Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Wargaming and The Cycle of Research and Learning

The Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies has just published a new paper by Peter Perla (who needs no introduction — and if he does you have not been paying attention) in which he expands on his ideas concerning the cycle of research.


“Some thirty years ago, I coined the concept of the Cycle of Research, which described how wargaming, exercises and analysis, coupled with real-world operations and history, have worked together in concert to help the national-security community to understand better political-military reality and its past and future evolutions. When first proposed, I had in mind the uses of Wargaming in the analytical context, or what the community of professional wargamers most often calls research wargaming. Over the years, however, I began to recognize how much the same integration of tools and techniques can—and should—influence education and training for national-security professionals, both uniform and civilian: In essence, a Cycle of Learning. In this paper I explore these ideas more fully.”

Perla, P. (2022). Wargaming and The Cycle of Research and Learning. Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies5(1), 197–208. DOI:

Connections US 2022 Presentations now online

The Connections US 2022 Wargaming Conference materials are now available on the Connections USA Wargaming Conference Proceedings website.

If you presented materials at the conference, and do not find them in the 2022 tab, then upload them via this form. Thank you.

Does Wargaming influence US Strategy?

This question comes from Professor Hiroyasu (Hiro) AKUTSU, Professor of International Politics and Security Studies at Heisei International University, Japan.

In what ways has wargaming contributed to the shaping and making of US (DoD and Government) Strategic documents?

(For example the National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, National Military Strategy, QDR, National Intelligence Strategy, National Security Space Strategy, National Strategy for Maritime Security, etc.)

Email from Hiro, 29 July 2022

Has wargaming contributed to these? Which documents, and where are the wargames written up? Please post responses as comments to this post. Thank you in advance.

Wargames in the Pink Tower

“Wargames in the Pink Tower” (part two of a four part BBC miniseries on nuclear weapons and war) is about nuclear deterrence and the use of wargaming during the Cold War. The producers used parts of the audio recording of Thomas Schelling’s keynote to the Connections US 2014 Conference along with material from Fred Kaplan, Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, Graham Allison, and Paul Bracken. A fascinating glimpse into how nuclear deterrence and wargaming is presented to the general public.

What parts of a professional wargame design can be defined by the sponsor’s objective (and what parts require designer creativity)?

Wargame design has been described as a creative art with a science component. Identifying which parts of the design can be defined based on the sponsor’s objectives will free the designer to focus all their efforts on the creative components.

There are three one hour Game Lab sessions scheduled at the Connections US 2022 Wargaming Conference during which multiple parallel small groups will meet and discuss different questions or topics.

I will run a three part Game Lab on the question “How much of a professional wargame design can be defined by the sponsor’s objective?” broken into three sub questions, one question per one-hour facilitated discussion.

  1. “What parts of the professional wargame design process can and should be routinized and what characteristics of the sponsor’s objectives should we seek to assist us in doing so?”

  2. “What information in addition to the sponsor’s objectives do we need and how can this help define the design of the professional wargame?”

  3. “What are the barriers to obtaining the information necessary to design a professional wargame and how can we overcome them?”

If you are registered to participate in the conference, you may come to any or all of the sessions.

Even if you are not coming to Connections, or are coming but choose to participate in other Game Labs, I invite you to provide your answers to each of the above sub questions via this form (click here or on the image). You may submit this form as often as you like, and I will ensure you receive a copy of the final report.

Thank you in advance for your inputs.

Stephen Downes-Martin

Scalarization functions for decision matrices

Click on the image to view the briefing on YouTube

My thanks to the Ruddy Nice team for the opportunity to deliver this briefing remotely to the 2022 UK Defence Simulation Education & Training conference. In the briefing I show how the simplistic scoring mechanism commonly used by many civilian and military organizations in their decision matrices and more complex decision support tools simply does not make sense — being a linear scalarization function — and explain why that function must instead be concave up. Then, and only then, will your decision matrix satisfy the minimum reasonableness requirement.

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!

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