Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 21 March 2023

Some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to PAXsims readers.

Marine Corps Times features an article on Littoral Commander, including an interview with Sebastian Bae

“I wanted Marines to understand Force Design 2030 and why these changes were happening and why the commandant was making the changes he was,” Bae said.

So, after years of wargaming in 2019 Bae started building his own game – Littoral Commander.

The game started as a weekend pet project, he said. The former infantryman couldn’t get many people interested in an educational game for enlisted.

The pandemic hitting in 2020 jumpstarted his wargame development, giving him more time than he’d had before to work on the design and concept, he said.

He finished the game in August 2020 and started testing it nearly nonstop through March 2021. He even ran it for leaders he knew at the Corps’ Expeditionary Warfare School.

Then, it kind of caught on but needed some smoothing of rough edges. Game design isn’t for the faint of heart.

You can find out more about the game at Board Game Geek and order it from the Dietz Foundation.

Japan’s Sasakawa Peace Foundation recently held a wargame to examine what might happen were Japan and the US to support Taiwan against a Chinese invasion of the island. According to a report by Nikkei Asia:

If Japan and the U.S. were to become involved in a conflict between China and Taiwan, they would be able to prevent Beijing’s takeover of the island, but at a heavy cost to their military personnel and equipment, think tank simulations show.

A tabletop wargame conducted by Japan’s Sasakawa Peace Foundation showed Japan losing as many as 144 fighter jets, with Self-Defense Forces casualties reaching up to 2,500. The U.S. could lose up to 400 jets with over 10,000 soldiers killed or wounded. But China would fail to seize control of the island.

The exercise imagined a cross-strait crisis in which China attempts an amphibious invasion of Taiwan in the year 2026. The simulation was conducted over four days through Jan. 21.

The roughly 30 participants included former Japan Self-Defense Force officers as well as academics and researchers from Japan and the U.S.

The war game pitted the Chinese against Japanese, U.S. and Taiwanese forces. The Chinese military established a command center for the Taiwan front capable of deploying all air, submarine and surface vessel capabilities. The U.S. military responded by sending nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and state-of-the-art fighter jets to areas in and around Taiwan.

Maritime Self-Defense Force warships, along with the fleet of F-35 fighters in the Air Self-Defense Force, took part in missile attacks against Chinese forces.

China was eventually overwhelmed by the U.S.-Japan response, with the conflict ceasing in a little over two weeks. China’s military supply was cut off, and the final blow came when the coalition took control of airspace over Taiwan.

All told, China lost 156 warships, including two carriers, along with 168 fighter jets and 48 military transport aircraft, according to the scenario. More than 40,000 soldiers were killed or wounded.

The takeaway was that although a Chinese military takeover of Taiwan was thwarted, it came at heavy human and material costs to the self-governed island, the U.S. and Japan.

Taiwan saw 13,000 soldiers dead and wounded in the conflict, including prisoners of war, and lost 18 warships and 200 warplanes. U.S. casualties added up to 10,700 people, with the loss of 19 ships and 400 warplanes.

The JSDF lost 15 vessels and 144 fighter jets, including F-35s and F-2s. Japanese bases were targeted by China, resulting 2,500 casualties among SDF personnel. Civilian casualties ranged from a few hundred people to more than 1,000.

At The Strategist, Marcus Schultz argues that “Wargaming will be a key to strengthening deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.”

A lack of funding for training would hamper the US military’s ability to compete in the Indo-Pacific and undermine efforts to reinforce deterrence. This is compounded by the fact that the tyranny of distance reduces opportunities for large multinational exercises to deliver the kind of wargaming experimentation that is urgently needed. Radically different and innovative wargaming exercises are now necessary to support and test joint warfighting concepts in anticipation of a crisis.

Wargames are analytical experiments that simulate aspects of warfare at the strategic, operational or tactical level. They are used to examine warfighting concepts, explore scenarios and assess how force planning and posture choices affect campaign outcomes. Wargames are designed to foster critical thinking and innovation and help prepare commanders and analysts for future challenges.

The US Army’s ‘project convergence’ is described as a campaign of learning designed to evaluate dozens of new and improved weapon systems and other technologies, including autonomous systems and network-focused technologies. Supporting five core elements—soldiers, weapons systems, command and control, information and terrain—the inaugural exercise concentrated on what the army calls the ‘close fight’ by integrating new enabling technologies at the lowest operational level so that tactical networks could facilitate faster decision-making. The second iteration focused on live-fire events and ways to incorporate artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomy, robotics and common data standards into decision-making processes across multiple domains of operations.

While most associate wargaming with tabletop exercises simulating future conflict, the project convergence exercises incorporate comprehensive boots-on-the-ground activities to test the practical elements of joint operations with the other US services and allied militaries.

The US Naval War College recently posted a report discussing its War Gaming Introductory Course.

The war gaming course attendees’ responsibilities vary on tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war. But all are important to national defense. As such, 45 people – connected by mission – attended the latest iteration of the War Gaming Introductory Course (aka War Gaming 101) held January 17 –26, 2023 at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC). Students consisted of War Gaming Department (WGD) enlisted personnel and military faculty officers, other NWC military faculty, military officers from the Joint Staff J7, and government civilians from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Command, and various U.S. Navy organizations. The represented organizations will be either creators of, contributors to, or consumers of war games.

As a fundamental research area for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV), war gaming offered by the WGD is an integral part of NWC’s academic programming and provides critical insight into how and why leaders make decisions in maritime and joint warfare. A joint venture between the WGD and Joint Military Operations (JMO) department, and now in its ninth year, War Gaming 101 provides value using a multi-pronged approach that creates knowledge for a diverse group of attendees. Each department uses wargaming for a different purpose: teaching in JMO as opposed to research in WGD. And each department contributes faculty to the course to help illustrate the different applications of war games depending on environment. The course is directed by Shawn Burns, Ed.D., an NWC professor and war game director and Richard Wilbur, assistant course director, NWC war gaming specialist, former surface warfare officer, and retired foreign service officer.

Originally designed to introduce new WGD members, War Gaming 101 has been restructured to accommodate an increase in the breadth of organizations enrolling course participants. Its objective is multi-faceted: outlining the process used to create and analyze war games; exploring the origins, nature, methods, and limits of war gaming; providing essential resources to course participants; and enabling ongoing partnerships that facilitate a larger military objective. Over the eight-day period, presenters offer a series of war gaming classes and practical application activities to help new faculty. They also gain access to more experienced colleagues who serve as mentors over the span of their careers.

What have the wargaming section at the Canadian Joint Warfare Centre been up to lately? They’ve been running space games!

Liz Davidson’s Beyond Solitaire Podcast #107 featured Ian Brown (The Krulak Center) discussing his work at the Krulak Center, his interest in professional wargaming, and some of his own upcoming designs.

The Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group podcast recent featured a discussion on “wargaming as training” with Maj Zachary Schwartz and SSgt David Wood.

Wargaming isn’t just something that goes on at think tanks in the Beltway, it is an indispensable part of a unit training plan. In this episode we discuss why and how you can start wargaming with your unit right now.

You can find it at Spotify.

MERLIN is an offensive cyber operations wargame from CNA. You can hear more about it at the video below.

Humanitarian Partnerships Weeks take place this year on 17-21 April (remote participation) and 24-28 April (in-person and hybrid participation, Geneva). As usual, the event will feature a number of presentations on simulation and gaming in the humanitarian sector:

  • Capitalizing on GDACS automated modelling for scenario-based simulation exercises
  • Natural Disaster Preparedness Supported by Simulation
  • Humanitarian negotiation simulation
  • Natural Disaster Preparedness Supported by Simulation
  • Training the Next Generation of Aid Workers: Serious Games in Action
  • Training the Next Generation of Humanitarian Workers Through University Simulation Exercises – An Interactive Workshop

LOGOPS is modern French combat logistics wargame designed by Pytharec and Yann Schmidt for the l’École de Guerre-Terre:

“LOGOPS” vise à disposer d’un wargame didactique destiné à sensibiliser les tacticiens et entraîner les logisticiens au soutien d’une division capable de représenter les trois paramètres clés que sont les ressources, les potentiels et la sureté. 

Pour remplir sa mission, le joueur met en oeuvre des capacités correspondant aux moyens dont dispose ou pourrait disposer legroupement de soutien de la division. 

L’objectif de victoire consiste à maintenir un potentiel de combat plus élevé que son adversaire jusqu’à la destruction tactique de ce dernier. 

Pour l’atteindre, chaque équipe doit ainsi non seulement garantir la capacité opérationnelle des unités mais également régénérer dans les plus brefs délais les pertes subies, ce en dépit desmenaces pesant sur la zone des soutiens

At LinkedIn, Natalia Wojtowicz describes a recent joint warghame of Safety and Security Management Studies and the Belgian Defence College.

What is the best day at the office? A day out! This week we took the Wargaming Project on the road to Brussels. Safety and Security Management Studies always speak of bringing the students to expertise – directly applying what they learn in lectures. Well, we went one step further this time. To challenge students with wargaming on an operational level – creating plans for offensive and defensive maritime and air campaigns. The outcome? Under time pressure, rapid research, and divided tasks within groups, we have a winning plan!

The next Serious Play conference will be held in Toronto on 11-13 October 2023. Details can be found here.

Board Game Academics is calling for proposals for its first annual academic conference on 2 August 2023, with presentations held virtually and in-person during Gen Con’s Trade Day in Indianapolis.

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