MaGCK—The Matrix Game Construction Kit—is now available from The Game Crafter.
In a “matrix game” there are few preset rules limiting what players can do. Instead, each is free to undertake any plausible action during their turn. The chances of success or failure, as well as the effects of the action, are largely determined through structured argument and discussion. This process allows for imaginative game dynamics that are lively and open-ended, and yet also grounded in reality.
Matrix games are particularly well-suited for complex conflicts and issues involving multiple actors and stake-holders, varying interests and agendas, and a broad range of (diplomatic/political, military, social, and economic) dimensions. The game system crowdsources ideas and insight from participants, thereby fostering greater analytical insight.
First developed by Chris Engle, matrix games have been played by hobbyists for years. They have also been used as serious games for training at the US Army War College, National Defense University, the Central Intelligence Agency, and elsewhere; for defence planning, capability assessment, and acquisitions in Australia, Canada, the UK, and US; for security planning for the Vancouver Olympics; as a research and analytical support tool at the UK Foreign Office; and as an educational method in various universities. They are particularly well-suited for multi-sided conflicts or other issues that involve a broad range of capabilities and interaction.
For more on matrix games, see the extensive coverage at PAXsims.
MaGCK contains everything that is required to play two different matrix games, or to design your own matrix games addressing almost any aspect of modern conflict:
- A core set of matrix game rules.
- Player briefings and supplementary rules for ISIS CRISIS, a matrix game that explores the rise and decline of the so-called “Islamic State” insurgency in Iraq. Two scenarios are included: “The Caliphate Reborn?” (set in September 2014) and “Road to Mosul” (starting January 2016).
- Player briefings, map tiles, and supplementary rules for A RECKONING OF VULTURES, a game that explores coup plotting and political skullduggery in a fictional dictatorship.
- 255 large blank game tokens in eight colours, together with over 700 stickers depicting various unit types, other assets, capabilities, and effects. The stickers are used to customize the game tokens, offering enormous flexibility for matrix game designers.
- 80 smaller discs in the same colours as above, which can be used to indicate damage, supplies and resources, political influence, or other characteristics.
- 10 two-sided tracking mats, with various scales (+/-3, 1-3, 1-10, days, months, and so forth)
- Assorted dice.
In addition, purchasers of MaGCK gain access to templates so they can print additional stickers using readily-available sticker sheets and any laser printer—thus making it possible to produce an unlimited number of games and scenarios.
Playing A RECKONING OF VULTURES (one of the included MaGCK scenarios) at the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.
An Israel-Hizbullah matrix game designed using MaGCK.
There is also a MaGCK page at Board Game Geek.
Also available from the Game Crafter is the first MaGCK supplement deck—our estimative probability cards.
These can be used in matrix game adjudication, or in a variety of other professional or gaming contexts where you want to quickly poll a small group regarding the likelihood of an outcome. They are not a stand-alone game, but are a useful supplement to MaGCK: The Matrix Game Construction Kit.
The deck come with seven suits/colours, each indicating a probability and the associated term:
- 0% (impossible)
- 10% (almost certainly not)
- 30% (probably not)
- 50% (probable)
- 70% (very likely)
- 90% (almost certain)
- 100% (certain)
These terms reflect those commonly used in the intelligence community. They are certainly the perfect geeky gift for the methodologically-rigorous intelligence analyst in your life!
Just want the MaGCK User Guide (as a downloadable pdf), without any of the game materials or scenarios? We’ve made that available too.
Finally, PAXsims publishes free matrix games scenarios, which can be used with MaGCK or print-and-play by themselves. Recent titles include:
See also Tom Moaut’s very helpful guidebook, Practical Advice on Matrix Games, as well as Pete Pellegrino’s video below.