PAXsims is pleased to present a selection of recently-published items on simulation and serious gaming. Some of these may not address conflict, peacebuilding, or development issues at all, but have been included because of the broader perspective they offer on games-based education or analysis. Others might address “gaming-adjacent” issues such as group dynamics and decision-making, assessment, forecasting, or related topics. If you have published something recently and we haven’t yet included it, let us know!
Articles may be gated/paywalled and not accessible without subscription access to the publication in which they appear.
How do you get students to engage in a historical episode or era? How do you bring the immediacy and contingency of history to life? Michael A. Barnhart shares the secret to his award-winning success in the classroom with Can You Beat Churchill?, which encourages role-playing for immersive teaching and learning. Combating the declining enrollment in humanities classes, this innovative approach reminds us how critical learning skills are transmitted to students: by reactivating their curiosity and problem-solving abilities.
Barnhart provides advice and procedures, both for the use of off-the-shelf commercial simulations and for the instructor who wishes to custom design a simulation from scratch. These reenactments allow students to step into the past, requiring them to think and act in ways historical figures might have. Students must make crucial or dramatic decisions, though these decisions need not align with the historical record. In doing so, they learn, through action and strategic consideration, the impact of real individuals and groups of people on the course of history.
There is a quiet revolution underway in how history is taught to undergraduates. Can You Beat Churchill? hopes to make it a noisy one.
Malicious cyber activities are increasing worldwide and getting increasingly more sophisticated. Individuals, businesses, and governments explore different ways of tackling this development, for example, through developing policies to counter or mitigate cyber threats. One promising instrument for doing so is cybersecurity ex- ercises. Different cybersecurity exercises (e.g., red team/blue team exercises, cyber wargames, workshops, tabletop exercises, and simulations) can address different audiences and goals – from examining technical responses by critical infrastruc- ture providers to assessing diplomatic responses to a cyber incident. To grasp the potential of cybersecurity exercises – particularly for policy work – it is important to explore the different types of exercises in more detail.
The paper first highlights defining features of each cybersecurity exercise type to emphasize each type’s advantages. Workshops, for example, are speculative, collab- orative, and can improve understanding between different actors. Meanwhile, simu- lations can replicate reality as much as possible using digital networks, which helps simulate attacks and the reactions to such attacks. Secondly, the different exercise types are applied to different stages of the policy cycle – a cycle mapping policy work from defining a problem to the implementation and evaluation of a policy – to explore reasons for using them at certain stages of policy work. Simulations, for ex- ample, are particularly beneficial to use when implementing or evaluating a policy, for example, for testing its effectiveness.
The paper creates a simple guide for exploring the potential application of cyberse- curity exercises for policy work and for strategically using them. It is recommended to go through a three-step process to find whether cybersecurity exercises are an instrument to be used for a specific policy objective.
1) Firstly, scope out the policy work – consider the policy work at hand and the target audience to be reached.
2) Secondly, identify the stage of use – identify where the policy work is best situat- ed on the policy cycle.
3) Thirdly, consider the defining features of cybersecurity exercise types and identify which exercise type is the best to achieve the policy work goal.
Ultimately, the paper highlights that cybersecurity exercises are an instrument that decision-makers should consider when developing cybersecurity policies and/or aiming to achieve different cybersecurity policy goals.
Current wargaming techniques are effective training and research instruments for military scenarios with fixed tools and boundaries on the problem. Control cells composed of officiants adjudicating and evaluating moves enforce these boundaries. Real-world crises, however, unfold in several dimensions in a chaotic context, a condition requiring decision-making under deep uncertainty. In this article, we assess how pedagogical exercises can be designed to effectively capture this level of complexity and describe a new framework for developing deeply immersive exercises. We propose a method for designing crisis environments that are dynamic, deep, and decentralized (3D). These obviate the need for a control cell and enhance the usefulness of exercises in preparing military and policy practitioners by better replicating real-world decision-making dynamics. This paper presents the application of this 3D method, which integrates findings from wargame and negotiation simulation design into immersive crisis exercises. We share observations from the research, design, and execution of “Red Horizon,” an immersive crisis exercise held three times at Harvard University with senior civilian and military participants from multiple countries. It further explores connections to contemporary trends in international relations scholarship.
his research presents the wargaming commodity course of action automated analysis method (WCCAAM) – a novel approach to assist wargame commanders in developing and analyzing courses of action (COAs) through semi-automation of the military decision making process (MDMP). MDMP is a seven-step iterative method that commanders and mission partners follow to build an operational course of action to achieve strategic objectives. MDMP requires time, resources, and coordination – all competing items the commander weighs to make the optimal decision. WCCAAM receives the MDMP’s Mission Analysis phase as input, converts the wargame into a directed graph, processes a multi-commodity flow algorithm on the nodes and edges, where the commodities represent units, and the nodes represent blue bases and red threats, and then programmatically processes the MDMP steps to output the recommended COA. To demonstrate its use, a military scenario developed in the Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration, and Modeling (AFSIM) processes the various factors through WCCAAM and produces an optimal, minimal risk COA.
The Prussian Kriegsspiel was the very first professional wargame and was originally introduced in the Prussian army in 1824 but has so far seen very little systematic research. This research project has compiled a corpus from all the rulesets currently extant, which was then made subject to formal and linguistic analysis. This yielded results in three important areas: First, by comparing them with a collection of contemporary texts on military theory it was possible to identify Kriegsspiel rulesets as distinctive text types. Second, comparing the rulesets gave valuable insights into the developmental history of the Kriegsspiel. And finally, it was possible to distinguish three distinctive phases in the development of the Kriegsspiel.
Effective cybersecurity risk management hinges on a strategic blend of people, processes, and technology working together to recognize and prevent attacks; mitigate and minimize negative impacts should attacks succeed; and resume operations after recovery. Ideally, risk management involves processes that engage the entire organization continually and holistically—not just episodic reactions by a few key personnel in times of crisis. The translation of lessons learned into implemented and validated improvements may be a missing or underutilized best practice. This chapter explores ways gaming can be used as a complement to authoritative standards and frameworks to optimize an organization’s cybersecurity posture and preparedness. A variety of gamified approaches are described and presented as useful tools with differentiating value at multiple stages in an ongoing cybersecurity risk management cycle. State-of-the-practice exemplars and successes are cited as are approaches to adapting games to both assess and improve an organization’s cybersecurity posture. The chapter concludes with some speculations about how games focused on cybersecurity can be expected to evolve and gain greater traction for risk management in light of emergent technologies and increasingly complex threat and defense landscapes.
Wargame is a simulated military operation with certain rules, specifications, and procedures, in which soldiers can virtually and indirectly experience the war. The ROK Navy operates the Cheonghae model, a training wargame model for helping commanders and staff master the procedures for conducting the war. It is important for commanders, staff and analysts to know whether a warship can perform its missions and how long it can last during a war. In existing model, the Cheonghae, the probability of kill of a warship is calculated simply considering the number of tonnage without any stochastic elements, and the warship’s mission availability is also determined based on predetermined values. With this model, it is difficult to get a value of the probability of kill that makes sense. In this dissertation, the author has developed a probabilistic model in which the warship vulnerability data of ROK-JMEM can be used. A conceptual model and methodology that can evaluate the mission performance of personnel, equipment, and supplies has been proposed. This can be expanded to a comprehensive assessment of wartime warship loss rates by integrating damage rates for personnel, equipment, and supplies in wartime.
National security and defense professionals have long utilized wargames to better understand hypothetical conflict scenarios. With conflict in the cyber domain becoming a more prominent piece in wargames in the national security community, this issue brief seeks to identify the common pathologies, or potential pitfalls, of cyber wargaming. It argues that the inherent turbulence of the cyber domain and segmented knowledge about cyber weapons negatively affect three components of cyber wargaming: the scenario development, the data usability, and the cross-participant comprehensibility. The brief offers some initial solutions to these problems, but, ultimately, the purpose of identifying pathologies is to prepare designers to meet these challenges in each unique design.
Opponent modeling is a significant method in imperfect information games. And intention recognition is regarded as the important but difficult in opponent modeling. This paper focuses on the task of tactical intention recognition in computational wargame. We propose an approach to recognize opponents’ intention which models the intention as long-term trajectories. The approach consists of situation encoding model and position prediction model. The first model uses attention mechanism to attach the statistic map data with dynamic feature and adopt CNN to learn the representation of battlefield situation. The position prediction model then predicts the long-term trajectories of opponents, based on well-represented situation vectors. Experiment indicates that our approach is proven to be effective on the task of tactical intention recognition in wargame. Meanwhile, a high-quality replay data set for analyzing the actions’ characteristics is also provided in this paper.
ScienceCampus doctoral researcher Jon-Wyatt Matlack explores the significance of computer games in shaping imaginations of the past. Focusing on Hearts of Iron IV, he considers how the format can encourage revision of the Nazi past, going against the grain of efforts towards critical Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or working through the past. The article explores how gamers can take up positions perpetuating the myth of a clean Wehrmacht while perpetuating narratives of a barbarian Eastern Europe where the USSR poses the greatest threat to humanity. He shows how reconstructions of historical narratives in digital spaces deserve more critical interrogation as a medium for the production of counterfactual history, especially given how popular and successful they are as depictions of the past, albeit a counterfactual one that draws on players’ affective urges and distorts historical reality.
The current requirements for CWMD preparedness across all levels of the Joint Forc- es have led to focused initiatives in the realm of nuclear weapons defense planning, training and exercise1. Techniques like military wargaming for putting such initiatives into action are of critical importance to addressing the centralized concepts of nuclear defense and deterrence. Conventional Nuclear Integration (CNI), a concept referring to the side- by-side operation of nuclear and conventional forces referenced by Kinman2, is a field of nuclear defense strategy that includes nuclear weapons employment on the battlefield. Though not always expressly grouped under the umbrella of CNI, military wargame ex- ercises which could be considered within the subset of CNI have provided insights into operations on the nuclear battlefield since the Cold War era.
After a decade of crisis, the EU now routinely uses futures meth- ods to anticipate the unexpected. Its aim is to address its blind spots. This paper details our experience of designing a foresight exercise to help EU diplomats face up to one of the most ingrained types of blind spot: a taboo issue. But our experience showed instead the dangers of such exercises. Far from needing encour- agement to address a taboo, our target audience wanted an excuse to do so, reflecting a shift to a more “geopolitical EU.”
Strategic foresight exercises are designed to help participants recognize their cognitive biases. But the more policymakers adopt them as routine, the more they use them to reinforce their existing aims. Simply: they learn to manipulate outcomes.
To prevent cheating, experts introduced adversarial elements, where colleagues paired off against one another. Competition was meant to inject new thinking into policy and break up bureaucratic hierarchies. In fact, these too reinforced old biases.
Table-top exercises (TTXs) are now the go-to tool, adopted by the EU: rather than competing, participants play as a single team. Collaboration encourages the kind of “risky- shifty” behavior which policymakers need in order to drop old shibboleths.
Complex Systems in which humans play a role, namely Human-Integrated Complex Systems (HICS), can be difficult to model or simulate due to the uncertainty introduced by the human component. Traditional modeling approaches such as physics-based modeling do not provide predictive insight towards situation awareness and management. War game designers, and game architects are familiar with HICS problem spaces, and use gamification of such complex contexts as a means of modeling human behavior to inform, predict, and manage an HICS style problem. The game play thereby becomes a means of providing situation awareness and management of the HICS by using human action during game play as a heuristic for pruning the intractable possibility space of the problem at large into a likely probability subspace based on the actions players actually take when playing an HICS game simulation. This paper explores the approach of gamification of real-world HICS problem spaces for situation awareness and management. A gamification methodology is introduced and investigated through the use case of military acquisitions.
The accurately program of search&rescue of the wounded is designed and an initial design idea of various subsystems is proposed in order to provide theoretical explorations and solutions for making the search & rescue of the wounded on a land battlefield immediate, intelligent and accurate and for lowering the death and disability rates of the wounded. A full combination of skill features and functional advantages is made between BDS and Armored ambulance, which is systematically applied to the search & rescue on the land battlefield. The rationality and feasibility of the program of search&rescue are guaranteed by functional combinations, comprehensive integration and experimental verification. The verification of the program of search&rescue is made in the form of war-game exercises. The result finds that the “BDS + Armored ambulance” pattern of search & rescue can accurately acquire real-time locations of the wounded, immediately provide on-site first-aid services and emergency aid & treatment for the wounded and rapidly receive and transfer the wounded, which demonstrate a better practice and application prospect of health services. As the BDS-3 is to be put into service in 2020, the informationized upgrading and transformation of Armored ambulance will be gradually completed and the “BDS+ Armored ambulance” program of search &rescue will exert a more obvious influence on the search & rescue of the wounded on the land battlefield, which provide a capability support for realizing the idea of “Medical Treatment be with Soldiers”.
The Simon Fraser University Faculty of Health Sciences ran course HSCI 486—Global Perspectives on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic—for fourth year undergraduates in the fall of 2020. The course instructors designed the course to culminate in a class game to expose undergraduate students to a complex public health decision-making environment. A game was developed by the author in consultation with the class instructors to allow teams of students to make policy decisions as the governments of neighbouring countries facing a pandemic similar in nature to COVID-19. The game was set on a fictional continent with fictional countries which nevertheless shared some characteristics of certain real countries. The game was supported by a spreadsheet model to evaluate player decisions, which was kept as simple as possible to create believable behaviours without seeking to be an accurate simulation. The game was successfully run in a 3-hour class and received very positive feedback from both students and instructors.
This thesis explores fog of war concepts through three submitted journal articles. The Department of Defense and U.S. Air Force are attempting to analyze war sce- narios to aid the decision-making process; fog modeling improves realism in these wargame scenarios. The first article “Navigating an Enemy Contested Area with a Parallel Search Algorithm”  investigates a parallel algorithm’s speedup, compared to the sequential implementation, with varying map configurations in a tile-based wargame. The parallel speedup tends to exceed 50 but in certain situations. The sequential algorithm outperforms it depending on the configuration of enemy loca- tion and amount on the map. The second article “Modeling Fog of War Effects in AFSIM”  introduces the Fog Analysis Tool (FAT) for the Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration, and Modeling (AFSIM) to introduce and manipulate fog in wargame scenarios. FAT integrates into AFSIM version 2.7.0 and scenario results ver- ify the tool’s fog effects for positioning error, hits, and probability affect the success rate. The third article “Applying Fog Analysis Tool to AFSIM Multi-Domain CLASS scenarios”  furthers the verification of FAT to introduce fog across all warfighting domains using a set of Cyber Land Air Sea Space (CLASS) scenarios. The success rate trends with fog impact for each domain scenario support FAT’s effectiveness in disrupting the decision-making process for multi-domain operations. The three ar- ticles demonstrate fog can affect search, tasking, and decision-making processes for various types of wargame scenarios. The capabilities introduced in this thesis support wargame analysts to improve decision-making in AFSIM military scenarios.
We demonstrate an innovative framework (CoEvSoarRL) that lever- ages machine learning algorithms to optimize and simulate a re- silient and agile logistics enterprise to improve the readiness and sustainment, as well as reduce the operational risk. The CoEv- SoarRL is an asymmetrical wargame simulation that leverages re- inforcement learning and coevolutionary algorithms to improve the functions of a total logistics enterprise value chain. We address two of the key challenges: (1) the need to apply holistic predic- tion, optimization, and wargame simulation to improve the total logistics enterprise readiness; (2) the uncertainty and lack of data which require large-scale systematic what-if scenarios and analysis of alternatives to simulate potential new and unknown situations. Our CoEvSoarRL learns a model of a logistic enterprise environ- ment from historical data with Soar reinforcement learning. Then the Soar model is used to evaluate new decisions and operating conditions. We simulate the logistics enterprise vulnerability (risk) and evolve new and more difficult operating conditions (tests); meanwhile we also coevolve better logistics enterprise decision (solutions) to counter the tests. We present proof-of-concept results from a US Marine Corps maintenance and supply chain data set.
The Joint Advanced Warfighting Division of IDA is looking for a research associate in National Security Operations and Wargaming.
The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) is a non-profit federally funded research and development center. IDA provides answers to questions posed by the Department of Defense and other agencies that require careful analysis. IDA takes great pride in the high caliber and timeliness of its analyses, which are produced in an atmosphere that encourages independent thinking and objective results.
The Joint Advanced Warfighting Division (JAWD) has an immediate opening for a Research Associate with strong analytical skills and relevant educational training. Full-time professional staff at IDA are expected to be able to work independently, as a member of a study team, or under the direction of senior study leaders and analysts.
Research Staff are expected to be generally familiar with standard methods for collecting, compiling, summarizing, analyzing and presenting qualitative and quantitative data/information. They should be adaptable and open to learning in order to support the needs of particular studies or analyses. As members of interdisciplinary research teams, researchers must demonstrate good communication (oral and written) and interpersonal skills with the ability to contribute effectively to a team approach to problem solving.
The national security issues that IDA addresses change constantly, and researchers are expected to be adaptable and self- motivated, demonstrate a capacity for independent thought, sound judgment, and creativity in analyzing complex policy, operational, and technical problems. As part of the research process, IDA research teams may travel to US government or US security partner locations (typically, but not always headquarters or office-like locations). Researchers may be asked to assist in these field research activities as projects require.
A Master’s degree is required, along with 2-4 years of relevant work experience (including “experience in design, execution, and analysis of wargames and related approaches”). Applicants must be US citizens able to obtain and maintain security clearance. You’ll find the full details here. The deadline for applications is 30 September 2021.
Labcorp is seeking a Training and Exercise Specialist “to develop and execute training and exercises designed to meet performance requirements, ensure successful delivery, report on performance, and maintain supporting documentation in accordance with the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP).” Full details here.
I got to participate in Connections UK last week and wanted to share some impressions of the event as a newcomer to professional wargaming.
First, the facts: the event ran for two days online using a mix of Discord as a foyer and Zoom meetings for specific sessions, of which there were many to pick from. I was able to participate in all of the plenary sessions, covering topics from bringing in the next generation of wargamers to diverse thinking and problem solving. I also got to participate in the sessions on whole of society wargaming with Anja van der Hulst, model-based pandemic response games with Ben Taylor, an academic panel on wargaming for education in academia, an improvised adjudication master class, and finally a run of Combined Arms with Philip Sabin.
My first impression was of how welcoming and accessible everyone was during the event. Getting to meet big names is usually a fleeting experience in any industry but here I got to chat and participate in small party wargames with the authors of my wargaming bibles. I have only ever run a wargame for my university students but never gotten to participate in one, let alone on ran by an experienced game master. After the game with Philip Sabin I now feel a lot more confident now in my future endeavors: I have a yardstick, a point of reference of what a good, well run and facilitated wargame looks like. On a sidenote I also got to practice some combined arms tactics I thought I knew from hobby gaming and reading, only to fail miserably in practice: I advanced multiple infantry units without suppressing the enemy… At the time I blamed my mistake on my limited understanding of the rules, but later realized I would have likely made that same mistake in reality because I hadn’t stopped to consider the situation, focusing instead only on the objective. I was ultimately saved by some lucky dice rolling, but I learnt my lesson, and am even more convinced of the great potential of wargaming as an educational tool for it.
The second impression I got from the conference was one of feeling much more tapped into the pulse of wargaming as an industry and as an ever-developing discipline, how it is being used and what its limitations are. I originally wanted to participate because I am hoping to use wargames and simulations as part of my PhD research, but though few of the sessions were directly relevant to my topic, I did pick up a lot of learning points and tangential information ranging from adjudication tips to strategies for better inclusivity. Several sessions touched on points I wholeheartedly agreed with, such as the importance of bringing in the next generation or making wargaming inclusive, and yet I hadn’t actively considered how to practice them in my own work. I feel better equipped to do so now.
My third and final impression is also my only gripe with the conference: networking. I really appreciated the effort the organizing team put into creating spaces for meeting and connecting with others, which I tried my best to take advantage of, but I feel they didn’t consider the time required to do so. The two days of the conference were chock full of sessions, with 15-minute breaks between them which more often than not ended up being 3 minutes due to inevitable overruns. As someone who wanted to participate in as many sessions as possible, the only times I really could chat with others were after the sessions, at which point 9 hours in front of a screen took its toll and what I really wanted to do was to go and have a drink outside. Here lies the main downside to online conferences for me: in person I would have hoped to grab that drink with other participants, share lunch and chat between sessions, but as much as I tried the energy isn’t the same online. I did meet some great people I hope to continue connecting with, but I also hope we will be able to have these conferences in person again sooner rather than later. My only suggestion to improve the conference then, which will be online again next year, would be to have it over more days with more time between sessions to debrief, chat and connect.
Overall, I had a blast participating in this year’s Connections UK. I got invaluable experience learning from the masters, learned a lot about wargaming as an industry and an art, connected with some brilliant people and overall feel much more engaged with wargaming overall. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to other professional newbies like me as well as anyone else with an interest in professional wargaming.
You will evaluate war game plans and proposals initiated within NWDC and by external commands.
You will develop a clear understanding of significant issues, requirements, and required products as well as realistic milestones for simulation and war gaming support.
You will prepare, execute, and analyze. incumbent develop Strike Group war game products and action analysis.
You will be responsible for reviewing a large volume of diverse, complex information to produce war game material , adjudicate war game move and build/present briefings to designated trike Group commanders, warfare commanders and staffs.
Every once in a while, a hobby wargame forum will feature dire warnings that “political correctness” is threatening our ability to play with dice, cardboard chits, and toy soldiers.
Sometimes these debates revolve around issues of inclusivity, such as the experience of women wargamers. I think most hobbyists are happy the enlarge the pool of players, but there are always a few who raise the bizarre spectre of enforced quotas or make remarkably misogynist arguments rooted in a kind of archaic biological determinism. Reflecting this, at least one major hobby wargaming forum effectively prohibits sharing items on women and wargaming on the grounds that it is too divisive and “political.” Sheesh.
Other times, someone will suggest that discouraging Confederate flags in promotional artwork or sensitivities around the use of swastikas or SS insignia on unit counters imperils our fundamental freedoms or understanding of history. This too is a pretty hard argument to sustain. There are, after all, more than seven thousand American Civil War or World War Two-themed games listed on BoardGameGeek, and more every month.
Finally, in recent years the hobby (and society more broadly) has seen a much more thoughtful discussion of issues of representation, with greater attention to how hobby games and other forms of cultural production, such as cinema, might sustain certain biases—for example, in their treatment of colonialism or the non-European world. This discussion, which is fundamentally about greater diversity, inclusion, and accuracy in historical gaming, is generally a good thing, resulting in such positive developments as the Zenobia Award.
What does all this have to do with serious, professional wargaming? Very little, I think. It is fair to say that sensitivities around the presence of Confederate flags in a wargame is not something that any professional wargamer ever needs worry about. Indeed, the only American Civil War sensitivity that I’m aware of—related to me by an American government colleague—was him having to explain to foreign visitors why the name of a military base, street, statue, or artwork seemingly glorified those who committed treason and killed US citizens in defence of race-based chattel slavery.
Instead, the “political correctness” challenges faced within professional wargaming and other serious policy gaming are three-fold:
(1) Bureaucratic politics and inter-service or inter-agency sensitivities. Who do we invite? Who don’t we invite? If we game topic X will it cause problems with agencies Y and Z? Can we employ wargames as a tool (or weapon) of inter-service budget competition? Stephen Downes-Martin in particular has done seminal work on the broader institutional game within which professional wargames are situated. I’ve certainly spent many hours in discussions about who gets invited to games in which a key consideration is bureaucratic politics.
(2) Alliance sensitivities. “Political correctness” doesn’t just pertain to inter-service rivalries, but also to international partnerships. Anyone who has ever been involved in the design of a NATO wargame will have experienced how difficult it is to develop a scenario that doesn’t upset any of the alliance partners. During the Trump Administration in particular, many US partners were also very nervous about how to portray American policy in serious wargames—indeed, in an informal poll of non-American Western defence professionals at Connections North this year, almost a third reported that they felt they couldn’t accurately represent the US in their wargames for fear of damaging bilateral relations with Washington.
(3) Fear of the political or diplomatic ramifications of media leaks. Connections US once shelved a potential game lab topic (external intervention in the Syrian civil war) because the host institution—quite rightly—feared that the topic, if reported in the media, could be misinterpreted by the US public, allies, or adversaries. One serious game I developed for a government client was never used outside the department with key stakeholders out of concern as to how others might portray the game. Two others I was asked to assist with in the past year were never greenlighted in part because of concerns over diplomatic sensitivities if the outside subject matter experts involved spoke to the media. On more than one occasion I’ve had to run serious policy games or red teaming sessions under an academic “chapeau” to reduce the political or diplomatic risk to government participants.
You’ll noticed that I haven’t included diversity and inclusion in my list of “political correctness” issues here. While a few hobby wargamers may still yearn for the early twentieth century, when HG Wells could subtitle Little Wars “a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books,” in the professional domain it is now generally recognized that diversity can contribute to the quality of analysis, that a commitment to inclusion expands the pool of talent, and that eliminating formal and informal barriers is a good thing. Most major professional associations have endorsed the Derby House Principles, and most gaming professionals welcome steps to expand and broaden the community. I was struck by this at the recent Connections UK conference, where promoting inclusion was presented as a cornerstone of what it is professionals do. It can also be seen in this recent Dstl job advertisement for a wargaming analyst, which makes a particular effort to reach out to underrepresented groups. This isn’t to say there are obstacle and points of friction, and the burden of dealing with this often seems to unfairly fall on the shoulders of women and minorities. There are also real issues to be discussed about how to promote and how to harness diversity, how to identify and develop excellence, and what attitudes, behaviours,and institutional procedures might benefit from change. However, I think in general professional wargaming is turning the corner—not as quickly as we might all want, perhaps, but turning it all the same.
Which brings me back to my central point: handling the inevitable political sensitivities in professional wargame design, or indeed in other serious games. What are the tricks and techniques for doing this? It would make a great panel or working group topic for a future Connections conference…
RAND has published the full ruleset, player’s guide, and game aids for the Information Warfighter Exercise wargame, a matrix-style game intended to give players “an opportunity to employ operations in the information environment (OIE) theories, tactics, doctrine, and techniques in a fast-moving, competitive, notional scenario.”
The Marine Corps Information Operations Center (MCIOC) conducts an Information Warfighter Exercise (IWX) — an event designed to provide training on operations in the information environment (IOE) — one to two times per year. MCIOC asked RAND to help develop a structured wargame for IWX with a formal adjudication process. This document contains the ruleset developed, playtested, and implemented during the 2020 IWX cycle.
The IWX wargame is an opposed event in which two teams of players compete in and through the information environment to better support their respective sides in a notional scenario. Teams represent an Information Operations Working Group (IOWG) or information-related Operational Planning Team (OPT), or its adversary force equivalent, as dictated by the scenario. During the game, each team generates a plan for OIE, and players are then called on to add details to their plan, amend that plan dynamically in response to in-game events, prepare discrete game actions as part of plan execution, and make cogent arguments in favor of their team’s actions and against the actions of the opposed team. A panel of expert judges uses a structured process and a random element (dice) to adjudicate the success or failure of actions drawn from the players’ plans.
This document presents the full ruleset for the IWX wargame, including a host of optional rules to allow tailoring the game to specific preferences, needs of the training audience, or scenarios. Handouts and aids for playing the game, as well a brief Player’s Guide, are also available for download.
A wargame is a process of adversarial challenge and creativity, delivered in a structured format and usually umpired or adjudicated. Wargames immerse participants in an environment with the required level of realism to improve their decision-making skills and/or the real decisions they make. Wargaming is a powerful tool, used within the Ministry of Defence to explore issues ranging from national strategic (such as current geopolitical decision-making) to the tactical (such as how to effectively use generation-after-next concepts on a future battlefield).
The Wargaming capability you would be joining uses wargaming as a structured analytical technique to understand conflict in order to provide advice to the Ministry of Defence and wider UK Government. Wargaming draws on people with a range of skills; quantitative and qualitative operational analysis techniques; communication; and player interaction in order to model adversarial scenarios to understand factors that can influence the outcome.
In order to build a better wargaming capability, we need a team of people with a range of different skills and experiences to challenge established assumptions. Analysts brought in to the Defence Wargaming Centre will be developed using our Wargaming Development Framework to give a broad range of opportunities to develop the breadth of skills needed to be a professional wargamer. As well as building a broad range of skills, you will also be given opportunities to specialise in areas of wargaming which should align with your own passions/interests.
Dstl wargamers are founder signatories of the Derby House Principles, showing our commitment to leading the opposition of sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination across the board, as well as in wargaming. If you want to find out more, please read this.
The job description for the position is as follows:
In this role you will: For Level 4: • Work as part of a multidisciplinary team in the provision of timely, impartial, evidence-based advice to inform decisions on future defence and security capabilities, policies and strategies. • Work with customers and the military to understand their needs & challenges and shape their requirements for advice. • Lead on the delivery of small work packages, being responsible for your own research and analysis. • Provide technical advice and direction to industrial and academic partners and suppliers. • Prepare and deliver technical reports and presentations to a range of technical and non-technical audiences. • Develop an awareness of defence and security challenges and issues. • Develop your awareness of advances in science and technology • Explore and visualise data to present its story in a meaningful way to technical and non-technical audience • Develop your technical skills in wargaming in line with the Wargaming Development Framework.
Additionally for Level 5 you will • Lead strands of work, including the work of others to maintain a focus on output and technical quality. • Provide technical partnering to work done by Industry and Academia to ensure that the tasks remain on track, are of high quality and maximise the benefit of external expertise
Additionally for Level 6 you will • Engage with senior stakeholders across MOD and wider Government to offer advice and capture/identify future wargaming requirements • Lead on deep technical or professional specialisation • Manage the resources of people, materials, money and information to achieve a balanced set of results within a project framework • Consistently seek broader application and exploitation of your wargaming outputs
Finally, the security stuff and other details:
Our work in defence, security and intelligence requires our employees to be British Citizens who are able to gain a high level of security clearance to understand the work you will undertake to protect us from any security threats. For this reason, we regret that only UK Nationals will be able to apply for this role. If you are an international or dual-national candidate, and you think you have the skills we need, please consider applying to any of our government, security or defence partners.
This role will require full UK security clearance and you should have resided in the UK for the past 5 years. For some roles Developed Vetting will also be required, in this case you should have resided in the UK for the past 10 years.
If you are a current Dstl employee, you are encouraged to inform your line manager of your application as they can support you through the process and should you be successful it will help in negotiating a release date.
Work location Dstl is strongly encouraging blended and flexible working either at one of our sites or from home or both. We want to empower you to undertake your duties at the most appropriate location for the task, however you will be allocated a Dstl site as a base. You may be required to travel to other Dstl and MoD sites as required.
We particularly welcome female and ethnic minority applicants and those from the LGBTQI community, as they are under-represented within Dstl at these levels.
Full details and a link to the application process can be found here. The deadline for application is 18 October 2021.
The US Command and General Staff College, with support from the CGSC Foundation, hosted the Connections US 2021 Wargaming Conference and chose the Conference theme “Ethics and Wargaming”. An international team of 30 wargaming experts started work on October 2020 on the thought experiment “how to use unethical practices to make your wargame say what you want it to say”, where by “unethical practice” we mean any practice motivated by a desire to influence the sponsor to make a decision in the best interest of the unethical practitioner instead of the best interest of national security. We know intellectual dishonesty occurs in science and among senior civilian and military leaders. It is irresponsible to assume it does not exist within professional wargaming (or indeed any process that manages any inquiry activity).
This thought experiment is useful in three ways for:
discovering wargame design principles and malfeasance that wargame designers, practitioners, sponsors, players and other stakeholders might miss if one focused on best practices of well-designed games by well-intentioned competent experts.
inoculating wargaming against deliberate and inadvertent manipulation of wargame design by senior stakeholders
protecting ourselves from self-deception by our own inadvertent malign practice.
Core Conclusion: Most professional wargames are vulnerable to unethical practice due to the presence of the three established criteria for intellectual fraud. The lack of familiarity by senior officers or civilian executives with the unethical practices described in this report means we cannot say that most DoD wargames are free of unethical practices.
What is to be Done? By examining the interactions between the wargame stakeholders in the external environment, the outer game and the inner game, along with the the three criteria for the presence of intellectual fraud, and taking culture into account, we can increase the value and ethical probity of wargaming and ensure the decisions that the wargames are designed to influence are in the best interest of national security. Details are in the final report.
The latest issue of the Journal of Advanced Military Studies 12, 2 (Fall 2021), published by Marine Corps University Press, is devoted to “wargaming and the military.“
Given the rate of change taking place within the Corps and the local activity driving university innovation, the editors felt the need to contribute to the debate with a full issue of the Journal of Advanced Military Studies (JAMS) that focuses on wargaming and the future of the Marine Corps and the U.S. military. The authors of the articles that follow approached the conversation from a broad scholarly spectrum that offers historical and forward-thinking perspectives.
The first article by Dr. Charles Esdaile, “ ‘Napoleon at Waterloo’: The Events of 18 June 1815 Analyzed via Historical Simulation,” offers a historical perspective on the importance of wargaming and professional military education (PME). His article examines how products of the game industry can be used to assess battles and draw out wider lessons relating to the conduct of war or to show how historical board games are not just recreational artifacts but also a tool with which to more fully explore, analyze, and understand campaign design and battle execution.
Sebastian J. Bae and Major Ian T. Brown then provide a transition into a more modern conversation by offering a brief history of educational wargaming specific to the U.S. Marine Corps. The article reviews and assesses the history of educational wargaming from its tentative engagement before World War I through today. It will also offer recommendations on how the Corps can institutionalize the use of educational wargaming as a tool for honing Marines’ minds against thinking human adversaries. Our next two articles continue this discussion of wargaming and PME. Colonel Eric M. Walters considers the challenges and solutions presented by wargaming and helps orient those unfamiliar with wargaming and advises on proven best practices in using them when teaching military judgment in decision making. Lieutant Colonel P. C. Combe II shifts then into the design and implementation of wargaming for the purpose of teaching or evaluating the extent to which students have learned and can apply material as a means of professional development.
Kate Kuehn further highlights the importance of evaluating the use of wargaming with her article, “Assessment Strategies for Educational Wargames.” Kuehn maintains that by examining the perspectives and practices of experi- enced faculty within wargaming, she can then identify strategies that can serve as useful teaching tools for other faculty as well as contribute to broader theory about designing assessment in such spaces. Colonel Brian W. Cole’s article on the wargame Hedgemony focuses on using wargames to then evaluate the learning objectives within senior Joint PME. His article examines how the Marine Corps War College’s experience with Hedgemony offers active learning for its students while emphasizing resource management and evaluates how well the game met the educational objectives set forth by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for senior-level PME.
The final two articles in this issue of JAMS close the loop on the PME continuum by focusing on how wargaming complements military decision making and the future development of wargaming focused on the future of warfare. Colonel Walters’s article “Developing Self-Confidence in Military Decision Making” highlights how extensive practice through wargaming grows self-confidence in both the individual Marine and in the unit engaged in it. Stephen M. Gordon, Colonel Walt Yates, and Andrew Gordon close out the journal articles by exploring the benefits and challenges of applying successful storytelling techniques to designing wargame narratives that balance creative ambitions with achievable time lines. In the authors’ minds, wargames that incorporate such techniques will generate new trends and better inform future conflict planning.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is faced with the challenge of preparing for future warfare during peacetime as a force that lacks contemporary operational experience. Among the methods through which the PLA seeks to enhance its combat readiness are sophisticated wargaming and realistic, force-on-force exercises. Chinese military leaders regard wargaming (bingqi tuiyan, 兵棋推演) as an important technique by which to “learn warfare from the laboratory” for training purposes and to promote insights on the dynamics of future combat.1 This style of learning is complemented by the PLA’s study of military history and emulation of the experiences and innovations of foreign militaries, including through creating “blue forces” that simulate potential adversaries against which to train.2 Beyond improving its current capabilities and readiness, the PLA also aspires to achieve an edge in military competition, seeking to “design” the dynamics of and develop capabilities for future warfare.3
Wargaming is part of a cycle of military learning and experimentation that involves and informs exercises against opposing forces (OPFOR), as well as a range of other styles of training. While this report does not provide a comprehensive assessment of the PLA’s current training methods, our analysis examines select aspects of the PLA’s computerized wargaming and employment of blue (i.e., simulated adversary) forces in the context of the continuing transformation of PLA training. Over time, the PLA has improved the realism of its “actual combat training” (shizhan hua xunlian, 实战化训练) and undertaken exercises in increasingly challenging battlefield environments.4 The lessons learned from wargaming can be tested in exercises, and the outcomes of exercises can shape the design for wargames.
PLA wargaming and development of their blue forces continue to be significantly influenced by emulation of the approaches of foreign militaries, particularly those of the US military. The combination of domestic and foreign influences has resulted in features unique to the PLA, reflecting distinct priorities, interests, and constraints. In wargaming, for example, the PLA appears to prefer and prioritize computerized approaches over other forms, and it has attempted to leverage this cost-effective technique in training to address certain long-standing weaknesses, such as in command decision-making.5 To that end, the PLA has scaled up wargaming in professional military education (PME), especially through programming at the PLA’s National Defense University (NDU). The history and political character of the PLA as the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) also appear to be a notable influence, demonstrated by the experimentation with political warfare in PLA wargaming.
Meanwhile, wargaming has become prominent and popularized across China, and the PLA has leveraged the commercialization of wargaming to improve its quality and realism. Ongoing advances in video games and innovations from the video game industry continue to provide China’s armed forces with new options for realistic, engaging wargames. Under the auspices of China’s national strategy for military-civil fusion (MCF), several technology companies have partnered with the PLA to develop new systems for wargaming and military simulations. Beyond PME efforts, wargaming competitions have become an important element of
national defense education, as thousands of military and civilian students across universities nationwide participate in annual wargaming competitions. This national initiative encourages patriotism and interest in military affairs among the public while fostering greater unity and understanding between military and civilian stakeholders.6
Increasingly, the PLA is pursuing innovation in the platforms and techniques used in wargaming, including the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI). The PLA has introduced “intelligentization” (zhinenghua, 智能化) as a priority for its military modernization. This strategic initiative includes the development of AI for military applications and leveraging wargaming platforms to advance technological experimentation. The progress to date includes PLA contests and competitions that have concentrated on developing AI systems for wargaming in complex scenarios. Starting in 2017, these efforts have seen the development of more powerful AI systems across years of competitions. The human-machine confrontation (renji duikang, 人机 对抗) that can occur through such a virtual platform also could allow for improvements in planning and decision support systems for future joint operations. The increasing capabilities of AI systems in wargaming also allow for improvements in simulated adversaries.7 Beyond the objective to improve the quality of their wargames for training purposes, there are scientists and strategists in the PLA who hope AI will become powerful enough to facilitate human planning and command decision-making in future warfare.8
The PLA’s OPFOR program has centered upon the creation of blue forces that are intended to imitate potential adversaries. These units are directed to serve as whetstones to increase the challenge of training, thereby contributing to the PLA’s effort to overcome its “peace disease.” While the PLA’s OPFOR efforts have been unique in their variety and potential creativity, the relatively fragmented development highlights the issues of coordination and standardization that have often impeded progress within the PLA. However, the increasing professionalism of these initiatives, including the focus on simulating the United States and its allies as anticipated adversaries, is an important dimension of PLA preparations to watch going forward.
This report starts by tracing the trajectory of wargaming within the PLA in modern Chinese history and then continues to examine the progression of PLA blue forces in its OPFOR program. The analysis initially reviews a series of recent wargaming competitions, examining the introduction of AI systems into wargaming and considering com- mercial contributions to wargaming. Our research also considers the progression of OPFOR exercises (exercises that involve a force tasked with representing an enemy) that have expanded and increased in sophistication with the use of improved blue forces. We examine what wargaming and OPFOR exercises can reveal about the PLA’s capacity to learn and adapt to the challenges of future warfare. In closing, we raise considerations and potential recommendations for US policy.
The RAND Corporation was the site of early-Cold War knowledge production. Its scientists laid the foundations of nuclear deterrence, game theoretic approaches to international politics, defense acquisition, and theories on the future of war. The popularized understanding of RAND as filled with cold, detached rationalists who casually discussed killing millions with no moral abhorrence misses the immense contestation in the early 1950s between the mathematics and the social sciences divisions, which sought to understand the impact of nuclear weapons on war and international politics. To do so, they created the first political-military simulations, called the “Cold War Games.” The games had divergent outcomes, with the mathematicians quick to launch nuclear weapons and the social scientists acting with nuclear restraint. The key difference in the game models was a high degree of realism in the social science game that engaged the players’ emotions. This immersive experience had lasting effects beyond the game itself as defense intellectuals bore the weight of decision-making and confronted the catastrophic consequences of using nuclear weapons. The role of emotion is central to both ethics and decision-making, and is essential for wargaming today, yet often remains excluded in rational theories of nuclear deterrence.
The high degree of realism present in the SSD’s Cold War Game triggered nuclear restraint by engaging the emotions of the players and therefore their ethical intuitions, in contrast to the MAD game, which privileged high levels of abstraction for the sake of mathematical certainty. What was lost in the process was a more cohesive vision of decision-making under uncertainty, all while ignoring the role of emotion in the realm of international politics. Not only are the outcomes of the game boxed in by initial assumptions in operationalizing variables that can fall out instantaneously in the real world, but a high level of abstraction produces a detached theorizing in which a kind of ethical practical judgment can also be lost. Reason cannot be separated from emotion and imagined futures are as powerful as the study of the past.
These political-military games at RAND have important lessons for thinking through the implications of emotion, ethics, and the role of judgment in wargaming today. Given the current renaissance in wargaming — in the social sciences as well as in efforts to think through the dilemmas of AI and the future of war — it is important to reflect on the issues raised by RAND in the 1950s and the lessons that can be drawn from them. First, reason and emotion are inextricably intertwined. They exist in a symbiotic relationship in terms of how we experience and interpret the world. Second, wargames with a high degree of realism can better represent decision-making in the real world by engaging the emotions of the players. Third, even when ethics is excluded from the conversation, facing the potential consequences of political-military action can lead to restraint. Finally, a conversation of realistic consequences and the uncertainties of the world is essential for an ethical assessment of possible consequences of nuclear threat and use. Wargames can be more than the division between art and science or quantitative and qualitative approaches, but a quest for understanding the why of decision-making, beyond the discursive reasons that players may give. The technostrategic language that Cohn wrote about in the 1980s remains pervasive in nuclear deterrence circles, but the revival of simulations and gaming in the social sciences offers an opportunity to reflect upon the importance of emotion and ethical practical judgment in international relations. Being made to feel the weight of decision-making is a necessary antidote to abstractions that allow policymakers to ignore the real consequences and human suffering that could come from pressing the button.
Dr. Jon Compton presents and discusses the process he has used to design, run and analyze analytic wargames in support of senior decision makers faced with serious national security related problems.
“Wargames are conducted for purposes of education and training, concept exploration or development, or sometimes done to raise awareness about certain issues or concepts. Within OSD, however, the style of wargame required is referred to as Analytical Wargaming, and is nested with other analytical or Operations Research techniques to generate contextualized knowledge and recommendations for leadership.”
UPDATE: I have updated the report with corrections. Delete the 22nd August version and replace with this one dated 23rd August.
COVID-19 made distributed wargaming a DOD requirement for both safety and economic reasons. One effect of DOD’s COVID-19 pandemic response has been the effort by many DOD organizations to shift their wargames to a distributed online environment. The success of some of these efforts, the likely presence of new pandemics, and some undeniable benefits of distributed wargaming makes it likely that distributed wargaming will be a growing part of the DOD toolbox. A key design decision is now “online, face-to-face, or hybrid?” It is therefore necessary to examine the theory behind distributed gaming, capture experience, design best practices, and identify practices to avoid when designing and executing distributed wargames.
In response the Simulation and Wargaming Standing Study Group of the Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization started a Working Group on “Distributed Wargaming”, the focus of which is to:
“examine how technical, social and design processes can exploit the advantages and overcome the disadvantages of professional wargaming in a distributed environment, and produce a resource document for anyone required to design and execute such a wargame”
A core international group of seventeen members, with experience in Government, Military, Industry, Academia and Education started work at the beginning of December 2020 and wrapped up at the end of August 2021. The nine month period of performance allowed the group time to think, discuss, challenge, write and refine, and to do so in depth. The group produced nine research papers covering background theory, lessons learned from research into online education, lessons learned producing and running distributed wargames with several different designs, and an overview of moving in-person events in general (including wargames) online. Deep discussions between group members dealt with the papers and introduced additional topics, all of which are reported in this document.