Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

simulations miscellany: 10 January 2012

Some recent simulation and gaming items of interest:

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In his regular gaming column at Foreign Policy Magazine this week, Michael Peck invades Syria. Milgeek note to Michael: the Turks have several hundred Leopard 1s and 2A4s, so perhaps using a modern German Army wasn’t entirely unrealistic after all.

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At the Smart War Blog, a graduate student discusses his ongoing work on developing an insurgency/counter-insurgency simulation of the 2007 Baghdad Security Plan for his class assignment  in Professor Philip Sabin’s well-known course on conflict simulation at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London:

Free tip from PAXsims: black counters with white printing might work nicely for the Sadrists’ “Mahdi Army,” given their usual parade uniform. Also, while periodic PAXsims contributor Brian Train is rightly considered the reigning king of small-box insurgency simulations, judging from your draft map you may already have him beaten on the graphic arts front. Watch out, Brian!

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As for Professor Sabin, this seems a good time to mention that his forthcoming book Simulating War: Studying Conflict through Simulation Games (Continuum Press) will be published shortly. It seems destined to join Peter Perla’s The Art of Wargaming (1990) as an instant classic in the field.

Simulating War explores the theory and practice of conflict simulation, as applied in the many thousands of wargames published over the past 50 years. It discusses the utility of this form of conflict simulation by setting it in its proper context alongside military and professional wargaming, as well as more academically familiar techniques such as game theory and operational analysis. The book explains in detail the analytical and modelling techniques involved, and provides complete illustrative simulations of three specific historical conflicts, as used in Professor Sabin’s own courses on the wars concerned. It gives readers all the intellectual skills they need to use published wargames and to design their own simulations of conflicts of their choice, whether for interest or as a vehicle for teaching or research.

You can preorder it via and elsewhere.

4 responses to “simulations miscellany: 10 January 2012

  1. brtrain 11/01/2012 at 3:14 pm

    I do recall one or two small-press games that tried camouflage-pattern counters (one of the invasion of Grenada IIRC), and some nowadays DTP efforts feature little pictures of tanks with camouflage paint schemes. All this does is frustrate wargamers with failing eyesight, like me.

    Me, my counter colour choices are usually determined by whatever Hi-Liter markers I have on hand…

  2. Rex Brynen 11/01/2012 at 2:53 pm

    Tangentially, that raises an interesting game design issue: is it ever worth making counters NOT stand out? It would, after all, be quite realistic if the Coalition player failed to notice some Jaysh al-Mahdi units skulking in the shadows…

    I’ve been playing some zombie skirmish miniature games lately, in which players have sometimes run into zombies simply because they didn’t notice them amidst all of the scenery–and it served to enhance the play experience:

  3. The Student 11/01/2012 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks for the shout out, Rex. Black counters for the Mahdi Army would definitely be thematically appropriate. I’m just worried about the counters not standing out enough on the map, since the Coalition player will likely be spending a decent amount of time studying the Mahdi player’s large number of counters spread throughout the districts. The counters I’ve made so far are blue for the Coalition player and green for the Mahdi Army, but when my team from class begins playtesting I’ll print out another set of black counters to see how they work out.

    @brtrain, I have just the opposite problem. I have graphic design experience from my job, but game design isn’t my strong suit!

  4. brtrain 11/01/2012 at 1:41 am

    Well, I will admit that graphics have never been my strong suit – I’ve always taken the “schematic” approach.
    His map reminds me a lot of Battle for Baghdad. (
    I did check in with “The Student” back in October, he seems to be doing fine – and thanks for the notice about Philp Sabin’s book!

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