PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

simulations miscellany, Connections diaspora edition

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The Connections 2013 interdisciplinary wargaming conference is currently underway, and I know that several PAXsims readers who weren’t able to travel to Dayton, Ohio are, like me, following it all by VTC or dial-in. For those of you who are interested in listening in, it may not be too late to contact Tim Wilkie for the remote connection information. You can also find the conference presentation slides here, and we’ll also try to recruit some participants to send in their own impressions.

The Connections conference extends through to July 25.

Meanwhile, in other conflict simulation and serious games related news:

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John Curry at the History of Wargaming project discusses why the UK Conference of Wargamers is the best model for a conference—and the worst.

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The folks at MMOWGLI have prepared a couple of papers for the  NPS Acquisition Research Symposium, 2013, focusing on Innovating Naval Business Using a War Game and Improving DoD Energy Efficiency: Combining MMOWGLI Social-Media Brainstorming With Lexical Link Analysis (LLA) to Strengthen the Defense Acquisition Process.

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The latest issue of the Journal of Simulation 7, 3 (August 2013) is out, devoted to agent-based modelling. Of particular interest is an article by Xavier Rubio-Campillo, Jose María Cel, and Jose María and Francesc Xavier Hernández Cardona of the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre and Universitat de Barcelona. In it they used agent-based modelling to examine the development of new infantry tactics during the early eighteenth century—a rare application of this computational technique to military history:

Computational models have been extensively used in military operations research, but they are rarely seen in military history studies. The introduction of this technique has potential benefits for the study of past conflicts. This paper presents an agent-based model (ABM) designed to help understand European military tactics during the eighteenth century, in particular during the War of the Spanish Succession. We use a computer simulation to evaluate the main variables that affect infantry performance in the battlefield, according to primary sources. The results show that the choice of a particular firing system was not as important as most historians state. In particular, it cannot be the only explanation for the superiority of Allied armies. The final discussion shows how ABM can be used to interpret historical data, and explores under which conditions the hypotheses generated from the study of primary accounts could be valid.

Also of interest is previous work by these researchers on using agent-based models to support battlefield archaeology and using spatial analysis to better understand combined arms warfare in the Spanish Civil War.

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33AA651E-C639-481A-97EA-15E537446268_mw1024_n_sOne of the challenges that agent-based modellers have not yet turned their analytical attentions to is how to prevent Russian all-girl punk bands from conducting protests in Russian Orthodox churches. Fortunately, that challenge has been taken up by some Russian programmers, who have released the game Don’t Let Pussy Riot Into The Cathedral. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

A video game was showcased at a recent Russian Orthodox youth festival in Moscow that encourages players to “kill” members of the feminist punk-rock collective Pussy Riot.

In the game, “Don’t Let Pussy Riot Into The Cathedral,” players use an Orthodox cross to snuff out the balaclava-clad women before they enter a domed white church.

Throughout the game, Pussy Riot’s “Punk Prayer For Putin,” which some of them performed in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in February 2012, earning three of them jail terms, plays in the background.

When the Pussy Rioters enter the church in the game, they reappear atop the church with horns on. The building gradually falls into disrepair and ominous clouds gather.

A version of the game, which used the name “Inquisition,” was posted online late last year.

I think almost all of the press reporting on this has it completely wrong—the game is clearly satirical, as evidenced by the overweight priests, luxury car, absolutions for sale, and the expensive watch that serves as the load screen (a reference to this). If the game was on display at the youth festival, either someone didn’t understand the humour or it was a very clever piece of performance art.

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At his Sources and Methods blog, Kris Wheaton (Mercyhurst University) discusses Hnefatafl, the ancient Viking game Every intelligence professional should play:

1001689_277186405754085_2142739834_nToday, only dedicated tabletop gamers have ever heard of it and many of them have never had a chance to play the game.  That is a shame for it’s an extraordinary game with a number of lessons embedded in it for the curious intelligence professional.  For example:

  • It is an asymmetric game.  As you can see from the board above, one side starts in the center and the other side surrounds it on all four sides.  One side outnumbers the other by about 2:1.  The sides even have different victory conditions (the player with the pieces in the center need to get the “King”, the large playing piece in the middle of the board, to one of the corners.  The other player is trying to capture the King).  It is not too hard to see a game such as this one incorporated into courses, classes or discussions of asymmetric warfare.
  • It is a conflict simulation.  Most historians agree that there were relatively few large-scale battles involving Vikings. Instead, most of the time, combat resulted from raiding activities.  Hnefatafl seems to reflect the worst case scenario for a Viking raider:  Cut off from your boats and outnumbered 2:1.
  • It provides a deep lesson in strategic thinking.  Lessons in both the strategy of the central position (hundred of years before Napoleon made it famous) and in the relative value of interior vs. exterior lines of communication are embedded in this game.

What makes this game even more fascinating for me is what it teaches implicitly – that is, what are the lessons it teaches the players without the players knowing that they are learning?  Furthermore, what does this tell us about the Viking culture?

But wait, there’s more! Kris will be producing a version of the game through his new company, Sources and Methods Games—a version featuring Vikings and… Cthulhu.

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Every wargamer needs a laser pointer. It is essential when discussing a map, and useful for those lengthy powerpoint presentations during the briefing and debriefing. Miniature gamers often use them to confirm line of sight on the table-top battlefield. Boardgamers can use them to keep the cat away.

Given that.. what could be cooler than pointers that look like sharks… with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads? Available at ThinkGeek.

One response to “simulations miscellany, Connections diaspora edition

  1. brtrain 26/07/2013 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for the note on Hnefatafl, and by extension the comment on the value of asymmetrical games to military and intelligence types. Exploring this is why I designed Guerrilla Checkers, which you already know.

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