PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

McGill megagame 2020 ticket sale

Atlantic Rim

Do you feel the urge to save Atlantic Canada from the gravest threat in its history? Then you will want to participate in the ATLANTIC RIM megagame at McGill on Sunday, 16 February 2020.

Megagame tickets are discounted until January 1. After that, you’ll have to pay the regular admission price. Students receive an additional discount.

More more details, or to purchase a ticket, go to our Eventbrite ticket page.

If you want to be assigned to the same team as a group of friends, email me everyone’s name and your role preferences after you have all purchased a ticket.

RAND: Gaming the gray zone

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RAND has released a new report by Stacie L. Pettyjohn and Becca Wasser on Competing in the Gray Zone: Russian Tactics and Western Responses. This addresses two major sets of research questions: first, “How are gray zone activities defined? What are different types of gray zone tactics?” and second “Where are vulnerabilities to gray zone tactics in Europe? What are those vulnerabilities?”

Recent events in Crimea and the Donbass in eastern Ukraine have upended relations between Russia and the West, specifically the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Although Russia’s actions in Ukraine were, for the most part, acts of outright aggression, Russia has been aiming to destabilize both its “near abroad” — the former Soviet states except for the Baltics — and wider Europe through the use of ambiguous “gray zone” tactics. These tactics include everything from propaganda and disinformation to election interference and the incitement of violence.

To better understand where there are vulnerabilities to Russian gray zone tactics in Europe and how to effectively counter them, the RAND Corporation ran a series of war games. These games comprised a Russian (Red) team, which was tasked with expanding its influence and undermining NATO unity, competing against a European (Green) team and a U.S. (Blue) team, which were aiming to defend their allies from Red’s gray zone activities without provoking an outright war. In these games, the authors of this report observed patterns of behavior from the three teams that are broadly consistent with what has been observed in the real world. This report presents key insights from these games and from the research effort that informed them.

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While the study is interesting enough as it is, RAND has also released a second 45 page monograph by Becca Wasser, Jenny Oberholtzer, Stacie L. Pettyjohn, and William Mackenzie that outlines the gaming methodology adopted: Gaming Gray Zone Tactics: Design Considerations for a Structured Strategic Game.

Research Questions

  1. Can a game model gray zone competition in a empirically ground sound yet playable way?
  2. What is the game design process for developing a structured strategic game for a complex political-military issue that simultaneously operates in two different time horizons?
  3. How can structured strategic gaming help researchers gain an understanding of adversary gray zone tactics and tools?

To explore how Russia could use gray zone tactics and to what effect, the authors of this report developed a strategic-level structured card game examining a gray zone competition between Russia and the West in the Balkans. In these games, the Russian player seeks to expand its influence and undermine NATO unity while competing against a European team and a U.S. team seeking to defend their allies from Russia’s gray zone activities without provoking an outright war. This report details the authors’ development of this game, including key design decisions, elements of the game, how the game is played, and the undergirding research approach. The authors conclude with recommendations for future applications of the game design.

Key Findings

The Balkans gray zone game demonstrated that structured strategy games are useful exploratory tools and this model could be adapted for other contexts and adversaries.

  • While the gray zone remains a murky topic, this game demonstrated that it was feasible to break the gray zone down into concrete parts, to conduct research on each of these parts, and to link these components to create a playable strategic game that yielded useful insights.
  • The scoped and structured approach to this game allowed for enough structure to keep discussions on track and provided links between inputs and outputs while still allowing for creativity, flexibility, and transparency.
  • This gray zone game can be adapted to focus on different regions or adversaries, could include additional allies, or could be made into a three-way competition.

The RAND team started with a series of matrix games to scope out the problem, and then progressed to semi-structured game. Finally, they moved on to creating a structured, three-sided (US, Europe, Russia) gray zone board game focused on the Balkans.

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Countries were tracked for governance quality and diplomatic-political orientation, as well as economic dependence (on Russia) and media freedom.

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Players acted through a deck of action cards, each specific to the actor(s) they represented. Potential Russian (RED) actions are shown above, and sample cards below)

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The report discusses the game design approaches taken, assesses their utility, and concludes with some suggestions as to future modifications.

All-in-all, it is a rare and outstanding example of serious game designers fully documenting their game design approach and research methods so as to inform future work on the issue. Kudos to all!


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Review: Longley-Brown, Successful Professional Wargames (2019)

The following review was contributed to PAXsims by Ben Taylor.


Graham Longley-Brown, Successful Professional Wargames; A Practitioner’s Handbook (History of Wargaming Project, 2019). £21.95 paperback. Kindle version also available.

This book is a valuable addition to the professional wargamer’s library. If this was just a compendium of the best practices from the viewpoint of Graham Longley-Brown, master wargamer, driving force behind the Connections UK conference and all-round good egg, then it would be a worthwhile investment. This book is actually far more than that.

SPWcoverThe book was written in parallel to the UK MOD’s Defence Wargaming Handbook (reviewed on PAXsims here) with the intention of providing an expanded practitioner’ guide to those tasked with actually designing and delivering games. Wargaming stakeholders who need to know what a wargame is and why they should want one only need the shorter volume. For those tasked with putting the message into practice this new volume rehearses similar ideas and arguments but with more detailed thoughts and copious practical guidance. This common alignment is important because if your boss has a copy of the Wargaming Handbook and is looking motivated to get some wargaming done, then there is nothing in the Practitioner’s Handbook will contradict anything that the boss is expecting!

While Graham Longley-Brown has many years of experience in wargaming with the British military he took the decision to not limit his new book to his own perspectives and ideas. A supporting cast of experts have been included, each making niche contributions. The guest list reads like a who’s who of the core community that the Connections UK meetings are built around. Indeed PAXsims had to really scrape the bottom of the barrel to find a reviewer who was not a contributing author to this volume.

The book is divided into four parts. These address in turn wargaming fundamentals, the conditions for successful wargames, the wargame development lifecycle and practicing successful wargames.  In short these combine to illustrate the why, what and how of modern professional wargames. This is very much a resource to dip into, rather than to read cover-to-cover. At over 450 pages there is an awful lot of detail but it is very well structured and set out so that the reader can dive into any section and glean useful advice in support of their own efforts. That said, I did find the layout a little confusing in paces. In some areas there are lots of subheadings, quotes and inset verbatim text from the Wargaming Handbook which make the document feel a little fractured. In addition the guest contributors have contributed a mix of stand-alone paragraphs or chapters-within-chapters which contribute to the sense of fragmentation. Taken as a whole the book is an excellent resource, even if opening to a page at random can sometimes be a bit confusing. Starting at the beginning of a section and reading through the advice that Graham and his guest contributors have assembled on a topic in sequence is definitely the way to go.

In conclusion, this book captures very well the state of the art in professional military wargaming in the UK. If you are interested in designing or running smaller-scale games and/or games outside of the military environment then some elements of the book may be of less immediate value. This is after all the handbook for professionals running professional games.  That said, whatever kind of game you design or play you can’t fail to find something insightful and inspiring in this book.

Ben Taylor

 


 

UPDATE. Graham Longley-Brown sent on some comments, which I’ve appended to the review so everyone is sure to see them.

Hi Ben, and thank you for your kind words. I’d like to add a comment and make an offer to anyone wondering whether to buy the book.

First, although the book is inevitably written from my UK perspective, I’ve done all I can to include contributions from around the world, so I’d push back slightly at the implication that the book offers a UK-centric view. Indeed, all contributed chapters were from US folk and a Canadian (Rex 😊). Many of the points I make are indeed sourced from Connections UK, but that conference encompasses a truly international family. I attribute comments where I can, but much else of what I consider to be best practice I have picked up from fantastic international speakers at Connections UK and elsewhere.

Second, I agree wholeheartedly that the book should be dipped in to, but chapters read from their beginning. Respecting all the different perspectives offered by contributors and advice from reviewers and commentators led to a large amount of sometimes overlapping information that could be difficult to prise apart. If anyone asks, I will gladly send them the mind maps I used to structure the overall book and each chapter (or post them here if Rex thinks that appropriate). These show the contents and structure of each chapter at a glance, as you can see below.Contents v7.7.jpg

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Finally, thanks to Ben and Rex for making the – considerable! – time to review the book. Successful Professional Wargames is an attempt to spread best practice and stimulate debate, so it’s great to see it on PAXsims, which is so effective in doing the same thing.


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Simulation & Gaming (December 2019)

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The latest edition of Simulation & Gaming 50, 6 (December 2019) is now available.

Articles

  • Interbank Interest-Rate Model for the Banking Business of a Multi-Industry Game
    • Precha Thavikulwat and Bosco Wing Tong Yu
  • FASim: A 3D Serious Game for the First Aid Emergency
    • Samira Benkhedda and Fatima Bendella
  • Simulation as a Tool to Promote Professional Identity Formation and Patient Ownership in Medical Students
    • Lillie Tien, Tasha R. Wyatt, Matthew Tews, and A. J. Kleinheksel
  • Making Language Real: Developing Communicative and Professional Competences Through Global Simulation
    • Yuddy Perez and Paige Poole
  • PY-RATE ADVENTURES: A 2D Platform Serious Game for Learning the Basic Concepts of Programming With Python
    • Grigorios Sideris and Stelios Xinogalos
  • Being an Educator and Game Developer: The Role of Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Non-Commercial Serious Games Production
    • Jonas Linderoth and Björn Sjöblom
  • Psychometric Testing of a Value-Achievement-Cost Motivation Survey for 12th Grade Health Sciences Students for Use in Simulation-Based-Games
    • Kevin R. Glover and Alec Bodzin
  • Learner-Controlled Practice Difficulty and Task Exploration in an Active-Learning Gaming Environment
    • Joseph Westlin, Eric Anthony Day, and Michael G. Hughes
  • A ‘KAHOOT!’ Approach: The Effectiveness of Game-Based Learning for an Advanced Placement Biology Class
    • Serena M. Jones, Priya Katyal, Xuan Xie, Madeleine P. Nicolas, Eric M. Leung, Damon M. Noland, and Jin Kim Montclare
  • Cross-Cultural Learning in Gameplay: BAFÁ BAFÁ, Persuasive Technology, and the Exploration of Intercultural Sensitivity
    • Jessica Wendorf Muhamad and Fan Yang

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WotR podcast: The (war)games we play

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The latest War on the Rocks podcast features Ellie Bartels, ED McGrady, and Peter Perla discussing—what else?—wargaming. You’ll find it here.

If you read War on the Rocks, you’ve noticed there’s a lively debate over the state of wargaming in the Department of Defense. After senior leaders pushed for a renewed emphasis on wargaming several years ago, are these games any good? Are they doing what they need to be doing for the U.S. military? If not, who is at fault — the gaming community or the customers sitting in the five-sided building? To tackle these questions and more, we gathered a gifted group of gamesome and gallant gamers. Join Ryan’s conversation with Ellie Bartels, ED McGrady, and Peter Perla.


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Invicta: How Did Wargaming Shape the War in the Pacific?

The Invicta YouTube channel posted another excellent video on wargaming last month, this time focusing on the impact of wargaming on WWII in the Pacific theatre.

In this interview, US Naval War College Museum Curator, Rob Doane, talks us through the naval history of wargaming in the 20th century. We begin by discussing US navy planning in the lead up to war which includes the eventual rainbow plan and war plan orange. We then look at how wargaming influenced naval warfare from the strategic to the tactical level. These impacted battles like Pearl Harbor, Midway, and the Island Hopping campaign across the Pacific. Finally we discuss the specifics of US vs Japan naval wargaming conducted by both the US Navy and the Japanese Navy.

They’ve since followed up with a couple of other Midway-themed videos, including one in which wargame designer Pete Pellegrino discuses the history of War Plan Orange and the role of the USNWC and Naval Wargaming.


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Connections US Wargaming Conference 2019 Proceedings

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The Proceedings of the 2019 Connections US Wargaming Conference is now available thanks to Mark Leno, Wargame Analyst, Department of Strategic Wargaming at the US Army War College.

Recent simulation and gaming publications, November 2019

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

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


Leila Demarest and Róisín Smith, “Managing Expectations? The Opportunities and Limitations of e-Learning Applications in Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Training,” Journal of Peacebuilding and Development, 14, 3 (December 2019).

In recent decades, governmental and non-governmental organisations have increased the number and scale of Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding (CPPB) activities in conflict-affected countries. This development has also led to an increase in personnel in these organisations, posing challenges for staff training. In response, many organisations are looking at e-learning applications to provide cost-effective training at a broad geographical scale. Online courses and “serious games” have in particular received interest in recent years. In this article, we discuss the opportunities and limitations of such applications for CPPB training. We argue that they face challenges in contributing to skills and knowledge development but emphasise nevertheless that these challenges are similar to those faced by current classroom training initiatives. The potential of technology should not be exaggerated, yet digital applications can broaden the scope of participation and professionalization in CPPB activities to a wider range of (non-Western) actors.


Emanuel Deutschmann, Jan Lorenz, Luis G. Nardin, Davide Natalini, and Adalbert F. X. Wilhelm, eds, Computational Conflict Research (SpringerOpen, 2019).

Conflict, from small-scale verbal disputes to large-scale violent war between nations, is one of the most fundamental elements of social life and a central topic in social science research. The main argument of this book is that computational approaches have enormous potential to advance conflict research, e.g., by making use of the ever-growing computer processing power to model complex conflict dynamics, by drawing on innovative methods from simulation to machine learning, and by building on vast quantities of conflict-related data that emerge at unprecedented scale in the digital age. Our goal is (a) to demonstrate how such computational approaches can be used to improve our understanding of conflict at any scale and (b) to call for the consolidation of computational conflict research as a unified field of research that collectively aims to gather such insights. We first give an overview of how various computational approaches have already impacted on conflict research and then guide through the different chapters that form part of this book. Finally, we propose to map the field of computational conflict research by positioning studies in a two-dimensional space depending on the intensity of the analyzed conflict and the chosen computational approach.


Yong Hwan Kim, Yong Seung Song, Chang Ouk Kim, “A Study on the Interoperability of ROK Air Force Virtual and Constructive Simulation,” Journal of the Korea Society for Simulation 28, 2 (2019).

LVC (Live-Virtual-Constructive) training system is drawing attention due to changes in battlefield situation and the development of advanced information and communication technologies. The ROKAF(Republic of Korea Air Force) plans to construct LVC training system capable of scientific training. This paper analyzes the results of V-C interoperability test with three fighter simulators as virtual systems and a theater-level wargame model as a constructive system. The F-15K, KF-16, and FA-50 fighter simulators, which have different interoperable methods, were converted into a standard for simulation interoperability. Using the integrated field environment simulator, the fighter simulators established a mutually interoperable environment. In addition, the Changgong model, which is the representative training model of the Air Force, was converted to the standard for simulation interoperability, and the integrated model was implemented with optimized interoperability performance. Throughput experiments, It was confirmed that the fighter simulators and the war game model of the ROKAF could be interoperable with each other. The results of this study are expected to be a good reference for the future study of the ROKAF LVC training system.


Lawrence D. Johnson, Assessment of Learning Styles, Perceptions of Experiential Learning, and Satisfaction of Adults regarding a Learning Game, PhD thesis, Johnson & Wales University, August 2019.

Tradition holds the mission of higher education to be three-fold: teaching, research, and service, with overarching emphasis on learning (O’Banion, 2010). Increasingly, institutions of higher education are searching for ways to improve the delivery of knowledge to students and, as a delivery mechanism, learning games are currently in vogue (Sabin, 2012; Ulicsak & Wright, 2010). Because half of college students are adult learners (NCES, 2018), higher education institutions must acknowledge this fact and seek ways to support and encourage adult students. The confluence in higher education of learning games with adult learners was the context for the study. Give that most learning game studies have examined learning outcomes (Sitzmann, 2011; Weigel, 2013), this study focused on adult game-based learning by exploring if relationships existed between and among learning styles and demographics, and experiential aspects of and satisfaction with a game.

This mixed-methods, sequential, explanatory, dominantly quantitative study assessed adults’ learning styles and perceptions of experiential aspects of a game, based on Kolb’s theory (1984, 2015), and the characteristics and satisfaction of adults who participated in a learning game. The sample was drawn from adult learners at a U.S. military graduate education institution. Data were collected from game-playing adults who completed a learning style inventory (N = 48), an experiential aspects and satisfaction questionnaire (N = 41), and interviews with volunteers (N = 11). Data analyses used appropriate statistical and theme- identifying methods, and the results were converged supporting comparison and contrast.

The study found alignment among learning styles, experiential aspects, and satisfaction, with Abstract Conceptualization and Active Experimentation (Kolb, 2015) emerging as the preferred learning styles. For demographic characteristics, only age was significantly related to learning styles. Utility of the game surfaced as the most important component of satisfaction, whereas immersion was a key requirement for satisfaction regarding the game experience.

The findings resulted in recommendations that are potentially useful to higher education leaders responsible for curriculum policy-making and practice, to designers of learning games for adults, and to institutional leaders concerned with the attraction and retention of adult students.


Anique Kuijpers, Heide Lukosch, Alexander Verbraeck, “Exploring a Mixed Method Approach: Simulation Games and Q Methodology,” International Conference on Games and Learning Alliance, November 2019.

In this paper we explore the possibilities to combine two research methods we regard as being very useful when interacting with stakeholders in complex systems. We discuss a mixed research methods approach, based on the Q methodology and a simulation game. In a game design process, translating the real or reference system into the game design is an intricate process and rather challenging due to the complexity of today’s societal systems. As shown by various studies, different data techniques are proposed in order to translate reality aspects. One of the proposed data gathering techniques in combination with simulation games is Q methodology. Q methodology is a suitable method to retrieve social perspectives of stakeholders on a particular topic. Yet it is still elusive how the results of a Q methodology can be used in a game design process. In this paper, we explore the possibilities how to combine the two methods and how to translate the results of the Q analysis into a game design concept. In the context of a case within the domain of transport and logistics, we discuss how such mixed research methods approach could look like. We conclude with a future outlook on our research.


Roni Linser, “The Player-Role Nexus and Student Engagement in Higher Education Online Role Play Simulation Games.” In S. Carliner (ed.), Proceedings of E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education (2019). 

While there is no lack of Literature on role-play, there is a lack of empirical based studies. Further, what it is about role plays that makes them engaging educational tools is far from clear. The present paper argues that the structural properties of roles, and the players’ preferences/assessments are two contributing factors in explaining student engagement. The paper is part of a larger exploratory study on the structural components of role plays and their properties in relation to motivation and engagement. This paper focuses on the structural properties of roles (i.e. the way roles are constructed) in role plays, the players preferences and evaluation of these roles and their correlation to student engagement in different higher education institutions and in different areas of study. It uses both student perceptions and preferences gathered by questionnaire and quantitative data analytics to examine a limited number of structural properties in relation to student engagement with Multi Player Online Role Play Simulation Games (MORPSGs) for learning in higher education.


Mauricio Meschoulam,  Andrea Muhech,  Tania Naanous,  Sofía Quintanilla,  Renata Aguilar, Jorge Ochoa,  Cristobal Rodas, “The Complexity of Multilateral Negotiations: Problem or Opportunity? A Qualitative Study of Five Simulations with Mexican Students,” International Studies Perspectives 20, 3 (August 2019).

Education in International Relations requires continual evolution. One approach is the use of negotiation simulations for complex issues. Despite the extensive literature on the subject, there is a lack of qualitative research on this approach, particularly in Latin America and Mexico. This paper presents the findings of a qualitative research on five simulations with Mexican students. The five exercises were characterized by the application of elements that are not usually included in traditional simulations, such as a multiweek phase of prior negotiations, the use of Twitter, the introduction of nonstate actors, a gala dinner, and a continuous feed of real world news. We investigated 118 participants through 30 in depth interviews analyzed with NVivo, a systematized analysis of 118 reports, documents and tweets, and a pre-post questionnaire applied to the fifth group. The results in the five simulations were highly positive. The students reported a greater awareness of the complexity of international negotiations. Such awareness can present both a risk and an opportunity: a risk because those circumstances caused discouragement and frustration in many participants, and an opportunity because those same circumstances, properly channeled, triggered parallel skills, and creative thinking. Therefore, the role of the facilitation team was fundamental.


Paul Schuurman, “A Game of Contexts: Prussian-German Professional Wargames and the Leadership Concept of Mission Tactics 1870–1880,” War in History (online first November 2019).

Professional wargames (Kriegsspiele) had been adopted by the Prussian army at the start of the nineteenth century. They received a major boost after the Prussian successes during the German Wars of Unifications (1864–70) and were subsequently introduced by the armies of other European powers, the United States and Japan. They continued to play a vital role in the twentieth century, and all major German campaigns during the First and Second World Wars were prepared by wargames. I provide a descriptive analysis of the main forms of Prussian-German wargames during the key decade between 1870 and 1880. I then argue that the success of German wargames can be understood in the context of the military concept of mission tactics (Auftragstaktik). I will show how both wargames and mission tactics were driven in their turn by the even wider context of technological revolution in the fields of firearms and railway transport. I will argue that these contexts ushered forth professional wargames along an initially tenuous trajectory, before they became a key instrument in training and planning for war in the hands of the Great General Staff of the Prussian and hence the German army.

Michael A Stoto, Normand LeBlanc, Nellie Darling, Julia Gasior, Mikaela Harmsen, Casey Zipfel, “A Century of Influenza: Is the World Prepared for the Next Pandemic?” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs 20 (Fall 2019).

…In order to apply findings from research and to gain further insight into possible responses to a global pandemic in the 21st century, we conducted a simulation exercise of a hypothetical, but realistic, pandemic influenza today. Approximately thirty Georgetown medical, graduate, and undergraduate students played the roles of global, national, and local officials as well as medical advisors responding to a pandemic. The exercise included two phases, each of which ended with a presentation by the student participants to a panel of “decision-makers” from public health and other sectors. The simulation highlighted several areas that were key to the simulation, that would likely also arise in the case of an influenza pandemic today: identifying epidemiological characteristics of the novel pandemic strain, coordinating globally in accord with the International Health Regulations, implementing a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, applying non-pharmaceutical interventions, assessing availability and distribution of medical countermeasures, maintaining standards of care in a crisis, and communicating risk information locally.


Marcin Wardaszko, ed, Simulation & Gaming: Through and Across Disciplines, ISAGA 50th annual conference proceedings (Kozminski University, 2019).

[A collection of 76 papers accepted for the ISAGA 2019 conference.]


Woo-Sup Yoon and Jeong-Cheon Seo, “A Study on Effective Discussion Based Training Applying to Army War-game Process in Disaster Response Safety Korea Training,” Journal of the Society of Disaster Information 15, 3 (2019).

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present a method for effectively conducting discussion-based training in disaster response safety training. Method: To this end, we analyzed the disaster response training of developed countries and suggested the training scenarios by applying the war-game process that is currently applied in the operation planning of our military. Result: In one disaster situation, several contingencies could be identified, and supplementary requirements for the manual could be derived. Conclusion: Therefore, in conclusion, if the military war-game process is applied to the discussion-based training in disaster response safety training, effective training can be carried out.


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Russian “multimedia combined arms training”

The following item has been provided to PAXsims by our roving correspondent, Tim Price.


 

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I was sent a fascinating insight into Russian training methods, shown on the Russian MOD Website, as well as: https://sdelanounas.ru/blogs/127374 The Commentary reads: “A unique multimedia training complex has been created in the Far Eastern VOKU”

In the Far Eastern Higher Combined Arms Command School, a unique training complex for managing units in modern combined arms combat has been created. It is made in the form of a multimedia layout of the area, turning into a three-dimensional image, on which cadets practice situational tasks.

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Classes are organized as part of platoons, where each cadet, in the role of commander, makes a decision in the current situation depicted on the display and, giving instructions to subordinates and attached forces in the position of other cadets, manages the battle. Moreover, each cadet is in a mobile isolated simulator, receives commands through a radio station and independently acts as a specific official of a motorized rifle company.

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The complex allows future commanders in the class to work out all the main types of tactical actions using unmanned aircraft, the latest reconnaissance, communications, artillery and other forces, and the means used in modern combat.

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The creation of the complex and situational tasks was carried out by the best teachers in the framework of rationalization work. It embodied the analysis of modern military conflicts and some issues of the development of military tactics of the future.”

Translation courtesy of Google Translate. Additional photographs and details are contained here. The rather odd looking red curved shapes in the foreground of the terrain map are cut-outs of the Russian map symbols for a tank platoon deployed in the advance. There is a rough guide to Soviet map marking from The Nugget:

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In the comments section several commentators said “All that is new, is that which is old, forgotten

 

Historical research and wargaming (Part 2): Applying the framework to the Third Battle of Gaza (1917)

The following piece has been contributed to PAXsims by James Halstead.


 

Part Two: Applying the Framework

In Part 2, the framework introduced in Part 1 will be used to study debates around a historical battle: the 1917 Third Battle of Gaza. The ‘Gaza School’ counterfactual has been a recurring element of the battle’s historiography since its inception in the immediate aftermath of the battle and was brought to greater prominence in the 1930s with Clive Garsia’s book A Key To Victory which continues to be an influential source for studies on Palestine. The Gaza School therefore remains an intriguing counterfactual possibility amidst continuing debate within the historiography

The Third Battle of Gaza

The ‘Gaza School’ debate revolves around the strategy employed by Edmund Allenby to eject Ottoman forces from their defensive line between the towns of Gaza and Beersheba in southern Palestine through October and November, 1917. Historically Allenby launched attacks on either flank of the Ottoman line between Gaza and Beersheba, drawing Ottoman reserves to both flanks before breaking through the weakly held centre. The inland flank was attacked first with the Desert Mounted Corps (DMC) and XX Corps outflanking, surrounding and capturing Beersheba. Meanwhile XXI Corps diverted Ottoman reserves with a holding attack on Gaza while the formations in Beersheba built up water stockpiles then broke through the Ottoman centre, forcing a full-scale Ottoman retreat.

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Garsia champions the ‘Gaza School’ counterfactual in his book, A Key To Victory, which posits Allenby should have eschewed the attack on Beersheba and focussed all resources upon breaking through at Gaza then exploiting with cavalry rather than outflanking the Ottoman line on the more logistically precarious inland flank.[1] This article will use the wargaming research framework laid out in the first part to explore the feasibility of Garsia’s alternative plan. Indeed, the suggestion to use a wargame to model this came as early as the early 1930s in Cyril Falls Official History.[2]

Geography

A study of the terrain reveals the difficulty of attacking Gaza with several hills, traditional fieldworks and thick cactus hedges all significant obstacles and made the town difficult to take.[3] Two attacks at the beginning of 1917 had already failed while XXI Corp’s holding attack during Third Gaza did poorly, failing to achieve the modest objectives set.[4]While Garsia argues Gaza could have been masked by XXI Corps while the DMC broke through along the beach even this argument is difficult to qualify. High sand dunes near the coast made the ground unsuitable for wheeled vehicles and would make the movement of three cavalry divisions burdensome.[5] Force to space ratios are also often forgotten and a study of a map reveals the beach route offered a frontage less than a mile wide, through which three cavalry divisions would have to ride. This would necessitate a limited, single Brigade front to overcome the Ottoman positions codenamed Lion, Tiger and Dog positions and then further redeployments and fighting across the Wadi Hesi before the cavalry could cut Gaza’s supply, while a long spread-out column of cavalry might prove vulnerable to artillery fire and Ottoman counterattacks regaining the beach defences.

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Adherents to the Gaza School maintain the coast road would have made movement and supply much easier, there are a number of factors which discount this. This road moves directly through Gaza; where the heaviest held part of the entire Ottoman line was located so use of the road would have necessitated decisively shattering the heaviest part of the Ottoman defences, before pushing three cavalry divisions across heavily fortified ground, through a major urban area, across the heavily held Wadi Hesi and all along a single-track road.

Exploitation along the coast would also be harder than supposed with XXI Corps advance following Gaza’s evacuation requiring tractors to move supplies along the coast even with road access.[6] Heavier sand also exhausted the cavalry’s horses and bogged down wheeled transport making rapid movement difficult.[7] There were therefore significant obstacles to cavalry exploitation as a serious study of the terrain demonstrates.

Order of Battle and Generic Capabilities of Formations

Study of the order of battle reveals several insights. Firstly, that while the strength of Ottoman formations was highly variable, and the specifics of the numbers employed still remain unknown, they appear to have concentrated their best divisions on the coast behind Gaza. The historical attack on Beersheba pulled these troops away from the coast, to reinforce the inland flank, although even then there were still sufficient reserves to reinforce Gaza against the holding attack by XXI Corps. To focus the offensive on Gaza would, very likely, have meant that Ottoman forces could have concentrated upon holding Gaza and the terrain behind it even more rather than being split between two axis of advance as they were historically.

Third Gaza also provides an example of how order of battle research can reveal sources ignored by military historians in the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry (ISC) Brigade. Cyril Falls omits the Brigade from the Official History’s Order of Battle, a mistake which future historians have copied and while the absence of a lone Brigade may not seem especially significant the existence of 15 ISC is significant because the brigade’s performance during the battle provides direct evidence of how effectively larger bodies of cavalry would have operated on the coastal flank. [8]  Garsia argues it would have been sufficient to simply mask Gaza with XXI Corps and then slip the cavalry along the beach to cut Ottoman communications.[9] 15 ISC’s war diary, however, makes it clear that opening up a gap, and breaking through, would be no simple matter. The Brigade did actually form up behind the XXI Corps infantry assault but were unable to exploit through as Ottoman counterattacks recaptured the beach defences.[10] Additionally, as discovered in the survey of the terrain the heavier sand on the coast would have exhausted the cavalry. Cavalry tactics also heavily relied upon infantry, artillery and air support. Any unsupported cavalry penetration behind Gaza would struggle against renewed Ottoman defences and counterattacks as shown by EEF cavalry actions at Huj on November 8, Beit Hanun and in the (attempted) crossing of the Nahr el Auja.[11] In all of these cases unsupported cavalry on the advance struggled to overcome what were often weakly held defensive positions and indicates that the cavalry might not even have been able to achieve their objectives even had they broken through.

The EEF’s Decision Making Environment

While the creation of the physical model demonstrates the difficulties with the Gaza Camp approach further analysis of the decision-making environment in the EEF in autumn 1917 further supports a case that the Gaza School approach simply did not align with EEF strategic priorities. Philip Chetwode wrote in October: ‘it is desired to get the enemy on the move from his strongly entrenched positions with as few casualties as possible, relying on our preponderance in cavalry to do the execution.’[12] It is also worth bearing in mind the directive given to Allenby before the battle to capture Jerusalem and ‘occupy the Jaffa-Jerusalem line’ as cheaply as possible.[13] Preponderance in cavalry, and the advantage this gave, was a clear motivation for seeking the open, inland flank. While the EEF had three cavalry divisions, and three independent cavalry brigades the Ottoman cavalry only consisted of one division, barely stronger than a British cavalry brigade. Turning a weakly held flank would also likely be much cheaper than a head-on assault against the most strongly held part of the Ottoman line. The more indirect inland route via Beersheba was chosen because it maximised the EEF’s advantage in cavalry while helping to keep casualties as low as possible. XXI Corps losses in just their holding attack on Gaza were double those of the assault on Beersheba; and for little tangible gain with even the single Brigade of cavalry present unable to exploit.[14][15]

Allenby’s decision to risk the inland attack on Beersheba therefore is as much to do with wider strategic priorities as it is to do with the practicalities of the terrain and force composition.

Integrating wargaming within military historical research, not just within the context of counterfactuals, offers a number of important tools that military historians continue to underutilise. By creating an analytical model of events that aims to conform with the course of historical events military historians can analyse individual factors based on under-utilised (but commonly available) evidence while the successful creation of an accurate model encourages historians to explore the full range of evidence. If the model doesn’t work for whatever reason, then this simply encourages further research to understand why the model doesn’t conform. Extra playtesting and refining of the model is something that can introduce previously unknown or unconsidered factors that suddenly appear more decisive for their effect on the accuracy of the model.[16]

Wargaming military history therefore, while still a tool for support of a wider analytical goal (and as such should be employed appropriately), fills in a number of crucial gaps within a military historian’s toolkit. Design of a wargame encourages rigorous analysis of under-utilised sources in a wider framework and, most importantly, incorporates these into a wider model which must be adapted to fit the historical result. When an initial model doesn’t conform then this just encourages further exploration of why your rigorously researched model hasn’t conformed. Much like wargaming mechanics this creates an important feedback loop, and encourages the researcher to go back and check their sources again: something that the dominant research methodology within history fails to do. Indeed, much of the time in traditional military history contradictory, and inconvenient, sources are often seemingly explained away, ignored or subsumed into wider arguments. Wargaming encourages a more involved research process right from the beginning of a project and, furthermore, relies upon sources that very often can be easily obtained without endless days in the archive. Meanwhile testing the design, especially with a third party, can often lead to fundamental reevaluations of either sides decision space: ‘what constitutes ‘victory’ for either side and what are they willing to risk to attain it?’ are just two questions that applying a gaming approach can encourage. Designing a wargame for a battle at the outset of a project can often produce new priorities on archival research and when new evidence is discovered allows it to be reincorporated into the model: often improving the pursuit of a historically accurate result. While military history is increasingly moving to incorporate more qualitative, and innovative methodologies there are still ways that military historians can integrate more traditionally social science approaches like modelling, and wargaming, to the benefit of their research.[17]

[1] Clive Garsia, A Key To Victory: A Study in War Planning (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1940)

[2] Cyril Falls, Military Operations Egypt and Palestine: From June 1917 to the end of the War Part I (London, 1930), p. 32

[3] SHEA 6/2, The Liddell Hart Centre for Military Studies and JONES, CF, The Liddell Hart Centre for Military Studies

[4] Cyril Falls, Military Operations Egypt and Palestine: From June 1917 to the end of the War Part I (London, 1930)

[5] Lieutenant Colonel, The Honorable, R.M.O, Preston, The Desert Mounted Corps: An Account of the Cavalry Operations in Palestine and Syria 1917-1918 (Boston, 1920), p. 6

[6] Falls, Official History p. 142 and Marquess of Anglesey, A History of the British Cavalry 1816-1919: Volume 5, Egypt, Palestine and Syria (London: 1994) p. 188

[7] Anon. History of the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry, p. 17

[8] Garsia, Key To Victory, p. 206

[9] Garsia, Key To Victory, p. 206

[10] Anon. History of the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry, p. 16

[11] Falls, Official History p. 123, 215 and Anon, History of the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry, p. 16

[12] IWM, P183/1: Chetwode Papers, 1st October Letter: ‘Appreciation of the Situation on the 14th October’

[13] Falls, Official History, p. 67

[14] Wavell, Allenby: Soldier and Statesman p. 178

[15] John Ericksen, Ottoman Army Effectiveness in World War I: A Comparative Study p. 123

[16] Phil Sabin, The Future of Wargaming to Innovate and Educate, Public Lecture at Kings College, 22.11.2019

[17] Jonathan Fennel, Fighting the People’s War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019); Ben Wheatley, A Visual Examination of the Battle of Prokhorovka (Journal of Intelligence History,), Volume 18, 2019


James Halstead is a military historian who is primarily interested in the two world wars of the 20th century. He studied for his Masters at Kings College London (including Professor Phil Sabin’s Conflict Simulation module) and is currently studying for his PhD on Information Management in the British and Commonwealth Armies at Brunel University, London. James has delivered lectures on the Royal Flying Corps and Air Force in the Palestine Campaign at the RAF Museum, Hendon and will do so again at Wolverhampton in 2020. James can be found either on twitter at @JamesTTHalstead or you can read his research blog at:  youstupidboy.wordpress.com

Historical research and wargaming (Part 1): Constructing the framework

The following piece has been contributed to PAXsims by James Halstead. Part 2 can be found here.


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Historical research and wargaming (Part 1): Constructing the framework 

Wargaming offers a unique methodological toolset to study historical conflicts and while there has been interest in using wargames as an educational tool, there is little focus on what wargaming can offer analytical, military history research.[1] The first part of this article will outline how the structured, and exhaustive, research necessary to design historical simulations can provide unique insights for historical research. Since wargame design needs to account for player decisions that diverge from history there is a need to comprehensively research not just the historical record but counterfactuals too. This analysis is carried out in a structured framework which helps the designer to understand both the environment the battle is fought in, but also the military makeup and performance of both sides and how best to incentivise historical play.[2]

The research for a wargame therefore requires the creation of a very different and, in some ways, more rigorous and encompassing model than many traditional military histories. While there is a strong element of the counterfactual to wargaming this still presents ‘a highly useful way of exploring cause and effect.’ Developing a rigorous and thoroughly analytical representational model of historical conflicts can be of huge value in giving greater prominence to underutilised sources and in understanding contemporary opinions and priorities.[3]

Wargames research utilizes a framework that studies the geographical environment, the orders of battle of the opposing sides, generic capabilities of the formations involved and opposing decision environments.[4] This first section will study these factors individually, exploring exactly why they are important and the consequences that proper examination and integration of these factors can have for understanding of military history.

Geography

Studying the ground over which a battle is fought is vital for any study of a battle. Along with the Order of Battle, it is one of the most obvious research benefits of war gaming. Properly modelling a battle’s geographic environment can lead to interesting insights. For example, the German Operation Michael Offensive in March, 1918, against the British Fifth Army and elements of Third Army is often seen as being so successful (at least initially) because of the favourable force to space ratios in favour of the Imperial German Army, better tactics and weak British defences. What is often not considered is the nature of the terrain itself with the British defences lying on a wide, flat plain, with higher ground to the north and south. Approaching Operation Michael as a wargame reveals the nature of the terrain acted against the British defenders and they were forced to give up so much ground, falling back on river lines such as the Somme, partly because of the dearth of defensible features behind Fifth Army’s front line. In turn, these river lines were often only given up when outflanked; meaning that the British Army simply was not able to fall back on terrain favourable to a defence across the entire width of their front line. The German assault against the southern portion of Third Army units to the north of Fifth Army was less successful during Operation Michael and the follow-up, Operation Mars, partly because the British defenders were fighting in much more favourable terrain for defence. Because terrain is such an integral part of the wider model wargames encourage far more engagement than is usual with the characteristics of the terrain on which the historical conflict was fought. With most traditional military histories lacking good-quality maps this can encourage the wider use of easily available sources with a corresponding increase in the level to which terrain is considered as a factor in the historical result.

Order of Battle

Alongside the creation of a proper map, researching an order of battle and the generic capabilities of formations are the basic building blocks in the creation of a rigorously analytical model. This is important to the creation of a wargame because, unlike traditional military history, missing key formations out or incorrectly modelling their capabilities in combat can have important consequences.

The research of an accurate Order of Battle is often nothing much more than a necessary task that doesn’t reveal anything particularly exciting; however, it is still an important step to creating a viable model and therefore something that needs to be properly addressed. Again, like maps, many traditional historical works often give the order of battle only the most cursory of attention. Although orders of battle often do not provide anything particularly revelatory, they undoubtedly contribute a great deal to the wider framework. Knowing exactly which troops were where is an important part of creating a valid simulation and, again, creates a valuable, if incremental contribution to the wider wargame model and can lead to some important, if seemingly minor revelations regarding force to space ratios and the true strength of formations often represented on maps as abstract unit symbols.

However, in some cases the value of proper orders of battle created through commercial wargames have provided interesting revisions to historical works. Dave Parham’s research on the Battle of Stalingrad in the 1980s points out the 76th Infantry Division did not fight at Stalingrad: the assault on the city centre consisting of only two divisions rather than the three that many histories have commonly asserted.[5] Similarly Orders of Battle for Austria-Hungary’s invasion of Serbia in 1914, are obscure and hard to come by, with the most modern, and easily accessible, order of battle found in a commercially published wargame.[6]

Generic Capabilities of Formations

Understanding the generic capabilities of formations which took part in the conflict is really the full marriage of the geographical study and order of battle into a fully realized model simulating the physical capabilities of the military formations involved. Studying the combat record of formations provides a wider appreciation of the generic capabilities of both side’s formations while understanding how the terrain affected the ability of the units collected in the Order of Battle to move and carry out combat introduces completes the basic physical model. The final step is to understand the contemporary military objectives, doctrines and politico-social priorities of participants.

Decision Making Environments

In order to produce an accurate simulation, designers must understand why commanders behaved as they did historically, which requires the priorities and motivations for both sides to be incorporated into the wider model. Historical actors often do not behave rationally to modern perspectives, and what good wargame and historical research does is uncover the reasons that made their choices made appear rational. It is necessary to study the strategic priorities and objectives of both sides to understand why they behaved as they did, and to introduce incentives into the design, to encourage players behave in this way.

For example, in a simulation of the German invasion of France in World War Two, it might seem obvious to the player that they need to attack on either side of any German breakthroughs, neatly cutting off and isolating the Wehrmacht Panzer formations. However, in any accurate simulation of the battle, there will be rules simulating command and control confusion in order to prevent the Allied player from doing precisely this. Similarly, accurately depicting the decision-making environment can also help bridge the gap between military and cultural or social history. A simulation of British and Commonwealth forces in Western Europe in 1944 and 1945 would not just require the accurate modelling of their capabilities but also consideration of the specific style in which they fought battles; to avoid casualties and maintain morale. A successful simulation might, for example, impose heavy penalties on the Commonwealth player for taking infantry casualties and encourage them to use heavy artillery support and set-piece attacks.

Studying the decision environments and the factor’s which the opposing commanders took into account when making their plans can provide very different perspectives from the logical assumptions modern audiences can make when analysing history. This is, of course, something that all good historians should be doing in the first place but the clear analytical framework process that war game design necessitates can often make those perspectives much clearer and assist insight into the wider battle.

Wargames, while utilizing the same skills as traditional military history, research within a framework that provides much more technical and specific understanding of conflicts which can, in turn, challenge many assumptions made by existing histories. It is not so much a radically new way of approaching research but of framing the evidence and creating an emphasis on underutilized, but very accessible, sources such as Orders of Battle or maps. In the second part of this article, this framework will be applied to studying the ‘Gaza School Counterfactual’ that was developed in the 1930s about the Third Battle of Gaza, as an example of the way that this wargaming research framework can benefit historical research by framing underutilized, but easily accessible evidence.

[1] Phil Sabin, Simulating War (London, 2012) and Robert Citino, ‘Lessons from the Hexagon’ in Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming

[2] Phil Sabin, Simulating War (London, 2012) p. 47

[3] Paul Cartledge, The Spartans: An Epic History , (New York, 2013), p. 126

[4] Phil Sabin, Simulating War (London, 2012) p. 47-48

[5] John Hill, Battle for Stalingrad Main Rule Book, (Simulation Publications Incorporated: New York, 1980), p. 19

[6] Serbien Muβ Sterberien, (GMT, 2013)


James Halstead is a military historian who is primarily interested in the two world wars of the 20th century. He studied for his Masters at Kings College London (including Professor Phil Sabin’s Conflict Simulation module) and is currently studying for his PhD on Information Management in the British and Commonwealth Armies at Brunel University, London. James has delivered lectures on the Royal Flying Corps and Air Force in the Palestine Campaign at the RAF Museum, Hendon and will do so again at Wolverhampton in 2020. James can be found either on twitter at @JamesTTHalstead or you can read his research blog at:  youstupidboy.wordpress.com

How wargames work and their importance by Paul Vebber

Listen to Paul Vebber, assistant director of wargaming and future warfare research at Naval Undersea Warfare Center Headquarters, discussing how wargames work and their importance to the Warfare Centers, Naval Sea Systems Command and the Navy:

How an opponent wargames is an intelligence collection requirement

In June of this year Mercyhurst University’s Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences held its first “Intelligence Community Forum” focused on Intelligence support for decision makers (https://mercyhurst.edu/icf). At that conference I presented the argument that “How an opponent wargames is an intelligence collection requirement” available online.

The abstract reads:

The answer to “How does an opponent wargame?” supports decision makers when deterring, preempting or reacting to conflict. How opponent decision makers wargame during peacetime, i.e. the methods, techniques and styles of gaming used and the beliefs and psychological biases of the players, gives us insight into how opponent decision makers might operate during conflict. This is in addition to the scenarios, systems and concepts they game which one can credibly infer from the political, economic and military environments. Since studying the performance of individual decision makers during real life planning and conflict tells us something about how those decision makers might behave in future conflicts, then how they behave during wargames might tell us something about how they would perform during the future conflict that they are currently wargaming. Therefore studying the wargaming approaches of an opponent or ally and the wargame performance of selected military and political leaders should be an intelligence collection requirement. In this presentation I propose an analytic framework for answering the wargame intelligence question based on the Purpose of the Wargame and the Characteristics of the Wargamers for each identified opponent group, and propose methods for avoiding such collection on oneself.

Let’s see more wargamers at next year’s Intelligence Community Forum  on June 16–18, 2020, Mercyhurst University, Erie, PA!


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A Game Of Birds And Wolves

9780316492089.jpgSimon Parkin’s new book on the Western Approaches Tactical Unit, A Game of Bird and Wolveswas published in the UK last week by Sceptre.

The triumphant story of a group of young women who helped devised a winning strategy to defeat the Nazi U-boats and deliver a decisive victory in the Battle of the Atlantic

By 1941, Winston Churchill had come to believe that the outcome of World War II rested on the battle for the Atlantic. A grand strategy game was devised by Captain Gilbert Roberts and a group of ten Wrens (members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service) assigned to his team in an attempt to reveal the tactics behind the vicious success of the German U-boats. Played on a linoleum floor divided into painted squares, it required model ships to be moved across a make-believe ocean in a manner reminiscent of the childhood game, Battleship. Through play, the designers developed “Operation Raspberry,” a countermaneuver that helped turn the tide of World War II.

Combining vibrant novelistic storytelling with extensive research, interviews, and previously unpublished accounts, Simon Parkin describes for the first time the role that women played in developing the Allied strategy that, in the words of one admiral, “contributed in no small measure to the final defeat of Germany.” Rich with unforgettable cinematic detail and larger-than-life characters, A Game of Birds and Wolves is a heart-wrenching tale of ingenuity, dedication, perseverance, and love, bringing to life the imagination and sacrifice required to defeat the Nazis at se

The book will be released in North America in January by Little, Brown.

In the meantime, you can read Paul Strong’s excellent analytical paper, “Wargaming the Atlantic War: Captain Gilbert Roberts and the Wrens of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit” (2017). See also last year’s recreation of a WATU wargame at the Western Approaches museum by staff from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and PAXsims.


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New wargaming book hits the shelves

It’s been a good year for wargaming books.

First was Matt Caffrey’s On Wargaming: How Wargames Have Shaped History and How They May Shape the Future available as a free download from the US Navy College Press

Now we have from the other side of the Atlantic Graham Longley-Brown’s Successful Professional Wargames; A Practitioner’s Handbook, published by the History of Wargaming Project. There is also a Kindle version available from Amazon.


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