Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

High North V

Reclusive game designer Tim Price has been hard at work in his shed producing the latest update to his High North arctic crisis matrix game.

This latest version includes a system of technological “investment cards,” ranging from military capabilities to shipping to green technologies, which players can acquire to affect their matrix game arguments or outcomes. If enough player investments are in the area of green technology, the pace of climate change could be slowed. However, if they invest elsewhere, the pace of climate change may increase still further…

There are a great many matrix game resources available here at PAXsims. If you wish to develop your own, you may find the Matrix Game Construction Kit to be helpful.

Return to Portsdown West

The following post has been cleared for release by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

AI (DALL-E2) interpretation of my return to Dstl Portsdown West.

In early May I was fortunate to spend four days at the Defence Wargaming Centre of the UK Defence Science Technology Laboratory (Dstl), at Portsdown West near Portsmouth. I had been on similar visits before (in 2016, 2017, and 2018) but this had been followed by a hiatus due to COVID and other factors. It was good to be back, and I’m very grateful to everyone at Dstl who organized and supported the visit.

On the Tuesday and Wednesday I offered a series of lectures on “Mishaps and Minefields in Professional Wargaming,” which examined common mistakes we make and why we make them. These were primarily intended for newer analysts, although several more experienced wargamers participated and contributed to our wide-ranging discussion.

  • Mishaps and Minefields I: So You Think You Need a Wargame?
  • Mishaps and Minefields II: Game Development
  • Mishaps and Minefields III: Participants and Resources
  • Mishaps and Minefields IV: Game Control, Adjudication, and Facilitation
  • Mishaps and Minefields V: Data Collection and Analysis
  • Mishaps and Minefields: Mea Culpa

The final session involved me recounting decisions I now regret and mistakes I’ve made personally while designing and running serious games. Critical reflection is important, after all!

The slides for all of these sessions are below. Like the image at the top of this report, most of the artwork for the slides was generated by AI (and some of it is quite amusing).

The Thursday and Friday of my visit involved more informal discussions of key topics, such as adjudication and end-to-end analysis. There were also playtest sessions of two games being developed as part of Dstl’s EAD (Explore, Anticipate, and Develop) Project. The first was a full-featured modular grand strategic game system that can be adapted to a variety of questions and scenarios.

The second was a much simpler “strategic game in a box” (Contested) to introduce the possibilities of strategic gaming (in much the same way that the Dstl-sponsored Matrix Game Construction Kit was designed to help jump-start matrix gaming in organizations). Both are very promising, and the latter in particular benefits from a very intutive game system that presents few barrier to adoption and play.

On a related note, in 2021 Dstl published a lengthy (165 page) paper on How Can Dstl Expand Our National Security Gaming Toolset To Generate More Meaningful And Reliable Insights? (DSTL/PUB131779 1.4) which provides some really thoughtful discussion of the methodological challenges in strategic gaming. Dstl has now cleared this report for public release, so I’ve just shared it as a separate post on PAXsims.

We also had a session on the design of We Are Coming, Nineveh!, followed by three simultaneous games. The latter went very well, with everyone quickly learning the game system. Daesh seemed to have the best of it in all three wargames, perhaps because the ISF was overly cautiously a little slow to find and fix the enemy—who, after all, were playing for time before they inevitably lost control of West Mosul. I was pleased to learn that the game is to be used in the Defence Academy of the UK to teach about modern urban warfare

Friday afternoon involved a lengthy (but highly enjoyable) drive up to Liverpool, where the Western Approaches HQ Museum hosted Dstl, Royal Navy, and other personnel for a convoy wargame based on the work of the famed Western Approaches Tactical Unit during World War Two. Kit Barry, who organized the event, has already written about the game preparations and the outcome. As captain of fictional Type-VII U-boat U2, I was quite pleased with my result: three merchantmen sunk, followed by a stealthy exit (despite one corvette doggedly trying to find me with ASDIC).

Overall, I had a terrific time—it was both professionally rewarding and very fun. There has been quite a few changes since my earlier visits: the establishment of the DWC, more facilities, and a very substantial growth in the number of Dstl analysts now supporting defence wargaming acriss the UK Ministry of Defence. The United States, of course, remains the preeminent wargaming “superpower” in NATO. Indeed, the budget for the new US Marine wargaming center alone likely exceeds the wargaming resources of most other NATO members combined. However, the UK has clearly consolidated its position as a leader in the field, as evidenced not only by Dstl’s expanding activities but also by the 2017 publication by the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre of the Defence Wargaming Handbook as well as the forthcoming Wargaming Influence Handbook. It has developed this capacity, moreover, from a position of greater resource scarcity relative to the US. In that sense I think it is sometimes better attuned to the challenges faced by small and medium-sized NATO militaries. It is also geographically closer to most of them, and the annual Connections UK wargaming conference always has strong representation from other European countries.

I hope that Dstl and others across the UK Ministry of Defence will continue to leverage these strengths to play a leading role in mentoring, supporting, and partnering with wargaming initiatives by allies and partners. They have a a great deal to contribute.

It should also be added that Dstl has been an early and avid supporter of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming. The effects of this can be increasingly seen in their team of analysts, how they approach their work, and the powerful synergies that arise from harnessing multiple experiences and perspectives. Here too, others have much to learn from their example.

Dstl: Expanding national security gaming to generate more meaningful and reliable insights

The following report has been cleared for release by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory .

In May 2021, the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory published a lengthy (165pp) report entitled How Can Dstl Expand Our National Security Gaming Toolset To Generate More Meaningful And Reliable Insights? This addresses a broad range of related issues, including the experiential value of games, identifying genuine insights (as opposed to artifacts of the game design), and post-game analysis.

  • Section 1 – Introduction
  • Section 2 – How Is An ‘Analytical Game’ Defined?
  • Section 3 – How Can We Develop Creating Knowledge Games That Are More Analytical?
  • Section 4 – How Can We Conduct More Analytical Games Within TheConstraints Of Engaging Very Senior Players?
  • Section 5 – How Can We Encourage More Representative Red Cell ResponsesTo Blue Cell Actions?
  • Section 6 – Proof of Concept Escalation Dynamics Game and Concept of Analysis
  • Section 7 – Conclusions and Recommendations
  • Section 8 – Closing Summary

This report has now been approved for general public release, and can be found in its entirety below (DSTL/PUB131779 1.4).

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.

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