Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Simulation & gaming miscellany, 3 September 2022

Norsemen SE03 EP04 (2020)

PAXsims is pleased to present some recent(-ish) items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. See something we should include in our next update? Email us!

CNN reports on how the “US war-gamed with Ukraine ahead of counteroffensive and encouraged more limited mission.”

In the buildup to the current Ukrainian counteroffensive, the US urged Kyiv to keep the operation limited in both its objectives and its geography to avoid getting overextended and bogged down on multiple fronts, multiple US and western officials and Ukrainian sources tell CNN. 

Those discussions involved engaging in “war-gaming” with Kyiv, the sources said – analytical exercises that were intended to help the Ukrainian forces understand what force levels they would need to muster to be successful in different scenarios.

The Ukrainians were initially considering a broader counteroffensive, but narrowed their mission to the south, in the Kherson region, in recent weeks, US and Ukrainian officials said.

Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told CNN that “the United States has routine military-to-military dialogue at multiple levels with Ukraine. We will not comment on the specifics of those engagements. Generally speaking, we provide the Ukrainians with information to help them better understand the threats they face and defend their country against Russian aggression. Ultimately, the Ukrainians are making the final decisions for their operations.”

On a similar note, the latest BruteCast videocast from the Krulak Center for Innovation and Future Warfare (Marine Corps University) features a discussion on panel on “Rapid Wargame Prototyping for Crises.”

An earlier episode in July also addressed wargaming the war in Ukraine.

If you missed the original live presentation, the King’s Wargaming Network has posted a June 2022 lecture by Natalia Wojtowicz on “Evaluating Effectiveness in Wargames” to their YouTube channel.

Natalia Wojtowicz will showcase different methods of evaluating effectiveness of wargames, compiled from academic, industrial and governmental sector. A comparison of common and distinct factors will be analyzed to connect the effects with structure of the wargame. The question of objectivity of results will be explored based on recent experiments on adjudication. This presentation will be focused on identifying next steps in measuring and evaluating wargames.

Natalia Wojtowicz is a lecturer at the Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Safety and Security Management Programme. She teaches about wargaming, game design, and digital skills. Her research includes effectiveness of wargaming, new methods and experimental implementation. Previously she worked at the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Center of Excellence, leading the Wargaming, Modelling and Simulation project focused on introducing civilian population into training and education. Later she designed 14 new wargames implemented across NATO. Currently she is researching adjudication in wargaming and testing an upcoming game about uprising in Belarus. You can follow her at @Wojtowicz_N

The King’s Wargaming Network has also posted the video of a May 2022 presentation by Ralf Beerens on “Improving Disaster Response Evaluation.”

The dynamic disaster response environment in which his research took place, and the challenges it both poses and faces, resembles that of wargames. Overall, this research shows that to gain maximum benefit from disaster response evaluations, the outcomes must be systematic, rigorous, evidence-based and actionable. This is also challenging as this creates a dilemma around the so called ‘rigor-relevance gap’ which refers to the hurdle of simultaneously delivering practitioner relevance and scholarly rigour. There will be a mixture of scholarly rigour and practitioner relevance by introducing and discussing various approaches, concepts, processes and models such as the research design strategy, design science and evaluation descriptions. This is combined with insights into the Dutch Crisis Management system and practical experiences (with evaluation) as well as key research findings that can be transferred to wargames. This lecture will propose some ways forward and open a conversation regarding how to manage both the process and the products of an evaluation and possible scientific and practical contributions, in order to optimise its usefulness for a range of purposes and users. In general the session is aimed at enhancing our understanding of the role(s) of evaluation in dynamic and complex environments such as disaster risk management and the transfer of these insights to wargames, keeping in mind that it is not the evaluation itself that leads to improvement; it is the use of the evaluation that can lead to improvement. Evaluation should be seen as a means to an end.

Dr. Ralf Beerens is a senior researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Public Safety (NIPV) and is also a senior lecturer for the Institute’s Master in Crisis and Public Order Management (MCPM). In September 2021 he received his Ph.D. from Lund University, Division of Risk Management and Societal Safety, where he remains affiliated as a visiting research fellow. In this research he focused on disaster response (exercise) evaluation. He remains particularly interested in the evaluation of the operational performance of (international) emergency response organisations, teams or modules during exercises and crises, which also reflects his professional experience as an evaluator.

And another lecture, by Kate Kuehn on Valid and Meaningful Assessment of Wargames (April 2022) is also now available on YouTube.

Wargames offer a promising avenue for analyzing the quality of plans or decisions as well as for developing and assessing player or team capabilities. Within a military education context, wargames can reproduce authentic, complex environments that facilitate application and integration of critical 21st century learning skills like creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving. At the same time, these dynamic environments pose a challenge for traditional measurement approaches, evidenced by numerous critiques of simulation-based learning, games-based learning, and wargaming assessment practices. Purposeful integration of assessment into wargaming design is essential to demonstrating the value of wargaming for individuals and institutions. This lecture will highlight key principles of sound and meaningful assessment within wargaming contexts, synthesizing literature from measurement and gaming disciplines. The discussion will also integrate lessons from a case study that examined assessment challenges and practices of a U.S. military education program that is rapidly expanding these activities in its curriculum. The findings highlighted key mechanisms and opportunities to “bake assessment in” to wargame design and facilitation. The presentation seeks to offer a guide for practitioners who are seeking to implement valid and meaningful assessment of learning that can be adapted to their own wargaming practices.

Kate Kuehn is the Director of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning at Marine Corps University (MCU). In addition to managing the University’s institutional effectiveness process, she supports the evaluation of all MCU professional military education programs and directorates. Kate has spent 12 years working on evaluation and assessment of military education programs, providing advice on the design of learning assessments at the classroom, program, and institutional level. She is a member of the Military Education Assessment Advisory Group and has frequently served on military accreditation teams. Her research focuses on assessment and performance evaluation in complex contexts. More specifically, she is currently focused on assessment in team-based simulated learning environments. Kate has an MA from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a BA from the College of William and Mary. She is a doctoral candidate at George Mason University’s College of Education and Human Development with specializations in education research methodology and educational psychology. Her dissertation proposes an assessment framework for collaborative, ill-structured games, and examines its application to educational wargaming practice.

In August, the US Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), together with European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), conducted a wargaming course on hybrid threats.

Representing six Participating States, NATO, various national ministries, think tanks and armed forces, thecourse brought together a unique group of students in Helsinki. Aimed at a diverse group of participants, thispractical and educational two-week workshop was designed to encourage a whole-of-society approach to cooperation in countering hybrid threats. In this iteration of the wargaming course, students tackled the challenge of building an exploratory wargame which considered the influence of various actors on European energy security. 

The students went through the process of creating a wargame from start to finish, with the help of lectures, practical exercises and learning by doing. Through the creation of unique hybrid threat wargames, the courses not only increased awareness of hybrid threats but also overall understanding with regard to nations’ ability to respond to them.

A forthcoming issue of the Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology features an editorial by Phillip Pournelle on “The need for cooperation between wargaming and modeling & simulation for examining Cyber, Space, Electronic Warfare, and other topics.” You can read it here.

In the June 2022 issue of War & Society, Adam Seipp discusses “Fulda Gap: A board game, West German society, and a battle that never happened, 1975–85.”

This article explores the reception of the American-made board game Fulda Gap: The First Battle of the Next War in the Federal Republic of Germany in the early 1980s. The German peace movement used the game, which depicted conventional, chemical, and nuclear war on German territory, as a potent symbol of what they believed to be American and NATO disregard for German lives and sovereignty. The controversy over the game reflected the changing character of German-American relations during the ‘Second Cold War’ and increasing concerns among Germans about the possible consequences of superpower conflict in Central Europe.

In turn, RockyMountainNavy reviews the game, its treatment of nuclear war, and historical and cultural context at Armchair Dragoons: “Wargame History – An anti-nuclear wargame in Fulda Gap.” He tends to the view that it was perhaps a little less significant that Seipp argues.

NovaTech has had several interesting reports and interviews on its webpage this year, including a profile of UK Fight Club and an interview with Anthony Sharman (Evocatus):

This week, we’re talking to Anthony Sharman, director of Evocatus Consulting, a company set up to help military organisations and businesses to communicate through games and exercises. As is the case with many of our interview subjects, whereas Anthony’s work once relied heavily on rudimentary tabletop games, today, Evocatus utilises bleeding edge technology to produce realistic simulations that will soon be almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

So, what makes Anthony and his team tick, why are simulations such a powerful training tool and is there any definite science behind these highly technical war games?

The Georgetown University Wargame Society continues to host lectures, post videos, organize games, and do many other things–more than we can keep up with! Be sure to check out their forthcoming events, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and follow them on Twitter.

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