Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Monthly Archives: April 2015

Recent simulation articles in PS: Political Science & Politics


The latest issue of PS: Political Science  & Politics 48, 2 (April 2015) includes four articles on the use of political simulations in the classroom:

The Dictatorship Game: Simulating a Transition to Democracy

  • Luis F. Jiménez, University of Massachusetts, Boston

A central topic in the comparative-politics subdiscipline is the study of democratic transitions. Despite a growing role-playing literature, there are currently no simulations that illustrate the dynamics of democratic transitions. This article proposes a role-playing simulation that demonstrates to students why it is difficult for countries to transition to democracy and why protests are a necessary but not sufficient condition to topple a dictatorship. As surveys and teaching evaluations subsequently showed, this exercise succeeded in clarifying the more difficult theoretical concepts as well as in making a potentially dry subject more accessible.

Teaching with SimCity: Using Sophisticated Gaming Simulations to Teach Concepts in Introductory American Government

  • Matthew Woessner, Pennsylvania State University

One of the key challenges of teaching a college survey course such as introductory American government is the lack of interest on the part of students, many of whom take the course to satisfy a general-education requirement. Recognizing that young people are fascinated by video games, the author devised a governance simulation built on the popular computer game SimCity. Although the video-game industry designed these sophisticated simulations to be played by a single participant rather than a large group, the author created a simple set of rules that allows students to run them collectively. This article examines five factors for which an instructor must account if games such as SimCity are to have educational value. The author argues that, if conducted properly, this type of in-class exercise provides a fun and interesting way to teach students about the inherent challenges of governing in a democracy.

Teaching Globalization and Development through a Simulation

  • Kevin Pallister, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

This article describes a simulation designed to teach students about the interests and interactions involved in the international political economy of development. The design and implementation of the simulation are discussed and sample simulation instructions for students are included.

Political Theory Simulations in the Classroom: Simulating John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government

  • Derek Glasgow, University of Kansas

Political scientists frequently use in-class simulations as teaching tools. However, few such exercises have been developed to assist in teaching pre-modern political theories. This is unfortunate because simulations effectively promote active learning and excite students about course material. This article develops a new simulation to teach Locke’s Second Treatise of Government in an introductory general education or political science course. Surveys of participants indicate that the Locke simulation promotes active learning, as well as understanding of course concepts, teamwork, and interest in the material.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 29 April 2015


Some recent items on conflict simulations and serious games that may be of interest to PAXsims readers:

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On April 28 the Guardian published a good article on “Why political board games have the power to change our view of the world,” mentioning Labyrinth and A Distant Plain, digital game designer Brenda Romero’s analog game designs, Papers Please, and Democracy 3:

We label board games as cerebral things; toys for the mind. I agreed, until I played Labyrinth, a title by CIA analyst Volko Ruhnke simulating the war on terror. Playing as the Jihadists, I put down a “Martyrdom Operation” card. My aim was to secure funding for my terrorists by demonstrating their effectiveness. It struck me like an ice wall what that card’s clinical euphemism actually meant: I’d just killed dozens of innocent people. I felt so sick I had to walk away. A physical reaction from a mind game.

It’s an illustration of how effective tabletop games are at making political points. The most extreme examples are Brenda Romero’s series of art-games entitled The Mechanic is the Message. Train is the best known of these. It appears at first to be an exercise in getting players to optimise space on public transport. During the game, it’s revealed that it’s actually about transporting Jews to Auschwitz. If there was ever a more direct, personal demonstration of the banality of evil, I’ve yet to see it.

Yet this latent power remains untapped. While the indie video game scene hums with political titles like Papers, Please and Democracy 3, few tabletop games even have a political theme. This absence is a puzzle to both Ruhnke and Romero. “Games are nothing more than systems where there is a winner,” said Romero. “Politics are the same.”

Indeed, the designers agree that face-to-face play offers more opportunities to convey a message than the impersonal world of digital interaction. “It’s easy for a player to betray another online,” Romero observed. “It’s much more difficult to do so to their face.”

For Ruhnke, it’s more about transparency. “Tabletop games put players inside their world by requiring them to learn and operate the game model themselves,” he explained. “That aspect is even more critical for games that are about something controversial. Even players who are skeptical at the outset can evaluate and choose what parts of the model to add to their understanding, and what to leave by the roadside.”

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At the Navy Matters blog, blogger ComNavOps reflects on whether renewed attention to wargaming by the US Department of Defense will result in more useful and effective games.

ComNavOps has frequently stressed the need for wargaming to explore strategic and tactical scenarios and fully supports any efforts to increase usage of this valuable tool.  Hence, full credit to Mr. Work.

However, ComNavOps has an uneasy suspicion about this effort.  Wargames can be used for two purposes.  The first, the proper one, is to explore and validate friendly and enemy strategies and tactics using realistic capabilities and counters on the part of both sides.  The second, the faulty one, is to stage pre-determined set piece scenarios designed to “prove” a pet theory or technology.

Too often over the last couple decades, the wargames have been the later – contrived scenarios intended to prove the value of a favored piece of technology so as to justify procurement.  The LCS, for example, was the subject of a number of pre-determined scenarios intended to prove how wonderful it was.

You can read the full piece here.

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Registration is now open for the University of Minnesota’s 2015 Humanitarian Simulation Crisis course, to be held in September 2015.


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The Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University recently held an Israeli-Palestinian peace process simulation:

Many involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process argue that recent attempts at peace have failed because the interests of citizens have not been considered. If citizens are encouraged to understand together the underlying reasons for conflict and to listen to the needs of other parties, the chances of lasting peace will increase.

With this reasoning in mind, on April 24, 2015, INSCT hosted a simulation exercise for first year law and Masters of International Relations graduate students who will be studying in Israel and Palestine in summer 2015.

The exercise—which was led by SU Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and INSCT Faculty Member Miriam F. Elman (Associate Professor, Political Science)—was designed to mimic Track II grassroots engagement. Its purpose is to show how techniques of mediation and dispute resolution might be used to gauge the interests of the people who will need to “buy in” to a peace agreement in order to sustain any final deal that is reached by high-level, Track I negotiators.

Based on a US Institute of Peace exercise, which Elman updated and modified for the INSCT simulation exercise, the students role-played Israeli and Palestinian citizens, engaging in one-on-one and group discussions about the conflict, peace negotiations, and the potential impact of real peace in their daily lives.

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The Humanity in War blog describes a student-run refugee simulation held at Valparaiso University.

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Lundstrum—a Dutch student group—will be holding a “Third Hague Peace Conference” on May 9 in The Hague:

In the First and the Second Hague Peace Conferences (1899 and 1907) the representatives of the Nation States at that time came together to regulate the warfare in the 20th Century and to agree on the peaceful settlement of disputes. 100 years ago, the 3rd Hague Peace Conference was scheduled to take place, in The Hague’s very own Peace Palace. Sadly, the ravages of WWI made this dream impossible. This conference, as the two which preceded it in 1899 and 1907, was organized in order for representatives of the participant states to draft treaties in International Humanitarian Law, more commonly known as the laws of war, but also on the settlement of disputes in a peaceful fashion. Neither war nor peace arises from nothing. They are forged by people. This simulation will put you in the shoes of one such person, giving you the unique opportunity to experience what a Peace Conference would look and feel like in today’s world.

Now, we would like to give you the opportunity to participate in the Third Hague Peace Conference in 2015 and share your ideas on the modern warfare of the 21st Century and the perpetuation of Peace among the nations in the rapidly changing global landscape!

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We’ve mentioned it before, but don’t forget about the excellent GrogCast wargaming podcasts from GrogHeads.

AFTERSHOCK at the Chilean Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center

Subcomisario Fabian Mac-namara (Policia de Investigaciones de Chile)  and Captain Chris Blessley (British Army) were kind enough to share this report on the recent use of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game at the Chilean Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center (CECOPAC).

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On the 9th April 2015, and for the first time in its history, the Centro Conjunto para Operaciones de Paz de Chile (CECOPAC) —the Chilean military academy specialising in United Nations peacekeeping operations and humanitarian missions—used AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game in its training programme.

Two simultaneous games of AFTERSHOCK underway, as video of the 2010 Haiti earthquake plays in the background.

Two simultaneous games of AFTERSHOCK underway, as video of the 2010 Haiti earthquake plays in the background.

The 22 students, consisting of senior civil servants, police officers and military personnel from Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico were enrolled in CECOPAC’s two-week Protection of Civilians course – headed by Mr Jorge Canales – in which an array of humanitarian-related topics were covered. AFTERSHOCK proved a natural fit for the course and offered students a valuable opportunity to directly grapple with some of the practical and high-level issues encountered on disaster relief operations.


Having been given an overview of the game’s rules and a Carana situation brief, students made their way to the ‘Operations Centre’ to begin a 2.5 hour timed version of the game. The two groups (Teams 1 and 2) were initially greeted with tense atmospherics as eerie scenes of the 2010 Haiti earthquake aftermath were broadcasted on projector screens at the back of the room. Students were guided through the first two rounds of the game by instructors Subcomisario Fabian Mac-Namara of Chile’s Police Investigations Force and Captain Chris Blessley of the British Army, but were then left to their own devices for the remainder of the exercise.


The instructors helped the teams through the first two turns—after which, they were largely on their own.

Confusion and disorder were rife at first as students debated strategy and how best to allocate the few resources they had. Decision-making was consequently slow, which only served to further frustrate participants as they saw precious minutes slip away from them. That said, once players better understood the game’s mechanics, they were increasingly able to converge on strategy and coordinate logistics which, in turn, quickly helped reverse the downward humanitarian trend.

Not wanting students to get too comfortable, CECOPAC decided to add an extra layer of confusion to the game by deliberately triggering the building’s earthquake alarm system one hour into play. Natural disasters are, after all, an unpredictable business! Students were immediately evacuated by members of staff dressed as firemen and instructed to wait outside until the all-clear had been given. When they finally returned to their tables, it was clear that certain details of the latest agreed-upon strategy had been forgotten, not to mention whose turn it was…

For added realism, earthquake alarm is sounded and the teams are made to temporarily evacuate the building.

For added realism, earthquake alarm is sounded and the teams are made to temporarily evacuate the building.

It was also apparent that Teams 1 and 2 differed in one fundamental professional aspect: Team 1, mainly consisting of military personnel, were far quicker when making decisions – most likely as a direct consequence of hierarchical military management structures and military commanders accustomed to making ‘command decisions’ whilst under pressure. However, their quick decision-making did not always pay off and some inane mistakes were made along the way. Team 2, on the other hand, which principally consisted of civil servants, preferred to debate strategic decisions in far greater detail and were reluctant to press forward unless some consensus had been agreed upon. Whilst their methodologies appeared more unison in nature, they finished some 25 minutes after their counterparts and very nearly failed to complete the game within the stipulated time period.


In any event, the game concluded with both Teams 1 and 2 finishing with positive RP and OP points (notwithstanding that a significant number of OP points were ultimately deducted from the UN players for insufficient infrastructure and from HADR-Task Force players for failing to promptly withdraw their teams from Carana).

Overall feedback from the players was immensely positive, with the vast majority of them agreeing that the game was not only enjoyable, but also provided a good introduction to some of the likely practical realities encountered on humanitarian operations. One senior Chilean army officer commented that the confusion and commotion at the beginning of the game bore a close resemblance to the discord that he experienced personally in a real earthquake relief operation in Chile. Another senior army officer claimed that, owing to the nature of his profession, he was initially very focused on his team’s individual mandate. However, as his appreciation of the game’s wider issues developed, he quickly learned the benefits of resource-sharing and working with other teams to achieve both individual and collective humanitarian mandates.

Following the exercise’s success, CECOPAC will be using AFTERSHOCK as a permanent training feature on several of its humanitarian and peacekeeping courses. It’s also working with the game’s designer, Prof. Rex Brynen of McGill University, to produce a Spanish version of the game which, in turn, will hopefully disseminate its use throughout other Spanish-speaking countries.

Chris Blessley and Fabian Mac-namara  

Build Peace 2015 and UN PeaceApp winners

On April 25-26 the Build Peace 2015 – Peace through Technology: By Whom, For Whom? conference will be held in Nicosia. Build Peace “explores art and cultural works as tools for conflict mediation, reconciliation and rebuilding, storytelling, heritage, and education, with a specific focus on the impact and increasing relevance of technology on all aspects of artistic and cultural work.” Parts of the conference will be livestreamed.


At that time, awards will also be given to the winners of UN PEACEApp competition, which were announced back in December:

The winners of this year’s PEACEapp competition are five highly innovative approaches to building peace: a global conflict simulation platform, a mobile game to educate voters about the violent Kenyan elections, a mobile app that enables users to empathize with victims of racism, a game that connects youth to challenge prejudice and promote collaboration, and a fantasy game that uses peace superheroes to teach children about non-violent engagement with conflict. Congratulations to the teams and thank you to everyone who participated!

PEACEapp is organised by the UNAOC and UNDP, in collaboration with Build Up, in order to promote digital games and gamified apps as venues for cultural dialogue and conflict management.The diversity of our winners this year reflects the incredible number of entries we received. Over 100 submissions from 42 different countries tackled different aspects of peacebuilding and cross-cultural dialogue in engaging and innovative ways. Our international jury of experts, drawn from the fields of peacebuilding, technology and international development, reviewed the entries and chose the winners.

Winners of completed projects will be awarded $5,000 (US) in recognition of their work, and winners of projects in development will receive expert mentorship from Games for Change and Build Up, together with a series of other partners. One member from each team will also be invited, all costs covered, to present at the Build Peace conference in Cyprus in April 2015, where the PEACEapp awards ceremony will also take place.

The winners were:

Completed Projects

Conflict Simulation Platform (Germany)

This project is about expanding an existing browser-based multiplayer gaming platform to simulate political conflicts on a wide range of peace-related issues, such as terrorism, migration, as well as international and domestic conflict. Players take on the role of key stakeholders in the negotiations, which can be played synchronously in a few hours or asynchronously over several weeks. You can find more information on their website.

Haki 2: Chaguo Ni Lako (Kenya)

As a response to the violent Kenyan elections, Haki: Chaguo Ni Lako (the choice is yours), is a mobile-phone game that was designed to educate new voters, inspire a commitment to peace and tolerance in time for the 2013 Kenyan elections. Haki 2 is available to download for free from the Google Play app store.

Everyday Racism (Australia)

Everyday Racism is the world’s first mobile phone app that challenges users to live in the shoes of someone who frequently experiences racism. It is based on a seven-day challenge to live a week in the life of an Aboriginal man, a Muslim woman, an Indian student or just as yourself, getting immersed in a world where people interact with you based on the way you look, the way you speak and the way you behave. Everyday Racism can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google play.

Projects in development

Kokoro: A virtual global community (Switzerland)

Kokoro is a place that connects children and youth, challenges prejudices, encourages reflection and inspires action. A game and online platform that fosters ethical values and collaboration. Watch Kokoro’s demo video.

Peace Superheroes (Brazil)

Peace Superheroes is a digital game in which players don’t even realize they’re learning about peace building because they’re so enthralled, yet they’re in fact acquiring relevant and applicable skills to positively transform real life conflicts. Watch the Peace Superheroes introductory video.

PEACEApp also listed a number of honourable mentions:

Completed Projects

  • Ibn Nattuta App (Spain): aimed at improving coexistence between citizens of Arab / Muslim cultural background and the rest of the population, is aimed to improve, through knowledge, the self-esteem of ones and respect from the others, especially young.

  • BREAKAWAY Initiative (USA): an online soccer game to help end violence against women & girls wherein players confront challenges modeled after real-world violence and bullying, requires funding to make updates to the game for upcoming youth camps in El Salvador.

  • Janjaruka GBV Maze Game (Kenya): the game was developed to work towards empowering children to recognize, prevent and take action against sexual abuse.

  • Stereowipe (Pakistan): StereoWipe aims at enhancing social cohesion by raising awareness around stereotypes and setting the stage for a dialogue on the potential damages from social biases.

  • TF-CBT: Triangle of Life  (USA): a game that teaches children how to distinguish between thoughts, feelings and behaviours; and helps them understand their interconnected relationship.

Projects in development

  • Training Peace Practitioners through Serious Games (The Netherlands): a virtual training experience to prepare peace practitioners to better contribute to peace and dialogue developed by a consortium of peacebuilding training organisations

  • @Stake (USA): a role-playing card game designed to foster empathy and collaboration in democratic decision-making processes.

  • Peace Park (Georgia): a game that challenges players to restore peace in a communal park and make all visitors get along, by understanding their interests and making wise decisions.

  • The Journey (Sweden): The root cause of violence and misunderstanding of migrants is a lack of empathy and the project tries to make people aware why people migrate and what they have to go through to do it.

  • iLU: Cross-cultural social media networking (Colombia): a cross-cultural social media networking based on emotion sharing and global citizenship for peace building. iLU allows users to interact with people around the world via photo sharing.


NASAGA2015logoThe North American Simulation and Gaming Association has issued a call for proposals for its 2015 annual conference, to be held in Seattle on 21-25 October 2015:

In October 2015 we are Building Gamification Buzz in lively Seattle, Washington. The conference will include workshops, expo, posters, playful sessions and the ever popular game night.

Concurrent Session Proposals

We are calling for proposals for  15-minute, 90-minute, or 3-hour highly-interactive, games, simulations, or experiential sessions that explore ways in which we can add play to technology-led learning environments, use technology-driven games as tools for learning and, of course, use playful activities for face-to-face teaching, learning, and leading groups. To submit your proposal download and complete the application document. Submit your proposal as a Word document to on or before May 15, 2015.

Poster Session Proposals

This year’s NASAGA conference also will include a poster session to share your research. NASAGA invites proposals from people working on the theory and application of games and simulations for learning challenges, or gamification, including but not limited to active learning methods to increase engagement, retention, and performance. If you are interested in submitting a proposal for a poster session download the poster information sheet and submit your 300-500 word abstract to

You’ll find further information on submitting an application here.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 19 April 2015


Some recent items on conflict simulation and serious gaming that may be of interest to PAXsims readers.

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The recent memo by Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work challenging the US military to “reinvigorate, institutionalize, and systematize” wargaming seems to have had some effect—although whether it results in tick-the-box activities, greater attention to what was already being done, or genuine innovation remains to be seen.

One activity that reflected the call for greater use of wargaming was recently undertaken by the US Army Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center:

Addressing this challenge, the Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center recently teamed with the Special Operations Forces Element, Department of Joint, Interagency and Multinational Operations, Command and General Staff College to conduct a wargame event using Synthetic Staff Ride: Mindanao.

SSR: Mindanao is a low-cost, table-top wargame designed to challenge players with a complex environment, encourage peer interaction and applications of negotiation and leadership skills, apply strategic thinking and serve as a practical exercise examining Phase 0/1 Shape and Deter operations.

The synthetic staff ride, wargame structure provided by SSR: Mindanao offers a robust option to explore soldier, staff, U.S. Army, Department of Defense and whole-of-government interactions and operations in the future operating environment. An environment where the United States must work with international partners (nations and non-state actors) to achieve both U.S. and collaborative objectives.

The wargame was designed and developed by TRAC in collaboration with the Center for Naval Analyses, the Unrestricted Warfare Analysis Center, CGSC’s Digital Leader Development Center, and the Capabilities Development Integration Directorate of the Mission Command Battle Lab. The Army Research Institute, the TRADOC G-2 Intelligence Support Activity, the Naval Post-Graduate School, and the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies provided playtest support.

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The January 2015 issue of the NATO Joint Air Power Competence Centre Journal, Colonel Uwe L. Heilmann of the German Air Force praises manual wargames (or “manual simulation systems”) as a “$50.00 Cognitive Swiss Army Knife.” Specifically he argues that manual simulations are typically cheaper and more flexible than computerized simulations, which also tend to hide their assumptions and models within the “black box” of software code.

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The Humanitarian Academy at Harvard will conduct the simulation exercise for its current Humanitarian Response Intensive Course on 24-26 April 2015:

The Humanitarian Response Intensive Course is offered each year to professionals from around the world at Harvard University. Through presentations and hands on table top exercises offered by faculty and guest lecturers who are experts in their topic areas, participants will gain familiarity with the primary frameworks in the humanitarian field (human rights, livelihoods, Sphere standards, international humanitarian law) and will focus on practical issues that arise in the field, such as personal and team security, rapid assessments, application of minimum standards for food security, shelter, WaSH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and operational approaches to relations with the military in humanitarian settings. Throughout the class, students will participate in pre-assigned learning teams to complete in-class projects designed to compliment a humanitarian case study. At the conclusion of class, student teams will present an aid delivery proposal designed to meet the needs of the population portrayed in the humanitarian case study.

Participants will utilize knowledge of the humanitarian field gained in the classroom learning sessions during a three-day field simulation exercise. Attendees will spend two nights in the forest and participate in a complicated disaster and conflict scenario. During the simulation, participants will work in teams representing different humanitarian nongovernmental organizations and will engage with a wide range of local and non-state actors (roles developed and filled by faculty, course alumni, and affiliates) to create a service delivery plan.

The simulation will be held rain or shine.

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hanshakeCRISP and the Egyptian Center for Development Services (CDS) have been conducting a series of simulation games in Egypt with support from the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations and funds from the German Federal Foreign Office:

The specially developed simulation game takes place in the fictional country of Zamposia – the demographic, economic and socio-cultural key data, as well as Zamposia’s political system, reflect the current situation in Egypt, however. During the simulation game, the participants are invited to examine social conflicts and, ideally, to arrive at a joint, viable solution.

The participants analyse the decision-making process together during the final assessment of the simulation game. Democratic principles and the role of civil society are also discussed in the process.

The participants believe that the Simulating Egyptian Transition project has helped them to achieve a greater understanding of social participation at a number of different levels: “Thanks to the simulation game, I have become much more aware of my rights as a citizen and have come away with a number of ideas about the contribution that I myself can make to society”, said Samaher Gamal (22) from Aswan. Zina El Nahel (25), from Cairo, said that the opportunity to find out first hand about the needs of young people from Upper Egypt was an extremely enriching experience.

Creating civil society networks

CRISP project manager Andreas Muckenfuss highlights an important aspect of the project, namely the fact that young socially active people with an interest in politics from throughout Egypt can meet here, establish contacts and discuss different problems in their communities. In a large country like Egypt, there is a great interest in taking advantage of such an opportunity. The organisers received over 600 applications for the 13 simulation games last year.

The Nadi El Mohakah club (Simulation Gamers Club Egypt), which intends to host the Zamposia simulation game in the future, was set up at the end of the project. The club comprises some 30 trainers from various regions of Egypt who completed training on the simulation game method last year. These trainers will now organise the simulation games throughout Egypt – in cooperation with the various youth centres that have been set up and managed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in recent years.

Vision for Egypt in 2025

The aim is for the Simulating Egyptian Transition project to be continued directly in order to pursue these thought processes. A decision was taken to draw up a Vision for Egypt in 2025 as a follow-up project. The project will ask participants how they envisage peaceful coexistence among all Egyptians in the year 2025. Participants will work together to draw up recommended courses of action for civil society, the donor community, the private sector and state actors during the project.

CRISP is a Berlin-based NGO that works in the fields of civic education and civil conflict management. On their website they further describe the Egypt 2025 project:

The project ”Vision for Egypt 2025” intends to create a long-term vision for Egypt for the year 2025. The vision will include a social, an economic as well as a political dimension and in doing so, we want to set a landmark for upcoming decisions.

This is why together with our partner CDS in Egypt we did starting end of March our Info-Tour and visited 7 cities in Upper Egypt and the Delta Region:

( Alexandria,Port Said,Sharkeya,Minia,Assiut,BeniSuweif and Cairo ) to gather the different conflicts they have in those areas,find partners and spread awareness about this year’s project.

Beginning of April we had our Kick-Off Seminar with 30 participants from ”Nadi Al Mohakah” translated ”Simulation Game Club” that we created last year with our Simulation Game trainers and facilitators.

Together with them we created the Simulation Game ” El Wasaaya”. This Simulation Game will be implemented starting next May until September in 10 different governorates with the help of our trainers and partners.The goal of those workshops is to create a vision for peaceful co-existence in Egypt 2025. How to open communication channels and how to create trust for co-operation of the different sectors  those are all questions that will be answered by the participants from all over Egypt in the 10 workshops.

We wish our trainers fun and success during the next implementation phase.

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Can online gamers help improve humanitarian response? The Internet Response League thinks so. They hope to use Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) to help process large amounts of raw data by integrating the task seamlessly into game play.

Such a distributed computing approach has been used before to harness large numbers of computer users to undertake large computational or analytical tasks, such as searching for extra-territerial life or folding proteins. Here they hope to use Eve Online as a participation platform.

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The Reacting to the Past Consortium will hold its  Fifteenth Annual Faculty Institute on 11-14 June 2015 at Barnard College in New York City:

[T]his year’s Annual Institute promises a stellar program, including one keynote address from Sam Wineburg, prize-winning author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts, and another from the team of J. Robert Gillette and Lynn G. Gillette, whose presentation on active learning caused a sensation at the Lilly Conference last year. Our own Mark Carnes will provide another  talk on the theoretical foundations of role-immersion games, and we’ll have updates from our publishing partner, Norton, on new texts and support materials.

The conference will also feature concurrent sessions on various issues related to RTTP and student learning, teaching and grading,  curriculum development, and more.

And, then, of course, there are the games—a dozen of ‘em. These include the revised, Norton-published 2.0 versions of The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BCE; 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. Already some of the games have been filled, so don’t wait to register. You can sign up here.

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The International Studies Journal and the United Nations Information Center in Iran will be holding their 4th annual Model UN Security Council Conference in Tehran on 20 August 2015. The registration deadline is 10 July 2015.

The programme will cover three specific issue areas:

  1. International law and security, peace and human rights;
  2. Simulation methods and Research workshops;
  3. Global and Regional initiatives to protect peace and human rights.


Preparing for a Model United Nations conference can be a very challenging task. One time before the simulation, there will be a pre-conference training workshop for the participants at UNIC-Tehran.


ISJ and UNIC will award a certificate to all participants who successfully fulfill the workshop assignments, research, and exercises.

Admission Requirements

  1. An accredited degree in law, international relations or a relevant field of study;
  2. Good command of English or French;
  3. Two recommendation letters by professors or sponsoring institutions;
  4. Your recent photograph;
  5. Letter of application including address, telephone, email and language skills(Persian, English, French);
  6. CV/Resume;
  7. Payment of 120 Euros (for Non Iran resident students) and 200 Euros (for other) upon admission. This fee covers registration, courses, booklet, ISJ quarterly magazines and lunch.

ISJ will run an small Cultural Heritage visit of Isfahan for interested participants. This one night and 2 days visits include
accommodation, museums visits, Cultural sites visits, interpreters, transportations from Tehran to Isfahan and Tehran, and meals. The fee for the participants is very modest: 500 Euros.

Application & Contacts

Please send applications by mail to:


The ISJ will facilitate obtaining the entry visa.

Sabin on wargaming in higher education

AHHEIn a forthcoming article in the academic journal Arts & Humanities in Higher Education, Prof. Philip Sabin (King’s College London) offers his thoughts on “Wargaming in higher education: Contributions and challenges:”

Wargames, especially on historical conflicts, do not currently play much part in the booming academic use of simulation and gaming techniques. This is despite the fact that they offer rich vehicles for active learning and interactive exploration of conflict dynamics. Constraints of time, expertise and resources do make it challenging to employ wargames in academia, but a greater problem is the stigma which wargaming attracts due to its association with childish enthusiasts and its perceived deficiencies as a modelling technique. This article builds on my many years of teaching and research experience with wargames to show how playing and designing them can benefit students and scholars alike.

In his conclusion he strongly argues the case for adding wargames to the toolkit of scholars and educators:

Wargame modelling is an incredibly ambitious enterprise. In theory, a completely accurate wargame would allow players to experiment with different strategies and contingencies and obtain reliable insights into the workings of the real past or future conflict represented. The trouble is that such accuracy would require encyclopaedic research not only into the military factors involved but also into the wider political, cultural, social and economic factors which are so crucial in shaping human conflicts. Even if such daunting levels of knowledge and understanding could be gained in the first place, incorporating all this detail into the game would make it unplayably complex and time-consuming, and hence unworkable as an experimental tool after all (Sabin, 2012, chs.2, 4).

The key to wider acceptance of wargames within academia is to realise that they are not unique in facing this pernicious trade-off between accuracy and simplicity. There are certainly plenty of poorly researched and simplistic wargames, but the same applies to the majority of student essays and to many scholarly books and articles. Wargaming is simply one more technique, one more complementary perspective, with which to try to come to grips with the intractable problem of understanding the dynamics of human conflict. Rather than providing reliable answers, it is best at highlighting neglected questions. Rather than offering secure predictions, it is most helpful when it produces flawed or unexpected outcomes, since these force users to re-examine the assumptions programmed into the model and think about how it could be improved.

The most effective way of persuading people of the value of wargames is through direct hands-on experience. That was how the initially sceptical Prussian Chief of Staff became so convinced of the value of Kriegsspiel that he famously exclaimed, ‘This is not a game! This is training for war! I must recommend it to the whole army’ (Perla, 1990: 26). A consistent request of my MA students over the years has been for more time playing games, since only through such practical experience does the abstract theory start to make sense. I have now introduced several hundred students and other individuals at all levels to the academic insights which wargames can provide. The more people who are directly exposed to serious but accessible wargames, the less pervasive will be their image as trivial and childish diversions or impossibly complex and time-consuming pastimes for obsessive nerds. Playing wargames more widely offers the best chance of inspiring more use of this currently neglected approach to the study and understanding of war.

We couldn’t agree more.

Forum report: Successfully applying simulation in education

On 26 March 2015 a one-day conference on “Simulation in der Ausbildung erfolgreich anwenden” [Successfully applying simulation in education] was held in Hamburg. Matthias Meyer was kind enough to send on the following report.

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TUHH2015Managers often have to take instantaneous decisions. In addition, complex environments cause decision situations where not all consequences of a decision are immediately visible. Experience proves to be a decisive advantage in such situations, and sometimes even necessary for successful action. Simulations provide an increasingly important way to build upon and extend such experience. In a virtual environment, interdependencies and consequences of decisions are shown—without risk for decision-makers and their environment or adverse impact on real processes. Therefore, simulation is increasingly recognized as a key technology in training and education.

In this context, the second Forum took place on 26 March 2015 organized by Prof. Dr. Matthias Meyer, Institute of Management Control and Accounting at the Hamburg University of Technology, Dr. Jan Spitzner of Spitzner Consulting, and the German Armed Forces Staff College. It was held at the Manfred-Wörner-Zentrum (MWZ) at the Clausewitz barracks. The Forum seeks to foster dialogue, networking and interdisciplinary exchange between civilian research institutions and leaders of the private sector. In the previous year, the topic “Agent-based Simulation” was focus. This year the meeting was about the successful use of simulation in training.

IMG_9629 Frank Romeike

In the morning the participants of the Forum had the opportunity to gain practical experience in various modules on the topic of simulation:

  • Module A:
    • Dynamic case study simulation for sustainable organizational learning in the consumer goods industry, by Prof. Dr. Jan-Philipp Büchler, FH Dortmund.
  • Module B:
    • Analyzing complex contexts quantitative and qualitative – Experience from practice and live demo of the iMODELER, by Franc Grimm, CONSIDEO GmbH.
  • Module C:
    • Flying blind into the crises? Recognizing extreme stress scenarios with stochastic simulation methods, by Frank Romeike, RiskNET GmbG.


In the afternoon, four key-notes were given on current issues in the context of the Forum in MWZ.

  • An important trend in business and education is “gamification”. As Professor Ralf Hebecker, Professor of Game Design and Production at the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg, clearly stated in his lecture “Roles and games – Learning with Games”, gaming is learning.
  • Business games are a proven methodology, and businesses use simulation intensively. Philipp Richter from VW Financial Services presented “Application experience of Europe’s first computer-based leasing business game”.
  • Udo Keuter, head of training at Airbus Defence and Space and a Lieutenant Colonel, enabled mission-related insights into the use of “Simulation in training through networked mission and tactics training for joint operations” for “construction, maintenance and expansion of mission skills”.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Sven Gringel of the Department of Military Leadership and Organization suggested in his paper “Board game based wargaming in the leadership training at the FüAkBw” a connection to the first lecture and showed that the FüAkBw integrated very successfully manual simulation variants into teaching, in addition to highly specialized computer-based simulation systems for training of the armed forces.

IMG_9608 Prof Meyer

Matthias Meyer      

Simulated refugees spark tabloid outrage!

A few days ago PAXsims mentioned Syrian Journey, the BBC’s interactive exploration of the challenges facing Syrian refugees trying to reach asylum in Europe. We thought it was a “simple but effective example of how interactive fiction can be used to explore difficult humanitarian challenges in a way that makes them readily understandable to a broader audience.”

Apparently not everyone thought so. The British tabloid The Sun—well-known for its sensitivity to migrants, refugees, Muslims, and the Middle Eastran a story about the “fury” that the BBC’s “sick” game had (allegedly) generated:



The Sun cited “Middle East expert” Christopher Walker as saying “In the midst of probably the bloodiest Syrian crisis this century, the decision of the BBC to transform the human suffering of literally millions into a children’s game beggars belief.” (Walker is a former reporter who periodically also does interviews with those other bastions of the quality media, Russia Today and Iran’s Press TV. I wouldn’t personally consider him an expert on either Syria or refugees.)

The Daily Mail—which, like the Sun, is well-known for its sensitivity to migrants, refugees, Muslims, and the Middle East—then jumped aboard the outrage bandwagon:

mailonline_logoDailyMailThe Daily Mail even cited a few people on Twitter to buttress its case—because, you know, if a couple of people on Twitter are upset it must be a real story.

As Keith Stuart notes at The Guardian, all this outrage is misplaced:

Mostly, of course, this is down to a misunderstanding about what games are – or can be. It’s telling that the Mail’s expert refers to Syrian Journey as a “children’s game” despite the fact that no such claim is made on the game’s home page. Indeed, it is placed in the site’s news section, and is clearly labeled as a news-based interactive experience.

The inference is that all games are for children, and that this is not a medium that can support or explore serious subject matter. It is, in short, an old-fashioned moral panic, a dated reaction to a medium that has been maturing for over 40 years. Indeed, interactive news games have been around for over a decade, ever since web-based platforms like Flash have allowed developers to quickly develop and distribute topical interactive experiences. A glimpse at the work of studios like Molleindustria and Persuasive Games shows how subjects like fast food production and airport security can be effectively analysed and expressed in game form.

He goes on to explore more fully how “news games” and interactivity can be used to inform and engage, thereby making important news stories more accessible.

The BBC has defended the approach, which has been praised by refugee advocates. Most of the response on Twitter—including by those who work directly on Syrian and refugee issues—has been positive too. The game has received more than a million views.

As for me, I too continue to view Syrian Journey as a valuable and very positive effort by the BBC. And, while it is true I have never been interviewed by Russia Today, Press TV,  or The Sun, I do write books about both refugees and the contemporary Middle East, as well as teach on the subject—all of which might give me some modest claim to be a “Middle East expert” as well.

Gaming air operations with the US Air Force ROTC

William Van Horn of the US Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (AFROTC) at Montana State University has contributed the following piece on how they have integrated wargaming into the program.

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Readers of PAXSims might be interested in something we’ve been doing at Montana State University for the past ten years. When I started working with Air Force ROTC in 2005, they were offering a two credit course called “Aerospace Weapons Systems.” At that time it was basically an aircraft and systems recognition class, but there was a small section grafted onto the last three days of class called “operational integration.” It was a very simple wargame which divided the class into four country teams and allowed them to conduct air operations against each other. This initial framework was flawed (the countries all used top of the line USAF aircraft in a very limited map space), but it did allow the students to experience some of the strengths and limitations of airpower.

Soon after I started, our then department head learned I had some gaming experience (I’ve wargamed for years and authored a rules supplement and some articles for various role-playing games) and asked me if I’d like to run the simulation part of the class. I agreed, provided we could revise the simulation. He agreed, and we started making some changes to the basic framework. Over time it’s grown from a two credit course into a three credit offering, with the bulk of the class being the conflict simulation. We’ve also revised the instructional material so it focuses less on the “latest and greatest” Air Force stuff and more on general airpower theory and application, with an overview of most current airframes in operational use. We’ve also added ground forces into the mix, and they are also controlled by the students.

MAS 260. USAF Aerospace Weapons. 3 Credits. (3 Lec) S

The study of the weapons systems employed by the United States Air Forces. It also presents the basics of their integration and employment at the operations level.

The whole premise of our simulation is focused on joint warfare at the operational level. We break the class into four country teams, which are then combined into two alliance teams. We even have a smaller scenario focusing on three countries in case we have low enrollment. In any case, the teams have to work together to try to achieve their nation’s political and military goals. There are also differences between the alliance team goals, and the players experience some of the stress involved with coalition warfare when the goals of the various nations don’t necessarily match up exactly. The exercise is map-based, with students having to conduct reconnaissance to determine the location of air and ground assets they aren’t in immediate contact with (another change from the early days of omniscient intelligence), requiring them to plan daily reconnaissance patterns if they want to have a clear picture of their opponents’ military positions and strength.


By expanding the simulation to include ground forces, we’ve also added the complexity of coordinating joint operations to the mix. Our students find that they must balance the demands of deep strike missions with providing air cover for their ground units as well as close air support. They also find that at times they have to ask their ally for help, and planning combined missions is always interesting. And since the class is open enrollment, we have Air Force cadets working with both Army ROTC cadets and students with no ROTC ties who happen to be interested in the subject. Over the years these have ranged from freshmen to graduate students, and interestingly they tend to do better in the class than their ROTC counterparts.

The final rub is that they have to make these plans and issue their written orders in a standard class period (originally 50 minutes but expanded to about 80 when we took the course to three credits). This creates a level of stress which we’ve noticed is a good predictor for how they perform at Air Force ROTC’s summer training program (where they have to work with strangers in a series of time-sensitive situations).

In terms of resolution, I run a White Cell resolution team composed of from two to three students who have taken the main 260 course before. They receive independent study credit for serving on White Cell, and we work between classes to determine how their air and ground orders interact with each other. If there’s contact, we resolve it using standard wargame methods (although we use a spreadsheet to manage the calculations). Results, including a general geopolitical briefing, are written up before each class. We also factor in outside political events – arms embargos and even outside intervention by military powers (the U.S. and Russia have been the most common) have all taken place inside the exercise…usually toward the end.

Air Force ROTC has experimented with an electronic air campaign platform (a module from the Air Warfare computer game) in recent years, but as far as we are aware our program is unique. We have also had to create a manual modification to the computer simulation to overcome its limitations in our environment. Interestingly, we had students asking “why don’t you use 260 instead?”

William Van Horn

Mason: Report on the International Conference on Exercises, Games, and Simulations for Intelligence and National Security

While none of the PAXsims editors were able to attend the recent International Conference on Exercises, Games, and Simulations for Intelligence and National Security held at Georgetown University on 24-25 March, regular reader Roger Mason (of LEC Management) was there, and he provides the following brief report.

Were you there too? If so, please feel free to add your own observations in the comments section!

* * *

This conference was co-hosted by Dr. Jan Goldman, Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies, and Dr. Rueben Arcos Martin, Center for Intelligence Services and Democratic systems at Rey Juan Carlos University, in Madrid, Spain. The conference was held at the Georgetown University School for Continuing Studies at their downtown Washington DC conference center. The conference was sponsored by the association of Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), Law Enforcement Crisis Management (LECMgt), Roman & Littlefield Publishers, and Santander Universidades.


Over the last decade, the training and education of national security has become more complex from a pedagogical standpoint. The conference was designed to explore the past, current and future of interactive learning for intelligence and national security—a future that will involve exercises, games and simulations.


The conference was a multi-national event with participants from the European Union and across the United States. It included academics, intelligence practitioners, consultants, and game designers (draft program here).

Speaker Highlights


Roger Mason at the Georgetown conference.

The conference opened with an illuminating series of presentations by the team from Rey Juan Carlos University. Dr. Reuben Arcos discussed active learning methodologies and the use of games in intelligence analysis training programs in Spain. Dr. Arcos along with William Lahneman are the co-authors/editors of The Art of Intelligence: Simulations, Exercises and Games.

Nan Bulgar explained how SCIP is designing educational games for competitive intelligence applications. Amanda Ohlke and Jacqueline Eyl described the use of games by the International Spy Museum as an education and engagement tool. The LECMgt panel included Dr, Roger Mason, Dr. Peter Perla, and Mr. Joseph Miranda.. They discussed the use of theory in game design, games and experiential learning, and simulating intelligence processes in game design. They explained their new intelligence analysis game which was premiered at the conference (presentation pdf here).

The team from the US Institute for Peace demonstrated their new approach to games on their global campus application. Their Inter-organizational Tabletop Exercise (ITX) is designed to provide distance learners access to game based education events. Christina Ivan of the National Institute for Intelligence Studies in Bucharest discussed their use of games as a negotiation engagement tool. William Lawhead of the University of Mississippi demonstrated a very engaging card based game for teaching intelligence analytics.


This conference ignited the interest of the participants by observing the fascinating and innovative applications of games in the very specific domain of intelligence analysis. The unofficial consensus seemed to be that games will have a useful and expanding role in training the next generation of intelligence analysts.

Roger Mason

AFTERSHOCK at CanGames 2015


The CanGames gaming convention takes place in Ottawa on 15-17 May 2015. This year we’ll be running a game of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game at the convention:

Sunday, May 17 • 2:00pm – 5:00pm
AFTERSHOCK is a game of humanitarian crisis, in which the local government, the United Nations, third country militaries, and nongovernmental organizations race to save lives–before it is too late.

Plan on attending, and want to play? Register and reserve a spot!

RAND: Using a tabletop exercise to help bridge the military-academic divide

At Defense One, Paula Stanton of RAND describes a recent tabletop exercise intended to help bridge the divide between military officers and academics:

If senior officers and academics find themselves divided, is there a way to build respect and trust earlier in their careers, when less is at stake and time a bit more abundant? With support from the Stanton Foundation, RANDrecently explored one modest possibility: a tabletop exercise that brought future leaders together.

The exercise presented a contemporary geopolitical problem that might require a military solution. It brought together an accomplished group of field grade military officers (lieutenant colonels, colonels and Navy captains) and emerging academic and policy experts at the assistant professor or postdoctoral levels. The scenario, designed to require both civilian and military expertise, ensured that neither group had all the answers.

As the scenario unfolded over two days, it revealed something very human: before the civilian-military divide can be bridged, personal doubts need to be quieted.

Civilian academics confessed to being unsettled at times by those in uniform. To them, military members might have remarkable life experiences; they wear medals and colored ribbons; and they appear aloof, even intimidating, in their uniforms.

But their military counterparts were no less unsettled by the academics, who  possessed prestigious advanced degrees, had been awarded impressive fellowships, and had notable connections in the national defense policy circles. Indeed, some had had worked closely with icons of the national security world whom the military members knew only by reputation.

When the group was assembled and asked to address a geopolitical problem, the academic and military players quickly realized they needed each other. The military brought the ability to disaggregate a big problem into manageable pieces; look at different options to address them; and dive into the details of implementing one of the options. This greatly impressed the academics. Moreover, the civilians learned about the personnel and logistics limitations of pursuing various military options.

Similarly, civilian insights proved equally invaluable. The military participants realized the limitations of their understanding of the best way to think about critical concepts such as deterrence, escalation and crisis management and how best to use military resources to prevent a conflict….

The exercise highlighted the use of games, simulations, and exercises as methods for promoting networking and interaction across institutional and (professional) subcultural divides:

In fact, this tabletop exercise suggested that the best way to bridge the civilian-military divide, especially at the senior levels of government, is not via large conferences or formal papers. Instead, it can be done by building trust, one person at a time, over time.

This exercise suggests, first, the importance of building personal relationships earlier in a career. If this is left until they are full professors, general officers or assistant secretaries of defense, it is too late; they will have less time to learn and will tend to be more certain in their views. Second, it highlighted the importance of a safe learning environment where ignorance can be disclosed, questions asked and mistakes made. This can be done intensely through an immersion process over the course of a few days, but it requires personal, professional and intellectual commitment. And third, it revealed the importance of informal conversations based on mutual respect during the inevitable down times of a tabletop exercise. Trust and reliance seemed to follow in short order.

The limitations to this approach are important to note. It is built around small groups; it is labor intensive; and it requires civilian and military participants to devote some of their valuable professional time to it. But even with these limitations the effort is worthwhile. National defense is a team endeavor; it requires the trust, devotion, and expertise of military and civilian leaders at many levels to make it work.

Stanton is not the first analyst at RAND to note this. In 1964 RAND consultant (and later Nobel Prize winner) Thomas Schelling circulated an internal memo entitled “An Uninhibited Pitch for Crisis Games” in which he noted precisely this effect:

Schelling memo excerpt

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 7 April 2015


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

* * *

JDMS header

The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation features a forthcoming (gated, OnlineFirst) article by Gregory Reed, Mikel Petty, Nicholaos Jones, Anthony Morris, John Ballenger, and Harry Delugach on “A principles-based model of ethical considerations in military decision making.”

When comparing alternative courses of action, modern military decision makers often must consider both the military effectiveness and the ethical consequences of the available alternatives. The basis, design, calibration, and performance of a principles-based computational model of ethical considerations in military decision making are reported in this article. The relative ethical violation (REV) model comparatively evaluates alternative military actions based upon the degree to which they violate contextually relevant ethical principles. It is based on a set of specific ethical principles deemed by philosophers and ethicists to be relevant to military courses of action. A survey of expert and non-expert human decision makers regarding the relative ethical violation of alternative actions for a set of specially designed calibration scenarios was conducted to collect data that was used to calibrate the REV model. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the survey showed that people, even experts, disagreed greatly amongst themselves regarding the scenarios’ ethical considerations. Despite this disagreement, two significant results emerged. First, after calibration the REV model performed very well in terms of replicating the ethical assessments of human experts for the calibration scenarios. The REV model outperformed an earlier model that was based on tangible consequences rather than ethical principles, that earlier model performed comparably to human experts, the experts outperformed human non-experts, and the non-experts outperformed random selection of actions. All of these performance comparisons were measured quantitatively and confirmed with suitable statistical tests. Second, although humans tended to value some principles over others, none of the ethical principles involved—even the principle of not harming civilians—completely overshadowed all of the other principles.

* * *

The Georgetown University Law Center recently conducted a two-day simulation that examined fictional national security crises, and the legal issues they raise:

Whether it be bombs going off at the Boston Marathon finish line or a D.C. sniper on the loose, the country’s top decision-makers are tasked with keeping the U.S. safe from any and all national security threats. Now, law students are being prepped to deal with hot seat situations, too. At least that was the goal of a two-day simulation at the Georgetown University Law Center last weekend that asked students to use law, politics and public opinion to mitigate a threat.

A total of 80 law students from nearly a dozen law schools participated the National Security Crisis Law Invitational, a simulation developed by Laura Donohue, director of Georgetown’s Center on National Security and the Law, eight years ago.

“There is a lot about how we teach in law school that doesn’t work for students who are jumping into national security law,” Donohue said in an interview with The National Law Journal. “We teach the law as it is written, not how it is applied. Law is one of many competing considerations during a national security crisis. How do you talk with policymakers? How do you bring the law into the conversation?”

Donohue said that she created the simulation as a way to help students understand how best to apply the law during real world, high-pressure crises. It’s in these stressful times that your gut reaction has to be the right one. Your actions have consequences.

Leading up to the National Security Crisis Law Invitational, students spend several months hitting the books on national security law, as their performances on Georgetown’s campus are accessed by highly regarded national security experts, including James Baker, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and Rosemary Hart, special counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

This is only the second year that law students from outside of Georgetown have been invited to take part in the simulation. Students at this year’s invitational came from American University Washington College of Law; Cornell Law School; George Washington University Law School; Indiana University Maurer School of Law–Bloomington; New York University School of Law; Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law; Stanford Law School; Syracuse University College of Law; University of Virginia School of Law; and The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School.

Teams acted as departments within the National Security Council and were paired with mentors with a background working within the agency students were assigned.

You’ll find more on the simulation here.

* * *


What can the UN learn from a game about aliens? Mark Turner reports on the recent Watch the Skies 2: The Megagame of Alien Terror held in London.

* * *


Watch the Skies! and John Hunter’s Peace Game have inspired high school teacher Shaun Macmillan and his students to develop their own political science game, Alliance: World Wide Crisis. Follow the link to find out more.

* * *

Phli Sabin (King’s College London) was featured as designer of the month on BoardGameGeek in March:

Mr. Sabin has been a wargamer for over 40 years, and became Professor of Strategic Studies at King’s College London’s War Studies Department. Over the past 20 years, he has published several board games on ancient warfare through the Society of Ancients. In 2007, his book Lost Battles was published, reconstructing three dozen different ancient battles using a common rules system. A deluxe board game edition was published by Fifth Column Games in 2011. In 2012, his book Simulating War was published, containing eight different simple wargames which he has used in his military history classes. One of these (Hell’s Gate) was published in a deluxe edition by Victory Point Games in 2013, and VPG has just published a second game from the book (Angels One Five).

Besides using wargames to help his BA students to understand conflict dynamics, since 2003 Mr. Sabin has been teaching a very innovative MA option module in which students design their own simple board games of past conflicts of their choice. Many of these are available for free download (Google ‘Sabin consim’). He also writes regularly for Battles magazine, and works closely with defense wargamers in the UK and overseas.

For discussion of his design philosophy and views on conflict simulation, see the thread here.

* * *

Engadget has an article about a proposed digital game intended to promote greater understanding and empathy between Israelis and Palestinians.

Navit Keren grew up in Israel. She’s lived through the signing of historic peace treaties, and horrific terrorist attacks. Just as important though, she’s witness to the dramatic deterioration of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. The biggest problem she sees, is a lack of empathy. Those living on the other side of the divide are not people, but enemies. “Others” to be feared and hated. Her effort to bridge the gap between the two sides is a pretty novel one: a location-based game. Welcome to the West Bank is merely a working title, but it gets right to the heart of the game. Israeli citizens, primarily teenagers, would play as Palestinian teenagers living in the West Bank. Basically she’s asking people to walk a mile in someone else’s virtual shoes.

Right now, there is no prototype, only screen mockups and ideas about game mechanics. The most important part is creating a “sincere and appealing narrative” that will help someone understand the experience of being on the other side of this seemingly intractable conflict. A lot of that means lifting directly from the personal stories of Palestinian youth. As you move through the world you’re offered information about the city you’re virtually visiting, landmarks and historical figures. But eventually you’ll be presented with a choice. Like this passage ripped straight from one Palestinian teen’s personal experience:

You are interrogated because of a suspicion of teaching boys in your village how to build Molotov Cocktails, which you deny. During the interrogation you are kept in a room that stinks of feces and rotten food. You are hit with a chair and threatened with a knife. You are also told that if you did not admit to the charges against you that you would be “taken to an electric chair to help you.”

You’ve already been held for 30 days, and your options are falsely confess and be released, or deny the charges and be held for 10 more days. And your choice will impact future events. If you admit guilt you’ll be placed under house arrest, be unable to attend school and therefore won’t graduate.

The game, however, is only in the concept stage—there’s no actual playable prototype yet.

h/t Anya Slavinsky 

* * *

By contrast, Gaza Man is available for download (Android) or online play. In the game the player assumes the role of a Palestinian fighter defending Gaza against an Israeli invasion. Not surprisingly, that’s made it popular in Gaza, and controversial within Israel.

Google briefly removed the game from its Play Store after complaints, but later restored it following complaints about its removal.

The game itself is pretty standard arcade-type shooting game. It only involves combat between opposing military forces, and no attacks on civilians or any other form of terrorism. Other than a red kaffiyeh worn by “Gaza man,” it also avoids strong political symbols or ethno-religious stereotypes. The game’s introduction shows the hero initially coming to the defence of a Gazan family being harassed by Israeli troops.

For information on other digital games that examine the Arab-Israeli conflict, see these PAXsims reports:

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8553b66975c51ed620046cf1b483803fThe next issue of Yaah! magazine by Flying Pig Games will feature two abstract Brian Train games, both on the general theme of insurgency:

In UPRISING, the State knows where the rebel units are, but not what they are– violent radicals, passive sympathizers, or simply shadows? The Rebels must misdirect the State to buy themselves the time to build a loose-knit network born of popular unrest into a force capable of declaring open revolution– but will they overthrow the current regime, or be crushed?

In ARMY OF SHADOWS, both players have their own map and set of counters– but only the Insurgent Player knows for sure where his units are located. It’s a tense and desperate race as the State tries to find and destroy the insurgency before the army of shadows can seize the capitol.

* * *

The Polish gaming magazine Tactics & Strategy may publish a wargame of the crisis in the Ukraine, Mariupol 2014-15.

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The folks at Red Team Journal remind you the “Mind the Gap“—that is, the gap between your model and assumptions, and the real thing.

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GMT Games will soon be publishing Labyrinth II: The Awakening, 2010 – ?, an expansion set by Trevor Bender that updates Volko Ruhnke’s very successful Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? game to the post-Arab Spring era. For more on the expansion and the issues it addresses, see Trevor’s comments on the GMT blog. For the original game, see our PAXsims review here.

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What’s a GrogCast? It’s the new podcast by our friends at the wargaming site GrogHeads!

Simulation & Gaming, December 2014


The latest edition of Simulation & Gaming 45, 6 (December 2014) is now available.

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