PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Monthly Archives: March 2019

CNA Talks: Playing a Wargame

cna-logo

CNA’s occasional podcast series discusses how to play a wargame.

In part two of our occasional series on wargaming, CNA’s chief wargame designer Jeremy Sepinsky returns, accompanied by Chris Steinitz, director of CNA’s North Korea program, to discuss what it’s like to play a CNA Wargame. Jeremy describes the different players in a wargame, emphasizing the value of people with operational experience who can accurately represent how military leaders would make decisions. Jeremy and Chris lay out the differences between playing Blue team and Red team. They also take us down the “road to war,” describing how the wargaming team lays out the scenario that starts the game.  Finally, Chris and Jeremy take us though the player’s decisions and how the results of a turn are adjudicated.

Twenty years of civil war in Brynania

Yes, it’s that time again: at McGill University we are once again gearing up to fight—and hopefully resolve—the ongoing civil war in Brynania.

Brynania mine map - UNMAS.jpg

As you might expect after so many years of fighting, Brynania is littered with mines, IEDs, and UXO.

The Brynania simulation was first launched in 1998 as a component of my POLI 450/650 course on peacebuilding. It features around one hundred participants assuming the role of governments, rebels, UN agencies, NGOs, civil society, the media, and others for up to twelve hours a day, over a full week of play. Each day of real-time represents a month in Brynania, allowing us to explore war, peace negotiations, humanitarian assistance, refugee flows—and‚ possibly‚ peacekeeping operations, transitional elections, and some post-conflict development too. Over the years, we have seen a variety of outcomes.

Brynania1.png

Brynania2.png

Students have contributed a wealth of background material on the conflict and the region. It’s also been the subject of a couple of short documentaries/reports, and served as an experimental testbed for two PhD theses.

The workload in running the simulation is a bit overwhelming—I  end up spending around 16 hours a day on it, reading 10-15,000 emails and monitoring other electronic communications. Overwhelmingly, students are energetic, innovative, and dedicated.

This year’s simulation runs from March 27 to April 3. Needless to say, I won’t get much chance to update PAXsims until it is all over. Unfortunately it is rather hard to follow from afar, although you may catch sight of the warring parties trash-talking each other on Twitter (#Brynania)

 

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 17 March 2019

wordcloud170319.png

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. Mark Jones Jr and Gilles Roy contributed material for this latest edition.

Know of anything we might include? Pass it on!

PAXsims

logo.pngThe Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists features an article by Ivanka Barzashka (King’s College London) on “Wargaming: how to turn vogue into science.” 

Wargaming to-date has been practised more as an art than a science. And professional wargamers design, conduct and analyse games in predominantly classified environments. This approach has led to the wide acceptance of wargaming as a method for training and development of operational concepts in the defense community. It has also confined the production of wargames to a small professional community of experts who have honed their skills through the wargaming master-apprentice guild system.

Analytical wargaming needs to be scientific. If wargaming tools are to underpin evidence-based analysis that informs national security and defense policy, wargames should adhere to scientific standards. Wargame producers should follow the requirements of good academic and good intelligence analysis. As former National Intelligence Council chair Tom Fingar writes, “the standard for performance [in intelligence analysis] can be no lower and arguably should be higher than those” in academic disciplines. That’s because the impacts of intelligence analysis can be “far more consequential.” The same goes for wargaming analysis.

PAXsims

istock-470309868.jpg

Are you in the London (UK) area and interested in taking part in a wargame-based research project?  King’s’ Wargaming Network is collaborating with the Project on Nuclear Gaming (comprising researchers from the University of California – Berkeley, Sandia National Labs and Lawrence Livermore National Lab) in the execution of a table-top gaming event at King’s College London.

We are seeking individuals at least 18 years old to participate in the half-day gaming event on 3 April 2019. You can sign up for the morning session (09:00 to 12:30) or the afternoon session (13:30 to 17:00).

The purpose of the study is to investigate the strategic stability of countries in the context of different capabilities.

The player slots are limited. Please sign-up by 20 March 2019 here.

Participation in this study involves:

  • Playing a game with others that will take approximately 1-2 hours.
  • Potentially being interviewed by members of the research team.
  • Answering a questionnaire.

To sign up as a player, fill out the player registration form.

For questions about the study, please contact the principal investigator, Dr. Kiran Lakkaraju at klakkar@sandia.gov.

PAXsims

PS

PS: Political Science and Politics 52, 1 (January 2019) contains an article by Courtey J. Fung on “Negotiating the Nuclear and Humanitarian Crisis on the Korean Peninsula: A Simulation and Teaching Guide.”

This article describes a simulation scenario based on of-the-minute thinking about the Korean Peninsula crisis. The scenario highlights the tradeoffs and difficulties in addressing the nuclear and humanitarian crisis, tasking students to negotiate to reach consensus on track I and track II levels. Students are negotiators, gaining experience and exposure to key international relations and political science concepts through active learning. An optional media-teams and press-conference component also is discussed. The scenario, grading rubric, and supplemental materials are included to give instructors a resource that is easily modified across groups varying in size, ability, and composition.

PAXsims

Amid the chaos of Brexit, The Guardian reports that the European Union “wargamed” the fall of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

EUwargame.png

It doesn’t sound like an actual wargame, however—more like a scenario discussion.

PAXsims

Back in January, The Guardian also reported that “a Russian toymaker has released a board game called Our Guys in Salisbury, featuring the same cities in Europe visited by the GRU agents accused of carrying out last year’s nerve agent attack.”

1818-1.jpg

It looks about as well-designed as the actual attack, which left both targets alive, one bystander dead, and resulted in the identification of the agents involved and sanctions against Moscow. There is also no word yet on whether the game allows players to uncover the identities of hundreds of GRU agents through social media, vehicle registration, and other sloppy tradecraft and OPSEC.

2048.jpg

PAXsims

31HETZePLAL._BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAt the Journal of Peace Education, Ludwig Gelot explores “Training for peace, conscientization through university simulation.”

Incomplete and insufficient university programmes in the field of Peace and Conflict Resolution have led to an important gap in knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) among peacebuilders and peacekeepers. In theory, experiential learning through problem-based learning (PBL) and simulations should be able to address this gap. This article explores the opportunities and limits of this pedagogical approach to educating peace actors using the case of the Carana simulation delivered at Linné University (LNU), Sweden. Using mixed-methods, this article confirms the added- value of PBL in the development of KSAs but identifies challenges peculiar to the field of Peace and Conflict Studies that limit its effects. PBL has a clear added-value for the development of skills in learners with a consistent development of professional skills. It can be used to foster conscientization as a precursor to transforming societies towards nonviolence and justice.

PAXsims

University of Edinburgh Law School postgraduate student Phoebe Warren writes about her participation in the a peace process simulation, “Building Inclusive Dialogue in Danaan.”

[Peace Settlements Research Programme] researchers Laura Wise and Kathryn Nash, along with Rebecca Smyth and Robert Macdonald, organised and facilitated the Building Inclusive Dialogue in Danaan simulation, designed by Inclusive Security, an organisation that promotes comprehensive stakeholder participation in peace processes, and particularly the participation of women. One week prior to the simulation, I received a series of general briefing materials regarding the fake country for which I would serve as the Minister of Interior and lead negotiator during peace negotiations and talks, as well as confidential information about my character’s motivations and ambitions. I particularly appreciated the details about the background, education, and family – these are considerations that most certainly colour politicians’ actions (and inactions). Having learned from my mistakes in past simulations, I spent a couple of hours on the night before the event mapping out tactics, key interests, and potential allies in order to make the best use of my time during the game. I felt relatively prepared and ready to take part in one of my favourite (and niche!) hobbies early the next morning….

You’ll find the rest of here account at the Global Justice Blog.

Phoebe also mentions her previous participation in the Brynania peacebuilding simulation during her studies at McGill University:

In my final year at McGill University, I participated in a week-long, war-to-peace simulation that changed my life. The experience was intensely stressful but immensely gratifying, as I was able to combine everything learned in four years of political science courses, and ultimately led me to undertake a degree here at the University of Edinburgh.

PAXsims

20190224_102251-1-1024x768.jpg

Lessons Learned Simulation and Training recently delivered a professional development course on “Urban Refugees in the Humanitarian System” at York University in Toronto. This included a half day simulation.

You’ll find their account of how it all went at the Lessons Learned website.

PAXsims

The University of Pennsylvania Law School recently partnered with the  U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership to conduct a two-day international strategic crisis and negotiation exercise.

Seventy-five students, organized into eight teams and each representing a different nation, will engage in a complex and broad geopolitical crisis centered around the South China Sea. The teams will negotiate with their counterparts at a simulated United Nations-mandated peace conference, where they will be tasked to resolve a challenging international dispute with diplomatic, informational, military, legal, and economic factors at play.

You’ll find additional details here.

PAXsims

QDE-Smart-Soldier-55-UAV-Incident.jpg

The Australian Army’s professional development website The Cove has posted another quick decision exercise: UAV Incident.

You are the Section Commander of a security team currently supporting a Construction Engineer element finishing off repairs to a local school. You are purely providing local security at the job site and security on the move when transiting from your combat team (CT) forward operating base (FOB) and the school.

Given that it is now the final plumbing and electrical tasks for the job, you only have 4 engineer personnel (2 x Plumbers and 2 x Electricians) with you, as well as an interpreter to speak with the school officials and 6 locally employed labourers when required. In order to move this group and your section, you have 2 x PMV, which are currently parked astride the school compound.

Currently you have a have a fire team securing the actual job site within the school. You have a piquet in each of the vehicles covering East and West respectively down the main route which are the most likely approach routes for insurgents or anti-Government elements.

The rest of your Platoon is on CT quick reaction force (QRF) duties at the FOB which is 12km to the North of your current location. You are set to return to the FOB at 1730h.

As you are preparing your confirmatory orders to return back to the FOB in about 30 minutes, you first hear and then see an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) whine overhead from southeast to northwest at a very low height. As it passes overhead you hear the whine cut out and it dives towards the ground. Although you hear no impact due to traffic noise, you are confident that it has just crashed about 500 – 600 metres to the North West of your location. You take a quick bearing towards where you think it would have landed given its glide path.

You immediately contact the CT HQ and inform them of your observation.They immediately confirm to you  that the only battlegroup UAV operating today is still airborne, but will checkwith other Coalition force elements.

Minutes later they contact you and indicate that another force’s UAV has been lost in your area. They have given a projected impact zone of the UAV which conforms to your observations and have requested your team’s assistance in recovering it.

PAXsims

RAND_RR2850RAND recently published a Conceptual Design for a Multiplayer Security Force Assistance Strategy Game, developed by Elizabeth M. Bartels, Christopher S. Chivvis, Adam R. Grissom, and Stacie L. Pettyjohn.

The authors explain the conceptual underpinnings and basic rules for a RAND-designed security force assistance strategy game. The game is a tool to explore the potential benefits and risks of different security force assistance strategies under different conditions. The game engine draws on empirical evidence and best practices and, thus, can be applied in many contexts.

Key Findings

  • The Security Force Assistance Game is a portfolio game in which players decide how to invest in the capabilities of different partner forces in order to achieve objectives.
  • Twelve principles of security force assistance were identified from empirical literature and used to build an adjudication tool to project plausible operational outcomes from player investments. Changes in the strategic relationship between actors caused by operational shifts in relative capability were adjudicated based on expert judgement.
  • This game allows structured comparison of different SFA strategies, enabling players and sponsors to consider the potential benefits and risks of different courses of action.

Recommendations

  • The Security Force Assistance Game can be adapted to look at SFA in other countries or to create a strategy for SFA investments across multiple nations.
  • Future games can benefit from using “live” teams of experts to represent recipient nation decisionmaking; exploring SFA in a competitive marketplace with multiple possible investors; subdividing the U.S team to better reflect competing objects and constraints; playing further into the future by including more turns; and requiring materiel investments to be sustained.

PAXsims

The Deep Mind blog discusses the development of Artificial Intelligence systems able to beat human players in real-time strategy games.

Games have been used for decades as an important way to test and evaluate the performance of artificial intelligence systems. As capabilities have increased, the research community has sought games with increasing complexity that capture different elements of intelligence required to solve scientific and real-world problems. In recent years, StarCraft, considered to be one of the most challenging Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games and one of the longest-played esports of all time, has emerged by consensus as a “grand challenge” for AI research.

h/t Mark Jones Jr.

PAXsims

If you took part in the recent CONNECTIONS NORTH wargaming conference and/or APOCALYPSE NORTH megagame at McGill university, there are now additional pictures of both events available courtesy of Gilles Roy. A sample of these is presented below, but there are many more at the link.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

CFP: NATO 13th Operations Research and Analysis Conference

 

The NATO 13th Operations Research and Analysis Conference will be held in Ottawa on 7-8 October 2019. The conference is cosponsored by Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and the Science and Technology Organization, and is open to all NATO nations, STO Enhanced Opportunity Partners (Australia, Finland and Sweden) and Partnership for Peace nations.

The 2019 theme is “Challenges for NATO OR&A in a Changing Global Security Environment”. The conference will kick off with a number of keynote addresses and proceed through various streams. The Programme Committee welcomes papers that address the conference theme from different perspectives. Papers describing emerging techniques and approaches as well as case studies of analysis undertaken are equally welcome. Based on the submission of abstracts, the PC will group papers for the conduct of running parallel sessions.

The organizers have issued a call for papers.  Potential presenters are asked to submit an abstract by June 1. To have the widest distribution possible, they ask that presented material should preferably be unclassified.

 

Strategic wargaming week at King’s

April 2-5 is “strategic wargaming week” at King’s College London, with a series of events planned.

KCLwargaming.png

For notice of this and other events, follow the King’s Wargaming Network on Twitter.

A week of wargaming in Norfolk (VA)

53313375_10103972961974287_1294889127430324224_n.jpegMaj Tom Mouat (Defence Academy of the UK) and I just finished up teaching a week-long wargaming  course for NATO Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, VA.

The topics covered in the course included:

The slides (pdf) from my lectures can be found at the links above, while Tom has collected all his together here.

Wargaming short course v3.png

The original plan. We ended up moving a few of the sessions around.

We also played a number of games, intended to demonstrate various approaches:

Several additional games were played as optional activities in the evening: Urban Kriegspiel, AFTERSHOCK, Black Orchestra, and We Are Coming, Nineveh.

53412655_10156153890213977_1162313206513795072_o.jpg

Platoon Attack.

 

53110764_10156153890018977_6799596630216540160_o.jpg

Planning an airstrike in Strike Package.

53140477_10156153890703977_7000077856688570368_o.jpg

Urban Kriegsspiel.

53283563_10156155817963977_2223617939095945216_o.jpg

Briefing the Gulf Crisis seminar game.

53660787_10156155818053977_3529201354704683008_o.jpg

The Gulf Crisis seminar game underway.

53084555_10156157952913977_5268531395822616576_n.jpg

Section Commander 2018.

 

IMG_2371.JPG

Black Orchestra.

IMG_2370.jpg

Hitler is dead! (Black Orchestra)

IMG_2407.JPG

We Are Coming, Nineveh.

IMG_2408.JPG

Daesh (ISIS) makes its last stand in the ruins of the Grand Mosque of al-Nuri in We Are Coming, Nineveh.

On the last day, we challenged the participants to develop their own wargames on the topic of the Syrian civil war. (This topic, it should be noted, was put forwards by us as an interesting one for game design purposes and not suggested in any way by NATO ACT). The group then formed into four teams, each of which produced very interesting and very different designs.

IMG_2414 3.JPG

Gaming the Syrian civil war.

IMG_2415.JPG

Gaming the Syrian civil war.

IMG_2421.JPG

Gaming the Syrian civil war.

IMG_2435.JPG

Gaming the Syrian civil war.

  • A seminar/negotiations game, primarily intended to teach junior foreign service officers about negotiations.
  • An educational boardgame on Syrian, Iranian, and Russian efforts to safeguard the Asad regime.
  • One mixed methods project that involved an initial alternatives futures exercise, which was then followed by games exploring critical junctures.
  • A matrix game exploring regional and international geopolitics in Syria.

On the last day we even played a few turns of the latter of these. This was followed by a general discussion and feedback.

if we do the course again, we will need to think about the balance between lectures and demonstrations. Participants really enjoyed the opportunity to game, and asked for more integration of insights, teachable moments, and explanation into the gaming sessions. On the other hand, the lectures provide a vehicle for packing in a lot of information. Overall, however, feedback seem to be very positive. We certainly enjoyed ourselves!

site_headers_act_full_shadow_short.png

%d bloggers like this: