PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Armchair Dragoon: wargaming civilians

 

DragoonsLogoHEADER-1.pngThe latest edition of Armchair Dragoons’ Mentioned in Dispatches podcast features a discussion of how civil-military and non-kinetic factors are—or, more frequently, are not—represented in wargames.

Following up on an earlier episode of Mentioned in Dispatches, Doug & Jim are back to join guest Rex Brynen in talking about all those non-military considerations during armed conflict, as we cover games ranging from A Distant Plain to The Creature That Ate Sheboygan.

So if you’re curious about how block-by-block fighting in Mosul affected the city, what game lets NGOs use nukes, Canadian government zombies, and/or what flavor firefighters are, this is your podcast!

You’ll find it here.

AFTERSHOCK in play

On Twitter, a couple of users have recently tweeted images of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game being used as an educational game.

BA/BSc Geography students playing AFTERSHOCK at the University of Gloucestershire:

40 Commando Royal Marines playing AFTERSHOCK at the University of Exeter:

Brexit games

The most recent episode (107) of the WB40 podcast features Rina Atienza and Lynette Nusbacher (Nusbacher Associates) and Jim Wallman (Stone Paper Scissors) on the subject of Brexit games.

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If you want to try your hand at a version of the Brexit Game, you can find it here.

An interview with “Rebel Inc.” designer James Vaughan (Ndemic Creations)

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Rebel Inc. is a unique and immersive political/military strategic simulation with over 4 million players. It offers a deeply engaging, thought provoking look at the complexities and consequences of foreign intervention and counter insurgency as you work to stabilise a war torn country. We previously reviewed it at PAXsims here.

James Vaughan is Founder of Ndemic Creations, and creator of hit mobile game Plague Inc., Plague Inc: Evolved and Rebel Inc.

I had the pleasure of a quick interview with James before our upcoming Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development.  At the Forum we’ll have a lunchtime conversation with him and policymakers, diving deeper into some of the questions below.


 

How did you come up with the idea for Rebel Inc.?

I actually came up with the idea for Rebel Inc. back in 2011 before I made my first game Plague Inc. The core idea was about the game of cat and mouse between soldiers and insurgents – defeating insurgents just causes them to move to a neighbouring area – instead you need to carefully position soldiers to surround/contain them as well as considering broader civilian and military issues to ensure stability. After the runaway success of Plague Inc.  I was finally in a position to make Rebel Inc. as I’d planned all those years ago – a game that simulates insurgency, the failures and mistakes that have been made and how things might have gone differently.

What is it based on?   What kind of research did you do for this?

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James Vaughan (Ndemic Creations)

Rebel Inc. is heavily inspired by events in Afghanistan but also by numerous other events including the Columbian peace process with FARC. As a former economist – I love getting my hands on all sorts of data sources to build my simulation models – one of my favourite books was Farewell Kabul by Christina Lamb, the quarterly SIGAR reports were extremely eye opening and I was lucky enough to talk with a huge number of experts, journalists and politicians to get their thoughts and experiences. Said T. Jawad, the Afghan Ambassador to the UK gave me a number of personal experiences / vignettes which I was able to put into the game including one about resolving an issue regarding the stop and search of women by female soldiers.

How did you build in realism but still try to keep it fun?

Developing a game based on real world issues is both extremely challenging and extremely rewarding. In order to make Rebel Inc. an engaging and sensitive game which makes people think, I had to find a balance between realism and fun. Too realistic and it would be overwhelming and too complicated to follow, not realistic enough and it risks sensationalising / exploiting serious situations – and losing credibility

Through my research – I identified a number of key themes that I wanted to capture in the game (e.g. corruption, inflation, the need for a peace process, foreign soldiers going home etc) and then spent years experimenting with different game mechanics. Trying different combinations and methods until all the pieces of the model finally game together and worked. Often it’s about finding the core part of a mechanic and displaying that rather than trying to cram in all sorts of tiny details which although important – can prevent people from understanding what they are being shown. The end result is something I’m extremely proud of – and discussions about where / why the game is not realistic can often be more educational than including them in the game in the first place.

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Who plays Rebel Inc?

4 million plus people from all over the world – and more every day! (The most popular countries are the US, China and Russia). Our target audience are people who want to play intelligent games that make them think whilst still being accessible!

Are your players interested in stabilization, post-conflict development and international assistance?  

Yes – although not all of them will have realised this until they started playing! We get a lot of messages from people who have military / diplomatic / expert backgrounds saying how much the game resonates with them and their experiences which is always great to hear. On the other side of the coin (!) , we also get players telling us that they never really had any understanding of what is going on in places like Afghanistan until they played Rebel Inc. They say it helped them think about the complexities and compromises that are necessary in order to stabilise regions. “now I understand why we couldn’t just send lots of tanks to Afghanistan” etc.

We’re looking forward to having you at the Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development – what are you hoping to get out of the Forum?

I’m really excited to engage with and hear from people who are experts in the field. It will give me all sorts of ideas for future Rebel Inc. updates as well as identify areas where we can improve the simulation. I want people to tell me what they like about the game but just as important – tell me where they think I got it wrong! Some of the best parts of Rebel Inc. are where I’ve included personal stories and experiences into the game in the form of decisions for the player to make – I want to add a lot more! There has also been quite a lot of interest in using Rebel Inc. for training and education purposes so I’m keen to see if something can be facilitated here.

What are you working on now and what do you have coming out next?

I’m currently working on the next update for Rebel Inc. as well as working out how to get it onto PC. I’m also busy working on updates for Plague Inc. and an expansion for my physical table top version – Plague Inc: The Board Game. No rest for the wicked!

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Gaming at the University of Glasgow

uofg.jpgI’ll be at the University of Glasgow on May 9-14, to talk both serious gaming and Middle East politics with faculty and students there. If you’re in the vicinity and would like to touch base, drop me a line.

I’ll likely be bringing AFTERSHOCK, the Matrix Game Construction Kit, We Are Coming, Nineveh, and a few other things along with me too!

Registration open for Connections US 2019

A message from Tim Wilkie (National Defense University):

This year’s Connections conference will be hosted by the Army War College and held at the Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC) in Carlisle, PA, August 13-16.   Since 1993, Connections has brought together practitioners from all aspects of the wargaming field to learn from each other, share best practices, and grow the discipline.  We seek to “advance and preserve the art, science, and application of wargaming,” and we do so through a variety of events at each year’s conference, including speaker panels, workshops, working groups, game demonstrations and playtests, and more.  We welcome every background: military and civilian, educators and analysts, government and commercial hobbyist press, U.S. and international.  Our participants use gaming for research, analysis, education, and to inform policy, and there is much that we can learn from one another.

On behalf of my conference co-chair and the founder of the Connections conference, Matt Caffrey, I am pleased to announce that registration for Connections 2019 is now open.  You can reach the registration form from the conference website.

The website also contains additional information about the conference, including the draft agenda, directions, hotel information, and more.

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McGill end-of-term gaming update 2019

Classes are now over for the Winter 2019 term at McGill University, and it is exam-and-grading season. I have also now had a chance to review the various projects produced in my conflict simulation course (POLI 422). There are many very interesting and well-executed game designs.

The course was supported this year by Dr. Ben Taylor from Defence Research and Development Canada. The students and I were very grateful for his assistance.

 

ADVANCED OPERATIONS

Advanced Operations is a two map blind/closed game of tactical urban operations at the platoon level. The map depicts an urban neighbourhood, including vantage points, doorways, fields of fire, street clutter, and multi-story buildings. The basic combat system is straight-forward, intuitive, and quite effective. The Blue player can equip themselves before a mission with a range of new technologies and capabilities in order to assess their impact on urban tactics, ranging from small drones to power-assisted armour to robots (all based on weapons in development of field-testing).

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CARTEL

Cartel is a multi-player game examining the drug trade in Mexico, focusing on the era of large criminal syndicates. Players generate money through smuggling drugs from Central/South America into the United States and from other illegal activities. To move drugs through the country, however, they need to establish control and influence over a chain of key cities, and once the drugs have been delivered need to launder their illicit proceeds. The winner is the drug lord who amasses the most luxury items. However, be careful: as your notoriety grows, you become more of a target (and might even be arrested and extradited to the United States).

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FALLEN REPUBLIC

Fallen Republic is a semi-cooperative game in which South Korea, the United States and China struggle to stabilize North Korea after the collapse of the communist regime there. To do so they need to provide security, deliver food and medical supplies to needy populations, build local public administration, restart the economy, and win local popular support. Asymmetrical and semi-secret victory conditions can make it difficult to cooperate, while a fourth player—Chaos, representing all the fog, friction, and wicked problems of stabilization operations —wins by preventing the others from achieving their objectives.

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INTELLIGENCE COLLECTION

Intelligence Collection explores the ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, Reconnaissance) and HUMINT requirements of counterinsurgency campaigns. It is a three map closed game, meaning that players only know the location of their own assets and enemy assets they have detected. Various Red actions, such as training insurgents, bomb-making, and smuggling—all have detection probabilities attached, which in turn are affected by patrolling, HUMINT collection, and other Blue actions. Interrogation of captured insurgents may also reveal information, such as who recruited them or where they were trained.

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LITTLE GREEN MEN

Little Green Men examines the war in Ukraine, and Russian hybrid warfare. The game combines both map-based area movement/combat with card-based policy initiatives. Russia needs to be careful that it’ support for opposition forces doesn’t become too obvious, or it risks stepped-up NATO assistance to the Kiev government.

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MELTDOWN

As the Arctic ice slowly melts, Canada, the US, Russia, the Scandinavian countries, and China are faced with new challenges and threats. Should new oil, mining, and fisheries resources be exploited? How should this be balanced against environmental management? What are the implications of transpolar shipping? Meltdown is both competitive and semi-cooperative—at the end of the game, the more heavily the Arctic is being exploited, the larger the chance of ecological collapse. The game allows for players to collectively change the game rules during play, through the mechanism of the Arctic Council. The map mechanic is cool too—as the ice melts you remove blocs of it from the game board, revealing the now-accessible resources beneath.

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MISSION RECONSTRUCTION

Mosul has been liberated by ISIS control, and the Baghdad government must reconstruct the areas of northern and western Iraq ravaged by the extremist group. However, ISIS seeks to disrupt such efforts, mobilize new recruits, rebuild its forces, and undermine local security. In MISSION RECONSTRUCTION the two sides each select their actions from a menu of options each turn. Event cards may also produce other crises that must be resolved if the stability of the country and the legitimacy of the government is to be enhanced.

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This is the first time I’ve taught the course as a lecture course, with 31 students—last year it was run as a seminar with only nine, which gave me more opportunity to work with a smaller number of game projects. It is also ambitious to fit it all into one term—Phil Sabin’s former wargaming module at King’s College London was a full year graduate course. Nevertheless, I think things generally worked well.

This year the teams were groups of five. Next year I think I’ll reduce that to four. While larger teams means more human resources to work on game design and playtesting, it also aggravates coordination and communication problems. I’ll also introduce a system whereby student evaluate the relative contribution of other team members. I have never been fond of these since they can be abused, but I think it will be worthwhile on balance. While most groups worked well, there were a few that generated complaints that a member wasn’t pulling their weight.

Despite constant nagging from me that the teams needed to move rapidly to prototyping and hence playtesting, I think all but one of the groups wished they had started on their project earlier than they did. Indeed, some did not do so until shortly before their interim “status report” was due. Next year I’ll require two such reports, with one of them even earlier in the term.

Finally, I’m pleased to announce that the 2019 Defence Research and Development Canada wargame design award (awarded by DRDC to the best project in the class) went to the team that produced ADVANCED OPERATIONS. Well done!

 

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 22 April 2019

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PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious games that might be of interest to our viewers.

PAXsims

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At War on the Rocks, James Lacey examines the use of wargames to explore contemporary great power politics:

The United States can win World War III, but it’s going to be ugly and it better end quick, or everyone starts looking for the nuclear trigger.

:That is the verdict of a Marine Corps War College wargame I organized that allowed students to fight a multiple great state conflict last week. To set the stage, the students were given an eight-year road-to-war, during which time Russia seized the Baltics and all of Ukraine. Consequently, the scenario starts with a surging Russia threatening Poland. Similar to 1939, Poland became the catalyst that finally focused NATO’s attention on the looming Russian threat, leading to a massing of both NATO and Russian forces on the new Eastern Front. China begins the scenario in the midst of a debt-related financial crisis and plans to use America’s distraction with Russia to grab Taiwan and focus popular discontent outward. And Kim Jong-un, ever the opportunist, decides that the time has arrived to unify the Korean peninsula under his rule. For purposes of the wargame, each of these events occurred simultaneously.

Teams were allowed to invest in advance in capabilities and emerging technologies:

The wargames were played by six student teams, or approximately five persons each. There were three red teams, representing Russia, China, and North Korea; combatting three blue teams representing Taiwan, Indo-Pacific Command (Korea conflict) and European Command. All of these teams were permitted to coordinate their activities both before the conflict and during. Interestingly, although it was not part of the original player organization the Blue side found it necessary to have a player take on the role of the Joint Staff, to better coordinate global activities.

Prior to the wargame, the students were given a list of approximately 75 items they could invest in that would give them certain advantages during the game. Nearly everything was on the table, from buying an additional carrier or brigade combat team, to taking a shot at getting quantum computing technology to work. Each team was given $200 billion dollars to invest, with the Russians and Chinese being forced to split their funding. Every team invested heavily in hypersonic technology, cyber (offensive and defensive), space, and lasers. The U.S. team also invested a large sum in directed diplomacy. If they had not done so, Germany and two other NATO nations would not have shown up for the fight in Poland. Showing a deepening understanding of the crucial importance of logistics, both red and blue teams used their limited lasers to defend ports and major logistical centers.

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The games were adapted from GMT Games’ Next War series:

For those interested, the games used are all part of GMT’s Next War Series, designed by Mitchell Land and Greg Billingsley. I have found these commercial games are far more sophisticated and truer to what we expect future combat to look like than anything being used by RAND, which employs rules and methods designed for Simulations Publication, Inc. (SPI) games in the 1970s. But they are not alone in this, as most of the Department of Defense’s wargaming community is decades behind commercial game publishers when it comes to designing realistic games. In fact, if I was to fault the Next War series for anything, it is that it may be overly realistic and therefore very complex and difficult to master, and time consuming to play. Thankfully, the designer has agreed to produce a simplified rule-set that will allow for more student iterations without sacrificing realism.

PAXsims

At the Navy Times, David Banks (American University) discusses how “War games shed light on real strategies.”

War games are useful intellectual aids because they force players to make decisions under pressure. While people may intellectually understand a problem, gaming forces them to think even harder.

As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Thomas Schelling put it, “one thing a person cannot do, no matter how rigorous his analysis or heroic his imagination, is to draw up a list of things that would never occur to him.”

By facing off against opponents over a well-designed war game, people can come to see how political and military structures interact and appreciate the trade-offs and complications that come with making decisions in a competitive environment.

He goes on to identify a few of his favourite games, ranking each for complexity and playing time: Washington’s War, 13 Days, Combat Commander: Europe, A Distant Plain, Twilight Struggle,

PAXsims

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The latest Strategy Bridge podcast features Ellie Bartels (RAND) discussing wargaming and national security decision-making.

Over the past several years there has been a renewed interest in using gaming as a method to investigate national security decision making, explore policy and strategy options, and gain experience as practitioners. In this episode of the Strategy Bridge Podcast, we talk with Elizabeth Bartels about how wargames are designed, the differences in approaching gaming as an art and a science, and how games are used to think creatively about global competition. Bartels is a PhD candidate studying national security policy gaming at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. 

PAXsims

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How can a simulation help students to better understand gender and interational relations? At the Active Learning in Political Science blog Susan Allen (University of Mississippi) has some ideas.

This semester I am teaching a course on gender and international politics for the first time. The first half of the course examines gender and representation, while the second half explores gender in international politics. I aimed to bridge these two sections with a simulation that I created on child marriage—something currently on the agenda of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and a likely topic at the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) this summer.

Students have been working in groups by regions of the world to expand their knowledge base beyond their own experiences. For the simulation, they became spokespersons for their designated regions. As additional preparation, students read about CEDAW and an excerpt from Women, Politics, and Power by Paxton and Hughes. I did not inform them beforehand of the particular issue that would be discussed as part of the simulation, other than to say that the activity would resemble a communication from CEDAW….

PAXsims

The mainstream media seems to have almost daily pieces these days on the resurgence of Dungeons & Dragons. One thing noted in most pieces is how much more inclusive the game has become, with a large and growing proportion of female players.

I’ve long argued that D&D is a terrific way of refining a broad range of creative, leadership, and team skills—including developing wargame design and facilitation.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 18 April 2019

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PAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers. Many thanks to Aaron Davis and others for suggesting material for this latest edition.

PAXsims

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Poor Berylia. The country is under attack from hostile powers who “launch coordinated attacks against the country’s civilian communications infrastructure, causing disruptions in water purification systems, the power grid, 4G public safety networks and other essential services” —undermining recent elections and sparking civil unrest.

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As an article in Fifth Domain notes, this was the scenario for Locked Shields 2019, a recent NATO cyber exercise:

The drill, dubbed Locked Shields 2019, is billed as a “live-fire” event, which means all actions by six teams of competing network defenders will have immediate effects in the game-like environment.

More than 1,000 cybersecurity experts are expected to participate in the exercise, coordinated from Tallinn, Estonia, by NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. The organization has its headquarters in the Estonian capital.

Additional government organizers include the Estonian Defence Forces, the Finnish Defense Forces, U.S. European Command and the National Security Research Institute of the Republic of Korea.

A NATO team built around the alliance’s Communications and Information Agency, NCI, is the defending champion at this year’s Locked Shields event.

Following a series of cyberattacks against Estonia’s financial sector and communications nodes in 2007, the country has become a leading cybersecurity force within the alliance. Estonian officials have blamed the Russian government for the attacks, which Moscow has denied.

According to a press release from the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, the team from France won the competition.

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PAXsims

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The North American Simulation and Gaming Association’s 2019 conference will be held in Chicago on 6-9 July 2019, on the theme of “PLAY TO PERFORM: Using Games, Simulations, and other Activities to Improve Performance.”

Our Conference begins with three pre-conference sessions. Each spearheads a certification program. Participants can just attend a pre-con or continue taking five additionally aligned break-out sessions and completing a post-program applied evaluation to earn a certificate of achievement.

  • GAMIFICATION: Turning the Everyday into Play
  • APPLIED IMPROV FACILITATION BOOTCAMP (Facilitated by our Friends from the Applied Improv Network)
  • USING READILY AVAILABLE COMMERCIAL TOYS AND GAMES AS LEARNING PLATFORMS

The conference itself will have three thematic tracks, organizing each of the break-out sessions (33 planned sessions altogether). Track One focuses on DESIGNing games and activities. Track Two on DELIVERing games and activitiesand Track Three on EVALUATing how well they worked at driving performance.

You’ll find the conference website here.

PAXsims

July will be busy! Serious Play conferences will be held in Montréal on 10-12 July 2019, and in Orlando on 24-26 July 2019. More details here.

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PAXsims

..and don’t forget, of course, that the Connections US professional wargaming conference will be held this year on 13-16 August 2019 at the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA. Details here.

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At last month’s International Studies Association conference, Ellie Bartels presented a paper on an “Archetype of Information Produced by Analytical Games.”

This paper argues that for policy gaming to be more impactful in research communities, it must be better able to expose the logic of design and analysis to outside scrutiny. Because policy games differ in key ways from mainstream research techniques in the social sciences, we must develop a gaming-specific set of logics to do this work. This paper presents a set of archetypical types of information that can be generated from a game, based on an iterated expert validation approach. It then delves into the logic of each—detailing what differentiates each type from the others and discussing typical tradeoffs make in the design of games of each type.

PAXsims

GMT Games recently cancelled a game on their P500 preorder list, Scramble for Africa.

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The decision soon sparked a heated debate. Some argued that the company acted appropriately, cancelling a potential game that failed to treat a sensitive subject with appropriate sensitivity. Others screamed censorship. At Board Game Geek, David Dockter (Herr Dr), summarized what was then 29 pages of sometimes angry postings. Several threads got locked down.

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For a particularly thoughtful account of the game, debate, and broader issues, see Jon Bolding’s article at Waypoint, “A Cancelled Board Game Revealed How Colonialism Inspires and Haunts Games.”

PAXsims

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Immersed is a gaming podcast with a  difference:

Immersed dives into board games and how they create unique experiences for players based on real-world settings. Each episode, we examine a single game and how that game’s mechanics reflect its theme. We talk to the games’ designers, but also to subject-matter experts who tell interesting stories about the games’ settings. We also incorporate live-play audio, but always in the service of a larger documentary-style story.

We aim to bring professional-level production quality to the show, with a storytelling style and polish that hasn’t been done in board game podcasting before. We’ve released three episodes so far on a monthly schedule, with our first season scheduled to last 10 episodes.

You’ll find it here, at Cardboard Edison.

PAXsims

1551897325538.jpgNorman Friedman’s book Winning a Future War: War Gaming and Victory in the Pacific War (2018) is available as a free download from the US Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command.

Between 1919 and 1941, the U.S. Navy transformed itself from a powerful if unsophisticated force into the fleet that would win a two-ocean war, from a fleet in which the battleship dominated to one based on carrier strike groups. The great puzzle of U.S. naval history is how this was accomplished. Well-known naval analyst Norman Friedman trenchantly argues that war gaming at the U.S. Naval War College made an enormous, and perhaps decisive, contribution. For much of the inter-war period, the Naval War College was the Navy’s primary think tank. War gaming was the means the college used to test alternative strategies, tactics, evolving naval aviation, and warship types in a way that the Navy’s full-scale exercises could not. The think tank perspective taken by this book is a new way of looking at the inter-war Naval War College and the war games that formed the core of its curriculum. Although the influence of both the Naval War College’s gaming and of the college itself declined after 1933, most of the key decisions shaping the wartime U.S. Navy had already been taken. The two most important ones were on the role of naval aviation and the form the U.S. war plan against Japan ultimately assumed. As shown here, U.S. naval commanders successfully applied the lessons learned from war gaming to victorious operations in World War II.

PAXsims

A British soldier was charged last month for going rogue in a computer game, according to the Daily Telegraph:

A soldier has been formally charged after “losing his rag” during a virtual battlefield exercise and killing his comrades.

The Edinburgh-based Army rifleman is believed to be the first soldier to be punished under UK military law for offences in a virtual scenario rather than in real life.

He is said to have been fed-up with being stuck at a computer rather than training outside.

A source from 3rd Battalion, the Rifles told the Mail on Sunday: “We’d spent two weeks sitting in front of laptops pretending we were in a really hostile urban environment – I’d challenge anyone to take it seriously for that long.

PAXsims

How can boardgames help us better understand the possible effects of climate change?  Janette Kim has a few ideas:

Janette Kim started designing board games about climate change after working on scenario planning with her architecture students at Colombia University–and seeing that the typical process, which architects and many cities use to make decisions, was fairly boring. Board games brought the scenarios to life. “They’re great at mixing together a lot of complexity and making that visible,” says Kim, who now teaches at California College of the Arts and leads the Urban Works Agency, a research lab at the school that looks at the use of architectural design on social justice issues, sustainability, and economic resilience in cities. A series of the games developed by Kim and her students, called Win-Win, is now in an exhibit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

In a Monopoly-like game called The Other 99%, each player is a real estate developer, but one player starts with three times more money than the others–and as sea level rises, they can afford to build on higher ground. The other players have more votes; every other round, everyone discusses whether to build a levy and who will pay for it. “You basically see how risk associated with your properties influences your decision-making and your tendency to either seek short-term profit or long-term profit,” she says.

In Bartertown, a game that imagines a world without money, players trade favors and share resources to deal with the impacts of climate change. The game was commissioned by The Bay Area Conservation and Development Commission for use in public meetings and with agency partners; the commission wanted to explore the idea of social resilience. Each player starts out in a different part of the Bay with different everyday activities to accomplish, and then has to start collaborating with other players when things go wrong–say, you have to get to work, but flooding has taken out your commute, so you have to make a trade with another player to stay at their home, closer to your office. “You start to see how people’s lives entwine with each other,” Kim says.

Delirious D.C. looks at the challenge of relocating buildings because of sea level rise. One player represents the federal government, which has many buildings in risky floodplains in D.C., and the other represents local citizens in the city. The local player might want to build housing or create parks; the federal player might want to relocate the FBI or the Smithsonian. Each tries to build up as much territory as they can while blocking the other player, and can earn extra points by convincing the other player that new combined institutions–like the F.B.I.R.S.–make sense as a new way to make use of limited space.

n Flip This Hood, a checkers-like game based on East Oakland, neighbors are pitted against the owners of a sports stadium and major sports teams. “The game basically studied the way that the Coliseum either benefits or does not benefit the neighborhood of local residents,” says Kim. Each player tries to reach the other side of the board first, through actions that range from building a public art piece to eviction or squatting on the other player’s property.

A game called In It Together, also based on the East Bay, gives each player the identity of a different stakeholder–such as a developer, a resident, or local wildlife. As climate change impacts the community, they have to decide when to collaborate or compete….

You’ll find the full article at Fast Company.

PAXsims

Graduate students at the University of Stirling recently wargamed crisis escalation in the Ukraine—and NATO’s response.

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You’ll find their conclusions at The Conversation.

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What has the Serious Games Network been up to in France? Playing the ISIS CRISIS matrix game at the École Militaire!

Matt Caffrey’s “On Wargaming” available as free download

Matt Caffrey’s long-awaited book On Wargaming: How Wargames Have Shaped History and How They May Shape the Future is now available from the US Naval War College Press. What’s more, it’s available as a free download.

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If you want a hard copy, that can be purchased from the US Government Bookstore.

Pandemic response matrix game

The following report was provided for PAXsims by Dr. Ben Taylor, Strategic Planning Operations Research Team, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) Centre for Operational Research and Analysis (CORA). His research interests include the utility of games to support strategic planning.


 

On 1 March 2019 Global Affairs Canada hosted a matrix game in Ottawa as part of a research effort into the utility of games to inform policy development. The chosen topic was to explore issues surrounding preparedness for a natural catastrophe, exemplified by an influenza pandemic. A second goal was to explore how a game could capture gender-based policy making. The game was set 20 years into the future.

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The game was designed over a series of teleconferences with the author working with the game sponsor and external academic subject matter experts. A fairly conventional matrix game structure was used but some innovative features are shared here:

  • To avoid players getting distracted by real-world details we used a map of the world from ca 200 million years ago divided into generic regions: Westland (advanced liberal democracies), Eastland (centralised authoritarian states) and Southland (disadvantaged developing states). Selected real-world cities were placed in appropriate locations within this geography, essentially “playing themselves” to provide players with familiar anchor points.
  • The three regions were represented by nation state actors and these were supplemented with proxies for the World Health Organisation and Médecins sans Frontières and also a private medical research foundation associated with a major pharmaceutical company. Players were provided with briefing sheets explain their resources, aims, sensitivities and relationships with other actors.
  • The first turn was taken up by an international disaster preparedness conference set some years before the pandemic. This allowed the players to get into their roles and to start discussions between themselves. At the end of discussions each actor was allowed one standard matrix argument about an outcome from the conference. This mechanism effectively gave the players the opportunity for a precursor argument before the crisis struck, although at this stage they didn’t know what was going to happen, or where.
  • Some volunteer players were brought in who had some experience of matrix games, if not expertise in the game subject. They were distributed among the teams, which typically comprised three players.
  • The spread of the outbreak was largely pre-determined with maps prepared in advance showing the state of the pandemic in each turn. Adjustments could be made if player actions were deemed to have significantly altered the course of events. Each turn was also supported with a collage of news stories and social media messages to provide context and to subtly remind players of issues that they could be taking into consideration. Some humour was injected into the new items, with Ottawa’s (currently in 2019) delayed light rail system deemed to be still behind schedule in 20 years’ time.

Overall the game elements worked as intended. A few participants had first-hand experience of health emergencies and suggested that the behaviours of the teams and the priorities that they selected were very realistic. A number of participants also commented upon the quality of the role-play and the utility of the news injects and briefing materials in keeping the players in-role. The presence of some experienced players paid dividends as most teams were quickly able to express their actions in the matrix game argument format. This is frequently the biggest challenge for first-time players and the combination of subject matter experts and gamers working together was effective. As designer and facilitator the most reassuring feedback was the palpable sense of disappointment in the room when it was announced that there was to be no next turn after some six hours of activity.

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Ben Taylor

Stringer: Advancing the UK’s analytical tools to address strategic competition and modern deterrence post-Brexit (via KWN)

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Air Marshal Edward Stringer, the Director General of Joint Force Development and the Defence Academy of the UK, will be speaking at King’s College London today (April 2) at 1900 BST—and the King’s Wargaming Network will be livestreaming the event on its YouTube channel.

Air Marshal Edward Stringer, the Director General of Joint Force Development and the Defence Academy, will kickstart the week with a public lecture, part of the WN’s inaugural wargaming lecture series. He will discuss the need for a reinvigorated wargaming effort in the UK and among NATO allies to support robust analysis and innovation in the context of the new strategic challenges facing the alliance. In this lecture he will discuss three sets of questions:

  1. What new analytical requirements does the changing security environment present to the UK and its allies? What is the value of wargaming as part of the broader analytical toolkit in meeting these requirements?
  2. What has the UK done to reinvigorate wargaming as a tool for strategic and operational analysis?
  3. How should the current practice of wargaming adapt to meet the new policy requirements? What could the policy, professional wargaming and academic communities do to further the utility of wargaming?

Professor Wyn Bowen, head of the School of Security Studies, will deliver welcome remarks. Ivanka Barzashka, founder and co-director of the Wargaming Network, will chair the lecture.

 

CNA Talks: Playing a Wargame

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CNA’s occasional podcast series discusses how to play a wargame.

In part two of our occasional series on wargaming, CNA’s chief wargame designer Jeremy Sepinsky returns, accompanied by Chris Steinitz, director of CNA’s North Korea program, to discuss what it’s like to play a CNA Wargame. Jeremy describes the different players in a wargame, emphasizing the value of people with operational experience who can accurately represent how military leaders would make decisions. Jeremy and Chris lay out the differences between playing Blue team and Red team. They also take us down the “road to war,” describing how the wargaming team lays out the scenario that starts the game.  Finally, Chris and Jeremy take us though the player’s decisions and how the results of a turn are adjudicated.

Twenty years of civil war in Brynania

Yes, it’s that time again: at McGill University we are once again gearing up to fight—and hopefully resolve—the ongoing civil war in Brynania.

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As you might expect after so many years of fighting, Brynania is littered with mines, IEDs, and UXO.

The Brynania simulation was first launched in 1998 as a component of my POLI 450/650 course on peacebuilding. It features around one hundred participants assuming the role of governments, rebels, UN agencies, NGOs, civil society, the media, and others for up to twelve hours a day, over a full week of play. Each day of real-time represents a month in Brynania, allowing us to explore war, peace negotiations, humanitarian assistance, refugee flows—and‚ possibly‚ peacekeeping operations, transitional elections, and some post-conflict development too. Over the years, we have seen a variety of outcomes.

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Students have contributed a wealth of background material on the conflict and the region. It’s also been the subject of a couple of short documentaries/reports, and served as an experimental testbed for two PhD theses.

The workload in running the simulation is a bit overwhelming—I  end up spending around 16 hours a day on it, reading 10-15,000 emails and monitoring other electronic communications. Overwhelmingly, students are energetic, innovative, and dedicated.

This year’s simulation runs from March 27 to April 3. Needless to say, I won’t get much chance to update PAXsims until it is all over. Unfortunately it is rather hard to follow from afar, although you may catch sight of the warring parties trash-talking each other on Twitter (#Brynania)

 

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 17 March 2019

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PAXsims is pleased to offer some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) games that may be of interest to our readers. Mark Jones Jr and Gilles Roy contributed material for this latest edition.

Know of anything we might include? Pass it on!

PAXsims

logo.pngThe Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists features an article by Ivanka Barzashka (King’s College London) on “Wargaming: how to turn vogue into science.” 

Wargaming to-date has been practised more as an art than a science. And professional wargamers design, conduct and analyse games in predominantly classified environments. This approach has led to the wide acceptance of wargaming as a method for training and development of operational concepts in the defense community. It has also confined the production of wargames to a small professional community of experts who have honed their skills through the wargaming master-apprentice guild system.

Analytical wargaming needs to be scientific. If wargaming tools are to underpin evidence-based analysis that informs national security and defense policy, wargames should adhere to scientific standards. Wargame producers should follow the requirements of good academic and good intelligence analysis. As former National Intelligence Council chair Tom Fingar writes, “the standard for performance [in intelligence analysis] can be no lower and arguably should be higher than those” in academic disciplines. That’s because the impacts of intelligence analysis can be “far more consequential.” The same goes for wargaming analysis.

PAXsims

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Are you in the London (UK) area and interested in taking part in a wargame-based research project?  King’s’ Wargaming Network is collaborating with the Project on Nuclear Gaming (comprising researchers from the University of California – Berkeley, Sandia National Labs and Lawrence Livermore National Lab) in the execution of a table-top gaming event at King’s College London.

We are seeking individuals at least 18 years old to participate in the half-day gaming event on 3 April 2019. You can sign up for the morning session (09:00 to 12:30) or the afternoon session (13:30 to 17:00).

The purpose of the study is to investigate the strategic stability of countries in the context of different capabilities.

The player slots are limited. Please sign-up by 20 March 2019 here.

Participation in this study involves:

  • Playing a game with others that will take approximately 1-2 hours.
  • Potentially being interviewed by members of the research team.
  • Answering a questionnaire.

To sign up as a player, fill out the player registration form.

For questions about the study, please contact the principal investigator, Dr. Kiran Lakkaraju at klakkar@sandia.gov.

PAXsims

PS

PS: Political Science and Politics 52, 1 (January 2019) contains an article by Courtey J. Fung on “Negotiating the Nuclear and Humanitarian Crisis on the Korean Peninsula: A Simulation and Teaching Guide.”

This article describes a simulation scenario based on of-the-minute thinking about the Korean Peninsula crisis. The scenario highlights the tradeoffs and difficulties in addressing the nuclear and humanitarian crisis, tasking students to negotiate to reach consensus on track I and track II levels. Students are negotiators, gaining experience and exposure to key international relations and political science concepts through active learning. An optional media-teams and press-conference component also is discussed. The scenario, grading rubric, and supplemental materials are included to give instructors a resource that is easily modified across groups varying in size, ability, and composition.

PAXsims

Amid the chaos of Brexit, The Guardian reports that the European Union “wargamed” the fall of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

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It doesn’t sound like an actual wargame, however—more like a scenario discussion.

PAXsims

Back in January, The Guardian also reported that “a Russian toymaker has released a board game called Our Guys in Salisbury, featuring the same cities in Europe visited by the GRU agents accused of carrying out last year’s nerve agent attack.”

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It looks about as well-designed as the actual attack, which left both targets alive, one bystander dead, and resulted in the identification of the agents involved and sanctions against Moscow. There is also no word yet on whether the game allows players to uncover the identities of hundreds of GRU agents through social media, vehicle registration, and other sloppy tradecraft and OPSEC.

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PAXsims

31HETZePLAL._BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAt the Journal of Peace Education, Ludwig Gelot explores “Training for peace, conscientization through university simulation.”

Incomplete and insufficient university programmes in the field of Peace and Conflict Resolution have led to an important gap in knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) among peacebuilders and peacekeepers. In theory, experiential learning through problem-based learning (PBL) and simulations should be able to address this gap. This article explores the opportunities and limits of this pedagogical approach to educating peace actors using the case of the Carana simulation delivered at Linné University (LNU), Sweden. Using mixed-methods, this article confirms the added- value of PBL in the development of KSAs but identifies challenges peculiar to the field of Peace and Conflict Studies that limit its effects. PBL has a clear added-value for the development of skills in learners with a consistent development of professional skills. It can be used to foster conscientization as a precursor to transforming societies towards nonviolence and justice.

PAXsims

University of Edinburgh Law School postgraduate student Phoebe Warren writes about her participation in the a peace process simulation, “Building Inclusive Dialogue in Danaan.”

[Peace Settlements Research Programme] researchers Laura Wise and Kathryn Nash, along with Rebecca Smyth and Robert Macdonald, organised and facilitated the Building Inclusive Dialogue in Danaan simulation, designed by Inclusive Security, an organisation that promotes comprehensive stakeholder participation in peace processes, and particularly the participation of women. One week prior to the simulation, I received a series of general briefing materials regarding the fake country for which I would serve as the Minister of Interior and lead negotiator during peace negotiations and talks, as well as confidential information about my character’s motivations and ambitions. I particularly appreciated the details about the background, education, and family – these are considerations that most certainly colour politicians’ actions (and inactions). Having learned from my mistakes in past simulations, I spent a couple of hours on the night before the event mapping out tactics, key interests, and potential allies in order to make the best use of my time during the game. I felt relatively prepared and ready to take part in one of my favourite (and niche!) hobbies early the next morning….

You’ll find the rest of here account at the Global Justice Blog.

Phoebe also mentions her previous participation in the Brynania peacebuilding simulation during her studies at McGill University:

In my final year at McGill University, I participated in a week-long, war-to-peace simulation that changed my life. The experience was intensely stressful but immensely gratifying, as I was able to combine everything learned in four years of political science courses, and ultimately led me to undertake a degree here at the University of Edinburgh.

PAXsims

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Lessons Learned Simulation and Training recently delivered a professional development course on “Urban Refugees in the Humanitarian System” at York University in Toronto. This included a half day simulation.

You’ll find their account of how it all went at the Lessons Learned website.

PAXsims

The University of Pennsylvania Law School recently partnered with the  U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership to conduct a two-day international strategic crisis and negotiation exercise.

Seventy-five students, organized into eight teams and each representing a different nation, will engage in a complex and broad geopolitical crisis centered around the South China Sea. The teams will negotiate with their counterparts at a simulated United Nations-mandated peace conference, where they will be tasked to resolve a challenging international dispute with diplomatic, informational, military, legal, and economic factors at play.

You’ll find additional details here.

PAXsims

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The Australian Army’s professional development website The Cove has posted another quick decision exercise: UAV Incident.

You are the Section Commander of a security team currently supporting a Construction Engineer element finishing off repairs to a local school. You are purely providing local security at the job site and security on the move when transiting from your combat team (CT) forward operating base (FOB) and the school.

Given that it is now the final plumbing and electrical tasks for the job, you only have 4 engineer personnel (2 x Plumbers and 2 x Electricians) with you, as well as an interpreter to speak with the school officials and 6 locally employed labourers when required. In order to move this group and your section, you have 2 x PMV, which are currently parked astride the school compound.

Currently you have a have a fire team securing the actual job site within the school. You have a piquet in each of the vehicles covering East and West respectively down the main route which are the most likely approach routes for insurgents or anti-Government elements.

The rest of your Platoon is on CT quick reaction force (QRF) duties at the FOB which is 12km to the North of your current location. You are set to return to the FOB at 1730h.

As you are preparing your confirmatory orders to return back to the FOB in about 30 minutes, you first hear and then see an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) whine overhead from southeast to northwest at a very low height. As it passes overhead you hear the whine cut out and it dives towards the ground. Although you hear no impact due to traffic noise, you are confident that it has just crashed about 500 – 600 metres to the North West of your location. You take a quick bearing towards where you think it would have landed given its glide path.

You immediately contact the CT HQ and inform them of your observation.They immediately confirm to you  that the only battlegroup UAV operating today is still airborne, but will checkwith other Coalition force elements.

Minutes later they contact you and indicate that another force’s UAV has been lost in your area. They have given a projected impact zone of the UAV which conforms to your observations and have requested your team’s assistance in recovering it.

PAXsims

RAND_RR2850RAND recently published a Conceptual Design for a Multiplayer Security Force Assistance Strategy Game, developed by Elizabeth M. Bartels, Christopher S. Chivvis, Adam R. Grissom, and Stacie L. Pettyjohn.

The authors explain the conceptual underpinnings and basic rules for a RAND-designed security force assistance strategy game. The game is a tool to explore the potential benefits and risks of different security force assistance strategies under different conditions. The game engine draws on empirical evidence and best practices and, thus, can be applied in many contexts.

Key Findings

  • The Security Force Assistance Game is a portfolio game in which players decide how to invest in the capabilities of different partner forces in order to achieve objectives.
  • Twelve principles of security force assistance were identified from empirical literature and used to build an adjudication tool to project plausible operational outcomes from player investments. Changes in the strategic relationship between actors caused by operational shifts in relative capability were adjudicated based on expert judgement.
  • This game allows structured comparison of different SFA strategies, enabling players and sponsors to consider the potential benefits and risks of different courses of action.

Recommendations

  • The Security Force Assistance Game can be adapted to look at SFA in other countries or to create a strategy for SFA investments across multiple nations.
  • Future games can benefit from using “live” teams of experts to represent recipient nation decisionmaking; exploring SFA in a competitive marketplace with multiple possible investors; subdividing the U.S team to better reflect competing objects and constraints; playing further into the future by including more turns; and requiring materiel investments to be sustained.

PAXsims

The Deep Mind blog discusses the development of Artificial Intelligence systems able to beat human players in real-time strategy games.

Games have been used for decades as an important way to test and evaluate the performance of artificial intelligence systems. As capabilities have increased, the research community has sought games with increasing complexity that capture different elements of intelligence required to solve scientific and real-world problems. In recent years, StarCraft, considered to be one of the most challenging Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games and one of the longest-played esports of all time, has emerged by consensus as a “grand challenge” for AI research.

h/t Mark Jones Jr.

PAXsims

If you took part in the recent CONNECTIONS NORTH wargaming conference and/or APOCALYPSE NORTH megagame at McGill university, there are now additional pictures of both events available courtesy of Gilles Roy. A sample of these is presented below, but there are many more at the link.

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