Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: conferences

Leveraging games for strategic insight

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.)

Connections 2020 reminder

Connections US/Global 2020 update

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. 

To learn more go to

GUWS: Fisher and Stevens on serious games for humanitarian training

On July 28, the Georgetown University Wargaming Society and PAXsims will cosponsor a virtual presentation by Tom Fisher (Imaginetic) and Matt Stevens (Lessons Learned Simulations and Training) on serious games for humanitarian training. They are the authors of a recent report on Serious Games: Humanitarian User Research, conducted for Save the Children UK. The study, completed in January 2020, explored the potential of games-based learning for humanitarian training in Jordan and Kenya via a series of workshops in Amman and Nairobi. Among the issues addressed are the effectiveness of games-based learned, the strengths and weakness of analogue and digital gaming, and best practices.

Tom Fisher is President of Imaginetic Simulations + Design, a serious games, training, development, and design firm based in Montréal, Canada; and an associate editor of PAXsims. With over 30 years of scenario design under his belt, and 15 years of games-based learning and serious games design and development experience. Tom’s design and development products have been used in training and analysis around the globe, from Aftershock to MaGCK, as well as numerous projects for the World Bank, NATO, and over 100 international agencies, universities, companies and NGOs.

Matthew Stevens is Director of Lessons Learned Simulations and Training a professional development training firm for humanitarian workers with a focus on simulations and serious games. Matthew has worked with refugees and migrants globally since 2008, from downtown Cairo to the Peruvian Amazon. Before returning to Canada in 2017 to found LLST, he served as Country Director for an INGO in Amman, Jordan, delivering online higher education to displaced youth.

The online presentation will take place from 6pm to 8pm Eastern. Registration is via Eventbrite.

CNAS: East China Sea Crisis 2030


As part of its 2020 America Competes national security conference, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) will convene a virtual wargame on July 22: A Deadly Game: East China Sea Crisis 2030.

Additional conference details and registration can be found here. Participants can register separately for various panel discussions and for the game itself.

h/t Aaron Danis 

GUWS: Fielder on the Psychology of Effective Game Design


The Georgetown University Wargames Society will be hosting a virtual presentation by James “Pigeon” Fielder on the psychology of effective game design on June 8.

In this talk, Dr. James “Pigeon” Fielder of Colorado State University will discuss why good games tap the minds and emotions of players. Drawing from interdisciplinary literature, Pigeon will delve into the gaming symbolism from board games to sports and how games transform into rituals inside which play becomes real to the participants.

Zoom information will be sent to participants from our GUWS email no later than 72 hours before the event!

Speaker Bio

Dr. James “Pigeon” Fielder joined Colorado State University in 2019 as an Adjunct Professor after retiring from the U.S. Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel and Associate Professor of Political Science at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is also the founder and president of Liminal Operations, LLC, a corporate wargaming consultancy. Pigeon researches interpersonal trust and emergent political processes through tabletop, live-action, and online gaming as natural experiments. He also has over two decades of experience designing, executing, and assessing training exercises and wargames, from small-group tabletop discussions to multi-day exercises engaging 5,000+ participants.

Registration is via Eventbrite.


A video of this presentation can be seen below.

14th NATO OR&A conference update


The deadline for submitting abstracts for the 14th NATO Operations Research and Analysis Conference has been extended to 15 June 2020. The Conference will be open to representatives from all NATO Nations, NATO Organizations and STO Enhanced Opportunity Partners (Australia, Finland and Sweden).

The 2020 conference theme is “Emerging and Disruptive Technology” (EDT).  Presenters are encouraged to share their EDT-related work, particularly methods for assessing the impact of EDT in military operations, or research related to EDT-enhanced analytical methods. Papers on other subjects describing emerging OR&A techniques as well as analytical case studies and best practices are also welcome.

This year’s event is currently planned to be held 05-07 October 2020 in Riga, Latvia and is open to NATO nations, STO Enhanced Opportunity Partners, and Partnership for Peace nations. However, if a physical meeting is not possible due to COVID19, the conference will convert to a virtual format.  Any updates will be posted to the conference webpage (see link below).

Interested candidates should submit abstracts (250 words or less) for consideration to LTC Pierre Han ( by 15 June 2020.  Additional conference information, updates, and FAQs may be found at the following link:

The conference is sponsored by HQ Supreme Allied Command Transformation (HQ SACT) and NATO Science and Technology Organization (STO). A PAXsims report on last year’s conference is available here.

NYMAS: Perla, Herman, and Dunnigan on wargaming

The New York Military Affairs Symposium has posted the full audio from an October 2018 conference on wargaming, featuring Jeremy Paulson with wargaming greats Peter Perla, Mark Herman, and Jim Dunnigan.


The mp3 can be accessed directly here.

h/t Peter Perla 

Registration open for 2020 Games for Change (virtual) festival


The 2020 Games for Change Festival (14-16 July 2020) will be online this year—and free.

We are excited to announce that registration for the 2020 Games for Change Virtual Festival (July 14-16) is now open! For the first time, registration will be free to all (though RSVP is required). Festival participants will experience three days full of content around four programming tracks — Games for Learning, Civics & Social Issues, Health & Wellness, and XR for Change. Speakers and participants will explore how video games and immersive media foster resilience, connectedness, and well-being during these changing times.

Participants Will Have Access To:  

  • Festival Live Stream: Watch and respond live to talks and panels from leaders in the games for good community

  • XR for Change: Interactive sessions that showcase the positive influence of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality

  • Workshops: A series of roundtables and workshops geared toward professional knowledge sharing

  • Networking: Opportunities to connect and collaborate with mentors, funders, and fellow attendees

  • Marketplace: An interactive virtual marketplace showcasing new games, tech, products, and services

  • The Games for Change Awards: New and exciting format that celebrates the best Games and XR for Change experiences of the year

More information and registration here.

GUWS: Wong on wargaming and design thinking


The Georgetown University Wargaming Society will be hosting a virtual presentation by Dr. Yuna Wong (RAND) on “Wargaming and design thinking” on 14 July 2020.

RAND Corporation is about to launch its first commercially available boardgame, Hedgemony, a version of the wargame that it developed to support the Pentagon write the 2018 National Defense Strategy. This presentation will go over the design thinking approach we used to develop the game.

Speaker Bio: Yuna Huh Wong is a policy researcher who works on a number of defense and national security topics.

Projects that she has led or co-led includes:

  • A look at the way artificial intelligence and autonomous systems could affect deterrence and escalation. This project used wargamed a future conflict involving the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, and North Korea where all but the latter had widespread AI and autonomous systems.
  • Wargaming methods, tools, best practices, and recommendations for developing U.S. Marine Corps wargaming capabilities.
  • Development of the game that stress tested the first ever NATO Military Strategy in 2019.
  • Development of the wargame that supported the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
    Recommendations for wargaming operations in the information environment.
    Options for human-machine teaming in a littoral environment.
  • She was the co-chair for the 2016 and 2017 Military Operations Research Society (MORS) special meetings on wargaming. She also keynoted at the Connections North wargaming conference in Montreal in February 2020.

She holds a Ph.D. in policy analysis from the Pardee RAND Graduate School, where her dissertation was on non-combatants in urban operations and in military models and simulations. She has a M.A. in political science from Columbia University and a B.S. in economics and a B.S. political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Registration is via Eventbrite.

KWN: Caffrey on “Wargaming in a post-pandemic world” (June 23)


On June 23, the King’s Wargaming Network will host a virtual lecture by Matt Caffrey on “Wargaming in a Post-Pandemic World: Adapting Institutions to Out-Think and Out-Partner”

We now know we live in a world where a novel illness can take lives, livelihoods and liberties worldwide with rapid speed. At the same time, the character of war is evolving in novel and dangerous ways that are not fully known. Wargaming can help decision makers better understand and address new challenges in a complex and uncertain environment, but reaping these benefits requires the right organisational structures and processes.

For almost 40 years Matt Caffrey has been building organisations to help adapt wargaming to meet evolving threats and opportunities. He will address the following questions:

  • How have wargaming structures adapted in the past to respond to changes in the strategic environment?
  • What institutional adaptations are currently underway in the United States and NATO?
  • What more can and should be done to increase the utility of wargaming to address the full set of threats facing NATO allies?

Matthew B. Caffrey Jr. provides wargame support to the United State’s Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Force Material Command, Air Staff and to NATO. In 1993 he helped found the Connections interdisciplinary wargaming conference.

Further details and registration are via Eventbrite.

GUWS: Sterrett on commercial wargames in professional military education (May 19)


The Georgetown University Wargames Society will be hosting a virtual presentation by James Sterrett on the use of commercial wargames in military education on May 19

James Sterrett will discuss the use of commercial wargames in military education, including selection, employment, and modification of commercial games for the classroom. Leveraging his experience teaching at the Command & General Staff College at the U.S. Army University, he will highlight specific games he has utilized in past courses and provide lessons learned for other educators.

James Sterrett is the Chief of the Simulation Education Division in the Directorate of Simulation Education of U.S. Army University/Command & General Staff College. Since 2004, he has taught the use and design of simulations and games, and supported their use in education. He also earned a PhD in War Studies from King’s College London, resulting in publication of Soviet Air Force Theory 1918-1945. He has also participated in beta test and design teams for many games, notably including Steel Beasts and Attack Vector: Tactical.

A video of the presentation is now available:

GUWS: How to start a career in wargaming


On April 22, the Georgetown University Wargames Society will be hosting yet another of their excellent free, online panel discussions—this time on “How to start a career in wargaming.” Details and registration via Eventbrite.


Becca Wasser: Becca Wasser is a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, where her primary research areas include wargaming, international security, and U.S. defense and foreign policy in the Middle East. She specializes in designing and running structured strategy games for the U.S. Army and the Department of Defense. Becca is also an adjunct instructor in the BSFS program, where she teaches a course on analytical gaming. She is a graduate of the MSFS program at Georgetown University.

Jeremy Sepinsky: Jeremy Sepinsky is the Lead Wargame Designer at CNA, the Navy and Marine Corps’ FFRDC. He started at CNA in 2013 and has been the primary facilitator and designer of CNA’s Wargames since 2017, running about a dozen wargames each year. He holds a PhD in Physics and Astronomy from Northwestern University, taught University level physics for 5 years, and spent 18 months in Yuma, AZ working with the Marine Corps on Operational Test and Evaluation.

Taylor Teaford: Taylor Teaford is a wargame designer and program manager at Systems Planning and Analysis (SPA). He develops future technology focused wargames in support of the Strategic Intelligence and Analysis Cell (SIAC) within the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD R&E). He previously designed wargames at the Marine Corps Wargaming Division and is a graduate of Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program (SSP).

Phillip Pournelle: Commander Phillip Pournelle retired from the US Navy after 26 year of service as a Surface Warfare Officer. He served on Cruisers, Destroyers, Amphibious ships and an experimental High Speed Vessel. He served on the Navy Staff doing Campaign Analysis, at the Office of Secretary of Defense Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, and at the Office of Net Assessment. He is a senior operations research analyst, net assessor, and wargame designer.


If you missed the panel discussion, here it is on YouTube.

Herman: The Intersection of Professional and Commercial Wargaming (GUWS)

The following was first posted to Facebook by Christopher Weuve (Air Force Research Laboratory). Reprinted with permission.

On Thursday,  I watched a presention by Mark Herman called “The Intersection of Professional and Commercial Wargaming,” hosted by the Georgetown University Wargaming Society. As expected, Mark had a lot of interesting things to say.

For those who don’t know him, Mark is somewhat of a legend in the wargaming community. Mark is widely recognized within both the DOD and hobby wargaming communities, having started with hobby publisher Simulations Publications, Inc in the 1970s, working as a professional wargamer in the Pentagon for the 1980s and 1990s (including, famously, wargaming the Gulf War in the Pentagon while the initial invasion was still going on), and eventually leading Booz Allen’s wargaming division before his retirement a couple of years ago. Most wargame professionals have their expertise mostly in either the hobby or professional side; Mark’s experience puts him at the top of **both** lists. When you take into account the breadth of his wargaming efforts, he may be the most accomplished wargame professional in history.

A couple of things stood out from his talk. One is that, for a wargame, “the most important decision is who to invite.” The right players are critical.

The second was a slide that Mark put up regarding the utility of wargame. The bullet points are:

  • Wargames approximate and illuminate the human dimension of warfare. All else is commentary.” [He did not name the colleague who said this.]
  • Wargames offer the ability to observe human behavior within a conflict context.
  • Wargames are to Modelling & Simulation what Anthropology is to Mathematics.
  • If wargames had a patron saint it would be Jane Goodall, not James Clerk Maxwell.
  • An insight is a human participant reaching a first order conclusion based on experiences and information uniquely produced in a wargame.

A large portion of the talk consisted of personal examples that highlighted these points.

Christopher Weuve 

SWC: Wargaming gone wrong (April 16)

Event Flier.PNG

The newly-formed SAIS Wargaming Club will host a webinar on Thursday, April 16 at 1800EDT on “wargaming gone wrong,” focusing on the (in)famous 2002 US Joint Forces Command “Millennium Challenge” wargame.

Please join the SAIS Wargaming Club for a conversation on Millennium Challenge 2002 with a panel of industry experts. Following the keynote speech by Dr. Micah Zenko, author of Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, RAND Senior Policy Analyst Ms. Rebecca Wasser and CNA Lead Wargame Designer Dr. Jeremy Sepinksy will join him in a moderated panel before the discussion is opened to questions from the audience.

The panelists will bring the lessons of MC02 into a contemporary space by discussing leadership, game design, and adjudication issues in a historical context before they look forward to modern applications. In light of the recent crisis, agile defense planning is at the forefront of policymakers’ minds, and wargames remain an essential tool to envision modern U.S. military options.

Registration is via this link. The link to directly join the webinar when it starts can be found here.

Additional background reading:


A video of the presentation can be found here:

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