Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: conferences

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:

KWN: Roberts on “wargaming in a post-pandemic world” (April 14)


The King’s Wargaming Network will be hosting a virtual lecture by Dr. Brad Roberts (Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) on “Wargaming in a Post-Pandemic World: Innovating to Out-Think and Out-Compete” on 14 April 2020 at 1700 BST.

In the pre-pandemic world, a set of new challenges was already taking shape in the global security environment: a renewal of major power rivalry, long-term strategic competition, the emergence of one and possibly more nuclear-armed regional challengers, and the possibility of regional conventional wars under the nuclear shadow, among many others. In the post-pandemic world, these challenges will remain, but they will also have been reshaped, while the collective capacity of the transatlantic community to cope with them is likely to have declined. Deeper insights into these challenges are urgently needed. But following three decades of strategic atrophy in the transatlantic community, these insights have been slow to materialise.

What impact might the pandemic have on the most consequential new challenges in the security environment? What is required to “out-think” and “out-compete” adversaries? What can wargaming contribute?

Roberts will explore these questions from his perspective as an analyst and former senior policymaker.

About the Speakers

Dr Brad Roberts is director of the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. From April 2009 to March 2013 he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy. In this role, he served as policy director of the Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review and Ballistic Missile Defense Review. From September 2013 through December 2014, Dr. Roberts was a consulting professor and William Perry Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Dr. Roberts was a member of the research staff at the Institute for Defense Analyses and an adjunct professor at George Washington University.

Ivanka Barzashka, Director of the King’s Wargaming Network, will chair the lecture.

Further details and registration via Eventbrite.

See also this report on King’s College London’s recent initiatives on wargaming the pandemic’s effects.

GUWS: Mark Herman on the intersection of professional and commercial wargaming (April 16)

On April 16, the Georgetown University Wargaming Society will be hosting a virtual presentation by wargame designer Mark Herman on “the intersection of professional and commercial wargaming” from 1800-2000 EDT.

Mark Herman will discuss how his commercial wargame design and publishing experience intersected with his professional career as a defense analyst specializing in DoD wargaming. The focus on the talk will be on the skills that transferred between these two disciplines and which were unique. There will be a Q and A after his remarks.

Mark Herman has produced several successful wargames, including We, the People, Pericles, Fire in the Lake, and more. In his commercial career, he served as the CEO for Victory Games and worked for SPI. He also served as a Senior Partner at Booz Allen Hamilton and co-authored Wargaming for Leaders: Strategic Decision Making from the Battlefield to the Boardroom (McGraw-Hill, December 2008). Mark Herman holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a master’s degree in national security studies from Georgetown University.

Details and registration at the link above.


GUWS: Gaming the Non-Kinetic (May 13)


The Georgetown University Wargaming Society will be hosting an online presentation on gaming the non-kinetic at 18h00 ET on May 13. The presenter is none other than… me.

This presentation will discuss the use of (war)gaming techniques to explore issues other than war, ranging from humanitarian response to pandemics, peace negotiations and peace operations.

Rex Brynen is Professor of Political Science at McGill University, and author or editor of a dozen books on various aspects of Middle East politics. He is also senior editor of the conflict simulation website PAXsims ( Prof. Brynen has designed policy games for various government agencies and international organizations, as well as in support of Middle East peace negotiations. He is currently a senior wargaming advisor to the Canadian Joint Warfare Centre.

You can register for the (free) event via Eventbrite.

UPDATE: The video for the event has now been posted.

Note to self: remember in future to check which monitor is broadcasting to Zoom, so that I’m not displaying the presenter view.

KWN: Online Workshop on Wargaming the Pandemic


The King’s Wargaming Network has announced details of their forthcoming online workshop on “Wargaming the Pandemic.”

King’s Wargaming Network is convening an online workshop on 1-2 April 2020 from 12:30 to 17:00 GMT to understand how wargaming methods:

(1) have contributed to research and education of health-related crises,

(2) could be used to understand the short and long-term effects of the current pandemic and how to address them,

(3) could be used to educate and train decision makers and the public.

We are grateful to those who have submitted abstracts. We have an impressive lineup of 20 presenters, including McGill University, University of St Andrews, University of Maryland Advanced Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security, Université Clermont Auvergne, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Columbia University, Marine Corp University, European Centre for Exellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, Stimson Centre, Mexican Navy Centre for Higher Learning, Netherlands Defence Research Organisation, Global Affairs Canada and industry.

Presentations will feature past and proposed new projects examining the impacts of the pandemic on a range issues, including economic, social (e.g. healthcare, volunteerism and gender equality), political (e.g. regional cooperation in Europe and South East Asia) and military (e.g. hybrid warfare and cyber threats) factors.

Please note that space is very limited and priority will be given to presenters, policymakers and funders.

To register, you will need email the King’s Wargaming Network at If space is still available they will provide the registration link and password.

The draft agenda can be found here.

For more resources on the pandemic, see our COVID-19 serious gaming resources page.

New date and location for Connections US 2020 Wargaming Conference


Due to new Naval wide (which includes the USMC) base access regulations following shootings at Navy bases USMC Quantico has had to disinvite Connections US 2020. Connections US 2020 will now be hosted by CNA in Arlington, VA, August 11-14, 2020. Note the one week shift to the right. For more details go to the Connections website at

Connections UK 2020 Cancelled


It is with great regret that the Connections UK 2020 conference scheduled for 8-10th September in Nottingham has been cancelled due to the coronavirus Covid-19.” — The Connections UK Organisers


See for full details.


KWN: Online workshop on gaming the pandemic


Ivanka Barzashka, Director of the Wargaming Network at King’s College London, has announced an online workshop on (war)gaming the current COVID-19 pandemic:

We will postpone Strategic Wargaming Week to a later date to focus on using wargaming techniques to understand the impacts of the pandemic and to inform decision makers and the public.

We are convening an online workshop on 1-2 April 2020 to understand how wargaming methods:

(1) have contributed to research and education of health-related crises,

(2) could be used to understand the short and long-term effects of the current pandemic and how to address them,

(3) could be used to educate and train decision makers and the public.

We are inviting presentations on past projects relevant to the current problem, as well and proposed future projects. Those who submitted a proposal under the previous call and wish to present their ideas are kindly asked to resubmit their pitches.

The deadline for abstracts is 25 March 2020. Please submit your proposal here.

You will be informed by 27 March 2020 if your presentation is selected.

If your organisation is interested in supporting potential projects, please get in touch.

For further resources, see PAXsim’s COVID-19 serious gaming resources page

Connections North 2020 conference report


On February 15, McGill University hosted the annual CONNECTIONS NORTH interdisciplinary conference on conflict simulation and other professional/serious gaming. This was the fourth such conference—and the largest yet, with 79 registrants. Of these, over half were a mix of national security professionals, game designers, and researchers, and the remainder were university students (mainly from my POLI 452 Conflict Simulations course). Participants came from Canada and three other countries this year (US, Japan, Finland), and just over one-quarter were women. Some of the slide presentations are linked in the summaries below, and the full conference programme (and presenter biographies) can be found here.

Following weldoming remarks by Ben Taylor (Defence Research and Development Canada) we started off with a panel reviewing the past year or so in Canadian (war)gaming.

In the military domain, Scott Roach (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre) provided an overview of the work of the JWC’s small but growing wargaming section. This included joint wargaming (a series of a capability-based planning wargames, as well as games for the Canadian Joint Operations Command), joint experimentation (notably concerning information operations, electronic warfare, cyber, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), and joint simulation (using KORA, MASA Sword, JCATS, and others). He noted that they hoped to expand their staff, establish a resource/data library, and move towards more digital gaming. Jonathan Evans (Canadian Army Simulation Centre) spoke about the work of CASC, together with Brian Philips (Calian). CASC is headquartered in Kingston, with distributed locations in CFB Gagetown, Valcartier, Petawawa, and Edmonton. It provides support to the Canadian Army (both digital simulation and tabletop and other exercises), as well as Canadian Joint Operations Command, the RCAF, and other organizations. The major activities of CASC include support for Divisional Simulation Centres, UNIFIED RESOLVE, the Army Operations Course and Canadian Army Command and Staff College, and the Army Experimentation Centre. He also provided an overview of current Canadian Army simulation capabilities: ABACUS, JCATS, and VBS3, linked together and to command and control systems through the Virtual Command and Control Interface (VCCI). Murray Dixson (Defence Research and Development Canada) presented on gaming force planning scenarios, reviewing the work that DRDC had done with the Joint Warfare Centre on capability-based planning. This took the form of five wargames conducted in the spring and summer of 2019 to support Department of National Defence strategic planning. Three of these were conducted as matrix games (stabilization, peace enforcement, and peer combat), one as a combination seminar and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) game (humanitarian assistance), and one as a seminar game (domestic security and pandemic operations). He also discussed future work by DRDC’s Centre for Operational Research and Analysis (CORA), which includes continued support to strategic planning, as well as gaming for concept development and developing a DRDC wargaming community of interest.

In the foreign policy field, Anna Bretzlaff (Global Affairs Canada) discussed several games that GAC has run in recent years (on topics ranging from diplomacy in the South China Sea to global pandemics), as well as outreach efforts within GAC. The response within the department, she noted, had been very positive: this was clearly a foresight and analysis technique that officials wished to make use of. Finally, I added a few comments about gaming at McGill University, as well as some other PAXsims initiatives, including game development with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on the African Swine Fever threat.

Subsequent discussion addressed how to better connect up the various gaming initiatives and interests across the government of Canada.

After a coffee break (kindly supplied by local serious game developer Imaginetic), our next panel explored methodological reflections on wargaming.

Stephen Downes-Martin (US Naval War College) presented on reversal effects and wargames—part of his “malign wargames series” whereby he seeks to inoculate game designers and participants against game-distorting techniques. Here he argued that the outcome of a game could potentially be distorted to suit analytical or policy preferences at the outbrief and after-action review stage. One way of doing this, he suggested, was to use insights from psychological research into probability, risk assessment, and loss aversion. Framing game outcomes in different ways could subtly render options more or less appealing. Because of this, he suggested, just “playing the game” was not good enough. It was important to also be familiar with social science and psychology theories, discuss subjective likelihoods of success using “high” through “low” text scales, describe alternatives in terms of advantages and disadvantages, use both selection and pricing techniques when framing outcomes, use both gains and losses, and identify biases of participants. Next, Andy Lee (McGill University and DRDC) reviewed methods of adjudication in matrix and seminar games. His presentation was based on a review of the available wargaming literature, together with interviews with a range of practitioners. Multiple systems were assessed (umpired, weighted probabilities, probability, voting, consensus, rigid) and he offered an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each. Finally, David Redpath (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre/BI-5 Inc.) offered extensive thoughts on refining wargame methods, focusing on four essential “problem” areas: fog of war and situational awareness, player level and expertise, and the orders they can give in the game; move/countermove and turn order; and who loses—and why. He argued that in all four of these areas, many hobby and professional games alike suffered from serious deficiencies. He then offered a series of suggestions and techniques whereby each might be addressed.

Following lunch, Tom Fisher (Imaginetic) chaired a session on gaming civilians in conflict. He briefly reviewed the enthusiasm for gaming techniques in evidence at the recent Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week in Geneva. Matt Stevens (Lessons Learned Simulations and Training) then talked about serious games for humanitarian capacity building, offering an overview of a current research project being undertaken by  Save the Children, Lessons Learned Simulations and Training, Imaginetic, and Kaya. This research asks whether serious games contribute to training for local humanitarian aid workers, exploring the extent to which digital or in-person tabletop exercises prompt changes in behaviour and/or attitude. They are also examining the potential barriers to engagement with mobile-based and tabletop serious games as a learning tool, as well as the practical requirements necessary to roll-out mobile and/or tabletop serious games to learners working in an emergency setting. To do this, they have undertaken experimental workshops in Amman and Nairobi using both manual games (AFTERSHOCK, The Day My Life Froze) and digital games. Participants were very positive about the use of games for humanitarian training. Manual games were preferred by participants, but it is not yet clear which is the better learning tool. He also noted that “digital games cause digital problems” (interface, bandwidth, system incompatibilities, and so forth). 

Patrick Robitaille (Laval University) then presented on the annual SimEx humanitarian field exercise organized by Laval University. He discussed how they challenge and assess participants, and changes they have made over time.

The keynote address at Connections North this year was provided by Yuna Wong (RAND), who spoke on “gaming and the unknowable future.” She addressed the challenges of gaming the future, and the difficulty game participants have in imagining the truly new. In the end, she suggested, we had to recognize that the futures we game are unlikely to come to pass in quite the way that we play them, although that does not invalidate games-based reflection and exploration.

Our final panel of the day addressed an important and sensitive topic: expanding the community. It was chaired by Matt Caffrey (US Air Force Research Lab), the founder of the worldwide Connections conferences, and the man who has probably done more than anyone to build global networks amongst professional wargamers. Many of the presentations focused on the challenges facing a field that has historically been dominated by middle-aged (and increasingly older) white males drawn from the military and wargaming hobby. Yuna Wong highlighted her own experiences as a woman and visible minority whose background was in the social sciences, not hobby gaming: while many veterans in the field have been generous with their time and support, she said, all too often she still encounters subtle biases and presumptions. Brianna Proceviat (PAXsims)—who recent graduated from McGill University and who will soon be joining the wargaming team and the Canadian Joint warfare Centre—dressed in pink to ask the rhetorical question “what does a wargamer look like?” She highlighted how subtle gendered pressures during childhood (for example, steering young girls away from conflict-themed toys and games) could leave them having to catch up with male counterparts who had a different experience of childhood socialization. Matt Shoemaker (Temple University) explored the history and design of war games in relation to gender. Independent game designer Roberta Taylor then followed up by discussing a game that she and Matt are developing which depicts the final military conflict in the French conquest of the Kabyle region of Algeria (1854-1857). This will look at the dynamics and effects of war across the entire local (Amazigh) population, and will also reflect the key role played by resistance leader Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer.

The discussion that followed was especially interesting. Several conference participants noted that the wargaming hobby—which is, surveys suggest, is more than 98% male—has had trouble reaching out to younger and more diverse demographics. A few even detailed incidents of outright misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia in online (hobby) wargaming communities. Several students made the point that they would not have even been aware that wargaming—and especially professional wargaming—existed, had they not encountered it in the classroom or through events like Connections North or megagaming. A few noted the popularity of model UN (which takes place on an impressive scale these days: the annual McMUN at McGill University involves more than two thousand participants and X days of programming—all organized by students). Several experienced professional wargamers even went so far as to say the hobby was increasingly less important as a source of new talent for professional wargaming. What was needed, they suggested, were those with social sciences backgrounds, familiar with both POL-MIL issues and rigorous analytical methods.

And this the conference came to a close. As I was busy chairing sessions and otherwise conference organizing, I’m afraid that I never did get around to taking pictures. If you attended and had any to pass on, please send them on! Feel free to many comments below too.

The following day, February 16, was our annual McGill megagame. That was a separate event, but many participants stayed on for it. A report will follow shortly!

KWN: Roberts on “The Future of Wargaming,” April 21

On 21 April 2020, the King’s Wargaming Network will be hosting a talk by Dr. Brad Roberts (Center for Global Security Research, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) on “The Future of Wargaming: Innovating to Out-Think and Out-Compete” at King’s College London.


Additional information and registration via the link above.

Connections UK 2020


Feedback from the Connections UK 2019 interdisciplinary wargaming conference included:

“I didn’t think it was possible, but the conference again improved.”

“A very well organised professional event.”

“It was a great conference.  As I’m new to the community, the speakers and attendees made me feel very welcome.”

“Really interesting and useful for first-timers.”

“This was awesome!’

“👍 See you at Connections UK 2020!”

“A better venue, please, and structured networking events.”

Connections UK is evolving, with some significant changes ahead.


Date and venue. Connections UK 2020 will be hosted between 8th to 10th September at the University of Nottingham, in their brand-new Teaching and Learning Building. See the Connections UK website  for an overview. The Teaching and Learning Building comprises a plethora of co-located meeting spaces, including a 300-seat auditorium and multiple breakout areas for networking and game play. The building is within easy reach of a range of accommodation options, and it has free car parking. Nottingham is a fantastic location, with excellent national and international transport links and a wealth of culture to explore and leverage, including being an ‘industry cluster’ for gaming companies, traditional and hi-tech.


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 wargamers – and those who are keen to learn about wargaming – from across the whole world. As a community, we share best practices, showcase relevant emerging technologies – and we network.

We have carefully examined your feedback from the 2019 conference, which has prompted us to focus on the following at the 2020 event:

  • Learning-by-doing, with games and ‘deep dives’ that cater for wargaming newcomers and provide opportunities for practitioners to practise their art.
  • Community-building, by explicitly addressing issues such as diversity and inclusion and next-generation planning.
  • Governance in Defence and across government.
  • Social events and networking opportunities, making the most of the centralised venue and nearby accommodation.

Programme. We have also drawn on the feedback from our 2019 conference to shape the programme for Connections UK 2020. A detailed programme will follow once speakers start to fall into place, but key events and topics will include:

  • Educational activities for both beginners and mid-career practitioners.
  • Technology stands, demonstrating the latest relevant technologies.
  • A panel comprising individuals from academia who are using wargaming.
  • Deep dives on topics such as:
    • Wargaming the future.
    • Wargaming the past.
    • Non-Defence-related wargaming.
    • Analysing wargame findings.
    • Recreational game design.
    • The RAND perspective on current and future US wargaming initiatives.
  • A Games Fair.
  • Social events and informal gaming sessions.

Programme updates will be posted on the Connections UK website.

Cost. The cost of a 3-day ticket will be around £225. This includes lunch (served in the Technology and Learning Building) and refreshments each day.

Accommodation. This is not included in the ticket price, but there are excellent options:

  • Student en-suite accommodation (£60 per night bed and breakfast), which is a three-minute stroll from the Technology and Learning Building.
  • The De Vere Orchard Hotel, equally close to the main venue.
  • The De Vere Jubilee Conference Centre, located on the Jubilee Campus about three-quarters of a mile from the venue.
  • The Travelodge Nottingham Wollaton Park, located about a mile from the venue.

Evening meals and socialising. We have booked a central dining hall, which is suitable for both eating and gaming, and has a bar. The price of an evening meal is £20.

Registration and booking. We will let you know how to register, and when, in due course. We will also tell you how to book accommodation.

Points of contact and further information. See the Connections UK website for updates . Please send general questions to and administrative queries to

Privacy. Connections UK is GDPR compliant. Please see further details on the website.

We look forward to welcoming you at Connections UK in Nottingham. Save the date 8th – 10th September 2020 and note the location.

Serious Games Forum 2020 report

The following report was prepared for PAXsims by Clara Ruestchmann.


The second edition of the Serious Games Forum—the French version of the Connections series of wargaming conferences—was held on the 27th of January at the War College in Paris. Organized by Serious Games Network-France, the event gathered more than 250 attendees, hosted five conferences and six workshops packed in one day.

The conference was based on the same model as the first edition, with plenaries in the morning, games and workshops in the afternoon and a “gaming hackathon” during the day. Apart from the increasing number of attendees (+25%),  more students (defence-security and management mostly) took part and there a larger proportion of women (27%). There was also all-day participation of journalists coming from Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Agence France Presse, a 4-star Army General, and new partners such as Air Force School, CASDEN bank, My-Serious-Game digital training companies.

Morning Plenaries

After an introduction by Patrick Ruestchmann, president of Serious Games Network-France, who welcomed the many speakers coming from France as well as the UK, US, Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands, Caroline Brandao (French Red Cross) and Colonel Sébastien de Peyret (Army) were invited on stage to launch the first conference regarding the opportunities resulting in the use of games. Defense journalist Meriadec Raffray helped run the morning plenaries.


The first panel started with Caroline Brandao, in charge of the humanitarian international law in the legal department of the French Red Cross, offered an overview of the use of serious games in her organization. The Red Cross developed several games in order to address the issues surrounding the violations of international humanitarian rights. Some games were coming from the gaming hackathon held during the first edition Forum. These games address both the internal training of the Red Cross organization and outsiders such as military corps or college / students. The Red Cross tends to include new technologies in serious games, creates partnership with the video game industry (e.g. Fortnite) and turns to the use of virtual reality. One of their latest projects aims to raise awareness regarding the reunification of families after a crisis (in case of armed conflicts as well as natural catastrophes) using VR to simulate situations and help prepare and train rescuers.

Colonel Sébastien de Peyret, responsible for the Army BattleLab is also the designer Urban Operations. For Sébastien, it is crucial that the player is placed in a position of decisions making in a restricted time scale/period. Only the player has a restricted knowledge of his action’s consequences as well as the unexpected hazards generated by a situation. It is essential to be facing an opponent in the game in order to oppose a real adversary’s intelligence and to gain experience. The goal isn’t to learn how to navigate the rules but to adapt to its opponents. Most importantly, Sébastien insisted on the After Action Review to analyze the game session afterwards in order to add critical views, identify the risks that have been taken and the mistakes committed in the safe environment of the game.

Both speakers pointed out this essential element: game mechanisms in serious games and wargaming are reflective supports of strategic and critical thinking of a given situation, still they are predictive tools.

The second conference introduced Matthew B. Caffrey Jr. (USAF Research Lab) who questioned how serious games can help comprehend the dynamics of conflicts. From the initial spark with the very first Connections US 26 years ago to his last book On Wargaming, Matthew developed the idea that wargaming helps make decisions more quickly and more effectively. It also helps identify the problems which should be paid attention to. If a computer program simulating a crisis can be run very fast and multiple times in order to see the different possible outcomes, in wargames the outcomes depend on the actions of others. Therefore, it can bring light to many different aspects of conflict dynamics, not only in terms of military efficiency but also in terms of economic, social or political outcomes. Matthew gave an introductory thank you to French audience, pointing out our long history as allies in time of despair.

The third panel questioned the perspectives in the future of wargaming with analysts Sarah Grand-Clement and James Black of RAND Europe. After giving an overview of their organization in the gaming community, the panelists pointed out that games can be used in a variety of ways : as analytical tool (to help think about possible futures), as stress-testing strategies (providing scenarios in a safe environment to try out situations), as policy decisions supervisors (to ensure that policy makers and decisions are adapter to the complexity of reality) or as an interactive experience (in order to allow people to educate, train and engage with the issues at hand).


RAND conducts a variety of different games, from strategic exercises for senior decisions makers (with a 3-years contract with the UK Royal College of Defense Studies), to regionally focused games to understand emerging treats and opportunities (with a game questioning threats to international cooperation and security in the Arctic) as well as table-top exercises to explore future scenarios for emergency situations (with for example the European Union CDP -capability development plan) and applications of gaming techniques to non-defense sectors (with the government of Estonia to help understand and prevent cybercrime).

According to Sarah and James, gaming remains relevant to address complex defense and security questions but needs to continue evolving, in terms of technology and application fields, in order to stay relevant. Finally, they mentioned that, beyond technologies issues, there are social issues about how to democratize gaming so that new generations will be able to take hold of it and adapt it to their problematics. Sarah and James suggest the need to expand gaming beyond the defense community, to encourage younger people to engage in gaming and to increase diversity in gaming

The fourth conference introduced Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud de Peretti, Pierre Razoux and Christophe Maresca around the question of how to talk about games in your organizations.


Pierre Razoux, research director at the IRSEM, suggested that serious games encourage a player to put him/herself in someone else’s head, thereby helping them to better understand their reasoning. He suggested games need to be as accessible as possible when introduced in a professional or educational context. The game must be fairly quickly explained for participants coming from different backgrounds and experiences.

Arnaud de Peretti, army officer currently analyzing operations in the Middle East, is also the game designer behind Normandy 1944 for iPad (Wars and Battles) and is working on a new game about The Hundred Years War with Asynchron. He postulated that wargames help to visualize and concretize tensions both inside the army (navy, army and air force) and with the opponent. He suggested that wargames have the potential to integrate a diplomatic component, even though diplomats are still most often missing from wargaming sessions.

Christophe Maresca, Gendarmerie Nationale Colonel and presently operation chief of the Region Île de France, co-edited the game Krise with Pytharec, on the problematics of public order in an urban environment. The game scenario reproduces the tragic events at the Arc de Triomphe with the Yellow Vests movement and Black Blocs violent protesters. Christophe brought focus on the danger of eurocentrism in the creation of games and what can be called the “cognitive distortion” which requires to bring to the light beforehand the possible distortions that exist with both the creator of the game and the players.

Ending the morning with a fifth session, Ivanka Barzashka (King’s College London) talked about the wargaming network started a year ago. Last year Professor Philip Sabin gave his insight, along the ones from Major Tom Mouat, regarding this soon-to-be initiative. Created in 2018 at KCL, the Wargaming Network aims to improve tools to address defence challenges and is representative of the UK’s efforts to reinvigorate wargaming. The network deploys convening functions (workshops, lectures), supports individual staff project, creates programs for analytical wargaming (in order to train students and experts), supports external partners and look for social networking evolutions by bringing communities together such as academics and policy makers. With her more academic background, Ivanka argued that moving wargaming more into the academic direction and bringing together the learning and pedagogical purpose and the innovations and research possibilities of wargaming is essential.

On to gaming

The afternoon gave the attendees opportunities to participate to 6 workshops :

  1. Gaming Antimicrobial Resistance, by RAND Europe
  2. Demos of Digital Training (ipad / PC), by My-Serious-Game
  3. Game Design, by Pascal Bernard (among many others, designer of Time of Legends: Joan of Arc
  4. Learning Strategy with games with Philippe Lepinard (University Paris-Est-Créteil, Economical Sciences) and some of his (quite) young students, Enguerrand Ducourtil with Krise by Pytharec (public order), Patrick Ruestchmannwith Resilience (public policies and crisis management), Sébastien de Peyret with Urban Operations by Nuts! and Pierre Razoux with FITNA by Nuts!
  5. CyberWar Megagame, designed by David Delbarre, putting into conflicts nations, GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft), NGOs, and others.
  6. Cyber simulations of attacks against a bank network with Luc Mensah (ISE-Systems) and Hacklihood boardgame with David Noury.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Second Gaming Hackathon

Throughout the day, two teams of Pantheon-Sorbonne students were asked to produce a draft for a game regarding near-Space topics. Those games should address defense, environmental or economic issues. Antoine Bourguilleau, author of a soon-to-be release book on the history of wargaming, managed the two groups in order to get the best results in only a few hours. The jury of this Gaming Hackthon (Caroline Brandao, Matthew Caffrey, Christophe Mareseca) gave its appreciation of the projects the two teams came up with. Students presented their projects, prizes were given and this event slot led us to the end of the day.


Toward next year

For the closure of the Forum, General Jean-Christophe Cardamone (vice-director for the Institut des Hautes Etudes de Défense Nationale) gave a encouraging speech with emphasis on the increasing popularity of serious gaming / wargaming among various professional sectors as well as the recognition of efforts such as Decision Defense (a wide audience game for the new take on the National Service, by Pytharec) or Matrix-game like Paris 2024 (Olympics and Paralympics in Paris) with the General Secretary for National Defense.

Overall, first edition of this Connections-France was a test to assess the interest of French organizations toward serious gaming. Second edition gives us full green signal to continue and expand, with contacts in Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands and Germany. National press coverage is already very positive, which give Serious Games Network-France good exposure in order to prepare the next step.

Post-Conference Survey

Still on-going at this date (Feb 2nd), the results gathered about 29% replies with observations for the future edition :

  • 36% rated the content as ‘excellent’ and 41% rated as ‘very good’, 14% as ‘good’, 9% as ‘average’
  • 70% want more gaming time
  • 60% suggest a 2-Days forum
  • Topics suggestion for upcoming event loom toward economic warfare, AI, cybersecurity, education, social and humanitarian topics
  • Most attendee’s suggestions ask for more meet and greet with participants / speakers.

Strategic decisions with simulations (conference)

TUHH19-320.pngUPDATE: This conference has been cancelled due to the current COVID-19 epidemic.

On 19 March 2020, the Technischen Universität Hamburg, in conjunction with the German Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies (GIDS) and the Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr (German Command and Staff College) will be holding a conference on Zukunftsorientierte Steuerung – Strategische Entscheidungen mit Simulationen fundiert treffen (Future-oriented control – making strategic decisions with simulations).

Further information can be found at the link.

NATO OR&A conference proceedings


The proceedings of the 2019 NATO Operations Research & Analysis conference have now been published on the NATO STO website. These include a number of wargaming presentation (including a keynote address by Stephen Downes Martin).

Most of the papers are open access, but a few are marked are marked NATO Unclassified (Releasable to PFP and Australia). To access those files you will need STO log-in credentials.

We published a report on the conference at PAXsims back in October.

Serious Games Forum 2020 (Paris)

SGF2020-banner eng.png

The next Serious Games Forum—the French version of the Connections wargaming conferences—will take place on January 27 at the École Militaire in Paris. Over two hundred participants attended last year.

SGF-print 2020 eng.png

Further information and registration details can be found at the link above. For details of the previous conference in December 2018, see this PAXsims report by Juliette Le Ménahèze.

%d bloggers like this: