It may be a week or more before I am able to post much of anything to PAXsims—McGill University’s annual Brynania civil war simulation starts on Monday, involving 120 players and 73 hours of game play spread over 8 days. The class will generate around 12,000 email messages for me to read, which is why I’ll be more than a little busy
You’ll find an article on the simulation here, and a TV Mcgill video here.
Before all that organized chaos is unleashed, however, here is a quick collection of items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) games that may be of interest to PAXsims readers.
The McGill International Review is published by the International Relations Students’ Association of McGill (IRSAM), who were cosponsors of our recent War in Binni megagame. The ly recently published an interview with me on using simulation games in the classroom:
Though intrinsically fun on their own, he stresses that, as a learning tool, they serve a purpose and, as such, ought to be used to enhance course material. In Peacebuilding, for instance, it is difficult to convey, through readings and lecture, how challenging it is to repatriate refugees or run transitional elections. On paper, much of the theory behind peacebuilding makes sense, yet it is harder to understand how exactly and why the carefully designed plans may fall apart through competing interests. One can certainly read and attempt to theoretically understand why challenges to the peacebuilding process may arise and for what reasons, but there is a level of understanding and appreciation that can be achieved more effectively by having students run into those problems in a simulated setting and experience them first-hand. By contrast, other classes, such as Developing Areas/ Middle East (POLI 340), don’t feature simulations. The volume of information in the course, coupled with how much more easily concepts can be conveyed through lecture or readings, renders simulations more useless than useful.
Strategy Bridge will be featuring a number of articles on the methodology and strategic importance of wargaming next week, and indeed throughout 2017. They are also looking for contributions:
This latest series on #wargaming will spend this week analyzing that process and assess factors that may be overlooked. The Strategy Bridge has lined up a broad community of subject matter experts and stakeholders to explore several types of wargames to spark a conversation not only about how we design war games, but also about how we communicate the critical lessons learned.
The #wargaming series will continue beyond the next week with map exercises in the tradition of Moltke the Elder and the “Great General Staff,” but updated for the operational and strategic realities facing today’s warfighters across the globe. These will be published on the third week of each month for the next year.
We hope you join this conversation on how best to employ the art and science of wargames to support, prepare, and develop strategic thinkers. If you have ideas to share, we invite you to submit your pieces to The Strategy Bridge and engage with us on Twitter @Strategy_Bridge.
At some point my own thoughts on “Wargaming unpredictable adversaries (and unreliable allies)” will be appearing as part of the series. It’s hard to imagine why that has suddenly become relevant…
A recent panel discussion at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference resulted in the appearance of several media articles on the use of card and boardgames at the CIA.
CNN, for example, reported:
Dungeons and Dragons, Pokémon card games and role-playing games are more than entertainment — they’re inspiration for the CIA.
David Clopper, senior collection analyst with 16 years’ experience at the CIA, also serves as a game maker for the agency. From card games to board games, Clopper creates games to train CIA staffers including intelligence officers and political analysts for real-world situations.
“Gaming is part of the human condition. Why not take advantage of that and incorporate into the way we learn?” Clopper said Sunday at a games-themed panel discussion at the South by Southwest Interactive technology festival. Clopper and other CIA officers discussed how the agency uses games to teach strategy, intelligence gathering and collaboration.
lso speaking on the panel was Volko Ruhnke, who is an intelligence educator at the CIA and a freelance game designer. Ruhnke said he is particularly interested in one type of game: a simulation tabletop game to train analysts and help with analytic tasks. It could help forecast complex situations by forcing players to handle multiple scenarios simultaneously.
Similarly, at Gizmodo:
The Central Intelligence Agency needs to make sure its operatives are at the top of their game, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise games have become one of the agency’s most popular training tools?
At this year’s SXSW, the CIA debuted a series of internal training board games, card games, and RPGs that are used to train officers in the art of intelligence gathering and problem-solving. These include Collection, a Pandemic-like board game where analysts collaborate to solve international crises, and Collection Deck, a card game where mazes and monsters are replaced by satellite photos and government red tape. There’s also one where you try to capture El Chapo, which teaches collaboration with other law enforcement agencies.
According to CIA Senior Collection Analyst David Clopper, who first started developing the program in 2008, the board games are a creative way to quiz officers on their vast pool of knowledge and problem-solving skills. These games are basically one long Google interview quiz—they’re tough, detailed, and unforgiving. They also encourage players to work together toward a common goal, a necessary skill in intelligence gathering.
Earlier this month Georgetown University held its annual National Security Crisis Law simulation—this time with a contingent of Canadian law students participating too:
Georgetown Law’s National Security Crisis Law simulation — the equivalent of a final exam for students in Professor Laura Donohue and Alan Cohn’s National Security Crisis Law Class — went international in Spring 2017. For the first time, Canadian national security lawyers and students from the University of Ottawa and Osgoode Hall Law Schools joined this fast-paced and purposefully chaotic Georgetown tradition, held at the Law Center March 3 and 4.
While the real Canadian Prime Minister and National Security Advisor couldn’t be there, Mylène Bouzigon and Jennifer Poirer from the Canadian Department of Justice stepped into those roles admirably. The Canadian students, meanwhile, did an excellent job portraying Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defense, Minister of Health, Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and others. The Georgetown Law students, along with a team from Penn Law, played U.S. state and federal officials.
Together, the students dealt with legal and factual issues ranging from pandemic disease and natural disaster to cyber attacks on the critical infrastructure. A “Control Team” of more than 40 alumni who work in the national security field were central to the simulation’s success.
“Before, the simulation was U.S.-centric. Now we have the border issues. We have events north and south with repercussions for each country. And we have joint operations,” Donohue explained. “This has also given us a rich opportunity to compare how different countries interpret international law, and how those differences play out in terms of negotiations and policy decisions.”
On March 27, the folks at MMOWGLI (Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet) will be running a simulation/crowdsource discussion on future challenges facing the US Navy. If you wish to take part there may still be time to sign up.
This game is not about the humans vs. the computers, rather it imagines the U.S. Navy as the world moves towards the two singularities provided in the Call to Action Video. Our hope is that the ideas you produce are about how humans and computers can work better together so that the Kurzweil singularity (Singularity 1) is beneficial to both instead of causing humanity to be left behind.
Similarly, we don’t see the complexity described in Singularity 2 as a bad thing. We’re looking for organizational ideas that embrace complexity and allow the U.S. Navy to excel in that complex environment. The metaphor of a tidal wave of change can be viewed as something that will swamp us if we are not careful, but we’re looking for ideas that will allow us to ride that wave and harness its potential and energy to use it as a way to propel us forwards.
Finally, the two singularities are presented in a “yin-yang” type format, whereby players may contribute to one or both columns. However, we feel that there may be times when the singularities will merge, work together and/or impact one another. While we’re not explicitly asking you to make this connection, please keep it in mind when you move onto the second phase of the mmowgli.
On March 1, David Shiplak (RAND Center for Gaming) testified to the Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces of the US House of Representatives on “Deterring Russian Aggression in the Baltic States: What it Takes to Win.”
RAND has conducted a series of war games—more than 20, over a period now approaching three years—that have demonstrated that NATO’s current posture is woefully inadequate to resist a Russian attack on the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. We had participants from throughout the U.S. defense and intelligence communities at these war games, as well as our NATO allies. In no case have they been able to keep Russian forces from the Estonian capital of Tallinn or the Latvian capital of Riga for more than 60 hours; in some cases, NATO’s defeat has been written into history in a day and a half. Such an outcome would leave the United States and NATO with no good options, Russia potentially re-established as the dominant strategic actor in Central Europe, NATO collapsed, and the trans-Atlantic security bond in tatters. It would make a failure of nearly 75 years of bipartisan American efforts to sustain the security of Europe, which Democrats and Republicans alike, since Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, have understood to be vital to the safety and prosperity of the United States.
The first step towards winning eventually is not losing right now, which would be NATO’s current fate. So, NATO needs to be able to stay in the game. The minimum requirement for deterrence by denial along NATO’s frontier with Russia is not to offer Moscow a vision of an easy strategic victory—the chance to register a fait accompli against minimal resistance. While on any given day, the Russian leadership may not be tempted to seize even such tempting low- hanging fruit, the challenge NATO confronts is not successfully to deter on an average day; it is to deter on the one day out of a thousand, or 5,000, when Moscow, for whatever reason, sees the prospect of a crushing win over its most dangerous adversary as an attractive prospect.
The requirements for this are nontrivial, but hardly overwhelming. RAND analysis indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including, importantly three armor-heavy brigades—armor brigade combat teams (ABCTs), in U.S. Army parlance—in addition to the national defense forces of the Baltic states, and properly supported with fires, fixed- and rotary-wing aviation, engineering, logistics, and other enablers, and with adequate headquarters capacity for planning and command can prevent the fait accompli.3 To be very specific, this force—present and ready to fight at the outset of hostilities—can, if properly employed, enforce an operational pause on a Russian ground force of up to 40–50 battalion tactical groups (BTGs), while retaining sufficiently large lodgments outside Tallinn and Riga to protect them from the bulk of Russian artillery.
You’ll find a RAND video summary here.
A forthcoming issue of the Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology contains an article by Kathleen Carley, Geoffrey Morgan, and Michael Lanham on “Deterring the development and use of nuclear weapons: A multi-level modeling approach.”
We describe a multi-country, multi-stakeholder model for the accrual and use of nuclear weapons and illustrate the model’s value for addressing nuclear weapon proliferation issues using an historic Pacific Rim scenario. We instantiate the agent-based dynamic-network model for information and belief diffusion using data from subject matter experts and data mined from open source news documents. We present the techniques that supported model instantiation. A key feature of this model and these techniques is enabling rapid model reuse through the ability to instantiate at two levels: generically and for specific cases. We demonstrate these generic and specific cases using a scenario regarding North Korea’s interest in nuclear weapons and the resulting impact on the Pacific Rim circa 2014—that is, prior to the fourth and fifth nuclear weapons test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. A key feature of this model is that it uses two levels of network interaction—country level and stakeholder level—thus supporting the inclusion of non-state actors and the assessment of complex scenarios. Using this model, we conducted virtual experiments in which we assessed the impact of alternative courses of action on the overall force posture and desire to develop and use nuclear weapons.
The ICONS Project is looking for a strategic gaming intern in the Washington DC area:
Do you know of a student who is looking for an internship in the Washington, DC area this summer? We are looking for an upper-level undergraduate or a graduate level intern for the summer 2017 semester. Students help us by researching and updating current simulations, curating resources for our research library, and supporting our marketing and outreach initiatives. ICONS participates with the broader START internship program, which provides enrichment events and networking opportunities. Please encourage any interested students to apply via this link by April 4th.
The latest edition of the always-excellent Extra Credits series of gaming videos addresses the issue of politics in games (and cultural media more general):
A great many articles and handbooks on educational gaming argue for the approach with reference to how it engages various student “learning styles.” I’m happy to see a recent open letter to The Guardian by eminent scholars highlighting how little scientific foundation there is to all this:
Thirty eminent academics from the worlds of neuroscience, education and psychology have signed a letter to the Guardian voicing their concern about the popularity of the learning style approach among some teachers.
They say it is ineffective, a waste of resources and potentially even damaging as it can lead to a fixed approach that could impair pupils’ potential to apply or adapt themselves to different ways of learning.
The group opposes the theory that learning is more effective if pupils are taught using an individual approach identified as their personal “learning style”. Some pupils, for example, are identified as having a “listening” style and could therefore be taught with storytelling and discussion rather than written exercises.
The letter describes that approach as “one of a number of common neuromyths that do nothing to enhance education”. It is signed by Steven Pinker, Johnstone family professor of psychology at Harvard University; Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at the University of Oxford; and leading neuroscientist Prof Uta Frith of University College London among others.
Earlier this year BBC Radio 4 broadcast Red and Blue, a series of three dramas by Philip Palmer “about military consultant Bradley Shoreham who creates war games for training purposes.”
Episode 1: Sacrifice
Shoreham’s challenging training scenario places Yorkshire at the centre of a global pandemic alert. Its credibility rests on thesuccessful recruitment of the formidable Dr. Hoffman.
Episode 2: Ransomware
Under constant threat from hackers, financial institutions take cyber-security very seriously. A City hedge fund has hired war-gaming expert Bradley Shoreham to test its networks in a planned exercise. Although barely computer literate himself, Shoreham has prepared a whole box of cyber tricks to do battle with the firm’s IT experts. And he’s prepared to play dirty in order to demonstrate how a multi-million pound business can be brought to its knees.
Episode 3: Shadow
Tom Wilson runs an oil rig in the North Sea. It’s a challenging job at the best of times. But today he’s being put through his paces by wargame exercise writer Bradley Shoreham who has invented all manner of crises to push him and his crew to the limit and beyond.
Unfortunately it isn’t currently available on iPlayer. An earlier series was broadcast in 2013.