For those of you who missed the Connections North professional (war)gaming conference back in February, we are pleased to finally present the videos from that event. All of the conference presentations are included, except three (either to the speaker’s organization declining approval, or in one case me forgetting to hit “record” in a timely fashion). The question and answer sessions are NOT included.
Canada Gaming Update
Discussion of professional wargaming and policy gaming in Canada, featuring presentations by Scott Roach (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre), Murray Dixson (Defence Research and Development Canada) , Scott Jenkinson (Australian Army), Michael Donohue (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Cole Petersen (Vaccine Rollout Task Force/Canadian Armed Forces). Presentation by Madeline Johnson (Global Affairs Canada) not included. Chaired by Rex Brynen (McGill University).
Designing Assassin’s Mace and ZAPAD
Keynote presentation by Col Tim Barrack (US Marine Corp Wargaming Lab).
Wargaming in small defence communities
Panel on “wargaming in smaller defence communities,” with presentations by David Redpath (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre) and Sue Collins (NATO ACT), chaired by Ben Taylor (DRDC). Presentation by Anja van der Hulst (TNO) not included.
Gaming in the humanitarian and development sector
resentations on “Gaming in the humanitarian and development sector,” COVID-19″ by Amanda Warner (consultant), Gautham Krishnaraj (Laval SimEx), and James Maltby (Save the Children UK). Presentation by Matt Stevens (Lessons Learned Simulation and Training) not included due to recording error, although slides can be found here:
Presentations on “Distributed Gaming” by Pete Pellegrino (US Naval War College), Louise Hoehl (NATO), and Emily Robinson (Defence Research and Development Canada), chaired by Tom Fisher (Imaginetic).
So long and thanks for all the fish (gaming fisheries conservation)
Presentations on “So long and thanks for all the fish” (gaming fisheries conservation) by Ben Taylor (Defence Research and Development Canada).
Gaming the Arctic
Presentations on “Gaming the Arctic” by Stephen Aguilar-Millan (European Future Observatory) and Vårin Alme (FFI), chaired by Rex Brynen (McGill University).
Using games for command decision support
Iain McNeil (CEO Slitherine Software and Matrix Games) discusses on “Using Wargames for Command Decision Support.”
Hybrid warfare in the time of COVID-19
Presentation on “Gaming hybrid warfare in the age of COVID-19” by LCol Ronnie Michel (German Army) and Shiho Rybski (European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats), chaired by Ben Taylor (DRDC).
Diversity and inclusion in professional (war)gaming
The Simulation and Wargaming Standing Study Group of SISO invite you to join them for a talk and discussion by Jon Compton
TITLE: Analytical Architecture that Includes Wargaming for Decision Makers
SPEAKER: Jon Compton
ABSTRACT: Wargames are conducted for purposes of education and training, concept exploration or development, or sometimes done to raise awareness about certain issues or concepts. Within OSD, however, the style of wargame required is referred to as Analytical Wargaming, and is nested with other analytical or Operations Research techniques to generate contextualized knowledge and recommendations for leadership. Jon will present and discuss the process he has used to design, run and analyze analytic wargames in support of senior decision makers faced with serious national security related problems.
Meeting ID: 889 2919 6057 Passcode: Wargaming One tap mobile +16465588656,,88929196057#,,,,*716224941# US (New York) +13017158592,,88929196057#,,,,*716224941# US (Washington DC) Dial by your location +1 646 558 8656 US (New York) +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC) +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose) +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma) +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) Meeting ID: 889 2919 6057 Passcode: 716224941
SPEAKER BIO: Jon Compton began his professional career in heavy construction at age 15. By age 25 he was operations director at a structural precast heavy construction firm, and was responsible for the manufacture and construction of such projects as the J. Paul Getty Center Parking Garage, the Bridge Over Verdugo Wash, and the Kaiser Permanente Parking Garage, all in Southern California. During this period he also earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in music composition, the other in communications. In 1995 Compton retired from the construction industry and pursued IT. Beginning as an HTML developer in 1996, by 2001 he was the senior project manager for Realtor.com’s internal business systems in Thousand Oaks, CA. Shortly after 9/11 2001, Compton left IT and returned to school, earning a master’s degree in international relations and a Ph.D. in World Politics and Formal Mathematical Methods (as well as completing all Ph.D. level coursework in Economics). In 2009, Dr. Compton moved to the Washington DC area and joined Booz Allen Hamilton’s Modeling, Simulation, Wargaming, and Analysis shop under Mark Herman. During that tenure, Compton wrote numerous proprietary white papers on subjects ranging from non-state actor violence to creating a new theoretical framework for modeling warfare. He also designed and developed wargames for various clients, to include AFRL, NDU, ONA, and OSD. Compton was a Booz Allen contractor in OSD/CAPE/SAC from 2012 until Spring of 2016 when he joined CAPE as a civilian employee. Dr. Compton has numerous commercial wargame publications as designer, developer, and producer. He has also been editor of the commercial print publications Fire and Movement Magazine and CounterFact Magazine, and has also served as associate editor of the academic journal International Interactions. In addition to his professional life, Dr. Compton has led an active life in music, having studied with such composers as Philip Glass and George Crumb, and having composed numerous pieces for various instruments as well as one symphony.
PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Aaron Danis and David Redpath suggested items for this latest edition.
The American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and War on the Rocks have created a Defense Futures Simulator:
The Defense Futures Simulator will allow users to see how various defense strategies and choices would alter the Defense Department budget. A sophisticated data science algorithm will enable users to first decide whether they want to adjust the current strategy. For example, some users may focus on great-power competition, while others may prioritize counter-insurgency and counterterrorism. They will then be able to select a certain budget level or choose to work with an unconstrained budget. Once these inputs are finalized, the simulator will use the algorithm to reflect how the user’s strategic preferences and budget constraints might change the US military’s size, composition, and capabilities.
The Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center is planned to open in summer 2023. The site is next to the Marine Corps University where mid-career and senior office and enlisted Marines attend.
That proximity means that planners can bring in Marines who are coming from the fleet to participate in planning or experiments and to provide feedback.
The center gives planners a way to run through everything from equipment strengths and weaknesses to entire campaign plans using existing capabilities and tactics or mid- to long-term anticipating capabilities.
Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab commander, told Marine Corps Times in an email statement that as the Corps works on concept development, experiments and exercises in the fleet both the positive and negative feedback will be sent to the wargaming center.
“Young Marines will see the benefit of expanded channels for feedback,” Watson said. “In the end, this will allow the Marine Corps to iteratively learn and continuously improve our organizational and capability investment decisions, ensuring that our plans and investments don’t just look good on paper, but are underpinned by rigorous wargaming and analysis.”
The U.S. Air Force repelled a Chinese invasion of Taiwan during a massive war game last fall by relying on drones acting as a sensing grid, an advanced sixth-generation fighter jet able to penetrate the most contested environments, cargo planes dropping pallets of guided munitions and other novel technologies yet unseen on the modern battlefield.
But the service’s success was ultimately pyrrhic. After much loss of life and equipment, the U.S. military was able to prevent a total takeover of Taiwan by confining Chinese forces to a single area.
Furthermore, the air force that fought in the simulated conflict isn’t one that exists today, nor is it one the service is seemingly on a path to realize. While legacy planes like the B-52 bomber and newer ones like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter played a role, many key technologies featured during the exercise are not in production or even planned for development by the service.
Still, the outcome was a marked improvement to similar war games held over the last two years, which ended in catastrophic losses. The Air Force’s performance this fall offers a clearer vision of what mix of aircraft, drones, networks and other weapons systems it will need in the next decade if it hopes to beat China in a potential war. Some of those items could influence fiscal 2023 budget deliberations.
Join our global community of developers, educators, students, and researchers virtually to ignite our imaginations about how games and immersive media can help us realize the potential of the years ahead and address our collective challenges: achieving equity and social justice, ensuring a thriving planet, and regaining a sense of security.
Three days of live-streamed talks, panels, and special announcements from the G4C and XR for Change communities
A series of round table discussions geared toward professional knowledge-sharing
An interactive virtual Expo featuring games, XR experiences, sponsors, and G4C programs.
The XR Immersive Arcade highlighting the newest emerging XR experiences for social impact
The Games for Change Awards Ceremony and G4C Awards Showcase celebrating the 2021 G4C Awards finalists!
Discord permits text, voice, and video communication. I deliberately chose not to use its videoconferencing capability and none of the students used it either. We communicated with each other solely through text messages. I believe this enhanced rather than degraded the experience in comparison to Webex — no black boxes instead of faces, and no interrupted video or audio because of low-bandwidth internet connections. A user interface that facilitates text communication also means Discord is suitable for running a simulation like Gerkhania asynchronously rather synchronously, something that isn’t realistic with video-based platforms.
My use of Discord also meant that students automatically had a complete record of the simulation’s events that they could reference for the final exam. I did not have to take any additional steps, like create and share a recording, for the class to have a history of what had transpired.
In early March, three students in Professor Aaron Danis’ Counterterrorism and the Democracies course at the Institute for World Politics (IWP 669) recreated the initial rise of the now largely-defunct Peruvian insurgent and terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, using a digital version of Brian Train’s wargame Shining Path. An account of their experience can be found here.
The Winter 2021 newletter of the US Naval Postgraduate School’s Naval Warfare Studies Institute Wargaming Center was published last month, with updates on recent wargames and related activities.
The Reacting to the Past consortium is planning a “Summer of Reacting,” with Part 1 to be held in June.
The board and administration of the Reacting Consortium have decided to offer a variety of games over the course of thesummer, allowing faculty around the country (and the world) the opportunity to play multiple games, and to experiencethe Reacting pedagogy online. Our hope is that by providing a broad array of games and methods for using them, facultywill be able to plan more effectively and confidently for the coming academic year, no matter the circumstances.
This summer includes three conference periods: Summer of Reacting – Part I (June) Game Development Conference (early July) Summer of Reacting – Part II (late July – mid August)
The Reacting Consortium is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging. These values inform ourwork to foster an accessible community, our approach to game development, and our determination to contend with “bigideas.” Thanks to our Fundraising Committee and the generosity of our community, we have reserved a few fundedspots in the Summer of Reacting for instructors who are teaching at minority serving institutions (HBCUs, TribalColleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, etc).
Join us FREE via Zoom for the Imaginetic Game Club! Play or observe as we test, discuss, and play through various games with a serious bent. Get ideas from like-minded players and budding designers, all for FREE!
follows the journey of a migrant from Latin America as they cross through Mexico to the US border. Along their travels, they encounter real-life scenarios such as altercations, police checks, and robbery, all while trying to mitigate the risks of boarding trains and supporting their dependents. While the journey is long, and the path is winding, the American Dream lies just beyond the fence. Will they make it and find success across the border? Or will they get trapped in an ever circulating motion of deportation and secondary attempts? Grab your backpack, it’s time to go.
Join us May 19th 7pm (EDT, UTC-4) for the public reveal of Undocumented. Meet the student-creators as you navigate the hazards as a migrant in this game born in Rex Brynen’s Conflict Simulation course. Will you have what it takes to make your dreams come true?
The year is 1775. The American colonies are outraged over new taxes imposed upon them by Great Britain. They begin to stockpile arms and organize militia. On April 19th, militia members ambush a column of 700 British Redcoats ordered to seize stockpiled arms. 273 British soldiers are killed or wounded before they reach safety in Boston. The American Revolution has begun!
Player slots are limited and assigned on a first-come first served basis, so sign up quickly before player slots are filled.
Imaginetic Game Club is a FREE game showcase where like-minded serious games players, designers, developers, and interested parties can come together, play a game, discuss serious games, and have some fun.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the value of serious gaming for supporting health sector preparedness and government policy response. Indeed, in my own case, during the past year I have found myself designing games on pandemic-related food security issues, working with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Department of National Defence in red teaming Canada’s national vaccine roll-out plans (including a major national tabletop exercise), and I’m currently working with the READY Initiative on digital games-based training for epidemic disease preparedness and response in the humanitarian sector.
All of that is to say that I wish Roll to Save: Gaming Disease Response had been published a year ago, because it is a very useful resource indeed for anyone working in this area. Some of the chapters address general design issues, including the value of serious games; gaming at the strategic (policy), operational, and “tactical” levels of disease response; and important considerations in professional game design. Other chapters discuss particular game designs, addressing topics as wide-ranging as vaccination/prophylaxis; bioterrorism (anthrax, melioidosis); particular epidemic outbreak scenarios (ebola); mental health support; and pandemic recovery (COVID-X). It also contains brief chapters discussing some of the basics of infectious diseases, epidemiology, public health planning, outbreak investigation, and the importance of information, politics, and the media. My only disappointment was the bibliography, which lists some of the sources cited in the book but which doesn’t provide a wider reference to the substantial literature on medical and emergency preparedness gaming.
Above and beyond the very considerable value of this publication for those designing disease response games, it also stands as an excellent example of how serious gaming should be undertaken. McGrady not only has extensive experience in designing and implementing serious games on a wide range of national security and policy issues, but also has keen insight into what works in what context. He thus underscores the importance of designing a game around not only the topic, but equally the game objectives, available resources, participants, and client/sponsors.
At the Modern War Institute (West Point), Susan Bryant and Tom Nagle have written an excellent article on “wargaming for the new great game.” In it, they explore the challenges of wargaming irregular warfare, highlighting common shortcomings and suggesting some very useful best practices.
Specifically they identify “four keys to better wargames”:
Focus on the Narratives
In irregular warfare, narratives carry the day. Narratives describe how individuals experience the world around them and then communicate that information to others. The Department of Defense has enormous blind spots in understanding how adversaries interpret our actions and spin new counternarratives.
Each party to a conflict comes with its own narratives. Robert Rubel, who chaired the Naval War College’s Wargaming Department, notes that participants routinely fail to connect the political and military aspects of the game. Unfortunately, this often results in unnecessary and costly escalations.
Plentiful Parties and Overlapping Objectives
Irregular warfare wargaming requires more robust, skeptical third-party teams with knowledge of political warfare and narratives. In traditional wargames of conventional conflicts, enemy and friendly forces fight over discrete objectives with minimal third-party engagement. However, in irregular warfare scenarios, third parties’ interpretations of friendly and enemy actions may decide the conflicts. Further, many parties simply defy these categories.
The Syrian Civil War provides an example of the complex array of actors involved in IW. To secure its interests, Russia must support the regime of Bashar al-Assad, defuse friction with Turkey, partner with Iran, defeat ISIS, and isolate the United States. No wargame could responsibly model the Syrian conflict without these and other players competing and seeking to advance their own objectives.
Unfortunately, US wargames understate the complexity of these types of situations. Once third-party players begin to outnumber friendly and enemy players, the games will begin to represent IW’s complexity. Attempts to accomplish this type of wargaming are nascent, but they do exist. The work done by Lieutenant Colonel Arnel David and Dr. John De Rosa on gaming narratives in the Baltics provides an example of what this type of approach would entail.
Whole-of-Government cannot be Controlled by the Military
Wargames are too military-centric. While the military aspires to a whole-of-government solution to population-centric conflicts, wargames rarely reflect this aspiration. Too often, the military assumes a degree of latitude not representative of real-world constraints. Expanding interagency and coalition teams in wargaming is one way to ensure more instruments of national power are realistically incorporated, rather than simply assumed.
Games Should Seek a Position of Continuing Advantage
Successful strategies in an actual irregular warfare conflict create conditions favoring long-term success, rather than the achievement of discrete military objectives. Irregular warfare–oriented games should employ an approach tailored to the scenario and avoid an emphasis on specific, traditional military outcomes. Though military objectives will still play a role, the use of the military instrument must be fully integrated with other activities intended to create favorable conditions for successful military actions.
They conclude by noting that addressing the challenge of irregular warfare is difficult, in part because of institutional inertia and the difficulty of promoting truly innovative thought.
Replicating IW is hard. As compared to conventional conflicts, IW campaigns will often play out over months and years. Fortunately, new wargaming tools offer promise to unlock new IW concepts and shift perceptions of IW. These tools can take many forms: for example, planning wargames as asynchronous, multiday events would leverage the time between turns to stimulate creativity and new IW concepts. Similarly, transitioning to a virtual format for some types of wargames not only can add more nuance to the scenario, but can make participation more accessible to tactical and operational decision makers across the force who may not normally have the opportunity to engage in these exercises. Increasing distributed, scalable, and easily manipulated irregular warfare wargames both for the operational force and at all levels of military education will not only promulgate new concepts and shift mindsets about irregular warfare, but will better prepare the entire defense apparatus to approach the contemporary security environment in dynamic and innovative ways.
The organizers of the Connections US professional wargaming conference have issued a call for proposals for their “game lab” sessions. If you wish to proposal a topic for discussion, USE THIS LINK (since the ones in the image below won’t work here).
As noted above, the deadline for proposals is May 30.
On May 13, UK Fight Club will be hosting a webinar on wargaming peace, stabilization, and counterinsurgency operations, featuring none other than me. The session starts at 20:00 BST, and you can sign up here.