PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

BEAR RISING matrix game

I would like to thank Dani Fenning of NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation for making the BEAR RISING briefing materials available to PAXsims readers.

The full description of the scenarios, together with briefing materials and a map, can be found here. The map alone can be found here.

The briefing pack does not include counters or initial set-up—if running a session, use your best judgment as to what needs to be included. Remember that in a matrix game an asset need not be displayed on a map to be used—it need only exist.


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BEAR RISING is a matrix wargame that examines the political and strategic military pre-crisis actions within the Baltic region amid a failing Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.  Earlier this year NATO Allied Command Operations used BEAR RISING to challenge NATO deterrence planning, strategic thinking and decision making.  Opposing player teams were invited from several external organisations who were subject matter experts in the nations they played, including some more experienced wargamers from US Center for Army Analysis and US Army War College. The game was played over a three day period, with player teams of 2 to 3 in size, beginning a new vignette each day.   Overall, the game met its objectives to challenge NATO’s decision making with deterrence plans and activities, however, one of the unexpected outcomes of the game was the development of a unique narrative through the employment of a white cell “Press Officer” role.  During the game the “Press Officer” supported the development of the narrative by injecting likely media (including social media) and news headlines in direct response to actions made throughout the game.  The vignettes explored three different situations in which NATO nations and Russia faced escalating tension:

  • A Darker Shade of Gray: Ethnic Russian protests in Latvia turn violent because of recent changes to laws regarding language instruction in schools; Russian minority groups in Estonia begin to stage sympathy protests with a widespread social media campaign. Through hybrid tactics Russia seeks to exploit the situation in Latvia to win the narrative and gain popular support.
  • The Islanders: Tensions rise as a NATO vessel returning from a large exercise crashes into a Russian trawler, an unfortunate series of events result in a Russian threat to a NATO partner nation’s territorial integrity in a geo-strategic location.
  • A Bridge Too Far: Social unrest rises as pro-democracy Russian protests against a ‘rigged’ regional election spread across Kaliningrad. Russia demands that Lithuania allows a large-scale deployment of Russian National Guard units via rail. Tensions begin to rise as military postures heighten in the region.

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2 responses to “BEAR RISING matrix game

  1. Brant 22/10/2019 at 3:11 pm

    RockyMountainNavy has a lot to say about the Bear Rising subhead on “What are Matrix Games”
    https://rockymountainnavy.wordpress.com/2019/10/19/entering-the-matrix-doesnt-mean-exiting-from-wargames/

    But there’s on particular salient point that I want to hammer, and that is *this* statement about matrix games compared to wargames:
    “The games themselves are not intended to be fiercely competitive, with obvious winner and losers”
    Not only is this crap, but it’s statistically-refuted crap. Wargames are competitive in the same way Carcassonne, poker, and basketball are competitive.

    WargamERS, however, are not primarily motivated by competition, whereas Eurogamers are, and by a large degree. And yes, there are stats to back that up
    https://www.armchairdragoons.com/articles/research/motivations-of-hobby-game-players/

  2. Charles Turnitsa 18/10/2019 at 5:20 pm

    Excellent scenario. I can’t decide if I want to play this with my wargaming club, or with the professional wargame analysts I work with.

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