PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: simulation and gaming news

Connections US Archive

I need email addresses for the following 8 people, who have given presentations to Connections US. We need these as part of our effort to build an archive of Connections US Proceedings — specifically to obtain from them a copy of their presentation and their permission to include it in the online archive.

Please eyeball the below list and email me direct (stephen.downesmartin(at)gmail.com) whatever email addresses you have for them, thanks!

  • Thomas Allen
  • Natasha Bajema
  • Chris Baker
  • Brian Killough
  • John Lister
  • James Morningstar
  • Neil Randall
  • Todd Reid

REMINDER: USNA Fellowship Study on Wargame Design Education – Delphi Survey 1

If you wish to support USNA’s research into how current wargame design education measures against the norms of higher education in artistic disciplines then please take the Delphi Survey 1 before the end of tomorrow (Friday 8th Jan).

(Further information is on the front page of the survey and at the original PAXsims post on the subject.)

Thanks!

My year of doing terrifying things for diversity and inclusion

Yuna Wong joked on a CNA Talks podcast about the value of drawing fire to raise awareness of a problem. Boy howdy, have I been drawing fire in 2020. And it’s terrifying. And I think it’s taken for granted that I take it on the chin for the good of the wargaming community—a collective sigh of relief that someone’s doing the hard stuff so the rest of us can remain at safe distance, and cheer that it’s done without having to feel uncomfortable. So let’s talk about that.

1. Some things I have done this year that scared the pants off me:

Becoming an editor at PAXsims

In the mid-2000s an internet stalker phoned up people me-adjacent on the internet to harass me by-proxy. Since then I’ve had almost zero internet presence to keep it from happening again. Agreeing to put my name and face on the internet was a non-trivial decision (you’ll notice my e-mail address is not included in my bio). Every single time I post there’s a panicked thought, what if this is the one—what if this is how they find me again. And that’s on top of all the normal publishing/presentation catastrophising that everyone does: what if I say something stupid, what if I get it wrong, omg everyone is watching. It doesn’t help that posting about D&I inevitably means the trolls come out to complain that you’re doing it wrong when you’re doing it exactly right. 

Podcasts & YouTubes

Paul Strong and I did an LGBT History Month presentation on Queeroes: LGBT and gender non-conformity in the military. It came down to Paul didn’t want to speak for the LGBT community as a straight person, and nobody else was willing to co-present, so if I didn’t it wouldn’t happen. It’s one thing to give a queer rights presentation in person where you can be pretty sure the only people showing up have an interest in the subject. Putting it on YouTube—? Never read the comments section, just don’t do it. Wowsers. I had to leave my house for a walk I felt so uncomfortable after it went up, braced for the inevitable outrage: how dare I say Churchill was queer (true fact: he had sex with a man to see what it felt like…straight men tend not to do that), keep your sexuality out of wargaming, etc etc. Genuinely terrified for 24hrs over this, and definitely only agreed to do it because I don’t have to see or deal with the abusive commentards on YouTube.

Diversity card deck

This was horrid in so many ways: inevitably there were trolls who felt the need to complain loudly and incredibly childishly that the diversity in wargaming survey wasn’t in the least bit interested in their experiences. Trolling is an act of violence; the purpose is to demean and belittle and intimidate. It’s intended to frighten. And it’s pretty horrid to deal with it alone in lockdown, without other people around to drown out the trickle of rubbish with the overwhelming decency of the wargaming community.

Then there were the straight-up awful things people told me about. I was unprepared for the volume: well over 300 submissions in two weeks, from a small small proportion of the wargaming and NatSec community. I was unprepared for the level of fear in those submissions: the people who phoned me because they were worried putting it in writing would be traceable back to them. I was unprepared for the dehumanisation of women and minorities on display. I was unprepared to hear the worst stuff that didn’t make it into the deck because the victims were too identifiable: they were people I work with doing things I have done. My entire career I’ve been reassuring myself I’m safe in situations where I don’t feel confident or entirely welcome, and holy cow it’s literally not been safe to be a woman at work at times. That was shocking—frightening—to think it could have been me. And a kind of awful, scary, relief to see other women reporting the same kind of bullying, intimidation, and humiliation I’ve experienced.

The final terrifying was reporting back on all of this, braced for the backlash all the vignettes alluded to: that when you speak up about D&I you become the problem. I was expecting denial and gaslighting and anger in response. It didn’t come, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t frightening waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“Pull your socks up on D&I.”

Actual words I used, briefing a cohort of very senior types. They’d agreed to play my serious game about dyslexia, they hadn’t agreed for me to cut it short to make room for a frank conversation about the diversity card deck and the Derby House Principles. I literally told people 6 grades above me they were doing it wrong and needed to act like leaders and I was absolutely bricking it. The 24hrs before and during and afterwards was I’m going to be fired on repeat. I do not like standing up to authority. I find it insanely difficult to be that assertive, mostly because I’ve been on the receiving end of some Really Bad Behaviour for plain existing as a woman in technology. I only did it this time because it was a virtual meeting and if any of the worst imaginings in my head happened, I could drop the call and not be frozen in the room while they yelled at me. (I’ve had meetings like that, for smaller perceived infractions.) 

Why did I do these objectively frightening things? Because look around: who else is doing this stuff? When is it going to get better for women and minority wargamers if I don’t do something? Privilege is the freedom not to care about D&I: to know your voice, your views, your needs—people like you—will be represented even if you don’t show up, even if you hide at the back and say nothing because you don’t want to play big. Women and minorities don’t get that choice.

I’ve been trying to have the same slippery conversation all year. It goes like this:

  • There’s the bar for human neutral wargamers: do your job, do it good, get a gold star, congratulations.
  • And then there’s the bar for being a woman, queer, disabled, or BAME/BIPOC, where you have to do twice as much work for half the credit with less support and not complain lest you be accused of demanding special treatment or taking up the space of a more-deserving straight white non-disabled man.
  • And then there’s the bar for being the voice of D&I, where you have to do all of the above so you can defend your right to take up space at all, and on top of that do what the actual leaders—the wargaming royalty, the industry and academia and government seniors and executives—are not doing. All of them grades and grades and grades above your paygrade. You have to start all the really difficult conversations, provide moral leadership and deal with opposition to that leadership (bigotry, gaslighting from unthinking “allies”, concern-trolling on behalf of hypothetical victims, cultural lethargy and inertia, demands that you be endlessly patient and compassionate towards people who don’t treat you with respect or dignity in return)—and you have to do all this without authority.

It’s exhausting and so bruising. And when I say it’s a lot to ask, people shrug: then step back, look after yourself. But women and minorities don’t get to opt out.

We don’t get that choice.

The truth is I don’t want to be the leader. I never did. I don’t even want to be an editor at PAXsims. When Rex asked me to help write the Derby House Principles my first thought was you know that women and minorities are going to take all the backlash, and I don’t need that in my life. On a daily basis I’m putting up with crap because of this. I have experienced more directed-at-me or my actions homophobia since May than I have my whole life. Why is that ok? And before you shrug it off as a few bad apples and the trolls bleating as they’re shown the door—why is it ok that the whole of wargaming culture leaves me to be the leader and have the moral courage to say it’s not ok? Why are so many wargamers so ok—silently complicit—with queerbashing and racism and misogynism that the majority of voices saying enough and taking action for D&I are not white, are women, are queer, are disabled?

2. It’s time to have an uncomfortable conversation.

There’s a game that so beautifully articulates this slippery conversation that I haven’t stopped thinking about it—and haven’t been able to stop seeing it everywhere I look.

It’s an RPG called Dog Eat Dog by Liam Burke.

The setup is simple:

One person plays as the European colonial occupation of a pacific island, all of them. Everyone else plays as individual natives. There’s money: the natives each get a little, the occupation gets a lot. Players take turns setting a scene—the scene includes your character, and others you invite by consent…apart from the occupation who can crash a scene any time they like, and compel anyone to join a scene regardless of consent. And when there’s conflict over what happens next, control of the scene goes to whoever rolls highest—unless someone objects, and then the occupation take control no matter who did the objecting. Are you seeing the pattern here?

After every scene there is judgement: the occupation pays players for each rule they followed, and fines them for each they didn’t. Then the natives come up with a new rule based on what was just rewarded or punished in the scene. When the game starts there is only one rule: 

The natives are inferior to the occupation.

That’s it. You have to follow this rule at all times.

The game ends when one side is out of money: if the natives run out of money that means all their leaders are dead and the culture has been suppressed. If the occupation run out of money that means the natives have been assimilated into the occupation’s society and granted autonomy…at the low low cost of their culture and dignity.

What this game does is perfectly capture the power dynamic involved in discrimination: the natives can’t win. The occupation has all the power to decide what’s acceptable and what isn’t, and is incentivised to use that power to take what they want without repercussions. They don’t even write the rules that the natives get tied up in trying to follow. The game presents you with a wildly unfair system and asks you to live within it as best you can—and it never ends well for the natives. You can’t cheat by trying to be nice: even a benevolent occupation is disastrous.

It is a stunningly good game. 

A central conceit is inventing the native and occupying cultures during the game, which means there’s no historical/cultural knowledge barrier to entry—the game feels capital T true without being factual, which helps to provide a little distance from the true-to-life icky things the game is going to make you do. It feels horrible to kill natives because it is horrible and we should not feel ok about slavery and genocide and colonialism.

I’m working on a project to use this game to get straight white non-disabled men of influence to start conversations about discrimination. We’ve been playing different scenarios: same rules, but as well as occupation vs natives we’re playing ableist society vs the disability community, and heteronormative society vs the LGBT community and holy cow I can’t stop thinking about Rule One.

I can’t stop seeing it as the slippery sauce at the heart of every bad-faith engagement I’ve had on D&I issues. The same dynamic in trolls who say something offensive and then hit back with their right to equality and to be treated with respect and dignity when they’re criticised for it—asserting that their equality and respect and dignity is more important than that of the people they offended in the first place.

In the knee-jerk “straight white men have diversity too!” insistence that the diversity of straight white men is more important than any other kind of diversity.

In the reflexive “not all [men/straight/white/non-disabled people]” response which, regardless of intention, is keeping the interests and comfort of straight white non-disabled men front-and-centre in the conversation about the concerns of women and minorities—asserting that the comfort of said straight white non-disabled men is more important.

And the more I look the more I find it in my own unquestioned thinking: I have internalised Rule One. I’m not in the closet, but there are so many situations where I don’t even think I’m allowed to take up space. 

A certain kind of person harrumphs loudly that LGBT issues are not relevant here and I just keep my mouth shut and keep my sexuality from offending their sensibilities in literally every work situation that’s not people I consider friends or a D&I conversation.

I don’t hide my disability but it is still difficult to say I am bad at these things and not feel shame, like it’s something I have to make up for—that I’m less-than because of it.

3. The system.

The genius of Dog Eat Dog is how it traps you in the system.

The occupation presents you with an impossible situation: in one game the character Mark danced with his same-sex partner on the street which upset the occupation’s sensibilities and they demanded that behaviour stop—stop flaunting your sexuality. Never mind the opposite-sex couples also dancing at the street party, never mind the not-actually-harming-anyone of it. You can see this is wrong. Every fibre of your being is this isn’t right and wanting to protest and demand—expect—the right to take up the same space as consenting hetero couples. And Rule One stops you speaking out because you’re wrong no matter how you phrase it, how reasonably and rationally and gently and empathically and not-aggressively, no-one’s-asking-straight-people-to-do-this-just-stop-policing-consenting-adults-who-aren’t-hurting-anyone you put the case across. 

Rule One ties you up in knots, second-guessing everything you say and do because it might upset them. Because they have the power to decide everything, to hold you to a completely different standard of behaviour and gaslight you about how that’s really not the case at all.

Rule One means they never even have to use mean words or physical aggression for it to be intimidation. They can smile and say it nicely and it’s still a threat, it’s still an act of violence upon your person.

Rule One makes you blame the victim: if Mark had been less provocative we wouldn’t be having this argument, if he’d been more discrete, if he’d kept his sexuality to himself in a “family-friendly” environment—as if there was a right way for Mark to be when his expectation of equality is the problem. The same dynamic is at work when we blame victims of rape instead of the rapists, and when we decry taking the knee as disrespectful: there is never a right way to protest injustice. The injustice is the victim-blaming insistence that you’re wrong to say it’s wrong.

So Mark learns that Rule Two is hide your sexuality—but who defines what’s acceptably hidden? The next turn Mark was in trouble for sitting in a pub with a man who wasn’t his boyfriend or love interest, just drinking with a mate, because prove to me it’s not homosexual—justify your right to exist in this public space. The same way black people’s existence in white spaces is aggressively policed. The same way that disabled peoples’ human rights are treated like an inconvenience to society. It’s all Rule One.

The system has its own priorities and they’re not yours if you’re a minority.

That’s how you can spend two years fighting for simple reasonable adjustments—just a screen-reader, it’s not rocket science—and lose them when the OS gets upgraded and have to start the whole bureaucratic mess over. And you’re doing it wrong to fail to deliver on your work in the meantime, hidden behind the gaslighty we won’t hold it against you but you literally can’t meet stretching objectives to qualify for performance-related pay or promotion. And your thinking goes am I not doing enough, to be worth supporting? Am I not good enough? Is all this Derby House Principles work and my technical ability not enough? Am I just a burden?

You internalise this. You internalise how you’re expected to give and not receive and not complain about it and in the end you stop even questioning the unfairness and you understand: this is all I’m worth.

(And I know this is a thousandth of the crap that BAME/BIPOC people get, and they can’t hide and opt out by passing as/being assumed straight or non-disabled.)

4. How hard it is to be a leader when you feel that. 

It’s hard. Trolls want you to sit down and shut up. Unthinking people who like to argue for the sake of arguing can’t see that when you do that about D&I it’s indistinguishable from bigotry and trolling. The peanut gallery wants you to know how you should be doing more and better and not that way—without doing any of these hard things themselves. 

And the vast majority of decent human beings say nothing.

That’s no big deal, surely? If they’re not actively against D&I they must be for it! Let me tell you a true story:

This summer, for the first time in my life, I heard a straight person value the experience of a queer person for being queer

  • not look at that great thing they did, I guess it’s ok they’re queer too,
  • not I don’t see/think of you as queer (sexuality is not relevant here),
  • not consenting adults can have rights as long as they don’t upset others by exercising those rights.

Genuinely, the only positive-about-queer-people-being-queer that I’ve witnessed first-hand in 40 years has come from the LGBT community. Straight people have been more concerned with how upset they are about a queer person coming out or LGBT rights.

Imagine living your whole life being quietly told through action, inaction, what’s said and what’s not said, that a fundamental part of you—that you didn’t choose—has no value to the rest of society. At best is for ignoring and looking away from.

Rhetorical question: do you value queer people for being queer or just for all the ways they’re exactly like straight people and ignore the rest?

Rule One doesn’t care if you’re nice to people, if you personally treat everyone equally.

You have to understand how Rule One impacts the people in the system: how they’re forced to create and follow these rules and then get blamed for following these rules—for lacking confidence, for not putting themselves forward, for not elbowing their way to the front, for not playing big, for not feeling like they’re allowed to take up space.

People think I’m brave and courageous for doing this Derby House stuff and the truth is I feel so small and ill-equipped for the task and afraid. I don’t want to be the leader.

My whole career I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that my sexuality is not relevant, is not appropriate, has nothing to do with work and I should keep it to myself outside the company of other queers. Sometimes it’s been blatant. Sometimes it’s been a smile and a change of subject. More often than not it’s silence, that only queer people talk about queer issues—the same way white people looked awkwardly at each other and said nothing in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests and waited for BAME/BIPOC folks to do all the talking, all the leading, all the fixing.

I’ve been cautious even bringing LGBT issues up in Derby House Principles conversations. I’ve been pointing to a dead lesbian in the history books to say look, we’ve always existed in wargaming, we’ve always been good at it instead of saying, look: I’m here and unapologetic—if you have a problem with that it’s yours to deal with, because I’ve internalised Rule One: your sex life has nothing to do with the workplace. But it’s got nothing to do with my sex life; it’s only ever been policing my right to exist at all as a lesbian. Straight people can talk about their parents or spouse or kids and there’s no STOP TALKING ABOUT SEX even though it’s undeniably happened.

I think people imagine that now there’s same-sex marriage equality has been achieved. I know everyone who played the Dog Eat Dog LGBT scenario looked at Rule One and was uncomfortable: I don’t think that, it’s not true. But really? Really is that the case?

“In Britain, legally speaking and medically speaking, you’re in a horrible situation. Trans adults here — we don’t have the same legal and bodily autonomy that other people do. If a woman goes through menopause and wants hormone replacement therapy, she can get it from a general practitioner. If I [a trans woman] want the same drugs, I have to wait to see a specialist and be diagnosed with a mental illness. If a cis person in the UK wants to get married, you need some ID. A cis woman can show her passport, and that’s enough. My new passport says F, but if I want to get married, I need to ask permission from the gender recognition panel to give me a gender recognition certificate. And it is notoriously difficult to get them to say yes.

Even as an adult, we do not have bodily or legal autonomy in the way that other people do. When we say we want informed consent [a system by which trans people can be prescribed hormones by self-identifying as trans], it’s painted as this radical thing. But it’s what everyone else in Britain already enjoys.”

Vox

Which is really no different to the Chief Protector of Aborigines in Australia who had the only say in who could marry whom, and ran the residential schools designed to educate the Indian out of the child, or the legislation of womens’ bodies—it’s all the same. It’s all Rule One.

“women have no value in relation to the fetuses in their wombs, though about half of those fetuses will turn into women who will, in turn, be assessed as having no value in relation to the next potential generation of fetuses. Women may be worthless containers of containers of containers of things of value, namely men. Embryonic men. Or perhaps children have value until they turn out to be women. I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me how these people think.”

Rebecca Solnit

And it’s the most relevant thing in the world to wargaming, because if you’re coming to the table within a system that holds the women or the queer or BAME/BIPOC or disabled players inferior, that’s going to affect who gets a say, whose ideas are listened to, whose opinions are given weight, whose insight matters. And if you’re coming to the game within a system that holds African or South American or Middle Eastern or Asian or refugee populations inferior to the western world, that’s going to affect what it’s ok to do and let be done to them in the game, the analysis, the policy, and ultimately in the real world to real human beings. 

We already made that mistake in Iraq.

5. So where do we go from here?

2020 is the year wargaming opened its eyes to diversity and inclusion.

2021 has to be the year you all play Dog Eat Dog and dismantle the system. Have a conversation about how hard it is to live in that system as a minority, how much effort is wasted managing the emotions of the occupying group. Turn awareness into meaningful action that understands the playing field is not level and just saying I’m nice to everyone or I’m going to treat everyone equally is only perpetuating a system designed to advantage the confidence of mediocre white men.

Honestly consider how Rule One informs your thinking and assumptions towards others and yourself. It’s not enough to just think you don’t follow Rule One, you have to tell people—straight white non-disabled men as much as women and BAME/BIPOC and queer and disabled wargamers. You actually have to show with your actions that you do value women and minority wargamers. You have to say the words. And not just once. And not just in safe spaces where nobody difficult can overhear you.

Dog Eat Dog by Liam Burke is available from DriveThruRPG.

You can read more about the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming here.

PAXsims 2020 in review

2020 was certainly a dumpster fire of a year: over 1.8 million dead (so far) from a global pandemic, economic recession, a million or so Uighur Muslims held in hundreds of Chinese detention camps, and a continuing background of conflict and repression (in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Myanmar, and elsewhere) that has forcibly displaced over 80 million people world-wide.

With regard to the pandemic, there is good news now too: COVID-19 vaccination campaigns have started in many countries (although those in the developing world will face challenges in obtaining then administering vaccinations in a timely way). In the meantime, wear your mask, wash your hands, and distance!

Here at PAXsims we we had our one millionth (socially-distanced) page view today. Since the website was established in 2009, we have had over 459,000 visitors from around the world, and posted no less than 1,828 items on conflict simulation and serious games.

In 2020, we had 94,693 visitors from 190 countries and territories, viewing 176,319 pages—up 46% from last year, and our highest total yet. The ten most important countries of origin were:

  1. United States 58.1%
  2. United Kingdom 14.5%
  3. Canada 10.0%
  4. Netherlands 3.6%
  5. Germany 3.0%
  6. France 2.6%
  7. Australia 2.5%
  8. Japan 2.3%
  9. Spain 1.8%
  10. Italy 1.7%

A further 1,453 people subscribe to PAXsims via email or WordPress or follow us on Facebook.

The predominance of the US (and, to a lesser extent, the UK) in global discussions on wargaming and policy gaming indicated above raises an interesting question: to what extent are the challenges and processes of serious gaming different in countries with much smaller national security communities? This has been much discussed in Canada, and was raised in a recent Polish strategic studies conference too—and will be one of the topics under discussion at the Connections North (virtual) conference on 19-21 February 2021.

Of our visitors, Gallup Analytics estimates that 26% are female. Visitors are fairly evenly distributed across all (adult) age demographics. PAXsims support for diversity and inclusion was reflected in the launching of the Derby House Principles back in June, as well as our support for the Zenobia Award.

Your hard-working team of editors posted 265 items during the year. The most popular posts were:

  1. Transition Integrity Project: Preventing a disrupted presidential election and transition
  2. The personalities of miniature wargame players
  3. AFTERSHOCK
  4. COVID-19 serious gaming resources
  5. Brooks: What’s the worst that could happen?
  6. How to raise a wargamer
  7. Announcing the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming
  8. Derby House Principles
  9. C3i Magazine: COVID-19 Scenario for Pandemic
  10. Owen: What’s wrong with professional wargaming?

The copy of the Transition Integrity Project matrix game report hosted on PAXsims has now been downloaded over 160,000 times—quite apart from copies at the TIP website and elsewhere. That makes it the most read wargame after action report of all time, so congratulations to TIP and the game’s mysterious designer (we know who you are, mate!) On the same topic but with a less successful outcome, PAXsims was a participant in one of the most widely-reported wargame mishaps of all time.

Ironically, we started 2020 gaming a pandemic—just not the right one. Later, however, PAXsims played a key role (in conjunction with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces, and Defence Research and Development Canada) in the design and execution of a series of red team sessions and a day-long table-top exercise in support of Canada’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Task Force. The latter involved some 150 or so participants from across the federal government, all ten provinces and three territories. You will be able to hear about that at Connections North too.

So there’s the PAXsims year in review. We hope you’re all well, that you’ve enjoyed the holiday season, and that all of our readers have a happy, healthy, and productive new year.

The Wargamer: Diversity in wargaming

At The Wargamer, Edward Desalle asks “is 2020 the year the tide turned in the struggle for diversity in wargames?

As with virtually every other hobby and industry, 2020 has been a disruptive year in wargaming, to say the least. Conventions have been cancelled, schedules altered, games delayed, time dilated. Perhaps the most lasting of this year’s legacies, however, will be that it has brought to the surface a conversation that the community has been putting off for decades: why has the hobby struggled so much with diversity and inclusion and how to fix it? 

If 2020 has shown anything, it is that while the hobby still has a lot of ground to cover in terms of making wargaming a truly welcoming place, there have been some very hopeful, concrete steps towards diversity, inclusion, and experimentation this year.

This should be an issue of paramount importance to all wargamers. If you would like to see wargaming become a robust, successful, thriving hobby then you should be deeply invested in ensuring that the community is one that welcomes and encourages diverse voices.

Speaking of the hobby, he notes:

We can also confidently say that the vast majority of designers and creators in the wargaming and historical board gaming space fit into this narrow demographic category as well. This should not come as too much of a surprise considering there have long been undercurrents of racism, eurocentrism, and antisemitism lingering in the dark corners of the hobby. Even today, wargame-oriented message boards, Facebook groups, and other online communities often remain dens of unrepentant reactionary toxicity, homophobia, and misogyny. Many games still traffic in ahistorical tropes or various species of Lost Cause-ism, while others ham-handedly fumble with issues that require nuance. 

However, he goes on to note signs of progress, including two initiatives that PAXsims has been involved in: the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming, and the Zenobia Award:

With that said, there have been a few very promising signs of improvement this year. Things are changing and it appears as though the community is coming to terms with some of the lingering issues around diversity and inclusion. 

Encouragingly, several publishers have signed on to the Derby House Principals. Named after the headquarters of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit, a WWII-era team of naval wargamers staffed by women of the WRNS, the Derby House Principals is a statement of values that emphasize a commitment to promoting inclusion in wargaming and opposing bigotry in all forms.

While ostensibly directed at the world of professional gaming, several commercial publishers have signed on in support of the Principles, with some positive results so far. At the same time, following the events of this summer in the United States, other publishers have independently issued statements advocating for inclusion and diversity in the industry and wider community, including GMT GamesMulti-Man Publishing, and Hollandspiele

Others have chosen to stay silent and avoid the ire of complacent fans. Of course, words alone can only go so far, but such widespread acknowledgment of the problem is more progress than has seen in a decade.

Contestants can enter for the chance to receive a cash prize – $4000 for the first-place winner – from a panel of diverse judges from across the gaming community. But, more importantly, the award also offers critiques for contestants and mentorship for finalists, something that can help to break down a significant barrier for underrepresented groups trying to gain a toehold. 

With a bunch of publishing partners already signed on, this could be an excellent stepping stone to broadening the wargaming community, pushing genre boundaries, and telling new kinds of stories.

 You can read the full article at the link above.

Sadly, the reader comments on the piece suggest the hobby still has a way to go before it enters the 21st century: there are the usual suggestions that broadening the community somehow is “mandated control,” feel-good political correctness, or even “communist nonsense.” Sigh.

Wargaming positions at the Center for Army Analysis

The Center for Army Analysis at Fort Belvoir, VA is currently recruiting for two wargaming positions:

Operations Research Analyst (GS 13)

About the Position: Develops analytical procedures and simulation models. Serves as an Operations Research Analyst assigned to one of the teams in the Division. Responsible for the development, construction, and analysis of major segments of logical models of significant scope, size and complexity.  

Operations Research Analyst (GS 14)

About the Position: Serves as the Operations Research Analyst for the United States (US) Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM), US Army Garrison (USAG) Ft. Belvoir. Participates with high level decision-makers in defining and establishing the war gaming methodology required to address operational and logistical initiatives or problem areas faced by the Army staff or major subordinate commands that are critical to the execution of their missions. 

Details at the links above. The closing date is December 28.

AFTERSHOCK module for Vassal

AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game can now be played online using the Vassal boardgame engine. Many thanks to Curt Pangracs, Directorate of Simulation Education (DSE), Army University, US Department of Defense for developing the module and making it available.

Call for Participation: USNA Fellowship Study on Wargame Design Education – Delphi Survey 1

Sawyer Judge is an Associate Research Analyst at the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA), a recent graduate of the Georgetown University Security Studies Program, and a fellow for the United States Naval Academy’s Naval History Wargaming Lab.

As part of her fellowship for the United States Naval Academy’s Naval History Wargaming Lab, she is running a series of Delphi Surveys which will inform our understanding of the Wargame Design Community’s views on design education. This is part of a larger study addressing the following question:

How does current wargame design education measure against the norms of higher education in artistic disciplines?

Anyone can participate, and you will be asked about your ties to the community as well as your insights and opinions.

Delphi surveys aim to move towards a coherent picture of subject matter expert (SME) opinions within a particular community of interest (COI). It is a useful tool for identifying both consensus and divergence, without running any risk of “group think.” Delphi surveys are iterative by nature, so if you participate in the first round, she will be reaching out to you again for a second survey.

Click here to complete the survey. You are asked to complete as much as you feel comfortable and willing to complete. No question is required except for your name and consent at the beginning. Learn more about the study itself, her ongoing research, and the instructions for the survey on the survey’s first page.

Please complete the survey by January 8th 2021! Thank you.

Gaming and Professional Military Education

Given the current interest in wargaming and PME, here’s an interesting overview by Group Captain Jo Brick, a Legal Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force and Chief of Staff at the Australian Defence College, on how games can enhance PME. Contents include:

  • The Intellectual Edge, play, and gaming
  • Overview – from the Magdeburg War Gaming Society to ‘This War of Mine’ (2017)
  • Conflict and competition through abstraction
  • Conclusion

Representing Artificial Intelligence in Wargames

Proceedings of the Connections US 2020 Wargaming Conference Working Group 2, with contributions from: ED McGrady, Dennis Rensel, Kristan Wheaton, Megan Hennessey, Abram Trosky, Joseph Saur, Jeremy Sepinsky and John Hanley.

What effects will AI or other advanced technologies have on how we fight? New technologies are notoriously hard to incorporate into existing military operational concepts. Some change nothing, others change everything. How to identify the holistic effects of technologies like AI or other advanced technologies is a task is well suited to wargaming. After all, wargamers often consider the far flung future and provide a possible universe for study. As noted by multiple authors the lack of actual technology did not prevent study of future technologies in the InterWar period.

The report contains an executive summary explaining the high level takeaways and the Working Group method and process, and seven research papers along with discussion.

The initial chapters provide an overview of the challenges inherent in addressing specific methods for including AI and other advanced technologies in wargames. Following this discussion, the next several papers provide an overview of a range of methods to represent AI and other advanced technologies in wargames. Finally, the report closes with a discussion of some of the mathematical considerations that may allow us to address the challenges provided by AI.

Please direct inquiries to the Chair of the Working Group, Ed McGrady: mcgradye@gmail.com.

How to Master Wargaming

From the United States Army Combined Arms Center comes this interesting Handbook on how to use commercial off the shelf wargames to improve military COA analysis.

“This handbook focuses on three items: First, how to improve and develop the cognitive skill of visualizing, a key component to COA analysis (wargaming); second, improving the methods and conduct of action, reaction, and counteraction adjudication of COA analysis with off-the-shelf wargames; and third, thoughts on training the staff. COA analysis is similar to any collective skill, and is perishable if not continually trained and rehearsed. Therefore, it is the purpose of this handbook to provide thoughts on how to develop individuals and staffs so they can better conduct COA analysis during the military decisionmaking process.)

https://usacac.army.mil/organizations/mccoe/call/publication/20-06

Maritime Warfare Centre is recruiting!

The Maritime Warfare Centre is tasked by Navy Command Headquarters to conduct Operational Analysis (OA) studies and trials/experiments for UK Maritime forces. The MWC is based within HMS COLLINGWOOD in Fareham and consists of around 100 staff from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, international exchange officers, MOD civilians, contractors and Dstl analysts.

Our colleagues in the MOD team at the MWC are advertising to recruit a new analyst to join the wargaming team. From the JO:

MWC Wargame Operational Analyst 2 (MWC-WARGAME OA 2) will work as part of the MWC wargaming team on a diverse and evolving range of requirements in support of RN tactical development. Their primary responsibility is leading and/or contributing to the design, delivery, and analysis of wargames (particularly a series of three annual games sponsored by the Fleet Commander), either individually or as part of a team, and the active development of wargaming methodologies and tools to support MWC activity.

The role would ideally suit someone with strong communication skills (both written and oral) who has experience of applying analytical methodologies to support decision making processes. Actively seeking opportunities to identify and utilise relevant wargaming tools (including software) and techniques used in industry and elsewhere in Defence, particularly the Defence Wargaming Centre (DWC) at Dstl, will also form part of the role.

While the focus of this role will be wargaming, the job holder will be part of the larger MWC operational analysis team which works across a variety of specialisations. As such, there may be the opportunity to support analysis of RN trials and exercises, either from the UK or deployed for short periods onboard RN or Allied warships and support vessels.

85716 Maritime Warfare Centre – Wargame Operational Analyst (Note that this is a MOD C2 post)

The closing date for applications is the 11th of December 2020.

POC is: Paul Shott, Wargaming Team – Maritime Warfare Centre

Tactical Reconnaissance – A Soviet View

I’ve added “Tactical Reconnaissance” (No. 23 of the Soviet Military Thought series) to the earlier post of books 1 — 22 in that series. Maybe of use to anyone interested in Cold War wargaming, or on how Soviet Military Thought has evolved into the current day.

Does anyone know of volumes after No. 23?

(For links to books.google.com, click on the gear wheel top right of the screen and select “Download PDF” for a clean text-searchable PDF.)

Active Learning in Policy Studies in Pandemic Times: The Promise of Digital Games

————– Forwarded ————
From: Bruno Oscar Dente <bruno.dente@polimi.it>
Date: Tue, Nov 24, 2020 at 5:17 AM
Subject: Panel at ICPP5 – Barcelona July 2021

Dear colleagues,

Attached you will find the announcement and the call for papers for a panel I will be chairing together with Ixcel Perez Duran and Claudio Radaelli at the 5th International Conference in Public Policy that will be held (in person, blended or online) in Barcelona 6-8 July 2021.

If you are interested in participating either as commentators or paper givers do not hesitate to contact us. We will also be grateful if you will circulate the announcement to your colleagues who might be interested.

Thank you for your attention.

Best wishes

Bruno Dente

Honorary Professor
Politecnico di Milano
Department of Management Engineering
Via Lambruschini 4/B
20156 MILANO (Italy)

Zenobia Award: Underrepresented designers, underrepresented topics

The following announcement was written by  Dan Thurot. PAXsims is a proud supporter of the Zenobia Award.


History is big. So big that it belongs to everybody. Every individual, no matter their background or identity, connects to history in unique and important ways.

So why do historical board game designers seem to fit into the same mold? You know the type. White, male, straight, usually academic, often a part-time dabbler in spurious facial hair.

We’ve wondered the same thing. Which is why we’re pleased to announce the Zenobia Award, a board game design contest for underrepresented groups.

That could mean you! Whether you’re a woman, person of color, LGBTQ+, or otherwise underrepresented, the Zenobia Award is all about helping you break into the tabletop game industry. That can mean boards, cards, dice, tiles, miniatures—whatever your game requires, if it’s about a historical setting, we want to help your voice be heard.

How will we do that? Good question. The Zenobia Award is more than a fancy name. It’s a mentorship, intended to pair you with industry veterans who will help develop your game into its best form. It’s an entry point, with partner publishers standing by to discover the most interesting titles and help bring them to print. And it’s a contest, complete with a cash prize, public celebration, and genuine wooden trophy analog—that’s right, a plaque!

Is there a hitch? Nope. There’s no cost of entry, no obligation to list your mentor as a co-designer, and you keep the rights to your game—unless you sign a contract with a publisher, of course. That’s entirely up to you. Being a game designer, you know the importance of the little rules. So, take a look at the fine print over at www.zenobiaaward.org and welcome to the Zenobia Award. 

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