Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Top 10 list of games from those who teach game design 

The following article was written by Ed McGrady.

In one of my recent classes someone asked me what the top ten games a person new to the profession should be familiar with.  I realized that my top ten list would be bizarre, so to avoid too much drama and trauma I figured it might be a good idea to ask some others who teach game design what their lists are.   

And thus, a project was borne.   

Upon seeing some of the lists I began to realize that the whole idea was interesting, and that others might like to see the lists.  So, I asked Rex if he would be interested in publishing it as an entry on PAXSims.  He was.   

And thus, a very long PAXSims post was borne.   

I asked a range of people who teach game design (and some who don’t) for their top 10 lists of wargames that those completely new to the field should have experience with.  Some of them answered, some did not, the lists they sent are provided here.  As you can see, Peter and I could not help but go over the top 10 limit…   

As always, these lists are everyone’s person opinion, not endorsed by any organization they are affiliated with.  We note their affiliations simply to provide the reader some context as to who they are.   

A couple of observations: 

  • When you come of age in gaming seems to influence your choices.  Matt, Peter, and I reach back to old-school games a lot more than folks who are more “recent” than we are.  Diplomacy was only mentioned twice, by Peter and me, for example.    
  • Everyone has their own preferences, and their own take on what makes a good game to learn from.   There were a lot of games I’d have never thought of, and I’m sure many would have never considered the games I suggested.  So, I’m glad I asked everyone for their opinions!  
  • Twilight Struggle (and variants) and Risk (and variants) were the only games to be mentioned four times.  D&D, Battle for Moscow, and Pandemic were mentioned three times.  Thirteen others were mentioned twice.  Out of a total of 107 different games that isn’t a lot of overlap.   

So here are everyone’s (personal) opinions! 

Dr. ED McGrady (MORS Wargaming Certificate Program Lead, Monk’s Hood Media LLC, and Adjunct Senior Fellow CNAS Game Lab) 

I tried to choose games that were still in print, and that covered a variety of hobby techniques and genera.  My focus was primarily “these are systems, games, and ideas you should know about” and less “these are games you should use to teach game design.”  However, a couple of the games, like 1960, D&D and Diplomacy are some of my default games to show different design choices.  But this is definitely more “reading list” than “teaching list” simply because in the classes I teach we don’t have a lot of time to actually play games.   

  1. Diplomacy (AH) – This is probably one of the most elegant designs ever done in a hobby game. 
  1. OLD SCHOOL RPG (pick one):  Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, Hackmaster – Professional gaming is a lot more like role-playing than counter-and-hex wargaming.   
  1. STORYTELLING RPG (pick one): Vampire the Masquerade (World of Darkness), ARS Magica, Call of Cthulhu – There have been innovations in the RPG world, you should know what they are.   
  1. Love Letter – A great example of how simple design can be quite captivating. 
  1. 1960 Making of a President – This system has a remarkable number of ways to simulate the effects of information in games.  It is also a very elegant design. 
  1. Conflict of Heroes (Academy Games) – A great example of modern tactical wargame design.   
  1. MARK HERMAN (Pick One):  We the People (Out of print), For the People, Empire of the Sun – Mark popularized card driven games, and you should know how they work.  And also, its Mark Herman for heaven’s sake! 
  1. NAVAL Close Action (Out of Print) Harpoon, Command at Sea, Fear God and Dread Nought (Admiralty Trilogy Group) – Naval gaming is a whole thing in itself, just like gaming air warfare.  Miniatures dominates for mechanical reasons, and within that space the Admiralty Trilogy Group is probably the best place to go for modern (steam and after) tactical game design concepts.  Close Action (age of sail) is so great for so many reasons, but it appears to be out of print.   
  1. Saga (miniatures) – Miniatures gaming is one of the lesser appreciated forms of hobby gaming on this side of the Atlantic.  You should still see how it works and Saga is an example of a modern approach.   
  1. MEGA GAME (pick one):  Advanced Squad Leader, Star Fleet Battles – I love games with low counter density and high complexity.  You should look at these in order to understand the outer limits of what “complexity” really means.   

Ed McGrady:  Others 

  1. SOCIAL DEDUCTION GAME:  Secret Hitler:  – I think Secret Hitler is one of the best in this category of games, which are a really innovative recent addition to hobby gaming. 
  1. Terraforming Mars:  – If you’re going to go Euro go full Euro with something that is long, complex, and difficult.   
  1. Napoleon at Waterloo:  – A hex and counters game designed to introduce people to hex and counters games.  You can find it digitally online.   
  1. Strategy I:  This old-school hex and counters wargame is years out of print, but it represents an interesting way in which a wide range of eras, and scenarios, can be crammed into one wargame.  It’s a weird choice, but it’s an overlooked part of wargaming history.   

Dr. Peter P. Perla (CNA, author, The Art of Wargaming) 

  1. Go—classic pure strategy game 
  1. Dungeons and Dragons—pretty obvious for RPGs 
  1. [Settlers of] Catan—Example of Euro game mechanisms 
  1. Diplomacy (Avalon Hill)—classic strategy and negotiation game 
  1. Panzergruppe Guderian (SPI)—operational level warfare with untried units 
  1. October War (SPI)—culmination of Dunnigan’s tactical armor system 
  1. Storm Over Arnhem (Avalon Hill)—birth of area-impulse 
  1. W1815 (U&P Games)—a battle game without movement 
  1. Wild Blue Yonder (GMT)—card-based air combat 
  1. Midway (Avalon Hill original)—Double blind naval 

Honorable mentions 

  1. Wells’s Little Wars—the quintessential Artist game 
  1. Risk! (Hasbro)—simple global strategy with area map  
  1. Frederick the Great (SPI/Avalon Hill)—one of the best evocations of an era 
  1. The Rise of Blitzkrieg: The Fall of France 1940 (Bonsai Games)—excellent history, tiny box, few pieces but works great 
  1. Terraforming Mars—complex economic style multiplayer game 

Prof. Sebastian Bae  (CNA and Georgetown University) 

I selected the games I often use to introduce my own Georgetown students to a variety of game concepts, mechanics, and player dynamics. I also emphasized games that are accessible and relatively easier to learn while having interesting aspects to their design. Friedrich, about the 7 Years War, is an excellent logistics informed game with elegant rules with a nodal map system and card driven combat. Battle for Moscow features classic wargame mechanics like terrain effects, hit points, differentiated units, and zones of control. Pax Pamir is an excellent card tableau game about the Great Game in Afghanistan with a rich card mechanic. Twilight Struggle Red Sea uses the classic influence mechanic, while Cuba Libre like the other COIN series models asymmetrical advantages well. Citadels — like Love Letter — is a card game with interesting social deduction and character advantages.  

  1. Friedrich by Rio Grande Games 
  1. Battle for Moscow — a free online version against an AI here:  
  1. Twilight Struggle Red Sea by GMT. It is a smaller version of Twilight Struggle 
  1. Undaunted by Osprey Games 
  1. Game of Thrones Risk by Risk 
  1. Pax Pamir by Wehrle Games 
  1. Cuba Libre by GMT which I think is the easiest of all the COIN series, but A Distant Plain about Afghanistan is also good 
  1. Axis and Allies 1942 
  1. W1815 by U&P Games 
  1. Citadels (2016) by Windrider Games 

Prof. Rex Brynen (McGill University) 

This is a different sort of list than “classic or important games you should know about” since the criteria include playability (and accessibility for new gamers), adaptability to classroom or online play, utility in demonstrating different game mechanics, born-at-McGill-so-you-can-design-games-too, and other considerations relevant to my course in conflict simulation. 

  1. Battle for Moscow  (to teach classic hex/chit/CRT wargames. There’s an excellent online module and bot too). 
  1. Unity of Command (excellent digital implementation of a hex/chit/CRT game—I prefer the older version for teaching, since the underlying game model is more visible) 
  1. 1812: Invasion of Canada  (highly playable, elegant area movement wargame that doesn’t use a CRT for combat resolution, includes a card mechanism) and/or  Shores of Tripoli  (rather similar to 1812 in the mechanics it demonstrates, also highly playable and engaging) 
  1. Twilight Struggle  orLabyrinth  (card-driven design) 
  1. We Are Coming, Nineveh!  (blocks/fog of war/event cards, plus it was originally designed by students in the class) 
  1. AFTERSHOCK  (multiplayer semi-cooperative gaming, non-kinetic topic, also “born at McGill”) 
  1. A matrix game of some sort (Usually  ISIS Crisis  or  Reckoning of Vultures), from the Matrix Games Construction Kit).
  1. A seminar game of some sort (usually online).
  1. A miniatures skirmish game of some sort (usually zombie apocalypse game that is used as a fun introduction to procurement/investment games, by forcing players to allocate scarce resources to survival equipment and weapons).
  1. Various digital browser choose-your-own adventure or RPG/storytelling games (This War of Mine,  Through the Darkest of Times,  Mission Zhobia,  Outbreak READY, etc). I also recommend Rebel, Inc (an excellent digital/mobile stabilization game, because of its intuitive user interface, excellent use of scarce screen real estate, and the elegance of its basic game model). 

Mr. Peter Pellegrino (Tabletop History) 

For games that are not difficult to explain, play in under 2 hours, illustrate a particular principle or mechanic well, and are all on my shelf.  OK, so I only came up with 7.  I’m picky. 

In no particular order -   

  1. Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal.  The Battle Box for resolving salvo fires is as close to operational fires I’ve seen in a war game. 
  1. Memoir ’44.  Good introduction to mini gaming without going all Warhammer or Bolt Action. 
  1. The Shores of Tripoli.  Historical gaming can be beautiful and need not be confined to hexes! 
  1. Flamme Rouge.  A deceivingly simple path and card game, it is so well balanced that losers want to play again, since they missed winning by such a small margin. 
  1. Pandemic.  The granddaddy of cooperative play.  The disease-spreading mechanic shows up in other games where some antagonistic force is not controlled by a player.  
  1. Zombicide.  Yes, Zombicide.  Another good example of how to automate the adversary in a cooperative game. 
  1. Escape the Temple.  It’s a bit wild and silly, but the frenetic energy is the point!  A co-op game that completely shatters the idea of IGO-UGO and lacks any sense of a traditional “turn.” 

Dr. Justin Peachey (CNA game designer) 

The goal is to have a broad base from which to draw on. I’m missing some of the older wargames here mostly because I don’t have time to play anymore with 2 kids, etc. Some of these games “define” their genre. Others are just my favorites. 

  1. Diplomacy 
  1. D&D 5e or Pathfinder 2e – Modern RPG 
  1. Catan – Eurogame 
  1. Pandemic – Cooperative 
  1. Twilight Imperium – “American-style” (since I don’t like the term Ameritrash) game. 
  1. Dominion – In Game Deck Builder 
  1. This War of Mine – Storytelling/Adventure 
  1. Magic: the Gathering – Collectible Card Game (CCG): (at least read Mark Rosewater’s articles on design) 
  1. Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars X-Wing – “Miniatures” (I really want to say Warhammer 40k but sometimes that comes with baggage so…) 
  1. Twilight Struggle 

MAJ Tom Mouat (UK Army game designer) 

  1. We are coming Nineveh. Divisional level game of Urban Warfare, playable in 90mins, intended for two players. Uses blocks for limited intelligence, and has strategic choices (time, casualties, collateral) and capability choices to support them. Simple gameplay and great conversations. 
  1. Black Orchestra.   A cooperative game of the plot to kill Hitler. The players choose historical characters and try to put together a plot to kill Hitler, while avoiding the SS and choosing their moment against a backdrop of WW2. Rich in historical detail and creates compelling narratives. 
  1. The Shores of Tripoli.   A cooperative game about the USA’s efforts at dealing with the Barbary Pirates in the Western Mediterranean. A simple game, with clean, stripped-down mechanics, perfectly balanced and rich in historical detail. 
  1. Watergate.    A short 2-player game, playable in 60 minutes, on a subject that, on the face of it, would be difficult to design a game about. 
  1. Root.   Many people go on about the idea of asymmetric games, but this 2 to 6 player game manages to generate genuinely different gameplay styles for each of the factions. It also does it in a way where the game play accelerates through the game to ensure there is a winner in a relatively short time – and the game is beautiful! 
  1. Risk  and  Warlord (republished by Game Workshop as  Armageddon). These two are games about world domination, the first,  Risk, is truly awful and suffers from the fact it is boring and that that a clear winner is obvious a long way before the end of the game and doesn’t really provide any helpful lessons. Warlord, on the other hand, while looking visually similar, has nuclear weapons, terrain effects, an innovative mechanism for combat resolution, and can be aimed to be played for different lengths of time by choosing the number of game-boards to use. 
  1. Pandemic.   This is a multi-award winning cooperative game of pandemic control and eradication. It works very well but suffers greatly from the “Alpha player” problem, where experienced players will understand the best actions to take and therefore suggest to more inexperienced players what to do, removing agency from them and reducing their enjoyment of the game. Pandemic Cthulhu and a couple of later editions make efforts to reduce this and make the experience better all around. 
  1. MaGCK The Matrix Game Construction Kit.   A boxed game version of the Matrix Games concept, generating game play merely from structured verbal arguments, with some counters and maps merely there to visualized the progress of the game and assist in sparking imagination. 
  1. Lasers and Feelings  RPG (or  Tactical Waifu).   It is essential to have a role-playing game in any list of Top 10 game designs – and I choose Lasers and Feelings, because it is an award-winning game that is stripped down to the bare essentials of narrative gameplay. The rules fit on a single side of paper, so don’t need tedious explanations and mechanisms. It also avoids the “fantasy dragons and wizards” tropes (and “murder-hobo” behaviors) of D&D-like games. 
  1. Ace of Aces.   A two-player game of tactical air combat in WW1, using paired books of illustrations of the situation each turn, and choices of maneuvers. You don’t need a map, game-board or any system or record-keeping. You don’t even need dice, although you can introduce them for the advanced version. A totally underappreciated work of genius. 

Dr. Jeremy Sepinsky (CNA lead wargame designer)  

In my view, professional gaming is about coming together with a group of knowledgeable experts to tell a collaborative story. Ideally, that process is made interesting to the players through a series of interesting choices. So I used my list not to represent what professional gaming looks like (it doesn’t look like anything in the hobby community from my experience; except maybe LARPs, and that only some of the time), but instead to highlight games that give me design insights or inspiration, things that I think provide interesting case studies for design. I think, with the toolkit below, you have the bits and pieces that can create a large fraction of the kinds of games we create as professional wargame designers. 

  1. Chess. I’m not a chess pro by any means, and I’m honestly barely any good at it. But the evolution of complexity from fairly simple mechanics on a small board is excellent. And it’s a simple enough game for novices that can illustrate to novices the need to think more than one turn in the future. 
  1. World of Darkness RPGs (Vampire the Masquerade, etc.). What sets these apart from the more popular D&D in my mind is that the character creation rules applies to every person you meet. They attempt to describe everyone from the special to the mundane within the same framework, reminding me as a designer to not treat my players as too much of special cases in the world. 
  1. Catan. Its ubiquity and ability to bridge the novices and the hard-core games has a utility of its own. Plus, it has a good negotiation aspect that ensures people don’t focus solely on the crunchy aspects of the rules. 
  1. Risk. Yes, you can get more complex and realistic battle simulations. But Risk is a territory control game that teaches you the basic mechanics. Plus, the places where Risk fails (statistics and win probability) are good illustrative examples of what not to do. 
  1. Mafia/Werewolf.  A game where interpersonal interaction dominates the rules. Understanding the hooks that force people to talk and contribute, and how those rules might force some people to stay silent to protect their interest/information makes those rules interesting. 
  1. Twilight Imperium.  Look, it may not be the most classic wargame, but it’s fun. And it creates a self-consistent ruleset from the diplomatic, commercial/trade, strategic, and tactical that interacts in an engaging manner – especially if you max out the number of players and can set aside half a day to do it. 
  1. Bridge.  Another game with emergent complexity. It’s a game played in teams, with hidden information and a requirement for subtle communication. Players must understand each other’s mode of play and be able to capitalize on another player’s hand without seeing it. And counting cards helps. 
  1. Tsuro.  This game is just fun. It’s simple, replayable, and scalable to a large number of players. The choices are limited, but the game design is beautiful and unique, and shows designers that not everything needs to be extra detailed to be effective. 
  1. 7 Wonders.  The pass-and-play mechanic is good, and the game works by giving just enough player interaction (mostly by watching what other people are playing) to make it not quite a 1-player game. Understanding that dynamic, and ensuring players have meaningful interactions with each other in the confines of your game, is key to a good design. 
  1. Candyland.  Not every example needs to be one that you should replicate. This is the classic example of a “game that’s not a game”, and people should know and understand it. And they should be able to recognize it in the games that they create as well, even when it’s not quite as obvious. 

Mr. Mark Leno (Wargame Designer and Wargaming Instructor, U.S. Army War College) 

Game design is best learned through playing and analyzing lots of games with different themes, genres, and mechanics. Here are some of my personal favorites for training wargame designers and facilitators (hard to choose just 10!).  

  1. Go: classic abstract game of both strategy and tactics, complex play without complicated rules:.
  1. Eight Minute Empire: grand strategy in simple(st) form.
  1. Balance of Power: introduction to negotiation games (“Diplomacy”-light) and deterministic combat models:.
  1. Memoir ’44: introduction to tactical wargaming, stochastic combat models, and modular game design:.
  1. 13 Minutes: introduction to card-driven political-military wargames.
  1. Captain Sonar: real-time adjudication with role-playing elements.
  1. Concordia: introduction to Euro- and resource-allocation games:.
  1. Evolution: tactical card-driven wargame:. 
  1. Twilight Struggle: Red Sea: introduction to heavier card-driven political-military wargames and hybrid combat models.
  1. War Room (Larry Harris): one of the best grand strategy wargames, models so much with relatively simple rules and simultaneous orders.

CAVEAT: These are the author (Mark Leno’s) personal views and not an endorsement by the U.S. Army or any other organization.  

Dr. James Sterrett (Chief, Simulation Education Division, Army Command and General Staff College) 

A lot of how I use wargames as examples is strongly driven by student  projects – I try to have them play games that are relevant, in theme or mechanics, to whatever they are creating. 
My course starts with playing Battle for Moscow, and then has a series of “petting zoos” in which I show off 10 or so games per class, but zero in specifically on approaches to modelling command and control (which often means sequence of play); modelling space or using spatial mapping to model things; ways to model the assets players can control; and ways to model getting outcomes from actions, which mostly means approaches to combat resolution. 
So I’ll try to note, below, how these get used. 

  1. Battle for Moscow is a superb introductory game.  Simple, easy to teach, engaging, and has a lot of really good examples of mechanics used elegantly.  My favorite of those is the sequence of play, which makes the Soviet forces somewhat unwieldy, and makes the German armor outrun its infantry in mobile fighting, without any other special rules. Battle for Moscow is free as a print and play via:!/C3i-Nr25-eBook-Edition/p/136922625/category=33205167 and also has an excellent free online version at 
  1. Strike of the Eagle is often the second game, providing an introduction to blocks for fog of war, cards with multiple uses as is common in card-driven games, point-to-point maps, and a very clever orders and initiative system with lots of bluffing.  Strike of the Eagle is the game most frequently cited by my students as providing mechanics inspiration. 
  1. 1944 Race to the Rhine and SupplyLines of the American Revolution  are our go-to games to demonstrate ways to put logistics at the center of a game. 
  1. Napoleon 1806/1807/1815: In addition to using blocks for fog of war, these are good for introducing uncertain movement rules, another example of cards with multiple uses, custom dice for combat resolution, and units with more detailed composition than what’s shown on the map.  Frequently cited by students as a source of mechanical inspiration. 
  1. Sicily (Operational Combat Series) and Sicily (Fast Action Battles Series) are two games on the same topic with maps at the same scale and size: but OCS uses hexes and FAB uses areas. This is great for discussing the different feel that hexes and areas bring to a game. In the petting zoo, I use the party trick of putting the OCS Sicily hex map over top of the FAB Sicily area map before students arrive, so there’s the surprise factor of revealing the very different second map. 
  1. Triumph & Tragedy does a great job of integrating all aspects of DIME (Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic) into a single model, beginning in the competition phase and potentially moving into conflict.  The minor nation diplomacy system, in particular, is outstanding. 
  1. 1824 Kriegsspiel.  We run this as a Free Kriegsspiel.  Kriegsspiel isn’t just of historical interest; run well it’s an excellent wargame, and introduces issues of adjudication, written orders and their interpretation, and fully double-blind play. 
  1. Wings for the Baron does a great job of focusing on technology development without losing sight of the economic and military pressures at work. 
  1. Squad Leader, Combat Commander, Conflict of Heroes, Band of Brothers, Last Hundred Yards: five games on squad-level combat in Europe in WW2, but each with a completely different approach to the sequence of play and thus to command & control.  These are a core exhibit in the petting zoo to discuss the impact of different approaches on player decision-making. 

Mr. Matt Caffrey (Air Force Research Laboratory and author of On Wargaming) 

  1. Across SuezOne challenge in teaching about wargaming is that many in the military have the perception that wargames are all million-line programs that take a year to learn and run.  With only three and a third pages of rules, Mark Herman’s depiction of the Israeli counterattack on the Egyptians during the 1973 war provides confidence that wargames are learnable. Being set after WWII helps the perception of relevance to contemporary warfare. 
  1. Drive on Metz.  The section on it in James Dunnigan’s Complete Wargame Handbook increases the learning value of this World War II wargame. 
  1. House Divided. Frank Chadwick’s great design of the military dimensions of the American Civil War introduces players to an area and transportation line style map and demonstrates that even strategic level wargames can be easy to learn and play. 
  1. Axis and Allies.  Larry Harris’ World War II wargame demonstrates area movement and that an all domain, global wargame can be executable.  This title’s many simplifications make the truly strategic decisions easier to see. 
  1. Origins of World War II.  Introduces Pol/Mil wargaming in an easy to learn and execute way. 
  1. Fortress Europa.  This is my favorite wargame.  It depicts the WWII campaign by the Allies to liberate Western Europe, from selecting a site for D-Day through (if successful) entering Germany.  It provides operational level choices for the employment of airpower and elegantly demonstrates the impacts of logistical capacity. 
  1. For The People.  Mark Herman’s design on the American Civil War depicts all dimensions of that conflict and demonstrates the use of cards can add significant depth with a moderate increase in complexity. 
  1. GDW’s Third World War Series.  This Frank Chadwick series of wargames use a common set of rules to depict the Cold War of the late 1980s turning hot in four different theaters. Each illustrates the air/land nature of operations during that era while the final title in the series, Person Gulf, adds a pol/mil element.  
  1. Stellar Conquest/Master of Orion.  Wargame practitioners need to decide when to apply manual methods of a computer-based design.  An entire book could be written in the pluses and minuses of each choice.  As these two science fiction games are essentially the same game executed manually and as computer code, they help the practitioner decide for themselves how the medium shapes the final product. 
  1. Civilization.  For over two decades this computer wargame depiction of the rise of civilizations has been at or near the top of best sellers lists. It somehow combines a nearly comprehensive depiction of societal development with ease to learn and play. An achievement we can all learn from. 

Connections North 2023 conference programme

The Connections North 2023 professional (war)gaming conference will be held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa on Friday, June 9. The conference is intended for wargamers and all other serious game professionals, and anyone else interested in how games can be used to support education, planning, and policy analysis.

Additional information and registration details can be found at the link above. Conference registrants will also receive an invitation to attend the launch of the Museum’s new wargaming exhibition on the evening of June 8.

WATU Wargame Returning to Liverpool

It’s the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, and back in 1943, the 6th May marked the turning-point where we stopped losing and started making life so difficult for U-Boats that for a time they withdrew from the Atlantic entirely, and when they returned (in September 1943) they never again had the upper-hand.

So what better time to recreate the Western Approaches Tactical Unit wargame at WAHQ again?

Four Indian Navy Wrens (WRINS) plot ship movements on the Bombay Tactical Table. Two are wearing saris, two are Anglo-Indians in Western clothing.

Formed in 1942 to solve the U-Boat problem in the Atlantic, WATU was staffed almost entirely by women, and men unfit for duty at sea through illness and injury. The Wrens came from all walks of life and all across (what was then) the Empire, and were responsible for teaching the Allied navies convoy escort tactics: how to find and sink U-Boats. 

Since the last time we played in 2018, I’ve found WATU Wrens alive and kicking, and learnt a lot more about how the game works, so this time we’re playing with:

Actual pieces from the WATU game:

When WATU demobbed, Cpt Roberts gifted the ships to the Wrens as souvenirs: Leading Wren Helen Coop’s ship has been scanned using photogrammetry, turned into CAD, and lovingly recreated by Ian Greig.

In grey is a test-print with a filament printer, in translucent is a print from a UV-setting resin printer, and one laser-cut from wood, ready for painting:

Three replicas of Helen Coop's ship model, in various materials.

Actual game chits:

Leading Wren Helen Coop left us a treasure-trove in her scrapbook, including chits from actual WATU wargames played by Cpt Johnny Walker’s support group:

A 1945 WATU wargame Move Chit. In pencil at the top it says Lt Cdr Wemyss Wild Goose. The Unit to move is J3, the Time is 44, the Course is 200, Speed 20, and General Intentions reads "Same, but more so. Send top priority signal to depot for new guns' crew"

Nothing changes in wargaming: after rolling a 1, Cdr Wemyss would like a new gun crew please :-P

Plotting tools:

In the 2018 game we used a crude movement template to help with plotting, and mostly ignored turning circles. This was partly a simplification to help the players (WATU had the distinct advantage that their players came knowing how to command their ship and plot it on a chart! Our players were liable to try impossible things), and partly due to a lack of data. Since then I’ve found a lot more photos with details of the plot, and hunted down data on period ships which was not easy to find. 

The result is this Rather Excellent [TM] recreation of the plotting protractor, laser-cut by Ian Greig. They work magnificently well and look amazing. Figuring out what they were from a handful of WATU photos might be my favourite bit of wargaming geekery :-)

Side-by-side comparison of the Canadian Tactical Table protractor and our recreation.

Actual adjudication tables (probably):

Chris Carlson dug up some post-war ASW tables which are probably a later version of the WATU adjudication tables. One of the big mysteries of the WATU game has been how all that stuff happened, since the pre-war (1921 & 1929) RN War Game rules are not the WATU game (it’s a fundamentally different game that’s been mistaken for the WATU game by some because it mentions “screens”, but it’s very clearly talking about putting down screens on the plot to screen the surface ships from each other when they’re out of visible contact, not viewing the entire plot from behind a screen to obfuscate the U-Boat tracks on the plot), and the contemporary descriptions forget to mention how you adjudicate an attack. Even these tables don’t really explain how they’re used, but they fit broadly with the assumptions we made for the 2018 game, which is pleasing! 

Well…all except one thing: we used D100s, and it turns out that because dice were too new-fangled (or D100s were hard to come by in 1942, or the Temperance Movement had words), WATU used a 1 to 100 tombola.

Raspberry the Wargaming bear (in WRNS uniform) for scale next to a large wooden tombola. The bear could easily fit inside.

I appear to have bought one large enough for Raspberry to go to sea in… stop by WAHQ during the game and you can draw the fate of a U-Boat, Escort, or merchant ship from the adjudication tombola :-)

U-Boat artefacts:

Big Heritage, who run the WAHQ museum, acquired a U-Boat during lockdown, and are busy renovating it and creating a Battle of the Atlantic Museum across the Mersey from WAHQ.

The original plan for this game was for the U-Boat players to play from the actual U-Boat, but the new museum is still a building site, so instead we’re bringing some of the U-Boat artefacts over to WAHQ for the day. Our U-Boat players have been practicing with attack discs to get their firing solution. We’ll see if they’re able to sink anything!

We’re also hoping to make use of the Y-Service teleprinter which has been refurbished to run off a Raspberry Pi, for sending our convoy relevant Engima decrypts.

Come to WAHQ on Saturday 6th May and you’ll get to:

  • Celebrate the remarkable achievements of the WATU Wrens!
  • Chat with the direct descendants of WATU about careers in professional wargaming: yes, you can get paid to play board/war/computer games for a living ;-)
  • See the WATU game in action, send some signals to the convoy if you’d like.
  • Explore the Western Approaches Museum, including their new Wrens exhibition, Leading Wren Helen Coop’s WATU scrapbook, and bits from their newly-acquired U-Boat.
  • Say hello to a handful of PAXsims editors :-P
  • Delight in a Derby House Principles wargame being played in the actual Derby House that the principles are named for. 

Canadians can also check out the WATU gallery at the Canadian War Museum‘s up-coming wargaming exhibition.

Read more about the Derby House Principles for diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming here.

The Derby House Principles multi-coloured D20 logo

Royal Danish Defence College: Wargame designer wanted

The Royal Danish Defence College is looking for a wargame designer.

Do you have experience with designing, developing and facilitating wargames? Would you like to further develop and utilize your wargaming skills? Do you want to be a part of the development of the Military Joint Wargames?

If so, the Royal Danish Defence College offers an opportunity to venture into the knowledge stronghold of the Danish Armed Forces and we look forward to hearing from you.

The position at its core is game design, wargames analysis, and game facilitation for military educational purposes. You furthermore represent the Institute in national and international wargaming working groups and networks.

You are at the forefront of wargames design and thus able to design anything from a matrix game that trains a specific board to a tailored seminar game. Some game and simulation analysis is to be expected when working on plan development or trying to tackle a specific tactical problem. 

Integral to the game design and game analysis task, is also facilitating games and developing the institute’s collective skills on utilization of games in a military operations context. 

You contribute to the refinement of the Danish concept for joint wargames focused on strengthening the planning and execution of military operations.

The position is anchored at the Centre for Joint Operations under the Institute for Military Operations. The centre develops plans for the joint operations frame, and you are expected to work with teams across the four centres of the Institute as the subject matter expert on wargaming. 

First and foremost you have a strong interest in and vast knowledge of wargames, and you are familiar with the method’s processes, from development to design and facilitation. 

You work independently and systematically with research, education and devel-opment activities and cooperate with relevant stakeholders.

Experience with either tactical, operational or even at the military-strategic level is a definite advantage. 

We will be evaluating your skills and experience based on below outline:

• Wargame design and facilitation experience.
• Experience with IT-based simulation and game design.

• Practical experience from a military or security organization.
• Portfolio of published research.
• Master’s degree that support your wargaming experience.
• Experience with operational planning.

The institute prefers a team player, who understands how to work independently as well as being part of a team of highly qualified colleagues

Applicants must be able to obtain a NATO SECRET clearance. English is apparently the working language of the Center. Full details can be found here.

CNAS Congressional testimony on the April 2023 China-US TTX

As we’ve previously mentioned at PAXsims, CNAS recently ran a wargame for the House Select Committee on China exploring the US response to a hypothetical Chinese invasion of Taiwan in 2027. Stacie Pettyjohn later shared some key takeaways with the committee, and these are now available from CNAS.

Three key insights emerged from last week’s TTX that are supported by extant analysis and lend themselves to clear and actionable recommendations for Congress and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024. These three primary takeaways from the TTX are:

  • The United States will run out of preferred munitions in the early days of a conflict;
  • Bombers and submarines provide a unique and asymmetric advantage in a potential conflict with China;
  • A distributed and resilient U.S. posture in the Indo-Pacific places the United States in the best position to defend Taiwan.

These three lessons learned translate into clear steps this Congress can take to strengthen our munitions stockpiles, maximize production of advanced air and undersea capabilities, and make investments in a distributed and hardened posture that is able to withstand Chinese missile attacks. But making these changes cannot wait. Congress must push these efforts through in the FY 2024 NDAA as they will take time to take mature.

Two additional lessons learned from the TTX require more research and analysis before they can be translated into Congressional action. They are:

  • The role of economic warfare in pre-conflict and mid-conflict phases;
  • The implications of the aforementioned takeaways for a protracted conflict between China and the United States.

While this statement will touch on these two issues, the emphasis is on the insights that we have the most confidence in which are detailed in the following pages.

The full report can be read at the link above.

Reacting to the Past summer conferences

Reacting to the Past will be holding its annual Summer Institute on 8-11 June 2023 at Barnard College.

Reacting to the Past is an active-learning pedagogy of complex role-playing games. Reacting promotes engagement with big ideas, and improves critical, practical, intellectual, and academic skills.

Class sessions are run by students. Instructors advise students, and grade their oral and written work. Reacting roles and games do not have a fixed script or outcome. This is not re-enacting. In Reacting games, students are assigned character roles with specific goals and must communicate, collaborate, and compete effectively to advance their objectives. While students are obliged to adhere to the philosophical and intellectual beliefs of the figures they have been assigned to play, as well as the context and facts of the historical moment, they must devise their own means of expressing those ideas persuasively in papers, speeches, or other public presentations. Students must pursue a course of action to try to win the ‘game.’ 

Students learn by

  • taking on historical roles informed by classic texts
  • making decisions in a historical role in elaborate games set in the past
  • developing skills such as speaking, writing, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, and teamwork
  • working to prevail (win the game) in difficult and complicated situations

There are two options for this event:

  • Two Reacting Game Workshops
    You’ll play two Reacting games in succession: one game on Thursday-Friday, and the other on Saturday-Sunday, OR
  • Reacting Game Workshop and Newbie Workshop
    You’ll play one Reacting game on Thursday-Friday, and then partake in a hands-on workshop series designed to walk you through the process of syllabus revision, assessment strategies, and curricular integration, so you’ll feel fully confident when implementing Reacting to the Past. This option is recommended for Reacting Newbies, and for cohorts from the same school.  

Regardless of which of the above options you choose, all participants can enjoy Working Sessions with Reacting students and experienced faculty.

In addition, there will be a a Game Development Conference at Oregon State University on 13-15 July. This conference ” is designed for veteran Reacting to the Pastcolleagues to test games, discuss design mechanics for active learning, and think deeply about pedagogy.”

House China committee to war-game Taiwan invasion scenario

Axios reports that “The House China Select Committee this week will be war-gaming a scenario in which China invades Taiwan

China committee chair Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.). Photo: Michael A. McCoy/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Why it matters: It’s a unique opportunity that will allow bipartisan members of Congress to walk through the potential challenges and identify the best legislative responses to deter and combat an invasion.

Driving the news: On Wednesday evening, bipartisan members of the House panel on China, led by Chair Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), will step into the shoes of U.S. officials in a war-game simulation conducted by the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank focused on national security.

(click on links for full article)

Sophia Cai, Axios, Apr 18, 2023,

Wargaming Experiences: Discussions

Natalia Wojtowicz, Wargaming Experiences: Discussions (2023). Pb USD$29.00 (Amazon).

Wargaming Experiences: Discussions is the second volume in a series by Natalia Wojtowicz (Hague University of Applied Sciences), the first having been Soldiers, Scientists, and Civilians (2020).

In this volume Wojtowicz intersperses her ideas on wargaming with a series of short interviews with wargamers such as Tom Mouat, Eric Collin, Volko Ruhnke, and others. Topics addressed include civilian and military wargaming, evaluating the effectiveness of wargaming, feedback and wargaming. The challenge of how best to define wargaming runs as a central thread through much of the content in the first part of the book. There is also some attention to gaming cybersecurity.

Jensen and Montgomery: Using games to rethink the US-Chinese relationship

At War on the Rocks, Benjamin Jensen and Mark Montgomery discuss “Competition in Inevitable, War in Not: Using Games to Rethink the US-Chinese Relationship.”

Elected leaders need tabletop exercises, crisis simulations, and wargames to help them visualize and describe modern strategy. From questions about technology and intellectual property to food securityand economic concerns, the new era of great-power competition transcends narrow bureaucratic definitions of national security that defined much of the Cold War. U.S. military might alone will not deter the Chinese Communist Party. Rather, creative combinations of military and non-military activities that cut across traditional congressional committee authorities will likely prove more effective at deterring China and capable of translating American power into enduring competitive advantage

This essay outlines our opening gambit to build a series of games designed to better understand 21st-century competition along these lines. It builds on previous calls to bring wargaming to Congress and to usher in a new era of strategic analysis. First, we review the pilot tabletop exercise we ran with the Republican Issue Conference and plan to run with House Democrats to ensure we keep foreign policy bipartisan. Second, we discuss our plan to build on this initiative to engage multiple congressional committees over the next two years. These analytical exercises do not replace the good work being done in the executive branch. Rather, we see them as a complementary way of bridging branches of government as well as engaging the American public in a larger debate about the future. 

You’ll find the full article at the link above.

Workshop on serious games (report)

On April 18, Connections North held a half day online introductory workshop on serious gaming, in collaboration with the Canadian Defence Academy, Defence Research and Development Canada, and PAXsims. The workshop was led by Dr. Ben Taylor (Defence Research and Development Canada) and myself (Rex Brynen, McGill University). There were over sixty participants, of whom about two thirds were from the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, and the remainder attendees from other Canadian government agencies, academics, game designers, and others.

The workshop was intended as an introduction to serious gaming, in advance of the annual Connections North professional (war)gaming conference in Ottawa on June 9. Given the geographic size of Canada, we thought an online workshop would best facilitate participation from coast to coast to coast. The workshop wasn’t recorded, but most of the slides can be found below.

The first session on “why serious gaming?” provided an overview of the value (and limitations) of serious gaming, and offered a range of examples to highlight the many different applications of gaming as an analytical and educational tool.

The second session addressed serious game approaches and reviewed the centrality of balancing fidelity vs playability, as well as manual vs digital games; different ways of undertaking adjudication; players turns and actions; representing time, space, and other metrics; hidden and imperfect information; incorporating uncertainty; distributed gaming; and seminar and matrix gaming.

The third session looked at the process of serious game development.

Following this we had an hour long “show and tell” session, in which a variety of Canadian wargamers and other serious game designers discussed their work with workshop attendees. This was divided into two simultaneous breakout rooms: one devoted to wargaming of military operations, and another addressing a broad range of other serious gaming examples. We are very grateful to colleagues from the Canadian Joint Warfare Centre (CJWC), Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), the Canadian Defence Academy (CDA), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Archipelago of Design, and Imaginetic for contributing to these sessions.

Finally, we identified a variety of key resources and points of contact for further learning and professional development.

Overall it seemed to go very well, and we hope to see many of the participants again in Ottawa in June at Connections North 2023.

King’s Wargaming Week

The King’s Wargaming Network will be hosting a week of wargaming talks and presentations at King’s College London from 30 May to 2 June 2023. Details can be found below.

Wargaming Week 2023: Contemporary Challenges in Wargaming will feature a range of activities that meet the Wargaming Network’s core mission of the expansion and democratization of wargaming as a method of inquiry. The events will showcase the educational wargaming work being done at King’s, including wargames designed by MA graduates of Dr David Banks’s “Designing Wargames for Education & Analysis” course and wargames designed by Anna Nettleship and other Network staff to inform dissertation and policy research and to support the institutional goals of partner organizations. Panel and moderated discussion events will feature researchers and practitioners in contemporary wargaming and workshops and working groups will showcase the wargame design and academic expertise being developed at King’s.  Dr James Smith will deliver the wargaming keynote lecture and Dr Aggie Hirst will launch her upcoming book, “Politics of Play: Wargaming with the US Military.” 

Registration is via Eventbrite.

Connections (US) 2023 registration open

Registration is now open for the Connections (US) 2023 professional wargaming conference.  This year’s conference will be hosted by National Defense University (NDU) at Ft. McNair in Washington, DC, on June 21-23.

(The above link is to a Google Form, which sometimes are difficult to access from some military networks.  If you have problems viewing or completing the form at work, please try from a personal device at home.)

More information (including a link to the draft schedule) can be found at the Connections (US) website.

Games-Based Learning Virtual Conference 2023

“Registration is NOW open for the the Games-Based Learning Virtual Conference! The (GBLVC) is the premiere professional event for designers, educators, entrepreneurs, and instructors, for games, games-based learning, gamification, serious games, and simulations. Hosted live and online June 9-11, 2023.

Claim the $50 Discount before May 6, 2023!

Registration & Info at:

Email from Dave Eng 12 April 2023

Autonomous Army Logistics Vehicles

A lot of work is going into autonomous battlefield logistics vehicles. In addition to the obvious issues of wargaming these AI based platforms, a couple of years ago Rex Brynen pointed out an issue rarely discussed up to that point (if memory serves it was at the NATO OR&A Conference 2019 Ottawa Canada).

He reminded everyone that these vehicles are laden with high value goodies that are highly attractive to the local population (who are probably in desperate need of the items being carried) as well as enemy forces. Unless troops guard these vehicles, the vehicles may have to use autonomous lethal force to protect the supply chain which introduces other problems.

We Tried To Steal Food From A Delivery Robot – BuzzFeed News

And then of course there’s the cardboard box method of hijacking the vehicles.

This YouTube video reminded me of Rex’s prescient warning!

Simulation and gaming publications, November 2022 – March 2023

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. Items previously featured on PAXsims are not included. However, 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.

Jenna Allen and Deane-Peter Baker, “Can the Robots Save the City? Ethics, Urban Warfare, and Autonomous Weapons,” in Dragan Stanar and Kristina Tonn, eds., The Ethics of Urban Warfare: City and War (Brill, 2022).

This chapter aims to explore the ethical tensions between the objections raised against the use of lethal autonomous weapons generally and the potential of lethal autonomous weapons to mitigate some of the key challenges of urban warfare. Our argument originates from the premise that the ethics of war is an ongoing negotiation between recognizing the necessity of war and minimising the destructiveness of war. If this is true then we argue that the ethics of using lethal autonomous weapons in urban warfare cannot be appropriately weighed without the ability to have a reasonable sense of what operational impact they are likely to have. To generate an understanding of this operational impact, the UNSW Canberra Future Operations Research Group conducted an experiment using a wargame-based methodology. We present the potential merit of wargaming as a tool for applied ethics research and go on to describe the project and outline its findings. We contend that these findings represent a significant contribution to this debate.

Jeffrey Appleget, “Wargaming: a structured conversation [editorial],” Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology (2022).

[excerpt] I was asked by a colleague of mine to give a keynote presentation on wargaming at the 2022 Nordic Military Operations Analysis Conference. In our discussion of wargaming, Laura Wirola, principal researcher with the Finnish Defence Research Agency, offered that she saw a wargame as a structured conversation. Her words were a simple yet elegant way to not only describe what wargaming is, but to also differentiate wargaming from computer-based combat simulations. Too often today, we have senior leaders do a Mach 2 inverted fly-by of a wargame and declare “this could all be digitized.” True, we can digitize maps and animate the movement of unit counters, but that misses the point: wargames are about the conversations, not the means by which conversations are generated!…

Nick Bosion “Gaming to Win: Enhancing Military Decision-Making,” Australian Army Journal 18, 1 (2022).

This article argues that a culture of deliberate professional gaming helps develop a military’s intellectual edge. Deliberate professional gaming is where people actively choose to play and practise games to enhance professional development and education. A key element of such a culture is an acceptance of, and willingness to use, games. Wargaming is an example of professional military gaming. To explain how gaming supports the profession of arms and decision-making, the article first summarises the foundation of human decision-making: the heuristic. With this understanding, the article identifies the similarities between human heuristics and the Military Appreciation Process (MAP). Recognising these similarities allows the article to highlight how gaming provides two cognitive outcomes. First, games can enhance the mental skills that underpin decision-making. Second, games can help build new mental models for military officers. New mental models help increase professional creativity in decision-making. Combined, both benefits enhance military planning and decision-making. Yet contemporaryWestern militaries rarely use gaming to enhance military thinking. Given the benefits games may provide, the article proposes that the military should adopt a culture of deliberate and professional gaming. To assist, the article suggests some approaches to introduce professional gaming within military education. As the scholars cited earlier indicate, gaming within education helps build a pluralist habit of mind and enhances military planning, decision-making, and thinking about competition, conflict and war.

Filip Brolin, The Total Defence Boardgame: Using Game Based Learning to introduce systemic understanding of Swedish total defence (Master’s thesis in Systems Science for Defence and Security, Swedish Defence University, 2022).

This report examines how games can be used to communicate and teach complex system structures. In collaboration with the total defense research institute, a game is being developed to introduce op- erational analysts to the Swedish total defence. The target group for the game lacked both experience in systems thinking and total defense, which is why the game was considered a good method to test.

The study has a design science research approach and used Arnold and Wade’s systems thinking matrix as the basis for the game’s learning objectives. The development of the game is largely based on methodology taken from serious gaming, war games and game pedagogy.

The result of the studies was that a number of points of interest for game development linked to complex systems are identified. Among other things, the result strengthened the idea of using games as an educational tool. The study also demonstrated certain difficulties with games and complex systems, where sometimes challenges were connected to creating a game that fairly depicts even the hidden relationships within a system.

Adarsh Bura, Operation Sealion: Simulating the Naval Component of a 1940 German Invasion of Britain (MSc thesis, University of York, 2022).

In this thesis, we will study the naval component of Operation Sealion, the proposed 1940 German invasion of Britain. This never happened as during the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe did not achieve the level of air superiority required for the invasion to start. We aim to answer the question of whether the Germans could have gotten a sufficient force ashore. We developed two counterfactual scenarios, a 2-sigma scenario and a 6- sigma scenario, where the Luftwaffe win the Battle of Britain by a small and large margin, respectively. We used these counterfactuals to wargame the final German preparations, such as the laying of minefields. In the 6-SD wargame, the Germans were able to lay approximately 75% of their planned minefields, but only 20% in the 2-SD wargame. We then developed a simulation of the initial three days of Operation Sealion, where around 120,000 German troops would be shipped across the Channel using barges and transports, with the Royal Navy attempting to sink them. During each run of the simulation, parameters such as the effectiveness of British destroyers against barges were chosen from a prior distribution, allowing us to estimate dependencies between different quantities. We discovered that the most critical factor in Operation Sealion was the effectiveness of minefields. We found that if the outcome of the Battle of Britain was similar to reality or even slightly in favour of the Luftwaffe, as in the 2-SD simulation, then the Germans would not be able to get a sufficient force ashore, hence the invasion would be unsuccessful. However, if the Luftwaffe had won the Battle of Britain by a very large margin, as in the 6-SD simulation, then the Germans could have gotten a large army ashore, potentially paving the way for a successful invasion.

Li Chen et al, “A Human-Machine Agent Based on Active Reinforcement Learning for Target Classification in Wargame,” IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems (2022).

To meet the requirements of high accuracy and low cost of target classification in modern warfare, and lay the foundation for target threat assessment, the article proposes a human-machine agent for target classification based on active reinforcement learning (TCARL_H-M), inferring when to introduce human experience guidance for model and how to autonomously classify detected targets into predefined categories with equipment information. To simulate different levels of human guidance, we set up two modes for the model: the easier-to-obtain but low-value-type cues simulated by Mode 1 and the labor-intensive but high-value class labels simulated by Mode 2. In addition, to analyze the respective roles of human experience guidance and machine data learning in target classification tasks, the article proposes a machine-based learner (TCARL_M) with zero human participation and a human-based interventionist with full human guidance (TCARL_H). Finally, based on the simulation data from a wargame, we carried out performance evaluation and application analysis for the proposed models in terms of target prediction and target classification, respectively, and the obtained results demonstrate that TCARL_H-M can not only greatly save labor costs, but achieve more competitive classification accuracy compared with our TCARL_M, TCARL_H, a purely supervised model—long short-term memory network (LSTM), a classic active learning algorithm—Query By Committee (QBC), and the common active learning model—uncertainty sampling (Uncertainty).

Minwoo Choi et al, “Experimental and Computational Study on the Ground Forces CGF Automation of Wargame Models Using Reinforcement Learning,” IEEE Access (2022).

Wargame is an important tool that enables training units to develop various strategies by allowing them to experience unexpected situations. There are three methodologies that determine the behavior of the Computer Generated Forces(CGF) in wargame—rule-based, agent-based, and learning- based methodologies. The military determines the behaviors of the CGF mainly based on the rules because a doctrine and an operation plan are well established. However, the advent of intelligent weapons and the accompanying changes in tactics will make it difficult to expect an environment and situations of the future battlefield. Therefore, we studied the automation of CGF through reinforcement learning in order to give unexpected situations, so that the training unit would be able to establish various strategies and tactics through the wargame model. Based on the combat functions of the ground forces, we configured multiple environments that the ground forces CGFs will learn in. First, infantry and artillery CGFs learned in the close combat environment, which is the basis of ground forces combat. Second, the trainee CGF learned in the context of military training. Third, the drone CGF learned how to reconnaissance and attack in a multi- drone environment, and finally, the combat service support CGF learned under the mission of supplying ammunition. As a result, we confirmed that the reinforcement learning methodology is applicable to CGF through these experiments.

Mark Flanagan, Trevor C. Lipscombe, Adrian Northey and Ian M. Robinson, “‘Chance all’ – A Simple 3D6 Dice Stopping Game to Explore Probability and Risk vs Reward,”  Game Theory – From Idea to Practice (September 2022).

‘Chance all’ is a simple 3D6 dice game that explores a player’s attitude to risk vs reward. Strategies for playing the game are explored ranging from zero risk to more complex forms of risk, based on an appreciation of the odds; those strategies more likely to win are identified. In addition, the game may be an indirect measure of an individual’s bias towards risk vs reward and how that bias alters through the game as the likelihood of winning and losing changes. It can be used as a simple introductory teaching tool for the Gaussian distribution to examine chance and probability, in evolution and computing science, together with psychological aspects of gameplay.

Zhengwen Gong, Wei Zhu, Jinshu Zeng, and Sheng Yu, “Modeling of Information Communication Wargame Behavior System Based on Agent Interaction,” 2022 IEEE 5th International Conference on Information Systems and Computer Aided Education (September 2022).

At present, under the realistic demand of precise command, wargame, as a common means of combat simulation, is more and more widely used in deduction simulation and tactics research with command institutions and personnel at all levels. As the core link in the command system, information communication elements urgently need to build a matching information communication wargame architecture and logical method. However, the elements of information communication are quite different from other synthetic elements in terms of interaction and action logic. This paper studies the modeling of information communication wargame behavior system, briefly analyzes the current situation of information communication wargame research, puts forward a modeling method based on agent interaction, constructs an interactive modeling system based on interaction layer, action layer and adjudication layer, makes detailed analysis and standard description of each layer model, and completes the systematic behavior modeling of information communication wargame.

Taylor Grossman, The Promise and Peril of Wargaming: Abstracting Narratives of Conflict (Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich, 2023).

Wargaming can be a powerful tool for educating soldiers, developing military doctrine, and determining future investment strategies. However, wargaming also has real limitations: if misapplied, wargaming can reinforce bad assumptions and be used to justify unrealistic or faulty battle plans.

Benjamin Norwood Harris and Suzanne Freeman, “Crossing a Virtual Divide: Wargaming as a Remote Teaching Tool,” PS: Political Science & Politics (2023).

In Fall 2020, political science instructors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) partnered to conduct a virtual-learning wargame centered on Taiwan. This article presents its design and execution along with the results from pre- and post-game surveys and interviews with the participants that were conducted to measure the achievement of its learning objectives. The game conduct and empirical results demonstrate two main findings. First, wargames are effective tools of active learning that aid in classroom instruction and grab the attention of students—even over Zoom—in a way that traditional methods of instruction do not. Second, wargames can bridge gaps between different fields. The MIT–NPS wargame tackled the civil–military divide by bringing together military officers at NPS and academics from MIT. These results show that wargaming holds promise as a bridge-building tool of instruction that can engage students, scholars, and practitioners in achieving positive learning outcomes.

Zhi-Xiang Jia and Jean-Fu Kiang, “War Game between Two Matched Fleets with Goal Options and Tactical Optimization,” AI (2022).

A war game between two matched fleets of equal size and capability is designed and simulated in this work. Each fleet is composed of a carrier vessel (CV), a guided missile cruiser (CG), and two guided-missile destroyers (DDGs). Each vessel is equipped with specific weapons, including fighters, missiles, and close-in weapon system (CIWS), to carry out tactical operations. The maneuverability, maximum flying distance, and kill probability of different weapons are specified. Three goal options, a defense option and two more aggressive ones, are available to each fleet. A particle-pair swarm optimization (P2SO) algorithm is proposed to optimize the tactical parameters of both fleets concurrently according to their chosen options. The parameters to be optimized include take-off time delay of fighters, launch time delay of anti-ship missiles (ASHMs), and initial flying directions of fighters and ASHMs, respectively. All six possible contests between options are simulated and analyzed in terms of payoff, impact scores on CV, CG, DDG, and the number of lost fighters. Some interesting outlier cases are inspected to gain some insights on this game.

Bonnie Johnson et al, Game Theory and Prescriptive Analytics for Naval Wargaming Battle Management Aids (Naval Postgraduate School, 2022).

To achieve and maintain decision and mission superiority, the Navy has prioritized research in computational technologies and data analytic methods for automating and improving battle management and decision-making. This project studied novel automated techniques using a multidisciplinary systems analysis approach and developed conceptual designs for automated wargaming systems to support tactical decisions and operational planning. The research approach revealed three different applications for automated wargaming: (1) to support table-top wargames as an automated white cell for adjudication or as a red team cognitive agent, (2) to support operational mission planners as a non-real-time course of action (COA) engine, and (3) to support the tactical warfighter as a real- time COA engine that considers second, third, and nth order effects as it evaluates and recommends possible tactical COAs. The study found that automated wargaming battle management systems (leveraging game theory, prescriptive analytics, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, etc.) are needed to support enhanced situational awareness, reasoning and problem-solving, faster decision timelines, and the identification and evaluation of tactical and operational COAs. The study recommends further research into the use of automated wargaming systems, the emerging field of course of action engineering, and the applications of these novel techniques to support table-top wargaming, operational planning, and tactical decision-making.

Ioanna K. Lekea, “Using Military Simulation Games to Promote Critical Thinking and Ethical Discussions Related to Urban Warfare,” in Dragan Stanar and Kristina Tonn, eds., The Ethics of Urban Warfare: City and War (Brill, 2022).

Living in a world where crises and conflicts, both on a national and international level, are not uncommon, officers’ knowledge of the ethics and laws of war is crucial. This is particularly important in the case of urban warfare due to the presence of civilians during the conduct of hostilities and the imminent danger of hurting them or damaging their properties. Our chapter aims to discuss applied issues related to the development, testing, and use of war games and simulations as a tool for enhancing ethical decision making, promoting awareness and education on the ethics of urban warfare.

Dong Li, Xiao Xu, and Lin Wu, “A Joint Operation Simulation Environment for Reinforcement Learning,” Asia Simulation Conference (2022).

Reinforcement learning has received broad attention from multiple areas due to its remarkable successes nowadays. And the intelligence about decision making is becoming the new frontier of artificial intelligence. Among various real-world scenarios need accurate decision making, military decisions, however, been studied by few people. This paper describes a reinforcement learning environment powered by a war game, which is considered as a high level simulation for military operation. We define the observation and action space for this environment, along with a system designed for programmatic access. We also provide a series of mini-games for evaluation.

Christa Mackey, Perceptions Of Skill Transference From Dungeons & Dragons To Personal, Social, And Work Life (PhD thesis, University of Arizona, 2022).

The purpose of this qualitative exploratory single-case study was to explore the perceptions and social interactions of participants in an online role-playing game campaign. Six participants were recruited from social media groups. All participants were over age 18 years and had 3 or fewer years of experience playing the traditional role-playing gameDungeons & Dragons. Game play was conducted, managed, and observed through a virtual tabletop simulator during the 2020–2021 COVID-19 pandemic. Methods triangulation including semistructured interviews, journal prompts and entries, and observations were used to gather data from the study participants and game manager. Narrative data were coded and analyzed weekly to monitor for saturation and other quality controls. The data provided information from the perspectives of the game players leading and cooperating as a team. Data analysis resulted in three main themes (skill identification, social interactions, and leadership skills) and nine subthemes (weakness identification, problem identification, problem resolution, teamwork, delegation, conflict resolution, decision-making, emotional response, and empathy) demonstrating new learning capacities that were transferred socially to various life interactions. Results indicated that the participants gained the ability to recognize learned skills and how to transfer the new knowledge and skills from the campaign to their personal, social, and work lives. Study results increased the body of contextual knowledge on how professionals may view learning from gamification and role play opportunities and their recognition and perception of how to obtain new and transferable skills.

Douglas J. MacKinnon and Ying Zhao, Leverage AI To Learn, Optimize, And Wargame (Lailow) For Strategic Laydown And Dispersal (Sld) Of The Operating Forces Of The U.S. Navy (US Naval Postgraduate School, 2022). 

The Secretary of the Navy disperses Navy forces in a deliberate manner to support DoD guidance, policy and budget. The current strategic laydown and dispersal (SLD) process is labor intensive, time intensive, and less capable of becoming agile for considering competing alternative plans. SLD could benefit from the implementation of artificial intelligence. We introduced a relatively new methodology to address these questions which was recently derived from an earlier Office of Naval Research funded project that combined deep analytics of machine learning, optimization, and wargames. This methodology is entitled LAILOW which encompasses Leverage AI to Learn, Optimize, and Wargame (LAILOW). We began by collecting data then employed data mining, machine learning, and predictive algorithms to perform artificial intelligent analysis to learn about and understand the data. This data included historical, phased force deployment data among others to learn patterns of what decisions were made and how they were executed. We then developed a stand-alone set of pseudo data that mimicked the actual, classified data so that experimental excursions cold be performed safely. We also limited our data to include ships. Our efforts produced a first-ever, relative, and optimal, score derived from a wargame like scenario for every available ship that might be moved. The score for each ship increases as fewer resources are required to fulfill an SLD plan requirement to move that ship to a new homeport. This not only produced a mathematically optimal response, but also enabled the immediate comparison between competing or alternate ship movement scenarios that might be chosen instead.

Thomas Mansfield et al, A Synthetic War-Game Environment to Assess Emerging and Disruptive Maritime Technologies in NATO Exercises STO-MP-MSG-197 (NATO 2022).

NATO’s Dynamic Messenger operational experimentation exercise, scheduled September 2022 (DYMS-22), investigates the role of maritime unmanned systems (MUS) in operations. To mitigate the limits of an at-sea exercise and further explore the benefits of MUS, a synthetic environment based on the use of Modelling and Simulation (M&S) supports immersive war-game events. This approach continues the team’s long-term research aim; supporting decision making by blending human, technology and data.The synthetic environment consists of three main elements: A NATO Architectural Framework (NAF) dashboard, a comprehensive federation of maritime simulators and an interactive suite of data analysis tools. Together, they allow players to test emerging technologies and extend exercise vignettes in a safe-to- fail environment.During war-games, the web-based NAF Dashboard facilitates the player’s debate and selection of MUS technologies and vignette extensions. Using the federation of maritime simulators, the players visualize the selected vignettes while generating a representative dataset to populate the DYMS-22 key performance indicators (KPIs). Utilising the data analysis tools, the players investigate the effect of their selections on the KPIs in detail.

Interactions with the modular, adaptable and immersive synthetic environment allows DYMS-22 participants to identify the limitations and strengths of MUS technologies in a series of iterating war-game rounds.

Jennifer McArdle, Eric Hilmer, “Effectively Integrating Technology into Wargames,” Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) (2022).

Wargames have long been touted as a key avenue to imagine and prepare for the contours of future competition and conflict, but a schism exists within the wargaming community on how best to incorporate technology. Technology skeptics within the wargaming community allege that many wargame technologies are inflexible, challenging to use, and often fail to address the wargame’s stated experiential or analytic end-goal. Technology enthusiasts, on the other hand, point to the lack of scientific rigor and complexity within wargames as reason for technology’s inclusion. Between these two entrenched positions—the skeptics and the enthusiasts—the role of technology in wargames is being adjudicated with broad based implications for the wargaming community and national security, writ large.

While many have sought to identify the ideal blend of wargaming and technology tools by examining game components, such as scenarios, or wargaming applications—such as course of action analysis—this paper takes a slightly different tack. Instead, it employs user experience research methods—by focusing on professional wargamers and their experiences—to identify a path forward. Drawing on a dozen user interviews with the professional wargaming community, eight focus groups, and a technology survey that elicited over 500 respondents of self- identified wargaming professionals with War on the Rocks—the most well-read national security outlet among professional wargamers—this paper outlines areas where technology is best suited to enhance wargaming. It assesses four identified wargaming pain points—adjudication, usability, game immersion, and analytics—and provides recommendations on how technology can best mitigate those challenges.

Michael P. A. Murphy, Andrew Heffernan, Caroline Dunton, and Amelia C. Arsenault, “The disciplinary scholarship of teaching and learning in political science and international relations: methods, topics, and impact,” International Politics (2023).

Within the disciplines of political science and International Relations, rich debates around pedagogy have crystallized into a robust set of scholarly institutions. This review article analyzes the current state of the disciplinary scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) by canvassing the field’s journals where SoTL research is published and situating current developments within the broader SoTL ecosystem. We analyze the growth of publications, methodological and topical trends in the literature, and assess the scientometric impact of these debates. Moving forward, we call on these debates to methodologically prioritize rich expressions of student voice and to promote further collaborative practices in SoTL research.

Charles Perring, Wargaming elections interference: Developing educational wargames for cognitive warfare (Master’s thesis. Swedish Defence University, 2022).

Will-to-defend (försvarsvilja) is central to the Swedish concept of ’total defence’ (totalförsvar). It represents an individual and collective inclination to think or act in support of the defence of the nation. Psychological defence (psykologiskt försvar) shields will-to-defend from foreign influence campaigns that attempt to degrade it. This thesis sets out to create a serious game to teach elements of will-to-defend and concludes that such a game is possible but serious challenges remain with regards to the inclusion of psychological defence and in adjudicating the outcomes of influence operations in serious games.

Current research into will-to-defend and psychological defence are limited to the Swedish context and have not been tested in warfare. This thesis proposes that cognitive warfare is a relevant proxy concept for modern-day attempts to degrade will-to-defend and proposes that elections interference is a relevant proxy context for a serious influence game that aims to teach core concepts involved in attempts to degrade will-to-defend. A systems integrated model for elections interference is composed from existing scholarly research and its core elements are decomposed into essential learning blocks. Finally, a serious influence game is developed and venues for effective in-game adjudication are explored.

Paul Schuurman, “Preparing for War: Prussian–German Professional Wargames and the Leadership Concept of Mission Tactics, 1870–1880,” in Concepts of War, 1650-1900:From Free-Rider Strategies to Survival of the Fittest (Brill 2022).

Prussian professional wargames (Kriegsspiele) came into existence during the Napoleonic Wars. I argue that the success of these wargames after the Wars of German Unification (1864-1870) was firmly connected with their role as integrative training solutions for the disintegrative tendencies of the leadership concept of mission tactics (Auftragstaktik), which evolved during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Both professional wargames and mission tactics were actively sponsored by the Prussian-German Great General Staff, and I argue that both were jointly pushed forward by a technological context that included the dramatic increase in nineteenth-century firepower and the military use of Germany’s railroad network.

Lucian Valeriu Scipanov and Valentin Totir, “Wargaming Theory,” Strategies XXI (2022).

In this article, we want to make an overview of a distinct stage in the process of planning military operations, namely wargaming. From our point of view, as specialists in the field of military art, wargaming is a particular aspect of the decision-making process, offering the possibility to identify optimal response solutions, depending on certain variables of the operational environment. Thus, in this approach, we will start from the main historical landmarks regarding the appearance and development of the domain, so that later we can present certain particularities of wargaming, on which occasion we will be able to identify the general theory of the domain, next to developing a series of directions of action, adapted to probable courses of action of a possible enemy. The development of military art, the experience of military strategists, the emergence of new technologies, and the adaptation of tactics to changes on the battlefield, represent a milestone in the way of conducting both warfare and wargaming. The only constant in this field is that human imagination is limitless and we can only hope that the military specialists will find the proper solution to transform fiction into a reality. Thus, we address not only the specialists but also those who are at the beginning of their military career, offering a perspective on the field.

Björn Sjöblom, Jonas Linderoth, Anders Frank, eds, Representing Conflicts in Games: Antagonism, Rivalry, and Competition (Routledge 2022).

This book offers an overview of how conflicts are represented and enacted in games, in a variety of genres and game systems. Games are a cultural form apt at representing real world conflicts, and this edited volume highlights the intrinsic connection between games and conflict through a set of theoretical and empirical studies. It interrogates the nature and use of conflicts as a fundamental aspect of game design, and how a wide variety of conflicts can be represented in digital and analogue games.

The book asks what we can learn from conflicts in games, how our understanding of conflicts change when we turn them into playful objects, and what types of conflicts are still not represented in games. It queries the way games make us think about armed conflict, and how games can help us understand such conflicts in new ways.

Offering a deeper understanding of how games can serve political, pedagogical, or persuasive purposes, this volume will interest scholars and students working in fields such as game studies, media studies, and war studies.

Yuxiang Sun et al, “Experimental and Computational Study on the Ground Forces CGF Automation of Wargame Models Using Reinforcement Learning,” IEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems 53, 1 (2022).

The application of artificial intelligence (AI) in games has been significantly developed and attracted much attention over the past few years. This article not only leverages the reinforcement learning multiagent deep deterministic policy gradient algorithm to realize the dynamic decision-making of game AI but also creatively incorporates deep learning and natural language processing technologies in the wargame field to transform game context situation maps into textual suggestions in wargame confrontation. In this article, we effectively integrate reinforcement learning technologies, deep learning technologies, and natural language processing technologies to generalize the semantic text output at state-of-the-art accuracy, which plays an important role in human understanding of game AI behavior. The experimental results are promising and can be used to verify the feasibility, accuracy, and performance of our proposed model in extensive simulations against benchmarking methods.

Grace Teo, Randy Jensen, and Gregory Goodwin, “Designing Assessments in a Team Trainer for Wargaming,” AIED 2022 (2022).

This paper discusses several concepts for the development of a distributed trainer for command staff trainees learning to develop courses of action (COAs) and wargame. These concepts include how understanding the nature of the team tasks determines the taskwork and teamwork competencies and shapes the pedagogical strategies to be incorporated into the trainer. As well as concepts related to the difficulties in developing assessments for unstructured team tasks and the challenges with assessing team processes, we also discuss the inclination towards a positivist paradigm that relies on the presence of behaviors for indicators, when absence of certain behaviors can also be indicative and used in assessments. We conclude with a preliminary framework for organizing system features for the trainer, and ideas for future research.

Garrett R. Wood, “The Political Economy of Wargaming,” Defence and Peace Economics (online 2022).

Modeling conflict through wargaming is the only option outside of high-cost real conflict for militaries to train their forces and attempt to reveal information about their own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of their foes. This is the function wargaming serves in theory, but in reality, the process of wargaming is undermined by information and incentive problems that cause the real-world performance of wargames to deviate sharply from their performance in theory. These problems resolve the conflicting professional views on wargaming between those who want to use them for predictive purposes and those who want to use them for training purposes in favor of the latter.

Burak Yuksek et al, “Intelligent Wargaming Approach to Increase Course of Action Effectiveness in Military Operations,” AIAA Scitech Forum (2023).

In this study, an intelligent wargaming approach is proposed to evaluate the effectiveness of a military operation plan in terms of operational success and survivability of the assets. The proposed application is developed based on classical military decision making and planning (MDMP) workflow for ease of implementation into the real-world applications. Contributions of this study are threefold; a) developing an intelligent wargaming approach to accelerate the course of action (COA) analysis step in the MDMP which leads creating more candidate COAs for a military operation, b) generating effective tactics against the opposite forces to increase operational success, and c) developing an efficient, visual wargame-based MDMP framework for future systems that require a small team of operators to supervise a network of automated agents. Several example engagement scenarios are performed to evaluate the system capabilities and results are given. Moreover, fleet composition issue for automated agents is investigated and the fleet composer algorithm with hyperparameter tuning architecture is proposed.

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