PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: simulation and gaming miscellany

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 23 June 2020

PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers.

Many thanks to Aaron Danis, Arnel David, David Dockter, Jeremy Sepinsky, and James Sterrett for suggesting material for this latest update.

The list of signatories to the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional (war)gaming continues to grow, with the Georgetown University Wargaming Society and LBS Consultancy Ltd  among our most recent supporters.

The North American Simulation and Gaming Association has also issued a statement on fairness and equality in gaming, including the establishment of a Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship Fund. You can read their full statement here.

Meanwhile, Girls’ Game Shelf features a thoughtful piece by Fertessa Scott on the barriers marginalized players face in (hobby) gaming, and how allies can help address these.

At War on the Rocks, Jim Golby argues that if you want better strategists you should teach more social science in professional military education:

America needs better strategists. And if that wasn’t clear enough from the past two decades of U.S. strategy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s new vision and guidance statement for professional military education brings this need into focus.

This clarity provides a welcome and necessary change and should drive reform. Unfortunately, proposals to fix professional military education often begin with one’s preferred methods. James Lacey’s recent essay, for example, suggests the new vision “demands large increases in the use of history-based case studies” despite the fact that the Joint Chiefs use the word “history” only twice in their 11-page document. In my reading, the guidance is far less prescriptive.

Perhaps my proposal is merely a reflection of my own biases as well. Even if this argument merely reflects my view as a trained political scientist, however, this perspective has not yet been well articulated. In this essay, I make the case for why social science education should provide the core of a professional military education program aimed at developing strategically-minded officers. I also identify where social science falls short in the unique task of educating joint warfighters and I discuss why and how it should be supplemented and adapted to advance the vision of the Joint Chiefs.

In order to bridge the gap between theoretical and applied social science, Golby suggests (among other things) the use of serious games:

While lectures and seminar discussions may sometimes still be required to achieve certain learning objectives, professional military education should expand the use of experiential learning. Workshops, wargames, simulations, and practical exercises should form the core pedagogical approaches to applying social scientific methods in strategic interactions. Iterative exercises can present novel scenarios or historical cases involving multiple actors with different values and interests. Making military officers apply social scientific methods, practice the strategic process, and adapt strategic plans is the best way to help them develop the skills they need.

The latest issue of the Military Operations Research Society journal Phalanx (June 2020) contains a piece by Barney Rubel on “being ready to capture unexpected insights from wargames.”

This article is about exploiting wargaming, already an invaluable tool, much more fully than we do today. By their nature, wargames can be a sandbox for stimulating new ideas, trying out impulses when there is no cost of failure, and especially for allowing critical insights to emerge. These insights may be overlooked in the course of daily business. You might say they lie latent in many of the thoughts and ideas we consider. Wargames allow those latent ideas, which may be the most important ideas, to emerge into plain view. What’s more, wargames can be designed with that in mind. My purpose is to note and illustrate these points, and to encourage wargame design intended to foster emergence of those latent ideas.

At the Mad Scientist blog, Arnel David and Aaron Moore of UK Fight Club discuss how digital wargames will help to develop the skills of an emerging generation of Army officers.

The schedule for (virtual) Games for Change 2020 is now available.

There are several few podcasts and videos to watch or listen to in this latest PAXsims update:

Becca Wasser has joined CNAS as a Fellow in their Defense Program:

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is pleased to announce that Becca Wasser has joined CNAS as a Fellow in the Defense program. Ms. Wasser’s research areas include wargaming, force posture and management, and U.S. defense strategy.

“I am thrilled to welcome Becca to CNAS,” said Susanna V. Blume, Director of the Defense program. “Becca is a top-notch analyst, approaching her work with rigor, creativity, and inclusivity. She is a rising star in the defense community and we are delighted to offer her a platform to build on her already strong track record.”

Prior to joining CNAS, Ms. Wasser was a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. In that role, she designed and led wargames for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and U.S. Army, and led research projects exploring critical national security and defense issues for the DoD, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Department of State. She also served as a liaison to U.S. Army HQDA G-3/5/7. Previously, she was a research analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), based jointly in Washington, D.C. and Manama, Bahrain.

In addition to her role at CNAS, Ms. Wasser is an adjunct instructor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where she teaches an undergraduate course on wargaming. She holds an M.S. in foreign service, with distinction, from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a B.A. in international and global studies and Islamic and Middle Eastern studies from Brandeis University.

According to Rock Paper Shotgun, the video game This War of Mine is going to be added to Polish high school optional reading lists.

Students in Poland could soon play This War Of Mine as part of their education, as developers 11-Bit Studios today announced the grim survival game set in a war-torn city will be on next year’s school reading list. It’ll be recommended for those studying sociology, ethics, philosophy, and history, and will be available free to schools. While schools have used games for years, it’s pretty neat for a game to get so formally recognised – and such a non-edutainment game.

This War Of Mine is about civilians trying to survive in an unnamed besieged city, supply lines cut off by the military outside. You need to scavenge for food, medicine, and other supplies, try to build a cosy-ish home, survive bandits and soldiers alike, and face difficult decisions about how many people you can save and how far you’ll go. It’s a bit grim.

The games was reviewed for PAXsims by James Sterrett back in 2014.

The Intercept breathlessly reports that the Pentagon wargamed a Gen-Z rebellion:

Documents obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act reveal that a Pentagon war game, called the 2018 Joint Land, Air and Sea Strategic Special Program, or JLASS, offered a scenario in which members of Generation Z, driven by malaise and discontent, launch a “Zbellion” in America in the mid-2020s.

The Zbellion plot was a small part of JLASS 2018, which also featured scenarios involving Islamist militants in Africa, anti-capitalist extremists, and ISIS successors. The war game was conducted by students and faculty from the U.S. military’s war colleges, the training grounds for prospective generals and admirals. While it is explicitly not a national intelligence estimate, the war game, which covers the future through early 2028, is “intended to reflect a plausible depiction of major trends and influences in the world regions,” according to the more than 200 pages of documents.

According to the scenario, many members of Gen Z — psychologically scarred in their youth by 9/11 and the Great Recession, crushed by college debt, and disenchanted with their employment options — have given up on their hopes for a good life and believe the system is rigged against them. Here’s how the origins of the uprising are described:

Both the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Great Recession greatly influenced the attitudes of this generation in the United states, and resulted in a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity among Gen Z. Although Millennials experienced these events during their coming of age, Gen Z lived through them as part of their childhood, affecting their realism and world view … many found themselves stuck with excessive college debt when they discovered employment options did not meet their expectations. Gen Z are often described as seeking independence and opportunity but are also among the least likely to believe there is such a thing as the “American Dream,” and that the “system is rigged” against them. Frequently seeing themselves as agents for social change, they crave fulfillment and excitement in their job to help “move the world forward.” Despite the technological proficiency they possess, Gen Z actually prefer person-to-person contact as opposed to online interaction. They describe themselves as being involved in their virtual and physical communities, and as having rejected excessive consumerism.

In early 2025, a cadre of these disaffected Zoomers launch a protest movement. Beginning in “parks, rallies, protests, and coffee shops” — first in Seattle; then New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; and Austin — a group known as Zbellion begins a “global cyber campaign to expose injustice and corruption and to support causes it deem[s] beneficial.”

During face-to-face recruitment, would-be members of Zbellion are given instructions for going to sites on the dark web that allow them to access sophisticated malware to siphon funds from corporations, financial institutions, and nonprofits that support “the establishment.” The gains are then converted to Bitcoin and distributed to “worthy recipients” including fellow Zbellion members who claim financial need. Zbellion leadership, says the scenario, assures its members that their Robin Hood-esque wealth redistribution is not only untraceable by law enforcement but “ultimately justifiable,” as targets are selected based on “secure polling” of “network delegates.” Although its origins are American, by the latter 2020s, Zbellion activities are also occurring across Europe and cities throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, including Nairobi, Kenya; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Amman, Jordan.

It’s actually a rather minor part of the operations setting for a future scenario, but makes for interesting reading.

Norwegian archaeologists have unearthed a 1,700 year old copy of the Roman boardgame Ludus latrunculorum. If you don’t read Norwegian you’ll have to read about it at the Daily Mail.

Pixy Games UK features a useful discussion on accommodating colour blindness in game design. This chart, posted to Twitter by Cog 5 Games, is also very handy.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 27 May 2020

PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (or not-so-serious) gaming that might be of interest to our readers.

Recently we published a piece by Caitlyn Leong (Georgetown University Wargaming Society) on “How to raise a wargamer.” In addition to thoughtful responses from Jeremy Sepinsky, David Redpath, and John Curry in the comments sections to that article, Brant Guillory has also written a piece of his own at Armchair Dragoons.

Ms Leong rightly points out that there is a lack of a clear glidepath for prospective entrants into the professional wargaming field.  The idea of ‘dumb luck’playing an overarching role in the identification, selection, and development of wargamers is, quite frankly, silly, especially for an undertaking of such significance in the national security space.  And yet, here we are, after decades of knowing the value of professional wargaming, still just muddling along and happy when we find a good success story like hers.

What’s wrong with us?
(OK, let’s be honest, we don’t have that much time.)

What’s wrong with us that we can’t figure out a better process for identifying and developing aspiring professional wargamers, and alter the ‘inverted pyramid‘ to something both less-inverted, and less-pyramid-y?  And maybe shake up the color scheme and the gender combination while we’re at it.  

Well, frankly, one significant thing wrong with us is, well… us.

At the Atlantic Council blog, the issue of wargaming cybersecurity and statecraft is discussed by five experts: Maria-Kristina Hayden (global head of cyber wargames & awareness, The Bank of New York Mellon), Andreas Haggman (cyber security skills policy lead, UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport), Nina Kollars (nonresident fellow, Cyber Statecraft Initiative; associate professor of the Strategic and Operational Research Department and core faculty member, Cyber and Innovation Policy Institute, Naval War College), Jacquelyn Schneider (Hoover fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; nonresident fellow, Cyber and Innovation Policy Institute, Naval War College), and John Watts (senior fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security).

The Marine Corps Association Gazette (June 2020) contains an article by David Emmel on “Who’s Got Game? The use of wargames to enhance the learner-centric experience.”

In his July 2019 Commandant’s Planning Guidance, Gen David H. Berger placed special emphasis on increasing the Corps’ wargaming capability, noting that it is “essential to charting our course in an era of strategic fluidity and rapid change.” “Our problem,” he observed, “is not that we are not doing wargaming … but that we have not effectively harnessed this ef- fort into an integrated process of learning.” In response, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College (CSC) has spent the past academic year inte- grating competitive wargaming into all aspects of the curriculum. 

At the US Army War College War Room, Damien O’Connell discusses Marine Corps recruiting and gaming in a COVID-19 world.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on U.S. military recruiting. In March 2020, the Army shuttered its recruiting stations across the country, moving all efforts online. Since then, the Army has resumed in-person recruiting, but with added restrictions and in low-risk areas only. The Navy, Air Force, and Marines have also closed many of their recruiting offices. Recent epidemiological models and medical experts suggest that the U.S. will grapple with COVID-19 for the next 12-18 months, until there is a widely-available vaccine. Other experts, however, find that estimate far too optimistic. For the near future, recruiters must severely limit close contact with prospective recruits. All of the services, therefore, have made digital recruiting their main focus. And although the Army was down 5,500 recruiting contracts in April, it appears to have had significant success with its efforts in—wait for it—video games. Indeed, Army leaders claim that games have generated “a ton of leads.” The Navy and Air Force have also embraced digital games as recruiting tools. The Marine Corps, however, has not.

The Corps has been hit hard by the pandemic, due to losing out on its traditional emphasis on “kneecap-to kneecap” recruiting pitches. Recent science and marketing research support the use of games as recruiting tools, and the Marine Corps should embrace them in the short term, looking to the other services’ gaming strategies as useful models. The Marine Corps should take the opportunity of pandemic-disrupted recruiting procedures to rethink and retool its strategic recruiting plan to better adapt to long-term shifts in American society.

At War on the Rocks, James Lacey says the US military is “finally getting serious about professional military education.”

Two years ago, much of the professional military education community was startled by the National Defense Strategy’s declaration that its wares had stagnated and that the community had lost focus on lethality and ingenuity. This month, the Joint Chiefs of Staff responded with a new vision and guidance statement for professional military education: Developing Today’s Joint Officers for Tomorrow’s Ways of War. As the document is signed by each service chief, it neatly erases tensions between what the Joint Chiefs as a corporate body believe is necessary to educate officers capable of leading in a joint environment and each individual chief’s responsibility to educate officers within their own services. Most crucially, the new vision signals that the services are “all in” on the need to reform professional military education.

Take a moment to consider the implications of this “buy-in.”

The Joint Chiefs are not only agreeing that professional military education has stagnated but also boldly stating the system is not currently optimized to give them what they need to win future wars. In perusing the document, it becomes clear that the Joint Chiefs are casting almost all the blame for this failure at senior-level professional military education. This valuation is probably an on-target assessment, as — for over seven decades — the U.S. military has won nearly every tactical battle it has fought without translating this battlefield acumen into the strategic results desired by policymakers.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 14 May 2020

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PAXsims is pleased to offer some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) games that may be of interest to our readers.

Patrick Ruestchmann suggested material for this latest edition. Do you now of anything we might include? Pass it on!


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At Inkstick, Christopher Dougherty suggests that “It’s Time to Rethink Our Wargames.”

National security practitioners held several high-profile pandemic wargames and exercises in the years prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. Often, these games eerily predicted events in the current pandemic, along with the policy hurdles the government has faced. Instead of serving as a clarion call for preparedness or guiding the response, however, these games have become an ironic historical footnote.

What lessons should the wargaming and policy communities take from this experience? Games have a proven record of helping people think through “wicked problems” such as counterinsurgencies, major wars, greatpower competition, or pandemics. But this beneficial effect only occurs if policymakers and organizations can access, absorb, and act on the insights and lessons they provide.

I’ve been on multiple sides of this problem, as a wargamer, player, analyst, advisor, and strategist. This hybrid experience has given me multiple lenses to examine wargaming’s role in policymaking. It also forced me to grapple with the tensions between achieving research objectives, respecting wargaming’s strengths and limitations, and informing policy.

I want to emphasize that this is not a critique of the pandemic games or their designers. I use them as an example of how even well-designed games on crucial topics may not have the desired policy impact if their insights fail to reach key policymakers or influence their thinking.

The purpose is to start a conversation on how the wargaming community can ensure that our oft-prescient work has the policy impact we desire. Informing policy requires embracing what makes wargaming unique: people and the stories we tell.

He makes several excellent points, among them:

Wargamers need to increase participation by making games more accessible. We need to shorten them, even if that requires greater abstraction in game design. Exceptional players are exceptional personnel, which means their time is in demand. A full day of gaming is difficult, and three days is virtually impossible. We need to maximize engagement during play and create flexibility to get work done during breaks. We need to increase our ability to run remote games, and not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It reduces travel costs, thereby increasing participation.

We need to increase the diversity of players and make sure all players are heard. Wargaming has a reputation as being dominated by the male (hence the origin of the phrase BOGSAT), and the pale. For example, women have been central in building RAND’s wargaming practice and fostering a new generation of women gamers, but this remains an exception. Wargaming should be a welcoming community that prioritizes the thought over the thinker, but games often fail to attract women or people of color. My experience further suggests that some of these players struggle to be heard amidst defense leaders more accustomed to executing plans than encouraging deliberation among diverse viewpoints.

We also need to increase the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives at our games. Most wargames exist within the defense ecosystem, but warfare tends to escape organizational shackles.

There’s much more beside. Go read it!

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RAND Review features a Q&A with Yuna Wong on serious games.

Policy researcher Yuna Wong is serious about games. Recently named codirector of the Center for Gaming, she has designed and run wargames to study national defense policy, Marine Corps operations, and the dangers of putting too much trust in artificial intelligence. She wrote her Ph.D. dissertation at the Pardee RAND Graduate School on how to better model the behaviors of noncombatants when simulating urban military operations.

She didn’t expect to make gaming a focus of her career. She studied political science, then worked as an operations research analyst for the Marines. She was at a conference when she saw what she describes as BOGGSATs—a Bunch of Guys and Gals Sitting Around Tables —playing a wargame. “They were a particular type of geek that I felt very comfortable with,” she says.

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Back on March 16, Robert Richbourg, June Rodriguez, David M. Gohlich, and James N. Bexfield wrote about “Supporting Joint Warfighting With Mission-Level Simulations” in War on the Rocks.

Simulations are one of the few secure, cost-effective resources for realistically testing U.S. military operations that are needed to deter its competitors. The United States has access to many computer simulation capabilities. However, when it comes to planning multi-service operations, multiple simulations are rarely integrated. Instead, simulations are exercised individually. Output of one simulation becomes, to the extent possible, input to the next.

Finding the right mix of simulation tools for campaign-level and mission-level operations is paramount for defense planners. One size will not suffice. Too much detail can be as unhelpful as too little. Combining simulations that differ by the level of forces they represent is analogous to using road maps of differing scale: long-distance road trip planning calls for a wide-area map with major highways, but eventually higher-resolution maps are necessary to navigate to a precise address. Both sets of maps together present a viable, end-to-end route.

How can the Defense Department make the most of campaign- and mission-level simulations? Since the military doesn’t have much experience or data from large-scale operations to simulate multi-domain operations, defense professionals should integrate system models from all of the services andthe intelligence community into a highly detailed representation of a complete joint environment. Given security concerns, it’s not surprising that live exercise opportunities to explore existing multi-domain operations are limited. However, while using simulations to explore difficult problems is a viable alternative, it is also more easily said than done.

Simulation remains America’s best approach to examine future military operations. It not only offers a risk-free venue for testing new concepts, but also enables exploring large-scale defensive or offensive operations with advantages like maintaining secrecy and not provoking adversaries. Three important lessons from past simulation program failures, seemingly obvious in hindsight, could help the military going forward…..

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WotRAlso in War on the Rocks in March, Jennifer Mcardle, Thomas Kehr, and Gene Colabatistto discussed “Pandemics And The Future Of Military Training.” Part of the answer? Video games.

One simple remedy may be to double down on what the troops already know, love, and likely will be doing anyway during the pandemic — video gaming. Indeed, the military has a long history of leveraging the gaming proclivities of warfighters to its advantage. From the Marine Corps’ 1996 modification of Doom, to the Army’s creation of first-person shooter game America’s Army, and more recent use of an Army esports competition team, video games have emerged as a key avenue for military recruitment, community engagement, and training. As the coronavirus deepens its global reach, the military can deploy training virtually at the point-of-need to help maintain troop readiness.

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In March, the Center for a New American Security ran a wargame examining looking at airpower in the context of a China-Taiwan war in 2030. Christopher Dougherty (CNAS) tweeted about what happened.

You’ll find a detailed account on his Twitter feed.

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Voting is now open for the 2019 Charles S. Roberts wargaming awards.

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The Australian Crisis Simulation Summit will take place (virtually) in September 2020.

In September 2020, sixty of Australia’s future national security leaders will gather for a 5 day national security Summit. The program will include three intense, realistic and challenging crisis simulations, a national security careers and networking day, and live, interactive panel discussions with the people and institutions who play a key role in shaping national security discourse in Australia.

In an effort to mitigate the risk posed to students by COVID-19, the Summit will be headquartered at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra and via the latest virtual conference technologies, delegates will be able to participate in the Summit from the comfort of their homes. The nation’s capital provides unique access to leading figures in Australia’s national security space. We’re working closely with leading academics at the ANU, our Patron, Admiral (Ret.) Chris Barrie, AC, Former Chief of the Australian Defence Force, and the Department of Defence to deliver the Summit.

Students will develop the skills the next generation of Australian leaders need to tackle the inevitable challenges of the 21st Century. Students will leave with a greater understanding of the intricacies of Australia’s foreign and defence policy challenges, a network of potential employers and connections to people with similar passions and career ambitions.

You’ll find an interview with the law students behind it here in Lawyers’ Weekly.

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Earlier this month, James Batchelor of Gamesindustry.biz asked “Can video games depict war responsibly?

Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Victory in Europe, the day we celebrate the end of World War 2.

It’s a conflict that continues to be explored through video games, but as the medium matures, its depiction of war — any war — and the way it allows players to engage with it come under further scrutiny.

The likes of Medal of Honor, Battlefield, and Call of Duty have long since established that video games can recreate the Hollywood version of military conflict, with an emphasis on spectacle and action, but do these and other titles treat war as respectfully as they should?

“What is ‘respectful’ is subjective,” says Joe Brammer, CEO of Battalion 1944 developer Bulkhead Interactive. “I’d argue most World War 2 games that are released aren’t doing it to be respectful, they’re generally marketed in the same way: ‘honour, glory, heroes.’

“It’s kind of a nod [of respect], but none of these games are trying to be respectful or proactively trying to be an ‘anti-war’ game like The Hurt Locker, an anti-war movie that still delivered the same action experience as a war movie… Since the ’40s, we’ve all had it embedded into us in the UK and United States that this was a glorious moment. We’re trained to think that.”

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Here’s a blast from the past–a 1991 article in Shadis Magazine by none other than Chris Engle on role-playing with matrix games.

Matrix Games in Shadis Magazine #06 (dragged)

Simulation and gaming miscellany, Valentine’s Day 2020 edition

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No one loves conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) games more than us here at PAXsims, so here is a selection of recent items that may be of interest to our readers.

We have been a bit slow in posting recently because some of us have been busy preparing for the Connections North conference tomorrow and the ATLANTIC RIM McGill megagame on Sunday. Full reports will follow, of course!

Scott Cooper, Aaron Danis, and Mark Jones Jr. suggested material for this latest edition. We often repost stuff we first see on Brian Train’s Ludic Futurism blog too. See something interesting we might include in future miscellany? Let us know!

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RED HORIZON: Force and Diplomacy in Eurasia is an immersive global crisis exercise incubated at the Negotiation Task Force of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University. It will take place 4-6 December 2020.

RED HORIZON provides seasoned and emerging leaders from national security, academia, and industry with a unique training space to push their negotiation and decision-making skills to the next level.

You will be assigned to a team (U.S., China, Russia, or NATO) and receive a confidential briefing that outlines your objectives. Your realistic actor profile is created from data-driven research, informed by political trends across the Eurasian sphere and the Indo-Pacific. You conclude the exercise with a scenario debrief led by Negotiation Task Force experts.

​Upon completion of the three-day workshop, you will receive an official Certificate of Completion issued by the Negotiation Task Force of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University.

Registration is not yet open, but you can find additional details at their website.

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The US Naval War College website features an interview with Shawn Burns on their “war-gaming fundamentals” course.

For the sixth year, the U.S. Naval War College is holding a war game fundamentals course to teach the war-gaming skills that the college uses to help decision-makers shape the future Navy.

War-gaming is a time-honored role of the college, founded in 1884 as a place of teaching and research on naval issues. Currently, the college’s War Gaming Department, under the umbrella of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies, will conduct as many as eight major war games this fiscal year on behalf of the Navy and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Professor Shawn Burns sat down to discuss the Jan. 13-17 war-gaming fundamentals course, one of the rare War Gaming Department activities in the year that is unclassified. A retired Marine Corps helicopter pilot, Burns is director of the course. He also literally wrote the book on war-gaming, a slim volume called “War Gamers’ Handbook, A Guide for Professional War Gamers.”

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In Time magazine, Simon Parkin discusses the important work of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit during World War II.

Using the floor as a giant board, the Western Approaches Tactical Unit, or WATU, would design a game that approximated a wolfpack attack on a convoy in the Atlantic. One team would play as the escort commanders, the other as the U-boat captains. They would take turns to make their moves, firing torpedoes, dropping depth charges, the U-boats diving and surfacing to make their attacks, the escort ships wheeling around in great arcs as each side hunted the other.

These games would be based on real battles that occurred at sea to allow participants to see why the escort commanders acted the way that they did, and whether they might have lost fewer convoy ships and sunk more U-boats had they done things differently….

His book A Game of Birds and Wolves went on sale in the US last month.

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ABC News reports that three months before the current 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, researchers simulated a global pandemic:

It began in healthy looking pigs: a new coronavirus, spreading insidiously within herds.

Farmers were the first to fall victim, succumbing to respiratory illnesses, ranging from mild, flu-like symptoms to severe pneumonia.

Flights were cancelled as the world’s sharpest minds searched in vain for a vaccine.

But it was too late. Within six months, the virus had spread around the globe. A year later, 65 million people were dead.

Unlike the most recent coronavirus outbreak, however, you probably haven’t heard of this pandemic.

That’s because it was all a simulation — developed some three months before Wuhan, China became the epicentre of a global crisis.

You can out more about the Event 201 pandemic crisis simulation at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security website.

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The Marine Corps offers an update on its “invigorated approach to wargaming” in the Marine Corps Gazette:

…the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL) is aggressively leaning into modernizing its wargaming tools, enhancing near-term capabilities, and working with Marine Corps Systems Command to develop the future Wargaming Center capabilities. This will be a multi-year effort.

In the near term, our wargaming efforts are focused on meeting assessment requirements associated with the Commandant’s new force design. The fiscal year 2020 wargame program was adjusted to orient completely on force design within the context of specified scenarios….

To support these multiple wargaming efforts, MCWL is developing a set of new tools to apply to both wargaming and analysis. It is important to note, given wargaming’s emphasis on human decision making, there remains a role for table-top wargames that enable rapid player orientation and situational awareness, flexible execution, swift adjudication, and immersive matrixed discussions. In the past, the Wargaming Division lacked a standard table-top wargaming system. During this past year, a new system called the Operation- al Wargame System was developed and was used to support the General Officer Warfighting Program and the Pacific Surprise wargame executed in October 2019….

Table-top wargames by themselves are insufficient to meet analytic require- ments. Computer-based wargames and M&S tools capitalize on computing power and databases to deliver greater wargaming rigor and quantitative analysis. Flexible and adaptable wargames that leverage the latest technology and populated with authoritative data are needed. In the near term, both the Wargaming Division and Krulak Center are leveraging the commercial wargame Command Professional Edition as a computer-based wargame tool to enhance the rigor behind testing player decisions and to deliver quantitative outputs….

These tools are available today. However, the Marine Corps has its sights set on making a revolutionary step forward in wargaming tools and analysis capabilities. In his planning guidance, the Commandant put a stake in the ground on building a new Marine Corps Wargaming Center…. This Wargaming Center will dra-matically expand the Marine Corps’ wargaming staff from around 20 to over 150. It will also merge wargaming and operations analysis associated with future force development and operations plan assessment into one organization.

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Red Powell—who, in addition to being a Captain and currently attending the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, is an avid and very successful Warhammer 40K player—discusses serious wargaming with the folks at the Armchair Dragoon.

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At the Conversations with Tyler podcast, Reid Hoffman discusses how wargames helped develop his appreciation for strategy and tactics more broadly.

When Reid Hoffman creates a handle for some new network or system, his usual choice is “Quixotic.” At an early age, his love of tabletop games inspired him to think of life as a heroic journey, where people come together in order to accomplish lofty things. This framing also prompted him to consider the rules and systems that guide society — and how you might improve them by identifying key points of leverage.

At first, he thought he’d become an academic and work with ideas as one of those Archimedean levers. But he ended up focusing on technology instead, helping to build PayPal, LinkedIn, and now many other ventures as an investor at Greylock Partners. But he still thinks ideas are important and tries to employ a “full toolset” when trying to shift systems.

PAXsims

At the end of last year, wargame designer Harold Buchanan posted a list of the 11 most influential wargame designs of the past decade. Here it is.

PAXsims

At the Conducttr blog, Robert Pratten suggests that you “ditch crisis exercises with PowerPoint.” He makes a short but terrific analogy, so I’m going to post the entire thing (emphasis added):

Crisis management exercises with PowerPoint will only get you so far. Let me explain.

Watch out for pedestrians. It’s an obvious precaution but illustrates there’s more to driving a car than physical mastery of the pedals.

I was late 16 when dad taught me to drive in Asda’s car park in Beckton. It was always late at night – no cars, no people – and always no ice and no rain.

By the time I took my first lesson on a proper road, I could already control the car but developing a road sense has taken a lifetime of driving on real roads in real conditions. That’s why insurance for young drivers is so high and why crisis exercises with PowerPoint won’t prepare you for real-world conditions.

Driving with an instructor is not like driving in real life. Especially when you’re a teenager in East Ham and driving means your first taste of freedom: laughing so hard with mates that you’re fighting to see through tears, changing cassette tapes on the move and shouting out the window to people on the pavement you recognise. All these real-world, real-life distractions and stresses have everything to do with being a safe pair of hands behind the wheel and very little to do with passing the driving test.

Think about this when you prepare for your next crisis exercise with Powerpoint. If you want to build a team you can trust then your exercises need to be realistic – you need to inject adventure and you need to be simulating real-world conditions. Simulation stimulates deep learning whereas crisis management exercises with PowerPoint can only muster surface learning at best.

If you’re still doing crisis exercises using only PowerPoint then you’re still in Asda’s car park. 

PAXsims

Playing Oppression is a forthcoming book by Mary Flanagan and Mikael Jakobsson, to be published by MIT Press.

What does the history of colonialism-themed board games look like, and what can it tell us about the situation today? What does it mean to present these historical moments in such a lavish form and then let these artifacts serve as centerpieces to gather around for social interaction at board game cafes, meetups, and conventions? By bringing in the history and materiality of the playing activity into critical readings of these games, the authors offer a new perspective on the narratives that are being simulated and reenacted and the casting of player into colonialist roles.

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In service to the forthcoming book, Playing Oppression, we have been playing various board games which use colonialist themes. As of April 2019, we have played over 150 titles and our collection has grown to over 250 board games, card games, party games, and war games that depict colonialist themes. The title for this project comes from an idea that euro games offer some of the excitement of the periods they depict (sails, discovery, heroism, fame, and fortune) but not too much through their gameplay and physical pieces, by hiding the bloody end of the sword and only engaging with foreign cultures as passive representations that can be neatly sorted into a box between plays.

Creating Counter-Colonial Games

As part of our research, we have engaged in workshops with people from the lands in which these colonial games take place, as a means to unpack the colonialist endeavor and place it in context to games’ representation of these cultures and issues of importance to modern members of these cultures. Workshops follow action research and participatory design methodologies. The focus of these workshops is to encourage participants game design practices, provide methods they can take away for use in their own work, and to inform our understanding of issues resulting from colonialist practices.

You will find more on the project at the MIT Game Lab.

PAXsims

On a somewhat similar subject, at Vice Matthew Gault discusses How Tabletop RPGs Are Being Reclaimed From Bigots and Jerks.

When tabletop role-playing game developer Evil Hat Productions announced it had included a content warning on page six of its recently released Fate of Cthulhu game. Many folks praised Evil Hat, but there was also the now predictable tide of hateful bullshit.

Fate of Cthulhu is an RPG where players take on the role of time travelers trying to stop a Cthulhu-style apocalypse. It’s inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, who was racist and anti-semitic—vehemently racist and anti-semitic. Because of that, Evil Hat Productions is publishing a content warning on page six of Fate of Cthulhu that calls out the author, and highlights the work of writers of color who’ve reexamined and reinterpreted the author’s work.

PAXsims

Mission 1.5 is a “mobile game” developed by the United Nations Development Programme to heighten awareness on climate change. According to UN News:

Mission 1.5 takes its name from the collective effort to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as agreed by world leaders meeting in Paris in 2015.

Described as the world’s biggest survey of public opinion on climate change, it aims to give 20 million people a chance to have their say. A previous survey ahead of the Paris talks canvassed 10,000 people in 76 countries.

Players will take on the role of climate policymakers who make decisions to meet the 1.5 degree goal.

Afterwards, they will vote on key climate actions that they would like to see adopted. The data will be analyzed and delivered to Governments.

As the description suggests, it isn’t really a game at all, but rather a glorified online poll. Moreover, the better choices are all a bit too simplistic and obvious as you can see below.

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Yes, sure, let’s build buildings right along the coastline.

I’m not really a fan of this sort of “gamewashing” of an advocacy campaign (or “gamepaign”)—and I think UNDP missed a chance to encourage public engagement with some of the complexities and challenging trade-offs of climate change mitigation policy.

PAXsims

Remember that the North American Simulation and Gaming Association annual conference will be held in Montréal on 21-24 October 2020.

I’ll be delivering a keynote presentation on gaming the (former) Middle East peace process.

PAXsims

The deadline to submit an abstract/proposal for the Military Operations Research Society 88th annual symposium is March 2. The conference will  be held 15-18 June 2020 at the US Coast Guard Academy. Additional details here.

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PAXsims

This one from the Institute for World Politics should have been posted some months ago: IWP intern summer gaming workshop results in conference presentation (at the Connections US conference). Better late than never!

simulation and gaming miscellany, 30 December 2019

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PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious 9and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers.

PAXsims

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According to Breaking Defense, a recent series of US Army wargames suggest that robots and AI make a difference on the battlefield:

How big a difference does it make when you reinforce foot troopswith drones and ground robots? You get about a 10–fold increase in combat power, according to a recent Army wargame.

“Their capabilities were awesome,” said Army Capt. Philip Belanger, a Ranger Regiment and Stryker Brigade veteran who commanded a robot-reinforced platoon in nearly a dozen computer-simulated battles at the Fort Benning’s Maneuver Battle Lab. “We reduced the risk to US forces to zero, basically, and still were able to accomplish the mission.”

That mission: dislodge a defending company of infantry, about 120 soldiers, with a single platoon of just 40 attackers on foot. That’s a task that would normally be assigned to a battalion of over 600. In other words, instead of the minimum 3:1 superiority in numbers that military tradition requires for a successful attack, Belanger’s simulated force was outnumbered 1:3.

When they ran the scenario without futuristic technologies, using the infantry platoon as it exists today, “that did not go well for us,” Belanger said drily.

That’s all very interesting, but it just seems to show that an unsupported infantry platoon does not do as well as one with augmented ISR, air support, and direct and indirect fire support—which is not all that surprising. Whether drones and robots represent the most cost-effective way of strengthening platoon combat capacities (compared to legacy systems or other, alternative technologies) would require a somewhat different research design.

PAXsims

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Back in November, War on the Rocks featured a piece examining what to expect if the US were to withdraw from NATO:

A policy game prepared by Körber-Stiftung and the International Institute for Strategic Studies sought to answer these questions this summer in Berlin. Five country teams with experts from France, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States addressed a fictional scenario that involved a U.S. withdrawal from NATO, followed by crises in a NATO member state in the western Balkans and across Eastern Europe. How would Europeans react to such a scenario? What are the red lines, interests, and priorities of the respective actors? How might Europeans organize their defense if the United States withdraws from NATO, and what role could the United States play in European security after the withdrawal?

The results of the game were sobering, with no clear upside for any of the participating teams. While a one-time simulation exercise, it provided valuable insights into the interests and preferences of European member states.

You can read a fuller account of the game and its findings at the link above.

PAXsims

CGSA-logo1.pngThe Canadian Game Studies Association is inviting paper proposals for its annual conference on 3-5 June 2020.

The 2020 Canadian Game Studies Association (CGSA/ACÉV) annual conference will be held June 3 to June 5 at Western University in London, Ontario, in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities & Social Sciences.

We invite submissions from researchers in any discipline working on any topic related to games, digital or analog. Graduate student submissions are welcome and encouraged! CGSA accepts submissions in both English and French, but please note that most presentations and social events will be in English.

CGSA has always worked to support diverse scholars and creators and proactively make space for studies of gender, race, sexuality, ability, class, and other forms of diversity in games and gaming cultures. In keeping with this year’s Congress theme of Bridging Divides: Confronting Colonialism and Anti-Black Racism, and in response to last year’s disturbing incident of racial profiling of a graduate student member of the Black Canadian Studies Association, we especially invite submissions from Black and/or Indigenous scholars, and/or submissions addressing colonialism and anti-Black racism in relation to games and gaming culture. Accepted papers and panels that meet these criteria will be highlighted in special plenary sessions throughout the conference. Additionally, Black and/or Indigenous graduate students accepted to the conference will be eligible for a small bursary to offset travel and registration costs.

The deadline for proposals is January 20 Additional details at http://gamestudies.ca/conference/

PAXsims

On 4-5 December, officials from 17 African countries took part in a simulation exercise being conducted jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the West Africa Health Organization.

The purpose of the exercise is to test the capacities and level of readiness of the PHEOC [public health emergency operations centre] of the participating countries as well as communication and information sharing between PHEOCs. The aims of the exercise include: testing the existence of the legal authority needed for the PHEOC to operate; testing existing plans and procedures for operations including the implementation of Incident Management System (IMS); define linkages with national emergency management authorities; and test communication and information-sharing capabilities between PHEOCs in the region . The exercise will help in identifying areas of strength to be built upon and opportunities for improvement. After the exercise, an action plan will be developed to address the gaps identified.

The two-day exercise will be followed by a regional-level debriefing session and a post-exercise report on each country’s PHEOC readiness and capabilities….

PAXsims

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Students at Georgetown University – Qatar recently conducted a crisis simulation of the Iran nuclear issue. The Gulf Times contains a brief account:

The simulation is part of GU-Q’s International Negotiation Lab course for students of international affairs. Three workshops introduced students to the workings of a simulation, taught negotiation skills, and provided a subject matter briefing on the crisis. Then students were divided into teams representing China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They were also provided substantive briefings on the current crisis and explanations of the underlying political dynamics.
Dr Christine Schiwietz, assistant dean for academic affairs at GU-Q and course organiser, stressed the importance of understanding international diplomacy through hands-on experience, not only through classroom learning. “Experiential learning through the Crisis Simulation, which is a credit-bearing course, is an integral component of the Georgetown curriculum. It challenges students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to the real world, which helps them connect theory and practice.”

PAXsims

A RAND report earlier this year examined NATO’s Amphibious Forces: Command and Control of a Multibrigade Alliance Task Force.

In 2017–2018, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa asked the RAND Corporation to design and facilitate three events with the objective of identifying suitable C2 constructs and associated doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities, and interoperability considerations for large-scale NATO maritime and amphibious operations. Aided by a scenario centered on confrontation with a near-peer competitor, maritime and amphibious leaders explored how to leverage NATO’s existing amphibious capacity by aggregating national capabilities into a coherent C2 structure….

 

Simulation & gaming miscellany, 18 October 2019

 

wordle181019.pngPAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers.

Aaron Danis suggested some of the items included in this latest edition.

PAXsims

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The NATO Allied Command Transformation website features a piece by Sue Collins on “wargaming the future” at the 2019 Concept Development and Experimentation Conference.

There has been resurgence in interest in wargaming amongst NATO organizations and NATO Nations. The practice of wargaming has been around for hundreds of years, so it is nothing new, but it fell out of favour to all but hard-core hobby-wargamers and now a new generation of staff are re-discovering the practice and its associated benefits, and building up their wargaming experience.

Recent examples of wargames that Allied Command Transformation staff designed include; a matrix game for Allied Command Operations to test NATO’s Military Deterrence Response Options and further the Deterrence Concept; a human-in-the-loop simulation wargame to test Anti-Access Area Denial strategies; and a game to validate NATO’s Urbanization concept. Upcoming games are planned to explore and test the NATO Mine Warfare concept and the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept.

At the 2019 Concept Development and Experimentation Conference in Madrid, Spain, there will be a workshop called “Wargaming the Future” where participants will be introduced to the practice and get the opportunity to play games including a dilemma game and matrix wargame. The games will focus on scenarios relevant to Allied Command Transformation’s Strategic Foresight Analysis exploring future trends such as the Arctic and High North, China and new technological advances. Participants will learn how wargaming can be applied to individual Nations’ Concept Development and Experimentation projects. The “Wargaming the Future” workshop is a joint venture between Allied Command Transformation and the Netherlands Defence Research Agency.

Beyond the workshop, NATO is continuing to advance the art and science of wargaming. NATO Nations host annual wargaming conferences, and the NATO Science and Technology organization are sponsoring research task groups to advance wargaming practices.

PAXsims

csm_Koerber-Policy-Game_What-to-expect-if-the-US-withdraws-from-NATO_25ce26163c.jpgSpeaking of NATO, how would Europe organize its security and defence if the US were to withdraw from the alliance? The International Institute for Strategic Studies organized a policy game to explore this issue in July, and the report is now available.

The Körber Policy Game brought together a high-level group of senior experts and government officials to address a fictional scenario that involves a US withdrawal from NATO followed by multiple crises in Europe.

Recent developments in transatlantic relations have reignited the debate about the need for Europeans to assume greater responsibility for their own security. Yet, efforts by European leaders to substantiate the general commitment to ‘take their fate into their own hands’ are so far lacking sufficient progress.

Against this backdrop, the Körber Policy Game brought together a high-level group of senior experts and government officials from France, Germany, Poland, the UK and the US to address a fictional scenario that involves a US withdrawal from NATO, followed by multiple crises in Europe.

How will Europeans organise their security and defence if the US withdraws from NATO? To what extent will future European security be based on mutual solidarity, ad-hoc coalitions or a bilateralisation of relations with the US? Which interests would the respective European governments regard as vital and non-negotiable? What role would the US play in European security after the withdrawal?

The Körber Policy Game is based on the idea of projecting current foreign and security policy trends into a future scenario – seeking to develop a deeper understanding of the interests and priorities of different actors as well as possible policy options. The starting point is a short to medium-term scenario. Participants are part of country teams and assume the role of advisers to their respective governments.

PAXsims

The UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has put together a brief overview of the recent Connections UK professional wargaming conference.

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For more on Connections UK 2019, see also the Connections UK website and PAXsims’ own report on the conference.

PAXsims

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Linköping University in Sweden is planning a climate change megagame for April 2020.

“The Climate Change Megagame” takes place in Östergötland. It starts in 2020 and the scenario may run right up until 2100. The participants play various local roles, such as politicians and representatives for the business world. At least half of the participants will play the role of local inhabitants. As the climate changes, they will be faced with new situations and must take difficult decisions.

“One aim of the game is to cause participants to consider how we will have to adapt the way we live in response to climate change. We also want to know more about decision making in a future characterised by uncertainty about the climate. This uncertainty is not just about the physical climate, but also the political climate, where effects such as large-scale refugee movements, and food and water shortages, may have an effect”, says Ola Leifler.

One intention of the research project is to investigate whether a megagame is an effective way of passing on knowledge about climate change.

“I hope that the game can be held as a course here at LiU in the future.”

This is the first time that a megagame is used for research at Linköping University.  Ola Leifler wants to determine whether decision making can be studied using this type of game.

“Do the players gain insight into the significance of climate change? Some members of the project team are experts who have previously studied how decisions are taken in simulated worlds.”

PAXsims

Event201-logo.jpgThe Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, together with the World Economic Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, hosted Event 201: a high-level simulation exercise for pandemic preparedness and response, in New York on 18 October. According to a report in Modern Diplomacy:

The exercise will bring together business, government, security and public health leaders to address a hypothetical global pandemic scenario. It will also feature a live virtual experience from 08.50 – 12.30 EDT to engage stakeholders worldwide and members of the public in a meaningful conversation of difficult high-level policy choices that could arise in the midst of a severe pandemic.

The world has seen a growing number of epidemics in recent years, with about 200 events annually including Ebola, Zika, MERS and SARS. At the same time, collective vulnerability to the social and economic impacts of infectious disease crises appears to be increasing. Experts suggest there is a growing likelihood of one of these events becoming a global threat – or an “event 201” pandemic – that would pose disruptions to health and society and cause average annual economic losses of 0.7% global GDP, similar in scale to climate change.

“We are in a new era of epidemic risk, where essential public-private cooperation remains challenged, despite being necessary to mitigate risk and impact” said Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Shaping the Future of Health and Health Care, World Economic Forum. “Now is the time to scale up cooperation between national governments, key international institutions and critical industries, to enhance global capacity for preparedness and response.”

Additional information can be found at the Event 201 website.

PAXsims

“A series of September and November wargames led by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff will evaluate new battle plans for fighting China and Russia, Pentagon officials say.” according to Defense One.

“What we don’t have is a concept that accurately and with rigor describes how the services will fight against a peer adversary,” Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Futures Command and director of Futures and Concepts Center, told reporters Wednesday on the sidelines of the Defense News Conference.

A key part of the Global Integrated Wargame will be testing new gear intended to help troops in the various military services to communicate more seamlessly with one another. Today, each branch generally uses stovepiped networks — meaning, for example, that a pilot over the battlefield cannot easily talk to ground troops, who cannot easily talk to a ship’s crew just offshore.

PAXsims

Many studies of educational simulation and gaming use self-reported learning as a measure of effectiveness. However, we have long known this is a poor indicator, since students are likely to assess teaching methods (in part) on how much they have enjoyed them—not how much they have actually learned. Ars Technica discusses recent studies that suggest “College students think they learn less with an effective teaching method.

PAXsims

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A posting at the Institute for World Politics discusses 9/11 – The Second Wave, a strategic game designed by IWP interns.

An eight-week summer gaming workshop utilizing the skills of IWP’s intern team resulted in a mid-August presentation at the Connections 2019 wargaming conference at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA, by project coordinator Professor Aaron Danis.  “The poster session at Connections garnered a lot of foot traffic and interest, as it was the only terrorism-themed analytic game at the conference,” stated Professor Danis.

The strategic analytic game, titled 9/11 – The Second Wave, is based on a little-known disrupted al-Qa‘ida plot to attack the West Coast and Midwest with aircraft after the 9/11 attacks.  While al-Qa‘ida was unable to conduct follow-on attacks because of increased U.S. security measures, the plot remained in the mind of 9/11’s primary planner until his arrest in 2003.  This “what if?” game postulates that the Second Wave became the primary targets for 9/11.

Prof. Danis comments: “The purpose of this game is to provide students in my Counterterrorism and the Democracies course with a challenging terrorist scenario on scale with 9/11, while mitigating some of the hindsight bias of those who have read a lot about or have personal experience from 9/11.  Game objectives include counterterrorism response, crisis and consequence management, and indications and warning of further attacks.”

The interns did research into the plot, worked on game mechanics, designed the play map, and drafted the action cards that drive play.  They also did an initial playtest of the first day, which focuses on the actual attack, its consequences, and the U.S. response.

PAXsims

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Rebel Inc is an outstanding iOS game that is also perhaps the best stabilization simulation out there. Now it’s coming to the PC, in an expanded version, Rebel Inc: Escalation.

According to Rock Paper Shotgun, the full and final versaion will be available in late 2020. The early access version is already available on Steam.

PAXsims

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Giaime Alonge has written a thoughtful piece on “Playing the Nazis: Political Implications in Analogue Wars” at Analogue Game Studies.

PAXsims

Last month, a truck turned too sharply on Interstate 75 in Atlanta and spilled much of its load: 216,000 gaming dice.

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Further details at Kotaku.

PAXsims

Board-demo.pngThe Military Operations Research Society Cyberspace Wargaming & Analytics II Workshop is taking place 22-24 October in Alexandria, VA.

The primary objective of the workshop is to build upon the success of the 2018 Cyber Wargaming Workshop and continue the collaboration on data, models and wargaming best practices and sharing lessons for current cyberspace wargames and operations.  This includes describing the current state, clarifying gaps and developing solutions for cyberspace operations data, models and wargaming.  The workshops are geared to span the spectrum of wargaming experience from the novice wargamer, who want to increase their knowledge of wargaming techniques in the training working groups, to master game designers, who want to share and increase the wargaming body of knowledge within a cyber-context.  A new addition this year is a working group which will focus on cyber data science.

There is still time to register.

PAXsims

 

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The American Political Science Association’s 16th annual Teaching and Learning Conference will be held 7-9 February 202 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The conference includes a simulation and gaming track:

Simulations and games can immerse students in an environment that enables them to experience the decision-making processes of real-world political actors. Examples include in-person and online role-play scenarios like the Model European Union and ICONS, off-the-shelf board games, Reacting to the Past, and exercises that model subjects like poverty, institutions of government, and ethnic conflict. This track will examine topics such as the effects of gamification of course content on student motivation and engagement, cognitive and affective outcomes from simulations and games in comparison to other teaching techniques, and the contexts in which the use of simulations and games makes sense for the instructor.

Additional details can be found here.

PAXsims

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Registration is open for the 2019 annual conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association, to be held in Chicago on 6-9 November.

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The Winter conference of the Reacting to the Past Consortium (“Engaging the Future: Purposeful Teaching for Real World Learning”) will take place on 18-19 January 2020 at the University of Georgia. Further information is available here.

PAXsims

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On the subject of conferences, don’t forget that registration is also now open for the Connections North professional wargaming conference at McGill University, Montréal on 15 February 2020, as well as the ATLANTIC RIM megagame on February 16.

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Simulation and gaming miscellany, 22 April 2019

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PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious games that might be of interest to our viewers.

PAXsims

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At War on the Rocks, James Lacey examines the use of wargames to explore contemporary great power politics:

The United States can win World War III, but it’s going to be ugly and it better end quick, or everyone starts looking for the nuclear trigger.

:That is the verdict of a Marine Corps War College wargame I organized that allowed students to fight a multiple great state conflict last week. To set the stage, the students were given an eight-year road-to-war, during which time Russia seized the Baltics and all of Ukraine. Consequently, the scenario starts with a surging Russia threatening Poland. Similar to 1939, Poland became the catalyst that finally focused NATO’s attention on the looming Russian threat, leading to a massing of both NATO and Russian forces on the new Eastern Front. China begins the scenario in the midst of a debt-related financial crisis and plans to use America’s distraction with Russia to grab Taiwan and focus popular discontent outward. And Kim Jong-un, ever the opportunist, decides that the time has arrived to unify the Korean peninsula under his rule. For purposes of the wargame, each of these events occurred simultaneously.

Teams were allowed to invest in advance in capabilities and emerging technologies:

The wargames were played by six student teams, or approximately five persons each. There were three red teams, representing Russia, China, and North Korea; combatting three blue teams representing Taiwan, Indo-Pacific Command (Korea conflict) and European Command. All of these teams were permitted to coordinate their activities both before the conflict and during. Interestingly, although it was not part of the original player organization the Blue side found it necessary to have a player take on the role of the Joint Staff, to better coordinate global activities.

Prior to the wargame, the students were given a list of approximately 75 items they could invest in that would give them certain advantages during the game. Nearly everything was on the table, from buying an additional carrier or brigade combat team, to taking a shot at getting quantum computing technology to work. Each team was given $200 billion dollars to invest, with the Russians and Chinese being forced to split their funding. Every team invested heavily in hypersonic technology, cyber (offensive and defensive), space, and lasers. The U.S. team also invested a large sum in directed diplomacy. If they had not done so, Germany and two other NATO nations would not have shown up for the fight in Poland. Showing a deepening understanding of the crucial importance of logistics, both red and blue teams used their limited lasers to defend ports and major logistical centers.

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The games were adapted from GMT Games’ Next War series:

For those interested, the games used are all part of GMT’s Next War Series, designed by Mitchell Land and Greg Billingsley. I have found these commercial games are far more sophisticated and truer to what we expect future combat to look like than anything being used by RAND, which employs rules and methods designed for Simulations Publication, Inc. (SPI) games in the 1970s. But they are not alone in this, as most of the Department of Defense’s wargaming community is decades behind commercial game publishers when it comes to designing realistic games. In fact, if I was to fault the Next War series for anything, it is that it may be overly realistic and therefore very complex and difficult to master, and time consuming to play. Thankfully, the designer has agreed to produce a simplified rule-set that will allow for more student iterations without sacrificing realism.

PAXsims

At the Navy Times, David Banks (American University) discusses how “War games shed light on real strategies.”

War games are useful intellectual aids because they force players to make decisions under pressure. While people may intellectually understand a problem, gaming forces them to think even harder.

As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Thomas Schelling put it, “one thing a person cannot do, no matter how rigorous his analysis or heroic his imagination, is to draw up a list of things that would never occur to him.”

By facing off against opponents over a well-designed war game, people can come to see how political and military structures interact and appreciate the trade-offs and complications that come with making decisions in a competitive environment.

He goes on to identify a few of his favourite games, ranking each for complexity and playing time: Washington’s War, 13 Days, Combat Commander: Europe, A Distant Plain, Twilight Struggle,

PAXsims

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The latest Strategy Bridge podcast features Ellie Bartels (RAND) discussing wargaming and national security decision-making.

Over the past several years there has been a renewed interest in using gaming as a method to investigate national security decision making, explore policy and strategy options, and gain experience as practitioners. In this episode of the Strategy Bridge Podcast, we talk with Elizabeth Bartels about how wargames are designed, the differences in approaching gaming as an art and a science, and how games are used to think creatively about global competition. Bartels is a PhD candidate studying national security policy gaming at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. 

PAXsims

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How can a simulation help students to better understand gender and interational relations? At the Active Learning in Political Science blog Susan Allen (University of Mississippi) has some ideas.

This semester I am teaching a course on gender and international politics for the first time. The first half of the course examines gender and representation, while the second half explores gender in international politics. I aimed to bridge these two sections with a simulation that I created on child marriage—something currently on the agenda of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and a likely topic at the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) this summer.

Students have been working in groups by regions of the world to expand their knowledge base beyond their own experiences. For the simulation, they became spokespersons for their designated regions. As additional preparation, students read about CEDAW and an excerpt from Women, Politics, and Power by Paxton and Hughes. I did not inform them beforehand of the particular issue that would be discussed as part of the simulation, other than to say that the activity would resemble a communication from CEDAW….

PAXsims

The mainstream media seems to have almost daily pieces these days on the resurgence of Dungeons & Dragons. One thing noted in most pieces is how much more inclusive the game has become, with a large and growing proportion of female players.

I’ve long argued that D&D is a terrific way of refining a broad range of creative, leadership, and team skills—including developing wargame design and facilitation.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 17 March 2019

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PAXsims is pleased to offer some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) games that may be of interest to our readers. Mark Jones Jr and Gilles Roy contributed material for this latest edition.

Know of anything we might include? Pass it on!

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logo.pngThe Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists features an article by Ivanka Barzashka (King’s College London) on “Wargaming: how to turn vogue into science.” 

Wargaming to-date has been practised more as an art than a science. And professional wargamers design, conduct and analyse games in predominantly classified environments. This approach has led to the wide acceptance of wargaming as a method for training and development of operational concepts in the defense community. It has also confined the production of wargames to a small professional community of experts who have honed their skills through the wargaming master-apprentice guild system.

Analytical wargaming needs to be scientific. If wargaming tools are to underpin evidence-based analysis that informs national security and defense policy, wargames should adhere to scientific standards. Wargame producers should follow the requirements of good academic and good intelligence analysis. As former National Intelligence Council chair Tom Fingar writes, “the standard for performance [in intelligence analysis] can be no lower and arguably should be higher than those” in academic disciplines. That’s because the impacts of intelligence analysis can be “far more consequential.” The same goes for wargaming analysis.

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Are you in the London (UK) area and interested in taking part in a wargame-based research project?  King’s’ Wargaming Network is collaborating with the Project on Nuclear Gaming (comprising researchers from the University of California – Berkeley, Sandia National Labs and Lawrence Livermore National Lab) in the execution of a table-top gaming event at King’s College London.

We are seeking individuals at least 18 years old to participate in the half-day gaming event on 3 April 2019. You can sign up for the morning session (09:00 to 12:30) or the afternoon session (13:30 to 17:00).

The purpose of the study is to investigate the strategic stability of countries in the context of different capabilities.

The player slots are limited. Please sign-up by 20 March 2019 here.

Participation in this study involves:

  • Playing a game with others that will take approximately 1-2 hours.
  • Potentially being interviewed by members of the research team.
  • Answering a questionnaire.

To sign up as a player, fill out the player registration form.

For questions about the study, please contact the principal investigator, Dr. Kiran Lakkaraju at klakkar@sandia.gov.

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PS: Political Science and Politics 52, 1 (January 2019) contains an article by Courtey J. Fung on “Negotiating the Nuclear and Humanitarian Crisis on the Korean Peninsula: A Simulation and Teaching Guide.”

This article describes a simulation scenario based on of-the-minute thinking about the Korean Peninsula crisis. The scenario highlights the tradeoffs and difficulties in addressing the nuclear and humanitarian crisis, tasking students to negotiate to reach consensus on track I and track II levels. Students are negotiators, gaining experience and exposure to key international relations and political science concepts through active learning. An optional media-teams and press-conference component also is discussed. The scenario, grading rubric, and supplemental materials are included to give instructors a resource that is easily modified across groups varying in size, ability, and composition.

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Amid the chaos of Brexit, The Guardian reports that the European Union “wargamed” the fall of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

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It doesn’t sound like an actual wargame, however—more like a scenario discussion.

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Back in January, The Guardian also reported that “a Russian toymaker has released a board game called Our Guys in Salisbury, featuring the same cities in Europe visited by the GRU agents accused of carrying out last year’s nerve agent attack.”

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It looks about as well-designed as the actual attack, which left both targets alive, one bystander dead, and resulted in the identification of the agents involved and sanctions against Moscow. There is also no word yet on whether the game allows players to uncover the identities of hundreds of GRU agents through social media, vehicle registration, and other sloppy tradecraft and OPSEC.

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31HETZePLAL._BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAt the Journal of Peace Education, Ludwig Gelot explores “Training for peace, conscientization through university simulation.”

Incomplete and insufficient university programmes in the field of Peace and Conflict Resolution have led to an important gap in knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) among peacebuilders and peacekeepers. In theory, experiential learning through problem-based learning (PBL) and simulations should be able to address this gap. This article explores the opportunities and limits of this pedagogical approach to educating peace actors using the case of the Carana simulation delivered at Linné University (LNU), Sweden. Using mixed-methods, this article confirms the added- value of PBL in the development of KSAs but identifies challenges peculiar to the field of Peace and Conflict Studies that limit its effects. PBL has a clear added-value for the development of skills in learners with a consistent development of professional skills. It can be used to foster conscientization as a precursor to transforming societies towards nonviolence and justice.

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University of Edinburgh Law School postgraduate student Phoebe Warren writes about her participation in the a peace process simulation, “Building Inclusive Dialogue in Danaan.”

[Peace Settlements Research Programme] researchers Laura Wise and Kathryn Nash, along with Rebecca Smyth and Robert Macdonald, organised and facilitated the Building Inclusive Dialogue in Danaan simulation, designed by Inclusive Security, an organisation that promotes comprehensive stakeholder participation in peace processes, and particularly the participation of women. One week prior to the simulation, I received a series of general briefing materials regarding the fake country for which I would serve as the Minister of Interior and lead negotiator during peace negotiations and talks, as well as confidential information about my character’s motivations and ambitions. I particularly appreciated the details about the background, education, and family – these are considerations that most certainly colour politicians’ actions (and inactions). Having learned from my mistakes in past simulations, I spent a couple of hours on the night before the event mapping out tactics, key interests, and potential allies in order to make the best use of my time during the game. I felt relatively prepared and ready to take part in one of my favourite (and niche!) hobbies early the next morning….

You’ll find the rest of here account at the Global Justice Blog.

Phoebe also mentions her previous participation in the Brynania peacebuilding simulation during her studies at McGill University:

In my final year at McGill University, I participated in a week-long, war-to-peace simulation that changed my life. The experience was intensely stressful but immensely gratifying, as I was able to combine everything learned in four years of political science courses, and ultimately led me to undertake a degree here at the University of Edinburgh.

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Lessons Learned Simulation and Training recently delivered a professional development course on “Urban Refugees in the Humanitarian System” at York University in Toronto. This included a half day simulation.

You’ll find their account of how it all went at the Lessons Learned website.

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The University of Pennsylvania Law School recently partnered with the  U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership to conduct a two-day international strategic crisis and negotiation exercise.

Seventy-five students, organized into eight teams and each representing a different nation, will engage in a complex and broad geopolitical crisis centered around the South China Sea. The teams will negotiate with their counterparts at a simulated United Nations-mandated peace conference, where they will be tasked to resolve a challenging international dispute with diplomatic, informational, military, legal, and economic factors at play.

You’ll find additional details here.

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The Australian Army’s professional development website The Cove has posted another quick decision exercise: UAV Incident.

You are the Section Commander of a security team currently supporting a Construction Engineer element finishing off repairs to a local school. You are purely providing local security at the job site and security on the move when transiting from your combat team (CT) forward operating base (FOB) and the school.

Given that it is now the final plumbing and electrical tasks for the job, you only have 4 engineer personnel (2 x Plumbers and 2 x Electricians) with you, as well as an interpreter to speak with the school officials and 6 locally employed labourers when required. In order to move this group and your section, you have 2 x PMV, which are currently parked astride the school compound.

Currently you have a have a fire team securing the actual job site within the school. You have a piquet in each of the vehicles covering East and West respectively down the main route which are the most likely approach routes for insurgents or anti-Government elements.

The rest of your Platoon is on CT quick reaction force (QRF) duties at the FOB which is 12km to the North of your current location. You are set to return to the FOB at 1730h.

As you are preparing your confirmatory orders to return back to the FOB in about 30 minutes, you first hear and then see an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) whine overhead from southeast to northwest at a very low height. As it passes overhead you hear the whine cut out and it dives towards the ground. Although you hear no impact due to traffic noise, you are confident that it has just crashed about 500 – 600 metres to the North West of your location. You take a quick bearing towards where you think it would have landed given its glide path.

You immediately contact the CT HQ and inform them of your observation.They immediately confirm to you  that the only battlegroup UAV operating today is still airborne, but will checkwith other Coalition force elements.

Minutes later they contact you and indicate that another force’s UAV has been lost in your area. They have given a projected impact zone of the UAV which conforms to your observations and have requested your team’s assistance in recovering it.

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RAND_RR2850RAND recently published a Conceptual Design for a Multiplayer Security Force Assistance Strategy Game, developed by Elizabeth M. Bartels, Christopher S. Chivvis, Adam R. Grissom, and Stacie L. Pettyjohn.

The authors explain the conceptual underpinnings and basic rules for a RAND-designed security force assistance strategy game. The game is a tool to explore the potential benefits and risks of different security force assistance strategies under different conditions. The game engine draws on empirical evidence and best practices and, thus, can be applied in many contexts.

Key Findings

  • The Security Force Assistance Game is a portfolio game in which players decide how to invest in the capabilities of different partner forces in order to achieve objectives.
  • Twelve principles of security force assistance were identified from empirical literature and used to build an adjudication tool to project plausible operational outcomes from player investments. Changes in the strategic relationship between actors caused by operational shifts in relative capability were adjudicated based on expert judgement.
  • This game allows structured comparison of different SFA strategies, enabling players and sponsors to consider the potential benefits and risks of different courses of action.

Recommendations

  • The Security Force Assistance Game can be adapted to look at SFA in other countries or to create a strategy for SFA investments across multiple nations.
  • Future games can benefit from using “live” teams of experts to represent recipient nation decisionmaking; exploring SFA in a competitive marketplace with multiple possible investors; subdividing the U.S team to better reflect competing objects and constraints; playing further into the future by including more turns; and requiring materiel investments to be sustained.

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The Deep Mind blog discusses the development of Artificial Intelligence systems able to beat human players in real-time strategy games.

Games have been used for decades as an important way to test and evaluate the performance of artificial intelligence systems. As capabilities have increased, the research community has sought games with increasing complexity that capture different elements of intelligence required to solve scientific and real-world problems. In recent years, StarCraft, considered to be one of the most challenging Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games and one of the longest-played esports of all time, has emerged by consensus as a “grand challenge” for AI research.

h/t Mark Jones Jr.

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If you took part in the recent CONNECTIONS NORTH wargaming conference and/or APOCALYPSE NORTH megagame at McGill university, there are now additional pictures of both events available courtesy of Gilles Roy. A sample of these is presented below, but there are many more at the link.

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Simulation and gaming miscellany, 9 December 2018

wordle091218.pngPAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers.

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On December 4 the King’s College London Wargaming Network held its inaugural event, a lecture by Peter Perla on “The Art and Science of Wargaming in an Era of Strategic Competition.” You can listen to a recording of here lecture here.

For updates, follow the KCL Wargaming Network on Twitter,

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Slitherine’s counterinsurgency/stabilization game Afghanistan ’11 was removed from the Apple Store last week for reportedly violating the a prohibition on depicting “a specific government or other real entity as the enemies.”

This is not the first time Apple’s ban on real-world conflicts has been controversial. As discussed previously at PAXsims, a Syria-themed game was removed in 2013.

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A report by the US Naval War College discusses a recent cyber wargame:

More than 70 academics, students and military thinkers gathered at U.S. Naval War College on Nov. 16 to participate in the first war game put on by the college’s new Cyber and Innovation Policy Institute.

It was unique for a cyber event. The game was less about how operations occur in cyberspace and more about examining how people react in a crisis that includes cyberspace threats, organizers said.

Also, the contents were at an unclassified level, rare for a cyber war game, and the event included a wide variety of players, including members of the Naval War College Foundation and students from Newport’s Salve Regina University.

“This game is really designed to understand the link between cyber, conventional and nuclear military operations,” said retired Adm. Scott Swift, the event’s keynote speaker.

“It’s not about cyber operations and how those operations affect cyberspace, but instead why and when cyber operations matter to strategic choices that are made outside of the cyber domain,” said Swift, a former U.S. Pacific Fleet commander who is now a fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The players were given a fictional scenario in which a neighboring country invaded a contested border region.

Cyberattacks played a role, and nuclear weapons were a factor. Participants in the breakout groups were assigned to act as cabinet members.

Jacquelyn Schneider, assistant professor in the Strategic and Operational Research Department, was the lead organizer. Her work at the college focuses on political psychology and how technology affects the human dimension of decision-making.

“This is the very beginning of a project that explores not just decisions in crises but experiments with different types of war games,” Schneider said.

“This looks at how does cyberspace interact with the really high-end levers of national power, and then how does that affect, on the macro level, the chance that states end up going to war and the types of war they fight,” she said.

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2018-11-08 18.14.47.jpgOn November 8, staff from the US Naval War College staged a refight of the Battle of Jutland (1916) at the National Maritime Museum in London. You’ll find the US NWC report on the event here.

You’ll also find much fuller reports on the event by Bob Cordery at the Wargaming Miscellany blog, and by David Manley at his blog Don’t Throw Bloody Spears at Me (from which we’ve stolen the photograph on the left).

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On September 28, staff at RAND’s Pittsburgh office held an “education policy game night,” in which community members were asked how they would cut the budget of a hypothetical high school:

How would a group of community leaders choose to cut a high school’s budget by 4 percent? And what would happen if parents or teachers held the red pen instead?

The RAND Corporation’s Pittsburgh office held a game night to find out. The game at hand was “Let’s Improve Tanner High School!,” an education policy exercise designed to help researchers understand how interested parties with different perspectives might tackle school improvement challenges—and help them learn about what drives those decisions.

RAND has a long history of using games to better understand human decisionmaking in relation to public policy. Since the 1950s, RAND has developed and conducted tabletop wargames with policymakers and others to help improve national security decisionmaking, but its gaming repertoire has been recently expanded to social economic policy. “Let’s Improve Tanner High School!” is the first RAND game to focus on education policy, and it made its public debut on Sept. 28.

Participants were grouped by their real-life roles—parents, teachers, school leaders, business leaders, and community leaders.

Darleen Opfer, a RAND vice president and director of its Education and Labor research division, explained the game’s premise. Celia Gomez, an associate policy researcher, and Brian Stecher, an adjunct senior social scientist, led the teams through the game.

Two rounds were played, with a different scenario affecting the fictional Tanner High School each time. In an interview, Gomez said “this is not a game with pieces or a board—there aren’t a lot of visuals—the game is really about ideas and dialogue.”

In the first round, each group was asked how they would accommodate a 4 percent cut in funding. During the 15 minutes the teams had to come up with a plan, the room filled with the sound of shuffling paper and muffled conversation as players read through the school’s current budget, demographic information, academic performance, and other data. When the time came to announce their decisions, no two solutions were the same.

Some suggested external partnerships to provide services that would be lost due to staff cuts. Others proposed non-traditional ways the school could make additional money such as selling education facilities to a developer or asking community leaders to voluntarily advise and mentor students.

During the “spotlight” step, teams were asked to refine their ideas and consider how they might overcome the biggest obstacles to their plans. “In this round, we like to encourage interactions,” Stecher said while inviting participants to share their thoughts with the room.

Once the five groups had announced their final plans, it was time to vote. Participants each had two plastic-chip game pieces to award to any team except their own. The team with the most chips won. Gomez instructed players to base their votes on which teams had the best idea, the best discussion point, or the most helpful feedback.

The school leaders won the first round. They had proposed reducing professional services staff by $255,939 and shifting those responsibilities to existing staff. The rest of the needed cuts would come from eliminating four paraprofessional educator positions.

In the second challenge, teams were given a scenario in which students planned a walkout after a teacher allegedly made a racially charged remark to a student. The groups were asked to come up with an immediate plan while an ongoing investigation is taking place.

The school leaders won this round, too, with a solution that engaged each group represented in the room. The plan involved providing language for homeroom teachers so they could acknowledge the situation and give students a constructive way to be heard. Boycotting class would not be allowed for student safety reasons. And the school would host a meeting to inform parents and the community at large about the situation.

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The latest issue of the Journal of Political Science Education 14, 4 (2018) contains a couple of pieces of possible interest to those who design and use educational games.

An article by Joseph Brown (University of Massachusetts) addresses “Efficient, Adaptable Simulations: A Case Study of a Climate Negotiation Game.”

Instructors may be reluctant to adopt simulations because of time, labor, or material constraints, or perceived incompatibility with large classes. In fact, simple games can cover multiple key concepts with minimal time and effort by the instructor. Simple games are also adaptable to other topics and classes, including large lectures. This article presents a simulation in which students negotiate a global greenhouse gas reduction agreement. Three scenarios model basic climate change mitigation, follow-on agreements for climate stabilization, and the surprise withdrawal of signatories after a domestic leadership turnover (e.g., the 2016 U.S. presidential election). The simulation teaches key concepts such as anarchy, collective action, preference divergence, and commitment problems. Concepts such as institutions, identity, and levels of analysis arise organically from game play. The exercise has extremely low cost and setup time. It can be run in 15 minutes or extended for a full class period. The game may also be repurposed to simulate other bargaining or collective action issues. This case study shows that simulations can be efficient and adaptable. Instructors can create their own simple games to enhance comprehension of key concepts.

Carolyn Shaw (Wichita State University) and Bob Switky (Sonoma State University) look at “Designing and Using Simulations in the International Relations Classroom.”

The value of simulations in the classroom is well established, and there are numerous publications that feature specific role-play exercises that can readily be introduced into the classroom. Frequently, however, instructors would like to design their own simulations to fit their specific learning objectives for a class, but don’t know where to start. This article lays out a series of structural and design questions for instructors to consider in order to craft their own simulations. We recognize that there is no singularly “best” way to design simulations, so this article focuses on the key components of simulations and explores different possibilities for each of these components depending on the desired goals of the instructor. We begin with the basics of class size, topic selection, learning objectives, length, and timing. Next, we discuss the design parameters—including the nature of student interaction, desired output, background information, role-specific instructions, and a timeline for the phases of the simulation. We move on to considerations about the actual running of the simulation, and wrap up with reflections on debriefing, grading, and assessment. By stepping through the design questions that are summarized in the Appendix, any instructor, experienced or new to role-playing, can develop a custom simulation to help meet the learning objectives for their courses.

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An article by Ralph Clem at the Texas National Security Review last month examines “Military Exercises as Geopolitical Messaging in the NATO-Russia Dynamic: Reassurance, Deterrence, and (In)stability.” While exercises are usually quite highly scripted and hence are one rarely proper wargames, it makes for interesting reading.

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Image credit: Edward Castronova.

Could you use a modified version of Volko Ruhnke’s Andean Abyss (GMT Games) to depict a future civil war in the United States? Why, I suppose you could.

The U.S. midterm election next week feels like one of the most important in a generation. We need to get out and vote. And after it’s over, we need to accept the election result. If we do not, then we could sink into a civil war that so many people are talking about. And that is what Edward “Ted” Castronova fears.

Castronova is a video game professor at Indiana University, and he became famous for writing about synthetic worlds and the economies in online games like EverQuest. Worried about the polarization of American politics, Castronova has created 2040 American Abyss: A Simulation of America’s Next Civil War. He tested it with his students and made it as realistic as possible. Rather than thinking of this as cool game about a miserable topic, he sees it as preventive, or teaching people about such a war would be devastating and have no winners. It is not a partisan game.

Should you? I’m not so sure. It’s hard to see, in this case, what the game would deliver that couldn’t be better (and more seriously) delivered through lectures and class discussion. After all, while political polarization in US politics is a very real thing, collapse into full-scale civil war seems implausible in the extreme.

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In early November, British Conservative Party members of the European Parliament tweeted a picture of themselves laughing as they played a Brexit game. They soon deleted the tweet when the political backlash rolled in.

Now, with Prime Minister Theresa May facing an impending defeat of her Brexit plan in the House of Commons, ministerial resignations and a possible split in the Conservative Party, and the very real possibility of a catastrophic “hard” Brexit departure from the European Union (or, possibly, elections or a second referendum), it must all seem even less amusing.

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The Winter 2019 conference of the Reacting to the Past consortium will be held on 18-19 January 2019 at the University of Georgia on the theme of “Reacting to the Past and Gaming: Revolutionizing Higher Education.” Other forthcoming conferences are:

  • January 15-16, 2019: Regional  Conference at University of Maine, Farmington
  • March 2019: Regional Conference at California State University, Northridge
  • March 29-30, 2019: Regional Conference at High Point University 
  • July 10-12, 2019: Regional Conference at Texas Lutheran University

For more information, consult their website.

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The 2019 Games for Change Festival will be held in New York on June 17-19. G4C is currently soliciting proposals for panels, sessions, and demonstrations.

Details can be found on the G4C2019 website.

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According to a recent article in the Toronto Star, “women are taking on the world of Dungeons and Dragons.”

The 44-year-old Dungeons and Dragons brand had its best year in 2017, and 2018 is poised to be even better. Between 10 and 15 million people play the game globally, according to publisher Wizards of the Coast. While much of that growth stems from the prominence of DnD in shows like Stranger Things and a growing group of A-list stars – like Vin Diesel – who love to role play, at least part of that surge can be attributed to women. Today, one in three, or 39 per cent, of players are female, up from 20 per cent in 2012.

Part of that growth comes from the visibility of female players in online streaming services like Twitch and YouTube, says Benjamin Woo, assistant professor in the school of journalism and communications at Carleton University, and author of Get a Life: The Social Worlds of Geek Culture.

As it becomes more common to watch campaigns unfold online (on camera, the host — called the dungeon master — builds out the story narrative and the players think up how to respond, rolling 20-sided die to determine their success or failure), channels like Girls Guts Glory or MissClicks put women front and centre, and showcase that the game can be welcoming to ladies. “(As a woman) it used to be you had to be invited in by someone and there was this secret society, a boy’s club aura (to the game),” Woo says. “Now, there’s representation on screen.”

Wizards has also tried to make the game more inclusive by ditching the stereotypical scantily clad female depictions….

You’ll find the full article at the link above.

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While on the subject of D&D, a report by KQED notes that the role-playing game “cultivates a range of social-emotional skills, which can lay the foundation for improved learning.”

David Simkins, a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, is an expert on games and learning. His research indicates that role-playing games (RPGs) can boost learning and stimulate intellectual curiosity and growth.

Dungeons & Dragons, and other narrative role playing games of its kind, provide many opportunities for learning,” said Simkins. “Participation in narrative role play can open up interests in topics such as mathematics, science, history, culture, ethics, critical reading, and media production. When D&D and its cousins are played in an inviting, encouraging, compassionate, and intellectually engaged environment, play opens the door to truly amazing possibilities for learning.”

 

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A few weeks ago, I posted my account of the recent workshop I taught on “Serious Games for Policy Analysis and Capacity-Building” at Carleton University in Ottawa. One of the participants, Matt Stevens of Lessons Learned Simulation and Training, has now posted his own review. He has nice things to say!

The course was rich in history, provided extensive examples of modern applications of simulations and wargaming to multiple contexts, and supplied practical tools for building and applying simulations and serious games in the “complex, uncertain environments” to which they are suited.

Rex brought together a wide range of best practices for design and delivery, collected and collated from across the industry and heavily supported by his own practical experience—I would strongly recommend taking a look at his slides, as there are few opportunities to find such a wealth of practical resources on professional simulations in one place. In the coming weeks I expect to highlight a few take-aways and taxonomies raised during the course.

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The Armchair Dragoons website features an interview with Justin Williamson and MAJ David Clayton, two student at the US Army Command & General Staff College, on their recent wargame design experiences at CGSC.

The US Army Command & General Staff College (CGSC) recently launched a new program for students there to pursue an interest in game and sims for training purposes, and end up with a Masters Degree at the end of it all.  We’ve got a more detailed conversation coming up with Dr James Sterrett, who oversees the program, but for now, we thought we’d have a chat with a few of the students who recently completed their degrees and are now back in circulation in the Army, equipped with a wider toolbox of gaming experience.

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Students at Georgetown University in Qatar recent took part in a crisis simulation on the Syrian conflict.

“This is an unparalleled hands-on experiential learning activity for our students, giving them an understanding of what it takes to bring people with very different views to the table to resolve a conflict. These are critical life skills no matter which career path they pursue,” explained Dr. Christine Schiwietz, GU-Q assistant dean for academic affairs. Schiwietz co-organizes the simulation with James Seevers, director of studies at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy in Washington, D.C.

During the course of one week, 28 GU-Q students attended a series of preparatory workshops including modules on the introduction to diplomacy and negotiation theory in advance of the simulation, which culminated in a day of bilateral and multilateral meetings. Working in teams, they sought to resolve key issues around the fate of the current regime and the opposition, the future of the Kurds, and the presence of foreign military troops.

“We’ve done a series of simulations with students here in Doha over the years. I thought this was one of the very best ones in terms of their level of preparation and their engagement with the issues,” commented Seevers. “The diverse nationalities and background of the student body at GU-Q brings different perspectives to the negotiations.”

Further details can be found at al-Bawaba.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, The National reports that “the inaugural Abu Dhabi Diplomacy Conference, known as Diplocon, will feature talks, workshops and a “future diplomats peacegame” — a crisis simulation designed to test the readiness of diplomats in the field.” Diplocon was held on November 1-15, and the conference website can be found here.

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The forthcoming Civilization 6 expansion Gathering Storm will address the challenge of climate change—not as a political statement, but because it’s real.

“No, I don’t think that’s about making a political statement,” said lead producer, Dennis Shirk. “We just like to have our gameplay reflect current science.”

“We did do our background research on trying to figure out where the global temperature has been over the last 150 years and what types of factors influence it,” continued lead designer Ed Beach. “So we feel like we don’t have to make a political statement, but we can take the common wisdom of the vast majority of the science community and embed that in the game and that becomes something really interesting for players to be able to engage with.”

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Simulation and gaming miscellany, 29 October 2018

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PAXsims is pleased to offer some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers.

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At the Modern War Institute (US Military Academy) website, Garrett Heath and Oleg Svet offer some thoughts on wargaming within the US Department of Defense. Col. Heath leads the Studies, Analysis, and Gaming Division at the Joint Staff, which manages the Wargaming Incentive Fund and supports the Wargaming Repository. Dr. Svet (AT&T) is a senior defense analyst who supports SAGD and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Each month we analyze new and updated Repository information in order to produce a report that we share with over five hundred government officials of the Defense Wargaming Alignment Group (DWAG). Each report highlights results from multiple recently completed wargames and a listing of upcoming wargames. These reports provide wargaming community members from across all the services, combatant commands, and other DoD organizations with useful information and situational awareness for planning purposes. Perhaps most important is that members gain information that leads to contributing and participating in wargames that they were not previously aware of, but align with topics their organization is interested in. In addition, members share information that they submitted to the Repository during biweekly DWAG meetings. These meetings provide a venue for participants to elaborate on Repository information and begin collaboration on upcoming wargames. During most meetings, we have witnessed firsthand how—just as DoD senior leaders had envisioned—the Repository enables inter-service and cross–combatant command cooperation and collaboration that helps in the development of wargaming concepts and plans, as well as dissemination of wargame lessons learned and results.

To answer the second question, we examined how well games aligned with senior leader priorities and to what extent leaders were involved. Between May 2016 and August 2018, WIF supported fifty-four wargames, which account for 20 percent of all wargames in the Repository during that period. The scenarios for these games addressed the top priorities in the National Defense Strategy that the Secretary of Defense announced in January 2018. The strategy’s principal priorities are China and Russia, while its secondary priorities are North Korea, Iran, and counterterrorism. Our analysis showed that 68 percent of game scenarios focused on peer competitors (the principal priorities in the strategy); and 24 percent looked at rogue states (the secondary priorities). Ninety-two percent of games have been directly aligned with the National Defense Strategy priorities and the most pressing needs of department leaders. The remaining 8 percent focused on topics outside of these priorities but relevant to national strategy. For example, high-level political and military officials from a wide variety of our partners have participated in wargames. These games supported the second line of effort of the strategic approach outlined in the National Defense Strategy, which is strengthening alliances as we attract new partners.

Wargame results were being shared up the chain to influence senior level decision making. Nearly all, fifty-two of fifty-four, WIF-funded wargames’ results, high-level insights, and lessons learned were briefed to senior leaders. Additionally, 32 percent of these games involved direct participation of general and flag officers, or members of the Senior Executive Service. Many of these games had profound impacts. The majority of game results are classified; however, an unclassified example of how a WIF-funded wargame informed senior-level decision making is TRANSCOM’s contested environment wargame. In April 2018, the top commander of US Transportation Command testified to Congress that his wargame revealed critical security vulnerabilities and that lessons learned “drove changes in how we plan for attrition, cyber, mobilization, authorities, access, and command and control.” Instances like this where a commander directs a game and uses the results in his or her decision-making process speaks volumes about the value and need for the WIF.

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CF09Mag.jpgThe latest issue of CounterFact Magazine features a Joe Miranda-designed wargame exploring modern war in a megacity:

War in the MegaCity is a simulation of a fight for a city in the near future. It covers conventional, unconventional and civil disturbance operations. One player controls Government forces, the other the Insurgents.Designed by Joseph Miranda

War in the Megacity (WMC) is a simulation of hypothetical near-future battles fought in metropolitan areas with populations of 10 million or more. The objective is to show the spectrum of operations–conventional, special operations and unconventional–in this type of fighting on the grand tactical level. There are two sides, both controlled by one player, in WMC: the Insurgent player, who wants to seize control of the city. Opposing him in that effort is the Government player. The Infowar Index is central to play. Each player has an Infowar Index, which indicates how successful his is in achieving his goals–representing the amount of overall public support each side is getting.

Each game turn represents from two days to two weeks of real time, depending on the tempo and scope of the activities conducted in each one. The various units represent force sizes–most either task-organized or spontaneously generated–varying between battalion and brigade sizes: anywhere from about 500 to 5,000 total personnel.

The Game Map shows a megacity and its environs. The large rectangular boxes are called sectors. Each sector is named after the predominant structure within it or the main activity conducted across it. Players organize and move their units within the sector boxes.

Separately, Ty Bomba posted some thoughts on “The (Im)Possibility of War in the Mega-City” on the CounterFact Facebook page:

Given the phenomena of “casualty aversion” that’s overtaken Western societies since the end of the Cold War – that is, a general unwillingness by electorates to sustain any government prosecuting a war longer than one election cycle or bloodier than a relative handful of total deaths – and it can be seen it’s effectively impossible for us a society to engage in that kind of war.

The only exception would be if the stakes involved were readily perceived by a majority the electorate as truly and fully existential at the national level. In turn, to get to that level, you have to posit near science fictional scenarios, such as the Chinese landing en masse along the US west coast or armies of Jihadis surging into Europe’s cities. Short of such epochal hypotheticals, one is hard pressed to name any mega-city anywhere on Earth the control of which would be important enough for a US administration, or that of any other Western democracy, to be willing to sacrifice so much to get it.

Mega-city wars will therefore likely remain the domains of criminal gang turf fights and civil wars fought among groups with nowhere else to go. Until such time as aerial and ground drones and autonomous robots are further perfected, no Western democracy can make war effectively in mega-cities.

That in turn led Brian Train to offer his own thoughts on the subject at his Ludic Futurism blog:

I find I cannot disagree with what Ty has written here, having read some time ago all the articles and papers he cites, and more besides. Yes, we will not see the entire rifle-company strength of the US Army and Marine Corps squandered in an enormous mega-Aachen, or even a restaging of the Second Battle of Seoul (not least because Seoul is ten times the size it was in 1950). Ridiculous notion.

Ty published the designer’s notes to the game over on Consimworld some time ago, wherein Joe seems to be walking back the game’s initial impression that you are fighting a massive, primarily kinetic battle for a huge city (wherein Fallujah or Grozny would fill only three or four of the map’s 30 abstract sectors). He uses the triple-CRT, units-rising-and-falling-in-strength method first done in James Dunnigan’s game Chicago-Chicago!, and reused by him in LA Lawless, Decision Iraq, and by me in Greek Civil War (this last by order of Decision Games, though somewhere in between my submission and eventual publication there were a lot of changes to both my game and to Joe’s system, including collapsing the 3 CRTs into one, and radical changes in unit typology and abilities). He also speaks of the ridiculous troop-to-space ratio in a city of 10 million or more, but does note that the troop scale in the game is brigades (thousands of uniforms) vs. crowds (tens of thousands in size); even the guerrilla units are estimated to be a thousand or more fighters (though in fairness, because it’s a Joe Miranda near-future game, there are also small detachments of “”Fifth Generation” troops whose weaponry, and sometimes their own physicality and mental states, have been enhanced by leading-edge technologies.”).

But I added the emphasis in Ty’s penultimate paragraph. Megacities will not be the arenas where entire brigades and divisions square off against each other, but they will see a great deal of low-level irregular conflict, by and among irregular forces, who will be opposed much of the time by uniformed forces in modest amounts. However, I do not share his enthusiasm for autonomous robots.*

Joe and I are on the same wavelength on a lot of things, but often we differ considerably in our design approaches to the same kind of problem. To my mind, a more realistic and sobering pair of books to read on this subject are Planet of Slums by Mike Davis and Out of the Mountains by David Kilcullen (especially his chapter on the Tivoli Gardens operation in Kingston, Jamaica). What would be interesting from my point of view would be a game in a megacity that emphasized limited intelligence, surveillance, building and degrading organizations, positioning and threats, information warfare, for both insurgent and counterinsurgent. All precursors to kinetic operations, which are kept to a minimum. So far the megacities in the world that have experienced problems severe enough to see actual conflict involving their national militaries have all been outside of NATO, and the conflicts have all been pretty one-sided; government moves in against insurgent gangs, they scatter obligingly and civil disorder continues, though turned down to a dull roar until the uniforms leave and the gangs return.

I tried to do this in one of my first games, Tupamaro, which took place entirely within one large city (1.5 million, which was kind of large for 1968). And maybe that’s more typical of what went on in Baghdad (pop 6-7 million, give or take) for years. This was my thinking in developing the “Maracas megacity” module for the District Commander system over the last couple of years, available here for free PnP at least until Hollandspiele publishes it some time in the next few years.

It all makes for some thought-provoking reading.

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The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation has released an “online first” article by Donald Brown et al on “Design and evaluation of an avatar-based cultural training system.”

The need for cultural training for members of the military, and supporting government and industrial organizations, has become more important because of the increasing expectations of effective collaborations between people of different cultures in order to achieve common security objectives. Additionally, the number and mix of countries, and cultural groups within those countries, make traditional classroom training less feasible. While good simulations have been built for cultural understanding, they have not been developed widely or used for pre-deployment training. This paper describes and evaluates an avatar-based game for pre-deployment training. The game is built around two scenarios from the Afghan culture: a market scenario, and a local leadership council scenario. The game also allows participants to reverse roles and play the part of an Afghan interacting with an American solider. To evaluate this avatar-based game, we developed an experimental design to test the effectiveness of the game versus commonly used video instruction, and to test the effectiveness of role reversals in training with games. Results show that participants trained with the avatar-based game had significantly improved understanding of Afghan culture (p<0.01p<0.01). However, role reversal did not improve performance. Additionally, responses to a questionnaire showed that participants in the avatar-based game had a much greater appreciation for their understanding of the Afghan culture than the more video-trained control group.

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Ed Farren is developing a simple two player counterinsurgency game, Viva La Revolution. The print-and-play version will be available on BoardGameGeek, and an online version can be found for Tabletop Simulator on Steam.

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It looks very good, and we hope to review it here at PAXsims in the near future.

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The International Organization for Migration recently held another one of its simulation exercises on cross-border mass migration, this time in Niger.

More than 500 members from communities, local authorities, civil society and security forces participated in IOM’s fourth crisis simulation exercise this week (17/10) in Tillabéri, Niger.

The exercise took place in close partnership with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Humanitarian Action and Natural Disaster Management, and the Ministry of Health in Niger.

The exercise was organized under the project Engaging Communities in Border Management in Niger – Phase II, funded by the US Department of State. This was the fourth simulation exercise organized by IOM in Niger, having previously held similar exercises in 2017 and 2018 – two in Zinder region and one in Agadez region.

Tillabéri, site of this latest exercise, lies in a region covering southwest Niger which is regularly affected by population displacement flows. After the internal armed conflict in neighbouring Mali in 2012, over 50,000 Malians sought refuge in Niger. More recently, intercommunity clashes and the presence of terrorist armed groups in Niger triggered the internal displacement of more than 32,000 Nigeriens.

As with previous exercises, the simulation this week used a scenario conducted under real-life circumstances to test local and regional authorities’ ability to respond to a mass migration movement into Niger, precipitated by a crisis at the border.

This was the first time IOM Niger organized a simulation exercise on the Niger river, which entailed new logistical and coordination challenges. The new setting allowed for new actors to be involved in the exercise, such as the Gendarmerie’s River Brigade and the Environmental Services.

In addition to building the capacities of the authorities in responding to cross-border crises, the simulation exercise also enhanced community involvement in crisis management, as communities from the surrounding area played the roles of both displaced populations and of welcoming community….

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Chris Bennett of the Game Design Thinking Research Group at Stanford University asks “How Do You Create Paper AI?”

One of the challenges of board games, and especially more sophisticated historical simulation games, is finding the opponents and the time to play. In the past decade or so, we have seen a shift in the hobby towards games that support more robust solitaire play. But until more recently, most solitaire play felt very luck based, and seemed to have little strategic thought behind it. In short, it rarely felt like playing against a “real” player.

But in 2010, GMT Games published ‘Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001-?’ by game designer and CIA national security analyst Volko Ruhnke. And as part of this card-driven two-player boardgame about the complex political and military nature of the War of Terror, there was an option to play the game “solo” using a paper AI to tell the human player what to do in various situations….

You can read the full item at the link above.

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Earlier this month, the G20 Health Ministerial Meeting in Argentina featured a drug-resistant E. Coli pandemic crisis simulation, as part of an international effort to tackle antimicrobial resistance. According to the UK government:

The governments of the UK and Argentina will lead on the exercise to test G20 world leaders on how they would tackle the spread of an infection that is resistant to antibiotics.

The crisis simulation will put ministers in a fictional scenario where an E. Coli outbreak that is resistant to antibiotics spreads across borders, putting public health, livestock, trade and travel at risk. The exercise takes place today (Thursday 4 October) at the G20 Health Ministerial Meeting in Mar del Plata Argentina.

The simulation will test leaders’ and countries’ ability to act quickly if antibiotic resistant bugs cross borders and lead to a pandemic affecting global public health, placing pressure on health systems and the economies of the fictional countries involved. It will be led by Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Dame Sally Davies and Argentine journalist Dr Nelson Castro.

The exercise will raise awareness and understanding of the key challenges of AMR, and encourage G20 ministers to ensure countries are doing everything they can in the global fight against superbugs.

The aim is to help governments across the world confront difficult issues around reducing antibiotic resistant bugs, including how to reduce the overuse of antimicrobial drugs, while making sure patients who need them have access to them….

You’ll find further coverage at the Daily Mail.

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Can you do better than Theresa May and the British government as they try to negotiate an exit from the European Union? Bloomberg gives you a chance to find out in their online Pick-Your-Own Brexit Game.

PAXsims

Last month we posted a report on RAND’s Will To Fight project. At the Bravo Zulu blog, Mountain Navy offers some additonal thoughts:

…Wargame designers may benefit from the Will-to-Fight Model (p. xx) presented in this study. It certainly provides a different way of looking at those factors that affect a soldier on the battlefield.

My own reaction to the study is mixed; I like the model but shake my head ruefully at the games selected for study. If nothing else, maybe Will to Fight will give another generation of wargame designers and publishers a chance to assist the military and create a better war fighting force. I can only wonder what designers and publishers like Mark Herman or Uwe Eickert or Volko Ruhnke, or even small start-up companies like Covert Intervention Games think as all in the past or presently support government or military gaming.

 

 

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 11 August 2018

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PAXsims is pleased to offer some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Anders Russell and David Becker suggested material for this latest edition.

Like what you’re reading? You can always support the work of PAXsims via Patreon.

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Save the date! The next Connections US professional wargaming conference will be held on 13-16 August 2019 at the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA.

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Also, don’t forget about the Connections North wargaming conference to be held in Montréal on 16 February 2019.

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Highway-to-Seoul-768x437.pngThe Australian Army’s professional development website, The Cove, features a piece by Major Edward Farren (British Army) on using the Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) PC game Wargame Red Dragon at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

Being the commander of a rehabilitation platoon could easily be viewed as an undesirable posting. All my soldiers were unable, through injury or sickness, to participate in the full range of training that I was used to running as an infantry officer. The post also naturally comes with a heavier burden of medical, welfare and policy bureaucracy which must be learnt, if not entirely mastered, in order to promote the recovery of the platoon. The nature of a rehabilitation platoon, however, makes it ideal for conceptual development. Indeed the minds of the broken (no disrespect intended) are in desperate need of stimulation and focus to avoid fixating on their plight, often prolonging their recovery and, for some, triggering their intention to leave the service altogether. The format for a typical day would see the troops under dedicated physiotherapists and injury specialists in the morning so by the time I got them for afternoon lessons they were generally fatigued. Therefore, the more practical I could make the lessons, and the more interaction involved generally, the better the outcome. The example in this article is but one iteration of a series of practical professional military education (PME) activities, largely centred on the use of wargaming, I employed to teach my soldiers. Those that came before me, and those that followed me, not doubt did things differently. That is, of course, their prerogative and the pleasure of one’s own command. I do not seek to compare methods, only to share what I consider to be an effective technique that others could replicate and improve upon.

Birth of an idea

Walking into the lines after duty one evening I discovered several of my charges playing a commercial PC game ‘Wargame Red Dragon’ in some form of multiplayer engagement. There was an electric sense of competition and associated bragging rights for the winner. Some casual enquiries revealed who the ‘best’ players of this little clique were. After a short discussion I had their support for using the simulation to train them in the upcoming Defensive Doctrine module. I decided that the best way to incorporate the simulation was as a CPX timed to assess conceptual understanding of defensive doctrine taught by traditional methods….

You’ll find the rest of the article here.

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Are you a teacher who wants some ideas on how to set up and run a gaming club at your high school? Look no further than On Sean’s Table.

This was year 16 for the Games Club I run at my high school. It reflected the trend in the larger gaming community: numbers were up overall, girls attended almost as much as boys, and the preferred type of game shifted decidedly from cardboard, dice, and counter to games focussed on more social interaction.

His blog has featured several other posts on high school gaming, including how he set it up, and what the best games are to have available for student play.

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This is Not a Drill is an Australian Broadcasting Corporation television show that uses a seminar game/scenario discussion format to explore contemporary challenges, such as a crisis in the South China Sea or cybersecurity.

Recent episodes can be found on YouTube.

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Shortly after last month’s Helsinki Summit (and its aftermath), the Washington Post ran a piece on Twilight Struggle–”perhaps the best board game ever.

In 2018, of course, Twilight Struggle — with its re-creation of a world in which the United States and Russia locked horns — is closer to describing current reality than at any point since it was released. “It definitely feels relevant now,” says Ananda Gupta, 41, who invented the game with Matthews. “All you’d need to do is add a few more cards and you could just extend it to today. … If I had a mind to, I’m confident we could do a Cold War game along the lines of the current one that’s happening.”

Indeed, in various online forums, fans of the game have taken to inventing their own contemporary cards, like one addressing President Trump’s abandonment of our European allies to court Vladimir Putin; that card removes the game’s blue-colored U.S. influence markers in Europe to provide an opening for Russian red ones. The anonymous fan who created the card named it “The Art of the Deal.”

The article discusses more than the game, and also touches upon the current renaissance of board gaming.

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Reminder: Carleton University in Ottawa will be offering a two-day course on serious games on 22-23 November 2018.

Notice - NPSIA-PT&amp;D's Practical Certificate in Serious Games for Policy Analysis and Capacity-Building workshop - Nov 2018

If all goes according to plan, I will be joined by two special international guests—one a well-known British wargamer and PAXsims associate editor, the other an American wargamer and occasional PAXsims contributor. I won’t tell you who they are yet, but here’s a hint…

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Simulation and gaming miscellany, 13 July 2018

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PAXsims is pleased to present a number of items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers.

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The Connections US professional wargaming conference will be held at National Defense University on 17-20 July. Several of the PAXsims team will be there. We will have AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game and the Matrix Game Construction Kit (MaGCK) on display during the games demonstrations, and there will also be an opportunity to play We Are Coming, Nineveh! (The Battle for West Mosul, February-July 2017) or to discuss other games that are in development. Be sure to say hello!

If you miss us at Connections UK, members of the PAXsims team will also be at Connections UK in September, the Serious Games Forum (Paris) in December, and/or Connections North in February.

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The “NATO Engages” public outreach component of the recent NATO summit in Brussels features an audience-participation simulation/seminar game/discussion on cybersecurity:

Cyber Crisis Simulation

Ambassador Sorin Ducaru , Special Adviser , Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace
Carmen Gonsalves , Head of International Cyber Policy Department , Kingdom of the Netherlands; Co-chair, Global Forum on Cyber Expertise
Tanel Sepp, Head of the Cyber Policy Department, Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Estonia
Moderator: Diana Kelley , Cybersecurity Field Chief Technology Officer , Microsoft

Concerns about cyber security have skyrocketed as governments, economies, and societies increasingly depend on the internet and digital technologies. The increasing number of cyber-attacks also places new pressures on top of long-existing coordination difficulties when EU and NATO countries find themselves in need to respond to a cyber-driven crisis. The scope and sophistication of modern cyber-attacks require quick, interoperable responses throughout all strategic and logistical layers, from the political leaderships to civil services to the private sector. The objectives of this cyber exercise will be to highlight challenges in decision-making and response procedures when facing a crisis situation caused by a cyber-attack; to identify what capabilities help the decision-making process and multi-stakeholder intelligence sharing; and to improve cyber awareness among the participants as well as highlighting lessons learned and best cyber practices. A panel of practitioners will be asked to respond in real-time to a realistic cyber crisis scenario unfolding in a fictional country. The audience will be asked to play an active role during this exercise by commenting and voting on the most convincing response options presented by the panelists as the crisis scenario evolves.

There is no word yet if the next NATO summit will include a simulation of diplomatic chaos within the alliance sparked by the unpredictable leader of a major NATO country.

PAXsims

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While on the subject of NATO, are you looking for an overview of the recent Supreme Allied Command Transformation urbanization wargame final planning workshop? Well, we’ve got that!

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Still more NATO stuff: Simon Fraser University recently conducted its 2018 NATO Field School and Simulation.

The SFU-NATO Field School and Simulation program is a 12 credit intensive upper-level Political Science course that combines coursework with experiential learning. The program will be open to universities across Canada and provides the opportunity for students to observe and engage military personnel, policy advisors and diplomats in their workplace. This includes visiting and embedded experts from the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces, NATO and academia, as well as high-level briefings at NATO HQ, SHAPE, and the Canadian Delegation to the European Union.

The cohort will attend familiarization visits at Canadian Armed Forces bases in Western Canada, then travel to NATO HQ in Belgium for a week of briefings by NATO officials. At the NATO Defense College (NDC) in Rome, the cohort will do four days of a professionally run NATO-simulation (NMDX) with NDC mentors and Senior Course curriculum. The 2018 field school will also visit the Canadian Battlegroup in Latvia, and NATO’s Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in Riga.

Details regarding the 2019 programme will be posted later to the SFU webpage.

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The Australian Army professional development website The Cove features a recently-posted paper by Callum Muntz entitled “Gamification: Press ‘START’ to Begin.”

Gamification uses proven techniques to influence human behaviour, is used by big businesses the world over, and is an ever-growing industry (Pickard 2017). Most military training is dull, dry, and uninteresting – but it doesn’t have to be so. Gamification can be used to enhance the Army’s training, and should become a consideration in the Systems Approach to Defence Learning (SADL). Yu-Kai Chou’s Octalysis model could be considered a worthy starting point for improving Army training with Gamification.

Elsewhere at the website, you’ will also find a quick decision exercise, Takistan Ambush.

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At Medium, “Oscar’ uses the Matrix Game Construction Kit and a repurposed game board from Labyrinth to produce Crashing the Gates: An Ad-Hoc “Wargame” Scenario About Migration.

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Simulation and gaming miscellany, 27 May 2018

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PAXsims is pleased to offer some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) games that may be of interest to our readers.

Know of anything we might include? Pass it on!

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The Viking 18 peacekeeping exercise took place on 16-26 April 2018 at sites in Brazil, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, Serbia and Sweden. Organized annually by the Swedish Armed Forces and the Folke Bernadotte Academy, this year it included 2,500 participants from 50 countries and 35 organizations.

The exercise blog can be found here. In addition, there is a report on the Brazilian part of the exercise at Dialogo. The scenario is presented in the video above.

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The War Room at the US Army War College features an article by Brad Hardy on “The Art of Gaming, Strategic Edition,” in which he talks about use of the board game  Diplomacy in the Basic Strategic Arts Program.

To teach negotiation skills, the BSAP faculty looked for a teaching tool which went beyond the well-worn methods of assigned readings and briefings, and toward a more hands-on instructional approach. It found a solution in Diplomacy, a board game.

BSAP uses Diplomacy in two phases over the first half of the course. The first phase takes a methodical approach to introducing the game’s mechanics. Although Diplomacy enjoys a decades-long history, it is unfamiliar to most BSAP students – few know the rules and fewer still are active players. Fortunately, the rules are simple and the game is easy to learn. Following a turn-a-week familiarization, students take on a full day exercise in the second phase of the course.

BSAP will continue to use Diplomacy in the course curriculum, as a practical application of strategic concepts being studied. Future classes may see a more contemporary game map aligned to one (or all) of the competitive regions named in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, such as the Indo-Pacific region, Europe, or the Middle East. Other iterations may seek to employ an economic component too, as an element of national power.

Regardless of any future modifications to the program, its persistent theme is that gaming is a useful method for educating Army strategists, and also possibly an even broader audience. Other Army schools, such as the Command and General Staff College, have already started to use simple gaming in their instruction. Diplomacy’s open-endedness and minimal rule sets offer enough flexibility for it to serve as a tool in any number of curricula across the military’s mid-grade staff and senior service colleges. With a bit of imagination and an emphasis on realistic objectives, playing at strategy could very well help military planners win at wars.

Previously at PAXsims, David Romano has also pointed to the teaching value of Diplomacy and other board games. One concern I have always had, however, concerns the hyper-realist and very transactional nature of such games, which tend to both mischaracterize alliance behaviour as highly fluid, and overstate war as an instrument of contemporary foreign policy.

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The latest issue of PS: Political Science & Politics 51, 2 (April 2018)contains two article on simulations—one by Dick Carpenter and Joshua Dunn on simulating the effects of campaign finance laws in the classroom, and a second by Elizabeth Mendenhall and Tarek Tutunji on “Teaching Critical Understandings of Realism through Historical War Simulations.” Interestingly, this latter piece addresses some of the concerns I raised above regarding the portrayal of realist international theory in games, describing the development and testing of a game design that offers a deeper and potentially more critical perspective.

This article presents a simple modular simulation for teaching the advantages and limitations of Realist theory in an introductory international relations course. The advantages of this simulation include low preparation time, minimal resource requirements, and ease of integration with existing curricula. The game design is built around Kenneth Waltz’s “three-image” framework for analyzing international politics, in a way that increases scenario complexity but not game difficulty. The article describes the full simulation process, from game design and implementation through debriefing and assessment. Two historical simulations were conducted: the first helped students to understand Realism and the second helped them to see its limitations. The article concludes with a discussion of the results of a voluntary, anonymous postgame survey that is intended to assess achievement of our learning objective.

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At the Active Learning in Political Science blog, Amanda Rosen discusses Model Diplomacy, a series of US National Security Council simulations put out by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Each case includes a primer on the NSC, an extensive briefing on the case itself (the history and context, as well as a specific crisis scenario for the NSC to resolve), and additional videos and reading for follow-up research. Optional assessments are built into the system with rubrics, templates, and examples. These include short answer quizzes on the NSC and case primers, and position memos and policy review memos (the president turns in a presidential directive instead of a memo). There are also student and instructor manuals, a quick start guide, a guide for the supplementary UNSC simulation, and an overview of the NSC roles. These resources are very helpful in helping you and the students prepare for the simulation.

You can assign students specific roles in the NSC or leave them all as ‘general advisors’.  There are only about 14 roles built into the system, but you can customize new ones.  I would recommend assigning roles–they end up learning more about a particular agency and are in some cases forced to represent viewpoints other than their own.  It also ensures that a wide range of considerations–political, economic, diplomatic, legal, etc–are represented during the simulation.

The system is user-friendly.  You sign up as an instructor, pick your case (I let my students vote), and then have the system send email invites the students to register.  Once they do, you can assign them roles, which are then sent automatically to the students. The simulation is designed to be completed in a face-to-face classroom, but would easily work in an online environment either synchronously or asynchronously via message boards or social media.

If you want to learn more about Model Diplomacy, head to their website (linked at the start of the post).  There’s also an entire series of interviews with other instructors that have used the simulation–check out the most recent one with Dr. Craig Albert of Augusta University–that link contains links to the other interviews in the series.

PAXsims

A recent report on a terrorism exercise held late last year in Switzerland has revealed some serious deficiencies:

A simulation of terrorist acts that included a hostage situation at the United Nations, an attack on a railway station and a potential nuclear radioactive leak revealed lack of coordination at the federal government level.

The complex scenario was carried out on November 16 last year to test the response of the federal government, as well as the cantons of Geneva and Bern. The government was confronted with a potential radioactive leak at the Mühleberg nuclear power station in canton Bern, a terrorist attack at the Eaux-Vives station in Geneva causing numerous deaths and injuries, and a hostage situation at the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations.

The report on the reaction of the authorities was released this week and revealed by the Swiss national broadcaster RTS. Results were very mixed, according to the report published by the Federal Chancellery. The report says there was a lack of coordination among all participants, mainly due to the lack of an overall understanding of the situation. Over-reliance on unreliable information and confusion stemming from different versions of events resulted in “ambiguities and uncertainties”. It also took seven hours for the Federal Council’s crisis response group to be set up and to meet, causing significant delays in decision-making.

The report also notes a lack of communication between the federal government and the canton of Geneva, which led to misunderstandings and delays. The document says there were problems of understaffing in some teams and some staff members who did not know what to do in the situation.

The report lists ten recommendations. In particular, it urges the authorities to rethink the organisation of crisis management at federal level and to clarify certain processes and responsibilities. The implementation of these recommendations will be reviewed in 2019 in a new exercise.

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Last year, RAND published Dominating Duffer’s Domain: Lessons for the US Army Information Operations Practitioner.

As you might expect, it is modelled after the classic 1904 book by Major General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton, Defence of Duffer’s Drift.PAXsims

Registration is open for the 2018 annual conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association, to be held on 16-19 October in Rochester, NY.

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Chris Engle, the inventor of matrix gaming, has put up a new web page of free hobby matrix games. You’ll find it here

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PAXsimsIn the “better late than never on PAXsims” category, Tom Mouat has noticed that the November 2016 issue of Cyber Security and Information Systems Information Analysis Center (CSIAC) Journal was devoted to wargaming.

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Last but by certainly not least, we’re pleased to announce that three new (volunteer) research associates will be joining PAXsims for the duration of the year: Harrison Brewer, Kia Kouyoumjian, and Juliette Le Ménahèze. All three were members of my conflict simulation seminarlast term at McGill University: Harrison and Juliette worked on a tactical wargame of Iraqi urban operations in Mosul, while Kia was part of the team that designed a game about mass atrocity during the Darfur war in Sudan. You can see their handiwork here.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 24 March 2018

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PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) games that might be of interest to our readers. This issue contains a few items from earlier in the year that we forgot to include in previous editions.

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The US Naval War College reports that its students have been participating in beta-testing of an educational wargame of the WWII Battle of Leyte Gulf, developed by NWC staff.

“This game provided students with a chance to play as two teams in each of the two seminars, facing off as U.S. and Japanese commanders in the culminating naval battle of Leyte Gulf which took place during World War II,” said Johnson. “The goal of the game was to provide an opportunity for experiential learning regarding the fundamental concepts of operational art supporting operational warfare.”

The game was setup to be a two-sided, closed-intelligence or “two-room” game, where neither side could see the other’s battle force line up and must determine through the course of play where and what the opposing side was executing with its forces.

During the game, the students maneuvered air, sea and land forces against each other in accordance with an operational idea that they generated based on their studies of the historical battle. The other reason behind the learning game beta test is to see if JMO will include this in the curriculum for all NWC intermediate course students next year.

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In another example of in-house educational wargame design, staff at the US Army Command and General Staff College are testing out their own manual wargame:

The hex-style, map-based simulation, titled “Landpower: Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey (GAAT)” was developed last year by Lt. Col. Patrick Schoof, an Army Simulations officer, and Shane Perkins, team leader of four classes, both instructing at the staff college. “Landpower” builds upon a scenario the students have worked through continually during the course, putting their strategies against one another to expose potential gaps and shortfalls they had previously not accounted for.

“We put this through multiple tests, labs, and changes before bringing it to the classroom, as well as spending months collaborating with the Director of Simulation Education to ensure we were bringing a quality product that had the potential to meet our learning objectives,” said Perkins.

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They certainly seem to be honing their essential pointing skills.

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According to Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy,  director of the Army Combined Arms Center, US Army wargaming remains significantly under-resourced with regard to conceptual experimentation:

Lundy stressed it is important to wear concepts out to better define requirements so that program managers can build better solutions. “I need battle labs to get good requirements,” he said.

Without the experimentation process, requirements can spiral out of control or be unrealistic.

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Back in January, President Donald Trump lauded the sale of “F-52s” to Norway. However, as the Washington Post reported, there’s no such plane—except in the video game Call of Duty.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not return a request to comment on the issue and did not respond to a question asking whether Trump was a Call of Duty fan.

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Underscoring the growing success of tabletop gaming as a hobby, the Atlantic published a piece in January that described the rise of Eurogames and their impact on the hobby.

In a development that would have been hard to imagine a generation ago, when video games were poised to take over living rooms, board games are thriving. Overall, the latest available data shows that U.S. sales grew by 28 percent between the spring of 2016 and the spring of 2017. Revenues are expected to rise at a similar rate into the early 2020s—largely, says one analyst, because the target audience “has changed from children to adults,” particularly younger ones.

Growth has also been particularly swift in the category of “hobby” board games, which comprises more sophisticated titles that are oriented toward older players—think Settlers of Catan. These games, compared to ones like Monopoly and Cards Against Humanity, represent a niche segment, but that segment is becoming something more than a niche: According to ICv2, a trade publication that covers board games, comic books, and other hobbyist products, sales of hobby board games in the U.S. and Canada increased from an estimated $75 million to $305 million between 2013 and 2016, the latest year for which data is available.

Hobby-game fanaticism is still very much a subculture, to be sure, but it is a growing one. At the 2017 iteration of Gen Con—North America’s largest hobby-gaming convention, in Indianapolis—turnstile attendance topped 200,000. For the first time in the event’s history, all the attendee badges were purchased before the event began. Whether they knew it or not, the many thousands of people carpeting the field level of Lucas Oil Stadium wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for a small group of obsessives on the other side of the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, at the Wall Street Journal they suggest some political and military-themed board games worth trying out (paywall).

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Saudi Arabia will be holding first ever card playing competition last month. As al-Jazeera reported, the prohibition on gambling in Islamic law, and the strict Sunni fundamentalism of many Saudis, made the decision controversial. You’ll find additional reporting at Arab News.

This sensitivity is one that serious game designers need to take into account too: one NGO recently told me that they had been unable to use card-based training materials with Saudi participants, because some objected on religious grounds.

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Can gaming help to improve forecasting ability? A recent study suggests that (video) gamers are better able to assess the probability of future events:

The debate over video gaming’s potential benefits is a divisive one. Yet despite the concerns of many, a significant body of research proves a correlation between playing video games and improved attention resources, problem solving, and response speed. Additionally, a recent study determined that playing action-based video games can positively affect a player’s probability categorizing skills.

In order to assess and understand gamers’ probabilistic skills, a group of researchers studied 15 participants who played action-based video games 15 or more hours a week and 15 participants who played less than 15 hours a week. The subjects participated in a Weather Prediction Task (WPT), where they were asked to identify a series of weather cue card combinations and make predictions based on probabilities they detected. The WPT contained a variety of prediction tasks, which required subjects to make educated guesses on outcomes where probability ranged anywhere from 80/20% to 60/40%. While the WPT was being performed, subjects were scanned in an MRI scanner to determine which parts of their brain were activated and in order to understand the types of memory processes at work.

The researchers found that gamers were notably better at making predictions, especially under conditions characterized by stronger uncertainty. For example while the gap between correct predictions in gamers and non-gamers was smaller in 80/20% conditions, the gap was much larger in 60/40% conditions. Additionally, brain imaging data showed there was a higher level of activity in the regions of gamers’ brains that relate to and strengthen memory, attentional processes, and cognitive control. A post-experiment questionnaire also showed that the video gamers had an increased ability to draw conclusions, despite existing uncertainties, because during the WPT they had retained more declarative knowledge about the card combinations and related weather outcomes.

You’ll find an overview of the research at New Learning Times, and the full study by Sabrina Schenk, Robert K. Lech, and Boris Suchan in Behavioural Brain Research 335 (September 2017).

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dwtcoincover.gifThe remarkably prolific History of Wargaming Project has released another publication, this time a volume on Small Wars: New Perspectives on Wargaming Counter-Insurgency on the Tabletop by David Wayne Thomas. It features an introduction by renowned counterinsurgency wargame designer Brian Train, followed by six short sets of rules. These address tactical, but more so operational/campaign-level games, in contexts ranging from the colonial French Sahara, Ireland, and Vietnam to contemporary company-level counter-insurgency operations.

The volume is likely to be of more interest to hobby gamers looking for relatively simple rules with some innovative approaches and game mechanisms, rather than those using such games for professional (educational or analytical) purposes.

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The latest issue of the Journal of Defense Modelling and Simulation is devoted to the topic of “Model-Driven Paradigms for Integrated Approaches to Cyber Defense.”

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The International Organization for Migration recently conducted a crisis simulation in Niger, involving more than eight hundred members of local communities, authorities, civil society and security forces, as part of a broader capacity-building project.

Using a real-life scenario, the simulation exercise tested local and regional authorities’ abilities to respond to a mass migration movement into Niger precipitated by a crisis at the border. Based on the results of the exercise, a regional crisis contingency plan will be drafted in conjunction with authorities in Agadez.

Agadez is located in northern Niger, a region regularly affected by migration flows both in and out of the country. Over the last few decades, the movement of goods and persons has increased considerably in Niger, requiring improved structures for immigration and border management (IBM) to more effectively manage cross-border movements. As a result, the state has been confronted with the challenge of better facilitating these legitimate movements while maintaining secure borders.

IOM’s IBM unit has been active in Niger since 2015 and is implementing projects aiming to reinforce border management in the country and the Sahel region. Since then, more than 15,000 people have been reached through awareness-raising activities aimed at improving the dialogue between communities and authorities.

Through the creation of prevention committees along Niger’s borders, and the inclusion of local populations in simulation exercises and awareness campaigns, IOM includes border communities as full actors in border management.

Within this context, the simulation exercise sought to enhance community involvement in crisis management. Communities from the surrounding area played the roles of both displaced populations and welcoming community. The exercise incorporated a strong community engagement component to foster communication between local communities and authorities. As communities are the first to directly encounter signs of a crisis, communication with local authorities is crucial both in ensuring a quick and effective crisis response, as well as in preventing future crises.

At the end of the exercise, IOM distributed over 400 hygiene kits to participating community members, and will deliver six tents to be used in crisis management to the Agadez Governorate.

The simulation was part of the project Engaging Communities in Border Management in Niger – Phase II, funded by the US Department of State. This was the third exercise of its kind organized by IOM in Niger, which had held two exercises in the Zinder region in 2017. The simulation was planned in close partnership with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Humanitarian Action and Natural Disaster Management and the Ministry of Health of Niger.

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Students at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and at fifteen other universities, recently addressed the challenges of epidemic response in a simulation. the simulation was organized by the Center for Leadership Simulation and Gaming.

Students on each three- to five-member team were assigned roles: prime minister, minister of public health, minister of finance, World Health Organization representative and a head of communications.

As a game clock ticked down on a computer screen in front of them, students were required to quickly process information.

Where was the virus spreading? How many fatalities were occurring?

If it was within their country’s budget, the students could purchase vaccinations. If it wasn’t, they could raise taxes in order to do so – though that would have an effect on their approval rating.

Everything was a giant balancing act.

And, with six months of global activity being compressed into four, one-hour rounds, everything was moving at warp speed.

“It was a good reminder that, in the heat of the moment, policy is complicated,” said Babbin, a first-year student in the Master of Public Policy program. “When we’re sitting in the classroom, it’s easy to say, ‘Oh, this is obviously the right choice.’ But when you’re sitting there and you have all of these things coming at you and you’re watching the number of infections rise, you really have to make snap decisions when you don’t always have all of the information that you wish you did.

“Sometimes you just have to make an educated decision.”

You’ll find more here.

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Kennesaw State University conducted a simulation on the European mass migration crisis entitled “Refugees, Religions, and Resistance.”

The simulation placed graduate students, Ph.D. students, an undergraduate student and alumni in the shoes of real-world people that have a direct role in handling the refugee crisis.

“The intention in all of this is to help students both, one, learn information and, two, practice skills they will need in their professional lives,” said Dr. Sherrill Hayes, a professor of conflict management. “In the case of the Refugee Crisis in Europe simulation, it was important for students to understand the content of what is happening in Europe with migration and refugees since migration is one of the front and center issues in international conflict and peacebuilding.”

It was placed in the context of the fictional town of Waldbach, Germany, in the state of Saxony. Participants were given roles as a principal at the town’s school, mayoral candidates for competing parties, the local factory owner and refugees, among other roles — in total, 14 people participated.

The purpose of the simulation is “to develop an understanding of the complexities of global migration and, more specifically, the current refugee crisis in Europe.”

A series of sub-scenarios challenged the participants to strategically work together to achieve goals that were outlined in the descriptions of each “character.” Some scenarios included: finding a resolution to educating Syrian refugee children, a proposal to build a mosque, violence against the refugees and a food shortage in the refugee camp.

The “townspeople” and “refugees” were physically separated in different buildings at the Cherokee Outdoor YMCA, where the simulation was held, to add to the realistic element of separation.

You’ll find further information at The Sentinel.

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The Reacting to the Past Consortium will be holding their Eighteenth Annual Faculty Institute on June 14-17 at Barnard College.

This year the Institute offers intensive workshops on twelve different games, as well as plenary and concurrent sessions that explore issues related to teaching and learning, faculty development, and the future of higher education more generally.

You’ll find more information at their website. The Consortium also has its usual series of regional conferences planned.

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GridlockED is a boardgame of hospital emergency room management developed by Dr. Teresa Chan and a team at McMaster University.

Co-designed learning platform.

This game was co-designed with emergency medicine faculty and medical students. The goal was to create a game that could allow future doctors to learn systems approaches to patient management in a safe, low stakes environment.

Play together to save patients.

In GridlockED, players work together to treat and prioritize patients. This fosters collaboration and communication skills.

Make low stakes mistakes

This game allows players to grasp what a real emergency department (ED) is like, without the life-or-death stakes.

We were fortunate to work with Teresa early on in the development process during the Simnovate 2016 conference at McGill university, where Vince Carpini and myself ran a workshop on serious game design.

The Hamilton Spectator has further details, and their Facebook page is here. The game goes on sale on March 27.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 23 February 2018

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PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Bill Rogers suggested material for this latest edition.

Have suggestions for our next update? Send them on!

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The Joseph “Jay” Arnold discusses “Buildings Teams with Board Games” in the January 2018 edition of the United States Naval Institute Proceedings:

Leaders are often at a loss to find successful team-building exercises, frequently falling back on stereotypical team sports or costly outside facilitators. Many modern board games offer an opportunity for team-based and cooperative play that can provide surprisingly innovative team-building. Unlike tired old family standbys such as “Monopoly,” “Clue,” or “Sorry,” these more recent games are tailor-made to be more challenging, more cerebral, and more likely to encourage repeat play. Furthermore, these games can help your team develop transferable skills—performing complex tasks while stressed, anticipatory planning, and interpersonal communications. A class of Illinois Army National Guard officer candidates recently tested the value of such games by playing the science-fiction game “Space Cadets: Dice Duel” by Stronghold Games as part of a weekend activity and found it valuable.

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Waypoint features a thoughtful interview with Luke Hughes about his new wargame (or tactical leadership RPG), Burden of Command:

Burden of Command follows a historical company of U.S. soldiers, part of the Army’s 7th Infantry Regiment “Cottonbalers,” through some of the now-familiar beats of World War II. And even though if you squint a bit the game might look like a familiar wargame complete with hexes and unit counters, its focus is on relationships rather than rounds of ammunition and armor levels.

For Hughes, empathy and what he calls “emotional authenticity” are the focal points for the design of Burden of Command. The studio has set out a rather prickly design problem: synthesizing battlefield tactics and doctrine with moral decisions about how to respond to the needs of your men in a way that’s both historically accurate and engaging on a deep level. And to do this, they’ve shifted their focus away from rounds per minute statistics and onto the psychological concept of suppression—which is, essentially, the tactical application of fear.

“Most games treat firepower as the essence—I mean, pick a shooter. It’s all about landing those bullets, that’s how you win. Wargames too, for that matter, focus on firepower,” Hughes explained. “In our game, it’s all about fear of death. So when you fire at the enemy, you probably don’t kill them. If they’re not fools and running around in the open, they’re probably down on the ground, behind some cover, and you’re not going to hit them.”

You’ll also find an interview with Hughes here at the GrogHeads podcast.

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At War on the Rocks, Michael Peck discusses what GMT Games’ Churchill might teach us about alliance politics.

The ultimate lesson of Churchill is that diplomacy matters. The game simulates this through cards and dice (players can make agreements among themselves, though the rules emphasize that these are notbinding). But the game beautifully illuminates how clever, incompetent or perhaps unlucky diplomacy at a conference table can profoundly influence a nation’s strategy.

Churchill also illustrates an essential truth of both alliances and marriages: conflict and cooperation must exist, even if in uneasy harmony. To defeat the Axis, the Allies must work together. America, Russia, and Britain will win some issues at the conference table, and lose others. There is no shame in not winning it all, as long as you win what you need.

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. State Department is losing seasoned diplomats. In fact, diplomacy and alliance-building seem to have lost ground to belligerent tweets and unilateral actions. But as Churchill the man and Churchill the game would agree, this is no strategy for victory.

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Red Team Journal continues to regularly feature items of interest to serious gamers, including recent blog posts on the important of addressing cognitive processes and bias, and frequent shortcomings of Red Team engagement.

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The Wavell Room recently discussed the “Utility of Wargaming.

War games create a training environment in which we can test ourselves against the frictions and frustrations of combat.  It allows us to model the impact of chance and improve both our planning and execution of military operations.  This article highlights the key themes from the HQ 20 Armoured Infantry Brigade (20 Brigade) experience of war gaming.  It aims to encourage others to take up war gaming as a serious professional development tool.  20 Brigade has used war gaming, specifically the Army designed Camberley Kreigsspiel, successfully to test plans and enable the execute. War gaming is also fun; it is a conversational team activity that players enjoy.  The key lesson for the Brigade is that it must be taken seriously and engaged with as we would any other battle.

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The Asia Times offers some insights into the use of computer games and related technologies within China’s People’s Liberation Army:

Chinese soldiers are being encouraged to indulge their patriotic enthusiasm via computer games like Command & Conquer: Red Alert and its homemade shooter game Glorious Mission to hone their skills for national defense in the real world.

The People’s Liberation Army Daily says that artificial intelligence, computer games and wearable devices will be new tools to train commanders and new recruits in real-time strategy games with inputs from the country’s intelligence system to mock wartime conditions, and a raft of parameters adjustable to simulate different combat scenarios.

Glorious Mission has been criticised for trivializing the reality of war by presenting conflict as a video game, but an updated version has gone a step further by allowing gameplay on the Diaoyu Islands, or Senkaku in Japanese, which has been at the center of the bitter spat between Beijing and Tokyo over the past decade.

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The Atlantic has an interesting piece on how “The Shape of Ancient Dice Suggests Shifting Beliefs in Fate and Chance.”

Dice, in their standard six-sided form, seem like the simplest kind of device—almost a classic embodiment of chance. But a new study of more than 100 examples from the last 2,000 years or so unearthed in the Netherlands shows that they have not always looked exactly the way they do now. What’s more, the shifts in dice’s appearance may reflect people’s changing sense of what exactly is behind a roll—fate, or probability.

We’ve discussed before at PAXsims how dice and chance are perceived differently by different groups (such as hobby gamers and military officers), and also how game components embody cultural views and player expectations.

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The 2018 edition of the Geo-Political Simulator, “Power and Revolution,” is now available:

With the 2018 add-on, you can participate in the conquest of space and try to be the first to set foot on Martian soil,  battle cybercrime and use it to cripple your enemies, administer justice to the roster of terrorists to thwart attacks and step in to prevent World War Three by overthrowing the American president and neutralizing North Korea.

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The Kickstarter for Nights of Fire is now live. Nights of Fire is a much-anticipated card-driven boardgame of confrontation in Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian Uprising, designed by Brian Train and David Turczi. The game can be played solo, cooperatively by 2 players, or by 1-2 players against a third opponent in charge of Soviet forces.

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According to the Daily Mail,A police simulation featuring hundreds of brawling soccer spectators invading a stadium has sparked outrage.”

The New South Wales Police scenario, played out at a secret training facility in Sydney’s west, soon raised the ire of soccer fans online.

Furious followers of the sport accused the police force of stereotyping and bias, saying they should focus on riots or violent cricket or rugby league fans instead.

You’ll find more on the story from Nine News.

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Meanwhile, at McGill University, there continues to be a great of conflict simulation work underway. Students in my POLI 490 conflict simulation design seminar are working on their projects (urban operations in Mosul, the Darfur War, and China’s One Belt One Road initiative). The class has also recently played demonstration games of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game and Islamic State: The Syria War as they explore the challenge of designing semi-cooperative games.

I’ve completed work on the “Crisis in Carana” game that I’ll be running at a forthcoming academic conference on urban religious conflict.

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Game briefings for Crisis in Carana. Note the ominous “People Who Don’t Like To Be Photographed” name tag…

Finally, this weekend is the CONNECTIONS NORTH 2018 miniconference on Saturday, followed by the DIRE STRAITS megagame on Sunday. It will be a busy weekend indeed!

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Last, and almost certainly least: the New Learning Times contains an interview with yours truly on serious gaming. You’ll find it here.

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