PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Save the date: Connections North 2022

We are pleased to announce that the next Connections North professional (war)gaming conference will be held online on 19-20 February 2022 (Saturday and Sunday).

Panels will address a number of topics, which should be of interest to serious gamers in Canada and around the world:

  • Wargaming and policy gaming in Canada
  • Promotion de la coopération dans le jeu sérieux
  • Gaming coalitions—beyond “generic BLUE”
  • Institutional uptake and the challenge of “decision-based evidence-making”
  • Influence gaming
  • Whose Game is it Anyway? (game design meets improvisational comedy)
  • Looking ahead

Additional details will be posted here when available. In the meantime, if you are interested in contributing a presentation to one of these theme, feel free to email us.

Stimson Center: Research associate wanted

The Henry L. Stimson Center seeks “a highly-motivated individual to join the team as a full-time Research Associate for the South Asia Program starting in January 2022. The successful candidate will have prior educational and professional experience in research, the South Asian security and nuclear fields, and wargaming and/or simulations.”

The deadline for application is December 3, and the expected start date for the position is 4 January 2022. The candidate must be based in the Washington DC area.

Full details can be found here.

h/t GUWS

KMAC-YOYO: A Matrix Game of Central Asian Futures

When Tim Price isn’t dragging his better half around castles, he designs matrix games. His latest, KMAC-YOYO, looks at the future of Central Asian geopolitics in the wake of the Taliban take-over in Afghanistan.

The game is designed for 6 players: the United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Iran. The package comes with a scenario description, briefing sheets, asset and capability markers, and maps. It also comes with basic instructions on how to play a matrix game, with references to additional online resources.

For those of you interested in designing and running matrix games, check out PAXsim’s Matrix Game Construction Kit and MaGCK User Guide.

Preparing for the doomsday variant

In confronting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Israel has been moderately successful. Cumulative mortality is well below that of most OECD or G20 countries.

This is around the mid-point of those countries in the Middle East and North Africa for which reliable data exists.

Israel was among the earliest vaccinators in the world and among the first to introduce booster shots—although vaccine coverage is still a little lower than many comparable countries (due to hesitancy, not capacity).

But why raise all of this at PAXsims? Because Israel recently conducted an exercise to examine the challenges that would be posed by a “doomsday” variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, one that is more lethal to children yet not affected by current vaccines.

According to Haaretz (paywalled):

Last week, a national exercise code-named Omega was held, to examine how to cope with a fifth wave that would be caused, hypothetically, by the arrival of a new variant that was immune to vaccination.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took the possibility seriously and spent eight hours straight in the national management center. The exercise was planned by the special methods branch of the Defense Ministry, and it was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Ayash, formerly head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate.

The method of the simulation recalled a military exercise, which takes the scenario to the extreme to examine the true capability of the system to arrive at and implement decisions.

The fifth wave that was posited in the exercise was a doomsday affair: the penetration of a vaccine-immune variant that strikes hard at children and causes large-scale death among children and teenagers. In the past year, and more decisively under the Bennett government, Israeli strategy has relied on vaccination as the chief response to the virus. Here, then, the carpet was pulled from under the feet of the decision-makers and they were compelled to look for other solutions.

One method that is meant to improve the situation is the purchase of a large quantity of medications against COVID-19, which are now in the final stages of approval in the United States. Prior acquisition of such medications, on the assumption that they will prove effective against the next variant, too, could reduce deaths and perhaps allow the continued partial opening of the economy.

he economic damage from one week of closure is estimated at between 2 billion and 4 billion shekels ($650 million-$1.3 billion). No medicines or vaccinations will be anywhere near as costly.

On the other hand, Bennett leans to hermetically closing Ben-Gurion airport to non-Israelis in the event a new variant appears, and to conducting stringent control and quarantine of returning Israelis.

The exercise turned up other points of weakness: the difficulty of the civilian system to move from routine into emergency mode, the feeble ability of the public information system and holes in the coordination between government ministries. (The National Security Council, on which the Netanyahu government pinned its hopes, is not up to the task.)

One of Israel’s problems – again, contrary to the boasts of the former prime minister – is the absence of an orderly mechanism capable of tracking and analyzing the spread of the virus abroad. Thus, the Foreign Ministry is barely mobilized in the national effort, even though it has representatives in almost every country.

The Guardian provides further details on some of the issues that were explored:

Restrictions on gatherings and movement, quarantine policy, lockdowns, curfews and tourism.

Oversight and warnings issued during the development of a new and dangerous variant, testing vaccine protection, epidemiological investigations, hospital capacity and the carrying out of mass-testing and vaccination programmes.

The legality of local or regional lockdowns and curfews, and other restrictions.

Economic support for the population.

Public security in enforcing quarantine, lockdowns and curfews.

Closing schools in outbreak centres, reducing class sizes and remote learning.

Departure and arrival policy at borders including Ben Gurion airport.

Informing the public and responding to “discourse on the internet”.

You can also find additional details from Reuters and the Jerusalem Post.

USA Fight Club

The purpose of the US Fight Club is to provide a venue that supports training, educating and the development of the next generation of hobby and professional wargamers, across all echelons, disciplines and communities. Our intent is to create an environment that is:

  • fun
  • voluntary
  • rank agnostic
  • flat (no authoritative hierarchy)
  • focuses on decision making, and dealing with the impact of the decision
  • includes tactical, operational and strategic games/competitions
  • encourage ‘wrong’ thinking (a belief or opinion that run contrary to the prevailing thought)

Past / Current Events

In October, the club ran a day long Battle for Moscow tournament, with the support of the US Army Command and General Staff College’s directorate of simulation education. This month, the club was invited to participate in a Last Hundred Yards ladder tournament. This is a perpetual event sponsored by Mike Denson, the creator of The Last Hundred Yards.

Upcoming Events

After the holidays, the club will sponsor a Battle Academy 2 tournament as well as a Black sea grey zone competition (matrix wargame). Dates and coordinating instructions are in final development and will be posted to the fight club website before mid-December 2021.

For more information, see the USA Fight Club website.

Jeff Hodges, USA Fight Club

Mason: Designing public safety games and tabletop exercises

At the LECMgt blog, Roger Mason discusses designing public safety games and tabletop exercises.

Public Safety organizations employ tabletop style exercises to train their personnel. These exercises provide a flexible and cost-effective system to simulate a variety of critical incidents. This article will discuss how to design tabletop exercises and the next level of simulation complexity, wargames. I will discuss the uses of these exercises and the common and unique characteristics of each.

We will explore five steps for designing a game or exercise and how to validate the design. Some people maintain that tabletop exercises are simple to design because they appear to be simple. There may be more to designing a tabletop exercise or wargame than some people believe.

It’s a very useful overview of the process and considerations involved and well worth a read.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 12 November 2021

PAXsims is pleased to offer some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) games that may be of interest to our readers.

Aaron Danis suggested items for this latest edition.

We are pleased to announce that the King’s College London Crisis Simulations is the latest group to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming. If your organization would like to endorse the Derby House Principles, let us know!

We also still have Derby House Principles pins available.

On November 5-6, the US Army War College assisted the School of International Affairs at Pennsylvania State University with a crisis simulation:

Each year, SIA Professor and former U.S. Ambassador Dennis Jett coordinates an international crisis simulation as a component of his core course on the foundations of diplomacy and international relations theory. The U.S. Army War College, located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, manages the details of the simulation in the form of its International Strategic Crisis Negotiation Exercise.

Experiential learning is one of the best ways for students to prepare for a career in international affairs. “The simulation with the Army War College is one of the most popular and important activities that students participate in while at the School of International Affairs,” Jett said.

This year’s exercise focused on the Arctic region, with the students divided into nine teams. They negotiated the conflicting claims of the countries represented over rights to the resources in the Arctic region.

“It puts students into a situation that is very close to what a real-world, diplomatic negotiation is actually like,” Jett continued. “It is a very valuable, professional experience and it is fun for them to try out their negotiation skills in a complicated, international crisis.”

In October, the ICONS team hosted a peace game with the US Diplomatic Studies Foundation:

Former ICONS Director and current researcher at the Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security (ARLIS) Devin Ellis noted that the core purpose of the game was to offer an opportunity for U.S. Government participants to practice crisis management at the U.S. embassy level.

“DSF recommended to the State Department that more training and gaming be done for FSOs, who don’t receive the level of consistent investment in these types of trainings that their counterparts in the Department of Defense, for example, do,” Ellis said.

The game included more than 30 participants from the Department of State, Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Intelligence Community.

“The unit of analysis here – the Country Team – was selected because it is an interagency group at the embassy level,” Ellis said. “Aside from serving on a country team during the course of their careers, many FSOs, when they become Deputy Chiefs of Mission or Ambassadors, would have only had experience in leading a country team to deal with a crisis if a real crisis had happened at one of their postings. So the aim here is to fill that gap.”

The game involved a crisis situation at a U.S. embassy within a fictional nation named Ikhaya, and included everything from invented White House memos to maps of Ikhaya.

“One of the best things about this simulation was that it was an interagency activity from start to finish,” ICONS Researcher and Simulation Developer Ron Capps said. “We had some pretty senior people from the defense, development, diplomacy and intelligence communities engaged in getting the details right during the development, and we had the same groups represented on the control team and as participants in the simulation itself.”

A recent episode of Homo Ludens featured Fred Serval discussing wargaming ethics (specifically, civilian victimization in wargames) with Brian Train, Javier Romero, John Poniske, and Tomislav Cipčic.

The Game Design Thinking blog at Stanford University recently featured an excellent article by Chris Bennett asking do diverse game designers lead to more diverse game designs, focusing on the recent experience of the Zenobia historical board game design award.

Was the Zenobia Award a perfect process? As a chief judge, I would say far from it. And we have learned a lot from this process that we can improve in the future.

But did it meaningfully push the ball forward? Judging from the publishing and social media success we have seen from a number of contestants already, this appears to be the case.

The intent of the Zenobia Award was to show that a diverse set of game designers could not only deliver meaningful and fun game designs but that those games might showcase the diversity of the designers. 

And from the game designs that have come out of Zenobia, I think it’s been a great success.

Körber-Stiftung and Chatham House recently published a report on Escalation in the Taiwan Strait: What to Expect from Europe?

Over the last few years, tensions in the Taiwan Strait have led to great concerns over Chinese territorial claims in the region. The potential for an escalation is

high – with significant implications for Europe. At the same time, the Biden administration is pursuing a tough stance on China and expects Europe to join a transatlantic approach.

Against this backdrop, the Körber Policy Game brought together a high-level group of senior experts, politicians, and officials from France, Germany, Italy and the UK to address a fictional scenario of a political- security crisis in the Taiwan Strait.

How will Europe position itself in an escalation be- tween China and the US against the backdrop of trade tensions and a threat of Chinese intervention in Taiwan? Which interests are at stake for Europeans, and which policy options do they have at their disposal? Can Europe find a coherent strategy in a crisis, considering China’s relevance for economic and trade relations?

The Körber Policy Game projects current foreign and security policy trends into a future scenario. The aim is to develop a deeper understanding of the inter- ests and priorities of different actors as well as possible policy options. Previous Körber Policy Games have dis- cussed Europe’s post-COVID-19 future, a US withdrawal from NATO and Turkey’s role in Syria.

The discussions took place online in May 2021 under Chatham House Rule in cooperation with the Chatham House Asia-Pacific Programme. This report summarises the results and presents policy recom- mendations. It reflects the analysis of the Körber Policy Game by Körber-Stiftung and Chatham House’s Asia-Pacific Programme and not necessarily the view of the participants.

In the past, PAXsims has pulled together lists of wargames (both serious and commercial) addressing current or future conflicts, such as the conflict in Ukraine (2014) or a potential Israeli attack on Iran (2011). We are going to do the same for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. If you have suggestions, add them in the comments below.

At the University of Edinburgh’s History & Games Lab blog, Brian Train discusses analog newsgames as citizen journalism:

The word “newsgame” became much more widely used in the game studies community when Ian Bogost, Simon Ferrari and Bobby Schweizer published Newsgames: Journalism at Play in 2011. In the book, Bogost described the basic objectives of journalism (to inform, educate, criticize and persuade) and how video games distributed through the Internet could improve the effectiveness of journalists in achieving those objectives, and possibly rescue their reputation and livelihood at the same time.

Ten years later Bogost wrote an opinion piece for Convergence, a journal dedicated to new media technologies, called “Curiosity journalism, or the first decades of newsgames”. In it, he concluded:

“Journalism games were a long shot, for reasons that had little to do with games and more to do with everything else happening in the media and tech industries…. Computers turned out to be the authoring and distribution system for 20th Century media, not hosts for procedural media like software and simulations. Those circumstances can partly explain the shift from games to gamification….”

I was not that surprised to read his post-mortem of the form, since neither the original book nor this “bookend” piece mentioned analog games at all, except for a discussion of crosswords and word puzzles appearing in newspapers. It is well known that this area of cultural studies, particularly in the United States, is almost completely devoted to computer and video games and is persistently ignorant both of its analog history and of the analog games that continue to be published alongside digital games.

The fact remains that the practice of producing analog or analog newsgames predates video games by a very long time and continues today. Many of them stand as more than just commemorative objects or ephemera; they are also fine examples of citizen-based social criticism and analytic journalism.

In this blog I will present examples of three general types of analog newsgame: the game that uses a “reskin” of a well-known popular game to make a point; the game that is an original design but nevertheless simple mechanics; and the historical board wargame, a procedurally heavy item informed by data and techniques of operational research.

CNA summer internship

CNA is looking for interns to support a broad range of defence analysis—including wargaming.

CNA’s 12-week paid Research Student Summer Intern Program is designed to introduce recent undergraduates and current graduate students to work in a professional studies and analysis organization dedicated to the safety and security of the nation. 

We are seeking at least 2 interns with quantitative or qualitative research and analysis skills to work with our research staff, which spans a diverse range of academic backgrounds. We encourage applicants in any of the following disciplines or related fields: computer science, chemistry, physics, biology/environmental science, engineering, operations research, mathematics, statistics, economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, or international relations. Post-doctoral fellows are not eligible for the internship program. However, we encourage individuals who are completing their fellowships to apply for a full-time Research Analyst position.

Our goal is for the internship experience to mimic what it’s like to be a member of a CNA research team. Upon hire, each intern will be assigned to a mentor and a specific project that matches their area of study. With the mentor’s guidance, the intern will assist the team in structuring and solving a complex problem, developing sound analytical methods to derive findings and conclusions. The intern will document those results and present their work at the conclusion of the internship. In the course of conducting the analysis, the intern may engage with the study sponsor, generally located in government agencies in the National Capital Region. Interns may be required to obtain a clearance as necessary for work assignments. In addition, throughout the course of the internship, interns will benefit from ongoing learning events and social activities such as brown bags, soap boxes and industry/technical sessions.

Our interns will collaborate with research program teams using CNA-provided equipment. Mentors and research program team members will provide interns with guidance on project tasks and navigating CNA resources. Other events are planned throughout the summer to help connect the intern to CNA. 

Qualifications

Eligible candidates must satisfy the following requirements:

Recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree or currently enrolled in a graduate program in the physical, social, or computer sciences or a related discipline.

US citizen

Cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.3 or higher

Strong collaboration and communications skills

You’ll find additional details here. The deadline for applications is November 30. Qualified applicants will be interviewed in January-February 2022 and successful applicants will be notified by March.

CNA is a sponsor of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

h/t GUWS

A crest comes home

In addition to recently obtaining a U-Boat, the Western Approaches HQ museum in Liverpool has obtained a unique piece of wargaming history—the crest that once adorned the door of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit.

GUWS: November presentations

The Georgetown University Wargaming Society has several interesting presentations lined up for November:

November 16 (1200-1400 EST)

How Diversity Won the War: the Western Approaches Tactical Unit wargame

Sally Davis (Dstl)

It’s 1942. Britain stands alone in Europe. German U-boats have a strangle-hold on the Atlantic, sinking so much British shipping that if nothing changes we will be starved out of the war in less than three months. The Western Approaches Tactical Unit, staffed by women from across the Empire and men unfit for duty at sea due to illness and injury, is tasked to find out what’s happening in the Atlantic and find ways of sinking the U-boats. This is the story of the game behind some of the most consequential wargaming in history and recent recreations of their work.

November 23 (1800-20o0- EST)

Sand Tables: The Archaeology of a Platform

Matthew Kirschenbaum (University of Maryland)

Many wargamers will have heard of sand tables, at least as part of the collective lore. The original von Reisswitz Kriegsspiel was played on a sand table before it migrated to other formats. Hobby legends like Jack Scruby, Don Featherstone, and Gary Gygax all had sand tables, and flaunted them as status symbols. But a sand table is also a media platform in the most literal sense, ancient and elemental. As a twentieth century source explains, a sand table is “simply a box mounted on trestles to a convenient height, or a curbed table, partially filled with sand.” Common in military settings, sand tables have also been used to teach the blind, train wilderness firefighters, facilitate therapy for trauma victims, and illustrate stories to children. Today there is a direct line from this seemingly modest technology to augmented reality and other tangible media devices.

November 30 (1800-2000 EST)

Designing and Playing the Information Warfighter Exercise (IWX) Wargame

Christopher Paul (RAND) and Jim McNeive (MCIOC)

Christopher Paul (RAND) and Jim McNeive (MCIOC) will discuss their experiences designing, playtesting, and running the Information Warfighter Exercise (IWX) Wargame for the Marine Corps Information Operations Center (MCIOC).

GUWS will also be hosting an online game of the US Army LandPower Wargame on November 30, via VASSAL and Discord.

‘Third Nuclear Age’ project endorses the Derby House Principles

We are pleased to announce another research project has endorsed the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming—in this case, the Third Nuclear Age project at the University of Leicester.

The “Third Nuclear Age” research project is driven by the desire to provide the first systematic study of how disruptive technologies and renewed geopolitical rivalries are challenging and recasting the nature of nuclear risks and global nuclear order.  The project is designed to build global intellectual capacity and train the next generation of experts on this issue, utilise novel methodologies, including war-game simulations exercises, and will hopefully provide the centrepiece for a whole new generation of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work on nuclear affairs.  More detail on the project can be found at: https://thethirdnuclearage.com.  The work is funded by the European Research Council, grant number: 866155.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Sally Davis has put together a set of digital flashcards to support discussion of diversity and inclusion in the workplace—especially around the challenges that may be faced by LGBT+ colleagues. You will find it here.

Click the card to get more information on the possible challenges. Click “deal new cards” to generate a new combination. Use a browser other than Safari for best results.

CNAS: Wargaming Chinese seizure of Taiwanese islands

The Centre for New American Security has just released a new report, which examines what might happen were China to seize outlying Taiwanese islands:

How could Taiwan and the United States respond if China seized one of Taiwan’s outlying islands, such as Pratas/Dongsha (hereafter Dongsha) in the South China Sea? Whereas the U.S. national security community has focused on defending Taiwan against Chinese invasion, China’s recent military activities suggest that this kind of coercion and limited aggression might be an equally urgent question. More worryingly, such a scenario could be a prelude or pathway to war involving China, Taiwan, and the United States.

To explore potential policy and strategy options to prevent such a calamity, the Gaming Lab at CNAS wargamed this scenario with Taiwanese, American, and regional experts. Worryingly, the game found few credible options for pushing China to abandon Dongsha and return to the status quo. However, the game found numerous areas where preparation and multilateral coordination—particularly in concert with Japan—could deter limited Chinese aggression against Taiwan. 

During the game, the teams representing the United States and Taiwan struggled to compel a Chinese withdrawal from Dongsha without escalating the crisis. The team representing China avoided further escalation given its first-mover advantage, constrained territorial gains, and geographic proximity. In contrast, the U.S. team had to push its forces far forward in ways that were risky and would be difficult to sustain.1 Punitive non-military options, such as economic sanctions or information campaigns, took too long to produce effects and appeared too weak to compel China to abandon its gains.2 More aggressive military responses risked escalation to war, which both the U.S. and Taiwan teams wished to avoid. With few viable coercive options and the onus of escalation falling on the U.S. and Taiwan teams, the game reaffirmed the difficulty of rolling back territorial aggression of this kind. 

Indeed, discouraging China from seizing Taiwanese territory before it happens is the most salient lesson of the game. The United States and Taiwan must begin coordinating today to build a credible deterrent against limited Chinese aggression or coercion toward Taiwan.3Doing so will help identify ways to make a territorial fait accompli by China—such as the seizure of Dongsha—too unpalatable to consider, while also communicating the U.S. commitment to defending Taiwan. This strategy will require advance planning and communication of joint responses and defenses against coercion and territorial aggression. Rather than scrambling to respond to a fait accompli, as occurred in this game, the United States and Taiwan should prepare to implement coordinated, whole-of-government deterrent measures quickly and ensure immediate consequences for Chinese coercion or aggression short of war.

The methodology used for the game is briefly described in the report:

Players consisted of multinational defense and policy experts as well as subject matter experts. These players comprised three teams: the Blue Team, representing the United States; the Green Team, representing Taiwan; and the White Cell/Red Team, which combined China experts, the adjudicators, and other important international actors. The game consisted of three moves over the course of two three-hour sessions. Each move required all teams to take at least one diplomatic, military, information, and economic action. Players were free to take any reasonable action, but they had to explain why they had chosen one specific action over another and what they expected the outcomes of each action to be. Although the teams were given objectives to prioritize, they had freedom to build and determine their actions. The three teams were divided into separate virtual rooms but encouraged to coordinate with one another as desired.

You will find a link to the full report here.

Commenting on the report, the Washington Post writes:

Chris Dougherty, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said U.S. officials have scrutinized what a full Chinese invasion of Taiwan might look like. For this exercise, he and his colleagues wanted to examine a scenario that was on a magnitude similar to Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Dougherty, a former Army Ranger who served as a strategic adviser in the Pentagon for four years spanning the Obama and Trump administrations, said that seizing the land — also known as the Dongsha islands — would allow China to gauge the reaction of the international community. China’s status as an economic power, he said, makes it difficult for the United States to sanction Beijing on an open-ended basis.

“You either can play the game of the chicken and you can say, ‘I’m willing to get into a contest of risk-taking with you over Dongsha,’ which — let’s be honest — I don’t know that we are. Or, you can do this pillow-fighting policy, and you’re going to hit them, but not hard enough to deter them from doing what you want them to do,” Dougherty said.

The war game found that the best option was warning the Chinese ahead of time of consequences they would face for moving on the islands, with Japan playing a significant role, the report says.

“The U.S. and Taiwan teams made repeated inquiries about Japan’s position, suggesting that without Japan’s backing, the U.S. and Taiwanese negotiating position was weakened,” the report said. “In a potential conflict, a lack of unambiguous Japanese support for Taiwan in this context would undermine efforts to urge Chinese withdrawal and could set a precedent for future unchecked Chinese aggression in other territorial disputes, including those over Japanese territory, such as the Senkaku Islands.”

Archipelago of Design endorses the Derby House Principles

The Archipelago of Design is the latest group of wargaming professionals to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion:

The Archipelago of Design believes in inclusive leadership and the value of mobilizing the widest diversity of frames and identities for designing novel approaches to security challenges. We strongly support the Derby House Principles in our efforts to develop serious games that advances design mindsets in defence and security organisations of NATO members and partners. Diversity and inclusion is critical for designing games that resonate with a broader range of  security professionals and champion inclusive leadership in their organisations. We wholeheartedly encourage our partners to endorse the Derby House Principles and support this noble cause in their wargaming and serious game efforts. 

A well-deserved honour

If you’re part of a professional wargaming organization who would like to support the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion, let us know!

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