PAXsims is pleased to provide some recent items on conflict simulation and serrious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Our thanks to Jeremy Sepinsky and Paul Kearney for suggesting material for this latest edition.
While hobby wargaming has a plethora of outlets during this global pandemic, the same cannot be said for professional wargaming.
The pandemic has completely disrupted professional wargaming, which is typically played en masse and in person. Hundreds of people tend to gather for the signature “Title 10” wargames of each service, such as the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Warrior or the Navy’s Global wargames. These events bring together the artists, scientists, and practitioners of military disciplines to practice, explore, and critique the newest concepts the U.S. military will face or bring to bear. But in the last three months, all of CNA’s in-person wargames have been postponed or cancelled, and the larger military events have mostly been postponed, cancelled, or significantly scaled back.
In this time when virtual meetings are becoming the norm, it may seem obvious to simply start running these wargames online. But shifting entire wargames to virtual events can never fully replace in-person events. A successful wargame is inherently a many-to-many conversation, in which disparate participants from a broad range of organizations gather to share their unique perspectives. Virtual platforms are not yet able to duplicate the experience.
But wargames are simply too critical to the national planning processes and to developing senior leaders for us to simply throw up our hands and wait for a COVID-19 vaccine. We must learn to execute virtual wargames that yield at least some of the same impact and insight. And so we have to reckon with their many challenges.
The Military Operations Research Society has a series of wargaming courses coming up:
UPDATE: MORS has decided to make all of its events virtual for the duration of 2020.
On his present trajectory, President Trump is heading for a whopping defeat in November. The Economist says there’s nearly a 99 percent chance that Joe Biden will win more popular votes and around a 90 percent chance that he will win more electoral college votes. But what if Trump won’t concede defeat? That is a nightmare scenario for our democracy that could make the 2000 showdown over Florida’s hanging chads seem like a grade-school dispute by comparison…
The scenario we were given predicted a narrow Biden victory in the electoral college: 278 to 260. Various participants played the role of the Trump campaign, the Biden campaign, Republican and Democratic elected officials, the news media, and other key players to see what would happen next.
I was on Team Trump and, needless to say, we did not concede defeat. Instead, we went to work, ruthlessly and unscrupulously, utilizing every ounce of power at our disposal, to secure the 10 electoral college votes to swing the election. We focused our attention on three of the swing states that Biden won in our scenario — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — because, in all three, Republicans control both branches of the legislature. Normally, the governor certifies the election results, and in all three states the governor is a Democrat. But there is nothing to prevent the legislature from certifying a different election outcome.
The danger of an undemocratic outcome only grows in other scenarios that were “war gamed” by other participants. For instance, what if there is no clear-cut winner on election night, with Biden narrowly ahead in the electoral college but with Michigan, North Carolina and Florida still too close to call? The participants in that war game concluded the result would be “near civil war in the streets.” Far-fetched rumors are enough to bring out armed right-wing militias today; imagine how they would respond if they imagined that there was an actual plot afoot to steal the election from their hero.AD
It is impossible to write off such concerns as far-fetched given how many seemingly far-fetched things have already occurred in the past four years.Trump got himself impeached by trying to blackmail a foreign country into helping his reelection campaign. He will stop at nothing to avoid the stigma of being branded a “loser.” Unless Biden wins by an electoral college margin that no one can credibly dispute, our democracy may be imperiled as never before. We had better start thinking now about how we would handle such an electoral crisis.
The North American Simulation and Gaming Association is launching doversity scholarship, in connection with its annual conference:
At NASAGA, fairness and equity are key values. In our games, we recognize the importance of the system engine underlying the game environment. A character may have highly beneficial stats in certain attributes, but if the environment is set up against them to constantly sap their stamina based on a stat they’re not specced for, game play will be devastatingly unfair. We realize that our Black brothers and sisters are facing this very challenge every day through four centuries of systemic racial discrimination and oppression. We are uniting to focus our support on those who face the deepest hits to their stamina.
To put action to our words, we are instituting a scholarship specifically to support and encourage People of Color in our educational gaming world. Starting in the fall of 2020, this scholarship will be available to our Black and Brown community to break down gates in our corner of the gaming world. It will be awarded to support attendance at our conference each year.
In late 2017, Headquarters Forces Command hosted a Wargaming Conference with the aim of re-invigorating wargaming as a skill within the Australian Army. The need had been identified in the lessons learned from the HAMEL series over a number of years; the Australian Army was recognising that the wargaming skills of its officers and soldiers had languished in recent years. The Australian Army was not alone in this realisation, in 2014 the United States Department of Defense funded a program to revitalise analytical wargaming through the conduct of tabletop exercises, seminars, workshops and turn based wargames. Additionally, in 2017, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence released the Wargaming Handbook to ‘reinvigorate wargaming in defence’ and to ‘restore it as part of their DNA’.
First and foremost this article aims to stimulate discussion about wargaming, generate new ideas and approaches for wargaming Professional Military Education activities and generally contribute to the reinvigoration of wargaming within Army. More specifically this article will provide readily available and low cost solutions for leaders to incorporate into their unit’s Professional Military Education program. These options include participation in the Army Tactics Competition hosted by the Australian Defence Force Wargaming Association and the establishment of unit ‘Fight Clubs’ leveraging commercially available products (both board games and table top miniature-based wargame systems). While some might consider this a non-traditional approach, others may wonder why these events and clubs have not already been established in units and/or brigades. The implementation of these proposed solutions should be seen as a way of complementing the existing training continuum and a means to enhance Army’s tactical acumen. Additionally; it was to develop the critical thinking capacity of Army’s personnel and provide experiential learning regarding decision making in an adversarial environment.
For more information on the Australian Defence Force Wargaming Association, see their website.
The Royal Navy ship RFA Argus is currently in the Caribbean on hurricane watch. Before deployment, the ship readied for potential humanitarian assistance and disaster response by playing AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game.
This past term I taught foreign policy for the first time and used Model Diplomacy by the Council of Foreign Relations.
Model Diplomacy is a fantastic resource for teachers and it is completely free. It has an impressive variety of cases and adapting a simulation to one’s particular needs requires only a few clicks. Thanks to the wide range of background material recommended to the students, the instructor can be confident that they will use relevant documents to prepare for the simulation, which is a great advantage of Model Diplomacy for both students and instructors. My students enjoyed working with videos, official documents, and different reports—instead of academic articles—to write their position memos. Model Diplomacy thus increases students interest and is also a good opportunity for them to familiarise themselves with a range of policy documents.
There are two questions that keep security personnel up at night: How will the next attacker breach our organization? And how well will we perform when it happens?
Usually, you find out the answers only after an incident happens. So how do you answer these questions before any damage is done, and how do you ensure that your incident response team can provide their best possible answer when called upon?
The answer is to gain what Matthew B. Caffrey, coordinator of wargaming at the Air Force Material Command, calls “synthetic experience.” By this he means simulating attacks within the context of a wargame. Running through scenarios that are expected to occur in the future and then going through the processes and practices to deal with them allows you and your staff to gain experience in how to respond to a crisis. When a real incident happens, they’ve already been through it many times before.