Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Ignatius: Lessons from an Iranian war game

In his column at the Washington Post yesterday, David Ignatius reported on a recent Iran-US crisis game held at the Brookings Institution:

Perhaps it was the “fog of simulation.” But the scariest aspect of a U.S.-Iran war game staged this week was the way each side miscalculated the other’s responses — and moved toward war even as the players thought they were choosing restrained options.

The Iran exercise was organized by Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. It included former top U.S. officials as Washington policymakers, and prominent Iranian American experts playing Tehran’s hand. I was allowed to observe, on the condition that I wouldn’t name the participants.

The bottom line: The game showed how easy it was for each side to misread the other’s signals. And these players were separated by a mere corridor in a Washington think tank, rather than half a world away.

Misjudgment was the essence of this game: Each side thought it was choosing limited options, but their moves were interpreted as crossing red lines. Attacks proved more deadly than expected; signals were not understood; attempts to open channels of communication were ignored; the desire to look tough compelled actions that produced results neither side wanted.

Let’s walk through the simulation to see how the teams stumbled up the ladder of escalation. The game was set in July 2013, with some broad assumptions: It was assumed that President Obama had been reelected, the P5+1 negotiations remained deadlocked and Israel hadn’t launched a unilateral attack.

The game controllers added some spicy details: Assassinations of Iranian scientists were continuing; and the United States, Israel and Britain were developing a new cyberweapon (imaginary code name: National Pastime) to disrupt power to Iran’s nuclear and military facilities. Even so, the Iranian supreme leader thought that America was a paper tiger, telling aides: “The Americans are tired of the fight, and they are led by a weak man with no stomach for the struggle.”

Meanwhile, Iran was pushing ahead with its nuclear program; it had a rough design for a weapon and, in three to four months, would have enough highly enriched uranium to make two bombs.

The action started on July 6 with an Iranian terror operation: A bomb destroyed a tourist hotel in Aruba, killing 137 people, many of them Americans, including a vacationing U.S. nuclear scientist. The damage at the hotel was far greater than the Iranians had expected….

As Ignatius describes it, the crisis then escalated as the US bombed a Revolutionary Guards facility and unleashed a cyber-attack against Iran, and the Iranians responded with limited mining of the Straits of Hormuz—in response to which, in turn, the US decided to launch a major military offensive against both Iranian coastal defences and its nuclear facilities.

Of course, one can offer the usual quibbles (which, as always, need to be read with some caution, since we only have a single newspaper account to go by).

  • The game designers appear to have seeded a substantial escalatory dynamic into the simulation from the outset both by envisaging an Iranian attack against a tourist hotel that causes mass civilian casualties (I can’t think of a terror attack that ever caused ten times more casualties than anticipated by the planners, but I stand to be corrected), and by apparently declaring that Iran had begun to produce HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium—that is, enriched to over 20% U235 and possibly suitable for use in a nuclear weapon) At present, Iran has no HEU whatsoever, having kept it enrichment within the 20% LEU (Low-Enriched Uranium) threshold) where it cannot be used in a weapon. Pretty much everyone recognizes that productions of weapon’s-grade HEU by Iran would be a major provocation, including the Iranians (which is why they have kept enrichments levels below this to date).
  • Iran deliberately bombing US tourists seems a little out of character too, but partly that depends on how one reads the alleged 2011 assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador to Washington (I’m among those who remain unconvinced there was a serious, authorized Iranian effort to conduct an attack.)
  • Iran’s decision to mine the Straits of Hormuz also seems rather surprising to me too, given that almost all of its oil exports use that route.

However, as Ignatius’ account suggests, the game does nicely showcase one strength of such a simulation: namely the ways in which it can highlight how easily signals can be misread in a crisis, even if the sender believes that they are being carefully calibrated.

If any readers participated in the game, feel free to add additional information (or corrections) in the comments below.

simulations miscellany, International Talk Like a Pirate Day edition

Since September 19 be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, the Captains and crew o’ PAXsims be pleased to provide ye with a collection o’ simulation swag from around the vast seas of the interwebs:

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Defense News be reportin’ on the use of zombie-based training scenarios in the military, government, and private sector. Grrr, arrrgh, yarrrr!

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Defense News also be reportin’ on computer-based counter-IED training:

A virtual drill sergeant could soon be barking orders at U.S. military service members learning to find and mark improvised explosive devices (IEDs), one of the major threats to troops in Afghanistan.

The hand-held detector edition of Improvised Explosive Device Gaming and Modeling Environment, I-GAME, is a laptop-based virtual trainer that troops can use to practice proper dismounted IED-clearing procedures. It features 17 kinds of IED threats, several sweeping devices such as the Minehound, a first-person view to develop terrain awareness, and a virtual drill instructor to keep troops on track and correct their sweeping methods.

The trainer aims to put users into a realistic virtual mission, where they can go through a vulnerable area and practice proper clearing formations and procedures, culminating with marking a threat….

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Michael Peck, prolific scallywag that he be, has penned another piece on GCSC’s crow-sourcing of ideas for their new stability operations simulation in his shiny new War Games column at Forbes. Blimey!

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Chairman of the US Join Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and his mateys here be walking all over a large map of sorts, havin’ a parley about future US national security challenges from all manner of shifty bilge-rats and scurvy ne’er-do-wells. He seems to be a-standing on Russia what’s more, either pondering the global “Pussy Riot” crisis of 2017, or perhaps seeing if he can really see Sarah Palin’s window (ahoy, it be in the other direction).

Belay that—according to the New York Times, he be a-thinkin’ more about homeland defence:

“Strategic seminar” is the name Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has chosen for these daylong sessions, which were not exactly a war game more than a tabletop military exercise, and unlike anything the Pentagon has done to plan its future.

Shortly after being sworn in as chairman last October, a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, General Dempsey said the military was confronting “a strategic inflection point, where the institution fundamentally re-examines itself.” The seminar project he started fits his goal: to try to build the right military force for five years from now — and not be driven by the budget cycle into a series of year-by-year decisions.

The overarching question is whether the Pentagon’s war plans need to be rewritten to take into account how the military has been affected by a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now by orders to shrink to fit mandated budget cuts. While the list of potential adversaries and the rising threats remain classified, the assessments from the sessions already are reshaping military planning. Initial findings have been presented to President Obama by General Dempsey, officials said.

One realization is that under any situation in which the United States is in an armed conflict within five years, American territory most likely would be attacked as part of an adversary’s actions, regardless of where the major fighting was focused overseas. That attack might be direct, by missile, or more asymmetrical, as in terrorism or via a computer-network cyberattack.

“In the future, our homeland will not be the sanctuary it has been,” General Dempsey told a recent military conference, during which he pulled back the curtain — a bit — on the strategic seminar project.

As a result of that seminar, General Dempsey said, the military’s Northern Command, responsible for defending United States territory, has begun work with the Department of Homeland Security, the F.B.I. and other domestic agencies to assess how potential demands for military forces overseas might affect security at home, and how any shortfalls could be resolved.

Another lesson from the seminars is that the Pentagon might have to organize and deploy forces in a different way than war plans now dictate if there is another major conflict overseas and simultaneously a significant attack at home, or the need to manage a catastrophic, domestic natural disaster.

“We assumed a conflict someplace, and we flowed the forces required to that conflict,” General Dempsey said. “We created a scenario where the homeland was attacked — or even if it wasn’t attacked, where there might have been some natural disaster. And it was remarkable.”

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Arrrr, in the “this not be new, but worth reading” department, we’ll be splicing the mainbrace to a handsome piece by Kesten Green and J. Scott Armstrong on “Role thinking: Standing in other people’s shoes to forecast decisions in conflicts” in the International Journal of Forecasting 27, 1 (2011). In it they be showin’ that while “role thinking” be no better than a squiffy swabbie in producin’ predictions o’ human behaviour, “role-playing” has measurable positive effects on yer predictive accuracy:

When forecasting decisions in conflict situations, experts are often advised to figuratively stand in the other person’s shoes. We refer to this as “role thinking”, because, in practice, the advice is to think about how other protagonists will view the situation in order to predict their decisions. We tested the effect of role thinking on forecast accuracy. We obtained 101 role-thinking forecasts of the decisions that would be made in nine diverse conflicts from 27 Naval postgraduate students (experts) and 107 role-thinking forecasts from 103 second-year organizational behavior students (novices). The accuracy of the novices’ forecasts was 33% and that of the experts’ was 31%; both were little different from chance (guessing), which was 28%. The small improvement in accuracy from role-thinking strengthens the finding from earlier research that it is not sufficient to think hard about a situation in order to predict the decisions which groups of people will make when they are in conflict. Instead, it is useful to ask groups of role players to simulate the situation. When groups of novice participants adopted the roles of protagonists in the aforementioned nine conflicts and interacted with each other, their group decisions predicted the actual decisions with an accuracy of 60%.

Although the journal version be hidden behind a paywall, ye can find an ungated version o’ their paper here. Free loot! Yo-ho-ho!

IDC crisis-games a terrorist attack on Israel

According to an article a few days ago in the Jerusalem Post, the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya recently conducted a crisis game exploring Israel’s response to a “an attack from Sinai, in which 17 people were killed and dozens wounded when two rockets hit Eilat.”

The security cabinet, comprising former senior officials, ordered a strike on the Gaza Strip, where the terrorist attack was said to have been planned by the Army of Islam, while at the same time coordinating with Egypt, the United States and the international community.

The prime minister – played convincingly by the former head of the National Security Council, IDC Prof. Uzi Arad – ruled after hearing the views of his security cabinet members (Eitan Ben-Eliyahu as defense minister, Roni Milo as foreign minister, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Eitan as chief of staff, Ya’acov Perry as director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and Col. (res.) Lior Lotan as director of military intelligence) that the IDF should retaliate immediately with a massive air strike – but not a ground operation – on terrorist targets in Gaza.

“We have to react,” he said. “We cannot wait.”

In the second stage of the simulation, major parties in the region played by academics and former officials – including Hezbollah, Syria, Egypt, Iran and al- Qaida – decided, for the most part, not to get directly involved in the escalation following the Israeli military strike, which, according to a mock report on CNN, killed dozens in Gaza.

In the third stage, the US ambassador (played by Michael Singh, managing director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy) vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s excessive response presented by the German ambassador (played by Dr. Daphne Richemond-Barak, head of the International Law Desk at IDC) and supported by other members of the council.

There are a few peculiar aspects to the report (which may be more a function of the Jerusalem Post coverage of the event than the crisis game itself). First, there is no mention of any actions taken by Hamas, arguably the second or third most important actor in the crisis. Hamas has been acutely aware of the potential dangers to itself and Gaza by actions taken by more militant Islamist groups since the 5 August 2012 attack by unknown gunmen against Egypt-Israel border crossing at Kerem Shalom that left 15 Egyptian soldiers dead, and is almost certainly taking measures to prevent the reoccurrence of such attacks. It also has a very strained relationship against the Army of Islam, having threatened or used force against it in the past. Oddly, al-Qa’ida is mentioned as a player in the game, although they have little presence in Gaza. There is no discussion of the repercussions of an Israeli strike for the Palestinian Authority, which has recently faced a wave of austerity protests (and which Israeli decision-makers would have little interest in destabilizing). It isn’t at all clear what the target of a “massive airstrike” that “killed dozens” would be, given that the Army of Islam is small and has no real infrastructure to target.

If any readers participated in the simulation or have further information, please feel free to add it in the comments section below.

Vogt: A Methodology to Assess UrbanSim Scenarios

Brian Vogt has kindly allowed us to upload a copy of his recently-completed MSc thesis at the Naval Postgraduate School on “A Methodology to Assess UrbanSim Scenarios.” In it, he examines whether the choices and feedback mechanisms in the counter-insurgency software UrbanSim actually support its intended learning objectives:

Turn-based strategy games and simulations are vital tools for military education, training, and readiness. In an era of increasingly constrained resources and expanding demand for training solutions, the need for validated, effective solutions will increase. Appropriate performance feedback is an important component of any training solution. Current methods for designing and testing the performance feedback provided in turn-based simulation are limited to well-structured problems and do not adequately address ill-structured problems that better replicate problems facing military leaders in today’s complex operating environment. This thesis develops and explores new methods for assessing the feedback mechanisms of turn-based strategy games. Using UrbanSim, a game for training strategic approaches to COIN operations as an exemplar, this thesis developed and explored two unique methods for evaluating the reward structure of the UrbanSim scenarios. The first method evaluates different student strategies using a batch-run method. The second method uses a reinforcement-learning algorithm to explore the decision space. These scenario evaluation methodologies are shown to be able to provide insights about a game’s performance feedback mechanism that was not previously available. These methodologies can be used for formative evaluation during game scenario development. Additionally, these evaluation methodologies are generalizable to other training and education games that focus on ill-structured problems and decision-making at discrete intervals.

Brian offers some excellent insight into feedback mechanisms in military training games in general, as well as in the specific case of UrbanSim. He runs large numbers of iterations of possible strategies in the game, so as to assess whether UrbanSim rewards (with success) what it is supposed to (doctrinally), and whether the “reward signal is strong enough for the learner to differentiate between optimal and non-optimal strategies.” He finds that:

From the perspective of evaluating the fielded UrbanSim scenarios, it appears that the unstated, but assumed, training objective of rewarding students that conduct exclusively legal actions is properly rewarded. The training objective of emphasizing the doctrinal principle of ‘‘Clear, Hold, Build’’ did not stand out very clearly. However, it appeared to be in the range of acceptable solutions. The fact that the Build, Build, Build strategy was also in the range of acceptable solutions is not desirable because it reinforces the notion that you can be successful if you ignore the enemy and allow them to operate and you can still be successful in the scenario. The 4th training objective that wants the students to demonstrate that a mixture of lethal and non-lethal actions is better than exclusively lethal or non-lethal was not supported. Non-lethal actions were more strongly rewarded than the mixed approach and the lethal actions. This may be closely tied to the fact that the enemy units in the scenario do not affect the simulated environment enough to replicate the danger of ignoring enemy units operating in the area of operation.

As the thesis notes, the study is all about the feedback and rewards inherent within the game itself, and not about how it might be used instructionally. Obviously, it is better if the cues that the games provides to a player most closely align with course content and educational objectives. However, understanding how the game may, at times, misalign or send unclear signals is also extremely useful from an instructional point of view, allowing corrective action to be taken by an instructor (or even providing discussion opportunities for post-game hotwash and critique).

Brian mentioned he would welcome feedback on the thesis, his methods, and findings, so be pleased to add comments below.

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Biographical note: Brian Vogt was commissioned an Armor Officer in 1996.  He served as a tank platoon leader, support platoon leader, and tank company executive officer in 1st Cav Div, Ft Hood.  Then, following the Armor Officer Advanced Course, he served as a Brigade Plans Officer in 2nd Inf Div, Camp Casey, Korea.  Subsequently he was a brigade current operations officer in 3BCT, 1AD, Ft Riley.  Took command of C/1-13AR in Baghdad in June 2003.  In August 2004, took command of HHC, 3BCT, 1AD for the second deployment to Iraq.  Upon redeployment in April 2006, became a FA57, Simulations Operations officer and worked in TCM-Virtual Training Environment at Ft Leavenworth.  Following CGSC in June 2010, he started classes at the Naval Postgraduate School in the MOVES Institute.  He graduates in September 2012 and will be stationed at Ft Eustis, VA.

Forthcoming Simulation & Gaming articles on peacebuilding

Several more articles from the forthcoming special issue of Simulation & Gaming on peacebuilding have now been made available in advance by SAGE, including our own short introduction to the collection:

Rex Brynen and Gary Milante, “Peacebuilding With Games and Simulations.”

Simulations and games can offer valuable insight into the management of conflict and the achievement of peace. This special symposium issue of Simulation & Gaming examines several such approaches, used in both educational settings and to prepare practitioners to deal with the concrete challenges of peacebuilding. In the introduction, the authors offer some brief thoughts on the how and why of simulations and games-based approaches, scenario choices (abstract, fictional, and real world), intended audiences, and design approaches. They also address the question of how games might (or might not) contribute to policy making in this field.

Tucker B. Harding and Mark A. Whitlock, “Leveraging Web-Based Environments for Mass Atrocity Prevention.”

A growing literature exploring large-scale, identity-based political violence, including mass killing and genocide, debates the plausibility of, and prospects for, early warning and prevention. An extension of the debate involves the prospects for creating educational experiences that result in more sophisticated analytical products that enhance preventive policy action. This article details an attempt to bridge the theory to practice gap. It describes the role of a simulation COUNTRY X within the educational contexts of both a graduate course in prevention of mass killing and genocide at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and a practitioner training workshop designed for regional conflict early warning analysts in Africa. The authors review educational theory describing problem-based learning and apply it to a web-based educational simulation. Using a recent training of professional conflict early warning analysts as their case study, they explore several assumptions regarding the utility of simulated environments as educational tools in moving from theory to practice. Use of the simulation resulted in active and engaged participation by learners, increased capacity for well-reasoned perspective taking, and improved analytical confidence in complex scenarios.

Richard B. Powers and Kat Kirkpatrick, “Playing With Conflict: Teaching Conflict Resolution Through Simulations and Games.”

Playing With Conflict is a weekend course for graduate students in Portland State University’s Conflict Resolution program and undergraduates in all majors. Students participate in simulations, games, and experiential exercises to learn and practice conflict resolution skills. Graduate students create a guided role-play of a conflict. In addition to an oral debriefing, students wrote a debriefing report following the Description, Interpretation, Evaluation (DIE) model of debriefing. The written debriefing report gave all students an opportunity to reflect, analyze, and evaluate their experience in depth. The use of two facilitators allows one to facilitate while the other observes and rests, makes 2 points of view available for the debriefing, and offers a model for resolving minor disagreements between them. Trust among students increased across the weekend as evidenced by an increase in cooperative choices and estimates of the likelihood that others would cooperate in the TAKE-A-CHANCE game, a version of PRISONER’S DILEMMA. Most reported having fun while they learned about themselves, interpersonal conflict, and some large-scale social conflicts.

Julian Schofield, “Modeling Choices in Nuclear Warfighting: Two Classroom Simulations on Escalation and Retaliation.”

Two classroom simulations—SUPERPOWER CONFRONTATION and MULTIPOLAR ASIAN SIMULATION—are used to teach and test various aspects of the Borden versus Brodie debate on the Schelling versus Lanchester approach to nuclear conflict modeling and resolution. The author applies a Schelling test to segregate high from low empathic students, and assigns them to hard case positions in three simulations to test whether high empathy students can engage in tactic bargaining and whether low empathetic students are necessarily as escalation prone. He has a bipolar nuclear simulation that is an easy case for the Brodie set of assumptions about nuclear war, avoidance, and Schelling-esque tacit bargaining. He expects the system structure and high empathy leader selection to contain escalation, despite the temptation of relying on accelerated Single Integrated Operational Plan solutions and the counterincentive of diminished tacit bargaining through decapitation attacks. The second simulation is a multipolar nuclear simulation set in the near future of Asia, and emulates the Borden-esque logic of nuclear war as artillery exchanges, with a Lanchester square law logic encouraging rapid escalation, coupled with a selection for the most autistic leadership. The author expects rapid nuclear escalation under these structural and decision-making conditions. His conclusions are anecdotal, but seem to indicate, from student feedback during class discussions, that the failure to model fear may be a factor in undermining successful tacit bargaining by players, suggesting that Borden rather than Brodie better conceptualized nuclear conflict. Therefore, peace is about restraining war initiation, as there are great pressures for escalation once war is initiated.

These and other forthcoming articles can be found here.

PAXsims featured in Foreign Policy

PAXsims received a big shout-out today in Foreign Policy. A piece by Michael Peck on “WikiCOIN” highlights our recent cooperation with the US Army Command and General Staff College to help brainstorm ideas for a new stability operations simulation:

The U.S. Army wants you — to help to design a game that can help defeat baddies like the Taliban.

You don’t need to be a gamer or a counterinsurgency guru. Just someone who can apply a little creative thinking to help the Army’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC) design a computer simulation for its class in “stability operations” — the kinder, gentler name for the now-unfashionable concept of COIN. The target audience isn’t teenage Call of Duty players, but Army majors who finish their stability ops training with a brigade staff exercise where they roleplay the staff decisions they would be making during deployment in Afghanistan or some other un-stabilized hotspot. Thus the need for a computer simulation that can help instructors run the exercise, by handling the bookkeeping and adjudicating the results of student decisions — such as beefing up patrols in Kandahar or rebuilding infrastructure in Kirkuk.

Normally, CGSC would have sent these requirements to the Army’s acquisitions bureaucracy, which would then solicit and purchase a simulation from a contractor. Instead, CGSC opted to think outside the institutional box. They are turning to the public in a process known as crowdsourcing, soliciting input from people like you and me. Think of it as Wikigamebuilding. It’s a new concept that has been successfully used by organizations such as the Naval Postgraduate School and its MMOWGLI (Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet), where players were asked to watch an online presentation and then offer short suggestions for combating piracy.

“We’re a small team, and that can lead to groupthink,” says James Sterrett, deputy simulations chief at CGSC’s Digital Leader Development Center at Fort Leavenworth. “We’re hoping for crosschecks on our thinking. What did we miss?  Is our concept completely mad?  Is it clear?  Are there simulations out there that already do what we need?”

To get the word out, CGSC opted to post its draft requirements on PaxSims, a prominent blog on the military, international affairs, and games, run by McGill University political scientist and avid gamer Rex Brynen. You’ve got until Sept. 17 to post your comments on this PaxSims blog post….

Of course, PAXsims is also coedited by World Bank economist (and equally avid gamer) Gary Milante. Still, we appreciate the mention!

Crisis Response – from your brains to print ready

Typical card from Crisis Response

A sample card from the game. You can draw this and 50+ other cards and use them to save lives in Crisis Response.

While preparing a short elective course on strategic coordination in crisis response, I was inspired by our discussion at Connections on the Haiti GameLab design challenge and started putting together a very simple card game that I’m currently calling Crisis Response (though other name suggestions welcome!). During a whirlwind week of travel (and a few moments of rare relaxation), I managed to playtest the design with five different groups (some policymakers during the course, some colleagues at work, and some other friends).Some quick reflections on what we’ve learned so far playing the game:

Coordination is difficult – Beyond just deciding who plays what cards, the game also reflects other coordination challenges: Different timelines (the foreign military leaves after five rounds), different capacities of actors (who draw from different decks), sequencing issues and the trade-off between investment in future capacity and current delivery. Even with really good gamers, coordinating and planning as much as possible, we’ve made a few mistakes that really hurt us later in game.

And people don’t make coordination any easier on themselves – While I don’t give very much instruction on how the group should play together (other than not letting them take back a card that has been played), it is interesting to watch players:

  • resist sharing their cards (many naturally keep them face down and need to be told by other players to share),
  • play cards quickly because they can do something and contribute, even when it would be better for other actors to play the same card,
  • resist playing cards because others tell them to do it (interpersonal dynamics affect even game play, project that on to real life),
  • ignore the effects of other people getting knocked out of the game until it is far too late – in one of the games, players actually laughed at the national government when it was knocked out because needs hadn’t been met – only to complain three turns later that they couldn’t play enough cards…

It is useful:  Having people play a game, think about the cards they are playing and the dynamics of the game, think about how they would improve next time (everyone, so far, has been interested in playing a second time, though time often didn’t permit), and why the game was designed as it was, has led to some thoughtful discussions about the challenges faced in coordination (see quote below) and a better understanding of the roles, capacities and objectives of the actors involved in crisis response.

I was the foreign military, and though I could’ve done anything, I realized halfway through that I needed to let the national government do what it could or it wouldn’t work – course participant

I don’t consider this at all a “finished” design – curious to hear what PaxSims readers think of it and would recommend.  One thing it is definitely missing right now is instructive and flavor text – the italics included on a few cards is representative, but would be great to hear from SMEs on a sentence or two for each card, what should each card teach?  Obviously, the game could be developed in a lot of directions, including a development expansion we discussed, which might help us all to better understand the tensions between coordination humanitarian response and development.

You can print everything from the PDFs linked below (you’ll need around 125 3″ x 5″ note cards, have a few extra onhand in case you have printer feeding errors). You’ll also need 3 friends so you can play all four roles (NGOs, national government, foreign military, UN) and some markers (I use little plastic blue counting cubes) to represent supplies.


Playing Cards – Humanitarian, Security and Diplomacy Decks, Role Cards and Cardbacks

Needs and Insecurity Cards 


Bartels, McCown, and Wilkie on Designing Peace and Conflict Exercises

While the special issue of Simulation & Gaming on simulations and peacebuilding (coedited by Gary and myself) has not yet been published, some of the articles have started to appear via SAGE Journal’s “Online First” ahead-of-print service. The first to so so is by Elizabeth Bartels, Margaret McCown, and Timothy Wilkie on “Designing Peace and Conflict Exercises: Level of Analysis, Scenario, and Role Specification.”

Attentiveness to and transparency about the methodological implications of the level of analysis selected for peace and conflict exercises constitute essential elements of good game design. The article explores the impact of level of analysis choices in the context of two key portions of exercises, scenario construction and role specification. It weighs the consequences of these choices in terms of the differing conclusions one can draw from exercises and potential pitfalls of careless choices. Finally, it argues that level of analysis considerations in game design parallels specific debates within segments of the social science literature, connections that are also explored in this article for their relevance to game design.

You’ll need a personal or institutional subscription to access the full article. Other items from the special issue will be appearing in the coming weeks and months.

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