Tim Price has produced a matrix game exploring economic and military competition and cooperation in the Arctic: HIGH NORTH (pdf).
Climate change is the principal driver of change in the Arctic, with increasing temperatures and precipitation. As Arctic and Antarctic sea ice retreats, many areas that are currently inaccessible could become open to commercial exploitation, particularly of oil and gas. It is possible that some countries – depending on their internal politics – may seek to project power in the Arctic if they consider their interests in the region to be under threat.
You’ll find a description of the issues and situation, simple instructions on how to run a matrix game, and briefings for six players: Russia (political), Russia (military), Norway, the United States, China, the UK. There is also a map depicting the North, Norwegian, Greenland, and Barents Sea, plus the high Arctic.
The game contains print-and-play counters for assets or effects, although you could also utilize materials in the Matrix Game Construction Kit (MaGCK). For more detailed matrix game rules and tips on designing or running one, the MaGCK User Guide is also available from The Game Crafter as a pdf download.
The extraordinarily prolific and ever-mysterious “Tim Price” has produced another matrix game module—this time, examining humanitarian assistance and disaster response in the aftermath of an earthquake. Here is a taste of the scenario:
Westland is a West-Cost State in the Continental USA, bordering on Mexico to the South and California to the North. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the 39th largest and the 26th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is San Paloma.
Historically part of the territory of Alta California in New Spain, it became part of independent Mexico in 1821. After being defeated in the Mexican–American War, Mexico ceded much of this territory to the United States in 1848. The majority of the state was acquired in 1853 through the Gadsden Purchase.
Southern Westland is known for its desert climate, with very hot summers and mild winters. Northern Westland features forests of pine, Douglas fir, and spruce trees; some mountain ranges; as well as large, deep canyons, with much more moderate summer temperatures and significant winter snowfalls. There are ski resorts and several national forests, national parks, and national monuments.
Population is 6.3 Million with a median household income of $42,200 (49th), this is one of the poorest US states measured by household income, with an estimate of about 16% of the population in poverty (including unrelated children).
Westland is home to the sprawling Fort Anderson Army Base, home of the 9th Special Forces Group and the National Guard 31st Engineer Brigade.
The city of Longport, home to some 250,000 people is located in the South of Westland some 40km from the Mexican border. The city is generally not as economically well off as some of the better located coastal cities to the North, with a significant population of immigrants and people living below the poverty line.
The Earthquake struck in the early hours of an April morning, out at sea. This resulted in a tsunami that hit the port city directly with a wall of water, flooding the port facilities and the low-lying areas to the South of the city, as well as surging up the river, destroying bridges and damaging facilities along the banks. The situation is still confused, but the most significant elements are:
Large areas of the Southwest of the city have been flooded with whole neighbourhoods washed away.
All of the bridges over the river have been destroyed or damaged.
The 11-storey Sky Tower collapsed into the river.
The 150-year-old Orthodox Cathedral partially collapsed and was flooded.
The 15-story Seawatch Tower is still standing, but as it was built on reclaimed land it is now surrounded by 8ft of sea water.
The venerable Grand Hotel is still standing, even though it has lost some of its stone façade.
The Gas depot to the North of town has reported leaks from the facility, which is a mixture of an underground Salt Formation reservoir and a single pressurised Liquid Natural Gas storage tank.
The main city Power Plant to the South has shut down. It is a coal-fired station, converted to natural gas and reports an interruption in the supply and fractures to the turbine mountings. Most of the city is without power.
The Solar Farm to the North and Wind Turbines on the coast are only capable of supplying a maximum of 30% of the power requirement during the day and 7% at night. Several Wind Turbines are reported as destroyed.
The airport to the Northeast of the city has reported fissures across the runway, only permitting restricted landings by light aircraft.
The Metro system, where is crosses the river underground, is flooded.
The main City Hospital has had come structural damage, with flooding in the basement and loss of power to some of the wards.
The Prison has reported a major power failure, with the reserve generators off-line.
The War Cemetery has suffered a major land-slip, with reports of coffins and bodies washed into the streets.
The 422nd Light Infantry Battalion of the State Guard, to the North of the City, reports only minor damage.
Most of the sea water has receded, leaving a confused jumble of smashed wooden buildings and large pools of sea water.
Politics plays an important part of any process and, while everyone should, of course, be pulling together in the face of a natural disaster, it will become clear that plans should have been properly drawn up and preparations made to reduce the effects of a catastrophe. There is always somebody to blame when things don’t go as well as they should have.
The primary actors in this drama are the left-leaning Governor of Westland, who is a firm advocate of equality and diversity, seeking to introduce programs that benefit the poorer parts of communities; and the more right-wing Mayor of Longport who has to deal with the day-to-day frustrations of a city full of immigrants and the decline of heavy industry in the area.
You will find the full package here, including basic matrix game rules, maps and counters:
Want counters, stickers, tracking maps, scenarios, and other resources to design an endless number of matrix games,? Try the Matrix Game Construction Kit User (MaGCK) itself. We’re afraid the price is a bit steep—it is intended for institutional use—but purchasers have access to an electronic copy of the full icon/sticker library, allowing you to endlessly print game materials as needed with only a laser printer and easily-obtained Avery removable labels:
This is a Matrix Game intended to explore the issues and options surrounding the 2017 Spanish constitutional crisis, in the run up to Regional Elections on 21 December 17 to appoint a new Catalan Parliament following the suspension of the previous Parliament . It is the product of only a few hours exploratory game design taken from the Connections Netherlands 20 17 conference on 14 Nov 2017.
You’ll find the rules and briefing materials here.
We are pleased to feature this report on the One Belt, One Road matrix game developed by COL Jerry Hall. The report below was written by Ryan Carragher, a Boston College student, ROTC member, and intern at the US Army War College. We are grateful to Jerry for sharing the complete set of rules and to LTC Joseph Chretien (US Army War College) for passing all of this on to us.
“One Belt, One Road” (OBOR-MG), a new matrix game developed by Colonel (COL) Jerry Hall, United States Army, focuses on China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) plan for trade expansion and growth. The game is a six-player game, with teams of China, Russia, India, the European Union, the United States, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). With China’s influence expanding, it is up to the other teams to either determine how to counter China, or find a way to grow with them. The game’s scenario begins in the present day and advances three to five years each round, which replicates China’s end goal of completing OBOR by 2050.
COL Jerry Hall discussing the rules of OBOR-MG
The goals and objectives of OBOR-MG are to explore where China’s OBOR plan may take the world over the course of the next few decades, to expose players to the growth of China through trade, and to force players to think of ways that China can be countered. Within the context of the game, agreed upon trade routes must be invested in to be established, and new trade routes can be planned and opened. More directly, the game requires players to use their National Elements of Power (DIME-Diplomacy, Information, Military, and Economic) to exert influence throughout the globe. In doing so, the game requires players to manage multiple different mechanisms of foreign relations. This forces players to expand their thinking at the strategic level. Military leaders playing must consider the diplomatic, economic and information alternatives, while other government officials playing the game must consider the military options as well. This aspect of the game allows it to accomplish its objective of being an effective tool for strategy development and analysis, to test different courses of action, to determine potential U.S. national interests, and to explore potential outcomes of China’s trade expansion. The OBOR-MG game is extremely versatile in its intended audience. Indeed, it is a useful tool for not only military leaders and organizations but also civilian leaders to test and expand strategic plans as well as for students studying any of the countries and regions involved.
The game was built using lessons learned from past matrix games developed at the Center for Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College. COL Hall recognized the need for a matrix game revolving around China’s planned growth in order to better educate students and leaders on how the future can be handled. Furthermore, he thought it was vital to include all aspects of the National Elements of Power, as had been done in previous matrix games, such as the South China Sea and Kaliningrad.
A new design element in this game comes in the form of each player having multiple chits (moves for each element of power) per turn. This allows for a more accurate representation of each player countries’ strengths in individual fields. For example, China begins the game with three economic chits, and one chit for Diplomacy, Military, and Information. This is indicative of the enormous amount of investment China is dedicating to the development of trade routes in order to advance its growth. The United States begins with two diplomacy, military, and economic chits, as well as one information chit. This shows the fact that the United States has diplomatic and military power in the region, but is not investing as much as China.
One of the trackers in OBOR-MG used to track open corridors.
OBOR-MG goes one step further in allowing each payer to play a chit in response to another player’s move, directly after the player makes the move. This allows other players to modify the dice roll by opposing the action with their pieces and making the roll more difficult, or by supporting it and therefore lessening the required role. By adding this facet to the game, COL Hall made OBOR-MG a more realistic test of foreign policy, as players must manage their elements of power in the most effective way possible and have the ability to respond to opponents’ actions in real time. In the game’s development stages, COL Hall also refined the mechanism by which countries gain economic chits. Emphasizing the economic value of the trade routes, countries through which the route travels, upon the route’s completion, increase the number of economic chits they receive at the beginning of each round. Countries that invest in the routes but are not located along them receive an increase in influence in the region of their investment. This aspect of the game’s development is vital, as it accurately recreates the incentive for competing powers to invest in spots that will not show immediate economic gains but will further their long term goals.
OBOR-MG was play-tested extensively by the Strategic Simulations Division at the Center for Strategic Leadership. This play testing recognized the value of players’ ability to make multiple moves and respond to their opponents. It also brought about minor changes in the numbers of chits given to each player at the start of the game. For example, China’s economic chits at the start were reduced from four to three, and the United States’ was increased from one to two. These small changes were made to make the game as reflective of the real world situation as possible. The play testing also shed light on areas in which the game could expand due to players’ actions. For example, the European Union and ASEAN can now develop military chits by working with other players or by establishing a military force through “big” actions – projects that may take multiple turns or chits to accomplish. This rule allows for players to greatly expand the possibilities of what they can do, but in a way that reflects potential real-world developments. With this ability, players are now more capable of testing potential strategies by different countries.
Playtesting the game.
China’s “One Belt One Road” plan has the potential to drastically change the economic world and world power balance, if it is as successful as China expects it to be by 2050. This game has the potential to provide the United States and its global partners a road map on how best to counter China, or how to join them. COL Hall’s OBOR-MG provides a well-developed platform for leaders to test new strategies and for enterprising students to learn about the future of trade, power, and global politics.
In this decision game, you play either a Joint Task Force (JTF) tasked to seize a lodgment in Lebanon or a Lebanese Hezbollah unit tasked to defend the area. The game is designed to help you think through 21st century Joint Forcible Entry (JFEO). Get creative and experiment with Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUMT), seeing where you could either use an optionally-manned vehicle or add a new unmanned system (but think cheap and off-the-shelve vice exquisite and expensive Terminators).
You can propose a Course of Action as either Red or Blue, and submit it to the scenario designer (Benjamin MJensen, Marine Corps University). There is no system for action/response, however—rather, the puzzle is an opportunity to propose different offensive and defensive COAs and then consider how they might interact.
Non-military folks may find the scenario briefing rather military-jargon-heavy. There’s also some key human terrain stuff that isn’t in the briefing package, but an alert Blue commander should probably ask about:
The local population would likely be very hostile to US intervention (the area is overwhelmingly Shi’ite, and Hizbullah and its Amal allies typically win 90%+ of the Tyre vote in Lebanese elections).
There are also about 50,000 Palestinian refugees in three UNRWA camps in the area, who are unlikely to be happy to see American intervention.
Mobile phone access and usage is ubiquitous. Barring efforts to disrupt this, pretty much all US movement will be quickly reported (even at sea, given that Tyre is a fishing port).
If the Lebanese police assets mentioned in the BLUE briefing are local cops, they’re probably close to Hizbullah. If they’re (non-Shiite) Lebanese ISF forces from elsewhere, they’ll have limited support from the locals and even less motivation to take risks.
These will NOT be part of MaGCK, the forthcoming Matrix Game Construction Kit that Tim Fisher, Tom Mouat, and I are working on—for we are all very serious gamers, and would never do anything like that.
Nonetheless, Tom Fisher obviously has too much graphic design time on his hands, and we thought these might be of use for those of you involved in political-military gaming of current or future crises. The image is formatted to Avery 5410 1″ removable stickers, and you should print from the pdf file here.
We may update them, of course, if the forthcoming UK election goes the other way.
A few days ago The Strategy Bridge posted the first of what will be a continuing series of wargames:
The Next War series on The Strategy Bridge publishes decision games designed to help military professionals visualize and describe the changing character of war and warfare. The games all consist of the same format:
An overarching situation and objective
An assessment of the enemy in terms of their disposition and composition
A space to articulate how players would approach the situation in terms of a central idea, necessary capabilities, and spatial and temporal dimensions (e.g. deep, close, security or shaping, decisive, etc.)
A course of action (COA) graphic and narrative
The games are designed to be short thought experiments that fit easily into training schedules. Individuals should take no more than one hour to complete the game and then one hour to compare results with other players in a group setting. These games can be used by military professionals in tactical units, from battalion to brigade, as well as on larger staffs to practice operational art and define new theories of victory. The wargames are experiments in which professionals can test their ideas (i.e. COAs = hypotheses) and identify candidates for further concept and capability development. By exchanging findings with the larger military professional network, practitioners crowdsource military innovation.
The first in the series, entitled Kaliningrad Fires, outlines a scenario in which US and Lithuanian forces are preparing to meet an imminent Russian invasion:
In this decision game, you are the lead elements of a NATO force sent to stop a Russian force from securing key terrain in the opening stages of a conventional fight. The game is designed to assist players in thinking through how to use fires in the defense to disrupt an adversary. You should assume the lead echelon of the advancing Russian force is just that, the lead echelon and likely to be followed by a larger force.
Following a stand-off with Lithuania regarding shipping tariffs between Kaliningrad and Belarus, Russia began mobilizing forces along the border between Kaliningrad and Lithuania. Initial NATO intelligence estimates suggest that Russia will cross the international border and attempt to secure a land bridge between Kaliningrad and Belarus, south of the Neman River, in 96 hours (D+0). The majority of their forces will secure Lithuanian highways A7 and A16, with additional forces guarding north and south of the route.
1/325 IN, B/1/82 AV, and 2/319 FAR (82d) were conducting operation IRON SENTINEL in Poland with other NATO units when Russia began its mobilization, and was re-tasked to fly to Lithuania and assist the Lithuanian Iron Wolf Brigade in defending Lithuania against a Russian attack. The remainder of 2/82, as well as 1/319 FAR and 3/319 FAR, are scheduled to fly in to Kaunas International Airport (1) NLT D-2. 2 CAV (Germany) will begin arriving on D+1 at the rate of one squadron per day.
It’s a great initiative, and I wish them every success with it.
…however, it isn’t really a wargame at all.
Rather, Kaliningrad Fires is a tactical problem, in which one reads the scenario and then develops a possible solution, possibly discussing it with others and comparing ideas afterwards. That can be very useful, but it lacks any sort of dynamic interaction with an adaptive opponent. It certainly isn’t a course of action (COA) wargame: as Graham Longley-Brown has (repeatedly and vociferously) noted, for a COA wargame to be a wargame it must be adversarial, and ideally conducted under some form of time pressure that reflects the real-life constraints on decision-making.
The scenario devotes much attention to the role of a new artillery system deployed by the (future) US side:
2/319 FA is outfitted with the Army’s newest system, the Advanced Artillery System, firing the Artillery Delivered Swarm System (ADSS).
Each of the [artillery] battalion’s 6 platoons has 8 HMMWVs (4 with howitzers, 4 with ammunition). 7 of the 8 are autonomously piloted and operated, slaved to the actions of the platoon leader’s vehicle.
The puzzle is clearly intended to address how this system might be employed:
How would you integrate a Manned-Unmanned Teaming artillery swarm with attack aviation and ground units assuming hasty defensive positions?
That’s fair enough: it is perfectly legitimate to ask how deployment of a new weapon system might affect battlefield dynamics, and to use both problem sets and actual wargames to explore its tactical employment.
However, to do that one really needs a lot more information. The tactical description says almost nothing about the entire Lithuanian mechanized infantry brigade that is also part of BLUE: no TOE (table of organization or equipment) is provided, nor any notion of how the Lithuanians would like to defend their country, or the degree of interoperability between US and Lithuanian forces. There’s also no discussion of BLUE air assets, or whether the Russians will enjoy temporary local air superiority in the opening stages of their assault. To my mind, those are all rather important considerations. It’s a bit like asking how the British Expeditionary Force should fight the Germans in 1940 using their newfangled 18/25pdr field artillery with little reference to French capabilities, no discussion of air control, and no reference to French plans.
The mysterious “Tim Price” is at it again, quickly putting together a matrix game that explores the growing tensions in the Korean peninsula. At this link you will find rules, a map, and markers/assets/counters. The game involves six players:
The game components even include Twitter indicators, allowing you to deploy the formidable 140 character rhetorical broadsides of the US president.
While the rules describe how a matrix game operates, if you have never seen one in action the concept of a freeform narrative game in which the participants make up the rules as they go along through discussion and assignment of weighted probabilities might seem a bit strange. As in most matrix games, players are free to take any plausible action they wish simply by describing: (1) the action they wish to take; (2) the effect this would have if successful; and (3) arguments why the action might succeed. Other players then add other arguments for and against success. Each solid argument is used as die roll modifier, dice are rolled, the action and its effects are adjudicated—and it is then the next player’s turn.
And there’s still more on wargaming at the Strategy Bridge! Today it is Benjamin Jensen (Marine Corps University) on “#Wargaming the Changing Character of Competition and Conflict” —and it’s not so much an article as it is an invitation to readers to participate in a series of collaborative online wargames over the coming year:
Over the next year, as a part of an ongoing series on #wargaming, we will return to Moltke’s vision of a series of map exercises that illuminate the changing character of war and, in the process, help the military professional develop new theories of victory. Every month #wargaming will feature a vision of the next war by publishing a campaign-level decision game. These short, seminar-style games are designed to help national security professionals think about multinational campaigns and major operations possible, but not necessarily probable, in the near future. These modern map exercises can be played individually similar to a tactical decision game, or used by a group to discuss military strategy and practice.
The games in this series will be take the form of short, seminar games that can be conducted by collaborative networks of individuals sharing their ideas or in small groups. The games will establish a scenario and available forces. Based on this initial data, readers can discuss military options, possible adversary countermoves, and the resulting cascading effects. These discussions provide a vehicle for the national security professional to visualize and describe the changing character of war.
A recent visit to the Netherlands by one of the PAXsims editors led to the development of Terror in Tilberg, a matrix game exploring the possible impact of a terror attack in the run up to that country’s 2017 elections.
The players in the game are as follows:
local jihadists (“Hofstadt Network”)
Right wing neo-Nazis (“New Thule”)
Dutch Emergency Services
The results of one game were as follows:
On occasions both the Islamic Terrorists and the Right-Wing Terrorists were perfectly happy with their opponent’s actions
The Coalition Government often found itself arguing against its own political interests.
The Security Services were very good at reacting to an attack afterwards, but felt unable to act proactively without legislation and techniques that put them against the Liberal policies of the Government.
Geert Wilders found himself at odds with a significant proportion of the Right-Wing terrorist actions.
The upshot of the game was that Geert Wilders won the most seats, but failed to secure an overall majority (only just) and the other political parties refused to join him in a coalition. It was a close-run thing, but the Netherlands remained a liberal democracy.
You’ll find the scenario description and game materials here (.pdf). To play it, you’ll need some general familiarity with matrix games.
During our recent War in Binni megagame, we encountered an issue that often arises in POL-MIL games: we were missing part of the UN Security Council. In this case, all five veto-wielding permanent (P5) members were represented by players: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States. Of the ten rotating non-permanent members, however, we only had two actually represented by players: Nigeria and Guinea.
Members of the UN Security Council check the latest news from Binni via the live Global News Network Twitter feed.
One way of dealing with this is to simply reduce the size of the Security Council, and the changing the real-world UNSC voting roles (nine affirmative votes and no P5 vetoes) to something proportional to the size of the group. This is the way I do things in the Brynania peacebuilding simulation, for example.
In this case, however, we wanted more for the various UN ambassadors to do during the game, and we also wanted to highlight that even the powerful P5 members need broader support for anything to happen. Consequently the non-player members of the Security Council were represented by cards. Each card listed the issues that mattered to that country. When one of those issues was addressed well in a statement by a UN ambassador, the UN Control team would dice to see whether the card (and that state’s vote) would pass to the ambassador concerned. To reflect existing global alliances and relationships, some non-played countries were more easily influenced by some than others.
In addition, at the start of each turn the various UN ambassadors could secretly use influence cards and foreign aid funds in an attempt to obtain a die roll bonus when attemping to secure non-player country votes.
I was a little worried that the mechanism might result in a stilted debate process whereby UN ambassadors made speeches, stopped to await a die roll by Control, then continued. That, however, didn’t happen. On the contrary, UNSC debates were lively and fluid.
Members of the UN Security Council debate the war in Binni.
You’ll find the materials here, should you wish to modify them for use in your own game:
It has been a busy month, and as a consequence we are a bit behind on updates. So here (at last) is the latest issue of simulations and gaming miscellany, filled with items on serious and not-so-serious gaming that may be of interest to PAXsims readers.
James Sterrett suggested material for this latest edition.
It’s a written training manual given interactive life, and it’s the brainchild of a group of informatics students at the Halifax school.
Developed over three semesters by 11 students, the game is set to be tested with peacekeepers in the field as part of training offered by Dalhousie’s Romeo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative.
Josh Boyter, who works with the Dallaire initiative, said the game is designed so it can be deployed in some of the most difficult hotspots around the world without having to utilize the Internet or wireless connections.
“This game can sit on a USB key,” said Boyter.
“It’s all locally based, so as long as they have a browser on their laptop . . . the game won’t break. It’s purely designed to be as robust as possible.”
Boyter said his organization plans to give the game to the first child protection adviser to be attached to an African Union peacekeeping mission. The adviser will use it to help train soldiers and police.
“We are really excited to see how it actually is going to help in terms of our ultimate mission, which is to end the use of child soldiers,” he said.
The game presents a range of scenarios and roles in which child soldiers could be encountered, including as spies or even suicide bombers. Each scenario presents a list of choices for dealing with the child soldier and the game user is ultimately told whether those choices are right or wrong.
Ars Technica reports on an effort in Berlin to use boardgames to bring newly-arrived refugees and Germans closer together:
At the shelter I frequent most, a children’s worker named Robin spends many afternoons playing games with the kids. He teaches them the German classic Mensch, Ärgere Dich Nicht, a best-selling variant of Parcheesi. It has become one of their favorites.
My friend Karin, who publishes games for businesses, wants to donate some games for the refugees. She gives me black-and-white Parcheesi boards that can be colored in by the children, and we pick out various colors of pawns and dice to include with each board.
When I pull out the game boards at the shelter the following week, the children enjoy choosing their pawns. Then they get right to work, adding color to their boards with the markers and colored pencils I bring with me. When finished, they cannot believe that the games are theirs to keep. I assure them that they are—and suddenly find myself in the middle of a group hug.
Later, I ask my friend Thorsten—who works for the large Berlin publisher who makes Mensch Ärgere Dich Nicht—if the company would be able to donate any games as Christmas presents for the children. He packs a large box, which I supplement with a few extra chess sets and some games that designer Néstor sent me. My family joins me in wrapping and distributing them.
This happens on a very special night, as the refugees are finally moving to “container apartments” after a full year of bunk beds and bedsheet partitions in a converted indoor basketball court. We are invited to share food and join in a dance, and the children’s eyes light up when they receive a game of their very own.
But the gifts are more than just games. They are reminders of the times we shared together every week over the past year, and the promise of more to come.
Our four work groups, i.e. patient safety, medical technologies, global health, and pervasive learning, have come together, and with outputs from the youth innovation and costs of innovation panel, produced a series of high quality manuscripts. These will be published in a special issue of BMJ Simulation and Technology Enhanced Learning, to be publicly launched at the Mar 29 event.
We are extremely pleased to have Dr. Russell Gruen, Director of the Nanyang Institute of Technology in Health and Medicine in Singapore, Dr. Nick Sevdalis, Editor-in-Chief of BMJ Simulation and Technology Enhanced Learning, and Ms. Katrine Kirk, Danish Patient Safety Champion, join us in Montreal for the event. We also have the pleasure of hosting Assistant Deputy Minister Marie-Josée Blais, Ministry of Economy, Science and Innovation, Province of Quebec, as well as many of the original invitees to the May 2016 event, to encourage and propagate further discussion, dissemination and implementation of the simnovate mission.
The event commences at 1:30pm, with a series of keynotes, panel sessions and discussions, followed by a cocktail reception for networking and further follow-up.
Polygon recently reported on UNESCO’s interest in the power of gaming to promote empathy, understanding, and positive social change:
For lots of gamers, the power of the medium is its ability to place us in the shoes of other people, making tough choices that we’d otherwise never need to contemplate.
But how does that message of power and opportunity spread outwards, away from the mostly indie games that address serious issues, and the relatively small number of people who celebrate these noble efforts?
He’s also the author of a new report commissioned by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) which seeks to find ways in which games can be used to foster empathy and understanding around the world. The report was commissioned by UNESCO subsidiary the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace.
“Perspective-taking helps negotiate social complexities, diminish biases, improve inter-group attitudes, and encourage a view of outgroups as more self-like,” states the report. “The potential to positively impact attitudes with digital games is not only rooted in their ability to grant perspective, but also in their potency as instruments of persuasion.”
“If you read the literature on conflict resolution, perspective-taking is very important in order to reconcile opposing points of view,” says Darvasi. “It’s difficult to have empathy if you can’t put yourself into somebody else’s perspective. Video games allow you to assume perspectives in an embodied form.
“When you watch the news or a documentary, you might not feel connected to the issue. But video games immerse you in the action. Your actions have consequences within the game and therefore there’s a greater emotional and cognitive investment.”
Donald Trump’s Challenge : play as the new chief executive of the United States and strive to keep your campaign promises on issues such as reducing the tax burden, stimulating the economy or the fight against illegal immigration… all while avoiding bankrupting the nation and maintaining your approval ratings with the end goal of being reelected for a second term in 202
War in Syria and Iraq 2017 : play as one or several warring factions in the new conflict map configuration updated as of the beginning of 2017 and strive to emerge victorious or put an end to hostilities. NB : the conflict scenarios from the beginning of 2016 will still be playable.
Gross National Happiness : improve the quality of life for your people by implementing reforms and try to raise your country’s global ranking.
French Election 2017 : play as one of the candidates in the French national elections or even the current chief of state and run a campaign, manage your budget, establish your campaign platform, participate in debates and try to get elected (or reelected) to the highest office.
Before you all ask, PAXsims has no information on whether the update includes dubious connections with Russian intelligence, immigration and refugee bans, “fake news”, bizarre press conferences, arguments over the size of crowds on the Mall, or turmoil in the National Security Council.
In early January, a not-exactly-secret ICONS simulation was mentioned in the New York Times article on US support for the Baltic states:
The intelligence also informs planning in Washington. In October, the military’s Joint Staff conducted a three-day confidential simulation exercise involving four possible situations in Latvia in which Russia used drones, cyberwarfare and media manipulation.
We’re told the event wasn’t classified at all, simply held under Chatham House Rules.
In March 2017 Hollandspiele will be releasing two Brian Train wargames-in-one:
Ukrainian Crisis will be much the same as the PnP version available now here, except that the Resource cards will be chits (they can’t print up that many cards), the game length is increased to 9 turns and there are a few extra units, for variety and to fill up the counter sheet.
Even better, this will be half of a two-game package… the other game will be the mini-game The Little War, on the brief Slovak-Hungarian border war of March 1939! This one uses only 30 counters and a deck of ordinary playing cards to drive the action. I designed this one last year.
A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology by Janina Krell-Roesch, Prashanthi Vemuri, and Anna Pink suggests that playing games can significantly reduce the risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment:
Question Does engaging in a mentally stimulating activity in old age associate with neurocognitive function?
Findings In this population-based cohort study, 1929 cognitively normal participants 70 years or older were followed for approximately 4 years. The following activities were associated with significant decreased risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment: computer use, craft activities, social activities, and playing games.
Meaning Engaging in a mentally stimulating activity even in late life may decrease the risk of mild cognitive impairment.
Recently Brant Guillory at GrogHeads interviewed James Sterrett of the US Army Command & General Staff College about how hobby wargaming is making its way (back) into professional military ranks. You’ll find the whole thing here.
The grimdark, battle-hardened warriors are known for their martial prowess – but wearing the skins of dead animals doesn’t take any skill.
Indeed, nothing on the bloody battlefields of Warhammer’s conflict-ravaged universe could match the terrible reality that foxes, minks, rabbits, and other living beings experience at the hands of the fur trade. Those killed for their fur typically first endure a bleak life inside a tiny, filthy wire cage before being electrocuted, drowned, or even skinned alive. Or they may be in the wild, minding their own business, when they get caught in a horrific bone-crushing steel-jaw trap – often languishing for days before eventually dying from starvation, dehydration, or blood loss.
PETA has written to Games Workshop CEO Kevin Rountree asking that the leading British miniature war-gaming brand ban “fur” garments from all Warhammer characters. While we appreciate that they are fictional, draping them in what looks like a replica of a dead animal sends the message that wearing fur is acceptable – when, in fact, it has no more place in 2017 than it would in the year 40,000.
This, of course, provoked much outrage, sarcasm, derision, mirth, and discussion among Warhammer players.
…which, PETA later admitted, was kind of what they were aiming for:
We’re laughing, too! For the cost of a postage stamp, our website has received record traffic – and the people who were prompted to visit our site by this story can’t have missed the prominently featured eyewitness footage showing that animals in real life are electrocuted, drowned, and sometimes even skinned alive for their fur.
Here’s a little secret: we know that Warhammer characters are fictional, and we’re not losing sleep worrying about what Leman Russ or the other miniatures are “wearing”. We are, however, lying awake at night thinking of ways to make people aware that real animals who are raised for their fur, skin, or flesh are suffering every day. We’ll sleep a little more easily tonight knowing that we’ve managed to get nearly a quarter of a million people (and counting!) to visit PETA.org.uk in the days since we sent our letter, because – whatever their reason for doing so – they’ll now know more about the cruelty behind fur.
So by all means, have a laugh at this campaign – you can even laugh at us – but please remember that the fur industry is a living hell for animals. If that bothers you, and it should, please share our fur exposés with your friends and family.
Well played, PETA, well played.
Last but certainly not least, PAXsims is very pleased to report that we’ve now had more that 500,000 page views and 200,000 visitors to the website. We’re also well on track to making 2017 our best year ever. Many thanks to our readers and contributors to making it possible!
The ever-prolific Tom Mouat has completed the design of another matrix game, this time devoted to strategic jockeying by Russia, NATO, and others in the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean:
President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin has sought to reverse the post-Cold War era transformations during which Russia lost its satellites, withdrew militarily from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), forfeited its regional predominance, and curtailed its international power projection. Moscow’s primary strategic objective under the Putin presidency is to create a Eurasian bloc of states under predominant Russian influence that will necessitate containing, undermining and reversing NATO influence throughout eastern Europe. Even where it cannot pressure or entice its neighbours to integrate in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Kremlin attempts to neutralize nearby capitals by preventing them from moving into Western institutions, particularly NATO and the European Union (EU).
In this strategic context, Russia’s supremacy in the Black Sea becomes critical for restoring its east European and Eurasian dominion, as well as projecting power toward the Mediterranean and Middle East. Its offensives in and around the Black Sea are part of a larger anti-NATO strategy in which naval forces play a significant and growing role. Russia is using the Black Sea as a more advantageous method of revisionism than extensive land conquests. Control of ports and sea lanes delivers several benefits: it prevents NATO from projecting sufficient security for its Black Sea members; deters the intervention of littoral states on behalf of vulnerable neighbours; threatens to choke the trade and energy routes of states not in compliance with Russia’s national ambitions; and gives Moscow an enhanced ability to exploit fossil fuels in maritime locations.
All of this assumes particular significance, of course, against the backdrop of Russian deployment of its (rather dilapitated) aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsovto support combat operations in Syria, reports that NATO is again playing hide-and-seek with Russian attack submarines in the Med (and vice-versa), continued conflict in the Ukraine, political uncertainty in Turkey, the regional migrant crisis, and the growing value of eastern Mediterranean oil and gas deposits.
The actors represented in the game include the US, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Cyprus, and the UK, and turns represent around 2-4 weeks. Rules, counters, and maps are included, and can be downloaded from here (pdf).