The Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) was founded in 2020 to provide a venue for hobby gamers, professional wargamers, and those new to wargaming with opportunities to play games and learn more about wargaming as a profession. GUWS welcomes members of all academic levels and backgrounds.
The schedule for our webinar and wargame series for Fall 2020 is indicated below. The webinar series is open to the public and free – in order to be accessible to the widest audience possible. Please note some events are still in development.
Cards in Wargames with Volko Ruhnke
Sept 21, 6:00PM-8PM EDT
Award-winning commercial boardgame designer Volko Ruhnke will discuss the use of playing cards in tabletop wargames. Playing cards—once a rarity in hobby wargames—have exploded in designs published over the past three decades. What do they bring to the table? When should you use them in your wargame design? How can you leverage their unique power to greatest advantage? The talk will briefly survey the history of playing cards in board wargames and then focus on effective use of cards as an element of design. Register on Eventbrite.
History and Principles of Solitaire Wargame Design
Sept 29, 6:00PM-8PM EDT
Bruce Mansfield & Jason Carr will discuss the history and principles solitaire tabletop gaming. Solitaire tabletop gaming has exploded in popularity over the last decade, both in solitaire-specific game designs, and solitaire game variants. Why is solitaire gaming becoming more popular? What design considerations are specific to solitaire design? How did we get to this point? This talk will outline the history of solitaire wargaming, analyze various solitaire design mechanisms, and speak about the tradeoffs in usability, complexity, and simulation in solitaire wargame designs, with special attention paid to ‘bots’ – automated solitaire opponents in otherwise multiplayer games. Register on Eventbrite.
Wargame Pathologies: An Overview, with Examples by Chris Weuve
October 5, 6:00PM – 8:00PM
Wargames can fail. In this talk, professional DOD wargamer Chris Weuve explores some of the failure modes of professional wargames, and looks at some examples — and what to do about them. (And, given the current unpleasantness, he offers some thoughts on distributed wargames.) Register on Eventbrite.
USAF Title 10 Wargaming with Mitch Reed
Oct 12, 6:00PM-8PM EDT
Mitch Reed, a senior wargame designer for the U.S. Air Force (USAF), will be discussing the wargame development for Global Engagement 20 (TREWMAN) and Futures Game 20. Global Engagement and Futures Game comprise the annual marquee wargames for the USAF, also known as USAF Title 10 wargames. This webinar will focus on how the AF/A5SW created the first competition wargame for the USAF – based on guidance from the Deputy SECDEF. It will also explore how AF/A5SW planned the largest competition game in DoD (before being cancelled by COVID) and its future plans for its TREWMAN competition game system. Register on Eventbrite.
Flashpoint Baltics Matrix Wargame
Oct 17, 11:00-3:00PM EDT
In collaboration with the Department of Strategic Wargaming at the U.S. Army War College (AWC), the Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) will be hosting a matrix-style wargaming examining strategic conflict between Russia and the United States in a hypothetical future scenario. This wargame will be conducted virtually and is limited to only 18 players. The wargame aims to provide an opportunity for students, aspiring professional wargamers, and military service members to engage with wargaming as an educational tool.
Registration for this event is capped at 18 participants. Interested participants may express their interest here via Google forms.
Agile Wargaming with Phil Bolger & Lexee Brill
Oct 26, 6:00PM-8PM EDT
Phil Bolger and Lexee Brill will discuss Agile Wargaming, a way to take traditional wargaming frameworks in a streamlined, low-fidelity, quick-turn format. Phil and Lexee work with the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC). This discussion will focus on how AFWIC and other organizations AFWIC has worked alongside (including A5SW, multiple USAF Major Commands, and OSD-SCO) have made use of Agile Wargaming to develop concepts, refine plans, and assist decision-making, as well as what distinguishes Agile Wargaming from traditional wargaming, and how the two can benefit from each other. Register on Eventbrite.
Digital Transformation of Wargames Co-Sponsored by ISW
Nov 2, 6:00PM 8:00PM EDT
This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization, dedicated to advancing an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education.
Stephen Gordon will discuss analytical wargaming in the context of a transformative, distributed wargaming platform concept he co-created that leverages technologies, techniques, and methods from innovative industries and use cases including eSports, gaming, animation, virtual assistants, robotics, AI, quantum computing and hyper-scale cloud platforms. Joining the discussion as a co-presenter will be Col (Ret) Walt Yates, formerly the Program Manager, Training Systems, United States Marine Corps to share his experience with existing simulation capabilities and the wargaming technology evolution taking place inside the US Marine Corps. Register on Eventbrite.
Historical Board Games as Educational Tools: Shores of Tripoli by Kevin Bertram
Nov 12, 6:00PM – 8:00PM EDT
Virtual International Crisis War Game with Naval War College & Stanford University
November 14, 2020 10:00AM – 1:00PM
In partnership with the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) will be hosting their International Crisis War Game, which provides insights into the relationship between new technologies, domestic politics, conventional military capabilities, and nuclear threats. You do not need to have any prior wargaming experience or subject matter expertise to take participate: the game is aimed at generalists (like many political leaders), but those with deeper knowledge will also find this wargame interesting. Due to COVID restrictions, this wargame will be held virtually through Zoom. Registration: TBD
Gaming Nuclear War
Nov 17, 6:00PM 8:00PM EDT
Robert McCreight will discuss how nuclear considerations and conflict are incorporated into wargaming. He will address the following: What factors drove US military and civilian leaders to prepare for all out nuclear war? What issues plagued strategic planners and governed strategic nuclear gaming? What aspects of genuine nuclear exchanges and MAD conflict were understood? What were the key requirements of gaming the management of a nuclear exchange? He will also address design elements for nuclear wargames, such as basic considerations in scenario development, issues in structuring interim game play moves and newly introduced play issues[scripted vs unscripted], and overall coordination and management of game flow. Register on Eventbrite.
Designing Cyber War
Dec 1, 6:00PM – 8:00PM EDT
Joseph Miranda will cover modeling cyberwar in wargames. The presentation will include board and computer games he has designed (examples: Cyberwar XXI for DARPA, Cybernauts for GameFix). Points will include use of game components to represent cyberspace, offensive and defensive programs, realworld forces, and the human element. Also, how to use cyberwar as part of a wider spectrum of conflict, a tactic for asymmetrical warfare (example: Decision in Iraq for Decision Games). Other topics will include modeling cyber security, crisis management, and emerging generations of warfare. The presentation will conclude with an analysis of cyberwar trends into the near future. Register on Eventbrite here: TBD
This year’s Connections Oz conference will take place online on 7-9 December 2020:
Connections Oz is a conference for professional wargamers and serious gamers. It is scheduled for 7-9 December 2020. Please note this in your diaries and feel free to distribute to your networks.
We are now calling for presentations for this year’s conference. Please contact the organisers via email@example.com
Due to Covid restrictions, the 2020 program will be entirely online. This follows the format successfully delivered by the ‘Connections Global’ team earlier this year. This format offers the opportunity to include more interstate and overseas speakers participants. We hope this collection of ‘best of’ speakers will attract a larger audience here in Australia and help grow our community.
To accommodate international speakers, the daily schedule will include ‘after dinner’ sessions. A full program will be published shortly, but the anticipated daily schedule is likely to be along the lines of:
A highlight for this year will be an opening keynote from Matt Caffrey, the originator of Connections US back in 1993. We have a number of other international and local speakers lined up. Keep an eye on the website for more information.
On September 10, the Aerospace Corporation will be hosting an online forum on integrating space into joint warfighting analysis, featuring Mike Fitzsimmons (IDA), Web Ewell (CNA), Rebecca Reesman and Russell Rumbaugh.
The new Space Force is currently grappling with building relevant doctrine and culture for an independent service in an ever more contested and congested domain. The gap between what’s possible physically and what’s desirable politically is a common seam for analysis and other tools to help decision-makers consider how to prepare. What lessons can we learn from the history of decision-support analysis? How have other domains—particularly maritime—addressed this seam? What unique aspects of space help and hinder both levels of analysis? Space capabilities are inextricably linked to all domains and services, how should this inform scenario planning moving forward? Find out in this episode!
Wargaming will be among the decision support tools to be discussed. You will find full details and a registration form here.
Pete Pellegrino is a retired USN commander and former Naval Flight Officer, currently employed by Valiant Integrated Services supporting the US Naval War College’s War Gaming Department as lead for game design and adjudication and lecturing on game related topics for the department’s war gaming courses. In addition to his work at the college since 2004, Pete has also conducted business games for Fortune 500 companies and consulted for major toy and game companies. The views expressed are those of the author and do not represent the official policy or position of any agency, organization, employer or company.
This past week was the first ever Connections Global conference—that is, the annual Connections US professional wargaming conference, but organized as a virtual, online event because of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The conference ran for five full days, and featured over fifty presentations, panels and keynotes (split between two virtual rooms), plus associated online gaming and social events. I don’t know how many people registered in total, but keynotes typically had in excess of two hundred participants. The event was cosponsored by CNA, which also provided technical expertise to make it all work.
From a technical point of view, I thought it went really well. Zoom proved easy to use and reliable. There were few hitches. I enjoyed the ability to listen to a speaker, ask questions (using the Q&A function) through the moderator, and have discussions with other participants via the text chat. I did find that if a presentation was less interesting to me, I tended to multitask, answering email or doing other work while semi-listening to the conference. Unlike previous conferences, moreover, I didn’t take detailed notes for this report–I was either too engaged with the presentation via questions or discussions, or doing something else in the background.
I found the social events were less effective, with the exception of the one meeting of the Women’s Wargaming Network I attended (having asked to attend, lest anyone think I was crashing their space).
This question of how well the conference format worked will be important for other conferences that are going virtual because of the pandemic, including Connections North in February 2021. I was very pleased. Some others I know, however, found it a little unengaging to watch a speaker via Zoom from the privacy of their own home. The organizers have asked attendees to complete a survey and we will see what that indicates. Attendees are also welcomed/encouraged to leave thoughts in the comments below.
Connections US is one of the cosponsors of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming. On the plus side the Principles were referred to frequently in presentations or discussions, badges and icons made appearances, and they were referred to in the rotating intermission slides. On the negative side, a little under 15% of the participants were female (by my rough count), and only 10% of the panelists and presenters were. Visible minorities were also underrepresented. Digital conferences, because of their ability to bring in speakers from anywhere in the world, ought to have an easier time being more inclusive. This point was brought up several times, and the organizers took it on board. I think we’ll see even greater efforts in this direction in future both here and elsewhere.
Although I attended the entire conference, the two-room format meant that I only saw and heard half the presentations. No one should feel slighted, therefore, if a pick a few personal favourites:
On Monday, I was especially impressed with the lively panel discission on building capacity in the university. In an earlier talk, ED McGrady also had some very interesting things to say about on adjudication.
On Tuesday, Graham Longley-Brown‘s talk about his practitioners guide to wargaming (which you can see here) covered a lot of fertile ground. Hank Brightman‘s presentation on Urban Outbreak 2019 and pandemic gaming was timely and useful.
On Wednesday,the keynote by Phil Sabin was outstanding, highlighting the ways in which many of wargaming challenges of today are rather different than the sorts of issues grappled with by the women and men of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit during WW2. Sawyer Judge‘s very articulate presentation on wargaming as an art and science won widespread plaudits. I actually disagree with some of what she argued: I’m not sure debating the art vs science is very useful, and instead think that wargaming should be thought of a humble methodological tool much the same as other research techniques in the social sciences. However, it it was a excellent example of a talk that stimulated a great deal of valuable discussion.
On Wednesday, Pete Pellegrino’s presentation on distributed gaming was excellent, to the point that I had colleagues discussing it in emails even before he had finished speaking. (He recorded it too.) He (and, the previous day, Sawyer) also set the standard for clear and effective presentations at the conference, so I am officially proposing the Pellegrino-Judge Unit (PJU) to be the official measure of visual, verbal and overall information clarity in PowerPoint wargaming presentations. It should be noted that PJU scores are not only inversely correlated with the amount of text and logos crammed on a slide but also the number of military acronyms. In any sort of global conference, 98% of the latter should be banned. Half of your fellow national services DKWTDASF (Don’t Know What The Damned Acronym Stands For), let alone your foreign or non-military colleagues. Those receiving low PJU scores are strongly recommended to go and watch this. Chad Briggs also had a number of insightful things to say about the design and execution of wargames during COVID-19.
On Friday, in addition to Tom Mouat’s pithy comments on AI and expensive new toys, I very much enjoyed Jeffrey Sugden’s presentation on course of action generation with machine learning and Andrew Reddie’s talk about the SIGNAL project on nuclear signalling, use, and escalation. I took part in “Connections international” panel discussion together with Matt Caffrey (Connections US) and Colin Marston (Connections UK). In addition to summarizing past and future Connections North events, I also updated everyone on the status of the Derby House Principles. However, I will address the latter in a future PAXsims post, since there is a lot going on.
There was a lot of other valuable material at the conference which I haven’t mentioned—this is just a list of my personal favourites from among the presentations I attended.
Overall, I think it was a very successful event. Kudos to the organizers, who adjusted well to the challenges of a once-in-a-century global pandemic and adapting the conference to the digital realm.
Games for Change have posted a video of their recent online panel on Winning Against Pandemics: Games as Essential Tools for Planning and Response, featuring Francesco Cavallari (Video Games Without Borders), Noah Falstein (The Inspiracy), Seth Cooper (Northeastern University), Rhiju Das (Stanford University), chaired by Russell Schilling.
Global Affairs Canada, Defence Research and Development Canada, and Connections North held a webinar today, featuring yours truly presenting on the topic of “leveraging games for strategic insight.” Over forty people were in attendance. The session wasn’t recorded, but you’ll find my slides here (pdf):
The presentation was largely pitched at gaming policy challenges outside the national security sector (such as African Swine Fever), and for a Canadian audience (that is, reflecting a smaller serious games community).
The webinar discussion series focuses on the growing strategic, professional policy gaming community of practice in Canada. Through informal virtual discussion and presentations, we look forward to sharing lessons learned from gaming experiences, and discussing topics such as game types, game design, and how gaming can be used as a tool for generating insights and analysis in support of policy development. The forum will also provide the opportunity to build game ideas and identify opportunities to (beta)test new games.
Future events will be publicized here at PAXsims and on the Connections North email list. If you work in government in Canada, you may also want to contact Madeline Johnson (GAC) to be added to their internal list for future notifications.
Global Affairs Canada, Defence Research and Development Canada, and Connections North will host an online presentation on “Leveraging games for strategic insight” at 10:00am ET on Wednesday, July 15.
Rex Brynen (McGill University) will offer an introduction to the use of serious games to address a broad range of strategic challenges, whether in foreign affairs or other policy areas. He will discuss how games can build teams and crowd-source ideas; generate insight into the behaviours of stakeholders, allies and adversaries; anticipate challenges; and explore consequences. He will also discuss the role of organizational and bureaucratic factors in the encouraging, disseminating, and utilizing such insights.
Rex Brynen is Professor of Political Science at McGill University, where—in addition to his work on Middle East politics and peace operations—he teaches serious game design. He has served as an advisor at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, as an intelligence analyst for the Privy Council Office, and as a consultant to the Department of National Defence, NATO, United Nations agencies, and others. He is also senior editor of the conflict simulation website PAXsims.
Global Affairs Canada, Foreign Policy Research and Foresight Division conducts independent research and analysis on foreign policy issues to support, inform and challenge Global Affairs Canada on priority and emerging international policy questions. Products are intended to better understand changes in our operating environment, provoke thought and discussion, and challenge our mental assumptions about the world and Canadian foreign policy.
Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) is the national leader in defence science and technology that develops and delivers new technical solutions and advice to the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces, other federal departments, and the safety and security communities. DRDC is an Agency of the Department of National Defence and work with partners in academia, government and industry and with Canada’s allies.
Connections North is a community of practice devoted to the professional use of wargames (and other serious games) for education, training, and policy analysis in Canada. It is open to professional game designers, military and other government personnel, researchers, NGOs, and others associated with professional (war)gaming.
This is part of a new webinar discussion series focused on the growing strategic, professional policy gaming community of practice in Canada. Through informal virtual discussion and presentations, we look forward to sharing lessons learned from gaming experiences, and discussing topics such as game types, game design, and how gaming can be used as a tool for generating insights and analysis in support of policy development.
Space is limited and primarily limited to those within the Canadian policy and serious games community, or other strategic gaming professionals. If you would like an invitation (and webinar information), please contact Rex Brynen by July 12. (Members of the Connections North email list will have already received an invitation from GAC.)
In response to the global pandemic, this year’s Connections US interdisciplinary wargaming conference will be held on 10-14 August 2020 as a 100% virtual/online conference and as a truly Global Connections, with hours convenient for participants from the west coast of the US and Canada through the UK and Europe.
Content will include a keynote by, former deputy secretary of defense Mr. Robert Work, seminars, speaker panels, and working groups on subjects from wargaming pandemics, AI in wargaming, wargaming and innovation, wargaming and education and more. Online wargame demos, play-throughs and labs will also be available.