Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: simulation and gaming news

War Games at the Canadian War Museum

The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa will be hosting a new exhibition on wargaming from 9 June to 31 December 2023.

From historic board games to modern military simulations, war games are as ancient, varied and complex as war itself. 

In this wide-ranging exhibition, learn how war games evolved over time — from early strategy games to massive multiplayer online battles — and how militaries use gaming as a training tool. Hear thought-provoking perspectives from professional gamers, researchers, designers and veterans.

War is not a game. Yet war games offer insights into our relationship with real and virtual armed conflict. 

We’re especially pleased to report that among the items included in the exhibit will be a Western Approaches Tactical Unit convoy escort game developed by our very own Kit Barry, as well as AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game.

Participants in this year’s Connections North professional (war)gaming conference (June 9) will get a chance to tour the exhibit during the conference, as well as an invitation to the launch event.

GAO Report “Defense Analysis: Additional Actions Could Enhance DOD’s Wargaming Efforts”

GAO-23-105351 was released on April 24, 2023 and is available online.

The GAO study team:

“identified steps DOD takes to ensure quality wargames. However, DOD stores wargame information in systems that don’t share data with others, which hinders collaboration. Also, none of the five military services have established standard education or qualifications for their wargamers.”

Furthermore, GAO states that

“Organizations within DOD and external providers—such as federally-funded research centers and contractors—provide wargames. But DOD hasn’t assessed the risks of relying on external providers.”

GAO made 10 recommendations for executive action (with which the DOD concurred). In addition to the Full Report (PDF), the report webpage includes the list of recommendations along with updates about what actions the DOD might take in response to each recommendation. This latter will be interesting to monitor!

Connections Online Wargaming Conference 2023 Presentations Now Available

The presentations delivered at the Connections Online Wargaming Conference 2023 held in April are now available courtesy of Armchair Dragoons on YouTube.

Top 10 list of games from those who teach game design 

The following article was written by Ed McGrady.

In one of my recent classes someone asked me what the top ten games a person new to the profession should be familiar with.  I realized that my top ten list would be bizarre, so to avoid too much drama and trauma I figured it might be a good idea to ask some others who teach game design what their lists are.   

And thus, a project was borne.   

Upon seeing some of the lists I began to realize that the whole idea was interesting, and that others might like to see the lists.  So, I asked Rex if he would be interested in publishing it as an entry on PAXSims.  He was.   

And thus, a very long PAXSims post was borne.   

I asked a range of people who teach game design (and some who don’t) for their top 10 lists of wargames that those completely new to the field should have experience with.  Some of them answered, some did not, the lists they sent are provided here.  As you can see, Peter and I could not help but go over the top 10 limit…   

As always, these lists are everyone’s person opinion, not endorsed by any organization they are affiliated with.  We note their affiliations simply to provide the reader some context as to who they are.   

A couple of observations: 

  • When you come of age in gaming seems to influence your choices.  Matt, Peter, and I reach back to old-school games a lot more than folks who are more “recent” than we are.  Diplomacy was only mentioned twice, by Peter and me, for example.    
  • Everyone has their own preferences, and their own take on what makes a good game to learn from.   There were a lot of games I’d have never thought of, and I’m sure many would have never considered the games I suggested.  So, I’m glad I asked everyone for their opinions!  
  • Twilight Struggle (and variants) and Risk (and variants) were the only games to be mentioned four times.  D&D, Battle for Moscow, and Pandemic were mentioned three times.  Thirteen others were mentioned twice.  Out of a total of 107 different games that isn’t a lot of overlap.   

So here are everyone’s (personal) opinions! 

Dr. ED McGrady (MORS Wargaming Certificate Program Lead, Monk’s Hood Media LLC, and Adjunct Senior Fellow CNAS Game Lab) 

I tried to choose games that were still in print, and that covered a variety of hobby techniques and genera.  My focus was primarily “these are systems, games, and ideas you should know about” and less “these are games you should use to teach game design.”  However, a couple of the games, like 1960, D&D and Diplomacy are some of my default games to show different design choices.  But this is definitely more “reading list” than “teaching list” simply because in the classes I teach we don’t have a lot of time to actually play games.   

  1. Diplomacy (AH) – This is probably one of the most elegant designs ever done in a hobby game. 
  1. OLD SCHOOL RPG (pick one):  Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, Hackmaster – Professional gaming is a lot more like role-playing than counter-and-hex wargaming.   
  1. STORYTELLING RPG (pick one): Vampire the Masquerade (World of Darkness), ARS Magica, Call of Cthulhu – There have been innovations in the RPG world, you should know what they are.   
  1. Love Letter – A great example of how simple design can be quite captivating. 
  1. 1960 Making of a President – This system has a remarkable number of ways to simulate the effects of information in games.  It is also a very elegant design. 
  1. Conflict of Heroes (Academy Games) – A great example of modern tactical wargame design.   
  1. MARK HERMAN (Pick One):  We the People (Out of print), For the People, Empire of the Sun – Mark popularized card driven games, and you should know how they work.  And also, its Mark Herman for heaven’s sake! 
  1. NAVAL Close Action (Out of Print) Harpoon, Command at Sea, Fear God and Dread Nought (Admiralty Trilogy Group) – Naval gaming is a whole thing in itself, just like gaming air warfare.  Miniatures dominates for mechanical reasons, and within that space the Admiralty Trilogy Group is probably the best place to go for modern (steam and after) tactical game design concepts.  Close Action (age of sail) is so great for so many reasons, but it appears to be out of print.   
  1. Saga (miniatures) – Miniatures gaming is one of the lesser appreciated forms of hobby gaming on this side of the Atlantic.  You should still see how it works and Saga is an example of a modern approach.   
  1. MEGA GAME (pick one):  Advanced Squad Leader, Star Fleet Battles – I love games with low counter density and high complexity.  You should look at these in order to understand the outer limits of what “complexity” really means.   

Ed McGrady:  Others 

  1. SOCIAL DEDUCTION GAME:  Secret Hitler:  – I think Secret Hitler is one of the best in this category of games, which are a really innovative recent addition to hobby gaming. 
  1. Terraforming Mars:  – If you’re going to go Euro go full Euro with something that is long, complex, and difficult.   
  1. Napoleon at Waterloo:  – A hex and counters game designed to introduce people to hex and counters games.  You can find it digitally online.   
  1. Strategy I:  This old-school hex and counters wargame is years out of print, but it represents an interesting way in which a wide range of eras, and scenarios, can be crammed into one wargame.  It’s a weird choice, but it’s an overlooked part of wargaming history.   

Dr. Peter P. Perla (CNA, author, The Art of Wargaming) 

  1. Go—classic pure strategy game 
  1. Dungeons and Dragons—pretty obvious for RPGs 
  1. [Settlers of] Catan—Example of Euro game mechanisms 
  1. Diplomacy (Avalon Hill)—classic strategy and negotiation game 
  1. Panzergruppe Guderian (SPI)—operational level warfare with untried units 
  1. October War (SPI)—culmination of Dunnigan’s tactical armor system 
  1. Storm Over Arnhem (Avalon Hill)—birth of area-impulse 
  1. W1815 (U&P Games)—a battle game without movement 
  1. Wild Blue Yonder (GMT)—card-based air combat 
  1. Midway (Avalon Hill original)—Double blind naval 

Honorable mentions 

  1. Wells’s Little Wars—the quintessential Artist game 
  1. Risk! (Hasbro)—simple global strategy with area map  
  1. Frederick the Great (SPI/Avalon Hill)—one of the best evocations of an era 
  1. The Rise of Blitzkrieg: The Fall of France 1940 (Bonsai Games)—excellent history, tiny box, few pieces but works great 
  1. Terraforming Mars—complex economic style multiplayer game 

Prof. Sebastian Bae  (CNA and Georgetown University) 

I selected the games I often use to introduce my own Georgetown students to a variety of game concepts, mechanics, and player dynamics. I also emphasized games that are accessible and relatively easier to learn while having interesting aspects to their design. Friedrich, about the 7 Years War, is an excellent logistics informed game with elegant rules with a nodal map system and card driven combat. Battle for Moscow features classic wargame mechanics like terrain effects, hit points, differentiated units, and zones of control. Pax Pamir is an excellent card tableau game about the Great Game in Afghanistan with a rich card mechanic. Twilight Struggle Red Sea uses the classic influence mechanic, while Cuba Libre like the other COIN series models asymmetrical advantages well. Citadels — like Love Letter — is a card game with interesting social deduction and character advantages.  

  1. Friedrich by Rio Grande Games 
  1. Battle for Moscow — a free online version against an AI here:  
  1. Twilight Struggle Red Sea by GMT. It is a smaller version of Twilight Struggle 
  1. Undaunted by Osprey Games 
  1. Game of Thrones Risk by Risk 
  1. Pax Pamir by Wehrle Games 
  1. Cuba Libre by GMT which I think is the easiest of all the COIN series, but A Distant Plain about Afghanistan is also good 
  1. Axis and Allies 1942 
  1. W1815 by U&P Games 
  1. Citadels (2016) by Windrider Games 

Prof. Rex Brynen (McGill University) 

This is a different sort of list than “classic or important games you should know about” since the criteria include playability (and accessibility for new gamers), adaptability to classroom or online play, utility in demonstrating different game mechanics, born-at-McGill-so-you-can-design-games-too, and other considerations relevant to my course in conflict simulation. 

  1. Battle for Moscow  (to teach classic hex/chit/CRT wargames. There’s an excellent online module and bot too). 
  1. Unity of Command (excellent digital implementation of a hex/chit/CRT game—I prefer the older version for teaching, since the underlying game model is more visible) 
  1. 1812: Invasion of Canada  (highly playable, elegant area movement wargame that doesn’t use a CRT for combat resolution, includes a card mechanism) and/or  Shores of Tripoli  (rather similar to 1812 in the mechanics it demonstrates, also highly playable and engaging) 
  1. Twilight Struggle  orLabyrinth  (card-driven design) 
  1. We Are Coming, Nineveh!  (blocks/fog of war/event cards, plus it was originally designed by students in the class) 
  1. AFTERSHOCK  (multiplayer semi-cooperative gaming, non-kinetic topic, also “born at McGill”) 
  1. A matrix game of some sort (Usually  ISIS Crisis  or  Reckoning of Vultures), from the Matrix Games Construction Kit).
  1. A seminar game of some sort (usually online).
  1. A miniatures skirmish game of some sort (usually zombie apocalypse game that is used as a fun introduction to procurement/investment games, by forcing players to allocate scarce resources to survival equipment and weapons).
  1. Various digital browser choose-your-own adventure or RPG/storytelling games (This War of Mine,  Through the Darkest of Times,  Mission Zhobia,  Outbreak READY, etc). I also recommend Rebel, Inc (an excellent digital/mobile stabilization game, because of its intuitive user interface, excellent use of scarce screen real estate, and the elegance of its basic game model). 

Mr. Peter Pellegrino (Tabletop History) 

For games that are not difficult to explain, play in under 2 hours, illustrate a particular principle or mechanic well, and are all on my shelf.  OK, so I only came up with 7.  I’m picky. 

In no particular order -   

  1. Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal.  The Battle Box for resolving salvo fires is as close to operational fires I’ve seen in a war game. 
  1. Memoir ’44.  Good introduction to mini gaming without going all Warhammer or Bolt Action. 
  1. The Shores of Tripoli.  Historical gaming can be beautiful and need not be confined to hexes! 
  1. Flamme Rouge.  A deceivingly simple path and card game, it is so well balanced that losers want to play again, since they missed winning by such a small margin. 
  1. Pandemic.  The granddaddy of cooperative play.  The disease-spreading mechanic shows up in other games where some antagonistic force is not controlled by a player.  
  1. Zombicide.  Yes, Zombicide.  Another good example of how to automate the adversary in a cooperative game. 
  1. Escape the Temple.  It’s a bit wild and silly, but the frenetic energy is the point!  A co-op game that completely shatters the idea of IGO-UGO and lacks any sense of a traditional “turn.” 

Dr. Justin Peachey (CNA game designer) 

The goal is to have a broad base from which to draw on. I’m missing some of the older wargames here mostly because I don’t have time to play anymore with 2 kids, etc. Some of these games “define” their genre. Others are just my favorites. 

  1. Diplomacy 
  1. D&D 5e or Pathfinder 2e – Modern RPG 
  1. Catan – Eurogame 
  1. Pandemic – Cooperative 
  1. Twilight Imperium – “American-style” (since I don’t like the term Ameritrash) game. 
  1. Dominion – In Game Deck Builder 
  1. This War of Mine – Storytelling/Adventure 
  1. Magic: the Gathering – Collectible Card Game (CCG): (at least read Mark Rosewater’s articles on design) 
  1. Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars X-Wing – “Miniatures” (I really want to say Warhammer 40k but sometimes that comes with baggage so…) 
  1. Twilight Struggle 

MAJ Tom Mouat (UK Army game designer) 

  1. We are coming Nineveh. Divisional level game of Urban Warfare, playable in 90mins, intended for two players. Uses blocks for limited intelligence, and has strategic choices (time, casualties, collateral) and capability choices to support them. Simple gameplay and great conversations. 
  1. Black Orchestra.   A cooperative game of the plot to kill Hitler. The players choose historical characters and try to put together a plot to kill Hitler, while avoiding the SS and choosing their moment against a backdrop of WW2. Rich in historical detail and creates compelling narratives. 
  1. The Shores of Tripoli.   A cooperative game about the USA’s efforts at dealing with the Barbary Pirates in the Western Mediterranean. A simple game, with clean, stripped-down mechanics, perfectly balanced and rich in historical detail. 
  1. Watergate.    A short 2-player game, playable in 60 minutes, on a subject that, on the face of it, would be difficult to design a game about. 
  1. Root.   Many people go on about the idea of asymmetric games, but this 2 to 6 player game manages to generate genuinely different gameplay styles for each of the factions. It also does it in a way where the game play accelerates through the game to ensure there is a winner in a relatively short time – and the game is beautiful! 
  1. Risk  and  Warlord (republished by Game Workshop as  Armageddon). These two are games about world domination, the first,  Risk, is truly awful and suffers from the fact it is boring and that that a clear winner is obvious a long way before the end of the game and doesn’t really provide any helpful lessons. Warlord, on the other hand, while looking visually similar, has nuclear weapons, terrain effects, an innovative mechanism for combat resolution, and can be aimed to be played for different lengths of time by choosing the number of game-boards to use. 
  1. Pandemic.   This is a multi-award winning cooperative game of pandemic control and eradication. It works very well but suffers greatly from the “Alpha player” problem, where experienced players will understand the best actions to take and therefore suggest to more inexperienced players what to do, removing agency from them and reducing their enjoyment of the game. Pandemic Cthulhu and a couple of later editions make efforts to reduce this and make the experience better all around. 
  1. MaGCK The Matrix Game Construction Kit.   A boxed game version of the Matrix Games concept, generating game play merely from structured verbal arguments, with some counters and maps merely there to visualized the progress of the game and assist in sparking imagination. 
  1. Lasers and Feelings  RPG (or  Tactical Waifu).   It is essential to have a role-playing game in any list of Top 10 game designs – and I choose Lasers and Feelings, because it is an award-winning game that is stripped down to the bare essentials of narrative gameplay. The rules fit on a single side of paper, so don’t need tedious explanations and mechanisms. It also avoids the “fantasy dragons and wizards” tropes (and “murder-hobo” behaviors) of D&D-like games. 
  1. Ace of Aces.   A two-player game of tactical air combat in WW1, using paired books of illustrations of the situation each turn, and choices of maneuvers. You don’t need a map, game-board or any system or record-keeping. You don’t even need dice, although you can introduce them for the advanced version. A totally underappreciated work of genius. 

Dr. Jeremy Sepinsky (CNA lead wargame designer)  

In my view, professional gaming is about coming together with a group of knowledgeable experts to tell a collaborative story. Ideally, that process is made interesting to the players through a series of interesting choices. So I used my list not to represent what professional gaming looks like (it doesn’t look like anything in the hobby community from my experience; except maybe LARPs, and that only some of the time), but instead to highlight games that give me design insights or inspiration, things that I think provide interesting case studies for design. I think, with the toolkit below, you have the bits and pieces that can create a large fraction of the kinds of games we create as professional wargame designers. 

  1. Chess. I’m not a chess pro by any means, and I’m honestly barely any good at it. But the evolution of complexity from fairly simple mechanics on a small board is excellent. And it’s a simple enough game for novices that can illustrate to novices the need to think more than one turn in the future. 
  1. World of Darkness RPGs (Vampire the Masquerade, etc.). What sets these apart from the more popular D&D in my mind is that the character creation rules applies to every person you meet. They attempt to describe everyone from the special to the mundane within the same framework, reminding me as a designer to not treat my players as too much of special cases in the world. 
  1. Catan. Its ubiquity and ability to bridge the novices and the hard-core games has a utility of its own. Plus, it has a good negotiation aspect that ensures people don’t focus solely on the crunchy aspects of the rules. 
  1. Risk. Yes, you can get more complex and realistic battle simulations. But Risk is a territory control game that teaches you the basic mechanics. Plus, the places where Risk fails (statistics and win probability) are good illustrative examples of what not to do. 
  1. Mafia/Werewolf.  A game where interpersonal interaction dominates the rules. Understanding the hooks that force people to talk and contribute, and how those rules might force some people to stay silent to protect their interest/information makes those rules interesting. 
  1. Twilight Imperium.  Look, it may not be the most classic wargame, but it’s fun. And it creates a self-consistent ruleset from the diplomatic, commercial/trade, strategic, and tactical that interacts in an engaging manner – especially if you max out the number of players and can set aside half a day to do it. 
  1. Bridge.  Another game with emergent complexity. It’s a game played in teams, with hidden information and a requirement for subtle communication. Players must understand each other’s mode of play and be able to capitalize on another player’s hand without seeing it. And counting cards helps. 
  1. Tsuro.  This game is just fun. It’s simple, replayable, and scalable to a large number of players. The choices are limited, but the game design is beautiful and unique, and shows designers that not everything needs to be extra detailed to be effective. 
  1. 7 Wonders.  The pass-and-play mechanic is good, and the game works by giving just enough player interaction (mostly by watching what other people are playing) to make it not quite a 1-player game. Understanding that dynamic, and ensuring players have meaningful interactions with each other in the confines of your game, is key to a good design. 
  1. Candyland.  Not every example needs to be one that you should replicate. This is the classic example of a “game that’s not a game”, and people should know and understand it. And they should be able to recognize it in the games that they create as well, even when it’s not quite as obvious. 

Mr. Mark Leno (Wargame Designer and Wargaming Instructor, U.S. Army War College) 

Game design is best learned through playing and analyzing lots of games with different themes, genres, and mechanics. Here are some of my personal favorites for training wargame designers and facilitators (hard to choose just 10!).  

  1. Go: classic abstract game of both strategy and tactics, complex play without complicated rules:.
  1. Eight Minute Empire: grand strategy in simple(st) form.
  1. Balance of Power: introduction to negotiation games (“Diplomacy”-light) and deterministic combat models:.
  1. Memoir ’44: introduction to tactical wargaming, stochastic combat models, and modular game design:.
  1. 13 Minutes: introduction to card-driven political-military wargames.
  1. Captain Sonar: real-time adjudication with role-playing elements.
  1. Concordia: introduction to Euro- and resource-allocation games:.
  1. Evolution: tactical card-driven wargame:. 
  1. Twilight Struggle: Red Sea: introduction to heavier card-driven political-military wargames and hybrid combat models.
  1. War Room (Larry Harris): one of the best grand strategy wargames, models so much with relatively simple rules and simultaneous orders.

CAVEAT: These are the author (Mark Leno’s) personal views and not an endorsement by the U.S. Army or any other organization.  

Dr. James Sterrett (Chief, Simulation Education Division, Army Command and General Staff College) 

A lot of how I use wargames as examples is strongly driven by student  projects – I try to have them play games that are relevant, in theme or mechanics, to whatever they are creating. 
My course starts with playing Battle for Moscow, and then has a series of “petting zoos” in which I show off 10 or so games per class, but zero in specifically on approaches to modelling command and control (which often means sequence of play); modelling space or using spatial mapping to model things; ways to model the assets players can control; and ways to model getting outcomes from actions, which mostly means approaches to combat resolution. 
So I’ll try to note, below, how these get used. 

  1. Battle for Moscow is a superb introductory game.  Simple, easy to teach, engaging, and has a lot of really good examples of mechanics used elegantly.  My favorite of those is the sequence of play, which makes the Soviet forces somewhat unwieldy, and makes the German armor outrun its infantry in mobile fighting, without any other special rules. Battle for Moscow is free as a print and play via:!/C3i-Nr25-eBook-Edition/p/136922625/category=33205167 and also has an excellent free online version at 
  1. Strike of the Eagle is often the second game, providing an introduction to blocks for fog of war, cards with multiple uses as is common in card-driven games, point-to-point maps, and a very clever orders and initiative system with lots of bluffing.  Strike of the Eagle is the game most frequently cited by my students as providing mechanics inspiration. 
  1. 1944 Race to the Rhine and SupplyLines of the American Revolution  are our go-to games to demonstrate ways to put logistics at the center of a game. 
  1. Napoleon 1806/1807/1815: In addition to using blocks for fog of war, these are good for introducing uncertain movement rules, another example of cards with multiple uses, custom dice for combat resolution, and units with more detailed composition than what’s shown on the map.  Frequently cited by students as a source of mechanical inspiration. 
  1. Sicily (Operational Combat Series) and Sicily (Fast Action Battles Series) are two games on the same topic with maps at the same scale and size: but OCS uses hexes and FAB uses areas. This is great for discussing the different feel that hexes and areas bring to a game. In the petting zoo, I use the party trick of putting the OCS Sicily hex map over top of the FAB Sicily area map before students arrive, so there’s the surprise factor of revealing the very different second map. 
  1. Triumph & Tragedy does a great job of integrating all aspects of DIME (Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic) into a single model, beginning in the competition phase and potentially moving into conflict.  The minor nation diplomacy system, in particular, is outstanding. 
  1. 1824 Kriegsspiel.  We run this as a Free Kriegsspiel.  Kriegsspiel isn’t just of historical interest; run well it’s an excellent wargame, and introduces issues of adjudication, written orders and their interpretation, and fully double-blind play. 
  1. Wings for the Baron does a great job of focusing on technology development without losing sight of the economic and military pressures at work. 
  1. Squad Leader, Combat Commander, Conflict of Heroes, Band of Brothers, Last Hundred Yards: five games on squad-level combat in Europe in WW2, but each with a completely different approach to the sequence of play and thus to command & control.  These are a core exhibit in the petting zoo to discuss the impact of different approaches on player decision-making. 

Mr. Matt Caffrey (Air Force Research Laboratory and author of On Wargaming) 

  1. Across SuezOne challenge in teaching about wargaming is that many in the military have the perception that wargames are all million-line programs that take a year to learn and run.  With only three and a third pages of rules, Mark Herman’s depiction of the Israeli counterattack on the Egyptians during the 1973 war provides confidence that wargames are learnable. Being set after WWII helps the perception of relevance to contemporary warfare. 
  1. Drive on Metz.  The section on it in James Dunnigan’s Complete Wargame Handbook increases the learning value of this World War II wargame. 
  1. House Divided. Frank Chadwick’s great design of the military dimensions of the American Civil War introduces players to an area and transportation line style map and demonstrates that even strategic level wargames can be easy to learn and play. 
  1. Axis and Allies.  Larry Harris’ World War II wargame demonstrates area movement and that an all domain, global wargame can be executable.  This title’s many simplifications make the truly strategic decisions easier to see. 
  1. Origins of World War II.  Introduces Pol/Mil wargaming in an easy to learn and execute way. 
  1. Fortress Europa.  This is my favorite wargame.  It depicts the WWII campaign by the Allies to liberate Western Europe, from selecting a site for D-Day through (if successful) entering Germany.  It provides operational level choices for the employment of airpower and elegantly demonstrates the impacts of logistical capacity. 
  1. For The People.  Mark Herman’s design on the American Civil War depicts all dimensions of that conflict and demonstrates the use of cards can add significant depth with a moderate increase in complexity. 
  1. GDW’s Third World War Series.  This Frank Chadwick series of wargames use a common set of rules to depict the Cold War of the late 1980s turning hot in four different theaters. Each illustrates the air/land nature of operations during that era while the final title in the series, Person Gulf, adds a pol/mil element.  
  1. Stellar Conquest/Master of Orion.  Wargame practitioners need to decide when to apply manual methods of a computer-based design.  An entire book could be written in the pluses and minuses of each choice.  As these two science fiction games are essentially the same game executed manually and as computer code, they help the practitioner decide for themselves how the medium shapes the final product. 
  1. Civilization.  For over two decades this computer wargame depiction of the rise of civilizations has been at or near the top of best sellers lists. It somehow combines a nearly comprehensive depiction of societal development with ease to learn and play. An achievement we can all learn from. 

WATU Wargame Returning to Liverpool

It’s the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, and back in 1943, the 6th May marked the turning-point where we stopped losing and started making life so difficult for U-Boats that for a time they withdrew from the Atlantic entirely, and when they returned (in September 1943) they never again had the upper-hand.

So what better time to recreate the Western Approaches Tactical Unit wargame at WAHQ again?

Four Indian Navy Wrens (WRINS) plot ship movements on the Bombay Tactical Table. Two are wearing saris, two are Anglo-Indians in Western clothing.

Formed in 1942 to solve the U-Boat problem in the Atlantic, WATU was staffed almost entirely by women, and men unfit for duty at sea through illness and injury. The Wrens came from all walks of life and all across (what was then) the Empire, and were responsible for teaching the Allied navies convoy escort tactics: how to find and sink U-Boats. 

Since the last time we played in 2018, I’ve found WATU Wrens alive and kicking, and learnt a lot more about how the game works, so this time we’re playing with:

Actual pieces from the WATU game:

When WATU demobbed, Cpt Roberts gifted the ships to the Wrens as souvenirs: Leading Wren Helen Coop’s ship has been scanned using photogrammetry, turned into CAD, and lovingly recreated by Ian Greig.

In grey is a test-print with a filament printer, in translucent is a print from a UV-setting resin printer, and one laser-cut from wood, ready for painting:

Three replicas of Helen Coop's ship model, in various materials.

Actual game chits:

Leading Wren Helen Coop left us a treasure-trove in her scrapbook, including chits from actual WATU wargames played by Cpt Johnny Walker’s support group:

A 1945 WATU wargame Move Chit. In pencil at the top it says Lt Cdr Wemyss Wild Goose. The Unit to move is J3, the Time is 44, the Course is 200, Speed 20, and General Intentions reads "Same, but more so. Send top priority signal to depot for new guns' crew"

Nothing changes in wargaming: after rolling a 1, Cdr Wemyss would like a new gun crew please :-P

Plotting tools:

In the 2018 game we used a crude movement template to help with plotting, and mostly ignored turning circles. This was partly a simplification to help the players (WATU had the distinct advantage that their players came knowing how to command their ship and plot it on a chart! Our players were liable to try impossible things), and partly due to a lack of data. Since then I’ve found a lot more photos with details of the plot, and hunted down data on period ships which was not easy to find. 

The result is this Rather Excellent [TM] recreation of the plotting protractor, laser-cut by Ian Greig. They work magnificently well and look amazing. Figuring out what they were from a handful of WATU photos might be my favourite bit of wargaming geekery :-)

Side-by-side comparison of the Canadian Tactical Table protractor and our recreation.

Actual adjudication tables (probably):

Chris Carlson dug up some post-war ASW tables which are probably a later version of the WATU adjudication tables. One of the big mysteries of the WATU game has been how all that stuff happened, since the pre-war (1921 & 1929) RN War Game rules are not the WATU game (it’s a fundamentally different game that’s been mistaken for the WATU game by some because it mentions “screens”, but it’s very clearly talking about putting down screens on the plot to screen the surface ships from each other when they’re out of visible contact, not viewing the entire plot from behind a screen to obfuscate the U-Boat tracks on the plot), and the contemporary descriptions forget to mention how you adjudicate an attack. Even these tables don’t really explain how they’re used, but they fit broadly with the assumptions we made for the 2018 game, which is pleasing! 

Well…all except one thing: we used D100s, and it turns out that because dice were too new-fangled (or D100s were hard to come by in 1942, or the Temperance Movement had words), WATU used a 1 to 100 tombola.

Raspberry the Wargaming bear (in WRNS uniform) for scale next to a large wooden tombola. The bear could easily fit inside.

I appear to have bought one large enough for Raspberry to go to sea in… stop by WAHQ during the game and you can draw the fate of a U-Boat, Escort, or merchant ship from the adjudication tombola :-)

U-Boat artefacts:

Big Heritage, who run the WAHQ museum, acquired a U-Boat during lockdown, and are busy renovating it and creating a Battle of the Atlantic Museum across the Mersey from WAHQ.

The original plan for this game was for the U-Boat players to play from the actual U-Boat, but the new museum is still a building site, so instead we’re bringing some of the U-Boat artefacts over to WAHQ for the day. Our U-Boat players have been practicing with attack discs to get their firing solution. We’ll see if they’re able to sink anything!

We’re also hoping to make use of the Y-Service teleprinter which has been refurbished to run off a Raspberry Pi, for sending our convoy relevant Engima decrypts.

Come to WAHQ on Saturday 6th May and you’ll get to:

  • Celebrate the remarkable achievements of the WATU Wrens!
  • Chat with the direct descendants of WATU about careers in professional wargaming: yes, you can get paid to play board/war/computer games for a living ;-)
  • See the WATU game in action, send some signals to the convoy if you’d like.
  • Explore the Western Approaches Museum, including their new Wrens exhibition, Leading Wren Helen Coop’s WATU scrapbook, and bits from their newly-acquired U-Boat.
  • Say hello to a handful of PAXsims editors :-P
  • Delight in a Derby House Principles wargame being played in the actual Derby House that the principles are named for. 

Canadians can also check out the WATU gallery at the Canadian War Museum‘s up-coming wargaming exhibition.

Read more about the Derby House Principles for diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming here.

The Derby House Principles multi-coloured D20 logo

House China committee to war-game Taiwan invasion scenario

Axios reports that “The House China Select Committee this week will be war-gaming a scenario in which China invades Taiwan

China committee chair Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.). Photo: Michael A. McCoy/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Why it matters: It’s a unique opportunity that will allow bipartisan members of Congress to walk through the potential challenges and identify the best legislative responses to deter and combat an invasion.

Driving the news: On Wednesday evening, bipartisan members of the House panel on China, led by Chair Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), will step into the shoes of U.S. officials in a war-game simulation conducted by the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank focused on national security.

(click on links for full article)

Sophia Cai, Axios, Apr 18, 2023,

Games-Based Learning Virtual Conference 2023

“Registration is NOW open for the the Games-Based Learning Virtual Conference! The (GBLVC) is the premiere professional event for designers, educators, entrepreneurs, and instructors, for games, games-based learning, gamification, serious games, and simulations. Hosted live and online June 9-11, 2023.

Claim the $50 Discount before May 6, 2023!

Registration & Info at:

Email from Dave Eng 12 April 2023

Autonomous Army Logistics Vehicles

A lot of work is going into autonomous battlefield logistics vehicles. In addition to the obvious issues of wargaming these AI based platforms, a couple of years ago Rex Brynen pointed out an issue rarely discussed up to that point (if memory serves it was at the NATO OR&A Conference 2019 Ottawa Canada).

He reminded everyone that these vehicles are laden with high value goodies that are highly attractive to the local population (who are probably in desperate need of the items being carried) as well as enemy forces. Unless troops guard these vehicles, the vehicles may have to use autonomous lethal force to protect the supply chain which introduces other problems.

We Tried To Steal Food From A Delivery Robot – BuzzFeed News

And then of course there’s the cardboard box method of hijacking the vehicles.

This YouTube video reminded me of Rex’s prescient warning!

Breakthrough: Arctic Albatros demos (Toronto, March 23 and 24)

Archipelago of Design will be hosting demonstrations of their Breakthrough: Arctic Albatros game in Toronto on March 23 and 24.

Breakthrough: Arctic Albatross is a turn-based mystery investigation wargame. Breakthrough puts players in situations that enable them to seamlessly develop complex strategy-making capabilities. The Arctic Albatross scenario takes place in Inuuqatigiit, a fictitious former hamlet in the Canadian Arctic in 2040. With the Northwest Passage becoming a viable alternative to the Panama canal, Inuuqatigiit is becoming a global trading hub. Yet, its development is at stake. Following delays in the construction of major infrastructure projects, the Government of Canada summons players to investigate. What they may or may not uncover will shape the fate of the country, its allies and partners for decades to come.

The Thursday (March 23) session will take place from 6pm to 9pm at OCAD U Waterfront Campus, 130 Queens Quay East, Toronto, Floor 4R, Room 424. You should register in advance using this form. For more information, contact Mikhial Gurarie

The Friday (March 24) session will take place from 1pm to 5pm at the Esri Canada offices, 4th floor, 1600 Carling Avenue. For more information contact Michele Mastroeni at

Holographic Tabletop Gaming

A holographic projection of a few blocks of a sci-fi city, complete with flying cars.

Tilt Five is a table-top holographic projection system. It’s very cool!

How it works:

  • An IR camera in the glasses gets tracking data from the dots at the edges of the board
  • The glasses get the display output of a PC or android device by USB 
  • Two seriously cool micro-projectors in the glasses throw the image at the board
  • The retroreflective board throws the image back into the player’s eyes
  • There’s also a controller which is tracked by the headset camera. It has a gamepad stick, buttons, and trigger, as well as having its position and rotation tracked in 3D.

That means:

  • The player sees the holograms at their in-world distance, rather than being projected onto the inside of the glasses. That makes the holograms actually appear to be in the world, rather than rendered in front of the world with clipping to give the illusion of being rendered “behind” objects. This is a big deal for preventing eye-strain for the player because you get to focus on the object at it’s actual depth. VR headsets and the Hololens force your eyeballs to decouple focus and convergence to maintain the illusion of depth, because everything is rendered an inch from your face.
  • You’re not going to see motion sickness like you would in VR. Partly because the real world is still there to keep your vestibular system feeling grounded, but also because the refresh rate on the headset is spectacular (150fps !). A lot of VR-based motion sickness is to do with marginal frame-rate causing an almost-imperceptible lag between tracking and the visuals updating.
  • Multiple headsets connected to the same device can view the board at the same time, each getting the view that makes sense for the tracked position of their headset. It’s a shared experience without needing to network the game over multiple devices.
  • The retroreflective board means the holograms are bright and the colours vibrant even in a well-lit room, something the Hololens can really struggle with.

What kinda things can you do with it?

That conceptual difference of “it’s a shared experience around a table” is where the Tilt-Five excels. It’s marketed as augmented reality for boardgames and RPGs, sort of like Battle Chess on steroids meets Roll20. You can already buy Catan, Tabletopia, and other Steam Games, and a DnD/RPG sandbox called Battle Map Studio.

Here’s a procedurally-generated island:

It’s particularly suited to a top-down style strategy map view of the world, which makes sense given the boardgame focus in development. 

Here’s a work-in-progress porting Tom Mouat’s 8” hex WW1 trench raid RPG to the Tilt Five: the little dudes are selectable by poking with the wand, and route-plan to a point on the map with a strong preference for staying in cover. You can set them to standing, crouching, or crawling with wand buttons. Guns and baddies TBD ;-)

You can also use the board as a TARDIS-like ‘well’, or window into a 3D world below the table surface that is larger than the board (but only visible through the board).

You’re still able to see and interact with the real world with the glasses on, unlike VR where you’re isolated in your own personal view. You can create a holographic dungeon for use with your physical 28mm miniatures. Or you could hook it up to:

  • Drive other projection systems: eg a Google Maps style bird table interface to pull StreetView images to a 360 projection system, using actual Google Maps, or your simulated environment
  • Visualise other projection systems: eg a strategy map style view of people in VR, as an alternative perspective to first-person view for over-the-shoulder observation and AAR. It can be maddening directing someone in VR when all you can see is what they’re currently looking at
  • Visualise 3D data, photogrammetry, CAD, or provide situational awareness like a 3D HUD

How about a nice game of thermonuclear war?

The multi-headset support means you can make multiplayer games without compromises like split-screen and hot-seat, and without needing to network computers—which is both a skillset all of its own, and an added complication when working at classification.

Is it analytically useful, beyond being very cool?

As someone who makes games for serious purposes, 99% of the time that someone asks “Can you do this in VR?” the correct answer is “Yes…but I don’t think that’s actually useful for you…” stuff isn’t just better because of immersion. Augmented reality is the same: just because you can do a thing does not mean it’s providing more value than a standard monitor or a board-and-counters physical copy of the game.

Compared to a physical game, adding a computer has obvious advantages:

  • The computer keeps score, and can show you lots of complex data in ways that gets very messy and complicated if you’re doing things by hand
  • Hidden information can exist on the same plot, and we can very easily control who sees what, rather than having to use compromises like a kriegspiel where you can see the blocks but just don’t know what units they are, or maintain two plots and hope they don’t get out of sync
  • More intuitive displays of information: you can show dynamic information, like see that a unit is dug-in, firing, or reloading directly with the artwork, rather than having to use abstractions like turning the piece sideways, or this coloured block on a tracker that’s somewhere else on the table. You can also call up context-relevant rules and stats very easily, and without giving away information to the other side about your intention when you start measuring ranges and line of sight.

But these are things that you can achieve on a standard monitor. Can a Tilt Five do more, or differently?

Probably the biggest thing it does is that social aspect: you get all the benefits of four players with their own laptop screens, except that it’s all happening around the same board. All the players are seeing the same game-space but it’s still possible to control individually what they see—I can set the culling masks so that enemy units don’t render for you unless your units have LOS to them, and you get your own user interface which shows only the stats you should know about. Whether this is a competitive or cooperative game, you’re all looking at the same board and able to point out things to each other directly, rather than having to talk someone to pointing their screen in the right direction to see what you’re seeing. 

The other clear advantage is the 3D. It’s very compelling in ways that are hard to convey through 2D captures. The parallax effect is magical. You can share a 3D tabletop setup across physical space with a networked game—instead of having one physical board and distributed players getting only a webcam view of the game, as many of the players as you like can have holographic boards.

In terms of interface, there’s just something more intuitive about being able to crane your head to look at where you want to place a piece and tap the spot with the wand, instead of wrestling with camera position and rotations to get the view to click with a mouse. This might seem like a trivial thing to folks who play a lot of real-time strategy games, but it’s a big barrier to entry for folks who don’t (who are often our customers). I saw this first hand using VR with the Army: give a soldier a VR controller for a shooting game and there’s a “what buttons do I press?” panic; give them a Nerf rifle converted into a VR controller and they visibly relax because they know how to use a gun.

Finally, there’s the wow-factor for communicating with your audience either during the game or in AAR. Sometimes you want to put your data’s best coat and gloves on. Some people equate how good a game looks with how robust its findings are, and will take your recommendations more seriously for being a wizzy hologram. (I know, it makes me sad too.) Sometimes the game needs to feel compelling for people to engage with you, and there is nothing wrong with using cool tech for the engagement value.

Elizabeth Joslyn joins PAXsims as a Research Associate

We are pleased to announce that Elizabeth “Betsy” Joslyn has joined PAXsims as a Research Associate for 2023-34.

Betsy is a research associate for the Joint Advanced Warfighting Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses and designer of the microgame Turning Tides, which features competing interests between powers to reduce global greenhouse gases at a geopolitical level. She previously served as a wargaming team lead for a national security think tank in DC, as a congressional liaison for the Department of Transportation, and as a rural aquaculture specialist in Zambia as a Peace Corps volunteer. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Chemistry from Bridgewater College and a Masters in Science in Terrorism and Homeland Security Policy from American University. Her fields of interest include cooperation and competition between hegemonic powers, historical wargames, and wargaming for the next generation.

Connections US 2023 Call for Presentations CLOSING soon!

The 2023 Connections Wargaming Conference will be hosted by National Defense University, at Ft. McNair in Washington, DC, June 21-23. Our theme: Next Generation Tools & Methods (however, as always, any sufficiently interesting wargaming related presentation is welcome!) Full details of the conference are on the Connections US website.

The Call for Presentations will close on March 13, after which feel free to suggest a late-emerging idea, but we will only be able to accommodate you if there is space on the agenda.

Handbook for Survey Development for Wargamers

The War Gaming Department at the U.S. Naval War College has been war gaming since 1887. This Survey Development Handbook describes how we think about incorporating survey methods into our analysis and survey development steps to consider across each phase of our war gaming process. It augments the War Gamers’ Handbook to provide background on analytical war gaming, our terminology, and our research design process.

The goal of this handbook is to enable war gamers to prepare and conduct surveys and to help war gamers become better users of survey results. Specifically, this handbook attempts to address how to ask questions, how to collect reliable and valid information, and how to analyze and report results.

— Douglas R. Ducharme, EdD

AFTERSHOCK humanitarian access variant

The international response to humanitarian emergencies is often severely contrained by the issue of access. This can be physical, of course, with roads, bridges, ports, and airports inoperable due to a natural disaster. However, it can also be due to politics and conflict.

The recent devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria is an example of this: the Syrian regime would very much like to limit access to (opposition-controlled) northern Syria, or at least control all aid flowing there. There are, however, a limited number of border crossings from Turkey available to international aid organizations by virtue of UN Security Council Resolutions 2165 (2014) and 2672 (2023). Western countries have no desire to strengthen the brutal Asad regime by directly aiding the Syrian government. Aid efforts in the north are sometimes constrained by insecurity in these areas. Outside military forces (that is, those that would be represented by the “HADR Task Force” player in AFTERSHOCK) are unable to provide direct assistance in either of these areas because of a range of diplomatic, political, and security reasons—most especially, the opposition of the Syrian government.

There are other examples, however. In 1991, the US and other Western allies provided direct humanitarian aid to the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq against the wishes of the Iraqi government as part of Operation Provide Comfort, under the auspices of UNSCR 688 (1991). Throughout the civil war and in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the government of Sri Lanka deliberately limited the access of aid agencies to Tamil-majority areas in the west of the country. Providing aid to the population of Yemen is severely complicated not only by the local security situation but also by the fact that most countries do not recognize the Houthi movement that controls the northern and western parts of the country, including the capital of Sana’a and most of Yemen’s government apparatus. There are many other examples.

Here we suggest variants of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis game that explore the challenges of humanitarian access.

First, lay out the game mats as shown below to reflect government and rebel control over the different districts.

Districts 1, 2, and 4 are government-controlled areas, and supplies can be transferred there via the Port or Airport.

Districts 3 and 5 are rebel-controlled areas, and supplies can be transferred there directly via the Frontier. (Normally in AFTERSHOCK, supplies at the Frontier must first be transferred to the Port or Airport. This no longer applies.) No government (Carana) teams may ever be deployed in rebel-controlled areas at any point. The government does not ever gain or lose OP for anything that happens in these areas.

Second, decide on the political limitations on the HADR-TF player. Three variants are suggested below, but many others are possible.

  • Variant 1 (loosely based on the current situation in Syria, with many parallels in Yemen too):
    • HADR-TF may not deploy teams anywhere other than Cluster Coordination. On Days 1-2 and 3-4 HADR-TF receives one team (instead of the usual two). Each turn in which HADR-TF transfers any supplies to the (government-controlled) Port or Airport they lose 1 OP.
    • Neither the UN nor HADR-TF may conduct security operations. The UN loses 1 OP each time it upgrades the Port or Airport.
    • Add one additional Logistics marker to the Port and Airport at the start of the game (for a total of two at each location). Carana starts with one less supply and receives one less supply each turn, to reflect the effects of the civil war and international sanctions.
  • Variant 2 (loosely based on the situation in Iraq after the 1990-91 Gulf War):
    • HADR-TF may only deploy teams to Cluster Coordination and (rebel-controlled) Districts 3 and 5. Each turn in which HADR-TF transfers any supplies to the (government-controlled) Port or Airport they lose 1 OP.
    • Neither the UN nor HADR-TF may conduct security operations in government-controlled areas. The UN loses 1 OP each time it upgrades the Port of Airport.
    • Carana starts with one less supply and receives one less supply each turn, to reflect the effects of the war and international sanctions.
  • Variant 3 (loosely based on the current situation in Somalia):
    • HADR-TF may only deploy teams to Cluster Coordination and (government-controlled) Districts 1, 2 and 4. Each turn in which HADR-TF transfers any supplies to the (rebel-controlled) Frontier they lose 1 OP.
    • Neither the UN nor HADR-TF may conduct security operations in rebel-controlled areas.
    • Carana starts with two less supplies and receives one less supply each turn, to reflect the effects of conflict, fiscal constraints, and widespread poverty.

Third, use the various blank cards included in AFTERSHOCK to create new event cards, coordination cards, and at-risk cards. (If you create additional At-Risk Cards you will need to increase the number of cards at the start of the game in some districts.) Some suggestions are listed below, but many more are possible.

  • Security Incident (At-Risk Card). Place a Social Unrest Card in this District. If there are now two or more Unrest Cards in this district, the current player permanently loses a team from this district if they have any present. Then remove this card and flip another. (You may wish to create several of these.)
  • Security Alert (Event Card). Rising tensions and growing risks spark withdrawal of aid workers. Remove all teams from either District 3 (if Days 1-7) or District 5 (if Weeks 2-12) and place these on the calendar. They will become available again to players in their Human Resource Phase during the next game turn.
  • Playing Favourites? (Event Card). International aid efforts may be seen as a signal of whether the government enjoys international support. If there are more UN+NGO teams in government areas than in rebel areas, the government (Carana) player gains 1 RP and a Social Unrest card is placed in District 3. Otherwise, they lose 1 RP and a Social Unrest card is placed in District 2.
  • International Legitimacy (Event Card). Aid coordination meetings may be used by the government to bolster its legitimacy.
    • If Carana, gain 1 OP if attending two or more Cluster meetings with other players.
    • If not Carana, gain (Variant 3) or lose (Variants 1-2) 1 OP for each Cluster Meeting you are attending with the government (Carana).
  • Human Rights Abuses (Event Card). Human rights abuses are common during the conflict—and aid workers may be accused of complicity. The current player loses 1 OP is they have any teams in the same District as a government (Carana) team assigned to security.
  • Persona Non Grata (Event Card). Regimes may withhold or withdraw visas to influence aid operations. If Carana or the UN drew this card, Carana may remove one UN or NGO team from a District. The owning player regains the team during their next Supply Phase.
  • Security Coordination (Coordination Card). Retain this card. You may play it at any time to cancel the effects of a Security Incident or Security Alert that would affect you.
  • Temporary Humanitarian Ceasefire (Coordination Card). You may immediately move 2 supplies from any warehouse to any District where you have a team.

Finally, decide on any other modifications to OP, RP, and winning conditions besides those noted above.

  • Variants 1, 2 (international community generally opposes government):
    • The government gains 1 OP each time a rebel-controlled area is resolved without needs being met. This reflects the use of the disaster as a conflict strategy to weaken opposition-controlled areas.
    • HADR-TF loses 3 OP at the end of the game if the government (Carana) has a OP score of 2 or higher at the end of the game. This represents a situation (as in Syria today and Iraq in 1991) where the international community has no interest in strengthening the incumbent regime.
  • Variant 3 (international community generally supports government):
    • Use the regular scoring rules.

I haven’t yet playtested any of this, so questions and feedback are appreciated. Also, many thanks to Tracy Johnson for encouraging me to develop a “humanitarian access mod” to the game.

READY 2 playtesting volunteers wanted

The READY Initiative is looking for a few experienced serious gamers to join forthcoming user testing sessions and provide feedback on the design of its latest digital simulation (currently in development). In the simulation, you will assume the role of a health program manager in the fictional country of Thisland.

When major disease outbreaks occur, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are often on the frontlines, using their deep connections with affected communities and expertise to support outbreak readiness and response. READY, an initiative funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and led by Save the Children and a consortium of partners, is supporting NGOs to more effectively respond to major disease outbreaks in humanitarian settings. Through investments in a robust and diverse capacity-strengthening portfolio, knowledge and best-practice sharing, and engagement with key coordination groups to identify and respond to real-time needs, READY is equipping national and international humanitarian NGOs with knowledge and skills to be ready to respond to major disease outbreaks through integrated and community-centered approaches.

READY launched an earlier simulation, Outbreak READY!, in 2022. It is currently being used to train local health workers, humanitarian aid personnel, and others around the world.

If you are interested in participating, please sign up at this link. There are two types of user testing sessions:

  • In a one-on-one session you will be asked to play the game as we watch (via Zoom), followed by discussion.
  • In a focus group session you will be asked to play the game in advance, and then join a later group discussion (via Zoom).

I would recommend experienced gamers volunteer for the latter (focus group) role. Please sign up by February 24, if interested.

If you are interested but are not able to join us for this round, let us know so we can engage you in the next round user testing sessions in May 2023. 

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