PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: simulation and gaming news

ATHA webcast: Serious games in the humanitarian sector

Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action will be hosting a webcast on the use of serious games in the humanitarian sector tomorrow (June 21).

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You can register to participate here.

h/t Melanie Tomsons

Wargaming exhibit at the Armémuseum

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This falls into the “better late than never” category, since this opened a few months ago…

The Swedish Army Museum (Armémuseum) in Stockholm currently features an exhibit on wargaming.

Följ med på en resa i krigsspelens värld – från forntidens schackbräden till miniatyrspelens rymdålder.

Datorspelen har fått maka på sig – i den här utställningen kan du frossa i krigsspel i brädform av alla tänkbara slag. Se medeltida schackpjäser av ben och valrosstand, gamla svenska kampspel som samiskt tablut-spel – en strid mellan samer och bönder – och en reproduktion av vikingatidens tafl-spel.

Krig i spel och verklighet

Vandra genom utställningen och se hur spel har påverkat avgörande händelser i historien. Som spelet Gulf Strike som användes av militärledningen i Pentagon, USA, i planeringen av Gulfkriget år 1990 – ett vanligt brädspel för några hundralappar kom att ligga bakom en av 1900-talets mest effektiva militäroperationer.

Här finns också spel som har använts för att lära ut krig. Se specialtillverkade spel som har använts på officersskolor, från 1800-talet fram till idag.

Kliv in i ett dramatiskt mikrokosmos

I det färgstarka utställningsrummet blandas hotfullt och lekfullt, stort och smått, lek och allvar. Här hittar du moderna figurspel som Bolt Action och Black Powder. Kortlekar, tennsoldater, familjefavoriter som Risk och Christer Fuglesangs egenbyggda ”rymdschack” – försett med kardborreband för att hålla pjäserna på plats i tyngdlösheten.

The exhibit is open until 7 January 2018.

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h/t Colin Marston 

FBI: wargamers are intelligent, overweight, messy, loyal, frugal, and spend a lot on games

C.J. Ciaramella, a criminal justice reporter at Reason, has been doing some Freedom of Information Act digging—and came up a some mid-1990s gems from the FBI on the topic of Dungeons & Dragons inventor Gary Gygax.

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Elsewhere, the FBI offers a broader assessment on wargamers:DCXm8J6XUAA8nyi.jpg

Phalanx: More MORS wargaming

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The most recent (June 2017) issue of Phalanx, the magazine of the Military Operations Research Society, contains a couple of wargaming items.

Phil Pournelle contributes an article on “designing wargames for the analytic purpose,” drawing upon the insights of last year’s MORS special meeting on wargaming as well as his own extensive experience. Specifically, he discusses what a wargame is, what it can be used for, and the characteristics of different wargaming approaches.

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He also highlights several key elements of a good wargame:

Wargaming is most effective when people are making decisions under uncertainty, in a fair competitive environment, with adjudication to generate consequences of actions taken. Such games should be repeated in an iterative process complementary to other techniques. These iterative efforts can enable organizations and individuals to gain insights into competitions. Wargames identify potentially successful strategies and diagnose the key competitive elements.

Game designers should borrow techniques and methods from existing games, particularly the vast body of knowledge in the commercial gaming community. They should also be aware of limitations and pitfalls of using methods without understanding the purpose of the game from which the methods are being taken.

There are different categories and styles of games each with their own purpose. While this essay was focused primarily on analytic and exploratory style games, it acknowledges there are similarities between such games, commercial games, and training games. Each has their own purpose and it is important to recognize that using one category for a purpose different than their proper design has certain pitfalls. Different styles of games exist within a continuum of games addressing generalities to specific, from creative to rigorous. To be the most effective in the cycle of research, games should move from the general to the more rigorous design during each iteration of the cycle. Movement may not, and does not have to be, uniform through the continuum, particularly as new aspects are discovered.

The core attributes of a good wargame is an adversarial environment where the game focuses on the players and the decisions they make. It is important to record the decisions of the players and why they made them. Good wargames are small and have an aggressive and dynamic red team. They avoid adjudication processes that conceal why decision or results occurred.

They are best when they are iterative in nature. Wargames do not validate or prove anything, they provide insights into competitions, and allow players and observers to think through the complexities of operations within those competitions.

Wargaming can be extremely valuable, but gaining full value will require a long view of the practice. Wargames can provide the means for generating potential strategies and solutions to challenges facing the department and leaders ready to meet them. Their best bene t does not occur with one-off games, but in series as part of the cycle of research. To harness the best benefits from games and analysis within the department will require identifying the questions and challenges and a committing to iterative efforts to identify and re ne the solutions.

The same issue also contains a brief report on the 29 individuals who received the a MORS professional Certificate in Wargaming, following the programme launched last autumn. Four of the group were women (13.8%), which is far from where we want to be, and well behind Phil Sabin’s MA course in wargaming at King’s College London, but still far better than the wargaming hobby (or the PAXsims readership) has managed. The next certificate programme will begin in September.

DIA: We need rich, interactive wargames

In response to a question at the GEONT 2017 conference, Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), highlighted the potential value of wargaming to the intelligence community (34:40 onwards in the video above).

There’s one other thing I desperately need. We have gotten away from the business of wargaming, effective wargaming, and I’ve got to find a way of bringing wargaming back into the Department, wargaming with our national security partners, in an interactive way. Not your bland table-top environment. Rich Blue data, friendly data; rich enemy data; rich interactive, live, geospatial data—where we can actually compete in a realistic way. Gamifying all that data, so that now we can make some decisions on where we allocate ISR, depending on the crisis, and what the impact might be if we move something to the Pacific, what the impact might be in Europe.

We don’t do that very well. I’m told that Admiral Nimitz said they did so much wargaming prior to World War Two that there was only one thing that surprised them, the kamikazes. We don’t do that kind of intensive wargaming where we’re continually learning from the environment, and learning from each other and the the decisions we have to make.

If anyone has some great simulation, wargaming approaches—I am really interested.

Calling all National Security Policy Gamers: Make your opinions heard!

 

If you have some time, I’d very much appreciate PAXsims readers who work as professional National Security Policy Gamers (aka wargamers supporting policy making clients) taking a few minutes to contribute to a survey I’m running as part of my dissertation research. More information is below:uncle-sam-we-want-you1-kopie_1 (1)

I’m Ellie Bartels, a PhD candidate at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and researcher at the RAND Corporation. As part of my dissertation research, I am studying the practices of national security policy gamers like you. I am interested in understanding what types of games you run, what tools you use to design and analyze them, and how you assess your work and the work of your peers. To this end, I invite you to participate in a 15-30 min survey on your game design, execution, and analysis practices at the link below before 30 May 2017.

Click here to be taken to the survey’s Google Form <https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfV-I_JwosnxjLhr9GlDkJoL2uARWyGBpxphJ5zX34JSPUzZw/viewform?usp=sf_link>

(please note, some firewalls may block google documents. If you encounter problems, I recommend trying to access the form on a different network and computer).

Your answers will inform two different projects looking at policy gaming practices. Survey results will be reported in the section of my public dissertation monograph on current practices, will be available on request as a data annex, and may be used in associated articles and presentations. In addition to the primary purpose of this survey, the questions on participant engagement and immersion will be used to inform internally funded RAND research to produce an article on the potential for Alternative and Virtual Reality technologies in policy gaming. Both efforts will produce work that is publicly available, with the hope that it will prove helpful to researchers like you.

Participation, both in the survey as a whole and in answering specific questions, is completely voluntary. Your name, office, and other individual identifying information will not be collected as part of the survey, and no effort will be made by the researchers to link your individual identity to your responses. If you have questions about your rights as a research participant or need to report a research-related injury or concern, contact information for RAND’s Human Subjects Protection Committee is available on the first page of the survey.

 

Tom Fisher joins PAXsims

TomFisherregular.JPGWe’re pleased to announce that Tom Fisher is joining PAXsims as an associate editor.

Tom is a freelance game designer based in Montréal. He developed the Crime Analysis Simulation Exercise System (CASES) for the World Bank’s Financial Market Integrity and Stolen Asset Recovery group, and collaborated with several international financial intelligence agencies in the development and delivery of a strategic intelligence analysis course integrating traditional classroom work with a multi-faceted simulation. He was also game developer and graphic artist for AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game and AFTERSHOCK EXPANSION #1: The Gender Dimensions of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief. He has extensive experience in game facilitation with both small and large (100+) participant groups. Currently is part of the PAXsims team working on the Matrix Game Construction Kit (MaGCK) for the Defence science and technology laboratory (Dstl) of the UK Ministry of Defence.

Tom is also a previous contributor to PAXsims on a range of issues, including turning tactical analysts into strategic thinkers, conducting megagames, and the contribution of role-playing games to professional game design and facilitation skills.

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SciTech Futures brainstorming

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CanGames 2017

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CanGames 2017 will be held this year, as usual, over the Victoria Day holiday (19-21 May 2017) at the Rideau Curling Club in Ottawa. You’ll find my report from last year here.

I’ll be there again this year, running two sessions of a 28mm zombie apocalypse skirmish scenario, Flight from the Apocalypse. If you’re attending, drop by and say hello!

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None of this, of course, is really about serious conflict simulation—its just a free plug for an enjoyable local (war)gaming hobby event.

Unless, of course, the world is overrun with zombies…

Gaming foreign policy (at GAC)

I spend today in Ottawa, where I delivered a talk at Global Affairs Canada on “Gaming foreign policy.” About thirty folks attended, mainly from GAC, but also from the Department of National Defense, Defence Research and Development Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the intelligence community, and elsewhere. Indeed, it may have been the largest all-of-government meeting on analytical gaming in Canadian history! The session was sponsored by the Foreign Policy Research Division.

You’ll find the slides I used in my presentation here—although many of them aren’t all that self-explanatory.

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The talk was broadly similar to those that I have given previously to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the US State Department. There were, however, a number of really interesting questions raised by participants, not all of which I had time to fully answer because of the duration of the event (and a delay in starting due to a faulty VGA cable):

  1. What contribution can serious gaming make to forecasting (i.e., likely outcomes over the next 3 to 6 months, 12 to 18 months)?
  2. Can gaming help us to identify or explore possible “black-swans” and high-risk, low-probability events and scenarios?
  3. How can games address cross-cutting and multidisciplinary issues (i.e., requiring a “whole of GAC/Government of Canada” approach, coordination and coherence
  4. Can gaming explore sequencing questions (security, humanitarian, development, political and governance) and challenges associated with addressing non-linear, complex interactions and actions (such as but not limited to intercultural understanding between different world views and approaches)?
  5. How can serious gaming techniques help us to develop resilient and adaptable systems that can cope with the unforeseen?
  6. How do we address issues of apparently “irrational behaviour” by foes (or friends)? Are any actors truly irrational, or do they simply have other interests, objectives, and worldviews?

As I head back to Montréal on the train, here are some initial thoughts or additional comments on these:

  1. Most (war)gamers are inclined to protest that “games are not predictions.” It is certainly true that no single game can be considered to reliably predict the future, and they should not be held to this standard. We also know that once we go much beyond 6 months out, the accuracy of predictions (both inside and outside the intelligence community) begins to drop off sharply. Still, I have always thought that “we don’t predict” caveats are a bit of a dodge, intended to shield game designers/facilitators from criticism when reality turns out differently, as it often will. Most games, after all, are only useful to the extent that they describe a plausible set of future outcomes, and the assessment of plausibility is inherently a predictive endeavour. A well-designed game can certainly help to illuminate such questions as how an actor or actors might act under certain set of circumstances; what variables might affect outcomes; what indicators might provide an early warning of important developments; and what trends should be watched carefully.
  2. By definition, true “black swans” cannot be predicted since they lie outside our prior experience. However games can help us to identify low probability/high impact actions or events, and the circumstances under which they might come to pass. They can also be used to “stress test” capabilities, policies, and programmes to understand how they might fare when faced with such challenges, and what might be done to enhance resilience, adaptability, and agility.
  3. Games can be outstanding at exploring the challenges of policy coordination. The Brynania peacebuilding simulation I run at McGill each year does this, and it is the central theme of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game. In addition to modelling and illuminating the problems of interagency, interdisciplinary, and coalition action, the process of playing interagency games with interagency participants can build networks of contacts, rapport, and understanding that can be very useful when a real crisis hits.
  4. The challenge here is one of what you are trying to do. It is hard to model very complex systems, especially when the underlying causal connections are poorly understood. For that reasons, there are real limitations to the validity of game findings. On the other hand, games (and, even more so, the discussions that games generate during and after) can enhance insight into the sorts of issues that might arise, and how these might be better addressed. Again, I think there is quite a lot of this in the Brynania simulation.
  5. This is another variation of the question “How can games help us to predict the difficult-to-predict (#1-2) and develop systems and approaches that might respond to foreseen and unforeseen policy challenges (#3-4)?” It was probably the single biggest theme running through the question and answer period. I think it is possible to train for agility, and to encourage personnel to think through possible second- and third-order effects of what they do. This isn’t reflexive “if X happens, do Y” training, but rather “if faced with a new challenge, this is how we might develop the required analytical frameworks and institutional capacities necessary to deal with it” preparation.
  6. Watch this space. We’ve already started a discussion on gaming unpredictable opponents and unreliable allies here at PAXsims, and I hope to write something substantial on it soon. It is perhaps telling that a significant number of participants in the discussion today felt this issue was of renewed urgency in light of recent global developments.

It all seemed to go very well.

There was a great deal on interest in follow-up and continuing the discussion. I’ll be speaking with a number of GAC colleagues and other son this in the days ahead, and who knows—we may even have some games to run in a few months as a result.

Talk: Insights from Cyber Wargaming at Newport

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The Joint Staff, J39 Office of Strategic Multilayer Assessment will host a talk at 1400 ET, January 26 by Jacquelyn Schneider from the Center of Naval Warfare Studies will discuss, Cyber and Crisis Escalation: Insights from Wargaming.

To call in to the talk, dial: 866-712-4038; then passcode:  60114984#.

Jacquelyn G. Schneider is an Instructor in the Center for Naval Warfare Studies and a core faculty member of the Center for Cyber Conflict Studies. Her research focuses on the intersection of technology, national security, and political psychology with a special interest in cyber, unmanned technologies, and Northeast Asia. Her work has appeared in print in Journal of Conflict Resolution and Strategic Studies Quarterly, and on-line at War on the Rocks, The Washington Post, The National Interest, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and The Center for a New American Security. Jacquelyn is an active member of the defense policy community with previous adjunct positions at RAND and the Center for a New American Security. She previously served as an active duty Air Force officer in South Korea and Japan and is currently a reservist assigned to U.S. Cyber Command.  She holds a B.A. in Economics-Political Science from Columbia University, an M.A. in Political Science from Arizona State University, and is a PhD Candidate at George Washington University.

Slides and paper here:

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Simulation and gaming miscellany, 17 January 2017

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PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. This latest edition was coauthored with Devin Ellis. Thanks are also due to Paul Strong, Yuna Wong, Tom Mouat, and James Sterrett for pointing out some of the other items we have included. We always welcome your suggestions for material to include, so keep them coming!

PAXsims

hdr-usni.gifThe ongoing response to the Deputy SecDef initiative on revitalizing wargaming continues as different services, staffs, and organizations get their views into writing slowly but surely. One of the latest is this piece by CAPT Dale Rielage, in the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine: “Wargaming Must Get Red Right.”

The piece is fairly basic in its observation of the link between quality red cells and quality wargame results, but it does include some interesting tidbits, such as a description of PACFLEET’s current red teaming practices:

There already are efforts across the fleet and key shore commands to increase the fidelity of Red play in specific events. Pacific Fleet has established an in-house Red Team. Dubbed the Pacific Naval Aggressor Team, it takes the role of adversary decision makers in fleet-sponsored war games. The team is drawn from N2/N39 personnel, who are assigned specific country and warfare areas that fit their backgrounds and experiences. They keep this focus area throughout their tours, building experience and insight. Depending on the requirements of the game being supported, the team is augmented by subject-matter experts from across the intelligence and operational communities.

Devin Ellis

PAXsims

The “Working Group 3: Adjudication” report from the October 2016 MORS special meeting on wargaming is now available from here.

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The key recommendations of the Working Group were as follows:

  • The Wargaming Community and Senior Leadership get together and address the institutional barriers thrown up by DoD to the professional development of the wargaming community.
  • The Wargaming Community’s chains of command provide time and resources for adjudication and wargaming professional development.
  • The Wargaming Community develop and document educational and training materials, including an adjudication bibliography.
  • The Wargaming Community and Senior Leadership systematically identify which barriers and their possible mitigations are relevant to the unique circumstances of each organization that sponsors or does wargaming and applies the mitigations to the barriers.
  • The wargaming community continues a rigorous and disciplined continuation of this workshop’s results, both in their own organizations and together at workshops and conferences.
  • MORS sets up and maintains web sites that support each Working Group to maintain momentum.

PAXsims

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As AFP reports, the incoming US presidential administration has been playing games—crisis games, that is:

Members of Donald Trump’s cabinet arrived at the White House Friday for a series of crisis simulations designed to prepare them for taking office next week.

Current cabinet secretaries as well as Trump’s national security advisor, Mike Flynn, and his state and defense picks Rex Tillerson and James Mattis are among those taking part.

The White House said the tabletop exercises will go over previous crises like natural disasters and national security emergencies and game out hypothetical future scenarios.

“Some (are) related to domestic emergency response, the response to a natural disaster or a significant weather event, for example,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

“It also will include some foreign policy and national security exercises as well.”

One wonders if they included simulated random tweets from the President (and no, that’s not a real tweet above).

PAXsims

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In partnership with the Migration Policy Institute, Games for Change is hosting a $10,000 migrant game design challenge that hopes to inspire the creation of a digital game that connects existing and migrating communities:

The integration of migrant populations has always been an important issue faced by many countries all around the world. Integration is a two-way street, with native-born and immigrant populations both experiencing significant change, challenges and opportunity. How can a game help people understand and work through concerns over perceived job competition and changes in the cultural fabric while recognizing the economic, linguistic, and cultural benefits that can accrue to the broader society when immigrants can also succeed? How can a game experience emphasize community engagement to help migrants and their neighbors improve their understanding of each other?

You’ll find full details here. The deadline for submission is February 15.

PAXsims

On January 11, Dr. Yuna Wong (RAND) gave a presentation on the Joint Irregular Warfare Analytic Baseline (JIWAB) study to the MORS Wargame Community of Practice. I was teaching at the time and missed her presentation, but you’ll find here slides here (ppt).

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Yuna is also the author, together with Michael Bailey, Karen Grattan, C Steve Stephens, Robert Sheldon, and William Inserra, of an article on “The use of multiple methods in the Joint Irregular Warfare Analytic Baseline (JIWAB) study” in the Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology.

The Joint Irregular Warfare Analytic Baseline (JIWAB) study was a multi-year effort by the U.S. Marine Corps to demonstrate analytic methods better suited to irregular warfare than quantitative computer models and simulations. Multiple methods were used in combination to create and develop scenarios, understand conflict drivers and mitigators, and create potential U.S. responses. This article discusses the use of these methods, which included approaches such as general morphological analysis, wargaming, adaptations of conflict assessment frameworks, and others. This article also describes the larger context for the study within the wider defense analytic community.

PAXsims

In the Naval War College Review 7, 1 (Winter 2017) John T. Hanley Jr. examines “Changing DoD’s Analysis Paradigm: The Science of War Gaming and Combat/Campaign Simulation.” It’s a very useful piece, and it is worth quoting his main conclusions at length:

The extent to which pseudoexperiments, whether war games or combat/ campaign simulations, are scientific depends wholly on the character of their execution. “Electronic computers, game-theoretic models, and statistical formulas are but instruments after all; it is not they that produce scientific results but the investigator who uses them.”Neither type of simulation is inherently more scientific than the other. The principal difference is that combat/campaign simulation is analytical—reducing the problem to constituent pieces—while war gaming emphasizes synthesis—ensuring all relevant factors are considered, including how they work together.

War gaming and large-scale computer-based combat/campaign simulation differ little in their inability to predict quantitative outcomes. The scientific value of the pseudoexperiment lies in the objectivity, rigor, and usefulness of the theory the pseudoexperiment represents. This includes the motivations, tastes and beliefs, and expertise of all the participants, including the client.

War gaming has a record of anticipating factors that largely govern outcomes, thus preventing surprise. Because DoD has used combat/campaign simulation for quantitative prediction, its performance at comparing quantitative results of combat models with actual combat has been less accurate and less reliable than that of war gaming that explored the processes and nonquantitative features that would affect a campaign most. Whereas those commanding and conducting operations rarely have the motivation and skills to become deeply involved in combat/campaign modeling, they can make the time and do have the skills to participate in war gaming. Repeated war gaming can provide firsthand experiences to limit surprise and facilitate recognitive decision making that allows rapid adaptation to emerging situations.

Using governing factors uncovered through war gaming, detailed computer models, campaign analyses, or other techniques to create simple models of the phenomena requires much more analytical skill than adding detailed models of additional processes to existing computer models. Simpler models provide greater understanding with appropriate precision than complicated computer models with large numbers of variables that give an appearance of precision but whose range of uncertainty is difficult to estimate and grows with the uncertainty of each parameter added and the square root of the number of variables.

Returning to the roots of operations research—observing, modeling operations, and collecting data in the field—is an essential aspect of a cycle of research. Work in the field yields data and knowledge that increase understanding of which concepts actually work and which do not, and provides essential data for use in computer and war-gaming simulation.

Although the discussion of questions and possibilities raised by developments in complexity sciences is incomplete, it suggests a need to reexamine combat models and to extend analytical techniques to add the rigor of appropriate techniques to combat simulation.

The Pentagon needs to overhaul its analysis paradigm if it is to meet growing security challenges with limited budgets. Overhauling the Pentagon’s analysis paradigm again will require interdisciplinary teams of scientists—from both hard and social sciences, and with an appreciation for the humanities—interacting in analysis campaigns and cycles of research. Client and contractor use and abuse of need-to-know security barriers and proprietary restrictions on studies present formidable obstacles to implementing scientific standards in DoD studies.

PAXsims

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Wikistrat recent published the results of a role-playing simulation examining Rethinking US Navy Partnerships.

Between August 15 and August 22, 2016, Wikistrat ran an online simulation to identify existing and prospective partnerships for the U.S. Navy (USN), outline the main challenges in achieving success in those partnerships, propose solutions for overcoming those challenges, and red-team the proposed solutions.

Participating analysts were divided into two groups:

  • Group Alpha: 17 analysts role-played the U.S. Navy
  • Group Bravo: 20 analysts role-played prospective partners

Each of the groups progressed simultaneously through four rounds, building out a framework based upon problem-solving methodology.

  1. Potential Partner Identification
  2. Proposing Solutions to Noted Obstacles
  3. Solution Red-Teaming
  4. Strategic Takeaways

PAXsims

At ExtraNewsFeed, Mintaro Oba discusses “How Settlers of Catan Explains International Relations.”

Besides the simple fact that it’s fun, Settlers of Catan (together with gin rummy, which I’ll discuss in another post) is the best representation of international relations in game form. And it raises fascinating questions about the nature of rules and how we create them — questions that are unfolding on the international stage today.

Cooperation in a Competitive World

Some games, like Pandemic, are almost entirely cooperative. On the other end of the spectrum are games like Risk — either entirely zero-sum (“my gain is someone else’s loss”), based too much on chance, or both.

Settlers gets it just right. It’s basically competitive and zero-sum; you have to build and grow your settlements, cities, and roads to get to ten points before anyone else. There’s a finite amount of the space and resources necessary to expand. The robber and certain bonus cards allow players to go on the offensive against other players. There’s a good chance players will be at each others’ throats as the game winds on.

But on the margins, economic interdependence allows for some cooperation. Players can only start off with a certain amount of the necessary resources. Some territories are more productive than others. Yet at various points in the game, any player will need brick, wood, iron ore, etc. So, players trade their comparative advantages; a player with a surplus of iron ore can exchange with a player who has a surplus of brick. Both benefit.

I’m not at all sure that it is the best simulation of international relations in game form. Moreover, despite apparent mutual benefits from trade—and unlike real global politics—Settlers of Catan is still a game which can only have one winner. In this sense, while trade may appear mutually beneficial, if it shifts your opponent closer to winning than it shifts you it’s a bad move. Ultimately, that’s a variant of non-cooperative, near-zero-sum play.

Having said all that, semi-cooperative game design is an important game design challenge precisely because semi-cooperation is so common in many real-world situations. You’ll find my thoughts on the issue in this presentation I made last year to the RAND Center for Gaming.

PAXsims

charting-a-course-cover.jpgNational Defense University has recently published Charting a Course: Strategic Choices for a New Administration, edited by R.D. Hooker, Jr. In a chapter on “The Future of Conflict,” T.X. Hammes emphasizes the importance of wargaming in examing emerging issues and challenges:

As a power projection nation, our deployment options may become more limited. We have to think through the implications of forward basing in theater versus basing in the United States and deploying only for a crisis. Our enemies and allies see the increasing density of A2/AD systems globally. It is essential we modify our planning accordingly. Wargaming must examine the operational impacts of fighting a variety of enemies with long-range sea and air precision strike. China will not be the only power to own such systems. Just as importantly, wargaming must explore the political implications when an enemy can threaten other nations that support our deployment chain. (Japan, for example, is crucial to any effort to help defend South Korea and could easily be targeted by the North Korean regime in time of war.) Accordingly, we must seek methods to attack an opponent’s strategy rather than simply destroying its forces.

We need wide-ranging research and supporting analysis as well as wargames to address key questions. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work’s memorandum on wargaming is a very strong first step. Continuing research is required to answer a wide range of questions:

  • Most importantly, how can strategy neutralize potential opponents’ strategies? For instance, how do we counter the perception that China may be able to exclude U.S. forces from the region? What steps can we take to assure allies that in fact we can honor our treaty obligations?
  • How do we protect those nations providing support as we do so—in particular, the politically sensitive targets that can be attacked with long-range, precise, but relatively low-explosive-weight weapons?
  • If we forward deploy, how dispersed will forward forces have to be to survive? How much would we have to invest in hardening forward bases versus investing in protecting stateside bases and building the lift necessary to deploy?
  • What are the political/alliance costs if we choose to station fewer forces forward?
  • Are we willing to employ long-range strike from the United States if we know the enemy can reply in kind? • Once forces are deployed, how do they operate in the presence of swarms of smart weapons?
  • Do we need to deploy more forces forward to ensure they are there for the fight? Or should we just preposition the equipment and supplies? Or are both supplies and forces safer out of the potential theater of operation?

PAXsims

JPSE.jpgThe Journal of Political Science Education, now with a new editorial team under the leadership of Victor Asal, is looking for contributions:

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (editors: Mitchell Brown and Shane Nordyke): Submissions should use the highest standard of evidence in writing about evidence-based approaches to teaching practices and encourage assessment of such teaching and practices. Submissions can be diverse in terms of topic, analytic approach, and levels of analysis, but must maintain systematic methodological approaches. Length of manuscript may range from 3,000-8,000 words, and research notes between 2,000-5,000 words. Authors of accepted papers will be required to make datasets publicly available online through their choice of venue or provide a compelling rationale if they are unable to do so.

Political Science Instruction (editor: Joseph Roberts): Submissions should focus on innovative teaching cases that discuss useful pedagogy, including strategies, games, and experiential learning in teaching political science to diverse audiences. They should also be organized around real classroom problems and potential solutions.  Submissions may range in length from 2,000-4,000 words.

Reflections on Teaching and the Academy (editor: Mark Johnson): Submissions should be from experienced scholar-teachers that focus on reflections on timely and important teaching topics that include transitioning between institutional types, teaching under-prepared students, training graduate students for teaching careers, and other issues. Submissions may range in length from 1,000-2,000 words.

Books, Teaching Tools, & Educational Resources (editor: J. Cherie Strachan)Submissions should help readers identify available new books, software and resources, and to improve classroom and co-curricular learning experiences through reviews of textbooks, pedagogy tools and other related resources. Submissions may range in length from 500-2,000 words.

You’ll find more information at the Active Learning in Political Science blog.

PAXsims

Kathleen Mercury has a useful website on game design, largely aimed at designing strategy games for children. You’ll find it at http://www.kathleenmercury.com.

PAXsims

Here’s another useful resource: Exercise Design and Administration: Just the Basics (2005) by Kerry Fosher of the Northern New England Metropolitan Medical Response System.

The purpose of this document is to help you think through the decisions you need to make about exercise design and administration. It will also give you ideas on how to make the documents you need to implement those decisions. I recognize that the formal guidelines set out in other places may not always be realistic for reasons of time, staffing, or money. I hope that this document will help you think through the critical planning issues and get the most out of whatever resources you can muster.Throughout, you will find that I emphasize the need for you to develop your own system of exercise planning, one that meets your needs and can be truly effective without adding a lot to existing organization or resources. If you can read nothing else, read the segment called “Early Decisions” located in the section on Planning Committees. It will set you on the course to having clearly defined goals, responsibilities, expectations, and reporting.

This document does not replace guidance provided by other agencies. It is intended to help you think through your exercise process, which may include the need to follow specific guidelines from regulatory or granting organizations*. It is divided into 12 sections.

  1. RECORD KEEPING
  2. STAKEHOLDERS
  3. PLANNING COMMITTEES
  4. DESIGN
  5. OBJECTIVES
  6. PUBLIC INFORMATION
  7. SCENARIO
  8. EVALUATION
  9. CONTROL
  10. EXERCISE SUPPORT AND FACILITATION
  11. EXERCISE INFORMATION PACKETS
  12. ASSESSMENT AND INTEGRATION OF RESULTS

Each section contains suggestions for planning and documentation, but you will certainly find other things that need tracking. The suggestions should be used as starting points. Depending on your needs, you may want to adapt other organizations’ materials or create your own planning documents.The most important thing is that the information is captured in a form that exercise planners can easily use and update.

PAXsims

Finally, continuing the theme of “stuff that isn’t new but I hadn’t read before,” how about putting your feet up and enjoying the fine plot elements and nuanced character development of the NATO Guide for Judgement-Based Operational Analysis in Defence Decision Making (2012)?

Judgement-based OA (called ‘soft’ OA in the academic world to contrast with ‘hard’, mathematics-based OA) is increasingly used to support defence and security decision making both at national and NATO levels. Such decisions need to be defensible when subject to scrutiny and decision makers must have confidence that the material presented to them is the best available so that the decision risk is contained. However, judgement-based analysis cannot be subjected to conventional tests of mathematical rigour, so an alternative strategy is needed.

This volume is directed to the clients of such judgement-based OA studies. These include decision makers, study sponsors, end users and other stakeholders. Its purpose is to:

  • Create an understanding of what judgement-based OA is, and what it can offer;
  • Identify the requirements for the client group in sponsoring and guiding judgement-based OA studies; and
  • Show how a judgement-based OA study is carried out in order to maximise the validity, credibility and acceptance of the study and its outcomes.

The analyst-oriented volume of the Guide (“Code of Best Practice for ‘Soft’ Operational Analysis”, the CoBP itself) describes the overall study methodology, the study process, the ‘actors’ involved and their roles and responsibilities, the achievement of validity, credibility and acceptance, and the communication with the client. The TG proposes that its work be complemented by an education program to introduce the opportunities offered by judgement-based OA to decision-making bodies within NATO and Partner Nations, and to show how to make best use of it. It is expected that once published, the CoBP will be reviewed and revised in the light of experience in practice. A third volume is a brief summarising brochure for (high-level, ‘executive’) decision makers explaining key aspects.

The adoption of the Guide is expected to increase significantly the acceptance of judgement-based studies within the military and defence-oriented operational analyst communities. This will, in turn, be beneficial to the quality of defence decision making through the enhancement of the versatility of OA support, to both operations and in longer term support of strategy and defence planning.

PAXsims

Not every wargame leads to an actual real-world nuclear crisis—but the Able Archer 83 exercise conducted by SACEUR may have, and remains the subject of much debate (apologies to Peter Perla and everyone else who is going to quibble with me, I know Able Archer is more accurately a live exercise, not a ‘wargame’).

Book-259.jpgNate Jones of the National Security Archive has just come out with a new book which makes a huge and important contribution to the analysis of the so-called “War Scare” of 1982-84. He publishes and analyzes for the first time a trove of newly declassified documents showing that the Soviets actually were much more alarmed than has sometimes been argued at the beginning of the Reagan administration – especially around issues of a decapitating first strike, which seemed very real to them with the potential placement of the early generation of cruise missiles in Western Europe (TLDR: their range was not sufficient to neutralize key Soviet strategic missile sites, but WAS sufficient to hit Moscow—so it seemed like a departure from Mutually Assured Destruction, and a move towards first strike capability).

The centerpiece document is the 1990 review by the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), which concluded that the intelligence community had indeed misunderstood or ignored signs of Soviet alarm, and systematically downplayed the risks of escalation in official assessments. It goes on to explore some of the ways in which the Able Archer exercise fit into developing Soviet analysis of what cover for a U.S. first strike might look like (including some of the bomber deployments used), and led to alarming potential escalation.

Beyond the overall theme, two interesting notes for wargamers: one of the declassified documents is the AAR from Able Archer 83 – a very interesting read to those of us nerds out there, with great capture of the scenario, as well as the lessons learned from the game managers. Also, this conclusion from the PFIAB analysis:

In cases of great importance to the survival of our nation, and especially where there is important contradictory evidence, the Board believes that intelligence estimates must be cast in terms of alternative scenarios that are subjected to comparative risk assessment.

Without reflecting on any subsequent chapters in U.S. intelligence analysis where alternative scenarios and risk assessments might have been warranted… I think most of our readership would agree that sounds like a call to arms for more red-teaming and more gaming!

Devin Ellis

PAXsims

What the world really needs is an urban snow clearance simulation game. Fortunately the CBC and City of Montreal have made that easy, with this lovely hex-based map of where your car is most likely to be towed to make way for the snowplows:

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Consider it a PAXsims design challenge!  We’ll send a  souvenir bottle of melted slush to the winner.

2016 in review

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I’m happy to report that 2016 was, in terms of readership, PAXsims’ best year yet: we had 59,883 visitors last year, and 111,178 page views. Since the website was founded we’ve posted some 1,185 items, and our all-time number of page views is now rapidly approaching half a million.

In 2016 PAXsims readers came from an impressive 189 countries and territories. The US accounted for by far the largest share of these:

  1. United States (46.7%)
  2. UK (9.4%)
  3. Canada (9.3%)
  4. Netherlands (3.9%)
  5. Germany (3.1%)
  6. France (2.5%)
  7. Australia (2.1%)
  8. Italy (2.0%)
  9. Spain (1.3%)
  10. Russia (1.2%)

However, we also had visitors from such places as Yemen (3), East Timor (1), Iran (1), Syria (1), and North Korea (1).

Our most popular new postings in 2013 were on RAND wargaming the defense of the Baltics, the US Army War College’s strategic wargame program, Jame’s Lacey’s MORS presentation on wargames in strategic education, a report on the Sandhurst Kriegsspiel, and a review of the game Healthy Heart Hospital.

In addition, there were more than three thousand views of our page on AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game.  Now all of you need to buy a copy…

Brian Train remains our most frequenter commentator on blog posts. 350 of you subscribe to our updates via WordPress or email.

Onwards now into 2017!

War in Binni: another McGill megagame

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After the success of last year’s New World Order 2035 megagame at McGill University, we’re holding another on February 11: War in Binni.

The Republic of Binni is wracked by civil war. As President-for-Life Eddie Ancongo clings to office, rival groups of militias and warlords plot to seize power for themselves. Strange cults and radical extremists proliferate. Mercenaries offer their services to the highest bidder. Mineral prospectors and multinational corporations seek profit amidst the conflict. Archaeologists scramble to safeguard valuable artifacts from the ravages of war—or unscrupulously sell them to the highest bidder. Neighbouring countries meddle, seeking to further their own regional interests. The great powers call for peace—but is that what they really want?

War in Binni is a megagame designed by renowned (or infamous) UK game designer Jim Wallman. Approximately one hundred participants will assume the roles of national decision-makers, diplomats, international organizations, mercenaries, archaeologists, cultists, corporations, journalists, rebels, organized crime, and others. Can peace brought to Binni? Or will the country further descend into chaos? And what strange secrets might the country hold?

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“War in Binni” underway at King’s College London in September 2016.

Tickets are now available at a cost of $35 for McGill students, and $60 for others. Get yours now via Eventbrite–numbers are limited, and were quickly sold out last year.

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The event is run on a non-profit basis, and is cosponsored by the International Relations Students Association of McGill (IRSAM) and the McGill Political Science Students Association (PSSA).

A report on last year’s game. New World Order 2035, can be found here and here. A summary of a War in Binni game played at King’s College London in September can be found here (although the McGill version may be a little more…. unusual.)

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Last year’s New World Order 2035 megagame at McGill University.

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The War in Binni

The current President of Binni was elected by the people following the unexpected and untimely death of his uncle Jeremiah. The election was characterised by ballot-rigging, intimidation and corruption. This was some 11 years ago and there is no prospect of any further elections any time soon.

The Binnian parliament still exists and meets regularly, but is made up of loyal supporters of the President and has no independent power.

The country is suffering from increased unrest and various troubles arising from a poor harvest and the effects of the corrupt and repressive Ancongo regime, which outlawed political opposition some years ago and has been increasingly attempting to crush all dissent. The main political opposition parties have been forced underground and have increasingly seen their only recourse has been to arm themselves in self-defence against President Ancongo.

The Opposition Alliance is made up of two main former political parties, the DemocraticFreedom Party (DFP) and the Communist Party Of Binni (CPOB).

The Muslim Rebel Alliance is strong in the northeast of Binni and is supported by the Republic of Agadez.

The Christian Faction is strong in the East of Binni and is supported by the Kingdom of Gao.

The traditional Clewgist faction is strong in the west of Binni, and has a small amount of support from the People’s Republic of Mouella. This is based around an ancient tribal religion, about which few in the developed world know very much.

The Hand of God Movement is a fanatical fundamentalist Christian group that have been largely dismissed but who have gained some infuence in the northwest of Binni.

 

Republic of Agadez: Binni has good trade relations with land-locked Agadez to the north, especially with the city of Dervish.  Relations with Agadez are politically neutral, some trade goes on across the border. Agadez has not been as badly affected by the drought as Northern Binni, and some Binnian refugees are reported to be moving north over the border towards Dervish. The Agadez Army has been deployed to the border region mainly to assist with refugee control.

Kingdom of Gao:  Relations with Binni are tolerable, but the Gaotians have a stormy history with Binni, dating back to the days before the colonial invasions of the nineteenth century. Despite ancient rivalries, Gao has reasonable trading relations with Binni.
People’s Republic of Mouella:  Relations are strained.  The Mouellans have not really forgiven the events of the 1986 War, when Binni liberated part of what is now the Eastern Region of Binni from the Mouellans – especially since this included the valuable (if small) port of Saboto.  The Mouellans are not actually hostile at present, but still formally have a territorial claim to Saboto and the area around it. In the current situation they have closed the border with Binni and are turning away any refugees.  They have made it clear that they are not disposed to assist Binni in any way at present.

The United Nations has appointed a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to mediate between the warring factions. UN agencies are also active in providing humanitarian relief.

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The United Nations Security Council has formed a subcommittee to support the efforts of the UN SRSG. This consist of the five permanent members (the ChinaFranceRussiaUnited KingdomUnited States) plus African regional states Guinea and Nigeria. Each of these, however, may well have their own interests too.

Several multinational corporations have shown a particular interest in the area, including international arms dealers LexSec  and Weygand, and biotechnology company Necrotech.

Binni has a rich and mysterious archaeological history, which is threatened by the current war. McGill UniversityPadua University, and Miskatonic University are currently undertaking digs in the area.

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Reporting on regional events is provided by the Global News Network. You’ll find their webpage here, and they can also be followed on Twitter (@GNNBinni)


How to Play

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You will find a copy of the core rules here. Specialist rules for Archaeology, Science, the United Nations, and other subgames will be included in the team briefings, which will be emailed to participants approximately one week before the game, at the email address they used to register with.

The rules will also be explained before the game starts, and members of the CONTROL team will be ready to assist. Don’t worry if it seems confusing or chaotic at first—you’ll soon work it out!

MORS wargaming news

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The latest (December 2016) issue of The Phalanx contains a substantial report by CDR Phil Pournelle (OSD) on the Military Operations Research Society’s October 2016 special meeting on wargaming. This includes a summary of the keynote address by DEPSECDEF Robert Work:

The highlight of the closing plenary was the keynote address by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work. He outlined the challenges to the department characterized by the proliferation of precision strike weapons across the planet and their use and development by our competitors. He is concerned that our advantages over our competitors are eroding. He discussed how in the past the US jumped ahead using technology to o set numbers. In World War II, the Army assessed a need to raise 213 divisions to fight the Axis, but we counted on superiority in air and sea power to offset these requirements and so chose to raise only 90. After World War II, the United States first offset Soviet superiority in numbers with the deployment of a large number of nuclear weapons. After the Soviets gained nuclear parity, the second ffset employed what the Russians called a Reconnaissance Strike Complex, combining near-zero-miss weapons, sensors, and a command structure to hit all echelons of a Soviet Army Group simultaneously. Mr.Work described how wargaming was crucial to the assessment process in each of these instances and he is convinced of the necessity to use wargaming to identify the next, or third o set. His vision for the third offset is largely dependent on how to best team humans and machines together, integrating the best of both into a capability greater than their sum. Normal quantitative methods alone are not able to capture many of the qualitative issues surrounding the challenges and opportunities we face. Therefore, there is a need for cycles of research integrating wargaming within the larger process in the Department of Defense.

The Deputy Secretary made clear that the wargaming initiative will go forward in the future. Financing for the DWAG incentive fund is in the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) and would require positive action by future administrations to remove it. The key to long-term success will be for MORS and the wargaming community to capitalize on the opportunity and demonstrate value in the process for the department and the nation.

PAXsims’ own report on the meeting can be found here.

The same issue also contains an article by Robert C. (Barney) Rubel on “Connecting the Dots: Learning from Multiple Wargames.” Noting that the development of a DoD-wide wargame repository will generate potential opportunities to learn from multiple wargames, he highlights some of the methodological and analytical challenges of doing so:

It is one thing to sift through such reports to glean hints on how to design and conduct wargames or to cue follow-on gaming or other research. This kind of data gathering is valid in and of itself. However, if the researcher seeks to employ the results from multiple games to generate deeper insights on warfare subjects, to synthesize game results, to avoid distorted or erroneous conclusions. Synthesizing qualitative research results, which are what wargames produce, is not a well- developed eld, but there are a number of proposed methodologies emerging from the fields of medicine and social science research, such as meta-interpretation (Weed, 2005) and meta- ethnography (Britten et al., 2002) that could prove useful. This article will not delve into these techniques, but anyone undertaking to do multigame synthesis ought to review the literature.

Finally, it’s not too late to register for forthcoming MORS courses on Wargaming Theory (January 10) and Wargaming Research and Design (January 11), to be held in Arlington VA. Full details are below.

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