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KWN: Sabin on “The Future of Wargaming to Innovate and Educate”

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On November 22 (16:30-20:00) at King’s College London, Professor Philip Sabin (Department of War Studies, KCL) will address “The Future of Wargaming to Innovate and Educate.”

The lecture marks the first anniversary of the King’s Wargaming Network and Professor Sabin’s retirement after 35 years of service to the university.

Professor Brooke Rogers, Deputy Head, Department of War Studies, will deliver welcome remarks. Ms Ivanka Barzashka, Co-Director of the Wargaming Network, will chair the discussion.

Additional information and (complimentary) tickets can be obtained here.

Connections UK 2019 report

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Picture credit: King’s Wargaming Network.

This year’s Connections UK professional wargaming conference was held at King’s College London on 3-5 September. Participants from almost two dozen countries countries took part, making it one of the most international Connections conferences ever. Of the 285 who registered for the event, about 13% were women. A very large proportion were also younger and first-time participants, underscoring the success of the conference in growing the wargaming community and reaching out to a new generation of serious gamers.

UPDATE: audio and/or slides from all of the conference presentations are now available from the Connections UK website.

Day 1

The first day of Connections UK was divided into several streams.

Some participants took part in a full day introduction to wargaming course, taught by Major Tom Mouat (Defence Academy of the UK) together with Jerry Elsmore. According to Tom:

The “Introduction to Wargaming” course was attended by over 60 people. The course included presentations on “Why Wargame”, “Types of Wargame”, Wargaming Effects, Hybrid Warfare and Influence”, “Wargame Design, Dice and Adjudication” and “Wargaming Pitfalls and Dangers”. I also demonstrated a simple Kriegsspiel based on counter IED operation in Afghanistan, a modified commercial-off-the-shelf game Air Strike (based on IAF Leader by Dan Verssen Games) and a matrix game Kazdyy Gorod about an Eastern European city on the border with Russia, faced with internal dissent and “little green men”. After the session, I also gave an additional lecture on “Game Components and Map Making”.

Jim Wallman (Stone Paper Scissors) ran a full day megagame, Super Soldiers & Killer Robots 2035, which looked at the impact of technological innovation on warfare.

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Super Soldiers & Killer Robots 2035 underway.

Finally, there was an array of types of shorter games that participants could play.

  • Map and counter: Ukraine Crisis– Rik Stolk and Graeme Goldsworthy
  • Map and counter: Afghanistan Provincial Reconstruction Team(PRT) Game – Roger Mason
  • Map and counter plus negotiation: 2nd Punic War– Phil Sabin
  • Map & counter computer-assisted wargame: RCAT Full-Spectrum Adjudication– Graham Longley-Brown, Jeremy Smith, Dstl, NSC and Slitherine
  • Card-driven game: Cyber resilience game – LTC Thorsten Kodalle
  • ‘Euro-style’ board game: AFTERSHOCK Humanitarian Crisis Game–Rex Brynen
  • Board game:  Integrity: Conflict Sensitivity and Corruption– Paul Howarth
  • Matrix game: Hybrid campaign game– Anja van der Hulst

I ran two games of AFTERSHOCK, both of which saw the players do a quite good job of bringing much-needed humanitarian assistance to the earthquake-affected people of Carana.

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Your scribe, about to start a game of AFTERSHOCK.

Impressively, Day 1 also saw a visit by the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, who toured some of the games in progress.

 

 

 

Day 2

The first plenary, chaired by Dr. Aggie Hirst (KCL), addressed the psychology of wargaming.

Captain Philip Matlary (Norwegian Army) addressed the psychology of teaching tactics. He stressed that understanding tactics is a cognitive skill, involving judgment, speed and guile. Since students construct their own understanding, teachers must attend to what students are thinking. Teaching tactics is intended to transform tactics from cognitive, “system 2” analytical thinking to more intuitive “system 1” thinking. However, system 1 thinking—although faster— is also prone to bias and systematic errors, such as confirmation bias and cognitive ease. He emphasized the importance of developing guile. Left somewhat open was how good wargaming was at developing these skills (compared to other methods), how we know this, and what best practices might be. Dr. Neil Verrall, a psychologist with Dstl, addressed the psychology of wargaming. He usefully broke down the internal dynamics of the game (intrapersonal/player characteristics interpersonal/the psychology of individual interaction, and group dynamics) and external dynamics (the context of the game). He stressed the importance of addressing these (confounding) variables, adopting an experimental mindset in game design and execution. He concluded with some food for thought, including cross-cultural gaming, organizational cultures, the role of information, understanding and deception, and responses to future threats. He also underscored the importance of interdisciplinary (or transdisciplinary) approaches to improve wargame design. Finally, Dr. Yuna Wong (RAND) addressed the importance of bringing psychological insights into wargaming. She argued that a lot of political science/international relations training was at the wrong level of analysis to address small group wargame dynamics. She also identified several barriers to bringing psychology more fully into wargaming. These included disciplinary barriers; the excessive quantitative focus of (US) social science and a corresponding atrophying of qualitative analytical skills (“some social scientists could no longer pass the Turing Test”); the lack of senior wargame mentors in psychology; and the failure to recognize psychology and an important area of subject matter expertise in games (as opposed to domain, geographic area or technological knowledge).

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A packed audience listens to presentations on the psychology of wargaming.

Aggie suggested a series of question to start off the discussion period, and then threw it open to the audience to raise additional points. I raised two: first, the issue of how we can psychologically manipulate wargame participants to behave in certain desired ways, and second the psychology of wargame promotion. Regarding the later, I warned of our l own vulnerability to confirmation bias—I think, as a community, we are sometimes prone to oversell our favoured approaches.

Following the coffee break, we broke into four simultaneous “deep dive” sessions:

  1. Quantitative vs qualitative gaming (Phil Sabin)
  2. Answering “so what” questions (Jim Wallman)
  3. Successful playtesting (Graham Longley-Brown and James Bennett)
  4. Data capture and analysis (Colin Marston)

I attended the latter, although I’ll admit that my arrival in the session was delayed by extended discussions with colleagues over coffee that ran late.

The first keynote of the conference was delivered by Dr. Lynette Nusbacher (Nusbacher Associates). Entitled “There’s No Pro like an Old Pro:  Professionalism and Wargaming,” she addressed how games can more effectively shape policy processes. She discussed the value of gaming as a forming of inoculation against strategic surprise and shock. When senior leaders encounter cognitive dissonance and ideas for which they are not prepared for they may stop thinking. Challenge may be unwelcome. At its base, she stressed, simulation and gaming should introduce disruption. In the UK, she suggested, government does not really develop strategy to implement policy, but tends to reverse the direction. Strategy is just presumed to exist. There is typically no structured process to marshal ways and means to deliver ends. The US benefits from a more robust think-tank community (partly as a home for former or aspiring political appointees) that are more receptive to critical analysis.

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Keynote address by Lynette Nusbacher.

The wargaming and simulation community needs to continue to sell gaming to think tanks and universities. Wargaming is still too dependent on creative and ambitious individuals adopting the technique. Gaming needs to be a fundamental part of procurement. Gaming needs to be sold not only on the internal merits of the game, but as a general antidote to some of the endemic pathologies of UK policymaking.

After lunch, there was yet more wargaming available for participants to sample.

  1. Anti-Submarine Warfare: a game for understanding the basics – Ed Oates
  2. Crisis in Zefra: An analytical matrix game – US Naval Postgraduate School
  3. The Camberley Kriegsspiel– Ivor Gardiner
  4. Signal– Sandia Labs and Berkeley
  5. Sweeping Satellites–Mike Sheehan and Mark Flanagan
  6. FITNA: The global war in the Middle East– Pierre Razoux
  7. Dogfight– Phil Sabin
  8. Decisions and Disruptions cyber game – Dr Ben Shreeve
  9. Rosenstrasse – Graham Longley-Brown
  10. Fire and Movement– Mark Flanagan
  11. Next War: Poland – Callum Nicholson
  12. Confrontation Analysis: Wargaming the US/China trade war – Dstl
  13. We Are Coming, Nineveh! –Rex Brynen
  14. A Reckoning of Vultures (Matrix Game Construction Kit) –Rex Brynen
  15. The Al Asqa Intifada – Stella Guesnet
  16. Beggars in Red: The Battle of Waterloo – James Bridgman
  17. Cyber card game– Dstl
  18. Combat Mission tactical computer wargame – Dstl
  19. STRIKE! – Dstl
  20. Strategic Wargame Verden Crisis – Dstl
  21. Canvas Aces –Phil Sabin
  22. Kursk to Kamenets: The battle for the Ukraine 1943-1944 – James Halstead

 

Our game of We Are Coming, Nineveh! saw Iraqi security forces liberate west Mosul after six months of heavy fighting—but at the cost of massive collateral damage. Because of this it was judged to be a Daesh victory.

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We Are Coming, Nineveh!

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Coup plotting underway in Matrixia—the “Reckoning of Vultures” scenario from the Matrix Game Construction Kit.

 

Day 3

Day 3 started off with the usual housekeeping announcements, then a short presentation on the future of Connections UK. Registrations have increased year to year, although it might soon be running up against space limitations at KCL. Moving ahead there will be some institutionalization of the organizational structures have made it all possible.

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The first plenary session was on gaming hybrid warfare, chaired by John Curry (History of Wargaming Project).

Dr. Ben Shreeve (University of Bristol) delivered an outstanding presentation on “decisions and disruptions.” He first introduced a simple card game (with awesome Lego illustrations) that he uses to educate about cyber vulnerabilities and mitigation. He then discussed a study of how different groups played the game, finding that security experts actually played slightly worse than IT managers or computer scientists. Security experts tended to underinvest in basic cyber defences (such as antivirus and basic security training) and instead emphasized more sophisticated capabilities. They also analyzed the kinds of arguments used to support decisions. A full paper on their findings (by Sylvain Frey, Awais Rashid, Pauline Anthonysamy, Maria Pinto-Albuquerque, and Syed Asad Naqvi) can be found here. Next, Dr. Anja van der Hulst(TNO) examined wargaming the hybrid threat. In it she reviewed the various approaches, such as matrix games, scripted connect-the-dots games, and others. Usefully she highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Finally, Dr. Roger Mason looked at wargaming hybrid warfare cyber operations. After a review of the role of cyber in hybrid and conventional operations, he introduced The Battle of Voru, a wargame exploring the employment of cyber in a fictional Russian attack on Estonia.

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Ben Shreeve on gaming cyber security.

John led off discussion by noting that one needs to match wargaming tools to the sort of hybrid warfare issue or question that one is examining. One of the audience expressed some concern about “hybrid” warfare in that all warfare is hybrid, and that combining the terms might obscure that some “hybrid” activities might actually seek to avoid kinetic warfare. (This is rather a hobbyhorse of mine, so I was happy to hear someone raise it.) There was also discussion of the role of non-state actors. I asked about the risk that sponsors want games with exaggerated (cutting-edge, trendy hybrid and cyber threats)—especially there is some evidence from Ukraine and Syria that tactical and strategic cyberattacks have actually had fairly limited effects.

The conference again broke into “deep dive” groups, before and/or after lunch:

  • Wargaming the Future
  • Space Games
  • Technology to Support Wargaming
  • On Wargaming
  • Data Capture and Aanlysis

Once again, I found myself in side discussions and saw less of these than I wished. However, Stephen Aguilar-Millan was kind enough to provide a summary of the first of these sessions, which he cochaired and led.

The session orignated in some thinking about wargaming the future that was undertaken for Connections US. The whole point of thought is to lead to some purposeful action, so we decided to hold a session at Connections UK that would start to act out this process. We decided to examine ‘The European Battlespace 2050’ as the topic of invetstigation and we aimed at unearthing the critical strategic uncertainties that a wargame would be concerned with. The session attracted about 60 participants, with a wide variety of national, organisational, and occupational responsibilities. They were divided into ten groups of six participants and tasked with defining the Blue Team in the European Battlespace in 2050. A set of strategic assumptions were given to the participants, along with a map and a set of crayons. Their output was an annotated strategic map of Europe in 2050, which was presented to the group in the second half of the session. The plan is for the session curators to take the maps after the conference, synthesise the information contained on the maps, and to look for the key strategic uncertainties facing Europe in 2050. This output has the potential to then feed into the next stage of the process – to build a set of scenarios from which the game dynamics can be created.

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In the afternoon, the next plenary session, chair by Colin Marston, addressed the selection and use of commercial off the shelf and modified off the shelf (COTS/MOTS) Games. Jim Wallman (and an absent Jeremy Smith from Cranfield University) offered an air COTS review, in which they examined 17 COTS tactical air combat wargames. Each was assessed against 32 criteria. They also asked, more generally, if the games addressed future technology insight, whether the game was useful for training or development, whether it was useful for capability, how easily it was modifiable, and the game’s learning curve (how quick and easy it was to learn to play).

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Paul Beaves then discussed a land COTS review, which examined existing commercial manual urban warfare games for the purpose of supporting future Dstl wargame development. They focused on games that addressed battlegroup-level operations. They evaluated the extent to which the games addressed a variety of Ministry of Defence requirements—for example, did it address line-of-sight, varying terrain types, and command control. Among those assessed was We Are Coming, Nineveh! Not surprisingly, each of the games had strengths and weaknesses, none fully covered all UK requirements, and many had useful approaches and features.

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LtCol Ranald Shepherd (British Army) addressed COTS wargames and professional development, largely focussing on A Distant Plain. When running games in Afghanistan, participants found themespecially useful in highlighting the divergent interests of the key parties. He suggested that more could be done to use COTS games to support professional development.

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Finally, Wilf Owen raised someconcerns about professional wargames. He stressed at the outset that wargames were extremely valuable tools when well executed by skilled and knowledgeable personnel. However, not all wargames are good. COTS games too often use hexes, too rarely have single player/level of command issues. Digital COTS games run into blackboxing problems. Wargames are too often too different from actual military procedures, and real-world military experience should count for more than skill with the game system. Wilf noted that there was little systematic evidence of the value-added of wargaming. He suggested combat resolution models are less important than people think, and that games need to focus more on the consequences of decisions. He stressed using real maps of real terrain using real planning processes and procedures. It was an excellent presentation, although on some issues he may have underestimated the extent to which his critical views are actually quite widely held in the community.

The second keynote address of the conference was provided by Maj Gen Mitch Mitchell (Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre), who spoke about the importance of “thinking differently.” Given a changing international system, how could horizon scanning and gaming help us be better prepared? Wargaming needs to become both routine (something regularly done) and experimental (in that it examines new threats and responses).

 

 

The last plenary presentation was offered by me, on gaming peace and stabilization operations. The slides for my presentation can be found here (pdf).

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This was Phil Sabin’s last Connections UK as a faculty member at KCL, since he is now embarking on a well-deserved retirement. During the conference several of us spoke to his contributions to teaching and research on wargames and military history, to wargame design, and to building a professional community. Indeed, his conflict simulation course in the Department of War Studies was the orignal inspiration for my own course at McGill university, where we use his book Simulating War as the course text.

All in all it was an excellent conference. Special thanks are due to everyone who made it happen—the organizers, the student volunteers (without whom there would have been chaos), and the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

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Connections NL 2019

Connections Netherlands 2019 will be held on 28 October 2019, in the Brasserskade MOD Complex (CBK),  Brasserskade 227A/B, 2497 NX Den Haag.

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Full details can be found at https://www.connections-netherlands.nl.

Call for papers: CONNECTIONS NORTH 2020 wargaming conference

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The CONNECTIONS NORTH 2020 professional wargaming conference will be held at McGill University, Montreal on Saturday, 15 February 2020.

CONNECTIONS NORTH is a one-day conference devoted to conflict simulation. It is intended for national security professionals, researchers, educators, game designers, university students, and others interested in the field of wargaming and other serious games.

Registration details will be posted to PAXsims in December. In the meantime, we welcome paper and panel proposals. These should be sent to Rex Brynen (rex.brynen@mcgill.ca).

Details of previous conferences (and the CONNECTIONS NORTH digital community) can be found here.

As is tradition, the annual McGill megagame—a separate and rather less serious event—will be held on the following day.

13th annual NATO Operations Research & Analysis Conference

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NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (ACT) and the Science and Technology Organization (STO) will be holding the 13th annual NATO Operations Research and Analysis (OR&A) Conference in Ottawa, Canada on 7 to 9 October 2019.

The 2019 theme is Challenges for NATO OR&A in a Changing Global Security Environment. The conference will kick off with a number of keynote addresses and continue in five streams:

  1. Strategic Decision Making
  2. Wargaming
  3. Methodology
  4. Data Driven Analysis
  5. Analysis in Operations

This is a professional conference, is open to participants with expertise in military operations research and professional wargaming/serious games. On Monday and Tuesday there are a series of wargaming panels. On Wednesday there are two optional full-day workshops: one involves participation in a hybrid, multi-domain wargame and the other (led by yours truly) explores wargaming best practices.

Further details can be found here. Registration is via the NATO STO events website. The conference will be conducted at an unclassified level.

Connections Oz 2019

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The Connections Oz (professional wargaming in Australiasia) conference will be held in Canberra on 27-29 November 2019.

For additional details (when available), visit the Connections Oz website or contact the organizers.

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Also, if you plan on attending and would be willing to write up a post-conference report for PAXsims, drop us a line.

 

 

Connections US 2019 reminder

This is a reminder that the Connections US 2019 professional wargaming conference will be held at the US Army Heritage and Education Center (Carlisle, PA) on 13-16 August.

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To see what to expect, see our PAXsims report on last year’s conference.

Connections UK 2019 registration open

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The Connections UK 2019 conference for wargaming professionals will be held at King’s College London on 3 – 5 September.

Registration is open. Go to the KCL estore web site at and register now!

Purpose and approach. The purpose of Connections UK is to advance and sustain the art, science and application of wargaming. We do this by bringing together the wargaming community to share best practices formally and network informally.

This year’s conference is based entirely on your feedback and suggestions from the 2018 event. Key changes are: there will be more hands-on gaming opportunities, showing more diverse gaming approaches; we will run parallel ‘deep dives’, examining subjects you have suggested in greater depth; ‘automation’ will feature as a main-stream element of the conference; and, to keep costs down, we will not provide food other than drinks and snacks on arrival each day and during breaks. This last change has reduced the conference fees to £90, which covers the entire conference.

The Conference will last three days. Tuesday 3 September will be a concurrent series of large-scale games (which will still include a megagame) and an Introduction to Wargaming Course. As well as plenaries and deep dives, Wednesday 4 September will feature the usual Games Fair, which remains very popular.

Activities sign-up. Due to the number of concurrent activities this year, we will ask you to sign up for the Introduction to Wargaming Course, all games and deep dives in advance of the conference. We will ask you to do this later in the summer. Failing to book does not preclude you from taking part in something, but those who have signed up will get preference as some activities are limited in number. The KCL Wargaming Network are organising two evening events during the conference. Details of these, and how to sign up for them, will be promulgated separately.

Outline programme. Updates to the programme will be made available on the Connections UK web site at http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/ Key events and topics include:

  • Two keynote addresses, from Dr Lynette Nusbacher and a senior British Army officer.
  • Large-scale games on Day 1, featuring (but not limited to!) a megagame, matrix games, a workshop on ‘full-spectrum adjudication’, cyber games, various computerised simulations, an anti-corruption game, a Ukraine crisis game, a hybrid campaign game and much more.
  • Introduction to Wargaming Course.
  • Plenaries on:
    • The psychology of wargaming.
    • Wargaming hybrid operations (including cyber).
    • The selection and use of Commercial off the Shelf and Modified off the Shelf games.
    • Gaming Peace and Stabilisation Operations.
  • Deep Dives on:
    • Quantitative vs qualitative gaming.
    • Answering ‘So what?’ questions.
    • Technology to support wargaming.
    • Successful playtesting.
    • On Wargaming: Matt Caffrey’s recent tour de force on how wargames have shaped history and how they may shape the future.
    • Wargaming the future (in conjunction with a US Connections working group).
    • Data capture & analysis.
    • Space games.
  • Games Fair: two sessions on Wednesday 4 September, as usual. Games will cover anti-submarine warfare, cyber games, hybrid warfare, computerised games (including the same games in parallel manual and computerised formats), role-play, an analytical matrix game, a Commercial off the Shelf space game and many others.
  • KCL Wargaming Network events: two sessions are planned, in the evenings of Day 1 and Day 2. Details to follow.

Cost. The cost is £90 for a single ticket that covers all three days. This includes refreshments and snacks on arrival each day, but no main meals.

Location. The Connections UK 2019 location will be Kings College London Strand Campus.

Accommodation. Finding accommodation is an individual’s responsibility. One cheap approach is to use a Travelodge in the suburbs and commute on the excellent bus and tube system.

Points of Contact and further information. Consult the Connections UK website at the address block for updates, further instructions and the contents of former conferences. Please send general questions to graham@lbsconsultancy.co.uk and detailed queries concerning administration to James Halstead at james.halstead@kcl.ac.uk

Privacy. As a non-profit, the General Data Protection Regulation does not affect us that much. There is a privacy statement on the home page of the Connections UK web site.

Diversity and inclusion. Advice to all presenters can be found on the Connections UK web site.

We hope to see you in September!

Registration open for Connections US 2019

A message from Tim Wilkie (National Defense University):

This year’s Connections conference will be hosted by the Army War College and held at the Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC) in Carlisle, PA, August 13-16.   Since 1993, Connections has brought together practitioners from all aspects of the wargaming field to learn from each other, share best practices, and grow the discipline.  We seek to “advance and preserve the art, science, and application of wargaming,” and we do so through a variety of events at each year’s conference, including speaker panels, workshops, working groups, game demonstrations and playtests, and more.  We welcome every background: military and civilian, educators and analysts, government and commercial hobbyist press, U.S. and international.  Our participants use gaming for research, analysis, education, and to inform policy, and there is much that we can learn from one another.

On behalf of my conference co-chair and the founder of the Connections conference, Matt Caffrey, I am pleased to announce that registration for Connections 2019 is now open.  You can reach the registration form from the conference website.

The website also contains additional information about the conference, including the draft agenda, directions, hotel information, and more.

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Stringer: Advancing the UK’s analytical tools to address strategic competition and modern deterrence post-Brexit (via KWN)

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Air Marshal Edward Stringer, the Director General of Joint Force Development and the Defence Academy of the UK, will be speaking at King’s College London today (April 2) at 1900 BST—and the King’s Wargaming Network will be livestreaming the event on its YouTube channel.

Air Marshal Edward Stringer, the Director General of Joint Force Development and the Defence Academy, will kickstart the week with a public lecture, part of the WN’s inaugural wargaming lecture series. He will discuss the need for a reinvigorated wargaming effort in the UK and among NATO allies to support robust analysis and innovation in the context of the new strategic challenges facing the alliance. In this lecture he will discuss three sets of questions:

  1. What new analytical requirements does the changing security environment present to the UK and its allies? What is the value of wargaming as part of the broader analytical toolkit in meeting these requirements?
  2. What has the UK done to reinvigorate wargaming as a tool for strategic and operational analysis?
  3. How should the current practice of wargaming adapt to meet the new policy requirements? What could the policy, professional wargaming and academic communities do to further the utility of wargaming?

Professor Wyn Bowen, head of the School of Security Studies, will deliver welcome remarks. Ivanka Barzashka, founder and co-director of the Wargaming Network, will chair the lecture.

 

CFP: NATO 13th Operations Research and Analysis Conference

 

The NATO 13th Operations Research and Analysis Conference will be held in Ottawa on 7-8 October 2019. The conference is cosponsored by Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and the Science and Technology Organization, and is open to all NATO nations, STO Enhanced Opportunity Partners (Australia, Finland and Sweden) and Partnership for Peace nations.

The 2019 theme is “Challenges for NATO OR&A in a Changing Global Security Environment”. The conference will kick off with a number of keynote addresses and proceed through various streams. The Programme Committee welcomes papers that address the conference theme from different perspectives. Papers describing emerging techniques and approaches as well as case studies of analysis undertaken are equally welcome. Based on the submission of abstracts, the PC will group papers for the conduct of running parallel sessions.

The organizers have issued a call for papers.  Potential presenters are asked to submit an abstract by June 1. To have the widest distribution possible, they ask that presented material should preferably be unclassified.

 

Connections UK 2019 update

PAXsims is pleased to provide Connections UK update, via Graham Longley-Brown. The 2019 Connections UK conference will be held on 3-5 September 2019 at King’s College London. Registration will open in early summer.

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Many thanks to all of you who completed the Connections UK 2018 feedback survey. This is a fantastic 61% response rate; we have analysed feedback from 132 attendees out of the 216 that attended Connections UK 2018 and, as ever, based the 2019 conference on your suggestions. The resulting conference outline is below. Please note the dates Tuesday 3 – Thursday 5 September 2019 in your diary. I will send you registration details presently. More details of Connections UK, including all previous presentations, can be found at http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/index.html If you do not wish to be on this email distribution list, please let me know and your name will be removed from further announcements relating to Connections UK.

 

Connections UK 2019

While the purpose of the conference remains the same (advance and preserve the art, science and application of wargaming), there are some necessary and significant administrative changes, and we are altering the format slightly in line with your suggestions. Notable survey results that have led to this include:

  • 98% of respondents found the 2018 conference very valuable or valuable. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; the general structure and approach of the conference are sound.
  • 56% of respondents had not attended Connections UK previously. We are attracting many new people.
  • 60% of respondents would like more parallel sessions offering differing levels of discussion. This is a key result that will shape the 2019 conference.
  • 91% of respondents found the conference length just right. We will again run a three-day event.
  • The most frequently occurring requests were for:
    • An extended Introduction to Wargaming course, interleaved with other conference activities.
    • More hands-on gaming, show-casing a wide variety of wargame types. This as well as the usual Games Fair, which rated very well.
    • A shorter megagame, and this as one of several alternative games played on Day 1.
    • Plenary sessions on the topics shown in the table below.
    • Concurrent ‘Deep Dive’ masterclasses into the topics shown in the table below.
    • Separate ‘streams’ on automation, and analysis & data capture.

 

Changes

The main changes will be:

  • Cost and food. In order to avoid a substantial catering and facilities surcharge that would push up the conference cost to well over £300, we will:
    • Provide no meals. Rather, the KCL cafeteria will operate on a pay-as-you-dine basis. You can, of course, bring your own packed meals or pop out to the many local eateries. Drinks during breaks will be provided.
    • Charge for one ticket, which will cover all three days. The cost will be as low as we can make it to cover the basic administrative and facilities charges. We do not know the final price yet, but expect it to be under £100 – but please note this is TBC.
  • The Introduction to Wargaming Course will be run by Tom Mouat on Days 1 and 2 of the conference.
  • Day 1 will include a smaller megagame as one of a number of games and formats, all running in parallel.
  • Simultaneous Deep Dives and streams, so you will have to choose which to attend. There will still be central plenaries, which everyone attends, and lots of time for coffee-fuelled networking.

 

Ideas, please

The scope of Connections UK is expanding. We would appreciate your suggestions for the following – but please note that, as a paying conference, we must maintain a reasonable level of quality. It would also help if you could suggest definitive ideas, rather than vague (“Why don’t you think about…”) notions that need a lot of work to flesh out.

  • Automated methods, models and tools that support wargames, especially data capture & analysis.
  • Games for Day 1 that involve 15 – 20 (+) players that you can bring and run. We have four (including the megagame), and probably need another eight.
  • Games for the Day 2 Games Fair that involve approximately 6 – 12 players. Prof Phil Sabin will coordinate this, as usual, but please start thinking about games that demonstrate the breadth of types of wargame, including computer-assisted and computerised games.
  • Gaming beyond Defence. This will be a Day 3 plenary session. Please suggest good speakers who can talk to the ‘gaming’ in ‘wargaming’ beyond a Defence context.
  • Space games.

 

Conference details

  • Connections UK purpose. Advance and preserve the art, science and application of wargaming.
  • Dates. Tuesday 3 – Thursday 5 September 2019.
  • Venue. Kings College London, The Strand, London, UK.
  • Cost: TBC but as low as possible, and one ticket for all three days.
  • Key note speakers: Dr Lynette Nusbacher and the Head of the UK MOD Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC).
    • Dr Lynette Nusbacher (Nusbacher Associates) is an expert on horizon scanning and strategy. She served as an officer in the British and Canadian Armies, and was part of the team that created two of the UK’s National Security Strategies and set up Britain’s National Security Council. She has been Senior Lecturer in War Studies, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Head of the Strategic Horizons Unit in the UK Cabinet Office and the Devil’s Advocate in Britain’s Joint Intelligence Organisation. She has a background in red teaming, devil’s advocacy and structured methods of analysis. Web: http://nusbacher.com  Twitter: @Nusbacher
    • Head DCDC oversaw the publication of the 2017 MOD Wargaming Handbook. Other responsibilities include concept development, capability planning, Training Requirements Authority, senior responsible officer of a large equipment programme and programme leadership to deliver future capability change for over 23% of the British Army, including interfaces with Industry. Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/Director
  • Outline. Details remain TBC, but the conference structure should look like that shown below.

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CONNECTIONS NORTH 2019 conference report

CONNECTIONS NORTH

On February 16, McGill University hosted the third annual CONNECTIONS NORTH professional wargaming conference. We might be biased as the organizers, of course, but we were very pleased at how it all turned out.

Attendance was excellent, with 73 people registered for the event. This was triple our attendance last year. CONNECTIONS NORTH is now the third largest of the Connections wargaming conferences, behind the Connections US and Connections UK—although Connections NL and Connections Oz still have us all beat on participants relative to national population.

The conference programme and speaker biographies can be found here.

Of those who attended, slightly over half were national security professionals, researchers and educators, game designers, and hobbyists. The reminder university students from McGill University, other Montreal universities, and beyond. We were pleased to see participants from across the Department of National Defence (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre, Royal Military College, Canadian Forces College, Defence Research and Development Canada, and elsewhere), other government departments, the US Army War College, and the US Naval War College, as well as colleagues from as far afield as the UK, Netherlands, Norway, and Australia. Amongst the students there was even a group who travelled up from Tufts University and MIT for the event!

The first panel featured Ben Taylor (Defence Research and Development Canada) and LCol Mike Beauvais (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre), who provided an overview of wargaming in Canada. Ben surveyed a range of activities that DRDC had supported in recent years (slides/pdf), while Mike discussed a recent ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) wargame conducted at the CJWC. They both noted a recent resurgence in wargaming in Canada, although it remains somewhat sporadic and disconnected, with many parts of DND (or other government departments) not aware of what others might be doing. Hopefully, activities such as Connections North, outreach by DRDC, and the establishment of  a wargaming and red teaming group at the CJWC all provide an opportunity to “connect the dots” in this regard. David Last (Canadian Forces College), Stephen Downes- Martin (US Naval War College), and David Redpath (Revision Military) all offered their own thoughts as discussants, and then other attendees had an opportunity to offer questions or observations.

 

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Next, our attention turned to wargaming methods and approaches. Murray Dixson (DRDC) talked about the work he and others are doing on updating and developing course of action analysis as part of NATO SAS (System Analysis and Studies panel) 130 (slides/pdf). Stephen Downes-Martin  (US Naval War College) explored group dynamics in wargames (full paper/pdf), highlighting the ways in which group discussion and decision-making processes might produce sub-optimal analysis. His presentation certainly highlighted the relatively unstructured and unscientific way that the wargaming community has thus far approached the issue, and the insight that could be had from drawing upon existing scholarship in the fields of psychology, decision science, and management.

After lunch, a session on “from war to peace” looked at the use of serious games to examine insurgency, peace and stabilization operations, and peacebuilding more broadly. This session had been made possible through a McDonald, Currie Professional Development Award from McGill’s Institute for the Study of International Development.

Game designer Brian Train (who has likely designed more commercial counterinsurgency wargames than anyone else, ever) discussed “Soft Power Maps: Integrating the Political, Social and Economic in Insurgency Games” (slides/pdf). His presentation highlighted the evolution of game systems and approaches in his own work. Anja van der Hulst (TNO) offered some “Reflections on Peace and Stabilization Games,” recounting the various steps (and missteps) in the development of the Go4it Comprehensive Approach simulation Model, which she ran very successfully for McGill University students last year. I talked about serious games and peacebuilding, introducing a few cases where we have used games or game techniques to assist in contingency planning in the humanitarian sector, to support peace negotiations, or even to influence parties to an ongoing conflict (slides/pdf). Finally, Jim Wallman (Stone Paper Scissors) offered his own thoughts on gaming peace operations, drawing upon the examples of both his War in Binni megagame, and his smaller Barwick Green peacekeeping game (slides/pdf).

With that, the formal sessions came to an end. However, we weren’t quite finished yet. After some moving of chairs and tables, we were ready for a few hours of gaming. The games on display or being played included:

  • Barwick Green (contemporary peacekeeping operations)
  • We Are Coming, Nineveh (the Iraqi liberation of West Mosul)
  • Reckoning of Vultures (a matrix game of coup plotting in a fictional republic)
  • District Commander Maracas (counter-insurgency in a fictional megacity)
  • Nights of Fire (1956 Hungarian rebellion)
  • Trump’ets at Dawn (hypothetical MEU landing in Venezuela)
  • The Day My Life Froze (refugee/humanitarian simulation)

Next year we will continue efforts to promote greater diversity among participants. One-quarter of the participants were women (better than most Connections conferences in the US, UK, and elsewhere), but only one of the presenters was. We would also like to see more colleagues working in digital game studies. medical and emergency management simulation, and other related fields. We will also have to decide whether to cap attendance at 75, or book a larger room for next time.

Professional colleagues commented very favourably on the opportunity to network with colleagues and hear new perspectives, while students were very positive about the opportunity to interact with professionals who use serious games in their work. My own POLI 422 students also had an opportunity to discuss their various game projects with expert designer, both during the conference and thereafter.

The following day, many of the participants stayed around for a rather less serious activity: defending Canada from zombie hordes in APOCALYPSE NORTH, the fourth annual McGill megagame. That, however, will be the subject of another PAXsims report.

On a final note: if you are involved in professional wargaming, conflict simulation, and other serious gaming in Canada, you can always join the CONNECTIONS NORTH email list.

Serious Games Forum 2018 conference report

This report is written by PAXsims research associate Juliette Le Ménahèze. All pictures are courtesy of the Serious Games Network.


 

image.pngThe first edition of the Serious Games Forum was held on 3 December 2018 in Paris. The event was hosted at the War College (École Militaire) by the Serious Games Network (SGN) – France, and supported by a number of associations. The event was attended by 200 people, and counted no less than 30 speakers and workshop facilitators.

The morning was dedicated to conference panels, organized around two themes: a first general panel on wargaming, and a second focusing on the benefits of wargaming for business.

First, Patrick Ruetschmann (SGN President and the Forum’s main organizer) welcomed everyone and explained how the day was to unfold.

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General reflections on wargaming

Historian and wargame designer Pierre Razoux spoke on the use of wargaming at the War College strategic research institute (Institut de Recherche Stratégique de l’Ecole Militaire – IRSEM), where he leads the “regional questions – North” research cluster. IRSEM distinguishes itself from other French think-tanks by resorting extensively to wargaming, which still lacks recognition and is seldom used in France.

Professor Philip Sabin then explained the reasons why King’s College London, where he teaches wargaming, is establishing a Wargaming Network (WN). The aim of the WN, which he co-directs with Ms Ivanka Barzashka and for which the inaugural lecture was held the day following the conference, endeavours to advance wargaming as a tool for innovation and education to address current security challenges. King’s has a rich history of wargaming, and through the WN they seek to further still their position as a hub for the growing community of students and staff studying and applying wargames. He discussed the importance of wargaming as an active learning tool for King’s students, who through playing and designing wargames further their understanding of conflict dynamics. Moreover, there is a growing understanding in the defence community that wargaming is a powerful tool, by providing a ‘safe fail’ environment.

Colonel Christophe de Lajudie offered his perspective on whether or not we should refuse digital wargaming. Unfortunately I was not able to attend this talk.

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Wargaming for business

Dr Sara Ulrich spoke of business wargaming, especially in the context of Deloitte crisis management. She is a Director of Deloitte’s UK Crisis Management & Resilience practice leading Contingency Planning for Strategic Risks (Brexit currently) and also Scenario Planning, Simulations and Wargaming.

According to her, business wargaming has capability in four areas:

  • Future preparedness wargames: they allow the company to explore its potential future and get a better understanding of the unknown
  • Issues & crisis preparedness simulations and wargames: they are designed to support a company’s high impact events, issues or crisis plans preparedness.
  • Learning & training wargames: they are designed to help practice and rehearse skills and understand others’ (clients, competitors, regulators, etc.) perspectives
  • Key decisions business wargames: they are designed to support a company’s planning, testing or stress testing of key decisions or important challenges.

Then she explained that Deloitte organizes its wargames in the following way: the client team is faced with the red teams, comprising competitors, as well as the market and regulators, and the control team.

She offered a few examples of wargames organized at Deloitte: three for clients, and an internal wargame for Deloitte’s senior managers.

  • “Global pharma companies wargame workshop” organized for a drug launch
    • Two global pharma companies formed a partnership to co-launch a new drug in two regions. The drug was undergoing phase 3 clinical trials with the results expected to be published soon. The drug was set to launch in two regions. The biggest concern was that the outcome of the clinical trial could demonstrate that the new treatment is no better than current drugs already on the market. The client engaged Deloitte to help assess the potential impacts of various trial results (phase 1, the wargame itself), and to develop a detailed mitigation plan (phase 2). The two “maximum change” scenarios were explored.
  • “Broadband company full market business wargame” to predict competitors’ moves
    • This client was facing an increasingly competitive environment as the ecosystem, regulatory and market landscape continues to evolve. They thus engaged Deloitte to run a 2-day wargame to bring to life the competitive market.
    • Day 1 focused on 2017-2018: Increased fixed line competition and threats of substitution to 4G wireless products and Wi-Fi offerings. During the debriefing session they identified the possibility of a market shock: two competitors may merge due to pressure on growth.
    • Day 2 focused on the future period 2019-2023. It started in the following way: Increased demand for higher broadband speeds due to advancements in technology and looming 5G release poses a substitution threat. Relying on the precedent day’s debriefing findings, they also introduced a market shock, with a new player entry. The debriefing session identified the key threats for this client, what the response strategies should be, relying on the consultant’s’ expertise and on participant reflections. Finally, they were able to detail an action plan.
  • “Negotiation skills business wargame for Deloitte University”
    • The 1-day game was organized for Deloitte Senior Manager level participants with aim to enhance their negotiations skills. The war game used a negotiation model which is based on the Harvard model of negotiation, and involved role-played negotiation meetings. War game materials were pushed to participant teams through an online platform, which drove the wargame and replicated real life decision making. Teams were scored on tasks through the platform, and on face-to-face meetings. These scores were aligned to the negotiation framework for in-day feedback.
  • “Major oil company business wargame” for a future joint venture
    • A major oil company engaged Deloitte to develop a Joint-Venture wargame event in order to bring typical JV risks and challenges to life. The event was themed around “Back to the Future”, taking participants from 2030 to 2016, with a focus on a different JV challenge at each move. Dynamic injects such as newspaper articles, voiceovers and holograms were delivered over the course of the day using Greenhouse technology.
    • The six client participants were divided in two: three focused on the downstream and the three others focused on the upstream. They had to prepare strategic JV responses to scenarios sent by the control team, who would constantly introduce updates and material. Additionally, a team of experts was present to input advice when requested, and role play different stakeholders. They were instrumental in providing key insights during the debriefing session.

I tremendously enjoyed this talk, because it was very practical and detail-oriented. It provided a fresh and dynamic outlook on wargaming and I believe it provided participants with a clear idea of how they could use wargames for their own business needs.

Major Tom Mouat then spoke of what business can learn from wargaming. He started with a reminder for all the participants of what wargaming is about. First wargaming is a great training, and training is about making us better at what we already know, but also about understanding ourselves and making ourselves better. Moreover wargaming is about shared understanding and imagination, competition and adversarial thinking, and understanding victory and learning from defeat. He particularly emphasized that last point.

Tom Mouat then quoted Thomas C Shelling: “The one thing you cannot do… is to make a list of things you never thought of”. That is counterable through wargames. He also reminded us that after the treaty of Versailles was signed, the German army was deprived of a proper army and their actual military exercises were limited. They thus resorted to wargames for training, with a terrible efficacy.

A major danger in the military and the business world alike, is the phenomena of groupthink, in part induced by a rigid hierarchy that makes it hard for lower level officials/ employees to questions their superior’s decisions. It leads to imitation based on previous decisions and limits the possibilities for innovation, reinterpretation, and so on.

To groupthink he opposed the wisdom of crowds. Groups can be better at estimation than individuals. Groups indeed bring a diversity of opinion, decentralized expertise and independence of thought. This advantage is nullified if formal hierarchy is maintained among group members. Another point to consider is that best predictions come from conflict or contest.

He also discussed the usefulness of roleplay in predicting outcomes: one study found that rolepays had a 62% chance of accurately predicting outcomes, far better than a single expert (31% correct) or a game theory (32% correct).

Moving on to business, he identified business benefits from wargaming: analysis of competitor, customer and supplier behavior; new product introductions, market entry scenarios, or development of new businesses; impact of changes in market environment; and simulation of negotiations.

Finally, Tom Mouat reminded us that wargaming isn’t about the “game” (which business people who are not familiar with the practice fail to understand)” Wargaming is about practice, an attitude of mind, getting input from everyone, in an organisation that values innovation, with the goal of exploring ways to make the “other guy” fail, and above all gaining a clear understanding of “what do we want to achieve?”.

Walter Vejdovsky, head of group M&As at Capgemini, discussed the benefits of wargaming for one’s organization. He opened his talk with a quote illustrating the benefits of wargaming: “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand” (Confucius).

He identified the major common traits of the military and business:

  • a pyramidal command structure (whether explicit or implicit in the case of businesses)
  • Limited intelligence on the enemy or the competitors, and internal intelligence/ reporting bias
  • Friction and uncertainty
  • Competition
  • The human factor: the morale is key, and stress, emotions and commitment of any decisions (although businesses face lesser risks)
  • Multidimensional goals: in the military, victory is determined with a mix of losses, geographical control and political factors; in business, the “value” of a corporation involves numerous factors.

Lunch followed, and the major part of the afternoon was dedicated to the game fair, divided in 6 workshops: (1) contemporary games (2) conceive games (3) cybersecurity (4) humanitarian and civil security (5) use for formation (6) history of wargaming.

Each workshop was run twice in the afternoon and comprised of one or two introductory talks, followed by a couple simultaneous games. Running Rex Brynen’s AFTERSHOCK humanitarian crisis game, I unfortunately did not get the occasion to explore the other workshops and games.

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image.pngIn the humanitarian and civil security workshop, Russell King spoke (in French!) of his experience in emergency planning at the British National Health Service (NHS), its crucial importance, and how simulations can lead to positive planning improvements.

Dr Sophie Cros (Panthéon-Sorbonne) then spoke of an experiment she ran with policemen and firemen after three days of formation to crisis management. She ran one realistic and one unrealistic crisis simulation. She noted that the unrealistic simulation had generated a lot of stress among participants, whereas the other did not. When put under stress, individuals showed that they did not completely assimilate what they had learned during the 3-day workshop. The unrealistic, stress-inducing simulation was thus best fitted to spot potential shortcomings of individuals’ trainings.

After the talks the games could take place. I was supposed to run two sessions of AFTERSHOCK but could only run the first one for I was short on participants during the second session. Participants seemed to enjoy the first session, and during the second session I instead explained the game and its uses to a few people who approached me and seemed very interested, be they students, humanitarian personnel, or military personnel. They expressed the wish to see a French version of the game published. (A French translation of the rules and player aids is, however, available on BoardGameGeek.) 

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The last part of the afternoon was dedicated to the results of a hackathon ran jointly by Sciences Po and the French Red Cross. Three teams of Sciences Po students thus presented the game they had designed in just a few weeks for the Red Cross, on the theme of International Humanitarian Law.

The first team had designed an app-supported cyber security wargame, loosely modelled on battleship. The red team tries to find the position of the blue team’s security system and attack it. Both players have to answer cyber security-related questions on the app in order to advance or block the adversary.

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The second team had designed an app-supported game as well, which was semi-collaborative as each player had its own agenda while working towards a common goal for the Red Cross, and one player could even be a secret enemy. The scenarios, agendas of the protagonists, but also the number of turns were randomly generated by the app, making it highly replayable.

The third team had designed a boardgame modeling an emergency issue in a fictive city plagued by civil war between two groups. The game thus comprised three players, The Red Cross and the two fighting groups. Each fighting group had the objective of taking control of the city (seizing the city hall being the main objective), while the Red Cross’ objective was essentially to save as much of the city’s population as possible.

All these games seemed very well designed and enjoyable, and I was truly impressed with what they had managed to achieve in just a few weeks.

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Following that, Tom Mouat, Pierre Razoux, Patrick Ruestchmann, Eric Jacopin and a Red Cross representative took questions from the audience. Finally, it fell to General Carmona, vice-director of the Institute for Higher National Defence Studies (Institut des Hautes Etudes de Défense Nationale, IHEDN), to make a few concluding comments on the conference.

Overall, it was a very productive and stimulating day. As a French national, I must say I was particularly happy to witness the first French edition of a Connections-like conference, and proud of what had been achieved. I want to salute Patrick Ruetschmann’s hard work in putting together such an event practically on his own. The participants too were very dynamic and passionate about their subject.

Moreover, I was impressed and extremely satisfied with the greater gender-parity and proportion of young people compared with other wargaming events I had had the chance to attend in the past. The collaboration between Sciences Po and the Red Cross, and the partnership with a master’s program partly taught at the War College itself were decisive in increasing the number of young participants. I particularly appreciated that Sciences Po students were able to present their games. It sent a strong signal that the young were able to produce smart, fun and instructive wargames.

I hope to see more of this in the 2019 edition, that promises to be more ambitious with at least two days of conference.

Juliette Le Ménahèze 

Serious Games Network video report

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A video overview of the recent Serious Games Network conference in Paris is now available via youTube.

Careful viewers will catch sight of PAXsims associate editor Tom Mouat (who was one of the speakers) and PAXsims research associate Juliette Le Ménahèze (running a game of AFTERSHOCK). Juliette is writing up a conference report soon for PAXsims.

h/t Patrick Ruestchmann 

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