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Category Archives: crowd-sourcing

Request for feedback: Teaching wargame design at the US Army Command & General Staff College

PAXsims is happy to post this request for feedback on behalf of Dr. James Sterrett, Directorate of Simulation Education (DSE) at the US Army Command & General Staff College (CGSC). Comments may be left below or emailed to him directly.


 

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Michael Dunn and I are creating a Fundamentals of Wargame Design elective at CGSC. This course will first run in the spring of 2017, in two iterations. We seek constructive feedback on our course concepts while we still have a little time to correct course.

The students in this course will be U.S. Army Functional Area 57 (FA57 Simulation Operations) officers, plus other interested students attending CGSC. FA57 students will take the complementary elective on Exercise Design at the same time.

Learning Objective:

Students taking this course will design and create a prototype manual wargame. By doing this, we intend them to learn not only the process of designing a wargame, so they can design other games later, but also to begin to come to grips with the art of wargame design. In addition, we believe that designing wargames will make them better users of wargames, more aware of the design decisions behind the curtain and better able to select the best tool for the task they may have at hand.

We are still debating if it is better to have students do the project alone, or in small groups.

Thus, our current overarching Learning Objective is:

  • Apply the wargame development process. Application will include:
    • Students will learn the process of developing a wargame by creating a workable draft prototype. Students will demonstrate the prototype in class along with a presentation explaining their logic for its design choices.

 

Defining “Wargame”

We define “wargame” very broadly, relying on both Peter Perla’s definition:

 “A warfare model or simulation in which the flow of events shapes, and is shaped by, decisions made by a human player or players during the course of those events.” (Peter Perla, The Art of Wargaming, p. 280, 2012 edition)

…and on the Army Modeling & Simulations Office’s definition:

 “War game: A simulation game in which participants seek to achieve a specified military objective given pre-established resources and constraints”

Thus, we are not limiting the course to Title X wargames, or research wargames, or testing wargames, or Military Decision-Making Process Step 4 Course of Action Analysis Wargaming, or any other subtype… from the perspective of this course, all of these fall inside the big tent of wargaming.

 

Constraints

Inevitably, we are operating within constraints of space and time.

We will have at most 16 students per class, and must plan each class being full.

The course will consist of 12 session, each 2 hours long. There will be 2 or 3 sessions per week and the course will last for 4 to 6 weeks.

We recognize up front that we have limited time, and this necessarily limits the quality of the product the students can produce. We have no expectation of a polished, publication-ready project. Instead, the aim point is a workable first draft, with parts in place and comprehensible logic behind them, which would form the basis for ongoing testing and iterative design if more time were available.

 

Key concepts

Our high level view of the design process is shown below. We intend the students to complete at least one round of design and testing. More would be ideal, but a single round is the necessary minimum.

gamedesignprocess.png

For our classes, we are treating all wargames as being a system of systems, in a “STARS” model, with those systems being:

  • Space structuring assets’ positional relation to each other
  • Time structuring both movement, combat, and decision opportunities
  • Assets that players control
  • Resolution of how assets interact
  • Systems that tie the other four systems together

 

Planned Lessons

An overview of our current plan for each of the sessions; this overview will be followed by a more detailed look at sessions 1 and 2.

  1. Introduction to the course and its objectives; explain the project they must complete; introduction to game design process, which is their roadmap to completing the project; and to the STARS model.
  2.  Modelling Space: Discussion of terrain modelling; includes direct examples: hexes, squares, areas, terrain boards, point-to-point, tracks, non-spatial maps. Examples of multiple types in use at once.   Issue of scale – need to set to key decision loop and how scale then drives other considerations
  3.  Modelling Time: Discussion of turn structures; includes direct examples.   How turn structure dictates decision structures and C2 during play; how it relates back to the spatial model.
  4.  Modelling Assets: Various ways of modelling commanded assets from the very detailed to the very abstract: tracks & points to subsystem modelling. Numerous direct examples.
  5.  Modelling Effects: Various ways of resolving the outcome of actions: CRT, dice pools, opposed die rolls, card draws, card play; modifiers for modeled factors.
  6.  Quick Intro To Basic Probability – computations for dice, multiple dice, competing dice, cards with and without replacement; CRTs vs dice pools vs cards.
  7.  Putting It All Together: Overarching design paradigms: imposing limits (or not!) on player control of own forces through systems.
  8.  Testing & Iteration: Introduction to testing, blind testing, and sorting through feedback.
  9.  Consultation & Testing Time – in the classroom.
  10.  Consultation & Testing Time – in the classroom.
  11.  Final project presentations
  12.  Final project presentations

In addition to their other requirements, students in this elective will be required to participate in 75% of the Brown Bag Gaming sessions that are held during the elective, in order to increase their exposure to a variety of wargames and design approaches.

We are considering requiring additional student reading, with titles under consideration being Perla’s Art of Wargaming, Sabin’s Simulating War, and Koster’s Theory of Fun. The potential problem is the lack of time; one potential way around this is to assign a chunk of each to one or more students, and make them responsible for a summary to the class on their piece.

 

Session 1 in more detail

The room is set up with the games before students arrive and students are expected to have read the rules before the class begins.

  •  10 Minutes: Introduction to the class and similar initial admin
  •  45 Minutes: Play a wargame. We are currently leaning towards Frank Chadwick’s Battle for Moscow, with the expectation that students will complete 3 or 4 turns. Battle for Moscow includes a large number of features we can draw on in subsequent discussion, and is in print through Victory Point Games.
  •  10 Minutes: Break. Students are asked to come up with one change they would make to Battle for Moscow in order to improve it, and to return from the break ready to explain, briefly,
    • What the change is
    • Why the change improves Battle for Moscow
    • Why the improvement makes Battle for Moscow better for a specific purpose
  • 15 minutes: Selected students present their changes. We point out that by going through this thought process, all of them have made the step from players/consumers to designers/creators. Now let’s look at the process.

pic706628_md.jpgWe intend to select students to comment in class discussions (at least initially – balancing this against getting a wide discussion is important), instead of using volunteers, and to use a different selection mechanism each session. Thus Day 1 would be rolling 1 die, Day 2 rolling multiple dice, Day 3 pulling names from a hat without replacement, Day 4 calling on them by date of rank, and so on; possibly even handing them the cards to bid on who speaks next in the manner of Friedrich. The intent is to ensure the students experience some of the resolution mechanisms we will discuss in sessions 5 and 6, even though some of the demonstrations may take place after session 6.

  • 30 minutes: Present and explain the development model, the STARS model, and the project they will each undertake.

Assignment for session 2:

  1. Come up with your initial concept and email it to the instructor. Answer these questions:
    • What do you want this wargame to do?
    • What role will the players have?
    • What are the key decisions/dilemmas/problems they must wrestle with?
    • What significant assets will they control?
    • What kinds of interactions are important?
    • What kinds of terrain influence those interactions?
    • How frequently do the players make major decisions?
  2. Start your research: Find and read something relevant to your project.

 

Session 2 in more detail

We expect each of sessions 2 through 8 to be split roughly in half. In the first half of each session, we will show and discuss various relevant examples. In the second half, students will brainstorm and discuss ideas applying the day’s focus to their project.

Session 2 covers Space.

Opening question: How would you map Wall Street?

A strictly spatial map of Wall Street is great if you want to move troops through it. However, you might also need to map conflict on Wall Street by financial connections, personal connections, Internet links, political influences, and so on. Which of these are more important to model depends on what you want to model.

For the rest of the initial hour of the class, we expect to present, with examples:

  • Miniatures terrain as direct representation, with a discussion that typical Digital Terrain Elevation Data is essentially the same approach
  • Hexes and squares, including grain effects
  • Zones of Control
  • Areas (including Guns of Gettysburg for incorporating Line of Sight into the area model)
  • Things inside hexes, squares, and areas
  • Things on the edges of hexes, squares, and areas
  • Point to Point
  • Maps that are not “real space” – VPG’s High Treason courtroom; Sierra Madre’s High Frontier ΔV map (we are looking for more good examples here!)

Why space and time inter-relate:

  • Scale sets the timing of decisions in conjunction with the Time model
  • Units per space on the map defines force density model and can be used to create traffic issues

During their break, students are asked to think about how they will model space in their project.

For the second half of class, we discuss student’s initial model concepts.

Assignment for Session 3:

  1. Refine your intended model of space. Start working on your map. (We will provide files and printouts for hex paper, and access to Paint, Powerpoint, and Photoshop.)
  2. Continue your research: Find and read something relevant to your project.

James Sterrett

Simulation & gaming miscellany, post-PDW edition

PDW

I recently returned from an extremely productive week spent discussing wargaming and analytical methodologies with colleagues from the Defence and Security Analysis Division of the UK Ministry Defence Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at their Portsdown West site. I’ll post a trip report as soon as my comments and the photos are cleared for public release.

In the meantime, PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Ryan Kuhns contributed material for this latest edition.

PAXsims

jdn1_16In May, the Pentagon released Joint Doctrine Note 1-16 on the topic of Command Red Team:

Command red teams help commanders and staffs think critically and creatively; challenge assumptions; mitigate groupthink; reduce risks by serving as a check against complacency and surprise; and increase opportunities by helping the staff see situations, problems, and potential solutions from alternative perspectives.

The distinguishing feature of a command red team from alternative analysis produced by subject matter experts within the intelligence directorate of a joint staff is its relative independence, which isolates it from the organizational influences that can unintentionally shape intelligence analysis, such as the human tendency for analysts to maintain amicable relations with colleagues and supervisors, and the potential for regular coordination processes to normalize divergent assessments. Commanders can seek the perspectives of trusted advisors regarding any issue of concern. A command red team may also address similar issues, but unlike most commander’s advisory/action groups, it supports the commander’s staff throughout the design, planning, execution, and assessment of operations, and during routine problem-solving initiatives throughout the headquarters. Red teams and tiger teams may be ad hoc and address specific issues. In many cases, the only difference between the two may be the participation of a red team member who can advise the group in the use of structured techniques. Alternate modes employ red teaming as a temporary or additional duty or as an ad hoc operation, with teams assembled as needed to address specific issues.

JDN 1-16 goes on to address Red Team organization, challenges, and activities, as well as their contribution to joint planning and joint intelligence. The appendices include a list of common logical fallacies and tips for effective devil’s advocacy.

 

PAXsims

Wikistrat-A-Chinese-Spring-cover-464x600Shay Hershkovitz, Chief Strategy Officer and Director of the Analytical Community at Wikistrat, has passed on a recent report on how China might deal with future unrest.

Wikistrat generally uses online expert crowd-sourcing to explore scenarios and identify drivers and pathways. In this case, the simulation methodology was as follows:

50 analysts were handpicked from Wikistrat’s global community of more than 2,000 to participate in this simulation, including renowned China experts Andrew K.P. Leung, Hong Kong’s former chief representative to the United Kingdom; Professor Yawei Liu, Director of the Carter Center’s China Program; and Hugh Stephens, Executive-in-Residence at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

The participants were divided into four mirror-image teams (all playing as the Politburo) to test whether they would manage the crisis differently. The game progressed across four rounds, each representing a week of real time. The teams were given the same scenario at the start, but conditions were adjusted in subsequent rounds to re ect the actions of each team.

Every participant could propose an action by submitting a “move” containing a policy decision (e.g., suppress online discussion of the protests), a desired end-state and a rationale. The rest of the team expressed their approval by “liking” the proposal (or disapproval by taking no action). Whichever proposal received the most likes in a given round was interpreted by Wikistrat as the team’s consensus and informed the next round’s update.

119 moves were proposed by the teams in total. There was often a clear preference for one or two moves per round in each team. In only a few cases did Wikistrat need to consolidate various moves that received an equal number of likes.

A fifth group of experts was engaged as a U.S. observer team to offer insights into how the United States might interpret and respond to China’s actions.

In the end, the four China teams proceeded more or less along the same pathways, seeking to quell the protests by cracking down on ringleaders while offering concessions and conjuring up foreign plots in order to demotivate the masses.

You’ll find a description of each round of the simulation and key take-aways in the full report (link above).

ChineseSpring3

PAXsims

A modified version of the digital game Civilization V is being developed for use in high school classrooms. According to The Verge:

 Publisher Take-Two Interactive announced that a modified version of the historical strategy game Civilization V is in the works, and is expected to be available for high school classes in North America starting next fall. Called CivilizationEDU, the company says that the education-focused version of the game will “provide students with the opportunity to think critically and create historical events, consider and evaluate the geographical ramifications of their economic and technological decisions, and to engage in systems thinking and experiment with the causal / correlative relationships between military, technology, political, and socioeconomic development.”

While I enjoy Civ V and other 4X (“eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”) games, I’m a little doubtful that they are the best way of teaching about world history since they tend to be designed to reflect player preferences, expectations, and preconceptions rather than portray accurate historical dynamics.

PAXsims

…and on that subject, it’s about time we offered a shout-out to Play the Past, a website “dedicated to thoughtfully exploring and discussing the intersection of cultural heritage (very broadly defined) and games/meaningful play (equally broadly defined).”

PAXsims

Brexit.jpg

At the Active Learning in Political Science blog they discuss simulating Brexit:

In the spirit of not wasting a good crisis, the UK’s decision to leave the European Union offers a great way into understanding a number of political dynamics.

Of course, we need to tread a bit carefully here, for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is a highly fluid situation, so whatever one might plan for the autumn might be completely overtaken by events. Secondly, some of the things that have happened over the past week are so extreme and atypical that while you might reproduce them in a simulation setting, you are almost certainly never going to see them happen again. Thirdly, there’s an awful lot going on, so you need to pick your targets clearly.

With all those caveats in mind, some options still present themselves….

PAXsims

460003main_merraflood93.jpgOn 20-21 October 2016, the Digital Culture Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London will be hosting a conference on Simulation and Environments: A Critical Dialogue Between Systems Of Perception And Ecocritical Aesthetics.

Theme #1: Aesthetics and Environmental Simulations

When addressing issues of climate and climate crisis, simulation models and techniques become potent tools for understanding, prediction, and prevention. Yet the epistemological merit of these tools is rarely accompanied with a critical assessment of their aesthetic properties.

Put another way, the history of nature and the environment is, particularly at its interstices with the human and the natural sciences, heavily laden with cultural and even theological ideas about how a nature should look, should make one feel, should be. What guarantee do we have that these ideological preconceptions are not making their way into our simulations and models? If they are being included, how are they influencing our data? Or conversely, should we be including the cultural and affective effects of nature so often associated with the experience of landscape into our computational models precisely because of the way they fold the human into the physical environment?

The aim of this conference stream will be to parse the aesthetic conditions of simulation technologies, assumptions, and ideologies when dealing with the ecosystem. What role can visual or other aesthetics play in the computing of climates and natural phenomena? How does the changing role of the human as geological agent reframe the digital image as an epistemological form?

Proposed essays may touch on one of the following subjects, but are not restricted to including these:

  • Geospatial technologies, imaging, & observational data
  • Earth imaging & observation
  • Computational climate models
  • Military vision and targeting technologies
  • GIS technologies
  • Remote sensing
  • New media art

 

Theme #2: Simulation and Systems of Perception

Conceptions of simulation attempt to recreate the environment through computational logics of representation that only ever remain asymptotic to the physical world. Rather than asking whether or not simulation can ever provide homeomorphic images of the physical how can simulation instead be used performatively to rethink ways of perceiving, knowing and doing?

This might entail a theorisation of vision – or visioning – in the broader sense of not just perceiving with sight, but also insight, as well as the projection of images of elsewheres and otherwises, futures and fantasies. How would such a repositioning affect the potential instrumentalisation of simulation for political imaginaries and art practices?

The aim of this conference stream will be to invite discussion on the ontological and epistemological implications of simulated modes of perception. How can perception be understood in relation to computational aesthetics and logics?

Proposed essays may touch on one of the following subjects, but are not restricted to including these:

  • Computational modelling systems
  • Mathematics and culture
  • Planning technologies and the imaginary
  • Artificial visioning systems
  • Geopositioning and robotics
  • Cognitive simulations

Those interested in participating should  submit paper abstracts of 500 words to environmentalsims@gmail.com by 1 August 2016. (Please designate theme of interest).

Which games would you suggest to the US Navy?

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PAXsims is pleased to post this request from Peter Perla for game suggestions.


A couple of weeks ago at a meeting at the Naval War College in Newport, a USN admiral asked me to take a shot at drafting a Chief of Naval Operations’ “Recommended Games” list. In my copious free time, as we are wont to say. I am going to seek suggestions from as broad a community as I can, including this group. So many of you may receive this request multiple times.

I am not talking only wargames here. The goal of the CNO’s current initiative to explore how gaming can help sailors learn better, faster, and (my addition) cheaper. Not only warfighting skills but also general critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as creativity. And though the unwashed will certainly expect most of the games to be digital, I will want to include boardgames, of course.

At this point I am keeping the aperture open wide. Please let me know if you have any recommendations. You can write to me directly at perlap@cna.org.

Peter Perla
CNA  

Ideas wanted

 

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Devin Ellis (ICONS Project, University of Maryland) is looking for some game ideas from PAXsims readers:

I am currently wrestling with the mechanics of a planning game I am working on. In terms of scope, it’s strategic and theatre-wide. I am looking for good suggestions from the simulation and gaming community of models I could look at for ideas – with particular respect to keeping the level of detail of player inputs realistic but not utterly overwhelming. Rounds will coordinate roughly to 5 year USG planning cycles, and the background environment is extremely rich in detail and interactive moving parts, some of which the participants can impact, and others which are out of their control. I welcome any and all suggestions for un-classified resources. Thanks in advance!

If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments section or email him directly.

India’s proposed Counter-Terrorism Operations Planning Tool and Wargaming System

India CT sim

Earlier this year the Indian Army’s Wargaming Development Centre (WARDEC) issued a request for proposals for a Counter-Terrorism Operations Planning Tool and Wargaming System. According to the RFP “[t]he aim of the Counter Terrorism Operational Planning Tool and Wargaming System is to aid unit commanders in operational planning and to train sub-unit commanders in planning and execution of various Operations in Counter Terrorism (CT) environment.” Other key features of the system would be:

The package will be based on actual area of Operations in a 1:5,000 scale digitised map with option to switch to 1:50,000 and 1:250,000 scale maps, provided by WARDEC. The software will have the facility of incorporating satellite images and air photographs.

[T]he package would be fielded at WARDEC and in the actual Area of Operations of an Infantry Brigade/Sector Headquarters.

The Operational Planning tool is intended to be used both in a standalone and networked mode based on a LAN configuration.

The training audience are required to be trained in planning and execution of various operations in CT environment based on “painted” situations.

The level of game play would be from the battalion down to platoon level. However, the Exercise Control (EXCON) of the game would be from a terminal, dedicated for Exercise Director, who will represent the Brigade Headquarters….

(a) BlueForces. The resolution level for Blue Forces would be down to sub section/Operational Team level for input of orders. All activities below a Team level would be depicted and resolved based on sets of Combat Rules embedded in the system. The behaviour and activity pattern of a single soldier would be modelled in the back end and aggregated to that of an Operational Team comprising 6-8 soldiers. The players would, however, play the game based on this lowest entity of an Operational Team.

(b) Terrorists. The resolution level for terrorists would be individual terrorist

EXCON would be able to set intangible factors like training, leadership, morale, fatigue, fear, support of local population, etc. These factors would have effect on the combat outcome of the forces

The aspect of civilians would be played as an EXCON function. The aspects to be played from the civilians graphical user interface would be:-

  1. (i)  Assisting terrorists.
  2. (ii)  Act as informers to security forces/terrorists (OGWs).
  3. (iii)  Act as human shield during security forces operations.
  4. (iv)  Mass gatherings.
  5. (v)  Blockades.

The closing date on the RFP was back in April. However, Colonel Sameer Chauhan (Senior Fellow, Center for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi) is currently undertaking research on simulation-based training requirements in the Indian Army, and passed on the RFP with a request for thoughts and feedback from the broader professional wargaming community. If you have any comments, feel free to leave them here, or email him directly.

simulations miscellany, 8 December 2012

We’re pleased to present the latest news on conflict simulation and serious gaming, gathered by our world-wide PAXsims network of reporters (that is, the two of us). Suggestions for other items to include in the future are always welcome!

* * *

guns_dice_butter_small_logoThe latest edition of the excellent gaming podcast Gun, Dice and Butter features a panel discussion on gaming insurgencies with some of the biggest names in the field:

Welcome to Episode X of Guns, Dice, Butter.

0:01 Intro

0:06 Conversation with Mercury Games: Richard Diosi (Doc Stryder) and Kevin Nesbitt

0:32 Panel discussion with Mark Herman, Brian Train and Volko Ruhnke regarding insurgencies and wargames: Wide ranging discussion examining wargames that model insurgencies (see website for link to games on insurgencies and national/strategic will games), political dynamics of insurgencies and insurgency games in the pipeline from this group of designers (A Distant Plan {Afghanistan}, Fire on the Lake {Vietnam}, etc).

2:18 Wrap up

* * *

Defense News reports that an old boardgame is making a new comeback:

ORLANDO — In the midst of a flashy I/ITSEC floor full of simulators running high-definition visuals, one product hearkened back to a simpler era of wargaming.

“Ranger,” a 30-year-old solitaire board game based on the tactics and techniques used by the Army’s elite soldiers, is being turned into a computer game for laptops and tablets.

The game’s inventor, Bill Gibbs, is working with the Orlando-based company Engineering and Computer Simulations on the application, which is slated to be available by download in early 2013.

The original “Ranger — Modern Patrolling Operations: Swamp Terrain” included two maps, 24 missions, and, for those who haven’t attended Ranger training, a booklet on tactics and procedures.

Gibbs said he has extensively researched and revamped the tactics to reflect changing times, and the gear now matches contemporary loadouts. But he said he was surprised to find few other necessary changes.

“The actual concepts and doctrine and principles were all still the same,” Gibbs said.

The digital version will let users control and plan for a mission, including squad reconnaissance, platoon ambushes or raid patrols. While a player might flip through pages of the play booklet in the board game, the digital version pops the information up on the screen.

Other features will include a patrol record log, tactical and map views, and a way to freeze the patrol during the mission.

Future editions of the game will include a downed-pilot mission and gameplay set in different terrains such as mountains and deserts.

Gibbs is also working with ECS to change the interface and adapt the game for the iPhone; that version should be available in April.

* * *

Red Team Journal has started to compile a somewhat tongue-in cheek (but oh-so-true) list of the “Laws of Red Teaming.” They’ll all be very familiar to professional pol-mil gamers.

* * *

According to the Washington Post, the US and Chinese militaries held a tabletop exercise on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief last month.

* * *

The blog War Studies Publications recently featured an interview with Prof. Philip Sabin (King’s College London) on “conflict simulations, ancient warfare, and airpower. You’ll find it here.

* * *

The folks at Wikistrat have posted to their website a summary of their latest “Wikistrat crowdsourced simulation” on “Pakistani Nukes Go Loose.” Despite the name, there really isn’t much simulation here—rather, it is simply an analytical summary of crowd-sourced discussion and scenario-generation on the topic, all wrapped up with some flashy jargon and graphics. Analytically, that might well be a very good way of generating some interesting thinking. However, it also highlights the use of the term “simulation” itself as a marketing tool, something we’ve commented on before here and here.

 

Crisis Response – from your brains to print ready

Typical card from Crisis Response

A sample card from the game. You can draw this and 50+ other cards and use them to save lives in Crisis Response.

While preparing a short elective course on strategic coordination in crisis response, I was inspired by our discussion at Connections on the Haiti GameLab design challenge and started putting together a very simple card game that I’m currently calling Crisis Response (though other name suggestions welcome!). During a whirlwind week of travel (and a few moments of rare relaxation), I managed to playtest the design with five different groups (some policymakers during the course, some colleagues at work, and some other friends).Some quick reflections on what we’ve learned so far playing the game:

Coordination is difficult – Beyond just deciding who plays what cards, the game also reflects other coordination challenges: Different timelines (the foreign military leaves after five rounds), different capacities of actors (who draw from different decks), sequencing issues and the trade-off between investment in future capacity and current delivery. Even with really good gamers, coordinating and planning as much as possible, we’ve made a few mistakes that really hurt us later in game.

And people don’t make coordination any easier on themselves – While I don’t give very much instruction on how the group should play together (other than not letting them take back a card that has been played), it is interesting to watch players:

  • resist sharing their cards (many naturally keep them face down and need to be told by other players to share),
  • play cards quickly because they can do something and contribute, even when it would be better for other actors to play the same card,
  • resist playing cards because others tell them to do it (interpersonal dynamics affect even game play, project that on to real life),
  • ignore the effects of other people getting knocked out of the game until it is far too late – in one of the games, players actually laughed at the national government when it was knocked out because needs hadn’t been met – only to complain three turns later that they couldn’t play enough cards…

It is useful:  Having people play a game, think about the cards they are playing and the dynamics of the game, think about how they would improve next time (everyone, so far, has been interested in playing a second time, though time often didn’t permit), and why the game was designed as it was, has led to some thoughtful discussions about the challenges faced in coordination (see quote below) and a better understanding of the roles, capacities and objectives of the actors involved in crisis response.

I was the foreign military, and though I could’ve done anything, I realized halfway through that I needed to let the national government do what it could or it wouldn’t work – course participant

I don’t consider this at all a “finished” design – curious to hear what PaxSims readers think of it and would recommend.  One thing it is definitely missing right now is instructive and flavor text – the italics included on a few cards is representative, but would be great to hear from SMEs on a sentence or two for each card, what should each card teach?  Obviously, the game could be developed in a lot of directions, including a development expansion we discussed, which might help us all to better understand the tensions between coordination humanitarian response and development.

You can print everything from the PDFs linked below (you’ll need around 125 3″ x 5″ note cards, have a few extra onhand in case you have printer feeding errors). You’ll also need 3 friends so you can play all four roles (NGOs, national government, foreign military, UN) and some markers (I use little plastic blue counting cubes) to represent supplies.

Rules

Playing Cards – Humanitarian, Security and Diplomacy Decks, Role Cards and Cardbacks

Needs and Insecurity Cards 

Enjoy!

CGSC stability operations simulation follow-up

As you may remember, last month some of the folks at the Digital Leader Development Center, US Army Command and General Staff College asked PAXsims to help crowd-source comments and ideas for a proposed stability operations simulation. That request prompted quite a few comments, both at PAXsims and elsewhere, as well as some broader media coverage.

James Sterrett has now sent us this update:

About a month ago, Rex kindly posted CGSC’s draft Stability Operations requirements documents.  Expecting a handful of replies, we were hit by a large wave of responses, both at PaxSims and elsewhere.  We are busily reworking the draft in light of the feedback.

THANK YOU to everyone who responded.  We truly appreciate the time and effort you put in to assist us.  Also, THANK YOU to Rex for posting it!

The various replies have proven helpful in four ways:

1) Design commentary

Number of Actors: Modeling the number of actors involved in stability operations emerged as a common theme in the commentary.  We were trying to incorporate this and are working to strengthen and clarify it.

Flexibility emerged as a common theme as well.  The community agreed that the game needs to foster a deeper understanding of conducting stability operations, that any simulation used should be descriptive rather than prescriptive in its nature and strongly instructor-driven. Implicit in this is the assumption that the instructor must have as much control and flexibility of the simulation as possible.    We strongly agree with this, and thought it was codified in our documents; this is an area we are working hard to clarify.

2) We received a number of suggestions of simulations to look into, including GEMSTONE, PSOM, IW TWG, Athena, SENSE, and the Oz Wargame Integration Toolkit.  We’ve already had demonstrations of some of these are and working on demos for the rest; some we have seen in the past but they have grown new capabilities.  Even when we can’t see how to utilize them directly, it is always useful to see others’ design concepts.  PAVE (part of TRAC-MRO’s IW TWG) is soon to undergo a closer look to see if we can modify it to meet our needs.

3) We made connections with organizations we hadn’t known existed, such as the TRADOC Analysis Center’s Modeling and Research Office (TRAC-MRO) and the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute.  TRAC-MRO’s office is less than 500 meters from us, but neither of us knew the other existed.

4) We thought we had made the exercise structure and POI clear, but a variety of comments demonstrated that we did not.  If PAXSims readers didn’t understand it from our documents, then we clearly need to improve the description!

                                                                        James Sterrett

                                                                        Deputy Chief, Simulations Division

                                                                        Digital Leader Development Center

                                                                        US Army Command & General Staff College

If any readers still have comments or suggestions that they would like to make, have a look at the original post (linked above) and add your comments here.

Simulating stability operations: the discussion continues

We’ve had quite a response at PAXsims to the recent request from the folks at the US Army Command and General Staff College for comments on their draft requirements for a simulation on stability operations—it has had several hundred page views, and there is now a very rich discussion in the comments section there.

One of the discussion contributors has been Graham Longley-Brown, who offered  the insights below. His graphic couldn’t be included in the comments section, so I’ve reproduced the whole thing here as a blogpost.

The diagram above is a ‘Campaign Tree’ process I developed for a ‘Hybrid Warfare Tactical Wargame’ at our Land Warfare Centre. This supports training for company HQ and/or battalion HQ commanders and staff. It addresses some of the points discussed – and it works! The concept is simple: the Training Audience (TA) move through the Campaign Tree from vignette to vignette along a path determined by their own decisions and actions. Vignettes are played out in real-time and use a real-time (largely kinetic) simulation. The TA decisions and actions taken – under pressure – during each vignette are adjudicated by Excon SMEs and dictate the path taken to the next vignette on the Campaign Tree. The periods between vignettes are modelled using a soft factors simulation and last from 3 – 8 weeks. Hence the consequences of the actions taken by the TA during the vignettes, combined with their ongoing Concept of Operations and decisions taken in response to injects and events fed in by Excon are played out during the longer time periods. The solid lines show one path through the Campaign Tree (with associated TA and Excon briefings) but obviously any path is possible.

The process integrates two simulations, both adjudicated and moderated by Excon ‘Rainbow Cell’ SMEs. MEL/MIL injects are used as required to bring out Teaching Points; these are, in the main, pre-considered but can be dynamically scripted. Likewise the vignettes are pre-considered and pre-loaded in the real-time simulation but can be modified just before going live depending on the TA plan during the preceding time period and can be executed however Excon deems appropriate. The diagram doesn’t show AARs, information flows etc – it’s just the bare bones concept.

Although I think this is quite a simple concept it’s hard work to pull all the elements together in the space of a 1-day training event that spans most or all of an operational tour deployment in game time. But it works…

The thing I love most about it is that it allows the TA to create their own narrative; it’s their actions that determine the path through the Campaign Tree – their story. Hence they are more likely to internalise lessons learned. Check out Peter Perla and Ed McGrady’s Naval War College article “Why Wargaming Works for more on why a created narrative, as opposed to a presented narrative is so strong a learning mechanism.

The process is also very flexible. Delete the soft factors sim and insert a board game if you like. Run it all using just deterministic Military Judgement.

So what? Paul makes the point very well that the GCSC requirement assumes a computer simulation solution that can do everything.  I don’t think such a sim exists, or will do in the near future. A more flexible approach is needed that integrates a number of simulation methods and exercise processes.  Paul’s ‘Right answer’ of a ‘family of games (decision-centric tools) where the students use a variety of small, purpose focused games to get at specific aspects of the problem‘ is spot on. Rex’s ‘preselected teachable moments‘ are encapsulated in various places in the Campaign Tree, and lessons learned are reinforced by the narrative created by the TA themselves. In summary, I suspect that the GCSC solution will need some innovative thinking rather than assuming (hoping?) that someone will come up with a sim that walks on water.

Have thoughts of your own? Go contribute here.

Comments wanted: Draft CGSC “stability operations” simulation requirements

The US Army Command and General Staff College is currently developing its ideas and requirements for a stability operations simulation that would be used in professional military education at the CGSC and elsewhere. They’re also crowd-sourcing ideas and feedback—and so they’ve asked for your help, via PAXsims. There is a summary of the challenge below, and two attached documents to look over (here and here).

The US military defines stability operations as “various military missions, tasks, and activities conducted outside the United States in coordination with other instruments of national power to maintain or reestablish a safe and secure environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction, and humanitarian relief.” This might involve foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster response, peace operations, counterinsurgency, or combinations of these—usually undertaken in fragile and conflict-affected states. (For more detail, have a look at the US Army field manual on the subject, FM 3-07.)

For those of you who aren’t used to the jargon of the military and the military simulation community some of the material attached below will be unfamiliar. Don’t worry about that, however—the core question here is really one of “what do simulation users need to learn about stability operations, and how might a simulation best teach them that?” Folks who work in the humanitarian and development communities, or who work on the politics and economics of fragile and conflict-affected states, may have especially valuable “outside” perspectives to offer.

If you do have comments, ideas, or suggestions, please post them here in the comments section.

* * *

Attached below is a very rough draft of requirements for a stability operations simulation intended to support staff exercises at the US Army Command and General Staff College. We’re looking for comments, and we’re interested in any simulations that might already fit these.

Overview: This document outlines required functional capabilities and training effects for a Stability Operations simulation enabling student staff exercises at echelons from battalion through brigade. There is no requirement to interface with the Live, Virtual, Constructive – Integrating Architecture (LVC-IA). At this time, the only Mission Command System that needs to be populated is Command Post of the Future (CPoF). There is no requirement to federate with other simulations. Stimulating additional Mission Command systems, federating with other simulations, and working with LVC-IA is acceptable if and only if there is no additional workload or cost associated with the capability and those systems are not required for fully capable operation. This document will assist the Material Developer to better understand the required functional capabilities and training effects to be included in the Simulation.
Description: The purpose of this Use Case is to provide requirements for a simulation to support competitive-play low-overhead educational staff-centric stability operations exercises conducted at battalion through brigade level by Professional Military Education (PME) students acting as commanders and key staff officers. This simulation is focused on Stability Operations and enables experiential educational environments. It adjudicates the results of student staff planning and decisions, requiring students to adapt their plans to an evolving situation. This is not a predictive simulation. It is intended to produce generally plausible outcomes whose dilemmas will drive student learning.

More detailed technical specifications can be found in this enclosure.

This is not a formal statement of requirements, nor is it a solicitation for bids. There will be a long and difficult road between these documents and spending money (and us getting the simulation we need). Eventually, the final version of these documents will go to the National Simulation Center (NSC). Assuming it makes it through a Requirements Board process, the NSC will turn them over to PEO-STRI, who will contract out to have it made. There are no guarantees that the process will go through all those steps.

However, we’d like to have the best thinking on this we can, in hopes of getting the best product at the far end should we get there.

A few other notes, framing what this is supposed to be:

  • As noted above, this is not a predictive simulation. It is intended to produce generally plausible outcomes whose dilemmas will drive student learning.
  • There will not be a full staff, let alone all the supporting & subordinate staffs. Thus, the simulation has to produce data directly into a student-useful format. Correlating spot reports isn’t a useful employment of student’s time; analyzing the meaning of the summary of activity reports is. This allows for a lot of abstraction in the simulation.

Last but not least, apologies for the format. Yes, there is a lot of overlap between the primary document and Enclosure 1. This may give you a window into the “wonderful” world of requirements writing, though.

James Sterrett
Deputy Chief, Simulations
Digital Leader Development Center
US Army Command and General Staff College

Games for Change: What are the top 100 games everyone should play?

In cooperation with ESI design, the Games for Change folks are putting together a crowd-sourced list of the 100 top games that everyone should play.

At Games for Change, we use the power and fun of games for social good, but when it comes down to it, we’re just folks who love playing games.

At our Festival each year, Newcomers to gaming ask us, “What should I play to get started?” Some are referring to social impact games, but others just want great gaming recommendations.

Now, Games for Change and ESI Design invite you to answer that question by helping to create “The 100” – a crowdsourced list of the games everyone should play.

Connect with us and nominate your favorite game. Here’s how:

1. SIGN IN – You can use your Facebook, Twitter or other pre-existing accounts. You can also create your own unique login to The 100.

2. NOMINATE a game you think people should play to learn about good  gaming. Any format works, so it can be digital, physical, social, whatever. It can also be about any subject – it doesn’t have to educational, just great to play.

3. VOTE other games up or down to help decide which games make it into the top 100. Voting closes at 5 pm EDT on June 20. Don’t forget to join the discussion about each game you vote on!

To register and vote, click here.

Software priorities for classroom roleplay

Skip Cole of Sea Change Simulations is currently running an online poll that asks “What are the features of the software we need to get teachers to run role plays in their classrooms?

So far, the top four answers (based on more than 400 replies from educators) are:

  1. Simple enough overview tutorial that newbies can understand and follow from A – Z, then implement with minimal assistance.
  2. Ability for teachers to be able to modify simulations to their needs.
  3. Add discovery learning open environments.
  4. Ability to track the actions of the students so they can be ‘played back’ during a debrief

At the moment the poll is still open, so you can contribute your own thoughts on the matter here.

simulations miscellany, 27 May 2012

I’ve been a bit slow posting in recent weeks, in part because I was away hanging around in Alabama bars while trying to overthrow the corrupt and dictatorial regime of “Florabama.” Under the wise leadership of opposition leader David Ortega—and with a little help from our friends—I’m pleased to say that we succeeded.

As might be expected, I role-played the brutally efficient but politically dubious ex-Colonel Rey Borge in the exercise.

Meanwhile, in other simulation-related news…

* * *

The US Navy’s Energy and Environmental Readiness Division (OPNAV N45), together with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Naval Postgraduate School, recently convened another run of its MMOWGLI (Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet) crowd sourcing platform on 22-24 May, this time focusing on the issue of energy and naval operations.

You’ll find media coverage of the experiment here, herehere, here, and here (among others).

* * *

At Foreign Policy magazine, Michael Peck interviews military futurist Peter Singer about how the next iteration of the popular Call of Duty video game series will depict and incorporate future technologies.

The Internet has been abuzz over details — and several intriguing YouTube videos — of the upcoming “Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” scheduled to hit shelves in November. A sequel to the 2010 blockbuster “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” the latest iteration of the video game continues the saga of American and Russian operatives immersed in a complex 1960s Cold War plot. But much of the sequel takes place in 2025, when the United States is confronting China and when America’s high-tech arsenal of robotic vehicles is hacked, hijacked, and turned against its makers. Although the dark plot sounds like science fiction, it is actually based on solid real-world analysis provided by defense futurist Peter Singer, author of the bestselling Wired for WarForeign Policy spoke with Singer about his work on the game…

* * *

University of Waterloo professor Neil Randall will lead a major new SSHRC-funded research project on immersive digital games, the  The Interactive and Multi-Modal Experience Research Syndicate:

Randall said the research will focus on three areas of gaming — the immersion experience, the relationship among gamers and addiction.

Randall, who heads the university’s research centre called The Games Institute, said the biggest part of the research will be on immersion.

“What does immersion mean? How do people get immersed in games? How do you study it? How do you quantify it?” Randall said. “Immersion is what all game companies are trying for to make sure people really want to play their game.”

For more on the initiative, see the article here.

* * *

Over at the wargaming site Grogheads, Christopher David has started a “developer’s diary” that documents his efforts to develop a card-driven game that examines insurgency and counter-insurgency in Afghanistan. According to Christopher, the focus of the game will be “how does the policy/strategy context shape tactics and the outcome of conflict?”

* * *

Back in February, Brenda Brathwaite gave a TED talk on “Gaming for Understanding.”

It’s never easy to get across the magnitude of complex tragedies — so when Brenda Brathwaite’s daughter came home from school asking about slavery, she did what she does for a living — she designed a game. At TEDxPhoenix she describes the surprising effectiveness of this game, and others, in helping the player really understand the story.

Brenda Brathwaite designs games that turn some of history’s most tragic lessons into interactive, emotional experiences.

For decades, Brenda Brathwaite has been a major figure in the field of game design. Famous for her work on the role-playing series Wizardry, she’s also known for her work on Def Jam: IconPlayboy: The Mansion, and Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes. Inspired by her daughter in 2008, she began work on her non-digital series, The Mechanic Is the Message, dedicated to expressing difficult subjects through interactive media. Train, a game derived from the events of the Holocaust, won the Vanguard Award at Indiecade in October 2009.

You’ll find her blog on applied game design here.

* * *

There is always interesting stuff to read at Wargaming Connection, but I thought I would flag in particular a recent post by Paul Vebber on a talk by Peter Perla at the Naval War College on “next generation wargaming.” It’s well worth a read.

* * *

If you missed the presentation earlier this month by Phil Sabin at National Defense University on “The Continuing Merits of Manual Wargaming,” you’ll find the video of the event at the NDU Center for Applied Strategic Learning website. There was also a liveblog of the event at GrogNews at the time, and a lively discussion afterwards at BoardGameGeek.

Government Executive on games in the government

As mentioned earlier, I’m busy at the moment running the annual “Brynania” civil war simulation for 100+ undergraduate and graduate students at McGill University. We’re just about to start Day Four, and already we’ve had faltering ceasefire negotiations, a short-lived government military offensive, attacks on humanitarian operations, terrorism, refugee flows, labour unrest, mass arrests, missing aid workers, evacuation of a wounded UK national (“Amelia Pond”), coordination problems, ethnic tensions, and politically-charged football matches. I’ve also had to read 5,129 emails to date. (You can follow a tiny part of the action on Twitter by following the #Brynania hashtag, but it isless than 1% of what is going on).

In the meantime, I thought I would quickly flag an article that appears in the 1 April 2012 edition of Government Executive magazine on the growing use of games in government, focussing on their use as a mechanism for crowdsourcing ideas:

Military boardrooms and government laboratories aren’t always the most conducive spaces for flashes of insight and creative thought. Nor do they attract Silicon Valley types. But by mining the crowd for answers agencies can’t find on their own—with games that reward ingenuity and play—they are accessing a wealth of ingenuity beyond the civil servants, military personnel and contractors who comprise the federal workforce. Freed from the constraints of reality, gamers are able to conjure ideas that an expert in a cubicle might never think of. If these games and puzzles feed bright ideas to government leaders, they could upend the perceptions many people hold about computer games, from black holes that suck resources from society to tools with real-world impact.

Citizen “crowdsourcing and scientific discovery really challenge notions of expertise that are fine for some, but uncomfortable for others,” says Constance Steinkuehler, a senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Steinkuehler, a game researcher on an 18-month stint from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, aims to steer the Obama administration to get serious about games.

If government leaders can overcome  biases against games and crowdsourcing, there’s untapped brainpower at stake: In the United States alone, 72 percent of households play computer or video games, according to a 2011 report by the Entertainment Software Association. Government could boost a growing game industry that’s already racking up more than $25 billion in annual sales, according to the ESA report “Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry.” In the United States there are an estimated 145 million active gamers and 215 million hours a day are spent on game play, according to market research group Newzoo. The question remains, however, is the government ready to take advantage of these trends?

Read the full article for discussion of MMOWGLI and several other examples. As for me, I’m back to the civil war…

Blog-based wargaming?

In addition to a shout-out to a very good piece by Peter Perla and Ed McGrady on Why Wargaming Works from the Summer 2011 issue of Naval War College Review, the Information Dissemination maritime strategy/strategic communications blog currently features an interesting discussion of using a blog as the basis for an online wargame/crowd-sourcing exercise.

There are already a few hobby wargamers who have tried this. I’ve certainly used blogs in a variety of ways in my own simulations, whether as mechanisms for players to articulate their positions, as repositories of background material, or as the primary vehicle for disseminating scenario events. At the 2008 Chatham House simulation on Palestinian refugee negotiations, for example, a simple WordPress blog (the “Chatham House News Service“) was used to transmit information to the participants in real time. Partly, the game moderators wrote the blog posts based on actions taken by the players, but also we had a few experienced Middle East journalists acting as journalists, interviewing players in-character and then filing their stories through us. Teams were also able to use the blog to issue public statements. Finally, the blog acted as a source of scenario background information, and contained links to outside resources that players might find useful. All-in-all it worked very well (despite a failure of the wifi system in the conference venue the night before—thankfully fixed before we started through the simple expediency of unplugging and replugging the router.)

Ideas on the topic? Post them here or there.

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