PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Fall 2020 webinar and wargaming series for Georgetown University Wargaming Society

The Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) was founded in 2020 to provide a venue for hobby gamers, professional wargamers, and those new to wargaming with opportunities to play games and learn more about wargaming as a profession. GUWS welcomes members of all academic levels and backgrounds.

The schedule for our webinar and wargame series for Fall 2020 is indicated below. The webinar series is open to the public and free – in order to be accessible to the widest audience possible. Please note some events are still in development. 

Cards in Wargames with Volko Ruhnke

Sept 21, 6:00PM-8PM EDT

 Award-winning commercial boardgame designer Volko Ruhnke will discuss the use of playing cards in tabletop wargames. Playing cards—once a rarity in hobby wargames—have exploded in designs published over the past three decades. What do they bring to the table? When should you use them in your wargame design? How can you leverage their unique power to greatest advantage? The talk will briefly survey the history of playing cards in board wargames and then focus on effective use of cards as an element of design. Register on Eventbrite

History and Principles of Solitaire Wargame Design

Sept 29, 6:00PM-8PM EDT

Bruce Mansfield & Jason Carr will discuss the history and principles solitaire tabletop gaming. Solitaire tabletop gaming has exploded in popularity over the last decade, both in solitaire-specific game designs, and solitaire game variants. Why is solitaire gaming becoming more popular? What design considerations are specific to solitaire design? How did we get to this point? This talk will outline the history of solitaire wargaming, analyze various solitaire design mechanisms, and speak about the tradeoffs in usability, complexity, and simulation in solitaire wargame designs, with special attention paid to ‘bots’ – automated solitaire opponents in otherwise multiplayer games. Register on Eventbrite.

Wargame Pathologies: An Overview, with Examples by Chris Weuve

October 5, 6:00PM – 8:00PM

Wargames can fail.  In this talk, professional DOD wargamer Chris Weuve explores some of the failure modes of professional wargames, and looks at some examples — and what to do about them. (And, given the current unpleasantness, he offers some thoughts on distributed wargames.) Register on Eventbrite.

USAF Title 10 Wargaming with Mitch Reed

Oct 12, 6:00PM-8PM EDT

 Mitch Reed, a senior wargame designer for the U.S. Air Force (USAF), will be discussing the wargame development for Global Engagement 20 (TREWMAN) and Futures Game 20. Global Engagement and Futures Game comprise the annual marquee wargames for the USAF, also known as USAF Title 10 wargames. This webinar will focus on how the AF/A5SW created the first competition wargame for the USAF – based on guidance from the Deputy SECDEF. It will also explore how AF/A5SW planned the largest competition game in DoD (before being cancelled by COVID) and its future plans for its TREWMAN competition game system. Register on Eventbrite.

Flashpoint Baltics Matrix Wargame

Oct 17, 11:00-3:00PM EDT

In collaboration with the Department of Strategic Wargaming at the U.S. Army War College (AWC), the Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) will be hosting a matrix-style wargaming examining strategic conflict between Russia and the United States in a hypothetical future scenario. This wargame will be conducted virtually and is limited to only 18 players. The wargame aims to provide an opportunity for students, aspiring professional wargamers, and military service members to engage with wargaming as an educational tool.

Registration for this event is capped at 18 participants. Interested participants may express their interest here via Google forms.

Agile Wargaming with Phil Bolger & Lexee Brill

Oct 26, 6:00PM-8PM EDT

Phil Bolger and Lexee Brill will discuss Agile Wargaming, a way to take traditional wargaming frameworks in a streamlined, low-fidelity, quick-turn format. Phil and Lexee work with the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC). This discussion will focus on how AFWIC and other organizations AFWIC has worked alongside (including A5SW, multiple USAF Major Commands, and OSD-SCO) have made use of Agile Wargaming to develop concepts, refine plans, and assist decision-making, as well as what distinguishes Agile Wargaming from traditional wargaming, and how the two can benefit from each other. Register on Eventbrite

Digital Transformation of Wargames Co-Sponsored by ISW

Nov 2, 6:00PM  8:00PM EDT 

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization, dedicated to advancing an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education.

Stephen Gordon will discuss analytical wargaming in the context of a transformative, distributed wargaming platform concept he co-created that leverages technologies, techniques, and methods from innovative industries and use cases including eSports, gaming, animation, virtual assistants, robotics, AI, quantum computing and hyper-scale cloud platforms. Joining the discussion as a co-presenter will be Col (Ret) Walt Yates, formerly the Program Manager, Training Systems, United States Marine Corps to share his experience with existing simulation capabilities and the wargaming technology evolution taking place inside the US Marine Corps. Register on Eventbrite.

Historical Board Games as Educational Tools: Shores of Tripoli by Kevin Bertram

Nov 12, 6:00PM – 8:00PM EDT

Description: TBD

Registration: TBD 

Virtual International Crisis War Game with Naval War College & Stanford University

November 14, 2020 10:00AM – 1:00PM

In partnership with the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) will be hosting their International Crisis War Game, which provides insights into the relationship between new technologies, domestic politics, conventional military capabilities, and nuclear threats. You do not need to have any prior wargaming experience or subject matter expertise to take participate: the game is aimed at generalists (like many political leaders), but those with deeper knowledge will also find this wargame interesting. Due to COVID restrictions, this wargame will be held virtually through Zoom. Registration: TBD

Gaming Nuclear War

Nov 17, 6:00PM  8:00PM EDT 

Robert McCreight will discuss how nuclear considerations and conflict are incorporated into wargaming. He will address the following: What factors drove US military and civilian leaders to prepare for all out nuclear war? What issues plagued strategic planners and governed strategic nuclear gaming? What aspects of genuine nuclear exchanges and MAD conflict were understood? What were the key requirements of gaming the management of a nuclear exchange? He will also address design elements for nuclear wargames, such as basic considerations in scenario development, issues in structuring interim game play moves and newly introduced play issues[scripted vs unscripted], and overall coordination and management of game flow. Register on Eventbrite.

Designing Cyber War

Dec 1, 6:00PM – 8:00PM EDT

Joseph Miranda will cover modeling cyberwar in wargames. The presentation will include board and computer games he has designed (examples: Cyberwar XXI for DARPA, Cybernauts for GameFix). Points will include use of game components to represent cyberspace, offensive and defensive programs, realworld forces, and the human element. Also, how to use cyberwar as part of a wider spectrum of conflict, a tactic for asymmetrical warfare (example: Decision in Iraq for Decision Games). Other topics will include modeling cyber security, crisis management, and emerging generations of warfare. The presentation will conclude with an analysis of cyberwar trends into the near future. Register on Eventbrite here: TBD

How to Design PNP Games by Brian Train

Dec 8, 6:00PM-8:00PM EDT

Description: TBD

Registration: TBD

Pellegrino: Modelling and games

Pete Pellegrino is a retired USN commander and former Naval Flight Officer, currently employed by Valiant Integrated Services supporting the US Naval War College’s War Gaming Department as lead for game design and adjudication and lecturing on game related topics for the department’s war gaming courses.  In addition to his work at the college since 2004, Pete has also conducted business games for Fortune 500 companies and consulted for major toy and game companies. The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent the official policy or position of any agency, organization, employer or company.

The various Excel tools mentioned in the lecture can be found here.

Others in this series can be viewed at the PAXsims YouTube channel.

Connections Oz 2020

This year’s Connections Oz conference will take place online on 7-9 December 2020:

Connections Oz is a conference for professional wargamers and serious gamers. It is scheduled for 7-9 December 2020. Please note this in your diaries and feel free to distribute to your networks.

We are now calling for presentations for this year’s conference. Please contact the organisers via connections.oz@gmail.com

Due to Covid restrictions, the 2020 program will be entirely online. This follows the format successfully delivered by the ‘Connections Global’ team earlier this year. This format offers the opportunity to include more interstate and overseas speakers participants. We hope this collection of ‘best of’ speakers will attract a larger audience here in Australia and help grow our community.

To accommodate international speakers, the daily schedule will include ‘after dinner’ sessions. A full program will be published shortly, but the anticipated daily schedule is likely to be along the lines of:

Morning Session 0800-1200
Afternoon Session 1400-1600
Evening Session 1900-2100

Registrations for 2020 is mandatory so that the links for online connections can be emailed to participants. See the registration page for details.

A highlight for this year will be an opening keynote from Matt Caffrey, the originator of Connections US back in 1993. We have a number of other international and local speakers lined up. Keep an eye on the website for more information.

The best way to keep up to date is to subscribe to the blog page: https://connectionsoz.wordpress.com/

Simulation & Gaming (October 2020)

The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 51, 5 (October 2020) is now available online (paywalled).

Editorial

  • Roles, Plays, and the Roles We Play While Playing Games 
    • J. Tuomas Harviainen

Articles

  • Experiencing Cybersecurity One Game at a Time: A Systematic Review of Cybersecurity Digital Games
    • Merijke Coenraad, Anthony Pellicone, Diane Jass Ketelhut, Michel Cukier, Jan Plane, and David Weintrop
  • Professional Wargaming: A Flawed but Useful Tool 
    • John Curry
  • Green Across the Board: Board Games as Tools for Dialogue and Simplified Environmental Communication 
    • Kristoffer S. Fjællingsdal and Christian A. Klöckner
  • Exploring the Effects of Violent Video Games on Healthcare Trainees 
    • Karlie A. Krause, Chelsie Smyth, and Kate L. Jansen
  • A Study of Cognitive Results in Marketing and Finance Students 
    • Paola Andrea Ortiz-Rendón, Luz Alexandra Montoya-Restrepo, and Jose-Luis Munuera-Alemán
  • The Influence of Game Character Appearance on Empathy and Immersion: Virtual Non-Robotic Versus Robotic Animals 
    • Alexandra Sierra Rativa, Marie Postma, and Menno Van Zaanen
  • Conscientiousness in Game-Based Learning 
    • Liu Yi, Qiqi Zhou, Tan Xiao, Ge Qing, and Igor Mayer

Schechter: Wargaming Cyber Security

The latest issue of War on the Rocks features a piece by Benjamin Schechter (US Naval War College) on wargaming cyber security.

“Wargames can save lives” is axiomatic in the wargame community. But can they save your network? As modern conflict has become increasingly digital, cyber wargaming has emerged as an increasingly distinct and significant activity. Moreover, it’s doing double duty. In addition to its application to national defense, it’s also helping protect the economy and critical infrastructure. Wargaming is a military tool used to gain an advantage on the battlefield. However, it has also found a home beyond national security, frequently used in the private sector. Cyber security straddles the battlefield and the boardroom. As a result, it is not surprising that cyber wargaming is increasingly common across both the public and private sectors. As cyber security concerns intensify, so too does the attention given to cyber wargaming.

Designed well and used appropriately, cyber wargames are a powerful tool for cyber research and education. However, misconceptions about what cyber wargames are, their uses, and potential abuses pose challenges to the development of cyber wargaming.

He offers some useful insight into how to do this well—and some equally useful comments on what to avoid:

Cottage industries have emerged that cater to every type of cyber security need. A variety of contractors, consultants, and specialists offer bespoke cyber wargames, support services, and wargaming tools. Often, they provide valuable services during a time when people are grasping for insights and solutions. Yet there are also potentially troubling challenges and conflicts of interest. Wargame sponsors and participants sometimes lack the social and technical ability to assess the wargame product they receive critically. Alternatively, the need for immediate, easy answers for hard cyber problems encourages problematic cyber wargames. Whatever the source, and there can be many, the potential problems and pathologies with cyber wargames go beyond the purely technical or conceptual.

In a world of new tech, vaporware, and buzzwords, cyber wargames can be used to sell other products, services, or ideas. The marketplace for cyber security may encourage using wargames as a sales pitch, leveraging the emotional and intellectual intensity of wargames for influence. One example is using cyber wargames to create anxiety or fear with “cyber doom scenarios.” While this may be appropriate in some specific instances, more often than not, it’s threat inflation to advance a program, advocate for an idea, or sell a product. This is not a new problem, nor is it limited to cyber or wargaming. Bureaucratic politics and defense procurement raise the specter of ulterior motives in wargames for the Department of Defense. The risks are significant for Fortune 500 companies as well as government agencies.

There’s also the problem of cyber wargames that don’t produce anything of value, either by design or by error. The most meaningless and infamous wargames are BOGSATs (a bunch of guys/gals sitting around a table). Cyber BOGSATs are common. These games may appear promising, with distinguished participants and institutions. But they lack clear objectives or game design leading to no substantial finding or benefit. BOGSATs occur when a wargame is not the best tool for the problem, is window dressing for something else, or is just poorly designed.

Particularly egregious are cyber wargames that actively cause harm by teaching the wrong lessons or creating false knowledge. Unfortunately, this is not a new or uncommon phenomenon. Common causes are ill-designed or unrealistic cyber elements and gameplay, poorly specified cyber objectives, and poor communication. A cyber wargame about a high-intensity conflict where cyberspace operations are consistently and catastrophically effective might lead to some skewed perspectives on cyberspace operations. Alternatively, poorly abstracted networks and computer systems may artificially limit player creativity or instill a false sense of security. Finally, and most fundamentally, they might fail to articulate how cyberspace has been abstracted or will be used within the game. Because cyberspace is synthetic, its representation can vary significantly and in different ways from other domains. In any case, poor design will result in games that fail to meet their objectives. Worse yet, they teach the wrong lessons, skew analysis, or stifle new or innovative ideas. My colleague, Dr. Nina Kollars, and I discuss these and related cyber wargaming challenges and pathologies in an upcoming Atlantic Council article.

You can read the full article link at the link above.

Connections Netherlands 2020

The Connections NL professional wargaming conference will will take place on 7 December 2020. Part of it may be streamed. This year’s conference is focused on the defence wargaming community.

For further details as they are announced, consult the Connections Netherlands website.

Connections NL is a cosponsor of the Derby House Principles and diversity and inclusion in wargaming.

14th NATO Operations Research and Analysis Conference

The 14th annual NATO Operations Research and Analysis Conference will be held virtually on 5-6 October 2020.  Registration is required by September 28 via the NATO Science and Technology Organization events website. You will find additional details in the Calling Notice:

The conference will feature some wargaming presentations, and others that are wargaming-relevant. A PAXsims report on the 2019 conference can be found here.

Brooks: What’s the worst that could happen?

In today’s Washington Post, Rosa Brooks (Georgetown University) further discusses the findings and implications of four recent crisis games examining potential challenges arising from the 2020 US presedential election:

We wanted to know: What’s the worst thing that could happen to our country during the presidential election? President Trump has broken countless norms and ignored countless laws during his time in office, and while my colleagues and I at the Transition Integrity Project didn’t want to lie awake at night contemplating the ways the American experiment could fail, we realized that identifying the most serious risks to our democracy might be the best way to avert a November disaster. So we built a series of war games, sought out some of the most accomplished Republicans, Democrats, civil servants, media experts, pollsters and strategists around, and asked them to imagine what they’d do in a range of election and transition scenarios.

With the exception of the “big Biden win” scenario, each of our exercises reached the brink of catastrophe, with massive disinformation campaigns, violence in the streets and a constitutional impasse. In two scenarios (“Trump win” and “extended uncertainty”) there was still no agreement on the winner by Inauguration Day, and no consensus on which candidate should be assumed to have the ability to issue binding commands to the military or receive the nuclear codes. In the “narrow Biden win” scenario, Trump refused to leave office and was ultimately escorted out by the Secret Service — but only after pardoning himself and his family and burning incriminating documents.

For obvious reasons, we couldn’t ask Trump or Biden — or their campaign aides — to play themselves in these exercises, so we did the next best thing: We recruited participants with similar backgrounds. On the GOP side, our “players” included former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, conservative commentator Bill Kristol and former Kentucky secretary of state Trey Grayson. On the Democratic side, participants included John Podesta, chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and a top White House adviser to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; Donna Brazile, the campaign chair for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential run; and Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan. Other participants included political strategists, journalists, polling experts, tech and social media experts, and former career officials from the intelligence community, the Justice Department, the military and the Department of Homeland Security.

It is all rather dire stuff, although Brooks ends on a hopdeful note:

But there’s some good news: This kind of exercise doesn’t predict the future. In fact, war-gaming seeks to forecast all the things that could go wrong — precisely to prevent them from happening in real life. And if the Transition Integrity Project’s exercises highlighted various bleak possibilities, they also suggested some ways we might, as a nation, avoid democratic collapse.

For more on the games, see the full Transitions Integrity Project report archived here.


For current poll aggregation and modelling of the US presidential campaign, PAXsims readers may find the following resources useful.

FiveThirtyEight

Current (3 September) election prediction from FiveThirtyEight. For the the most recent version, go here.

The Economist

Current (3 September) election prediction from The Economist. For the the most recent version, go here.

Maggie Snyder joins PAXsims as a research associate

PAXsims is pleased to announce that Maggie Snyder will be joining our team as a Research Associate for 2020-21.

Maggie hails from Barryville, NY. She graduated from St. John’s University with a double Bachelor of Arts in English and Theology. Later, she graduated with a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, where she studied International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and International Security Studies. While at Fletcher, Maggie participated in the SIMULEX crisis management exercise, and the 2015 Harvard Negotiation Simulation. Maggie has conducted firsthand research on nonviolent resistance in Tunisia, and is dedicated to the work of finding peaceful solutions to intractable conflicts. Most recently, she held contractor positions at the Department of State Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, and the DOS Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. She has also previously worked at the RAND Corporation, and interned at the UN Peacebuilding Support Office and at the World Youth Alliance. 

Space Policy Show: Integrating space into joint warfighting analysis

OK, this image is actually is from the Netflix series Space Force, but I couldn’t resist.

On September 10, the Aerospace Corporation will be hosting an online forum on integrating space into joint warfighting analysis, featuring Mike Fitzsimmons (IDA), Web Ewell (CNA), Rebecca Reesman and Russell Rumbaugh.

The new Space Force is currently grappling with building relevant doctrine and culture for an independent service in an ever more contested and congested domain. The gap between what’s possible physically and what’s desirable politically is a common seam for analysis and other tools to help decision-makers consider how to prepare.  What lessons can we learn from the history of decision-support analysis? How have other domains—particularly maritime—addressed this seam? What unique aspects of space help and hinder both levels of analysis? Space capabilities are inextricably linked to all domains and services, how should this inform scenario planning moving forward? Find out in this episode!

Wargaming will be among the decision support tools to be discussed. You will find full details and a registration form here.

Review: Wojtowicz, Wargaming Experiences

Review: Natalia Wojtowicz, Wargaming Experiences: Soldiers, Scientists and Civilians (Amazon Fulfillment, 2020). 162+13pp. USD$39.00 pb.

In this interesting volume, Natalia Wojtowicz surveys the value of wagaming, key definitions, its application as a method of analysis and teaching, and the challenges of gaming non-kinetic issues and operations. Following this, the bulk of the volume discusses a series of wargames she designed and facilitated while working at the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Center of Excellence.

All of these are political-military games, so those looking for insight as to how to wargame combat operations are best advised to look to works by Peter Perla and Phil Sabin. The issues addressed include Russian hybrid warfare challenges to the Baltic republics; civil-military liaison; tactical cooperation to address critical infrastructure vulnerabilities; the Battle of Mosul; a targeted assassination attempt using chemical weapons; and the Faroe Islands. In each case Wojtowicz discusses the purpose of the game, the problem to which it was responding, the approach and method adopted, game mechanics, and finally the game results.

The most useful part of this volume is the author’s well-structured explanation of why each game was designed and run the way it was. Assessment of the effectiveness of the games is largely anecdotal. Tighter editing would have strengthened the clarity and precision of her analysis. Overall, however, the volume provides useful insight into these sorts of games—and plenty of ideas from which aspiring serious game designers might borrow.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 27 August 2020

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

Aaron Danis, Adam Elkus, Brant Guillory, Steven Sowards, James Sterrett, and Paul Strong suggested material for this latest edition.

According to the Financial Times, “UK defence chiefs are seeking to fast-track new virtual reality technology developed by a British gaming company to create a digital replica of the country, arguing this would help test resilience to future pandemics, natural disasters and attacks by hostile states.”

The Ministry of Defence has already spent more than £25m on contracts with software developer Improbable — which has pioneered the technology — to investigate its potential. Insiders say the government’s difficulties in co-ordinating national data and responses during the coronavirus crisis have persuaded ministers of the benefits of the system, known as a “single synthetic environment”, which is now likely to be accelerated in autumn’s integrated defence and security review.

The technology works by generating a virtual “twin” of any location by layering maps of geographical terrain and critical infrastructure with details of fuel, power and water supplies as well as telecoms networks, supermarket distribution systems and weather patterns. This can be combined with locations of where people are, based on phone signals, and what they’re thinking about, gleaned from social media.

The final product uses artificial intelligence to simulate future scenarios and allows operators to “war game” their responses. Herman Narula, chief executive of Improbable, has in the past jokingly compared this to “building the Matrix”, in reference to the science fiction film in which humans exist inside a simulated reality. Real-world uses could range from forecasting the damage from natural disasters such as floods to calculating the effect of a cyber attack against a power station or presenting simulated hostage rescue scenarios to the government’s Cobra emergency committee.

Despite the substantial advantages of data visualization and big data, and the potential contributions of AI, I’m a little dubious that all of this will necessarily deliver quicker or greater insight into issues like pandemic response than analogue wargame techniques (although it is certain to be more expensive).

You’ll find the Improbable website here.

Wired reports that an AI beat a fighter pilot in a recent simulated F-16 dogfight.

IN JULY 2015, two founders of  DeepMind, a division of Alphabet with a reputation for pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence, were among the first to sign an open letterurging the world’s governments to ban work on lethal AI weapons. Notable signatories included Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Jack Dorsey.

Last week, a technique popularized by DeepMind was adapted to control an autonomous F-16 fighter plane in a Pentagon-funded contest to show off the capabilities of AI systems. In the final stage of the event, a similar algorithm went head-to-head with a real F-16 pilot using a VR headset and simulator controls. The AI pilot won, 5-0.

The International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (IDC Herzliya) recent ran a conflict simulation on the current political and economic crisis in Lebanon.

On the backdrop of the spread of Covid-19 and the worsening economic crisis in Lebanon, the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC) conducted a unique four months unique simulation (see methodology herein below) which examined the possible ramifications of various deterioration scenarios in Lebanon. The simulation started in April 2020 and ended just days prior to the explosion at the Port of Beirut.

The simulation took place via an online a synchronic platform and had multiple participants, all experts in their fields,  that represented the Lebanese and international actors relevant to the scenarios discussed (see Appendix A for a list of the simulation’s participants). These experts chose the preferred strategies of the actors they had represented and by doing so affected the development of the scenarios played. In our opinion, this simulative process is the most appropriate predictor of future trends in Lebanon.

At the backdrop of the simulation were the following opening data items: Lebanon has been suffering from a large number of Covid-19 patients which made it difficult for the Lebanese healthcare system to treat all of them and in fact brought it to the brink of collapse. Further, Lebanon has been suffering from an acute economic crisis that has been rapidly deteriorating, accompanied by high unemployment, internal instability, mass and violent demonstrations. On this backdrop, there is an increasing internal criticism as well as protests against Hezbollah and Iran which are being accused inter alia of importing the virus into Lebanon and neglecting the state in its time of need.

In light of the above opening data items which led to the collapse of the Lebanese government at the outset of the simulation, three alternative opening scenarios have been examined, each of which posed a different challenge to internal Lebanese system, the regional arena and of course, Israel, as follows:

An emergency government is formed which imposes an austerity regime and devalues Hezbollah’s stature.

Hezbollah conducts a military coup and installs martial law attempting to recover Lebanon.

Lebanon deteriorates into a complete chaos on the verge of a civil war, when every faction tries to fend for itself and survive on its own.

Needless to say, in light of the explosion at the Port of Beirut and the resignation of the Lebanese government on August 10th, 2020 it seems that reality has reached a point where each of the above opening scenarios may happen in the upcoming weeks or months which renders the findings of the simulation even more relevant and valuable.

As a scholar who occasionally writes on Lebanon, I’m a little puzzled by the lack of attention given to the “Hezbollah conducts a military coup” action. Was this a coup by the Lebanese Army (not all of which supports Hezbollah)? Did it have the support of (Christian) President Aoun, a Hezbollah ally? How did military units respond, especially those that are not predominantly Shi’ite? Did Hezbollah use its own cadres as well? Under what authority would martial law be declared? There also doesn’t seem to be deep attention to the economic and fiscal issues involved—an “austerity regime” in and of itself won’t really solve the current economic crisis. Finally, I just don’t see what possible configuration of emergency government would take action against Hezbollah, given the distribution of parliamentary and political power in the country. However, there is always a trade-off in crisis games between breadth, playability, and fidelity.

Speaking of countries beset by economic crisis, public protests, and the widespread availability of small arms, the Shutdown DC activist project is running an online simulation of potential challenges to democracy during the upcoming US election in November.

This fall we are going to experience one of the most contentious – and most chaotic – elections in recent history. We have a sitting president who is consistently refusing to accept the outcome of the election, record numbers of voters relying on absentee balloting, and a federal government bent on attacking our democratic institutions. 

We don’t know exactly how things are going to play out this fall, but we do know that we need to be ready to take bold direct action to confront attacks on our democratic process and our communities. Join #ShutDownDC for Timeline to a Meltdown: 2020 Election Simulation. We’ll divide into teams, each representing different players in our social movement landscape. Then we’ll be introduced to a set of hypothetical (but entirely likely) scenarios that we may face during this election cycle. Each team will work to develop action plans to respond to the scenario, anticipate how other movement actors will respond, and build capacity for collective action to build the world we want to live in. 

The game starts at 6pm eastern on Friday, August 28th. All are welcome but please register before noon on August 28.

You will find details and registration here.

Feel the need to drive a robot around a maze remotely and punch cardboard Nazis? You can do that via Smartistein3D.

At Breaking Defense, Sydney Freeberg reports “US ‘Gets Its Ass Handed To It’ In Wargames: Here’s A $24 Billion Fix.”

The US keeps losing, hard, in simulated wars with Russia and China. Bases burn. Warships sink. But we could fix the problem for about $24 billion a year, one well-connected expert said, less than four percent of the Pentagon budget.

“In our games, when we fight Russia and China,” RAND analyst David Ochmanek said this afternoon, “blue gets its ass handed to it.” In other words, in RAND’s wargames, which are often sponsored by the Pentagon, the US forces — colored blue on wargame maps — suffer heavy losses in one scenario after another and still can’t stop Russia or China — red — from achieving their objectives, like overrunning US allies.

No, it’s not a Red Dawn nightmare scenario where the Commies conquer Colorado. But losing the Baltics or Taiwan would shatter American alliances, shock the global economy, and topple the world order the US has led since World War II.

The latest issue of the Journal of Defence Modeling and Simulation (17, 3 (July 2020) is a special issue devoted to forecasting in the social sciences for national security.

Also back in July, the BBC featured a lengthy article on “The people who imagine disasters.”

Entire teams of people spend their days imagining what might happen in a crisis to ensure we can be better prepared for when the worst really does happen.I

It was a gigantic explosion. The blast tore through buildings and machinery, lighting up a huge refinery complex in Denver, Colorado. Gasoline production at the facility shut down for weeks as a result, leading to fuel reserves in Colorado quickly being used up.

Pipelines from Wyoming, Texas and Kansas brought additional fuel to Colorado to make up for the fall in supply, but it meant fuel destined for other nearby states was curtailed. As it all unfolded, fuel prices across the region swelled.

The aftermath of the explosion was a troubling example of how a single event can ricochet through systems, supply chains and a country.

Except, none of this ever happened. It’s just a scenario played out in a series of calculations – a simulation – published in 2015 by Sandia National Laboratories in the US. The team that modelled the fuel pipeline flows in this make-believe disaster considered a number of other “disruptions” in their report, including an oil spill in Boston harbour, earthquakes in California and a Category 5 hurricane slamming into the Gulf Coast.

“Before something bad happens, we provide a better understanding of how to prevent those things or how to mitigate them when they do occur,” explains Kevin Stamber, who heads the critical infrastructure analysis team at Sandia. He’s spent 20 years working on a stark problem: what can we expect if the worst should happen?


PAXsims rece

In addition to our PAXsims report on the recent Connections Global professional wargaming conference, you can also read all about it at Armchair Dragoons.

Gamasutra discusses “How to usher more women into leadership roles within the game industry.” Many of the ideas are applicable to wargaming too.

On YouTube, Sarah Federman (University of Baltimore) offers some ideas on taking simulations online.

The Napoleon.org website offers a thoughtful interview with Antoine Bourguilleau.

Gaming has come of age in recent years. In France and across the rest of Europe, there has been an increase in symposia and seminars on the subject of role-playing games and the “gamification” of society. Games themselves are objects of curiosity and have become the topic of university research in the areas of history, sociology and literature.

Antoine Bourguilleau’s book, Jouer la Guerre [Playing at War], contributes to this research and focusses on a type of game at the frontier between the civil and military worlds. Bourguilleau studied under military historian Hervé Drevillon, and he retraces the history of war simulation games from their Germanic origin in the 18th century to the modern era. He provides us with an in-depth and scholarly study of these Kriegsspiele, German word for “wargames”, a sort of “serious playing” used in the 19th century for training Prussian officers, and the war games later used for projecting the potentially fatal outcome of the Cold War.

Antoine Bourguilleau explores these games in all their manifestations, from staff war games to commercial board games, as well as the scenario created by science fiction author H.G. Wells in his book War of the Worlds. He explores the (sometimes complex) rules of these games, which strive to reflect the reality of a warlike confrontation. This book is rich with insight and allows the reader to approach military history from an underappreciated and still relatively little-studied angle. The author has kindly answered a few questions for napoleon.org.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative has produced Hair Trigger, a mobile game on nuclear crisis and escalation.

At the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union put their nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, ready to retaliate against a surprise attack. Even now, decades later, the United States and Russia combined have about 1,700 missiles armed, aimed, and ready to fire in minutes.

What if a warning of an incoming attack turns out to be false—but a U.S. or Russian president doesn’t learn that until after ordering a retaliatory strike? What if a command-and-control system is hacked to spoof an incoming attack?

As President of the United States, you’ll navigate competing pressures to build domestic support and manage international relations, in a race against time to cooperate with Russia to remove all nuclear weapons from hair-trigger status. The game offers a fun and engaging challenge designed to generate curiosity, conversation, and action—but the risks couldn’t be more real.

To help sustain our ongoing work conflict simulation and serious games, become one of our Patreon supporters.

CFP: The history, state and future of professional and public (war)gaming in Europe

Riccardo Masini, Frédéric Serval, Jan Heinemann have issued a call for articles for a edited book project on The history, state and future of professional and public (war)gaming in Europe.

The perception of wargaming as a professional part of military training and scenario analysis on one hand, and the board and tabletop wargaming hobby on the other hand, are dominated by US-American approaches and communities of players and designers. Despite being crammed in a relatively small part of the world, European wargaming spheres and communities seem to have stayed somewhat isolated on a national basis due to language barriers and other reasons and little is known about the state of the profession and hobby from country to country.

This volume aims for closing this gap and provide a comprehensive overview of the history of the multiple dimensions of wargaming all over Europe. Thus, we want to encourage contribution of articles focussed on the history of wargaming (military conflict simulations, as well as hobby board, miniature tabletop and role playing games), the perception of wargaming as part of the national, trans-, and international gaming culture(s), the relations of wargaming and eurogaming in regard to perception, gaming communities, inter-European exchange, as well as to the history and future of approaches to wargame design.

You will find additional details, submission, and guidelines here.

RFP: Serious game application to enhance Protection of Civilians (POC) in conflict

The Center for Civilians in Conflict is seeking proposals to produce a serious game (playable on smartphones and laptop computers) aimed at soldiers and/or civilian law enforcement. The goal is to improve the behaviour of these forces towards civilians in conflict zones. Scenario content will be provided by CIVIC.

Project Information 

CIVIC seeks concise and tailored proposals to design and develop a serious game (playable on smartphones and laptop computers) aimed at soldiers and/or law enforcement members. The goal is to improve these forces’ behavior towards civilians when they encounter them in zones of armed conflict or other situations of violence.  

To achieve this goal, the serious game will first put armed actors in the shoes of civilians trapped in conflict and thereby sensitize them to the various protection needs and rights civilians have. Topics to be incorporated in the gaming content can include: stigmatization of civilians, consequences suffered from a lack of applied distinction (by armed actors) between combatants and civilians, disproportionate use of force, conflict-related sexual violence, extortion, arbitrary arrest and detention, forced displacement, and suffering caused by excessive use of force by security forces in law enforcement contexts.  

The game will then permit the armed actors to practice modifications to their behaviors and actions so that they better respect the rights of civilians, such as when operating checkpoints, calling in for close air support or plan for civilian evacuations. The content for storyboard(s) and connected decision-making trees for the players to navigate through will be provided by CIVIC.  

CIVIC is a nonprofit organization. We welcome creative, effective and cost-sensitive proposals that take a Good/Better/Best approach.  

Project Description 

The serious game app in this project will support and strengthen the pedagogical teaching by CIVIC’s Nigeria team when engaging with the Nigerian military and other security forces to instill a Protection of Civilians (POC) mindset and practical POC reflexes towards civilians when they encounter them before, during, and after their operations. The serious game app will support and complement face-to-face analog or ‘face-to-face’ virtual training sessions (including scenario-based exercises) that CIVIC has been undertaking with the Nigerian security forces at various institutional levels. This serious game app will be the first for CIVIC. It should be developed with a view to potentially expand upon with ease, so as to include more protection issues and different storylines and avatars.      

By realistically immersing the player in Nigeria’s conflict contexts, the game seeks to sensitize Nigerian security forces to the protection challenges civilians face. The game will test the players’ understanding and recognition of the various dilemmas and vulnerabilities that different civilians face when trapped in conflict (e.g., children, women, the disabled, and the elderly). As a subsequent step, the game will instill different protection reflexes amongst the players to adapt their specific behavior as a security force member to avoid and/or mitigate civilian harm. The contractor will be expected to creatively think through how to provide interesting formats, including with engaging audio and visual support to meet the deliverables above. 

The game may be displayed on our website, shared with our donors, and used in presentations by staff to illustrate the variety of approaches CIVIC uses to influence the mindset and behavior of armed actors towards civilians. The selected contractor will be expected to work closely with CIVIC’s Senior Protection Advisor based out of Washington D.C as well as CIVIC’s Nigeria program team, particularly the Nigeria Country Director and Senior Military Advisor.  

You will find full details here. The deadline for proposals in 25 August 2020.

Pellegrino: Distributed gaming taxonomy

Fortunately for all of us, Pete Pellegrino recorded his excellent presentation on distributed wargaming to the recent Connections Global 2020 conference—so here it is.

Pete Pellegrino is a retired USN commander and former Naval Flight Officer, currently employed by Valiant Integrated Services supporting the US Naval War College’s War Gaming Department as lead for game design and adjudication and lecturing on game related topics for the department’s war gaming courses.  In addition to his work at the college since 2004, Pete has also conducted business games for Fortune 500 companies and consulted for major toy and game companies. The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent the official policy or position of any agency, organization, employer or company.

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