Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Request for feedback: Teaching wargame design at the US Army Command & General Staff College

PAXsims is happy to post this request for feedback on behalf of Dr. James Sterrett, Directorate of Simulation Education (DSE) at the US Army Command & General Staff College (CGSC). Comments may be left below or emailed to him directly.



Michael Dunn and I are creating a Fundamentals of Wargame Design elective at CGSC. This course will first run in the spring of 2017, in two iterations. We seek constructive feedback on our course concepts while we still have a little time to correct course.

The students in this course will be U.S. Army Functional Area 57 (FA57 Simulation Operations) officers, plus other interested students attending CGSC. FA57 students will take the complementary elective on Exercise Design at the same time.

Learning Objective:

Students taking this course will design and create a prototype manual wargame. By doing this, we intend them to learn not only the process of designing a wargame, so they can design other games later, but also to begin to come to grips with the art of wargame design. In addition, we believe that designing wargames will make them better users of wargames, more aware of the design decisions behind the curtain and better able to select the best tool for the task they may have at hand.

We are still debating if it is better to have students do the project alone, or in small groups.

Thus, our current overarching Learning Objective is:

  • Apply the wargame development process. Application will include:
    • Students will learn the process of developing a wargame by creating a workable draft prototype. Students will demonstrate the prototype in class along with a presentation explaining their logic for its design choices.


Defining “Wargame”

We define “wargame” very broadly, relying on both Peter Perla’s definition:

 “A warfare model or simulation in which the flow of events shapes, and is shaped by, decisions made by a human player or players during the course of those events.” (Peter Perla, The Art of Wargaming, p. 280, 2012 edition)

…and on the Army Modeling & Simulations Office’s definition:

 “War game: A simulation game in which participants seek to achieve a specified military objective given pre-established resources and constraints”

Thus, we are not limiting the course to Title X wargames, or research wargames, or testing wargames, or Military Decision-Making Process Step 4 Course of Action Analysis Wargaming, or any other subtype… from the perspective of this course, all of these fall inside the big tent of wargaming.



Inevitably, we are operating within constraints of space and time.

We will have at most 16 students per class, and must plan each class being full.

The course will consist of 12 session, each 2 hours long. There will be 2 or 3 sessions per week and the course will last for 4 to 6 weeks.

We recognize up front that we have limited time, and this necessarily limits the quality of the product the students can produce. We have no expectation of a polished, publication-ready project. Instead, the aim point is a workable first draft, with parts in place and comprehensible logic behind them, which would form the basis for ongoing testing and iterative design if more time were available.


Key concepts

Our high level view of the design process is shown below. We intend the students to complete at least one round of design and testing. More would be ideal, but a single round is the necessary minimum.


For our classes, we are treating all wargames as being a system of systems, in a “STARS” model, with those systems being:

  • Space structuring assets’ positional relation to each other
  • Time structuring both movement, combat, and decision opportunities
  • Assets that players control
  • Resolution of how assets interact
  • Systems that tie the other four systems together


Planned Lessons

An overview of our current plan for each of the sessions; this overview will be followed by a more detailed look at sessions 1 and 2.

  1. Introduction to the course and its objectives; explain the project they must complete; introduction to game design process, which is their roadmap to completing the project; and to the STARS model.
  2.  Modelling Space: Discussion of terrain modelling; includes direct examples: hexes, squares, areas, terrain boards, point-to-point, tracks, non-spatial maps. Examples of multiple types in use at once.   Issue of scale – need to set to key decision loop and how scale then drives other considerations
  3.  Modelling Time: Discussion of turn structures; includes direct examples.   How turn structure dictates decision structures and C2 during play; how it relates back to the spatial model.
  4.  Modelling Assets: Various ways of modelling commanded assets from the very detailed to the very abstract: tracks & points to subsystem modelling. Numerous direct examples.
  5.  Modelling Effects: Various ways of resolving the outcome of actions: CRT, dice pools, opposed die rolls, card draws, card play; modifiers for modeled factors.
  6.  Quick Intro To Basic Probability – computations for dice, multiple dice, competing dice, cards with and without replacement; CRTs vs dice pools vs cards.
  7.  Putting It All Together: Overarching design paradigms: imposing limits (or not!) on player control of own forces through systems.
  8.  Testing & Iteration: Introduction to testing, blind testing, and sorting through feedback.
  9.  Consultation & Testing Time – in the classroom.
  10.  Consultation & Testing Time – in the classroom.
  11.  Final project presentations
  12.  Final project presentations

In addition to their other requirements, students in this elective will be required to participate in 75% of the Brown Bag Gaming sessions that are held during the elective, in order to increase their exposure to a variety of wargames and design approaches.

We are considering requiring additional student reading, with titles under consideration being Perla’s Art of Wargaming, Sabin’s Simulating War, and Koster’s Theory of Fun. The potential problem is the lack of time; one potential way around this is to assign a chunk of each to one or more students, and make them responsible for a summary to the class on their piece.


Session 1 in more detail

The room is set up with the games before students arrive and students are expected to have read the rules before the class begins.

  •  10 Minutes: Introduction to the class and similar initial admin
  •  45 Minutes: Play a wargame. We are currently leaning towards Frank Chadwick’s Battle for Moscow, with the expectation that students will complete 3 or 4 turns. Battle for Moscow includes a large number of features we can draw on in subsequent discussion, and is in print through Victory Point Games.
  •  10 Minutes: Break. Students are asked to come up with one change they would make to Battle for Moscow in order to improve it, and to return from the break ready to explain, briefly,
    • What the change is
    • Why the change improves Battle for Moscow
    • Why the improvement makes Battle for Moscow better for a specific purpose
  • 15 minutes: Selected students present their changes. We point out that by going through this thought process, all of them have made the step from players/consumers to designers/creators. Now let’s look at the process.

pic706628_md.jpgWe intend to select students to comment in class discussions (at least initially – balancing this against getting a wide discussion is important), instead of using volunteers, and to use a different selection mechanism each session. Thus Day 1 would be rolling 1 die, Day 2 rolling multiple dice, Day 3 pulling names from a hat without replacement, Day 4 calling on them by date of rank, and so on; possibly even handing them the cards to bid on who speaks next in the manner of Friedrich. The intent is to ensure the students experience some of the resolution mechanisms we will discuss in sessions 5 and 6, even though some of the demonstrations may take place after session 6.

  • 30 minutes: Present and explain the development model, the STARS model, and the project they will each undertake.

Assignment for session 2:

  1. Come up with your initial concept and email it to the instructor. Answer these questions:
    • What do you want this wargame to do?
    • What role will the players have?
    • What are the key decisions/dilemmas/problems they must wrestle with?
    • What significant assets will they control?
    • What kinds of interactions are important?
    • What kinds of terrain influence those interactions?
    • How frequently do the players make major decisions?
  2. Start your research: Find and read something relevant to your project.


Session 2 in more detail

We expect each of sessions 2 through 8 to be split roughly in half. In the first half of each session, we will show and discuss various relevant examples. In the second half, students will brainstorm and discuss ideas applying the day’s focus to their project.

Session 2 covers Space.

Opening question: How would you map Wall Street?

A strictly spatial map of Wall Street is great if you want to move troops through it. However, you might also need to map conflict on Wall Street by financial connections, personal connections, Internet links, political influences, and so on. Which of these are more important to model depends on what you want to model.

For the rest of the initial hour of the class, we expect to present, with examples:

  • Miniatures terrain as direct representation, with a discussion that typical Digital Terrain Elevation Data is essentially the same approach
  • Hexes and squares, including grain effects
  • Zones of Control
  • Areas (including Guns of Gettysburg for incorporating Line of Sight into the area model)
  • Things inside hexes, squares, and areas
  • Things on the edges of hexes, squares, and areas
  • Point to Point
  • Maps that are not “real space” – VPG’s High Treason courtroom; Sierra Madre’s High Frontier ΔV map (we are looking for more good examples here!)

Why space and time inter-relate:

  • Scale sets the timing of decisions in conjunction with the Time model
  • Units per space on the map defines force density model and can be used to create traffic issues

During their break, students are asked to think about how they will model space in their project.

For the second half of class, we discuss student’s initial model concepts.

Assignment for Session 3:

  1. Refine your intended model of space. Start working on your map. (We will provide files and printouts for hex paper, and access to Paint, Powerpoint, and Photoshop.)
  2. Continue your research: Find and read something relevant to your project.

James Sterrett

30 responses to “Request for feedback: Teaching wargame design at the US Army Command & General Staff College

  1. James Sterrett 25/07/2017 at 4:58 pm

    Thank you! We agree – Mike Dunn teaches a companion course on that topic.

  2. Charles (Charlie) W. Driest 20/07/2017 at 1:12 pm

    I know this is late, just found the article. Having been involved with Wargaming and Modeling and Simulation with the Marine Corps since 1991, I would include Exercise Design in your Introduction. Most folks do not know how to design an exercise to meet the Commander’s Exercise or Training Objectives or how to use Wargames or Simulations to meet those objectives.

  3. Joe Saur 17/05/2017 at 8:14 pm

    James, I’m looking forward to your MORS lunchtime talk in June!

  4. James Sterrett 17/05/2017 at 7:08 pm

    Thank you, Joe!

  5. Joe Saur 09/05/2017 at 11:07 am

    One approach that I’ve found useful involves the structural mechanics of the game. I start with asking them to identify the players in their games; the pieces/tokens that will be on the board:
    – their type: inf BN, etc.
    – color: Blue, Red, etc.
    – name: to tell them apart
    – combat power: this gets dicey. For historical games, analysis of the two sides will help to determine the relative strengths; it’s future games where this gets very squishy. What will a PLA infantry brigade look like in 2040? For that matter, what will a US infantry brigade look like? The guys in Newport between wars postulated multiple Japanese navies, and sought to find a US Navy that could more or less deal with all of them…
    – movement: scale of the game, scale of the map, timescale of the game will determine
    – location: hex, UTM grid, Lat/Long (Army, Navy, or Air Force? All different…)
    – health

    Next, what are all the actions that each unit type can take, and what is the impact of each action on the units on the other side?
    – Deterministic, or probabilistic? (dice rolls and CRT; the latter, again, based on either historical analysis or guesswork. And we know how well that turned out in the casualty predictions prior to the first Gulf War…)

    Finally, behaviors. Usually in the rules (in computer-based games, very detailed algorithms!), these allow tank commanders to act reasonably competent if they’re playing artillery officers… Based on published strategy, doctrine, TTP, and historical records.

    The issue, for games like VBS3, is that all the assumptions, rules of thumb, and simplifications involved in especially the latter two areas are all but invisible behind the screen, and the issues only become apparent when things go squirrely. Gen van Riper tells the story of when he was President of MCU and they got a new version of whatever game they were using, and this one had the new Army helo (Apache?) with the radar on top. They tried a one-on-one with one Army and one Marine Cobra; the Army bird won 100 of 100 runs. Seems that the Army tactic was to hide behind a hill until it acquired a target, then pop up, shoot, and drop down. In the implementation, however, the hill popped up as well, so that the Cobra never had a target… The point: in a wargame, when you’ve got all those folks in the room who can raise the BS flag, doesn’t happen quite as often…

    Anyway, some thoughts that you might find helpful.

  6. James Sterrett 21/03/2017 at 7:13 pm

    Thank you, Ken!

    I can’t imagine where you might have gotten your example. ;)

    We started last Friday, with each student doing their own project – a smaller class for the first run – so I’m going to proceed that way this time through. Also, I try to hit that theme repeatedly in A380. However, I’ll keep this in mind as a possible COA, and the wider theme of the tradeoff between seductive complexity and practical elegance is always worth hitting again!

  7. Ken Long 20/03/2017 at 10:57 pm

    as practitioners looking to use games to achieve certain outcomes for the commander i woul dhave them look at tradeoff decisions of compexity and educational outcome off a common scenario: example: white board process modelling vs card game vs future force for force development game


  8. James Sterrett 17/01/2017 at 11:38 pm

    And more replies – Thank you!

    Howie Muir and Samuel Wilson – understood, and I do want them to consider intelligence; you are preaching to the choir there. :) A side note: the FA57s (Functional Area 57 is Simulation Operations) and some other students do play Kriegsspiel in another elective course we’ve been running for years, that focuses on aligning simulations with training objectives. We also run a 1870 era Kriegsspiel for some of the History instructors to accompany the Rise of the Prussian Army block. Half the students get used as umpires, and they generally learn just as much – or more! – than the players, because they have the distance to see the challenges and understand the problem, instead of wondering why they are in the dark and the radio hasn’t been invented yet.

    Did the 1980 games use Dunn-Kempf? We found a copy a couple years ago and have included it in the Brown Bag Program since. Steve Kempf lives nearby and is sometimes able to join in.

    Joe Saur: I’m certainly worried about time. In the Training with Simulation course mentioned above, we run a game plus discussion most days, and it does take a minimum of an hour. In this course, I’m intending to show and discuss – less effective but it gets us through things in time. In a perfect world we would have the time to get through a wide variety of games as examples. The tyranny of time-effective vs actually-effective – we’ll see how things pan out. Also, I would not be surprised if many of them design things in their comfort zone. I’ve been talked into (not least by myself) commiting to designing something alongside them in the class. If nothing else it gives me a crosscheck on the workload and timing; but the instructor fumbling through design in front of them may make them more willing to take risks, and it should help in the design discussion – particularly if (when!) the time comes to shoot ones’ puppies.

    Tom Dye: Absolutely! I’d be delighted if students go beyond simply combat. One of the games we have slated for frequent display is 1944: Race to the Rhine ( ). C2 comes into its own discussion not only in Time (the turn structure itself dictates how your command & control functions), but also in Systems, where hey have the option of stacking layers of players to achieve effects such as you describe. As with the Intelligence discussion above – I want them to consider these things. Good luck at ARL!

    Brian Handley (whose game is found at: — Brian, if there is a better source, please advise me, that’s what Google provided) I fully agree the trick is what you cut away. Student homework for day 2 is to define their project. After that, I want them to keep driving their design decisions back to it – does it represent the essentials, ideally in as elegant a manner as possible? Perhaps the class does not work hard enough on defining what to model. I’ll need to keep an eye on that and see if it needs refinement to include more.

    Bill Haggart: Answering in order… The primary aim is an introduction to design, achieved through doing the process once. I don’t think I have the time to do more. Thus the testing is for doing what the designer intended; I don’t see the time available to do validity testing, let alone formal proof of accuracy.

    The expect take-away is: 1) These students will be able to apply the process again (with more time!?) in the future to make their own wargames – or at the very least have a solid vocabulary and understanding to discuss the problem with somebody doing it for them; 2) By having gone through the process once, they will be better professional consumers of wargames, because they will have made the sausage themselves. In a perfect world (and it’s true for the FA57s, because the three classes are mandatory electives for them…) the students will take this alongside the Exercise Design class and after the Training with Simulations class.

    We’re veering steadily towards small group design, with 4 of 4 as you note, because of testing time. That brings in issues of making sure everybody pulls their weight, but that’s an understood problem (though not a perfectly solved one!) Unique responsibilites will help there.

    The current plan is exactly what you suggest in your second posting – start the design process with the homework from class session 1 – define the project. Then in session 2 we go into Time, discuss how to apply it to their projects, and they go home to work on it more. then in class 3 we discuss Space, discuss how to apply it, and they go home to work on it, and so on. So, by halfway through, they have at least the skeleton of a design to test once. A longer class would be better, but that’s what we’ve got. The consultation and testing time in class is exactly what you suggest, and having them play each other’s games is a good idea. That also makes the practice the presentation sessions.

    Again – thank you to everyone who is commenting!

  9. William W Haggart 16/01/2017 at 5:11 pm

    The suggestion or if already planned as I suspect, support for:

    The ‘homework’ can be the design aspect they conclude linked to the topic presented in class. That is:

    Modelling Space
    Modelling Time
    Modelling Assets
    Modelling Effects:
    Quick Intro To Basic Probability –
    Putting It All Together:
    Testing & Iteration: Introduction to testing, blind testing, and sorting through feedback.
    Consultation & Testing Time – in the classroom.
    Consultation & Testing Time – in the classroom.

    So they have each Modelling factor, such as ‘Space’ completed for their game after that class. The specific reading could support that. I am assuming the consulting, testing and iteration portion is actual play and carrying out the circle in the diagram above, but maybe not. If groups of four, teams could play each others’ games as some point. Would you have a play-time limit on how long a game design should last between two to four people?

  10. Joe Saur 16/01/2017 at 3:56 pm

    Part of the issue in creating a game has to do with it’s intended use, and I suspect that most of the students here (O-4’s) will be looking at something simpler than “Axis and Allies Eastern Front”…. In the MCU class I taught in 2015, 5 of the 8 students created games intended to help train subordinates in the TTP appropriate to their role: i.e., platoon/squad leaders during a jump; cox’n’s of armed RHIBs in a port security escort role, etc. The other 3 created larger games that could be used for COA analysis: US vs. Russian armored brigades in what looked like the Ukraine rotated 90 degrees; US CVBG transit of the Straits of Hormuz in the face of an Iranian SAG; and the issue gaining and maintaining air superiority against a true peer. The good news in James & Mike’s schedule is that their students have 5-6 weeks/weekends to run their printers out of ink creating gameboards, steal Legos from their kids to use as game tokens, and coerce their spouses/kids/significant others into playtesting their rules; the bad news is that each class is only two hours long, and that does not leave much room for both a game and a lecture… The good news is they have the option of mandating participation in extracurricular games!

  11. William W Haggart 16/01/2017 at 3:35 pm

    Hi James:

    It looks like a great course. I really like the graphic for wargame design: Simple, but inclusive of the parts and dynamics of actual design processes. Having a total of 24 hours to teach is tough.
    Some questions, observations and suggestions:

    1. It is not clear whether you are going for an introduction to game design, where the presentation and tasks would be wide ranging but sallow, or something deeper, but narrow in scope. That would have a great deal to say about what students do and read.

    2. When you are “testing”, for game design function, is that about the game doing what the designer intended dynamically, or testing for simulation validity? [i.e. is it a functional model of the target evidence/data?]

    3. It seems that this is a one-off class. What exactly do you expect participants to be able to do when the course is over: That is, effectively apply in the future? You know the course. Is it reasonable to assume that after the course, participants will know how to design effective games on their own?

    1. IF each participant designed a game, there would be no time to really experience it or ‘test’ it in any fashion… and you and MIchael certainly can’t. In other words, if you have everyone designing games, there is no time to actually review and analyze their quality, certainly not for the class as a whole, where everyone would benefit. Most all of that would have to be out of class and out of sight.

    2. You don’t have students actually beginning to design a game until half-way through the course.

    3. It’s great that the class is limited to 16 participants.


    1. Have the class read one book. I suggest Kosher’s and it is the most entertaining and broadly insightful, as well as quickly read. Sections from the other books can be provided or reported directly relating to the specific issues of each session. It will focus the information when it is most applicable, but give students some common grounding from the beginning.

    2. Either have groups [4?] design a game with each taking the lead on different aspects, research, testing etc. Groups have to be well organized and given clear responsibilities if the are going to quickly function. This will provide more time for actually playing the games [Only four] which is the point–how they play.

    3. I would provide a limited number of choices for concepts and subjects for the students to choose from rather than open-ended. You can save a lot of time and research effort for the students if you know the information is available. Each group could even design around the same subject given different “initial concepts” they could choose.

    With 24 hours, you want to be as efficient with time AND tasks as possible if the idea is that students learn the skills and do the task, designing wargames, with a modicum of success when it is all over. That is the ‘bottom line’ objective of the course.

    Just my 0.02 dollar on what appears to be a great course.

  12. Brian 16/01/2017 at 3:15 pm

    Brian Handley Aeropsce Engineer and Wargamer (Published – Maneouver group).

    Not sure how achedemic your sudents are. To me It looks like you have nothing about chosing parameters to model.

    For instance getting a unit off/onto a road road through a gate takes so much longer than a high speed move (say 3 miles) that you could get a good approximation of the time for short trips and so make the model move faster with little loss of accuracy. This is not a direct suggestion but an illustration of rhe issue I am suggesting is missing.

    The trick is how to make usefull approximations, What matters in the terms of the simulation and what can be usefully left out.

  13. Tom Dye 16/01/2017 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Since the goal is to provide these officers some means to simulate or improve procedures sometime in the future, why not start with the basics? Time and distance can be your friend or enemy. Apply it not only to a combat scenario, but show how these two concepts have an effect on supply, deployments, interdiction and readiness.

    Command and Control: Stress the need for clear and concise communication both up and down the chain. Provide examples of how friction plays a part in the process and let them see if they can address preventive solutions in application to minimize friction at all levels. Since they all are officers (and am assuming that they will be trying to improve command and control procedures sometime in the future), have them request specific bits of information from their subordiante units. Time how long that may take and be communicated back to the command staff and again time how long it takes for a commander to decide on a plan of action, commuicate his intentions and how long before the subordinate commands take to execute. (Think CPX and CAC related exercises and challenge these students to think how these processes can be expeditied.)

    All this neatly ties into training and experience. If subordiante officers and staff, thru training exercises, can establish what their commander wants and needs, the right type of staff and subordiante commanders can lean forward and without any additional prompting, start sending such data upward to the Commander in anticipation. This results in better informed decision making higher up and planning easier. Intel should mainly filter up from below rather than pushed down from above?

    In a little over a month, I will have the opportunity to provide support to ARL in Aberdeen where assessments of capabilities lead to new doctrine and tactics. Appreciate your reading of the above as it has been my experience that once someone knows what value sets/elements are most important, the rest will fall in place. Traditional wargames value sets (like casualty counting) are too linear and the results produced do not always provide accurate sims- but for the majority, provide fun games, Unfortunately, the lessons learned are usually for the wrong reasons.

    Tom Dye
    (PS: Howie really knows his stuff and is an informed thinker!)

  14. Samuel V. Wilson, Jr. (LTC, U.S. Army-R), CGSC Class of 1980 16/01/2017 at 1:13 pm

    Perhaps the simplest solution to this matter of time, complexity, and still retaining the idea of uncertainty is this: have a one-stop determination at the beginning of the turn or phase or impulse: simply call it a “situational awareness check.” This would be a “black box” algorithm representing the decision maker’s universe of battlefield/battlespace knowledge at the moment of decision, i.e. the combat friction, fog, or presence/absence of information/intelligence not only available but what is assimilated into the next order given. That’s all. This shrinks the Jolly Green Giant effect and stresses the gamer to act only what can be discerned from his vantage point: physically and electronically, if appropriate. Howie developed it after consulting with a former army armor officer during a war gaming summer in northern Michigan. I have experienced him applying it with enriching effect in table top ACW battles, e.g. the first day at Gettysburg, and the engagement a Marshall’s Crossroads during the 1865 Battle of Sailor’s Creek in Virginia. It’s simple; it works; it takes up all of 30 seconds. As a result, the commander does not get to know or react to the force behind the hill that has never indicated its presence, in the first place, even though it can be seen by a 6″ tall player staring at it. Another device used as been the actual deployment of single staff officers employed as scouts or intelligence officer, a la Wellington in the Peninsula War. What he sees and can report over time and distance is what the commander can react to in time. Finally, is the good old ruse of “poker chipping” force deployment. Until disclosed by LOS or intercept or OH photography, one does not know if there is any there there. Not trying to teach anybody to suck eggs, seriously. But as a serious war gamer–who played Red Team in the Fulda Gap games in the basement of Building 4 in a 1980, in mandated CGSC 2nd semester elective course–and quite frankly getting through every time (until I was give an early dismissal from the course as having “graded out” against the Active Defense doctrine of the time)–I used smoke, economy of force, deception, and anything else I could think of to deny the Blue Force early and perfect knowledge of how I was going to get through the gap. Just think about it. That’s all. By the way, to document that I have looked at the issue from the other side, I helped write and teach the IPB doctrine of that era to help Blue Force Commanders use what was known, i.e., logically to reduce what was not known (Enemy doctrine and training, terrain, and weather to raise probability of what to shoot, where to shoot, when to shoot, and what to shoot at by knowing where to look and with what to look with). I do not have a clue if any of the vestiges of that use of battlefield logic are still lying around. But the army committed to it when I was on active duty, and we exported it to the ROK Armed Forces who use it in their war planning to this day. Good luck with your project. I applaud your effort. I would think the army does, too.

  15. Joe Saur 15/01/2017 at 10:58 pm

    James and Howie, Having done something similar at MCU, I would suggest that the constraints of a 2-hour timeblock make anything more than the simplest game setup a definite issue, especially if you want to include a lecture. A standard cardboard-squares-on-a-map will take the 8 students (I’m assuming you’re dividing the class in half; 8 is about the largest number that will allow each player to have something to do) 15-20 minutes to absorb, and then you have the rules to explain. Something akin to what you describe could work outside the class, assuming the students have the rules to read ahead of time, but I know I limited all my rulesets to 1 page, and kept the scenarios simple.

  16. Howie Muir 15/01/2017 at 8:52 pm

    I hadn’t meant to suggest ‘intelligence’ as a separate step or section of the STARS model, simply to encourage incorporation of limited information (or the quest to expand awareness of hostile position, tempo, resources) within the model, whether that uncertainty relates to enemy assets’ location (Space), delayed knowledge of motion or axes of advance/retreat (Time), the consequences of these for decision- opportunities or the tempo of decisions (Time), or incomplete or erroneous knowledge of the enemy’s strengths or resources (Assets). Its processing could even be embedded within the Systems that tie the other four together. Indeed, it would probably be beneficial if “intelligence” and its limitations were organic to the elements of the STARS model. (Kriesspiel certainly accomplishes this wonderfully, but I’m guessing course limitations preclude the inclusion of game-umpires that would facilitate the organic element of uncertainty.)

    I only wished to draw attention the issue of “intelligence” because board-game designs very often leave it aside entirely, or reflect it insufficiently, lessening opportunities for richer insight and learning.

  17. James Sterrett 15/01/2017 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you, Howie Muir and Samuel Wilson!

    A yes-and-no answer:

    Yes, intelligence is certainly important, and putting players in a state of uncertainty – about the enemy, about their own forces, about the outcome of actions – can be extremely valuable. I’m a big fan of Kriegsspiel ( ) not least because it does all three, and I certainly agree that the manner of its inclusion (or the effects of its exclusion) should be a deliberate and considered choice.

    However, if you’re looking for me to incorporate an I(ntelligence) as its own thing in the STARS model – no – because Intelligence, like the other warfighting functions, is a result of the interaction between Assets and other Assets, Space, and Time.

    If that isn’t clear, or I misunderstood your intent, please let me know.

  18. Samuel V. Wilson, Jr. (LTC, U.S. Army-R), CGSC Class of 1980 14/01/2017 at 10:11 pm

    I want to second the suggestions of Howie Muir with whom I have war-gamed and designed war games over the past three decades. I especially underscore the role of intelligence as not only an enhancer to the realism of wargaming, but also the source of the problem solving dynamic to decision making in wargaming–all too often overlooked. In fact, to me the critical feature of any successful war game is the “problem solving” or critical thinking dimension. One does not achieve that training effect in the skewed world of total awareness or knowledge.

  19. Howie Muir 14/01/2017 at 12:39 am

    May I suggest consideration of ‘intelligence’ – something that board games often take for granted, offering little or no filter to instant awareness of the location and movement of the opponent’s assets, unlike the real world. Inclusion of a system that appropriately filters the otherwise omnipotent view of the player can achieve a remarkable shift in the nature and tempo of decision-making when in an environment that provides only fragmentary information to players. Examples might include the use of establishing situational awareness before issuing order or implementing decisions, the use of inverted counters/hidden assets, or the inclusion of false assets.

    Requiring the subject of game designs to fall within past history allows a ready basis for evaluating how a resulting design succeeds or fails to achieve its stated goals and whether it manages to incorporate relevant resources, capabilities, and resolutions appropriately. Hope it proves rewarding!

  20. James Sterrett 13/01/2017 at 10:13 pm

    Thank you!

    Johan Elg – We’ve been back and forth on allowing current situations or not. It’s harder to prove the research, certainly, and increases the chance of relying on potentially unrepresentative personal observations. We’ll need to check the library to figure out what historical themes it would support well – fortunately CARL (the CGSC library) is pretty robust for military history. (Oddly enough, in terms of themes, we want to run a themed week in the Brown Bag program, where all the games are on the same topic – finding, for example, 5 squad-level WW2 games is not difficult – but it looks like the schedule won’t support it. :( )

    Joe Saur – Good idea on Duffer’s Drift. I believe it’s already assigned to them as reading earlier in their careers, so if that’s true, we can bring it up in discussion but don’t have to assign it for reading. I need to check.

    Jim Owczarski – Piling on in support of Napoleon’s Triumph, eh? Fair enough! Consider me told. :) We’ll have to look into Victoria Cross II, though I already have Guns of Gettysburg. Up Front seems more point to point to me; somebody also pointed me in the direction of Illuminati and its spatial display of political control (which group controls which) that has no linkage back to terrain.

    Marc Romanych – The MDMP mention comes because some in the Army have only heard of “wargaming” as a step in MDMP. The term “wargaming” in that step comes from the use of Kriegsspiel techniques in that step…. but things get lost in the mists of time on occasion, and I sometimes have to explain that wargaming exists in venues *other than* MDMP. Either way, if a student wanted to design a wargame to assist in MDMP COA Analysis, it’s a valid project if we don’t follow Johan Elg’s suggestion to impose a theme.

  21. Joe Saur 13/01/2017 at 3:43 pm

    BTW, good luck in cramming all that into only two hours! (At least you have the option of “optional” gametime outside of the classroom! I ended up trying to cram the material you’re covering between moves… (2 hrs/class; 10 classes)

  22. Jim Owczarski 13/01/2017 at 11:44 am

    “Up Front” and DVG’s riff on “Up Front” (Frontline: D-Day) might serve as “maps that aren’t real space”, although a fair argument can be made that they’re both a form of point-to-point. I also greatly enjoy the take on LoS in area movement in “Victoria Cross II” and its Isandlwana scenario which, I believe, predates “Guns”. I don’t know as I’ll ever decide if the search for diceless combat is truly chimerical but the diceless “poker” combat system in “Napoleon’s Triumph” merits study as does that in “Frederick”.

  23. Joe Saur 13/01/2017 at 11:27 am

    James, Peter’s book is fine for high-level decision support games; you include “Defense of Duffer’s Drift” to help them understand the value of simple games in training subordinates.

  24. Marc Romanych 13/01/2017 at 10:24 am

    I wonder what, if any, linkage there is between game design and the MDMP, or perhaps how does the design of a particular game / simulation support the MDMP or some other decision-making model?

  25. Johan Elg 13/01/2017 at 9:48 am

    Great initiative. One idea might be to limit the design of wargames to historical examples (and avoid furture and fictional battles). You may also consider the use of themes. I myself are this february/march doing a theme on the ‘Finnish war’ of 1808-09 with four different wargames: strategic level (a classic boardgame design with three teams), operational level (a hybrid map- and boardgame), tactical level: a ‘what if?’ naval battle (a tabletop 1:1000 scale ship miniatures-game) and a land battle (a two- or four-room map-wargame akin to kriegsspiel). In that order.

  26. James Sterrett 13/01/2017 at 7:41 am

    Thank you!

    Brant – agreed, Koster’s Theory of Fun is a great book, and might be a good place to start – I’d also been considering assigning the Battle for Moscow rules before the first class. The timeline to play BfM is pretty tight, even given the limited objectives of “play a few turns”.

    Alan – I will include deterministic models with hidden strength to create the uncertainty, thank you!

    Lance McMillan – That’s a good tip, thank you! It sounds somewhat similar to the Training with Simulations elective I’ve been teaching for a number of years, in which students play a variety of computer and boardgames, using them as examples in learning to look at games for potential training & educational use. I will find out if it is still taught. I did look into a wargame design course taught at the Naval Postgraduate School.

    Dave O’Connor – Thank you! That’s a good point – I will shift them as suggested. And yes, the travel costs are a killer. Perhaps we should ask the Navy to pull Australia closer? :)

  27. Dave O'Connor 12/01/2017 at 9:05 pm

    Great stuff James. To my mind the single most important factor is the modelling of time in relation to the decision making of the player. If you have the player taking on the role of a tactical company commander but the turn time is a day, then it’s not going to work at all. Most wargames succeed or fail on this factor IMO. Once you determine the time interval everything else, including spatial factors, flows from that. So my recommendation would be to move Time up to Session 2 and have Space covered in Session 3.

    BTW you really should have the best instructors for this course. My rates are reasonable, but the travel costs are the killer. ;)

  28. Lance McMillan 12/01/2017 at 6:21 pm

    If you haven’t done so already, you should contact the Naval War College (NWC). When I was a student there in ’96 I took a class called “Wargaming and the Commander” which used a variety of commercially available wargames (most notably AH’s ‘Blitzkrieg,’ SPI’s ‘Napoleon at Waterloo,’ and the ‘Tactica’ miniatures rules) to familiarize students with various wargaming concepts. The class was run by LCDR Dan McCullough (who currently runs the NSDM series of seminar games). Either he or someone at NWC should be able to provide you with the class syllabus and lesson plans.

  29. Alan 12/01/2017 at 3:29 pm

    5. Modelling Effects could include deterministic resolution methods used in conjunction with hidden asset strengths, a la Napoleon’s Triumph.

  30. Brant 12/01/2017 at 2:00 pm

    I would have them read Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun For Game Design over the first weekend of the class. It shouldn’t take them more than a few hours to knock it out

    That’ll help put a variety of modeling decisions into their heads.

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