Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 27 January 2015


Some recent items on conflict simulation and gaming that might be of interest to PAXsims readers:

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In the wake of North Korea’s apparent cyberattack on Sony, the US and UK announced joint cyber wargames. The BBC discusses what these might involve.

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Students at Georgetown University – School of Foreign Service in Qatar recent held a crisis simulation involving “a fictional maritime claim conflict in the South China Sea.” You’ll find some details here.

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Battlefront’s Combat Mission: Black Sea has been added to our PAXsims list of Ukraine crisis wargames.

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Also related to the crisis in the Ukraine, a tongue-in-cheek game about repelling a Russian invasion (“Comrade Puu’s Russian Invasion”) is now for sale in Estonia.

Russia Today (ironically enough) has a report on the game here.

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At Grogheads, Robert Mosher has written an excellent piece on the 19th century American wargame Strategos (1880):

strategos-front-sIn 1880 D. Appleton and Company of New York and then-First Lieutenant Charles A. Totten, (Fourth Artillery, United States Army), published STRATEGOS: A Series of American Games of War Based Upon Military Principles and Designed for the Assistance Both of Beginners and Advanced Students in Prosecuting the Whole Study of Tactics, Grand Tactics, Strategy, Military History, and The Various Operations of WarStrategos presented a layered set of games that addressed tactics, grand tactics, and strategy, supplemented by material for the study of military history, with an appendix that included statistical studies relating to the conduct of war.

In Strategos Totten designed a system that used the same apparatus and related study material in examining several aspects of war and warfare:

  • The Minor Tactical Game
  • The Grand Tactical Game
  • The Battle Game
  • The Advanced Game

Strategos: The Advanced Game represents Totten’s contribution to the family of “kriegsspiel” level war games relevant to this study. Totten’s game was identified as a useful training tool by a specially convened board of Regular and National Guard officers at San Francisco in 1879 to examine his war game and its apparatus. The Board cited several attributes of Totten’s work for particular praise:

  • The rules were described as having greater fullness and being more explicit as guidance for the Referee; and
  • A “more minute analysis” of actual conflict and greater accuracy in the system tables used to resolve conflicts in the game.

Their conclusion recommended acquisition of Strategos and its apparatus for the army, although it is not clear whether it was ever actually acquired on any large scale….

The rules can be found for free on Google Books.

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The FiveThirtyEight data blog has another couple of recent articles on boardgaming, based upon quantitative analysis of BoardGameGeek. One identifies “The Worst Board Games Ever Invented.” Monopoly and The Game of Life—both of which I enjoyed as a child, and which have been major commercial successes—make the list. The other article suggests that “Stop Playing Monopoly With Your Kids (And Play These Games Instead).”

Inadvertently, however, the articles may highlight the numericaldata-exists-therefore-I’ll-crunch-it problem with big data, whereby inadequate thought is given to adequately contextualizing and interpreting data analysis. BGG doesn’t rate how much children enjoy games, or what the average game player enjoys in a game. Rather, it represents what a very small minority of ubergeeky game players (myself included, since I rate games there too) like—which is not entirely the same thing. Heck, as a teen I enjoyed multi-week games of SPI’s War in Europe (3600 counters, four rule books—BGG rating 6.96) and The Next War (2400 counters—BGG rating 7.36), but I suspect those aren’t to everyone’s taste.

Another possible data point is that Monopoly (BGG rating 4.41) has sold 275 million copies since 1935, and been played by over half a billion people. So feel to continue to play it, enjoy it, and introduce your kids to it.

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The Fifteenth Annual Institute of the Reacting to the Past Consortium will be held on June 11-15, 2015 at Barnard College:

…this year’s Annual Institute promises a stellar program, including a keynote address from Sam Wineburg, author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts, who has challenged instructors to go beyond mindless memorization, and from the team of J. Robert Gillette and Lynn G. Gillette, who recently energized the Lilly Conference on College Teaching with a lively presentation on embracing active learning. These will be added to a rich engagement with games and sessions as detailed below, and a keynote from our own Mark Carnes.

The institute will feature twelve games, including the revised, Norton-published editions of The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C.;Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791Charles Darwin, the Copley Medal and the Rise of Naturalism, 1861-64Patriots, Loyalists and Revolution in New York City, 1775-76; and Greenwich Village, 1913: Suffrage, Labor, and the New Woman; along with a number of unpublished games: Frederick Douglass, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Constitution: 1845; and Mexico in Revolution, 1911-1920The Second Crusade: The War Council of Acre, 1148The Collapse of Apartheid and the Dawn of Democracy in South Africa, 1993Challenging the USDA Food PyramidConstantine and the Council of Nicaea: Defining Orthodoxy and Heresy in Christianity, 325 CE; and Title IX and the American University.

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The Third International Competition on Educational [digital] Games at the European Conference on Game-Based Learning (ECGBL), which is being held in Steinkjer, Norway on 8 -9 October 2015:

The aims of this competition are:

  • To provide an opportunity for educational game designers and creators to participate in the conference and demonstrate their game design and development skills in an international competition.
  • To provide an opportunity for GBL creators to peer-assess and peer-evaluate their games.
  • To provide ECGBL 2015 attendees with engaging and best-practice games that showcase exemplary applications of GBL.

Games submitted to the competition are expected to accomplish an educational goal. We welcome contributions relevant to all levels of learning (primary, secondary, tertiary or professional. Both digital and non-digital games are encouraged. Competitors should be prepared to explain their design and evaluation process, why it is innovative (the game itself or its educational setting) and how they achieved (will achieve) the impact they seek. The game should be in a development state that engages the player for at least 10 minutes. The closing date for submissions is the 16th of June.

You’ll find further detail on ECGBL 2015 here.

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