PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

MORS wargaming workshop III

The Military Operations Research Society will be holding its third wargaming workshop on 17-19 October 2017 at the DoD’s Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia.

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You’ll find additional details at the MORS website.


Note that access to the Mark Center by non-US nationals will require submission of a visit request well in advance of the event, even to attend the unclassified sessions. MORS is working on a process to streamline this, which will be announced closer to the date.

Since most embassies will only process visit paperwork for their citizens if they are on official business, non-Americans may be out of luck if they hope to attend in a private or academic capacity (whether or not one holds security clearances).

Taps: CAPT Todd Kauderer

Howard-Kauderer-1499764860.pngWith great regret we pause to note the passing of Todd Kauderer. Todd was a stalwart of the wargaming community, and a friend and mentor to many. He had a distinguished career in the United States Navy, as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, and as one of the chief wargamers at the Johns Hopkins APL. Of all Todd’s many admirable qualities, one we will most miss was his boundless enthusiasm. Despite being an old hand, with a lustrous CV, he was always first in line to show a new recruit the ropes; always signing up for every new demo and half-baked idea. Todd was an inspiration in his vocation and his avocation. The middle of three generations of proud service to the U.S. military, he also spent his free time assembling one of the great 15mm scale miniature collections, and helping the rest of us be more accurate and more relevant. He gave his technical expertise and encyclopedic knowledge as generously as he could, and he never lost his love for the work. The last time I spoke to him he was still plotting what team might be assembled to steal the NIC wargaming contract from SAIC. His loss will be deeply felt.

http://www.navintpro.org/taps/2017/07/13/taps-todd-kauderer/

 

US AWC: Wargaming in the classroom poster

Wargaming in the Classroom Flyer V2.jpgAdditional details can be found here.

AFTERSHOCK in London

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Live in London (UK) and want to try out AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game? There’s now (or soon will be) a copy available to play at the Draughts Board Game Café.

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Simulation and gaming miscellany, July 4 edition

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Happy July 4th, American readers! To mark the occasion, PAXsims is pleased to bring you some recent items on conflict simulations and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming.

PAXsims

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Polygon recently featured a piece on “The art and craft of making board games for the CIA,” looking at the design work of Volko Ruhnke.

Featured in the piece are several pictures of Kingpin:

A good example of the kind of work that he does is a project called Kingpin: The Hunt for El Chapo, which he co-designed with another instructor in the Defense Intelligence Agency. Kingpin uses the historical details of the capture of Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán as well as some fictional elements to create a challenging, asymmetrical game.

Kingpin is an adversarial game where one side plays the role of law enforcement and the other plays the role of Guzmán’s own handlers and associates. The goal is to teach analysts about the use of intelligence resources in tracking someone down.

The game revolves around hidden information, with each side playing on their own hidden game board behind a screen. El Chapo’s team is constantly moving around inside Mexico trying to evade the law, but the cartel leader has certain tastes and expectations. He’s not just willing to sit inside a hole somewhere and is interested in leading an active, social lifestyle. Law enforcement has to use that against him. In the classroom the game is played twice, with students taking turns playing on both sides of the table.

h/t Marc Guenette

PAXsims

Hans-Wolfgang Lodi (Heriot-Watt University) has started a LinkedIn group on “History & Games” to support efforts to use digital and board games in education and to bring together people interested in his work on the JominiEngine.

The JominiEngine is an emerging, distributed, scalable game engine for historical massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). Core game and system design principles of this engine are historical accuracy of the game model and scalability of the system to large numbers of players. The intended application domain is education in history, to provide an “interactive history“ experience. Specifically, the engine has been instantiated to a concrete game, Overlord: Age of Magna Carta, a game set on mainland Britain in the time period of 1194-1225.

The implementation of the game engine focuses on modularity, extensibility and scalability, so that it can be instantiated for different time periods, and extended to also cover different application domains. We therefore view this game engine as a “motherboard“ for developing educational tools with varying topic areas and learning objectives. Technically outstanding features of the implementation are the use of Riak as a non-SQL database and of C# as a programming language.

You’ll find the group here.

In addition, on July 14 there will be an event on serious gaming in Edinburgh:

Where: Blackwells Bookshop Edinburgh South Bridge, 53-59 South Bridge
When: Friday 14th July, 2017 (5:30pm-9:00pm)
Web: http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~hwloidl/Projects/JominiEngine/workshop17.html

Learn about Serious Games and play some historical games to learn about history

The main goal of this event is to give an overview of the use of Serious Games in Education, in particular in the learning domain of history, and to experience some historical games through live gameplay sessions. This event aims to bring together various stakeholders and experts in education, game design, game development, and systems development, as well as anyone with a general interest in historical games. The format of the workshop will be: short, overview-style presentations and game demos to start with. The main part of the event will be several game-play events running in parallel to give participants an opportunity to try some games, and finally a discussion session reflecting on the experience from the game-play sessions. A list of games on offer will be posted here closer to the event.

This event is part of a longer-term effort in the development of a game engine, the JominiEngine as a practical teaching tool in the domain of history education. We hope to build a community of interested partners out of this workshop and solicit input for the further development of the engine and for the setting of priorities. For further information, check out the poster, the slides and the papers on the publications section of the main web page for the JominiEngine.

PAXsims

Frostpunk is forthcoming city-building survival sim from the 11 Bit Studio, the same people who brought us This War of Mine.

Rock Paper Shotgun offers a preview:

In the first week, we put the children to work. They weren’t forced into dangerous jobs, so we told ourselves, but when you’re living on the brink of extinction, what work is truly safe? One afternoon, a man collecting coal complained of numbness in his arm. Frostbite had taken hold. We could have left him to die but instead we opted for an experimental treatment.

He lost the arm and he’s no longer capable of contributing to our dying society. One more mouth to feed with no body of work beneath it. What should we do?

Though it’s a science fiction story, set in a frozen future barely capable of sustaining human life, it shares some of that previous title’s contemporary concerns. Climate change is the obvious one, this being a world undone by a dramatic temperature shift, but as you dig into the details, there are questions about equality, labour and the scarcity of natural resources that make the crater-town of Frostpunk an unhappy microcosm of just about every society you might choose to name.

It’s also an icy cocktail of cinematic and real world inspirations: the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 (filmed as Alive), Aron Ralston’s Utahmputation (filmed as 127 Hours) and Captain America and the railway children (filmed as Snowpiercer), among many others. There’s also a rich vein of Victoriana, but not simply in the [Blank]Punk sense; here there are shadows of the workhouse and Blake’s ‘weeping chimneysweep.’ The beating hea(r)t of the generator that keeps these people alive is also the new birth of an industrial age, and the factories and mines operate on blood and sweat.

Your job is not just to plan, it’s to inspire, or at least to ensure that hope doesn’t die out. It’s as vital to survival as the flames of the generator and how unusual it is to see Discontent and Hope listed as gauges of success. There are more conventional resources as well, particularly coal in the early stages, but you’re trying to support life rather than mere existence.

Frostpunk is a difficult game. Not in terms of the challenge it presents but in the way it is marrying two distinct genres and forcing bleak decision-making that is tied to its systems rather than its narrative. There is a story to uncover, which will presumably tell us something about how the world came to be as it is, and whether anything like a happy ending is possible. You can learn a little about the world beyond your crater by sending out expeditions, and through balloon-related observation, but the generator is home. And home is where the heart breaks.

h/t James Sterrett

PAXsims

According to Breaking Defence, US Pacific Command wants and additional $49 million “for “multi-domain battle exercises,” wargames testing a new Army-led concept for future warfare against high-tech adversaries.”

That’s Russia and China to rest of us.

h/t Mark Wallace

PAXsims

Back in May, before the British general election, New Statesman ran the Conservative Party manifesto through the politics simulation/game Democracy 3. You can find out the results here.

PAXsims

Apparently actual Nazis and white supremacists are upset at the portrayal of Nazis in the trailer for the forthcoming first-person shooter, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.

Awww.

PAXsims

On a final note, I’ll be spending next week discussing wargames with Her Majesty’s loyal subjects at the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. The trip to Dstl provides a golden opportunity to show off the MaGCK (Matrix Game Construction Kit) prototype and to double the size of my Dstl Portsdown West mug collection.

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I’ll post a (suitably-vetted) report to PAXsims upon my return.

PAXsims

 

Gaming the apocalypse: Northland edition

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A few hours ago the world’s first ever “wide-area megagame” ended. Urban Nightmare: State of Chaos concerned a growing zombie apocalypse in a fictionalized United States. It involved some five hundred or so players in 11 cities in five different countries: London, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Southampton (UK); Brussels (Belgium); Nijmegen (Netherlands); New York, Austin (US); and finally our small band in Montréal. The games were simultaneous (which meant a 6:30am start time for us) and linked (so what happened in one game affected the others). While subject wasn’t a serious one, many of the game design elements could certainly be applied to more serious topics.

While the rules were generally identical across games, there were a number of innovations in the “Northland” (Montréal) game, as befitted our status as the neighbouring country. Communications between games was by email and a centralized website for local and national news. Our own game had three components: a strategic game involving federal and provincial players, and two city/regional games, one depicting the Windsor/St. Catharines area (adjacent to Buffalo) and depicting the London/Windsor/Sarnia area (adjacent to Detroit or “Romero City”) .

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The peaceful streets of St. Catharines, Ontario, on the eve of the apocalypse.

The day started off with growing numbers of refugees from South of the Border arriving in Windsor and Niagara, as well as other areas on Ontario from Sault Ste-Marie to Cornwall.[1]

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In Ottawa, PM Trustin Judeau photogenically ponders the growing crisis.

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Windsor police—outside a Tim Hortons doughnut shop, of course.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the federal government immediately declared a nationwide state of emergency, which speeded the mobilization of federal and provincial assets. Prime Trustin Judeau was dispatched to London to cheer up hospital patients with smiling selfies.

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Trustin Judeau at London Health Sciences Centre.

In Niagara, local authorities quickly established a quarantine center and refugee camp. Newly-arrived refugees were screened and escorted to the camp, while zombie infestations were cordoned off until they could be dealt with.

In southwest Ontario, however, things quickly went from bad to worse. A light aircraft crashed at London airport, causing several casualties and closing it for more than 8 hours. Failure to screen arriving refugees led to several outbreaks, and other zombies started to float into coastal areas of Lake Erie. Local authorities were slower to establish cordons, which allowed the virus to spread. It didn’t help that conditions were equally bad, or even worse, in neighbouring Romero City (Detroit) and much of the rest of Mishigamaa (Michigan):

Mayor Mayhew tried to rally his troops:

Mayor Callum Mayhew, speaking at London City Hall today, praised municipal preparations to combat the zombie menace, and encouraged city workers to “hold your ground!”

The Mayor went on to say “Sons and daughters of London, of Windsor, my brothers/sisters, I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men and women fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.”

He added, “An hour of undead and shattered riot shields, when the Age of Persons comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight. By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, municipal employees of southwest Ontario!”

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Floaters! Undead abominations wash up on the northern shores of Lake Erie. The Munsee-Delaware (marked by the symbol in zone #49), Chippewa, Oneida, and other First Nations would do an admirable job of keeping their areas zombie-free.

When a small group of survivalists arrived by boat near Owen Sound and proceeded to shoot up the Bruce nuclear generating station, Acting Prime Minister Aaron Brennan ordered the closure of Canadian airspace to civilian traffic, and deployed Coast Guard units and Ontario Provincial Police helicopters to Lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron to interdict unauthorized boats trying to enter the country.[2] the importance of doing so was highlighted the next day when a lake freighter docked in a Northland port—only to disgorge a cargo of zombified crewmen. Only a quick response by the Northland Armed Forces prevented disaster.

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PM Trustin Judeau confers with Ontario provincial officials in Toronto. To the northwest, a small group of foreign survivalists fleeing from South of the Border asserts its so-called “Second Amendment right to loot nuclear power stations.”

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A classified map from the Pentagon, obtained after the crisis. Areas have been coded 1-5 for severity. As can be seen, large areas of Mishigamaa have been marked as lost.

Infected refugees led to a zombie outbreak in Sault Ste-Marie, but this was quickly suppressed by the timely arrival of elite JTF2 special forces and 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron, operating from Ottawa and NFB (Northland Forces Base) Petawawa. Other outbreaks occurred elsewhere from time to time, but were quickly dealt with.

Despite interdicting some would-be arrivals, Northland did not turn its back on its southern cousins. A refugee camp and quarantine site was established at the Cornwall, Ontario border crossing, in cooperation with the Northland Red Cross. This was opened to displaced persons of all nationalities. The Northland Public Health Agency contacted federal officials South of the Border, and offered their assistance with research—including a sample of the Pithovirus Sibericum B zombie virus that had been isolated by pathologists at the Niagara Health Services hospital.

Perhaps most important, as soon as the mechanized infantry of the 1e battalion, Royal 22e Régiment had formed up at NFB Valcartier they were ordered to the border south of Montréal. Northland then offered to deploy these forces to assist the state of Adirondack, which had suffered serious zombie infestations in Albany and elsewhere. It took a while for federal and state officials to sort out the necessary permissions and command protocols, but the Northland contingent was eventually dispatched to secure Plattsburgh and support efforts to liberate Albany.

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Northland Armed Forces units wait for a green light to assist local Adirondack officials across the border. The Cornwall Refugee Reception Centre can be seen to the west. Local OPP, SQ, and RNMP police units stand ready to screen new arrivals and escort them to the camp. Members of the Joint Incident Response Unit, based out of NFB Trenton, have established quarantine facilities there to prevent infections spreading among the refugees. (The misspelling of “Plattsburgh” was a cunning ruse to fool zombie cartographers. Given the absence of zombie maps after the crisis, it appears to have worked.)

At Owen Sound, an Ontario Ministry of Health HAZMAT team responded, and—working with local engineers—was able to seal a small breach at the Bruce NGS that had vented some radioactive steam. On two occasions aircraft ignored the closure of Northland airspace, and attempted to land anyway. On both occasions the government decided not to shoot them down. The first, landing in Ottawa, turned out to be a young family in a desperate search for safe refuge. The second, arriving at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, was a group of armed survivalists. They refused to surrender their weapons and opened fire on airport security personnel, but were soon brought under control by reservists from the 48th Highlanders and Royal Regiment of Northland. The airport was closed for several hours as a result of this incident.

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Infected refugees lead to a zombie outbreak in Kitchener, Ontario—but it is soon dealt with by reservists from the Royal Highland Fusiliers. To the east, a large concentration of refugees can be seen at the Toronto Refugee Reception Centre, guarded by an OPP SWAT team. At the top left an Ontario Ministry of Health HAZMAT team checks radiation levels at the Bruce nuclear power plant, following the incident with survivalists there.

Meanwhile in southwest Ontario, increasingly concerned municipal authorities took the drastic decision to have firefighters to refill their tankers with gasoline from the Sarnia refinery, and turn this on the undead hordes.

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The London Fire Department warily try their new weapon, as Mayor Mayhew and Chief Islam look on approvingly.

This worked about as well as one might expect: a few hordes were singed, several firefighter units suffered serious casualties, and a lot more fires erupted—including one at the Sarnia refinery. This promptly exploded, causing a fireball and column of smoke that could be seen in neighbouring Mishigamaa. Mass panic gripped the city.

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Grrrr, arghhh

In Windsor, all seemed lost. Large numbers of refugees had gathered here from Romero City, their onward route to Toronto blocked by the zombie packs that prowled large sections of Highway 401.[3] Police units had become cut off. Small children cried as undead abominations crept ever closer. Although loud Nickelback music[4] succeeded in driving back the zombies in some areas, it was only a matter of time before Windsor was completely overrun.

Then they heard it. First came a series of loud explosions, as CF-18s of 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron began airstrikes on the largest concentrations of animated abominations. This was then followed by the dull thud of helicopters in the distance. Led personally by General Daryl Cartier, Chief of the Defence Staff, Direct Action Company A of the Northland Special Operations Regiment and 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron undertook an airmobile assault to secure Windsor airport. Soon thereafter, the remainder of the regiment arrived, transported by CH-130s of 436 Transport Squadron.[5] They quickly took control of area and started to push back the undead.

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General Cartier looks on as reinforcements arrive to secure Windsor, Ontario.

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Pretty much everything in Sarnia is on fire (left) and airmobile Northland special forces secure Windsor (right).

In London, advance elements of Royal Northland Dragoons and Royal Northland Regiment started to arrive in the city, supported by reservists from 31 and 32 Brigade. As municipal police, fire, and reserve military forces (notably from the locally-based Windsor Regiment, Essex and Kent Scottish, and 1st Hussars) formed a cordon around the largest outbreaks, heavily armed regular troops began the counterattack. Additional mechanized infantry forces, this time from 2e battalion, Royal 22e Régiment, arrived a few hours later and began to push down the 401. Drawing upon the benefits of international research collaboration, a HAZMAT team from the Northland Public Health Agency began field trials of a new cure for the zombie virus. The early results were encouraging.

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The NPHA mobile lab deploys the experimental cure as the Mayor looks on (or, perhaps, at the fire down the road).

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A convoy of Vandoos advances down the 401 from London to Windsor, escorted by local police

It came not a moment too soon. NORAD and the Pentagon urgently informed the Northland government that Russian Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack nuclear-armed bombers were airborne, and might be headed southwards. All aircraft were re-tasked to intercept. In a tense call over secure communications, the Deputy Prime Minister and Chief of the Defence Staff agreed: the order would be given to engage any hostile armed aircraft entering Northland airspace…

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CF-18s of the Royal Northland Air Force streak northwards to intercept possible Russian bombers, “loaded for Bear”…


Reflections

We had far fewer players than we had initially planned for. A 6:30 am start on a national holiday (July 1 is Canada Day) is, it seems, a hard sell. However, everything went very well indeed. There were some communications issues—the central news website wasn’t always available due to server bandwidth problems (I couldn’t access it three-quarters of the time), and the email system could have functioned better. Busy players probably meant that not all of the information that could have flowed between games did flow between games. However, it was the apocalypse, so what do you expect?

Our small group had an absolutely terrific time. Unlike the other UNSOC sessions we had no elections subgame, but rather a competition to earn smug self-righteousness cards (“Smuggies”). Mayor Jano Bourgeois of Niagara and Acting Prime Minister Aaron Brennan were tied at the end, and so shared the trophy for the most outstandingly nice Northlander.

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Mayor Bourgeois (left) and Acting PM Brennon (right).

However a dispute erupted when the Mayor discovered one more Smuggy which he had forgotten about. The issue was resolved with a traditional hockey brawl, and then everyone made nice again and finished off the Timbits.

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Federal and municipal officials discuss the recent crisis.

I was very happy with the way that our Northland modifications (zonal maps, refugees) worked. Indeed, in addition to being a lot of fun, it had the real feel of an emergency management game. I might even use a modified version of UNSOC: Northland in my teaching on humanitarian crisis response next academic year.

The tokens and stickers we used for units were based on the MaGCK system that Tom Fisher, Tom Mouat and I are developing. The stickers are removable, so all the tokens can be reused.  It took maybe two hours to print and assemble 200 components. Total cost: probably $10 or so for the printing. While we’ve designed MaGCK for matrix gaming, it clear has some megagame applications too!

 

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WAMCOM Kevin Farnworth (left).

Particular gratitude is due to my CONTROL team counterparts, Tom Fisher (who ran not one but two city maps simultaneously) and Kevin Farnworth (who served both as WAMCOM, interacting with the other games, and as the Northland press). Of course, none of this would have been possible at all without the megagame design and organization skills of mad genius Jim Wallman, who put the wide-area megagame together.

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City CONTROL, Tom Fisher. Note the relative calm in Niagara/St. Catharines (foreground) as local police, reservists from the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, and a Northland Border Services Agency K9 unit meet refugees crossing the Niagara River, preparing to escort them to the nearby refugee camp and quarantine centre. A SWAT team patrols the Queen Elizabeth Way. Meanwhile, firefighters deal with a small fire east of Welland, while St. Catharines police respond to a robbery in progress.

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The heroes of Northland.


Notes

[1] Refugees were a major component of the Northland game. They could be regular refugees, armed survivalists (prone to looting), or infected (who might turn into zombies). Police and military units could screen these and escort them, otherwise they would all slowly head towards Toronto or Montréal. Refugee camps could be established to hold them, and these could be upgraded with security and medical quarantine facilities.

[2] In the Northland game, the flow of refugees could be slowed by interdiction efforts in the air and by the use of Coast Guard and other assets on the Great Lakes.

[3] While most of the UNSOC games used a hex grid, we used zonal maps overlaid on Google Map images. The various major highways provided a much faster route than the city streets or rural roads. Also, our London/Windsor/Sarnia map was on a larger scale than others, with movement allowances scaled accordingly.

[4] Among other Northland-specific special action cards, our game featured Tim Hortons, support from First Nations communities, an emergency telephone conversation with the Queen, polite neighbours, the War of 1812, and local hockey teams with protective gear and sharpened zombie-killing hockey sticks.

[5] The Order of Battle in the Northland game accurately mirrored the actual deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces, with every single combat unit in 2 Mechanized Brigade Group, 5e Groupe-brigade mécanisé, 31, 32, 33, 34, and 35 (reserve) Brigade Groups, and the 1st, 3rd, and 8th Wings of 1 Air Division represented at the Company or Squadron scale. Representation of Royal Northland Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police, and the Sûreté du Québec generally reflected their actual deployment and organization too.

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USAWC: Wargaming in the classroom

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The US Army War College will be hosting a panel discussion on wargaming in the classroom from 10:00am to 11:30am on Saturday, July 22 at the Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA. The event is open to the public.

The speakers for the event will be:

  • Dr. Peter Perla (CNA)
  • Dr. Jim Lacey (US Marine Corps War College)
  • Dr. David Lai (US Army War College)
  • Dr. James Sterrett (US Army Command And General Staff College)

Immediately following the panel, gaming will ensue using games that are currently implemented in some classrooms.

Connections NL 2017

Connections Netherlands will be held on 13 November 2017 at Fort Hoek van Holland.  You’ll find additional details below.

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Strategy Bridge: Coast Road

coastroad.pngThe Strategy Bridge has published another in its #Nextwar series of tactical problems. This time it involves a US effort to secure a foothold in or around the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, against Hizbullah opposition.

Scenario #2 – Coast Road

In this decision game, you play either a Joint Task Force (JTF) tasked to seize a lodgment in Lebanon or a Lebanese Hezbollah unit tasked to defend the area.  The game is designed to help you think through 21st century Joint Forcible Entry (JFEO).  Get creative and experiment with Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUMT), seeing where you could either use an optionally-manned vehicle or add a new unmanned system (but think cheap and off-the-shelve vice exquisite and expensive Terminators).

You can propose a Course of Action as either Red or Blue, and submit it to the scenario designer (Benjamin MJensen, Marine Corps University). There is no system for action/response, however—rather, the puzzle is an opportunity to propose different offensive and defensive COAs and then consider how they might interact.

Non-military folks may find the scenario briefing rather military-jargon-heavy. There’s also some key human terrain stuff that isn’t in the briefing package, but an alert Blue commander should probably ask about:

  • The local population would likely be very hostile to US intervention (the area is overwhelmingly Shi’ite, and Hizbullah and its Amal allies typically win 90%+ of the Tyre vote in Lebanese elections).
  • There are also about 50,000 Palestinian refugees in three UNRWA camps in the area, who are unlikely to be happy to see American intervention.
  • Mobile phone access and usage is ubiquitous. Barring efforts to disrupt this, pretty much all US movement will be quickly reported (even at sea, given that Tyre is a fishing port).
  • If the Lebanese police assets mentioned in the BLUE briefing are local cops, they’re probably close to Hizbullah. If they’re (non-Shiite) Lebanese ISF forces from elsewhere, they’ll have limited support from the locals and even less motivation to take risks.

Wide Area Megagame: The Press Release

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The world’s first ever wide-area megagame will be taking place on July 1—and there’s an offical press release to go with it.

PRESS RELEASE
==============
WORLD FIRST INTERNATIONAL GAMING EVENT TO TAKE PLACE JULY 1st

On the First of July there will be a world-wide zombie outbreak.

URBAN NIGHTMARE: STATE of CHAOS will be the first ever international Wide Area Megagame. Megagames are an emerging type of event with growing popularity all over the world which. Dozens (or even hundreds) of players come together to interact with various board game and role-playing elements over the course of a single day.

On Saturday, July 1st, 2017, over 500 players spanning across eleven venues and five countries, will gather for an international event comprising of eleven simultaneous megagames being played concurrently across the world. It will be a gameplay experience like no other.

With a zombie apocalypse as the catalyst each venue will represent a state of a fictionalized America and work to contain the infection and help to maintain order throughout the country. Not only will players be working towards maintaining order in their state, they will be interacting with other teams around the world and affecting each other’s game (for better or for worse).

“Megagame Makers have created a game with solid mechanics and high potential for unprecedented player interactions.” said Brian Stacy, co-creator of New York’s Ironmark Games’ The World Turned Upside Down. “We really think the players are going to come up with unique solutions and find interesting ways to interact with the other states throughout the world.”

“It’s ridiculously exciting to think that across the world, hundreds of people will be playing the same game” said Becky Ladley, founder of Social Quirk “It makes it feel a lot more realistic – we’ll be dealing with the same communication and cooperation difficulties that real world governments would have to deal with.”

Players can assume one of several team roles that suits their play style. Emergency service players work on the ground controlling fires and rescuing the injured. City government roles keep the masses blissfully ignorant while controlling the National Guard. Is there a cure? How did this all start? Players may seek to spread The Truth as part of the News Media, writing stories that will be seen throughout the game world!

The game will be played in:

•Austin, Texas
•Bristol, UK
•Brussels, Belgium
•Cambridge, UK
•Leeds. UK
•London. UK
•Birmingham, UK
•Montreal, Canada
•New York, NY
•Nijmegen, The Netherlands
•Southampton, UK

Contact

For additional information contact:
Jim Wallman
jimwallman@megagames.org.uk
07837888357

You’ll also find additional information at Megagame Makers.

The Montreal (“Northland”) component will be a rather small affair, but we’ve still got spaces if you’re interested.

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Gaming articles in International Studies Perspectives

isp.gifThe latest issue of International Studies Perspectives 18, 2 (May 2017) has a several articles on game-related topics that might be of interest to PAXsims readers.

The first, by Nicolas de Zamaróczy, is entitled “Are We What We Play? Global Politics in Historical Strategy Computer Games.”

Building upon current interest in studies of how popular culture relates to global politics, this article examines one hitherto overlooked aspect of popular culture: computer games. Although not prominent in the field of International Relations (IR), historical strategy computer games should be of particular interest to the discipline since they are explicitly designed to allow players to simulate global politics. This article highlights five major IR-related assumptions built into most single-player historical strategy games (the assumption of perfect information, the assumption of perfect control, the assumption of radical otherness, the assumption of perpetual conflict, and the assumption of environmental stasis) and contrasts them with IR scholarship about how these assumptions manifest themselves in the “real world.” This article concludes by making two arguments: first, we can use computer games as a mirror to critically reflect on the nature of contemporary global politics, and second, these games have important constitutive effects on understandings of global politics, effects that deserve to be examined empirically in a deeper manner.

The second, by Craig Hayden, looks at “The Procedural Rhetorics of Mass Effect: Video Games as Argumentation in International Relations.”

Popular culture is a significant interest for scholars of International Relations and world politics. This article explores the capacity of video games to articulate, represent, and simulate the practice of international politics in both narrative and procedural capacities through a study of the highly popular Mass Effect science fiction series of video games. The introduction of procedural rhetoric as a means of textual criticism is argued to address existing concerns within the study of International Relations to articulate the significance of representation with cultural texts and to extend the implications of claims about science fiction as a compelling set of contingent arguments about the broader sphere of social life that constitutes International Relations.

The third, by Tina Zappile, Daniel J. Beers, and Chad Raymond, addresses “Promoting Global Empathy and Engagement through Real-Time Problem-Based Simulations.”

We introduce a real-time problem-based simulation in which students are tasked with drafting policy to address the challenge of internally displaced persons in post-earthquake Haiti from a variety of stakeholder perspectives. Students who participated in the simulation completed a quantitative survey as a pre-/post-test on global empathy, political awareness, and civic engagement and provided qualitative data through post-simulation focus groups. The simulation was run in four courses across three campuses in a variety of instructional settings from 2013 to 2015. An analysis of the data reveals that scores on several survey items measuring global empathy and political/civic engagement increased significantly after the simulation, while qualitative student comments corroborated the results. This format of a real-time problem-based policy-making simulation is readily adaptable to other ongoing and future global crises using the framework provided in this paper.

Matrix game construction kit update #3

We have just had some of the components for the Matrix Game Construction Kit (MaGCK) prototype back from the printers, and we are very happy with the result.

MaGCK will contain one set of map tiles, used for A Reckoning of Vultures—a game of coup plotting, political skullduggery, and presidential succession.

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Part of the map for A Reckoning of Vultures. The system of tokens and stickers used in MaGCK allows for a deal of customization—here we see political leader, police, a SWAT team, riot police, helicopter, firefighters, an ambulance, and a doctor. MaGCK will contain several hundred stickers and designs,

On the flip side of these there are generic urban tiles. These have isomorphic road connections, allowing them to be assembled in many different ways.

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Generic urban terrain. By “many different ways” we mean to say that the map tiles can be assembled in more than 2.6 nonillion (10^30) different ways.

The kit also contains ten two-sided game tracks, which you can use for anything you want: tracking time, moves, die roll modifiers, and so forth.

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All of this is due to the graphics wizardry of PAXsim’s very own Tom Fisher, of course.

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Tom examines the latest components at my dining room table.

Many thanks to Dstl for supporting the project. Tom Mouat and I be reviewing the contents with them next month, and hope to do a public launch of MaGCK in September at the Connections UK professional wargaming conference.

You’ll find previous updates here:

MaGCK will also contain two scenarios for the ISIS Crisis matrix game, which we’ve written about extensively at PAXsims.

UPDATE:

Even more goodies arrived today! Here you can see the box, tokens, and some of the stickers.

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Prototype box, plus blank tokens (to which stickers are attached to indicate units, assets, effects, etc.), disks (used to track supply, turns, political influence—or whatever else you want), and dice.

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No gaming system would be complete without its supply of thugs (or armed civilians, survivalists, militia, or criminals). These stickers would be fixed to the coloured tokens above.

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Some of the box contents (minus rules, scenario briefings, tracking mats).

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Pssst, need some stickers for your next matrix game?

 

ATHA webcast: Serious games in the humanitarian sector

Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action will be hosting a webcast on the use of serious games in the humanitarian sector tomorrow (June 21).

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You can register to participate here.

h/t Melanie Tomsons

The Austin Archaria Experiment

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Allan Shearer (School of Architecture and Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Texas at Austin) has kindly shares his report on the “Austin Archaria Experiment,” which explored the action and interaction of key local stakeholders in the context of NATO peace and stabilization mission.

PURPOSE

This discovery experiment explored potential dynamics among key host nation and international community actors who could contribute to social order in the Archaria 2035 scenario. It follows from several conversations held during the 2016 NATO Urbanisation Wargame on ways civilian stakeholders might expand or limit options for military courses of action during high intensity conflict.

The experiment was predicated on the following propositions:

• That governance significantly contributes to, if not establishes the basis for, the stability of a populated area (region, nation state, city).

• That governance is achieved through combinations of governmental offices, public institutions, and markets.

• That successful compositions of governance (that is, combinations of government, institutions, and markets) vary due to local social and cultural factors.

• That the relative importance of government offices, public institutions, and markets will change over time.

• That a stable social order can include illegitimate actors who wield power beyond the rule of law.

• That in times of acute stress related to unprecedented or little imagined situations, power within and among sectors of governance will be contested and may change abruptly.

• That fluid conditions of governance may reduce the bases for stability and will, therefore, be a critical factor in a dynamic military operating environment.

METHOD

The method of the experiment followed from the RAND Corporation Research Memorandum ‘Factional Debates and National Commitments: The Multidimensional Scenario’ (1967), which sought to game how governments within a region would respond to a crisis situation for which postures or positions had not been previously stated. It assumed that a given state’s official stance would emerge through interactions among various stakeholders in or near the national government.

Thirteen roles were developed for Archaria. This relatively large number reflected assumptions with regard to the fragility of the Archarian government, uncertainties about state and city government interactions in the provision of basic services, and the ability of non-governmental actors to exert influence. Each role has an assigned primary interest, a limited ability to act, and a set of connections to other roles. However, as a layer of complexity, the underlying personal values that motivate (or partially motivate) a given interest are made intentionally ambiguous through each actor’s biographical profile.

As such, while it is possible to read the profiles and have an initial understanding of what each character will pursue in the near term, participants must contribute their own interpretations of the background material to round-out or complete the portrayal of a role. Subsequent interactive gameplay requires that these added assumptions be declared and allows for a more nuanced assessment of negotiated decisions.

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The scenario (based on the Archaria 2035 scenario being used by NATO ACT to explore the effects of urbanization on military operations) involved growing militarized tensions between Positania and Catan:

The region spanning Yorbia to Central Landia is characterized by ongoing political upheaval and economic disruptions related to globalization, migration, climate change, cyber-attacks, and transnational crime. Centrium and North Yorbia pose global problems due to the rise of extremist groups that strike around the world. In the center of the region, relationships between Positania and Catan have significantly deteriorated over the last year due to: (1) Positania’s strengthening political ties with the Confederation of Northlandia Nations (CNN) and its efforts to join NATO, and (2) The increasing economic importance of the Port of Archaria, which is critical not only for Positania, but for global trade. These two issues are combined in escalating tensions over the control of the primary routes across the Sidonian Sea. Within Positania, people are divided over the short- and long-term bene ts of better relationships with CNN or Catan. The majority of middle- and upper-class Neapolitans see a more prosperous and independent future through partnerships with the North. Those living in crowded slums are distrustful of Catan and opposed to its aggressive posturing, but they also believe policies of the Northlandia Nations have worsened their standard of living. Ethnic Catans living in Archaria—some families for generations— feel they are not fully enfranchised citizens in Positania. Alongside state-level geopolitical maneuvers, factions and stakeholders operate at Archaria to influence the way the city functions and shape its relationships with other municipalities.

May 1, 2035: United Nations’ Security Resolution 12991 condemns the Government of Catan for its failure to abide by international law and authorizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to deploy a response force (known as the NATO Positania Force or NPF) for an initial period of twelve months. NPF is to support the efforts of the government of Positania to ensure sovereignty and integrity of its national borders and to safeguard the freedom of navigation in the Sidonian Sea. Further, NATO is to support the creation of a safe and secure environment for the civilian led delivery of humanitarian assistance and the voluntary return of internally displaced persons and refugees. The President of Positania has offered host nation facilities to a multinational NATO force that would deploy in support of peace and stability.

The NATO military instrument of power will be complemented by the political and economic instruments of power of the International Community and the significant role played by the Positania’s armed forces.

The response involves achieving three objectives: (1) Military threat to Positania posed by Catan is degraded and the territorial integrity of Positania is restored. (2) Freedom of movement in South Landia, and, in particular, the Sidonian Sea is maintained. (3) Safe and Secure Environment (SASE) for humanitarian assistance is supported.

TODAY—June 20, 2035: Catan forces are arrayed in defensive positions in a band along the north-south autostrada A1 from autostrada A3 in the south to highway 57 in the north. Catan forces have been unable to secure either the port or airport of Archaria; however, both are within indirect re range of Catan forces’ artillery, mortars, and air defense weapons. Catan forces have been actively patrolling and probing along their frontage and are in position to launch local attacks against lightly defended targets. Additionally, Catan is focusing its psychological warfare campaign and perception-shaping efforts against the citizens of Positania. It is maintaining that conflict in the region would not exist if it were not for the bullying and intimidation of the Confederation of Northlandia Nations and NATO allies. The message has been generally well received by governments across the region and it has inflamed the emotions of Archarian citizens of Catan descent.

You’ll find the full report here (pdf).

Wargaming exhibit at the Armémuseum

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This falls into the “better late than never” category, since this opened a few months ago…

The Swedish Army Museum (Armémuseum) in Stockholm currently features an exhibit on wargaming.

Följ med på en resa i krigsspelens värld – från forntidens schackbräden till miniatyrspelens rymdålder.

Datorspelen har fått maka på sig – i den här utställningen kan du frossa i krigsspel i brädform av alla tänkbara slag. Se medeltida schackpjäser av ben och valrosstand, gamla svenska kampspel som samiskt tablut-spel – en strid mellan samer och bönder – och en reproduktion av vikingatidens tafl-spel.

Krig i spel och verklighet

Vandra genom utställningen och se hur spel har påverkat avgörande händelser i historien. Som spelet Gulf Strike som användes av militärledningen i Pentagon, USA, i planeringen av Gulfkriget år 1990 – ett vanligt brädspel för några hundralappar kom att ligga bakom en av 1900-talets mest effektiva militäroperationer.

Här finns också spel som har använts för att lära ut krig. Se specialtillverkade spel som har använts på officersskolor, från 1800-talet fram till idag.

Kliv in i ett dramatiskt mikrokosmos

I det färgstarka utställningsrummet blandas hotfullt och lekfullt, stort och smått, lek och allvar. Här hittar du moderna figurspel som Bolt Action och Black Powder. Kortlekar, tennsoldater, familjefavoriter som Risk och Christer Fuglesangs egenbyggda ”rymdschack” – försett med kardborreband för att hålla pjäserna på plats i tyngdlösheten.

The exhibit is open until 7 January 2018.

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h/t Colin Marston 

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