Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: simulation and gaming publications

Simulation and gaming publications, January-February 2021

PAXsims is pleased to present a selection of recently-published items on simulation and serious gaming. Some of these may not address conflict, peacebuilding, or development issues at all, but have been included because of the broader perspective they offer on games-based education or analysis.

Articles may be gated/paywalled and not accessible without subscription access to the publication in which they appear.

Sang-Hyun Ahn, Jitae Kim, Il-Moon Chung, Jeong Eun Lee, “Domestic and Foreign Case Studies of Virtual Drought Exercise,”  Journal of Engineering Geology (December 2020) [in Korean].

Drought has repeatedly occurred due to the climate change effect. The government is working on ways to reduce drought damage and is conducting drought exercise. This study analyzed drought literature and exercise cases in the United States, Australia and Korea. Based on the analysis results, the study suggested considerations in selecting exercise types which are workshop, tabletop exercise and functional exercise, and process of the drought exercise. The results of the study can be used as an effective tool to prepare the virtual drought exercise. 

Rex Brynen, “Virtual paradox: how digital war has reinvigorated analogue wargaming,” Digital War 1, 1 (2020).

War has become increasingly digital, manifest in the development and deployment of new capabilities in cyber, uncrewed and remote systems, automation, robotics, sensors, communications, data collection and processing, and artificial intelligence. The wargames used to explore such technologies, however, have seen a renaissance of manual and analogue techniques. This article explores this apparent paradox, suggesting that analogue methods have often proven to be more flexible, creative, and responsive than their digital counterparts in addressing emerging modes of warfare.

Warfare has become increasingly digital. Militaries around the world are developing, deploying, and employing new capabilities in cyber, uncrewed and remote systems, automation, robotics, sensors, communications, data collection and processing, and even artificial intelligence. The wargames used by governments to explore such technologies, however, have seen a renaissance of manual and analogue techniques. What explains this apparent paradox?

This article will explore three reasons why analogue gaming techniques have proven useful for exploring digital war: timeliness, transparency, and creativity. It will then examine how the field of professional wargaming might develop in the years ahead. To contextualize all of that, however, it is useful to discuss wargaming itself. How and why militaries use games to understand the deadly business of warfare?

Andreas Haggman, “Imagining and Anticipating Cyber Futures with Games,” in A. Ertan, K. Floyd, P. Pernik, T. Stevens, eds., Cyber Threats and NATO 2030: Horizon Scanning and Analysis (NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, 2020).

This short chapter considers the relationship between games and futures, with specific focus on cyber security. Games and gamification have received renewed attention in both academia and industry over the past ten years. Within this broad field, the genre of wargaming occupies a significant but often underappreciated space.

Unlike what some observers might argue, wargaming is not just an activity for history anoraks with an overly keen interest in the past. Wargaming can indeed be used to better understand historical events, but it can also be used to explore the dynamics of the present or employed as a highly imperfect crystal ball to gaze into the future. When done right, wargaming can be a powerful tool to engage audiences with little subject matter expertise or game playing experience.

Three core arguments are made in this chapter. First, wargames can provide structure for players to imagine futures. Second, wargames can prepare players for the future by enabling them to anticipate emotions. Lastly, cyber wargames should avoid the trap of becoming enamoured with the technolo- gy of cyber security.

The chapter is grounded in diverse literature, drawing on material from cultural studies, strategic studies, modelling and simulation and history. Readers will find theoretical insights into the uses of games alongside prac- tical advice for those seeking to use wargames in a cyber security context.

Shang Jiang, Wenxia Wei, Yanlin Wu, Rui Tang, Qingquan Feng, Daogang Ji, “War Chess as Hierarchical Learning Environment,” 13th International Symposium on Computational Intelligence and Design (2020).

This paper introduces GWCLE (General War Chess Learning Environment), a general machine learning environment based on hexagonal wargaming. Hexagonal war chess, when utilized as machine learning challenge, is naturally a multi-agent problem with the intelligent interaction of human or machine. The GWCLE supports hybrid engine, allowing credible simulation for kinds of war chess, which provides hierarchical training framework for massive agents control problem. The agent can be trained with designated level of war chess data and transferred bottom-up or top-down. For training on the whole deduction, we build the database to store refined replay data. Our framework is able to support agents to be trained in tactical and strategic level simultaneously. GWCLE offers a hierarchical perspective of the war chess simulation, allowing researchers controlling the granularity of action and time step.

Thorsten Kodalle, Terra Schwartz, David Ormrod, C. Sample, K. Scott, “A General Theory of Influence in a DIME/PMESII, ASCOP/IRC Model,” Journal of Information Warfare 19, 2 (2020).

The leading question of this paper is “How can one conceptualise influence warfare in order to simulate it?” The authors discuss the foundational aspects of theory and model of influence warfare by building a conceptual framework. The framework forms a prism with three axes along the DIME/PMESII/ASCOP dimensions. The DIME concept groups the many instru- ments of power a nation-state can muster into four elements: Diplomacy, Information, Military, and Economics. PMESII describes the operational environment in six domains: Political, Mili- tary, Economic, Social, Information, and Infrastructure. ASCOPE is used in COunterINsurgen- cy (COIN) environments to analyse the cultural and human environment (the ‘human terrain’) and encompasses Areas, Structures, Capabilities, Organization, People, and Events. Addition- ally, the model reflects about aspects of Information Collection Requirements and Information Capabilities Requirements (ICR2)—hence DIME/PMESII/ASCOP/ICR2. The paper focuses on building a framework for the problem space of influence/information/hybrid warfare and intro- duces the idea of the perception field, understood as a molecule (gestalt or shape) of a story or narrative that influences an observer. This molecule can be drawn as a selection of vectors that can be built inside the DIME/PMESII/ASCOP prism. Each vector can be influenced by a shielding or shaping action. These ideas are explored in the context of an influence wargame.

Robert Körner and Astrid Schütz, “It is not all for the same reason! Predicting motives in miniature wargaming on the basis of personality traits,”  Personality and Individual Differences 173 (April 2021).

Despite the increasing popularity of miniature wargames (MWGs), research on this pastime is still scarce. We aimed to understand how personality is related to motivations for playing MWGs. A world sample of 8590 MWG players was tested with the Ten-Item Personality Inventory to assess the Big Five and the Trojan Player Typology to measure gaming motivations. The latter scale was used for the first time in non-video-game players and showed good psychometric properties. Results showed several significant associations between personality and motivations for engaging in these games. People who played MWGs to socialize were high in openness and extraversion. Players high in agreeableness did not want to compete and did not emphasize winning as an important factor. People who played to escape from everyday problems reported high levels of neuroticism. Story-driven gamers described themselves as open and agreeable. Clearly, personality is relevant for predicting the attractiveness of MWGs, and the game has different aspects of attractiveness for different groups. The results help to better explain the phenomenon of MWGs and highlight the role of personality in this pastime. Avenues for future research such as the use of behavioral measures in playing MWGs are discussed.

Miriam Matejova and Chad M. Briggs, “Embracing the Darkness: Methods for Tackling Uncertainty and Complexity in Environmental Disaster Risks,” Global Environmental Politics 21, 1 (February 2021).

Environmental systems are complex and often difficult to predict. The interrelationships within such systems can create abrupt changes with lasting impacts, yet they are often overlooked until disasters occur. Mounting environmental and social crises demand the need to better understand both the role and consequences of emerging risks in global environmental politics (GEP). In this research note, we discuss scenarios and simulations as innovative tools that may help GEP scholars identify, assess, and communicate solutions to complex problems and systemic risks. We argue that scenarios and simulations are effective at providing context for interpreting “weak signals.” Applying simulations to research of complex risks also offers opportunities to address otherwise overwhelming uncertainty.

Daniel F. Oriesek, Jan Oliver Schwarz, Winning the Uncertainty Game: Turning Strategic Intent into Results with Wargaming (Routledge, 2020).

This book is about the challenges that emerge for organizations from an ever faster changing world. While useful at their time, several management tools, including classic strategic planning processes, will no longer suffice to address these challenges in a timely and comprehensive fashion. While individual management tools are still valid to solve specific problems, they need to be employed based on a clear understanding of what the greater challenge is and how they need to be combined and prioritized with other approaches. In order to do so, companies can apply the clarity of thinking from the military with regard to which leadership level is responsible for what and how these levels need to interact in order to produce a single aligned response to an outside opportunity or threat. Finally, the tool of business wargaming, while known for some time, proves to be an ideal approach to quickly and effectively bring all leadership levels together, align them around a common objective and lay the groundwork for effective implementation of targeted responses that will keep the organization competitive and in the game for the long run.

The book offers a comprehensive introduction to business wargaming, including a historical account, a classification of different types of games and a number of specific real-world examples. 

This book is targeted at practicing managers dealing with the aforementioned challenges, as well as for students of business and strategy at every level.

Matthew A. Schnurr and Anna MacLeod, eds., Simulations and Student Learning (University of Toronto Press, 2020).

Simulation-based education (SBE) is a teaching strategy in which students adopt a character as part of the learning process. SBE has become a fixture in the university classroom based on its ability to stimulate student interest and deepen analytical thinking. 

Simulations and Student Learning is the first piece of scholarship that brings together experts from the social, natural, and health sciences in order to open up new opportunities for learning about different strategies, methods, and practices of immersive learning. This collection advances current scholarly thinking by integrating insights from across a range of disciplines on how to effectively design, execute, and evaluate simulations, leading to a deeper understanding of how SBE can be used to cultivate skills and capabilities that students need to achieve success after graduation.

James Smith, “New Research into the History, Theory and Practice of Naval Wargaming,” The Mariner’s Mirror 107 (2021).

It is largely overlooked today that naval war- gaming was a major contributing factor not only to the development of British naval thought but also to strategic theory. In academia and in government, naval wargaming has often been disregarded and its importance to the development of the art and theory of war neglected. It has been viewed purely through the eyes of a land narrative. The disparity between land and sea wargaming rose to prominence in 2016 when the author regenerated naval wargaming in the War Studies Department at King’s College London, which was met with an array of suspicious questions, often from historians. Projects on the history of wargaming and its many branches have been undertaken previously by the wargaming community, but they failed to set their research in a wider context. They had become reliant on the same, often secondary, sources as a cornerstone of their understanding of the history of naval war- gaming. To their consternation, these were some of the factors behind why wargamers continued to face the same questions repeatedly on the role and function of wargames. They often failed to demonstrate that naval wargaming was both a practical tool and an enabling agent for the disciplines and topics that it has supported. Examples could have been easily shown from the wider narrative of wargaming, and their interpretation was not just dependent on the classified wargaming found in late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century defence practice. With this in mind, the Society for Nautical Research supported a project to fill a gap in knowledge and address these issues in a scholarly manner. Addressing these multide of imbalances, the research has identifed that naval wargaming became an essential tool to support not only historical discussion of naval topics and questions, but was also critical to the development of strategic theory. This report summarizes the initial findings.

Hanchao Wang, Hongyao Tang, Jianye Hao, Xiaotian Hao, Yue Fu, Yi Ma, “Large Scale Deep Reinforcement Learning in War-games,” 2020 IEEE International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedicine (2020).

War-game is a type of multi-agent real-time strategy game, with challenges of the large-scale decision-making space and the flexible and changeable battlefield situation. In addition to the military field, it has played a role in fields including epidemic prevention and pest control. In recent years, more and more learning algorithms have tried to solve this kind of game. However, the existing methods have not yet given a satisfactory solution for the war-game, especially when preparation time is limited. In this background, we try to solve a traditional war-game based on hexagon grids. We propose a hierarchical multi-agent reinforcement learning framework to rapidly training an AI model for the war-game. The higher-level network in our hierarchical framework is used for task decision, it solves the credit assignment problem between agents through cooperative training. The lower-level network is mainly used for route planning, and it can be reused through parameter sharing for all the agents and all the maps. To deal with various opponents, we improve the robustness of the model through a grouped self-play approach. In experiments, we get encouraging results which show that the hierarchical structure allows agents to learn their strategies effectively. Our final AI model demonstrates that our methods can effectively deal with the challenges in the war-game.

Nan Wang and Miao Shen, “Foreseeing the Subversive Influence of Intelligent Simulation Technology for Battle Example Teaching,” International conference on Big Data Analytics for Cyber-Physical-Systems (2020).

It is an important research project that exploring battle example teaching is how to serve the fight and drill preferably. The simulation territory has introduced artificial intelligence, virtual reality and cloud computing at present, the simulation based on these techniques will bring far-reaching influence for battle example teaching. The intelligent simulation technology will remodel analysis factors of battle example, reconstitute research idea of battle example, overturn the research of battle example. The battle example teaching methods based on intelligence confrontation, scene recurrence and fight chess manoeuvre will show itself, and it will help researchers capture victory inspiration from battle example, feel command art in virtual confrontation and excavate defeating mechanism from retrospect research.

Recent simulation and gaming publications, October-December 2020

PAXsims is pleased to present a selection of recently-published items on simulation and serious gaming. Some of these may not address conflict, peacebuilding, or development issues at all, but have been included because of the broader perspective they offer on games-based education or analysis.

Articles may be gated/paywalled and not accessible without subscription access to the publication in which they appear.

Andrew P. Betson, Tristan Boomer,  Justin DiCarlo, Marshall Green and Adam Messer, “COVID-19 and Virtual Wargaming in the Reserve Officer Training Corps: Deadly Virus Resurrects Aged Tactical-Training Method,” Armor (Fall 2020).

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic stopped the world in its tracks early in 2020. As unfamiliar terminology such as “social distancing” and “reducing the curve” proliferated everyday life, military leaders faced familiar (and unceasing) training requirements despite the unexpected challenges that arise from a pandemic.

At St. Louis’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Gateway Battalion, the story was the same. Universities across the city closed in March, and students were sent home, prompting the need for a new solution to fulfill training requirements. Our ROTC program’s third-year cadets were expected to be trained (or, at least practiced “P+”) in leader and collective tasks for platoon-level tactical operations and in warrior tasks and drills. With unprecedented levels of technology and communication at our fingertips, the cadre and the fourth-year cadet leadership of Gateway Battalion looked to the Prussians of the early 1800s and U.S. Army Reserve units of the 1980s for help. The result succeeded beyond expectations when it came to training our cadets.

Matthias Caretta Crichlow, A Study on Blue Team’s OPSEC Failures (Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics & Computer Science, University of Twente, October 2020).

Organizations are every day expanding their networks, increasing the number of servers and workstations in it. Such a growth expands the surface that can be tar- geted by malicious actors to cause harm. Therefore it is becoming more and more common for the organizations to create specialized teams of defenders (i.e. the Blue Team) who can monitor and protect their system. However, the fact that someone is actively hunting for malicious actors changed the balance in cybersecurity. Inter- acting with the attackers causes change in their strategies. We focused our efforts in studying the interplay between attackers and defenders, aiming at creating fur- ther studies in this new field. As the first step we tried to understand what part of the Blue Team investigations can be detected by an intruder, and we highlighted the fact that indicators of Blue Team’s OPSEC failures are the way attackers can likely achieve these results. We focused our study on the first line of defence within the Blue Team, the SOC (Security Operation Center). Using CTA (Cognitive Task Analysis) techniques we identified common OPSEC failures among SOC analysts. Subsequently, in order to evaluate the impact that such actions have on the strate- gies of attackers we organized a wargame in collaboration with Northwave’s Red Team demonstrating that being aware of the Blue Team’s presence determined the adoption of more cautious behaviour in the attacker. In order to achieve our goal we developed a new CTA technique that can be used to further study Blue Team’s cognitive processes. Additionally, we addressed a major problem within the cyberse- curity research community by developing a reusable virtual environment with built-in monitoring capabilities that can be used to create experiments that can be easily verified by other researchers. 

Johan Elg, “Instructor Buy-In: Pitfalls and Opportunities in Wargaming,” KKrVA Handlingar och Tidskrift 2 (April/June 2019).

Wargames are a fundamental part of military training. Still, wargames are controversial, with recurring cycles of appreciation and disapproval. Wargames can be defined as one conditional interaction with human players affecting simulated military actions. The purpose with this text is to examine and explain how military instructors alleviate their worries – more about handling a wargame. The text analyzes relevant publications on educational games to highlight the issue of instructors and wargames. This method is complemented by new and exploratory research, which includes grounded theory, regarding the substantial empirical the area of ​​war games for military training. Military instructors use three strategies to achieve instructor acceptance ( instructor buy-in). A majority of the instructors strive to avoid explicit gameplay (gamification ). This avoidance constitutes a explanation for the change or cessation of certain wargames in military education. For this reason, it is vital that military instructors have an understanding of instructor acceptance to strengthen the practice of wargames. [Google translation of Swedish summary – article in English]

Mark Flanagan , Adrian Northey , Ian M Robinson, “Exploring tactical choices and game design outcomes in a simple wargame ‘Take that Hill’ by a systematic approach using Experimental Design,” International Journal of Serious Games 7, 4 (December 2020). 

Experimental Design (ED) technique is a proven analytical method used in the chemicals industry. We have taken this approach and applied it to Phil Sabin’s ‘Take That Hill’, a simple wargame presented at Connections 2014. By evolving the tactical turn game choices into playable full-game strategies, a descriptive set of game outcomes can be delivered and optimised to produce winning strategies. This provides a systematic approach to testing a game, with full post-game deconstructive analysis which is capable of being used to identify flaws, and find optimal strategies in playing the game. The most successful strategies found by ED outperformed individual strategies developed by experienced players. ED allowed pairing of obvious good play with seemingly counterintuitive play that were found to work well in unexpected combinations. 

Daniel F. Oriesek and Jan Oliver Schwarz, Winning the Uncertainty Game: Turning Strategic Intent into Results with Wargaming (Routledge 2021).

This book is about the challenges that emerge for organizations from an ever faster changing world. While useful at their time, several management tools, including classic strategic planning processes, will no longer suffice to address these challenges in a timely and comprehensive fashion. While individual management tools are still valid to solve specific problems, they need to be employed based on a clear understanding of what the greater challenge is and how they need to be combined and prioritized with other approaches. In order to do so, companies can apply the clarity of thinking from the military with regard to which leadership level is responsible for what and how these levels need to interact in order to produce a single aligned response to an outside opportunity or threat. Finally, the tool of business wargaming, while known for some time, proves to be an ideal approach to quickly and effectively bring all leadership levels together, align them around a common objective and lay the groundwork for effective implementation of targeted responses that will keep the organization competitive and in the game for the long run.

The book offers a comprehensive introduction to business wargaming, including a historical account, a classification of different types of games and a number of specific real-world examples. 

This book is targeted at practicing managers dealing with the aforementioned challenges, as well as for students of business and strategy at every level.

Matthew A. Schnurr and Anna MacLeod, Simulations and Student Learning (University of Toronto Press, 2021).

Simulation-based education (SBE) is a teaching strategy in which students adopt a character as part of the learning process. SBE has become a fixture in the university classroom based on its ability to stimulate student interest and deepen analytical thinking. 

Simulations and Student Learning is the first piece of scholarship that brings together experts from the social, natural, and health sciences in order to open up new opportunities for learning about different strategies, methods, and practices of immersive learning. This collection advances current scholarly thinking by integrating insights from across a range of disciplines on how to effectively design, execute, and evaluate simulations, leading to a deeper understanding of how SBE can be used to cultivate skills and capabilities that students need to achieve success after graduation.

Noa Shusterman, Udi Dekel, The Coronavirus in Gaza: Insights from a War Game (Institute for National Security Studies, 13 April 2020).

A war game simulating a large scale outbreak of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip underscored that Israel has no way to prevent a spread of the pandemic in Gaza, but it can take steps to alleviate the situation. Among the principal proposals: Israel should already transfer vital medical aid to the Gaza Strip; work with the World Health Organization and other relief agencies to mobilize medical resources for the area; avoid obstructing any initiative to establish an emergency government by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas; and prepare to set up emergency assistance infrastructure on Israeli territory adjacent to the Strip.

Jeremy Smith, Stephen Barker, “Methods to measure and track population perception and support within a manual wargame,” Journal of Defense Modelling and Simulation: Applications, Methods, Technology (online first 15 October 2020)

The outcomes of military campaigns depend to a large extent on the support of local and other wider population groups, so it is important to understand their perceptions. Here we briefly describe the approach used to represent support for organizations and factions in a professional wargame designed to represent military campaigns. This specific approach was developed originally using a simple marker track system that used a basic quantified set of relationships between military campaign effects and changes to the track levels. This marker track system was developed for military campaign wargames in the UK as a means to portray support or dissent in population groups relevant to the operations, but there was originally no mechanism to drive changes other than by expert judgment. Our improved approach continues the use of marker tracks but attempts to develop a more defensible method based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for linking events to changes and levels on the tracks. We conducted experiments to quantify the relative importance of each element in Maslow’s hierarchy. We then continued by conducting a further experiment to identify the impact of a set of effects seen in a wargame against the Maslow elements. This has led to a set of quantified scores that may be used to drive the modifications to the marker tracks when wargame events occur. These scores are based on our initial experiments and may be updated for a specific application, perhaps for a specific setting or location in the world. The revised or enhanced approach aims to produce a transparent solution that can be understood by a military or security analyst, thus facilitating refinement, updating, and change.

Wargaming articles at Security Nexus

Review: The Craft of Wargaming

Jeff Appleget, Robert Burks, and Fred Cameron, The Craft of Wargaming: A Detailed Planning Guide for Defense Planners and Analysts (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2020). $39.95 hc, $31.92 Kindle.

The Craft of Wargaming is a very useful book that guides the reader through the initiation, design, development, conduct, and analysis of wargames. The focus here is primarily on process—unlike Sabin’s Simulating War (2012), there is not much included on how to model time, space, or combat. Instead, the contribution is more akin to that made by Perla’s Art of Wargaming (1990), the Naval War College’s War Gamer’s Handbook , or Longley-Brown’s Successful Professional Wargaming (2019). The focus is on analytical wargames, although one chapter is devoted to educational and experiential games.

One notable feature of The Craft of Wargaming is the integration of a series of ten practical exercises, built around an included wargaming scenario: a stabilization operation in the fictional country of Zefra. This makes the volume especially useful for teaching purposes (provided, of course, students don’t read ahead to the suggested answers). A suggested “wargaming gateway exam” is included too, based on the material in the book. Finally, eight additional wargaming case studies are appended, ranging from fleet design to hybrid warfare to tactical naval operations. The book’s clarity and structure also make it very suitable for use as a self-learning guide.

All-in-all, the Craft of Wargaming is a valuable contribution to the field.

Recent simulation and gaming publications, August/September 2020

PAXsims is pleased to present a selection of recently-published items on simulation and serious gaming. Some of these may not address conflict, peacebuilding, or development issues at all, but have been included because of the broader perspective they offer on games-based education or analysis.

Articles may be gated/paywalled and not accessible without subscription access to the publication in which they appear.

A. David Abitbol, “Wargaming influence and information operations,” in United States Advisory Commissionon Public Diplomacy, Teaching Public Diplomacy and the Information Instruments of Power in a Complex Information Environment: Maintaining a Competitive Edge (August 2020).

Developing wargames to effectively model the information environment (IE), and information/influence operations (IO) therein, is challenging for two primary factors. First, conceptualizing the IE is typically difficult due to its complexity. Second, as a rule wargames must necessarily sacrifice some detail for the sake of economy and clarity so as not to overburden participants. This is problematic given that most military professionals have very little ingoing experience with and corresponding understanding of operations in the information environment. The IE wargame participant learning curve is steep.

Overcoming these hurdles and designing practical simulations is critical to improving familiarity of IO for policymakers and maneuver commanders alike. This paper summarizes the U.S. Army War College’s approach to wargaming and modeling information warfare (IW), which has been under my direction since 2018.1 I describe
our efforts to effectively model the IE, briefly summarize the relevant scientific literatures underpinning our methods, and then provide the major findings of our wargames within the Joint, Army, and Marine Corps communities.

E. M. Bartels, “Incorporating Gaming into Research Programs in International Relations: Repetition, Game Series, and Multi-Method Analysis,” American Political Science association annual conference, Sepetmber 2020.

Existing literature on the use of games to support research on international relations is largely disconnected from the academic literature on research design generally, and multi-method research design in particular. The majority of gaming literature currently comes out of the interdisciplinary practitioner community, who have generally been focused on pragmatic considerations. Popular works on game design often come out of the commercial gaming industry, where research considerations are not a core driver of design choices. Finally, works from international relations tend to focus on games as a teaching tool or on games as they have contributed to specific avenues of research. It is only recently that the use of games as a tool for research is being addressed as a subject of study it its own right within contemporary political science. As I have previously argued, this turn towards integrating games into the frameworks and concepts applied to other tools for social science research is critical to ensuring that the insights drawn from games are sound, as well as for making gaming as a tool more accessible to new researchers. This paper expands on previous work conceptualizing games within social science research design to discuss how games can be integrated into broader studies by exploring three approaches: repeated games, serial games, and games in multi-methods studies.

James L. Cavallaro and Meghna Sridhar, “Reducing Bias in Human Rights Fact-Finding: The Potential of the Clinical Simulation Model to Overcome Ethical, Practical, and Cultural Tensions in “Foreign” Contexts,” Human Rights Quarterly 42, 2 (May 2020).

This article considers the ethical tensions inherent in international human rights field documentation and proposes intensive, simulation model, pre-fieldwork training as a means of reducing the risk of insensitive encounters. The article evaluates the social, educational, class, racial, and other power imbalances between parties in the ordinary fact-finding process. After mapping pitfalls and challenges, it assesses the simulation training method and its potential to respond to the volatile dynamics of fact-finding. We conclude that the rigorous, three-day or week-long exercise, carried out in a controlled, supervised setting, holds potential to train future advocates to navigate power dynamics, challenges in intercultural engagement, and other communications barriers.

Stephen L. Dorton, LeeAnn R. Maryeski, Lauren Ogren, Ian T. Dykens, and Adam Main, “A Wargame-Augmented Knowledge Elicitation Method for the Agile Development of Novel Systems,” Systems 8, 27 (2020).

There are inherent difficulties in designing an effective Human–Machine Interface (HMI) for a first-of-its-kind system. Many leading cognitive research methods rely upon experts with prior experiences using the system and/or some type of existing mockups or working prototype of the HMI, and neither of these resources are available for such a new system. Further, these methods are time consuming and incompatible with more rapid and iterative systems development models (e.g., Agile/Scrum). To address these challenges, we developed a Wargame-Augmented Knowledge Elicitation (WAKE) method to identify information requirements and underlying assumptions in operator decision making concurrently with operational concepts. The developed WAKE method incorporates naturalistic observations of operator decision making in a wargaming scenario with freeze-probe queries and structured analytic techniques to identify and prioritize information requirements for a novel HMI. An overview of the method, required apparatus, and associated analytical techniques is provided. Outcomes, lessons learned, and topics for future research resulting from two different applications of the WAKE method are also discussed.

James Goodman, Sebastian Risi, Simon Lucas, AI and Wargaming (study for Dstl, nd, posted2020).

Recent progress in Game AI has demonstrated that given enough data from human gameplay, or experience gained via simulations, machines can rival or surpass even the most skilled human players in some of the most complex and tightly contested games. The question arises of how ready this AI is to be applied to wargames. This report provides a thorough answer to that question, summarised as follows.

Wargames come in a number of forms — to answer the question we first clarify which types we consider.

In order to relate types of wargames to the performance of AI agents on a number of well known games, such as Go and StarCraft, we provide the most comprehensive categorisation to date of the features of games that affect the difficulty for an AI (or human) player.

In the last few years some amazing results have been demonstrated using Deep RL (and Monte Carlo Tree Search) on games such as Go, StarCraft and Dota 2. We review the main architectures and training algorithms used, the level of effort involved (both engineering and computational) and highlight those which are most likely to transfer to wargames.

All the most impressive results require the AI to learn from a large number of game simula- tions. Access to a fast and copyable game engine/simulator also enables statistical forward planning algorithms such as Monte Carlo Tree Search and Rolling Horizon Evolution to be applied. These should be considered as they provide intelligent behaviour “out of the box” i.e. with no training needed, and can be combined with learning methods such as Deep RL to provide even more intelligent play.

Explainable decision making can be achieved to some extent via the visualisation of simula- tions, and by analysing neural network activation patterns to help explain the operation of Deep RL systems. Explainability is best seen as desirable rather than essential.

There is a strong need for a software framework tailored towards wargame AI. There are many examples of successful game AI frameworks, and how they can provide a significant boost to a research area. Whilst no existing one provides adequate support for wargames, we make clear recommendations on what is needed.

Chris Hillier, Analytical wargaming: Enabling operational readiness (Canadian Forces College, May 2019).

This paper will argue that the CAF should revitalize its wargaming capability, specifically focusing on a ‘force on force’ training philosophy that increases the potential for ‘training to failure’. This paper will focus on three areas that support this position. First, it will explore the philosophy that conflict is non-linear, and that dynamic interaction is essential in creating thinking leaders, capable of critical reflection and growth. Second, this paper will explore the US revitalization of analytical wargames, including the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) lessons learned as a possible case study. Finally, this paper will present potential CAF ‘force on force’ wargaming opportunities within live and simulated training. It must be noted that this paper should not be viewed as a criticism of the Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre (CADTC) or any other CAF training organization; it merely represents a training philosophy that could compliment CAF doctrine and current practices.

Jan Hodický , Dalibor Procházka, Fabian Baxa, Josef Melichar, Milan Krejcˇík, Petr Krˇížek, Petr Stodola, and Jan Drozd, “Computer Assisted Wargame for Military Capability-Based Planning,” Entropy 22, 861 (2020). 

Capability-based planning as an approach to defense planning is an almost infinitely complex engineered system with countless nodes and layers of interdependency, influenced by state and non-state diplomatic activities, information, military and economic actions creating secondary and third order effects. The main output of capability-based planning is the set of capability requirements needed to achieve the expected end-state. One revitalized qualitative technique that allows us to gain insights into unstructured and fuzzy problems in the military is wargaming—in its simplest form this involves manual wargaming. At the same time, there has been a push to bring computer assistance to such wargaming, especially to support umpire adjudication and move more generally towards full automation of human elements in wargames. However, computer assistance in wargaming should not be pushed, regardless of cost, towards quantitative techniques. The objective complexity of a problem often does not allow us to replicate the operational environment with the required fidelity to get credible experimental results. This paper discusses a discovery experiment aiming to verify the concept of applying a qualitative expert system within computer assisted wargaming for developing capability requirements in order to reduce umpire bias and risk associated with their decisions. The innovation here lies in applying system dynamics modelling and simulation paradigms when designing the theoretical model of capability development, which forms the core of the expert system. This new approach enables qualitative comparisons between different sets of proposed capability requirements. Moreover, the expert system allows us to reveal the effects of budget cuts on proposed capability requirement solutions, which the umpire was previously unable to articulate when comparing individual solutions by relying solely on his own knowledge. Players in the wargame validated the proposed concept and suggested how the study might be developed going forward: namely, by enabling users to define their own capabilities and not being limited by a predefined set of capabilities. 

Clifford Knopik, A Comparative Analysis of Video-Based Training and Game-Based Training on Information Security, doctoral dissertation, Colorado Technical University, September 2020.

Games are hypothesized to be an effective alternative for training than other methods. Prior research showed that learners often find training boring, and when they took training with games, they reported higher engagement, motivation, and a positive perception of the learning experience. The hypothesis for this study was that participants who take game-based information security awareness training would perform statistically significantly better than participants who took video-based training. One hundred participants were given a pretest and posttest with half of the participants using video-based information security awareness training, and the other participants using game-based information security awareness training. Conducting data analysis using IBM SPSS Statistics 24, it was discovered that the group receiving the video-based [games-based?] training performed significantly better on the posttest and had a higher mean score than the video-based training group. 

David Leece, “Training army officers in tactics,” United Service 71, 3 (September 2020).

The training of staff and regimental officers in common tactical doctrine (the ‘drills’) is essential to developing teamwork within formations, headquarters and units. But developing tactical thinking (the ‘skills’) is more difficult. A range of tools presented herein have been formulated by Western armies over two centuries to develop the skills and the drills separately and then merge them to create combat-ready formations.

Jeremiah McCall, “The Historical Problem Space Framework: Games as a Historical Medium,” Game Studies 20, 3 (September 2020).

Historical games need to be analyzed holistically as games rather than tasked to fulfill the functions of some other medium. The historical problem space (HPS) framework offers an approach to analyzing historical games more holistically as games rather than text, useful both for academic and educational historical analysis. It considers how all historical games present the past in terms of player agents with roles and goals that are contextualized within a virtual gameworld whose features enable and constrain player action. In response to this space, the player crafts strategies and makes choices. The purpose of this article is to provide a more detailed overview of the HPS framework and how it can be usefully employed to understand gamic histories. Ideally games scholars will be able to conduct their own analyses of historical games as historical problem spaces and educators use this framework to structure their classroom analyses of games.

Simon Miles, “The War Scare That Wasn’t: Able Archer 83 and the Myths of the Second Cold War,” Journal of Cold War Studies 22, 3 (Summer 2020).

Did the Cold War of the 1980s nearly turn hot? Much has been made of the November 1983 Able Archer 83 command-post exercise, which is often described as having nearly precipitated a nuclear war when paranoid Warsaw Pact policymakers suspected that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was using the exercise to launch a preemptive nuclear strike. This article challenges that narrative, using new evidence from the archives of the former Warsaw Pact countries. It shows that the much-touted intelligence effort to assess Western intentions and capabilities, Project RYaN, which supposedly triggered fears of a surprise attack, was nowhere near operational at the time of Able Archer 83. It also presents an account of the Pact’s sanguine observations of Able Archer 83. In doing so, it advances key debates in the historiography of the late Cold War pertaining to the stability and durability of the nuclear peace.

Vikram Mittal and Andrew Davidson, “Combining Wargaming With Modeling and Simulation to Project Future Military Technology Requirements,” IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, early access September 2020.

The rapid growth and widespread availability of technology has allowed enemies to dynamically develop countermeasures to military systems. Therefore, it is imperative that military systems be designed to account for these countermeasures. As such, technology roadmapping should be a critical activity in the acquisition of defense systems. Technology roadmaps provide a strategic vision for a system that accounts for the operational context, including evolving needs and technology changes. However, the operational context can be difficult to predict. This article suggests using wargaming coupled with combat simulation to better understand the operational context to allow for testing and refining technology roadmaps. Wargaming requires teams to roleplay friendly and enemy units to determine how each side adapts with the implementation of a new military system. Computer-based simulations can then convert the qualitative results from the wargame into quantitative metrics that further inform the roadmap. A case study is presented for a technology roadmap associated with an armored exoskeleton. Wargaming forecasted the countermeasures implemented by the enemy and the associated responses. The wargame results were coupled with models to quantitatively forecast the change in the warfighter’s survivability and lethality. The wargame was then used to inform the technology roadmap.

Max Nelson, “Battling on Boards: The Ancient Greek War Games of Ship-Battle (Naumachia) and City-State (Polis),” Mouseion 17, 1 (2020).

Only two distinct board games (and their variants) are firmly attested among Greeks in the Classical period (fifth to fourth centuries bc). The first, eventually known as “Ship-Battle” (ναυμαχία), is first attested in the seventh century bc and was played (ordinarily) with ten counters and a die on a board with five parallel lines or a circle of ten spots. The second, known usually as “City-State” (πόλις), is first attested in the fifth century bc and was played with sixty counters (and possibly a die) on a board with a grid of lines. These two games were the first war games in the West (if not the world), preceding Chess by a millennium.

Jan Oliver Schwarz, “Revisiting Scenario Planning and Business Wargaming From an Open Strategy Perspective,” World Futures Review, 12, 3 (2020).

The key aim of Open Strategy is to open up the process of strategy development to larger groups within and even outside an organization. Furthermore, Open Strategy aims to include broad groups of stakeholders in the various steps of the strategy process. The question at hand is how can Open Strategy be achieved? What approaches can be used? Scenario planning and business wargaming are approaches perceived as relevant tools in the field of strategy and strategic foresight and in the context of Open Strategy because of their participative nature. The aim of this article is to assess to what degree scenario planning and business wargaming can be used in the context of Open Strategy. While these approaches are suitable, their current application limits the number of potential participants. Further research and experimentation in practice with larger groups and/or online approaches, or a combination of both, are needed to explore the potential of scenario planning and business wargaming as tools for Open Strategy.

Abbie Tingstad, Yuna Huh Wong, Scott Savitz, “How Can the Coast Guard Use Gaming?” RAND Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center, September 2020.

Games are widely used to better understand and prepare for a diverse set of challenges. Gaming is a generic term for a suite of structured methodological approaches that can qualitatively (and occasionally reinforced using quantitative data) support decisionmaking in many contexts. What makes a game a game is interactive, rule-based problem solving that includes adjudication of outcomes. Games can be played in formal or more relaxed settings and be supported by different communication tools, such as printed media, whiteboards, digital devices, and applications. Gaming is often associated with the U.S. Department of Defense, but many types of organizations outside of defense—governmental, commercial, nonprofit, and academic—develop and use gaming to support decisionmaking or other functions. The U.S. Coast Guard employs some approaches—largely informally—that fall under the umbrella of gaming. Conducting gaming more formally could help the service expand its analytic, training, and engagement tool kits. In this Perspective, the authors discuss what more the service might do to employ gaming, and why. In particular, the authors highlight the idea of deployable gaming: a low-cost, scalable, structured scenario-based approach that can help gather information, aid decisionmaking, and promote learning at different echelons within the service.

Haseeb Ur Rehman Warrich, Sahrish Jamil, Fazal Rahim Khan, “Behavioral Escalation: Video Games as a Tool of Hybrid War,” Global Mass Communication Review 5, 1 (Winter 2020).

Gaming industry in its short span of around forty years has evolved from a hobby to a huge economic industry. However, undeniably, incredible advancement in video game graphics has allowed this virtual world to manipulate and escalate its consumer’s behavior. Violent video games, according to Professor Robert Sparrow, have long been used for political contestation and social unrest. The study serves to analyze behavioral escalation through video games. This study has used Ian Bogust’s Procedural Rhetoric as a methodology to analyze video games. The results showed that video games are persuasive interactive medium that escalate behavior and have great potential to be used as a tool of hybrid warfare. Louis Jones stated that propaganda and unconventional warfare is not a new thing, it dates back to Greeks when they left wooden horse at Troy. Colin Gray, military strategist, described the future warfare as similar to the historical one but with modern means of technology. The new virtual means of warfare have not altered the nature of warfare but have developed its new ways. Combat games are more realistic in sense of its enhanced graphics and presentation. This study points towards the great potential in video games to work as a tool for Hybrid war 

Jorit Wintjes, “Analogue wargames in the time of social distancing: The ‘Long-Distance Kriefsspiel’,” Mars & Clio, 31 July 2020.

[Excerpt] Now, after our last wargame had ended before anything meaningful had happened (the French, who in an 1883-invasion-scare scenario had to push towards the east, having captured Liverpool, had barely managed to get their army corps out of the city), there was little in the way of post-mortem to prepare. We therefore decided to explore ways of running a traditional wargame in a “virtual”, if you want, way. I should stress that we did not try to develop a computer game; our research work is focussed on the history of the Prussian Kriegsspiel, and what we wanted was basically a long-distance Kriegsspiel.

We eventually adapted Prussian rules from the mid-1870s, a time when the original Kriegsspiel rules were expanded to care for larger operations – for an operational Kriegsspiel and organized a real-time simulation running for 12 days, in which each day would represent one day of fighting on the ground. The participants formed two army HQs and gave out orders each night at around 00:00 via email to the umpires; the umpires then moved forces and decided over combat, reporting combat results, reconnaissance information etc back to the participants by 18:00 the following day via email. This allowed the participants – we ran the simulation with two teams of young Bundeswehr officers – to carry on with their real- worldly tasks during the day and to meet in the evening to discuss the events of the simulation. In order to add period flavour, to increase immersion and to create the need for the participants to gather information from different sources the events were accompanied by faux newspaper articles which we published on a website accompanying the simulation.

Junfeng Zhang and Xue Qing, “Actor–critic-based decision-making method for the artificial intelligence commander in tactical wargames,” Journal of Defense Modelling and Simulation, online first September 2020.

In a tactical wargame, the decisions of the artificial intelligence (AI) commander are critical to the final combat result. Due to the existence of fog-of-war, AI commanders are faced with unknown and invisible information on the battlefield and lack of understanding of the situation, and it is difficult to make appropriate tactical strategies. The traditional knowledge rule-based decision-making method lacks flexibility and autonomy. How to make flexible and autonomous decision-making when facing complex battlefield situations is a difficult problem. This paper aims to solve the decision-making problem of the AI commander by using the deep reinforcement learning (DRL) method. We develop a tactical wargame as the research environment, which contains built-in script AI and supports the machine–machine combat mode. On this basis, an end-to-end actor–critic framework for commander decision making based on the convolutional neural network is designed to represent the battlefield situation and the reinforcement learning method is used to try different tactical strategies. Finally, we carry out a combat experiment between a DRL-based agent and a rule-based agent in a jungle terrain scenario. The result shows that the AI commander who adopts the actor–critic method successfully learns how to get a higher score in the tactical wargame, and the DRL-based agent has a higher winning ratio than the rule-based agent.

Review: Wojtowicz, Wargaming Experiences

Review: Natalia Wojtowicz, Wargaming Experiences: Soldiers, Scientists and Civilians (Amazon Fulfillment, 2020). 162+13pp. USD$39.00 pb.

In this interesting volume, Natalia Wojtowicz surveys the value of wagaming, key definitions, its application as a method of analysis and teaching, and the challenges of gaming non-kinetic issues and operations. Following this, the bulk of the volume discusses a series of wargames she designed and facilitated while working at the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Center of Excellence.

All of these are political-military games, so those looking for insight as to how to wargame combat operations are best advised to look to works by Peter Perla and Phil Sabin. The issues addressed include Russian hybrid warfare challenges to the Baltic republics; civil-military liaison; tactical cooperation to address critical infrastructure vulnerabilities; the Battle of Mosul; a targeted assassination attempt using chemical weapons; and the Faroe Islands. In each case Wojtowicz discusses the purpose of the game, the problem to which it was responding, the approach and method adopted, game mechanics, and finally the game results.

The most useful part of this volume is the author’s well-structured explanation of why each game was designed and run the way it was. Assessment of the effectiveness of the games is largely anecdotal. Tighter editing would have strengthened the clarity and precision of her analysis. Overall, however, the volume provides useful insight into these sorts of games—and plenty of ideas from which aspiring serious game designers might borrow.

Recent simulation and gaming publications, June/July 2020

PAXsims is pleased to present a selection of recently-published items on simulation and serious gaming. Some of these may not address conflict, peacebuilding, or development issues at all, but have been included because of the broader perspective they offer on games-based education or analysis.

Articles may be gated/paywalled and not accessible without subscription access to the publication in which they appear.

Giddeon N. Angafor, Iryna Yevseyeva, and Ying He, “Game-based learning: A review of tabletop exercises for cybersecurity incident response training,Security and Privacy (2020).

The surge in cyber security breaches including the shortage of skilled cyber incident response (CSIR) professionals and the ever-changing cyber threat land- scape is a big concern for the security industry. As a result, training providers are seeking innovative ways to tackle current security challenges. Businesses in pub- lic and private sectors recognize the importance of implementing effective cyber security measures, one of which is training their employees. Many are taking active steps to ensure that employees and cyber security incident response teams (CSIRTs) can identify and respond to breaches through state-of-the-art train- ing. There are indications that pioneering training programs like serious games (SGs), including tabletop exercises (TTXs), can play a role in CSIR training. This paper reviewed TTX related SGs literature, analyzed existing CSIR training exer- cises and reported how TTXs are currently being used in CSIR training. It also discussed why TTXs are increasingly becoming a popular tool for CSIR and emergency response (ER) training, analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of the current research and identified areas for future research. The findings sug- gest that TTX training improves the awareness, understanding, and preparation levels of CSIRTs. That TTXs enhance their strategic decision-making, enabling CSIRTs to be better prepared when dealing with security incidents. It observed that TTX related training improved the skills and aptitudes of CSIRTs and secu- rity operative center personnel. TTXs assist trainees to acquire and demonstrate both technical and nontechnical skills, including soft skills which are essen- tial but often observed to be lacking in new graduates and some experienced technically minded personnel. TTX training augments traditional methods like classroom lectures by providing opportunities for experiential learning and practice-based approaches in dealing with real-life problems.

Robert C. Barney, “Thirty Degrees Off Axis: Being Ready to Capture Unexpected Insights from Wargames,” Phalanx, 53, 2 (June 2020).

This article is about exploiting wargaming, already
an invaluable tool, much more fully than we do today. By their nature, wargames can be a sandbox for stimulating new ideas, trying out
impulses when there is no cost of failure, and especially for allowing critical insights to emerge. These insights may be overlooked in the course of daily
business. You might say they lie latent in many of the thoughts and ideas we consider. Wargames allow those latent ideas, which may be the most important ideas, to emerge into plain view. What’s more, wargames can be
designed with that in mind. My purpose is to note and illustrate these points, and to encourage wargame design intended to foster emergence of those latent ideas.

Nathaniel W. Flack, Developing a Serious Game to Explore Joint All Domain Command and Control, MSc thesis, Air Force Institute of Technology, 26 March 2020.

Changes in the geopolitical landscape and increasing technological complexity have prompted the U.S. Military to coin Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) and Joint All-Domain Command and Control as terms to describe an over-arching strategy that frames the complexity of warfare across both traditional and emerging warfighting domains. Teaching new and advanced concepts associated with these terms requires both innovation as well as distinct education and training tools in order to realize the cultural change advocated by senior military leaders. Battlespace Next (BSN), a Collectable Card Game, was developed to teach concepts integral to MDO and initiate discussion on military strategy. BSN, is designed to provide an engaging learning tool that educates advanced capabilities such as cyber, information opera- tions, and electronic warfare in a multi-domain conflict, seeking to reveal the synergy between military capabilities and challenge learners to innovate by creating their own strategies for victory. This thesis describes an extensible framework for modeling and reasoning about MDO concepts using specific game elements, and presents empirical feedback from 103 military play testers evaluating the game. Survey and play test results provide evidence that the game teaches current MDO concepts and delivers an engaging, hands-on learning experience. Specifically, this thesis suggests it improved military readiness in seven areas related to MDO in at least 68% of participants. Furthermore, 90% reported being focused during the session, 76% wrote they enjoyed playing the game, and over half expressed they would play the game again in their free time. Military instructors reported game integration would require at most 1/20 of the time it would take to create their own interactive tool. The results inform current efforts enhancing military learning while driving appropriate transformations to prepare individuals to navigate in a complex and contested environment.

Nathaniel Flack, Alan Lin, Gilbert Peterson, Mark Reith, “Battlespace NextTM : Developing a Serious Game to Explore Multi-Domain Operations” International Journal of Serious Games 7, 2 (June 2020).

Changes in the geopolitical landscape and increasing technological complexity have prompted the U.S. Military to coin the terms Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) and Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) as over-arching strategy to frame the com- plexity of warfare across both traditional and emerging warfighting domains. Teaching new concepts associated with these terms requires both innovation as well as distinct education and training tools in order to realize the cultural change advocated by se- nior military leaders. Battlespace NextTM (BSN) is a serious game designed to teach concepts integral to MDO and initiate discussion on military strategy while conserving time, money, and manpower. BSN, a Collectable Card Game (CCG), is engineered to provide an engaging learning tool that educates on capabilities in a multi-domain con- flict. This paper proposes an extensible game framework for modeling and reasoning about MDO concepts and presents our empirical feedback from over 120 military play testers evaluating a moderate to difficult version of the game. Results reveal the game teaches MDO concepts and delivers an engaging, hands-on learning experience. Specifically, we provide evidence it improved military readiness in seven areas of MDO in at least 62% of participants and 76% of respondents reported they enjoyed playing the game.

Miguel Alberto Gomez and Christopher Whyte, “Cyber Wargaming: Grappling with Uncertainty in a Complex Domain,” Defense Strategy and Assessment Journal, 10, 1 (2020).

The cybersecurity literature depends heavily on observational studies to discern state-behavior during periods of conflict. Frequently, underlying motivations that govern the exercise of cyber power are inductively perceived through the lens of the existing strategic environment. While this approach continues to contribute to the advancement of this burgeoning area of study, it is fundamentally constrained by the secretive nature of interstate cyber operations. Moreover, observational studies that analyze state-level actions offer limited insight regarding the individual and group-level mechanisms from which these emerge. The need to move towards these levels of analysis is made even more salient by the uncertainty that permeates this domain that provokes a host of cognitive biases that influence strategic preferences. Consequently, this article offers readers an overview as to the benefits of wargaming as a tool to improve our understanding of crisis decision-making within the cyber domain.

I.V. Griban and O.N. Griban, “Playing with the Past: Computer Games as a Tool for Historical Memory Transformation of the Events of the World War II,” Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research 437 (2020).

In the modern conditions of the politicization of history, when real “memory wars” often unfold around interpretations of historical events, computer games are not just a means of entertainment, but also have a significant impact on the process of formation and transformation of images of the past. One of the most popular historical storylines for the creators of computer games was and still remains the Second World War. Game developers offer users their own version of events, which does not always coincide with the real one, providing an opportunity not only to become a participant in key battles of the Second World War, but also to change the course of history and influence the outcome of the battle. “Games of the past” to a greater extent attract representatives of young people who spend a significant part of their free time behind a computer screen and with mobile devices. The article analyzes the features of the representation of the past in computer games, the plot of which is associated with the events of the Second World War. 

Matthew Hawkins, Tabletop Roleplaying Structure for Simulating Active-Shooter Events, PhD thesis, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2020.

This research presents a structure based on tabletop roleplaying for creating better computational models for simulating active-shooter events. Active-shooter events involve one or more people actively trying to kill others inside a populated and confined area. Roleplaying is the act of human participants portraying characters in a simulated environment. Roleplaying can be used for serious purposes, such as simulating real world events. Tabletop roleplaying adds maps and figures to show direction and relative positions of individuals and objects. These types of simulations are particularly beneficial when the real events occur infrequently or would be dangerous or costly to simulate with other methods. Versions of these simulations can include attributes for the human characters portrayed in the simulation. Attributes are quantified variables to distinguish differences between individuals, such as differences in size or athletic ability. These attributes can also include cognitive abilities and personality traits. A tabletop roleplaying structure was designed based on knowledge from multiple scientific fields. This structure determines the options and outcomes of actions attempted by characters in the simulated world. Data generated by this tabletop roleplaying structure are closer to data from actual active-shooter events than data from current AI (artificial intelligence) computational models. This is further improved when scientifically based attributes are incorporated. This tabletop roleplaying structure is defined in formulaic ways with quantified variables to be a template for creating more accurate computational models designed to simulate active-shooter events.

Wilian Gatti Junior, Beaumie Kim, Liping Liu, & Xingru Lai, Green Economy Game: A Modular Approach for Sustainable Development Education, International Journal of Designs for Learning 11, 2 (2020).

In this paper, we discuss our approach to designing a board game, the Green Economy, that promotes systems thinking. We anchored our game design process on design-by-anal- ogy and rapid prototyping concepts by taking a modular approach to overcome the trade-off between realism and simplicity. The unique feature of the Green Economy enables players to change the rules of the game during the game- play, which gives them a partial design opportunity. The theme, sustainable development, was chosen to challenge the players’ systems thinking in sustainable development. Systems thinking enables us to understand and face the complex challenges in global and networked social struc- tures. Our design experience demonstrates the benefit of de- signing dynamic game elements that involve both strategic gameplay and game (re)design through systems thinking.

Mikko Meriläinen et al. “More Than Wargaming: Exploring the Miniaturing Pastime,” Simulation & Gaming, (2020).

Background. Miniaturing, or painting, collecting, and gaming with miniature wargaming figurines, is a popular, yet vastly underresearched subject. Previous research suggests a multitude of practices and ways of engaging with miniatures.

Aim. This qualitative study explores the various elements of miniaturing to both map the phenomenon and build a foundation for further research.

Method. Miniaturing is explored through a thematic analysis of 127 open-ended survey responses by adult Finnish miniature enthusiasts.

Results. Responses suggest a dual core to miniaturing, consisting of crafting and gaming. In addition to these core activities, storytelling, collecting, socializing and displaying and appreciating appear commonly, with considerable individual variation. The different elements are closely intertwined, based on individual preferences and resources.

Discussion. As a pastime, miniaturing occupies an interesting position with elements of crafting, toy play and gaming, and escapes easy situating. The considerable individual variation in enthusiasts’ preferences suggests a multitude of fruitful approaches in further research.

Lucas Potter and Xavier-Lewis Palmer, “Human Factors in Biocybersecurity Wargames,” arXiv preprint (2020).

Within the field of biocybersecurity, it is important to understand what vulnerabilities may be uncovered in the processing of biologics as well as how they can be safeguarded as they intersect with cyber and cyber-physical systems, as noted by the Peccoud Lab, to ensure not only product and brand in- tegrity, but protect those served. Recent findings have revealed that biological systems can be used to compromise computer systems and vice versa. While regular and sophisticated attacks are still years away, time is of the essence to better understand ways to deepen critique and grasp intersectional vulnerabili- ties within bioprocessing as processes involved become increasingly digitally accessible. Wargames have been shown to be successful within improving group dynamics in response to anticipated cyber threats, and they can be used towards addressing possible threats within biocybersecurity. Within this paper, we discuss the growing prominence of biocybersecurity, the importance of bio- cybersecurity to bioprocessing , with respect to domestic and international con- texts, and reasons for emphasizing the biological component in the face of ex- plosive growth in biotechnology and thus separating the terms biocybersecurity and cyberbiosecurity. Additionally, a discussion and manual is provided for a simulation towards organizational learning to sense and shore up vulnerabilities that may emerge within an organization’s bioprocessing pipeline

Paul J. H. Schoemaker, “How historical analysis can enrich scenario planning,” Futures and Foresight Science, online first (2020).

Historians and scenario planners both examine societal developments over time, but from opposite vantage points. One group looks backward, the other forward. This paper argues that a deeper understanding of the methods and approaches of historical analysis can help scenario planners to develop better insights into the world ahead. The study of history stretches back millennia, while disciplined scenario planning has been around for half a century. By comparing historical analysis with scenario planning, the paper extracts lessons to improve narratives about possible futures, with linkages to the emerging field of counterfactual history. The practical challenges are examined using a 1992 scenario project about South Africa’s future post‐apartheid. Reviewing the four scenarios developed then, with the benefit of hindsight now, shows how and why historical thinking can sharpen scenario‐oriented studies of the future.

Natalia Wojtowicz, “Resilience against intentional shocks: a wargaming study of the relation between space, action and the residing population to resilience,” Eastern Journal of European Studies, 11, 1 (June 2020).

The most widely established consensus on regional resilience is that there is no consensus on definition, application and theoretical boundaries. Despite most authors expressing objections to “stretching” the concept of resilience too far to be meaningful and its applications too varying to establish a practical framework, this study offers a participatory study of the applied concept with both conclusions about the framework and results of its implementation. The design of the study took into account the substantiated claims of previous use of resilience as a patch to all community problems and adding a new name instead of a new way of addressing them. The study introduces wargaming with the policy-makers of NATO as a reflection and mapping tool to recognize the deficiencies of the framework. The results have verified the main criticism of the concept and offered recommendations on continuing the revision of the resilience framework based on practical insights from policy-makers.

RAND: Opportunities for Including the Information Environment in U.S. Marine Corps Wargames

RAND recently published a report by Christopher Paul, Yuna Huh Wong, and Elizabeth Bartels on Opportunities for Including the Information Environment in U.S. Marine Corps Wargames.

The U.S. Marine Corps and joint concepts and thinking increasingly emphasize the role of information in military operations—from maintaining situational awareness to influencing adversary decisionmaking and understanding the behaviors of noncombatant populations. At the same time, wargaming is enjoying renewed prominence in the defense community as a tool to explore potential future conflicts and shape strategy. Yet, the information environment (IE) remains underdeveloped and underrepresented in wargames, both in the Marine Corps and across the U.S. Department of Defense.

An examination of requirements, principles from military theory, current doctrine, and commercial gaming practices points to solutions and changes to game mechanics to better incorporate information considerations into wargame planning, development, and play in ways that can be customized according to available resources, capabilities, and goals. Recommendations target wargame sponsors, wargame designers, and those who are responsible for procuring new tools and recruiting personnel to support wargaming.

Operations in the IE play a role across the spectrum of conflict, and their effects and consequences extend beyond the IE. As the nature of conflict changes, it is critical that wargames reflect realities on the ground, supporting forces in using and defending against increasingly important information-based tools of warfare.

Their key findings…

The IE is receiving greater attention than ever from operational planners, but it has not universally found its way into wargaming.

•Information is playing an increasingly important role in military planning in the U.S. Marine Corps, across the U.S. Department of Defense, and among potential near-peer adversaries. These operational considerations include how certain types of information, misinformation, or sources of influence affect the decisions, beliefs, and behaviors of forces, military leaders, and noncombatants during a conflict or military campaign.

•Concurrently, wargaming has seen an increase in popularity as a method to explore future conflicts in a low-risk environment. However, these games have mostly retained traditional attrition-based models or focus on a small subset of information-related challenges, such as situational awareness or the fog of war.

…and recommendations:

• Everyone involved in wargaming should acknowledge the role of information in operations and seek to better represent the relevant aspects of the IE in games.

• Wargame sponsors should ensure that games serve a broader purpose of preparing forces for realistic operational scenarios, which will inevitably be influenced by the IE. This means emphasizing the role of the IE and its relevance to the game’s purpose at each stage of a game’s design and execution.

• Wargame designers should work with sponsors to identify options for incorporating the IE into games from the earliest stages of planning.

• Those who procure wargame capabilities, including game materials and technologies, should select tools that are able to represent all three spheres of conflict (morale, mental, and physical), a range of conditions that could affect a game’s outcome, and robust models of human dynamics, psychological factors, and information flows.

• Those responsible for recruiting personnel to support wargame design, testing, and execution or identifying subject-matter experts to assist with specific aspects of these tasks should ensure that these contributors have the requisite knowledge of the concepts and practices related to operations in the IE and that they stay current on changes in operational realities.

The personalities of miniature wargame players

Robert Körner, Jana Kammerhoff, and Astrid Schütz (Otto-Friedrich-University of Bamberg) have just published a fascinating article in the Journal of Individual Differences (2020) entitled “Who Commands the Little Soldiers? A Comparison of the Personality Traits of Miniature Wargame Players With Other Gamers and Non-Gamers.” The article is pay-walled, so you will need an individual or institutional subscription to access the full text.

The popularity of miniature wargames (MWGs) has recently been on the rise. We aimed to identify the personality characteristics of people who play MWGs. Whereas the popular media have suspected that fantasy role-playing and war-related games cause antisocial behavior, past research on tabletop role-playing has shown that gamers are creative and empathetic individuals. Previous studies have investigated pen-and-paper tabletop games, which require imagination and cooperation between players. Tabletop MWGs are somewhat different because players compete against each other, and there is a strong focus on war-related actions. Thus, people have voiced the suspicion that players of this type of game may be rather aggressive. In the present study, 250 male MWG players completed questionnaires on the Big Five, authoritarianism, risk-orientation, and motives as well as an intelligence test. The same measures were administered to non-gamers, tabletop role-playing gamers, and first-person shooter gamers.

Their findings? Tabletop wargamers are a lot like other gamers* and don’t fit the anti-social stereotype very well:

In the present study, we analyzed differences in intelligence, risk-orientation, authoritarianism, as well as other motives and personality traits between players of MWGs and comparison samples comprised of people who played other types of games and the general population. When compared with the GP, MWG players reported higher openness, higher extraversion, and lower conscientiousness. The same pattern was found when comparing tabletop RPG players with the GP, suggesting that MWG players and RPG players resemble each other. Both types of gamers also reported more openness than FPS gamers. MWG players and RPG players also reported lower conscientiousness than the GP, which may be surprising as painting little soldiers or familiarizing oneself with complex rule-sets are activities that require exactness and a focus on detail. It is possible that the gamers do not view themselves as conscientious in everyday life, but when they engage in gaming activities, they may be rather thorough. Hence, follow-up studies could compare how gamers describe themselves with respect to their everyday activities and their gaming behavior.

No differences between the groups were found for neuroticism and agreeableness. Thus, gamers cannot be regarded as emotionally unstable or disagreeable

individuals – as some stereotypes claim. With regard to rea- soning ability, all players scored higher than participants from the GP. Results also indicated significant differences with respect to conventionalism, authoritarian submission, and authoritarian aggression such that all three groups of gamers described themselves as less authoritarian than participants from the GP did. Of the groups of gamers, RPG players reported the least authoritarian attitude.

With respect to everyday risk-orientation, MWG players’ self-reports were similar to those of RPG players, and both types of gamers reported less risk-orientation than non- gamers. FPS gamers reported a similar risk-orientation as the GP. Interestingly, MWG (and RPG and FPS) players described themselves as acting in a significantly more risk-oriented way during gaming than in their everyday lives. Apparently, gaming behavior does not transfer to everyday behavior. Alternatively, gaming could actually compensate for everyday behavior (i.e., cautious people might like to take risks in a context where no real danger exists).

Regarding motives, MWG players had higher affiliation values than individuals from the GP and the RPG sample. No differences between MWG players and others were found on the power, achievement, and fear motives. With respect to intimacy motives, MWG players scored higher than RPG players did. Apparently, MWG players appreciate close interpersonal relationships.

To summarize, in line with our second hypothesis, MWG players may be seen as open-minded, empathetic, non authoritarian individuals. The competing hypothesis that described MWG players as war-loving, power-oriented, and irreconcilable was not supported by players’ self- reports.

Further, people will only engage in these games during their leisure time if they experience MWG activities as pleasant. The sample of MWG players was high in openness, intelligence, and affiliation. This suggests that the ludological concept of enjoying a pastime may well describe the background of MWGs. Only people who perceive these complex and sociable games that require strategic thinking as a pleasant pastime will be attracted by these games.

Overall, the stereotypes that gamers are antisocial (DeRenard & Kline, 1990) as claimed by the media from the 1980s and 1990s to the present day (Curran, 2011) were not supported. Instead, the present results fit into the RPG literature that portrays RPG gamers as empathetic and socially skilled (Curran, 2011; Meriläinen, 2012). However, the stereotype of gamers as nerdy and sharp-minded does seem to have a kernel of truth, and because reasoning scores were high in all three samples of gamers. And as reasoning ability is a key predictor of academic and occupational success (Kramer, 2009), MWG players cannot easily be dismissed as acting in a dysfunctional manner.

You’ll notice, however, that all of the subject sample (n=250) is male—underscoring the lack of diversity in hobby wargaming.

The sample group is also German-speaking, leaving open the possibility that their are differences across national gaming communities. Almost one-third of the sample were Warhammer 40K players. While the Warhammer community harbours a significant racist and misogynist subcommunity attracted by the dark dystopian militarism of the 40K game universe, other parts of it are also extremely diverse and open.

In terms of future research, the authors note:

This study provides initial insights into personality differences between MWG players and others. In future investi- gations, it will be fruitful to use experimental or longitudinal designs to draw conclusions about causality and answer questions such as: Can MWGs improve participants’ social skills? Can creativity and intelligence be enhanced by engaging in MWGs? Furthermore, observer ratings or infor- mant reports could be included to provide information beyond self-reports. Another interesting question would be whether personality traits predict certain motives to play MWGs (see Graham & Gosling, 2013). All in all, further psychological and transdisciplinary research in the field of MWGs may help us understand the roles of games and playing in forming psychological attitudes and abilities.

As we showed, MWG players are a distinct sample that has a specific personality pattern. Commanding little soldiers and fighting other gamers with the help of these soldiers seems to be an activity that is preferred by open, unconventional people with a high affiliation motive – and it is even possible that the activity may be suitable for developing social skills such as negotiating. Why not engage in MWGs?

*MWG: miniature wargame(rs) FPS: first-person shooters RPG: role-playing game(rs) GP: general population

RAND: Building a Broader Evidence Base for Defense Acquisition Policymaking

1200px-Rand_Corporation_logo.svgRAND has recently published a brief report by Elizabeth Bartels, Jeffrey Drezner, and Joel  Predd on Building a Broader Evidence Base for Defense Acquisition Policymaking, in which they explore the potential role of serious games in exploring procurement and investment decisions.

One of the primary responsibilities of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (USD[A&S]) is to ensure the health of the overall defense acquisition system (DAS). USD(A&S) can bolster the health of the DAS by developing and promulgating sound acquisition policy that improves the function and operation of the DAS at the enterprise level. The premise of this report is that acquisition policymaking should be data driven. However, there are limitations to relying on empirical (e.g., historical) data to guide acquisition policy. In light of these limitations, the authors argue that acquisition policymaking should be evidence based, in recognition of a wider variety of analytic tools that can be brought to bear on acquisition policy questions. This report, intended for acquisition professionals, summarizes the case for a broader evidence base and then focuses on one specific tool that the authors suggest might add analytic value: policy gaming.

Policy gaming can be used to generate observations about how stakeholders might change their decisionmaking and behavior in light of changes in policy. Because the strengths and limitations of games differ from those of traditional tools for acquisition analysis, the authors argue that games complement the existing portfolio of analytic approaches. The authors describe a prototype game focused on Middle-Tier Acquisition (MTA) policy that RAND researchers developed to enrich the available evidence base to support acquisition policymaking, summarize insights from the game, and offer several next steps for USD(A&S) to consider.

Among their findings, they suggest:

  • Games can provide useful evidence about proposed policies by providing a sandbox to observe decisionmaking.

  • Games appear to be valuable in cases where relevant real-world data are not available because the new policy or other condition of interest has not yet occurred.

You can download the report at the link above.

Exercise Cygnus pandemic report (2016)


The Guardian has published a lightly redacted version of the Public Health England report on the 2016 Exercise Cygnus pandemic exercise. You’ll find a link in the article above, and we have also uploaded a copy to PAXsims.

Some 950 representatives of various UK government agencies and institutions took part in the exercise on 18-20 October 2016.  It found both strengths and significant deficiencies in pandemic preparedness.


The report contains a full description of the lessons learned, as well as details of exercise planning and format (Annex C).


For other materials on pandemic simulation, see the PAXsims COVID-19 serious gaming resources page.

Recent simulation and gaming publications, April 2020


libraryalexandria.jpgPAXsims is pleased to present a selection of recently-published items on simulation and serious gaming. Some of these may not address conflict, peacebuilding, or development issues at all, but have been included because of the broader perspective they offer on games-based education or analysis.

Articles may be gated/paywalled and not accessible without subscription access to the publication in which they appear.


Itai Brun and Anat Ben Haim, “Are We Really on the Brink of Escalation on the Northern Front? Insights from a War Game,” Institute for National Security Studies Insight 1263 (2020).

The possibility that the northern arena is on the brink of escalation and liable to deteriorate into war was raised on several recent occasions, including: the annual intelligence assessment of the Military Intelligence Directorate that was presented to military reporters; a speech by the Chief of Staff on December 29, 2019 at a conference in Herzliya; and the INSS annual strategic assessment published at the start of 2020. In contrast with these assessments, the war game held as part of the INSS annual international conference in late January 2020 saw a different result. Despite an escalation scenario that could have led to a large-scale conflict in several arenas (resulting in “the first northern war”), during the game, all of the players – Israel, Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, Russia, and the United States – made significant efforts to prevent a deterioration to such a war. The scenario in the game was of several days of high-intensity combat, which all of the players sought to end quickly. This outcome could stem from the limitations of the game, but it also raises the possibility that the weight of restraining factors is more extensive than recently assessed, thus enabling Israel greater freedom of operation that could indeed lead to escalation, but not necessarily to a large-scale war.

Rex Brynen, “Virtual paradox: How digital war has reinvigorated analogue wargaming,” Digital War (online first March 2020).

War has become increasingly digital, manifest in the development and deployment of new capabilities in cyber, uncrewed and remote systems, automation, robotics, sensors, communications, data collection and processing, and artificial intelligence. The wargames used to explore such technologies, however, have seen a renaissance of manual and analogue techniques. This article explores this apparent paradox, suggesting that analogue methods have often proven to be more flexible, creative, and responsive than their digital counterparts in addressing emerging modes of warfare.

Warfare has become increasingly digital. Militaries around the world are developing, deploying, and employing new capabilities in cyber, uncrewed and remote systems, automation, robotics, sensors, communications, data collection and processing, and even artificial intelligence. The wargames used by governments to explore such technologies, however, have seen a renaissance of manual and analogue techniques. What explains this apparent paradox?

This article will explore three reasons why analogue gaming techniques have proven useful for exploring digital war: timeliness, transparency, and creativity. It will then examine how the field of professional wargaming might develop in the years ahead. To contextualize all of that, however, it is useful to discuss wargaming itself. How and why militaries use games to understand the deadly business of warfare?

John Curry, “The Utility of Narrative Matrix Games: A Baltic Example,” Naval War College Review 73, 2 (Spring 2020).

The focus of professional gaming has shifted over time from the kinetic so as to include wider aspects of confrontations beyond war fighting, such as national will, social media, economics, and the laws of war. While traditional wargame models have struggled to represent these factors adequately, the matrix game narrative method offers utility for gaming current political crises.

John Curry, “Professional Wargaming: A Flawed But Useful Tool,” Simulation & Gaming (online first April 2020).

Rationale for the Article. Professional wargames have long been an integral part of the tool set used by the military. The literature includes many examples of wargames that have been successful in terms of training, military education, procurement, operational analysis and planning for war. However, retrospective examination demonstrates that many of these professional wargames also had major errors in them and by implication current games about future confrontations are similarly flawed. Nevertheless, the academic evidence is clear that such games are still invaluable tools.

Methodology. Ten years of research into the development of wargames undertaken by the History of Wargaming Project has analysed and made generally available more professional wargames than ever before. Retrospective examination of a sample of these declassified games, from the British War Office Rules (1896) to more recent games about the Ukraine, shows significant errors.

Value. Demonstrating that professional games had errors in the past opens challenges the overconfidence in the predictive capacity of games. It also raises the possibility for future research to identify game design bias and to develop better games in the future. Understanding the value of better games, even with their inherent issues, raise the possibility of better preparing decision makers for the future.

Notes. The words wargame and game are used interchangeably in this article. Whilst the techniques used in professional gaming evolved from modelling the battlefield, modern professional gaming is increasingly focussed on other situations that are not war, such as state level confrontations, trade wars, politics, cyber conflict, banking crisis etc. Using the term wargame seems inappropriate when for example, gaming a shipping dispute. All the games referred to this article, unless otherwise noted, are professional wargames, used by military, government, public sector bodies and other parties directly involved in real world issues. The prefix professional has been omitted for brevity in most places.

Benjamin Davies, Kaitlin Rainwater, Lovett Brittany Card, David Polatty, Urban Outbreak 2019 Pandemic Response: Select Research & Game Findings (US Naval War College, 2020).

This document is a summary of 16 key research and game findings focused specifically on the characteristics of civil-military response to a pandemic
scenario. The numbered bullets below correspond to more detailed explanations of findings presented later in the document. While these findings are in no way definitive or complete, they are a sampling of relevant guidance based on research, gaming and expert opinion. It is our hope that these 16 findings will contribute to improving civilian and military effectiveness in humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

Note on Urban Outbreak 2019

The document references “Urban Outbreak 2019,” which was an analytic war game designed, delivered and analyzed by NWC’s Humanitarian Response Program in collaboration with Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) – National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health (NCDMPH) and Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab. In September 2019, Urban Outbreak brought together 50 experts from five different sectors who averaged 10 years of humanitarian response experience. Over two days they gamed an infectious disease outbreak response in a notional but realistic city with a population of 21 million people. As part of the game, players individually voted for up to five essential organizations to which they needed access in order to complete the activities they deemed essential for success in the response. Histograms of those votes are offered in appendix I & II. The scenario-based aspects of the game that focused specifically on the unique characteristics of urban response in a widespread outbreak are also listed in appendix III.

Stephen Hart, Andrea Margheri, Federica Paci, and Vladimiro Sassone, “Riskio: A Serious Game for Cyber Security Awareness and Education,” Computers & Security (online first, 29 April 2020)

Cyber attacks are increasing in number and sophistication, causing organisations to continuously adapt management strategies for cyber security risks. As a key risk mitigation policy, organisations are investing in professional training courses for their employees to raise awareness on cyber attacks and related defences. Serious games have emerged as a new approach that can complement instruction-led or computer-based security training by providing a fun environment where players learn and practice cyber security concepts through the game. In this paper we propose Riskio, a tabletop game to increase cyber security awareness for people with no-technical background working in organisations. Riskio provides an active learning environment where players build knowledge on cyber security attacks and defences by playing both the role of the attacker and the defender of critical assets in a fictitious organisation.

Tim Koller, Hugh Courtney, and Dan Lovallo, “Bias busters: War games? Here’s what they’re good for,” The McKinsey Quarterly, 16 April 2020.

Despite their best intentions, executives fall prey to cognitive and organizational biases that get in the way of good decision making. In this series, we highlight some of them and offer a few effective ways to address them.

Our topic this time? War games: Here’s what they’re good for.

There’s usually a steep price to pay when you fail to anticipate competitors’ actions and reactions, or who the competitors even are. France, for instance, spent ten years and billions of francs to erect a collection of concrete forts, obstacles, and weapons installations—called the Maginot Line—to stop German forces from invading with tanks. But French military leaders didn’t anticipate that, in the period between World War I and World War II, Germany would change course and adopt a blitzkrieg strategy, increasing its use of air strikes and invading through neutral countries like Belgium. French out­posts and citizens were left open to attack (exhibit).

The fate of a nation was not at stake, but a maker of medical equipment similarly faltered because of competitive blind spots. It was first to market in the 1970s with groundbreaking computed-tomography (CT) scanning technology, but it didn’t anticipate how many other innovators would enter the market, find new uses for its technology, and build high-level sales and product-marketing capabilities around the applications. The medical-equipment manufacturer eventually ended up exiting the business because it couldn’t keep up with the specialized competitors.

The research

Whether in the military or in business, strategy decisions are interdependent decisions most of the time. So why do executives so often fail to anticipate competitors’ moves when making their own? Competitor neglect is a manifestation of the inside view, in which decision makers lend more weight…

Kurt Matzler, “Crowd Innovation: The Philosopher’s Stone, a Silver Bullet, or Pandora’s Box?” NIM Marketing Intelligence Review 12, 1 (2020)

Not all innovation problems are suitable for open innovation, but crowdsourcing can have remarkable success if applied wisely to the right challenges.

Peter J. Schwartz et al, “AI-enabled wargaming in the military decision making process,”  SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing Proceedings Volume 11413, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Multi-Domain Operations Applications II; 114130H (2020).

During the Course of Action (COA) Analysis stage of the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP), staff members wargame the options of both friendly and enemy forces in an action-reaction-counteraction cycle to expose and address potential issues. This is currently a manual, subjective process, so many assumptions often go untested and only a very small number of alternative COAs may be considered. The final COA that is produced might miss opportunities or overlook risks. This challenge will only be exacerbated during Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), in which larger numbers of entities are expected to coordinate across domains to achieve converged effects within compressed timelines. This paper describes a prototype wargaming software support tool that leverages Artificial Intelligence (AI) to recommend COA improvements to commanders and staff. The tool’s design accounts for operational realities including a lack of available AI training data, limited tactical computing resources, and a need for end user interaction throughout the COA Analysis process. Given initial COAs for friendly and enemy forces, the tool searches for improvements by repeatedly proposing changes to the friendly COA and running the Data Analysis and Visualization INfrastructure for C4ISR (DAVINCI) combat simulation to evaluate them. Runtime is managed by carefully restricting the search space of the AI to only consider doctrinally relevant changes to the COA. The system architecture is designed to separate the AI, the simulation, and the user interface, simplifying continued experimentation and enhancements. The design of the AIenabled wargaming tool is presented along with initial results.

Andoni Zamora Txakartegi, “A piece of land that only exists while the fiction is played,” Sandburg Instituut (2020?)

I write about the architecture of simulation. I explore replicas of urban landscapes in which various types of interventions are staged, from rescue missions, to police and military exercises. In this specific context, buildings, structures, and scenographies are designed in order to provide a specific fictional space for the representation and the drills to be performed as realistically and efficiently as possible. The services and forces of professionals and trainees are given a space to test and train the efficacy of exercising control or fighting speculative scenarios. Similarly, this space allows them to fully demonstrate the destructive potential of their armor and weaponry.

As soon as I started digging into these spaces of ​training and rehearsing fiction​, the more I began to apprehend a vast hidden and twisted scenario where the practices of power and control are literally translated into space. The opaque cloud of mystery around the actual politics and purposes at stake within these camps suggests that these places are not only intended for ‘training’, but that a larger scheme of offensive and defensive speculation is developed within these simulated territories.

But, overall, a more structural approach is what I intend to approach with this work. The text is a reflection on the limits of representation in this particular context of production: Not only about the kind of content that is played in there – from accidents to terrorist attacks – but the choices around how it is played. What kind of decor is designed for it? What is the extent of the training that the professionals need in order to learn how to face a specific threat? Which is the model of reality that is followed or copied in the staging, and how is it translated into a fiction? In all of these choices which shape the reality in these camps, there is implicit an unavoidable relation to modern societies.

Ying Zhao, “Modeling multi-segment war game leveraging machine intelligence with EVE structures,” SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing Proceedings Volume 11413, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Multi-Domain Operations Applications II; 114130H (2020).

The paper depicts a generic representation of a multi-segment war game leveraging machine intelligence with two opposing asymmetrical players. We show an innovative Event-Verb-Event (EVE) structure that is used to represent small pieces of knowledge, actions, and tactics. We show machine learning algorithms that can modify, link, and combine the EVE rules to optimize the likelihood to win or lose a game in the end. We also show the war game paradigm and related machine intelligence techniques, including data mining, machine learning, and reasoning AI which have a natural linkage to causal learning.

Professor Game podcast: Chan on GridlockED

PG.jpgProfessor Game is a weekly podcast by Rob Alvarez Bucholska (IE Business School) which interviews “successful practitioners of games, gamification and game thinking” to share “the best of their experiences to get ideas, insights and inspiration to make learning experiences meaningful.”

The latest interview (April 20) is with Dr. Teresa Chan (McMaster University), designer of the hospital emergency room management game GridlockED.

A regular day for Teresa normally involves a lot of academic work and therefore she would only be working 6-7 shifts a month, however, that academic work has now ground to a halt and she is focused on providing clinical care given the pandemic. She is also part of the medical school with medical students to teach and they’re currently receiving a virtual curriculum.

One of Teresa’s favorite fails comes from when she was trying to implement the gamification approach into her continuous learning. She had the chance to create a competency-based medical education program that had a lot of elements of gamification. Although this pilot was good it wasn’t really much considered. Now there is a national platform that was somewhat informed by this experience so although Teresa’s pilot wasn’t used it laid the foundations for the national platform. If Teresa were to approach this again, she would focus more on gaming and gamification ensuring the game is seamless, usable and intuitive. She has found all the things she learned in game design has made her a better assessment designer and something she is applying to her workplace-based assessment systems.

Teresa’s favorite success comes from her game Gridlocked. The original idea came when talking to a colleague about what she was going to do after her thesis, she spoke about how disaster simulations are often done as tabletop games, similar to a war game, and it is used to consider how they would make moves within a simulation environment. This inspired her as there is often a lot of disasters in the emergency department but was no way to get the knowledge about it without being in the emergency room itself. We went on to understand what a multi-patient environment means and how to help upcoming doctors able to handle the kind of difficulties related to those environments. The main lesson she learned was when developing a game, you need other people to develop with if you have a complex game you need a good team to back you up. Another key learning for her was that the first draft is never the best one.

She would recommend identifying what assets you have on your team as this can be greatly advantageous to your project. For example, although Teresa was competent at creating graphics, she knew that Simon on her team had a lot of experience creating infographics and he ended up being the person to design most of the actual game who was crucial.

You’ll find our PAXsims review of GridlockED here.

Review: Parkin, A Game of Birds and Wolves

The following review was written for PAXsims by Tim Borsilli. Tim is a teacher and lecturer based in New York with a keen interest in the use of simulation and gaming as pedagogical tools. His studies focus on the history and intersection of war games, war planning, and war fiction

Review: Simon Parkin, A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2019) 320p.

45730911.jpgThe release of a new book on historical wargaming, sadly, is a shockingly rare occurrence – rarer still one designed for a general reading public, rather than wargaming’s professional analyst class or its grognard hobbyists. This is one thing that makes A Game of Birds and Wolves, a recent release by Simon Parkin, a contributor for The New Yorker and game critic at The Observer, such a welcome respite. Within, Parkin examines the little-known Western Approaches Tactical Unit (WATU) that operated out of Derby House in Liverpool during World War II and its contribution to the Allied war effort in the Battle of the Atlantic. Specifically, Parkin is interested in looking at how this unit was able to use war games to help develop anti-submarine tactics to counter the German U-boat effort, as well as the unusual role that the women from the Women’s Royal Navy Service (colloquially known as Wrens) played in this process at a time when women were only begrudgingly permitted to perform even secretarial roles in the armed forces.

A few things make this book stand out from others on the “serious games” shelf. The first is that, unlike most of the highly technical, scholarly literature on this topic, Parkin brings an unusual, but welcome, narrative flair to his account. This is a work of creative nonfiction, that somewhat ambiguous genre most closely associated with longform, glossy magazine pieces. A Game of Birds and Wolves largely succeeds in this stylistic approach. It’s evocative prose and source-driven dialogue recreate the tense atmosphere of a wartime Britain in desperate straits. It’s narrative admirably brings Captain Roberts and his staff of young women to life, even if Parkin must reach on occasion where it seems the historical record is a bit thin. This could well be the books greatest strength: introducing wargaming to a wider audience in a way that is both compelling and human.

Despite being targeted at a broader readership, the “serious” gamers shouldn’t sleep on this one. Parkin offers a well-researched, detailed, and personal account that – while not as analytical as some of the academic work on the same topic – sheds light on a period when properly applied gaming contributed to the Allied war effort. Perhaps most importantly, it outlines the contribution of women, a demographic group that has been historically marginalized in both military histories generally, and in the history of wargaming specifically.

From a historical perspective, the WATU games are something of an outlier in the historiography. Except for the United States Navy, which had a robust wargaming culture, the Allies used conflict simulations far less than the Axis powers. The general historical consensus has been that the Allies strayed away from gaming during the war, favoring instead the burgeoning field of operational research. Only a scant few war games were employed during the war itself, and those that were conducted tended to be rudimentary or impromptu affairs. This stands in stark contrast to the Germans and Japanese, both of whom practiced mid-war gaming to plan major operations.

What this book offers, then, is an incredibly detailed, intimate, and personal look at an instance that flies in the face of this long-held assumption. Moreover, while serval factors helped turn the tide in the Atlantic, Parkin makes a compelling case that the tactics that emerged from this unit played an important role in the anti-submarine campaign. Exactly how much is difficult to tell, though Parkin is quite bullish on the impact of the games. At the very least, the widespread dissemination of these tactics through the WATU school serves as an excellent case-study in how gaming and simulation can be a valuable pedagogical tool for exploring new possibilities and actively sharing them.

Even more unusual from a historical perspective was the critical role the Wrens played in the process. Wargaming has been, for most of its history, a male-dominated space. Obviously, as highly patriarchal institutions, professional militaries were incredibly resistant to allow women into the fold until very recently. As Parkin notes, even the British, who might pat themselves on the back for the sheer fact of the existence of the Women’s Royal Navy Service, were reluctant to allow women to perform roles of real responsibility.

This problem, however, is not limited to merely the naturally conservative armed forces. James Dunnigan, perhaps the man best in a position to know, has estimated that among the commercial wargaming community, only somewhere around 1% of active gamers are women. There have long been significant barriers to women entering this space, and despite what some have argued, these barriers are not biological, but rather social and cultural. But the culture is changing.

Today, many women have entered this formerly male-dominated space, particularly in the professional community. Slowly, perhaps too slowly, the craft is shaking off its boy’s club veneer. A Game of Birds and Wolves is an excellent book to signal the changing of this tide, and possibly introduce a wider audience to the community. With the film rights already picked up for a possible adaption by Amblin Partners, Steven Spielberg production company, this effect could be amplified.

A Game of Birds and Wolves is therefore important on a variety of fronts. It succeeds on a surface level as a stirring, well-told account about a long overlooked historical episode. Its narrative tone sets a high bar in a field that can at times be dry and academic. For those interested in serious games and their history, it provides an intriguing counterpoint to traditional notions of how the Allies used gaming, not merely for pre-war planning, but also for active training and tactical troubleshooting. And, most importantly, its centrality on women sheds a much-needed light on a group that his been systematically overlooked.

Tim Borsilli  

Bartels: Building better games for national security policy analysis

Bartels.pngIt’s out! Ellie Bartel’s long-awaited PhD dissertation on Building better games for national security policy analysis is now available on the RAND website.

This dissertation proposes an approach to game design grounded in logics of inquiry from the social sciences. National security gaming practitioners and sponsors have long been concerned that the quality of games and sponsors’ ability to leverage them effectively to shape decision making is highly uneven. This research leverages literature reviews, semi-structured interviews, and archival research to develop a framework that describes ideal types of games based on the type of information they generate. This framework offers a link between existing treatments of philosophy of science and the types of tradeoffs that a designer is likely to make under each type of game. While such an approach only constitutes necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for games to inform research and policy analysis, this work aims to offer pragmatic advice to designers, sponsors and consumers about how design choices can impact what is learned from a game.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One
    • Introduction: Games for National Security Policy Analysis and How to Improve Them
  • Chapter Two
    • Study Approach
  • Chapter Three
    • Towards a Social Science of Policy Games
  • Chapter Four
    • Four Archetypes of Games to Support National Security Policy Analysis
  • Chapter Five
    • Designing Games for System Exploration
  • Chapter Six
    • Designing Games for Alternative Conditions
  • Chapter Seven
    • Designing Games for Innovation
  • Chapter Eight
    • Designing Games for Evaluation
  • Chapter Nine
    • Trends in RAND Corporation National Security Policy Analysis Gaming: 1948 to 2019
  • Chapter Ten
    • Conclusions, Policy Recommendations, and Next Steps
  • Appendix ASample Template for Documenting Game Designs
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