PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: simulation and gaming materials

This War of Mine free at Epic Games

This War of Mine, the game of civilian survival during civil war, is available free from Epic Games until August 2.

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James Sterrett reviewed the game for PAXsims back in November 2014, calling it “remarkably successful at being an engrossing game that involves violence yet avoids making the situation seem remotely appealing” and “my current pick for the best game of 2014.”

 

Forced to Fight

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Forced to Fight is a browser game developed by the Canadian Red Cross (with the support of the ICRC and Global Affairs Canada) to educate youth about international humanitarian law, child soldiers, sexual and gender based violence, and related issues.

About Forced to Fight

The Canadian Red Cross aims to protect the dignity and lives of vulnerable people affected by armed conflict by ensuring respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in Canada and around the world through education, training and advocacy. We organize events across the country to educate Canadians on the importance of IHL and to encourage dialogue on issues such as child soldiers, refugees, sexual and gender-based violence, and attacks on civilians, hospitals and schools. Forced to Fight is an interactive online resource designed for students between the ages of 13-18. The resource helps facilitate understanding of IHL and humanitarian issues and allows the user to experience what it is like for young people living in situations of armed conflict around the world. Teachers can use this resource in collaboration with the lesson plans available in the teaching resources links or they can choose to use it as a stand-alone activity to trigger critical thinking and classroom discussion on issues related to armed conflict. We thank the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for permission to use their resources and photos. The design of this resource was made possible thanks to financial support from the Government of Canada through a project with Global Affairs Canada. For more information please see the Instructional Guide for teachers.

Players assume the role of one of three young persons, and then are presented with a series of choices in the context of local armed conflict.

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The website also includes a section for teachers, with additional instructional materials.

A “horrible, one-sided deal”: A US-Iran matrix game

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While I’m not at liberty to divulge anything about him, I recently connected up with the ever-elusive Banksy of matrix game design, “Tim Price,” to put together a quick matrix game scenario addressing current US-Iranian tensions in the Gulf. You will find the scenario description, briefing sheets, and simple map here. Also included is a quick guide on how to play a matrix game, as well as counters you can use.

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The game includes the US, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the European Union/E3, and Russia. It also includes an innovative mechanism for making some actions through allies and proxies (such as the Houthis, Hizbullah, Shi’ite militias in Iraq, Syria, Israel, the UAE, and Oman).

As this example shows, matrix games can be developed very quickly, and can be useful tools for exploring complex, multi-sided political-military (POL-MIL) issues. If you want to learn more, check out the many other matrix game postings here at PAXsims, as well as Tom Mouat’s matrix game download page.

If you’re interested in developing your own matrix games, you might find the Matrix Game Construction Kit (MaGCK) useful—after all, that’s why we developed it, with the support of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratories  (UK Ministry of Defence).

MaGCK

Trade War matrix game

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From the ever-productive and ever-mysterious mind of Tim Price, PAXsims is pleased to present another matrix game plucked from the media headlines: Trade War.

Since January 22, 2018, China and the United States have been engaged in a trade war involving the mutual placement of tariffs. However, the roots of this dispute go much further back. In the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to fix China’s “long-time abuse of the broken international system and unfair practices”. In April 2018, the United States filed a request for consultation to the World Trade Organization to investigate whether China was violating any intellectual property rights.

Among other things, the US accuses China of currency manipulation, espionage and unfair trade practices which disadvantage US firms. Trump has sought to link the trade dispute to other issues of concern including Taiwan and the One China policy.

China is known for taking a long view. Back in 1986, Deng Xiao Peng established “Program 863,” a sort of academy of sciences and technologies charged with closing the scientific gap between China and the world’s advanced economies in a short period of time. The 863 program and its institutional derivatives not only sponsored actual research, they also promoted the acquisition of advanced technologies from other countries with little distinction asto whether it was obtained legally or illegally. Some have argued that the more recent “Made in China 2025” issimply an updated version of this, encouraging and rewarding corporations and private individuals to obtain technology on its behalf.

The New York Times is quoted as saying: Big American companies fiercely protect their intellectual property and trade secrets, fearful of giving an edge to rivals. But they have little choice in China—and Washington is looking on with alarm. To gain access to the Chinese market, American companies are being forced to transfer technology, create joint ventures, lower prices and aid homegrown players. Those efforts form the backbone of President XiJinping’s ambitious plan to ensure that China’s companies, military and government dominate core areas oftechnology like artificial intelligence and semiconductors.

China is increasingly challenging norms and existing power structures; seeking to shape the facts on the ground to benefit China and allow it freedom of manoeuvre. This is occurring on multiple fronts, including:

    • Technology Dominance
    • International Law
    • Military Superiority
    • Spheres of Influence
    • Information control
    • International norms

The growing tension between the US and China, as they increasingly compete across multiple fronts, has stressed the UK policy position, which has maintained twin goals of being open to China and Chinese investment whilemaintaining the ‘Special Relationship’ with the US.

The Huawei issue has brought this to a head. Although successful internationally, Huawei has faced difficulties in some markets, due to cybersecurity allegations — primarily from the United States government — that Huawei’s infrastructure equipment may enable surveillance by the Chinese government. Especially with the development of 5G wireless networks (which China has aggressively promoted), there have been calls from the U.S. to prevent use of products by Huawei or fellow Chinese telecom ZTE by the U.S. or its allies.

In the game players assume the roles of:

  • US government
  • Chinese government
  • UK government
  • Russia
  • Western firms
  • Chinese technology industry

You’ll find everything you need to play here.

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You will also find a great many other matrix game resources at PAXsims. If you wish to design and play your own matrix games, you might find the Matrix Game Construction Kit (MGCK) of use—it was designed by PAXsims with the support the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

Trouble in Paradise II: Melanesia

Melanesia Matrix Game Rules cover.pngCol. Jerry Hall (US Army, Pacific) has passed on to PAXsims his latest South Pacific matrix game, Trouble in Paradise II: Melanesia.

Melanesia is a Matrix Game designed to introduce players to the Melanesia region, its major actors and its most important dynamics. It is the second title in a series of Matrix Games on Oceania using the same core rules as the previous title, Micronesia. An overview of the Melanesia region follows in the next section (references to the game Melanesia will be italicized).

The major actors represented in the game (either as player countries or through game design) are the Melanesian minor powers: the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and West Papua; and the major regional powers: Australia, China, Indonesia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and the United States.

The most important dynamic represented in the game is great and regional power influence competition at several levels. At the grand strategic level the United States and China are competing in the Oceania region in what some have called another “Great Game.” In the case of Melanesia, this competition is fueled by Melanesia’s strategic geographic location at the southern base of the “second island chain,” Melanesia’s raw materials and potential markets, China’s ever expanding Belt and Road project, and the United States’ slow “rebalance” to the Pacific. There are several competitions at the regional level. China and Taiwan are competing over recognition; the Solomon Islands still recognizes Taiwan over China (as do five other countries in Oceania: Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu). Australia is the largest aid donor in the region. Both Australia and New Zealand have historic and cultural ties to Melanesia and vested interests in Melanesian security. Indonesia is attempting to influence the Melanesian countries to minimize support for the Free Papua movement in the Indonesian province of West Papua. The Melanesian countries have their own internal issues that reduce their agency as the great powers compete over and in them. A final wildcard is the separatist movement in the Papua New Guinean Autonomous Region of Bougainville; Bougainville independence could trigger similar movements in its neighbors.

Influence is represented by markers placed on the map for each country and Bougainville; each country has a graphic divided into sectors representing the Government, the People, the Economy and any Government Opposition. Players gain or lose influence markers during the game through their actions; either limited recurring actions (“Turn 0” activities), or discrete and more powerful actions using of the Instruments of National Power (Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic, or “DIME”).

Melanesia introduces two important influence concepts, one grounded the in the core influence dynamic included in Micronesia, the other a new twist: the West Papuan separatist movement and the concept of “Melanesian Solidarity.” The Indonesian region of West Papua is represented as a non-player actor in Melanesia. The Indonesian player may take actions in West Papua (and has DIME Tokens that can only be used there). The separatist movement is represented by the Subject Matter Expert (SME). “Melanesian Solidarity” represents the concept of a Melanesian community that transcends national borders, especially support for West Papuan self-determination or independence. Melanesian Influence Markers throughout the region reflect the level of support for Melanesian culture and independence, most prominently in support of West Papuan independence. See the Indonesian and West Papua briefs, as well as Appendix 4: West Papua Independence Movement, for additional information.

You’ll find everything you need to run the game here.

You’ll also find additional matrix game resources here at PAXsims, at Tom Mouat’s website, and in the Matrix Game Construction Kit. Trouble in Paradise: Micronesia is also available at PAXsims.

On Thin Ice: An Arctic matrix game

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PAXsims is pleased to make available On Thin Ice, a print-and-play matrix game of geopolitical and economic rivalry and cooperation in the Arctic. The game was developed by COL Jerry Hall and Dr. Dawn Alexandrea Berry.

On Thin Ice is a Matrix Game designed to introduce seven or more players to the Arctic region, its major actors, and its most important dynamics in a four-round game over the course of three hours.

While climate change is the underlying reason for the game, it is the effects of climate change that are revealed through gameplay. In particular, On Thin Ice highlights the complex interactions between local populations, national governments, and multinational corporations in the region. In so doing, On Thin Ice enables players to not only learn more about regional dynamics in the Arctic, but to experience how moments of crisis impact global geopolitics and security in a tangible way.

The game is structured to demonstrate the complex regional, national, and transnational dynamics in the Arctic. The most important of these are climate change, geopolitics, resources, and development. The effects of climate change are the underlying reason for the game; the Arctic is changing and how the major actors react to that change is the core problem the players need to address. Climate change is represented through a series of preformatted Climate Change cards the Facilitator uses to describe the changing environmental conditions in the Arctic throughout the game. On Thin Ice is not solely a climate change game, although the Facilitator could use it as such.

The geopolitics of the region are modeled through the game design player selection. In general, for the past decade there has been a consensus amongst Arctic states that it is a “zone of cooperation.” However, the rise of China as nascent superpower with global ambitions and a re- emerging Russia are changing the dynamic of the region.

The major actors represented in the game (either as player countries or through game design) are the “Arctic Eight” (including Greenland), and China. The game also represents a number of Arctic indigenous peoples (outlined below). The game is framed by The Arctic Council – the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic states. Although notably the Arctic Council is not a security forum, broader geopolitics and security concerns often impact the Council and its membership.

The game files are available for download as pdfs:

On Thin Ice Rules v4 (dragged) 2

 

Trouble in Paradise: a Micronesia matrix game

Micronesia cover.jpgCOL Jerry Hall has been kind enough to pass on to PAXsims his latest matrix game design, Trouble in Paradise (pdf).

[Trouble in Paradise] is a Matrix Game designed to introduce players to the Micronesia region, its major actors, and its most important dynamics. An overview of Micronesia follows in the next section.

The major actors represented in the game (either as player countries or through game design) are the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the US Territory of Guam, the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the Republic of Nauru, the Republic of Palau, Australia and New Zealand, China, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States.

The most important dynamic represented in the game is great and regional power influence competition at several levels. At the grand strategic level the United States and China arecompeting in the region in what some have called another “Great Game.” This competition isfueled by Micronesia’s strategic geographic location in the “second island chain,” China’s ever expanding Belt and Road Initiative, and the United States’ “rebalance” to the Pacific. There are several competitions at the regional level. China and Taiwan are competing over recognition; four countries in Micronesia still recognize Taiwan over China (Kiribati, Nauru, Palau and RMI). Australia is the largest aid donor in the region and has a vested interest in Micronesian security. Japan has historical, cultural and economic interests in the region as well. The Micronesian countries have their own internal issues that reduce their agency as the great powers compete over and in them. The majority of countries in the region have unique relationships with the United States: Guam is a US territory; CNMI is a US Commonwealth; and FSM, Palau and RMI are independent countries thathave “Compacts of Free Association” with the US. A final wildcard is the separatist movement inthe FSM state of Chuuk (formerly Truk).

Influence is represented by markers placed on the map in each country and FSM state; each country or state has a graphic divided into sectors representing the Government, the People, the Economy and any Government Opposition. Players gain or lose influence markers during the gamethrough their actions; either limited recurring actions (“Turn 0” activities) or discrete and morepowerful actions using of the Instruments of National Power (Diplomatic, Information, Military andEconomic, or “DIME”).

You’ll find everything you need to play at the link above.

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AFTERSHOCK “Deal of the Day” at The Game Crafter

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AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game is currently the “Deal of the Day” at The Game Crafter. You have only a few more hours to get it at 12% off the regular price!

Belt and Road matrix game

BeltAndRoadPAXsims is pleased to present a “Belt and Road” matrix game examining Chinese grand strategy, by the ever-prolific Tim Price. The file (which you can download from here) includes a map; counters/assets/markers; briefing documents for China, the US (and allies), Russia, India, and ASEAN states; random event cards; and brief instructions on how to play a matrix game.

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Further guidance on playing, facilitating, and designing matrix games can be found in the Matrix Game Construction Kit (MaGCK) User Guide, available as a pdf download from The Game Crafter. The full Matrix Game Construction Kit (also available from The Game Crafter) contains everything you need to develop and run matrix games for professional, educational, and hobby applications.

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For other games on this and related themes, see:

Review: The Pentagon’s Urban COIN Wargame (1966)

John Curry, ed., The Pentagon’s Urban COIN Wargame (1966) (History of Wargaming Project, 2018). 100pp. £12.95pb.

pentagonurbancoincover.gifIn this volume John Curry has republished the rules of URB-COIN, an urban counter-insurgency game designed by Abt Associates for the Advanced Research Projects Agency (US Department of Defense) in the mid-1960s—and a very quirky game it is too. Set in a generic city in a generic country, it combines find-the-secret-players mechanics (such as found in games like Werewolf or Secret Hitler) with the large-scale interaction of a megagame. Players represent government officials, police, and ordinary citizens (upper class bankers and lawyers; middle class managers and shopkeepers; and lower class clerks, waiters, utility workers, railway employees, and the unemployed). Some of the government employees and ordinary citizens are secret insurgents as well, while others are secret police agents. Each player has a certain amount of money and white (population) chips, and some players also have blue (police) chips or red (arms and bombs) chips. Play is continuous, with every 20 minutes representing a “day,”

URB-COIN was one of a series of POL-MIL wargames developed for ARPA at this time, including AGILE-COIN (a rural insurgency game) and POLITICA. These games had some value for training and encouraging critical reflection on issues of insurgency/counter-insurgency, but cannot really be thought of as sophisticated analytical tools, and never saw widespread use. In a January 1966 playtest of URB-COIN at the US Air Force Academy, 60% of participants rated it “better” than other training techniques, with the greatest value being the exploration “alternative tactical and strategic approaches.”

The Abt Associates report on URB-COIN can be found (for free) here, via the Defense Technical Information Center. The History of Wargaming Project publication is essentially a reprint of that same report, together with a foreword, a brief discussion of other counterinsurgency games, and a bibliography.

Crisis in South East Europe 2023

Scenario-156x234mm-WEBBack in May, the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London published a Crisis in South East Europe 2023 scenario for use in wargames, table-top exercises and classroom simulations (link).

The scenario was designed to provide a means through which to think through the potential impact of disruptive technologies, such as missile defence, on any future integrated conflict involving NATO and Russia and, by direct implication, on strategic stability in Europe and the evolution of the wider international security environment. Importantly, the scenario also provides the basis for a more general consideration of how crises and integrated, all-domain conflict between NATO and Russia could potentially evolve in southeast Europe.

The southeast Europe scenario was the second of two scenarios developed by Ivanka Barzashka for a project examining how missile defences may affect nuclear deterrence and stability in the evolving strategic environment. Project adviser Ivan Oelrich and King’s doctoral researchers Johan Elg and Marion Messmer contributed to the scenario’s intelligence reports. The project was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York under its initiative to explore disruptive technologies and nuclear stability.

The scenarios key assumptions are:

  1. By 2023, the United States, Russia and NATO have all acknowledged a new era of strategic competition involving major powers.
  2. Global economic growth has enabled increases in defence spending and military modernisation.
  3. Six years of “America first” have produced intended results in the form of improved military readiness and morale, and new military capabilities for both the US and its allies.
  4. Russia has pursued a course consistent with its current security strategy and military doctrine and has met its stated armaments targets.
  5. NATO has continued to adapt and strengthen deterrence and defence against Russia beyond the 2016 Warsaw Summit decisions.
  6. Ukraine has continued on a pro-Western path and has modernised its military, resulting in a renewed ambition to regain control of “occupied territories”.
  7. Turkey has had an ambivalent relationship with the West: support for NATO, opposition toward specific NATO member policies and closer cooperation with Russia.
  8. New advanced conventional capabilities, cyber offence and counter-space weapons have been fielded by all sides.
  9. The US, NATO and Russia have made no major changes to nuclear capabilities beyond current plans, but the INF Treaty and New START are no longer in play.
  10. The US and NATO seek protection against Russian cruise and ballistic missile threats to Europe and make progress in deploying those capabilities.

Including in the package are briefing and background materials for the United States, NATO, and Russian teams. The scenario package does not provide rules or procedures for running the scenario—that is up to you.

h/t Ivanka Barzashka

 

UPDATE: Need a map so you can run this as a matrix game, using the Matrix Game Construction Kit? Tom Mouat has kindly provided one for the Ukraine (pdf):

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A tiled version can be found here.

AFTERSHOCK and MaGCK availability from The Game Crafter

TGClogo_circle_400x400.jpgFrom time to time, The Game Crafter runs short on some game components for AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game or the Matrix Game Construction Kit. If so, click the “email me when I can buy” button on the TGC order page to be notified when the game is shipping once again.

In the case of AFTERSHOCK, an alternative components version is also available. This is exactly the same game, but with slightly different pieces. It’s just as good at the original—game play is not affected by the substitutions.

If you are absolutely desperate for a copy, email me—I often have a few copies in reserve.

 

 

Avoiding the “resource curse” in Petronia

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Extractive industries can be an important part of the economy in developing countries, providing substantial export earnings and employment. However, oil and other mineral wealth can also come at a cost: royalties can be siphoned off by corruption; mineral rights might be allocated through murky processes, mired with bribery and other illicit influence; exports might cause overvaluation of the national currency (“Dutch disease”), stunting other industries; environmental degradation might be overlooked; and state revenues may be used to finance repression and patronage politics (“rentierism”), dimming the prospects for democracy. Collectively this is often referred to as the resource curse.

The National Governance Resource Institute has created an online educational game to explore these issues: Petronia.

NRGI is proud to announce the arrival of Petronia, an interactive online course unlike any other in the resource governance field, where learners can “play” at influencing resource governance outcomes in a simulated context.

More than any other NRGI resource to date, Petronia makes learning about resource governance fun and interactive with dynamic animations and a close focus on learning through roleplaying and gamification. It is ideal for online learners with limited background in the field, but a desire to understand key issues.

The course explores the policy challenges in the Republic of Petronia, a fictional developing country that has made a potentially game-changing oil discovery. Learners join a team of experts deployed to advise the country’s policy-makers in a series of missions exploring different aspects of resource governance over time. Learners build their knowledge of the technical issues while developing an understanding of the different perspectives and complex trade-offs of managing resource wealth for development.

Learners not only think and reflect about policy choices in Petronia, they can also “do” by consulting stakeholders, analyzing government and international data, and developing recommendations with their team. We hope this “serious gaming” aspect will appeal to both adult and youth learners alike.

In the game, the newly-elected President of Petronia and her team of advisors must decide how to address current and future development of the oil sector. Much of it is “click and be told information or be given things to read” variety, which is then followed by periodic quizzes. Players get few (if any) chances to make meaningful choices that impact game play, so it’s all rather more like an instructional video than a game, with a lot of clicking things/sliding things/reading along the way. That will work with some audiences, but I suspect that others (many university students, most development professionals) will find it a somewhat fiddly and time-consuming way of accessing information and insight.

In this regard, I think that Mission Zhobia (previously reviewed at PAXsims) did a better job of harnessing the strengths of a game-based approach to development education. Still, the National Governance Resource Institute are to be praised for their innovative effort. The supporting materials in the simulation are also very good, and players will learn much if they read them.

You’ll find an article on Petronia here, from the The Economist.

h/t Rory Aylward

Iranian Ambition matrix game

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From the ever-prolific Tim Price comes yet another matrix game scenario: Iranian Ambition (pdf).

Iranian Ambition.jpgThe ongoing crisis between Israel and Iran escalated when Israeli jets struck dozens of Iranian targets in neighbouring Syria recently. The strikes came after a rocket attack against Israeli forces in the Golan Heights, which the Israeli military said was from Iranian forces. Israel retaliated and destroyed “nearly all” of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria, according to Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

It should be noted that much of the Golan Heights are Syrian territory but have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. The Syrian Government in Damascus also asserts that, as a sovereign country, it has a clear right in international law to host forces from Iran or any other country if it so wishes

The package is  includes basic briefing materials, an introduction to playing matrix games, and a print-and-play map and counters.

Those who wish to develop and play matrix games might also be interested in the Matrix Game Construction Kit (MaGCK), developed by PAXsims with the support of the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

 

MaGCK

Israel-Hizbullah matrix game (beta)

Lebanon map.jpgA few people have asked me for this, so here it is: the current beta version of an Israel-Hizbullah matrix game. This game was first developed as part of a matrix game design session at Dstl, and revised versions were then played at both Connections UK and McGill University.

The “narrative cards” mentioned in the scenario are not included. These are simply pictures of conflict (destruction, the human cost, political figures, etc) that players may incorporate into matrix arguments. You can easily generate your own with pictures found online, or dispense with the game mechanism altogether.

The current version of the game features three players: Israel, Hizbullah, and the Lebanese government (with the latter drawing a card each turn to determine which political faction the player represents). The original version of the game had a civilian player too—it remains an interesting idea, but players assigned to that role found it a bit dull.

The game has two parts to it: a pre-war game, during which Israel and Hizbullah invest in capabilities that might give them an edge, and a wartime game, where the conflict is fought out. During the latter the IDF will certainly secure a military victory measured in narrowly military terms, but the real issue is political framing: who is seen to have won? Thus the primary metric is domestic political support, modified by one final matrix game argument at the end. The original version used a victory point system, but having it hinge on political support and end-of-game arguments better captures the indeterminacy of those sort of confrontation.

The scenario assumes that you have access to a copy of the Matrix Game Construction Kit (MaGCK) for the game materials. if you don’t, however, it is easy enough to make up suitable markers yourself.

The scenario also assumes that you know how to run a matrix game. If you’ve never used the technique before, you will want to read the MaGCK User Guide to learn the technique (available as a pdf via The Game Crafter).

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As noted above, this is only a beta version and the scenario is still being developed. Feedback is welcome, and I will post any updated versions here as they become available.

 

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