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Connections UK 2021 report

This report on the recent Connections UK 2021 professional wargaming conference has been written by PAXsims research associate Benjamin Gaches.


I got to participate in Connections UK last week and wanted to share some impressions of the event as a newcomer to professional wargaming. 

First, the facts: the event ran for two days online using a mix of Discord as a foyer and Zoom meetings for specific sessions, of which there were many to pick from. I was able to participate in all of the plenary sessions, covering topics from bringing in the next generation of wargamers to diverse thinking and problem solving. I also got to participate in the sessions on whole of society wargaming with Anja van der Hulst, model-based pandemic response games with Ben Taylor, an academic panel on wargaming for education in academia, an improvised adjudication master class, and finally a run of Combined Arms with Philip Sabin.

My first impression was of how welcoming and accessible everyone was during the event. Getting to meet big names is usually a fleeting experience in any industry but here I got to chat and participate in small party wargames with the authors of my wargaming bibles. I have only ever run a wargame for my university students but never gotten to participate in one, let alone on ran by an experienced game master. After the game with Philip Sabin I now feel a lot more confident now in my future endeavors: I have a yardstick, a point of reference of what a good, well run and facilitated wargame looks like. On a sidenote I also got to practice some combined arms tactics I thought I knew from hobby gaming and reading, only to fail miserably in practice: I advanced multiple infantry units without suppressing the enemy… At the time I blamed my mistake on my limited understanding of the rules, but later realized I would have likely made that same mistake in reality because I hadn’t stopped to consider the situation, focusing instead only on the objective. I was ultimately saved by some lucky dice rolling, but I learnt my lesson, and am even more convinced of the great potential of wargaming as an educational tool for it.

The second impression I got from the conference was one of feeling much more tapped into the pulse of wargaming as an industry and as an ever-developing discipline, how it is being used and what its limitations are. I originally wanted to participate because I am hoping to use wargames and simulations as part of my PhD research, but though few of the sessions were directly relevant to my topic, I did pick up a lot of learning points and tangential information ranging from adjudication tips to strategies for better inclusivity. Several sessions touched on points I wholeheartedly agreed with, such as the importance of bringing in the next generation or making wargaming inclusive, and yet I hadn’t actively considered how to practice them in my own work. I feel better equipped to do so now.

My third and final impression is also my only gripe with the conference: networking. I really appreciated the effort the organizing team put into creating spaces for meeting and connecting with others, which I tried my best to take advantage of, but I feel they didn’t consider the time required to do so. The two days of the conference were chock full of sessions, with 15-minute breaks between them which more often than not ended up being 3 minutes due to inevitable overruns. As someone who wanted to participate in as many sessions as possible, the only times I really could chat with others were after the sessions, at which point 9 hours in front of a screen took its toll and what I really wanted to do was to go and have a drink outside. Here lies the main downside to online conferences for me: in person I would have hoped to grab that drink with other participants, share lunch and chat between sessions, but as much as I tried the energy isn’t the same online. I did meet some great people I hope to continue connecting with, but I also hope we will be able to have these conferences in person again sooner rather than later. My only suggestion to improve the conference then, which will be online again next year, would be to have it over more days with more time between sessions to debrief, chat and connect.

Overall, I had a blast participating in this year’s Connections UK. I got invaluable experience learning from the masters, learned a lot about wargaming as an industry and an art, connected with some brilliant people and overall feel much more engaged with wargaming overall. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to other professional newbies like me as well as anyone else with an interest in professional wargaming.

Benjamin Gaches

Registration now open for NASAGA 2021

Registration is now open for the North American Simulation and Gaming Association‘s annual (virtual) conference, to be held on 5-7 November 2021. You’ll find further detail here.

Connections Oz 2021

Connections Oz professional wargaming conference will be held online on 14-16 December 2021. For more details, see the Connections Oz website.

If you wish to propose a presentation for the conference, contact the organizers at connections.oz@gmail.com.

Conference registration is via Eventbrite.

IDA to host 2022 Connections US wargaming conference

The Institute for Defense Analysis will host the 2022 Connections US professional wargaming conference on 26-29 July 2022 in Alexandria, VA:

ALEXANDRIA, VA (August 2021) — IDA will host the 2022 Connections Wargaming Conference on July 26–29, 2022. This in-person event will be held at our future headquarters’ location in the City of Alexandria’s high-tech Potomac Yard corridor.

The Connections Wargaming Conference is an annual event that brings together practitioners from every segment of the wargaming community. The conference gives attendees the opportunity to exchange information on achievements, best practices and other elements of the field of wargaming…from military, to commercial, to academic applications.

IDA is moving its headquarters and Systems and Analyses Center to the Potomac Yard later this year. The new facility will enable IDA to hold large meetings, such as this one, with sponsors and industry. There will be a large auditorium that seats 300 people, breakout rooms, a green room for speakers to prepare for events, and other large conference rooms.

Registration and logistics information will be available closer to the conference.

IDA is a nonprofit corporation that operates three Federally Funded Research and Development Centers in the public interest. IDA answers the most challenging U.S. security and science policy questions with objective analysis leveraging extraordinary scientific, technical, and analytic expertise.

GlobState 2021: The security environment in the (post) pandemic world

The Doctrine and Training Centre of the Polish Armed Forces will be holding its annual GlobState conference on 30 November – 2 December 2021. The theme for the conference is “Security Environment in the (Post) Pandemic World and Its Implications for the Conduct of Military Operations.”

The aim of the 4th Annual International Research Conference GlobState is to enhance discussion on new developments in the security environment in the (post) pandemic, both from the global and the regional (Central and East European) perspective, and their implications for the conduct of military operations. The conference will be held under the umbrella of the NUP 2X35 campaign of future security environment analysis, led by the Doctrine and Training Centre of the Polish Armed Forces of behalf of the Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces.

In 2021, due to the still existing challenges of the pandemic, the conference will be run in a virtual or hybrid (i.e. virtual and in-person) form. The final decision will be announced by the Organizing Committee in mid-2021.

We hope that the conference will be a source of valuable knowledge and inspiring discussions for all the participants. We encourage all who are interested in to familiarize with the 2020 edition conference report and/or the GlobState III pre-conference proceedings.

CONFERENCE THEMES

future security and operational environments;

forecasting and simulation of changes in the security and operational environments;

space and cyber as new domains of military operations;

new concepts and approaches to the conduct of military operations;

multi-domain operation/battle vs. joint operation;

lessons from contemporary military operations;

strategic analysis and military operations research methodology;

future military leadership.

The conference welcomes paper proposals that use serious games as a research method to examine these issues.

Further details are available at the link above.

Connections UK 2021 registration now open

Registration for the Connections UK 2021 professional wargaming conference (14-15 September 2021) is now open.

Some key points to note about this year, courtesy of Graham Longley-Brown:

Learning by doing remains the focus, with maximum participatory content.

The overarching theme is building the community. There will be central plenaries and associated workshops on ‘Bringing on the next generation’ and ‘Diversity & Inclusion’. Day 1 will feature significant educational content: awareness ‘101’ sessions (as is traditional at Connections UK), but also practitioner and expert seminars, enlivened and illustrated by educational gaming.

The conference is experimental in all respects. The environment is 100% safe to fail, with contributors encouraged to bring innovative and developmental activities to the – virtual – table. Indeed, the conference itself is an experiment: we are trying to generate a genuine conference feel where, albeit in a virtual environment, everyone can get involved, interact and network. And the best way to do that, as we all know, is by playing games! Dedicated chat and voice channels will be available for every session, and there will be ‘hangout’ areas and small-group activities that give everyone the chance to contribute. Outcomes will be captured and back-briefed in plenary and/or via informal reporting.

While the central platform will be Discord (as with Connections US), gaming platforms or applications will be at the discretion of the presenter. Links to these will appear on the Discord server and a Google Sheets Master Programme.

An outline programme is attached and pasted below the signature block. Details of games, speakers etc will follow in mid-August.

Purchase a ticket via EventbriteTickets are live; book yours now! Note that the email you provide at signup will be used to provide you details of how to join the conference and register for various sessions and games in mid-August.

Connections UK will primarily be hosted on Discord. This will be our community hub. Before purchasing a ticket, please ensure you have a Discord account (free to set up) and the software installed on a personal device. The software can be used on both a free-to-download desktop application and via a browser, but the device will need a microphone and camera. A beginners guide to Discord can be found here, and we will send a Connections UK-specific guide in August.

Other applications such as Zoom, Teams, VASSAL or Spatial might also be required to take part in certain games. We will disseminate a list of games with their required programmes in August.

The conference will run over two days, 14th – 15th September.

The daily start time will be 1000 BST (GMT+1 in September), running through to evening sessions to enable international content.

There is a small charge of £25. As a not-for-profit, Connections UK receives no financial sponsorship and is run by volunteers. Although the organisers will be co-located in a control hub kindly hosted by NSC/QinetiQ, we must buy-in technical and other support functions. The small charge is to cover costs and ensure we remain financially viable going forward.

Please share widely.

ArmChair Dragoons Convention

The Armchair Dragoons are at it again, with their 3rd online convention within the past 12 months.

The ACDC (ArmChair Dragoons Convention) is happening 18-20 June, entirely online, on the weekend that was originally scheduled for Origins.  In addition to the usual designer-led game sessions, and industry-interview talk shows, the ACDC has focused on bigger ‘event’ style games that bring in larger groups for more unique gameplay, like the 8-man games run by Grognard of the Year Jim Owczarski, or the Kriegsspiel that’ll be hosted by the International Kriegsspiel Society.  There are epic-scale games of Commands & Colors (4-player teams) and several multiplayer Napoleonic games.  There is also a large ‘rolling’ scenario being hosted by Lock ‘n Load Publishing where the game will ‘carry over’ from session to session, so that new players will inherit the decisions made by their predecessors.

Something new that’s being launched at this ACDC is a Graphic Design contest for wargame artwork, which will include both open voting for the attendees to choose their favorite designs, as well as a judges’ panel of industry artists / publishers to weigh in on a live show that’ll unveil the winners.

The ACDC is also bringing back the Boardgame Bootcamp crew, to reach new players the ins & outs of VASSAL, Discord, and Tabletop Simulator.  Also returning are YouTube hosts Ardwulf, and Moe of Moe’s Game Table for their industry interviews and social hours.

Games include: Bayonets & Tomahawks, Brotherhood & Unity, Shores of Tripoli, Squadron Strike, Brave Little Belgium, La Belle Epoque, Almost a Miracle, Conflict of Heroes, Deadly Woods, Hands in the Sea, Iron & Oak, Lock ‘n Load Tactical, and more.

Seminars / Presentations include: NSDM’s “Global Hotspots” update, Space 1889, Forts Along the Ohio River, designers Bruce Maxwell,Tomislav Čipčić, Stuart Tonge, and George Dew, and a couple of happy hours for open chatter.

With the loss of so many in-person game conventions over the past 18 months, digital conventions have jumped in to fill the void, and offer a chance for a communal gaming experience, but in your pajamas, and with a much lower likelihood of contracting the con-lurgy.

Detailed info can be found here: https://www.armchairdragoons.com/acdc-june-2021/

Registration is here: https://tabletop.events/conventions/acdc-june-2021

Graphic design contest info is here: https://www.armchairdragoons.com/events/cons/the-acdc-wargame-graphic-design-contest/

Brant Guillory

Connections US approaches!

This is a reminder that the Connections US professional wargaming conference will take place on 21-25 June 2021.

UK Fight Club: Spencer on urban warfare

UK Fight Club will be hosting a webinar by John Spencer (Modern Warfare Institute) at 18:00 BST on June 24. You’ll find further details and registration here.

Forthcoming GUWS wargaming presentations

This is a periodic reminder that the Georgetown Wargaming Society continues to sponsor an apparently endless number of excellent talks on all aspects of wargaming. On the schedule for this month:

The Defence Analytical Wargaming Network in Australia

June 7 – 7:00 – 9:00 PM EST

Wargaming communities in Australia are much like the country itself: sparsely populated over vast distances, with very meagre resources. The Defence Analytical Wargaming Network is an initiative with two main foci. The first is to connect professional wargamers to share their collective knowledge and to increase our capacity to run large events. The second aim is to provide an internally-focused safe-to-fail environment where we can generate and test novel techniques and improve the craft of wargaming. Peter Williams will discuss how the DAWN was formed and the challenges and successes they’ve experienced in the first year.

Games for Professional Military Education

June 14 – 9:00 – 10:15 PM EST

This will be a discussion about the Australian Defence College efforts to incorporate games into its formal and informal PME initiatives through the joint professional military education continuum. Group Captain Brick will also discuss This War of Mine as a different kind of wargame that presents players / students with the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by civilian survivors in war zones.

Wakanda Forever: Fiction and Simple War Games for Pedagogy 

June 28 – 6:00 – 8:00 PM EST

How do you get students interested in big concepts like strategy and joint force structure? Why not use superheroes! In this presentation Dr. Ky Hunter will discuss how she created a simple game based on Wakanda from the Black Panther series in the Marvel Universe to help cadets learn about joint force organization and strategy development. She will also discuss how to adapt games to real word events and keep students involved in a 100% virtual environment

You will find details and registration links for these and other forthcoming events at the GUWS website.

Connections North 2021 videos

For those of you who missed the Connections North professional (war)gaming conference back in February, we are pleased to finally present the videos from that event. All of the conference presentations are included, except three (either to the speaker’s organization declining approval, or in one case me forgetting to hit “record” in a timely fashion). The question and answer sessions are NOT included.

Canada Gaming Update

Discussion of professional wargaming and policy gaming in Canada, featuring presentations by Scott Roach (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre), Murray Dixson (Defence Research and Development Canada) , Scott Jenkinson (Australian Army), Michael Donohue (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Cole Petersen (Vaccine Rollout Task Force/Canadian Armed Forces). Presentation by Madeline Johnson (Global Affairs Canada) not included. Chaired by Rex Brynen (McGill University).

Designing Assassin’s Mace and ZAPAD

Keynote presentation by Col Tim Barrack (US Marine Corp Wargaming Lab).

Wargaming in small defence communities

Panel on “wargaming in smaller defence communities,” with presentations by David Redpath (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre) and Sue Collins (NATO ACT), chaired by Ben Taylor (DRDC). Presentation by Anja van der Hulst (TNO) not included.

Gaming in the humanitarian and development sector

resentations on “Gaming in the humanitarian and development sector,” COVID-19″ by Amanda Warner (consultant), Gautham Krishnaraj (Laval SimEx), and James Maltby (Save the Children UK). Presentation by Matt Stevens (Lessons Learned Simulation and Training) not included due to recording error, although slides can be found here:

Distributed gaming

Presentations on “Distributed Gaming” by Pete Pellegrino (US Naval War College), Louise Hoehl (NATO), and Emily Robinson (Defence Research and Development Canada), chaired by Tom Fisher (Imaginetic).

So long and thanks for all the fish (gaming fisheries conservation)

Presentations on “So long and thanks for all the fish” (gaming fisheries conservation) by Ben Taylor (Defence Research and Development Canada).

Gaming the Arctic

Presentations on “Gaming the Arctic” by Stephen Aguilar-Millan (European Future Observatory) and Vårin Alme (FFI), chaired by Rex Brynen (McGill University).

Using games for command decision support

Iain McNeil (CEO Slitherine Software and Matrix Games) discusses on “Using Wargames for Command Decision Support.”

Hybrid warfare in the time of COVID-19

Presentation on “Gaming hybrid warfare in the age of COVID-19” by LCol Ronnie Michel (German Army) and Shiho Rybski (European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats), chaired by Ben Taylor (DRDC).

Diversity and inclusion in professional (war)gaming

A panel discussion on diversity and inclusion in professional gaming, featuring Brianna Proceviat (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre), Lynn O’Donnell (Dstl), Paul Strong (Dstl), Yuna Wong (IDA), and Sebastian Bae (RAND/Georgetown University). Connections North is a proud supporter of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

NASAGA 2021

The North American Simulation and Gaming Association will hold its annual conference virtually, on 5-7 November 2021. The theme will be “Into the Future.”

A call for presentations will be issued soon and registration will open in August. For further details and updates, check the NASAGA 2021 website.

Sabin on strategic wargaming

Earlier this month, Prof. Philip Sabin delivered a presentation on “what strategic wargaming can teach us” to the German Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies. The text of that presentation is now available online.

Connections USA 2021 update

For more more information on the Connections USA professional wargaming conferences, visit the Connections US website. The registration link for this year’s conference can be found here.

Registration now open for Connections US 2021

Registration is now open for the Connections US 2021 professional wargaming conference, which will be held (virtually) on 21-25 June 2021. The theme for this year’s conference is Ethics and Wargaming.

You will find addition information on the conference at the Connections US website.

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