PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Monthly Archives: October 2021

‘Third Nuclear Age’ project endorses the Derby House Principles

We are pleased to announce another research project has endorsed the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming—in this case, the Third Nuclear Age project at the University of Leicester.

The “Third Nuclear Age” research project is driven by the desire to provide the first systematic study of how disruptive technologies and renewed geopolitical rivalries are challenging and recasting the nature of nuclear risks and global nuclear order.  The project is designed to build global intellectual capacity and train the next generation of experts on this issue, utilise novel methodologies, including war-game simulations exercises, and will hopefully provide the centrepiece for a whole new generation of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work on nuclear affairs.  More detail on the project can be found at: https://thethirdnuclearage.com.  The work is funded by the European Research Council, grant number: 866155.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Sally Davis has put together a set of digital flashcards to support discussion of diversity and inclusion in the workplace—especially around the challenges that may be faced by LGBT+ colleagues. You will find it here.

Click the card to get more information on the possible challenges. Click “deal new cards” to generate a new combination. Use a browser other than Safari for best results.

CNAS: Wargaming Chinese seizure of Taiwanese islands

The Centre for New American Security has just released a new report, which examines what might happen were China to seize outlying Taiwanese islands:

How could Taiwan and the United States respond if China seized one of Taiwan’s outlying islands, such as Pratas/Dongsha (hereafter Dongsha) in the South China Sea? Whereas the U.S. national security community has focused on defending Taiwan against Chinese invasion, China’s recent military activities suggest that this kind of coercion and limited aggression might be an equally urgent question. More worryingly, such a scenario could be a prelude or pathway to war involving China, Taiwan, and the United States.

To explore potential policy and strategy options to prevent such a calamity, the Gaming Lab at CNAS wargamed this scenario with Taiwanese, American, and regional experts. Worryingly, the game found few credible options for pushing China to abandon Dongsha and return to the status quo. However, the game found numerous areas where preparation and multilateral coordination—particularly in concert with Japan—could deter limited Chinese aggression against Taiwan. 

During the game, the teams representing the United States and Taiwan struggled to compel a Chinese withdrawal from Dongsha without escalating the crisis. The team representing China avoided further escalation given its first-mover advantage, constrained territorial gains, and geographic proximity. In contrast, the U.S. team had to push its forces far forward in ways that were risky and would be difficult to sustain.1 Punitive non-military options, such as economic sanctions or information campaigns, took too long to produce effects and appeared too weak to compel China to abandon its gains.2 More aggressive military responses risked escalation to war, which both the U.S. and Taiwan teams wished to avoid. With few viable coercive options and the onus of escalation falling on the U.S. and Taiwan teams, the game reaffirmed the difficulty of rolling back territorial aggression of this kind. 

Indeed, discouraging China from seizing Taiwanese territory before it happens is the most salient lesson of the game. The United States and Taiwan must begin coordinating today to build a credible deterrent against limited Chinese aggression or coercion toward Taiwan.3Doing so will help identify ways to make a territorial fait accompli by China—such as the seizure of Dongsha—too unpalatable to consider, while also communicating the U.S. commitment to defending Taiwan. This strategy will require advance planning and communication of joint responses and defenses against coercion and territorial aggression. Rather than scrambling to respond to a fait accompli, as occurred in this game, the United States and Taiwan should prepare to implement coordinated, whole-of-government deterrent measures quickly and ensure immediate consequences for Chinese coercion or aggression short of war.

The methodology used for the game is briefly described in the report:

Players consisted of multinational defense and policy experts as well as subject matter experts. These players comprised three teams: the Blue Team, representing the United States; the Green Team, representing Taiwan; and the White Cell/Red Team, which combined China experts, the adjudicators, and other important international actors. The game consisted of three moves over the course of two three-hour sessions. Each move required all teams to take at least one diplomatic, military, information, and economic action. Players were free to take any reasonable action, but they had to explain why they had chosen one specific action over another and what they expected the outcomes of each action to be. Although the teams were given objectives to prioritize, they had freedom to build and determine their actions. The three teams were divided into separate virtual rooms but encouraged to coordinate with one another as desired.

You will find a link to the full report here.

Commenting on the report, the Washington Post writes:

Chris Dougherty, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said U.S. officials have scrutinized what a full Chinese invasion of Taiwan might look like. For this exercise, he and his colleagues wanted to examine a scenario that was on a magnitude similar to Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Dougherty, a former Army Ranger who served as a strategic adviser in the Pentagon for four years spanning the Obama and Trump administrations, said that seizing the land — also known as the Dongsha islands — would allow China to gauge the reaction of the international community. China’s status as an economic power, he said, makes it difficult for the United States to sanction Beijing on an open-ended basis.

“You either can play the game of the chicken and you can say, ‘I’m willing to get into a contest of risk-taking with you over Dongsha,’ which — let’s be honest — I don’t know that we are. Or, you can do this pillow-fighting policy, and you’re going to hit them, but not hard enough to deter them from doing what you want them to do,” Dougherty said.

The war game found that the best option was warning the Chinese ahead of time of consequences they would face for moving on the islands, with Japan playing a significant role, the report says.

“The U.S. and Taiwan teams made repeated inquiries about Japan’s position, suggesting that without Japan’s backing, the U.S. and Taiwanese negotiating position was weakened,” the report said. “In a potential conflict, a lack of unambiguous Japanese support for Taiwan in this context would undermine efforts to urge Chinese withdrawal and could set a precedent for future unchecked Chinese aggression in other territorial disputes, including those over Japanese territory, such as the Senkaku Islands.”

Archipelago of Design endorses the Derby House Principles

The Archipelago of Design is the latest group of wargaming professionals to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion:

The Archipelago of Design believes in inclusive leadership and the value of mobilizing the widest diversity of frames and identities for designing novel approaches to security challenges. We strongly support the Derby House Principles in our efforts to develop serious games that advances design mindsets in defence and security organisations of NATO members and partners. Diversity and inclusion is critical for designing games that resonate with a broader range of  security professionals and champion inclusive leadership in their organisations. We wholeheartedly encourage our partners to endorse the Derby House Principles and support this noble cause in their wargaming and serious game efforts. 

A well-deserved honour

If you’re part of a professional wargaming organization who would like to support the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion, let us know!

King’s Wargaming Network recruiting graduate students for analyst training

The King’s Wargaming Network is recruiting graduate students for its annual Analyst Training for Analytical Wargaming Programme:

The programme provides King’s students with an opportunity to support King’s researchers in the execution of wargames for research purposes.

The programme is now in its sixth year and is highly competitive. Analysts will support a PhD research project examining US Army doctrinal development practices for current and near-future warfighting. The project is led by Anna Nettleship.

If selected, you will:

Receive 8 hours over 4 sessions of practical training in wargame testing, data collection and analysis

Engage with cutting-edge methods and research

Support the in-person or remote execution of a strategic analytical wargame

Network with peers and wargaming experts

Applications are due no later than 25 October 2021. If interested, please fill out an application here

Wargaming positions

The Net Technical Assessment Group at SPA (Systems Planning and Analysis) is looking for a senior wargaming lead.

SPA seeks a passionate and dedicated wargame professional with a demonstrated record of success in dynamic, high-impact environments to support a rapidly growing project. The individual will support a cross-functional, high-performance team designing wargames, planning classified and unclassified events, and executing analytic wargames and workshops. Relevant tasks include conducting research, developing scenarios, generating reporting products, briefing Senior decision makers, and providing clear and concise status updates of current or future efforts to leadership. Candidates can expect to work with government customers to define objectives. Candidates can expect to manage multiple tasks concurrently, often with constrained timelines. Tasks may be aligned to the individual’s expertise and interests but will often require individuals to rapidly learn and apply new knowledge and skills. Successful candidates will quickly be rewarded with leadership opportunities and direct engagement with external clients and stakeholders. 

A Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field and 7 – 15 years of relevant national security experience is required, as well experience supporting the design, development, planning facilitating, and reporting of wargames, exercises, experiments, seminars, simulations, workshops, or other similar events and an active DoD Secret security clearance. A Master’s degree is desirable, as is experience in developing multi-step analytic projects or reports; expert knowledge of modern military operations; asssessing the operational impact of planned or conceptual weapon systems; and/or developing warfighting scenarios to support analysis. A full description of the position and and a link to the job application can be found at the SPA website.


The US Department of Defense (Force Structure, Resource and Assessment (J8), Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) is seeking a strategic wargaming analyst.

This position is part of the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The incumbent will be responsible for developing, maintaining, supporting and producing multiple, timely analytic products and wargame events related to defense strategy, national security policy, and force development.

As a STRATEGIC WARGAMING ANALYST at the GS-0301-14 some of your typical work assignments may include:

Designs, develops, executes, and facilitates war games; analyzes event results and develops key insights and observations. Recommends changes to war games based on studies and analyses that are conducted post-event.

Prepares all wargame materials, interfaces with the game sponsor and participants in the execution of the game and analyzes game results.

Prepares final reports and briefings for division leadership and senior 4-star and civilian equivalent officials.

The closing date is 25 October 2021. Full details can be found at USAJOBS.

Zenobia Award winners announced

The winners of the Zenobia Award have been announced!

Historical board games are enjoyed by people from all walks of life, but their designers are predominately white men. The Zenobia Award hopes to change this by encouraging game submissions by people from marginalized groups.

The Zenobia Award is not an ordinary design award. Promising applicants will receive mentorship on their designs from established industry designers, and the winners will receive help navigating the game publication process in addition to a cash prize.

Contestants must belong to an underrepresented group, including women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people. A design team prominently including members of these groups also may enter. 

The winning game design is Tyranny of Blood, by designer Akar Bharadvaj.

Second place went to Winter Rabbit, designed by Will Thompson.

Third place went to Wiñay Kawsay, by Alison Collins.

In the video below, Harold Buchanan and Volko Ruhnke announce the winners.

As a member of the Zenobia board, I can say it was very close and there were many terrific entries. If you’re a game publisher who might be interested in publishing one of these, check out the forty-six games that made it to the second round, as well as the eight Zenobia finalists and two honourable mentions.

GAC endorses the Derby House Principles

We are pleased to announce that Global Affairs Canada is the latest organization to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

For more information on strategic gaming and Canadian foreign policy, contact Madeline Johnson (GAC Strategic Gaming Specialist).

GWUSCS: Ruined Tempest

The George Washington University Strategic Crisis Simulations will be holding a (in-person) crisis simulation on 16 October 2021 at GWU.

In partnership with the Elliott School’s Leadership, Ethics, and Practice Initiative, GWUSCS presents our first simulation of the 2021-22 academic year! Ruined Tempest will take place on Saturday, October 16th, 2021 from 12 PM EST to 5 PM EST in Funger Hall.

After a cyclone strikes Sri Lanka, leaving vital infrastructure destroyed and thousands displaced, the nation is left to pick up the pieces and begin the process of rebuilding. However, with competing influences from abroad, Sri Lanka finds itself at a crossroads. Does it continue its partnership with China, looking to the East for investments in crucial roads and ports, or does it instead turn to the United States, which has long sought to secure the movement of its navy through the Indian Ocean? At the same time, how will Sri Lanka tackle rising internal ethnic tensions as destroyed communities and refugee camps once again fester into civil strife?

Further information and registration can be found here. Note that if If you are NOT a GWU Student who is registered with GWU on campus you MUST register yourself as a visitor—you will find the procedure for this on the registration page.

If you are interested in being a mentor for this simulation, please contact Ryan Li, Vice President of Programming at ryan_li@gwu.edu.

Forthcoming GUWS seminars

There’s always so much going on at the Georgetown University Wargaming Society that we can’t keep up! Here are a couple of their forthcoming events that might be of interest to PAXsims readers.


October 12: Going to the Ground: Virtual Games at the Canadian Forces College (1800-2100 ET)

This talk will discuss the crash development, execution, and maturation of a robust virtual wargaming program at Canadian Forces College (CFC) as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. CFC took the last part of its 2019-2020, the entirety of its 2020-2021, and much of its 2021-2022 academic years fully online as a result of the pandemic, and virtually-executed wargaming emerged as an important new way to allow students, teachers, and directing staff to undertake active learning despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Robert C. Engen is an assistant professor at the Canadian Forces College (CFC), Canada’s senior professional military education institute. He is the Deputy Director of the Department of Military Planning and Operations at CFC, holds primary responsibility for wargame development and execution at the college, and teaches a wargame design course. He is the author of three books on combat motivation, has a forthcoming two-volume series on force health protection and disease prevention, and is the official regimental historian of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI). He is also the author of the Canadian Land Warfare Centre’s forthcoming fictional novella of future warfare, Crisis in Baltika.

Register here.


October 19: Brain Matters in Wargaming (1800-2100 ET)

Our brains are changing, or so neuroscientists say – in part due to reliance on technology. As scientists work to develop a deeper understanding of these changes, other important trends continue to reveal the need for more inclusive approaches to learning as the definition and identification of neurodivergent learners grow, signaling an important call to action for educators and instructors across disciplines including national security and defense.

In this session, Lauren will share important trends in cognition, key observations and questions around how changing brains will continue to challenge outmoded learning models, and notable developments. In addition, Lauren will discuss how wargaming already includes promising approaches to maximizing engagement of all learners, but also identify areas for potential advancement in wargaming to build a more inclusive and dynamic learning environment for a future national security workforce. 

Lauren Buitta is founder and CEO of Girl Security. Lauren began her career in national security in Chicago, IL in 2003 as a policy analyst with the National Strategy Forum, a nonpartisan national security think tank. In 2009 while attending law school, Lauren launched her consulting firm, Stele Consulting, where she worked on local policy issues related to exclusionary zoning policies and racial discrimination. In 2016, Lauren recognized both the continued underrepresentation of women in national security and the need for a more intersectional approach to security. In response, she launched Girl Security – the only organization dedicated to preparing girls, women, and gender minorities for national security. Lauren is a former Fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2003), Truman National Security Project (2006), American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security (2012) and Chicago Council on Global Affairs (2017). She has authored articles, reports and book chapters on national security, foreign policy, and public policy. Lauren was recently named one of “50 Women Making the World a Better Place” by Instyle Magazine and is the recipient of the 2021 21st Century Leader Award by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.

Register here.


For previous GUWS seminars, see their YouTube channel.

Using serious games to improve police response to emergencies

Glen Mills, a Lieutenant in the Burlington (MA) Police Department, has written PAXsims to ask about the use of simulation and games to improve police response to emergency situations and disasters. He notes:

I think that police are lagging behind fire services in the real world use of incident command and I feel that there must be more effective ways to make training in this area more interesting, engaging and useful. Ideas around wargames, serious games, simulations, etc. could be very helpful in this regard

If you work in policing, public safety, or emergency response, why not drop him an email and share ideas?

US Army Fight Club: Battle for Moscow showdown

US Army Fight Club and Army University will be hosting their first virtual showdown: a Battle for Moscow tournament, via Discord and VASSAL.

The event will take place on Saturday, 16 October 2021 from 0900 (EDT) until complete (likely all day).

Full details are available from MAJ Wayne McInnis (Directorate of Simulation Education (DSE), Army University and Command and General Staff College). Please RSVP (individual player or team) no later than Saturday, 09 October 2021.

h/t James Sterrett

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