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Category Archives: simulation and gaming publications

Review: Paddy Griffith’s Counter-Insurgency Wargames

John Curry, ed. Paddy Griffith’s Counter Insurgency Wargames (History of Wargaming Project, 2016). 91pp. £12.95pb

 

Griffith.jpegPaddy Griffith—military historian, lecturer at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, hobbyist, and founding member of Wargame Developments— was an influential figure in the evolution of British wargaming. In this volume, John Curry and his History of Wargaming Project have collected together materials from two counterinsurgency (COIN) simulations that Griffith developed in the late 1970s, as well as the outline of the main components of a live action exercise. Prolific COIN wargame designer Brian Train provides a Foreword to the collection, placing the wargames in the broader context of developments in counter-insurgency doctrine and practice.

If the first game, LONGREACH VILLAGE (1980), looks rather like a fictionalized British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary hunting for an IRA active service unit in a Northern Ireland border village—well, that’s hardly surprising, for such was the counterinsurgency challenge that would be faced by young British officers at the time. Today,  when most insurgencies and COIN wargames alike involve underdeveloped and failed states, it may all seem of marginal relevance. After all, this is not a setting where there are major impediments of poverty, language, or cultural understanding. Instead the background materials outline the milkman’s daily routine, the opening hours of the pubs, banks, and shops, and details of the local farmers’ market. However, in doing so the game provides an outstanding example of the sort pattern-of-life analysis that underpins local intelligence collection and tactical patrolling in almost all peacekeeping, COIN, counter-terrorism, and stabilization operations. This is something that—with the notable exception of Jim Wallman’s BARWICK GREEN game—is almost completely absent from modern wargames on the topic , which focus instead on either local armed clashes or larger-scale operational and strategic issues. Is Mr. X acting suspiciously, or is he they simply eccentric? Is a meeting in the pub a benign collection of friends, or a plot in progress? Where can you best position an OP to observe civilian (and possible insurgent) activity without being spotted? Where should vehicle checkpoints be established? What sorts of information should you be collecting? Who might be hoarding precursors for IEDs and other weapons, and how would you know?

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The border village of Longreach.

The wargame is largely played by having the Security Force and Red Cell players allocate personnel to missions, schedule their various activities, and plot their locations or routes, with the umpire then adjudicating the outcomes. The book also contains some brief suggestions for resolving some activities on the tabletop. Supporting materials include a map of the village, background information on the villagers, a list of daily routine activities, as well as the assets available to the Security Forces and Red Cell.

The second COIN exercise is SUMMER IN ORANGELAND, which envisages possible terrorist activity by the “People’s Liberation Army” in the fictional town of Dodgem-on-Sea. Any resemblance here to IRA cells (or perhaps 1970s era leftist terrorists) operating in the mainland UK would not be coincidental. In this case the primary government actor is the local police force which, in addition to dealing with a possible terrorist cell, also has to cope with a busy schedule of other challenges: planning and security for the summer carnival, a football final, a concert, gold bullion shipments, and even a royal visit. The terrorists—some of whom have decidedly Irish surnames—must plan and execute a plot before they are discovered. In typical Paddy Griffith fashion, there are a few curveballs and eccentricities to keep the players on their toes.

The final exercise, GREEN HACKLE, is a series of live-action tactical vignettes to be carried out over three days by approximately 250 Sandhurst cadets operating in a mock-up village training area. The book contains a list of scripted events, plus some photographs.

Altogether, this slim volume provides fascinating insight into British counterinsurgency training in the 1970s and early 1980s. Moreover, the first two games highlight key challenges of tactical intelligence and analysis that remain highly relevant to contemporary COIN, counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, and stabilization operations. They are easily adapted or modified for classroom use, or could provide the inspiration for similar sorts of wargames set in other, rather different, political and cultural contexts.

(Matrix) wargaming to support strategic planning

Last year Murray Dixson, Michel Couillard, Thierry Gongora, and Paul Massel of Defence Research and Development Canada wrote a paper on “Wargaming to Support Strategic Planning” which describes DRDC’s study of matrix games as a tool to explore the Force Development Scenario Set used by the Canadian Armed Forces as part of their capability-based planning process:

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) capability based planning process uses a set of force planning scenarios to assess different options for the capability requirements of future forces. A good understanding of the key drivers of the scenario is important so that the subject matter experts can more fully understand and identify the capabilities required for success in it. A project is underway to investigate whether this capability identification can be enhanced through the use of various wargaming techniques. The Matrix game methodology is one that has been chosen for this research and was used in a recent series of research games. An ISIS conflict scenario was used as an explorative tool in all the games which were played out using several combinations of player types. Each iteration of the game was analysed using a set of metrics to help determine the utility of the games for the force planning application. The results are provided in this paper.

Readers of PAXsims will already know something about this, based on Ben Taylor’s thoughtful piece on serious matrix games, our game at the University of Ottawa, and our various other posts about the ISIS Crisis game that was used as a testbed for the study.

The study concludes:

As a result of these experiments a number of useful observations were obtained concerning the intricacies of organising and conducting a wargame; the value of participating in a wargame from the players’ perspective; and the potential applicability of augmenting Canada’s capability assessment efforts with one or more wargames. In terms of conducting a wargame, valuable experience in understanding the importance of the rules and structure of the game; of the principles and limits of keeping players involved in the game; and of the nature and key role that the GM or adjudicator plays in the conduct of a successful game. From the players’ perspective new players gained a greater understanding of the Matrix wargaming methodology, and more experienced gamers gained a greater appreciation of the many layers of complexity and dynamics that characterise this regional conflict. Finally, in terms of the relevance of Matrix wargaming methods to supporting Canada’s capability assessment effort, this experiment was limited by the nature of the game itself. The ISIS Matrix game is a replication of a complex, multiplayer, geo political situation. As such, it was observed to be a useful platform for introducing some of the region’s complexities to the assembled players. This would seem to have similar promise if this methodology were to be applied to one or more of Canada’s defence planning scenarios, but this clearly resides in the realm of future work.

I think Murray and the team are right that ISIS Crisis is a game heavily skewed towards political-military dynamics—in their test games, kinetic actions only accounted for slightly more than half of all player moves. Moreover, because military actions are dealt with at high level of generalization and abstraction, ISIS Crisis may not be very useful at teasing out questions of capability.

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However, that is in large part a function of the scenario design: a better test of the matrix game method for capability-based planning would probably focus on military activities more narrowly, with units on the map representing clearly-defined assets rather than indicators of relative combat power, and a more rigorous time scale for player actions.

On the other hand, as DRDC’s RCAT playtest suggested, some of DND’s current Force Development Scenarios probably hinge far more on political and other non-kinetic actions than is intended. Political-military matrix games as useful for pretesting and refining planning scenarios, and could certainly be used to generate vignettes that could then be explored in greater detail through a capability-based matrix game, another type of wargame, or other forms of analysis.

The DRDC report also offers some interesting insight into the challenges of game adjudication (in the MAGIC 1 playtest they describe, where I was double-hatted as both facilitator and subject matter expert, left an impression among some of heavy-handed adjudication), compressed vs extended playtime, the ease of learning the rules, and other issues. It is very helpful reading for those considering using matrix games as an accessible method for wargaming complex problems.

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Pettyjohn and Shlapak on obstacles to reinvigorating defense wargaming

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War on the Rocks features a piece by Stacie Pettyjohn and David Shlapak (RAND Center for Gaming) on the obstacles confronting current efforts by the US Department of Defence to reinvigorate wargaming:

These are laudable goals. Nevertheless, creating, orchestrating, and observing recent games across the Department of Defense — and conferring with the broader gaming community — has made us aware of a number of potential challenges. These are important to keep in mind for a reinvigorated wargaming enterprise to succeed.

Bonanza or Bust

A failure to appreciate the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of wargames and wargamers could lead to a situation in which “bad games drive out good ones.” This is not a new concern. As wargaming expert Peter Perla has observed, wargames have often been “oversold” and “abused,” and wargaming as a method has suffered as a result. Given the current zeitgeist, this could become a problem again.

Supply and Demand

The growing demand for wargames also might outstrip the wargaming community’s capacity to successfully execute good games. This mismatch between supply and demand could negatively impact the quality of wargames and contribute to a potential backlash against gaming. The professional wargaming community may have already reached a point where the demand for games is exceeding the current supply of experienced game designers, skilled players, and other subject-matter experts vital to conducting first-rate games. As the number of wargames has swelled, the increased operational tempo also has the potential to stress organizations that are now being asked to run many small games each year instead of one large annual or biannual exercise, taxing short-handed staffs (especially if those small games need to be executed simultaneously or in quick succession).

Failure is an Option

To facilitate the dissemination of information about wargames, the Department of Defense has created a wargaming repository that will house the results of all completed games as well as information about planned exercises. Additionally, a Defense Wargaming Alignment Group is being created to ensure that senior leader priorities shape wargames while the insights from wargames inform senior leaders. These are important initiatives. But like all good initiatives, the Pentagon needs to be mindful of the unintended consequences that could emerge.

One of the main virtues of wargames is that they offer a low-risk and “intellectually liberating” environment. Yet the current effort to catalog, scrutinize, and utilize game results might inadvertently undermine this environment by raising the stakes of each game. This, in turn, could have two effects.

First, players might become more reluctant to criticize current plans, policies, and programs. For wargames to succeed, participants need to set aside parochial interests and try their best to identify, assess, and solve problems, even if their insights challenge the status quo. Increased oversight of the wargaming enterprise — and greater dependence on wargame findings to shape budgets in a time of resource scarcity — could actually make games more conservative when the intent may be exactly the opposite.

Second, organizers might exaggerate their findings to demonstrate that games are indeed the driver of innovation that many assume. Yet not all wargames uncover new insights, no matter how well-designed and well-executed they might be. Thus organizers and their sponsors need to adopt a “venture capital” model and understand that the failure to identify new solutions is not itself a failure of the game.

It’s a terrific piece, and well worth reading.

For more on current efforts to reinvigorate wargaming, see also these PAXsims posts:

Gardiner on wargaming as an overlooked educational tool

BAR.jpgThe most recent issue of British Army Review 165 (Winter 2016) contains an article by Lt Col Ivor Gardiner on the merits of commercial wargames as a tool for officer education:

Within the British Army, wargaming is primarily used as part of the Seven Questions (7Qs) of the Combat Estimate. However, it lacks a proper adversarial element. During the planning phase, the plan will become awed if most, or all, dangerous enemy actions and responses have not been articulated.

The missing aspect in British military wargaming is the adversarial. It is this aspect, and the replacement of military judgement by the use of variable factors and the ever maligned use of dice to determine outcomes, which results in much of the misperceptions directed towards wargaming. The result is usually a somewhat dismissive attitude and an assertion that it is a game of dice not much different from Risk and is more associated with ‘childish things’.

In the piece he discusses his experience using commercial wargames within the 1st Battalion the Royal IRISH, and highlights its value for staff training, complimenting battlefield studies, and force and capability development.

Historical legacy in professional military wargaming is proven. I think we can draw much from the importance ascribed to wargaming by the Prussian Army. It would be trite to say Prussian military success was based on wargaming, but nobody could deny that the emphasis placed on the conceptual and educational aspects of training Prussian – and later German – officers, partly through the medium of wargaming, did not make a significant contribution. This utility has been recognised by British thinkers such as H.G. Wells and Basil Liddell Hart; more recently strongly encouraged by Major General (Ret’d) Andrew Sharpe CBE, who retired as Director of the Defence Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) and now heads up the newly established Centre for Historical Analysis and Critical Research (CHACR). Yet we fail to fully appreciate this fantastic tool. We place an emphasis on Understanding of the environment on modern operations, yet still fail ourselves to fully Understand the value that can be added to military conceptual development through the simple and affordable medium of commercial wargaming.

You’ll find the full piece here.

h/t Tom Mouat 


On an unrelated note, if you haven’t yet completed our PAXsims reader survey, please do so—we’ll be discussing the results soon.

Baranowski and Weir on political simulations: What we think we know, and what we still need to know

upse.jpgThe latest issue of the Journal of Political Science Education 11, 4 (October-December 2015) contains an article by Michael Baranowski and Kimberly Weir (Northern Kentucky University) on “Political Simulations: What We Know, What We Think We Know, and What We Still Need to Know.” It is a very useful reminder of the need for us to be more methodologically sophisticated in examining the issue.

For political scientists looking for creative ways to engage students, simulations might be the answer. The common conception is that because this type of activity offers a unique way to convey information through active learning, student learning will consequently increase. In order to evaluate this claim, we conducted a meta-analysis reviewing relevant simulation articles published in the Journal of Political Science Education from its inception through 2013. This systematic approach examines not just whether simulations prove engaging but, more importantly, whether they are valuable learning tools. We found that the discipline needs to conduct a more rigorous assessment of learning outcomes to move beyond the “Show and Tell” approach to evaluating simulations. Upon reviewing the articles, we are able to identify how a few changes can offer better information about the pedagogical value of simulations.

They are critical of some of the assessment mechanisms used to measure the learning impact of simulations:

The good news is that most of the simulations we examined did employ some sort of empirical evaluation method. However, this is only in a very broad sense and includes essentially any sort of measurement of student engagement and learning, including student reaction papers, course evaluations, exams, and final course grades. As one might reasonably expect, in every instance except one (Raymond 2012, discussed below), the authors concluded that their evidence demonstrated the effectiveness of the simulation to some extent.

Unfortunately, much of this empirical evidence was not as convincing to us as it often seemed to be to the authors. The fundamental problem with exams, final grades, and course evaluations as measures of simulation effectiveness is fairly obvious: It is extraordinarily difficult to isolate the effect of the simulation on student learning and/or engagement. Most of us are familiar with the feeling that a simulation or some other technique really helped students “get it” in a way reading and lectures did not, but general evaluations that do not focus specifically on the simulation itself cannot really tell us if that is the case.

While it is common for instructors to set aside time after a simulation for an in-class debriefing session, it is difficult to carefully evaluate this sort of evidence and even more difficult to convey it with any precision to anyone not present for the debriefing session. This is not to suggest that postsimulation debriefings are without merit as they can provide a wealth of potentially useful information to instructors. But alone they cannot provide sufficient evidence of the success of a simulation.

For the reasons outlined above, we do not consider simulations that solely rely on grades, course evaluations, or impressionistic debriefings to provide much in the way of strong empirical evidence….

Overall, they argue that the evidence on simulation effectiveness is positive, but that more effort is needed to assess this:

Our review confirmed that, while instructors struggle to systematically evaluate simulations, a small but growing body of evidence lends support to the contention that students who participate in simulations do in fact learn more than students not taking part in such exercises.

The literature has done a better job of identifying qualitative ways that students gain from participating in simulations. The fact that students are more enthusiastic about learning increases the likelihood that they might more regularly attend classes, as noted by Gorton and Havercroft (2012). While enthusiasm can only help to engage students, it does not necessarily lead to learning. That being said, rigorous research in which the effects of simulations can be isolated and measured is not as prevalent in the literature as we hope it one day will be. In part, this may be due to the manner in which pedagogical research is designed. While none of the authors we reviewed wrote anything like “I ran this simulation and then thought I should write it up,” some of the studies led us to suspect that is how things happened. While we are glad that the results of these efforts can be shared with the larger community, seeking rigor in the discipline necessitates planning on the part of the instructor to incorporate elements such as pretests and control groups rather than including them as an afterthought.

As Baranowski and Weir note, student surveys and self-reported learning may be a better gauge of how much students have enjoyed the simulation than what they have actually learned (or, for that matter, whether they’ve even learned the right things, since simulations may also especially vulnerable to generating misleading conclusions). They recognize, however, that fully experimental methods—using a control and treatment groups, and random assignment to these—are often not feasible. Certainly I know my POLI 450 students would riot if half of them were told they weren’t participating in the Brynania simulation. However, in the absence of a Control group there’s no reliable way of determining if the opportunity cost of a simulation was really worth it, or whether students would have learned just as much through other more traditional means like lectures, assigned readings, or course discussions.

They briefly discuss some of the problems with pre/post-test assessments of learning, although I think they understate the problems of prompting, sensitization, and consequent bias. The article largely focuses on traditional learning outcomes (knowledge retention, for example), and not necessarily on other learned skills (diplomatic skills, leadership, communication, self-confidence, stress management).

Finally, it seems to me quite possible that simulations articles in general, and those that include explicit attention to assessment mechanisms in particular, are an unrepresentative sample of simulation use more broadly. Almost by definition they are written by instructors with a particular interest in simulation methods, and who might therefore be much more effective at designing and implementing simulations, as well as integrating them into course curriculum.

All-in-all, the piece is a welcome contribution to the political science literature on simulations and learning.

Ciută: Playing Video Games with IR

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The latest issue of Milennium 44, 2 (January 2016) has an article by Felix Ciută (University College London) entitled “Call of Duty: Playing Video Games with IR,” in which he explores recent scholarship on videogames and international relations:

This article attempts to further develop the IR research agenda on video games. The argument starts with a critique of the narrow focus on war-themed blockbuster games of current IR work on video games. I argue that this narrow view of IR and of video games is unsustainable and counterproductive, and has led to the positioning of IR as a regime of value with an unwarranted focus on the ideological effects of video games, and also to a paradoxical closing off of its research agenda. In the second half of the article I attempt to sketch two directions of research that could help overcome these initial limitations. The first outlines the potential for the IR study of the global aesthetic economy of video games, and the differentiated distribution of its regimes of value. The second encourages the study of game-worlds as practical-theoretical spaces where a particular relationship between academic subjectivity and its objects is constituted. The significance of this argument transcends IR video games research: it has relevance for cross-disciplinary issues regarding the status of academic moral-aesthetic judgements about cultural artfacts and practices; the relationship between academic and ‘popular’ knowledge; and the potential for political mobilisation at the interface of entertainment and social critique.

While non-specialist readers may find the article rather more opaquely written than necessary, he raises some important points about both an excessive focus on military-themed games, and about scholarship on popular culture and international relations more broadly.

Simulation & Gaming, February 2016

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The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 47, 1 (February 2016) is now available:

Editorial
Articles

The article on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology in UK military training by John Curry (History of Wargaming Project), Philip Sabin (KCL) and the legendary (or mythical) Tim Price is likely to be of particular interest to many PAXsims readers:

Aim. This article gives an overview of how commercial computer game technology was introduced for training, education and decision support within the British Army.

Value of the article. It records the narrative of the introduction and development of first person shooter computer games into the British Army; an area where developments are not routinely reported outside the closed world of defence training.

Methodology. The research was based on interviews of key staff who worked in procurement at the Defence Academy of the UK and for the MoD during 2002 to 2012. The interviewees included two officers, an experienced defence contractor and a senior civil servant. These interviews were given on the understanding that the views expressed would not be individually attributable as they might not represent those of their current employers. The authors were also given access to a unique collection of documents, some of which were not publically available, but are held in the archives of the UK Defence Academy. These are cited in the bibliography.

Limitations of the article. This article cites the evidence from the time that supported the continued use of what was a radical and contentious new way of training. Since the introduction of Virtual Battle Space 2 into the British Army, further research into the effectiveness of games based training in the military has been published.

Analysis. Games based training has become a significant part of the training cycle for many parts of the British Army. These games have limitations, but are the only alternative to real operations for some types of training. However, the difficult topic of what is the correct proportion of games based training to other types? is a contested area within defence training in the UK.

Conclusions. Initial evaluations on the effectiveness of the use of computer games in preparing UK forces for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan showed they had a significant positive impact. The first experience of the British Army with these games has secured the long-term application of this technology and it is unrealistic to imagine future military training without some degree of games technology.

Global politics in historical strategy computer games

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Nicolas de Zamaróczy has a forthcoming piece in International Studies Perspectives entitled “Are We What We Play? Global Politics in Historical Strategy Computer Games,” in which he explores the way that popular (gaming) culture portrays international relations. It’s already available here, and well worth a read.

Building upon current interest in studies of how popular culture relates to global politics, this article examines one hitherto overlooked aspect of popular culture: computer games. Although not prominent in the field of International Relations (IR), historical strategy computer games should be of particular interest to the discipline since they are explicitly designed to allow players to simulate global politics. This article highlights five major IR-related assumptions built into most single-player historical strategy games (the assumption of perfect information, the assumption of perfect control, the assumption of radical otherness, the assumption of perpetual conflict, and the assumption of environmental stasis) and contrasts them with IR scholarship about how these assumptions manifest themselves in the “real world.” This article concludes by making two arguments: first, we can use computer games as a mirror to critically reflect on the nature of contemporary global politics, and second, these games have important constitutive effects on understandings of global politics, effects that deserve to be examined empirically in a deeper manner.

The games he examines include various editions of Civilization (II, III, and IV); Age of Empires IIEuropa Universalis II and III; Medieval: Total War (I and II); and Empires: Dawn of the Modern World. He offers several thoughts as to how the image of international relations embodied in such games both reflects and shapes popular opinion.

Thinking about historical strategy games as a mirror forces us to reflect critically on the nature of global politics in the second decade of the twenty-first century. I attempted above to demonstrate that many of the key assumptions of these games run against much of the best IR scholarship in several domains. At the same time, however, these games would not enjoy the popularity they do if they represented global politics in a way that was too disconnected from the conceptions held by a majority of their players.

They may also shape the preconceptions of IR students:

Furthermore, IR educators have particular reason to worry about the constitutive effects of digital games, given that what they attempt to teach by day in the IR classroom may be undermined by what students are playing at night. Statistics suggest that this is not just an idle fear.

In urging further examination of such issues, de Zamaróczy also argues the need for greater methodological sophistication:

Digital games, through their strong emphasis on active participation rather than passive reception, stand out from the rest of pop culture as the medium that arguably most allows for agency, reinterpretation, and contestation. So it would be inaccurate to expect simple, direct causal effects as a result of playing digital games; the nature of the relationship is likely to be both more diffuse and less determined. Indeed, some have even suggested that instead of having a conservative effect, digital games can actually have emancipatory properties (Chan 2009; Chien 2009; Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter 2009; Lammes 2010).

This, in turn, opens the door for further systematic empirical research. Much of the existing literature in IR on the constitutive nature of popular culture, while persuasive in toto, tends to simply posit a relationship rather than seek to test it empirically. This is especially true for the few existing IR studies of digital games, where claims about, say, games’ constitutive role in militarization tend to be asserted rather than tested (e.g., Stahl 2006; Power 2007; Höglund 2008; Gagnon 2010).10 Fortunately, though, scholars in a variety of other disciplines have been developing techniques for empirically establishing the causal microfoundations between pop cultural artifacts and their constitutive effects. For instance, the constitutive effects of digital games have been assessed through survey data (Penney 2009; Wang 2010; Festl, Scharkow, and Quandt 2013), panel studies (Williams 2006), direct observation of in-game behavior (MacCallum-Stewart 2008; Payne 2009; Kafai, Cook, and Fields 2010; Monson 2012), focus groups (Schott and Thomas 2008; Huntemann 2009), content analysis (Šisler 2008; Gagnon 2010; Hitchens, Patrickson, and Young 2014), and reviews of online material posted by players (Brock 2011; Owens 2011; Pulos 2013; Braithwaite 2014). IR will develop a richer understanding of how global politics actually works if it unpacks the constitutive effects of pop cultural artifacts using empirical techniques like these.

h/t Ryan Kuhns 

Review: King, It Could Happen Tomorrow

Russell King, It Could Happen Tomorrow! Emergency Planning Exercises for the Health Services and Business. John Curry, ed. History of Wargaming Project, 2015. 152pp. £14.95 pb.

rkitcouldhappencoverRussell King has worked in a  variety of senior managerial positions in the National Health Service (England), and for some years now has specialized in emergency planning and training. In this volume he draws upon this extensive experience to offer valuable insight into planning and implementing emergency planning exercises.

It Could Happen Tomorrow starts with an overview of exercise methodology, as well as a broader discussion of how hospitals plan for disasters. King emphasizes the importance of training exercises that can be undertaken with low marginal cost, and without significantly interference in the regular daily clinical practice of a hospital or other health institution.

The volume then devotes considerable attention to what the author terms the “Autumn Leaves methodology,” based on major exercises he has run. This approach consists of a series of linked desk-top exercises, reflecting the structure of the organization where the exercise is being held, conducted in or near the actual workplace. Established institutional metrics, feedback sessions, and peer review are essential to assessing performance, learning lessons, and enhancing preparedness.

Most of the remaining chapters examine particular preparedness exercises: coping with an outbreak of pandemic disease; preparing for a wide-area event (in this case, stages of the Tour de France); shortages of key supplies; discharge of patients to free up hospital capacity for a mass casualty incident; dealing with a VIP visit; and small scenarios and problems that can be used as the basis for quick “what-if?” discussions. The latter run the gamut from the sudden appearance of the media (for unknown reasons) to reports of an armed man dressed as a cowboy in the staff canteen. Many of these “staff college” problems are drawn from the author’s experiences as a hospital administrator, although he sadly gives no indication of whether the cowboy incident is based on real events.

Finally, King discusses how institutions and managers can best learn from preparedness exercises, and how creativity might be most effectively promoted. This chapter in particular can be usefully read in conjunction with the Emergency Capacity-Building Project’s work (2004-13) on effective use of simulations to address disaster planning and humanitarian assistance, which also investigates the challenge of individual and institutional learning.

Overall, this volume offers a range of instructive examples, procedures, and helpful advice, and is well worth reading for those interested in preparedness exercises. It also marks something of a new phase in John Curry’s History of Wargaming Project, which has now begun to address non-military serious game topics too.

RAND: Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics

RANDbalticscoverDavid A. Shlapak and Michael W. Johnson of RAND have just released a report entitled Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank: Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics. The study is based on a series of wargames conducted between summer 2014 and spring 2015 that examined a possible near-term Russian attack on the Baltic states:

The games’ findings are unambiguous: As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad: a bloody counteroffensive, fraught with escalatory risk, to liberate the Baltics; to escalate itself, as it threatened to do to avert defeat during the Cold War; or to concede at least temporary defeat, with uncertain but predictably disastrous consequences for the Alliance and, not incidentally, the people of the Baltics.

Fortunately, avoiding such a swift and catastrophic failure does not appear to require a Herculean effort. Further gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states. While not sufficient to mount a sustained defense of the region or to achieve NATO’s ultimate end state of restoring its members’ territorial integrity, such a posture would fundamentally change the strategic picture as seen from Moscow. Instead of being able to confront NATO with a stunning coup de main that cornered it as described above, an attack on the Baltics would instead trigger a prolonged and serious war between Russia and a materially far wealthier and more powerful coalition, a war Moscow must fear it would be likely to lose.

Crafting this deterrent posture would not be inexpensive in absolute terms, with annual costs perhaps running on the order of $2.7 billion. That is not a small number, but seen in the context of an Alliance with an aggregate gross domestic product in excess of $35 trillion and combined yearly defense spending of more than $1 trillion, it hardly appears unaffordable, especially in comparison with the potential costs of failing to defend NATO’s most exposed and vulnerable allies—that is, of potentially inviting a devastating war, rather than deterring it.

The games indicated that lighter and foot-mobile forces could not be expected to substantially slow Russian heavy armour—and that NATO, as currently deployed, has no heavy armour positioned  in the Baltics or able to reach them quickly. NATO airmobile forces can mount a stiff defence in major urban areas, but likely at the cost of high collateral damage. While NATO airpower could inflict substantial damage on Russian forces, it would not be able to do enough damage to slow their advance, not would it be able to establish sufficient air superiority prevent the Russian air force from mounting substantial localized air operations against NATO reinforcements (especially given weaknesses in the organic air defence of US formations).

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The game itself was conducted as follows:

The general game design was similar to that of traditional board wargames, with a hex grid governing movement superimposed on a map. Tactical Pilotage Charts (1:500,000 scale) were used, overlaid with 10-km hexes, as seen in Figure A.1 [below]. Land forces were represented at the battalion level and air units as squadrons; movement and combat were governed and adjudicated using rules and combat-result tables that incorporated both traditional gaming principles (e.g., Lanchester exchange rates) and the results of offline modeling. We also developed offline spreadsheet models to handle both inter- and intratheater mobility. All these were subject to continual refinement as we repeatedly played the game, although the basic structure and content of the platform proved sound.

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Orders of battle and tables of organization and equipment were developed using unclassiffed sources. Ground unit combat strengths were based on a systematic scoring of individual weapons, from tanks and artillery down to light machine guns, which were then aggregated according to the tables of organization and equipment for the various classes of NATO and Russian units. Overall unit scores were adjusted to account for dfferences in training, sustainment, and other factors not otherwise captured. Air unit combat strengths were derived from the results of offline engagement, mission, and campaign-level modeling.

They also note that “full documentation of the gaming platform will be forth- coming in a subsequent report.” We’ll look forward to reading more.

Thiele: Marines ought to play more games!

Gazette.jpgIn the January 2016 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette, LtCol Gregory A. Thiele argues that Marines Ought to Play More Games! (subscription required):

Wargaming can provide Marines with a better understanding of the nature of war. While the conduct of war changes, the nature of war (friction, uncertainty, violence, etc.) does not. In addition, MCDP-1 reminds Marines that, “the enemy is not an inanimate object … While we try to impose our will on the enemy, he resists us and seeks to impose his own will on us. Appreciating this dynamic interplay between opposing human wills is essential to understanding the fundamental nature of war.”5 (Emphasis added.) It is critical that Marines find ways to incorporate a hostile, independent will into training if we are to be prepared for the battlefield.

One method of introducing an opposing will into training events is to conduct free-play force-on-force exercises. Although MCDP-1 recommends free-play force-on-force exercises, very few Marine Corps units train in this manner.6 Current training often takes the form of attempting to master techniques and procedures. While there may be some value in this, it is far outweighed by the inward focus that results. Exposed to such a training regime over time, Marines acquire a distorted view of war as a one-sided affair in which the actions of the enemy are largely inconsequential. Such sterile preparation is a poor environment from which to draw an understanding of war. Wargaming is a simple, low-cost method of introducing an opposing will into training. Ideally, wargaming complements a training regime that consists largely of free-play force-on-force exercises.

When played against an opponent, wargames allow participants to experience conflict with a hostile, independent will. In order to win, Marines will be forced to think constantly about the enemy, how they can thwart the enemy’s plans, and how they can accomplish their own. Marines will also learn to remain flexible in their approach. Well-balanced games will force players to be creative and resourceful, maximizing any advantage—no matter how slight—in order to win. Wargames will develop in participants an outward focus on the outcome desired, rather than an inward focus on process and methods.

Wargamers will also gain a better understanding of other characteristics of war. The internal focus that predominates in many Marine Corps units often leads to processes that are ineffective in combat (for instance, an operations order that is too long, too detailed, or too prescriptive). Playing wargames will remind Marines that military actions rarely occur exactly as planned. Wargaming helps develop an understanding of the need for plans that are adaptable. Wargaming should help leaders to craft a flexible plan, a clear commander’s intent and an order that enables subordinates to use their individual creativity in unforeseen circumstances.

Wargaming will also provide Marines with the vicarious experiences that are very difficult, or too expensive, to accomplish under normal conditions. How many Marines have maneuvered a brigade, division or MEF/corps on the battlefield? Wargames allow Marines to simulate such maneuvers and, with careful thought, Marines can begin to glimpse some of the challenges that they may face in leading such organizations or in planning their employment. More, they can gain an understanding of the context within which smaller units decide and act.

Wargaming can have a synergistic effect when paired with a carefully structured professional reading program. Because wargaming often requires a greater degree of involvement than does reading, the fidelity of the vicarious experience may be greater than that provided by reading a book on the same subject. Marines can select battles and campaigns that interest them, read about the campaign, and then play a wargame dealing with the same battle or campaign. Due to the great variety of wargames available, many battles can be wargamed at the tactical level and the campaigns of which they formed a part can be gamed as well in order to provide operational-level context regarding how and why the battle occurred. Such structured gaming may lead to a greater interest in the battle or campaign and even more reading, lighting a fire of interest in the individual Marine as he tries to understand historical events.

By their very nature, wargames are also progressive tactical decision games. As the game develops, each player is presented with situations with which he must cope and for which he must devise solutions. Players are required to make a large number of decisions in each game. Every new situation acts as a template that may assist leaders in making recognition-primed decisions in similar real-life situations.

When played as a team, wargames can assist seniors and juniors in building implicit communication. In such team games, decisions must be clearly communicated to subordinates so that orders may be properly executed. As time goes on, subordinates will begin to develop a sense of what their leaders expect from them with shorter communications and perhaps even when orders are entirely lacking. Such implicit communication will build trust between leaders and led and facilitate decentralized decision making.

Thiele provides a short list of recommended games—all of them digital, with no manual wargames among them. Phil Sabin’s excellent book Simulating War is recommended for further reading, as is Martin van Creveld’s rather more bizarre Wargames.

At Foreign Policy, Tom Ricks has taken up the call, asking for suggestions as to what (commercial) wargames might be added to the list. He also cites Ellie Bartel’s piece on getting the most out of wargames (although Ellie is largely discussing analytical games, rather than the training/educational/experiential games that the Thiele article addresses).

h/t Ryan Kuhns

Simulation & Gaming, October 2015

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The latest issue of Simulation & Gaming 46, 5 (October 2015) is now available. Much of the issue is devoted to using games to aid in “understanding complexity.”

Guest Editorial

Understanding Complexity: The Use of Simulation Games for Engineering Systems

  • Geertje Bekebrede, Julia Lo, and Heide Lukosch

Symposium Articles

Designing SNAKES AND LADDERS: An Analogy for Asset Management Strategy Development

  • Melinda Hodkiewicz

Model-Based Concept of Operations Development Using Gaming Simulation: Preliminary Findings

  • Peter Korfiatis, Robert Cloutier, and Teresa Zigh

Gaming and Simulation for Railway Innovation: A Case Study of the Dutch Railway System

  • Jop van den Hoogen and Sebastiaan Meijer

The Power of Sponges: Comparing High-Tech and Low-Tech Gaming for Innovation

  • Sebastiaan Meijer

Understanding Complex Systems Through Mental Models and Shared Experiences: A Case Study

  • Geertje Bekebrede, Julia Lo, and Heide Lukosch

Article

Transportation Modeling as a Didactic Tool: Human Settlement and Transport

  • Timo Ohnmacht, Widar von Arx, Norbert Schick, Philipp Wegelin, and Jonas Frölicher

Ready-to-use simulations

CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION: A Corporate Social Responsibility Game

  • Shlomo Sher

PUZZLED? A Hierarchical-Group, Problem-Solving Simulation

  • Kathleen H. Wall and Sandra Morgan

Review: Zenko, Red Team

Review of: Micah Zenko, Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy (New York: Basic Books, 2015). 298pp. USD$26.99 hc.

Cover_lrg“Red teaming” is the practice of assuming the role of a potential adversary so as to expose vulnerabilities, stress-test plans, or anticipate some of an opponent’s possible actions. In this very useful book, Micah Zenko explores the application of red teaming in the context of military planning, intelligence analysis, homeland security, and the private sector. In doing so he goes well beyond describing red-teamers and what they do to offer his views on the strengths, weaknesses, and best practices of the approach.

Many readers of PAXsims will be particularly interested in Zenko’s take on military wargaming. One major portion of this chapter of the book is devoted to the infamous Millennium Challenge 2002 wargame, in which Blue’s forces were resurrected following an innovative and devastating surprise attack by Red, and gameplay then resumed along largely scripted lines. (An excerpt from Zenko’s discussion of this was recently published at War on the Rocks, and can be found here.) I’ve previously argued that the shortcomings of Millennium Challenge were a little more complicated than he suggests, and Ellie Bartels has also taken up the issue of wargames and experimental design. More generally, Title X and similar large-scale doctrinal games (such as Millennium Challenge) are not the best examples of truly adversarial gaming to be found in the US Department of Defence. On the other hand, it is clear that many US  wargames are not very innovative or challenging, a shortcoming that has been taken up extensively in the past year by both senior officials and the professional wargaming community. Zenko doesn’t address any of this, although in fairness much of it has come since he likely finalized the book manuscript.

Having done both academic and policy work on intelligence assessment, I was also particularly interested in what Zenko has to say about the intelligence community. His focus here, as elsewhere in the book, is on explicit red teaming, wherein analysts are tasked with the devil’s advocate role of producing assessments that challenge conventional interpretive wisdom. His discussion of this is good. However, efforts to counter cognitive closure run much broader than red teaming alone, and include a variety of alternative analytical methods. Moreover, in my own experience some of the most effective red teaming is often not that generated by dedicated red team groups as a stand-alone exercise, but rather the internal debates that occur in a well-managed intelligence shop, where analysts are actively encouraged to assertively challenge their own work and that of their colleagues—regardless of seniority or conventional wisdom—in order to see whether other conclusions are possible from the same (or other) data. The quality and attributes of senior- and mid-level intelligence managers and the institutional culture within the organization are key to making this happen.

Overall, Zenko identifies six sets of best practices for red teams. I would have liked to have seen this discussion a little more deeply grounded in the growing research on predictive judgment, notably from psychology and decision science or predictive judgment—neither Richards Heuer’s classic work nor the the seminal research of Philip Tetlock and the Good Judgment Project on how individuals and groups predict the future are mentioned at all—but the ideas he puts forward are nonetheless valuable ones. Specifically, he argues that: there must be buy-in for the process from above; red-teamers much be outside regular analytical structures so as to maintain objectivity, yet inside enough to be aware and accepted; they must be fearless sceptics who know how to deliver their analyses with finesse and tact; they should be eclectic and unpredictable (“have a big bag of tricks”); senior officials must be prepared to hear bad news (or contrary analyses) and act on them; and one should red team enough, but not so much that it excessively demoralizes and distracts. Finally, he suggests that “the overarching best practice is to be flexible in the adaption of best practices”—a very, very important point indeed.

I equally liked his explicit discussion of red teaming malpractices, although I might have framed some a little differently. He cautions against ad hoc devil’s advocacy that is little more than token dissent; warns against mistaking red team outputs for policy; is critical of irresponsible freelance red treaming; and highlights the dangers of shooting the red team messenger when they deliver contrary views. He also stresses that red teams should inform, but not set, policy—that is, they should be but one input and perspective in the policy process. He concludes by making several recommendations for government, namely that big decisions should be red-teamed; red team efforts should be compiled to enable learning and sharing; red team instruction should be expanded, and military red team methods should be reviewed; and that red-teaming should be made more meaningful, and not simply a rubber stamp.

Overall, this book is a useful survey of the field. While primarily intended to introduce the topic to a general audience, even experienced red-teamers will find Red Team to be of considerable value.

Zones of Control

9780262033992

Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming, coedited by Pat Harrigan and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, will be published by The MIT Press in the spring of 2016. The book contains more than sixty contributions by scholars, game designers, and practitioners—including two chapters from us (Rex Brynen, Ellie Bartels) here at PAXsims:

Editors’ Introduction

  • Pat Harrigan and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

Foreword: The Paper Time Machine Goes Electric

  • James F. Dunnigan

PART I: PAPER WARS 

1 A Game Out of All Proportions: How a Hobby Miniaturized War

  • Jon Peterson

2 The History of Wargaming Project

  • John Curry

3 The Fundamental Gap between Tabletop Simulation Games and the “Truth”

  • Tetsuya Nakamura

4 Fleet Admiral: Tracing One Element in the Evolution of a Game Design

  • Jack Greene

5 The Wild Blue Yonder: Representing Air Warfare in Games

  • Lee Brimmicombe-Wood

6 Historical Aesthetics in Mapmaking

  • Mark Mahaffey

7 The “I” in Team: War and Combat in Tabletop Role-Playing Games

  • A. Scott Glancy

PART II: WAR ENGINES 

8 War Engines: Wargames as Systems from the Tabletop to the Computer

  • Henry Lowood

9 The Engine of Wargaming

  • Matthew B. Caffrey Jr.

10 Design for Effect: The “Common Language” of Advanced Squad Leader

  • J. R. Tracy

11 Combat Commander: Time to Throw Your Plan Away

  • John A. Foley

12 Empire of the Sun: The Next Evolution of the Card-Driven Game Engine

  • Mark Herman

13 The Paths of Glory Lead but to the Gaming Table

  • Ted S. Raicer

14 A New Kind of History: The Culture of Wargame Scenario Design Communities

  • Troy Goodfellow

PART III: OPERATIONS 

15 Operations Research, Systems Analysis, and Wargaming: Riding the Cycle of Research

  • Peter P. Perla

16 The Application of Statistical and Forensics validation to Simulation Modeling in Wargames

  • Brien J. Miller

17 Goal-Driven Design and Napoleon’s Triumph

  • Rachel Simmons

18 Harpoon: An Original Serious Game

  • Don R. Gilman

19 The Development and Application of the Real-Time Air Power Wargame Simulation Modern Air Power

  • John Tiller and Catherine Cavagnaro

20 Red vs. Blue

  • Thomas C. Schelling

21 Hypergaming

  • Russell Vane

PART IV: THE BLEEDING EDGE 

22 Wargaming Futures: Naturalizing the New American Way of War

  • Luke Caldwell and Tim Lenoir

23 Creating Persian Incursion

  • Larry Bond

24 Modeling the Second Battle of Fallujah

  • Laurent Closier

25 Playing with Toy Soldiers: Authenticity and Metagaming in World War I video Games

  • Andrew Wackerfuss

26 America’s Army

  • Marcus Schulzke

27 We the Soldiers: Player Complicity and Ethical Gameplay in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

  • Miguel Sicart

28 Upending Militarized Masculinity in Spec Ops: The Line

  • Soraya Murray

PART V: SYSTEMS AND SITUATIONS

29 Wargames as Writing Systems

  • Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi

30 Playing Defense: Gender, Just War, and Game Design

  • Elizabeth Losh

31 Debord’s Nostalgic Algorithm

  • Alexander R. Galloway

32 The Ludic Science Club Crosses the Berezina

  • Richard Barbrook

33 War Games

  • David Levinthal

34 Troubling the Magic Circle: Miniature War in Iraq

  • Brian Conley

PART VI: THE WAR ROOM 

35 Wargames as an Academic Instrument

  • Philip Sabin

36 Lessons from the Hexagon: Wargames and the Military Historian

  • Robert M. Citino

37 Simulation Literacy: The Case for Wargames in the History Classroom

  • Rob MacDougall and Lisa Faden

38 The Amateur Designer: For Fun and Profit

  • Charles Vasey

39 Struggling with Deep Play: Utilizing Twilight Struggle for Historical Inquiry

  • Jeremy Antley

40 Model-Driven Military Wargame Design and Evaluation

  • Alexander H. Levis and Robert J. Elder

PART VII: IRREGULARITIES

41 Gaming the Nonkinetic

  • Rex Brynen

42 Inhabited Models and Irregular Warfare Games: An Approach to Educational and Analytical Gaming at the US Department of Defense

  • Elizabeth M. Bartels

43 Chess, Go, and Vietnam: Gaming Modern Insurgency

  • Brian Train and Volko Ruhnke

44 Irregular Warfare: The Kobayashi Maru of the Wargaming World

  • Yuna Huh Wong

45 A Mighty Fortress is Our God: When Military Action Meets Religious Strife

  • Ed Beach

46 Cultural Wargaming: Understanding Cross-Cultural Communications Using Wargames

  • Jim Wallman

PART VIII: OTHER THEATERS

47 Wargaming (as) Literature 555

  • Esther MacCallum-Stewart

48 Tristram Shandy: Toby and Trim’s Wargames and the Bowling Green

  • Bill McDonald

49 Third Reich and The Third Reich

  • John Prados

50 How Star Fleet Battles Happened

  • Stephen V. Cole

51 Total Global Domination: Games Workshop and Warhammer 40,000

  • Ian Sturrock and James Wallis

52 When the Drums Begin to Roll

  • Larry Brom

53 War Re-created: Twentieth-Century War Reenactors and the Private Event

  • Jenny Thompson

PART IX: FIGHT THE FUTURE

54 War, Mathematics, and Simulation: Drones and (Losing) Control of Battlespace

  • Patrick Crogan

55 How to Sell Wargames to the Non-Wargamer

  • Michael Peck

56 Wargaming the Cyber Frontier

  • Joseph Miranda

57 The Unfulfilled Promise of Digital Wargames

  • Greg Costikyan

58 Civilian Casualties: Shifting Perspective in This War of Mine

  • Kacper Kwiatkowski

59 Practicing a New Wargame

  • Mary Flanagan

Zones of Control can now be preordered from Amazon.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 23 October 2015

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Some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to PAXsims readers. Corinne Goldberger and Ryan Kuhns contributed material for this latest edition.

PAXsims

1510_n-square_g4c_banner_634pxThe N Square Challenge is offering a $10,000 prize for the best idea for a game on nuclear proliferation:

Nuclear proliferation remains one of the most vexing and complex issues of our time. Though the Cold War ended long ago, today’s nuclear security situation is more volatile than ever.

But with such a huge challenge comes an even bigger opportunity for innovation, and who better to tackle this issue than the gaming community, known for their creativity and collaborative problem solving. A new design competition is calling on innovators to save the world, in real life, by inspiring creative solutions and novel approaches that foster greater understanding of nuclear proliferation and its related safety and security challenges.

Games for Change is looking for ideas for games that address the risk of nuclear weapons.

The N Square Challenge is a $10,000 game design competition, sponsored by N Square, a two-year pilot working to inspire nuclear safety solutions.

The challenge invites anyone, anywhere, to conceptualize a game that will engage and educate players about the dynamics of nuclear weapons risk. No prior game design experience or subject matter expertise is required. You supply the idea, and we’ll design the game.

The winning design idea will receive a $10,000 cash prize!

The deadline for submissions is November 13. You’ll find further details here and here.

N Square is a collaborative effort between five of the largest peace and security funders in the United States: The Carnegie Corporation of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ploughshares Fund, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

PAXsims

Asymmetric Games is a website devoted to experimental strategy games. Their most recent offering examines rebuilding a post-apocalyptic America:

Asymmetric Warfare: Nation Building USA is a game that explores the complexity of conflicts that occur in failed states. Rather than look at a current conflict in a country where the basic functions of government have broken down (Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, etc.), this game assumes that the United States is recovering from a debilitating plague. To stop the spread of the plague, the US government had to put the US population under a prolonged quarantine and nuke a few cities where the plague was out of control. Forcing people to stay indoors for several weeks, in turn, caused the economy to collapse. Larger areas of the country have collapsed into anarchy, and millions of refugees are fleeing the fallout of the nuclear strikes. The US has become a failed state. You play a bankrupt US government, and you must reassert control over and rebuild the nation.

Below you’ll find a video highlighting the Asymmetric Games engine used in an earlier game, Baltic Gambit:

PAXsims

Rogue State is a digital game newly released on Steam:

Assume control of a Middle Eastern country recovering from a violent revolution. It is up to you: Forge alliances, grow your economy, invade your neighbors, or pacify your population. Rogue State is a geopolitical strategy game that will force you to always stay one step ahead of your rivals to survive.

PAXsims

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Rumour has it that a well-known British wargamer (and occasional PAXsims contributor) was recently spotted in China too.

China is taking its wargaming and military exercises more seriously, according to Defense News:

China has greatly increased the realism of its Army training, attempting to improve readiness and interoperability, and unearth operational weaknesses.

These trends demonstrate the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) rising self-confidence in dealing with a variety of scenarios beyond its traditional focus of a conflict with Taiwan, analysts said.

Since 2006, the PLA has increased the number of trans-regional exercises, particularly units moving from one military region (MR) to another for training, said Roy Kamphausen, senior vice president for research at the National Bureau of Asian Research.

The PLA has made three key improvements in land warfare exercises, said Li Xiaobing, author of the book “A History of the Modern Chinese Army.”

First, the PLA has moved the exercises out of their training fields like the one in the Beijing region and into actual battlegrounds, including some remote, frontier areas like those in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Second, the exercises have become more practical in terms of real war conditions, such as command, communication and long-distance logistics.

“They even traveled long distance to Russia for a joint land exercise,” he said.

Third, the blue army or enemy force is now better prepared and stronger than the red army or PLA.

“The red army has to fight harder and smarter rather than expecting a guaranteed victory,” Li said. Li once served in the PLA and is now a professor at the University of Central Oklahoma.

However:

Li said weaknesses of the recent land exercises remind people of the institutional problems of the PLA.

“Politics still has a role in the exercises, including site selection, commander appointments and battle designs,” he said. Problems include economic issues: “Some units were asked to use old weapons before their retirement and ammunition before the expiration dates.”

For more on wargaming in China, see Devin Ellis’ recent presentation on the topic at Connections UK 2015 (video below).

PAXsims

Mark Herman—designer of We The PeopleEmpire of the Sun, Fire in the Lake, Churchill and many other wargames–recently had an AMA (‘ask me anything”) on Reddit. You can read the questions and answers in the Hex and Counter subreddit.

PAXsims

live-like-a-refugee-for-a-weekend-in-rural-ohio-511-body-image-1444867210-size_1000In Ohio, Dr. Jeff Cook organizes an annual Refugee Weekend that aims to Refugee Weekend—an “immersion experience modeled on different refugee situations from around the world.” The event lasts two days and nights:

During one of my more memorable weekends in college, I fled a group of bandits trying to steal my belongings, plucked a scrawny chicken, watched a sheep get slaughtered so we could eat, and narrowly avoided frostbite after spending all day and night outside. In Ohio. In the middle of winter. The experience was called Refugee Weekend, an overnight class exercise meant to show our group of Midwestern, middle-class millennials just what it meant to exist on the margins. It was so cold that I melted the sole of my Army-issue borrowed boot as I tried to get warm at a campfire. Then a group of masked bandits raided camp, again, and I hobbled on an unevenly melted boot for the rest of the night. The hellish experience began on Friday afternoon, and ended in the early hours of Sunday morning—if only real-world refugees had that luxury.

Read more about it at VICE.

On a similar theme, the Webster University Journal reports on another refugee simulation:

The refugee experience tested the students both mentally and physically, just like a real refugee scenario. 

Sara Banoura, a journalism student and member of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement in St. Louis, said she was skeptical when she first read about the simulation. She said she did not know how close to reality it was. 

Banoura said the reflections made by those who participated reassured her that the refugee simulation has the potential to change hearts on and off campus. 

“The Syrian situation is eye-opening to every other refugee situation,” Banoura said. “It’s not just about politics, it’s about humanity.”

PAXsims

PSC_masthead-jl1

The latest issue of PS: Political Science & Politics 48, 4 (October 2015) contains an article by Kyle Haynes on “Simulating the Bargaining Model of War.”

This article outlines a classroom simulation for teaching the bargaining model of war. This model has become one of the most important theories of international conflict, but the technical notation often used to illustrate it is troublesome for some students. I describe a simple card game that can be integrated into a broader strategy for conveying the bargaining model’s core insights. I also highlight ways in which the game can be modified to focus on different aspects of the model’s logic.

PAXsims

The Journal of Games Criticism is seeking submissions for its January 2016 issue.
The Journal of Games Criticism (JGC) is a non-profit, peer-reviewed, open-access journal which aims to respond to these cultural artifacts by extending the range of authors to include both traditional academics and popular bloggers. The journal strives to be a producer of feed-forward approaches to video games criticism with a focus on influencing gamer culture, the design and writing of video games, and the social understanding of video games and video games criticism.
This issue’s submission deadline is November 15, 2015. See here for submissions guidelines.
PAXsims

…one crowdfunded video game project has stood out to me as a model for cultivating an audience and then effectively meeting its expectations—not to mention delivering a great game in the process. It’s Prison Architectwhich has raised more than $19 million through crowdfunding. Game designers and companies alike would benefit from studying its success.

In Prison Architect, an ambitious business/management simulation from British developer Introversion Software, players design and manage their own penal colony. It wasn’t funded through Kickstarter but through Valve’s game distribution platform Steam, whose “Early Access” program required that Introversion deliver a playable experience before anyone could even donate money. Consequently, Prison Architect’s concept had to be sufficiently fleshed out and coherent to yield a minimal prototype before its creators could ask anyone for money. Second, after releasing that prototype in 2012 Introversion updated the game almost every month with new features and functionality in order to get ongoing feedback from the funders. And third, Introversion never promised more than it could deliver—quite the opposite.

After being available for three years as an open, prerelease “alpha,” Prison Architectwas officially released two weeks ago and appears destined for long-term cult success….

PAXsims

While not exactly connected with conflict, it is all about simulation—so I’ll slip in a quick plug for McGill University’s  Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning, which supports simulated training in the health sciences.

Since its inception in 2006 the Centre has been an important part of the training of health care students and practitioners, having hosted over 110,000 learner visits, more than 60,000 of which have occurred in the past four years. The Centre’s academic team provides simulation-based training to students from McGill’s schools of medicine, nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, communication sciences and disorders, and dietetics and human nutrition, as well as to non-McGill health care professionals and to industry.

Using sophisticated simulation technology, life-like mannequins and professional actors as patients, among other tools, the Centre’s users are able to practice a variety of skills from suturing to ultrasound to bedside manner to crisis resource management, clinical decision-making and interprofessional health care.

You can read more about it in the McGill Reporter.

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