Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: simulation and gaming news

Wargaming and The Cycle of Research and Learning

The Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies has just published a new paper by Peter Perla (who needs no introduction — and if he does you have not been paying attention) in which he expands on his ideas concerning the cycle of research.


“Some thirty years ago, I coined the concept of the Cycle of Research, which described how wargaming, exercises and analysis, coupled with real-world operations and history, have worked together in concert to help the national-security community to understand better political-military reality and its past and future evolutions. When first proposed, I had in mind the uses of Wargaming in the analytical context, or what the community of professional wargamers most often calls research wargaming. Over the years, however, I began to recognize how much the same integration of tools and techniques can—and should—influence education and training for national-security professionals, both uniform and civilian: In essence, a Cycle of Learning. In this paper I explore these ideas more fully.”

Perla, P. (2022). Wargaming and The Cycle of Research and Learning. Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies5(1), 197–208. DOI:

1CMBG homebrew wargame development

LCol Cole Petersen, Chief of Staff at 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, recently took to Twitter to discuss the process whereby 1CMBG is producing its own home-brew wargame. The thread is well worth a read!

There’s also an update:

WWN: Introduction to wargaming

The Women’s Wargaming Network will be holding will be holding a wargaming event from 1400 to 1800 on Saturday, September 3 at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, Virginia. The session will include a “Wargaming 1010” introduction to wargaming, followed by a Russia-Ukraine matrix game.

Sign up for the event here.

You can also follow @WomensWargaming on Twitter.

International Kriegsspiel Society endorses Derby House Principles

The International Kriegsspiel Society has become the latest group to endorse the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

The International Kriegsspiel Society is the world’s largest, online association dedicated to Kriegsspiel. It unites over 750 members from all over the world in the passion of studying, discussing and playing Kriegsspiel.

The International Kriegsspiel Society is an open, welcoming, inclusive and diverse community. Wargaming and especially Kriegsspiel as we understand it, focus on people, diversity of thought and perspectives, on learning from others, and reflecting about preconceptions and established concepts of thought.

The International Kriegsspiel Society is open to everyone interested in the game, no matter the experience level or background. Kriegsspiel is easy to play, hard to master, as players don’t need to know any rules!

Our mission is to preserve Kriegsspiel, to make it accessible to enthusiasts, hobbyists and practitioners, to provide extensive resources to study and play Kriegsspiel, and to contribute to the development of new Kriegsspiel systems.

In order to reach these goals, we encourage every personinterested to learn more about and play Kriegsspiel to join the community, no matter their experience level, social, educational, national or religious background, age, or gender.Although we keep being positively surprised by the communication culture of our community, our moderation policy is dedicated to firmly ensure that this remains to be the case. We pledge to keep the IKS a space where you can be you, without the toxicity or inappropriate attention.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 22 August 2022

PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming.

Episode 63 of the US Army Mad Scientist podcast is all about wargaming, featuring Ian Sullivan (TRADOC), Mitchell Land (GMT Games Next War series), Peter Soendergaard (Royal Danish Army), Jennifer McArdle (Improbable U.S. Defense & National Security), Becca Wasser (CNAS), Stacie Pettyjohn (CNAS), Sebastian Bae (CNA), Dan Mahoney (Center for Army Analysis), and Jeff Hodges (US. Army Modeling and Simulation School).

Key points from the discussion:

  • Learning from Wargaming can be broken down into two categories: discovery/analytic and experiential. Both categories are important but have different end-goals. Discovery/analytic wargaminghelps one develop new insights or better understand some type of phenomena (e.g., concept or capability development). Experiential wargaming supports training and education and is designed to instill best practices, lessons learned, and develop creativity and agility among future leaders. Wargaming allows players to transcend their current realities and build cognitive warfighting proficiencies. 
  • Experiential learning leads to far higher learning retention than traditional passive methods of instruction, such as classroom-based lectures. It allows individuals to follow their ideas, work through problems as they arise, experience failure in a safe environment, and ultimately learn how to overcome challenges. 
  • The key to a successful wargame is an informed, accurate, and thinking adversary. It is vital that the Red Cell depicts an adversary as close to reality as possible, providing players with the best opportunities to learn about adversarial tactics and capabilities, decision-making, and thought-processes. 
  • Wargaming is used extensively at different levels in the Army — to explore ideas, look at alternatives, and think about the future, but also to test concepts and capabilities. Wargaming formats range from traditional table top board games, to discussion-based exercises, to computerized simulationsthat provide players with a realistic, immersive environment to visualize the fight. 
  • Designing an effective and successful wargame is dependent on one’s focus and learning demands. Designers should start the process by identifying the goal(s) that they want to accomplish and then work backwards. Carefully selecting the correct tools and technology to support players achieving the end-goal(s) is pivotal to eliciting the desired learning outcome. 
  • While wargaming can provide an accurate and realistic representation of a real-world adversary’s tactics, techniques, and procedures,it can also uncover unexpected TTPs that our forces may not have anticipated.  Encountering these actions in the game allows players to develop and implement courses of action in a consequence-free environment, helping them to avoid operational surprise on the battlefield, while building confidence in their ability to successfully overcome it when it inevitably occurs. 
  • The future of wargaming will likely be more technology-heavy, interactive, distributed, and realistic while still having a significant amount of traditional and manual games. Learning goals can be achieved via both conventional (e.g., table top) wargaming and immersive simulations employing emergent technologies. Regardless of the media, some posit that the golden age of wargaming is coming to an end, as there is a dearth of young talent in the pipelineto replace the old guard.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has developed “simple software tool to stress test a hypothetical People’s Republic of China (PRC) surprise attack against U.S. facilities in the Indo-Pacific.”

The past 10 years have seen a steady cadence of reporting on highly classified and time-consuming wargames showing that the United States consistently “loses” to China. The results, easily summarized as “bad!,” lack sufficient publicly available detail to enable informed debate on how best to resolve the potential shortcomings.

Wargames that are classified or complex can offer benefits to policymakers, though frequently to a small number of highly technical individuals; however, open-source analysis and DOD’s own publications create a wealth of information which can—and should—be closely analyzed to encourage DOD leaders, lawmakers, and the public to consider how best to prioritize limited resources, including money, time, and personnel. Combined with simple and affordable modern software capabilities, this information should be leveraged to improve and focus more time-intensive wargaming efforts.

That is why, over a six-week period, the authors developed a relatively simple and low-cost tool to assess what might happen in the first hours of a potential future conflict in the Western Pacific. The model assumes China conducts a surprise missile attack using only its land-based People’s Liberation Army Rocket Forces (PLARF). Drawing on DOD’s annual China Military Power Reports and available data on PLARF operating locations, organization, and capabilities, the study team created an algorithm to compute the most likely U.S. and allied targets along with a rough assessment of the operational consequence of such strikes.

Despite an initial hypothesis that, “it won’t be that bad,” this analysis suggests that early phases of a conflict could be very bad for U.S. forces and facilities in the Western Pacific.

You can access the full brief here.

In Military Strategy Magazine, Benjamin E. Mainardi discusses Towards Better Civilian Strategic Education: A Case for Tabletop Wargames.

Recently, it has become commonplace to hear arguments that the United States military ought to place a greater emphasis on incorporating wargaming into its professional military education programs, so as to better prepare future military leaders for the challenges of the twenty first century.[i] Of course, critics have acutely identified issues with the preexisting practice of wargames and their value as planning tools; notably, that participants often fail to connect the military action with political considerations or objectives and that wargames are seldom able to simulate the realities of combat situations. The fact remains; however, that wargaming already has a long history of use by the armed services and continues to be a significant aspect of crafting operation plans and strategic futures. What is most interesting about the wargaming discourse, however, is the comparatively minor presence of arguments for incorporating wargaming into the education of civilian foreign policy and national security practitioners. This is especially confounding when one considers that it is civilians who occupy the chief roles in defining the political ends, directing the strategic ways, and approving the military means of national security policies.

In the Jerusalem Post, Ehud Eiran, Michal Hatuel Radoshitzky, and Scott Lasensky discuss “Simulating the Jewish future – gaming-out possible scenarios.”

What will the looming Israeli elections mean for the country’s anchor alliance with North American Jewry? How could escalations in Gaza or Ukraine impact Jewish interests? These are just two of the top concerns weighing on Jewish communities, but rather than worry, now is an ideal time to game-out future scenarios.

Those in positions to guide and steward Jewish affairs in Israel and across the Jewish world all-too-often find themselves in crises for which they have not drilled, even though careful preparation and planning are utilized in so many other realms. As we explored in-depth at the Z3 conference in Palo Alto, there is much to be gained from the broader adoption and utilization of crisis simulations.

Gaming is one of the most highly developed practices in the national security and foreign policy community, which explains why Israelis are so comfortable with war gaming and why the concept is mostly foreign to Jewish leaders elsewhere.

This wargaming update from the Kansas US National Guard:

According to the Washington Post, military fans of War Thunder have been leaking classified documents in player forums during online arguments about weapon effectiveness in the game.

Beginning in 2021, players of “War Thunder,” a popular, free-to-play vehicular combat video game, have thrice posted classified documents related to three tanks of British, French and Chinese origin in an online forum dedicated to the game. The posting of the documents was reported first by UK Defence Journal, which wrote that one poster, who uploaded the manual to a British Challenger 2 tank, said he was motivated by a desire to get a “War Thunder” developer to make the tank more accurate in the game. Another poster, who claimed to be part of a French tank unit, uploaded a Leclerc S2 manual while engaged in an online debate about its turret rotation speed. The motivations of the user who posted allegedly classified information about China’s DTC10-125 tank and a piece of materiel were not clear.

Connections US 2022 Presentations now online

The Connections US 2022 Wargaming Conference materials are now available on the Connections USA Wargaming Conference Proceedings website.

If you presented materials at the conference, and do not find them in the 2022 tab, then upload them via this form. Thank you.

Does Wargaming influence US Strategy?

This question comes from Professor Hiroyasu (Hiro) AKUTSU, Professor of International Politics and Security Studies at Heisei International University, Japan.

In what ways has wargaming contributed to the shaping and making of US (DoD and Government) Strategic documents?

(For example the National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, National Military Strategy, QDR, National Intelligence Strategy, National Security Space Strategy, National Strategy for Maritime Security, etc.)

Email from Hiro, 29 July 2022

Has wargaming contributed to these? Which documents, and where are the wargames written up? Please post responses as comments to this post. Thank you in advance.

Wargames in the Pink Tower

“Wargames in the Pink Tower” (part two of a four part BBC miniseries on nuclear weapons and war) is about nuclear deterrence and the use of wargaming during the Cold War. The producers used parts of the audio recording of Thomas Schelling’s keynote to the Connections US 2014 Conference along with material from Fred Kaplan, Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi, Graham Allison, and Paul Bracken. A fascinating glimpse into how nuclear deterrence and wargaming is presented to the general public.

What parts of a professional wargame design can be defined by the sponsor’s objective (and what parts require designer creativity)?

Wargame design has been described as a creative art with a science component. Identifying which parts of the design can be defined based on the sponsor’s objectives will free the designer to focus all their efforts on the creative components.

There are three one hour Game Lab sessions scheduled at the Connections US 2022 Wargaming Conference during which multiple parallel small groups will meet and discuss different questions or topics.

I will run a three part Game Lab on the question “How much of a professional wargame design can be defined by the sponsor’s objective?” broken into three sub questions, one question per one-hour facilitated discussion.

  1. “What parts of the professional wargame design process can and should be routinized and what characteristics of the sponsor’s objectives should we seek to assist us in doing so?”

  2. “What information in addition to the sponsor’s objectives do we need and how can this help define the design of the professional wargame?”

  3. “What are the barriers to obtaining the information necessary to design a professional wargame and how can we overcome them?”

If you are registered to participate in the conference, you may come to any or all of the sessions.

Even if you are not coming to Connections, or are coming but choose to participate in other Game Labs, I invite you to provide your answers to each of the above sub questions via this form (click here or on the image). You may submit this form as often as you like, and I will ensure you receive a copy of the final report.

Thank you in advance for your inputs.

Stephen Downes-Martin

Scalarization functions for decision matrices

Click on the image to view the briefing on YouTube

My thanks to the Ruddy Nice team for the opportunity to deliver this briefing remotely to the 2022 UK Defence Simulation Education & Training conference. In the briefing I show how the simplistic scoring mechanism commonly used by many civilian and military organizations in their decision matrices and more complex decision support tools simply does not make sense — being a linear scalarization function — and explain why that function must instead be concave up. Then, and only then, will your decision matrix satisfy the minimum reasonableness requirement.

MWI: Why gamers will win the next war

At the Modern War Institute, Nick Moran and Arnel P. David argue that gamers will win the next war.

A storm is brewing. Thousands of gamers are working to upend traditional models of training, education, and analysis in government and defense. This grassroots movement has developed across several countries, under a joint venture—Fight Club International—within which civilian and military gamers are experimenting with commercial technologies to demonstrate what they can do for national security challenges. But while technology is at the core of this initiative, its more fundamental purpose is to change culture—no easy feat in military organizations, with their characteristic deep sense of history and layers of entrenched bureaucracy.

A common obstacle to introducing transformational technology is the imagination of the user—or, put differently, the willingness of the user to be genuinely imaginative. Early testing with Fight Club, in a constructive simulation called Combat Missionshowed that civilian gamers with no military training outperformed military officers with years of experience. The military gamers were constrained in their thinking and clung dogmatically to doctrine. They discovered, to their frustration, that their speed of decision-making was lacking against gamers with greater intuition and skill.

The piece is an enthusiastic care for greater inclusion of wargames in professional military education—a point with which all of us at PAXsims would agree.

On a methodological note, however, one needs to be careful not to put excessive emphasis on civilian gamers beating non-gaming officers in wargames. Certainly, games test tactical analysis and insight. However, they also test familiarity with interface, rules/algorithms, and other quirks of the simulation. No matter how engaging the graphics, they’re usually quite different from actual command. Indeed, as Sherry Turkle and her colleagues pointed out more than a decade ago, as simulations become more realistic-looking there’s a risk we overlook the important ways in which they depart from reality. I know that some recent experimental work has been done on diversity in wargaming, which among other things assessed the strategic performance of “gamers” as opposed to neophytes and subject matter experts—as soon as that report is available, we’ll share it here at PAXsims.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 2 July 2022

PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Many thanks to Aaron Danis and Steven Sowards for suggesting items for this latest edition.

The Director General Training and Doctrine has just released the Australian Army’s first Professional Gaming List. At The Cove, David Hill discusses the list and the value of wargaming.

In 2020, I wrote an article for The Cove – Reinvigorating Wargaming – which highlighted how commercially available wargames had been employed in the United States and United Kingdom to support their reinvigoration of wargaming. Both countries recognised that wargaming had the potential to enhance the critical thinking and decision-making skills of their personnel; it enables their personnel to think, fight and win in war. The recent release of the Commander Forces Command Directive, Army Wargaming: 2021 – 2025 acknowledges that wargaming has the potential to enhance our cognitive capacity by providing opportunities to exercise decision-making in safe-to-fail adversarial environments. Critically though, the directive noted that while wargaming has been revitalised in the United States and United Kingdom within the Australian Army more investment is required. The Director General Training and Doctrine has just released the Australian Army’s first Professional Gaming List; it represents the first of the Army Wargaming: 2021 – 2025 initiatives.

This article aims to explore the value of the Professional Gaming List and outline how these games can be incorporated into a unit Professional Military Education program. For a variety of reasons, the idea of playing games as part of a unit training program will seem foreign and perhaps even wrong to many. To understand the potential value of this approach it is necessary to define wargaming and in particular dispel the notion that Course of Action – Analysis is wargaming. Incorporating one of these games into a unit training activity is a deliberate decision that requires some preparation; this article will conclude with a suggested format for these training activities.

The CNAS Sharper series features curated analysis and commentary from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy. The most recent issue contains links to several recent pieces on wargaming:

From armed conflicts to global pandemics, military strategists and policymakers use gaming to gain insights into some of the most challenging problems they face. Ranging from operational wargames to strategy games, these exercises help develop and test strategies, support effective decision-making, and communicate vital lessons to key stakeholders. The Gaming Lab at CNAS develops, runs, and analyzes games to derive critical insights on a wide array of military, political, and economic challenges, with the aim to make concrete policy-relevant recommendations. 

NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and the Science and Technology Organization have announced that registration is now open for the 16th annual NATO Operations Research & Analysis Conference, to be held on 17-19 October 2022 in Copenhagen.

The 2021 theme is “OR&A: New ideas, old realities”. The theme reflects the long- standing practice of Operations Research and Analysis in Defence, tackling ongoing challenges faced by the Alliance and looks to the future to bring new methods to old challenges, or well-established methods on future challenges. The conference will kick off with a keynote address and cover the following topics:



Modelling & Simulation;



Strategic Analysis;



WDI, Cross-domain Command;

WDI, Integrated multi-domain defence;

WDI, Layered resilience.

Additional details can be found at the link above.

At Military Strategy Magazine (Summer 2022), Benjamin E. Mainardi (Center for Maritime Strategy) argues that tabletop wargames have an important role to play in improving civilian strategic education.

Recently, it has become commonplace to hear arguments that the United States military ought to place a greater emphasis on incorporating wargaming into its professional military education programs, so as to better prepare future military leaders for the challenges of the twenty first century. Of course, critics have acutely identified issues with the preexisting practice of wargames and their value as planning tools; notably, that participants often fail to connect the military action with political considerations or objectives and that wargames are seldom able to simulate the realities of combat situations. The fact remains; however, that wargaming already has a long history of use by the armed services and continues to be a significant aspect of crafting operation plans and strategic futures. What is most interesting about the wargaming discourse, however, is the comparatively minor presence of arguments for incorporating wargaming into the education of civilian foreign policy and national security practitioners. This is especially confounding when one considers that it is civilians who occupy the chief roles in defining the political ends, directing the strategic ways, and approving the military means of national security policies.

The education of upcoming foreign policy practitioners and national security strategists is a subject of great interest, importance, and debate. Overwhelmingly, it occurs in the political science and international relations faculties of civilian universities. For students, what an undergraduate foreign or national security policy education looks like is largely an amalgamation of abstract theories, primarily those of the international relations field; historical case studies, mostly cherrypicked from the last two centuries of European history; the strategic canon of Clausewitz and Machiavelli, among others; perhaps a foreign language; and, for some, statistical trend analysis. This is a rather problematic way of educating some of the most important practitioners within their fields, producing graduates of disparate quality in strategic thinking capacity; an issue which has been brought up repeatedly throughout the years across a variety of disciplines in what might be considered a wider debate over the atrophy of degree programs in practicality and critical thinking development. The question of what an undergraduate education, in this case international relations and affiliated programs, truly equips students to do is one of growing significance yet remains somewhat elusive. While the application of strategic concepts and international relations theory in an academic setting likely helps to develop one’s general analytical skills, its ability to truly instill an understanding of the practice of statecraft, much less the utility of military operations and the practice of war more broadly, is rather questionable.

Enter the tabletop. That tabletop games can be effectively used to enhance learning in a variety of disciplines is a well-understood and empirically founded concept.

At The Warzone, Joseph Trevithick reports that a “massive drone swarm over strait decisive In Taiwan conflict wargames.”

Wargames that the U.S. Air Force has conducted itself and in conjunction with independent organizations continue to show the immense value offered by swarms of relatively low-cost networked drones with high degrees of autonomy. In particular, simulations have shown them to be decisive factors in the scenarios regarding the defense of the island of Taiwan against a Chinese invasion.

Last week, David Ochmanek, a senior international affairs and defense researcher at the RAND Corporation and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Development during President Barack Obama’s administration, discussed the importance of unmanned platforms in Taiwan Strait crisis-related wargaming that the think tank has done in recent years. Ochmanek offered his insight during an online chat, which you can watch in full below, hosted by the Air & Space Forces Association’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

The Guardian: Wargaming at KCL

The Guardian features a piece today by Keith Stuart about the excellent wargaming MA module at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London.

Wargames aren’t employed only by the military. Corporations use them to explore business decisions; government policymakers use them to simulate major events, including pandemics; and they have a role in disaster relief. “The UNHCR has made efforts in various cities to help with the influx of Ukrainian refugees and provide relief to civic centres and to other spaces housing many people and aid workers,” says Lily Boland, co-designer of Don’t Fear the Reaper Drone. “Wargaming and/or simulating some of these crucial aspects of refugee aid work would certainly help organisations like the UN and local institutions to prepare for these scenarios in advance.”

What the situation in Ukraine has shown the world is that the outcomes of military action are becoming less predictable. Russia’s command and control strategy has been found wanting, while Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s innovative and playful use of social media has increased awareness and support for his country in a way that would have been tough to forecast. As Banks puts it, “I’m a huge believer in using historical case studies as much as possible, but a lot of the problems we’re facing in the 21st century are not ones that we have any ready guides for.”

As the world becomes ever more unpredictable and prone to disruptive global events, perhaps new strategies and solutions will be discovered in games like these.

For more on wargaming at KCL, check out the King’s Wargaming Network

CNAS Wargame on China Invasion of Taiwan

The Center for New American Security (CNAS) Gaming Lab did a game on a Chinese invasion of Taiwan for Meet the Press Reports. Over the course of multiple moves CNAS gamers Becca Wasser (Red) and Chris Dougherty (Blue) discussed the options with the players and guided team play. Working with Chuck Todd, Ed McGrady and Stacie Pettyjohn, adjudicated the outcomes and built the story of what happened. Stacie was then debriefed by Chuck on camera. The game will come out Thursday, May 12, at 10:30PM EDT streaming on NBC News Now, MTP Reports. It will also be streaming on Peacock. In addition to the game, Becca and Ed discussed gaming and Taiwan with Chuck Todd on his half hour podcast. That is forthcoming.

NBC News has a description of the game (by Carol Lee) on their website which includes a short (11 minute) sneak peak of the approximately 50 minute full episode.

Click here for the CNAS Press release (which includes a link to the full NBC episode).

Click here for the podcast of Chuck Todd (NBC) discussing the game with Becca Wasser and Ed McGrady.

War Room: Better strategy? It’s all in the game

The US Army War College War Room podcast features a discussion by Chris Steinitz, Erin Sullivan and Ron Granieri:

Wargames can be incredible teaching and learning tools when they are built and utilized properly. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors and require a skilled hand in their creation. A BETTER PEACE welcomes two such skilled developers, Chris Steinitz and Erin Sullivan to the studio to share their experiences as game developers and discuss how they started in the wargaming world. Chris and Erin join podcast editor Ron Granieri to talk about what makes a great wargame, what crucial information is necessary before even starting construction of a game and when you truly need a wargame versus tailored analysis.

You’ll find it here.

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