Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Migrant cards


Tom Mouat’s “migrant cards.”

Several weeks ago I spent a week in the Portsmouth area with the wargaming team from the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). A trip report on that visit is forthcoming, as soon as the necessary clearances and approvals are received.

In the meantime, I did want to make mention of one part of the visit, namely a half day Tom Mouat and I spent with the team discussing gaming “wicked and messy problems.” A particular focus of that discussion was refugees and other migrants.

I’ve (war)gamed such issues before. Refugee issues figure prominently in the Brynania peacebuilding simulation. Displaced persons make an appearance in AFTERSHOCK. I’ve run games on refugees for Exeter University, United Nation agencies, and as part of so-called “track two” informal Israeli-Palestinian discussions. Refugee and migration games also figured in last year’s Connections UK conference.

In the course of the Dstl discussion, several issues came up. One was the need to humanize migrants in a game, and not merely treat them as a faceless number. Second, and related to this, was the value of treating migrants as actors who would respond to policy changes in innovative ways, rather than simply as the unthinking objects of policy action. Finally, the difficulty was raised of sorting out the very few bad apples from the great majority of desperate people seeking safety for themselves and their families, anxious to contribute to their host societies. I mentioned that it would be useful to have a game component—migrant cards, perhaps—that would allow you to do this in the context of a variety of different game designs, whether rules-based or more free-form (such as a matrix game).

At this point, Tom Mouat’s eyes lit up with a particular glint that those who know Tom will know well. A few weeks later and he has now produced a set of such cards, which he has made available for free to anyone who wishes to incorporate them into a game design:

The cards are available as both individual  graphic files (.jpg) and as templates for standard Avery 2×3.4″ business card stock, so that they can be easily printed directly onto cards. One side depicts a nameless, faceless, and perhaps slightly ominous, migrant. The other side reveals the actual human being and their possible future.


There are no rules for using these—rather, they are being provided here as game materials for readers to use. If you do use them in a game design or for another purpose, Tom and I would love to hear about it. If you care to develop a quick educational game using them, send on the rules and we may even post them to PAXsims.

One response to “Migrant cards

  1. brtrain 30/07/2016 at 11:53 pm

    Well done Tom!
    I’m passing this on to a couple of people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: