Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Connections UK 2023 registration open

Registration is open for the Connections UK conference for wargaming professionals. This will take place at the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) Old College, from Tuesday 5th – Thursday 7th September 2023.

Our mission remains to advance and sustain the art, science and application of wargaming. In line with that, the purpose of this year’s conference is to bring on the next generation of professionals and help practitioners cross the ‘practitioner desert’. Hence, the conference will be primarily aimed at practitioners and users of wargames and serious games. However,  enthusiastic newcomers are always welcome! Connections UK offers a safe-to-fail (and fun!) environment where you, your games and gaming concepts can develop in the company of some of the best gamers from around the world.

Conference content includes:

  1. ‘This is not a game’. A massive meta game developed by the Connections UK team about the challenges and opportunities in the professional wargaming industry. This will bring people together to play, learn and network.
  2. The traditional hands-on Games Fair, which will provide an opportunity to practise your art and develop and playtest games.
  3. Plenaries addressing the development of the wargaming capability and capacity.
  4. Continuing professional development sessions featuring, for example:
    1. The skills required for effective facilitation.
    2. The relationship between wargaming and red teaming.
    3. Wargames without war.
    4. The Connections Next Generation team considering diversity of design and rulebook evolution.
    5. Designing to a purpose.
  5. Deep dives featuring, for example, wargaming influence, wargaming urban operations and how industry can support UK gaming.

And much more! Plus, of course, plenty of time for networking!

Connections UK 2023 dovetails with the initiative by the Secretary of State for Defence to embed wargaming throughout the Ministry of Defence and increase the wargaming capacity and capability. This reflects the increasing adoption of wargaming and serious gaming techniques across governments around the world, in NATO and in non-defence contexts. You, the Connections community, have a significant role to play in these initiatives by informing and influencing ongoing activities at the conference and beyond.

Cost. The conference will cost £299 for all three days. This will include a hot lunch and afternoon tea each day.

Registration. Venue capacity is limited. Please register as soon as you can via Eventbrite  or use the QR code on the poster.

RMAS. RMAS does not offer accommodation, but there are plenty of reasonably priced hotels nearby. The RMAS postcode is GU15 3PL, and you will find an interactive map on the registration page. The grounds of RMAS are large, so a car is recommended. Find out more about RMAS and Old College at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst – Wikipedia

Connections UK. More details about Connections UK, including a comprehensive record of previous conferences, is at

Simulation games for global pandemic resilience workshop AAR

I’m at Atlanta airport at the moment, on my way back from the Simulation Games for Global Pandemic Resilience Workshop at the Santa Fe Institute. The workshop was organized by Lauren Ancel Meyers (University of Texas at Austin), Margaret Polski (US Naval War College) and Francesca de Rosa (CAPTRS), and involved thirty participants drawn from public health, epidemiology, medicine, modelling, and serious games.

After an introduction by the organizers, the first panel of the workshop focused on public health preparedness exercises. Two key insights that I took away from the presentations were (1) that smaller, quicker, and more agile simulation games and TTXs (that can be run more often and more easily) may be more useful than very big and complex exercises, although the latter certainly have considerable value for raising broader awareness, and (2) there is often less follow-up and impact from TTXs than is desirable.

The second panel looked at simulation games for crisis management. Here we covered everything from a typology and continuum of game approaches; best practices in enhancing learning, practice and thinking; and insights from psychological research on simulation players/participants. The slides from my own short presentation are below, but they don’t incorporate the many comments I added in response to the other excellent presentations and prior discussion.

The third panel explored modeling the spread of uncertain pathogen threats and cascading effect. This was a rich and wide-ranging discussion that addressed the links between modelling and alert systems, different kinds of pathogen threats, and the kinds of information we do and do not have. One participant noted that it is not necessarily “black swans” we need fear—we often know of challenges, or what is broken, but nonetheless have failed to fix or address these vulnerabilities before the next crisis hits. Another participant, commenting on the essential role of public messaging (and modifying public behaviour), noted that you can win this with models alone but you also need a coherent and effective narrative: “don’t bring stats to a story fight.”

For the remainder of the workshop we were divided into three breakout groups which were all asked to address three topics:

  • gaming situational awareness
  • gaming decision-making
  • AI and innovation through integration

I happened to be rapporteur for one of the groups, so I’ve included my brief-back slides for that group below. However, there were a great many thoughtful comments from our group that couldn’t be adequately captured in ten minute brief-back, plus of course the many insights from the other two groups. However, it should be enough to give you a sense of some of the discussions that were held.

Overall, it was a terrific experience. I particularly enjoyed the diverse mix of participants and the benefits that come from discussion and cross-fertilization across knowledge domains, expertise, and experience. I also found the workshop very useful for enhancing my own network of contacts in this field. The Santa Fe Institute was an outstanding host.

I’m sure that the organizers will put out a formal workshop report at some point, and when they do we’ll be sure to share it here at PAXsims.

CFP: Innovations in negotiation pedagogy through experiential learning and simulations

The journal International Negotiation: A Journal of Theory and Practice has issued a call for papers for an issue devoted to “innovations in negotiation pedagogy through experiential learning and simulations.”

International Negotiation: A Journal of Theory and Practice is pleased to announce a call for papers for a special issue focusing on experiential learning in negotiation pedagogy, including but not limited to, the use of simulations and role-plays as instructional methods. We invite educators, researchers, and practitioners to contribute original, high-quality papers that will broaden our understanding of experiential learning approaches in negotiation education and enhance the effectiveness of negotiation pedagogy across various disciplines.

Potential topics for this special issue include, but are not limited to:

  • Theoretical bases for implementing experiential learning activities in negotiation pedagogy;
  • Experiential learning activities (ELAs) in negotiation pedagogy and training. ELAs can take various forms, including simulations, role-plays, group exercises, case studies, problem-solving activities, field trips, and reflective discussions;
  • Integrating artificial intelligence, technology, and multimedia into negotiation instruction;
  • Case studies of successful experiential learning-based negotiation courses or workshops, including examples of actual simulations or exercises that educators can adopt in their teaching.

We encourage submissions that explore the application of negotiation teaching across various disciplines, as well as in interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary settings. Papers that extend beyond experiential learning and simulations, encompassing other methods of teaching negotiation such as reflective practice and active learning more broadly, are also welcome.

Submission Process and Guidelines:

Authors interested in contributing to this special issue should submit a tentative title and abstract by July 25, 2023 to the Special Issue Editor at <>. Abstracts should be 300-400 words and include the purpose of the study, the methodology used, the relevance and implications of the study in relation to the theme of the special issue. Authors should clearly demonstrate how their paper contributes to experiential learning in negotiation pedagogy. 

Following an initial review, authors of selected abstracts will be invited to submit full manuscripts. Please note that all full manuscripts will undergo a peer review process, and acceptance for publication is not guaranteed. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the special issue guest editor or the editorial team.

We look forward to receiving your valuable contributions to this special issue on advancing negotiation pedagogy through experiential learning. Authors may find it helpful to consult a  previous issue of the Journal focusing on negotiation pedagogy and to consider connections to existing scholarship on simulation design and experiential learning

US NWC seeks assistant/associate professor

The War Gaming Department at the US Naval War College seeks an assistant or associate professor. Details below — the deadline for applications is June 30.

Simulation games for pandemic preparedness and response

I’m on my way to Santa Fe for a conference on “simulation games for global pandemic resilience” and I thought I would ask the ChatGPT AI what it thought of the topic. Its (quite sensible) response is below.

– – –

Arguments for using simulation games to enhance pandemic preparedness and response:

  1. Experiential Learning: Simulation games provide a hands-on and immersive learning experience. They allow participants to simulate real-world scenarios, making decisions and experiencing the consequences in a controlled environment. This active engagement can deepen understanding, improve critical thinking, and enhance decision-making skills related to pandemic preparedness and response.
  2. Risk-Free Environment: Pandemic simulations allow participants to practice and test different strategies without real-world risks or consequences. They can experiment with various approaches, assess their effectiveness, and learn from mistakes. This trial-and-error process can help identify weaknesses, refine protocols, and improve overall preparedness and response capabilities.
  3. Collaboration and Coordination: Simulation games facilitate collaboration and coordination among various stakeholders involved in pandemic response, including healthcare professionals, policymakers, emergency responders, and community representatives. By working together in a simulated environment, participants can develop effective communication channels, establish protocols, and build trust and teamwork, which are crucial elements for a coordinated pandemic response.
  4. Identifying Gaps and Improving Response Plans: Simulations can reveal gaps or weaknesses in existing pandemic response plans, protocols, or infrastructure. Through the simulation experience, organizations and authorities can identify areas that need improvement, such as resource allocation, logistical challenges, communication protocols, or decision-making processes. This feedback can inform future planning and enhance the effectiveness of response strategies.

Arguments against using simulation games to enhance pandemic preparedness and response:

  1. Unrealistic Assumptions: Simulation games often rely on simplified models and assumptions about the dynamics of a pandemic, which may not fully capture the complexities and uncertainties of real-world scenarios. This can lead to a false sense of preparedness if participants base their strategies solely on the simulation outcomes.
  2. Resource and Time Constraints: Developing and conducting simulation games requires significant resources, including financial investments, expertise, and time. Organizing and executing large-scale simulations may not always be feasible, especially during emergencies when immediate actions and responses are needed.
  3. Difficulty in Capturing Real-world Dynamics: Despite efforts to create realistic simulations, it can be challenging to accurately capture the unpredictable nature and dynamic factors of a pandemic, such as human behavior, societal impacts, and economic consequences. This limitation may affect the applicability of simulation outcomes to real-world scenarios.
  4. Limited Transferability: The effectiveness of simulation games in enhancing pandemic preparedness and response may vary depending on the context, resources, and participants involved. Lessons learned from one simulation may not always translate seamlessly to different regions or scenarios. Adaptation and customization are necessary to ensure relevance and applicability to specific contexts.
  5. Ethical Considerations: Simulations involving pandemic scenarios can evoke emotional responses and stress among participants, particularly if they involve realistic portrayals of severe health crises. Care must be taken to ensure the well-being and mental health of participants during and after the simulation, as well as ethical considerations related to informed consent, confidentiality, and privacy.

Overall, while simulation games offer valuable learning opportunities, they should be seen as one component of a comprehensive approach to pandemic preparedness and response. They should be complemented with real-world experiences, evidence-based practices, and ongoing evaluation and adaptation of response plans.

Simulation & Gaming (June 2023)

The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 54, 3 (June 2023) is now available.


  • On the Shoulder of the Giants for Creating a Better Future
    • Marlies P. Schijven and Toshiko Kikkawa

Short Research Article

  • Cap-and-Trade Game: An Online Computer Game for Experiential Learning About Pollution Pricing 
    • Niko Yiannakoulias

Research Articles

  • Evaluation of a Postpartum Hemorrhage Escape Room: A Multisite Study 
    • Tamara Holland, Joan Esper Kuhnly, Michele McKelvey, Jean Prast, and Laurie Walter
  • An Examination of Memory Performance in a Fearful Virtual Reality Gaming Context 
    • L. Y. Lo and C. L. Ip
  • How Hard Is It Really? Assessing Game-Task Difficulty Through Real-Time Measures of Performance and Cognitive Load
    • Andrew J.A. Seyderhelm and Karen L. Blackmore


  • The Cognitive Skills in Interpretation of Spatial Situations in the League of Legends game 
    • Tymoteusz Horbiński and Krzysztof Zagata
  • Digital Games as Media for Teaching and Learning: A Template for Critical Evaluation 
    • Holger Pötzsch, Therese Holt Hansen, and Emil Lundedal Hammar
  • Players Perception of the Chemistry in the Video Game No Man’s Sky 
    • Diogo Santos, Nelson Zagalo, and Carla Morais

Hope and Glory (UK resilience matrix game)

From prolific but ever-mysterious game designer Tim Price comes Hope and Glory—a matrix game about UK resilience in the face of growing convert and unconventional warfare threats from Russia.

Russian spy ships are mapping wind farms and key cables off the British Coast. There can only be one reason for this – to learn how to sabotage UK and European critical infrastructure in the event of a full-scale war with the West.

The sobering truth is that our potential adversaries, Russia in the West and China in the East, are gearing up for wider conflict. That does not mean that conflict will happen – preparation makes it less likely – but we must urgently recognise the extent of the threat to the current order. Our world is becoming markedly more dangerous. And Britain is not ready.

Our collective response over too much of the past 15 years was one of denial, oiled and encouraged by Russian money and influence in the US, UK and EU. War in Ukraine opened our eyes – recently Cabinet Osce Secretary gave an “unprecedented” warning of cyber threats to our national infrastructure; and the Defence Secretary has been consistently robust – but there is much more we can do.

Some of our closest allies, such as Poland, are re-arming on land at an unprecedented rate. Were the worst to happen, they will be ready to defend European soil. But the NATO alliance remains dangerously exposed at sea.

Russia is probing for European vulnerabilities. Apart from food, the daily critical requirements of modern society are energy and communications. The underwater arteries of modern civilisation are surprisingly few. For example, just three pipelines deliver 43 per cent of our baseline gas supply. Five interconnectors deliver electricity to and from the UK and Europe (and one more between Britain and Ireland). There are more communications cables, about 70 in all, but a relatively small number of deep-sea sabotage operations could bring our world to a halt without a shot being fired. We were assured that wind farms would bolster our energy security, but few considered their military exposure.

Players assume to role of:

  • Russian Government
  • The United Kingdom Government
  • The Russian Military
  • The United Kingdom Emergency Services
  • A United Kingdom Domestic Extremist Group
  • The United Kingdom Armed Forces

The game includes player briefings (including an array of fictional extremist groups to choose from), a map with critical UK infrastructure, a variety of markers, and basic instructions on playing a matrix game.

WATU Wargame Report 2023

Debriefing at the end of the game. Kit Barry points to the gun battle between U-3 and escorts L1 and P4 at the rear of the convoy.

On Saturday 6th May, the Western Approaches Tactical School was once again operational in Derby House for a celebration of the wargaming Wrens of WATU and the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic. Analysts and wargamers from WATU’s direct-descendant organisations—Dstl, the Maritime Warfare Centre, and HMS Eaglet—took up the roles of WATU Wrens, RN Convoy Escort, and dastardly U-Boats, joined by folks from Defence Academy Shrivenham, US Navy, McGill and York University.

Our WATU Wrens and players were a mix of new wargamers and old hands, men and women, professional and hobby wargamers, serving and retired naval officers, and academics.

The challenge on the Tactical Table was the night of 6th/7th May, 1943. A moderate sea, bright moonlight, and intelligence reports of five U-Boats operating in the vicinity of (the entirely fictional) Convoy ONS 506, a slow convoy comprising 12 ships sailing for Halifax. Escort Group B7, consisting of HM Ships D1 (destroyer and Senior Officer Escort), L1 (Black Swan class sloop), and Flower class corvettes P1, P2, P3, and P4, were in Night Escort Six disposition. A substantial wolfpack attack developed at midnight, beginning the game with the torpedoing of the merchant ship in column 3 row 2.

Here’s what the first view-giving looked like, and the same plot from the Wren’s perspective:

The gap in the convoy is our sinking merchant ship. Where could the U-Boat be that fired the torpedo? How many other U-Boats are making an attack? Their tracks are plotted in red pen to hide them from the players. The U-Boat positions are highlighted on the right for clarity, the star is a mischievous shoal of fish.

The first view-giving included the burning wreck of our merchant ship and a surfaced U-Boat sighted at the rear of the convoy. L1 closed for an exchange of gunfire, here is their (and other’s) orders:

Six move chits from the game. L1 orders "Attack surfaced U-Boat with guns or depth charge" for turn 1, and "Continue asdic search" in turn 5.

Our players had a copy of the relevant parts of the Atlantic Convoy Instructions, including Op: RASPBERRY, which was quickly ordered and developed two asdic contacts at the front of the convoy.

Our Wrens made use of the adjudication tables to decide which of the in-range radar (all of them at this range), asdic and visual contacts to report. Here’s a few turn’s worth of contacts for L1, and a large stack-o-signals:

Various contacts generated during adjudication. Eg L1 has visible contacts of a U-Boat at 270 degrees, 850 yards, escort P4 at 265 degrees 1800 yards, and has heard an explosion on asdic.

Oh goodness, there were signals. There were so many signals. WATU had a team of three Wrens and an RN Yeoman handling signals: players handed in signals to be sent, the Wrens copied them to all recipients, and delivered them after some transmission delay. In our game, Lynn O’Donnell handled everything, and our players sent so many signals that we ran out of paper. Here’s a few of them:

Lots of signals! D1 orders RASPBERRY, in another signal D1 signals "Attacking U-Boat 180 degrees 300 yards from my position." P4 reports o u-boats in my vicinity.

While all this was going on, visitors to the museum were grilling Paul and Lt Phil Roberts RNR (Rtd) about the game and the history:

Looking down at the plot from Horton's office. Lots of museum visitors are looking and chatting with our players.

Meanwhile, some familiar faces, and actual submarine warfare officers, were busy plotting the demise of our convoy, upstairs in Admiral Sir Max Horton’s office. While submerged, they didn’t get a look at plot, when surfaced they could peek out the window down onto the plot in the Map Room. Their orders and contacts were sent over the museum’s wifi:

How did our Escort Group do?

It was carnage in the convoy! Six merchant ships lost. But the Escort managed two creditable depth charge attack runs, one of which forced the target to the surface in what was likely to be its death-throes. They also avoided depth charging the shoal of fish (which was mostly down to failing to get an asdic contact rather than good judgement…)

Here is the 1943/2023 edition of the After Action News, hot off the press:

See also Report of Proceedings from MacKay, RNWR, in command of sloop L1, here.

How realistic was the game?

Well, there are a few reasons why the U-Boats had the upper-hand:

Firstly, in the interests of a fun time for all, our U-Boats all started within 2,000 yards of the convoy. In reality, U-Boats tended not to attack simultaneously like this. Particularly not when using pattern-running torpedoes (as we were), because of the risk of friendly-fire incidents.

Second, we only played 12 minutes of game-time, and an engagement is typically 30 minutes plus. Knowing we were unlikely to play out 20 minutes, we started in-media-res with the U-Boats well inside radar contact range and the extended screen. It’s likely at least some of our U-Boats would have been caught further from the convoy, allowing time for interception before they were able to get off any torpedo shots, which would have improved the score sheet for the convoy somewhat.

Third: the score sheet seems to favour the U-Boats, but one U-Boat was probably not going to survive the next 2 minutes, and the other two were not going to cause too much more trouble for a time. If the game had gone on longer I think we would have seen the tide turning in favour of the Escort.

Finally, the losses seem pretty high, but our convoy was extremely small (for convenience, and for interest—a bigger convoy would mean spending most of the game steaming to get near-enough to contacts to do the fun stuff). The whole point of the convoy system was that the losses were similar regardless of the size of convoy; a bigger convoy would have lost proportionately fewer ships.

In terms of the gameplay: it was certainly a lesson in communication between the Escort players, to co-ordinate a response to contacts without the screen descending into magnet-ball. The outcome of actual attacks were pretty realistic: with a lethal range of only 7 yards, depth charge attacks were about 10% effective. U-Boat kills generally came from hunting to exhaustion, which Escort Groups could not afford to do—this is why Support Groups were introduced in March 1943. We didn’t have enough players and Wrens to support more than six in our Escort, so even if we’d played longer, the chances of killing the submerged U-Boats were small.

Turn 3 adjudication on the plot. U-3 at the rear of the convoy has just fired a torpedo.

The ploting & adjudication rules revision/expansion/better-recreation since the 2018 game made for a much more interesting game: the U-Boat players were thinking about more than just shoot-dive-hide, and there was a passable attempt at RASPBERRY from an Escort group who (with the exception of the Senior Officer Escort) had zero experience of ASW tactics.

I want to thank the Western Approaches Museum for hosting our game and giving us free-run of the Map Room, and about thirty Dstl & MWC folks who took part in the playtest/training games as well as the Big Event. It was pretty special to play a Derby House Principles wargame in the actual Derby House. I had an absolute blast. So did Tom’s U-Boat (har dee har) !

War Games at the Canadian War Museum

The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa will be hosting a new exhibition on wargaming from 9 June to 31 December 2023.

From historic board games to modern military simulations, war games are as ancient, varied and complex as war itself. 

In this wide-ranging exhibition, learn how war games evolved over time — from early strategy games to massive multiplayer online battles — and how militaries use gaming as a training tool. Hear thought-provoking perspectives from professional gamers, researchers, designers and veterans.

War is not a game. Yet war games offer insights into our relationship with real and virtual armed conflict. 

We’re especially pleased to report that among the items included in the exhibit will be a Western Approaches Tactical Unit convoy escort game developed by our very own Kit Barry, as well as AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game.

Participants in this year’s Connections North professional (war)gaming conference (June 9) will get a chance to tour the exhibit during the conference, as well as an invitation to the launch event.

GAO Report “Defense Analysis: Additional Actions Could Enhance DOD’s Wargaming Efforts”

GAO-23-105351 was released on April 24, 2023 and is available online.

The GAO study team:

“identified steps DOD takes to ensure quality wargames. However, DOD stores wargame information in systems that don’t share data with others, which hinders collaboration. Also, none of the five military services have established standard education or qualifications for their wargamers.”

Furthermore, GAO states that

“Organizations within DOD and external providers—such as federally-funded research centers and contractors—provide wargames. But DOD hasn’t assessed the risks of relying on external providers.”

GAO made 10 recommendations for executive action (with which the DOD concurred). In addition to the Full Report (PDF), the report webpage includes the list of recommendations along with updates about what actions the DOD might take in response to each recommendation. This latter will be interesting to monitor!

Connections Online Wargaming Conference 2023 Presentations Now Available

The presentations delivered at the Connections Online Wargaming Conference 2023 held in April are now available courtesy of Armchair Dragoons on YouTube.

Calian: Lead wargamer sought for Canadian Army Simulation Centre

The Calian Group is recruiting for a Lead Wargamer for the Canadian Army Simulation Centre in Kingston, Ontario.

The Calian Serious Games Lead will work within a multi-functional team to design, develop and deliver Serious Games/Wargaming capability to the Canadian Army. This capability will support strategic, operational and tactical planning processes, through tabletop exercises and other forms of strategic, operational and tactical gaming, in the garrison and the field. And support military education, professional development, individual and collective training, and risk management. CACS Serious Games portfolio of clients includes the Canadian Army, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence, other government departments and agencies, and other entities annotated by Chief CASC/Clients

 General Responsibilities:

  • Holistic review of the current Serious Games and Wargaming initiatives in the Canadian Army and the Canadian Armed Forces
  • Define and maintain an understanding of the Canadian Army’s evolving interest and requirements in Serious Games
  • Develop a sustainable, thriving Serious Games capability, including implementation strategy, policy framework, directives and orders
  • Develop and implement a plan for the integration of training models, simulations, wargames, and/or games in the brigade, division training and exercises
  • Identify client needs while defining a Serious game’s problem, purpose and objectives and outcomes
  • Recognize and apply hobby gaming, board gaming, military wargaming and serious gaming techniques and mechanics in the novel, easily communicated ways to clients and participants
  • Participate in and potentially lead wargame playtests, play-throughs, and rehearsals
  • Write, deploy, and analyze simple in-wargame and post-wargame surveys
  • Travel to client-designated locations to conduct wargames and other Serious games
  • Produce industry-specific articles related to previous to current techniques
  • Manage the relationship with the client and stakeholders
  • Establish and maintain relationships with third parties/vendors to develop a suite of games and experts ready to execute
  • Serve as faculty for Serious Games courses teaching in Canadian Army and Canadian Armed Forces colleges and schools
  • Launching and sustaining a gaming community of practices to include a web presence, conventions, seminars, and gaming tournaments

The applicant must be able to obtain and maintain a (Canadian) Secret security clearance throughout the duration of employment. Full details can be found here.

Top 10 list of games from those who teach game design 

The following article was written by Ed McGrady.

In one of my recent classes someone asked me what the top ten games a person new to the profession should be familiar with.  I realized that my top ten list would be bizarre, so to avoid too much drama and trauma I figured it might be a good idea to ask some others who teach game design what their lists are.   

And thus, a project was borne.   

Upon seeing some of the lists I began to realize that the whole idea was interesting, and that others might like to see the lists.  So, I asked Rex if he would be interested in publishing it as an entry on PAXSims.  He was.   

And thus, a very long PAXSims post was borne.   

I asked a range of people who teach game design (and some who don’t) for their top 10 lists of wargames that those completely new to the field should have experience with.  Some of them answered, some did not, the lists they sent are provided here.  As you can see, Peter and I could not help but go over the top 10 limit…   

As always, these lists are everyone’s person opinion, not endorsed by any organization they are affiliated with.  We note their affiliations simply to provide the reader some context as to who they are.   

A couple of observations: 

  • When you come of age in gaming seems to influence your choices.  Matt, Peter, and I reach back to old-school games a lot more than folks who are more “recent” than we are.  Diplomacy was only mentioned twice, by Peter and me, for example.    
  • Everyone has their own preferences, and their own take on what makes a good game to learn from.   There were a lot of games I’d have never thought of, and I’m sure many would have never considered the games I suggested.  So, I’m glad I asked everyone for their opinions!  
  • Twilight Struggle (and variants) and Risk (and variants) were the only games to be mentioned four times.  D&D, Battle for Moscow, and Pandemic were mentioned three times.  Thirteen others were mentioned twice.  Out of a total of 107 different games that isn’t a lot of overlap.   

So here are everyone’s (personal) opinions! 

Dr. ED McGrady (MORS Wargaming Certificate Program Lead, Monk’s Hood Media LLC, and Adjunct Senior Fellow CNAS Game Lab) 

I tried to choose games that were still in print, and that covered a variety of hobby techniques and genera.  My focus was primarily “these are systems, games, and ideas you should know about” and less “these are games you should use to teach game design.”  However, a couple of the games, like 1960, D&D and Diplomacy are some of my default games to show different design choices.  But this is definitely more “reading list” than “teaching list” simply because in the classes I teach we don’t have a lot of time to actually play games.   

  1. Diplomacy (AH) – This is probably one of the most elegant designs ever done in a hobby game. 
  1. OLD SCHOOL RPG (pick one):  Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, Hackmaster – Professional gaming is a lot more like role-playing than counter-and-hex wargaming.   
  1. STORYTELLING RPG (pick one): Vampire the Masquerade (World of Darkness), ARS Magica, Call of Cthulhu – There have been innovations in the RPG world, you should know what they are.   
  1. Love Letter – A great example of how simple design can be quite captivating. 
  1. 1960 Making of a President – This system has a remarkable number of ways to simulate the effects of information in games.  It is also a very elegant design. 
  1. Conflict of Heroes (Academy Games) – A great example of modern tactical wargame design.   
  1. MARK HERMAN (Pick One):  We the People (Out of print), For the People, Empire of the Sun – Mark popularized card driven games, and you should know how they work.  And also, its Mark Herman for heaven’s sake! 
  1. NAVAL Close Action (Out of Print) Harpoon, Command at Sea, Fear God and Dread Nought (Admiralty Trilogy Group) – Naval gaming is a whole thing in itself, just like gaming air warfare.  Miniatures dominates for mechanical reasons, and within that space the Admiralty Trilogy Group is probably the best place to go for modern (steam and after) tactical game design concepts.  Close Action (age of sail) is so great for so many reasons, but it appears to be out of print.   
  1. Saga (miniatures) – Miniatures gaming is one of the lesser appreciated forms of hobby gaming on this side of the Atlantic.  You should still see how it works and Saga is an example of a modern approach.   
  1. MEGA GAME (pick one):  Advanced Squad Leader, Star Fleet Battles – I love games with low counter density and high complexity.  You should look at these in order to understand the outer limits of what “complexity” really means.   

Ed McGrady:  Others 

  1. SOCIAL DEDUCTION GAME:  Secret Hitler:  – I think Secret Hitler is one of the best in this category of games, which are a really innovative recent addition to hobby gaming. 
  1. Terraforming Mars:  – If you’re going to go Euro go full Euro with something that is long, complex, and difficult.   
  1. Napoleon at Waterloo:  – A hex and counters game designed to introduce people to hex and counters games.  You can find it digitally online.   
  1. Strategy I:  This old-school hex and counters wargame is years out of print, but it represents an interesting way in which a wide range of eras, and scenarios, can be crammed into one wargame.  It’s a weird choice, but it’s an overlooked part of wargaming history.   

Dr. Peter P. Perla (CNA, author, The Art of Wargaming) 

  1. Go—classic pure strategy game 
  1. Dungeons and Dragons—pretty obvious for RPGs 
  1. [Settlers of] Catan—Example of Euro game mechanisms 
  1. Diplomacy (Avalon Hill)—classic strategy and negotiation game 
  1. Panzergruppe Guderian (SPI)—operational level warfare with untried units 
  1. October War (SPI)—culmination of Dunnigan’s tactical armor system 
  1. Storm Over Arnhem (Avalon Hill)—birth of area-impulse 
  1. W1815 (U&P Games)—a battle game without movement 
  1. Wild Blue Yonder (GMT)—card-based air combat 
  1. Midway (Avalon Hill original)—Double blind naval 

Honorable mentions 

  1. Wells’s Little Wars—the quintessential Artist game 
  1. Risk! (Hasbro)—simple global strategy with area map  
  1. Frederick the Great (SPI/Avalon Hill)—one of the best evocations of an era 
  1. The Rise of Blitzkrieg: The Fall of France 1940 (Bonsai Games)—excellent history, tiny box, few pieces but works great 
  1. Terraforming Mars—complex economic style multiplayer game 

Prof. Sebastian Bae  (CNA and Georgetown University) 

I selected the games I often use to introduce my own Georgetown students to a variety of game concepts, mechanics, and player dynamics. I also emphasized games that are accessible and relatively easier to learn while having interesting aspects to their design. Friedrich, about the 7 Years War, is an excellent logistics informed game with elegant rules with a nodal map system and card driven combat. Battle for Moscow features classic wargame mechanics like terrain effects, hit points, differentiated units, and zones of control. Pax Pamir is an excellent card tableau game about the Great Game in Afghanistan with a rich card mechanic. Twilight Struggle Red Sea uses the classic influence mechanic, while Cuba Libre like the other COIN series models asymmetrical advantages well. Citadels — like Love Letter — is a card game with interesting social deduction and character advantages.  

  1. Friedrich by Rio Grande Games 
  1. Battle for Moscow — a free online version against an AI here:  
  1. Twilight Struggle Red Sea by GMT. It is a smaller version of Twilight Struggle 
  1. Undaunted by Osprey Games 
  1. Game of Thrones Risk by Risk 
  1. Pax Pamir by Wehrle Games 
  1. Cuba Libre by GMT which I think is the easiest of all the COIN series, but A Distant Plain about Afghanistan is also good 
  1. Axis and Allies 1942 
  1. W1815 by U&P Games 
  1. Citadels (2016) by Windrider Games 

Prof. Rex Brynen (McGill University) 

This is a different sort of list than “classic or important games you should know about” since the criteria include playability (and accessibility for new gamers), adaptability to classroom or online play, utility in demonstrating different game mechanics, born-at-McGill-so-you-can-design-games-too, and other considerations relevant to my course in conflict simulation. 

  1. Battle for Moscow  (to teach classic hex/chit/CRT wargames. There’s an excellent online module and bot too). 
  1. Unity of Command (excellent digital implementation of a hex/chit/CRT game—I prefer the older version for teaching, since the underlying game model is more visible) 
  1. 1812: Invasion of Canada  (highly playable, elegant area movement wargame that doesn’t use a CRT for combat resolution, includes a card mechanism) and/or  Shores of Tripoli  (rather similar to 1812 in the mechanics it demonstrates, also highly playable and engaging) 
  1. Twilight Struggle  orLabyrinth  (card-driven design) 
  1. We Are Coming, Nineveh!  (blocks/fog of war/event cards, plus it was originally designed by students in the class) 
  1. AFTERSHOCK  (multiplayer semi-cooperative gaming, non-kinetic topic, also “born at McGill”) 
  1. A matrix game of some sort (Usually  ISIS Crisis  or  Reckoning of Vultures), from the Matrix Games Construction Kit).
  1. A seminar game of some sort (usually online).
  1. A miniatures skirmish game of some sort (usually zombie apocalypse game that is used as a fun introduction to procurement/investment games, by forcing players to allocate scarce resources to survival equipment and weapons).
  1. Various digital browser choose-your-own adventure or RPG/storytelling games (This War of Mine,  Through the Darkest of Times,  Mission Zhobia,  Outbreak READY, etc). I also recommend Rebel, Inc (an excellent digital/mobile stabilization game, because of its intuitive user interface, excellent use of scarce screen real estate, and the elegance of its basic game model). 

Mr. Peter Pellegrino (Tabletop History) 

For games that are not difficult to explain, play in under 2 hours, illustrate a particular principle or mechanic well, and are all on my shelf.  OK, so I only came up with 7.  I’m picky. 

In no particular order -   

  1. Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal.  The Battle Box for resolving salvo fires is as close to operational fires I’ve seen in a war game. 
  1. Memoir ’44.  Good introduction to mini gaming without going all Warhammer or Bolt Action. 
  1. The Shores of Tripoli.  Historical gaming can be beautiful and need not be confined to hexes! 
  1. Flamme Rouge.  A deceivingly simple path and card game, it is so well balanced that losers want to play again, since they missed winning by such a small margin. 
  1. Pandemic.  The granddaddy of cooperative play.  The disease-spreading mechanic shows up in other games where some antagonistic force is not controlled by a player.  
  1. Zombicide.  Yes, Zombicide.  Another good example of how to automate the adversary in a cooperative game. 
  1. Escape the Temple.  It’s a bit wild and silly, but the frenetic energy is the point!  A co-op game that completely shatters the idea of IGO-UGO and lacks any sense of a traditional “turn.” 

Dr. Justin Peachey (CNA game designer) 

The goal is to have a broad base from which to draw on. I’m missing some of the older wargames here mostly because I don’t have time to play anymore with 2 kids, etc. Some of these games “define” their genre. Others are just my favorites. 

  1. Diplomacy 
  1. D&D 5e or Pathfinder 2e – Modern RPG 
  1. Catan – Eurogame 
  1. Pandemic – Cooperative 
  1. Twilight Imperium – “American-style” (since I don’t like the term Ameritrash) game. 
  1. Dominion – In Game Deck Builder 
  1. This War of Mine – Storytelling/Adventure 
  1. Magic: the Gathering – Collectible Card Game (CCG): (at least read Mark Rosewater’s articles on design) 
  1. Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars X-Wing – “Miniatures” (I really want to say Warhammer 40k but sometimes that comes with baggage so…) 
  1. Twilight Struggle 

MAJ Tom Mouat (UK Army game designer) 

  1. We are coming Nineveh. Divisional level game of Urban Warfare, playable in 90mins, intended for two players. Uses blocks for limited intelligence, and has strategic choices (time, casualties, collateral) and capability choices to support them. Simple gameplay and great conversations. 
  1. Black Orchestra.   A cooperative game of the plot to kill Hitler. The players choose historical characters and try to put together a plot to kill Hitler, while avoiding the SS and choosing their moment against a backdrop of WW2. Rich in historical detail and creates compelling narratives. 
  1. The Shores of Tripoli.   A cooperative game about the USA’s efforts at dealing with the Barbary Pirates in the Western Mediterranean. A simple game, with clean, stripped-down mechanics, perfectly balanced and rich in historical detail. 
  1. Watergate.    A short 2-player game, playable in 60 minutes, on a subject that, on the face of it, would be difficult to design a game about. 
  1. Root.   Many people go on about the idea of asymmetric games, but this 2 to 6 player game manages to generate genuinely different gameplay styles for each of the factions. It also does it in a way where the game play accelerates through the game to ensure there is a winner in a relatively short time – and the game is beautiful! 
  1. Risk  and  Warlord (republished by Game Workshop as  Armageddon). These two are games about world domination, the first,  Risk, is truly awful and suffers from the fact it is boring and that that a clear winner is obvious a long way before the end of the game and doesn’t really provide any helpful lessons. Warlord, on the other hand, while looking visually similar, has nuclear weapons, terrain effects, an innovative mechanism for combat resolution, and can be aimed to be played for different lengths of time by choosing the number of game-boards to use. 
  1. Pandemic.   This is a multi-award winning cooperative game of pandemic control and eradication. It works very well but suffers greatly from the “Alpha player” problem, where experienced players will understand the best actions to take and therefore suggest to more inexperienced players what to do, removing agency from them and reducing their enjoyment of the game. Pandemic Cthulhu and a couple of later editions make efforts to reduce this and make the experience better all around. 
  1. MaGCK The Matrix Game Construction Kit.   A boxed game version of the Matrix Games concept, generating game play merely from structured verbal arguments, with some counters and maps merely there to visualized the progress of the game and assist in sparking imagination. 
  1. Lasers and Feelings  RPG (or  Tactical Waifu).   It is essential to have a role-playing game in any list of Top 10 game designs – and I choose Lasers and Feelings, because it is an award-winning game that is stripped down to the bare essentials of narrative gameplay. The rules fit on a single side of paper, so don’t need tedious explanations and mechanisms. It also avoids the “fantasy dragons and wizards” tropes (and “murder-hobo” behaviors) of D&D-like games. 
  1. Ace of Aces.   A two-player game of tactical air combat in WW1, using paired books of illustrations of the situation each turn, and choices of maneuvers. You don’t need a map, game-board or any system or record-keeping. You don’t even need dice, although you can introduce them for the advanced version. A totally underappreciated work of genius. 

Dr. Jeremy Sepinsky (CNA lead wargame designer)  

In my view, professional gaming is about coming together with a group of knowledgeable experts to tell a collaborative story. Ideally, that process is made interesting to the players through a series of interesting choices. So I used my list not to represent what professional gaming looks like (it doesn’t look like anything in the hobby community from my experience; except maybe LARPs, and that only some of the time), but instead to highlight games that give me design insights or inspiration, things that I think provide interesting case studies for design. I think, with the toolkit below, you have the bits and pieces that can create a large fraction of the kinds of games we create as professional wargame designers. 

  1. Chess. I’m not a chess pro by any means, and I’m honestly barely any good at it. But the evolution of complexity from fairly simple mechanics on a small board is excellent. And it’s a simple enough game for novices that can illustrate to novices the need to think more than one turn in the future. 
  1. World of Darkness RPGs (Vampire the Masquerade, etc.). What sets these apart from the more popular D&D in my mind is that the character creation rules applies to every person you meet. They attempt to describe everyone from the special to the mundane within the same framework, reminding me as a designer to not treat my players as too much of special cases in the world. 
  1. Catan. Its ubiquity and ability to bridge the novices and the hard-core games has a utility of its own. Plus, it has a good negotiation aspect that ensures people don’t focus solely on the crunchy aspects of the rules. 
  1. Risk. Yes, you can get more complex and realistic battle simulations. But Risk is a territory control game that teaches you the basic mechanics. Plus, the places where Risk fails (statistics and win probability) are good illustrative examples of what not to do. 
  1. Mafia/Werewolf.  A game where interpersonal interaction dominates the rules. Understanding the hooks that force people to talk and contribute, and how those rules might force some people to stay silent to protect their interest/information makes those rules interesting. 
  1. Twilight Imperium.  Look, it may not be the most classic wargame, but it’s fun. And it creates a self-consistent ruleset from the diplomatic, commercial/trade, strategic, and tactical that interacts in an engaging manner – especially if you max out the number of players and can set aside half a day to do it. 
  1. Bridge.  Another game with emergent complexity. It’s a game played in teams, with hidden information and a requirement for subtle communication. Players must understand each other’s mode of play and be able to capitalize on another player’s hand without seeing it. And counting cards helps. 
  1. Tsuro.  This game is just fun. It’s simple, replayable, and scalable to a large number of players. The choices are limited, but the game design is beautiful and unique, and shows designers that not everything needs to be extra detailed to be effective. 
  1. 7 Wonders.  The pass-and-play mechanic is good, and the game works by giving just enough player interaction (mostly by watching what other people are playing) to make it not quite a 1-player game. Understanding that dynamic, and ensuring players have meaningful interactions with each other in the confines of your game, is key to a good design. 
  1. Candyland.  Not every example needs to be one that you should replicate. This is the classic example of a “game that’s not a game”, and people should know and understand it. And they should be able to recognize it in the games that they create as well, even when it’s not quite as obvious. 

Mr. Mark Leno (Wargame Designer and Wargaming Instructor, U.S. Army War College) 

Game design is best learned through playing and analyzing lots of games with different themes, genres, and mechanics. Here are some of my personal favorites for training wargame designers and facilitators (hard to choose just 10!).  

  1. Go: classic abstract game of both strategy and tactics, complex play without complicated rules:.
  1. Eight Minute Empire: grand strategy in simple(st) form.
  1. Balance of Power: introduction to negotiation games (“Diplomacy”-light) and deterministic combat models:.
  1. Memoir ’44: introduction to tactical wargaming, stochastic combat models, and modular game design:.
  1. 13 Minutes: introduction to card-driven political-military wargames.
  1. Captain Sonar: real-time adjudication with role-playing elements.
  1. Concordia: introduction to Euro- and resource-allocation games:.
  1. Evolution: tactical card-driven wargame:. 
  1. Twilight Struggle: Red Sea: introduction to heavier card-driven political-military wargames and hybrid combat models.
  1. War Room (Larry Harris): one of the best grand strategy wargames, models so much with relatively simple rules and simultaneous orders.

CAVEAT: These are the author (Mark Leno’s) personal views and not an endorsement by the U.S. Army or any other organization.  

Dr. James Sterrett (Chief, Simulation Education Division, Army Command and General Staff College) 

A lot of how I use wargames as examples is strongly driven by student  projects – I try to have them play games that are relevant, in theme or mechanics, to whatever they are creating. 
My course starts with playing Battle for Moscow, and then has a series of “petting zoos” in which I show off 10 or so games per class, but zero in specifically on approaches to modelling command and control (which often means sequence of play); modelling space or using spatial mapping to model things; ways to model the assets players can control; and ways to model getting outcomes from actions, which mostly means approaches to combat resolution. 
So I’ll try to note, below, how these get used. 

  1. Battle for Moscow is a superb introductory game.  Simple, easy to teach, engaging, and has a lot of really good examples of mechanics used elegantly.  My favorite of those is the sequence of play, which makes the Soviet forces somewhat unwieldy, and makes the German armor outrun its infantry in mobile fighting, without any other special rules. Battle for Moscow is free as a print and play via:!/C3i-Nr25-eBook-Edition/p/136922625/category=33205167 and also has an excellent free online version at 
  1. Strike of the Eagle is often the second game, providing an introduction to blocks for fog of war, cards with multiple uses as is common in card-driven games, point-to-point maps, and a very clever orders and initiative system with lots of bluffing.  Strike of the Eagle is the game most frequently cited by my students as providing mechanics inspiration. 
  1. 1944 Race to the Rhine and SupplyLines of the American Revolution  are our go-to games to demonstrate ways to put logistics at the center of a game. 
  1. Napoleon 1806/1807/1815: In addition to using blocks for fog of war, these are good for introducing uncertain movement rules, another example of cards with multiple uses, custom dice for combat resolution, and units with more detailed composition than what’s shown on the map.  Frequently cited by students as a source of mechanical inspiration. 
  1. Sicily (Operational Combat Series) and Sicily (Fast Action Battles Series) are two games on the same topic with maps at the same scale and size: but OCS uses hexes and FAB uses areas. This is great for discussing the different feel that hexes and areas bring to a game. In the petting zoo, I use the party trick of putting the OCS Sicily hex map over top of the FAB Sicily area map before students arrive, so there’s the surprise factor of revealing the very different second map. 
  1. Triumph & Tragedy does a great job of integrating all aspects of DIME (Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic) into a single model, beginning in the competition phase and potentially moving into conflict.  The minor nation diplomacy system, in particular, is outstanding. 
  1. 1824 Kriegsspiel.  We run this as a Free Kriegsspiel.  Kriegsspiel isn’t just of historical interest; run well it’s an excellent wargame, and introduces issues of adjudication, written orders and their interpretation, and fully double-blind play. 
  1. Wings for the Baron does a great job of focusing on technology development without losing sight of the economic and military pressures at work. 
  1. Squad Leader, Combat Commander, Conflict of Heroes, Band of Brothers, Last Hundred Yards: five games on squad-level combat in Europe in WW2, but each with a completely different approach to the sequence of play and thus to command & control.  These are a core exhibit in the petting zoo to discuss the impact of different approaches on player decision-making. 

Mr. Matt Caffrey (Air Force Research Laboratory and author of On Wargaming) 

  1. Across SuezOne challenge in teaching about wargaming is that many in the military have the perception that wargames are all million-line programs that take a year to learn and run.  With only three and a third pages of rules, Mark Herman’s depiction of the Israeli counterattack on the Egyptians during the 1973 war provides confidence that wargames are learnable. Being set after WWII helps the perception of relevance to contemporary warfare. 
  1. Drive on Metz.  The section on it in James Dunnigan’s Complete Wargame Handbook increases the learning value of this World War II wargame. 
  1. House Divided. Frank Chadwick’s great design of the military dimensions of the American Civil War introduces players to an area and transportation line style map and demonstrates that even strategic level wargames can be easy to learn and play. 
  1. Axis and Allies.  Larry Harris’ World War II wargame demonstrates area movement and that an all domain, global wargame can be executable.  This title’s many simplifications make the truly strategic decisions easier to see. 
  1. Origins of World War II.  Introduces Pol/Mil wargaming in an easy to learn and execute way. 
  1. Fortress Europa.  This is my favorite wargame.  It depicts the WWII campaign by the Allies to liberate Western Europe, from selecting a site for D-Day through (if successful) entering Germany.  It provides operational level choices for the employment of airpower and elegantly demonstrates the impacts of logistical capacity. 
  1. For The People.  Mark Herman’s design on the American Civil War depicts all dimensions of that conflict and demonstrates the use of cards can add significant depth with a moderate increase in complexity. 
  1. GDW’s Third World War Series.  This Frank Chadwick series of wargames use a common set of rules to depict the Cold War of the late 1980s turning hot in four different theaters. Each illustrates the air/land nature of operations during that era while the final title in the series, Person Gulf, adds a pol/mil element.  
  1. Stellar Conquest/Master of Orion.  Wargame practitioners need to decide when to apply manual methods of a computer-based design.  An entire book could be written in the pluses and minuses of each choice.  As these two science fiction games are essentially the same game executed manually and as computer code, they help the practitioner decide for themselves how the medium shapes the final product. 
  1. Civilization.  For over two decades this computer wargame depiction of the rise of civilizations has been at or near the top of best sellers lists. It somehow combines a nearly comprehensive depiction of societal development with ease to learn and play. An achievement we can all learn from. 

Connections North 2023 conference programme

The Connections North 2023 professional (war)gaming conference will be held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa on Friday, June 9. The conference is intended for wargamers and all other serious game professionals, and anyone else interested in how games can be used to support education, planning, and policy analysis.

Additional information and registration details can be found at the link above. Conference registrants will also receive an invitation to attend the launch of the Museum’s new wargaming exhibition on the evening of June 8.

WATU Wargame Returning to Liverpool

It’s the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, and back in 1943, the 6th May marked the turning-point where we stopped losing and started making life so difficult for U-Boats that for a time they withdrew from the Atlantic entirely, and when they returned (in September 1943) they never again had the upper-hand.

So what better time to recreate the Western Approaches Tactical Unit wargame at WAHQ again?

Four Indian Navy Wrens (WRINS) plot ship movements on the Bombay Tactical Table. Two are wearing saris, two are Anglo-Indians in Western clothing.

Formed in 1942 to solve the U-Boat problem in the Atlantic, WATU was staffed almost entirely by women, and men unfit for duty at sea through illness and injury. The Wrens came from all walks of life and all across (what was then) the Empire, and were responsible for teaching the Allied navies convoy escort tactics: how to find and sink U-Boats. 

Since the last time we played in 2018, I’ve found WATU Wrens alive and kicking, and learnt a lot more about how the game works, so this time we’re playing with:

Actual pieces from the WATU game:

When WATU demobbed, Cpt Roberts gifted the ships to the Wrens as souvenirs: Leading Wren Helen Coop’s ship has been scanned using photogrammetry, turned into CAD, and lovingly recreated by Ian Greig.

In grey is a test-print with a filament printer, in translucent is a print from a UV-setting resin printer, and one laser-cut from wood, ready for painting:

Three replicas of Helen Coop's ship model, in various materials.

Actual game chits:

Leading Wren Helen Coop left us a treasure-trove in her scrapbook, including chits from actual WATU wargames played by Cpt Johnny Walker’s support group:

A 1945 WATU wargame Move Chit. In pencil at the top it says Lt Cdr Wemyss Wild Goose. The Unit to move is J3, the Time is 44, the Course is 200, Speed 20, and General Intentions reads "Same, but more so. Send top priority signal to depot for new guns' crew"

Nothing changes in wargaming: after rolling a 1, Cdr Wemyss would like a new gun crew please :-P

Plotting tools:

In the 2018 game we used a crude movement template to help with plotting, and mostly ignored turning circles. This was partly a simplification to help the players (WATU had the distinct advantage that their players came knowing how to command their ship and plot it on a chart! Our players were liable to try impossible things), and partly due to a lack of data. Since then I’ve found a lot more photos with details of the plot, and hunted down data on period ships which was not easy to find. 

The result is this Rather Excellent [TM] recreation of the plotting protractor, laser-cut by Ian Greig. They work magnificently well and look amazing. Figuring out what they were from a handful of WATU photos might be my favourite bit of wargaming geekery :-)

Side-by-side comparison of the Canadian Tactical Table protractor and our recreation.

Actual adjudication tables (probably):

Chris Carlson dug up some post-war ASW tables which are probably a later version of the WATU adjudication tables. One of the big mysteries of the WATU game has been how all that stuff happened, since the pre-war (1921 & 1929) RN War Game rules are not the WATU game (it’s a fundamentally different game that’s been mistaken for the WATU game by some because it mentions “screens”, but it’s very clearly talking about putting down screens on the plot to screen the surface ships from each other when they’re out of visible contact, not viewing the entire plot from behind a screen to obfuscate the U-Boat tracks on the plot), and the contemporary descriptions forget to mention how you adjudicate an attack. Even these tables don’t really explain how they’re used, but they fit broadly with the assumptions we made for the 2018 game, which is pleasing! 

Well…all except one thing: we used D100s, and it turns out that because dice were too new-fangled (or D100s were hard to come by in 1942, or the Temperance Movement had words), WATU used a 1 to 100 tombola.

Raspberry the Wargaming bear (in WRNS uniform) for scale next to a large wooden tombola. The bear could easily fit inside.

I appear to have bought one large enough for Raspberry to go to sea in… stop by WAHQ during the game and you can draw the fate of a U-Boat, Escort, or merchant ship from the adjudication tombola :-)

U-Boat artefacts:

Big Heritage, who run the WAHQ museum, acquired a U-Boat during lockdown, and are busy renovating it and creating a Battle of the Atlantic Museum across the Mersey from WAHQ.

The original plan for this game was for the U-Boat players to play from the actual U-Boat, but the new museum is still a building site, so instead we’re bringing some of the U-Boat artefacts over to WAHQ for the day. Our U-Boat players have been practicing with attack discs to get their firing solution. We’ll see if they’re able to sink anything!

We’re also hoping to make use of the Y-Service teleprinter which has been refurbished to run off a Raspberry Pi, for sending our convoy relevant Engima decrypts.

Come to WAHQ on Saturday 6th May and you’ll get to:

  • Celebrate the remarkable achievements of the WATU Wrens!
  • Chat with the direct descendants of WATU about careers in professional wargaming: yes, you can get paid to play board/war/computer games for a living ;-)
  • See the WATU game in action, send some signals to the convoy if you’d like.
  • Explore the Western Approaches Museum, including their new Wrens exhibition, Leading Wren Helen Coop’s WATU scrapbook, and bits from their newly-acquired U-Boat.
  • Say hello to a handful of PAXsims editors :-P
  • Delight in a Derby House Principles wargame being played in the actual Derby House that the principles are named for. 

Canadians can also check out the WATU gallery at the Canadian War Museum‘s up-coming wargaming exhibition.

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

The Derby House Principles multi-coloured D20 logo
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