwin, the assistant instructor added, “This allows them to execute the imperatives of building combat power, sustaining operational reach and enabling endurance.”
Doing it as a board game rather than a computer-driven scenario allows the instructor to have more freedom in how to incorporate the game into classes, Lord said.
While most wargames focus on maneuver and kinetic engagement, the Sustainment Department was looking for a game that downplayed the battle and focused on the importance of sustainment in the success of combat operations. They contacted Georgetown, and the design of the game became a class project for students in the university’s design class.
Jamie Hood, one of the game designers from Georgetown, said basic design of the game took about eight months and was completed in December. Since then the design team has tested and tweaked the game preparing for the CGSC elective that serves as a learning experience for the CGSC students and a culminating test for the game.
In order to simplify the game, make it quick to learn, and allow it to be played within the class framework, the designers decided not to play the air and sea elements and to limit the classes of supply to fuel, food, and ammunition. They also designed the game to be played by one or two people on each side to allow the most engagement for students.
Registration for the Connections (US) 2022 professional wargaming conference is now open.
On behalf of conference founder and co-chair Matt Caffrey and the rest of the Connections organizing team, I am pleased to announce that registration for Connections 2022 is now open! This year’s conference will be hosted by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) at their new headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, July 26-29.
(The above link is to a Google Form, which are sometimes difficult to access from some military networks. If you have problems viewing or completing the form at work, please try from a personal device at home.)
More information, including a link to the draft schedule, is available at the Connections website.
Since 1993, the Connections conference has brought together practitioners with a professional interest in wargaming from all elements of the wargaming field. Please help us expand our reach even further by passing this registration information along to those you think might be interested.
We hope you can join us at our first in-person conference since 2019, after two years of online events. Register early to ensure that you will be able to attend in the event that we reach our capacity, and please let us know if your plans change so that we can keep an accurate count. We expect this will be the largest in-person Connections conference yet, but only your support will get us there.
The Wargaming Network is pleased to announce the third lecture in our 2021-2022 public lectures series on wargaming. The theme for this year is evaluating and assessing the impact of wargaming on individuals and organizations and will feature speakers who have made important new contributions to wargaming assessment. The lecture will take place online on 01 June, 17:00-18:30 BST. Please register for the lecture here to receive the log in details for the online event.
Natalia Wojtowicz will showcase different methods of evaluating effectiveness of wargames, compiled from academic, industrial and governmental sector. A comparison of common and distinct factors will be analyzed to connect the effects with structure of the wargame. The question of objectivity of results will be explored based on recent experiments on adjudication. This presentation will be focused on identifying next steps in measuring and evaluating wargames.
Natalia Wojtowicz is a lecturer at the Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Safety and Security Management Programme. She teaches about wargaming, game design, and digital skills. Her research includes effectiveness of wargaming, new methods and experimental implementation. Previously she worked at the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Center of Excellence, leading the Wargaming, Modelling and Simulation project focused on introducing civilian population into training and education. Later she designed 14 new wargames implemented across NATO. Currently she is researching adjudication in wargaming and testing an upcoming game about uprising in Belarus. You can follow her [on Twitter] at @Wojtowicz_N
The Center for New American Security (CNAS) Gaming Lab did a game on a Chinese invasion of Taiwan for Meet the Press Reports. Over the course of multiple moves CNAS gamers Becca Wasser (Red) and Chris Dougherty (Blue) discussed the options with the players and guided team play. Working with Chuck Todd, Ed McGrady and Stacie Pettyjohn, adjudicated the outcomes and built the story of what happened. Stacie was then debriefed by Chuck on camera. The game will come out Thursday, May 12, at 10:30PM EDT streaming on NBC News Now, MTP Reports. It will also be streaming on Peacock. In addition to the game, Becca and Ed discussed gaming and Taiwan with Chuck Todd on his half hour podcast. That is forthcoming.
NBC News has a description of the game (by Carol Lee) on their website which includes a short (11 minute) sneak peak of the approximately 50 minute full episode.
The US Army War College War Room podcast features a discussion by Chris Steinitz, Erin Sullivan and Ron Granieri:
Wargames can be incredible teaching and learning tools when they are built and utilized properly. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors and require a skilled hand in their creation. A BETTER PEACE welcomes two such skilled developers, Chris Steinitz and Erin Sullivan to the studio to share their experiences as game developers and discuss how they started in the wargaming world. Chris and Erin join podcast editor Ron Granieri to talk about what makes a great wargame, what crucial information is necessary before even starting construction of a game and when you truly need a wargame versus tailored analysis.
CNA will be hosting a discussion on inclusivity in wargaming on May 18:
We are excited to invite you to our next #InclusiveNatSec event: Inclusivity in Wargaming and Impacts for Defense Planning on Wednesday, May 18at 12:30-1:30p ET via Zoom with our esteemed guests, Dr. Yuna Huh Wong, Defense Analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA)’s Joint Advanced Warfighting Division and Founder of The Women’s Wargaming Network; and Dr. Margaret McCown, Deputy Division Chief of the Studies, Analysis, and Gaming Division at the Joint Staff J8.
This event will entail brief remarks from Dr. Wong and Dr. McCown, followed by a Q&A discussion moderated by Ms. Catherine Lea, Senior Research Scientist with CNA’s Gaming and Integration Program.
The event will examine implications of having inclusivity in the wargame design process and play, and why that matters for better informing in defense planning, programs, and policies. The event will also discuss the challenges in ensuring diversity and inclusion in wargames and how the Derby House Principles has affected the field of professional wargaming in the past year.
Please click here to register to join us on May 18. Note that we are using a registration platform that works best in Google Chrome. If a pop-up blocker makes it difficult to register at the link above, please respond to this email for assistance. After you RSVP to attend, you will receive a confirmation with login details for the event. This event will be recorded and available to access online.
National Defense University is currently seeking a Wargaming Fellow and an Assistant Wargaming Fellow to “Supports and manages the research, design, development, planning, and execution of national security focused experiential learning initiatives (including national-level education exercises and simulations, conferences, symposia, and workshops) conducted by the Center for Applied Strategic Learning.” Both positions require US citizenship and obtaining a Secret clearance, and the deadline for applications is May 16. Additional details at the links above.
SAIC is currently seeking several candidates to support the USINDOPACOM K. Mark Takai Pacific Warfighting Center on Oahu, Hawaii. All require a Secret clearance, and most require the ability to obtain a Top Secret or TS/SCI.
In February, the United States Institute of Peace, the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in Washington, and the Sejong Institute in Seoul conducted a series of three interrelated peace games exploring confidence-building for the Korean Peninsula.
The peace game exercise employed three hypothetical interconnected scenarios that progressively and cumulatively moved toward a final and comprehensive peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula. The overarching purpose was to examine U.S., North Korean, South Korean, and Chinese responses to mostly conciliatory measures from the other sides and, in the process, encourage diplomatic risk-taking and uncover new challenges and opportunities that have been obscured by the current real-world stalemate. The scenarios were prescriptively established to advance exercise objectives, but participants’ agreements and positions from preceding scenarios were incorporated into subsequent ones as much as possible. The participants were provided with each scenario at least 12 hours before the start of that particular phase of the peace game.
Participants included 16 experts on security policy related to the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, including former diplomats, policymakers, academics, and think tank analysts. The participants were assigned to play the role of negotiators on four teams: the United States, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea), the Republic of Korea (ROK, or South Korea), and China.
The Militainment Game Design Competition 2022 offers a unique opportunity to emerging game developers to showcase their creativity and skills. We are inviting game developers (teams or individuals) to submit game ideas that foster broader public interest for wide ranges of military occupations (see resource list below). The delivery of the proposed game ideas is open and could be in the form of mini-games, multi-player role-playing games, strategy games, among others.
The core requirements for the game template include realistically portraying military characters as confident, disciplined, and focused individuals, who remain eager and passionate to engage in humanitarianism to assist people and communities during natural disasters, such as flood, forest fire, among others. It is also imperative to include racial, age, gender, and religious inclusivity among the military characters.
Game developers are to submit a video, including closed captions, of their designed game as well as a proof of original concept.
The top three teams shall receive contracts equivalent to the amounts below to further develop their proposed game into a functionable prototype.
All games “meaningful digital component” (so no manual games). The deadline for submissions is May 15. Further details at the link above.