Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 22 April 2016


We are pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) games that may be of interest to our readers. PAXsims research associate Christian Palmer provided material for this latest edition.


9780262033992.jpgIt’s here!

Zones of Control—the truly awesome compendium on wargaming edited by Pat Harrigan and Matthew Kirschenbaum—has now been published, and is being shipped from the MIT Press warehouses as you read this.

Games with military themes date back to antiquity, and yet they are curiously neglected in much of the academic and trade literature on games and game history. This volume fills that gap, providing a diverse set of perspectives on wargaming’s past, present, and future. In Zones of Control, contributors consider wargames played for entertainment, education, and military planning, in terms of design, critical analysis, and historical contexts. They consider both digital and especially tabletop games, most of which cover specific historical conflicts or are grounded in recognizable real-world geopolitics. Game designers and players will find the historical and critical contexts often missing from design and hobby literature; military analysts will find connections to game design and the humanities; and academics will find documentation and critique of a sophisticated body of cultural work in which the complexity of military conflict is represented in ludic systems and procedures.

Each section begins with a long anchoring chapter by an established authority, which is followed by a variety of shorter pieces both analytic and anecdotal. Topics include the history of playing at war; operations research and systems design; wargaming and military history; wargaming’s ethics and politics; gaming irregular and non-kinetic warfare; and wargames as artistic practice.


Jeremy Antley, Richard Barbrook, Elizabeth M. Bartels, Ed Beach, Larry Bond, Larry Brom, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, Rex Brynen, Matthew B. Caffrey, Jr., Luke Caldwell, Catherine Cavagnaro, Robert M. Citino, Laurent Closier, Stephen V. Cole, Brian Conley, Greg Costikyan, Patrick Crogan, John Curry, James F. Dunnigan, Robert J. Elder, Lisa Faden, Mary Flanagan, John A. Foley, Alexander R. Galloway, Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, Don R. Gilman, A. Scott Glancy, Troy Goodfellow, Jack Greene, Mark Herman, Kacper Kwiatkowski, Tim Lenoir, David Levinthal, Alexander H. Levis, Henry Lowood, Elizabeth Losh, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Rob MacDougall, Mark Mahaffey, Bill McDonald, Brien J. Miller, Joseph Miranda, Soraya Murray, Tetsuya Nakamura, Michael Peck, Peter P. Perla, Jon Peterson, John Prados, Ted S. Raicer, Volko Ruhnke, Philip Sabin, Thomas C. Schelling, Marcus Schulzke, Miguel Sicart, Rachel Simmons, Ian Sturrock, Jenny Thompson, John Tiller, J. R. Tracy, Brian Train, Russell Vane, Charles Vasey, Andrew Wackerfuss, James Wallis, James Wallman, Yuna Huh Wong

You’ll find further information at the MIT Press website, and a full table of contents for the volume was previously posted on PAXsims. You can also read excerpts via Google books.



Last week War on the Rocks ran a piece by Joshua Jones on support for decision-makers through wargaming:

For those who believe that wargaming is a useful and important tool in defense decision-making, we should think about how to best communicate its benefits to this next group of leaders. While those who see value in wargaming might hold different views of the various roles of wargaming, we likely agree that it matters, meaning that it can help DOD better accomplish its mission while minimizing the costs in lives, money, and time. To this end, there are three reasons why a senior DOD official should be interested in wargaming and willing to commit his or her precious time to the endeavor: It helps leaders make decisions, it reduces the number of “unknown unknowns,” and it can overcome stovepiping.



The most recent issue of the Journal of Political Science Education 12, 1 (January-March 2016) contains an article by Nilay Saiya on “The Statecraft Simulation and Foreign Policy Attitudes Among Undergraduate Students.”

Professors of international relations are increasingly realizing that simulations can be a fun and effective way of teaching the complexities of the field to their students. One popular simulation that has emerged in recent years—the Statecraft simulation—is now used by more than 190 colleges and universities worldwide. Despite Statecraft’s popularity, however, little scholarship has attempted to assess its impact on learning objectives and students’ perceptions of the real world. This article attempts to help fill that void by evaluating Statecraft’s influence on foreign policy attitudes among undergraduate students. It finds that, while participation in Statecraft did not generally change students’ foreign policy preferences, it did have the effect of inducing foreign policy moderation among students who were initially very hawkish or dovish in their foreign policy orientations. The most important individual characteristics predicting foreign policy attitudes include a student’s political orientation and interest in the Statecraft simulation itself. The article concludes with some potential avenues for future research.



In the latest issue of PS: Political Science & Politics 49, 2 (April 2016), Mark Nance, Gabriele Suder and Abigail Hall provide an overview of “Negotiating the Transatlantic Relationship: An International, Interdisciplinary Simulation of a Real-World Negotiation.”

This article analyzes the effectiveness of an international, interdisciplinary simulation of an ongoing trade negotiation. It thoroughly describes the simulation, provides links to background information for public use, and offers suggestions on ways to further strengthen the learning outcomes achieved.



The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies will be holding a professional training programme on the prevention of mass atrocities on 1-3 June 2016 in Montreal. The course will include a three hour session (facilitated by me) on simulating mass atrocity prevention, in which we’ll be using a matrix game to explore conflict dynamics and policy challenges.


In The Telegraph, Roccardo Cocciani of the student-run King’s College London Crisis Team discusses a recent simulation of rising tensions with China and with North Korea.


The political simulation/game Democracy 3: Africa (Positech Games) has been released on Steam:

Democracy 3: Africa is the new standalone ‘re-imagining’ of the hit political strategy game ‘Democracy 3’. Set entirely in countries on the continent of Africa, D3:A puts you in charge of these countries and challenges you to stay in power whilst fixing each country’s problems, improving the quality of life for your electorate, and steering them towards greater prosperity.

This turn-based political strategy game uses a unique icon-driven interface to help you navigate the most complex political and economic simulation ever seen in a computer game, custom-built on its own proprietary neural network. Democracy 3: Africa simulates the myriad interactions between voters, policies, economic and political variables, political parties and the various situations that develop over time.

The political settings for each country aren’t very accurate: as leader of Tunisia, for example, I enjoyed growing oil production but faced a challenge from militant armed feminists (who ultimately assassinated me!). Many of the policy choices seem rather European or unrealistic.

Still, it’s nice to see a political game set in a non-Western setting and it can be a fun (and very challenging) play experience.


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