Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

CNAS Wargame on China Invasion of Taiwan

The Center for New American Security (CNAS) Gaming Lab did a game on a Chinese invasion of Taiwan for Meet the Press Reports. Over the course of multiple moves CNAS gamers Becca Wasser (Red) and Chris Dougherty (Blue) discussed the options with the players and guided team play. Working with Chuck Todd, Ed McGrady and Stacie Pettyjohn, adjudicated the outcomes and built the story of what happened. Stacie was then debriefed by Chuck on camera. The game will come out Thursday, May 12, at 10:30PM EDT streaming on NBC News Now, MTP Reports. It will also be streaming on Peacock. In addition to the game, Becca and Ed discussed gaming and Taiwan with Chuck Todd on his half hour podcast. That is forthcoming.

NBC News has a description of the game (by Carol Lee) on their website which includes a short (11 minute) sneak peak of the approximately 50 minute full episode.

Click here for the CNAS Press release (which includes a link to the full NBC episode).

Click here for the podcast of Chuck Todd (NBC) discussing the game with Becca Wasser and Ed McGrady.

Russian Logistics for the Invasion of Ukraine

Recent news from Ukraine has brought into sharp focus the effects of Russia’s logistics, transport and supply chain management failures, one of which is the decision to double down and start massacring civilians, creating international strategic blowback. If one is going to wargame (or plan!) a war then the necessity of including an appropriate logistics model as part of the wargame has been confirmed by Russia.

Michael Hugos at SCM Globe researches enhancing wargames with realistic logistic simulations (see his Connections US 2020 presentation “Enhancing Wargames with Realistic Logistics” on the Connections US Conference Archive site). He is currently working with the Air Force Institute of Technology to model and simulate the supply chains supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Michael is looking for people interested in further building out the supply chain model, keeping it current each day as events progress, assisting with running the simulations and analyzing results, and who can comment on the strategic implications of what the simulations and performance indicators show. He’ll provide free SCM Globe accounts and training to anyone interested in participating. To participate contact Michael at

Connections US Wargaming Conference Proceedings needs your help!

All the materials that we have for 1993 — 2021 are now loaded onto the Connections US Wargaming Conference Proceedings website. But a LOT of it is missing.

Please help!

If you ever attended a Connections US Wargaming Conference or presented at one, please go through your garage, basement, attic etc. for old paper and CD copies of materials, even resurrect that old laptop you used to give a presentation, and email to discuss how to get any materials you find to me.

Thank You!

Connections Japan Pre-Launch!

Japan’s National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS — the research arm and thinktank of Japan’s Ministry of Defense) held a preparatory meeting for the launch of “Connections Japan”, slated to for autumn this year. The meeting was opened by Professor Nobushige Takamizawa (a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo, former NIDS President, and ex-Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament).

Professor Nobushige Takamizawa speaking at the January 28th “Conference of Policy Simulation Experts”

The following is an unofficial English translation of an article on this meeting that was carried by the Asagumo Shimbun Newspaper on February 17, 2022:

The National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS), which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in August 2022, held a “Conference of Policy Simulation Experts” as part of the institute’s memorial programs on January 28. Masakazu Saito, President of NIDS, said in his opening remarks, “This conference is a preparatory meeting for the launch of “Connections Japan,” which would join the international network of the “Connections” conferences, slated for autumn this year.”

In the morning session, following the opening remarks, Nobushige Takamizawa, a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo and former NIDS President and ex-Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative of Japan to the Conference on Disarmament, delivered a keynote speech entitled “Policy Simulation: Background Issues and Their Changes.” Professor Takamizawa emphasized the importance of theme selection, scenario development, to execution effectiveness and pointed out further challenges to effective policy simulation including facilitator education and database construction. He concluded his speech by stressing the necessity of executing more imaginative policy simulations and of building overseas networks.

A second speaker was Tomonori Yoshizaki, Director of Policy Simulation at NIDS. He emphasized the significance of learning state-of-the art methods and of enhancing overseas networks of professionals through “Connections Japan.”

The third speaker was Hiroyasu Akutsu, Chief of Policy Simulation Office at NIDS. He described the history of Connections Conferences and how actively they have been held in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, France and the Netherlands from their respective perspectives. He emphasized that it is important for Japan to prepare for “Connections Japan” from its own perspective.

In the afternoon session, Katsuya Yamamoto, Captain of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Director of the Education Department at NIDS, explained the effectiveness of introducing policy simulation into the NIDS’ educational programs.

There are high expectations that this first-ever official conference among Ministry of Defense of Japan and Japan Self-Defense Forces policy simulation experts will further strengthen their internal connections and overseas networks.

We look forward to Connections Japan, and wish the organizers every success!

China’s Progression in Wargaming

For those interested in wargaming by China’s military, see the Institute for the Study of War’s report “Learning Warfare from the Laboratory – China’s Progression in Wargaming and Opposing Force Training” by Elsa Kania and Ian McCaslin.

From the Executive Summary:

“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is faced with the challenge of preparing for future warfare during peacetime as a force that lacks contemporary operational experience. Among the methods through which the PLA seeks to enhance its combat readiness are sophisticated wargaming and realistic, force-on-force exercises. Chinese military leaders regard wargaming (bingqi tuiyan, 兵棋推演) as an important technique by which to “learn warfare from the laboratory” for training purposes and to promote insights on the dynamics of future combat. This style of learning is complemented by the PLA’s study of military history and emulation of the experiences and innovations of foreign militaries, including through creating “blue forces” that simulate potential adversaries against which to train. Beyond improving its current capabilities and readiness, the PLA also aspires to achieve an edge in military competition, seeking to “design” the dynamics of and develop capabilities for future warfare.”

This fits with Matt Caffrey’s insights that wargaming provides an edge, and therefore we need to be better at wargaming than our adversaries.

Connections US Wargaming Conference Proceedings now Online

The Chair of Connections US, Matt Caffrey, has authorized the creation of an online, public, and freely available archive of the Connections US Wargaming Conferences.

The most recent decade + of conferences is now available at:

BUT … We are missing many of the presentations. Please help!
(for example, we are missing MOST of the materials for the 2019 Conference!)

If you gave a presentation, ran a panel or workshop, or provided any other kind of material to a Connections US conference please review the archive, and if your material is missing, and you would like it included, please use the upload link on the proceedings website.

Gaming the Irrational — Connections US 2021 Working Group 3 Report

In this working group report Ed McGrady, Justin Peachey, John Hanley and Roger Mason discussed the problem of including counter-factual, irrational, or awkward elements in game play. While there are simple solutions such as “put it in as an inject” what they looked for was:

  • a discussion of how to shape the game, and player behavior, so that these events emerge organically from the game play
  • how to include characters in the game who are manifestly “different” from the accepted liberal/neo-conservative internationalist approach that typically informs Western foreign policy in games.
  • adjudication of actions that encourage miss-behavior in games, from counter-factual2propaganda to deliberate spoofing and other shenanigans. This would include insider threats, supply chain attacks, and other actions that corrupt the decision process from the inside.
  • how to deal with common, but often ignored, elements such as morale, fratricide, fog of war,3 and battlefield chaos on a standard player/controller game.
  • how to deal with politically sensitive topics such as Congress, lobbyists, and other sensitive issues so as not to generate real-world blowback from the game.

Their discussion and papers divided into two general ways to think about the problem, which they characterize as “player centric irrationality” and “problem centric irrationality”:

  • Irrational taken literally as “not rational.” This tended to lead the discussion into areas of definitions, game theory, and ways in which the players in a game make decisions. We could also call this the game or player centric view of the problem.
  • A sweeping interpretation of the problem to include items, issues, and behaviors that are socially liminal, emotionally charged, politically difficult, or just plain crazy. Especially behaviors that violate the “polite” acceptance of a neo-conservative, liberal, western, interpretation of behavior between individuals and societies that has emerged as a consensus value during and after the Cold War. This tended to lead the discussion far afield into areas that would note easily fit into the idea of “not rational.”

Click here to download the report.

Connections UK at DSET 2022, March 9

Connections UK will hold a one-day in-person wargaming meeting on Monday 7th March at the 2022 UK Defense Simulation Education & Training Conference in Bristol UK. Click on the DSET logo for full conference programme and other details.

From the DSET website:

“DSET was set up in 2016 to facilitate military to military engagement; and to give military the opportunity to educate industry in a challenge lead approach. International military and government drive the DSET agenda and deliver the majority of presentations.”

Hungarian Warfare and Serious Games Conference

Opening speech by Brigadier General Dr. Árpád Pohl, Dean of the Faculty of Military Sciences and Military Training
(photo: Dénes Szilágyi; source: )

Our colleague Major Zoltán Harangi-Tóth recently organized the Hungarian professional wargaming conference “Warfare and Serious Games 2021” held October 5th at the Department of Military History of the National Civil Service University, Budapest.

Click here for Zoltán’s excellent report.

Although Google’s translation leaves much to be desired, it is good enough to understand the content of the conference and appreciate the conference’s important contributions to Wargaming. I look forward to next years’ conference!

Unethical Professional Wargaming final report

Click on the Image for the Report

The US Command and General Staff College, with support from the CGSC Foundation, hosted the Connections US 2021 Wargaming Conference and chose the Conference theme “Ethics and Wargaming”. An international team of 30 wargaming experts started work on October 2020 on the thought experiment “how to use unethical practices to make your wargame say what you want it to say”, where by “unethical practice” we mean any practice motivated by a desire to influence the sponsor to make a decision in the best interest of the unethical practitioner instead of the best interest of national security. We know intellectual dishonesty occurs in science and among senior civilian and military leaders. It is irresponsible to assume it does not exist within professional wargaming (or indeed any process that manages any inquiry activity).

This thought experiment is useful in three ways for:

  • discovering wargame design principles and malfeasance that wargame designers, practitioners, sponsors, players and other stakeholders might miss if one focused on best practices of well-designed games by well-intentioned competent experts.
  • inoculating wargaming against deliberate and inadvertent manipulation of wargame design by senior stakeholders
  • protecting ourselves from self-deception by our own inadvertent malign practice.

Core Conclusion: Most professional wargames are vulnerable to unethical practice due to the
presence of the three established criteria for intellectual fraud. The lack of familiarity by
senior officers or civilian executives with the unethical practices described in this report
means we cannot say that most DoD wargames are free of unethical practices.

What is to be Done? By examining the interactions between the wargame stakeholders in the
external environment, the outer game and the inner game, along with the the three criteria
for the presence of intellectual fraud, and taking culture into account, we can increase the
value and ethical probity of wargaming and ensure the decisions that the wargames are
designed to influence are in the best interest of national security. Details are in the final report.

Analytical Architecture that Includes Wargaming for Decision Makers

Dr. Jon Compton presents and discusses the process he has used to design, run and analyze analytic wargames in support of senior decision makers faced with serious national security related problems.

Click on Image to View Presentation on YouTube

“Wargames are conducted for purposes of education and training, concept exploration or development, or sometimes done to raise awareness about certain issues or concepts. Within OSD, however, the style of wargame required is referred to as Analytical Wargaming, and is nested with other analytical or Operations Research techniques to generate contextualized knowledge and recommendations for leadership.”

— Jon Compton

Distributed Wargaming Working Group Final Report Available

Click on the image for the Report.

UPDATE: I have updated the report with corrections. Delete the 22nd August version and replace with this one dated 23rd August.

COVID-19 made distributed wargaming a DOD requirement for both safety and economic reasons. One effect of DOD’s COVID-19 pandemic response has been the effort by many DOD organizations to shift their wargames to a distributed online environment. The success of some of these efforts, the likely presence of new pandemics, and some undeniable benefits of distributed wargaming makes it likely that distributed wargaming will be a growing part of the DOD toolbox. A key design decision is now “online, face-to-face, or hybrid?” It is therefore necessary to examine the theory behind distributed gaming, capture experience, design best practices, and identify practices to avoid when designing and executing distributed wargames.

In response the Simulation and Wargaming Standing Study Group of the Simulation Interoperability Standards Organization started a Working Group on “Distributed Wargaming”, the focus of which is to:

“examine how technical, social and design processes can exploit the advantages and overcome the disadvantages of professional wargaming in a distributed environment, and produce a resource document for anyone required to design and execute such a wargame”

A core international group of seventeen members, with experience in Government, Military, Industry, Academia and Education started work at the beginning of December 2020 and wrapped up at the end of August 2021. The nine month period of performance allowed the group time to think, discuss, challenge, write and refine, and to do so in depth. The group produced nine research papers covering background theory, lessons learned from research into online education, lessons learned producing and running distributed wargames with several different designs, and an overview of moving in-person events in general (including wargames) online. Deep discussions between group members dealt with the papers and introduced additional topics, all of which are reported in this document.

Connections US 2021 Game Lab Report

Connections US 2021 Game Lab Report is now available

Game Lab is an opportunity for short (40 minute) small group discussions of specific gaming-related issues among Connections participants. Originally conceived and organized by Scott Chambers, they were a highly successful feature of past face-to-face Connections conferences. This year at Connections US twenty-five wargamers brainstormed ten topics using Zoom (of course) and ConceptBoard’s “infinite whiteboard” program.

Ottocon 2021 Gaming Convention

Tracy Johnson will be running a small gaming convention in Carlisle PA called “Ottocon” from 29 July through 1 Aug 2021.  The convention name is to honor Otto Schmidt, who ran the con (then blessed with the unimpressive name “The Weekend”) for many years before passing away a couple of years ago.

For full details click here.

All inquiries to Tracy Johnson <>

Phil Sabin’s wargame designs website!

Phil Sabin has just published a website containing descriptions, pictures and convenient download links for his growing range of games and conversions.

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