Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Recent simulation and gaming publications, August/September 2020

PAXsims is pleased to present a selection of recently-published items on simulation and serious gaming. Some of these may not address conflict, peacebuilding, or development issues at all, but have been included because of the broader perspective they offer on games-based education or analysis.

Articles may be gated/paywalled and not accessible without subscription access to the publication in which they appear.

A. David Abitbol, “Wargaming influence and information operations,” in United States Advisory Commissionon Public Diplomacy, Teaching Public Diplomacy and the Information Instruments of Power in a Complex Information Environment: Maintaining a Competitive Edge (August 2020).

Developing wargames to effectively model the information environment (IE), and information/influence operations (IO) therein, is challenging for two primary factors. First, conceptualizing the IE is typically difficult due to its complexity. Second, as a rule wargames must necessarily sacrifice some detail for the sake of economy and clarity so as not to overburden participants. This is problematic given that most military professionals have very little ingoing experience with and corresponding understanding of operations in the information environment. The IE wargame participant learning curve is steep.

Overcoming these hurdles and designing practical simulations is critical to improving familiarity of IO for policymakers and maneuver commanders alike. This paper summarizes the U.S. Army War College’s approach to wargaming and modeling information warfare (IW), which has been under my direction since 2018.1 I describe
our efforts to effectively model the IE, briefly summarize the relevant scientific literatures underpinning our methods, and then provide the major findings of our wargames within the Joint, Army, and Marine Corps communities.

E. M. Bartels, “Incorporating Gaming into Research Programs in International Relations: Repetition, Game Series, and Multi-Method Analysis,” American Political Science association annual conference, Sepetmber 2020.

Existing literature on the use of games to support research on international relations is largely disconnected from the academic literature on research design generally, and multi-method research design in particular. The majority of gaming literature currently comes out of the interdisciplinary practitioner community, who have generally been focused on pragmatic considerations. Popular works on game design often come out of the commercial gaming industry, where research considerations are not a core driver of design choices. Finally, works from international relations tend to focus on games as a teaching tool or on games as they have contributed to specific avenues of research. It is only recently that the use of games as a tool for research is being addressed as a subject of study it its own right within contemporary political science. As I have previously argued, this turn towards integrating games into the frameworks and concepts applied to other tools for social science research is critical to ensuring that the insights drawn from games are sound, as well as for making gaming as a tool more accessible to new researchers. This paper expands on previous work conceptualizing games within social science research design to discuss how games can be integrated into broader studies by exploring three approaches: repeated games, serial games, and games in multi-methods studies.

James L. Cavallaro and Meghna Sridhar, “Reducing Bias in Human Rights Fact-Finding: The Potential of the Clinical Simulation Model to Overcome Ethical, Practical, and Cultural Tensions in “Foreign” Contexts,” Human Rights Quarterly 42, 2 (May 2020).

This article considers the ethical tensions inherent in international human rights field documentation and proposes intensive, simulation model, pre-fieldwork training as a means of reducing the risk of insensitive encounters. The article evaluates the social, educational, class, racial, and other power imbalances between parties in the ordinary fact-finding process. After mapping pitfalls and challenges, it assesses the simulation training method and its potential to respond to the volatile dynamics of fact-finding. We conclude that the rigorous, three-day or week-long exercise, carried out in a controlled, supervised setting, holds potential to train future advocates to navigate power dynamics, challenges in intercultural engagement, and other communications barriers.

Stephen L. Dorton, LeeAnn R. Maryeski, Lauren Ogren, Ian T. Dykens, and Adam Main, “A Wargame-Augmented Knowledge Elicitation Method for the Agile Development of Novel Systems,” Systems 8, 27 (2020).

There are inherent difficulties in designing an effective Human–Machine Interface (HMI) for a first-of-its-kind system. Many leading cognitive research methods rely upon experts with prior experiences using the system and/or some type of existing mockups or working prototype of the HMI, and neither of these resources are available for such a new system. Further, these methods are time consuming and incompatible with more rapid and iterative systems development models (e.g., Agile/Scrum). To address these challenges, we developed a Wargame-Augmented Knowledge Elicitation (WAKE) method to identify information requirements and underlying assumptions in operator decision making concurrently with operational concepts. The developed WAKE method incorporates naturalistic observations of operator decision making in a wargaming scenario with freeze-probe queries and structured analytic techniques to identify and prioritize information requirements for a novel HMI. An overview of the method, required apparatus, and associated analytical techniques is provided. Outcomes, lessons learned, and topics for future research resulting from two different applications of the WAKE method are also discussed.

James Goodman, Sebastian Risi, Simon Lucas, AI and Wargaming (study for Dstl, nd, posted2020).

Recent progress in Game AI has demonstrated that given enough data from human gameplay, or experience gained via simulations, machines can rival or surpass even the most skilled human players in some of the most complex and tightly contested games. The question arises of how ready this AI is to be applied to wargames. This report provides a thorough answer to that question, summarised as follows.

Wargames come in a number of forms — to answer the question we first clarify which types we consider.

In order to relate types of wargames to the performance of AI agents on a number of well known games, such as Go and StarCraft, we provide the most comprehensive categorisation to date of the features of games that affect the difficulty for an AI (or human) player.

In the last few years some amazing results have been demonstrated using Deep RL (and Monte Carlo Tree Search) on games such as Go, StarCraft and Dota 2. We review the main architectures and training algorithms used, the level of effort involved (both engineering and computational) and highlight those which are most likely to transfer to wargames.

All the most impressive results require the AI to learn from a large number of game simula- tions. Access to a fast and copyable game engine/simulator also enables statistical forward planning algorithms such as Monte Carlo Tree Search and Rolling Horizon Evolution to be applied. These should be considered as they provide intelligent behaviour “out of the box” i.e. with no training needed, and can be combined with learning methods such as Deep RL to provide even more intelligent play.

Explainable decision making can be achieved to some extent via the visualisation of simula- tions, and by analysing neural network activation patterns to help explain the operation of Deep RL systems. Explainability is best seen as desirable rather than essential.

There is a strong need for a software framework tailored towards wargame AI. There are many examples of successful game AI frameworks, and how they can provide a significant boost to a research area. Whilst no existing one provides adequate support for wargames, we make clear recommendations on what is needed.

Chris Hillier, Analytical wargaming: Enabling operational readiness (Canadian Forces College, May 2019).

This paper will argue that the CAF should revitalize its wargaming capability, specifically focusing on a ‘force on force’ training philosophy that increases the potential for ‘training to failure’. This paper will focus on three areas that support this position. First, it will explore the philosophy that conflict is non-linear, and that dynamic interaction is essential in creating thinking leaders, capable of critical reflection and growth. Second, this paper will explore the US revitalization of analytical wargames, including the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) lessons learned as a possible case study. Finally, this paper will present potential CAF ‘force on force’ wargaming opportunities within live and simulated training. It must be noted that this paper should not be viewed as a criticism of the Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre (CADTC) or any other CAF training organization; it merely represents a training philosophy that could compliment CAF doctrine and current practices.

Jan Hodický , Dalibor Procházka, Fabian Baxa, Josef Melichar, Milan Krejcˇík, Petr Krˇížek, Petr Stodola, and Jan Drozd, “Computer Assisted Wargame for Military Capability-Based Planning,” Entropy 22, 861 (2020). 

Capability-based planning as an approach to defense planning is an almost infinitely complex engineered system with countless nodes and layers of interdependency, influenced by state and non-state diplomatic activities, information, military and economic actions creating secondary and third order effects. The main output of capability-based planning is the set of capability requirements needed to achieve the expected end-state. One revitalized qualitative technique that allows us to gain insights into unstructured and fuzzy problems in the military is wargaming—in its simplest form this involves manual wargaming. At the same time, there has been a push to bring computer assistance to such wargaming, especially to support umpire adjudication and move more generally towards full automation of human elements in wargames. However, computer assistance in wargaming should not be pushed, regardless of cost, towards quantitative techniques. The objective complexity of a problem often does not allow us to replicate the operational environment with the required fidelity to get credible experimental results. This paper discusses a discovery experiment aiming to verify the concept of applying a qualitative expert system within computer assisted wargaming for developing capability requirements in order to reduce umpire bias and risk associated with their decisions. The innovation here lies in applying system dynamics modelling and simulation paradigms when designing the theoretical model of capability development, which forms the core of the expert system. This new approach enables qualitative comparisons between different sets of proposed capability requirements. Moreover, the expert system allows us to reveal the effects of budget cuts on proposed capability requirement solutions, which the umpire was previously unable to articulate when comparing individual solutions by relying solely on his own knowledge. Players in the wargame validated the proposed concept and suggested how the study might be developed going forward: namely, by enabling users to define their own capabilities and not being limited by a predefined set of capabilities. 

Clifford Knopik, A Comparative Analysis of Video-Based Training and Game-Based Training on Information Security, doctoral dissertation, Colorado Technical University, September 2020.

Games are hypothesized to be an effective alternative for training than other methods. Prior research showed that learners often find training boring, and when they took training with games, they reported higher engagement, motivation, and a positive perception of the learning experience. The hypothesis for this study was that participants who take game-based information security awareness training would perform statistically significantly better than participants who took video-based training. One hundred participants were given a pretest and posttest with half of the participants using video-based information security awareness training, and the other participants using game-based information security awareness training. Conducting data analysis using IBM SPSS Statistics 24, it was discovered that the group receiving the video-based [games-based?] training performed significantly better on the posttest and had a higher mean score than the video-based training group. 

David Leece, “Training army officers in tactics,” United Service 71, 3 (September 2020).

The training of staff and regimental officers in common tactical doctrine (the ‘drills’) is essential to developing teamwork within formations, headquarters and units. But developing tactical thinking (the ‘skills’) is more difficult. A range of tools presented herein have been formulated by Western armies over two centuries to develop the skills and the drills separately and then merge them to create combat-ready formations.

Jeremiah McCall, “The Historical Problem Space Framework: Games as a Historical Medium,” Game Studies 20, 3 (September 2020).

Historical games need to be analyzed holistically as games rather than tasked to fulfill the functions of some other medium. The historical problem space (HPS) framework offers an approach to analyzing historical games more holistically as games rather than text, useful both for academic and educational historical analysis. It considers how all historical games present the past in terms of player agents with roles and goals that are contextualized within a virtual gameworld whose features enable and constrain player action. In response to this space, the player crafts strategies and makes choices. The purpose of this article is to provide a more detailed overview of the HPS framework and how it can be usefully employed to understand gamic histories. Ideally games scholars will be able to conduct their own analyses of historical games as historical problem spaces and educators use this framework to structure their classroom analyses of games.

Simon Miles, “The War Scare That Wasn’t: Able Archer 83 and the Myths of the Second Cold War,” Journal of Cold War Studies 22, 3 (Summer 2020).

Did the Cold War of the 1980s nearly turn hot? Much has been made of the November 1983 Able Archer 83 command-post exercise, which is often described as having nearly precipitated a nuclear war when paranoid Warsaw Pact policymakers suspected that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was using the exercise to launch a preemptive nuclear strike. This article challenges that narrative, using new evidence from the archives of the former Warsaw Pact countries. It shows that the much-touted intelligence effort to assess Western intentions and capabilities, Project RYaN, which supposedly triggered fears of a surprise attack, was nowhere near operational at the time of Able Archer 83. It also presents an account of the Pact’s sanguine observations of Able Archer 83. In doing so, it advances key debates in the historiography of the late Cold War pertaining to the stability and durability of the nuclear peace.

Vikram Mittal and Andrew Davidson, “Combining Wargaming With Modeling and Simulation to Project Future Military Technology Requirements,” IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, early access September 2020.

The rapid growth and widespread availability of technology has allowed enemies to dynamically develop countermeasures to military systems. Therefore, it is imperative that military systems be designed to account for these countermeasures. As such, technology roadmapping should be a critical activity in the acquisition of defense systems. Technology roadmaps provide a strategic vision for a system that accounts for the operational context, including evolving needs and technology changes. However, the operational context can be difficult to predict. This article suggests using wargaming coupled with combat simulation to better understand the operational context to allow for testing and refining technology roadmaps. Wargaming requires teams to roleplay friendly and enemy units to determine how each side adapts with the implementation of a new military system. Computer-based simulations can then convert the qualitative results from the wargame into quantitative metrics that further inform the roadmap. A case study is presented for a technology roadmap associated with an armored exoskeleton. Wargaming forecasted the countermeasures implemented by the enemy and the associated responses. The wargame results were coupled with models to quantitatively forecast the change in the warfighter’s survivability and lethality. The wargame was then used to inform the technology roadmap.

Max Nelson, “Battling on Boards: The Ancient Greek War Games of Ship-Battle (Naumachia) and City-State (Polis),” Mouseion 17, 1 (2020).

Only two distinct board games (and their variants) are firmly attested among Greeks in the Classical period (fifth to fourth centuries bc). The first, eventually known as “Ship-Battle” (ναυμαχία), is first attested in the seventh century bc and was played (ordinarily) with ten counters and a die on a board with five parallel lines or a circle of ten spots. The second, known usually as “City-State” (πόλις), is first attested in the fifth century bc and was played with sixty counters (and possibly a die) on a board with a grid of lines. These two games were the first war games in the West (if not the world), preceding Chess by a millennium.

Jan Oliver Schwarz, “Revisiting Scenario Planning and Business Wargaming From an Open Strategy Perspective,” World Futures Review, 12, 3 (2020).

The key aim of Open Strategy is to open up the process of strategy development to larger groups within and even outside an organization. Furthermore, Open Strategy aims to include broad groups of stakeholders in the various steps of the strategy process. The question at hand is how can Open Strategy be achieved? What approaches can be used? Scenario planning and business wargaming are approaches perceived as relevant tools in the field of strategy and strategic foresight and in the context of Open Strategy because of their participative nature. The aim of this article is to assess to what degree scenario planning and business wargaming can be used in the context of Open Strategy. While these approaches are suitable, their current application limits the number of potential participants. Further research and experimentation in practice with larger groups and/or online approaches, or a combination of both, are needed to explore the potential of scenario planning and business wargaming as tools for Open Strategy.

Abbie Tingstad, Yuna Huh Wong, Scott Savitz, “How Can the Coast Guard Use Gaming?” RAND Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center, September 2020.

Games are widely used to better understand and prepare for a diverse set of challenges. Gaming is a generic term for a suite of structured methodological approaches that can qualitatively (and occasionally reinforced using quantitative data) support decisionmaking in many contexts. What makes a game a game is interactive, rule-based problem solving that includes adjudication of outcomes. Games can be played in formal or more relaxed settings and be supported by different communication tools, such as printed media, whiteboards, digital devices, and applications. Gaming is often associated with the U.S. Department of Defense, but many types of organizations outside of defense—governmental, commercial, nonprofit, and academic—develop and use gaming to support decisionmaking or other functions. The U.S. Coast Guard employs some approaches—largely informally—that fall under the umbrella of gaming. Conducting gaming more formally could help the service expand its analytic, training, and engagement tool kits. In this Perspective, the authors discuss what more the service might do to employ gaming, and why. In particular, the authors highlight the idea of deployable gaming: a low-cost, scalable, structured scenario-based approach that can help gather information, aid decisionmaking, and promote learning at different echelons within the service.

Haseeb Ur Rehman Warrich, Sahrish Jamil, Fazal Rahim Khan, “Behavioral Escalation: Video Games as a Tool of Hybrid War,” Global Mass Communication Review 5, 1 (Winter 2020).

Gaming industry in its short span of around forty years has evolved from a hobby to a huge economic industry. However, undeniably, incredible advancement in video game graphics has allowed this virtual world to manipulate and escalate its consumer’s behavior. Violent video games, according to Professor Robert Sparrow, have long been used for political contestation and social unrest. The study serves to analyze behavioral escalation through video games. This study has used Ian Bogust’s Procedural Rhetoric as a methodology to analyze video games. The results showed that video games are persuasive interactive medium that escalate behavior and have great potential to be used as a tool of hybrid warfare. Louis Jones stated that propaganda and unconventional warfare is not a new thing, it dates back to Greeks when they left wooden horse at Troy. Colin Gray, military strategist, described the future warfare as similar to the historical one but with modern means of technology. The new virtual means of warfare have not altered the nature of warfare but have developed its new ways. Combat games are more realistic in sense of its enhanced graphics and presentation. This study points towards the great potential in video games to work as a tool for Hybrid war 

Jorit Wintjes, “Analogue wargames in the time of social distancing: The ‘Long-Distance Kriefsspiel’,” Mars & Clio, 31 July 2020.

[Excerpt] Now, after our last wargame had ended before anything meaningful had happened (the French, who in an 1883-invasion-scare scenario had to push towards the east, having captured Liverpool, had barely managed to get their army corps out of the city), there was little in the way of post-mortem to prepare. We therefore decided to explore ways of running a traditional wargame in a “virtual”, if you want, way. I should stress that we did not try to develop a computer game; our research work is focussed on the history of the Prussian Kriegsspiel, and what we wanted was basically a long-distance Kriegsspiel.

We eventually adapted Prussian rules from the mid-1870s, a time when the original Kriegsspiel rules were expanded to care for larger operations – for an operational Kriegsspiel and organized a real-time simulation running for 12 days, in which each day would represent one day of fighting on the ground. The participants formed two army HQs and gave out orders each night at around 00:00 via email to the umpires; the umpires then moved forces and decided over combat, reporting combat results, reconnaissance information etc back to the participants by 18:00 the following day via email. This allowed the participants – we ran the simulation with two teams of young Bundeswehr officers – to carry on with their real- worldly tasks during the day and to meet in the evening to discuss the events of the simulation. In order to add period flavour, to increase immersion and to create the need for the participants to gather information from different sources the events were accompanied by faux newspaper articles which we published on a website accompanying the simulation.

Junfeng Zhang and Xue Qing, “Actor–critic-based decision-making method for the artificial intelligence commander in tactical wargames,” Journal of Defense Modelling and Simulation, online first September 2020.

In a tactical wargame, the decisions of the artificial intelligence (AI) commander are critical to the final combat result. Due to the existence of fog-of-war, AI commanders are faced with unknown and invisible information on the battlefield and lack of understanding of the situation, and it is difficult to make appropriate tactical strategies. The traditional knowledge rule-based decision-making method lacks flexibility and autonomy. How to make flexible and autonomous decision-making when facing complex battlefield situations is a difficult problem. This paper aims to solve the decision-making problem of the AI commander by using the deep reinforcement learning (DRL) method. We develop a tactical wargame as the research environment, which contains built-in script AI and supports the machine–machine combat mode. On this basis, an end-to-end actor–critic framework for commander decision making based on the convolutional neural network is designed to represent the battlefield situation and the reinforcement learning method is used to try different tactical strategies. Finally, we carry out a combat experiment between a DRL-based agent and a rule-based agent in a jungle terrain scenario. The result shows that the AI commander who adopts the actor–critic method successfully learns how to get a higher score in the tactical wargame, and the DRL-based agent has a higher winning ratio than the rule-based agent.

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