PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Tag Archives: Graham Longley-Brown

Gaming the strike on Syria?

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On 14 April 2018, US, French, and British military forces launched missiles against Syria, in response to a chemical weapon attack by the Asad regime against the rebel-held town of Douma a week earlier. This followed a pattern of repeated use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military, despite a previous US retaliatory attack in 2017. Three sites, all associated with the regime’s chemical weapons programme, were hit.

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This led Graham Longley-Brown to ask whether the British government had conducted a wargame of the proposed attack before carrying it out:

  1. Did anyone wargame the geo-political situation? Were expert players and decision-makers engaged to represent Syria, Russia, Iran, China, The Arab nations et al to elicit plausible reactions and risks, various categories of ‘unknowns’, and maybe even a Black Swan or two circling just out of sight… Having just re-read Tom Schelling’s Zones of Control chapter ‘Red vs Blue’, it struck me that something at the pol-mil level along the lines of his games would have delivered significant benefits to our decision-makers, both in terms of an enhanced understanding of the situation and their actual decision-making process.

  2. If no wargaming occurred, why not? The answer to that question might shed light on the attitudes to wargaming within the MOD, despite the recent success of the second VCDS Wargame. There was time to put some combination of matrix/seminar game on the table, possibly informed by M&S and/or other wargame results. Rex Brynen suggested that even a well-facilitated and well-moderated BOGSAT would have been useful. There was time to design and play such games, either in parallel, in sequence, or both. While not quite a cycle of research, some sort of triangulation or cross-pollination would have reinforced insights arising and shaped more detailed analysis. This would all have been TBD during whatever rapid design process would have been implemented. If no gaming occurred because ‘it takes too long to develop these games’, do we need to have a bank of Schelling/matrix-like games developed for identified trouble-spots and waiting to be pulled off the shelf? This along with a wargaming ‘rapid response team’ to tweak these and then facilitate rapid gaming?

  3. If wargaming did occur, did someone in the MOD reach for a phone and speed-dial ‘wargamers’?  If ‘yes’, who was at the other end of the speed dial number? It should be (certainly include) Dstl’s Wargaming Team and Tom Mouat. Did this happen, and is the process formalised? If not, why not? Did the call recipients respond by putting a series of appropriate games on the table within hours (Mark Herman-like)? Was Dstl involved? If not, why not? Crucially, what lessons were identified with the process of rapidly designing and executing a wargame, and how will these be captured and turned into lessons learned?

  4. Did anyone model the attack in detail? It would have taken Jeremy Smith about 2 minutes to ‘RCAT’ this using open source data, playing tunes with variables such as Russian SAMs engaging or not engaging and different permutations on Syrian AD. I suspect this would have been insightful. However, computerised sims would have been far more important. Were any used?

  5. Finally, how might the non-MOD professional wargaming community (e.g. Cranfield) get hold of classified data from the attacks to further validate their sims? We have previously used open source data from real-world examples such as Mosul and Sirte – before, during and after those events – to validate and refine our irregular warfare RCAT models. Doing the same with near-peer, peer and peer + adversaries in a high-intensity warfighting context, will become increasingly important. What AD engaged? What was the success rate of the missiles launched? What are the BDA results? How was targeting conducted, and how effective was it? What Collateral Damage was caused? Etc. If the results are too highly classified to release then we are missing the opportunity to improve the simulations we all espouse the utility of and use for actual Defence planning. Access to real-world data such as this is crucial. Let’s hope examples remain rare, but we should leverage them when they occur.

Any such wargame would have been classified, so there’s a chance we wouldn’t know. However the consensus among UK wargamers was that no, they probably didn’t. Should they have?

One experienced UK wargamer replied:

I’ve had a think about this (with some help) and we need to be careful. There is no way we will get the great and the good to spend half a day away, in the middle of a crisis, to play a wargame.

We need them to play wargames regularly to get an appreciation of what wargames offer, but in a crisis we need a parallel process to run alongside the crisis planning. It needs someone with a trusted ear to the commander (VCDS?) who heads off and gets us lot together and then reports back with what we found…

We then need somewhere we can do that, at the right classification, that is available (like the JFC Battlelab).

As for validating our sims – I think I’m looking at a higher level (the Pol/Mil implications or the crisis and subsequent reactions, rather than the detail of the military action), so I’m less worried about building a better mousetrap, as getting insights to the commander.

The important observation here was that crisis wargaming might not (for reasons on time, among other things) be a central part of the process, but it could be a useful adjunct. To do that, however, there has to be an existing on-call capability to design, populate, run, and assess a game—quickly enough that it can raise issues for planners to consider, and with a solid enough track record that any such inputs were welcomed by planners and decision-makers. One experienced observer questioned whether the UK would ever be in a position to deploy a wargaming team quickly enough to support this sort of compressed decision-making cycle.

My own response was that this might be a case where digital simulation and modelling would be far more useful than manual games, since much hinges on the interaction of really technical variables (topography and radar shadow generated by the Anti-Lebanon mountain range, the exact placement of Syrian and Russian EW and target acquisition radars, SAM effectiveness against low flying targets amid considerable ground-clutter, and the hit (Ph) and kill (Pk) probabilities of Tomahawk/JASSM/Storm Shadow/SCAMP, and so forth).

Regarding the political dimensions of the attack, I may be a wargamer but I am not convinced this would best be explored in a wargame at all. Instead, based on my own experience, a  well-moderated BOGSAT (bunch of guys/gals sitting around a table) might work better, Much would depend, of course, on the BOGAT form, the expertise at the table, and the skill of the facilitator. It is also possible that a relatively quick wargame might provide input into those discussions, something we had previously noted in our various matrix games of the counter-ISIS campaign in Iraq.

For what it is worth regarding the attack itself, I think the target set was way too narrow, and that the regime was genuinely pleasantly surprised that so little of so little value was hit: a research facility and a few bunkers. No key regime assets or capabilities were struck. None of the units or facilities involved in the Douma attack were attacked. Nothing that signals any significant cost to Asad was destroyed—indeed, the regime secured the Douma area and almost all the Damascus suburbs in the meantime. One American contributor to the discussion similarly noted “The aparent dearth of notable results makes me suspect that no one cared over much about militarily effective action but rather focused on ‘doing something’ that looked like ‘punishing Assad’ without risking a serious confrontation with [Russia]” A wargame might have brought all that out, but so too would a half hour conversation with a reasonably competent Syria analyst.

An experienced American wargamer commented that if the strike had been wargamed, the most useful insights might be in the area of coordination and process:

The real war-game here is the inter-coalition coordination of the strikes, how the C3, legalities, and permissions worked, and how the planning process leading up to the strikes would work across the different coalition partners.  Who was in charge?  How was the coordination done (NATO or multi-lateral)?  What C3 systems were used and how did they interoperate?  How did authorization flow and deconfliction occur?  The technical side of the strikes is, as I believe someone said, pretty much physics and targeteering, which affects C3 but is not necessarily an interesting game in itself.  I’m sure there have been many games done that look at coalition strike C3 in both a NATO and a multi-/bi-lateral context amongst the countries involved.  That gaming probably informed some of the experiences and decisions of the officers making the call as to how to organized the event.

Further thoughts are welcomed in the comments section.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 6 November 2015

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Some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to PAXsims readers. Nikola Adamus and Ryan Kuhns contributed material to this latest report.

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War on the Rocks features a piece by Micah Zenko on the infamous Millennium Challenge 2002 wargame, excerpted from his new book Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy. It makes for very interesting reading:

Since the infamous Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC ’02) concept-development exercise, run by the now-defunct U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), was leaked in the press 13 years ago, strong opinions have been expressed about its failure and lessons. When it was conducted, this exercise was the most ambitious and costly military simulation in American history. It pitted the U.S. military (with capabilities projected five years into the future) against a nameless potential adversary, with outcome intended to inform future strategy and procurement decisions. Controversy immediately arose when the opposition force, or red team, learned that the results were scripted to assure that the U.S. forces would win. Writing in September 2002, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof warned that it “should teach us one clear lesson relating to Iraq: Hubris kills.” (In that same column, Kristof admitted “I’m a wimp on Iraq: I’m in favor of invading, but only if we can win easily.”) MC ’02 was later popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2005 book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, where the leader of the red team opposition force (OPFOR), retired Marine Corps three-star Paul Van Riper was praised for having “created the conditions for successful spontaneity” with a decision-making style that “enables rapid cognition.” More recently, a Marine Corps Gazette essay proclaimed that “JFCOM controllers changed the scenario” of MC ’02 and that the command “failed to understand the utility of the exercise and the feedback it provided.”

These perspectives are misleading, and generally told from one person’s view: Van Riper’s. Moreover, they lack important historical context and alternative perspectives about why the shortcomings of MC ’02 were inevitable, given congressionally required demands, misunderstandings of objectives, and unclear (and shifting) lines of authority. Furthermore, a more comprehensive account provides insights for how the military should think about, design, and conduct red team simulations. This article, adapted from my book, Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, provides this more complete account as it is based upon interviews with most of the relevant senior officials, as well as the MC ’02 after-action report, which was only made public in 2010.

I’m reading the book at the moment, and will soon publish a review at PAXsims. I have to say, however, that I was a little disappointed that Zenko didn’t delve more deeply into MC ’02. Despite the introduction above, the account he gives is pretty much the standard one:

At the start of MC ’02, to fulfill the forced-entry requirement, blue issued red an eight-point ultimatum, of which the final point was surrender. Red team leader Van Riper knew his country’s political leadership could not accept this, which he believed would lead the blue forces to directly intervene. Since the George W. Bush administration had recently announced the “preemption doctrine,” Van Riper decided that as soon as a U.S. Navy carrier battle group steamed into the Gulf, he would “preempt the preemptors” and strike first. Once U.S. forces were within range, Van Riper’s forces unleashed a barrage of missiles from ground-based launchers, commercial ships, and planes flying low and without radio communications to reduce their radar signature. Simultaneously, swarms of speedboats loaded with explosives launched kamikaze attacks. The carrier battle group’s Aegis radar system — which tracks and attempts to intercept incoming missiles — was quickly overwhelmed, and 19 U.S. ships were sunk, including the carrier, several cruisers, and five amphibious ships. “The whole thing was over in five, maybe ten minutes,” Van Riper said.

The red team had struck a devastating blow against the blue team. The impact of the OPFOR’s ability to render a U.S. carrier battle group — the centerpiece of the U.S. Navy — militarily worthless stunned most of the MC ’02 participants. Van Riper described the mood as “an eerie silence. Like people didn’t really know what to do next.” Blue team leader Bell admitted that the OPFOR had “sunk my damn navy,” and had inflicted “an extremely high rate of attrition, and a disaster, from which we all learned a great lesson.”

Meanwhile, Kernan received an urgent phone call from Luck: “Sir, Van Riper just slimed all of the ships.” Kernan recognized that this was bad news because it placed at risk JFCOM’s ability to fulfill the remaining live-fire, forced-entry component of the exercise — a central component of MC ’02. The actual forces were awaiting orders at Fort Bragg, off the coast of San Diego, and at the Fort Irwin National Training Center. Kernan recalled, “I didn’t have a lot of choice. I had to do the forcible entry piece.” He directed the white cell to simply refloat the virtual ships to the surface. Bell and his blue team — now including the live-fire forces operating under his direction — applied the lessons from the initial attack and fended off subsequent engagements from the red team.

That’s true, but it also seems to miss part of what happened. Some of the things Van Riper did were beyond the capabilities of any US adversary, and probably should have been disallowed by the umpires. I have also been told by multiple participants that the overloaded White Cell failed to properly adjudicate defensive fires during the attack on the fleet—thus artificially amplifying its success. Finally, the point of the game was not to model a particular campaign or identify possible courses of action by Red, but rather to stress-test a number of ideas, approaches , and concepts—a process that would be derailed by an early catastrophic defeat of Blue.

None of this is to claim that MC ’02 was anything else but a poorly run game, which by all accounts it was. Indeed, similar criticism can be made of a great many DoD and service wargames, including many of the other high-profile Title X events. However, improving the analytical value of such games requires a not only a critical perspective, but also a nuanced understanding of all of the factors and constraints at work.

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War on the Rocks also features a piece by Jonathan Altman on “What Texas Hold’em Can Teach About Geopolitics.”

Poker doesn’t immediately make you think of geopolitics. However, the game itself, specifically No-Limit Texas Hold ’em, is a remarkable analog for the international system as viewed through a realist lens. Not only is the construct of the game eerily similar to the geopolitical environment of today, but many of the strategies and choices in the game mirror those available to powers within the international system. Accordingly a more detailed examination of the game yields valuable insights into the affairs of nations in an anarchic world order. It’s time for future leaders to play poker instead of chess.

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In recent weeks Graham Longley-Brown has posted a couple of interesting items on manual simulation and wargaming to his LBS blog:

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Motherboard discusses a recent conflict simulation exploring the impact of drones on warfare, with a particular focus on their potential use by weaker powers and non-state armed groups:

The “Game of Drones” was designed to explore the different ways that drones could be used for tactical and strategic effect in a conflict.

The summit sought to address whether shooting down a drone might escalate tensions between countries or whether drones changed the character of a conflict by giving actors capabilities they didn’t have before. As more and more state and non-state actors acquire drones, the war game illustrated how drones could be used in creative ways to further political or military objectives.

“One of the things that we see with new technologies like drones, is that the marginal utility for that platform is much higher for weaker actors than strong actors,” Ben Fitzgerald, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and one of the organizers of the war game, said afterward. “For non-state actors, they get much more value in relative terms, because all of sudden they have airpower.”

The game was organized by the  Center for a New American Security.

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The Center for International Maritime Security has introduced a new podcast entitled “Real Time Strategy,” which explores “the lessons and non-lessons of the simulations we use to both learn and entertain in the realm of military strategy, tactics, and history.” The first episode examines EVE Online, Civilization, Call of Duty, and other topics too.

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The latest issue of the British Journal of Military History 2, 1 (2015) has an interesting article by Jorit Wintjes on “Europe’s Earliest Kriegsspiel? Book Seven of Reinhard Graf zu Solms’ Kriegsregierung and the ‘Prehistory’ of Professional War Gaming.”

The history of professional war gaming is usually understood to have begun around the turn of the 18th to the 19th century and mainly associated with the Prussian Kriegsspiel, with chess-based predecessors traceable down to a game published in 1664 by Christoph Weickmann. Yet already a century before Weickmann and more than two centuries before the invention of the Prussian Kriegsspiel a Hessian nobleman published a game of cards that was intended to be used both for preparing young noblemen for military decision-making and for supporting command and control in the field. It thus may well have been the earliest professional war game of the post-medieval period.

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UPSEThe latest issue of the Journal of Political Science Education 11, 3 (July-September 2015) features an article by Michelle Hale Williams on “Using Simulations in Linked Courses to Foster Student Understanding of Complex Political Institutions.”

Political institutions provide basic building blocks for understanding and comparing political systems. Yet, students often struggle to understand the implications of institutional choice, such as electoral system rules, especially when the formulas and calculations used to determine seat allocation can be multilevel and complex. This study brings together an upper level Political Parties and Interest Groups course with an introductory Comparative Politics course through two-types of interaction: discussion board and a face-to-face election simulation. We administer a pretest and posttest to gauge student learning as a result of the simulation. We hypothesize that, by bringing together two courses with different levels (upper division and lower division) and emphases in bases of knowledge, we are able to enhance the experience of the election simulation to stimulate higher degrees of learning across both courses.

I have had quite a lot of success with simulations than span multiple classes: the annual Brynania civil war simulation at McGill involves students from POLI 450 (a senior undergraduate course on peacebuilding), POLI 650 (the graduate seminar version of the course), some students from POLI 227 (an introductory course in the comparative politics of developing countries), and on a few occasions an international journalism class at Concordia University.

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McGill University’s Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning will be holding the Simnovate 2016 International Summit in Montreal on 6-7 May 2017 to “bring together simulation, education and innovation in the healthcare arena.”

With a focus on four domain areas (patient safety, pervasive learning, medical technologies, and global health), we are undertaking a broad review of current strengths and areas of focus, determination of future directions and zones of importance, and prescription of defined approaches to improve health care.

The summit is intended to be dynamic, interactive, engaging, and above all, an opportunity for the global community to come together with the common aim to improve the health of people across the world.

The official launch of Simnovate took place on 25 May 2015, at the Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning. An academic symposium, followed by an innovation showcase, was well attended by the local McGill community.

The event also publicly launched the four domain groups, and the two co-chairs for each group. Since May 2015, the domain groups have each engaged seven to ten renowned individuals, who have passion, drive and enthusiasm for this process.

Each group is tasked with undertaking four teleconference calls, to be completed by January 2016. During each call, topics of the current status, future perspectives, and paths to achieve prospective gains, are discussed. The culmination of the teleconference discussions is first, for each group to produce a white paper, which summarizes the dialogue, thoughts and considerations of each groups’ conversations.

I certainly plan to attend.

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The Different Games Conference will be held in New York on 8-9 April 2016, the organizers have issued a call for papers, presentations, and participants:

Over three years of presenting New York City’s first conference on diversity and inclusivity in games culture, Different Games has drawn more than 700 attendees to NYU’s Downtown Brooklyn campus, in addition to more than 100 arcade games and 150 presenters and speakers! We are thrilled to invite submissions for our fourth annual event which welcomes proposals from all members of the games community — whether designers, students, activists, researchers, journalists and others — to present as part of our two-day program.

yellow_logoSubmission Formats

Paper Presentations and Talks
We invite designers, academics and other creative minds to share recent projects as speakers on our conference panels. Possible submission topics may include, but are not limited to: post mortems, design methodology, reflections on playtesting, analysis/commentary on games content (theme, gender, sexuality, etc.), game reception, and game culture/communities.

Workshop or Breakout Groups
We invite topic-specific or exploratory discussions on challenges and solutions for promoting diversity and inclusion in the broader game community/communities and other pertinent subjects. Hands-on workshop sessions geared towards learning design, development or other creative and professional skills are also invited.

Arcade Games
We welcome submissions from designers interested in showcasing their game in the Different Games arcade, including pieces that will be in (beta) or playtesting phase as well as those further along in the development process. Analog games, non screen-based digital games and other types of media such as short films, installations or interactive art related to the themes of the conference are welcome as well.

You’ll find more details at their website. The deadline for most submissions is 15 December.

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Rock, Paper, Shotgun reports on Top Secret, a forthcoming game inspired by the Snowden leaks and played by email. According to the game’s Kickstarter page:

Inspired by the incredible true story of the biggest leak in US history, Top Secret is a branching non-linear interactive fiction game, played in real time, by email.

A fresh recruit to the National Security Agency (NSA), you have a new mission: find out who’s leaking TOP SECRET documents to the press. Stop them by whatever means necessary.

A single selector (phone number, email address, name) is all it takes for your team to surveil a target. It’s your job to decipher the intel, and follow the trail to its source.

But surveillance has a price…

In the paranoid world of the NSA, anyone can become a target, and soon your friends are in the firing line.

Everyone has something to hide, will you reveal it?

The game’s webpage also has a link to a demo.

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At Unicorn Booty (yes, there’s such a place), Matt Keeley discusses the 1965 card game Nuclear War, and the broader issue of playing the apocalypse.

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In The New Yorker, Jon Michaud discusses “The Tangled Cultural Roots of Dungeons & Dragons” through the lens of Michael Witwer’s new biography of D&D inventor Gary Gygax, Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons.

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 19 October 2014

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Using the Rapid Campaign Analysis Toolset at HQ 3 UK Div Exercise IRON RESOLVE 14. Picture credit: LBS Consultancy.

Some recent items on conflict simulation and serious gaming that may be of interest to PAXsims readers:

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At his LBS Consultancy blog Graham Longley-Brown has posted a very valuable account of the successful integration manual and computer simulations, in this case as part of the 3 (UK) Division headquarters exercise IRON RESOLVE, using the manual Rapid Campaign Analysis Toolset (RCAT) in conjunction with a computer simulation (ABACUS) and automated exercise management system (EXONAUT).

RCAT is an operational-level manual simulation designed for rapid set-up and execution that incorporates best practice from Course of Action (COA) Wargaming, Red Teaming and commercial off the shelf wargames. Mechanisms include options for stochastic and deterministic outcome resolution, but RCAT was primarily used during Ex IR 14 to provide a framework for, and prompts to, SME discussion. All RCAT mechanisms and results are transparent and can be moderated or adjudicated. The primary remit for the RCAT team was to provide the ‘soft’ and non-kinetic effects ‘wrap-around’ to the ABACUS computer simulation that would model movement and kinetic outcomes. However, RCAT went beyond that remit and became central to the exercise control process. References to ‘RCAT’ below can be taken as meaning any (good) manual simulation.

Integration of RCAT with ABACUS and EXONAUT

image002The broad processes required to integrate RCAT into Ex IR 14 are at Figure 1. The detailed processes specific to RCAT integration are broken out at Figure 2 and explained below. Note that the principle underpinning the entire process was that all kinetic combat outcomes and non-kinetic soft events were to be pre-considered at least 24 hours before they actually occurred, allowing the Game Controller (HQ 3 Div SO2 CT6) to shape the exercise to ensure Training Objectives (TOs) were met. The agreed outline events were then coordinated and enacted in real time the following day using the ABACUS computer simulation and EXONAUT events and injects management system….

He concludes his analysis to say:

Manual sims could be used to support future exercises in a number of ways:

1. MEL/MIL EXONAUT scripting week. A two- to three-hour facilitated play-through of the likely scenario(s) would enable MEL/MIL scripters to gain rapid situational awareness of the geography, ORBATs and likely ‘shape’ of the overall exercise. Armed with this understanding of the exercise context they could better prepare EXONAUT injects.

2. Exercise design. A good manual simulation enables consideration during exercise design of aspects such as balance of forces and the identification of key factors, factions and actors to be played into the exercise.

3. Execution. Little preparation is required to use manual sims to support brigade- and divisional-level exercises. The processes described above provide the starting point for future events.

For the full post, see Graham’s blog (linked above).

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The Strategy Page has an interview with veteran wargamer, wargame historian, and Connections conference organizer Matt Caffrey, Wargame Coordinator at the US Air Force Research Laboratory. Matt is currently finishing up a book, On Wargaming, for the Naval War College Press.

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Recently added to the PAXsims links sidebar: Gameology, a blog by Paul Franz devoted to “exploring game design, games as information, and games as art.”

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PAXsims has so far resisted commenting on the so-called #GamerGate controversy that recently engulfed the digital games world, in part because so much of it is so very stupid. Whatever serious issues #gamergate raised about games journalism have by now been lost amid vicious trolling of female game designers/analysts and so-called “social justice warriors” (that is, those arguing for greater diversity and inclusion in the gaming industry, or anyone almost anyone undertaking serious analysis of the social and cultural meaning of gaming).

For coverage of the controversy in the mainstream press, see:

Simulating stability operations: the discussion continues

We’ve had quite a response at PAXsims to the recent request from the folks at the US Army Command and General Staff College for comments on their draft requirements for a simulation on stability operations—it has had several hundred page views, and there is now a very rich discussion in the comments section there.

One of the discussion contributors has been Graham Longley-Brown, who offered  the insights below. His graphic couldn’t be included in the comments section, so I’ve reproduced the whole thing here as a blogpost.

The diagram above is a ‘Campaign Tree’ process I developed for a ‘Hybrid Warfare Tactical Wargame’ at our Land Warfare Centre. This supports training for company HQ and/or battalion HQ commanders and staff. It addresses some of the points discussed – and it works! The concept is simple: the Training Audience (TA) move through the Campaign Tree from vignette to vignette along a path determined by their own decisions and actions. Vignettes are played out in real-time and use a real-time (largely kinetic) simulation. The TA decisions and actions taken – under pressure – during each vignette are adjudicated by Excon SMEs and dictate the path taken to the next vignette on the Campaign Tree. The periods between vignettes are modelled using a soft factors simulation and last from 3 – 8 weeks. Hence the consequences of the actions taken by the TA during the vignettes, combined with their ongoing Concept of Operations and decisions taken in response to injects and events fed in by Excon are played out during the longer time periods. The solid lines show one path through the Campaign Tree (with associated TA and Excon briefings) but obviously any path is possible.

The process integrates two simulations, both adjudicated and moderated by Excon ‘Rainbow Cell’ SMEs. MEL/MIL injects are used as required to bring out Teaching Points; these are, in the main, pre-considered but can be dynamically scripted. Likewise the vignettes are pre-considered and pre-loaded in the real-time simulation but can be modified just before going live depending on the TA plan during the preceding time period and can be executed however Excon deems appropriate. The diagram doesn’t show AARs, information flows etc – it’s just the bare bones concept.

Although I think this is quite a simple concept it’s hard work to pull all the elements together in the space of a 1-day training event that spans most or all of an operational tour deployment in game time. But it works…

The thing I love most about it is that it allows the TA to create their own narrative; it’s their actions that determine the path through the Campaign Tree – their story. Hence they are more likely to internalise lessons learned. Check out Peter Perla and Ed McGrady’s Naval War College article “Why Wargaming Works for more on why a created narrative, as opposed to a presented narrative is so strong a learning mechanism.

The process is also very flexible. Delete the soft factors sim and insert a board game if you like. Run it all using just deterministic Military Judgement.

So what? Paul makes the point very well that the GCSC requirement assumes a computer simulation solution that can do everything.  I don’t think such a sim exists, or will do in the near future. A more flexible approach is needed that integrates a number of simulation methods and exercise processes.  Paul’s ‘Right answer’ of a ‘family of games (decision-centric tools) where the students use a variety of small, purpose focused games to get at specific aspects of the problem‘ is spot on. Rex’s ‘preselected teachable moments‘ are encapsulated in various places in the Campaign Tree, and lessons learned are reinforced by the narrative created by the TA themselves. In summary, I suspect that the GCSC solution will need some innovative thinking rather than assuming (hoping?) that someone will come up with a sim that walks on water.

Have thoughts of your own? Go contribute here.

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