Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development



Shop-Now-button-1You can now purchase AFTERSHOCK from The Game Crafter. To visit their shop, click the “shop now” button on the right.

(If The Game Crafter shop shows an “Add to Wish List” button, this indicates that some game components are currently out of stock. You can purchase a version with substitute components here—game play is not affected.)

For information on forthcoming AFTERSHOCK demonstrations, click here. If you would enquire about the cost of a fully-facilitated AFTERSHOCK humanitarian assistance/disaster relief training session for your group, or about the customization of game materials for your organization or specific needs, please email us.

All profits from the sale of the game are donated to the World Food Programme and other UN humanitarian agencies. To date, over $4,500 has been donated from sales of the game.

About the Game

AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game is a boardgame that explores the interagency cooperation needed to address the emergency and early recovery phase of a complex humanitarian crisis. Designed for 4-8 players, it can be played with fewer (even solitaire), or more (with players grouped into larger teams). Game play takes two hours.

AFTERSHOCK is set in the fictional country of Carana, but is loosely modeled on disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake:

Carana has suffered years of sometimes violent turmoil, and has only recently taken the first steps to tentative steps to national reconciliation and reconstruction. Poverty is widespread, government capacity is weak, and ethnic and political tensions remain high. Nongovernmental organizations and United Nations specialized agencies are active in the country, including a moderately-sized UN civilian police (CIVPOL) contingent.

At dawn today, a powerful earthquake struck the capital city of Galasi, causing widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure. Tens of thousands of people are in need of urgent aid and medical attention. At the request of the government of Carana, military forces from several friendly countries—operating as the multinational Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Task Force, or HADR-TF—are en route to assist, as are additional contingents of UN and NGO personnel together with much-needed relief supplies.

The game covers approximately three months of humanitarian operations, including both the initial emergency and a later period of early recovery. Because Carana is a fragile, conflict-affected country, relief and reconstruction efforts may also involve issues of social unrest and political instability, especially during the early recovery stage once the initial shock of the crisis has worn off.


Assign aid personnel to front-line relief, earthquake rescue, needs assessment, coordination meetings, media outreach, and other tasks.

The primary objective of all players is to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the local population. However, players also need to maintain public and political support for their organizations, whether to govern (Carana), sustain the relief mission (HADR-TF), or secure financial support (UN and NGOs).


Each district of the capital is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, as well as presenting other challenges. A needs assessment would take staff and time—but would help teams to plan ahead.

Key issues highlighted in the game include:

  • aid prioritization
  • needs assessment
  • coordination across multiple actors (host country, foreign military, United Nations, NGOs), each with differing perspectives, priorities, and comparative advantages
  • host country ownership
  • local self-help by disaster-affected populations
  • internal displacement
  • epidemics
  • secondary disasters (aftershocks, flooding)
  • security and host country stability
  • logistics and supply routes
  • relief-to-recovery transitions
  • media relations
Participation in coordination meetings with other players can aid in humanitarian response. However, there are always new challenges and unforeseen events to contend with.

Participation in coordination meetings with other players can aid in humanitarian response. However, there are always new challenges and unforeseen events to contend with.

Expansion Sets

PAXsims will be releasing several expansion sets for AFTERSHOCK that highlight specific themes and issues. The first of these expansions focuses on the gender dimensions of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.


In addition, a free “humanitarian access” variant can be found here.

Demonstration Games

A list of forthcoming demonstration games can be found here.

AFTERSHOCK in the Classroom

AFTERSHOCK has been used in university courses (McGill University, University of Exeter, Texas State University), to train humanitarian personnel (Canadian Disaster and Humanitarian Response Training Program), for HADR training within the US military, Royal Navy, and Royal Marines, and for pre-deployment training of peacekeepers and CIVPOL personnel (Centro Conjunto para Operaciones de Paz de Chile). Instructors at the Chilean Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center commented:

Overall feedback from the players was immensely positive, with the vast majority of them agreeing that the game was not only enjoyable, but also provided a good introduction to some of the likely practical realities encountered on humanitarian operations. One senior Chilean army officer commented that the confusion and commotion at the beginning of the game bore a close resemblance to the discord that he experienced personally in a real earthquake relief operation in Chile. Another senior army officer claimed that, owing to the nature of his profession, he was initially very focused on his team’s individual mandate. However, as his appreciation of the game’s wider issues developed, he quickly learned the benefits of resource-sharing and working with other teams to achieve both individual and collective humanitarian mandates.

Similarly, surveys of participants at McGill University and in the Canadian Disaster and Humanitarian Response Training Program have also shown very positive results:


A 2018 study published by the GMS Journal of Medical Education examining the effectiveness of AFTERSHOCK in teaching medical students found that “participants overwhelmingly [found] the simulation to be a useful or very useful way to learn about the challenges of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”


Similarly, the director of the Canadian Disaster and Humanitarian Response Training Program, Kirsten Johnson, notes that “AFTERSHOCK provides students with the unique opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they learned in the classroom in a real-to-life, interactive, fast-paced and (intentionally) somewhat stressful simulated humanitarian crisis. It is an exciting addition to the Program, providing a great educational tool that is also a lot of fun.” MAJ Scott Cole at the 9th Mission Support Command states that “AFTERSHOCK is an excellent training tool. It focuses players on the criticality of coordination and logistics during a HADR event, and does very well in simulating the initial chaos of a disaster. Our training was a resounding success.”

AFTERSHOCK at the Canadian Humanitarian and Disaster Response Training Program

AFTERSHOCK at the Canadian Humanitarian and Disaster Response Training Program

AFTERSHOCK at the Chilean Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center.

AFTERSHOCK at the Chilean Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center.

AFTERSHOCK at National Defense University.

AFTERSHOCK at National Defense University.

AFTERSHOCK being played by members of the 9th Mission Support Command, US Army Reserve.

AFTERSHOCK being played by members of the 9th Mission Support Command, US Army Reserve.

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AFTERSHOCK at the Université de Technologie de Troyes.

AFTERSHOCK at the Connections 2015 interdisciplinary wargaming conference.

AFTERSHOCK at the Connections 2015 interdisciplinary wargaming conference.

AFTERSHOCK games on Twitter:

For thoughts on how to introduce and facilitate AFTERSHOCK in the classroom, see also this post on PAXsims.

Game Materials

The following materials are all downloadable for free from the AFTERSHOCK shop at The Game Crafter:

  • Aftershock Rulebook
  • Carana Briefing
  • HADR Task Force Briefing
  • United Nations Briefing
  • NGO Briefing
  • Facilitator Aid and Resource Tracker

Virtual Play

If you want to play AFTERSHOCK online, try the module developed for use with Table-Top Simulator or use the VASSAL module.

Game Designers

AFTERSHOCK grew out of the “game lab” held at the 2013 Connections interdisciplinary wargaming conference, which focused on HADR operations following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The game design was subsequently developed by Rex Brynen and Tom Fisher.

Rex Brynen is Professor of Political Science at McGill University, where he teaches courses on humanitarian and peace operations. Author or editor of eleven books on various aspects of security, politics, and development in the Middle East, he is coeditor of the conflict simulation and serious games website PAXsims. In addition to his academic work, he has served as a member of the Policy Staff of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, an intelligence analyst for the Privy Council (cabinet) Office, and as a consultant to other government departments, aid organizations, the World Bank, and United Nations agencies. In 2011 he won in International Studies Association’s Deborah Gerner Innovative Teaching Award for his work on educational games.

Thomas Fisher is a freelance game designer, based in Montréal. He has previously designed professional education simulations for the World Bank and the Egmont Group of national financial intelligence agencies.

Special thanks are due to David Becker, Brant Guillory, Ty Mayfield, Gary Milante, Joshua Riojas, and Brian Train for co-facilitating discussions at the Connections conference, and to Eric Freeman, June McCabe, Ecem Oskay, Hiba Zerrougui, and others from the McGill Conflict Simulation Group for help with playtesting.


If you have questions about playing the game, check out our AFTERSHOCK FAQs page.

19 responses to “AFTERSHOCK

  1. STECKLER, BRIAN 30/01/2018 at 7:43 pm

    Hello Rex and Thomas. Have you considered creating or working with someone to create an online asynchronous version of this FANTASTIC game? Ping me back at to discuss ideas how to do this if of interest (I’m not trying to sell anything or generate work….am gainfully employed….but have a long background in disaster communications). Tks – Brian

  2. Rex Brynen 14/08/2017 at 3:52 pm

    Will you be at the Connections wargaming conference at KCL next month? If so, we can talk there (and I’ll run an AFTERSHOCK game too). Let me know by email:

  3. Karim 14/08/2017 at 3:45 pm

    @Rex: Thank you so much for the reply, I’ll definitely get a copy of both the game and the expansion. I’m teaching a course on Intelligence Ethics this semester and I have been looking far and wide for any sort of game/simulation/system that either already has or allows for moral/ethical dilemmas to be part of the decision-making process. If any other materials come to mind, all recommendations are welcome!

    If you do decide to do an “Ethical Dilemmas in Humanitarian Aid” expansion, I’ll gladly offer any assistance you may need. I’m a graduate of the War Studies programme at King’s College London and Professor Philip Sabin always spoke very highly of you, it’d be a pleasure!

  4. Rex Brynen 14/08/2017 at 1:01 pm

    Karim: Aid prioritization presents ethical/triage dilemmas throughout the game, and a few are also presented in the event cards. The “Gender Expansion” adds a lot more, because at times you have to make trade-offs between longer-term vs shorter-term goals. The game also comes with blank cards to allow customization, if there are particular dilemmas one wishes to insert.

    It would be interesting to do an “Ethical Dilemmas in Humanitarian Aid” expansion at some point, and quite easy to do so using our system for game expansions. However, I have to find the time (or sponsor) first…

  5. Karim 14/08/2017 at 3:35 am

    Are there any moral/ethical dilemmas that players are presented within the mechanics of Aftershock?

  6. Rex Brynen 11/04/2017 at 3:58 pm

    I’m sorry your group encountered some rules confusion. While that isn’t something we’ve run into before, we’re always happy to help out! You can email me any rules queries (, or raise them at BoardGameGeek.

  7. Rex Brynen 03/12/2016 at 3:52 am

    Steve: You’re correct. The last line of the box should read “Carana loses one team as per the event.”

  8. steveb 03/12/2016 at 2:44 am

    In the rulebook v5.0.2, page 6, the event card E-9 example box at the bottom, last sentence reads, “Further, Carana loses 1OP for the event.” Shouldn’t this read “team” instead of “OP”? Yes, both Carana and NGO each lose 1 OP due to the needs not being met which is stated in the prior paragraph. But the example doesn’t acknowledge the “needs not met” statement on the event card. That said, the paragraph at the top of the page, 2nd column, does reference this correctly.

  9. Rex Brynen 22/11/2016 at 8:59 am

    We would usually be looking for a description of the course (including other elements), a brief summary of how the game was conducted and what happened, then some discussion of learning outcomes, etc. On another note, have you seen the gender supplement to the game? It would be quite easy to develop a logistics supplement using the same mechanism.

  10. Joakim 22/11/2016 at 8:35 am

    Just to add to my previous comment.. in addition to the boardgame, I use a dynamic case which I developed myself and published, see the following link:

    I also do research in the area of humanitarian logistics, here is a link to our recently published paper in Journal of Operations Management:

  11. Joakim 22/11/2016 at 8:30 am

    Thank you very much for clarifications. I teach a course in Humanitarian Logistics at Lund University (advanced/master level) within a specialization of logistics and supply chain management. Could you perhaps elaborate what constitutes a game session write-up, I’d be happy to help out. Best regards // Joakim

  12. Rex Brynen 21/11/2016 at 11:44 am

    1. An infrastructure token counts as one item for the purposes of port/airport capacity, regardless of how much a player “paid” for it.

    2. There is no total capacity limit, and as you correctly note the logistics counters reset at the end of each game turn (not player turn). This means that it is the UN and especially the NGO player who may face problems bringing in material (Carana doesn’t have to worry about the restrictions, while HADR-TF moves early and so the port and airport are never full yet). This was a deliberate design decision: in Haiti, military then UN flights were given priority, while NGOs often complained they couldn’t get landing slots.

    If your HADR-TF player is aggressively upgrading logistics infrastructure early in the game, this probably means that either i) they’re gamers and foresee the potential bottleneck problem, or 2) they understand the importance of logistics in humanitarian operations. Many players will, unless prompted, focus on supplies, fill the port and airport, and then have overflow at the frontier. In this sense the game is very much about highlighting the importance of proper planning rather than simply throwing bottles of water to orphans.

    Any chance of a game session write-up for PAXsims on your classroom use of AFTERSHOCK? What class are you using it for?

  13. Joakim 21/11/2016 at 6:29 am

    Thanks for a quick reply, and I believe your comments make sense. I then have two follow-up questions that are related to the ports and capacity constraints.

    1. If a player decides to transform supplies (3 similar or 3 different) to an infrastructure marker, does that infrastructure marker count as 1 or as 3 in the port/airport?

    2. For the respective local warehouses in the port/airport, is there any overall capacity limit? If I understood correctly, the logistics capacity constraint in the port/airport only applies to all new supplies brought in during one round. The next round, the players can bring in equally as much, or?

  14. Rex Brynen 20/11/2016 at 12:30 pm

    Generally it makes more sense to upgrade the Airport, at least initially (and indeed this what was done in the Haiti earthquake).

    The Port does have some advantages, though: it ultimately can accept more incoming material, AND Carana has a warehouse there. That means players who bring in material at the Port can, if they are in the appropriate Cluster meeting with Carana, then pass on materials to Carana to distribute. Since Carana has the special ability to deliver one supply per district regardless of whether it has a team is located there, this can be quite effective.

    By contrast, Carana does not have a warehouse at the Airport, and so supplies there cannot be shared with it (even if you’re in a Cluster meeting together).

    If players aggressively upgrade either the Port or Airport they should be OK. Remember, however, that to upgraded you need to: 1) buy the upgrade, and count it against incoming capacity for that turn, 2) next turn, have a team allocated to the Logistics cluster, and then perform the upgrade in the Special Operations phase of that turn. It thus takes a while and is resource intensive.

  15. Joakim 20/11/2016 at 12:22 pm

    Hi, I am just introducing Aftershock in my course and have one important question related to capacity constraints in the Airport/port (which kind of defines the game and purpose to show how important logistics is). It appears as if upgrading the Airport is much more favorable than upgrading the port. When we played the game we just upgraded the Airport and never had any issues with logistics/constraints to bring in supplies. We feel that we have missed something and would appreciate some guidance.

  16. Rex Brynen 08/10/2015 at 5:08 pm

    Not yet, no. Time permitting we may video a couple of turns at some point.

  17. Joey Sullivan 08/10/2015 at 5:07 pm

    Are there any videos of a complete game being played. I have read the rule book, but it would be nice to see how it all flows before attempting to play.

  18. Rex Brynen 22/09/2015 at 10:38 am

    The conversion takes place BEFORE the supplies/infrastructure “arrives.” An infrastructure marker still only counts as one item, therefore you are able to bring one into the port despite its initially heavily-damaged state.

  19. Peter J McNabb 22/09/2015 at 10:25 am

    I have a rules Question about the game. Three newly arrived supplies are used to convert to a infrastructure counter. Does this conversion take place before or AFTER the supplies are brought in via the airport or seaport? If conversion AFTER the supplies are landed the seaport’s initial status of 1 supply prevents it being repaired by international aid. Is the intent to prevent any but the local government to perform this initial upgrade to the seaport? This is a key factor as the seaport is the only point that all parties warehouses are available for sharing.

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