PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: forthcoming games and simulations

Opponent Immersion Game webinar

PAXsims is pleased to share the following invitation from TNO. Many thanks to Rudy Boonekam and Anja van der Hulst for passing it on to our readers.


We are organizing a playthrough of the Opponent Immersion Game in the form of a webinar.

The Opponent Immersion Game (OIG)  is a game that may turn a law abiding citizen into a violent conflict actor. OIG is a game environment that immerses participants in a path to violence through visual storytelling1. Participants progress by making action choices and engaging in dialogue. While playing out their roles and responding to radicalization triggers, behavior, mental state, and cognitions are measured. This approach has shown its added-value and has been well received in the NATO analysis community.

We hope to inspire you for themes such as research and data capture by (war)gaming and look forward to your feedback on the game as domain experts. See the Opponent Immersion Game flyer below) for more details.

Date: 2 July 2020 (change of date)

Time:

  • 9:00 PDT (Pacific Daylight Time)
  • 12:00 EDT (Eastern Daylight Time)
  • 18:00 CEST (Central European Time)

Duration: approx. two hours

Details on how to participate in the webinar will follow. If you want to join, please mail me (Rudy Boonekamp) at rudy.boonekamp@tno.nl.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Greetings,

The Opponent Immersion Team

UK Fight Club

The following article was written for PAXsims by Captain Oli Elliot (British Army). Capt Elliot has served as a rifle and reconnaissance platoon commander, as a trainer at the Infantry Training Centre, and most recently as the Adjutant of 2 MERCIAN, based out in Cyprus as the Regional Stand-by Battalion.

All but War Is Simulation. Using simulation for military training is certainly not a new concept; warriors have always trained with wooden weapons to simulate metal tipped weapons, the Prussian Military were using the wargame Kriegsspiel in the 1820s and computer simulation has been used for decades in weapons development, play testing doctrinal concepts and for training. The UK Fight Club is yet another way for the British Armed Forces to simulate warfare, but it is taking a unique approach. It is not only intending to make gaming far more accessible to every level of the Armed Forces, it seeks to change culture and make gaming a more common approach to improve thinking and fighting across all dimensions of conflict and competition. 

This is a bottom-up initiative to use Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computer games and other gaming modalities to drive change in military thinking and mimic realistic scenarios for its members. It is a flat and lateral organisation where rank and trade are not important, but your ability to think and make decisions are what is valued. Ideas have no rank and they are judged on their own merit. All members of the British Armed Forces are familiar with using computer simulations for training. Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3), currently also Defence’s Virtual Simulation (DVS), is operated at training establishments and available to units via the Unit Based Virtual Training (UBVT) contractual mechanism. Other virtual simulations are used at the Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (CATT) which most units will use as part of their formal training cycle. The BattleGroup Command Control Trainer (BC2T) and ABACUS are the Army’s constructive simulations found at JCSC(L) and CAST. However, most members of the Armed Forces see simulation training as an inaccessible tool, delivered once or twice a year which takes hours to set-up and can only be organised months in advance. Fight Club challenges this mentality and argues that you can use computer-based simulation right now, at little to no expense, amongst a community of likeminded peers who can aid and collaborate with you to achieve specific results. Fight Club wants people gaming in a ‘safe to fail’ environment, conducting many ‘reps and sets’, and sharing their learning amongst the wider community. 

Fight Club was founded in March 2020 as a way of bringing together serving members of the armed forces, civil servants, computer simulation designers and many other members who work in the defence sector. The date of the founding may have coincided with the MOD (and the rest of the UK) starting to work from home, but it was a plan that has been in the pipeline for a number of months and it will continue after the lock down is lifted. 

The Fight Club Association Model.

Fight Club seeks to use COTS computer games to provide its members with an opportunity to hone their tactical acumen and decision-making ability against an enemy that is seeking to outsmart them (whether this be the game AI or another human player). Military professionals must be conditioned to out think, out manoeuvre and adapt faster than any adversary prior to the final audit of battle or crisis. The question, accordingly, is not whether the military has people who can think this way already but whether we have a culture of process that conditions this type of thinking. Fight Club seeks to fill what is arguably the greatest deficiency in the training and education of leaders: repeated practice in decision making against a think enemy.[1]In the few months that Fight Club has existed it has pursued these aims along a number of routes. In April some of its members formed the red team for a COVID-19 Grey Zone Competition Wargame with Special Operations Command – Europe. Since April the club has been playing through a campaign called: ‘Operation Rising Moon’ on the COTS computer game Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 (CMSF2), where club members complete the missions, post their results in a group chat and then discuss how they would tackle the missions differently in the future. A member of the fight club has also used CMSF2 to conduct professional military education for platoon commanders in a sub-unit in 2nd Battalion, The MERCIAN Regiment, an infantry regiment currently based out in Cyprus as the Regional Stand-by Battalion, by hosting a Fight Night where platoon commanders fought each other after they had conducted an estimate on the situation they were presented with.

The Fight Club slack chat group (a social networking forum) is already full of doctrinal and tactical discussions sparked by Operation Rising Moon. The discussions have ranged from the destructive effects of Offensive Support compared to direct fire assets to the most effective staff tools for planning a course of action.

As news of Fight Club spreads, more members of the Armed Forces are realising how they could already be using computer simulations for training. Members of Reservist and Regular units have been getting in touch with the Fight Club to ask for advice on how to deliver computer-based training in their own units. The Fight Club is committed to this type of collaborative working; there is no value in junior commanders all over the armed forces duplicating the same work. Fight Club is becoming like a “Git Hub” platform for planning and fighting solutions.

The Fight Club is still recruiting, still battling through Operation Rising Moon and still providing a forum for military professionals to discuss gaming, but it has ambitious plans for the future. It will host competitions, providing an opportunity for participants and participating teams to test their skills against greater, non-simulated opponents and provide objective feedback on their quality and competence. It will host conferences allowing club members to take advantage of commercial and academic events to improve gaming, thinking and collaboration. And the Fight Club will host concentrations, these will be bespoke events that will allow all members of the Fight Club Association to come together with industry and academic leaders in the field to learn from best practices and cutting-edge developments.

The big success of this nascent Fight Club effort is the expansive human network which continues to grow stronger by the day. There are already participants across all services, government, industry, academia, and most recently, Fight Club has formed an innovative partnership with a Hollywood film company to prototype a new VR simulation in human domain engagement. In less than three months, a small group of military professionals have ignited a fire which is spreading fast and positively changing military culture for the better.  

If you want to join the UK Fight Club you can get in touch with us on twitter: https://twitter.com/UKFightClub1.

Oli Elliot


[1] US Marine Corps 38th Commandant’s Planning Guidance, CPG, 17 July 2019.

CNAS: East China Sea Crisis 2030

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

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

h/t Aaron Danis 

Hoover Institution: International Crisis War Game, 27 May 2020

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The war game explores the relationship between new technologies, domestic politics, conventional military capabilities, and nuclear threats. Players simulate decision-making roles in a National Security cabinet and come to the war game as leaders in private industry, government, academia, and the military. The aim is to better understand the role that emerging technologies play in crisis decision-making and how Cold War paradigms of deterrence and crisis escalation apply in a world with new capabilities and vulnerabilities.

The International Crisis Virtual War Game at the Hoover Institution is the first ever iteration of the game played completely virtually using the Zoom platform, but it is a part of a larger set of in person games that have been run all over the world over the last 2 years to compare behaviors across countries and cultures within crises.

As a player in this virtual game, the group of participants will first be given two hypothetical crisis scenarios and a briefing on capabilities and threats. Players will then be placed in teams and asked to represent a National Security cabinet that generates priority objectives and debates courses of action. The war game culminates in the development of a whole of government response plan to the crisis. Finally, the event concludes with a plenary session back in a large group in which players will share lessons learned from the war game and suggest potential recommendations for policies on emerging threats and crisis dynamics.

Full details of the game here.

If you wish to participate register at this link by May 25th.

Please note that as an attendee at this event, you will be a participant in a Stanford research protocol.

 

McGill megagame 2020 ticket sale

Atlantic Rim

Do you feel the urge to save Atlantic Canada from the gravest threat in its history? Then you will want to participate in the ATLANTIC RIM megagame at McGill on Sunday, 16 February 2020.

Megagame tickets are discounted until January 1. After that, you’ll have to pay the regular admission price. Students receive an additional discount.

More more details, or to purchase a ticket, go to our Eventbrite ticket page.

If you want to be assigned to the same team as a group of friends, email me everyone’s name and your role preferences after you have all purchased a ticket.

McGill: Gaming humanitarian crisis

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On Wednesday, November 20 I’ll be speaking to the Games and Gamification for Human Development and Well-being (GHDW) working group at McGill University on “Gaming Humanitarian Crisis” (17h30-18h00). This will be followed by a demonstration game of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game (18h00-20h30).

The event will take place on the 1st floor of the Education Building (3700 McTavish).


Please take a minute to complete our PAXsims reader survey.

 

ATLANTIC RIM registration now open

Atlantic Rim

Registration is now open for the 2020 McGill megagame—ATLANTIC RIM.

A mysterious meteor shower has struck the Atlantic coast of North America. Many coastal communities, including parts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, have been devastated by the resulting tsunami.

Police, fire departments, medical services, municipal workers, public utilities, Canadian Armed Forces personnel, and the Coast Guard are mobilizing to address the emergency. Roads are damaged. The electrical grid has been shattered. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Survivors are fleeing to safety.

Can local, provincial, and federal officials pull together to coordinate an effective response?

Will Atlantic Canada rise to the challenge?

…and are they prepared for the deadly peril that might now be lurking offshore?

ATLANTIC RIM will take place at McGill University in Montréal on Sunday, 16 February 2020. Further information and tickets can be obtained via Eventbrite (and they’re cheaper if you register before January 1!)

Save the date: McGill megagame 2020

The 5th annual McGill megagame will be held at McGill University, Montréal on Sunday, 16 February 2020.

The 2020 McGill megagame will be ATLANTIC RIM.

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A mysterious meteor shower has struck the Atlantic coast of North America. Many coastal communities, including parts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, have been devastated by the resulting tsunami.

Police, fire departments, medical services, municipal workers, Canadian Armed Forces personnel, and the Coast Guard are mobilizing to address the emergency. Roads are damaged. The electrical grid has been shattered. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Survivors are fleeing to safety.

Can local, provincial, and federal officials coordinate an effective response?

Will Atlantic Canada rise to the challenge? And are they prepared for what might now be lurking in the Grand Banks?

Registration information will be posted to PAXsims in November/December.

Undeniable Victory (Ottawa edition)

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How do you serve a dictator?

Undeniable Victory is a serious megagame built around the political, strategic, and tactical challenges of the Iran-Iraq war, 1980-1988—and still the highest-rated megagame of the decade in the UK. Ottawa MegaGames is partnering with Lessons Learned Simulations and Training to host Ben Moores, the designer of Undeniable Victory, co-host of the Last Turn Madness podcast, and one of the original Megagame Makers of the United Kingdom.

Ben has previously discussed the game design here at PAXsims.

Players can take roles in the ruling councils of either state, in their respective militaries, or the international arena hoping to influence the course of the war to their own advantage.

In 1980, Saddam’s Hussein’s Ba’athist Iraq invaded Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolutionary Iran. Saddam hoped to take advantage of an Iran weakened by revolution, with the goal of cementing Iraq’s ascendancy in the region. The result instead was a vicious stalemate between two largely inexperienced armies, indelibly marked on both sides by the egos of the two dictators, Saddam and Khomeini. How would you respond to their demands?

And here are the key details:

Mapmaker (the gerrymandering game) on Kickstarter

Three siblings from a gerrymandered district in Austin, Texas have a game project on Kickstarter that may interest the political scientists (and political hacks) among you: Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game:

In Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game, you are a mapmaker, which means you make maps… and determine who wins elections. Can you crack and pack voters? Can you scheme and strategize? Can you create unfair, lopsided, strangely shaped districts that will guarantee your party’s victory? Gerrymandering with friends and family (when it doesn’t affect real voters) is a whole lot of fun.

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The Kickstarter expires on August 7, and can be found here.

You’ll find some preview videos below.

We Are Coming, Nineveh!

We Are Coming, Nineveh! is a tactical/operational-level game of the Iraqi government campaign to liberate the western area of the city of Mosul from the forces of Daesh between 19 February and 9 July 2017. This was one of the largest and most difficult urban operations of the post-WWII era, and marked a major defeat for Daesh and its so-called “Islamic State.”

The game was first designed by (PAXsims research associates) Juliette Le Ménahèze and Harrison Brewer as their project for a conflict simulation design course at McGill University. Subsequently, (renowned counter-insurgency game designer) Brian Train and (PAXsims senior editor and Middle East scholar) Rex Brynen joined the team too. A commercial publisher has already expressed strong interest, and we plan to have a final prototype of the game to them by the end of 2018.

The zonal map depicts the major areas of west Mosul, including the densely-built Old City where Daesh forces made their last stand. Units each represent 100 or so Daesh fighters, or and battalion-sized units of the Iraqi Army, Ministry of the Interior, and elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS). Cards are used to indicate defensive preparations, air and indirect fire support, special weapons, and various other capabilities. Each turn represents approximately two weeks of gruelling combat.

The use of blocks maintains uncertainty and the “fog of war.” The game combines a simple, intuitive, but highly effective system for movement and combat with a number of innovative game elements:

  • Before the operation starts, players choose a number of special capability cards—reflecting their planning and preparations for this long-awaited battle. Should Iraqi government forces deploy large amounts of air and artillery support, or might this cause excessive destruction in Iraq’s second largest city? Should they bring in additional ground forces, or invest in better training for those they have? What about the volunteer Shi’ite militias of the Popular Mobilization Forces—will these be used in the largely Sunni city? Will Daesh invest in more and larger improvised explosive devices? Will they pre-position bomb factories and arms caches, or perhaps a media production facility to publicize their accomplishments? What surprises might they have in store: home-made drones, primitive chemical weapons, or a network of tunnels under the city? No two games will be the same.
  • During each turn, event cards can be triggered at any time by either player. Some of these indicate the growing collateral damage done to the city and its people. Others generate tactical vignettes. Troops can get lost in the maze of small streets, communications can break down, and commanders can be faced with difficult moral and operational choices.
  • Unlike most wargames where there is a single measure for victory or loss, We Are Coming Nineveh assesses three key aspectsof the campaign: the speed at which the operation is completed, the casualties suffered by Iraqi government forces, and the collateral damage done to Mosul. One might outperform the historical case, capturing the Old City faster—but at a terrible civilian cost.

The game is thus able to combine low complexity (and hence be accessible to even neophyte wargamers) with a rich and detailed treatment of this important battle. A typical game lasts approximately 3 hours.

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Playtesting the current version of the game, with a revised map, event, and capability cards. Units of the Iraqi Army’s 9th division (brown) have advanced to the west (right above), cutting off the remaining supply route for Daesh. The latter has largely retreated to the Old City, where the narrow alleys and dense urban terrain offers tactical advantages. To the south (top), Daesh veterans have counterattacked, throwing back some Federal Police and Emergency Response Division troops in disarray. Meanwhile, elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces prepare to advance into the Old City itself. A Daesh IED factory there provides a constant supply of Improvised Explosive Devices for the defenders, while a prepositioned Arms  Cache has reduced the effects of supply lines being severed. Coalition air and artillery support has been important in supporting the Iraqi advance so far, but is unlikely to be available for fire support missions in heavily-populated urban areas.

 

Crisis in Galasi

Next week I’m off to France to take part in a conference on the urban dimensions of religious conflict, organized by Prof. Mick Dumper (University of Exeter). In addition to the usual academic papers and discussions, this conference will also include a simulation set in Galasi, the fictional capital of the fictional country of Carana. This envisages the rise of a Christian populist political party, a nervous Muslim minority, and a possible clash over a disputed religious site, the Sultan Hamad bin Said Mosque (or Church of St. Mychil).

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

DIRE STRAITS: the video

On February 25, McGill University will host its 3rd annual megagame: DIRE STRAITS, a game of crisis and confrontation in East and Southeast Asia. The video we will be using to introduce the game scenario is below—assuming, that is, that no one starts a real nuclear war on the Korean peninsula in the next three weeks.

While most of the tickets for the event have been sold, there are some remaining via Eventbrite. We hope to see you there!

A busy year of gaming ahead

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Well, 2018 is already shaping up to be a very busy year for PAXsims, and certainly for yours truly.

This term I’m teaching a small seminar on conflict simulation design at McGill University. This is really a dry run for a larger course next academic year—and, if that goes well, possibly a regular offering in the academic years ahead.

Starting this week, Hiba Zerrougui and I will be running an AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game tournament for students in my POLI 450 (Peacebuilding) course. This is an optional event, in which players pick up bonus class participation credits for taking part, and an extra bonus if they win the tournament. You’ll find a report on last year’s version here.

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Next week, I’ll be in Washington DC for a couple of days to assist the International Foundation for Electoral Systems to develop serious games and simulations for training election officials. IFES does terrific work around the world helping countries with the complex procedures and mechanisms of electoral democracy, and I’m happy to lend a hand. I’ll also be doing some work with the ICONS Project over the coming months.

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On February 6, it’s off to my alma mater, the University of Calgary, to talk about the use of serious games in teaching about international development, and to run a demonstration game of AFTERSHOCK.

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On February 24, we’ll be holding a CONNECTIONS NORTH miniconference at McGill University on professional wargaming in Canada, with around 20 participants. Small as it will be, it is likely to be the biggest assemblage of Canadians to discuss serious wargame development in quite some time.

The following day Jim Wallman (Stone, Paper, Scissors) and I will, together with members of our elite Control team, be running the 3rd annual McGill megagame, DIRE STRAITS. This is a revised version of the game that Jim and I organized for the Connections UK wargaming conference back in September (and which received international coverage from BBC News). Anja van der Hulst (TNO) will be passing through Montreal so that she can take part in both the conference and the game, and she’s kindly offered to run her comprehensive approach game for my students on the following Monday.

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In early March, I’ll be taking part in a workshop on the urban dimensions of religious conflict, being organized by my colleague Mick Dumper (University of Exeter). Mick and I have worked on other conflict simulations before—including a prescient 2013 policy simulation that explored possible US cuts to UNRWA, and an educational simulation on the Syrian refugee crisis. This time I’ll be developing a multi-part crisis simulation, set in the fictional country of Carana, that will continue throughout the event. Our hope is that it will compliment the academic papers and discussion that are the main component of the workshop with some illustrative communal flash-points, conflict, and policy challenges.

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In early April, civil war will once more stalk Cyberia, as more than one hundred students in POLI 450 and POLI 650 spend a week trying to bring peace to Brynania. This will be the 19th annual running of our massive McGill University peacebuilding simulation, and I’ll spend much of the time monitoring more than 15,000 emails between the participants in my role as CONTROL. The effort that the participants put into this is truly phenomenal, especially considering how little the activity actually counts for (10% of their course grade), and is testimony to the outstanding students we have at McGill. You’ll find a detailed account of the simulation here, in an article in PS: Political Science & Politics (2010).

During the summer, things won’t be slowing down all that much. I’ve got an article, and possibly a book chapter, to write on serious gaming. There may be another return visit to Dstl—I certainly hope so, since these have been a hugely valuable opportunity to see what my UK defence colleagues are up to. I hope to be presenting at the Connections US professional wargaming conference at National Defense University in July on the results of our DIRE STRAITS experiment, and I’ll certainly be attending the Connections UK wargaming conference at King’s College London in September.

Plus there are all sorts of game ideas germinating—some of which you will hopefully see on the pages of PAXsims in 2018. And that’s just me! Associate PAXsims editors Ellie Bartels, Devin Ellis, Tom Fisher, Gary Milante, and Tom Mouat are just as busy with their own projects too, many of which you will also see here in the year ahead.

DIRE STRAITS at McGill

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It’s official—Jim Wallman and I will be running a version of the DIRE STRAITS megagame at McGill University on Sunday, 25 February 2018.

McGill University’s third annual megagame, DIRE STRAITS, is set in the year 2020. It explores crisis stability in East and Southeast Asia in the context of an unpredictable Trump Admintration, growing Chinese strategic power, and multiple regional crises.

How will the region and the world deal with the challenge of North Korean nuclear weapons? Will China consolidate its hold over the South China Sea? How might relations between Beijing and Taiwan develop if the latter decides to adopt a more independent path? And how will the White House—beset by scandal, factional infighting, and an angry, unpredictable President—respond?

Approximately one hundred participants will assume the roles of national decision-makers, diplomats, military commanders, intelligence analysts, international organizations, journalists, and others.

 

Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite. Discounted “early-bird” tickets are available through to January 1.

You’ll find a Facebook page for the event here. A BBC News report on the original DIRE STRAITS game (held at King’s College London in September) can be found here.

Above: Images from DIRE STRAITS at King’s College London, September 2017.

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