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Daily Archives: 09/04/2020

Review: Intervention!

Review of: Intervention! Stone Paper Scissors, 2020. £15.99

Intervention0.pngIntervention! is a game of fictional great power intervention in the modern era, designed for 17-28 players (with a control team of four). It is playable in 2-4 hours.

This is a megagame about major power intervention in a regional conflict in the early 21st Century. Silvania has severe internal problems, marked particularly by a major rebellion in the south. The important port city of Warren Falls has been taken over by the rebels, and in order to oust them, and restore order, the Silvania Government has asked the aid of a powerful modern nation, Freedonia.

In this game the players will be either on the side of the Government and its interventionist friend trying to restore the status quo, or on the side of the rebels seeking to hold on to some hard-won independence, self-determination and freedom of religion.

Gameplay focusses on planning for and carrying out the battle for control of the city, whilst trying to stay ahead politically and avoid causing too much collateral damage.

Negotiation, resource allocation and good communication all feature heavily.

This is an entry-level megagame, for a relatively small group of players. Simple and easy to understand this makes a good start for anyone wishing to experience megagames for the first time

The game is designed by Jim Wallman, the guru of megagaming, and is received a set of downloadable pdfs comprising rules, briefings, maps, action cards, displays, counters, role badges, and everything else required to run the game. The purchaser is responsible for printing these.

INT Main Map

The contested port of “Warren Falls” (or “Freeport,” if you’re a radical Daftist), looking suspiciously like Folkestone, albeit with a Buddhist Temple located in the grounds of the Parish Church of St Mary & St Eanswythe. 

As the summary above notes, the game pits two coalitions against each other: the Silvanian government and its powerful Freedonian allies, versus the Separatist movement and radical Kippists (of Determination And Freedom Today, or DAFT). However, coalition politics is a challenge for all sides, and not all interests fully align. Even within a single team the challenge of coordination is substantial, with the political and military echelons needing to work together, and the various military commanders needing to agree on an operational plan and synchronize their actions. This sort of player-driven, semi-controlled/semi-chaos is what megagames are all about.

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Teams must manage their resources carefully: Ammunition (necessary to attack), Action Points (necessary to move, and conduct other actions), and various Special Action Cards. The game uses simultaneous movement, based on Order Cards that the various military players submit at the start of the turn. Combat outcomes are based on the combat scores of the two sides, and resolved by a Results Card. Some units are more reliable, and have higher combat values, than others.

InterventionUnits.png

The Political Support Track of each side is essential to victory. This is affected by casualties, causing damage to (or fixing) civilian infrastructure, military victories, and control of key locations in the city. The lower the level of political support a side has, the fewer resources it will receive each turn. If it reaches zero, they begin to disengage.

The rules, displays, and various cards are all very clear and easy to understand. While the rules run to 19 pages, most of this is explanation and examples and could easily be briefed to players in 15 minutes or so. The various team briefings each are between 8 and 15 pages in length, consisting of political background and a description ofthe various roles and assets.

All-in-all, Intervention! is an excellent introduction to megagaming—and a very considerable bargain for the price. Having mastered the basics, it would be relatively easy to scale up, add complexity, or use this as a jumping off point to designing your own megagames.

Bartels: Building better games for national security policy analysis

Bartels.pngIt’s out! Ellie Bartel’s long-awaited PhD dissertation on Building better games for national security policy analysis is now available on the RAND website.

This dissertation proposes an approach to game design grounded in logics of inquiry from the social sciences. National security gaming practitioners and sponsors have long been concerned that the quality of games and sponsors’ ability to leverage them effectively to shape decision making is highly uneven. This research leverages literature reviews, semi-structured interviews, and archival research to develop a framework that describes ideal types of games based on the type of information they generate. This framework offers a link between existing treatments of philosophy of science and the types of tradeoffs that a designer is likely to make under each type of game. While such an approach only constitutes necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for games to inform research and policy analysis, this work aims to offer pragmatic advice to designers, sponsors and consumers about how design choices can impact what is learned from a game.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One
    • Introduction: Games for National Security Policy Analysis and How to Improve Them
  • Chapter Two
    • Study Approach
  • Chapter Three
    • Towards a Social Science of Policy Games
  • Chapter Four
    • Four Archetypes of Games to Support National Security Policy Analysis
  • Chapter Five
    • Designing Games for System Exploration
  • Chapter Six
    • Designing Games for Alternative Conditions
  • Chapter Seven
    • Designing Games for Innovation
  • Chapter Eight
    • Designing Games for Evaluation
  • Chapter Nine
    • Trends in RAND Corporation National Security Policy Analysis Gaming: 1948 to 2019
  • Chapter Ten
    • Conclusions, Policy Recommendations, and Next Steps
  • Appendix ASample Template for Documenting Game Designs
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