PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Play with us however you roll: combat wheelchair rules for D&D 5e

Dwarf barbarian adventurer with serious attitude in a combat wheelchair. Awesome-looking miniature

You may have noticed that when disability shows up in the media, it’s:

  • Short hand for evil: Bond villains, anyone? Limps, scars, prosthetics, mental illness. The media uses disability to other the bad guy. Not cool.
  • Inspiration porn: the disabled character isn’t a person so much as their tragical experiences are the plot mechanic to spur able-bodied people to become better human beings. Me Before You pretty much takes the biscuit here, but most disability biopics fit this trope through condescension and “good on them for trying”. To quote my frienddon’t say it’s good because I’m dyslexic; say it’s good.
  • The Overcoming Narrative: because the most important thing in the world is for a disabled person to be cured of their disability. All disabilities can be magically cured if it suits the plot! Nobody needs to be ok about disability, because Real People pull their socks up and defeat it.
  • Exceptionalism: a trope common to all marginalised people, that we accept your disability (or blackness, or womanhood, or sexuality, or immigrant-status) if you redeem yourself through exceptional achievement. It’s not all bad, but it’s a toxic message when it’s the only positive portrayal of disabled people. It sends a message that you’re doing your disability wrong if you’re living a perfectly normal, happy and fulfilled life like 99% of the rest of the population.
  • Disability Issues Only: the disabled character only gets to have storylines about being disabled. Because that’s all disabled people do, right? They don’t have lives, or jobs, or partners/spouses and kids *eyeroll*

Like “the Gay Agenda”, folks with disabilities just want to get on with life the same way all you non-disabled folks do: go to work, remember to buy milk, collect the kids from school, and see positive representations of people like them in books, films, TV, and in the games we play.

Which is why I absolutely love the Combat Wheelchair rules and miniatures for D&D 5e:

Screenshot of the opening paragraphs of the combat wheelchair rules in D&D rulebook art work

Sara Thompson has created a ruleset for what’s basically a murderball chair, which levels the playing field for an adventurer with a physical disability: it functions as a basic melee weapon (with ramming, crushing, and side-swiping actions), it laughs in the face of steps and stairs (you know, like able-bodied adventurers do), and has plenty of options for upgrading and levelling-up with your chair as you adventure—mounted combat, being one with your chair as far as spell-casting goes, and pockets.

And Strata Miniatures have made amazing combat wheelchair miniatures to go with it:

Why is that even necessary?

Sigh. If you’re genuinely asking this question, alas dear reader, you have the ableist mindset that sees disability as broken, undesirable, and to be avoided and put out of mind at all costs. Yes, absolutely, disability is hard and frustrating, and at times and in certain situations, limiting (though you’d be surprised how often it’s not the disability that’s limiting, more society, infrastructure and assumptions). But, you know, so is having ginger hair or an Essex accent, or being a woman in a male-dominated field, and nobody is saying “OMG why would you want to play as these things in D&D, what’s wrong with you? Don’t give them the rules, don’t let that be an option.”

I wondered how could I get abled folks to understand and see us as people like them? – Sara Thompson

Everyone plays D&D as a little bit themselves. Why shouldn’t disabled people have the same choice to play as all-the-way-themselves as able-bodied players, if they want to?

One of the ugly things about ableism is the assumption that disability must be eradicated. That’s like saying the cure for racism is to get rid of all the non-white people, which is just about the most offensive idea going. 

I have received death threats, mockery, and vitriol from people who don’t want to understand why this representation is so important – Sara Thompson

Not all disabled people want to be cured of their disability. In part that’s because it’s not an option and it would be a pretty unhealthy mindset to live your life waiting on your legs to grow back, the injury to un-happen, or your genetic code to rewrite itself. 

Then there’s the matter of identity: disability is a part of who you are when you have one, particularly if it’s something you’ve had since birth. Not all of that is good, but excising the disability isn’t a clear-cut thing either. Maybe more akin to amputating your cultural identity. 

And finally, the ableist notion that disability must be cured is based on the idea that a person can’t be happy or fulfilled with a disability, and that s#$t doesn’t happen to able-bodied people alike—it’s like saying poverty is the cause of unhappiness, so rich people must not have any problems… they just have different human issues to deal with. Admittedly, there’s a lot to be said for not going hungry, but having food and money for the rent is necessary but insufficient to a good life.

Which is all to say, that disabled people exist, and they’re not going anywhere, and a lot of the time they’re happy and fulfilled and expect to be accepted in society like any other person on this planet. Which means seeing positive representations of themselves in games, and having the choice to play with core aspects of themselves if they want.

I had a chat with Sara over e-mail:

What led you to coming up with the combat wheelchair rules?

There were a lot of factors that led up to the chair’s creation. I’ve had experiences of asking Dungeon Masters if I could play a disabled character at their tables and was generally met with an awkward “Oh, yeah, there’s no rules for that so you can’t,” or the unsurprising method of “Okay, but you have to take all these negatives and/or penalties,” which isn’t an accurate portrayal of disability/chronic illness/neurodivergency at all.

A lot of my friends are also wheelchair users (both ambulatory and full-time) and it got me thinking about how we never see an adventurer in a wheelchair. We never see disabled folks represented as the capable people that they are – many of us, like me, have jobs and families and responsibilities. Our disability is just a part of us, and I think that able-bodied people don’t understand that. We are often seen as and used for pity or inspiration – there’s a real issue with inspiration porn in the media; look at Queer Eye’s episode about a disabled man, for example.

I wondered how I could represent us in D&D, how could I get abled folks to understand and see us as people like them? 

Already, the average Level 1 character is above the typical NPC villager, so I decided to take inspiration from Paralympians. Essentially, I spent 6-7 months submerging myself into the culture behind wheelchair sports – I recommend to anyone that they watch some Murderball matches; they’re very intense! I made some very rough concept ideas which was Combat Wheelchair v1.0 and took feedback from wheelchair users in the community who play-tested it to tell me what I could do to better reflect a wheelchair inclined towards combat and adventuring. This feedback, along with the design for the basic chair being taken from sports chairs used in Murderball matches, was then put together and written up into what people know as the Combat Wheelchair v2.0 today.

What’s the response been?

The response in general has been overwhelming, regardless of it being good or bad. I never really expected the chair to take off and get as much coverage as it did. I posted it knowing that the people I made it for (wheelchair users and the disabled community) were the ones it would reach and I only cared for their reactions to it – I wanted more than anything to put positive and accurate portrayal of them into a game that has, for the most part, failed them on the representation front for the past 40+ years D&D has been running. But then so many people started RT-ing it, including writers at WotC and Critical Role’s DM Matt Mercer, and it suddenly had a lot of eyes on it.

In general, the response has been positive. For every 1 mean comment are 20 more that have kind words of support. But still, I have received death threats from sock puppet accounts, mockery for being disabled and making an item that doesn’t erase disability, and vitriol from people who don’t want to understand why this representation is so important. It has been a lot, but at the end of the day, it made the people who needed it and who I wrote it for happy, and that’s all that matters to me.

Where would you like to see the hobby in five years?

I would like to see our hobby and communities accept that a lot of the demographic of RPGs is disabled people – they are something disabled folks can play every week and, now that a lot of it has moved online, it’s become more accessible (not entirely accessible though). A lot of disabled people play ttrpgs and it’s time we all step up to acknowledge and work on bettering our games to represent everyone.

Anyone can be an adventurer.

What would you like straight-white-male wargamers to know about gaming from a disability perspective?

Don’t be afraid of disability; open up that dialogue at your tables. Talk to disabled folks about this and learn – there are a lot of free resources out there online for you to learn from. Stop treating representation of disabled folks as a threat and see it as an opportunity to learn, broaden your mindset, and help you become a better DM/GM and player. Disability isn’t a bad thing and it’s time we stop treating it like it is.

This is awesome, what can I do to make my games more inclusive?

The FATE Accessibility Toolkit is a great disability resource. It covers how to make your gaming table accessible to players with disabilities, as well as how to include disability in character design within the FATE system, which also translates well to other systems. You can buy a copy on DriveThuRPG.

If you want to get your learn on about disability culture more broadly, I recommend reading No Pity by Joseph Shapiro, a collection of essays on disability rights and history, and watching Crip Camp on Netflix, which tells the story of the 504 Sit In, the longest non-violent occupation of a U.S. federal building in history: 100 disabled people, supported by the Black Panthers, protested for 26 days for equal access to public services. Fun fact: disability equality is part of the anti-segregation ruling handed down in Brown vs Board of Education.

Read more about the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming here.

Fall 2020 webinar and wargaming series for Georgetown University Wargaming Society

The Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) was founded in 2020 to provide a venue for hobby gamers, professional wargamers, and those new to wargaming with opportunities to play games and learn more about wargaming as a profession. GUWS welcomes members of all academic levels and backgrounds.

The schedule for our webinar and wargame series for Fall 2020 is indicated below. The webinar series is open to the public and free – in order to be accessible to the widest audience possible. Please note some events are still in development. 

Cards in Wargames with Volko Ruhnke

Sept 21, 6:00PM-8PM EDT

 Award-winning commercial boardgame designer Volko Ruhnke will discuss the use of playing cards in tabletop wargames. Playing cards—once a rarity in hobby wargames—have exploded in designs published over the past three decades. What do they bring to the table? When should you use them in your wargame design? How can you leverage their unique power to greatest advantage? The talk will briefly survey the history of playing cards in board wargames and then focus on effective use of cards as an element of design. Register on Eventbrite

History and Principles of Solitaire Wargame Design

Sept 29, 6:00PM-8PM EDT

Bruce Mansfield & Jason Carr will discuss the history and principles solitaire tabletop gaming. Solitaire tabletop gaming has exploded in popularity over the last decade, both in solitaire-specific game designs, and solitaire game variants. Why is solitaire gaming becoming more popular? What design considerations are specific to solitaire design? How did we get to this point? This talk will outline the history of solitaire wargaming, analyze various solitaire design mechanisms, and speak about the tradeoffs in usability, complexity, and simulation in solitaire wargame designs, with special attention paid to ‘bots’ – automated solitaire opponents in otherwise multiplayer games. Register on Eventbrite.

Wargame Pathologies: An Overview, with Examples by Chris Weuve

October 5, 6:00PM – 8:00PM

Wargames can fail.  In this talk, professional DOD wargamer Chris Weuve explores some of the failure modes of professional wargames, and looks at some examples — and what to do about them. (And, given the current unpleasantness, he offers some thoughts on distributed wargames.) Register on Eventbrite.

USAF Title 10 Wargaming with Mitch Reed

Oct 12, 6:00PM-8PM EDT

 Mitch Reed, a senior wargame designer for the U.S. Air Force (USAF), will be discussing the wargame development for Global Engagement 20 (TREWMAN) and Futures Game 20. Global Engagement and Futures Game comprise the annual marquee wargames for the USAF, also known as USAF Title 10 wargames. This webinar will focus on how the AF/A5SW created the first competition wargame for the USAF – based on guidance from the Deputy SECDEF. It will also explore how AF/A5SW planned the largest competition game in DoD (before being cancelled by COVID) and its future plans for its TREWMAN competition game system. Register on Eventbrite.

Flashpoint Baltics Matrix Wargame

Oct 17, 11:00-3:00PM EDT

In collaboration with the Department of Strategic Wargaming at the U.S. Army War College (AWC), the Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) will be hosting a matrix-style wargaming examining strategic conflict between Russia and the United States in a hypothetical future scenario. This wargame will be conducted virtually and is limited to only 18 players. The wargame aims to provide an opportunity for students, aspiring professional wargamers, and military service members to engage with wargaming as an educational tool.

Registration for this event is capped at 18 participants. Interested participants may express their interest here via Google forms.

Agile Wargaming with Phil Bolger & Lexee Brill

Oct 26, 6:00PM-8PM EDT

Phil Bolger and Lexee Brill will discuss Agile Wargaming, a way to take traditional wargaming frameworks in a streamlined, low-fidelity, quick-turn format. Phil and Lexee work with the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC). This discussion will focus on how AFWIC and other organizations AFWIC has worked alongside (including A5SW, multiple USAF Major Commands, and OSD-SCO) have made use of Agile Wargaming to develop concepts, refine plans, and assist decision-making, as well as what distinguishes Agile Wargaming from traditional wargaming, and how the two can benefit from each other. Register on Eventbrite

Digital Transformation of Wargames Co-Sponsored by ISW

Nov 2, 6:00PM  8:00PM EDT 

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization, dedicated to advancing an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education.

Stephen Gordon will discuss analytical wargaming in the context of a transformative, distributed wargaming platform concept he co-created that leverages technologies, techniques, and methods from innovative industries and use cases including eSports, gaming, animation, virtual assistants, robotics, AI, quantum computing and hyper-scale cloud platforms. Joining the discussion as a co-presenter will be Col (Ret) Walt Yates, formerly the Program Manager, Training Systems, United States Marine Corps to share his experience with existing simulation capabilities and the wargaming technology evolution taking place inside the US Marine Corps. Register on Eventbrite.

Historical Board Games as Educational Tools: Shores of Tripoli by Kevin Bertram

Nov 12, 6:00PM – 8:00PM EDT

Description: TBD

Registration: TBD 

Virtual International Crisis War Game with Naval War College & Stanford University

November 14, 2020 10:00AM – 1:00PM

In partnership with the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) will be hosting their International Crisis War Game, which provides insights into the relationship between new technologies, domestic politics, conventional military capabilities, and nuclear threats. You do not need to have any prior wargaming experience or subject matter expertise to take participate: the game is aimed at generalists (like many political leaders), but those with deeper knowledge will also find this wargame interesting. Due to COVID restrictions, this wargame will be held virtually through Zoom. Registration: TBD

Gaming Nuclear War

Nov 17, 6:00PM  8:00PM EDT 

Robert McCreight will discuss how nuclear considerations and conflict are incorporated into wargaming. He will address the following: What factors drove US military and civilian leaders to prepare for all out nuclear war? What issues plagued strategic planners and governed strategic nuclear gaming? What aspects of genuine nuclear exchanges and MAD conflict were understood? What were the key requirements of gaming the management of a nuclear exchange? He will also address design elements for nuclear wargames, such as basic considerations in scenario development, issues in structuring interim game play moves and newly introduced play issues[scripted vs unscripted], and overall coordination and management of game flow. Register on Eventbrite.

Designing Cyber War

Dec 1, 6:00PM – 8:00PM EDT

Joseph Miranda will cover modeling cyberwar in wargames. The presentation will include board and computer games he has designed (examples: Cyberwar XXI for DARPA, Cybernauts for GameFix). Points will include use of game components to represent cyberspace, offensive and defensive programs, realworld forces, and the human element. Also, how to use cyberwar as part of a wider spectrum of conflict, a tactic for asymmetrical warfare (example: Decision in Iraq for Decision Games). Other topics will include modeling cyber security, crisis management, and emerging generations of warfare. The presentation will conclude with an analysis of cyberwar trends into the near future. Register on Eventbrite here: TBD

How to Design PNP Games by Brian Train

Dec 8, 6:00PM-8:00PM EDT

Description: TBD

Registration: TBD

Pellegrino: Modelling and games

Pete Pellegrino is a retired USN commander and former Naval Flight Officer, currently employed by Valiant Integrated Services supporting the US Naval War College’s War Gaming Department as lead for game design and adjudication and lecturing on game related topics for the department’s war gaming courses.  In addition to his work at the college since 2004, Pete has also conducted business games for Fortune 500 companies and consulted for major toy and game companies. The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent the official policy or position of any agency, organization, employer or company.

The various Excel tools mentioned in the lecture can be found here.

Others in this series can be viewed at the PAXsims YouTube channel.

Connections Oz 2020

This year’s Connections Oz conference will take place online on 7-9 December 2020:

Connections Oz is a conference for professional wargamers and serious gamers. It is scheduled for 7-9 December 2020. Please note this in your diaries and feel free to distribute to your networks.

We are now calling for presentations for this year’s conference. Please contact the organisers via connections.oz@gmail.com

Due to Covid restrictions, the 2020 program will be entirely online. This follows the format successfully delivered by the ‘Connections Global’ team earlier this year. This format offers the opportunity to include more interstate and overseas speakers participants. We hope this collection of ‘best of’ speakers will attract a larger audience here in Australia and help grow our community.

To accommodate international speakers, the daily schedule will include ‘after dinner’ sessions. A full program will be published shortly, but the anticipated daily schedule is likely to be along the lines of:

Morning Session 0800-1200
Afternoon Session 1400-1600
Evening Session 1900-2100

Registrations for 2020 is mandatory so that the links for online connections can be emailed to participants. See the registration page for details.

A highlight for this year will be an opening keynote from Matt Caffrey, the originator of Connections US back in 1993. We have a number of other international and local speakers lined up. Keep an eye on the website for more information.

The best way to keep up to date is to subscribe to the blog page: https://connectionsoz.wordpress.com/

Getting War (Gaming) Back into the War College

By Christopher Hossfeld and Ken Gilliam September 11, 2020

Photo Description: A resident seminar in the AY20 Class at the U.S. Army War College works its way through a round of Joint Overmatch: Euro-Atlantic applying lessons learned throughout the year.
Photo Credit: Ken Gilliam

Today at the US Army War College’s War Room blog:

Thinking is a critical part of warfighting, especially in the planning and execution of globally integrated campaigns. Don’t believe us, the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staff says so. So how does a professional military education institution go about developing creative and critical thinking skills in military leaders? Well one tool in the kit is wargaming. Specially designed wargames that allow students to take academic content and apply it in a low risk, competitive environment are a proven and effective tool to accomplish this. WAR ROOM welcomes Chris Hossfeld and Ken Gilliam to examine how the U.S. Army War College incorporates the Joint Overmatch: Euro-Atlantic wargame into its core curriculum.

MORS Certificate in Cyber Wargaming 21 – 25 September

This course will examine the challenges of gaming cyber through a combination of lectures and practical exercises. Lectures will focus on games and game design, along with the application of game design to cyber issues. Practical exercises will give students the chance to experience different types of cyber gaming, with the expectation that students will research, design, and present their own cyber game as part of the course.

Successful students will learn how game design can be used to address challenges of cyber operations and policy and they will build an understanding of how to represent cyber capabilities in games, as well as build games directly addressing cyber operations.  The goal is for students to become aware of the gaming tools available for cyber, and to begin to associate specific game techniques with various cyber gaming requirements.

Instructors:
Mr. Ed McGrady
Mr. Paul Vebber

For more information and to Register go to
https://www.mors.org/Events/Certificates/Certificate-in-Cyber-Wargaming

Simulation & Gaming (October 2020)

The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 51, 5 (October 2020) is now available online (paywalled).

Editorial

  • Roles, Plays, and the Roles We Play While Playing Games 
    • J. Tuomas Harviainen

Articles

  • Experiencing Cybersecurity One Game at a Time: A Systematic Review of Cybersecurity Digital Games
    • Merijke Coenraad, Anthony Pellicone, Diane Jass Ketelhut, Michel Cukier, Jan Plane, and David Weintrop
  • Professional Wargaming: A Flawed but Useful Tool 
    • John Curry
  • Green Across the Board: Board Games as Tools for Dialogue and Simplified Environmental Communication 
    • Kristoffer S. Fjællingsdal and Christian A. Klöckner
  • Exploring the Effects of Violent Video Games on Healthcare Trainees 
    • Karlie A. Krause, Chelsie Smyth, and Kate L. Jansen
  • A Study of Cognitive Results in Marketing and Finance Students 
    • Paola Andrea Ortiz-Rendón, Luz Alexandra Montoya-Restrepo, and Jose-Luis Munuera-Alemán
  • The Influence of Game Character Appearance on Empathy and Immersion: Virtual Non-Robotic Versus Robotic Animals 
    • Alexandra Sierra Rativa, Marie Postma, and Menno Van Zaanen
  • Conscientiousness in Game-Based Learning 
    • Liu Yi, Qiqi Zhou, Tan Xiao, Ge Qing, and Igor Mayer

Queeroes: LGBT+ & gender non-conformity in the military

PAXsims and the Derby House Principles are pleased to present Paul Strong & Sally Davis discussing queer and gender non-conforming representation in the military, from ancient times to the modern day.

Hear how war and the military created gay culture as we know it, and how gay culture has in turn shaped the military and how we think about war. Spot a few familiar faces, from WATU Wrens to Alexander the Great, QueenKing Christina of Sweden, Lord Kitchener, and others.

Read more about the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

Unethical Wargaming Working Group

The US Command and General Staff College is hosting the Connections US 2021 Wargaming Conference. They have set the Theme for the conference as “Ethics and Wargaming”.

I invite you to join the “Unethical Wargaming” Working Group of the Connections US Wargaming Conference 2021.

The focus of this Connections US Working Group is the thought experiment that examines

“how to use unethical practices to make your wargame say what you want it to say.”

By deliberately assuming malign intent, we identify and avoid additional unethical practices to those that might be identified assuming benign intent.

If you decide to join you may participate in at least four ways

  • Write a paper for inclusion in the final report. Your paper can be on any topic you choose so long as it fits within the above focus.
  • Comment and discuss other members’ papers and respond to comments on your own (if you write one).
  • Engage in online discussions on any topic that surface within the focus area of the group.
  • Lurk and learn, and contribute when you feel comfortable doing so.

The Group will collaborate on-line starting in October 2020. During the Conference in 2021 we will run a Workshop to obtain inputs from the broader community. After the Conference we will produce a final report and post it online for public dissemination as a resource for the community. Contributors retain intellectual property rights for their materials. For an example of the kind of report we will produce see:
https://paxsims.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/2019-wargaming-the-far-future-final-20191105.pdf

If you wish to join, please email me at
stephen.downesmartin@gmail.com
and please include a link to your online bio. Thanks.

Schechter: Wargaming Cyber Security

The latest issue of War on the Rocks features a piece by Benjamin Schechter (US Naval War College) on wargaming cyber security.

“Wargames can save lives” is axiomatic in the wargame community. But can they save your network? As modern conflict has become increasingly digital, cyber wargaming has emerged as an increasingly distinct and significant activity. Moreover, it’s doing double duty. In addition to its application to national defense, it’s also helping protect the economy and critical infrastructure. Wargaming is a military tool used to gain an advantage on the battlefield. However, it has also found a home beyond national security, frequently used in the private sector. Cyber security straddles the battlefield and the boardroom. As a result, it is not surprising that cyber wargaming is increasingly common across both the public and private sectors. As cyber security concerns intensify, so too does the attention given to cyber wargaming.

Designed well and used appropriately, cyber wargames are a powerful tool for cyber research and education. However, misconceptions about what cyber wargames are, their uses, and potential abuses pose challenges to the development of cyber wargaming.

He offers some useful insight into how to do this well—and some equally useful comments on what to avoid:

Cottage industries have emerged that cater to every type of cyber security need. A variety of contractors, consultants, and specialists offer bespoke cyber wargames, support services, and wargaming tools. Often, they provide valuable services during a time when people are grasping for insights and solutions. Yet there are also potentially troubling challenges and conflicts of interest. Wargame sponsors and participants sometimes lack the social and technical ability to assess the wargame product they receive critically. Alternatively, the need for immediate, easy answers for hard cyber problems encourages problematic cyber wargames. Whatever the source, and there can be many, the potential problems and pathologies with cyber wargames go beyond the purely technical or conceptual.

In a world of new tech, vaporware, and buzzwords, cyber wargames can be used to sell other products, services, or ideas. The marketplace for cyber security may encourage using wargames as a sales pitch, leveraging the emotional and intellectual intensity of wargames for influence. One example is using cyber wargames to create anxiety or fear with “cyber doom scenarios.” While this may be appropriate in some specific instances, more often than not, it’s threat inflation to advance a program, advocate for an idea, or sell a product. This is not a new problem, nor is it limited to cyber or wargaming. Bureaucratic politics and defense procurement raise the specter of ulterior motives in wargames for the Department of Defense. The risks are significant for Fortune 500 companies as well as government agencies.

There’s also the problem of cyber wargames that don’t produce anything of value, either by design or by error. The most meaningless and infamous wargames are BOGSATs (a bunch of guys/gals sitting around a table). Cyber BOGSATs are common. These games may appear promising, with distinguished participants and institutions. But they lack clear objectives or game design leading to no substantial finding or benefit. BOGSATs occur when a wargame is not the best tool for the problem, is window dressing for something else, or is just poorly designed.

Particularly egregious are cyber wargames that actively cause harm by teaching the wrong lessons or creating false knowledge. Unfortunately, this is not a new or uncommon phenomenon. Common causes are ill-designed or unrealistic cyber elements and gameplay, poorly specified cyber objectives, and poor communication. A cyber wargame about a high-intensity conflict where cyberspace operations are consistently and catastrophically effective might lead to some skewed perspectives on cyberspace operations. Alternatively, poorly abstracted networks and computer systems may artificially limit player creativity or instill a false sense of security. Finally, and most fundamentally, they might fail to articulate how cyberspace has been abstracted or will be used within the game. Because cyberspace is synthetic, its representation can vary significantly and in different ways from other domains. In any case, poor design will result in games that fail to meet their objectives. Worse yet, they teach the wrong lessons, skew analysis, or stifle new or innovative ideas. My colleague, Dr. Nina Kollars, and I discuss these and related cyber wargaming challenges and pathologies in an upcoming Atlantic Council article.

You can read the full article link at the link above.

Connections Netherlands 2020

The Connections NL professional wargaming conference will will take place on 7 December 2020. Part of it may be streamed. This year’s conference is focused on the defence wargaming community.

For further details as they are announced, consult the Connections Netherlands website.

Connections NL is a cosponsor of the Derby House Principles and diversity and inclusion in wargaming.

14th NATO Operations Research and Analysis Conference

The 14th annual NATO Operations Research and Analysis Conference will be held virtually on 5-6 October 2020.  Registration is required by September 28 via the NATO Science and Technology Organization events website. You will find additional details in the Calling Notice:

The conference will feature some wargaming presentations, and others that are wargaming-relevant. A PAXsims report on the 2019 conference can be found here.

Brooks: What’s the worst that could happen?

In today’s Washington Post, Rosa Brooks (Georgetown University) further discusses the findings and implications of four recent crisis games examining potential challenges arising from the 2020 US presedential election:

We wanted to know: What’s the worst thing that could happen to our country during the presidential election? President Trump has broken countless norms and ignored countless laws during his time in office, and while my colleagues and I at the Transition Integrity Project didn’t want to lie awake at night contemplating the ways the American experiment could fail, we realized that identifying the most serious risks to our democracy might be the best way to avert a November disaster. So we built a series of war games, sought out some of the most accomplished Republicans, Democrats, civil servants, media experts, pollsters and strategists around, and asked them to imagine what they’d do in a range of election and transition scenarios.

With the exception of the “big Biden win” scenario, each of our exercises reached the brink of catastrophe, with massive disinformation campaigns, violence in the streets and a constitutional impasse. In two scenarios (“Trump win” and “extended uncertainty”) there was still no agreement on the winner by Inauguration Day, and no consensus on which candidate should be assumed to have the ability to issue binding commands to the military or receive the nuclear codes. In the “narrow Biden win” scenario, Trump refused to leave office and was ultimately escorted out by the Secret Service — but only after pardoning himself and his family and burning incriminating documents.

For obvious reasons, we couldn’t ask Trump or Biden — or their campaign aides — to play themselves in these exercises, so we did the next best thing: We recruited participants with similar backgrounds. On the GOP side, our “players” included former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, conservative commentator Bill Kristol and former Kentucky secretary of state Trey Grayson. On the Democratic side, participants included John Podesta, chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and a top White House adviser to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; Donna Brazile, the campaign chair for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential run; and Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan. Other participants included political strategists, journalists, polling experts, tech and social media experts, and former career officials from the intelligence community, the Justice Department, the military and the Department of Homeland Security.

It is all rather dire stuff, although Brooks ends on a hopdeful note:

But there’s some good news: This kind of exercise doesn’t predict the future. In fact, war-gaming seeks to forecast all the things that could go wrong — precisely to prevent them from happening in real life. And if the Transition Integrity Project’s exercises highlighted various bleak possibilities, they also suggested some ways we might, as a nation, avoid democratic collapse.

For more on the games, see the full Transitions Integrity Project report archived here.


For current poll aggregation and modelling of the US presidential campaign, PAXsims readers may find the following resources useful.

FiveThirtyEight

Current (3 September) election prediction from FiveThirtyEight. For the the most recent version, go here.

The Economist

Current (3 September) election prediction from The Economist. For the the most recent version, go here.

Maggie Snyder joins PAXsims as a research associate

PAXsims is pleased to announce that Maggie Snyder will be joining our team as a Research Associate for 2020-21.

Maggie hails from Barryville, NY. She graduated from St. John’s University with a double Bachelor of Arts in English and Theology. Later, she graduated with a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, where she studied International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and International Security Studies. While at Fletcher, Maggie participated in the SIMULEX crisis management exercise, and the 2015 Harvard Negotiation Simulation. Maggie has conducted firsthand research on nonviolent resistance in Tunisia, and is dedicated to the work of finding peaceful solutions to intractable conflicts. Most recently, she held contractor positions at the Department of State Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, and the DOS Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. She has also previously worked at the RAND Corporation, and interned at the UN Peacebuilding Support Office and at the World Youth Alliance. 

Space Policy Show: Integrating space into joint warfighting analysis

OK, this image is actually is from the Netflix series Space Force, but I couldn’t resist.

On September 10, the Aerospace Corporation will be hosting an online forum on integrating space into joint warfighting analysis, featuring Mike Fitzsimmons (IDA), Web Ewell (CNA), Rebecca Reesman and Russell Rumbaugh.

The new Space Force is currently grappling with building relevant doctrine and culture for an independent service in an ever more contested and congested domain. The gap between what’s possible physically and what’s desirable politically is a common seam for analysis and other tools to help decision-makers consider how to prepare.  What lessons can we learn from the history of decision-support analysis? How have other domains—particularly maritime—addressed this seam? What unique aspects of space help and hinder both levels of analysis? Space capabilities are inextricably linked to all domains and services, how should this inform scenario planning moving forward? Find out in this episode!

Wargaming will be among the decision support tools to be discussed. You will find full details and a registration form here.

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