PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Bill Rogers suggested material for this latest edition.
Have suggestions for our next update? Send them on!
The Joseph “Jay” Arnold discusses “Buildings Teams with Board Games” in the January 2018 edition of the United States Naval Institute Proceedings:
Leaders are often at a loss to find successful team-building exercises, frequently falling back on stereotypical team sports or costly outside facilitators. Many modern board games offer an opportunity for team-based and cooperative play that can provide surprisingly innovative team-building. Unlike tired old family standbys such as “Monopoly,” “Clue,” or “Sorry,” these more recent games are tailor-made to be more challenging, more cerebral, and more likely to encourage repeat play. Furthermore, these games can help your team develop transferable skills—performing complex tasks while stressed, anticipatory planning, and interpersonal communications. A class of Illinois Army National Guard officer candidates recently tested the value of such games by playing the science-fiction game “Space Cadets: Dice Duel” by Stronghold Games as part of a weekend activity and found it valuable.
Waypoint features a thoughtful interview with Luke Hughes about his new wargame (or tactical leadership RPG), Burden of Command:
Burden of Command follows a historical company of U.S. soldiers, part of the Army’s 7th Infantry Regiment “Cottonbalers,” through some of the now-familiar beats of World War II. And even though if you squint a bit the game might look like a familiar wargame complete with hexes and unit counters, its focus is on relationships rather than rounds of ammunition and armor levels.
For Hughes, empathy and what he calls “emotional authenticity” are the focal points for the design of Burden of Command. The studio has set out a rather prickly design problem: synthesizing battlefield tactics and doctrine with moral decisions about how to respond to the needs of your men in a way that’s both historically accurate and engaging on a deep level. And to do this, they’ve shifted their focus away from rounds per minute statistics and onto the psychological concept of suppression—which is, essentially, the tactical application of fear.
“Most games treat firepower as the essence—I mean, pick a shooter. It’s all about landing those bullets, that’s how you win. Wargames too, for that matter, focus on firepower,” Hughes explained. “In our game, it’s all about fear of death. So when you fire at the enemy, you probably don’t kill them. If they’re not fools and running around in the open, they’re probably down on the ground, behind some cover, and you’re not going to hit them.”
You’ll also find an interview with Hughes here at the GrogHeads podcast.
At War on the Rocks, Michael Peck discusses what GMT Games’ Churchill might teach us about alliance politics.
The ultimate lesson of Churchill is that diplomacy matters. The game simulates this through cards and dice (players can make agreements among themselves, though the rules emphasize that these are notbinding). But the game beautifully illuminates how clever, incompetent or perhaps unlucky diplomacy at a conference table can profoundly influence a nation’s strategy.
Churchill also illustrates an essential truth of both alliances and marriages: conflict and cooperation must exist, even if in uneasy harmony. To defeat the Axis, the Allies must work together. America, Russia, and Britain will win some issues at the conference table, and lose others. There is no shame in not winning it all, as long as you win what you need.
Under the Trump administration, the U.S. State Department is losing seasoned diplomats. In fact, diplomacy and alliance-building seem to have lost ground to belligerent tweets and unilateral actions. But as Churchill the man and Churchill the game would agree, this is no strategy for victory.
Red Team Journal continues to regularly feature items of interest to serious gamers, including recent blog posts on the important of addressing cognitive processes and bias, and frequent shortcomings of Red Team engagement.
The Wavell Room recently discussed the “Utility of Wargaming.”
War games create a training environment in which we can test ourselves against the frictions and frustrations of combat. It allows us to model the impact of chance and improve both our planning and execution of military operations. This article highlights the key themes from the HQ 20 Armoured Infantry Brigade (20 Brigade) experience of war gaming. It aims to encourage others to take up war gaming as a serious professional development tool. 20 Brigade has used war gaming, specifically the Army designed Camberley Kreigsspiel, successfully to test plans and enable the execute. War gaming is also fun; it is a conversational team activity that players enjoy. The key lesson for the Brigade is that it must be taken seriously and engaged with as we would any other battle.
The Asia Times offers some insights into the use of computer games and related technologies within China’s People’s Liberation Army:
Chinese soldiers are being encouraged to indulge their patriotic enthusiasm via computer games like Command & Conquer: Red Alert and its homemade shooter game Glorious Mission to hone their skills for national defense in the real world.
The People’s Liberation Army Daily says that artificial intelligence, computer games and wearable devices will be new tools to train commanders and new recruits in real-time strategy games with inputs from the country’s intelligence system to mock wartime conditions, and a raft of parameters adjustable to simulate different combat scenarios.
Glorious Mission has been criticised for trivializing the reality of war by presenting conflict as a video game, but an updated version has gone a step further by allowing gameplay on the Diaoyu Islands, or Senkaku in Japanese, which has been at the center of the bitter spat between Beijing and Tokyo over the past decade.
The Atlantic has an interesting piece on how “The Shape of Ancient Dice Suggests Shifting Beliefs in Fate and Chance.”
Dice, in their standard six-sided form, seem like the simplest kind of device—almost a classic embodiment of chance. But a new study of more than 100 examples from the last 2,000 years or so unearthed in the Netherlands shows that they have not always looked exactly the way they do now. What’s more, the shifts in dice’s appearance may reflect people’s changing sense of what exactly is behind a roll—fate, or probability.
We’ve discussed before at PAXsims how dice and chance are perceived differently by different groups (such as hobby gamers and military officers), and also how game components embody cultural views and player expectations.
The 2018 edition of the Geo-Political Simulator, “Power and Revolution,” is now available:
With the 2018 add-on, you can participate in the conquest of space and try to be the first to set foot on Martian soil, battle cybercrime and use it to cripple your enemies, administer justice to the roster of terrorists to thwart attacks and step in to prevent World War Three by overthrowing the American president and neutralizing North Korea.
The Kickstarter for Nights of Fire is now live. Nights of Fire is a much-anticipated card-driven boardgame of confrontation in Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian Uprising, designed by Brian Train and David Turczi. The game can be played solo, cooperatively by 2 players, or by 1-2 players against a third opponent in charge of Soviet forces.
According to the Daily Mail, “A police simulation featuring hundreds of brawling soccer spectators invading a stadium has sparked outrage.”
The New South Wales Police scenario, played out at a secret training facility in Sydney’s west, soon raised the ire of soccer fans online.
Furious followers of the sport accused the police force of stereotyping and bias, saying they should focus on riots or violent cricket or rugby league fans instead.
You’ll find more on the story from Nine News.
Meanwhile, at McGill University, there continues to be a great of conflict simulation work underway. Students in my POLI 490 conflict simulation design seminar are working on their projects (urban operations in Mosul, the Darfur War, and China’s One Belt One Road initiative). The class has also recently played demonstration games of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game and Islamic State: The Syria War as they explore the challenge of designing semi-cooperative games.
I’ve completed work on the “Crisis in Carana” game that I’ll be running at a forthcoming academic conference on urban religious conflict.
Game briefings for Crisis in Carana. Note the ominous “People Who Don’t Like To Be Photographed” name tag…
Finally, this weekend is the CONNECTIONS NORTH 2018 miniconference on Saturday, followed by the DIRE STRAITS megagame on Sunday. It will be a busy weekend indeed!
Last, and almost certainly least: the New Learning Times contains an interview with yours truly on serious gaming. You’ll find it here.