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Category Archives: simulation and gaming miscellany

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 31 July 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. Robert Crandall, Aaron Danis and Colin Marston suggested items for this latest edition.

The UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) recently held their inaugural influence wargame conference, in which participants “tested their influencing and decision-making skills against a series of real-life international scenarios.”

The event provided an opportunity for civil servants and military officers to experience wargames based on influencing behaviours using physical and non-physical force, share specialist knowledge and identify potential user requirements for further investigation.

Held on Monday 19 July at QinetiQ’s Training Innovation Facility, and attended by UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and government representatives seeking to integrate influence activities into their areas of work, the event was organised by a multi-disciplinary team comprising members from across academia, industry and defence.

The conference showcased wargames developed as part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s Representation of Behavioural Effects (RBE) project. The RBE project conducts science and technology (S&T) activities to improve the representation, integration and synchronisation of non-kinetic / behavioural effects in decision-support tools such as wargaming, modelling and simulation.

Wargames provide structured and safe-to-fail environments to help explore what works (winning / succeeding) and what doesn’t (losing / failing). At the core of wargames are: the players; the decisions they take; the narrative they create; their shared experiences; and the lessons they take away.

The work from this conference will help determine how better to wargame influence and how to include influence within wargames that have not considered it before. Incorporating influence within wargames will better represent the current and future character of warfare, as set out in the Integrated Review and thus better informing decision-making within UKgovernment.

Wargaming Influence Conference

The Defense Futures Simulator, created by the American Enterprise Institute, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, and War on the Rocks, “allows users to see how various defense strategies and budget choices would alter the Defense Department budget.”

According to Defense One, “A brutal loss in a wargaming exercise last October convinced the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. John Hyten to scrap joint warfighting concepts that had guided U.S. military operations for decades.”

The Pentagon would not provide the name of the wargame, which was classified, but a defense official said one of the scenarios revolved around a battle for Taiwan. One key lesson: gathering ships, aircraft, and other forces to concentrate and reinforce each other’s combat power also made them sitting ducks. 

“We always aggregate to fight, and aggregate to survive. But in today’s world, with hypersonic missiles, with significant long-range fires coming at us from all domains, if you’re aggregated and everybody knows where you are, you’re vulnerable,” Hyten said.  

Even more critically, the blue team lost access to its networks almost immediately. 

“We basically attempted an information-dominance structure, where information was ubiquitous to our forces. Just like it was in the first Gulf War, just like it has been for the last 20 years, just like everybody in the world, including China and Russia, have watched us do for the last 30 years,” Hyten said. “Well, what happens if right from the beginning that information is not available? And that’s the big problem that we faced.” 

The October exercise was a test for a new Joint Warfighting Concept. But the new joint concept had been largely based on the same joint operations concepts that had guided forces for decades, Hyten said, and the red team easily defeated them.

In keeping with that same theme, the Mad Scientist Laboratory blog features a piece by Ian Sullivan discussing “Using Wargaming to Envision a Chinese Assault on Taiwan.”

The Taiwan Strait is about 80 miles wide.  Although a formidable obstacle to cross, time and distance factors clearly favor China, as the distance between California and Taiwan is over 6,000 miles.  Furthermore, although the United States maintains a strong presence in the Indo-Pacific Theater, they clearly would be at a numerical disadvantage if the PLA decided to initiate an invasion.  Finally, the PLA’s significant Area Denial/Anti-Access (A2/AD)capabilities mean that any effort to move a US force across the Pacific will be contested, possibly from CONUS itself all the way across the Pacific.  To understand the challenge we face, it is imperative that we imagine what such a fight would entail.

In November 2020, I wrote a previous post arguing that wargaming can help us visualize what the threat can be.  It can help us imagine it and provide context to our thinking about it.  It can help us check our assumptions, and perhaps even offer thoughts and ideas that we would never have considered.  It will not tell us the future, or lay out with certainty what will happen.  But it can offer us an opportunity to prevent a failure of imagination of the kind warned against in the 9/11 Commission Report.  By imagining the threat, we may be in a position to make better decisions during moments of crisis.  This time, I’m using a copy of GMT Games “Next War: Taiwan” to help visualize what such a fight could entail.

In the end, China largely achieves its objectives

The campaign lasted less than a month.  The Joint Force and its Allies performed well in all their engagements with the PLA.  The PLA was a capable adversary, whose modernization created a peer competitor whose capabilities were in general, on par with US capabilities.  In cases where US and PLA forces entered into direct combat with each other, US forces generally prevailed tactically.  However, the PLA was able to achieve three key effects which tipped the operational and strategic fight their way:

They relied on a time and distance equation that was in China’s favor, and then further expanded it through the a surprise ballistic missile strike which mitigated forward deployed Allied airpower and then a sophisticated cyber/information attack against the US Homeland, which caused mass confusion among the civilian population and interdicted the Joint Force’s ability to flow reinforcements to the theater.

The PLA’s sophisticated and capable A2/AD capabilities were an obstacle that could not quickly be overcome. These capabilities also were extended by the coup de main operations to seize the outlying island territories in the Spratlys, Paracels, Penghu, and the Ryukyus.  The Allies were forced to fight to clear the outlying islands, while the A2/AD capability allowed China to retain all-domain superiority at critical moments in the South China Sea and Taiwan Straits areas.

The PLA’s modernization efforts created a flexible force capable of carrying out its preferred way of war. This force was superior in terms of personnel and capabilities over its ROC adversary, and was on almost-even terms with the US Joint Force.  With time and distance in its favor, and while holding all-domain advantages (or at least parity) at critical moments and areas of the battlespace, the PLA was able to wage a successful campaign.

Continuing our pivot to the Pacific, Security Nexus (the online journal of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies) features an article by Deon Canyon, Jonathan Cham, and Jim Potenza on insights into US-North Korea nuclear tensions arising from a senior leader wargame.

In dealing with complex security issues and imperfect information, decision-makers frequently rely on mental models that limit their capacity to make fully rational decisions. Wargames can provide an innovative option for challenging assumptions based on past experience, exposing unassessed risk, and gaining insight into future events. This paper reports on five high-level wargames on the United States – North Korea nuclear standoff. Player actions, reflections, feedback, and anonymous surveys indicate that the games provided ample opportunity to understand different viewpoints, explore non-worst-case options, think about the unexpected, and expose the implications of subtle interactions.

The game used was based on the DPRK matrix game previously featured here at PAXsims.

Back in June, The War Room offered a “student’s view” of educational wargaming.

Last year our WARGAMING ROOM editor, Ken Gilliam, sat down with a soon-to-graduate War College student to get her impression of the use of wargames in the classroom. A BETTER PEACE welcomes War College graduate Tina Cancel to the studio to share her thoughts and experiences with LEGO® Serious Play® and the War College created game, Joint Overmatch. Ken has recently retired and moved on to a new career and this was fitting as his final episode because Tina confirms the benefits of all of his hard work during his time as the Director of Strategic Wargaming at the Center for Strategic Leadership and gives him some great feedback to pass on to his successor.

In The Atlantic, Luke Winkie discusses “The Board Games That Ask You to Reenact Colonialism.”

Boutique board games have been around for years, but in the mid-2000s, as “Catan”which was formerly called “Settlers of Catan,” and which also employs a colonist mechanism, this time in a fictional place—permeated the culture, people started latching on to a hobby most commonly associated with the fringes of nerdom. These games are far more involved than the Parker Brothers catalog, and their designers ask players to embrace complicated rule sets and deep critical thinking; players will rarely do something as simple as just rolling a die and moving a pawn. For a seemingly narrow market, it keeps growing: In 2020, the research firm Euromonitor International noted that the “games and puzzles” market had eclipsed $11 billion.

But recently, players have started asking more incisive questions about their hobby—questions that reach beyond design elegance or component quality, that get at the nature of games as political objects and whether they should be held to the same standards that we demand from our other entertainment. One of the longest active threads on the BoardGameGeek forums for “Puerto Rico” discusses the game’s sanguine perspective on colonialism. (“Puerto Rico is the only game I ever turned down even a single trial play of, because of a literal curl of my lip in distaste as I was being taught the game,” one user writes.) Earlier this year, the board-game YouTube channel No Rolls Barred uploaded something of a mea culpa for having recommended “Puerto Rico” as one of its favorite strategy games. In 2019, the war-gaming giant GMT canceled a game called “Scramble for Africa” after mounting objections from its customers.

But why did anyone look at that concept and think it was a good idea? Why did game designers ever fall in love with colonial fantasy anyway?

You can read more at the link above.

Controversy and Clarity, the podcast of the Warfighting Society, has recently interviewed a number of prominent professional wargamers, including Sebastian Bae, Tim Barrick, and Eric Walters. See the full lineup here.

The Register features a report on the Western Approaches museum in Liverpool, focusing on the role of the WRENS there and especially the Western Approaches Tactical Unit.

The upper floor of Derby House was home to the Western Approaches Tactical Unit under the command of Captain Gilbert Roberts, who had designed wargames while serving at the Royal Navy’s Tactical School in Portsmouth before the war, and his predominantly female staff from the Women’s Royal Naval Service or WRENs.

The task given to Roberts and his team when it was established on 1 January 1942 was simple – develop tactics for the Royal Navy that would defeat the U-boats and win the Battle of the Atlantic. Wargaming was Robert’s chosen medium, re-enacting Atlantic engagements and trying out new tactics in what looked like a vast and complex version of the popular board game Battleship.

By the time WATU closed in 1945 more than 5,000 naval officers had played the wargames run by Roberts and his WRENs (66 in all) and attended more than 130 different courses covering all aspects of anti-submarine warfare. And it wasn’t just the Royal Navy that benefited. Crews from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Denmark, and Belgium to name but a few were trained in WATU’s tactics.

The final room of the museum gives a taste of what the WATU game floor would have looked like with its canvas booths and the plots of convoys, U-boats and escorts chalked out on the floor in different colours. The booths were designed to restrict the view of naval crews who came to train at WATU in such a way as to mimic the limited view they would have from the command decks of their warships.

On the floor, the chalk tracks of the U-boats were drawn in green, to make them invisible to the escort commanders in their booths.

The white chalk lines that denoted the position and course of the escorting warships and their merchantmen wards could be seen from the booths. In this way, WATU hoped to match the situation on the high seas as closely as possible.

DEV The Solution “s a nonprofit organization that encourages game development to help solve significant global problems. A major part of that will be hosting regular game jams centered around the theme of helping educate about real life challenges facing humankind as well as providing potential solutions.”

Finally, there is this unique example of investigative journalism in The Conservative Woman, which highlights how serious games designed to prepare public health institutions to deal with the threat of global pandemics have actually been part of an immense global conspiracy to rob us of our freedoms.

Dammit, who told them?

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 19 May 2021

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. Aaron Danis and David Redpath suggested items for this latest edition.

The American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and War on the Rocks have created a Defense Futures Simulator:

The Defense Futures Simulator will allow users to see how various defense strategies and choices would alter the Defense Department budget. A sophisticated data science algorithm will enable users to first decide whether they want to adjust the current strategy. For example, some users may focus on great-power competition, while others may prioritize counter-insurgency and counterterrorism. They will then be able to select a certain budget level or choose to work with an unconstrained budget. Once these inputs are finalized, the simulator will use the algorithm to reflect how the user’s strategic preferences and budget constraints might change the US military’s size, composition, and capabilities.

Marine Corps Times reports that the US Marine Corps broke ground on its new wargaming center on May 12:

The Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center is planned to open in summer 2023. The site is next to the Marine Corps University where mid-career and senior office and enlisted Marines attend.

That proximity means that planners can bring in Marines who are coming from the fleet to participate in planning or experiments and to provide feedback.

The center gives planners a way to run through everything from equipment strengths and weaknesses to entire campaign plans using existing capabilities and tactics or mid- to long-term anticipating capabilities.

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab commander, told Marine Corps Times in an email statement that as the Corps works on concept development, experiments and exercises in the fleet both the positive and negative feedback will be sent to the wargaming center.

“Young Marines will see the benefit of expanded channels for feedback,” Watson said. “In the end, this will allow the Marine Corps to iteratively learn and continuously improve our organizational and capability investment decisions, ensuring that our plans and investments don’t just look good on paper, but are underpinned by rigorous wargaming and analysis.”

In a US Army War College War Room podcast, Ed Zukowski  and Ken Gilliam discuss the International Strategic Crisis Negotiations Exercise, a  two-day strategic negotiation event.

According to an article in Defense News, “A US Air Force war game shows what the service needs to hold off — or win against — China in 2030.”

The U.S. Air Force repelled a Chinese invasion of Taiwan during a massive war game last fall by relying on drones acting as a sensing grid, an advanced sixth-generation fighter jet able to penetrate the most contested environments, cargo planes dropping pallets of guided munitions and other novel technologies yet unseen on the modern battlefield.

But the service’s success was ultimately pyrrhic. After much loss of life and equipment, the U.S. military was able to prevent a total takeover of Taiwan by confining Chinese forces to a single area. 

Furthermore, the air force that fought in the simulated conflict isn’t one that exists today, nor is it one the service is seemingly on a path to realize. While legacy planes like the B-52 bomber and newer ones like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter played a role, many key technologies featured during the exercise are not in production or even planned for development by the service.

Still, the outcome was a marked improvement to similar war games held over the last two years, which ended in catastrophic losses. The Air Force’s performance this fall offers a clearer vision of what mix of aircraft, drones, networks and other weapons systems it will need in the next decade if it hopes to beat China in a potential war. Some of those items could influence fiscal 2023 budget deliberations.

Registration is now open for the 2021 Games for Change Festival.

Join our global community of developers, educators, students, and researchers virtually to ignite our imaginations about how games and immersive media can help us realize the potential of the years ahead and address our collective challenges: achieving equity and social justice, ensuring a thriving planet, and regaining a sense of security.

Three days of live-streamed talkspanels, and special announcements from the G4C and XR for Change communities

A series of round table discussions geared toward professional knowledge-sharing

An interactive virtual Expo featuring games, XR experiences, sponsors, and G4C programs.

The XR Immersive Arcade highlighting the newest emerging XR experiences for social impact

The Games for Change Awards Ceremony and G4C Awards Showcase celebrating the 2021 G4C Awards finalists!

At the Active Learning in Political Science blog, Chad Raymond discusses running his “Gerkhania” comparative politics simulation via Discord.

Discord permits text, voice, and video communication. I deliberately chose not to use its videoconferencing capability and none of the students used it either. We communicated with each other solely through text messages. I believe this enhanced rather than degraded the experience in comparison to Webex — no black boxes instead of faces, and no interrupted video or audio because of low-bandwidth internet connections. A user interface that facilitates text communication also means Discord is suitable for running a simulation like Gerkhania asynchronously rather synchronously, something that isn’t realistic with video-based platforms. 

My use of Discord also meant that students automatically had a complete record of the simulation’s events that they could reference for the final exam. I did not have to take any additional steps, like create and share a recording, for the class to have a history of what had transpired.

In early March, three students in Professor Aaron Danis’ Counterterrorism and the Democracies course at the Institute for World Politics (IWP 669) recreated the initial rise of the now largely-defunct Peruvian insurgent and terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, using a digital version of Brian Train’s wargame Shining Path. An account of their experience can be found here.

The Winter 2021 newletter of the US Naval Postgraduate School’s Naval Warfare Studies Institute Wargaming Center was published last month, with updates on recent wargames and related activities.

The Reacting to the Past consortium is planning a “Summer of Reacting,” with Part 1 to be held in June.

The board and administration of the Reacting Consortium have decided to offer a variety of games over the course of thesummer, allowing faculty around the country (and the world) the opportunity to play multiple games, and to experiencethe Reacting pedagogy online. Our hope is that by providing a broad array of games and methods for using them, facultywill be able to plan more effectively and confidently for the coming academic year, no matter the circumstances.

This summer includes three conference periods:
Summer of Reacting – Part I (June)
Game Development Conference (early July)
Summer of Reacting – Part II (late July – mid August)

The Reacting Consortium is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging. These values inform ourwork to foster an accessible community, our approach to game development, and our determination to contend with “bigideas.” Thanks to our Fundraising Committee and the generosity of our community, we have reserved a few fundedspots in the Summer of Reacting for instructors who are teaching at minority serving institutions (HBCUs, TribalColleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, etc).

You’ll find more on this and their other activities at their website.

Sadly, wargame designer John Tiller passed away on April 26. You’ll find a short obituary at PCGamesN.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 14 February 2021

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. Many thanks to Scott Cooper, Aaron Danis, Bruce Pennell, Hans Steensma, and others for suggesting material for this latest edition.

The Connections North 2021 professional (war)gaming virtual conference is on 19-21 February—and ticket sales close on Thursday, so hurry up and register! A copy of the conference programme can be found on the registration page, and the Zoom link for the conference will emailed to all registrants a day before the conference starts (if you haven’t received it already).

At the LECMgt blog, Roger Mason discusses commercial wargames and experiential learning.

In military organizations, the use of wargaming is a tempting approach to introduce learning and engage discussion. The most readily available pool of games is the hundreds of titles available from the commercial wargame industry. Is it feasible to use commercial off the shelf (COTS) games as learning platforms? What type of learning is possible, and to what extent can it occur? What about the underlying game mechanics sometimes referred to as the Black Box? Are they an insurmountable problem in employing commercial games?  

To evaluate these questions, it is important to examine the issues of the Black Box, evaluate how the end user may learn from games, explore what COTS games can provide, and finally offer a hybrid solution or game requirements not met by COTS products. To begin I think it is important to deal with the most common obstacle presented by critics of commercial games, the Black Box problem.

In case you missed the announcement back in December, the UK Ministry of Defence is establishing the Secretary of State’s Office of Net Assessment and Challenge (SONAC), based on the US Department of Defense model. According to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace:

The Secretary of State’s Office of Net Assessment and Challenge (SONAC) will encompass war gaming, doctrine, red teaming and external academic analysis.

It will focus and enhance existing efforts, work closely with Defence Intelligence and look across all areas of defence, especially doctrine and the equipment choices we are making.

The latest quarterly report (Fall 2020/Q1 FY2021) of the US Naval Postgraduate School’s Naval Warfare Studies Institute (NWSI) can be found below. It addresses NPS wargaming courses, outreach, conference presentations, publications, thesis research, and other work.

According to Breaking Defense, the US Department of Defense “will include climate change-related issues in its National Defense Strategy  and war gaming, a major change driven by President Biden signing of an executive order today instructing the government to begin tackling climate change on a wider scale.”

Biden’s order directs the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to include climate risk assessments in developing a new National Defense Strategy, due in 2022, along with the Defense Planning Guidance, the Chairman’s Risk Assessment, “and other relevant strategy, planning, and programming documents and processes.”

The order gives the Pentagon and other federal agencies 120 days to produce “an analysis of the security implications of climate change (Climate Risk Analysis) that can be incorporated into modeling, simulation, war-gaming, and other analyses.”

On 15-19 March, the Military Operations Research Society (MORS) will offer a certificate course in cyber wargaming, taught by Ed McGrady and Paul Vebber.

Through a combination of lectures and practical exercises focusing on games and game design, along with the application of game design to cyber issues, we will examine the challenges of cyber gaming. Students will learn how game design can be used to address challenges of cyber operations and policy and will build an understanding of how to represent cyber capabilities in games, as well as build games directly addressing cyber operations.

On 6-8 April, MORS will offer a course on gaming emergency response to disease.

This three-day course will focus on the application of professional games to the problems associated with disease response and will cover pandemic response games, both national and international. The objective throughout the course will be to identify unique or challenging aspects involved in designing games involving disease response. The current pandemic is a reminder that disease can produce unusual, unique, and difficult challenges for decision-makers at all levels of government.

Back in December, students at the Institute of World Politics found themselves fighting—in virtual Iaq:

On an early December Saturday, ten students in Professor Aaron Danis’ Violent Non-State Actors in the Contemporary Security Environment course (IWP 683), joined by another of Prof. Danis’ students and four IWP undergraduate interns, played the first virtual iteration of a wargame about the summer 2014 crisis when ISIS forces broke out of Syria and overran a sizeable chunk of northern Iraq, to include the major Iraqi city of Mosul.  Unlike the previous three times this wargame was played in class, this one had to be played out over Zoom.

“It took some indispensable help from the professional wargame team at the U.S. Army War College, but we were able to get the essence of the game into an online format,” said Prof. Danis.

In a typical game, students and interns represent one of six teams: three state actors (the United States, Iraq, and Iran) and three non-state actors (ISIS, the Kurds, and the Sunni tribes of Iraq).  Each team develops a strategy using the tools of statecraft prior to the game that they then apply against live opponents who are either working with or against them.  “The strategies are graded based on content and how well the teams implement them,” said Prof. Danis.

Each game turn represents 2-4 weeks of real time, so a full 6-turn game will cover the 6 crucial months when the United States, Iraq, and its new Coalition allies tried to stem the ISIS tide before the group could take Baghdad.

You can find out more about the ISIS Crisis matrix game here at PAXsims.

If you missed the Connections Netherlands conference back in December, here’s an after action report:

The Sheffield Telegraph featured an interesting article last month on the use of miniatures for air raid preparedness training during World War Two:

But when is a toy soldier not a toy soldier? The answer; when a world war is looming and it becomes a vital training aid to help Britain prepare for the terrifying ordeal of the Blitz.

In April 1937, in response to the growing threat of conflict in Europe and the aerial bombing of civilians in the Spanish Civil War, the government decided to create the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) service. Its job would be to protect civilians from the danger of air raids as well as help those caught up in the bombing.

During the next 12 months this volunteer organisation swelled to over 20,000 members. Training was based on the experiences of both World War I and the Spanish Civil War, with aerial bombing and gas attacks seen as the main threats. It also became clear that ambulance and other medical services would need to train with ARP wardens in advance of the predicted heavy casualties.

The best way to do this was through live exercises on the streets of towns and cities across the country. However it was thought that such exercises would have a detrimental effect on the morale of the civilians they sought to help and protect, bringing too close to home the fears of aerial bombardment. So the next best idea was to perform tactical exercises within the confines of offices, church and drill halls using miniatures.

At this point two toy companies entered the scene; William Britain, and Taylor and Barrett. Both were established and hugely successful manufacturers of lead model figures. Indeed by 1939 Britain’s was the biggest maker of toy soldiers in the world….

The National Emergency Services Museum in Sheffiled holds some of these in its collection. See the article for more details.

Does your wargaming organization encourage diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming? Then you might want to join the many supporters of the Derby House Principles. We still have some Derby House Principles pins left too!

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 20 December 2020

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. I’ve been a bit swamped as of late, so sorry for the delay!

Aaron Danis and Steve Sowards (and probably several others that I have forgotten to credit) suggested material for this latest edition.

On December 2, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Canadian Armed Forces, in collaboration with Defence Research and Development Canada and McGill University, conducted a day-long tabletop exercise on Canada’s vaccine rollout plans involving more than 150 participants from eight federal government agencies, all ten provinces and three territories, and the Canadian Red Cross. This TTX was proceeded by a week of “red team” exercises to identify potential contingencies and undertake a preliminary risk assessment.

At some future point we may write something up about it for PAXsims. You will certainly be able to hear about it at the next Connections North conference, which will be held online on 19-21 February 2021. Save the date, and look out for the conference and registration details soon at PAXsims.

At the US Army War College War Room, Chris Dougherty and Becca Wasser from The Gaming Lab at the Center for New American Security (CNAS) discuss what it is they do.

Also at War Room, Doug Winton (Department of Military Strategy, Planning and Operations, U.S. Army War College) discusseds War College games like JOINT OVERMATCH and MDO 1943.

The Military Operations Research Society will be conducting their next certificate course on wargaming on 11-15 January 2021 (online).

In Philadelphia, officials used a tabletop exercise to prepare for possible disruptions to the November 2020 US election. According to the New York Times:

The Office of Emergency Management helps organize and protects elections in Philadelphia, preparing for everything from power outages to bomb scares. But for this election, it also had to prepare for a disinformation campaign from the White House. For the tabletop exercises it ran before the election, the office designed mock-ups of inflammatory social-media posts from the president and gamed out its responses. Seth Bluestein, who participated in the exercises, told me, “It was uncanny how accurate they were.”

Another recent article in the New York Times Magazine discusses the impact of global climate change, and highlights how a climate change wargame conducted in 2008 underscored the challenges to US policy and global influence:

To American intelligence experts, two things have become clear: Certain parts of the world might one day use the effects of climate change as rungs on a ladder toward greater influence and prosperity. And the United States, despite its not-unfavorable position geographically, is more likely to lose than win — not least because so many of its leaders have failed to imagine the magnitude of the transformations to come.

For John Podesta, the profound geopolitical challenges posed by climate change first became clear in July 2008, not long before he took charge of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team. That month, he took part in a war game hosted by the Center for New American Security, a Washington-based research group. The room was full of people who were, like him, awaiting their chance to re-enter influential positions in the American government. Around the table in a private conference room at the Newseum in Washington, were former U.S. military officials, a former E.P.A. administrator, advisers to Chinese intelligence officials, analysts from McKinsey and the Brookings Institution and at least one European diplomat. “Let me be very clear,” Podesta told the gathering, in his assigned role as the United Nations secretary general. “Our time is running out.”

The exercise was set in 2015, with the climate crisis becoming violently apparent. A Category 5 hurricane had struck Miami shortly after a cyclone killed 200,000 people in Bangladesh. The scenario was designed by a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security named Sharon Burke, who would later become an assistant U.S. secretary of defense; her game plan suggested that a wave of climate migrants would be driven from their homes, part of the climate-caused displacement of as many as a billion people by 2050. One significant question put to the group then was how the United States, Europe, China and India would respond to that enormous migration and whether they could agree on what obligations under international law nations should have to care for migrants.

It wasn’t easy. None of the countries involved wanted to open the door to being obliged to take climate migrants in, Burke told me. The participants clashed over whether climate migrants could be called “refugees” at all, given the U.N.’s insistence on reserving that term for those persecuted or forced to flee. They wound up deciding the word should be applied only to victims of climate-driven disasters, not those suffering from slow-onset change like drought. In the end, the players were reluctant to face the migration challenges in depth — a worrisome sign that, in the real world, wealthy nations like the United States would be likely to cling to the status quo even as large-scale humanitarian crises begin to unfold. “One of the insights we got was that migration was just an absolute no-go zone,” Burke said. “I wasn’t expecting that.”

The game marked a turning point of sorts in how some U.S. officials viewed the security threats posed by climate change. In 2010, in what was a rare and early official assessment of climate risk, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review warned that climate change “could have significant geopolitical impacts,” contributing to poverty, starvation, drought and the spread of disease, all of which would “spur or exacerbate mass migration.” By 2014, the Defense Department had applied the term “threat multiplier” to climate change, describing how it would make many of the security establishment’s greatest nightmares even worse. By the time Podesta went to China in late 2014 to negotiate an emissions agreement — a diplomatic feat that laid the groundwork for the Paris climate accord — he had come to believe that it was climate-driven food scarcity that posed the dominant threat to global security and to American interests. He saw that scarcity, and the migration it would cause, as leading to a fundamental, perhaps dangerous shift in the geopolitical balance of the world. “We were just at the beginning of the imagining of how big the problem was,” Podesta told me.

On the subject of climate change, here is an account of the recent climate change megagame held (virtually) at Linköping University, Sweden on November 21.

From February 4-6, 2020, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA conducted its unclassified Tabletop Exercise (TTX) Pacific Trident III, bringing together policy experts from the United States, Japan, Korea and other countries to examine pressing security issues in East Asia through simulated real-world contingencies.

In this TTX, Beijing served as the primary challenger to both the U.S.-Japan and the U.S.-South Korean Alliances, with Pyongyang acting as a willing “co-conspirator.” Beijing’s objectives were to undermine confidence in the U.S. security guarantee among its allies in East Asia and to achieve further territorial gains in the South China Sea. The strategy was to make multiple challenges across the region without provoking conflict. The simulated date at the start of play was August 1, 2020 with the end date as October 2, 2020—just weeks away from the U.S. Presidential Election.

The TTX report can be found here.

The Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) continues to host presentations from wargamin designers and scholars—including a recent presentation by Ivanka Barzashka on “Lessons Learnt from Building the King’s Wargaming Network” (below). Check out their website for past and future presentations.

Divergent Options and GUWS have partnered to issue a call for papers on wargaming in 2021. You’ll find more details at the Divergent Options website.

At the CIMSEC website, Jeff Appleget, Jeff Kline, and Rob Burks discuss “revamping wargaming education for the US Department of Defense.”

The U.S. Department of Defense has failed to educate generations of military officers on the skills of wargaming. Wargaming creates the environment in which uniformed leaders practice decision-making against an active, thinking adversary. Wargaming is also required by the Department of Defense’s planning process to create sound and executable plans, is inherent to designing new doctrine and operational concepts, and is a vital element in the cycle of research.

For these reasons, military leaders must have the ability to create and conduct wargames. However, the current military education process does not impart this critical knowledge.

At The Futurist blog, Stephen Aguilar-Millan discusses the lure of nested games:

It often happens that, when gaming a series of future events, a game within a game presents itself. The most recent example was in our game ‘The Dragon, The Bear, And The Steppe‘ (see here for more detail). This game contained a military engagement on the Caspian Sea and in south Turkmenistan between Russia, the US, and Kazakhstan on one side; and China and the Taliban on the other; with Iran intervening to act defensively. We dubbed this the ‘Battle Of Turkmenbashi 2045‘ (see here for more detail). 

Without going into the detail of how we would play the Battle of Turkmenbashi as a stand alone game, the whole concept of the game within a game set me thinking about the question of nested gaming. To begin with, ought we to confine ourselves to a single game within a game? Could there be more than one? In many ways, the idea of a succession of nested games within a game is the core of campaign gaming. A situation where a single event does not necessarily shape the eventual outcome, and where subsequent events can have a more decisive impact the other way. For example, the campaign in France in 1940 didn’t settle the Second World War. From the Allied defeat came the basis for their eventual victory as fortunes eventually turned in favour of the Allies.

At War on the Rocks, Shane Bilsborough would like more space wargames, please.

How would the United States respond if China or another adversary launched a missile against a vital communications satellite? Is that a clear red line that would result in an immediate military response? And what happens if the U.S. military does — or doesn’t — react?

In the past, military leaders have been better prepared to answer such tough questions than they are now. Consider that during the period between the world wars, the U.S. Navy alone conducted more than 300 wargames focused on future campaigns and tactics in addition to theater-level strategies. The Navy recognized that wargames could skewer erroneous assumptions and complacencies long before the heat of battle, and this effort very likely saved lives. Famously, Admiral Chester Nimitz claimed in the aftermath of World War II that Naval War College wargaming conducted to inform Allied planning ensured that “nothing that happened during the war was a surprise … except the kamikaze tactics.”

Now, both uniformed and civilian national security space leaders need to take advantage of space war games to prepare for deterring and defeating aggression in space. The benefits of expanding investment in space wargaming for these purposes far outweigh the relatively minor investments required to get more of them underway.

The Army Leader website features an article by Dom Wiejak on “The Acceptable Face of Wargaming: Risk-free, Cost-free Combat Leadership?.”

Wargaming gets a bad rep. Like reading doctrine, or wearing yesterday’s underpants, it is not something you necessarily want to admit to in public. We are coloured by our predjudices; wargaming is either the horror step of Course of Action development or something that involves buying tiny soldiers and spending weeks painting them.

That was certainly my view prior to undertaking a course on the design and use of wargames within training last summer. Having spent nearly a year designing a game for training Divisional level deception, I can say I am changed.

Wargaming presents an excellent vehicle for developing experience in thinking and decision making. What is more, is it does this with little cost, little risk and resource requirement. While I am lucky to have some future time in the Army left to incorporate wargaming into training, I cannot help thinking about the opportunities that I have missed where the use of games could have significantly helped develop those around me….

HistoryExtra—the website for BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC World Histories Magazine—features a lecture by Simon Parkin on the Western Approaches Tactical Unit, the WWII wargamers that inspired his book A Game of Birds and Wolves.

Vice features an interview with Antoine Bourguilleau on the evolution and use of wargaming.

The No Dice, No Glory podcast recently featureed a discussion by Mitch Read and Liz Davidson on the Zenobia Award, intended to promote greater diversity in historical board game design.

How do you deal with gatekeeepers in the wargaming hobby? Dawn at Roll4Initiative has some ideas.

Recently seen on Twitter:

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 27 September 2020

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

Aaron Danis, Volko Ruhnke, and Paul Strong suggested material for this latest edition.

Episode #10 of the Krulak Center (US Marine Corps) BruteCast video series features a panel discussion on wargaming featuring Andrew Reddie, James Fielder, Damien O’Connell, and Sebastian Bae.

On the subject of the US Marine Corps, Military.com reports on construction of the new Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center.

The Marine Corps is building a new state-of-the-art facility where it will run classified wargaming scenarios in preparation for a fight with a high-tech enemy.

A new Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center is expected to be up and running in Quantico, Virginia, by 2024. The 100,000-square foot center, which will be built on the Marine Corps University campus, will host more than a dozen wargames every year — including two large-scale, 250-person exercises, a new announcement on the center states.

Foreign Policy magazine features a report on Hedgemony, the recent RAND board game of US defence strategy.

According to the South China Morning Post, Taiwan recently completed an exercise and wargame designed to examine defence against a possible Chinese invasion.

Taiwan began five days of computer-aided war games on Monday, simulating an attack on the island by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The drills are part of the Han Kuang exercises, Taiwan’s largest annual war games. An earlier phase of the exercises in July included live-fire drills.

The war games were designed to test Taiwanese commanders’ ability to adopt the right defence strategy and coordinate different forces while under attack, the defence ministry said.

..

The five-day exercise is being held at the defence ministry’s joint training centre in Taipei and is being observed by experts from the National Defence University.

The drills will also use the Joint Theatre Level Simulation (JTLS) system bought from the US to simulate combined operations.

The JTLS was designed to create a realistic environment in which military commanders could operate as they would in a real-world situation, the source said, adding that it would help them to hone their decision-making skills and work out how to counter various attacks.

Operational data collected during the exercise would later be sent to the US experts for analysis and feedback, the person said.

At the Beyond Solitaire podcast, Natalia Wojtowicz discusses “wargaming with NATO.”

At Armchair Dragoons, Brant Guillory discusses team play of the GMT Games COIN series wargames, specifically A Distant Plain.

It’s hard to overstate the influence that the COIN series of games has had on the wargaming world over the past decade.  Heck, its influence has gone beyond just wargaming (Root!), unless you write for Meeple Mountain.  They’ve been covered in the Washington Post, and used by the military for training exercises.  Volko Ruhnke, the godfather of the COIN series games, even spent a few hours with GUWS explaining how to design one.

In our wargaming program at Origins, the COIN games have been a popular addition, largely because they are designed for 4 players, so we can get more gamers around the table than with something like Ft Sumter.  One year, we actually had to get out a GM’s personal copy of Liberty or Death to start a third full 4-player table, because there were so many interested gamers that wanted to join the fun.

However, there’s a set of modifications that we made to the COIN games – specifically A Distant Plain – that went beyond the traditional 4-player experience. By crafting each faction as a team, and moving much of the interpersonal diplomacy, horse-trading, backstabbing, etc away from the board itself, we’ve evolved the basic 4-player game into a more free-wheeling and dynamic environment that dramatically reduces the opportunity for analysis paralysis, amps up the possibility… nay, ‘likelihood’ of confusion and fog of war, and keeps the game moving to where everyone stays involved at all times….

While the article isn’t about wargaming, Jason Lamb and Jeremy Buyer, offer some useful reflections on “the psychological high ground: the surprising key to accelerating change” at War on the Rocks.

The The Indie Game Reading Club blog features an insightful guest column by Paul Mitchener on gender, race, and historicity in historically-themed RPGs.

I’ve run an awful lot of history-themed RPGs and written a few. It’s an area I love gaming in, both taken straight, and mixed with a dose of fantastic elements. Yet I would be doing the topic an injustice if I did not admit there are difficulties, both in subject matter and attitudes. So what are they, and how can you overcome them?

The focus here is Medieval Europe and the Ancient World, as that’s where I have the most experience. But much of what I say you can apply to other times and places.

PAXsims has already discussed the work of the Transitions Integrity Project, which has used matrix games to explore what could go wrong during a contested transition following the November 2020 US presidential election.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this has attracted negative comment from Russia Today:

Curiously, the TIP did not test a scenario in which Trump wins by a landslide. Nor did the organization consider the possibility of a narrow Trump victory and a refusal by Biden to concede – a possibility raised by Hillary Clinton, who urged Biden last month not to concede “under any circumstances,” and to launch a “massive legal operation” in the event of a narrow Trump win on election night. 

Regardless of the result, some top Democrats have called for continued “unrest in the streets” after November’s election. Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, said earlier this summer that the riots sweeping America are “not gonna stop before election day in November, and they’re not gonna stop after election day. They’re not gonna let up and they should not.” 

At the conservative Claremont Institute blog The American Mind, Michael Anton goes a step further and characterizes the TIP project as nothing less than Democratic planning for a revolution and coup.

Democrats are laying the groundwork for revolution right in front of our eyes.

As if 2020 were not insane enough already, we now have Democrats and their ruling class masters openly talking about staging a coup. You might have missed it, what with the riots, lockdowns and other daily mayhem we’re forced to endure in this, the most wretched year of my lifetime. But it’s happening.

One might dismiss such comments as the ravings of a dementia patient and a has-been who never got over his own electoral loss. But before you do, consider also this. Over the summer a story was deliberately leaked to the press of a meeting at which 100 Democratic grandees, anti-Trump former Republicans, and other ruling class apparatchiks got together (on George Soros’s dime) to “game out” various outcomes of the 2020 election. One such outcome was a clear Trump win. In that eventuality, former Bill Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, playing Biden, refused to concede, pressured states that Trump won to send Democrats to the formal Electoral College vote, and trusted that the military would take care of the rest.

The leaked report from the exercise darkly concluded that “technocratic solutions, courts, and reliance on elites observing norms are not the answer here,” promising that what would follow the November election would be “a street fight, not a legal battle.”

These items are, to repeat, merely a short but representative list of what Byron York recently labeled “coup porn.” York seems to think this is just harmless fantasizing on the part of the ruling class and its Democratic servants. For some of them, no doubt that’s true. But for all of them? I’m not so sure.

In his famously exhaustive discussion of conspiracies, Machiavelli goes out of his way to emphasize the indispensability of “operational security”—i.e., silence—to success. The first rule of conspiracy is, you do not talk about the conspiracy. The second rule of conspiracy is, you do not talk about the conspiracy.

So why are the Democrats—publicly—talking about the conspiracy?

Because they know that, for it to succeed, it must not look like a conspiracy. They need to plant the idea in the public mind, now, that their unlawful and illegitimate removal of President Trump from office will somehow be his fault.

Never mind the pesky detail that the president would refuse to leave only if he were convinced he legitimately won. Remember: Biden should not concede under any circumstances.

The second part of the plan is either to produce enough harvested ballots—lawfully or not—to tip close states, or else dispute the results in close states and insist, no matter what the tally says, that Biden won them. The worst-case scenario (for the country, but not for the ruling class) would be results in a handful of states that are so ambiguous and hotly disputed that no one can rightly say who won. Of course, that will not stop the Democrats from insisting that they won.

The public preparation for that has also already begun: streams of stories and social media posts “explaining” how, while on election night it might look as if Trump won, close states will tip to Biden as all the mail-in ballots are “counted.”

The third piece is to get the vast and loud Dem-Left propaganda machine ready for war. That leaked report exhorted Democrats to identify “key influencers in the media and among local activists who can affect political perceptions and mobilize political action…[who could] establish pre-commitments to playing a constructive role in event of a contested election.” I.e., in blaring from every rooftop that “Trump lost.”

At this point, it’s safe to assume that unless Trump wins in a blowout that can’t be overcome by cheating and/or denied via the ruling class’s massive propaganda operation, that’s exactly what every Democratic politician and media organ will shout.

As someone who routinely games political transitions for a living, this all strikes me as bizarre conspiracy theory stuff, undoubtedly amplified by the certain social media ecosystems as well as actors like Russia Today. Given that Pizzagate led one deranged individual to open fire at a pizza restaurant with a rifle, so I hope all concerned are taking appropriate precautions.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 27 August 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.

Aaron Danis, Adam Elkus, Brant Guillory, Steven Sowards, James Sterrett, and Paul Strong suggested material for this latest edition.

According to the Financial Times, “UK defence chiefs are seeking to fast-track new virtual reality technology developed by a British gaming company to create a digital replica of the country, arguing this would help test resilience to future pandemics, natural disasters and attacks by hostile states.”

The Ministry of Defence has already spent more than £25m on contracts with software developer Improbable — which has pioneered the technology — to investigate its potential. Insiders say the government’s difficulties in co-ordinating national data and responses during the coronavirus crisis have persuaded ministers of the benefits of the system, known as a “single synthetic environment”, which is now likely to be accelerated in autumn’s integrated defence and security review.

The technology works by generating a virtual “twin” of any location by layering maps of geographical terrain and critical infrastructure with details of fuel, power and water supplies as well as telecoms networks, supermarket distribution systems and weather patterns. This can be combined with locations of where people are, based on phone signals, and what they’re thinking about, gleaned from social media.

The final product uses artificial intelligence to simulate future scenarios and allows operators to “war game” their responses. Herman Narula, chief executive of Improbable, has in the past jokingly compared this to “building the Matrix”, in reference to the science fiction film in which humans exist inside a simulated reality. Real-world uses could range from forecasting the damage from natural disasters such as floods to calculating the effect of a cyber attack against a power station or presenting simulated hostage rescue scenarios to the government’s Cobra emergency committee.

Despite the substantial advantages of data visualization and big data, and the potential contributions of AI, I’m a little dubious that all of this will necessarily deliver quicker or greater insight into issues like pandemic response than analogue wargame techniques (although it is certain to be more expensive).

You’ll find the Improbable website here.

Wired reports that an AI beat a fighter pilot in a recent simulated F-16 dogfight.

IN JULY 2015, two founders of  DeepMind, a division of Alphabet with a reputation for pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence, were among the first to sign an open letterurging the world’s governments to ban work on lethal AI weapons. Notable signatories included Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Jack Dorsey.

Last week, a technique popularized by DeepMind was adapted to control an autonomous F-16 fighter plane in a Pentagon-funded contest to show off the capabilities of AI systems. In the final stage of the event, a similar algorithm went head-to-head with a real F-16 pilot using a VR headset and simulator controls. The AI pilot won, 5-0.

The International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (IDC Herzliya) recent ran a conflict simulation on the current political and economic crisis in Lebanon.

On the backdrop of the spread of Covid-19 and the worsening economic crisis in Lebanon, the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC) conducted a unique four months unique simulation (see methodology herein below) which examined the possible ramifications of various deterioration scenarios in Lebanon. The simulation started in April 2020 and ended just days prior to the explosion at the Port of Beirut.

The simulation took place via an online a synchronic platform and had multiple participants, all experts in their fields,  that represented the Lebanese and international actors relevant to the scenarios discussed (see Appendix A for a list of the simulation’s participants). These experts chose the preferred strategies of the actors they had represented and by doing so affected the development of the scenarios played. In our opinion, this simulative process is the most appropriate predictor of future trends in Lebanon.

At the backdrop of the simulation were the following opening data items: Lebanon has been suffering from a large number of Covid-19 patients which made it difficult for the Lebanese healthcare system to treat all of them and in fact brought it to the brink of collapse. Further, Lebanon has been suffering from an acute economic crisis that has been rapidly deteriorating, accompanied by high unemployment, internal instability, mass and violent demonstrations. On this backdrop, there is an increasing internal criticism as well as protests against Hezbollah and Iran which are being accused inter alia of importing the virus into Lebanon and neglecting the state in its time of need.

In light of the above opening data items which led to the collapse of the Lebanese government at the outset of the simulation, three alternative opening scenarios have been examined, each of which posed a different challenge to internal Lebanese system, the regional arena and of course, Israel, as follows:

An emergency government is formed which imposes an austerity regime and devalues Hezbollah’s stature.

Hezbollah conducts a military coup and installs martial law attempting to recover Lebanon.

Lebanon deteriorates into a complete chaos on the verge of a civil war, when every faction tries to fend for itself and survive on its own.

Needless to say, in light of the explosion at the Port of Beirut and the resignation of the Lebanese government on August 10th, 2020 it seems that reality has reached a point where each of the above opening scenarios may happen in the upcoming weeks or months which renders the findings of the simulation even more relevant and valuable.

As a scholar who occasionally writes on Lebanon, I’m a little puzzled by the lack of attention given to the “Hezbollah conducts a military coup” action. Was this a coup by the Lebanese Army (not all of which supports Hezbollah)? Did it have the support of (Christian) President Aoun, a Hezbollah ally? How did military units respond, especially those that are not predominantly Shi’ite? Did Hezbollah use its own cadres as well? Under what authority would martial law be declared? There also doesn’t seem to be deep attention to the economic and fiscal issues involved—an “austerity regime” in and of itself won’t really solve the current economic crisis. Finally, I just don’t see what possible configuration of emergency government would take action against Hezbollah, given the distribution of parliamentary and political power in the country. However, there is always a trade-off in crisis games between breadth, playability, and fidelity.

Speaking of countries beset by economic crisis, public protests, and the widespread availability of small arms, the Shutdown DC activist project is running an online simulation of potential challenges to democracy during the upcoming US election in November.

This fall we are going to experience one of the most contentious – and most chaotic – elections in recent history. We have a sitting president who is consistently refusing to accept the outcome of the election, record numbers of voters relying on absentee balloting, and a federal government bent on attacking our democratic institutions. 

We don’t know exactly how things are going to play out this fall, but we do know that we need to be ready to take bold direct action to confront attacks on our democratic process and our communities. Join #ShutDownDC for Timeline to a Meltdown: 2020 Election Simulation. We’ll divide into teams, each representing different players in our social movement landscape. Then we’ll be introduced to a set of hypothetical (but entirely likely) scenarios that we may face during this election cycle. Each team will work to develop action plans to respond to the scenario, anticipate how other movement actors will respond, and build capacity for collective action to build the world we want to live in. 

The game starts at 6pm eastern on Friday, August 28th. All are welcome but please register before noon on August 28.

You will find details and registration here.

Feel the need to drive a robot around a maze remotely and punch cardboard Nazis? You can do that via Smartistein3D.

At Breaking Defense, Sydney Freeberg reports “US ‘Gets Its Ass Handed To It’ In Wargames: Here’s A $24 Billion Fix.”

The US keeps losing, hard, in simulated wars with Russia and China. Bases burn. Warships sink. But we could fix the problem for about $24 billion a year, one well-connected expert said, less than four percent of the Pentagon budget.

“In our games, when we fight Russia and China,” RAND analyst David Ochmanek said this afternoon, “blue gets its ass handed to it.” In other words, in RAND’s wargames, which are often sponsored by the Pentagon, the US forces — colored blue on wargame maps — suffer heavy losses in one scenario after another and still can’t stop Russia or China — red — from achieving their objectives, like overrunning US allies.

No, it’s not a Red Dawn nightmare scenario where the Commies conquer Colorado. But losing the Baltics or Taiwan would shatter American alliances, shock the global economy, and topple the world order the US has led since World War II.

The latest issue of the Journal of Defence Modeling and Simulation (17, 3 (July 2020) is a special issue devoted to forecasting in the social sciences for national security.

Also back in July, the BBC featured a lengthy article on “The people who imagine disasters.”

Entire teams of people spend their days imagining what might happen in a crisis to ensure we can be better prepared for when the worst really does happen.I

It was a gigantic explosion. The blast tore through buildings and machinery, lighting up a huge refinery complex in Denver, Colorado. Gasoline production at the facility shut down for weeks as a result, leading to fuel reserves in Colorado quickly being used up.

Pipelines from Wyoming, Texas and Kansas brought additional fuel to Colorado to make up for the fall in supply, but it meant fuel destined for other nearby states was curtailed. As it all unfolded, fuel prices across the region swelled.

The aftermath of the explosion was a troubling example of how a single event can ricochet through systems, supply chains and a country.

Except, none of this ever happened. It’s just a scenario played out in a series of calculations – a simulation – published in 2015 by Sandia National Laboratories in the US. The team that modelled the fuel pipeline flows in this make-believe disaster considered a number of other “disruptions” in their report, including an oil spill in Boston harbour, earthquakes in California and a Category 5 hurricane slamming into the Gulf Coast.

“Before something bad happens, we provide a better understanding of how to prevent those things or how to mitigate them when they do occur,” explains Kevin Stamber, who heads the critical infrastructure analysis team at Sandia. He’s spent 20 years working on a stark problem: what can we expect if the worst should happen?


PAXsims rece

In addition to our PAXsims report on the recent Connections Global professional wargaming conference, you can also read all about it at Armchair Dragoons.

Gamasutra discusses “How to usher more women into leadership roles within the game industry.” Many of the ideas are applicable to wargaming too.

On YouTube, Sarah Federman (University of Baltimore) offers some ideas on taking simulations online.

The Napoleon.org website offers a thoughtful interview with Antoine Bourguilleau.

Gaming has come of age in recent years. In France and across the rest of Europe, there has been an increase in symposia and seminars on the subject of role-playing games and the “gamification” of society. Games themselves are objects of curiosity and have become the topic of university research in the areas of history, sociology and literature.

Antoine Bourguilleau’s book, Jouer la Guerre [Playing at War], contributes to this research and focusses on a type of game at the frontier between the civil and military worlds. Bourguilleau studied under military historian Hervé Drevillon, and he retraces the history of war simulation games from their Germanic origin in the 18th century to the modern era. He provides us with an in-depth and scholarly study of these Kriegsspiele, German word for “wargames”, a sort of “serious playing” used in the 19th century for training Prussian officers, and the war games later used for projecting the potentially fatal outcome of the Cold War.

Antoine Bourguilleau explores these games in all their manifestations, from staff war games to commercial board games, as well as the scenario created by science fiction author H.G. Wells in his book War of the Worlds. He explores the (sometimes complex) rules of these games, which strive to reflect the reality of a warlike confrontation. This book is rich with insight and allows the reader to approach military history from an underappreciated and still relatively little-studied angle. The author has kindly answered a few questions for napoleon.org.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative has produced Hair Trigger, a mobile game on nuclear crisis and escalation.

At the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union put their nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, ready to retaliate against a surprise attack. Even now, decades later, the United States and Russia combined have about 1,700 missiles armed, aimed, and ready to fire in minutes.

What if a warning of an incoming attack turns out to be false—but a U.S. or Russian president doesn’t learn that until after ordering a retaliatory strike? What if a command-and-control system is hacked to spoof an incoming attack?

As President of the United States, you’ll navigate competing pressures to build domestic support and manage international relations, in a race against time to cooperate with Russia to remove all nuclear weapons from hair-trigger status. The game offers a fun and engaging challenge designed to generate curiosity, conversation, and action—but the risks couldn’t be more real.

To help sustain our ongoing work conflict simulation and serious games, become one of our Patreon supporters.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 13 July 2020

PAXsims is pleased to provide some recent items on conflict simulation and serrious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Our thanks to Jeremy Sepinsky and Paul Kearney for suggesting material for this latest edition.

On June 16, the Center for a New American Security hosted a virtual panel discussion with former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, and CNAS wargamers Chris Dougherty, Ed McGrady, Becca Wasser, and Will Mackenzie on how the Pentagon uses wargames to develop ideas and inform decisions. You can watch it at the link.

The CNA website features an article by Jeremy Sepinsky on “The Challenge of Virtual Wargaming.”

While hobby wargaming has a plethora of outlets during this global pandemic, the same cannot be said for professional wargaming.

The pandemic has completely disrupted professional wargaming, which is typically played en masse and in person. Hundreds of people tend to gather for the signature “Title 10” wargames of each service, such as the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Warrior or the Navy’s Global wargames. These events bring together the artists, scientists, and practitioners of military disciplines to practice, explore, and critique the newest concepts the U.S. military will face or bring to bear. But in the last three months, all of CNA’s in-person wargames have been postponed or cancelled, and the larger military events have mostly been postponed, cancelled, or significantly scaled back.

In this time when virtual meetings are becoming the norm, it may seem obvious to simply start running these wargames online. But shifting entire wargames to virtual events can never fully replace in-person events. A successful wargame is inherently a many-to-many conversation, in which disparate participants from a broad range of organizations gather to share their unique perspectives. Virtual platforms are not yet able to duplicate the experience. 

But wargames are simply too critical to the national planning processes and to developing senior leaders for us to simply throw up our hands and wait for a COVID-19 vaccine. We must learn to execute virtual wargames that yield at least some of the same impact and insight. And so we have to reckon with their many challenges.

The Military Operations Research Society has a series of wargaming courses coming up:

UPDATE: MORS has decided to make all of its events virtual for the duration of 2020.

On his present trajectory, President Trump is heading for a whopping defeat in November. The Economist says there’s nearly a 99 percent chance that Joe Biden will win more popular votes and around a 90 percent chance that he will win more electoral college votes. But what if Trump won’t concede defeat? That is a nightmare scenario for our democracy that could make the 2000 showdown over Florida’s hanging chads seem like a grade-school dispute by comparison…

And with that introduction, Washington Post columnist Max Boot discusses a recent crisis game conducted by the Transition Integrity Project.

The scenario we were given predicted a narrow Biden victory in the electoral college: 278 to 260. Various participants played the role of the Trump campaign, the Biden campaign, Republican and Democratic elected officials, the news media, and other key players to see what would happen next.

I was on Team Trump and, needless to say, we did not concede defeat. Instead, we went to work, ruthlessly and unscrupulously, utilizing every ounce of power at our disposal, to secure the 10 electoral college votes to swing the election. We focused our attention on three of the swing states that Biden won in our scenario — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — because, in all three, Republicans control both branches of the legislature. Normally, the governor certifies the election results, and in all three states the governor is a Democrat. But there is nothing to prevent the legislature from certifying a different election outcome.

The danger of an undemocratic outcome only grows in other scenarios that were “war gamed” by other participants. For instance, what if there is no clear-cut winner on election night, with Biden narrowly ahead in the electoral college but with Michigan, North Carolina and Florida still too close to call? The participants in that war game concluded the result would be “near civil war in the streets.” Far-fetched rumors are enough to bring out armed right-wing militias today; imagine how they would respond if they imagined that there was an actual plot afoot to steal the election from their hero.AD

It is impossible to write off such concerns as far-fetched given how many seemingly far-fetched things have already occurred in the past four years.Trump got himself impeached by trying to blackmail a foreign country into helping his reelection campaign. He will stop at nothing to avoid the stigma of being branded a “loser.” Unless Biden wins by an electoral college margin that no one can credibly dispute, our democracy may be imperiled as never before. We had better start thinking now about how we would handle such an electoral crisis.

The North American Simulation and Gaming Association is launching doversity scholarship, in connection with its annual conference:

At NASAGA, fairness and equity are key values.  In our games, we recognize the importance of the system engine underlying the game environment. A character may have highly beneficial stats in certain attributes, but if the environment is set up against them to constantly sap their stamina based on a stat they’re not specced for, game play will be devastatingly unfair. We realize that our Black brothers and sisters are facing this very challenge every day through four centuries of systemic racial discrimination and oppression. We are uniting to focus our support on those who face the deepest hits to their stamina. 

To put action to our words, we are instituting a scholarship specifically to support and encourage People of Color in our educational gaming world. Starting in the fall of 2020, this scholarship will be available to our Black and Brown community to break down gates in our corner of the gaming world. It will be awarded to support attendance at our conference each year.

Donations can be made at this link.

This year, however, the NASAGA annual conference in October will be held virtually.

On a similar note, post-secondary students from underrepresented andmarginalized groups should consider applying for the $1000 CAD Imaginetic Diversity in Gaming Bursary, as previously announced here at PAXsims. Imaginetic was an early sponsor of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

At The Cove—the Australian Army’s online professional development website—David Hill suggests that the way to invigorate wargaming in military ranks is to establish “fight club.”

In late 2017, Headquarters Forces Command hosted a Wargaming Conference with the aim of re-invigorating wargaming as a skill within the Australian Army. The need had been identified in the lessons learned from the HAMEL series over a number of years; the Australian Army was recognising that the wargaming skills of its officers and soldiers had languished in recent years. The Australian Army was not alone in this realisation, in 2014 the United States Department of Defense funded a program to revitalise analytical wargaming through the conduct of tabletop exercises, seminars, workshops and turn based wargames.[2] Additionally, in 2017, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence released the Wargaming Handbook to ‘reinvigorate wargaming in defence’ and to ‘restore it as part of their DNA’.[3]

First and foremost this article aims to stimulate discussion about wargaming, generate new ideas and approaches for wargaming Professional Military Education activities and generally contribute to the reinvigoration of wargaming within Army. More specifically this article will provide readily available and low cost solutions for leaders to incorporate into their unit’s Professional Military Education program. These options include participation in the Army Tactics Competition hosted by the Australian Defence Force Wargaming Association and the establishment of unit ‘Fight Clubs’ leveraging commercially available products (both board games and table top miniature-based wargame systems). While some might consider this a non-traditional approach, others may wonder why these events and clubs have not already been established in units and/or brigades. The implementation of these proposed solutions should be seen as a way of complementing the existing training continuum and a means to enhance Army’s tactical acumen. Additionally; it was to develop the critical thinking capacity of Army’s personnel and provide experiential learning regarding decision making in an adversarial environment.

For more information on the Australian Defence Force Wargaming Association, see their website.

The British Armed Forces already has a wargaming organization named “Fight Club,” discussed in this recent PAXsims article.

The Royal Navy ship RFA Argus is currently in the Caribbean on hurricane watch. Before deployment, the ship readied for potential humanitarian assistance and disaster response by playing AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game.

The Armchair Dragoons virtual assembly will take place on 31 July -1 August 2020.

What would happen if COVID-19 entered Carlisle Barracks? Last month at the US Army War College War Room, Nicholas Blasco used a simulation to explore exactly that question.

At the Active Learning in Political Science blog, Vincent Druliolle (Department of International Relations, Universidad de Deusto) discusses teaching foreign policy (online) with model diplomacy.

This past term I taught foreign policy for the first time and used Model Diplomacy by the Council of Foreign Relations.

Model Diplomacy is a fantastic resource for teachers and it is completely free. It has an impressive variety of cases and adapting a simulation to one’s particular needs requires only a few clicks. Thanks to the wide range of background material recommended to the students, the instructor can be confident that they will use relevant documents to prepare for the simulation, which is a great advantage of Model Diplomacy for both students and instructors. My students enjoyed working with videos, official documents, and different reports—instead of academic articles—to write their position memos. Model Diplomacy thus increases students interest and is also a good opportunity for them to familiarise themselves with a range of policy documents.

At Tech Beacon, Nick Drage addresses: “How to train for your next security crisis: Let the wargames begin.”

There are two questions that keep security personnel up at night: How will the next attacker breach our organization? And how well will we perform when it happens?

Usually, you find out the answers only after an incident happens. So how do you answer these questions before any damage is done, and how do you ensure that your incident response team can provide their best possible answer when called upon?

The answer is to gain what Matthew B. Caffrey, coordinator of wargaming at the Air Force Material Command, calls “synthetic experience.” By this he means simulating attacks within the context of a wargame. Running through scenarios that are expected to occur in the future and then going through the processes and practices to deal with them allows you and your staff to gain experience in how to respond to a crisis. When a real incident happens, they’ve already been through it many times before.

Here’s how to use wargames to gain the most experience possible, and be ready for the next big security incident.

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!


inkstick

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!

PAXsims

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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.

PAXsims

WotR

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…..

PAXsims

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.

PAXsims

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.

PAXsims

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

PAXsims

AusCrisis

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.

PAXsims

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.”

PAXsims

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!

PAXsims

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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.

PAXsims

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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.”

PAXsims

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.

PAXsims

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.

PAXsims

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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.

PAXsims

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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.

PAXsims

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.

Orderly Adventures

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

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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. 

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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….

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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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