Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Monthly Archives: December 2021

Simulation and gaming publications, September-December 2021

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. Others might address “gaming-adjacent” issues such as group dynamics and decision-making, assessment, forecasting, or related topics. If you have published something recently and we haven’t yet included it, let us know!

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

Brown, Patrick. “Flights of Fancy: The Kriegsspiel and the Cinema in Weimar Germany,German Studies Review 44, 3 (October 2021).

No abstract available.

De Fio, Marzio. “Overcoming Complexity of (Cyber)War: The Logic of Useful Fiction in Cyber Exercises Scenarios,” CEUR Workshop Proceedings 2940, 2020.

The paper is an attempt to analyze the logic and the impact of “useful fiction” (or “fictional intelligence”) in cyber exercises scenarios as an approach to prepare for future conflicts. Cyberspace increased the complexity of war phenomenon with its characteristics of artificiality, plasticity, and uncertainty. To overcome this complexity, cyber warriors need to adapt to everchanging scenarios. In this view, the development of a new epistemology of wargaming and cyber exercises could provide a deeper understanding of war and, thus, enhance the capability to cope with this instability. In this framework, fictional intelligence would enrich the research of (un)imaginable phenomena to prevent future threats.

Ackerman, Gary, and Clifford, Douglas. “Red Teaming and Crisis Preparedness,” Oxford Dictionary of Politics, 2021.

Simulations are an important component of crisis preparedness, because they allow for training responders and testing plans in advance of a crisis materializing. However, traditional simulations can all too easily fall prey to a range of cognitive and organizational distortions that tend to reduce their efficacy. These shortcomings become even more problematic in the increasingly complex, highly dynamic crisis environment of the early 21st century. This situation calls for the incorporation of alternative approaches to crisis simulation, ones that by design incorporate multiple perspectives and explicit challenges to the status quo.

As a distinct approach to formulating, conducting, and analyzing simulations and exercises, the central distinguishing feature of red teaming is the simulation of adversaries or competitors (or at least adopting an adversarial perspective). In this respect, red teaming can be viewed as practices that simulate adversary or adversarial decisions or behaviors, where the purpose is informing or improving defensive capabilities, and outputs are measured. Red teaming, according to this definition, significantly overlaps with but does not directly correspond to related activities such as wargaming, alternative analysis, and risk assessment.

Some of the more important additional benefits provided by red teaming include the following:

▪ The explicit recognition and amelioration of several cognitive biases and other critical thinking shortfalls displayed by crisis decision makers and managers in both their planning processes and their decision-making during a crisis.

▪ The ability to robustly test existing standard operating procedures and plans at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels against emerging threats and hazards by exposing them to the machinations of adaptive, creative adversaries and other potentially problematic actors.

▪ Instilling more flexible, adaptive, and in-depth sense-making and decision-making skills in crisis response personnel at all levels by focusing the training aspects of simulations on iterated, evolving scenarios with high degrees of realism, unpredictability through exploration of nth-order effects, and multiple stakeholders.

▪ The identification of new vulnerabilities, opportunities, and risks that might otherwise remain hidden if relying on traditional, nonadversarial simulation approaches.

Key guidance in conducting red teaming in the crisis preparedness context includes avoiding mirror imaging, having clear objectives and simulation parameters, remaining independent of the organizational unit being served, judicious application in terms of the frequency of red teaming, and the proper recording and presentation of red-teaming simulation outputs. Overall, red teaming—as a specific species of simulation—holds much promise for enhancing crisis preparedness and the crucial decision-making that attends a variety of emerging issues in the crisis management context.

Britt, Kyle. Operation Swift Withdrawal: A Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (Neo) Wargame. MSc thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, June 2021.

As the contemporary operational environment shifts, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) will be increasingly relied upon to conduct missions as the nation’s force-in-readiness. One category of these missions is Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEOs). NEOs are Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of State (DOS) operations that evacuate noncombatant and other designated evacuees from hostile countries to safe locations. The USMC has encountered NEOs for the past 50 years and must be prepared to execute NEOs because of future uncertainty. However, because of the infrequency of mission rehearsals, NEO skill atrophy is a concern. Thus, an interactive classroom training tool that augments the passive learning associated with PowerPoint presentations could be beneficial. Therefore, this thesis describes a novel experiential exercise in the form of an educational wargame that reinforces the three NEO guiding principles. The data collected from several iterations of this wargame suggests that this educational training tool can be utilized to reinforce NEO guiding principles and augment current NEO training methods.

Cronkite, Maximilian Stewart-Hawley, “Divided Kingdom, 561, A Case Study: Communicating Historical Narratives Through Board Games,” MA thesis, Carleton University, 2021.

This thesis explores the potential of communicating complex ideas about the past through board games. The thesis will start with exploring and defining its theoretical understanding of historical narratives and procedural rhetoric. Then, the thesis will continue with how other scholars have discussed the role of and potential that games have in the imparting of historical knowledge. Using this established methodology and theory of game-based learning, this thesis will analyze three historical board games for their ability to impart historical understanding. After the analysis of the three case studies this thesis will showcase an annotated version of the rules for the historical board game: Divided Kingdom, 561 which was created for this thesis. In the annotated rulebook, and design journal that follows it, the author elaborates on the game’s intention as a pedagogical tool and how it is designed to communicate historical understanding of sixth century Frankish Gaul.

DeBerry, William T. “The Wargaming Commodity Course of Action Automated Analysis Method,” MSc thesis, Air Force Institute of Technology, 2021.

This research presents the Wargaming Commodity Course of Action Automated Analysis Method (WCCAAM), a novel approach to assist wargame commanders in developing and analyzing courses of action (COAs) through semi-automation of the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP). MDMP is a seven-step iterative method that commanders and mission partners follow to build an operational course of action to achieve strategic objectives. MDMP requires time, resources, and coordination – all competing items the commander weighs to make the optimal decision. WCCAAM receives the MDMP’s Mission Analysis phase as input, converts the wargame into a directed graph, processes a multi-commodity flow algorithm on the nodes and edges, where the commodities represent units, and the nodes represent blue bases and red threats, and then programmatically processes the MDMP steps to output the recommended COA. To demonstrate WCCAAM effectiveness, a wargame scenario compares COA outcomes within the Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration, and Modeling (AFSIM) and statistical analysis. The AFSIM results demonstrate a 71% objective completion improvement with the WCCAAM COA versus a human-generated COA. Statistical analysis reveals that over a 300 run test matrix, WCCAAM produces the optimal, minimal risk COA.

Emery, John R. “Moral Choices Without Moral Language: 1950s Political-Military Wargaming at the RAND Corporation,” Texas National Security Review, 4, 4 (Fall 2021).

The RAND Corporation was the site of early-Cold War knowledge production. Its scientists laid the foundations of nuclear deterrence, game theoretic approaches to international politics, defense acquisition, and theories on the future of war. The popularized understanding of RAND as filled with cold, detached rationalists who casually discussed killing millions with no moral abhorrence misses the immense contestation in the early 1950s between the mathematics and the social sciences divisions, which sought to understand the impact of nuclear weapons on war and international politics. To do so, they created the first political-military simulations, called the “Cold War Games.” The games had divergent outcomes, with the mathematicians quick to launch nuclear weapons and the social scientists acting with nuclear restraint. The key difference in the game models was a high degree of realism in the social science game that engaged the players’ emotions. This immersive experience had lasting effects beyond the game itself as defense intellectuals bore the weight of decision-making and confronted the catastrophic consequences of using nuclear weapons. The role of emotion is central to both ethics and decision-making, and is essential for wargaming today, yet often remains excluded in rational theories of nuclear deterrence.

Guangya, Si; and Yanzheng, Wang. “Challenges and Reflection on Next-generation Large-scale Computer Wargame System,” Journal of System Simulation, 2021, 33(9).

In view of the systematic, networked and intelligent characteristics of the future war, the major challenges of the new generation of large computer warfare system are proposed, and the next-generation large-scale computer wargame system is constructed. The key technologies of building a new generation of large computer warfare systems, such as intelligent war modeling, architecture integration, resource service management and human-computer interaction are researched.

Kim, Jun-Sung; Kim, Young-Soo; and Park, Sang-Chul. “A Study of Artificial Intelligence Learning Model to Support Military Decision Making: Focused on the Wargame Model,” Journal of the Korea Society for Simulation 30, 3 (2021).

Commander and staffs on the battlefield are aware of the situation and, based on the results, they perform military activities through their military decisions. Recently, with the development of information technology, the demand for artificial intelligence to support military decisions has increased. It is essential to identify, collect, and pre-process the data set for reinforcement learning to utilize artificial intelligence. However, data on enemies lacking in terms of accuracy, timeliness, and abundance is not suitable for use as AI learning data, so a training model is needed to collect AI learning data. In this paper, a methodology for learning artificial intelligence was presented using the constructive wargame model exercise data. First, the role and scope of artificial intelligence to support the commander and staff in the military decision-making process were specified, and to train artificial intelligence according to the role, learning data was identified in the Chang-Jo 21 model exercise data and the learning results were simulated. The simulation data set was created as imaginary sample data, and the doctrine of ROK Army, which is restricted to disclosure, was utilized with US Army’s doctrine that can be collected on the Internet.

Kodalle, Thorsten, “Gamification of strategic thinking: A COTS boardgame for learning scrum, strategy development and strategy implementation,” European Conference on Games-based Learning (2021).

The Bundeswehr Command and Staff College (BCSC) facilitated the Gamification of Strategic Thinking seminar from 11. Nov 2020 – 24. March 2021 with students from the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) and Staff Officers from the Bundeswehr Office for Defence Planning. This paper describes the seminar from construction to end, the sophisticated online facilitation, and the results and evaluation. Thereby, it contributes to discussing how to implement commercial of the shelf (COTS) conflict simulations (wargames) to education, particularly for political science and management. The seminar used the COTS board game ‘Scythe’ as the strategy development and strategy implementation environment. Seminar goals were applying management tools like SWOT-Analysis, Kanban Board, and the OODA-Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) to strategy development and strategy implementation in a competitive environment characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). Six Teams consisting of five players each competed at the end of the seminar for three days, had to use the decision-making process several times, and faced the consequences of past decisions. Furthermore, four team members had to Red-Team other competitors and learned how to implement this (business) Wargaming technique into the decision-making cycle. Finally, all participants had to develop a strategy, either their own or their adversary’s strategy. The seminar was conducted in eight sprints, following the Scrum framework for agile project management in an agile education approach. Students had to practice an agile mindset, followed the scrum events Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective, taking care of the Project Backlog, honouring the Scrum Values courage, focus, commitment, respect, and openness. The lead author planned the seminar as a distributed learning experience with an on-premises final. However, due to COVID-19, the TUHH and the BCSC cancelled the on-premises final. As a result, the lead author had to facilitate the complete seminar entirely distributed using various web 2.0 collaboration tools like Slack, Trello, Zoom and, of course, WhatsApp. The seminar was evaluated regarding the Learning Objective-Game Design framework and the Agile Education approach. This paper provides a new perspective on combining agile education, using a Scrum framework as the organisational overlay over the curriculum, and explicit gamification, using a COTS wargame. It is an update to the ECGBL 2020’s paper. In comparison to serious games, explicit gamification is supposed to provide the element of fun by design.

Kowalik, Adam. “The Perception Of Business Wargaming Results Among Strategic And Competitive Intelligence Community,” Organization & Management 2, 54 (2021).

Introduction/background: Achieving a market success is not an easy task for companies. To win in the market companies apply numerous strategic, market and competitive intelligence methods including business wargaming which is considered as one of the most advanced methods.

Aim of the paper: The main aim of this paper is to investigate the perception of business wargames practices among strategic and competitive intelligence professionals with special emphasis on results of business wargames.

Materials and methods: To achieve the aim of the paper the online survey was conducted among the members of a leading global professional association “Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals”. The survey was sent to 12566 emails from SCIP database. The responses were collected anonymously via Survey Monkey in April-May 2017. As a result 227 responses were collected.

Results and conclusions: The results of the study suggest that according to respondents business wargaming allows to achieve results on each of the proposed 5 levels of results representing the cause-effect chain of translating business wargaming effects into business benefits, i.e. insights, recommendations, implementation, competitive situation, measurable benefits. Moreover, the respondents indicate that the business wargaming can be considered a relatively attractive analytical method in terms of its effectiveness. The costs of business wargaming are rated as slightly lower or significantly lower than the benefits. Business wargaming is also assessed as better than any other method of generating insight. The research suggests that the more difficult the conditions for competition, the more commonly the business wargaming method is used. Respondents predict that the use of this method will increase in the future.

Lara, Mauricio Antonio Duarte. “Prototyping A Serious Game On Information Manipulation,” MSc thesis, Tallinn University of Technology, 2021.

Adversarial actors leverage social media to achieve political objectives by employing information manipulation. This poses a risk to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. These risks erode trust in institutions, distorts informed decisions, and affects democratic processes. A better defence can be obtained by a better understanding of adversaries. However, previous serious games on information manipulation have focused on psychological inoculation, ignoring the strategic motivations of adversaries in social media. With cybersecurity safeguarding information and operations in the context of adversaries, this thesis proposes to introduce policymakers to adversarial thinking through a Serious Game (SG). To achieve that aim, a document analysis was performed to identify the necessary considerations concerning learning, information manipulation, and serious games. The design of the prototype SG used a research design-oriented approach. The pilot testing employed an applied exploratory study with twelve participants, six from a legal background and the remaining six from an e-governance background. Data collection utilized two surveys with open- ended, multiple choice, and rating scale questions. Learning outcomes was measured by evaluating the participants’ confidence levels on their definition of a concept. Given the sample size, the results are not conclusive. However, the data shows an increase in the confidence for all participants. This thesis has three key contributions. First, the application of the SG on the novel audience of policymakers. Second, the design of the prototype SG which incorporates the previously mentioned educational considerations. And last, further exploration on the contributions of cybersecurity to address information manipulation on social media.

Lawson, Ewan, Considering a UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Donbas, Royal United Services Institute conference report, 2019.

No abstract available.

Lee, Byeong-Ho et al. “A Study on Fully Automated OPFOR for ‘Next Generation ROKA Wargame Simulation Model’ Based on Gamer Behavior,” Proceedings of the Korea Information Processing Association, 2021.

No abstract available.

Li, Yang et al. “Developing Public Health Emergency Response Leaders in Incident Management: A Lee, Byeong-HoScoping Review of Educational Interventions,” Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, published first online, 31 August 2021.

During emergency responses, public health leaders frequently serve in incident management roles that differ from their routine job functions. Leaders’ familiarity with incident management principles and functions can influence response outcomes. Therefore, training and exercises in incident management are often required for public health leaders. To describe existing methods of incident management training and exercises in the literature, we queried 6 English language databases and found 786 relevant articles. Five themes emerged: (1) experiential learning as an established approach to foster engaging and interactive learning environments and optimize training design; (2) technology-aided decision support tools are increasingly common for crisis decision-making; (3) integration of leadership training in the education continuum is needed for developing public health response leaders; (4) equal emphasis on competency and character is needed for developing capable and adaptable leaders; and (5) consistent evaluation methodologies and metrics are needed to assess the effectiveness of educational interventions.

These findings offer important strategic and practical considerations for improving the design and delivery of educational interventions to develop public health emergency response leaders. This review and ongoing real-world events could facilitate further exploration of current practices, emerging trends, and challenges for continuous improvements in developing public health emergency response leaders.

Lin, Wu et al, “Wargaming Eco-system for Intelligence Growing,” Journal of System Simulation, 2021, 33(9).

The construction of the next generation intelligent wargaming system can not be accomplished at one move, but through building an ecosystem to gradually grow intelligence. The basic concepts of the intelligent wargame ecosystem, and are defined the idea of dynamic openness, diversified levels and co-evolution are proposed. Drawing lessons from the human intelligence growing process and learning-evolution mechanism, the double helix model of the next generation of wargame cognitive intelligent evolution and growth is constructed. On the basis of the OLTA cycle, the wargame deduction ecosystem system framework is given. The application of the technologies, such as digital twins, human-machine integration and symbiosis, sample generation, intelligence testing and evaluation, cloud native and so on, in the construction of an ecological environment for wargaming games are analyzed.

Lutters, Samuel. “Reflections on Violence and Death in Critical War Games,” MSc thesis, Ghent University, 2021.

Death and violence are prominent features in video games centered around war. These are largely dominated by hegemonic war/military games that – among other things – render them an “authentic” and pleasurable experience to be engaged in. In this dissertation, I focus on critical war games that oppose these, and question how these manage to kindle reflection about violence and death in their respective gaming communities. For this, I have dedicated myself to the study of three specific games. I have mainly used two methods: autoethnography, where I played the games myself to gain a better understanding of them and participant observation to capture the experiences and reflections of others. My findings are diverse and have to be understood within the contours of each game. However, what underpins these games is their ability to be perceived “realistic” when it comes to representing war. This is done through creating a digital death world that functions on negative emotions, rather than fun or pleasure. As discussed by others, there is a dynamic relation between having negative emotions and perceiving something as realistic or authentic. Interesting for this research, is the fact that having negative emotions while being engaged in killing and mortality, offers players a foundation for reflection. The player is encouraged to first feel and then think. These reflections go beyond digital play and questions some important aspects of war, violence and death, such as the futility of war. Moreover, having these negative emotions and reflections gives the player a better understanding in the lived experiences of both victims and perpetrators of war alike.

Medeiros, Sabrina ; Mendes, Cintiene Sandes Monfredo ; and e Paiva, Ana Luiza Bravo, “Learning Process for Collective Decision-Making in Defense and Security: Inter-Agency Policy Building,” Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice 21, 4 (2021).

This work analyzes the decision-making behavior among security actors in cooperative inter-agency arrangements. To this end, we will use case studies of state officials’ simulations, which target the improvement of the agents’ relations in particular learning processes. Undeniably, Brazil’s internationalization expanded practices related to the configuration of its homeland security model, especially after the attacks of September 11th, 2001. On the other hand, training and learning experiences were also internalized, expanding the common lexicon and coordinated policies and assignments. The paper’s central objective is to identify the patterns of inter-agency decision-making processes, analyzing the possibilities for creating and disseminating practices that may ultimately constitute policies. For this purpose, the work begins with the apprehension of the Brazilian security inter-agencies practices typology, which emerged by an adequately built database.

Medeiros, Sabrina ; Paiva, Ana Luiza Bravo; and Mendes, Cintiene Sandes Monfredo. “Policy Diffusion by Means of Defense and Security Simulations and the Uses of Agent-Based Modelling,” July 2020.

This paper is about three elements: inter-agency cooperation simulations with security and defense practitioners as actors; policy diffusion as a way of innovative and incremental gains using practices and the observation of behaviors; and, agent-based modelling as a tool to enhance performance, observing tendencies and acquiring more visibility of the processes and practices imbibed. For this, the first part of the paper is focused on the uses of the literature that expresses decision making process behaviors as a fundamental part of the institutionalization process in terms of cooperation. Adaptive institutionalization is the core element of this approach; in which we believe policy diffusion can derive progressively and in an incremental way. Secondly, we are going to present the inter-agency simulation cases we are working with as part of an inter-institutional effort; researching on those ties and proposing new forms of arrangements and possibilities of increasing dynamics efficiency in the sector, observing both the cases and the exercises chosen in agent-based modelling (ABM).

Murray, Charlie Murray; Loidl, Hans-Wolfgang; and Train, Brian. “A Playful Learning Exercise: Kashmir Crisis,” International Conference on Games and Learning Alliance, 2021.

This paper summarises the development and evaluation of a digital board game on the “Kashmir Crisis” in 2019. It is based on a card-driven board-game design of one of the authors, with the concept of “games as journalism” as one underlying design principle. As such, this is a serious game with the aim of providing information on the context of recent political events in Kashmir. In this paper we focus on the design, implementation, and evaluation of a multi-platform, digital instance of this game. The evaluation results of using the game show significantly increased engagement and slightly better learning effectiveness, compared to a control group using standard learning techniques.

Parkes, Roderick; McQuay, Mark. “The Use of Games in Strategic Foresight: A Warning from the Future,”DGAP Policy Brief, July 2021.

After a decade of crisis, the EU now routinely uses futures meth- ods to anticipate the unexpected. Its aim is to address its blind spots. This paper details our experience of designing a foresight exercise to help EU diplomats face up to one of the most ingrained types of blind spot: a taboo issue. But our experience showed instead the dangers of such exercises. Far from needing encour- agement to address a taboo, our target audience wanted an excuse to do so, reflecting a shift to a more “geopolitical EU.”

Strategic foresight exercises are designed to help participants recognize their cognitive biases. But the more policymakers adopt them as routine, the more they use them to reinforce their existing aims. Simply: they learn to manipulate outcomes.

To prevent cheating, experts introduced adversarial elements, where colleagues paired off against one another. Competition was meant to inject new thinking into policy and break up bureaucratic hierarchies. In fact, these too reinforced old biases.

Table-top exercises (TTXs) are now the go-to tool, adopted by the EU: rather than competing, participants play as a single team. Col- laboration encourages the kind of “risky-shifty” behavior which policymakers need in order to drop old shibboleths..

Table-top exercises (TTXs) are now the go-to tool, adopted by the EU: rather than competing, participants play as a single team. Collaboration encourages the kind of “risky- shifty” behavior which policymakers need in order to drop old shibboleths.

Paschkewitz, John; Russell, Bart; Main, John. “An AI That’s Not Artificial at All,” Issues in Science and Technology 38, 1  (Fall 2021).

In the wargame, we realized we needed to focus on more than just maintaining operational speed and minimizing casualties. We needed to maximize options for individual users and increase the learning rate across the whole system. Providing individuals with more options and the autonomy to use them makes the rigid, monolithic systems of slowmoving bureaucracies and the technologies they use more adaptable to new situations and innovations. In Major Evans’s case, if she were able to get a drone to fly blood to her unit, she might be able to boost her dwindling blood supplies faster than it would take to fix the ruined airstrip. But thoughtful workarounds can only benefit the larger system if the knowhow circulates throughout the enterprise and others can begin to help find the drones and arrange for the delivery. The larger system needs to effectively learn and adapt to the consequences of her changes or it will soon be caught in another cycle of cascading ad hoc responses to problems.

A new design methodology

To build a system that was capable of encouraging individual innovation and system-wide learning, we came up with a new approach: liminal design. It employs four core concepts: abstraction, composition, mediation, and learning. Collectively, these ideas create the foundation for an “operating system” that works in an adaptive ecosystem, bridging the worlds of user-centered and system-centered design.

Peeks, Ryan. “‘An Object Lesson to the Country’—The 1915 Atlantic Fleet Summer Exercise and the U.S. Navy on the Eve of World War I,Naval War College Review 74, 3 (Summer 2021).

On 26 May 1915, the Washington Post warned its readers that an invading force had “established a base, and landed troops on the shore of Chesapeake Bay,” in preparation for a march on Washington. The cause of this invasion? Defeat of the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet by “a foreign foe of superior naval strength.” Over the course of several days, the enemy fleet had made its way across the Atlantic and destroyed the American scouting line. The American commander, Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher, was convinced that its target was New England and let the enemy fleet slip unmolested into the Chesapeake with a twenty- thousand-man invading force, the vanguard of another hundred thousand soldiers en route from Europe. Shortcomings in the quantity and quality of the Atlantic Fleet’s scouting force had rendered its seventeen battleships irrelevant.

Fortunately for the capital, this enemy fleet and invasion army were imag- inary, part of the Atlantic Fleet’s summer exercise. They were, however, the culmination of a very real campaign to embarrass the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, and force a naval expansion program onto the heretofore skeptical Wilson administration. The leader of this campaign, the outgoing Aide for Operations, Rear Admiral Bradley Fiske, designed the exercises for
maximum political effect. By grafting an unreal- istic and lurid invasion scenario featuring a thinly disguised German fleet onto the Atlantic Fleet’s exercise program, he hoped to “prove” that Dan- iels had failed to prepare the Navy for war and force Woodrow Wilson’s administration to sup- port a renewed naval buildup. 

Reese, Joshua et al., “Integrating Cost as a Decision Variable in Wargames,” Air & Space Power Journal (Winter 2021).

The US military can no longer afford to be reactive, leaving critical cost analyses to the months and years following operations or full-scale con- flicts. By leveraging cost in wargaming, as part of the Joint planning process, the Department of Defense (DOD) can provide Congress and the American taxpayers a range of potential costs associated with various military engagements. If senior leaders can consider costs as part of effectiveness analy- ses during wargames, they can provide more fully informed decisions reflecting fiscal and operational realities.

Rolls, Matthew. “Developing Coup D’oeil: Tactical Decision Games and Their Training Value for the Canadian Army,” Canadian Army Journal 18, 2 (2021).

Tactical Decision Games (TDG) are abbreviated tactical exercises without troops (TEWT) meant to place those executing them into a scenario with little information and time to arrive at a solution. They require few resources, allowing for a repetitious approach to training. TDGs have been prominent training tools for the US Army and particularly the United States Marine Corps for several years. They are a flexible and effective training aide that will help soldiers, non-commissioned officers (NCO), and officers with their analytical and intuitive decision-making skills. TDGs are not completely foreign to the Canadian Army (CA); however, their use has not been institutionalized.

Tactical Decision Games are a highly efficient means of training tactical decision-making and should be institutionalized within the CA, within both schools and operational units. Commanders employing TDGs will be able to mentor and develop the decision-making skills of their subordinates during periods outside collective training. Trainers can use them to discuss and exercise concepts prior to deploying to the field for practical application.

This article provides an overview of TDGs and how they differ from other training tools. It then reviews what makes TDGs useful training aides and concludes with a discussion on how to conduct a training session. A TDG example is included at the end of the article.

Shahnahpur, Saeedeh. ” ‘Destruction Operation’: Iranian-Made Digital Games of the Iran–Iraq War (1980–88),” International Journal of Persian Literature 6 (2021).

No abstract available.

Smithson, Michael S. Wargaming Reliance On Commercial Space Partners: A Determination of Guiding Principles and Applications. MSc thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, June 2021.

The 2010s saw a revolution in the space industry leading to the commercial proliferation of space technologies once reserved for national space programs and militaries, dubbed by many as Space 2.0. This rapid rebalancing of capabilities from traditional state actors to commercial entities contributed to a reevaluation of U.S. space institutions and practices resulting in an increased U.S. military reliance on commercial entities to build space capability, capacity, and resilience. To that end, there is renewed interest in discerning the impacts of this expanded commercial space reliance on current U.S. military doctrine, thus placing new demands on the practice of wargaming among the U.S. military services. Specifically, wargaming must now account for this increased reliance by establishing guiding principles and wargaming methodologies to properly account for this revolution in space-based capabilities. This thesis addresses this problem by sampling the scope of commercial space capabilities, evaluating governing policy and doctrine, and examining a representative sample of the U.S. military’s reliance on commercial space. The unique qualities of commercial space are evaluated to identify a list of guiding principles for wargaming applications. Then, wargaming methodologies that encompass these guiding principles are identified and proposed. Finally, these principles are applied to the USMC’s Assassin’s Mace wargame to demonstrate and evaluate their utility and application.

Teo, Grace et al. “Measures for Assessing Command Staff Team Performance in Wargaming Training,” Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), 2021.

Despite the rapid rise in technological aids and decision support tools to assist with command and control activities, wargaming remains an artful and challenging process for command teams to perform. Wargaming, a critical stage in the military decision-making process (MDMP), is a collective activity where command staff representing multiple warfighting functions step through one or more courses of action (COAs) in detail. By considering actions, reactions, and counteractions for each critical event of a COA, the command staff gains an understanding of the decision points, possible coordination problems, feasibility, risks, benefits, likelihood of success, and impact on campaign outcomes. Although there are prescribed MDMP methods and outputs, the art of effective wargaming lies in achieving sufficient team coordination across the command staff to adequately appraise a COA and anticipate synchronization that will be needed for execution, all within the time constraints available for analysis. Consequently, an effective approach to training wargaming ideally involves opportunities for staff to engage in realistic and challenging exercises where they can receive performance assessment and feedback via measures grounded in established constructs for team proficiencies. This paper presents a synthesis of constructs and findings on command team training pertinent to the construction of wargaming exercises. Specifically, a foundation for general principles of teamwork has been established in the literature, and there have also been studies identifying determinants of wargaming effectiveness tied to declarative measures intended for assessment by human instructors or subject matter experts. In order to build on existing research and apply it in an intelligent tutor, these measures and teamwork constructs are synthesized in a model tailored to wargaming performance assessment and feedback for simulation-based team training. Outcomes of this effort will contribute to the development of a prototype for collective training of Army command groups.

Tryhorn, Dillo, et al. “Modeling fog of war effects in AFSIM.” Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology, published first online, 27 August 2021.

This research identifies specific communication sensor features vulnerable to fog and provides a method to introduce them into an Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration, and Modeling (AFSIM) wargame scenario. Military leaders use multiple information sources about the battlespace to make timely decisions that advance their operational objectives while attempting to deny their opponent’s actions. Unfortunately, the complexities of battle combined with uncertainty in situational awareness of the battlespace, too much or too little intelligence, and the opponent’s intentional interference with friendly command and control actions yield an abstract layer of battlespace fog. Decision-makers must understand, characterize and overcome this “battlespace fog” to accomplish operational objectives. This research proposes a novel tool, the Fog Analysis Tool (FAT), to automatically compile a list of communication and sensor objects within a scenario and list options that may impact decision-making processes. FAT improves wargame realism by introducing and standardizing fog levels across communication links and sensor feeds in an AFSIM scenario. Research results confirm that FAT provides significant benefits and enables the measurement of fog impacts to tactical command and control decisions within AFSIM scenarios.

Xi, Wu; Xianglin, Meng; and Jingyu, Yang. “Study on Next-generation Strategic Wargame System,”  Journal of System Simulation, 2021, 33(9).

Strategic wargame is an important support to the strategic decision. The research status and challenges of the strategic wargame are analyzed, and the influence of big data and artificial intelligence technology on the strategic wargame system is studied. The prospects and key technologies of the next-generation strategic wargame system are studied, including the construction of event association graph for strategic topics, generation of strategic decision sparse samples based on generative adversarial nets, gaming strategy learning of human-in-loop hybrid enhancement, and public opinion dissemination modeling technology based on social network. The development trend of the strategic wargame is proposed.

Yubo, Tang et al. “Research on the Issues of Next Generation Wargame System Model Engine,” Journal of System Simulation, 2021, 33(9).

Aiming at the more and more complex war systems, widely used artificial intelligence technology is needed to make up the human deficiencies in future wargame deduction, which is necessary for the next generation wargame system model engine. To address these challenges, a framework prototype of the next generation wargame model engine based on the experience of the long-term development and application is proposed. The decoupling method for the complexity of structure and computation is researched. The human-computer integration architecture on digital twinning technology is studied. Some new modeling techniques which the threshold of model development is reduced and the efficiency is improved are explored. The engine mechanism is provided to support the machine learning, and to achieve the integrated design for distributed hardware environment.

Zhanguang, TCao et al. “Abroad Wargaming Deduction and System Research,” Journal of System Simulation, 2021, 33(9).

Wargaming is an important auxiliary means of war deduction, scheme evaluation and operational analysis. Wargaming deduction system can support the research of operational problems, innovation of tactics and development of operational concepts. The development status of foreign computer wargaming system from the deduction method and system research is reviewed, and the online deduction the multi-level joint deduction, as well as the research status of multi-level wargaming fusion design, the multi system combination and auxiliary tool development are mainly introduced, which can providereference to the development and application of computer wargame system.

Updated PAXsims bibliography

PAXsims research associate Anne Johnson recently surveyed some three dozen wargaming experts to pull together a list of their recommended readings for new and experienced serious game designers alike. You’ll find the list here.

Wargaming position at CGSC

The Directorate of Simulation Education at the US Army Command and General Staff College is hiring a wargamer:


Research and prepare simulation/gaming databases/scenarios to support specific exercises and curriculum for four school curriculums and six different educational tracks.

Assist the active force to provide model, simulation, wargame, and/or game instruction, and teach digital and manual tactics, techniques, and procedures(TTP) through experimentation and assistance visits.

Develop and resolve organizational and technology issues as they relate to computing, network delivery, and system compatibility or processing issues.

Mentor FA 57 students tasked with conducting exercises and/or completing simulation related course work.

Support education on models, simulations, wargames, and games through instruction, instruction support, facilitation, and technical support.

Lead multi-agency task forces to establish and validate academic training simulation requirements.

Assist in the development and implementation of a plan for the integration of training models, simulations, wargames, and/or games to ensure execution-centric decision-making is stressed, observed and assessed.

Resolve critical, technical problems in existing systems or models, using knowledge of the industry guidelines and application of models, simulations, wargames, and/or games policies and procedures.

Participate in comprehensive studies to identify and propose solutions to deficiencies in models, simulations, and wargames.

At present, only those in certain federal employment categories are eligible to apply (although that could change).* The full details and application process can be found at USAJOBS, and the closing date is January 5.

*If you are a US citizen but do not currently fall into one of the eligible federal employment categories, post your resume into the system, then email and to let them know you have applied.

Dstl, diversity, and inclusion

Well done, Sally!

Sally Davis, of course, is a coauthor of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming and author of the diversity card-deck. (Rumour also has it that she plays a character inordinately fond of Cheetos and Mountain Dew in a longstanding zombie apocalypse role-playing/skirmish game, but that may be unrelated to the awards she keeps receiving for her D&I work in the UK MoD.)

Wargaming an invasion of Taiwan

PAXsims Research Associate Drew Marriott prepared this report. If you know of other wargames that address a future conflict in Taiwan, let us know in the comments and we will add them in a future update.

Current geopolitical unrest between China and Taiwan increases by the day. While commentators speculate about a future invasion of Taiwan, diplomats attempt to avoid one. And as militaries around the world arm themselves for the worst, hobbyists and professional wargamers have been analyzing the situation through simulations. Check out their work in this collection of reports and tabletop games.

Taiwan Wargame and Crisis Reports

The Poison Frog Strategy — Center for a New American Security

Premise: The U.S. national security apparatus has long focused on preparing for a possible invasion of mainland Taiwan by the People’s Liberation Army. In The Poison Frog Strategy, CNAS explores an adjacent possibility: a Chinese invasion of islands within Taiwan’s maritime jurisdiction. The report focuses on scenarios that involve a specific island, but its conclusions are applicable to other Taiwanese territory in the South China Sea.

Content: This scenario begins with a surprise seizure by the People’s Liberation Army of Taiwanese controlled Dongsha Island, followed by an increase in military exercises in the South China Sea. The report suggests that the only plausible strategy for the U.S. —while prioritizing the avoidance of war— would be to unite the world in isolating China diplomatically and economically.  

Conclusion: The wargame found that China’s first-mover advantage might prove tenable. The soft-power approach that the U.S. and its allies could adopt to avoid the onus of escalation would, at best, be slow to compel a PLA retreat. At worst, the strategy could be thwarted by advanced economic preparation in China. The report suggests that Taiwan’s best option is to pursue deterrence through multilateral preparation; if China were to succeed in invading the border islands, the report warned, there would be few feasible options to force a retreat. 

T-Day the Battle for Taiwan — Reuters Investigates

Premise: This report presents a comprehensive timeline of how China’s current “gray-zone” strategy —a slow but vigilant series of military efforts to wear out Taiwan— might escalate into all out war. Reuters consulted military strategists and officers from Taiwan, the U.S., Australia, and Japan to form the basis of T-Day, and looked to articles produced by Chinese and American sources for additional insight.

Content: The report is composed of chronological scenarios, mapping the potential battle to all out war in East Asia. The escalation of the conflict happens in four phases. First China stages a blockade of Taiwan’s Matsu Islands and then they invade Kinmen Island. When Taipei refuses to negotiate with the PRC over reunification terms, the PLA blockades mainland Taiwan, leading to a full-scale, amphibious invasion of the island.

Conclusion: Reuters ultimately speculates that Taiwan’s military capabilities would crumble at the hands of the People’s Liberation Army, and international efforts from the U.S. and its allies —including military and economic tools for retaliation— may not be enough to stop China.  

Escalation in the Taiwan Strait — Körber Stiftung and Chatham House

Premise: This report is the product of a Körber Policy Game staged in May of 2021 alongside Chatham house. It examines the possibility of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait from a European perspective, offering answers to some key questions: how might a Chinese invasion in the Taiwan Strait impact Europe? how should the continent’s leaders position themselves in such a scenario? and what European interests would be at stake?

Content: Crisis participants were given a scenario where China enacts a blockade of the Taiwan Strait and invades Kinmen Island, proceeding to take control of Taiwan’s air and sea borders after military resistance from Taipei. The simulation teams responded by discussing commensurate policy recommendations. They agreed that Europe would be reluctant to engage kinetically, favoring an economic response. Teams highlighted the trade ramifications that the scenario would produce, suggesting that Europe strengthen its resilience to possible economic fallout and diversify its supply chains to mitigate the crisis of inaccessible Chinese goods. 

Conclusion: The report emphasizes the importance of determining a united posture towards China within the EU, and supports establishing strong Indo-Pacific connections to deter Chinese aggression in the first place. Europe’s economic dependence on China and ambiguous ties to Taiwan foreshadow a concerning sentiment for democracy: the continent may prioritize continued access to the Chinese market over defending the U.S.-Lead world order.

Hobby commercial games

Pondering the Past

Understanding the geopolitical history of Taiwan is critical to examining the possibility of a future invasion; even more applicable, however, is developing an understanding of the decisions which built this history. The following hobby games familiarize players with Taiwan’s military past:

Facing the Future

The aforementioned crisis reports dissect the possibility of an invasion of Taiwan, and describe possible scenarios that could effectively prevent or result from such a conflict. These hobby games enable players to be strategic decision makers, considering for themselves Taiwan’s uncertain future:

MORS certificate in wargaming course

The Military Operations Research Society will be offering its Wargaming Certificate Course online on 24-28 January 2022.

This course is designed to increase Analyst capability and knowledge in research, design, development, execution, analysis, and reporting of professional games for analytical and training purposes. Analytical games entail the development/execution of a research design through problem discovery, data gathering, scenario development, experiment design and execution, and results interpretation and documentation. Training games emphasize the development of learning plans and objectives to provide experiential learning for student retention.


Day 1: The Architect: What is a Wargame, How Wargames Relate to Red Teaming, and How the Architect Designs Games

Day 2: The Artist: Wargames as a Design Activity

Day 3: Special Topics: Strategic Gaming, Game Facilitation, and Constructing Game Materials

Day 4: The Analyst: How Does the Analyst Design Games? How do we Analyze Them?

Day 5: Practicum


Lt Col James “Pigeon” Fielder, USAF (Ret)
Mr. Michael Markowitz
Dr. Ed McGrady
Dr. Peter Perla
Mr. Phil Pournelle

You will find additional information at the MORS website.

Operational-level wargaming and negative learning

On Twitter, Yuna Wong raises some concerns about negative learning from operational-level wargaming:

Click the “full conversation” link in the tweet above to see everything she had to say, as well as the responses.

SWJ: On wargaming, COA analysis, D8s, and D&D

In an article entitled “Wargaming: Leave your 8 sided dice at home, this isn’t D&D” at Small Wars Journal, Keegan Guyer, Max Rovzar, and Ron Sprang suggest that wargaming “is often discussed as a necessary step in the Military Decision Making Process” but “often misunderstood, or poorly executed due to time constraints.”

To demonstrate this, they then devote much of their article to misunderstanding wargaming.

What they go on to describe is course of action analysis which doesn’t have a great deal of wargaming in it. Rather, it focuses around the development of plans and synchronization of effort, providing participants with a walk-through of a proposed course of action. This isn’t a full game, with a fully active Red—rather, the Red cell is there to provide some feedback in support of the game staff.

(Click the tweets to read more of his thread). Cole Peterson adds:

Several others comment in the Twitter thread too. Meanwhile, at Small Wars Journal itself, there are similar comments. This from “ProStaffOfficer”:

This is an excellent article on TTPs for tactical-level COA analysis but is insulting to and clearly ignorant of what actual wargaming is. COA Analysis may be labeled as “wargaming” in US Army doctrinal manuals, but it really is a method to refine a plan by overlaying enemy actions onto one COA.

Furthermore, the snarky title – while it may score points with other soldiers with tactical-echelon experience unaware of the existence of complex systems exploration or alternative conditions wargames – undersells the purpose of introducing stochastic variables in wargame design.

Lastly, I find it somewhat discouraging this article has only one source, FM 6-0 Commander and Staff Organization and Operations. In no way is FM 6-0 an authoritative source for wargaming as anything other than a tactical-level COA analysis methodology but this article – and specifically the title – seems to imply it discusses wargaming-at-large and not just one step of the Military Decision Making Process as applied in a tactical headquarters. 

And “skepticalsoldier82” comments:

Setting aside the snide title, this article is accidentally a great argument for why the Army needs to rename this process to what it really is – COA analysis. Continuing to call this “wargaming” only displays the institution’s immense ignorance (much like the authors of this piece do) of the vast array of national security war games that use stochastic methodology (which can be distilled into COFMS at the tactical level). Insisting that simply executing a step of MDMP constitutes “real wargaming” is laughable in the face of what ONA, CAA, and the J7 regularly conduct, let alone the depth of what the FFRDCs support. A perfunctory review of the history of wargaming would reveal that yes, the Prussians used dice modeling for Kriegspiel and yes, even complex simulations designed in WARSIM or ONESAF are still using derived PK, which nonetheless provides more rigorous analysis, for a much wider variety of purposes, then sitting the staff around the map and troubleshooting a tactical plan for the benefit of the G3.

I must say, I’m less concerned than some by the nomenclature around wargaming, COA analysis, and red teaming—all of which fit in a related universe of methodological tools, and each of which has its strengths and weaknesses. However, the piece is remarkably unaware of the broader professional work on wargaming, or the potential drawbacks (as well as strengths) of doing the sort of COA analysis they propose.

Finally, there’s a certain irony in the title—and not just with regard to fog, fiction, and stochastic process. Rather, what would you call a largely cooperative game where there is only one genuinely independent side, where participants make plans and synchronize actions against a scenario-based threat, and the game master guides them through the resulting narrative and tells them how it all works out?

Yes, that’s D&D.

Diversity, inclusion, and national security

At War on the Rocks, Caesar Nafrada and Joseph Caddell have written an excellent piece on the value of diversity and inclusion in national security analysis, focusing on the role that racism and stereotypes played in leaving the United States vulnerable to the Pearl Harbour attack:

“I never thought those little yellow sons-of-bitches could pull off such an attack, so far from Japan.” So confessed Adm. Husband Kimmel, former U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, to a member of the congressional Pearl Harbor investigation. Our 2021 reaction to Kimmel’s words is to focus on their racist invective. Yet, there’s an even more obvious problem with Kimmel’s statement. He was simply wrong, and he should have known better. Adm. Kimmel, Gen. Walter Short (the U.S. Army Hawaiian Department commander), and other military leaders on Oahu fundamentally underestimated and misunderstood the threat of Japanese carrier aviation to their detriment, and to the detriment of national security. Their underestimation and misunderstanding was deeply grounded in racial prejudice and went unchallenged in an environment of ethnocentric groupthink. Even in acknowledging his mistake, Kimmel’s words suggest he remained angrily defiant that the attack materialized the way it did — as if it were unfair that reality did not conform to his prejudices. Ethnocentric and racist attitudes and actions are objectionable for their harmful effects on the groups they malign, of course, but we should never forget that they are fundamentally stupid because they are factually incorrect. Prejudice literally means passing judgement prior to possessing adequate information. For national security professionals, prejudice is dangerous. Prejudice is fatal. The prejudicial unwillingness of Kimmel, Short, and others to posture adequately against a potential Japanese aerial attack was fatal 80 years ago today. Pearl Harbor is a concrete example that demonstrates how devastating ethnocentric bias brought on by largely homogenous institutions can be.

They go on to note:

The details of the warning failure at Pearl Harbor illustrate how toxic ethnocentrism, the byproduct of a homogenous workforce, taints analysis and decision-making in various ways. A lack of diversity fosters devastating shared blind spots, skewing the foundations upon which every process is built. Without diversity, some flawed beliefs go unchallenged. Pearl Harbor demonstrates the dangerous results of unchallenged ethnocentric assumptions. Pervasive ethnocentrism and racism lead to disastrous outcomes when they supplant real evidence or lead one to underestimate a foe. These dynamics do not merely reflect the prevailing racial attitudes of the American military of the 1940s. They illustrate how a lack of diversity and inclusion in the national security workforce could have lethal consequences today.

The private sector has no shortage of industry research that demonstrates how a lack of diversity and inclusion negatively impacts organizational performance. National security organizations are similarly vulnerable. Since national security leaders have made the argument that diversity and inclusion can strengthen their organizations, extrapolations from these industry findings should be further explored for their applicability.

While organizations lacking diversity risk prejudicial blind spots, teams comprised of people from diverse backgrounds are more likely to mitigate this bias thanks to multiple perspectives drawn from personal experiences. This is especially true in the realm of international affairs. Ethnocentrism can damage analytical tradecraft through groupthink, mirror-imaging, and the misreading of cultural norms and behaviors. …

National security decision-makers must be willing to incorporate more varied sources into their assessments to better avoid strategic surprises from peer competitors. Improved diversity and inclusion can drive better consideration of possible (if unlikely) threats by inhibiting groupthink and reducing cognitive biases, resulting in greater objectivity. Conversely, research shows that homogenous groups are less able to recognize the value of contrary informationleading to poor decision-making. Diversity and inclusion increase the integration of broader perspectives, reducing shared blind spots. Inclusion fosters new paradigms and heuristics that may have been absent within an otherwise homogeneous organization or team. Studies of racially diverse groups show that social differences generate teams more likely to anticipate differences of opinion, driving them to integrate multiple perspectives while building consensus.

The article isn’t about wargaming, but it’s a piece every serious game designer should read.

PAXsims is a proud supporter of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming. If your organization would like to join the impressive list of cosponsors, drop us an email.

Connections UK at DSET 2022, March 9

Connections UK will hold a one-day in-person wargaming meeting on Monday 7th March at the 2022 UK Defense Simulation Education & Training Conference in Bristol UK. Click on the DSET logo for full conference programme and other details.

From the DSET website:

“DSET was set up in 2016 to facilitate military to military engagement; and to give military the opportunity to educate industry in a challenge lead approach. International military and government drive the DSET agenda and deliver the majority of presentations.”

Simulation & Gaming, December 2021

The latest edition of Simulation & Gaming 52, 6 (December 2021) is now available (paywalled).

  • Editorial
    • What we can learn from the Olympic Games 
      • Marlies P. Schijven and Toshiko Kikkawa
  • Reviews
    • Serious Games as a Complementary Tool for Social Skill Development in Young People: A Systematic Review of the Literature 
      • Lucy R. Zheng, Catherine M. Oberle, W. A. Hawkes-Robinson, and Stéphane Daniau
    • The Impact of Gamification and Individual Differences on Second Language Learning Among First-Year Female University Students in Saudi Arabia 
      • Maram Almufareh
  • Research Articles
    • Development and Validity of a Serious Game (VirtualTer) for Postural Balance Rehabilitation in Older Adults 
      • Candice Simões Pimenta de Medeiros, Thaiana Barbosa Ferreira Pacheco, Rummenigge Rudson Dantas, and Fabrícia Azevêdo da Costa Cavalcanti
    • Learning Through Redesigning a Game in the STEM Classroom 
      • Farzan Baradaran Rahimi and Beaumie Kim
    • The Learning Process in Live-Action Simulation Games: The Impact of Personality, Motivation, Immersion, and Flow on Learning Outcome in a Simulation Game. 
      • Anna K. Preuß
  • Theoretical Article
    • Transitioning Escape Rooms to a Virtual Environment 
      • Jared M. Kutzin, Jenny E. Sanders, and Christopher G. Strother

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