PAXsims is pleased to offer some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) games that may be of interest to our readers.
Know of anything we might include? Pass it on!
The Viking 18 peacekeeping exercise took place on 16-26 April 2018 at sites in Brazil, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, Serbia and Sweden. Organized annually by the Swedish Armed Forces and the Folke Bernadotte Academy, this year it included 2,500 participants from 50 countries and 35 organizations.
The exercise blog can be found here. In addition, there is a report on the Brazilian part of the exercise at Dialogo. The scenario is presented in the video above.
The War Room at the US Army War College features an article by Brad Hardy on “The Art of Gaming, Strategic Edition,” in which he talks about use of the board game Diplomacy in the Basic Strategic Arts Program.
To teach negotiation skills, the BSAP faculty looked for a teaching tool which went beyond the well-worn methods of assigned readings and briefings, and toward a more hands-on instructional approach. It found a solution in Diplomacy, a board game.
BSAP uses Diplomacy in two phases over the first half of the course. The first phase takes a methodical approach to introducing the game’s mechanics. Although Diplomacy enjoys a decades-long history, it is unfamiliar to most BSAP students – few know the rules and fewer still are active players. Fortunately, the rules are simple and the game is easy to learn. Following a turn-a-week familiarization, students take on a full day exercise in the second phase of the course.
BSAP will continue to use Diplomacy in the course curriculum, as a practical application of strategic concepts being studied. Future classes may see a more contemporary game map aligned to one (or all) of the competitive regions named in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, such as the Indo-Pacific region, Europe, or the Middle East. Other iterations may seek to employ an economic component too, as an element of national power.
Regardless of any future modifications to the program, its persistent theme is that gaming is a useful method for educating Army strategists, and also possibly an even broader audience. Other Army schools, such as the Command and General Staff College, have already started to use simple gaming in their instruction. Diplomacy’s open-endedness and minimal rule sets offer enough flexibility for it to serve as a tool in any number of curricula across the military’s mid-grade staff and senior service colleges. With a bit of imagination and an emphasis on realistic objectives, playing at strategy could very well help military planners win at wars.
Previously at PAXsims, David Romano has also pointed to the teaching value of Diplomacy and other board games. One concern I have always had, however, concerns the hyper-realist and very transactional nature of such games, which tend to both mischaracterize alliance behaviour as highly fluid, and overstate war as an instrument of contemporary foreign policy.
The latest issue of PS: Political Science & Politics 51, 2 (April 2018)contains two article on simulations—one by Dick Carpenter and Joshua Dunn on simulating the effects of campaign finance laws in the classroom, and a second by Elizabeth Mendenhall and Tarek Tutunji on “Teaching Critical Understandings of Realism through Historical War Simulations.” Interestingly, this latter piece addresses some of the concerns I raised above regarding the portrayal of realist international theory in games, describing the development and testing of a game design that offers a deeper and potentially more critical perspective.
This article presents a simple modular simulation for teaching the advantages and limitations of Realist theory in an introductory international relations course. The advantages of this simulation include low preparation time, minimal resource requirements, and ease of integration with existing curricula. The game design is built around Kenneth Waltz’s “three-image” framework for analyzing international politics, in a way that increases scenario complexity but not game difficulty. The article describes the full simulation process, from game design and implementation through debriefing and assessment. Two historical simulations were conducted: the first helped students to understand Realism and the second helped them to see its limitations. The article concludes with a discussion of the results of a voluntary, anonymous postgame survey that is intended to assess achievement of our learning objective.
At the Active Learning in Political Science blog, Amanda Rosen discusses Model Diplomacy, a series of US National Security Council simulations put out by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Each case includes a primer on the NSC, an extensive briefing on the case itself (the history and context, as well as a specific crisis scenario for the NSC to resolve), and additional videos and reading for follow-up research. Optional assessments are built into the system with rubrics, templates, and examples. These include short answer quizzes on the NSC and case primers, and position memos and policy review memos (the president turns in a presidential directive instead of a memo). There are also student and instructor manuals, a quick start guide, a guide for the supplementary UNSC simulation, and an overview of the NSC roles. These resources are very helpful in helping you and the students prepare for the simulation.
You can assign students specific roles in the NSC or leave them all as ‘general advisors’. There are only about 14 roles built into the system, but you can customize new ones. I would recommend assigning roles–they end up learning more about a particular agency and are in some cases forced to represent viewpoints other than their own. It also ensures that a wide range of considerations–political, economic, diplomatic, legal, etc–are represented during the simulation.
The system is user-friendly. You sign up as an instructor, pick your case (I let my students vote), and then have the system send email invites the students to register. Once they do, you can assign them roles, which are then sent automatically to the students. The simulation is designed to be completed in a face-to-face classroom, but would easily work in an online environment either synchronously or asynchronously via message boards or social media.
If you want to learn more about Model Diplomacy, head to their website (linked at the start of the post). There’s also an entire series of interviews with other instructors that have used the simulation–check out the most recent one with Dr. Craig Albert of Augusta University–that link contains links to the other interviews in the series.
A recent report on a terrorism exercise held late last year in Switzerland has revealed some serious deficiencies:
A simulation of terrorist acts that included a hostage situation at the United Nations, an attack on a railway station and a potential nuclear radioactive leak revealed lack of coordination at the federal government level.
The complex scenario was carried out on November 16 last year to test the response of the federal government, as well as the cantons of Geneva and Bern. The government was confronted with a potential radioactive leak at the Mühleberg nuclear power station in canton Bern, a terrorist attack at the Eaux-Vives station in Geneva causing numerous deaths and injuries, and a hostage situation at the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations.
The report on the reaction of the authorities was released this week and revealed by the Swiss national broadcaster RTS. Results were very mixed, according to the report published by the Federal Chancellery. The report says there was a lack of coordination among all participants, mainly due to the lack of an overall understanding of the situation. Over-reliance on unreliable information and confusion stemming from different versions of events resulted in “ambiguities and uncertainties”. It also took seven hours for the Federal Council’s crisis response group to be set up and to meet, causing significant delays in decision-making.
The report also notes a lack of communication between the federal government and the canton of Geneva, which led to misunderstandings and delays. The document says there were problems of understaffing in some teams and some staff members who did not know what to do in the situation.
The report lists ten recommendations. In particular, it urges the authorities to rethink the organisation of crisis management at federal level and to clarify certain processes and responsibilities. The implementation of these recommendations will be reviewed in 2019 in a new exercise.
Last year, RAND published Dominating Duffer’s Domain: Lessons for the US Army Information Operations Practitioner.
As you might expect, it is modelled after the classic 1904 book by Major General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton, Defence of Duffer’s Drift.
Registration is open for the 2018 annual conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association, to be held on 16-19 October in Rochester, NY.
Chris Engle, the inventor of matrix gaming, has put up a new web page of free hobby matrix games. You’ll find it here
In the “better late than never on PAXsims” category, Tom Mouat has noticed that the November 2016 issue of Cyber Security and Information Systems Information Analysis Center (CSIAC) Journal was devoted to wargaming.
Last but by certainly not least, we’re pleased to announce that three new (volunteer) research associates will be joining PAXsims for the duration of the year: Harrison Brewer, Kia Kouyoumjian, and Juliette Le Ménahèze. All three were members of my conflict simulation seminarlast term at McGill University: Harrison and Juliette worked on a tactical wargame of Iraqi urban operations in Mosul, while Kia was part of the team that designed a game about mass atrocity during the Darfur war in Sudan. You can see their handiwork here.