Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

2023 NATO field school and simulation program

Simon Fraser University is currently accepting applications for its 2023 NATO field school and simulation program.

The NATO Field School and Simulation Program is an intensive political science experience that combines coursework with experiential learning.

The NATO Field School and Simulation Program is open to students from all NATO nations. The program gives students the to observe professionals and experts in their working environment and be immersed in the decisions that political, diplomatic, and military personnel face. This includes visiting embedded experts from the Department of National Defence, Global Affairs Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces, NATO and academia, as well as high-level briefings at NATO HQ, SHAPE, EU Military Staff HQ, European External Action Services and NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence and the Canadian Delegation to the European Union. Like a dynamic practicum or apprenticeship, the NATO Field School prepares you for entry-level employment in foreign affairs, defence policy and various national and international security sectors, as well as international NGO sectors.

Full information at the link above.

Review: Simulations in the Political Science Classroom

Mark Harvey, James Fielder, and Ryan Gibb (eds), Simulations in the Political Science Classroom: Games Without Frontiers (Routledge, 2023). USD $31.46 pb, $112.00 hc.

This text is a must read for those using simulations in their classrooms and seeking to demonstrate their utility to sceptical colleagues or institutions. The book is useful in bringing together a range of arguments in favour of the pedagogical contribution of games to classrooms as well as some clears guides of ‘how to’ incorporate games, how to design games and how to tie them to methods of assessment. I think the book also does an excellent job of demonstrating that simulations and games can be used in a range of teaching settings in political science – for example in teaching political theory classes (chapters 4 and 13), government courses (chapters 7, 8 and 10), law courses (chapter 11) and electoral politics (chapter 12) – as well as in the more traditional area of international relations (chapters 14 and 15). 

To achieve these aims the text is organised into three parts: pedagogical foundations of games and simulations; designing and teaching games; and conclusions. Essentially, this structure means the editors take a reader through the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of games in the political science and international relations disciplines. A core strength of this approach is in how the chapters speak to one another. For example, Edmond Hally’s chapter (pp.42-55) makes an argument for lengthier and more realistic games for achieving a range of student learning outcomes (SLOs) in particular when games are incorporated into the structure of teaching within modules/units. Hally discusses the relationship between SLOs and games as being either intrinsic or extrinsic to module or classroom, noting that extrinsic incorporation of an abstract game “has a connection to the most basic class SLO – knowledge of course political theories – but never produced any statistically significant learning gains for the final exam.” (p.49) In contract Hally notes that the more realistic role play game produced better overall scores in the final exam and intrinsically connected to more of the SLOs for the course. 

David Clayborn and Mark Harvey, acknowledge this conclusion but then  argue that shorter games with simpler design may be a better entry point for convincing colleagues who are less convinced of the educational value of games, offering structures for the games and how to simplify them but also lists of prompts or discussion questions . As such this chapter does an excellent job of providing “tips, ideas and visions” (p.71) of how to incorporate games into their courses/modules/programmes. My slight critique here is that this chapter might perhaps have been better at the front of the section of the collection rather than at the end. 

Lucy Britt’s chapter on Medicare and lobbying (pp.114-126) is both practical (in terms of how to use this simulation in your own class) as well as providing a grounding for this activity in relation to debates on ‘active learning’ (p.114) and pedagogy. The way this chapter is presented also means that teachers can adapt this simulation to a range of classes and levels (pp.121-122). 

Mark Harvey’s chapter on “Taking a Risk” (chapter 14, pp.233-255) is useful in demonstrating the utility of using the game ‘Risk’ for international relations. This chapter as two objectives which it clearly achieves: to demonstrate how to use the game Risk in the classroom (and tie it to learning objectives); and to set out evidence for the contribution of this approach for student learning. 

I would argue this book is therefore a must read for those considering using games or simulations in a variety of political science settings. I would also argue that it is useful for anyone already using games who wants to adapt their approach, try different styles of games, deepen, or change the connection of their games to their pedagogy, or even as a discussion text for teaching forums within universities and colleges. 

Catherine Jones, University of St. Andrews

Connections Online Showcase 2022

On October 19, Connections Online held a one day project showcase for professional/practitioner game design. The presentations from that event are now available at YouTube.

You can find the full listing at Armchair Dragoons.

Gaming disinformation: Lizards and Lies

The following article was written for PAXsims by Scott DeJong, a Public Scholar and PhD candidate in Communications at Concordia University. His research investigates how media literacy, play, and game design can be used as tools for dealing with disinformation.Scott receives funding from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec.

Like any research endeavour, it started with a question: can we wargame the “disinformation war”? Initially part of a directed study on wargames, I worked with Dr. Rex Brynen to understand wargame design so I could think about conflict simulation for disinformation. This work led to an early prototype, a boardgame I called Lizards and Lies. It had a red team spreading disinformation and a blue team trying to remove it and it studied the analogy of disinformation as a war through simulation design. But the game has become so much more than a class project.

Early prototypes were drawn up on whiteboards, and later transferred to Tabletop Simulator and roll20.

The early development of Lizards and Lies found that the war analogy fell flat. Instead, the game turned towards the infodemic for inspiration. A larger process I wrote about here, it became clear that designing a game needed to contemplate actors and environments to connect the technical affordances of platforms (i.e. AI, algorithmic visibility) with the socio-cultural factors of content engagement and dissemination. Here, thanks to a student-project grant from the Technoculture Arts and Games Lab at ConcordiaLizards and Lies came alive. It moved from a static game, to a dynamic, asymmetrical, system management game where each player contributed to the disinformation space as either a spreader (fact checkers, platform moderators, digital literacy educators) or a stopper (edgelords/trolls, content recommendation algorithms, conspiracy theorist) with unique powers and goals.

A full shot of the game with art on display at a research exposition at Concordia University. 

At this point the game was proving fruitful as a research tool and educational object. The project received a grant from the Digital Citizens Contribution Program which transitioned the game from a research to educational device. The game was translated into French, adjusted for a non-academic audience, and by the spring of 2022 was released as a free, downloadable, print and play game

With the release of the game, I gave a series of talks discussing the game, its development process, and how it can be implemented as an educational device. In this promotion and discussion with other scholars, I saw the potential applicability of the title beyond the educators I initially sought to connect with. I was contacted by the Embassy of Canada in Lithuania who believed the game might prove helpful in the Lithuanian disinformation space. Working with them, the game was showcased to different government bodies, educators, and journalists to see how it might best fit the Lithuanian context. 

Lithuanian and English game parts set up for one of the events.

It was a whirlwind, but the game was eventually localized and I was invited to Lithuania to discuss its use. I met with academics in media studies, the Ministry of Defence, and members from the Department of Strategic Communication. I facilitated 5 different play sessions that looked at how the game functions, the design goals, and how it could be adjusted to different contexts.The responses were positive, with many contemplating how the game could be used in schools, as training tools, or even adjusted to discuss Russian disinformation rather than the conspiracy theories it currently visualizes.

From this I learned three things. First, interaction is key. There is a need for tools that allow players to explore systems rather than just tell them through a story or simple mechanics. Second, media literacy and disinformation bleeds into a variety of spaces, and games like Lizards and Lies need to be malleable to explore an array of instances. Hearing this, I am creating tools to reorient and help the game in its classroom implementation. Third, disinformation is global but also deeply local. I made a game for the Canadian context but in adapting it for Lithuania we talked about the cultural differences in where disinformation is most common – contemplating audience and demographics for use.

While the game is released, I see it as a beta or a version that will continue to be adjusted. It has been a year and a half since Lizards and Lies inception, yet there is so much potential left unexplored. Gaming disinformation is challenging and complex, but also deeply critical when we look at the issues and conflicts of today. For me, this means continuing to work on and adjust the game by creating alternate versions for different contexts so that it best fits the needs it’s addressing. This work is only a start, and I look forward to expanding Lizards and Lies and other tools in the future.

Scott DeJong

AOD launch (Toronto, November 12)

Archipelago of Design will hold a “Primer Launch, Fair & Networking Event for Security & Innovation” on November 12, in Toronto.

The Archipelago of Design invites you to join us 7PM-10PM Saturday November 12, 2022 at OCAD U, 130 Queens Quay East, Floor 4R, Toronto, M5A 0P6 to celebrate the release of the Collaborative Innovative Thinking by Design for the Canadian Armed Forcesand meet and greet the Archipelago of Design community in a fair exposing its most promising projects.

7PM – Primer Launch with Major-General Simon Bernard, OMM, CD, Director General Military Personnel Strategic, Canadian Armed Forces, ambassador to the Archipelago of Design (AOD) Network.

8PM – AOD Fair including demos of Breakthrough, our investigative tabletop game to seamlessly develop sense-making and problem framing skills, a preview of AOD’s forthcoming Design model based on 9 archetypes of innovators in Canadian Armed forces and projects on Climate Change and Security and Social activities! 

Havel: Wargaming the information environment

The latest issue of Canadian Army Today 6, 2 (Fall 2022) contains an article by Sean Havel (Defence Research and Development Canada) describing a series of three innovative information and influence wargames conducted for the NATO System Analysis Studies (SAS) 151 group last year. The scenario for those games involved efforts by the hostile and authoritarian Illyrian Federal Republic (RED) to exert influence over the neighbouring Hypatian Commonweath (GREEN), with Hypatia enjoying support from the Organization for Collective Security (BLUE), an alliance of liberal democracies. (Full disclosure: I served as RED team lead in the first and most of the third game, and as BLUE team lead in the second.)

  • In the first game, IFR sought to influence elections in Hypatia so as to weaken pro-OCS politicians and further its interests more broadly.
  • In the second game, Hypatia conducted a referendum on joining the OCS, which RED and BLUE sought to influence towards “No” and “Yes” respectively.
  • In the third game, the IFR sought to mobilize ethnic discontent in Hypatia so as to provide suitable conditions for military intervention.

Here is where the games were truly innovative: the effects of information and influence operations were largely adjudicated by having real people play ordinary citizens, each with differing social, demographic, and political profiles, in a simulated social media environment established using Discord. In short, to influence people you actually had to influence them through careful crafting of content, and appropriate targeting and delivery. You will find a much more detailed account in the article above, in this Connections North 2022 presentation by Sean, and (for those with access) a forthcoming technical paper. I’ve also briefly mentioned the games in an earlier PAXsims piece.

How did it all turn out? From a technical and methodological point of view, there were some issues regarding situational awareness and feedback mechanisms. The approach also faces potential challenges of validation and verification—how do you know your roleplay citizens will act like the real thing? Overall, however, I thought it was all remarkably successful for an experimental game.

In term of the scenario, the IFR did extremely well in the first game, dramatically weakening pro-OCS political parties in Hypatia, strengthening pro-IFR parties, and generally fostering political disillusionment and fragmentation. In the second game, the OCS managed to counter IFR propaganda well enough to secure a narrow majority for the “Yes” side in the referendum. In the third game, the IFR was again very pleased with the result, stoking resentment and political polarization to the point of open armed confrontation between the central government and (ethnic Illyrian) minority. What was remarkable was that this was not because of a high die roll or some adjudicator decision, but rather by convincing more than a quarter of the real people playing simulated citizens that armed opposition was preferable to central government rule—an opinion almost none of them had held at the start. Moreover, this was achieved in a relatively traditional way: RED had eschewed the use of deepfakes or other more complex techniques and instead applied a combination of well-established intelligence gathering techniques to understand the political environment; carefully designed and targeted messages; rapid, agile information operations that combined decentralization with overarching strategic themes and guidance; and simple sockpuppet accounts, proxies, and botnets to signal boost its information activities. While the social media angle was new, much of it would have been recognizable to the propagandists of WW2—or diplomats, advertising executives, and political party strategists today. It also proved to be strikingly similar in tone and apprpoach to the very successful information operations currently being conducted by Ukraine and the social media antics of NAFO.

h/t Brian Train

KWN: Barzashka on Powering the Future of Wargaming (December 1)

The latest public (in person) lecture from the King’s Wargaming Network:

The Wargaming Network is pleased to announce the 2022 lecture in our King’s Keynote Wargaming Lecture series. The keynote lecture series features current and former Wargaming Network staff discussing their research in wargaming.  The lecture will take place on 01 Dec 2022 from 19:00-20:30GMT in the Safra Lecture Theater, King’s Strand Campus. Please register for the lecture here

Dr. Ivanka Barzashka will take stock of the history of wargaming at King’s and the state of academic discipline. She will discuss the future of wargaming as a method of inquiry, and its potential for helping NATO allies achieve and sustain strategic advantage in a competitive security environment.

Dr. Ivanka Barzashka is the CEO and co-founder of Strand Analytica, US-UK tech startup dedicated to powering the emerging science of wargaming through technology for national security and defence applications. She was a founding director of the King’s Wargaming Network dedicated to developing wargaming as an academic discipline. She served as the WN’s co-director (2018-2019) with Professor Philip Sabin, director (2019-2020), and managing director (2020-2022) working with Dr. David Banks as academic director. In these roles, she was responsible for the WN’s strategic direction, fundraising, international partnerships, management of research and administrative staff, including graduate and undergraduate students, and external advisors and consultants. During her tenure, the WN became ‘one of the more active research groups’ at the School of Security Studies (SoSS) and ‘moved quickly to establish an impressive network that crosses academic and policy arenas,’ according to an independent review of King’s research groups in 2020. As a result, the SoSS recognised wargaming as ‘a priority growth area’ for research and education. 

Dr. Barzashka has led academic and policy-relevant studies for King’s College London, the UK Ministry of Defence and the Federation of American Scientists, and has provided testimony to UK Parliament. Her applied research has been at the intersection of technology and strategy, examining questions related to grand strategy, integrated deterrence, nuclear deterrence, crisis escalation, war escalation and termination, nuclear proliferation, and arms control transparency and verification. Barzashka’s fundamental research interests include epistemology, methodology, research integrity and ethics in analytical wargaming. She has developed new empirical methods combining strategic analytical wargaming, decision and risk analysis. 

Please register for the lecture here to attend this event in the Safra Lecture Theater on 01 December 2022. 

Simulation & Gaming (December 2022)

Simulation & Gaming 53, 6 (December 2022) is now available online (paywalled):


  • To Nudge or to Gamify – How to Repair Reality?
    • Marlies P. Schijven and Toshiko Kikkawa


  • The Effect of Serious Games on Medical Students’ Motivation, Flow and Learning
    • Ihsen Zairi, Mohamed Ben Dhiab, Khadija Mzoughi, and Imtinene Ben Mrad
  • Mastery learning and deliberate practice: Do simulationists need clarification?
    • Timothy C. Clapper

Research Articles

  • Offsetting Game—Framing Environmental Issues in the Design of a Serious Game
    • Nina V. Nygren, Ville Kankainen, and Lucas Brunet
  • Comparison of Knowledge Change in a Virtual Reality Simulation Across Four Platform Technologies
    • Brian Cleveley, Karin Diane Hatheway-Dial, Lori Wahl, and Joey Peutz

Theoretical Articles

  • Unlocking the Methodology of Escape Rooms: Considerations for Conducting Applied Escape Rooms in Research
    • Andrew C. Griggs, Elizabeth H. Lazzara, Shawn M. Doherty, Joseph R. Keebler, Bruce L. Gewertz, and Tara N. Cohen

Burke and Cameron: Wargaming climate change

At War of the Rocks, Sharon Burke and Andrea Cameron discuss wargaming climate change.

To get the most out of climate change wargames, planners should heed some lessons from the Pentagon’s initial forays into this field. First, climate change is the ultimate systems-level challenge, so it is easy to overreach. Games that try to be about everything can end up being about nothing. Too many sponsors or stakeholders with different agendas can make for incoherent outcomes. Second, it is tempting to focus these games on disasters — the most obvious consequences of climate change — but that tends to produce insights about disaster response rather than climate change. For example, climate change dramatically worsened the scale and scope of Pakistan’s floods in ways that are strategically significant, both in terms of the stability of a nuclear-armed state and of China’s very public show of support for the erstwhile U.S. ally. But if a game focused on how to help Pakistan manage the emergency humanitarian response or disaster recovery, the findings would have more to do with relief and recovery missions than the way climate change may be raising strategic risks. Third, more can be done to build overlapping expertise between wargaming experts and climate experts with an eye toward bettering red-teaming climate change. Finally, climate games to date have focused more broadly on creating familiarity with the security angle to this geophysical phenomenon. It is time to move on to games that answer specific policy, planning, strategy, or budgetary questions. These could include exploring how climate change might shape strategic competition with China or modelling investments in resilience for bases that directly support military operations. 

The article is based on the work of the report of the Connections US 2022 Climate Wargaming Working Group. You’ll also fin additional articles on gaming climate change here at PAXsims.

Domaingue: Why the State Department needs an Office of Diplomatic Gaming

In the November 2022 issue of the Foreign Service Journal, Robert Domaingue argues that the US State Department needs an Office of Diplomatic Gaming:

Serious games, also known as decision or policy games, are used by many different organizations to deal with complex problems. They can be used to promote strategic thinking, conduct analysis, perform training, and advance diplomatic goals.

The Department of Defense (DoD) and the intelligence community (IC) routinely use games to examine assumptions, test concepts, and explore alternative courses of action. The Department of State, however, is lagging far behind in the use of policy gaming, and this hinders the department’s ability to proactively engage on issues rather than reacting to them as they occur.

There is no centralized office at State devoted to supporting the use of gaming to enhance decision-making. Various offices have used tabletop exercises (TTX) to explore important issues, but they have relied on DoD and IC designers to create and run the exercises. State needs a dedicated office with the capacity to design, facilitate, and utilize its own policy games, but it does not have one.

This was not always the case. The Foreign Service Institute’s Office of Special Programs, headed by Fred Hill from 1986 to 2006, advanced some of these capabilities. It developed high-level policy games on such topics as the possible collapse of the Soviet Union, transitions in various governments, potential war between countries, nuclear programs in specific countries, and conflicts in different regions. But the FSI office closed in 2007, and the State Department never replaced it.

Gaming is the tool of choice when facing uncertainty, and the State Department needs an office that can coordinate and build capacity for using this tool.

You can read his proposal at the link above.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 6 November 2022

PAXsims is pleased to share some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Steven Sowards suggested material for this latest edition.

The US Naval Institute has recently published three articles on the agile wargames that can support force design:

The first episode of the new Warfighter podcast features Col Arnel David (US Army).

Arnel speaks about what it means to be a Warfighter, and the importance of exercising the decision making process for leaders and how this can be enabled through wargaming techniques.

Through the Fight Club initiative that Arnel is heavily involved in, he aims to increase understanding of Wargaming amongst commanders and how these techniques can be integrated within existing training structures and pipelines.

Our hosts also welcome Andy Fawkes for the first time, who provides a digest of the recent modelling & simulation news, with some discussion around the more interesting trends.

At Revue Défense N@tionale, Yann Malard examines “Jeux de guerre : vers un nouvel essor” [Wargames: towards a new boom].

Depuis quelques années, le Wargame bénéficie d’une nouvelle dynamique au sein des armées occidentales. Les jeux de guerre constituent un outil pédagogique qui permet d’embrasser les enjeux dans toute leur complexité et se les approprier de manière active. Ils offrent ainsi une alternative complémentaire peu coûteuse, flexible et évolutive aux méthodes de planification actuellement utilisées. En réduisant son aversion au risque et en se confrontant aux conséquences de ses propres décisions dans un temps contraint, le joueur développe son agilité intellectuelle, qualité indispensable au futur haut responsable militaire. La mise en place d’une organisation cohérente en France est une condition préalable indispensable au développement et à l’optimisation de cet outil.

Recent reports in the New York Times and CNN have credited, in part, Western wargaming for some of Ukraine’s recent military successes against Russian occupation.

One critical moment this summer came during a war game with U.S. and Ukrainian officials aimed at testing the success of a broad offensive across the south. The exercise, reported earlier by CNN, suggested such an offensive would fail. Armed with the American skepticism, Ukrainian military officials went back to Mr. Zelensky.

“We did do some modeling and some tabletop exercises,” Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s policy chief, said in a telephone interview. “That set of exercises suggested that certain avenues for a counteroffensive were likely to be more successful than others. We provided that advice, and then the Ukrainians internalized that and made their own decision.”

Together Britain, the United States and Ukraine conducted an assessment of the new plan, trying to war game it once more. This time officials from the three countries agreed it would work — and give Mr. Zelensky what he wanted: a big, clear victory.

The role played by wargaming in the Ukraine war won’t be known for decades, of course. Some caution is in order. In general, commentators are quick to claim partial credit for successes, but rarely do so with failures. The wargaming community also has a terrible habit of mythologizing wargames as either hugely insightful or deeply flawed—Pearl Harbour, Midway, WATU, and Millennium Challenge 2002, for example—when a detailed look at the historical record shows a much more complex and nuanced picture. So far there is little evidence that wargaming has played any significant role in Ukraine’s very agile operational planning, although that may simply be because it hasn’t been reported yet given the operational secrecy requirements of conducting a war.

Indeed, as Cole Petersen recently pointed out in a lengthy thread on Twitter, there’s little evidence of the MDMP or other Western staff and planning procedures either.

The latest news from the ICONS Project includes a more automated system on their website for simulation creation, information on the recent USIP “Peace Game,” and the use of classroom simulations to explore the erosion of democracy.

Bloomberg features a report on Daybreak—a new cooperative game about global warming from the designers of Pandemic.

Sayanti Sengupta, a technical advisor for the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, was one of the first people to try the beta version of Daybreak, a highly anticipated board game from creators Matt Leacock and Matteo Menapace. Playing at home, she marveled as her friends slapped down cards to deploy solar farms, struck multilateral climate deals across the table, and swapped out tiles to phase out fossil fuel energy. Together, they counted up little gray cubes representing carbon in the atmosphere, a binding moment every round where they paused to celebrate and reassess. 

“Every time we could do a round without losing communities or without raising the temperature, people were more into it. Like next time, they want to do it better,” Sengupta says. “This is exactly what you need to feel for the climate problem. You need to keep at it.” 

After three years in development, Daybreak will hit the commercial market next spring, joining a plethora of climate change-inspired games. Leacock, best known for his cooperative board game Pandemic, is adding his own spin to Daybreak: The game is based on real-world data and policies, with a degree of game abstraction. Like Pandemic, it’s tricky to win, and players must work together to achieve collective solutions. In the runup to COP27, the creators say that Daybreak offers a miniature model through which to understand current events.

You can find out much more about the game at the Daybreak website.

As if more evidence were needed of the threats presented by global warming, last month officials in Paris held a simulation exercise to examine how the city might respond to future summer temperatures of 50C.

This simulation, which was announced on Wednesday, is set to take place in October 2023, and it would plunge two parts of one arrondissement (which has not yet been decided) into the fictitious scenario to test the city’s capacity to respond to such a crisis. 

The current temperature record in Paris is 42.6C, which was set during the heatwave of 2019, but experts predict that the record is unlikely to remain unbroken for much longer.  

According to Deputy Mayor of Paris, Penelope Komitès, the city wants to be able to anticipate the next disaster.

Public authorities hope to expand upon and move beyond the city’s first “action plan,” which was adopted in 2017.

The heatwave simulation would allow the city to test its emergency response capacity, namely deployment of cool rooms, shaded areas and other measures. It would also allow public officials to gauge and predict the reactions of Parisians amid a disastrous heatwave of 50C.

“We have survived crises, but they can happen again,” Komitès said to Le Parisien. Her goal is not for the simulation to provoke anxiety, but instead to prepare the city to mobilise in such an event. 

More on severe weather preparedness simulation—in this case, a recent report from the Associated Press on how “a 2009 planning exercise dubbed Project Phoenix eerily anticipated the potential damage the Tampa Bay area is facing from Hurricane Ian.”

In ominous tones, a documentary narrator describes the devastation wrought on the Tampa Bay, Fla. area by “Phoenix,” a tropical storm that grew into a Category 5 hurricane.

More than 160 deaths with 30,000 missing people. Upwards of 300,000 people seeking shelter. As much as $200 billion in building damage.

“The devastation to the region is almost unimaginable,” the narrator intones.

Phoenix was imaginary, part of a 2009 government preparation exercise for a killer hurricane dubbed Project Phoenix — an exercise updated in 2020 focusing on small business recovery.

Though the storm and a 10-minute documentary were fictional, the warnings have taken on special significance this week as the nightmare envisioned by Project Phoenix approaches in the form of the very real Hurricane Ian.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Florida Department of Emergency Management sponsored the 2009 simulation to identify gaps in local emergency planning and figure out responses across jurisdictions, Randy Deshazo, Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council chief of staff, said Tuesday in an email.

The tabletop exercise imagined a direct strike from a Category 5 hurricane. With help from WFLA-TV, the project created a video combining simulated weather reports and archived video footage from other storms.

Emergency managers across Florida have used Project Phoenix in training exercises, Deshazo said.

By identifying areas of hurricane prep weakness and building cooperation across jurisdictions, Phoenix was useful in “strengthening regional ‘muscle memory’ for emergency response that I think will prove itself in the wake of Ian,” Deshazo said.

The 2020 update, Project Phoenix 2.0, examined the issues facing Tampa Bay area small businesses and emergency management agencies during disaster recovery. The update drew on lessons experienced by Mexico Beach, Florida, business owners devastated by 2018’s Hurricane Michael.

The video of Sebastian Bae’s August 2022 presentation on wargaming (“Learn to Play, Play to Learn”) at Maxwell Air Force Base can be found on DVIDS.

At the Balkan Transitional Justice website, Milica Stojanovic explores depictions of the Bosnian war in games.

In the game ‘General Draza’ (‘Djeneral Draza’), players can choose to be the chief of the Communist Partisans or to command their rivals, the Chetniks, leading their forces through WWII in Yugoslavia with the aim of defeating the other side and eventually winning control over the country.

As well as the Mihailovic game, BIRN has identified at least five other board games themed around the wars in Yugoslavia in the 20th Century, as well as dozens of first-person shooter video games mostly set in the 1990s wars.

These shooter games are mostly customised versions – known as mods – of well-known video games. Some are made from a Serb, Bosniak or Albanian perspective, although they are not necessarily produced by Serbs, Bosniaks or Albanians.

Many of the shooter games offer a distorted view of history and are blind to the war crimes committed during the operations upon which they are based.

The article also addresses historical boardgames set in WWI and WWII.

As usual, there are plenty of fascinating talks scheduled by the Georgetown University Wargaming Society. Check out their website for these and more!

Simulation and gaming publications, June-October 2022

PAXsims is pleased to present a selection of recently-published items on simulation and serious gaming. Some of these may not address conflict, peacebuilding, or development issues at all, but have been included because of the broader perspective they offer on games-based education or analysis. Others might address “gaming-adjacent” issues such as group dynamics and decision-making, assessment, forecasting, or related topics. If you have published something recently and we haven’t yet included it, let us know!

Articles may be gated/paywalled and not accessible without subscription access to the publication in which they appear.

Vårin Alme and Adeline Hvidsten, “To Learn or not to Learn: On the Importance of Mode Switching in Educational Wargames,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Conventional wisdom holds that educational wargames come with certain challenges – factors that can potentially hinder, rather than increase, learning – and that these must be mitigated. In this article, we argue that so-called challenges are unproblematic, even desirable, during the wargame. Underpinning this contention is the premise that learning requires a certain mode, and that in educational wargaming, two distinct modes are necessary: one in the wargame, and one in the debrief. Leaning on the pedagogical theory of John Dewey, we distinguish between the mode of experience during the game, and the mode of reflection after the game. What are traditionally conceived of as challenges are, in our mode-based framework, necessary factors in order to fully enter the mode of experience. What can hinder learning, however, is if students do not switch from the mode of experience to the mode of reflection after the game. Based on previous research, our own experiences conducting wargames, and interviews with students and professionals on learning through educational wargames, we suggest strategies for ensuring the mode switch from wargame to debrief, and draw implications for the development of wargaming as a social science method.

Thomas Ambrosio and Jonathan Ross, “The War on Terror beyond the barrel of a gun: The procedural rhetorics of the boardgame Labyrinth,” Media, War & Conflict, (first online August 2022).

Utilizing Bogost’s procedural rhetoric framework in his book Persuasive Games, this article examines Labyrinth, a boardgame that simulates the conflict between the United States and global terrorism. The authors systematically integrate ludology (rules/gameplay) and narratology (narratives/representations) to illustrate how Labyrinth was intentionally designed so that players became active participants in a narrative about how good governance undermines the sources of terrorism and the counterproductive nature of militarized counterterrorism, as well as bear witness to the agency of the Muslim world and the region’s political dynamism on the tabletop. This is a very different account of the War on Terror than has previously been studied in the literature, which has focused overwhelmingly on first-person shooter videogames and, in turn, has provided a very limited range of how this conflict can be represented in ludic form. However, Labyrinth is not alone, and the wargames that many players grew up with have given way to a variety of boardgames which approach complex historical or contemporary situations and environments beyond simply killing one’s enemies. This represents a diverse, but largely untapped, resource already in the public space and ready to be investigated. Media studies can therefore benefit from considering how boardgames similar to Labyrinth present alternative ways in which the ‘real world’ has been, and indeed can be, translated through popular culture objects.

Elizabeth Bartels et al, “Gaming Undergoverned Spaces: Emerging Approaches for Complex National Security Problems,” in Aaron Frank and Elizabeth Bartels, eds, Adaptive Engagement for Undergoverned Spaces: Concepts, Challenges, and Prospects for New Approaches (RAND, 2002).

Games have long been an important part of defense analysis that are used to understand new strategic and operational problems, develop strategies and concepts, and assess the potential shortcomings of plans. The ability of games to help policy professionals explore the key ele- ments of new problems and the relationship between them makes them a highly effective tool to help decisionmakers make sense of undergoverned spaces (UGS). However, existing approaches to games for doing research and analysis tend to fall short, either by exhibiting the same types of pathologies as modeling and simulation efforts or by failing to generate credible information to systematically advance understanding. In this chapter, we explore the potential value of gaming in policymaking for UGS, describe two common failure modes, and offer several approaches for improving games to explore these spaces. We conclude the chap- ter by offering a vision for a new game concept—a contest arena—which combines advances in several areas that could improve the ability of games to inform adaptive planning in UGS.

Karsten Bråthen, “Krigsspill i operasjonsplanlegging: Hva kan datasimuleringer bidra med?Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Wargames play a key role in operational planning, both for developing alternative courses of actions (COAs) and for developing the plan based on a selected COA. Performing wargames in a command post environment impose strict time and resources constraints compared to other applications of wargaming. Computer-based support, especially computer (constructive) simulations, enables the possibility to wargame many alternative COAs, perform analyses that are more detailed or spend less time on the wargaming activities. This support contributes to better plans produced in a shorter time. The paper describes wargaming in the Norwegian Army’s Plan and Decision Process and based on this derives simulation requirements and outlines how simulations can support the wargaming. Simulations may e.g. perform the role as book-keeper for all the different factors and time-space considerations affecting a COA. Combat simulation may assist in the adjudication process. It is argued how technologies like distributed simulation, command and control and simulation interoperability and terrain analyses meet the needs and requirements. Additionally, the simulation system needs to be easy to use, set up and manage and these requirements can be fulfilled by access from familiar web browsers and a simulation service oriented architecture and infrastructure. SWAP, Simulation-supported Wargaming for Analysis of Plans, is a research proof of concept demonstrator for technologies for wargaming for operational planning. SWAP is also being used to elicit user requirements. A SWAP wargame experiment with 52 cadets from the Norwegian Military Academy, showed that they were able to use the demonstrator after a brief introduction, and explore COAs and produce a decision brief fast, despite SWAP’s limited functionality.

Jan-Philipp Büchler, Business Wargaming for Mergers & Acquisitions: Systematic Application in the Strategy and Acquisition Process (Springer 2022).

Supports the development of target-oriented and strategy-compliant M&A strategies 

Describes the development and simulation of M&A strategies

Presents the most important strategy tools for business wargaming

Kjetil Enstad, “Professional Knowledge through Wargames and Exercises,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

In professional military education (PME), wargames and field-training exercises are among the pedagogical tools used to teach students to be professional officers. It is generally accepted that wargames are important sources of insight – even if, as Peter Perla (2012, p. 157) points out, they are “not real.” Notwithstanding the truism that there exists a gap between the game and reality, the wargame is a tool designed to provide the learner something to aid them in the real world. There are discussions in the literature concerning which aspects of the experience and practice of gameplaying are relevant to the player’s understanding of the aspect of reality their game is about; here, Perla’s discussion of the categorization of wargaming analysis is useful (2012, pp. 231–239), as is the report Wargame Pathologies (Weuve et al., 2004). While, with a few exceptions, the literature on wargaming does not engage with the fundamental epistemological questions of wargaming, there is a tendency to demarcate the relevance of wargaming for professional competence to specific aspects or domains of knowledge. In this article I argue that wargaming and field-training exercises in PME shape the future officer’s understanding and professional practices in much more profound ways than commonly assumed. Starting from Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language and his discussions of what learning means and how meaning arises, I will show that, as far as learning to become an officer is concerned, wargames and exercises are intrinsically educative: learning inevitably takes place, and this learning shapes, in fundamental ways, how the officer understands and responds to situations they might face as a professional practitioner. The article proceeds in three steps. First, the theoretical basis for the argument, a Wittgensteinian view of learning and of professional knowledge, is presented; second, the nature of wargames and exercises, and their nature as sources for knowledge, are discussed; and in the final section, the implications for our understanding of wargames and exercises in professional military education of the preceding two sections are suggested.

Per-Idar Evensen, Svein Erlend Martinussen, Marius Halsør and Dan Helge Bentsen, “Simulation-Supported Wargaming for Assessing Force Structures,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Wargaming is a key activity for gaining deeper insight into the strengths and weaknesses of future force structures in the course of their development and assessment. For more than a decade, the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt – FFI) has supported the Norwegian Army in conducting wargames for capability planning, with varying degrees of computer-based support. Throughout this period, these have evolved from what can be described as computer-assisted wargames to more realistic simulation-supported wargames. Moreover, to get a closer understanding of the deterrent effect of the force structures, which may not be observable during the actual gameplay, our emphasis has also shifted towards replicating the planning process more properly – and especially towards monitoring the planning process of the opposing force. For example, it has been important to examine the extent to which specific structure elements discourage the opposing force from taking certain actions. In this article, we describe our evolved methodology for simulation-supported wargaming, which includes a preparation phase; an execution phase, including a joint operational planning process; and an analysis phase. Furthermore, we discuss what type of data and results we are able to extract from the wargaming sessions, and present a set of what we have found to be best practices for how to conduct successful simulation-supported wargames.

Håvard Fridheim, “Wargaming Dos and Don’ts – Eight Lessons for Planning and Conducting Wargames,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Since 2015, there has been a resurgence in the use of wargaming in NATO states. But countries with smaller wargaming communities have not seen a corresponding revitalization of the technique. If the interest is there, the capability often lacks. The paper argues that a critical first step in stimulating the role of wargaming in these countries is ensuring that local practitioners know of each other, so they can exchange experiences on gaming results and practices; further, they need an understanding of what wargaming might (and might not) be, and the steps necessary to make the technique work in practice. The paper offers experiences from wargames conducted by analysts and researchers at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), for the most part games on the strategic and operational level. The experiences are structured as eight broad lessons on “dos and don’ts” to consider when planning and running wargames, based on recurring practical issues in past games. While the lessons are drawn from experiences within a small wargaming community, many of the issues discussed are universal for wargaming at large.

Alexander R. Galloway, “How I Modeled Guy Debord’s Brain in Software,ROMchip: A Journal of Game Histories 4, 1 (July 2022).

Given that the game was a kind of allegorical index into the networked and data-driven society growing up around him, I decided to take on Debord’s Game ofWar as a research project and port the game to the computer. … What did it take to reenact Debord’s historical algorithm in the present day? What did it take to rebuild this game for mobile devices? Luckily the rules had been published, and there was a decent archival paper trail. (The national library in Paris has even preserved a shoebox full of toy soldiers Debord would use to play army.) So it seemed possible, at least in principle, to rebuild Debord’s game in a new century, in a new format. A number of steps were necessary in developing the game software, including designing the game model, implementing the rules, and adding a networking component for multiplayer. I’d like to tell part of that story here, addressing some details from my attempt to redevelop Debord’s game in software, focusing in particular on the game’s AI. Indeed, the prospect of modeling Debord’s brain was particularly tantalizing. Yet, as we will see, the outcomes were not entirely what I expected at the outset.

Anne Marie Hagen, “Learning (Better) From Stories: Wargames, Narratives, and Rhetoric in Military Education,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Wargames have a long history as a military training method. A typical explanatory framework for their efficacy is their narrative aspect. There remain, however, questions concerning the ways narrative functions in context, and how it can be analysed to assess the educational value of wargaming in Professional Military Education programmes (PME). The article offers a case study of how officer cadets employed narrative elements during a matrix game which aims to test their knowledge of peacekeeping operations and to develop their critical thinking and argumentation skills, focusing on how these narrative elements functioned rhetorically. Using positioning analysis buttressed by insights from argumentation studies and expanded with approaches from literary narratology, this study uncovers the extensive and subtle ways players employed narrative persuasion to further their goals, and the extent to which argumentation in matrix games relies on narrative. The study suggests that this aspect of matrix game argumentation has been understudied, and that attention to narrative can have a range of benefits: it helps shed light on how players shift between participatory frameworks or narrative levels in the game, how meaning is negotiated, and how professional reflection and identities are initiated. Demonstrating how subjectivity and experience can be employed as data in military sciences, the study also offers educators an interpretive framework for analysing game interaction. It further suggests that the matrix game’s educational value in PME can be extended by incorporating awareness of the rhetorical functions of narrative into the post-game reflection; knowledge of how stories are told could enhance student learning.

Tomáš Havlík, Martin Blaha, Ladislav Potužák, Ondřej Pekař and Vlastimil Šlouf, “Wargaming Simulator MASA SWORD for Training and Education of Czech Army Officers,” Proceedings of the 16th European Conference on Games Based Learning, ECGBL 2022 (2022).

The article deals with expanding the capabilities of the University of Defence in the field of training and education of new officers of the Czech Army using newly introduced simulation technology. First, it looks at the beginnings of the use of simulations to support and develop teaching. One of those steps was the establishment of a professional-level computer games group. This gave students the opportunity to gain experience in commanding and managing combat while playing computer games such as Counter-Strike. Currently, students have the opportunity to deepen their command and tactical skills during practical field training or in virtual environments while playing games based on virtual and constructive simulation. Another section explains the importance and role of these simulations in teaching professional soldiers. It is very important for future combat commanders to gain as much experience as possible in commanding and directing combat activity in the conduct of military operations before they occur. Finally, it deals with the newly acquired MASA SWORD simulator, which offers another and much more complex tool for gaining valuable experience. MASA SWORD, unlike the software currently in use, can be controlled by only one user without the need to connect other users or perform control exercises. It includes a scenario building tool, constructive simulation and analytical tools for evaluating created simulations. In addition to its use in teaching and educating students, the simulator can be used for staff training, support for commander planning and decision-making, analysis and, last but not least, operational research. In the last section, the article evaluates the usefulness of simulations for teaching, science and research. It also reports on ongoing qualitative research methods to predict the next direction of development and possible connectivity with other simulators. 

Lars Henåker, “Decision-making style and victory in battle—Is there a relation?” Comparative Strategy, 41, 4 (2022)

Can decision-making styles impact victory and defeat in armed con- flicts? To answer the question of whether decision-making styles are linked to the victories and defeats of individual tacticians, this study utilizes five general decision-making styles: Rational, Intuitive, Dependent, Avoidant and Spontaneous. The aim of this study is to examine whether one or several of the general decision-making styles (GDMS) have an impact on tactical outcomes in wargames. A total of 104 officers and academics participated in the study. The study’s foremost conclusion is that the Dependent style is significantly connected to defeat in the wargame’s dueling set up.

Joshua Letchford et al, “Experimental Wargaming with SIGNAL,” Military Operations Research 27, 2 (2022).

Wargames are a common tool for investigating complex con- flict scenarios and have a long history of informing military and strategic study. Historically, these games have often been one offs, may not rigorously collect data, and have been built primarily for exploration rather than developing data- driven analytical conclusions. Experimental wargaming, a new wargaming approach that employs the basic principles of experimental design to facilitate an objective basis for exploring fundamental research questions around human behavior (such as understanding conflict escalation), is a potential tool that can be used in combination with existing wargaming approaches.

The Project on Nuclear Gaming, a consortium involving the University of California, Berkeley, Sandia National Laboratories, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, developed an experimental wargame, SIGNAL, to explore questions surrounding conflict escalation and strategic stabil- ity in the nuclear context. To date, the SIGNAL experimental wargame has been played hundreds of times by thousands of players from around the world, creating the largest data-base of wargame data for academic purposes known to the authors. This paper discusses the design of SIGNAL, focusing on how the principles of experimental design influenced this design.

Erik Lin-Greenberg, “Wargame of Drones: Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Crisis Escalation,” Journal of Conflict Resolution (first online June 2022).

How do drones affect escalation dynamics? The emerging consensus from scholarship on drones highlights increased conflict initiation when drones allow decisionmakers to avoid the risks of deploying inhabited platforms, but far less attention has been paid to understanding how drones affect conflict escalation. Limited theorization and empirical testing have left debates unresolved. I unpack the underlying mechanisms influencing escalation decisions involving drones by proposing a logic of remote-controlled restraint: drones limit escalation in ways not possible when inhabited assets are used. To test this logic and explore its instrumental and emotional microfoundations, I field “comparative wargames.” I immerse national security professionals in crisis scenarios that vary whether a drone or inhabited aircraft is shot down. I validate wargame findings using a survey experiment. The wargames shed light on the microfoundations of escalation, highlight limits of existing theories, and demonstrate the utility of comparative wargaming as an IR research tool.

Mass Soldal Lund, “Øving på cybersikkerheit: Ein casestudie av ei cybersikkerheitsøving,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

This article presents a case study of a cyber security exercise in military education, and uses this case study to reflect on some challenges with cyber security exercise for educational purposes. The case study discusses central decisions in the design of the exercise, the evaluation of the exercise, as well as challenges with the exercise concept. Through a survey of the literature, we compare the exercise with similar exercises, and have a look at how these exercises are evaluated. Finally, we use the case study and the literature survey to reflect on how further investigations into cyber security exercise could be made.

Tom Mouat, “The Use and Misuse of Wargames,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

This article forms part of the Norwegian Defence University College’s broader research and development project to explore the utilities and potentials of a wide range of wargames and military exercises. This essay is intended to generate discussion of wargaming’s use and problems, and to provoke the generation of new and better proposals. As such it contains opinion and academic reflection. The paper discusses wargames, their many different types, their practical uses, and some of the dangers or pitfalls that arise when wargames are used in order to generate useful outputs. The intention is to promote debate rather than to assert any definite conclusions.

Peter Perla, “Wargaming and The Cycle of Research and Learning,Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Some thirty years ago, I coined the concept of the Cycle of Research, which described how wargaming, exercises and analysis, coupled with real-world operations and history, have worked together in concert to help the national-security community to understand better political-military reality and its past and future evolutions. When first proposed, I had in mind the uses of Wargaming in the analytical context, or what the community of professional wargamers most often calls research wargaming. Over the years, however, I began to recognize how much the same integration of tools and techniques can—and should—influence education and training for national-security professionals, both uniform and civilian: In essence, a Cycle of Learning. In this paper I explore these ideas more fully. I hope these musings can be of some help and inspiration for future researchers to probe deeper into the application of all our tools in the critically important task of educating future leaders. That task can be made more successful by using wargaming to help structure a framework for PME that integrates the inspiration, instruction, and application of the key knowledge and habits of mind—the mental muscle memory—required to operate effectively in the real world and to demonstrate those characteristics in the game, whatever form that may take.

Phillip Pournelle, “The need for cooperation between wargaming and modeling & simulation for examining Cyber, Space, Electronic Warfare, and other topics,” The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology (first online August 2022).

I was asked by the editorial board of this publication to present my views of the need for cyber wargaming. Many of you will have read the excellent article written by colleague and friend Harrison Schramm in the April issue. I am in violent agreement with him and this editorial should be considered an explication and extension of what he wrote.

Wargaming of Cyber, Space, Electronic Warfare, and other phenomena related to warfare must remain part of the toolkit of the defense analytic community because of many factors. For this editorial, I will use Cyber operations as my primary example, but I’m certain the readers can apply many of the same criteria to Space, Electronic Warfare, and other less well understood phenomena. Wargaming is often the best tool for initial examination of cyber because cyber operations exist primarily in a human-created domain that is not well mapped; cyber is dominated by human choices; cyber operations are about manipulating information which informs human decision-making; cyber operations themselves may be examined or adjudicated using M&S, but such efforts are highly classified and so analysis is devoted to their effects mostly on humans; cyber “weapons” often take years to build, but their effects arise in microseconds; and, most importantly, cyber operations can have whole of society impacts which the operator may or may not have intended. We will examine each of these issues in some detail and then address what does good wargaming look like in addressing cyber operations. …

Carsten F. Roennfeldt, “Foreword to the Special Issue on Military Exercises and Wargaming In Professional Military Education,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

This foreword provides the context for introducing the 11 articles constituting this Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies’ special issue on the topic of military exercises and educational wargaming. It does so by describing the subject matter and the research project that made this publication possible. It also brings to the fore two assumptions that underpin the project. First, how critical officer competence is to national defense; without it even the most well-equipped armed forces will crumble when put to the test. Second, it illustrates the educational value that military exercises and wargames provide in developing officer competence by situating military students within a professionally relevant, engaging and challenging learning environment that mirrors realistic scenarios they will encounter, but without the risk associated.

Carsten F. Roennfeldt , Daniel E. Helgesen, and Bjørn Anders Hoffstad Reutz, “Developing Strategic Mindsets with Matrix Games,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

This article forms part of the Norwegian Defence University College’s broader research and development project to explore the utilities and potential of a wide range of wargames and military exercises in professional military education. We present a specific matrix game, Game MONUSCO, named for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and designed at the Norwegian Military Academy to develop the strategic mindsets of military students. The article introduces prominent literature on matrix games, to which it adds an elaborated account on the way post-play discussions are exploited to help students gain specific and general educational learning outcomes. Central to this effort, and a novel contribution to the literature, is a strategic-bridge model. This model, informed by Daniel Kahneman’s seminal work on intuitive and analytical thinking, promotes a strategic mindset compatible with NATO doctrines. In addition, we argue military students gain professionally relevant experiences by repeatedly applying theoretical knowledge to solve the kind of practical problems matrix games can generate. This serves to aid and improve the making of informed decisions. Game-experiences also help these future officers to become familiar with chance, uncertainty, and other crucially important features of the military profession. Preliminary evaluations indicate matrix games to be a valuable educational method for the achievement of such learning outcomes in professional military education and suggest the method can be relevant for other professional studies as well.

Amanda Rosen, “Simulations and Games to Teach Conflict and Political Violence,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies (2022).

There are seven key considerations for instructors and scholars using simulations and games (SAGs) to teach conflict and political violence: learning outcomes, conflict stage, scenario choice, role assignment, time required, gameplay mechanics, and postgame reflection. In each of these areas, there is a new typology or categorization in an effort to provide a standard language for work in this field moving forward—an essential effort as SAGs grow in acceptance in the college classroom. Learning outcomes are divided into content and skills, while there are five stages of conflict: preconflict, crisis response, active conflict, war termination, and postconflict. Scenario choice ranges from historical and contemporary simulations grounded in the “real world” to fictional, representative, and abstract exercises. Considerations for role assignment include whether roles are necessary, the level of analysis of different roles, and how to conduct simulations in large classes, while “time required” divides exercises by their level of intensity. Gameplay mechanics divide SAGs by those with board game–style mechanics, those that involve negotiation plus round-based actions, and those that focus on negotiations to craft agreements. Finally, postgame reflection considers the value and drawbacks of conducting formal assessment of SAGs. More work is needed to create simulations focused on individual authors, increased attention to adapting physical classroom games for the online and hybrid environment, more authenticity in simulation design, diversifying the student experience in simulations, and creating common criteria for effective simulations to teach conflict and political violence.

Brian Stewart, Deterrence Through Entanglement, PhD thesis, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology (August 2022).

… I challenge the logic of disentanglement and offer a theory of deterrence through entanglement. I argue that potential adversaries understand that attacks against entangled NC3 systems affect both nuclear and conventional missions and as such, expect that attacks against these vital national assets could be met with the harshest possible response, up to and including nuclear retaliation. With entangled space systems, a potential adversary must be willing to accept strategic consequences even if they only seek tactical objectives, so the cost-benefit calculus for decision makers should ultimately favor deterrence. Continuing this logic, I argue that disentangling NC3 systems could make conventional versions of the systems less dangerous targets and therefore more susceptible to attack. By lowering the expected costs and expected severity of retaliation for attacks, an adversary could be more willing to target disentangled NC3 space systems.

I test my theory with novel experimental wargaming scenarios and an elite sample survey that feature entanglement as the independent variable (IV) and operationalize deterrence as a dependent variable (DV), as measured through attacks against space systems. I also conducted a public opinion survey to gauge perceptions about space system attacks again using entanglement as the IV. The wargaming sessions were conducted with undergraduate and graduate students at the Georgia Institute of Technology and provide strong support to my theory of deterrence through entanglement. The wargaming sessions demonstrated that entanglement deterred attacks against space systems better than disentanglement, with entangled systems a third as likely to be attacked as disentangled systems.

Not only were entangled systems less likely to be attacked, when they were attacked, attacks were less severe than with disentangled systems. Based on both quantitative and qualitative data, entangled systems often carried too high a risk of escalation to justify attacks whereas disentangled systems were viewed as safer options and were attacked more frequently and with more severe methods. Entanglement also appeared to deter attacks in general; out of 20 teams that did not conduct any attacks during the wargaming sessions, 18 were from the entangled treatment. …

Dagfinn Vatne, Mona Guttelvik, Alf Christian Hennum and Stein Malerud, “Wargaming for the Purpose of Knowledge Development: Lessons Learned from Studying Allied Courses Of Action,”Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

We present a series of four wargames intended to improve our ability to analyze the alliance aspect of Norwegian military operations. We discuss the objectives, the set-up, and the lessons learned. The wargames proved to be very helpful in discovering gaps in our knowledge concerning specific types of military operations and systems, and pointed at shortcomings of our scenario portfolio. They also highlighted more general methodological aspects such as the importance of explicitly stating basic premises. We argue that wargames are a useful tool for assessing one’s own knowledge, challenging current opinions, and improving one’s analytic methods.

David Wästerfors, “Sad and Absurd Representations of War in Gameplay and Interviews,” Cultural Sociology (2022).

There is a vivid interest in so-called epimilitary narratives of war that depart from heroic themes and zoom out from the armed forces. This article joins this direction by analyzing two variants of cultural narratives of the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina during the 1990s and the siege of Sarajevo: the videogame This War of Mine and Bosnian citizens’ personal stories told in qualitative interviews. Both variants portray war as an uncontrollable condition devoid of grand meanings, as an arena for survival skills and moral work rather than heroic deeds or moral tests, and as an object for detailed analysis rather than categorical positioning. To highlight this type of narrative across diverse manifestations may sensitize researchers to capture how the mundane and emotional content of war is articulated outside political scripts.

Kangyu Wu, Mingyu Liu, Peng Cui and Ya Zhang, “A Training Model of Wargaming Based on Imitation Learning and Deep Reinforcement Learning,”  Proceedings of 2022 Chinese Intelligent Systems Conference (2022)

This paper proposes an intelligent game confrontation model for a wargame based on imitation learning and deep reinforcement learning, given light of the supremacy of reinforcement learning for training in complex environments. In the context of simulating the battle between the red team and the blue team, a pre-training model based on expert empirical data is produced using imitation learning, and a TD3 algorithm based on the attention mechanism is further designed to build an experience pool using priority experience replay. Finally, the model is enhanced using the self-play approach to increase its training efficiency. Experiments conducted after training demonstrate that the model has a superior training impact, and the winning rate in simulation training is enhanced by 8% compared to the original model.

A seat at the gaming table: MORS Wargaming Certificate

The following article was written for PAXsims by Nathalie Marver-Kwon, a sophomore at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service studying geography and Russian. She is a teaching assistant for geography and engages in research on Russian geopolitics. She is the Secretary / Treasurer for Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) and an aspiring wargame designer. She is originally from Seattle, WA. 

From October 24th through October 28th, 2022, I attended MORS and Virginia Tech’s Certificate in Wargaming course. I was able to attend through a scholarship granted to me directly by the program, the first of an annual prize for undergraduate and graduate students with demonstrated interest in professional wargaming. I felt incredibly lucky to be sitting in the same Zoom call as professional wargamers and analysts from all over the world. Through the course, I wanted to learn how to design and develop games in a structured way. More importantly, the MORS certificate represented a significant first step into the world of professional wargaming, an historically exclusive field.

On the first day Peter Perla walked us through his Artist, Analyst, Architect model on game design. He emphasized there is no one-size-fits-all for the design process. Similarly, the players who make up the game are just as important to the gameplay as the design. If a group of experts is playing a game on their expertise, their decision-making in the gamespace will be influenced by their knowledge. A game of non-experts in the same game will engage with the game content more intuitively and less knowledgeably – focusing more on the inherent incentives of the game design. As game designers and facilitators, it is important we keep the audience in mind as we consider the best way to adjudicate and hot-wash. How can we as facilitators maintain positive neutrality in gameplay and still engage the players? “Reading the room” is a necessary soft skill for wargame facilitators, a skill developed through practice and experience. This idea is especially important if we want to diversify the wargaming community by encouraging game participation from newcomers.

James “Pigeon” Fielder explored the idea of the “magic circle” with us– the mental space where the game actually takes place. As Perla explained, the real game is inside the player’s heads, where they make decisions, and assess their role in the whole. This environment of decision-making is what distinguishes a wargame from other forms of analysis or M&S. The physical game is the symbolic representation and medium of that mental space. When players are in the magic circle, they identify with their role in the game and engage with it as if it is real. Understanding player psychology is a key part of the design process as we pick what physical pieces of the game can best hold dynamic play meaning. For example, character cards give players a basis for their role while leaving room for personal injects; movement-constrained player pieces inherently nudge players towards spatial thinking. Anticipating which mode of thinking a player will utilize in the game will inform what pieces to provide them to that end.

Mike Markowitz’s presentation on graphic design answered more of my questions about practical game design. What do colors convey? What implicit meaning does map orientation hold? As a designer, it is easy to burrow into a checklist of necessary game parts– die, board, cards. But if I learned anything, it’s that answering the human-centered questions about a game concept is primary, and the mechanics will follow from there. Asking “what happens in the real world with this concept?” answers the question of “how should my players receive or relay information in the game world of this concept?” From there, we can parse down the information input into simple but significant design components.

The most helpful part of the class was putting the ideas we had learned all week into practice on the last day. Paul Vebber and Dr. Ed McGrady facilitated a brainstorm, and then broke us into small groups to discuss each other’s ideas. My small group outlined a rough plan for how we would execute a game about state capture. Condensing our ideas and understanding of state capture into simple mechanics was difficult. At times, we got caught in details of team size and turn quantity, which felt a bit abstracted from the game concept– picking between two and three people per team felt arbitrary. However, as I reminded myself, the difference between two and three people as a thought-group is vast, and could influence how that team plays and approaches intra-team negotiation. Refocusing our mechanics meant tying team size back to the actual politics of state capture and returning to those fundamental concept questions. I enjoyed the process and learned a lot from the ideas of my classmates. Their different perspectives and experiences were reflected in their approach to game design and analysis. If I could change one thing about the course, I would have liked more time to pick the brains of the other participants after each lesson and activity.

Thank you to the instructors, Dr. Ed McGrady, Peter Perla, Paul Vebber, Phil Pournelle, Mike Markowitz, James “Pigeon” Fielder, and Becca Wasser for their time and expertise. Thank you to the MORS staff for hosting the class. I have so many ideas for game designs I want to pursue now, and the toolkit to approach it. Institutional access to the MORS course and other official forums for wargaming is essential for young wargamers and aspiring designers. Meeting wargamers far into their career and learning the trade from them gave me a view of the path I am following and what lies at the end.

91st MORS Symposium

The 91st annual symposium of the Military Operations Research Society will take place on 12-15 June 2023 at the US Military Academy in West Point, NY.

Full details can be found here.

Connections Japan 2022

An international conference on policy Japan—”Connections Japan”—will be held via Zoom on Tuesday, 15 November 2022. Japanese-English simultaneous interpretation will be provided.

Preparation for unforeseen events has never been more important than now in dealing with security issues like a challenge to the existing international order, which is exemplified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that many people did not anticipate, the continuation of gray-zone competition, and hybrid warfare.

The “Policy Simulation”, also known as the Political/Military Wargame, has been gaining global attention as an instrument that can contribute to the formulation of flexible and appropriate responses to these situations.

Against this backdrop, a series of international conferences called “Connections,” which originated in the United States and the United Kingdom, has been held in many developed countries as a platform to share and develop knowledge on policy simulation methods.

The NIDS, which has been utilizing policy simulation in supporting policy planning and education since 2015, will hold the International Conference on Policy Simulation “Connections Japan” for the first time on November 15, 2022. The conference is expected to provide an opportunity for the Japanese policy simulation community, including the MOD/SDF, to share their own practices and promote mutual exchange, as well as to learn insights on advanced strategic-level simulations and wargaming in the US/UK.

Full details and a registration link can be found at the National Institute for Defence Studies website.

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