Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 21 May 2022

PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers.

On 25 May 2022, the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps will host  a Wargaming Extravaganza Day on Imjin Barracks in Gloucester.

The morning session will consist of a Russia Disinformation Simulation with Monkey Pox by Conducttr team followed by round-robin sessions of the new US Marine Corps Operational Wargame System (OWS), Combat Mission and some video demonstrations of multidomain warfighting with Command: Professional Edition.

UK Fight Club has more information and a registration link here.

As previously noted, CNAS recently collaborated with NBC Meet the Press to run a wargame examining a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. At Foreign Affairs, Stacie Pettyjohn and Becca Wasser have more to say about the game and the issues it raises.

The clear lesson from the war game is that the United States needs to strengthen its conventional capabilities in the Indo-Pacific to ensure that China never views an invasion of Taiwan as a prudent tactical move. To do so, the United States will need to commit to maintaining its conventional military superiority by expanding its stockpiles of long-range munitions and investing in undersea capabilities. Washington must also be able to conduct offensive operations inside the first and second island chains even while under attack. This will require access to new bases to distribute U.S. forces, enhance their survivability, and ensure that they can effectively defend Taiwan in the face of China’s attacks.

Moreover, the United States needs to develop an integrated network of partners willing to contribute to Taiwan’s defense. Allies are an asymmetric advantage: the United States has them, and China does not. The United States should deepen strategic and operational planning with key partners to send a strong signal of resolve to China. As part of these planning efforts, the United States and its allies will need to develop war-winning military strategies that do not cross Chinese red-lines. The game highlighted just how difficult this task may be; what it did not highlight is the complexity of developing military strategies that integrate the strategic objectives and military capacities of multiple nations. 

Moving forward, military planners in the United States and in Washington’s allies and partners must grapple with the fact that, in a conflict over Taiwan, China would consider all conventional and nuclear options to be on the table. And the United States is running out of time to strengthen deterrence and keep China from believing an invasion of Taiwan could be successful. The biggest risk is that Washington and its friends choose not to seize the moment and act: a year or two from now, it might already be too late. 

The Serious Play 2022 conference will feature a series of post-conference skills workshops, including one on wargame design.

In this workshop, the depth and breadth of wargames for military contexts will be discussed.  Military trainers and member of Defense Acquisition University faculty will join forces to help attendees understand the development of these types of games for a wide range of applications.  

Bring your idea (or use one of ours) and spend the day working with a team of experts in wargaming and game design to create a wargame that will allow for you to address your training or game concept. 

By the end of this workshop you should be able to create a prototype baseline of your idea and have the tools to develop it further. 

A special feature of this workshop will be the discussion and demo of a tabletop wargame about a competition between the U.S. and China over artificial intelligence created by graduate students in Security Studies at Georgetown University.

Details can be found here.

Brigham Young University recently ran a crisis game exploring the current war in Ukraine:

Adjunct professor Kerry M. Kartchner and 16 BYU students gathered at the Kennedy Center on May 18 and were separated into four groups representing Ukraine, Russia, NATO and the United States. Kartchner asked the students to discuss two nuclear crises scenarios, which were fictitious and for educational purposes only.

After receiving each scenario, the groups went into different classrooms and discussed the aftermath of the respective crises. Appointed diplomats from each group communicated with other groups to determine needs, demands and possible outcomes. After the private discourse, they came back together to negotiate.

“This is the first time we’ve done a simulation in this class,” Kartchner said. “It was a success; they asked all the right questions.”

Kartchner, who teaches several political science classes each semester depending on the needs of the department, said his favorite part of the simulations was seeing students discover the real world applications to principles they discussed in class.

Kartchner also said simulations are an important part of political science classes because they allow students to think through issues from the point of view of the organizations they represent.

“It can be frustrating, but it’s very realistic,” Kartchner said. “Often the information is incomplete or inaccurate, and there’s no good answer.”

Chris Engle—inventor of the matrix game—recently developed a short handout on how he runs such games for Origins Game Convention War College. He was kind enough to share it with PAXsims.

Videos from the Connections Online 2022 conference are all available online. You’ll find an after action report here.

Sustainment students from the Command and General Staff College used a board-based wargame, Thor’s Hammer, to practice principles of sustainment.

The game, Thor’s Hammer, (not related to the commercial e-game of the same name), set in Norway and Sweden, was designed by game-design students at Georgetown University in cooperation with the Department of Sustainment and Force Management at CGSC. CGSC’s Department of Simulation Education assisted in the design and development of the game.

“The game teaches that sustainment is more than a logistics function,” said Lt. Col. John Lord, DSE director.

Wargames are an effective teaching tool because they engage students, play into the student’s competitive nature, and make learning fun, explained Todd Guggisberg, team leader for CGSC Team 17 and lead instructor for the elective.

Lt. Col. Chris Baldwin, the assistant instructor added, “This allows them to execute the imperatives of building combat power, sustaining operational reach and enabling endurance.”

Doing it as a board game rather than a computer-driven scenario allows the instructor to have more freedom in how to incorporate the game into classes, Lord said.

While most wargames focus on maneuver and kinetic engagement, the Sustainment Department was looking for a game that downplayed the battle and focused on the importance of sustainment in the success of combat operations. They contacted Georgetown, and the design of the game became a class project for students in the university’s design class.

Jamie Hood, one of the game designers from Georgetown, said basic design of the game took about eight months and was completed in December. Since then the design team has tested and tweaked the game preparing for the CGSC elective that serves as a learning experience for the CGSC students and a culminating test for the game.

In order to simplify the game, make it quick to learn, and allow it to be played within the class framework, the designers decided not to play the air and sea elements and to limit the classes of supply to fuel, food, and ammunition. They also designed the game to be played by one or two people on each side to allow the most engagement for students.

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