Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Category Archives: simulation and gaming publications

Wnorowski: Wargaming Practitioners Guide

The Doctrine and Training Centre of the Polish Armed Forces has just published a very useful Wargaming Practitioner’s Guide, written by Mirosław Wnorowski. The English version is shared below. The book explores:

  • The essence and objectives of wargames (including definitions, benefits and limits, history, and a link to the key elements and dilemmas of game theory).
  • The use of wargames (in the armed forces, as an element of planning, and a classification of types).
  • The key elements (participants, scenario, adjudication, data collection).
  • Game tools (space, time, actors and the interaction between them).
  • The process of preparing and executing a wargame (including particular attention to seminar and matrix games).

Excellent work, Mirosław!

Majnemer and Meibauer: Fictitious country names affect experimental results

Jacklyn Majnemer (MIT) and Gustav Meibauer (Radboud University Nijmegen) have published a very interesting article in International Studies Quarterly, 7, 1 (March 2023) exploring whether fictitious country names in survey vignettes affect experimental results. The answer: yes they do.

Using fictitious country names in hypothetical scenarios is widespread in experimental international relations research. We survey sixty-four peer-reviewed articles to find that it is justified by reference to necessary “neutralization” compared to real-world scenarios. However, this neutralization effect has not been independently tested. Indeed, psychology and toponymy scholarship suggest that names entail implicit cues that can inadvertently bias survey results. We use a survey experiment to test neutralization and naming effects. We find not only limited evidence for neutralization, but also little evidence for systematic naming effects. Instead, we find that respondents were often more willing to support using force against fictitious countries than even adversarial real-world countries. Real-world associations may provide a “deterrent” effect not captured by hypothetical scenarios with fictitious country names. In turn, fictionalization may decrease the stakes as experienced by respondents. Researchers should therefore carefully explain rationales for and expected effects of fictitious country names, and test their fictitious names independently.

In Table 2 below you can see that respondents were more willing to use military force against “Celesta,” “Drakhar,” or “Minalo” than they were either a friendly real country (Canada) or a hostile one (Iran).

The research here focuses on survey responses, not serious game play. However the findings may have some interesting implications for strategic-level wargames using fictional country names, which may be more prone to escalation than similar games using real countries.

Interestingly, the authors also suggest that the more “real” a country sounds, the less fictionalization effects are evident:

Our results suggest that the more clearly fictitious a country name, the easier to condone attacking it—fictionality and its perceived costlessness can therefore embolden respondents to provide more aggressive responses.

These results point to the relevance of perceived realistic-ness: the more “real” a country name sounds to respondents, the weaker the fictionalization effect. In particular, there seems to be a deterrent effect associated with realistic-ness, for example, of being able to imagine more easily the consequences associated with attacking Iran, especially bar any additional information that “fills out” the scenario. 

The explanation they suggest for this is deterrence: respondents are better able to imagine the costs of an attack when the survey question asks about a real country rather than a fictional one. However, there may also be an empathy factor here—it’s easier to imagine killing and maiming actual Iranians or Canadians than it is “Minalans,” “Brakharis,” or “Celestians.”

In professional wargames, it is sometime necessary to use fictionalized countries, usually because of political sensitivities. In experimental games there may also be a desire to exert better control of key variables than is possible using a real-life settings. Both reasons apply, for example, to a recent series of NATO experimental wargames that examined Intermediate Force Capabilities in a fictional conflict between the Illyrian Federal Republic and Hypatia (the latter backed by Organization for Collective Security).

An unclassified NATO STO SAS wargame in 2022. You’ll note the Illyrian Federal Republic operations orders (OP IRKALLAN FREEDOM), in a conflict that seems rather reminiscent of a real one in some ways, but set in the northern Aegean.

If Majnemer and Meibauer’s findings do indeed expand beyond international relations survey research to wargaming, there are several implications. One is the need to provide game participants with a rich and realistic fictional environment and to work hard to promote narrative engagement. Another is the need to caveat experimental findings, especially as they relate to use-of-force decisions but possibly other things as well, such as risk aversion or casualty sensitivity more broadly.

Smith, Ringrose, and Barker: computer vs manual wargaming

Jeremy Smith, Trevor Ringrose, and Stephen Barker have published interesting article in a forthcoming (2023) issue of The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation describing “an experimental intervention to investigate user perceptions of computer versus manual board wargame.”

Analysis of the literature related to wargaming identifies a requirement for the perception of immersion and engagement in wargaming. The references generally indicate that the computer is less able to facilitate collective engagement than a manual system; however, there is as yet little empirical evidence to support this. There are also suggestions that players perceive manual games differently to a computer wargame. An experiment, derived from the previous analysis, was performed to address the research question: Is there a discernible difference between the levels of players’ engagement in computer wargames versus manual wargames? The experiment provides empirical evidence that there is a difference in players’ engagement with a computer wargame compared to a manual game, in particular with the manual game providing greater engagement with other players. Hence, if engagement between players is to be encouraged and regarded as an important aspect of a wargame for defense applications, then this provides evidence that the manual approach can indeed be better.

The approach taken was to have students play two different but similar wargames—one a manual boardgame, the other a digital wargame—and then survey them about their engagement across several categories.

The two games were chosen to be as similar as possible in scale, scope, complexity, and length while team sizes were also the same in both cases and team members seated similarly closely together, with the main difference being people being individually seated at a PC in the computer case and seated round a table in the manual case. The test subjects were available and willing samples of those people taking these four courses. Each course ran each game once, with two courses running manual first and two running computer first. Questionnaire response was optional, and sometimes on different days, so that although the same people were playing both games, a paired analysis was not possible because not everybody responded to both. There is also a risk of non-response being indicative of non-engagement.

The students “varied across serving and retired military officers and other ranks, defense-related civilians, and non-defense-related civilians.” The manual game was “a very simple introductory tactical military game” developed at Cranfield University. The computer wargame used was CONTACT, “a computer-based wargame developed in the United Kingdom and used by UK MoD and several overseas military nations” used here as “a simple introduction to a computer-based military wargame, so that only a limited set of its functionality is exposed and used.”

The results showed slightly the manual game reported somewhat higher levels of personal engagement and much higher levels of engagement with others. (The “experience” row actually shows the number of respondents, 45 and 34 respectively).

The authors note some limitations to their study. Not everyone completed a questionnaire for both games and there is no way of knowing whether the “missing” responses might have systematically biased the results. They also used different games, so it is possible that the game designs were a significant factor in student evaluations. It might also be noted that while engagement is generally a desirable characteristic of all serious games, it is possible to be so engaged and so eager to win that players may potentially learns the wrong lessons—something that Anders Frank has referred to as “gamer mode.”

To date academic research on digital vs manual gameplay has largely been focused on hobby games (for example, some excellent research on the effects of automating the board game Pandemic here and here). Much of it has also been by digital enthusiasts. Smith, Ringrose, and Barker have performed a service by focusing attention on wargaming in particular.

MORS Journal of Wargaming

The Military Operations Research Society has launched a new MORS Journal of Wargaming, edited by Dr. Ed McGrady (Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for New American Security) and Dr. John Curry (Senior Lecturer in games development and cybersecurity, Bath Spa University).

The MORS Journal of Wargaming is the premier research publication for articles on the art, practice, and science of professional gaming and related fields. It is peer-reviewed and broad-based. Our goal is to advance the field of professional games, which we define as games played by those with a professional stake in the subject of the game.

While the title of the Journal is “wargaming”, we do not limit discussion of professional games by either their type or purpose. Topics can range from education to analyses, and games can range from board games to conference-scale policy games. Articles do not have to involve a defense or military subject. The Journal seeks any and all articles that develop the art and science of professional games, to include articles on the design, development, production, play and analysis of games. We welcome articles on how a game integrates narrative into its design as well as articles analyzing the statistical outcomes of a series of educational games. Submissions that describe the play and results of a particular game are also welcome; we refer to these as Game Reports.

Submissions should be clear and in plain English, logical and well argued, with supporting references and specifics on game design, outcome, or analysis. Articles can include suggestions for further reading.

The Journal will be published online bi-annually but may expand depending on demand and numbers of submissions.

Further details can be found at the link above.

Review: Simulations in the Political Science Classroom

Mark Harvey, James Fielder, and Ryan Gibb (eds), Simulations in the Political Science Classroom: Games Without Frontiers (Routledge, 2023). USD $31.46 pb, $112.00 hc.

This text is a must read for those using simulations in their classrooms and seeking to demonstrate their utility to sceptical colleagues or institutions. The book is useful in bringing together a range of arguments in favour of the pedagogical contribution of games to classrooms as well as some clears guides of ‘how to’ incorporate games, how to design games and how to tie them to methods of assessment. I think the book also does an excellent job of demonstrating that simulations and games can be used in a range of teaching settings in political science – for example in teaching political theory classes (chapters 4 and 13), government courses (chapters 7, 8 and 10), law courses (chapter 11) and electoral politics (chapter 12) – as well as in the more traditional area of international relations (chapters 14 and 15). 

To achieve these aims the text is organised into three parts: pedagogical foundations of games and simulations; designing and teaching games; and conclusions. Essentially, this structure means the editors take a reader through the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of games in the political science and international relations disciplines. A core strength of this approach is in how the chapters speak to one another. For example, Edmond Hally’s chapter (pp.42-55) makes an argument for lengthier and more realistic games for achieving a range of student learning outcomes (SLOs) in particular when games are incorporated into the structure of teaching within modules/units. Hally discusses the relationship between SLOs and games as being either intrinsic or extrinsic to module or classroom, noting that extrinsic incorporation of an abstract game “has a connection to the most basic class SLO – knowledge of course political theories – but never produced any statistically significant learning gains for the final exam.” (p.49) In contract Hally notes that the more realistic role play game produced better overall scores in the final exam and intrinsically connected to more of the SLOs for the course. 

David Clayborn and Mark Harvey, acknowledge this conclusion but then  argue that shorter games with simpler design may be a better entry point for convincing colleagues who are less convinced of the educational value of games, offering structures for the games and how to simplify them but also lists of prompts or discussion questions . As such this chapter does an excellent job of providing “tips, ideas and visions” (p.71) of how to incorporate games into their courses/modules/programmes. My slight critique here is that this chapter might perhaps have been better at the front of the section of the collection rather than at the end. 

Lucy Britt’s chapter on Medicare and lobbying (pp.114-126) is both practical (in terms of how to use this simulation in your own class) as well as providing a grounding for this activity in relation to debates on ‘active learning’ (p.114) and pedagogy. The way this chapter is presented also means that teachers can adapt this simulation to a range of classes and levels (pp.121-122). 

Mark Harvey’s chapter on “Taking a Risk” (chapter 14, pp.233-255) is useful in demonstrating the utility of using the game ‘Risk’ for international relations. This chapter as two objectives which it clearly achieves: to demonstrate how to use the game Risk in the classroom (and tie it to learning objectives); and to set out evidence for the contribution of this approach for student learning. 

I would argue this book is therefore a must read for those considering using games or simulations in a variety of political science settings. I would also argue that it is useful for anyone already using games who wants to adapt their approach, try different styles of games, deepen, or change the connection of their games to their pedagogy, or even as a discussion text for teaching forums within universities and colleges. 

Catherine Jones, University of St. Andrews

Simulation and gaming publications, June-October 2022

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. Others might address “gaming-adjacent” issues such as group dynamics and decision-making, assessment, forecasting, or related topics. If you have published something recently and we haven’t yet included it, let us know!

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

Vårin Alme and Adeline Hvidsten, “To Learn or not to Learn: On the Importance of Mode Switching in Educational Wargames,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Conventional wisdom holds that educational wargames come with certain challenges – factors that can potentially hinder, rather than increase, learning – and that these must be mitigated. In this article, we argue that so-called challenges are unproblematic, even desirable, during the wargame. Underpinning this contention is the premise that learning requires a certain mode, and that in educational wargaming, two distinct modes are necessary: one in the wargame, and one in the debrief. Leaning on the pedagogical theory of John Dewey, we distinguish between the mode of experience during the game, and the mode of reflection after the game. What are traditionally conceived of as challenges are, in our mode-based framework, necessary factors in order to fully enter the mode of experience. What can hinder learning, however, is if students do not switch from the mode of experience to the mode of reflection after the game. Based on previous research, our own experiences conducting wargames, and interviews with students and professionals on learning through educational wargames, we suggest strategies for ensuring the mode switch from wargame to debrief, and draw implications for the development of wargaming as a social science method.

Thomas Ambrosio and Jonathan Ross, “The War on Terror beyond the barrel of a gun: The procedural rhetorics of the boardgame Labyrinth,” Media, War & Conflict, (first online August 2022).

Utilizing Bogost’s procedural rhetoric framework in his book Persuasive Games, this article examines Labyrinth, a boardgame that simulates the conflict between the United States and global terrorism. The authors systematically integrate ludology (rules/gameplay) and narratology (narratives/representations) to illustrate how Labyrinth was intentionally designed so that players became active participants in a narrative about how good governance undermines the sources of terrorism and the counterproductive nature of militarized counterterrorism, as well as bear witness to the agency of the Muslim world and the region’s political dynamism on the tabletop. This is a very different account of the War on Terror than has previously been studied in the literature, which has focused overwhelmingly on first-person shooter videogames and, in turn, has provided a very limited range of how this conflict can be represented in ludic form. However, Labyrinth is not alone, and the wargames that many players grew up with have given way to a variety of boardgames which approach complex historical or contemporary situations and environments beyond simply killing one’s enemies. This represents a diverse, but largely untapped, resource already in the public space and ready to be investigated. Media studies can therefore benefit from considering how boardgames similar to Labyrinth present alternative ways in which the ‘real world’ has been, and indeed can be, translated through popular culture objects.

Elizabeth Bartels et al, “Gaming Undergoverned Spaces: Emerging Approaches for Complex National Security Problems,” in Aaron Frank and Elizabeth Bartels, eds, Adaptive Engagement for Undergoverned Spaces: Concepts, Challenges, and Prospects for New Approaches (RAND, 2002).

Games have long been an important part of defense analysis that are used to understand new strategic and operational problems, develop strategies and concepts, and assess the potential shortcomings of plans. The ability of games to help policy professionals explore the key ele- ments of new problems and the relationship between them makes them a highly effective tool to help decisionmakers make sense of undergoverned spaces (UGS). However, existing approaches to games for doing research and analysis tend to fall short, either by exhibiting the same types of pathologies as modeling and simulation efforts or by failing to generate credible information to systematically advance understanding. In this chapter, we explore the potential value of gaming in policymaking for UGS, describe two common failure modes, and offer several approaches for improving games to explore these spaces. We conclude the chap- ter by offering a vision for a new game concept—a contest arena—which combines advances in several areas that could improve the ability of games to inform adaptive planning in UGS.

Karsten Bråthen, “Krigsspill i operasjonsplanlegging: Hva kan datasimuleringer bidra med?Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Wargames play a key role in operational planning, both for developing alternative courses of actions (COAs) and for developing the plan based on a selected COA. Performing wargames in a command post environment impose strict time and resources constraints compared to other applications of wargaming. Computer-based support, especially computer (constructive) simulations, enables the possibility to wargame many alternative COAs, perform analyses that are more detailed or spend less time on the wargaming activities. This support contributes to better plans produced in a shorter time. The paper describes wargaming in the Norwegian Army’s Plan and Decision Process and based on this derives simulation requirements and outlines how simulations can support the wargaming. Simulations may e.g. perform the role as book-keeper for all the different factors and time-space considerations affecting a COA. Combat simulation may assist in the adjudication process. It is argued how technologies like distributed simulation, command and control and simulation interoperability and terrain analyses meet the needs and requirements. Additionally, the simulation system needs to be easy to use, set up and manage and these requirements can be fulfilled by access from familiar web browsers and a simulation service oriented architecture and infrastructure. SWAP, Simulation-supported Wargaming for Analysis of Plans, is a research proof of concept demonstrator for technologies for wargaming for operational planning. SWAP is also being used to elicit user requirements. A SWAP wargame experiment with 52 cadets from the Norwegian Military Academy, showed that they were able to use the demonstrator after a brief introduction, and explore COAs and produce a decision brief fast, despite SWAP’s limited functionality.

Jan-Philipp Büchler, Business Wargaming for Mergers & Acquisitions: Systematic Application in the Strategy and Acquisition Process (Springer 2022).

Supports the development of target-oriented and strategy-compliant M&A strategies 

Describes the development and simulation of M&A strategies

Presents the most important strategy tools for business wargaming

Kjetil Enstad, “Professional Knowledge through Wargames and Exercises,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

In professional military education (PME), wargames and field-training exercises are among the pedagogical tools used to teach students to be professional officers. It is generally accepted that wargames are important sources of insight – even if, as Peter Perla (2012, p. 157) points out, they are “not real.” Notwithstanding the truism that there exists a gap between the game and reality, the wargame is a tool designed to provide the learner something to aid them in the real world. There are discussions in the literature concerning which aspects of the experience and practice of gameplaying are relevant to the player’s understanding of the aspect of reality their game is about; here, Perla’s discussion of the categorization of wargaming analysis is useful (2012, pp. 231–239), as is the report Wargame Pathologies (Weuve et al., 2004). While, with a few exceptions, the literature on wargaming does not engage with the fundamental epistemological questions of wargaming, there is a tendency to demarcate the relevance of wargaming for professional competence to specific aspects or domains of knowledge. In this article I argue that wargaming and field-training exercises in PME shape the future officer’s understanding and professional practices in much more profound ways than commonly assumed. Starting from Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language and his discussions of what learning means and how meaning arises, I will show that, as far as learning to become an officer is concerned, wargames and exercises are intrinsically educative: learning inevitably takes place, and this learning shapes, in fundamental ways, how the officer understands and responds to situations they might face as a professional practitioner. The article proceeds in three steps. First, the theoretical basis for the argument, a Wittgensteinian view of learning and of professional knowledge, is presented; second, the nature of wargames and exercises, and their nature as sources for knowledge, are discussed; and in the final section, the implications for our understanding of wargames and exercises in professional military education of the preceding two sections are suggested.

Per-Idar Evensen, Svein Erlend Martinussen, Marius Halsør and Dan Helge Bentsen, “Simulation-Supported Wargaming for Assessing Force Structures,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Wargaming is a key activity for gaining deeper insight into the strengths and weaknesses of future force structures in the course of their development and assessment. For more than a decade, the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt – FFI) has supported the Norwegian Army in conducting wargames for capability planning, with varying degrees of computer-based support. Throughout this period, these have evolved from what can be described as computer-assisted wargames to more realistic simulation-supported wargames. Moreover, to get a closer understanding of the deterrent effect of the force structures, which may not be observable during the actual gameplay, our emphasis has also shifted towards replicating the planning process more properly – and especially towards monitoring the planning process of the opposing force. For example, it has been important to examine the extent to which specific structure elements discourage the opposing force from taking certain actions. In this article, we describe our evolved methodology for simulation-supported wargaming, which includes a preparation phase; an execution phase, including a joint operational planning process; and an analysis phase. Furthermore, we discuss what type of data and results we are able to extract from the wargaming sessions, and present a set of what we have found to be best practices for how to conduct successful simulation-supported wargames.

Håvard Fridheim, “Wargaming Dos and Don’ts – Eight Lessons for Planning and Conducting Wargames,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Since 2015, there has been a resurgence in the use of wargaming in NATO states. But countries with smaller wargaming communities have not seen a corresponding revitalization of the technique. If the interest is there, the capability often lacks. The paper argues that a critical first step in stimulating the role of wargaming in these countries is ensuring that local practitioners know of each other, so they can exchange experiences on gaming results and practices; further, they need an understanding of what wargaming might (and might not) be, and the steps necessary to make the technique work in practice. The paper offers experiences from wargames conducted by analysts and researchers at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), for the most part games on the strategic and operational level. The experiences are structured as eight broad lessons on “dos and don’ts” to consider when planning and running wargames, based on recurring practical issues in past games. While the lessons are drawn from experiences within a small wargaming community, many of the issues discussed are universal for wargaming at large.

Alexander R. Galloway, “How I Modeled Guy Debord’s Brain in Software,ROMchip: A Journal of Game Histories 4, 1 (July 2022).

Given that the game was a kind of allegorical index into the networked and data-driven society growing up around him, I decided to take on Debord’s Game ofWar as a research project and port the game to the computer. … What did it take to reenact Debord’s historical algorithm in the present day? What did it take to rebuild this game for mobile devices? Luckily the rules had been published, and there was a decent archival paper trail. (The national library in Paris has even preserved a shoebox full of toy soldiers Debord would use to play army.) So it seemed possible, at least in principle, to rebuild Debord’s game in a new century, in a new format. A number of steps were necessary in developing the game software, including designing the game model, implementing the rules, and adding a networking component for multiplayer. I’d like to tell part of that story here, addressing some details from my attempt to redevelop Debord’s game in software, focusing in particular on the game’s AI. Indeed, the prospect of modeling Debord’s brain was particularly tantalizing. Yet, as we will see, the outcomes were not entirely what I expected at the outset.

Anne Marie Hagen, “Learning (Better) From Stories: Wargames, Narratives, and Rhetoric in Military Education,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Wargames have a long history as a military training method. A typical explanatory framework for their efficacy is their narrative aspect. There remain, however, questions concerning the ways narrative functions in context, and how it can be analysed to assess the educational value of wargaming in Professional Military Education programmes (PME). The article offers a case study of how officer cadets employed narrative elements during a matrix game which aims to test their knowledge of peacekeeping operations and to develop their critical thinking and argumentation skills, focusing on how these narrative elements functioned rhetorically. Using positioning analysis buttressed by insights from argumentation studies and expanded with approaches from literary narratology, this study uncovers the extensive and subtle ways players employed narrative persuasion to further their goals, and the extent to which argumentation in matrix games relies on narrative. The study suggests that this aspect of matrix game argumentation has been understudied, and that attention to narrative can have a range of benefits: it helps shed light on how players shift between participatory frameworks or narrative levels in the game, how meaning is negotiated, and how professional reflection and identities are initiated. Demonstrating how subjectivity and experience can be employed as data in military sciences, the study also offers educators an interpretive framework for analysing game interaction. It further suggests that the matrix game’s educational value in PME can be extended by incorporating awareness of the rhetorical functions of narrative into the post-game reflection; knowledge of how stories are told could enhance student learning.

Tomáš Havlík, Martin Blaha, Ladislav Potužák, Ondřej Pekař and Vlastimil Šlouf, “Wargaming Simulator MASA SWORD for Training and Education of Czech Army Officers,” Proceedings of the 16th European Conference on Games Based Learning, ECGBL 2022 (2022).

The article deals with expanding the capabilities of the University of Defence in the field of training and education of new officers of the Czech Army using newly introduced simulation technology. First, it looks at the beginnings of the use of simulations to support and develop teaching. One of those steps was the establishment of a professional-level computer games group. This gave students the opportunity to gain experience in commanding and managing combat while playing computer games such as Counter-Strike. Currently, students have the opportunity to deepen their command and tactical skills during practical field training or in virtual environments while playing games based on virtual and constructive simulation. Another section explains the importance and role of these simulations in teaching professional soldiers. It is very important for future combat commanders to gain as much experience as possible in commanding and directing combat activity in the conduct of military operations before they occur. Finally, it deals with the newly acquired MASA SWORD simulator, which offers another and much more complex tool for gaining valuable experience. MASA SWORD, unlike the software currently in use, can be controlled by only one user without the need to connect other users or perform control exercises. It includes a scenario building tool, constructive simulation and analytical tools for evaluating created simulations. In addition to its use in teaching and educating students, the simulator can be used for staff training, support for commander planning and decision-making, analysis and, last but not least, operational research. In the last section, the article evaluates the usefulness of simulations for teaching, science and research. It also reports on ongoing qualitative research methods to predict the next direction of development and possible connectivity with other simulators. 

Lars Henåker, “Decision-making style and victory in battle—Is there a relation?” Comparative Strategy, 41, 4 (2022)

Can decision-making styles impact victory and defeat in armed con- flicts? To answer the question of whether decision-making styles are linked to the victories and defeats of individual tacticians, this study utilizes five general decision-making styles: Rational, Intuitive, Dependent, Avoidant and Spontaneous. The aim of this study is to examine whether one or several of the general decision-making styles (GDMS) have an impact on tactical outcomes in wargames. A total of 104 officers and academics participated in the study. The study’s foremost conclusion is that the Dependent style is significantly connected to defeat in the wargame’s dueling set up.

Joshua Letchford et al, “Experimental Wargaming with SIGNAL,” Military Operations Research 27, 2 (2022).

Wargames are a common tool for investigating complex con- flict scenarios and have a long history of informing military and strategic study. Historically, these games have often been one offs, may not rigorously collect data, and have been built primarily for exploration rather than developing data- driven analytical conclusions. Experimental wargaming, a new wargaming approach that employs the basic principles of experimental design to facilitate an objective basis for exploring fundamental research questions around human behavior (such as understanding conflict escalation), is a potential tool that can be used in combination with existing wargaming approaches.

The Project on Nuclear Gaming, a consortium involving the University of California, Berkeley, Sandia National Laboratories, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, developed an experimental wargame, SIGNAL, to explore questions surrounding conflict escalation and strategic stabil- ity in the nuclear context. To date, the SIGNAL experimental wargame has been played hundreds of times by thousands of players from around the world, creating the largest data-base of wargame data for academic purposes known to the authors. This paper discusses the design of SIGNAL, focusing on how the principles of experimental design influenced this design.

Erik Lin-Greenberg, “Wargame of Drones: Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Crisis Escalation,” Journal of Conflict Resolution (first online June 2022).

How do drones affect escalation dynamics? The emerging consensus from scholarship on drones highlights increased conflict initiation when drones allow decisionmakers to avoid the risks of deploying inhabited platforms, but far less attention has been paid to understanding how drones affect conflict escalation. Limited theorization and empirical testing have left debates unresolved. I unpack the underlying mechanisms influencing escalation decisions involving drones by proposing a logic of remote-controlled restraint: drones limit escalation in ways not possible when inhabited assets are used. To test this logic and explore its instrumental and emotional microfoundations, I field “comparative wargames.” I immerse national security professionals in crisis scenarios that vary whether a drone or inhabited aircraft is shot down. I validate wargame findings using a survey experiment. The wargames shed light on the microfoundations of escalation, highlight limits of existing theories, and demonstrate the utility of comparative wargaming as an IR research tool.

Mass Soldal Lund, “Øving på cybersikkerheit: Ein casestudie av ei cybersikkerheitsøving,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

This article presents a case study of a cyber security exercise in military education, and uses this case study to reflect on some challenges with cyber security exercise for educational purposes. The case study discusses central decisions in the design of the exercise, the evaluation of the exercise, as well as challenges with the exercise concept. Through a survey of the literature, we compare the exercise with similar exercises, and have a look at how these exercises are evaluated. Finally, we use the case study and the literature survey to reflect on how further investigations into cyber security exercise could be made.

Tom Mouat, “The Use and Misuse of Wargames,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

This article forms part of the Norwegian Defence University College’s broader research and development project to explore the utilities and potentials of a wide range of wargames and military exercises. This essay is intended to generate discussion of wargaming’s use and problems, and to provoke the generation of new and better proposals. As such it contains opinion and academic reflection. The paper discusses wargames, their many different types, their practical uses, and some of the dangers or pitfalls that arise when wargames are used in order to generate useful outputs. The intention is to promote debate rather than to assert any definite conclusions.

Peter Perla, “Wargaming and The Cycle of Research and Learning,Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

Some thirty years ago, I coined the concept of the Cycle of Research, which described how wargaming, exercises and analysis, coupled with real-world operations and history, have worked together in concert to help the national-security community to understand better political-military reality and its past and future evolutions. When first proposed, I had in mind the uses of Wargaming in the analytical context, or what the community of professional wargamers most often calls research wargaming. Over the years, however, I began to recognize how much the same integration of tools and techniques can—and should—influence education and training for national-security professionals, both uniform and civilian: In essence, a Cycle of Learning. In this paper I explore these ideas more fully. I hope these musings can be of some help and inspiration for future researchers to probe deeper into the application of all our tools in the critically important task of educating future leaders. That task can be made more successful by using wargaming to help structure a framework for PME that integrates the inspiration, instruction, and application of the key knowledge and habits of mind—the mental muscle memory—required to operate effectively in the real world and to demonstrate those characteristics in the game, whatever form that may take.

Phillip Pournelle, “The need for cooperation between wargaming and modeling & simulation for examining Cyber, Space, Electronic Warfare, and other topics,” The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology (first online August 2022).

I was asked by the editorial board of this publication to present my views of the need for cyber wargaming. Many of you will have read the excellent article written by colleague and friend Harrison Schramm in the April issue. I am in violent agreement with him and this editorial should be considered an explication and extension of what he wrote.

Wargaming of Cyber, Space, Electronic Warfare, and other phenomena related to warfare must remain part of the toolkit of the defense analytic community because of many factors. For this editorial, I will use Cyber operations as my primary example, but I’m certain the readers can apply many of the same criteria to Space, Electronic Warfare, and other less well understood phenomena. Wargaming is often the best tool for initial examination of cyber because cyber operations exist primarily in a human-created domain that is not well mapped; cyber is dominated by human choices; cyber operations are about manipulating information which informs human decision-making; cyber operations themselves may be examined or adjudicated using M&S, but such efforts are highly classified and so analysis is devoted to their effects mostly on humans; cyber “weapons” often take years to build, but their effects arise in microseconds; and, most importantly, cyber operations can have whole of society impacts which the operator may or may not have intended. We will examine each of these issues in some detail and then address what does good wargaming look like in addressing cyber operations. …

Carsten F. Roennfeldt, “Foreword to the Special Issue on Military Exercises and Wargaming In Professional Military Education,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

This foreword provides the context for introducing the 11 articles constituting this Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies’ special issue on the topic of military exercises and educational wargaming. It does so by describing the subject matter and the research project that made this publication possible. It also brings to the fore two assumptions that underpin the project. First, how critical officer competence is to national defense; without it even the most well-equipped armed forces will crumble when put to the test. Second, it illustrates the educational value that military exercises and wargames provide in developing officer competence by situating military students within a professionally relevant, engaging and challenging learning environment that mirrors realistic scenarios they will encounter, but without the risk associated.

Carsten F. Roennfeldt , Daniel E. Helgesen, and Bjørn Anders Hoffstad Reutz, “Developing Strategic Mindsets with Matrix Games,” Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

This article forms part of the Norwegian Defence University College’s broader research and development project to explore the utilities and potential of a wide range of wargames and military exercises in professional military education. We present a specific matrix game, Game MONUSCO, named for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and designed at the Norwegian Military Academy to develop the strategic mindsets of military students. The article introduces prominent literature on matrix games, to which it adds an elaborated account on the way post-play discussions are exploited to help students gain specific and general educational learning outcomes. Central to this effort, and a novel contribution to the literature, is a strategic-bridge model. This model, informed by Daniel Kahneman’s seminal work on intuitive and analytical thinking, promotes a strategic mindset compatible with NATO doctrines. In addition, we argue military students gain professionally relevant experiences by repeatedly applying theoretical knowledge to solve the kind of practical problems matrix games can generate. This serves to aid and improve the making of informed decisions. Game-experiences also help these future officers to become familiar with chance, uncertainty, and other crucially important features of the military profession. Preliminary evaluations indicate matrix games to be a valuable educational method for the achievement of such learning outcomes in professional military education and suggest the method can be relevant for other professional studies as well.

Amanda Rosen, “Simulations and Games to Teach Conflict and Political Violence,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of International Studies (2022).

There are seven key considerations for instructors and scholars using simulations and games (SAGs) to teach conflict and political violence: learning outcomes, conflict stage, scenario choice, role assignment, time required, gameplay mechanics, and postgame reflection. In each of these areas, there is a new typology or categorization in an effort to provide a standard language for work in this field moving forward—an essential effort as SAGs grow in acceptance in the college classroom. Learning outcomes are divided into content and skills, while there are five stages of conflict: preconflict, crisis response, active conflict, war termination, and postconflict. Scenario choice ranges from historical and contemporary simulations grounded in the “real world” to fictional, representative, and abstract exercises. Considerations for role assignment include whether roles are necessary, the level of analysis of different roles, and how to conduct simulations in large classes, while “time required” divides exercises by their level of intensity. Gameplay mechanics divide SAGs by those with board game–style mechanics, those that involve negotiation plus round-based actions, and those that focus on negotiations to craft agreements. Finally, postgame reflection considers the value and drawbacks of conducting formal assessment of SAGs. More work is needed to create simulations focused on individual authors, increased attention to adapting physical classroom games for the online and hybrid environment, more authenticity in simulation design, diversifying the student experience in simulations, and creating common criteria for effective simulations to teach conflict and political violence.

Brian Stewart, Deterrence Through Entanglement, PhD thesis, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology (August 2022).

… I challenge the logic of disentanglement and offer a theory of deterrence through entanglement. I argue that potential adversaries understand that attacks against entangled NC3 systems affect both nuclear and conventional missions and as such, expect that attacks against these vital national assets could be met with the harshest possible response, up to and including nuclear retaliation. With entangled space systems, a potential adversary must be willing to accept strategic consequences even if they only seek tactical objectives, so the cost-benefit calculus for decision makers should ultimately favor deterrence. Continuing this logic, I argue that disentangling NC3 systems could make conventional versions of the systems less dangerous targets and therefore more susceptible to attack. By lowering the expected costs and expected severity of retaliation for attacks, an adversary could be more willing to target disentangled NC3 space systems.

I test my theory with novel experimental wargaming scenarios and an elite sample survey that feature entanglement as the independent variable (IV) and operationalize deterrence as a dependent variable (DV), as measured through attacks against space systems. I also conducted a public opinion survey to gauge perceptions about space system attacks again using entanglement as the IV. The wargaming sessions were conducted with undergraduate and graduate students at the Georgia Institute of Technology and provide strong support to my theory of deterrence through entanglement. The wargaming sessions demonstrated that entanglement deterred attacks against space systems better than disentanglement, with entangled systems a third as likely to be attacked as disentangled systems.

Not only were entangled systems less likely to be attacked, when they were attacked, attacks were less severe than with disentangled systems. Based on both quantitative and qualitative data, entangled systems often carried too high a risk of escalation to justify attacks whereas disentangled systems were viewed as safer options and were attacked more frequently and with more severe methods. Entanglement also appeared to deter attacks in general; out of 20 teams that did not conduct any attacks during the wargaming sessions, 18 were from the entangled treatment. …

Dagfinn Vatne, Mona Guttelvik, Alf Christian Hennum and Stein Malerud, “Wargaming for the Purpose of Knowledge Development: Lessons Learned from Studying Allied Courses Of Action,”Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies (September 2022).

We present a series of four wargames intended to improve our ability to analyze the alliance aspect of Norwegian military operations. We discuss the objectives, the set-up, and the lessons learned. The wargames proved to be very helpful in discovering gaps in our knowledge concerning specific types of military operations and systems, and pointed at shortcomings of our scenario portfolio. They also highlighted more general methodological aspects such as the importance of explicitly stating basic premises. We argue that wargames are a useful tool for assessing one’s own knowledge, challenging current opinions, and improving one’s analytic methods.

David Wästerfors, “Sad and Absurd Representations of War in Gameplay and Interviews,” Cultural Sociology (2022).

There is a vivid interest in so-called epimilitary narratives of war that depart from heroic themes and zoom out from the armed forces. This article joins this direction by analyzing two variants of cultural narratives of the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina during the 1990s and the siege of Sarajevo: the videogame This War of Mine and Bosnian citizens’ personal stories told in qualitative interviews. Both variants portray war as an uncontrollable condition devoid of grand meanings, as an arena for survival skills and moral work rather than heroic deeds or moral tests, and as an object for detailed analysis rather than categorical positioning. To highlight this type of narrative across diverse manifestations may sensitize researchers to capture how the mundane and emotional content of war is articulated outside political scripts.

Kangyu Wu, Mingyu Liu, Peng Cui and Ya Zhang, “A Training Model of Wargaming Based on Imitation Learning and Deep Reinforcement Learning,”  Proceedings of 2022 Chinese Intelligent Systems Conference (2022)

This paper proposes an intelligent game confrontation model for a wargame based on imitation learning and deep reinforcement learning, given light of the supremacy of reinforcement learning for training in complex environments. In the context of simulating the battle between the red team and the blue team, a pre-training model based on expert empirical data is produced using imitation learning, and a TD3 algorithm based on the attention mechanism is further designed to build an experience pool using priority experience replay. Finally, the model is enhanced using the self-play approach to increase its training efficiency. Experiments conducted after training demonstrate that the model has a superior training impact, and the winning rate in simulation training is enhanced by 8% compared to the original model.

A critical look at serious game design

Yes, PAXsims does memes.

A new online-first article in Simulation & Gaming by Kristy de Salas (University of Tasmania) et al should be required reading for all serious game designers. In it, she and her colleagues undertook a systematic review of the English-language literature on “gameful interventions to improve behaviour related to environmental outcomes” published between 2015 and 2020. Only original, peer-reviewed articles on digital games were included. With these criteria 52 relevant papers identified and assessed.

What did they find? The article is paywalled, so I’ll excerpt some key findings below.

Regarding the types and contexts of pro-environmental games being developed, our study identified that the environmentally oriented gameful interventions were split between those classifying themselves as gamification – the use of game elements within a non-entertainment context – and serious games – full games designed for a behavioural outcome. While both gamification and serious games aim to influence a player to achieve a desired behaviour, the processes to achieve this outcome are vastly different in gamification and serious games, and clarity in classifying these interventions is important (Coreaxis, 2020). For example, within an environmental context, the intention of serious games is to directly improve long-term pro-environmental behaviours in a target group, whereas gamification aims to alter the attitude of a player – for example, increasing a player’s motivation and engagement towards participating in a short-term pro-environmental activity (Aubert et al., 2018). It is not the intention of gamification to influence long-term behaviour directly.

In reviewing these insights, we learn that designers with desires towards longer-term behavioural outcomes may be relying on a gamification model in the hope of bringing about change, despite the increasingly large volume of literature reporting its failure as an effective long-term strategy (dating back to 2011) (Bogost, 2015). This is of concern, for if we design gameful interventions with inaccurate underlying assumptions (i.e. believing that gamification in itself will bring about long-term change), outcomes will likely be compromised.

…there was a distinct absence of behavioural model informed design, justification for the use of these specific intervention functions, and the assessment of their affordability, practicability, effectiveness, acceptability, safety and equity. This is of particular concern as intervention design theory tells us that it is important to consider these design elements in order to make effective choices about which intervention functions are most appropriate or have the best potential chance of success in bringing about change in a particular context (Michie, Hyder et al., 2011). This lack of reporting on the consideration and application of design theory in our reviewed studies mirrors the limitations identified in other studies (Akl et al., 2010; Alanne, 2016; Alessandra et al., 2019; Battistella & von Wangenheim, 2016; Bodnar et al., 2016; da Silva et al., 2019; Farcas & Szamoskozi, 2016; Hersh et al., 2018; Lämsä et al., 2018; Leal et al., 2018; Mora et al., 2017; Osatuyi et al., 2018). This further reinforces the call for more thorough articulation of the current state of design to ensure best-practice design is being employed to bring about the target change.

Of further concern was the apparent lack of any articulated exploration of the appropriateness of games to their target audience. Designers of these gameful interventions were following the example of others trying to improve environmental outcomes, with only half of the studies describing the inclusion of any specific selection of specific behaviour change techniques to the improvement of either the capability, the opportunity or the motivation of the target audience to achieve the target behaviour or to engage with a game as the delivery mechanism, as is recommended by intervention design theory (Michie, Hyder et al., 2011). Rather, designers’ perceptions of games being efficient and low-cost approaches to achieve pro-environmental outcomes were the driving force for the intervention design rather than being informed by their suitability for the target audience. This finding mirrors that found by others when games are introduced for behaviour change outcomes in various disciplines (see, for example, Sharifzadeh et al., 2020).

Only one of our reviewed studies included the subject-matter expertise of environmental scientists, and only three included the discipline expertise of behavioural intervention designers, with the majority being developed by technological experts. This style of design team composition is consistent with practice recorded in much technology-informed intervention design in which design is often given over to technical developers (Salah et al., 2014); however, it is counter to best-practice user-centred design practice that suggests the need for multidisciplinary expertise in design teams to support the development of useful and usable interventions and systems (Gurses & Xiao, 2006; O’Brien et al., 2003).

Interestingly, despite the technical focus of the majority of gameful intervention development teams as just described, our reviewed papers included little to describe the influences on, and practice of, the technical design process of the interventions. Consequently, comparisons cannot be drawn across the design methodologies of the studies.

The extent of our knowledge from these design descriptions is limited to an understanding that these interventions were designed as mobile and web-based games that included traditional games elements such as points, levels, loot, feedback and badges to incentivise players.

Our reviewed papers did not sufficiently report the reasoning for incorporating specific game elements and difficulties arise therefore in determining the impact of reported game elements on a conceptual level such as the difference between implementing tasks and challenges. This lack of design description inhibits our opportunities to identify those elements of games and their design that have direct impact of the achievement of the targeted behavioural outcomes, a finding that is mirrored by other authors calling for more description in design to better inform the future design decisions of others

A further limitation to gaining a comprehensive understanding of the usefulness of games to bring about pro-environmental behavioural change is that not all reviewed studies undertook an evaluation of their intervention.

For those studies that did include an evaluation of their gameful intervention, a range of outcomes were reported across them, with the largest single proportion (28%) of studies reporting a positive change in either the target behaviour or the achievement of participant motivation towards conducting the target behaviour, followed by equal studies indicating mixed results or no difference (28%).

Difficulties arise in attempts to understand the differences in these reported outcomes as these results are influenced by many factors, including the range of outcomes being measured (including effectiveness, ease of use and usefulness); the nature of the data being collected (including survey and questionnaires, player metrics and interviews) and the range of evaluation tools (including single experiments with no control conditions, randomised control trials, observational studies and focus groups…

They conclude:

In this article, 52 articles reporting on gameful interventions were reviewed to determine the scope of games to support pro-environmental outcomes, the design of these systems and the evaluation of these interventions towards supporting the needs of the target audience. Our review has identified a lack of comprehensive articulation of the behavioural design elements to guide the intervention, including an absence of information regarding the process undertaken to gain an understanding the target behaviour and audience; a lack of justification for the selection of intervention functions and a failure to substantiate the use of a game as an appropriate delivery mode for the intervention.

We further identified that the reviewed gameful intervention designs do not include (or at least fail to articulate) best-practice activities such as multidisciplinary team composition, user-centred design or iterative design and feedback. In fact, the papers yield very little insight into the technical development practices of these interventions.

The reports use a range of primary measures, data collection tools and data sources to report on the outcomes of their interventions. This heterogeneity further limits opportunities for comparison.

In conclusion, our review of these 52 articles reporting on pro-environment gameful interventions has highlighted that despite the reported full or partial achievement of the goals of the interventions across these reviewed articles, we cannot yet be convinced that gameful interventions included in this specific review

•have been designed according to best-practice intervention design – including practices to understand the existing behaviour and the likelihood of changing that behaviour;

• have been designed according to best-practice technology development – including multidisciplinary teams and user-centred design;

• have considered thoroughly why a game is the most suitable delivery mechanism for the intervention;

• have selected evidence-based behaviour change techniques and mapped those to specific game elements within the design to ensure these act as ‘active ingredients’ of the intervention and

• are being evaluated based on best practice and can therefore report confidently on evidence-based outcomes of short-term engagement (in gamification interventions) or long-term behaviour change (in serious game interventions.

We suggest that future articles on gameful interventions should present information regarding their intervention design, and justification for their design choices, both behaviourally and technologically. In doing so, future reports on gameful interventions can better contribute to our body of knowledge on best-practice intervention design and evaluation practices, further contributing to the successful adoption of such interventions and the achievement of positive behavioural outcomes.

It’s a quite scathing critique—and one, I am confident, that applies to almost all serious gaming, including professional wargaming. Only in medical simulation and gaming, I think, do we see somewhat greater attention to some of these issues.

I would add that the problem may be even deeper than this, because I’m not confident that all of the literature on gaming, learning, and behavioural change rests on especially strong theoretical foundations. All too often, when designers or researchers invoke a theoretical paradigm, it is little more than a typology weakly supported by empirical research (such as the oft-cited “learning styles”).

Review: Forging Wargamers

Sebastian Bae, ed., Forging Wargamers: A Framework for Wargaming Education (Marine Corps University Press, 2022). Free online.

Over the past decade or so there has been growing attention the value of wargaming in professional military education (for example, here and here and here and here and here and here, among many others). Sebastian Bae has already contributed a great deal to these debates, including as Chair for the Connections US 2021 “Wargaming for education” working group. This edited volume further advances the discussion. What’s more, it is available for free online.

Forging Wargamers consists of an introduction and conclusion by the editor, plus nine chapters by various professional wargamers. The core challenge is highlighted at the outset by Bae:

…wargames have proliferated and evolved into the robust commercial game industry and a vibrant professional wargaming field focused on analysis and education.7

But this begs the question: How does one become a wargamer, whether as a player, sponsor, analyst, or designer?

When most professional wargamers are asked how they enter the field of designing or using wargames for the study of conflict, most if not all will sheepishly offer some form of, “I stumbled into it.” This author counts themselves among the ranks who serendipitously wandered onto the path of the war- gamer. Unfortunately, the prevalence of wargamers produced by convenient accidents is not a rarity but a consequence of there being no formal system to produce them. The absence of an established talent pipeline for wargaming—whether as participants, sponsors, analysts, or designers—risks making the wargaming field increasingly small and insular. Within the military, wargaming experience among officers is principally constrained to resident professional military education (PME) and select assignments directly engaged with wargaming as part of the analytical cycle. For the enlisted force, wargaming is tragically a rare commodity largely constrained to enterprising individuals’ use of commercial wargames and tactical decision games (TDGs) for unit-based training.8 The current wargaming enterprise remains piecemeal and disjointed at best; small islands of excellence tangentially connected to one another.

Each of the authors addresses one or more of three major themes: cultivating wargamers, applying wargaming for education, and educating external stakeholders on the value of wargaming. Some provide case studies of how wargames have been used in PME. Others address the challenge of developing the next generation of military wargamers, the skills required, and the synergies between professional wargaming and commercial/hobby game designers. Several authors address how best to institutionalize an expanded role for educational wargaming, building a constituency that will sustain it on an ongoing basis. The various contributions are thoughtful and well-informed.

In the conclusion, Bae highlights the urgency of all this:

The question of developing wargaming expertise is not a sterile academic inquiry, but a pressing imperative with potentially dire consequences. The wargaming community is rapidly approaching an inflection point, where titans of the field are steadily retiring, and the subsequent generation is struggling to fill the void. Meanwhile, even within the Department of Defense (DOD), wargaming remains hampered by misconceptions, prejudices, and a lack of understanding of wargaming’s utility and limitations.

As he notes, there is much to be done. However, Forging Wargamers is undoubtedly an important step in the right direction.

Henåker: Decision-making style and victory in battle

Comparative Strategy has just published a piece by Lars Henåker (Swedish Defence University) entitled “Decision-making style and victory in battle—Is there a relation?” In it he reports on a series of experimental wargames which examined the relationship between general decision-making styles and tactical victory:

Can decision-making styles impact victory and defeat in armed conflicts? To answer the question of whether decision-making styles are linked to the victories and defeats of individual tacticians, this study utilizes five general decision-making styles: Rational, Intuitive, Dependent, Avoidant and Spontaneous. The aim of this study is to examine whether one or several of the general decision-making styles (GDMS) have an impact on tactical outcomes in wargames. A total of 104 officers and academics participated in the study. The study’s foremost conclusion is that the Dependent style is significantly connected to defeat in the wargame’s dueling set up.

The participants were 104 officers from the Swedish Defence University in Stockholm and in the Swedish Armed Forces (Skövde Garrison), ranging in rank from Lieutenant to Colonel. The study found little relationship between decision-making styles and wargame outcomes except in the case of the “dependent” style.

The Dependent decision-making style is typified by individuals who seek advice and guidance from others prior to making important decisions. This style adversely impacts the capacity for innovative behavior and creativity for the same reason as the Rational decision-making style. The Dependent decision style is also affiliated with a reduced ability to complete a thought process (e.g., a decision-making process) without being distracted by irrelevant thoughts. Individuals with a Dependent decision style tend to desire to solve quandaries rather than avoid them, although they also have a tendency to doubt their own ability to find a solution.10 A study by Alacreu-Crespo et al. pos- ited that the Dependent decision style is strongly associated with the need for emo- tional and instrumental support. The Dependent decision style encompasses individuals with socially open and constructive natures, as well as passive and anxious individuals.11

The author goes on to conclude:

One reasonable interpretation is that an individual with a Dependent decision-making style requires more tactics at their disposal and more time to make good decisions. If the individual’s decision-making style is regarded partly as acquired and habitual behavior, and identified when an individual is confronted with a decision situation, we can assume that practical training would reduce a tactician’s need for time and external support. Furthermore, studies should be conducted on how a group of tacticians would manage against another group of tacticians in the corresponding circumstances. It seems reasonable to suggest that decision-style tests be used as a tool for increased self-awareness among military officers, although it is probably too soon to use decision-style tests as a recruit- ment tool.

Finally, we can now pose the question: what practical benefits can we derive from the insight that the Dependent decision-making style adversely impacts the outcome of a dynamic, complex and high-pace environment? The simple answer is that tacticians with a Dependent decision-making style should not have first-call responsibility for making quick decisions during battle, or there would be a risk that decisions are made too slowly in relation to an opponent. However, the study does not indicate whether tacticians with a Dependent decision-making style will function positively or negatively as a member of the group, e.g., staff member, under extreme stress with incomplete decision data.

Simulation and gaming publications, January-June 2022

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. Others might address “gaming-adjacent” issues such as group dynamics and decision-making, assessment, forecasting, or related topics. If you have published something recently and we haven’t yet included it, let us know!

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

Braun, Luke et al. “Quantifying a State’s Reputation in the Strategic Competition and Crisis Wargame for the Center for Army Analysis,” Proceedings of the Annual General Donald R. Keith Memorial Conference (April 2022).

The Center for Army Analysis (CAA) developed the Strategic Competition and Crisis wargame to capture how modern military competition operates in today’s world. The CAA tasked our interdisciplinary team with developing a more robust, well-rounded reputation model for quantifying a state’s reputation based on another state’s perspective using each of our respective specialties within Systems Engineering, Defense and Strategic Studies, and Operations Research. The team leveraged tools within the Systems Decision Process to quantify the theoretical, intangible concept of reputation. Research began with a qualitative value model based on expert stakeholder analysis and a literature review. The team then identified value measures to build a swing weight matrix that produced a reputation score for each state from another state’s perspective. That score, alongside an enhanced Game User Interface, can now be integrated into the existing SC2 wargame to provide a more complete, narrative experience that charts player decisions throughout the game.

Chen, Sarah, “An Analysis of Cyber Wargaming: Current Games, Limitations, and Recommendations” (2022). Claremont McKenna College Senior Theses.

Cyberspace operations and conflict pose a unique challenge to decision-makers due to the uncertainty and unpredictability of cyber capabilities. Relying on wargaming literature, public cyber wargame reports, and expert interviews, this thesis analyzes the utility of cyber wargaming for education and analysis. Cyber wargames offer a method of testing, exploring, and understanding cyberspace through the abstraction and representation of cyber tools and attack cycles.

The thesis begins by examining cyber conflict and theorizes hypothetical wargame use cases. It then creates a framework for cyber wargaming elements and examines the design of eleven analytical wargames, eight educational wargames, and three commercial games according to this model. Lastly, the paper looks at the limitations and problems of cyber wargaming, relying on interviews with wargame designers, and suggests solutions going forward for future cyber wargame design and publication.

Davis, Paul and Bracken, Paul. “Artificial intelligence for wargaming and modeling,” Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology (2022).

In this paper, we discuss how artificial intelligence (AI) could be used in political-military modeling, simulation, and wargaming of conflicts with nations having weapons of mass destruction and other high-end capabilities involving space, cyberspace, and long-range precision weapons. AI should help participants in wargames, and agents in simulations, to understand possible perspectives, perceptions, and calculations of adversaries who are operating with uncertainties and misimpressions. The content of AI should recognize the risks of escalation leading to catastrophe with no winner but also the possibility of outcomes with meaningful winners and losers. We discuss implications for the design and development of families of models, simulations, and wargames using several types of AI functionality. We also discuss decision aids for wargaming, with and without AI, informed by theory and exploratory work using simulation, history, and earlier wargaming.

de Rosa, Francesca and Strode, Christopher. “Games to support disruptive technology adoption: the MUST Game use case,” International Journal of Serious Games 9, 2 (June 2022).

Serious games can be used as a means to explore complex systems and uncertainty related challenges, therefore they may have the potential of supporting the adoption of innovative and disruptive technologies. In this paper we present the use case of the Maritime Unmanned Systems Trust (MUST) Game, which goal is to capture beliefs, attitude and perspectives of the participants with respect to the employment of maritime unmanned systems (MUS) in the maritime domain. This novel game aims at better understanding the relation between trust factors and MUS. Moreover, it explores how players make decisions with respect to MUS deployments in an increasing threat scenario. This allows to capture important information on the trade-offs related to MUS use that have an impact on maritime missions planning activities (e.g., endurance, logistics, maintenance, cost, number of assets, security and type of assets). This paper describes the game and an analysis of the outcomes of its deployment. The results show how the MUST Game design has been effective in eliciting constructive discussion around the use of MUS in maritime missions, as well as in the collection of assessments and decisions, which are currently being used in algorithmic development.

Lee, Donghwan et al. “ICSTASY: An Integrated Cybersecurity Training System for Military Personnel,” IEEE Access (2022).

Cyberwarfare can occur at any moment, anywhere on the planet, and it happens more often than we realize. The new form of warfare is wreaking havoc on not only the military but also on every aspect of our daily lives. Since cybersecurity has only recently established itself as a critical element of the military, the military community relies heavily on the private sector to ensure cyber mission assurance. Given the military’s secrecy, such reliance may increase the danger of mission degradation or failure. To address this issue, the military has attempted to build a dedicated cybersecurity training system for the purpose of internalizing cybersecurity training. However, existing cybersecurity training systems frequently lack comprehensive support for effective and efficient cybersecurity training. In this study, we propose ICSTASY, a scenario-based, interactive, and immersive cybersecurity training platform that supports a variety of training features holistically. The primary requirements and design principles required to overcome the challenges inherent in developing a cyber training system were offered based on a review of prior work. Through the demonstration of our prototype, we have proven the feasibility of efficient and truly realistic cyber training, not only for the military environment but also for the private sector.

Fielder, James. “Ghosts of the Titanomachy: Structure, Commitment, Economics, and Risk as Causal Mechanisms in an Online Battle,” Simulation & Gaming (2022).

In January 2014 over seven thousand EVE Online players engaged in a 21-h battle that came to be known as the Battle of B-R5RB, in which an estimated $330,000 of virtual property was destroyed, calculated in real U.S. dollars as measured by time.

To discern why players were willing to commit time and resources to fight in a large-scale virtual battle, which in turn informs how players perceive risk and develop large-scale emergent political structures.

Drawing from multiple case history and journalism reports on the Battle of B-R5RB, the author combines the inductive ideographic case study approach and process tracing method to uncover key causal mechanisms.

The author inductively theorizes that the Battle of B-R5RB resulted from the Null-Sec’s anarchic structure, player commitment to their respective Corporations, measurable economic value, and risk associated with permanent loss. These mechanisms closely align with the offensive realism and anarchy.

Discussion and conclusion
The Battle of B-R5B is a relevant example of real-world emergent political behavior developing in a virtual world setting. Analysis of this single battle suggests that players are willing to project actual value onto virtual assets. Perception of value is magnified in virtual worlds lacking overt governance or security structures. Players must form groups to mitigate risk, and the greater the risk, the greater the commitment to the group.

Filho, Geraldo Mulato De Lima et al. “Optimization of Unmanned Air Vehicle Tactical Formation in War Games,” IEEE Access 10 (2022).

War game simulations are decision-making tools that may provide quantitative data about the scenario analyzed by stakeholders. They are widely used to develop tactics and doctrines in the military context. Recently, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) have become a relevant element in these simulations because of their prominent role in contemporary conflicts, surveillance missions, and search and rescue missions. For instance, it is possible to admit aircraft losses from a tactical formation in favor of the victory of a squadron in a given combat scenario. The optimization of the position of UAVs in beyond visual range (BVR) combat has attracted attention in the literature, considering that the distribution of UAVs can be a determining factor in this scenario. This work aims to optimize UAV tactical formations considering enemy uncertainties such as firing distance and position using six metaheuristics and a high-fidelity simulator. A tactical formation often employed by air forces called line abreast was chosen for the RED swarm for a case study. The objective of the optimization is to obtain a tactical formation of the BLUE swarm that wins the BVR combat against the RED swarm. A procedure to confirm the robustness of the optimization is employed, varying the position of each UAV of the RED swarm up to 8 km from its initial configuration and using the war game approach. A tactical analysis is performed to confirm whether the formations found in the optimization are applicable.

Goehlert, Timothy. How Professors Implement Game-Based Learning in Higher Education Courses: A Thematic Analysis, Phd thesis, Endicott College, April 2022.

No abstract available.

Haun, Phil and O’Hara, Michael. “The Brinkmanship Game: Bargaining Under the Mutual Risk of Escalation,” Journal of Political Science Education (2022).

This article describes a simple two-player game which illustrates basic concepts of brinkmanship, to include calculations of probability and expected outcomes, and risk-taking profiles. The game befits a single 50-minute class period with introduction, gameplay, and discussion. The game can supplement the study of conflict from classic Cold War case studies of crisis bargaining, to arms control, or negotiating international protocols for global climate change such as the Paris Agreement. The Brinkmanship Game was developed for the seventh week of a 10-week graduate course called Game Theory and Decisionmaking: Exploring Strategic Situations. The course features a flipped classroom with class time devoted to experimentation, gameplay, and discussion of readings and games; lectures are online. The Brinkmanship Game would be appropriate for students in any advanced undergraduate or graduate level course in international relations, security studies, negotiation, or game theory. The Brinkmanship Game provides an active learning opportunity that can be valuable for encouraging students to come to their own understanding of concepts of mutual risk-taking. The authors have found the game to be effective in the classroom and hope it may prove valuable to those searching for ways to motivate students and to help them learn.

Hirst, A. “Wargames Resurgent: The Hyperrealities of Military Gaming from Recruitment to Rehabilitation,” International Studies Quarterly 66, 3 (2022).

While games are commonly viewed as frivolous fun, their rapid proliferation across the US defense establishment compels us to think again. Spanning spheres as diverse as total immersion training, near-peer/cyber conflict, and future force strategies, a gaming renaissance is currently underway across the US military. Surprisingly, given international relations’ (IR) interest in the production and projection of military power, the discipline has neglected to engage with this revival. This article argues that hyperreal games—that is, games that produce realities—play an increasingly important role in the attraction, production, management, and recovery of warfighters. Drawing upon one hundred hours of interviews undertaken with US military games designers, trainers, trainees, and veterans between 2017 and 2019, the article documents first-hand experiences of hyperreal gaming in warfighter recruitment, training, deployment, and rehabilitation. The core argument developed is that unlike simulations, which model scenarios, games are productive of people, values, and identity. If it is to understand games’ use as a tool of warfighter subjectification, the article argues, IR must renew its focus on military gaming disaggregated from the broader hyperrealities of modeling, simulation, and exercises with which it has hitherto been conflated.

Huang, Jun; Wu, Pengfei; Li, Xiaobao. “Research on Dynamically Corrective Hit Probability Model of Anti-air Missile Integrated in War Game System,” Engineering Letters 30 2 (June 2022).

The hit probability model is an essential performance measure for anti-air missiles, aircraft, and guided targets in different combat situations and environments. A combination of analytical and numerical fitting methods is proposed to meet the requirements of war game systems including being real-time and accurate. In this approach, a dynamically corrected hit probability model is obtained for the anti-air missiles for which the corrections are made on the distance, speed, and maneuverability correction for the aircraft target. With this method, corrections are also made on the penetrating altitude of the aircraft and guided targets, countering azimuth angle for the guided targets, and terminal maneuverability and echo or infrared signal characteristics correction for the guided targets. After that, war game case analyses show that the proposed hit probability correction method are successfully operated in real-time with a model accuracy which is 6% higher than that of existing models.

Jensen , Benjamin;  Lin, Bonny;  Ramos , Carolina. “Shadow Risk: What Crisis Simulations Reveal about the Dangers of Deferring U.S. Responses to China’s Gray Zone Campaign against Taiwan,” CSIS Brief (February 2022).

This brief examines the potential for escalation in Taiwan as a result of China’s gray zone campaigns. Through 20 crisis simulations conducted in Fall 2021, CSIS mapped how and when gray zone scenarios escalate and the implications for U.S. strategy. The research complements earlier efforts to war game crises over Taiwan but takes a new approach by applying social science methods and statistical analysis to identify unique decisionmaking pathologies at play in gray zones. Overall, the simulations hosted by CSIS indicate unique temporal dynamics associated with gray zone escalation with important policy implications. 

Keiser, Nathanael and Arthur, Jr., Winfred. “A Meta-Analysis of Task and Training Characteristics that Contribute to or Attenuate the Effectiveness of the After-Action Review (or Debrief),” Journal of Business and Psychology  (2022).

This study expands on Keiser and Arthur’s (2021) meta-analysis of the after-action review (AAR), or debrief, by examining six additional task and training characteristics that contribute to or attenuate its effectiveness. The findings based on a bare-bones meta-analysis of results from 83 studies (134 ds [955 teams; 4,684 individuals]) indicate that the effectiveness of the AAR (overall d = 0.92) does indeed vary across the pertinent characteristics. The primary impact of this study pertains to the practical implementation of AARs; notably, the findings indicate that the AAR is particularly effective in task environments that are characterized by a combination of high complexity and ambiguity in terms of offering no intrinsic feedback. The types of tasks—often project and decision-making—that more commonly entail these characteristics are frequently used in industries that do not traditionally use the AAR. The results also suggest that more recent variants of the AAR (i.e., a reaction phase, a canned performance review) do not meaningfully add to its effectiveness. These findings are combined with those from prior meta-analyses to derive 11 empirically-based practical guidelines for the use of AARs. In sum, this study highlights the complexity of the AAR that results from the independent and interdependent influence among various components and characteristics, the examination of the effects of novel and ostensibly distinct variants or approaches to AARs, and the extension of AARs to tasks and contexts in which they are less commonly used.

Khan, Manzoor Ahmed et al. “Game-based learning platform to enhance cybersecurity education,” Education and Information Technologies 27 (2022).

Computer security competitions have been playing a significant role in encouraging students to get into cybersecurity, as well as enhancing the cybersecurity education system. The level of difficulty of the computer security tasks could be intimidating for most students and learners, one of the reasons there has been a shortage of cybersecurity professionals, in addition to that the lack of technical training and materials. The risks posed by the cyberattacks keep constantly evolving that positions the cybersecurity education as constantly changing area, which are at times hard to teach. Furthermore, the cybersecurity laboratories are hard to setup and the assessment tools are not accurate. This obviously impacts the proper engagement of students and the learning outcomes. To address these issues, we propose a game-based learning platform to enhance cybersecurity education. The platform applies an adapted ARCS motivational model to design and evaluate different challenges, it includes a virtual lab for students with the necessary tools for practice and a web portal where all challenges and learning materials are hosted. The aim is to help students learn at their own pace about different cybersecurity challenges, give them the opportunity to gain hacking skills with ethics taken in mind in a much safer environment. Learning by solving fun puzzles and playing educational games has a huge impact on students’ performances in cybersecurity. Although the contributed solution is developed for UAE University, we believe it imparts same gains in similar educational institutes.

Lin-Greenberg, Erik; Pauly, Reid; Schneider, Jacquelyn. “Wargaming for International Relations research,” European Journal of International Relations 28, 1 (2022).

Political scientists are increasingly integrating wargames into their research. Either by fielding original games or by leveraging archival wargame materials, researchers can study rare events or topics where evidence is difficult to observe. However, scholars have little guidance on how to apply this novel methodological approach to political science research. This article evaluates how political scientists can use wargames as a method of scholarly inquiry and sets out to establish a research agenda for wargaming in International Relations. We first differentiate wargames from other methodological approaches and highlight their ecological validity. We then chart out how researchers can build and run their own games or draw from archival wargames for theory development and testing. In doing so, we explain how researchers can navigate issues of recruitment, bias, validity, and generalizability when using wargames for research, and identify ways to evaluate the potential benefits and pitfalls of wargames as a tool of inquiry. We argue that wargames offer unique opportunities for political scientists to study decision-making processes both in and beyond the International Relations subfield.

Oggeri Breda, Chiara. Gamification for Improving Cybersecurity, Master’s thesis, Politecnico di Torino, 2022.

This thesis explores gamification and its application to cybersecurity. It is well known that nowa- days the weak link in cybersecurity are humans. On one hand, both for personal and work businesses the connection and the use of devices are needed also for not computer science and cy- bersecurity experts. On the other, the lack of professional figures in the cybersecurity market with precise skills increases the need to train new experts in the field. For these reasons, concentrating the attention on the end users, with the purpose to create a useful education and awareness is important and the thesis proposes gamification as a possible solution.

The work starts to analyse gamification in general with its theories and frameworks. Gamifica- tion uses, in a non-gaming environment, game components and mechanics that involve and engage human attention encouraging a change of behaviour. I started to analyse gamification frameworks and theories to present as fully as possible the mechanics that are the basis of gamification and how it is used to encourage users in actions that are usually considered unpleasant. Most frame- works presented underline the motivators, user journey, rewarding system and in general guidance on the development part of experiences with gamification.

After a general presentation, the work focuses on cybersecurity fields. The work starts to analyse why the use of gamification in this specific field can bring satisfactory results. Therefore, the work starts with literature review. The key elements analysed that gamification should be offered are: immersive learning, increase participation, engagement and change of behaviours. Gamification is presented as a possible solution to counterbalance the limits of the standard training and awareness programs and general education in cybersecurity.

Ouriques, Leandro, Xexéo, Geraldo, and Barbosa, Carlos Eduardo. “A Proposal to Model Wargames in the MDA Framework,” Proceedings of SBGames (2021).

This work aims to define meaningful actions that players can take in a wargame. Starting from the premise that wargames are (serious) games, we wondered if a wargame and its actions could be well modeled as a game. We looked at formal approaches and decided to model wargames in MDA since this framework analyzes the actions in games as mechanics or dynamics. The proposed model links emotions with instincts that may arouse in players with mechanics and dynamics from wargames. Afterward, we indirectly evaluated the model through a survey among wargames experts. Although most research participants agree with the suitability of the proposed mechanics and dynamic, they suggested other actions that players could perform in wargames. The model matched most emotions and instincts selected by the participants and the results allowed us to improve the model mainly in mechanics and dynamics. An important contribution of this work is to recognize the emotions and instincts that are triggered by the dynamics and mechanics of wargames. The participants’ answers on instincts agree with our understanding from the literature, but their answers on emotions contradict some views on wargames. Many participants indicated that wargames can evoke fear, anger and sadness, but wargames have limitations to arouse these emotions in players. Most military see wargames primarily as training activities. However, few participants find enjoyment in wargames.

Park, Song Jun et al. “Deep reinforcement learning to assist command and control,” Proceedings of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (2022).

Multi-domain operations drastically increase the scale and speed required to generate, evaluate, and disseminate command and control (C2) directives. In this work we evaluate the effectiveness of using reinforcement learning (RL) within an Army C2 system to design an artificial intelligence (AI) agent that accelerates the commander and staff’s decision making process. Leveraging RL’s superior ability to explore and exploit produces novel strategies that widen a commander’s decision space without increasing cognitive burden. Integrating RL into an efficient course of action war-gaming simulator and training hundreds of thousands of simulated battles using the DoD supercomputing resources generated an AI that produces acceptable strategic actions during a simulated operation. Moreover, this approach played an unexpected but significant role in strengthening the underlying wargame simulation engine by discovering and exploiting weaknesses in its design. This highlights a future role for the use of RL to test and improve DoD systems during their development.

Parkes, Roderick; McQuay, Mark. “The Use of Games in Strategic Foresight: a Warning from the Future,” (DGAP Policy Brief, 3). Berlin: Forschungsinstitut der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik e.V. (2021).

After a decade of crisis, the EU now routinely uses futures meth- ods to anticipate the unexpected. Its aim is to address its blind spots. This paper details our experience of designing a foresight exercise to help EU diplomats face up to one of the most ingrained types of blind spot: a taboo issue. But our experience showed instead the dangers of such exercises. Far from needing encour- agement to address a taboo, our target audience wanted an excuse to do so, reflecting a shift to a more “geopolitical EU.”

Plotkin, Alex and Plotkin, Barbara. Educational Special Operations Wargame (MA thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, 2021).

The role of special operations is becoming increasingly more critical within Multi-domain Operations (MDO). Special operations forces (SOF) are the predominant persistent military presence globally. SOF will continue to facilitate an accurate understanding of the operational environment for decision makers, shaping the environment to prevent armed conflict and, when necessary, providing a marked advantage for the general-purpose force over an adversary to return to competition quickly. In addition, SOF remains the force of choice for the DOD for countering violent extremist organizations and must balance that responsibility with their role in competition with near-peer adversaries. Currently, U.S. Army Special Warfare and School is modernizing and optimizing each Qualification Course. The Army Special Operations (ARSOF) Captains Career Course (CCC) has recently modified its curriculum to include SOF-specific training to best prepare future ARSOF leaders to employ Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations within the MDO construct. This wargame is designed for the new ARSOF officers who attend the ARSOF CCC. The wargame allows the students to work within a simulated multi-domain environment applying the course curriculum and SOF doctrine within the constraints of the course that has limit time, resources, and personnel. The goal of the wargame is to assist SOF captains as they prepare to take operational teams overseas in operational and combat deployments.

Predd, Joel et al. “Resourcing a Mosaic Force: Lesions from an Acquisition Wargame,” Proceedings of the 19th annual Acquisition Research Symposium (May 2022).

DARPA has an ambitious vision for Mosaic Warfare, conceived by its Strategic Technology Office (STO) leadership as both a warfighting concept and a means to greatly accelerate capability development and fielding. Although the success of Mosaic depends on DARPA advancing multiple technologies, the Mosaic vision is inherently more challenging to “transition” than is a program or technology. Anticipating this challenge, DARPA sponsored RAND to examine the opportunities and challenges associated with developing and fielding a Mosaic force under existing or alternative governance models and management processes, as would be required for the vision to move from DARPA to widespread acceptance by DoD. To this end, RAND designed and executed a policy game that immersed participants in the task of fielding a Mosaic and required them to operate within the authorities, responsibilities, and constraints of the existing and an alternative governance model. This article presents select findings on the capacity of the existing acquisition resourcing system (i.e., the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution [or PPBE] process) to exploit STO’s vision of Mosaic Warfare.

Richman, Jesse; Pitman, Lora; and Nandakumar, Girish. “A Gamefied Synthetic Environment for Evaluation of Counter-Disinformation Solutions,” Journal of Simulation Engineering (2022).

This paper presents a simulation-based approach to developing strategies aimed at countering online disinformation and misinformation. This disruptive technology experiment incorporated a synthetic environment component, based on an adapted Susceptible-Infected-Recovered (SIR) epidemiological model to evaluate and visualize the effectiveness of suggested solutions to the issue. The participants in the simulation were given two realistic scenarios depicting a disinformation threat and were asked to select a number of solutions, described in Ideas-of-Systems (IoS) cards. During the event, the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the IoS cards were tested in a synthetic environment, built after a SIR model. The participants, divided into teams, presented and justified their strategy which included three IoS card selections. A jury of subject matter experts, announced the winning team, based on the merits of the proposed strategies and the compatibility of the different cards, grouped together.

Ryseff, James  and Bond, Michael. “Small is beautiful,The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology (2022).

As the Department of Defense looks toward the future of warfare, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as one of the most important technologies to integrate into the military’s operational capabilities. As the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence notes, the ability for a machine to observe, decide, and act more quickly and more effectively than a human provides a world-altering competitive advantage in any field. Numerous private sector industries have already been upended by this technology and many experts believe that AI will have a similarly transformative effect on national security. As one of the DoD’s primary tools for exploring and evaluating potential courses of action, wargaming has a vital role to play in helping the Defense Department experiment with its ability to integrate AI across the full spectrum of DoD activities. Unfortunately, few wargames have been able to incorporate AI effectively into their own scenarios and gameplay. This is not because DoD wargame designers are luddites trying to protect the last bastion of analog wargaming, but rather because DoD wargames and gaming AI/ML systems currently have different design philosophies which lead unreconciled differences in cost, development time, and design flexibility. To overcome these barriers, we argue that DoD game designers and AI developers should learn from the best practices established by software engineering and switch their focus from building large, monolithic AIs that completely replace human players to small, modular AI-enabled components that augment a human team.

Schoemaker, Paul. Advanced Introduction to Scenario Planning, (Elgar, 2022).

Providing a panoramic overview of the evolving world of scenario planning, this Advanced Introduction uses topical case studies to analyze the developing methodologies of scenario planning. Written by Paul J.H. Schoemaker, a leading authority on the topic, this book synthesizes rigorous theory and practical experiences including best practises, normative views, and future challenges or opportunities for scenario planning.

Scott, Keith. “‘Out Beyond Jointery’: Developing a Model for Gaming Multi- Domain Warfare,” Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Information Warfare and Security (2022).

What Huizinga is saying here is not that conflict is playful, but rather, it is a game, following set rules of conduct and occurs within a defined zone of action. Elsewhere in Homo ludens, he argues that modern warfare operates without the ritualised, rule-based structure of, for example, the mediaeval tourney. The purpose of this paper is to consider the ways in which a model based on the structure of games may help us better engage with the challenges of Multi-Domain Conflict. We are all familiar with the concept of Cyber as the 5th Domain of warfare, but we need to consider it not as a discrete zone, but as running through and interpenetrating the other 4 (Earth, Sea, Air, Space), the informational spine that enables all other forms of conflict. This paper will: 1. Discuss the developing concept of Multi-Domain Conflict as a move ‘beyond jointery’ (as General Sir Nick Carter put it) into a truly integrated form of warfare, blurring and collapsing boundaries between kinetic and non- kinetic, between the services, and between military and civilian authority; 2. Outline a theoretical model for conceptualising Multi-Domain Conflict as gamelike in form, with environments of operation (‘boards’), protagonists (‘players’), and possible forms of action (‘moves’). As befits a conference on Cyber and Information Warfare, it will argue that the D5 model of IW (Deny, Disrupt, Degrade, Deceive and Destroy) is portable and scalable across the other 4 domains (Land, Sea, Air, Space); 3. Show how this theoretical model can be employed both to model and simulate Multi-Domain Conflict; wargames have been a key element of military planning and training for at least a century – this paper argues that we need to develop a new Kriegspiel to better understand coming conflicts.

Seaman, Christopher, and Tran, Thuan. “Intellectual Property and Tabletop Games,” Iowa Law Review 107 (2022).

There is a rich body of literature regarding intellectual property’s (“IP”) “negative spaces”—fields where creation and innovation thrive without significant formal protection from IP law. Scholars have written about innovation in diverse fields despite weak or nonexistent IP rights, such as fashion design, fine cuisine, stand-up comedy, magic tricks, tattoos, and sports plays. Instead, these fields rely on social norms, first- mover advantage, and other (non-IP) legal regimes to promote innovation in the absence of IP protection.

As a comparison to these studies, this Article comprehensively analyzes the role of IP law in facilitating innovation in tabletop gaming, including board games, card games, and pen-and-paper role-playing games. Over the past several decades, the tabletop gaming industry has seen a proliferation of innovation, but there is surprisingly little in the academic literature about IP and tabletop games. IP rights, including patents, copyrights, and trademarks, each protect certain aspects of games, while at the same time being constrained by doctrinal limitations that leave considerable flexibility for others to develop their own games and adapt or improve upon existing ones. There are also numerous examples of user-based innovation in tabletop gaming. This Article concludes by contending that IP rights, as well as their limitations, play a significant role in facilitating the robust innovation presently occurring in the tabletop gaming field.

Seipp, Adam. “Fulda Gap: A board game, West German society, and a battle that never happened, 1975–85,” War & Society (2022).

This article explores the reception of the American-made board game Fulda Gap: The First Battle of the Next War in the Federal Republic of Germany in the early 1980s. The German peace movement used the game, which depicted conventional, chemical, and nuclear war on German territory, as a potent symbol of what they believed to be American and NATO disregard for German lives and sovereignty. The controversy over the game reflected the changing character of German-American relations during the ‘Second Cold War’ and increasing concerns among Germans about the possible consequences of superpower conflict in Central Europe.

Simpson, Joseph and Brantly, Aaron. “Security Simulations in Undergraduate Education: A Review,” m (2022).

Several decades of research in simulation and gamification in higher education shows that simulations are highly effective in improving a range of outcomes for students including declarative knowledge and interest in the topic being taught. While there appears to be a broad array of options to provide education in an undergraduate setting related to security, no previous reviews have explored computer-based simulations covering all facets of security. Given the increasing importance and adoption of interdisciplinary educational programs, it is important to take stock of simulations as a tool to broaden the range of problems, perspectives, and solutions presented to students. Our review provides an overview of computer-based simulations in U.S. undergraduate institutions published in academic journals and conferences. We identify strengths and limitations of existing computer-based simulations as well as opportunities for future research.

Smith, Jeremy, and Barker, Stephen. “Methods to measure and track population perception and support within a manual wargame,” The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology 19, 2 (2022).

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.

Stone, George. “Making simulations future proof,The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology (2022).

No abstract available.

Tarraf, Danielle et al. “An experiment in tactical wargaming with platforms enabled by artificial intelligence,”  The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology (2022).

In this report, researchers experimented with how postulated artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) capabilities could be incorporated into a wargame. We modified and augmented the rules and engagement statistics used in a commercial tabletop wargame to enable (1) remotely operated and fully autonomous combat vehicles and (2) vehicles with AI/ML-enabled situational awareness to show how the two types of vehicles would perform in company-level engagement between Blue (US) and Red (Russian) forces. The augmented rules and statistics we developed for this wargame were based in part on the US Army’s evolving plans for developing and fielding robotic and AI/ML-enabled weapon and other systems. However, we also portrayed combat vehicles with the capability to autonomously detect, identify, and engage targets without human intervention, which the Army does not presently envision. The rules we developed sought to realistically portray the capabilities and limitations of AI/ML-enabled systems, including their vulnerability to selected enemy countermeasures, such as jamming. Future work could improve the realism of both the gameplay and representation of AI/ML-enabled systems, thereby providing useful information to the acquisition and operational communities in the US Department of Defense.

Turnitsa, Charles; Blais, Curtis; and Tolk, Andrea, eds. Simulation and Wargaming (Wiley, 2021).

Based on the insights of experts in both domains, Simulation and Wargaming comprehensively explores the intersection between computer simulation and wargaming. This book shows how the practice of wargaming can be augmented and provide more detail-oriented insights using computer simulation, particularly as the complexity of military operations and the need for computational decision aids increases. 

The distinguished authors have hit upon two practical areas that have tremendous applications to share with one another but do not seem to be aware of that fact. The book includes insights into:

The application of the data-driven speed inherent to computer simulation to wargames

The application of the insight and analysis gained from wargames to computer simulation

The areas of concern raised by the combination of these two disparate yet related fields

New research and application opportunities emerging from the intersection

Addressing professionals in the wargaming, modeling, and simulation industries, as well as decision makers and organizational leaders involved with wargaming and simulation, Simulation and Wargamingoffers a multifaceted and insightful read and provides the foundation for future interdisciplinary progress in both domains.

van der Zwet, Koen  et al. “Promises and pitfalls of computational modelling for insurgency conflicts,” Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology (2022).

Insurgency conflicts pose significant challenges to societies globally. The increase of insurgency conflicts creates a need to understand how insurgencies arise, and to identify societal drivers of insurgencies or effective strategies to counter them. In this paper, we analyze the contributions of computational modeling methods for the analysis of insurgent con- flicts. We formalize a specific literature-based analysis framework using the identified key factors and drivers, which enables the evaluation of specific models in this domain. Through a systematic literature search, we identify 64 computa- tional models to apply our framework. We highlight the development and contributions of various methodologies through an in-depth analysis of 13 high-quality models. The evaluation of these computational models revealed promising directions and future topics to design specific simulation models for all identified factors. In addition, our analysis revealed specific pitfalls concerning validity issues for each of the modeling methods.

Xin, Jin et al. “Uncertainty Based Hybrid-intelligence Multi-branch Wargaming,” 7th International Conference on Computer and Communications (ICCC) (2021).

Uncertainty of war challenges command decision making, especially in the pre-war preparation stage. In newly proposed operational concepts, uncertainty is taken as a means to limit the opponent’s decision-making. How to help commanders analyze and utilize uncertainty has become a technical challenge that must be overcome to win the future combats. In this paper, a method called hybrid-intelligence multi-branch wargaming was proposed. Through combination of human intelligence in form of knowledge, and machine intelligence trained by reinforcement learning, the method realized new functions of COA evaluation and optimization analysis. Its feasibility and effectiveness has been verified through prototype development and experiments. It provides a short-term feasible way for the application of artificial intelligence technology in the field of command decision-making.

Sepinsky and Bae: Wargaming is about the process, not the result

In Foreign Policy magazine, Jeremy Sepinsky and Sebatian Bae discuss the use, utility, and limits of wargaming as an analytic tool, using as an example a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

This is the kind of narrative most people imagine when they think of military war games—scenes in the bowels of the Pentagon, units fighting digitally on electronic maps, commanders pondering their next step in a fast-moving crisis. Victory in the simulation, so the popular imagination goes, shows how to win a real-life conflict. Defeat in a war game, on the other hand, is an acknowledgement that any actual conflict will likely be lost.

Contrary to the popular imagination, however, this is not how war games work. Rarely is a war game designed to predict the future or develop a single definitive strategy. Instead, a war game helps military planners and analysts explore and understand a complex problem, regardless of the outcome. Win or lose, the purpose isn’t to define a strategy for the U.S. military but to help it better understand the capabilities it has, what it can already do, and what it needs.

Whether it’s Taiwan or any other potential conflict, the scenario is rarely the focus of the war games we at CNA design for the U.S. Defense Department. Instead, war games are about better understanding how the U.S. military can build deterrence, what technology gaps could hobble its forces, how an adversary’s capabilities might evolve in response to U.S. capabilities, and how all that might impact what Washington should invest in today. Fundamentally, war games strive to explore and distill the fundamental nature of the problem itself—which rarely leads to definitive scenarios or solutions.

In fact, using war games to craft a clear-cut strategy is impossible. Done right, war games are a plausible method of providing a brief and limited glimpse into a possible future—a single future in a multiverse of possibilities. Trying to imitate victory in a war game, on the other hand, means trying to align both sides’ future decisions in a complex conflict with the scenario that played out during the game. Obviously, these decisions are numerous and mostly beyond one’s control.

What worked in a single war game has limited utility—it worked against a specific adversary making a specific set of decisions using a specific set of game rules that may or may not accurately reflect the world. Failure, on the other hand, doesn’t require the game to be a perfect simulation. We often hear complaints from players that our war game rules make the adversary “10 feet tall.” But it is better to stress U.S. forces more than to give the adversary too little credit and not stress U.S. forces enough. Stressing the capabilities of the U.S. forces to their breaking point from all sides allows analysts and researchers to identify vulnerabilities and what might be needed to fix them.

They conclude:

So, in a war game, pay no attention to who won or lost. War-gaming is about the process, not the result—and analyzing that process is what will allow the U.S. military to turn losing into winning.

You can read the full article at the link above. For more on wargaming Taiwan, see Drew Marriott’s 2021 summary of recent Taiwan wargames here at PAXsims.

Review: Barnhart, Can You Beat Churchill? Teaching History Through Simulations

Review: Michael A. Barnhart, Can You Beat Churchill? Teaching History Through Simulations (Cornell University Press, 2021). 198pp. $22.95 pb, $14.99 e-book.

This is a fantastic book for a range of educationalists and those seeking to understand the range of value that wargames and/or simulations can contribute to understanding events and the interactions of individuals. 

This book is organised almost as a ‘starter-pack’ for those thinking about using simulations in their courses – whether they are working in further or higher education. The book tackles some of the most difficult issues up front (Chapter 1) – what is the point of conducting simulations? what do they contribute to student learning? and how much time do they take – both the time in the education plan (an afternoon, a week, a semester) and the amount of instructor time they will take to design, organise and run. 

Possibly my favourite line in the whole book is “composing a simulation involves as much preparation as writing a scholarly article, or even a book.” (p.15) For me this sums up the clear-eyed analysis of the value of simulations in teaching – this is not a silver bullet to outstanding student evaluations, they are not the ‘easy route’ to assessment, instead they are likely to be highly demanding both for the students and the instructor. Barnhart is effusive in his praise for the immersive qualities of simulations (especially if you have correctly identified the roles, rules, and requirements) but he is also very pragmatic and practical about the challenges teachers will (and do face) in pulling them off. This balance in the book should also make it a must read for all directors of study / teaching and university deans who seek to pursue agendas that ‘diversify methods of assessment’. 

The practical tips in the book and the questions for consideration that imbue all chapters will be extremely helpful to those who are new to using or playing simulations (I have already recommended the book to some of my colleagues in this position). These practical considerations need to be viewed through the limitations of your own institution – for example, trying to find the ideal room (p.80 onwards) or at least the least-worst room for a simulation will require readers to understand some of the dark arts of university administration and room bookings – easy for some, very hard for others. 

There is an excellent and very well considered discussion throughout the book of some of the most significant challenges for historical simulations: morals, ethics, and engagement. Again, Barnhart does well to identify that there are a range of solutions to some of these questions and these solutions (for example p.54) will depend on your own education context and your students. I would also argue that they depend on the instructor and your personal skills as a games master, increasingly from the perspective of the UK I would also strongly encourage all instructors to have a good and clear conversation with  a university leader that has extensive knowledge of ethical considerations for teaching. 

The book also reflects on the importance of managing the dynamics of different types of students and how they engage. Whilst the book is clear that most students will fully embrace their role and the activity, he is clear that you need strategies to deal with “the student who would not speak” (p.100). These strategies can be built into the game design, but they will also depend on how much you know your students before assigning roles and also the internal group dynamics that emerge between students as the simulation progresses. 

One area where I think the book could have added a chapter would have been on accessibility. That is how to make the materials accessible to a range of students who might have different needs or requirements for engagement – which in term might turn the quiet or shy student into the active dynamic student. I would argue this is even more importance in simulations given their dynamic and all-encompassing nature, the need to consider the speed of interaction, the importance or unimportance of instant recall, the ability to speak rather than write, or indeed write rather than speak in order to interact. Increasingly it is important to draw out these considerations as a part and parcel of the activity of teaching but call all too easily be overlooked. I did exactly that until Sally Davis’s Make me a Dyslexic simulation. 

In the current COVID world, it might also have been helpful to have an endnote – or an acknowledgement of how simulations can be done differently in a hybrid or online teaching situation. But, perhaps this good fodder for the second edition? 

Overall, this is a fantastic book that is a must read for those considering using simulations and is also helpful for those who already do use them and seek to improve their praxis. I would also argue it is a great book to recommend for those who are plagued by questions of the ilk: what is the point of simulations? 

Catherine Jones, University of St. Andrews

Simulation and gaming publications, September-December 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. Others might address “gaming-adjacent” issues such as group dynamics and decision-making, assessment, forecasting, or related topics. If you have published something recently and we haven’t yet included it, let us know!

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

Brown, Patrick. “Flights of Fancy: The Kriegsspiel and the Cinema in Weimar Germany,German Studies Review 44, 3 (October 2021).

No abstract available.

De Fio, Marzio. “Overcoming Complexity of (Cyber)War: The Logic of Useful Fiction in Cyber Exercises Scenarios,” CEUR Workshop Proceedings 2940, 2020.

The paper is an attempt to analyze the logic and the impact of “useful fiction” (or “fictional intelligence”) in cyber exercises scenarios as an approach to prepare for future conflicts. Cyberspace increased the complexity of war phenomenon with its characteristics of artificiality, plasticity, and uncertainty. To overcome this complexity, cyber warriors need to adapt to everchanging scenarios. In this view, the development of a new epistemology of wargaming and cyber exercises could provide a deeper understanding of war and, thus, enhance the capability to cope with this instability. In this framework, fictional intelligence would enrich the research of (un)imaginable phenomena to prevent future threats.

Ackerman, Gary, and Clifford, Douglas. “Red Teaming and Crisis Preparedness,” Oxford Dictionary of Politics, 2021.

Simulations are an important component of crisis preparedness, because they allow for training responders and testing plans in advance of a crisis materializing. However, traditional simulations can all too easily fall prey to a range of cognitive and organizational distortions that tend to reduce their efficacy. These shortcomings become even more problematic in the increasingly complex, highly dynamic crisis environment of the early 21st century. This situation calls for the incorporation of alternative approaches to crisis simulation, ones that by design incorporate multiple perspectives and explicit challenges to the status quo.

As a distinct approach to formulating, conducting, and analyzing simulations and exercises, the central distinguishing feature of red teaming is the simulation of adversaries or competitors (or at least adopting an adversarial perspective). In this respect, red teaming can be viewed as practices that simulate adversary or adversarial decisions or behaviors, where the purpose is informing or improving defensive capabilities, and outputs are measured. Red teaming, according to this definition, significantly overlaps with but does not directly correspond to related activities such as wargaming, alternative analysis, and risk assessment.

Some of the more important additional benefits provided by red teaming include the following:

▪ The explicit recognition and amelioration of several cognitive biases and other critical thinking shortfalls displayed by crisis decision makers and managers in both their planning processes and their decision-making during a crisis.

▪ The ability to robustly test existing standard operating procedures and plans at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels against emerging threats and hazards by exposing them to the machinations of adaptive, creative adversaries and other potentially problematic actors.

▪ Instilling more flexible, adaptive, and in-depth sense-making and decision-making skills in crisis response personnel at all levels by focusing the training aspects of simulations on iterated, evolving scenarios with high degrees of realism, unpredictability through exploration of nth-order effects, and multiple stakeholders.

▪ The identification of new vulnerabilities, opportunities, and risks that might otherwise remain hidden if relying on traditional, nonadversarial simulation approaches.

Key guidance in conducting red teaming in the crisis preparedness context includes avoiding mirror imaging, having clear objectives and simulation parameters, remaining independent of the organizational unit being served, judicious application in terms of the frequency of red teaming, and the proper recording and presentation of red-teaming simulation outputs. Overall, red teaming—as a specific species of simulation—holds much promise for enhancing crisis preparedness and the crucial decision-making that attends a variety of emerging issues in the crisis management context.

Britt, Kyle. Operation Swift Withdrawal: A Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (Neo) Wargame. MSc thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, June 2021.

As the contemporary operational environment shifts, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) will be increasingly relied upon to conduct missions as the nation’s force-in-readiness. One category of these missions is Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEOs). NEOs are Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of State (DOS) operations that evacuate noncombatant and other designated evacuees from hostile countries to safe locations. The USMC has encountered NEOs for the past 50 years and must be prepared to execute NEOs because of future uncertainty. However, because of the infrequency of mission rehearsals, NEO skill atrophy is a concern. Thus, an interactive classroom training tool that augments the passive learning associated with PowerPoint presentations could be beneficial. Therefore, this thesis describes a novel experiential exercise in the form of an educational wargame that reinforces the three NEO guiding principles. The data collected from several iterations of this wargame suggests that this educational training tool can be utilized to reinforce NEO guiding principles and augment current NEO training methods.

Cronkite, Maximilian Stewart-Hawley, “Divided Kingdom, 561, A Case Study: Communicating Historical Narratives Through Board Games,” MA thesis, Carleton University, 2021.

This thesis explores the potential of communicating complex ideas about the past through board games. The thesis will start with exploring and defining its theoretical understanding of historical narratives and procedural rhetoric. Then, the thesis will continue with how other scholars have discussed the role of and potential that games have in the imparting of historical knowledge. Using this established methodology and theory of game-based learning, this thesis will analyze three historical board games for their ability to impart historical understanding. After the analysis of the three case studies this thesis will showcase an annotated version of the rules for the historical board game: Divided Kingdom, 561 which was created for this thesis. In the annotated rulebook, and design journal that follows it, the author elaborates on the game’s intention as a pedagogical tool and how it is designed to communicate historical understanding of sixth century Frankish Gaul.

DeBerry, William T. “The Wargaming Commodity Course of Action Automated Analysis Method,” MSc thesis, Air Force Institute of Technology, 2021.

This research presents the Wargaming Commodity Course of Action Automated Analysis Method (WCCAAM), a novel approach to assist wargame commanders in developing and analyzing courses of action (COAs) through semi-automation of the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP). MDMP is a seven-step iterative method that commanders and mission partners follow to build an operational course of action to achieve strategic objectives. MDMP requires time, resources, and coordination – all competing items the commander weighs to make the optimal decision. WCCAAM receives the MDMP’s Mission Analysis phase as input, converts the wargame into a directed graph, processes a multi-commodity flow algorithm on the nodes and edges, where the commodities represent units, and the nodes represent blue bases and red threats, and then programmatically processes the MDMP steps to output the recommended COA. To demonstrate WCCAAM effectiveness, a wargame scenario compares COA outcomes within the Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration, and Modeling (AFSIM) and statistical analysis. The AFSIM results demonstrate a 71% objective completion improvement with the WCCAAM COA versus a human-generated COA. Statistical analysis reveals that over a 300 run test matrix, WCCAAM produces the optimal, minimal risk COA.

Emery, John R. “Moral Choices Without Moral Language: 1950s Political-Military Wargaming at the RAND Corporation,” Texas National Security Review, 4, 4 (Fall 2021).

The RAND Corporation was the site of early-Cold War knowledge production. Its scientists laid the foundations of nuclear deterrence, game theoretic approaches to international politics, defense acquisition, and theories on the future of war. The popularized understanding of RAND as filled with cold, detached rationalists who casually discussed killing millions with no moral abhorrence misses the immense contestation in the early 1950s between the mathematics and the social sciences divisions, which sought to understand the impact of nuclear weapons on war and international politics. To do so, they created the first political-military simulations, called the “Cold War Games.” The games had divergent outcomes, with the mathematicians quick to launch nuclear weapons and the social scientists acting with nuclear restraint. The key difference in the game models was a high degree of realism in the social science game that engaged the players’ emotions. This immersive experience had lasting effects beyond the game itself as defense intellectuals bore the weight of decision-making and confronted the catastrophic consequences of using nuclear weapons. The role of emotion is central to both ethics and decision-making, and is essential for wargaming today, yet often remains excluded in rational theories of nuclear deterrence.

Guangya, Si; and Yanzheng, Wang. “Challenges and Reflection on Next-generation Large-scale Computer Wargame System,” Journal of System Simulation, 2021, 33(9).

In view of the systematic, networked and intelligent characteristics of the future war, the major challenges of the new generation of large computer warfare system are proposed, and the next-generation large-scale computer wargame system is constructed. The key technologies of building a new generation of large computer warfare systems, such as intelligent war modeling, architecture integration, resource service management and human-computer interaction are researched.

Kim, Jun-Sung; Kim, Young-Soo; and Park, Sang-Chul. “A Study of Artificial Intelligence Learning Model to Support Military Decision Making: Focused on the Wargame Model,” Journal of the Korea Society for Simulation 30, 3 (2021).

Commander and staffs on the battlefield are aware of the situation and, based on the results, they perform military activities through their military decisions. Recently, with the development of information technology, the demand for artificial intelligence to support military decisions has increased. It is essential to identify, collect, and pre-process the data set for reinforcement learning to utilize artificial intelligence. However, data on enemies lacking in terms of accuracy, timeliness, and abundance is not suitable for use as AI learning data, so a training model is needed to collect AI learning data. In this paper, a methodology for learning artificial intelligence was presented using the constructive wargame model exercise data. First, the role and scope of artificial intelligence to support the commander and staff in the military decision-making process were specified, and to train artificial intelligence according to the role, learning data was identified in the Chang-Jo 21 model exercise data and the learning results were simulated. The simulation data set was created as imaginary sample data, and the doctrine of ROK Army, which is restricted to disclosure, was utilized with US Army’s doctrine that can be collected on the Internet.

Kodalle, Thorsten, “Gamification of strategic thinking: A COTS boardgame for learning scrum, strategy development and strategy implementation,” European Conference on Games-based Learning (2021).

The Bundeswehr Command and Staff College (BCSC) facilitated the Gamification of Strategic Thinking seminar from 11. Nov 2020 – 24. March 2021 with students from the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) and Staff Officers from the Bundeswehr Office for Defence Planning. This paper describes the seminar from construction to end, the sophisticated online facilitation, and the results and evaluation. Thereby, it contributes to discussing how to implement commercial of the shelf (COTS) conflict simulations (wargames) to education, particularly for political science and management. The seminar used the COTS board game ‘Scythe’ as the strategy development and strategy implementation environment. Seminar goals were applying management tools like SWOT-Analysis, Kanban Board, and the OODA-Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) to strategy development and strategy implementation in a competitive environment characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). Six Teams consisting of five players each competed at the end of the seminar for three days, had to use the decision-making process several times, and faced the consequences of past decisions. Furthermore, four team members had to Red-Team other competitors and learned how to implement this (business) Wargaming technique into the decision-making cycle. Finally, all participants had to develop a strategy, either their own or their adversary’s strategy. The seminar was conducted in eight sprints, following the Scrum framework for agile project management in an agile education approach. Students had to practice an agile mindset, followed the scrum events Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective, taking care of the Project Backlog, honouring the Scrum Values courage, focus, commitment, respect, and openness. The lead author planned the seminar as a distributed learning experience with an on-premises final. However, due to COVID-19, the TUHH and the BCSC cancelled the on-premises final. As a result, the lead author had to facilitate the complete seminar entirely distributed using various web 2.0 collaboration tools like Slack, Trello, Zoom and, of course, WhatsApp. The seminar was evaluated regarding the Learning Objective-Game Design framework and the Agile Education approach. This paper provides a new perspective on combining agile education, using a Scrum framework as the organisational overlay over the curriculum, and explicit gamification, using a COTS wargame. It is an update to the ECGBL 2020’s paper. In comparison to serious games, explicit gamification is supposed to provide the element of fun by design.

Kowalik, Adam. “The Perception Of Business Wargaming Results Among Strategic And Competitive Intelligence Community,” Organization & Management 2, 54 (2021).

Introduction/background: Achieving a market success is not an easy task for companies. To win in the market companies apply numerous strategic, market and competitive intelligence methods including business wargaming which is considered as one of the most advanced methods.

Aim of the paper: The main aim of this paper is to investigate the perception of business wargames practices among strategic and competitive intelligence professionals with special emphasis on results of business wargames.

Materials and methods: To achieve the aim of the paper the online survey was conducted among the members of a leading global professional association “Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals”. The survey was sent to 12566 emails from SCIP database. The responses were collected anonymously via Survey Monkey in April-May 2017. As a result 227 responses were collected.

Results and conclusions: The results of the study suggest that according to respondents business wargaming allows to achieve results on each of the proposed 5 levels of results representing the cause-effect chain of translating business wargaming effects into business benefits, i.e. insights, recommendations, implementation, competitive situation, measurable benefits. Moreover, the respondents indicate that the business wargaming can be considered a relatively attractive analytical method in terms of its effectiveness. The costs of business wargaming are rated as slightly lower or significantly lower than the benefits. Business wargaming is also assessed as better than any other method of generating insight. The research suggests that the more difficult the conditions for competition, the more commonly the business wargaming method is used. Respondents predict that the use of this method will increase in the future.

Lara, Mauricio Antonio Duarte. “Prototyping A Serious Game On Information Manipulation,” MSc thesis, Tallinn University of Technology, 2021.

Adversarial actors leverage social media to achieve political objectives by employing information manipulation. This poses a risk to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. These risks erode trust in institutions, distorts informed decisions, and affects democratic processes. A better defence can be obtained by a better understanding of adversaries. However, previous serious games on information manipulation have focused on psychological inoculation, ignoring the strategic motivations of adversaries in social media. With cybersecurity safeguarding information and operations in the context of adversaries, this thesis proposes to introduce policymakers to adversarial thinking through a Serious Game (SG). To achieve that aim, a document analysis was performed to identify the necessary considerations concerning learning, information manipulation, and serious games. The design of the prototype SG used a research design-oriented approach. The pilot testing employed an applied exploratory study with twelve participants, six from a legal background and the remaining six from an e-governance background. Data collection utilized two surveys with open- ended, multiple choice, and rating scale questions. Learning outcomes was measured by evaluating the participants’ confidence levels on their definition of a concept. Given the sample size, the results are not conclusive. However, the data shows an increase in the confidence for all participants. This thesis has three key contributions. First, the application of the SG on the novel audience of policymakers. Second, the design of the prototype SG which incorporates the previously mentioned educational considerations. And last, further exploration on the contributions of cybersecurity to address information manipulation on social media.

Lawson, Ewan, Considering a UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Donbas, Royal United Services Institute conference report, 2019.

No abstract available.

Lee, Byeong-Ho et al. “A Study on Fully Automated OPFOR for ‘Next Generation ROKA Wargame Simulation Model’ Based on Gamer Behavior,” Proceedings of the Korea Information Processing Association, 2021.

No abstract available.

Li, Yang et al. “Developing Public Health Emergency Response Leaders in Incident Management: A Lee, Byeong-HoScoping Review of Educational Interventions,” Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, published first online, 31 August 2021.

During emergency responses, public health leaders frequently serve in incident management roles that differ from their routine job functions. Leaders’ familiarity with incident management principles and functions can influence response outcomes. Therefore, training and exercises in incident management are often required for public health leaders. To describe existing methods of incident management training and exercises in the literature, we queried 6 English language databases and found 786 relevant articles. Five themes emerged: (1) experiential learning as an established approach to foster engaging and interactive learning environments and optimize training design; (2) technology-aided decision support tools are increasingly common for crisis decision-making; (3) integration of leadership training in the education continuum is needed for developing public health response leaders; (4) equal emphasis on competency and character is needed for developing capable and adaptable leaders; and (5) consistent evaluation methodologies and metrics are needed to assess the effectiveness of educational interventions.

These findings offer important strategic and practical considerations for improving the design and delivery of educational interventions to develop public health emergency response leaders. This review and ongoing real-world events could facilitate further exploration of current practices, emerging trends, and challenges for continuous improvements in developing public health emergency response leaders.

Lin, Wu et al, “Wargaming Eco-system for Intelligence Growing,” Journal of System Simulation, 2021, 33(9).

The construction of the next generation intelligent wargaming system can not be accomplished at one move, but through building an ecosystem to gradually grow intelligence. The basic concepts of the intelligent wargame ecosystem, and are defined the idea of dynamic openness, diversified levels and co-evolution are proposed. Drawing lessons from the human intelligence growing process and learning-evolution mechanism, the double helix model of the next generation of wargame cognitive intelligent evolution and growth is constructed. On the basis of the OLTA cycle, the wargame deduction ecosystem system framework is given. The application of the technologies, such as digital twins, human-machine integration and symbiosis, sample generation, intelligence testing and evaluation, cloud native and so on, in the construction of an ecological environment for wargaming games are analyzed.

Lutters, Samuel. “Reflections on Violence and Death in Critical War Games,” MSc thesis, Ghent University, 2021.

Death and violence are prominent features in video games centered around war. These are largely dominated by hegemonic war/military games that – among other things – render them an “authentic” and pleasurable experience to be engaged in. In this dissertation, I focus on critical war games that oppose these, and question how these manage to kindle reflection about violence and death in their respective gaming communities. For this, I have dedicated myself to the study of three specific games. I have mainly used two methods: autoethnography, where I played the games myself to gain a better understanding of them and participant observation to capture the experiences and reflections of others. My findings are diverse and have to be understood within the contours of each game. However, what underpins these games is their ability to be perceived “realistic” when it comes to representing war. This is done through creating a digital death world that functions on negative emotions, rather than fun or pleasure. As discussed by others, there is a dynamic relation between having negative emotions and perceiving something as realistic or authentic. Interesting for this research, is the fact that having negative emotions while being engaged in killing and mortality, offers players a foundation for reflection. The player is encouraged to first feel and then think. These reflections go beyond digital play and questions some important aspects of war, violence and death, such as the futility of war. Moreover, having these negative emotions and reflections gives the player a better understanding in the lived experiences of both victims and perpetrators of war alike.

Medeiros, Sabrina ; Mendes, Cintiene Sandes Monfredo ; and e Paiva, Ana Luiza Bravo, “Learning Process for Collective Decision-Making in Defense and Security: Inter-Agency Policy Building,” Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice 21, 4 (2021).

This work analyzes the decision-making behavior among security actors in cooperative inter-agency arrangements. To this end, we will use case studies of state officials’ simulations, which target the improvement of the agents’ relations in particular learning processes. Undeniably, Brazil’s internationalization expanded practices related to the configuration of its homeland security model, especially after the attacks of September 11th, 2001. On the other hand, training and learning experiences were also internalized, expanding the common lexicon and coordinated policies and assignments. The paper’s central objective is to identify the patterns of inter-agency decision-making processes, analyzing the possibilities for creating and disseminating practices that may ultimately constitute policies. For this purpose, the work begins with the apprehension of the Brazilian security inter-agencies practices typology, which emerged by an adequately built database.

Medeiros, Sabrina ; Paiva, Ana Luiza Bravo; and Mendes, Cintiene Sandes Monfredo. “Policy Diffusion by Means of Defense and Security Simulations and the Uses of Agent-Based Modelling,” July 2020.

This paper is about three elements: inter-agency cooperation simulations with security and defense practitioners as actors; policy diffusion as a way of innovative and incremental gains using practices and the observation of behaviors; and, agent-based modelling as a tool to enhance performance, observing tendencies and acquiring more visibility of the processes and practices imbibed. For this, the first part of the paper is focused on the uses of the literature that expresses decision making process behaviors as a fundamental part of the institutionalization process in terms of cooperation. Adaptive institutionalization is the core element of this approach; in which we believe policy diffusion can derive progressively and in an incremental way. Secondly, we are going to present the inter-agency simulation cases we are working with as part of an inter-institutional effort; researching on those ties and proposing new forms of arrangements and possibilities of increasing dynamics efficiency in the sector, observing both the cases and the exercises chosen in agent-based modelling (ABM).

Murray, Charlie Murray; Loidl, Hans-Wolfgang; and Train, Brian. “A Playful Learning Exercise: Kashmir Crisis,” International Conference on Games and Learning Alliance, 2021.

This paper summarises the development and evaluation of a digital board game on the “Kashmir Crisis” in 2019. It is based on a card-driven board-game design of one of the authors, with the concept of “games as journalism” as one underlying design principle. As such, this is a serious game with the aim of providing information on the context of recent political events in Kashmir. In this paper we focus on the design, implementation, and evaluation of a multi-platform, digital instance of this game. The evaluation results of using the game show significantly increased engagement and slightly better learning effectiveness, compared to a control group using standard learning techniques.

Parkes, Roderick; McQuay, Mark. “The Use of Games in Strategic Foresight: A Warning from the Future,”DGAP Policy Brief, July 2021.

After a decade of crisis, the EU now routinely uses futures meth- ods to anticipate the unexpected. Its aim is to address its blind spots. This paper details our experience of designing a foresight exercise to help EU diplomats face up to one of the most ingrained types of blind spot: a taboo issue. But our experience showed instead the dangers of such exercises. Far from needing encour- agement to address a taboo, our target audience wanted an excuse to do so, reflecting a shift to a more “geopolitical EU.”

Strategic foresight exercises are designed to help participants recognize their cognitive biases. But the more policymakers adopt them as routine, the more they use them to reinforce their existing aims. Simply: they learn to manipulate outcomes.

To prevent cheating, experts introduced adversarial elements, where colleagues paired off against one another. Competition was meant to inject new thinking into policy and break up bureaucratic hierarchies. In fact, these too reinforced old biases.

Table-top exercises (TTXs) are now the go-to tool, adopted by the EU: rather than competing, participants play as a single team. Col- laboration encourages the kind of “risky-shifty” behavior which policymakers need in order to drop old shibboleths..

Table-top exercises (TTXs) are now the go-to tool, adopted by the EU: rather than competing, participants play as a single team. Collaboration encourages the kind of “risky- shifty” behavior which policymakers need in order to drop old shibboleths.

Paschkewitz, John; Russell, Bart; Main, John. “An AI That’s Not Artificial at All,” Issues in Science and Technology 38, 1  (Fall 2021).

In the wargame, we realized we needed to focus on more than just maintaining operational speed and minimizing casualties. We needed to maximize options for individual users and increase the learning rate across the whole system. Providing individuals with more options and the autonomy to use them makes the rigid, monolithic systems of slowmoving bureaucracies and the technologies they use more adaptable to new situations and innovations. In Major Evans’s case, if she were able to get a drone to fly blood to her unit, she might be able to boost her dwindling blood supplies faster than it would take to fix the ruined airstrip. But thoughtful workarounds can only benefit the larger system if the knowhow circulates throughout the enterprise and others can begin to help find the drones and arrange for the delivery. The larger system needs to effectively learn and adapt to the consequences of her changes or it will soon be caught in another cycle of cascading ad hoc responses to problems.

A new design methodology

To build a system that was capable of encouraging individual innovation and system-wide learning, we came up with a new approach: liminal design. It employs four core concepts: abstraction, composition, mediation, and learning. Collectively, these ideas create the foundation for an “operating system” that works in an adaptive ecosystem, bridging the worlds of user-centered and system-centered design.

Peeks, Ryan. “‘An Object Lesson to the Country’—The 1915 Atlantic Fleet Summer Exercise and the U.S. Navy on the Eve of World War I,Naval War College Review 74, 3 (Summer 2021).

On 26 May 1915, the Washington Post warned its readers that an invading force had “established a base, and landed troops on the shore of Chesapeake Bay,” in preparation for a march on Washington. The cause of this invasion? Defeat of the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet by “a foreign foe of superior naval strength.” Over the course of several days, the enemy fleet had made its way across the Atlantic and destroyed the American scouting line. The American commander, Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher, was convinced that its target was New England and let the enemy fleet slip unmolested into the Chesapeake with a twenty- thousand-man invading force, the vanguard of another hundred thousand soldiers en route from Europe. Shortcomings in the quantity and quality of the Atlantic Fleet’s scouting force had rendered its seventeen battleships irrelevant.

Fortunately for the capital, this enemy fleet and invasion army were imag- inary, part of the Atlantic Fleet’s summer exercise. They were, however, the culmination of a very real campaign to embarrass the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, and force a naval expansion program onto the heretofore skeptical Wilson administration. The leader of this campaign, the outgoing Aide for Operations, Rear Admiral Bradley Fiske, designed the exercises for
maximum political effect. By grafting an unreal- istic and lurid invasion scenario featuring a thinly disguised German fleet onto the Atlantic Fleet’s exercise program, he hoped to “prove” that Dan- iels had failed to prepare the Navy for war and force Woodrow Wilson’s administration to sup- port a renewed naval buildup. 

Reese, Joshua et al., “Integrating Cost as a Decision Variable in Wargames,” Air & Space Power Journal (Winter 2021).

The US military can no longer afford to be reactive, leaving critical cost analyses to the months and years following operations or full-scale con- flicts. By leveraging cost in wargaming, as part of the Joint planning process, the Department of Defense (DOD) can provide Congress and the American taxpayers a range of potential costs associated with various military engagements. If senior leaders can consider costs as part of effectiveness analy- ses during wargames, they can provide more fully informed decisions reflecting fiscal and operational realities.

Rolls, Matthew. “Developing Coup D’oeil: Tactical Decision Games and Their Training Value for the Canadian Army,” Canadian Army Journal 18, 2 (2021).

Tactical Decision Games (TDG) are abbreviated tactical exercises without troops (TEWT) meant to place those executing them into a scenario with little information and time to arrive at a solution. They require few resources, allowing for a repetitious approach to training. TDGs have been prominent training tools for the US Army and particularly the United States Marine Corps for several years. They are a flexible and effective training aide that will help soldiers, non-commissioned officers (NCO), and officers with their analytical and intuitive decision-making skills. TDGs are not completely foreign to the Canadian Army (CA); however, their use has not been institutionalized.

Tactical Decision Games are a highly efficient means of training tactical decision-making and should be institutionalized within the CA, within both schools and operational units. Commanders employing TDGs will be able to mentor and develop the decision-making skills of their subordinates during periods outside collective training. Trainers can use them to discuss and exercise concepts prior to deploying to the field for practical application.

This article provides an overview of TDGs and how they differ from other training tools. It then reviews what makes TDGs useful training aides and concludes with a discussion on how to conduct a training session. A TDG example is included at the end of the article.

Shahnahpur, Saeedeh. ” ‘Destruction Operation’: Iranian-Made Digital Games of the Iran–Iraq War (1980–88),” International Journal of Persian Literature 6 (2021).

No abstract available.

Smithson, Michael S. Wargaming Reliance On Commercial Space Partners: A Determination of Guiding Principles and Applications. MSc thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, June 2021.

The 2010s saw a revolution in the space industry leading to the commercial proliferation of space technologies once reserved for national space programs and militaries, dubbed by many as Space 2.0. This rapid rebalancing of capabilities from traditional state actors to commercial entities contributed to a reevaluation of U.S. space institutions and practices resulting in an increased U.S. military reliance on commercial entities to build space capability, capacity, and resilience. To that end, there is renewed interest in discerning the impacts of this expanded commercial space reliance on current U.S. military doctrine, thus placing new demands on the practice of wargaming among the U.S. military services. Specifically, wargaming must now account for this increased reliance by establishing guiding principles and wargaming methodologies to properly account for this revolution in space-based capabilities. This thesis addresses this problem by sampling the scope of commercial space capabilities, evaluating governing policy and doctrine, and examining a representative sample of the U.S. military’s reliance on commercial space. The unique qualities of commercial space are evaluated to identify a list of guiding principles for wargaming applications. Then, wargaming methodologies that encompass these guiding principles are identified and proposed. Finally, these principles are applied to the USMC’s Assassin’s Mace wargame to demonstrate and evaluate their utility and application.

Teo, Grace et al. “Measures for Assessing Command Staff Team Performance in Wargaming Training,” Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), 2021.

Despite the rapid rise in technological aids and decision support tools to assist with command and control activities, wargaming remains an artful and challenging process for command teams to perform. Wargaming, a critical stage in the military decision-making process (MDMP), is a collective activity where command staff representing multiple warfighting functions step through one or more courses of action (COAs) in detail. By considering actions, reactions, and counteractions for each critical event of a COA, the command staff gains an understanding of the decision points, possible coordination problems, feasibility, risks, benefits, likelihood of success, and impact on campaign outcomes. Although there are prescribed MDMP methods and outputs, the art of effective wargaming lies in achieving sufficient team coordination across the command staff to adequately appraise a COA and anticipate synchronization that will be needed for execution, all within the time constraints available for analysis. Consequently, an effective approach to training wargaming ideally involves opportunities for staff to engage in realistic and challenging exercises where they can receive performance assessment and feedback via measures grounded in established constructs for team proficiencies. This paper presents a synthesis of constructs and findings on command team training pertinent to the construction of wargaming exercises. Specifically, a foundation for general principles of teamwork has been established in the literature, and there have also been studies identifying determinants of wargaming effectiveness tied to declarative measures intended for assessment by human instructors or subject matter experts. In order to build on existing research and apply it in an intelligent tutor, these measures and teamwork constructs are synthesized in a model tailored to wargaming performance assessment and feedback for simulation-based team training. Outcomes of this effort will contribute to the development of a prototype for collective training of Army command groups.

Tryhorn, Dillo, et al. “Modeling fog of war effects in AFSIM.” Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology, published first online, 27 August 2021.

This research identifies specific communication sensor features vulnerable to fog and provides a method to introduce them into an Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration, and Modeling (AFSIM) wargame scenario. Military leaders use multiple information sources about the battlespace to make timely decisions that advance their operational objectives while attempting to deny their opponent’s actions. Unfortunately, the complexities of battle combined with uncertainty in situational awareness of the battlespace, too much or too little intelligence, and the opponent’s intentional interference with friendly command and control actions yield an abstract layer of battlespace fog. Decision-makers must understand, characterize and overcome this “battlespace fog” to accomplish operational objectives. This research proposes a novel tool, the Fog Analysis Tool (FAT), to automatically compile a list of communication and sensor objects within a scenario and list options that may impact decision-making processes. FAT improves wargame realism by introducing and standardizing fog levels across communication links and sensor feeds in an AFSIM scenario. Research results confirm that FAT provides significant benefits and enables the measurement of fog impacts to tactical command and control decisions within AFSIM scenarios.

Xi, Wu; Xianglin, Meng; and Jingyu, Yang. “Study on Next-generation Strategic Wargame System,”  Journal of System Simulation, 2021, 33(9).

Strategic wargame is an important support to the strategic decision. The research status and challenges of the strategic wargame are analyzed, and the influence of big data and artificial intelligence technology on the strategic wargame system is studied. The prospects and key technologies of the next-generation strategic wargame system are studied, including the construction of event association graph for strategic topics, generation of strategic decision sparse samples based on generative adversarial nets, gaming strategy learning of human-in-loop hybrid enhancement, and public opinion dissemination modeling technology based on social network. The development trend of the strategic wargame is proposed.

Yubo, Tang et al. “Research on the Issues of Next Generation Wargame System Model Engine,” Journal of System Simulation, 2021, 33(9).

Aiming at the more and more complex war systems, widely used artificial intelligence technology is needed to make up the human deficiencies in future wargame deduction, which is necessary for the next generation wargame system model engine. To address these challenges, a framework prototype of the next generation wargame model engine based on the experience of the long-term development and application is proposed. The decoupling method for the complexity of structure and computation is researched. The human-computer integration architecture on digital twinning technology is studied. Some new modeling techniques which the threshold of model development is reduced and the efficiency is improved are explored. The engine mechanism is provided to support the machine learning, and to achieve the integrated design for distributed hardware environment.

Zhanguang, TCao et al. “Abroad Wargaming Deduction and System Research,” Journal of System Simulation, 2021, 33(9).

Wargaming is an important auxiliary means of war deduction, scheme evaluation and operational analysis. Wargaming deduction system can support the research of operational problems, innovation of tactics and development of operational concepts. The development status of foreign computer wargaming system from the deduction method and system research is reviewed, and the online deduction the multi-level joint deduction, as well as the research status of multi-level wargaming fusion design, the multi system combination and auxiliary tool development are mainly introduced, which can providereference to the development and application of computer wargame system.

Updated PAXsims bibliography

PAXsims research associate Anne Johnson recently surveyed some three dozen wargaming experts to pull together a list of their recommended readings for new and experienced serious game designers alike. You’ll find the list here.

SWJ: On wargaming, COA analysis, D8s, and D&D

In an article entitled “Wargaming: Leave your 8 sided dice at home, this isn’t D&D” at Small Wars Journal, Keegan Guyer, Max Rovzar, and Ron Sprang suggest that wargaming “is often discussed as a necessary step in the Military Decision Making Process” but “often misunderstood, or poorly executed due to time constraints.”

To demonstrate this, they then devote much of their article to misunderstanding wargaming.

What they go on to describe is course of action analysis which doesn’t have a great deal of wargaming in it. Rather, it focuses around the development of plans and synchronization of effort, providing participants with a walk-through of a proposed course of action. This isn’t a full game, with a fully active Red—rather, the Red cell is there to provide some feedback in support of the game staff.

(Click the tweets to read more of his thread). Cole Peterson adds:

Several others comment in the Twitter thread too. Meanwhile, at Small Wars Journal itself, there are similar comments. This from “ProStaffOfficer”:

This is an excellent article on TTPs for tactical-level COA analysis but is insulting to and clearly ignorant of what actual wargaming is. COA Analysis may be labeled as “wargaming” in US Army doctrinal manuals, but it really is a method to refine a plan by overlaying enemy actions onto one COA.

Furthermore, the snarky title – while it may score points with other soldiers with tactical-echelon experience unaware of the existence of complex systems exploration or alternative conditions wargames – undersells the purpose of introducing stochastic variables in wargame design.

Lastly, I find it somewhat discouraging this article has only one source, FM 6-0 Commander and Staff Organization and Operations. In no way is FM 6-0 an authoritative source for wargaming as anything other than a tactical-level COA analysis methodology but this article – and specifically the title – seems to imply it discusses wargaming-at-large and not just one step of the Military Decision Making Process as applied in a tactical headquarters. 

And “skepticalsoldier82” comments:

Setting aside the snide title, this article is accidentally a great argument for why the Army needs to rename this process to what it really is – COA analysis. Continuing to call this “wargaming” only displays the institution’s immense ignorance (much like the authors of this piece do) of the vast array of national security war games that use stochastic methodology (which can be distilled into COFMS at the tactical level). Insisting that simply executing a step of MDMP constitutes “real wargaming” is laughable in the face of what ONA, CAA, and the J7 regularly conduct, let alone the depth of what the FFRDCs support. A perfunctory review of the history of wargaming would reveal that yes, the Prussians used dice modeling for Kriegspiel and yes, even complex simulations designed in WARSIM or ONESAF are still using derived PK, which nonetheless provides more rigorous analysis, for a much wider variety of purposes, then sitting the staff around the map and troubleshooting a tactical plan for the benefit of the G3.

I must say, I’m less concerned than some by the nomenclature around wargaming, COA analysis, and red teaming—all of which fit in a related universe of methodological tools, and each of which has its strengths and weaknesses. However, the piece is remarkably unaware of the broader professional work on wargaming, or the potential drawbacks (as well as strengths) of doing the sort of COA analysis they propose.

Finally, there’s a certain irony in the title—and not just with regard to fog, fiction, and stochastic process. Rather, what would you call a largely cooperative game where there is only one genuinely independent side, where participants make plans and synchronize actions against a scenario-based threat, and the game master guides them through the resulting narrative and tells them how it all works out?

Yes, that’s D&D.

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