Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Tag Archives: Connections North

War Games at the Canadian War Museum

The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa will be hosting a new exhibition on wargaming from 9 June to 31 December 2023.

From historic board games to modern military simulations, war games are as ancient, varied and complex as war itself. 

In this wide-ranging exhibition, learn how war games evolved over time — from early strategy games to massive multiplayer online battles — and how militaries use gaming as a training tool. Hear thought-provoking perspectives from professional gamers, researchers, designers and veterans.

War is not a game. Yet war games offer insights into our relationship with real and virtual armed conflict. 

We’re especially pleased to report that among the items included in the exhibit will be a Western Approaches Tactical Unit convoy escort game developed by our very own Kit Barry, as well as AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game.

Participants in this year’s Connections North professional (war)gaming conference (June 9) will get a chance to tour the exhibit during the conference, as well as an invitation to the launch event.

Connections North 2023 conference programme

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

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

Workshop on serious games (report)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connections North 2023 registration open

Registration is now open for the Connections North professional (war)gaming conference. This will be held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa on 9 June 2023.

CONNECTIONS NORTH is an annual conference devoted to conflict simulation, wargaming, and other serious games. It is intended for national security professionals, policymakers, researchers, educators, game designers, university students, and others interested in the field of the use of serious games for analysis, planning, education, and training. This year’s conference will address:

  • The state of serious gaming across Canada, with two panels devoted to national security gaming and other educational and policy gaming respectively.
  • Gaming ethical challenges.
  • Building and gaming future perspectives: Canadian perspectives.

In addition, there will be time available for networking, game demonstrations, and touring the War Museum’s new wargaming exhibition. We also promise that the temperatures for this year’s conference will also be a little warmer than the sub-zero chill of our usual February date!

We are grateful for support from Defence Research and Development Canada and the Canadian War Museum for the conference. Connections North is a proud cosponsor of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming. Information on previous Connections North conferences can be found here.

UPDATE: The conference programme is now available here.

Connections North save the date: 9 June 2023

The Connections North 2023 professional (war)gaming conference will be held in Ottawa on Friday, 9 June. Further details will be shared on PAXsims when available.

Our venue in 2023 will be the Canadian War Museum—which also plans to launch a wargaming exhibit that same month.

Connections North 2022 conference videos

Presentation videos from the 2022 Connections North professional (war)gaming conference are now available on the PAXsims YouTube channel (look for the “Connections North 2022” playlist).

Connections North Day 2 preview

The Connections North 2022 professional (war)gaming conference is now just over a week away. We’ve already provided an overview of what is in store for Day 1 (February 19), so let’s now have a look at Day 2 (February 20).

We will be starting off with a panel on coopération dans le jeu sérieux, chaired by Tom Fisher (Imaginetic). Here we will look at how to forge closer cooperation between anglophone and francophone serious game designers around the world. The session will be bilingual. Our presenters will be Louis-Martin Guay (Université de Montréal), Benjamin Williams-Rambaud (Université Clermont Auvergne), and Patrick Ruestchmann (Serious Games Network-France).

Next, Brian Train will be chairing a session on influence gaming. How do we game social, political, and diplomatic influence in an age of digital communications and social media? What models and approaches have been developed to address this central feature of politics, politics, and conflict? Discussing this will be Sean Havel, who played a key role in recent influence wargaming at Defence Research and Development Canada, together Graham Longley-Brown (LBS), and Jim Wallman (Stone Paper Scissors)—both of whom have been part of a larger Dstl project examining the topic.

Our third session of the day is a bit of an experiment, a mix of semi-serious wargaming vignettes and improvisational comedy modelled after a well-known British and American television show. Whose Game is it Anyway? will feature Stephen Downes-Martin (US Naval War College), Ben Taylor (DRDC), Jim Wallman (Stone Paper Scissor), Yuna Wong (IDA), with yours truly (Rex Brynen, McGill University) acting as the host. Have ideas for “Scenes from a Hat,” “Let’s Make a Date,” or “Party Tricks”? Email me!

As is always the case, our final session of the conference will provide an opportunity for both a hot-wash of this year’s programme as well as an opportunity to be Looking Ahead. What should we be doing in the coming year? What might we do for Connections North 2023? Brianna Proceviat (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre) and Madeline Johnson (Global Affairs Canada) will be co-chairing and facilitating the session, and Stefanie Game (Imaginetic) will be telling everyone a little about the Connections: Next Gen conference on March 12-13.

The full programme can be found here, and conference registration is via Eventbrite.

Connections North Day 1 preview

With the Connections North professional (war)gaming conference fast approaching on February 19-20, so we thought we would give you all a preview of what is to come.

On February 19 we will be starting off with our usual Canada gaming update panels, designed give conference participants a sense of who has been doing what in wargaming, policy gaming, and serious gaming across Canada. Tony Chainho will discuss the work of the wargaming team at the Canadian Joint Warfare Centre, Robert Engen will bring us up to date on gaming at Canadian Forces College, and Murray Dixson will review wargaming at Defence Research and Development Canada. After that, Mia Consalvo (Concordia University) and Neil Randall (University of Waterloo) will both be offering perspectives on the state of game studies and serious gaming research across Canada, Philippe Beaulieu-Brossard will tell us about the work of the Archipelago of Design, and I’ll be talking about gaming at McGill University, including my conflict simulation design course.

Our next major topic will be Gaming Coalitions: Beyond Generic Blue. In many conflicts one (or more) of the participants may be an alliance or coalition. At a first approximation, we can design games in which coalition forces can behave as if they were from a single national military force. Traditionally these are called BLUE or RED. On further examination, coalitions are much more complicated than that, but how do we represent multi-national coalition forces in games? We will hear thoughts on this challenge from David Redpath (CJWC), who promises us he’ll be controversial; Jim Wallman (Stone Paper Scissors): Tom Mouat (UK Defence Academy); and Wayne Buck and Aaron Beam (NATO ACT).

Our final Day 1 session on Institutional Uptake will focus on the the value and use of gaming from the perspective of sponsors, clients, and senior policy-makers. Our presenters will be MGen Bill Seymour (Canadian Joint Operations Command) and Martin Roy (Global Affairs Canada). The session will be chaired by Stephen “Three Witches of Wargaming” Downes-Martin (US Naval War College).

The Connections North conference programme has been designed again this year to not only promote the use of wargaming, policy gaming, and other serious gaming across Canada, but also to highlight the particular issues and challenges faced by (war)gamers in smaller defence and policy communities. Not everyone, after all, has the resources or global engagement of the United States. We hope, therefore, to see colleagues from small- and medium-sized countries there to share their own perspectives. There will be plenty of time for informal discussion during the half hour breaks (and breakout rooms) between panels

You’ll find the latest version of the programme, including bios for all the speakers, here. Registration is free, via Eventbrite.

Also, stay tuned for our forthcoming summary of Day 2 events!

Connections North 2022 registration open

Registration is now open for the Connections North 2022 professional (war)gaming conference, to be held online on February 19-20 (Saturday-Sunday).

CONNECTIONS NORTH is an annual conference devoted to conflict simulation, wargaming, and other serious games. It is intended for national security professionals, policymakers, researchers, educators, game designers, university students, and others interested in the field of wargaming and other serious games.

Themes to be addressed this year include:

  • Canada gaming update (two sessions)
  • Gaming coalitions: beyond “generic Blue”
  • Institutional uptake of serious games
  • Promotion de la coopération dans le jeu sérieux
  • Influence gaming
  • Whose game is it anyway?
  • Looking ahead 

Registration for the conference is required, but is free.

UPDATE: The conference programme is now available.

Please share this announcement within your networks.

Connections North is a sponsor of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

Connections US 2022 call for papers (and Connections North update)

Connections US has issued a call for papers for its July 2022 professional wargaming conference:

Connections US 2022 is expected to be conducted in person at The Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) Alexandria, Virginia, July 26-29. We will reassess our plans should public health considerations warrant.

The Call for Presentations is now open and can be accessed here.

For more information, vist the Connections 2022 website.

The Connections Wargaming Conference is an annual event which is held each summer to bring together practitioners from every segment of the wargaming community. Connections is open to all wargaming practitioners, and we welcome international participation.

Connections US has been held every year since 1993, Connections UK was established in 2013 at Kings College London, Connections Australia was established in 2014 at the University of Melbourne, and Connections Netherlandswas established in 2014 by SAGANET, and Connections North (Canada) was established in 2016. These conferences are all independently managed and hosted, but they share a common mission to provide wargaming practitioners with a venue to share best practices and advance the field. Together, the Connections conferences around the world are building the wargaming community of practice and working to improve the use of wargaming as a tool for research, analysis, education, and policy.

As for Connections North (virtual, February 19-20), the conference registration site will go live in a few days. Look for the announcement here on PAXsims.

Save the date: Connections North 2022

We are pleased to announce that the next Connections North professional (war)gaming conference will be held online on 19-20 February 2022 (Saturday and Sunday).

Panels will address a number of topics, which should be of interest to serious gamers in Canada and around the world:

  • Wargaming and policy gaming in Canada
  • Promotion de la coopération dans le jeu sérieux
  • Gaming coalitions—beyond “generic BLUE”
  • Institutional uptake and the challenge of “decision-based evidence-making”
  • Influence gaming
  • Whose Game is it Anyway? (game design meets improvisational comedy)
  • Looking ahead

UPDATE: Registration is now open, via Eventbrite.

Connections North 2021 videos

For those of you who missed the Connections North professional (war)gaming conference back in February, we are pleased to finally present the videos from that event. All of the conference presentations are included, except three (either to the speaker’s organization declining approval, or in one case me forgetting to hit “record” in a timely fashion). The question and answer sessions are NOT included.

Canada Gaming Update

Discussion of professional wargaming and policy gaming in Canada, featuring presentations by Scott Roach (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre), Murray Dixson (Defence Research and Development Canada) , Scott Jenkinson (Australian Army), Michael Donohue (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Cole Petersen (Vaccine Rollout Task Force/Canadian Armed Forces). Presentation by Madeline Johnson (Global Affairs Canada) not included. Chaired by Rex Brynen (McGill University).

Designing Assassin’s Mace and ZAPAD

Keynote presentation by Col Tim Barrack (US Marine Corp Wargaming Lab).

Wargaming in small defence communities

Panel on “wargaming in smaller defence communities,” with presentations by David Redpath (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre) and Sue Collins (NATO ACT), chaired by Ben Taylor (DRDC). Presentation by Anja van der Hulst (TNO) not included.

Gaming in the humanitarian and development sector

resentations on “Gaming in the humanitarian and development sector,” COVID-19″ by Amanda Warner (consultant), Gautham Krishnaraj (Laval SimEx), and James Maltby (Save the Children UK). Presentation by Matt Stevens (Lessons Learned Simulation and Training) not included due to recording error, although slides can be found here:

Distributed gaming

Presentations on “Distributed Gaming” by Pete Pellegrino (US Naval War College), Louise Hoehl (NATO), and Emily Robinson (Defence Research and Development Canada), chaired by Tom Fisher (Imaginetic).

So long and thanks for all the fish (gaming fisheries conservation)

Presentations on “So long and thanks for all the fish” (gaming fisheries conservation) by Ben Taylor (Defence Research and Development Canada).

Gaming the Arctic

Presentations on “Gaming the Arctic” by Stephen Aguilar-Millan (European Future Observatory) and Vårin Alme (FFI), chaired by Rex Brynen (McGill University).

Using games for command decision support

Iain McNeil (CEO Slitherine Software and Matrix Games) discusses on “Using Wargames for Command Decision Support.”

Hybrid warfare in the time of COVID-19

Presentation on “Gaming hybrid warfare in the age of COVID-19” by LCol Ronnie Michel (German Army) and Shiho Rybski (European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats), chaired by Ben Taylor (DRDC).

Diversity and inclusion in professional (war)gaming

A panel discussion on diversity and inclusion in professional gaming, featuring Brianna Proceviat (Canadian Joint Warfare Centre), Lynn O’Donnell (Dstl), Paul Strong (Dstl), Yuna Wong (IDA), and Sebastian Bae (RAND/Georgetown University). Connections North is a proud supporter of the Derby House Principles on diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 14 February 2021

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. Many thanks to Scott Cooper, Aaron Danis, Bruce Pennell, Hans Steensma, and others for suggesting material for this latest edition.

The Connections North 2021 professional (war)gaming virtual conference is on 19-21 February—and ticket sales close on Thursday, so hurry up and register! A copy of the conference programme can be found on the registration page, and the Zoom link for the conference will emailed to all registrants a day before the conference starts (if you haven’t received it already).

At the LECMgt blog, Roger Mason discusses commercial wargames and experiential learning.

In military organizations, the use of wargaming is a tempting approach to introduce learning and engage discussion. The most readily available pool of games is the hundreds of titles available from the commercial wargame industry. Is it feasible to use commercial off the shelf (COTS) games as learning platforms? What type of learning is possible, and to what extent can it occur? What about the underlying game mechanics sometimes referred to as the Black Box? Are they an insurmountable problem in employing commercial games?  

To evaluate these questions, it is important to examine the issues of the Black Box, evaluate how the end user may learn from games, explore what COTS games can provide, and finally offer a hybrid solution or game requirements not met by COTS products. To begin I think it is important to deal with the most common obstacle presented by critics of commercial games, the Black Box problem.

In case you missed the announcement back in December, the UK Ministry of Defence is establishing the Secretary of State’s Office of Net Assessment and Challenge (SONAC), based on the US Department of Defense model. According to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace:

The Secretary of State’s Office of Net Assessment and Challenge (SONAC) will encompass war gaming, doctrine, red teaming and external academic analysis.

It will focus and enhance existing efforts, work closely with Defence Intelligence and look across all areas of defence, especially doctrine and the equipment choices we are making.

The latest quarterly report (Fall 2020/Q1 FY2021) of the US Naval Postgraduate School’s Naval Warfare Studies Institute (NWSI) can be found below. It addresses NPS wargaming courses, outreach, conference presentations, publications, thesis research, and other work.

According to Breaking Defense, the US Department of Defense “will include climate change-related issues in its National Defense Strategy  and war gaming, a major change driven by President Biden signing of an executive order today instructing the government to begin tackling climate change on a wider scale.”

Biden’s order directs the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to include climate risk assessments in developing a new National Defense Strategy, due in 2022, along with the Defense Planning Guidance, the Chairman’s Risk Assessment, “and other relevant strategy, planning, and programming documents and processes.”

The order gives the Pentagon and other federal agencies 120 days to produce “an analysis of the security implications of climate change (Climate Risk Analysis) that can be incorporated into modeling, simulation, war-gaming, and other analyses.”

On 15-19 March, the Military Operations Research Society (MORS) will offer a certificate course in cyber wargaming, taught by Ed McGrady and Paul Vebber.

Through a combination of lectures and practical exercises focusing on games and game design, along with the application of game design to cyber issues, we will examine the challenges of cyber gaming. Students will learn how game design can be used to address challenges of cyber operations and policy and will build an understanding of how to represent cyber capabilities in games, as well as build games directly addressing cyber operations.

On 6-8 April, MORS will offer a course on gaming emergency response to disease.

This three-day course will focus on the application of professional games to the problems associated with disease response and will cover pandemic response games, both national and international. The objective throughout the course will be to identify unique or challenging aspects involved in designing games involving disease response. The current pandemic is a reminder that disease can produce unusual, unique, and difficult challenges for decision-makers at all levels of government.

Back in December, students at the Institute of World Politics found themselves fighting—in virtual Iaq:

On an early December Saturday, ten students in Professor Aaron Danis’ Violent Non-State Actors in the Contemporary Security Environment course (IWP 683), joined by another of Prof. Danis’ students and four IWP undergraduate interns, played the first virtual iteration of a wargame about the summer 2014 crisis when ISIS forces broke out of Syria and overran a sizeable chunk of northern Iraq, to include the major Iraqi city of Mosul.  Unlike the previous three times this wargame was played in class, this one had to be played out over Zoom.

“It took some indispensable help from the professional wargame team at the U.S. Army War College, but we were able to get the essence of the game into an online format,” said Prof. Danis.

In a typical game, students and interns represent one of six teams: three state actors (the United States, Iraq, and Iran) and three non-state actors (ISIS, the Kurds, and the Sunni tribes of Iraq).  Each team develops a strategy using the tools of statecraft prior to the game that they then apply against live opponents who are either working with or against them.  “The strategies are graded based on content and how well the teams implement them,” said Prof. Danis.

Each game turn represents 2-4 weeks of real time, so a full 6-turn game will cover the 6 crucial months when the United States, Iraq, and its new Coalition allies tried to stem the ISIS tide before the group could take Baghdad.

You can find out more about the ISIS Crisis matrix game here at PAXsims.

If you missed the Connections Netherlands conference back in December, here’s an after action report:

The Sheffield Telegraph featured an interesting article last month on the use of miniatures for air raid preparedness training during World War Two:

But when is a toy soldier not a toy soldier? The answer; when a world war is looming and it becomes a vital training aid to help Britain prepare for the terrifying ordeal of the Blitz.

In April 1937, in response to the growing threat of conflict in Europe and the aerial bombing of civilians in the Spanish Civil War, the government decided to create the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) service. Its job would be to protect civilians from the danger of air raids as well as help those caught up in the bombing.

During the next 12 months this volunteer organisation swelled to over 20,000 members. Training was based on the experiences of both World War I and the Spanish Civil War, with aerial bombing and gas attacks seen as the main threats. It also became clear that ambulance and other medical services would need to train with ARP wardens in advance of the predicted heavy casualties.

The best way to do this was through live exercises on the streets of towns and cities across the country. However it was thought that such exercises would have a detrimental effect on the morale of the civilians they sought to help and protect, bringing too close to home the fears of aerial bombardment. So the next best idea was to perform tactical exercises within the confines of offices, church and drill halls using miniatures.

At this point two toy companies entered the scene; William Britain, and Taylor and Barrett. Both were established and hugely successful manufacturers of lead model figures. Indeed by 1939 Britain’s was the biggest maker of toy soldiers in the world….

The National Emergency Services Museum in Sheffiled holds some of these in its collection. See the article for more details.

Does your wargaming organization encourage diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming? Then you might want to join the many supporters of the Derby House Principles. We still have some Derby House Principles pins left too!

Connections North reminder (and programme)

This is a reminder that the CONNECTIONS NORTH 2021 professional (war)gaming conference will be held online on 19-21 February.

The current version of the conference programme can be found here. Issue to be explored at the conference include:

  • wargaming and other serious gaming in Canada
  • wargaming in smaller defence communities
  • Arctic wargaming
  • so long and thanks for all the fish (gaming fisheries protection)
  • gaming in the humanitarian and development sector
  • gaming hybrid warfare in the era of COVID-19
  • distributed gaming
  • wargaming for command decision support
  • diversity and inclusion in professional wargaming

Registration for the conference is via Eventbrite.

Connections North 2021

CONNECTIONS NORTH is Canada’s annual conference devoted to conflict simulation. It is intended for national security professionals, policymakers, researchers, educators, game designers, university students, and others interested in the field of wargaming and other serious games. This year it will be held virtually (via Zoom), and will extend over three days. Prior registration is via Eventbrite is required (but is free).

Themes to be addressed this year include:

  • wargaming and other serious policy gaming in Canada
  • wargaming in smaller defence communities
  • gaming the Arctic
  • COVID gaming and hybrid threats
  • gaming fisheries policy
  • analytical and policy gaming in the humanitarian sector
  • wargaming for command decision support
  • distributed gaming
  • diversity and inclusion in professional (war)gaming

A full version of the conference programme will be posted by mid-January. Online connection information and other details will be sent to all registered attendees a few days before the conference itself.

Reports on previous CONNECTIONS NORTH conferences can be found here.

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