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Review: Target Iran

modern_war_9_target_iran-388841374220723dTarget: Iran. Decision Games/Modern War magazine/Strategy & Tactics Press, 2014. Designer: Joe Miranda. $30.00 (including magazine).

Unfortunately, this year has seen a growing backlog of games sitting on my shelf that I have not yet had an opportunity to play. Recently, however, I did try out Target: Iran, a solitaire game of near-future US/coalition war against Iran that was included in Modern War magazine in March/April of this year. The game comes with one 22″ x 34″ map depicting Iran and the Persian Gulf, together with 228 counters representing US, Iranian, Iranian rebel, GCC, Israeli, and NATO units. An electronic version of the rules be found here.

The game starts with a random distribution of face-down distribution of both Iranian  military units and sensitive targets, such as WMD sites, Command and Control (C2) facilities, arms depots, missile sites, and training camps. Each strategic turn the Coalition mobilizes military forces and conducts “hyperwar” operations. The latter includes such things as ISR assets, special forces missions, and cyberwarfare. The player rolls a die to determine Iran’s response, and the target of any Iranian hyperwar attacks.

At some point in the game, either random events or the Coalition player may cause the game to shift from strategic to operational turns. At this point, the Coalition player can then use his or her mobilized military units to attack previously-identified Iranian targets. Additional hyperwar assets (cruise missiles) also become available. For the Coalition, it is essential not to trigger the operational phase of the game until the necessary military resources are in place, and intelligence has been collected on the identity of Iranian units and targets. However, there us always a risk of the war starting prematurely, an eventuality one must be prepared for. During the operational phase the actions of Iran are again determined by a die roll, These might include attacks on neutral shipping or even blockading the Straits of Hormuz.

Throughout the game, “oil points” (representing the price of oil) are used to generate military assets. Certain hyperwar actions and military outcomes can affect oil points, as can the destruction or capture of key targets or blockage of the Straits. At the end of the game, the price of oil determines the outcome: anything below $81 a barrel represents a Coalition victory of varying degrees, while Iran wins if the price exceeds $100. If at any point the price goes over $150/barrel, play ends immediately in a global economic meltdown and a humiliating Coalition defeat.

The rules are generally clear, although it would have helped to have had the move sequence printed on the map. There has been some discussion online as to whether the scenario is fully balanced, but this is easily tweaked by adjusting the starting price of oil (indeed, the rules give one the option of using the actual price of oil as a starting point). Random placement of Iranian units and random generation of Iranian strategic and operational actions increases the replayability of the game.

The Coalition begins to mobilize forces, starting with the 5th Fleet and GCC.

Turn 1: The Coalition begins to mobilize forces, starting with the US 5th Fleet and allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

In my own playtest game, the Coalition spent six strategic turns activating forces, mobilizing bases,  identifying Iranian targets and units using ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) assets, and launching some covert attacks with special forces. As tensions grew, oil prices began to rise to over $100/barrel.

I then shifted to the operational phase. Cruise missile attacks destroyed most of the highest value (WMD) targets and several C2 nodes. These early victories reassured the oil market, and also limited Iranian hyperwar capabilities. In a few cities Iranian rebel units (encouraged by my own special forces) rose up to challenge the regime.

US Marines and a NEST team seize Bandar Abbas and the secret WMD facility there. By this time, most targets in southern Iran have been destroyed by Coalition airpower. However, the 5th Fleet is reluctant to press further into the elf due to the threat of Iranian mines, missiles, and small boat swarms.

It is late in the game, and US Marines and a NEST team have seizes Bandar Abbas and the secret WMD facility there. By this time, most targets in southern Iran have been destroyed by Coalition airpower. However, the 5th Fleet is reluctant to press further into the Gulf due to the threat of Iranian mines, missiles, and IRGC small boat swarms.

US, GCC, and Israeli aircraft struck the remaining targets as a US naval task force pushed its way into the Gulf.  US Marines and a NEST (Nuclear Emergency Support Team) contingent were landed to seize control of the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, where a critical Iranian WMD facility was secretly located.

A dense array of mines and anti-ship missiles deterred the US fleet from progressing further into the Gulf, however. The Iranians even temporarily blocked the Straits of Hormuz twice—thereby spiking the price of oil up—but on each occasion US minesweepers were able to deal with the problem.

In the end, most targets in Iran had been destroyed, and the price of oil had settled down to a comfortable $62/barrel. The Coalition had achieved its goals.

Instructional Potential

Target Iran is not a particularly granular or accurate simulation—nor does it claim to be. There is very little in the way of a scenario or politics, and the oil price track is more a composite way of limiting unit mobilization and tracking victory points than an actual representation of oil price dynamics. Military units are abstractions rather than actual units, and the random placement of Iranian forces can result in some very odd deployments. Similarly, the random placement of WMD targets does not necessarily follow their real-world locations. The impact of cyberwarfare is certainly overblown. While it is reasonable to expect that cyberwarfare might degrade air defences or incapacitate command and control capabilities, it certainly would never place an entire US Navy carrier task force or Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps division out of action. One of the random actions that Iran can undertake is setting its own oilfields alight, requiring that Colation petroleum engineers be deployed to bring the fires under control—something that was certainly done by Iraq in 1991 and (to a much lesser extent) in 2003, but which makes little sense in the context of a limited Coalition strike on Iran.

Quite a bit has changed in the real world since the game was first designed too, although that is hardly anything the designer can be blamed for: the US and Iran are in negotiations over the latter’s nuclear capabilities, Iraq is no longer available as a jumping-off point for US attacks (indeed, it is an Iranian quasi-ally), and the US will soon be drawing down its forces in Afghanistan. Because of all this I wouldn’t want to use the game directly for teaching purposes.

Concluding Thoughts

Even if I wouldn’t use it to explore the real-world challenges of a Coalition strike on Iran, I very much enjoyed playing Target Iran. I certainly recommend it to those who want a relatively low complexity modern warfare game designed for solitaire play in under 2 hours or so.

The game is very easy to modify too. Indeed, I’m tempted to develop a variant that better models some of the current strategic realities in the Gulf—if and when I do, I’ll post the results to PAXsims.

Gaming the crisis in the Ukraine


UPDATED 29 December 2015.

I’ve pulled together a summary of recent and current wargame on the Ukraine, which I will update from time to time as new material becomes available. . If any readers have material to suggest, I would certainly welcome suggestions via the comments section, or by email.

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Game designer Brian Train has quickly put together a small print-and-play political-military of the Ukrainian crisis, entitled—appropriately enough—Ukrainian Crisis.

It is a fairly simple, free-form pol-mil game for two players that concentrates on the buildup and resolution of threatened territorial annexation by Russia.

An overt military invasion of Eastern Ukraine is possible and perhaps profitable, but not necessary for the Russian player to win the game. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian player desperately mobilizes to defend himself and build a coalition of allies to support him.

You can download it at Brian’s Ludic Futurism website here. He also discusses the Russian and Ukrainian order of battle in a subsequent post. There’s  a lively discussion of the game and possible revisions at ConSimWorld.

Brian’s game  has also generated some discussion among gamers in the region about the ethics and practicalities opt designing a game about a conflict that is still current (and which could go “hot”). See, for example, the discussion of the Russian gaming site Tesera (Google translated version here). Some seem to think that his game is more than a game, and indicative of broader policy or popular thinking on the crisis.

Brian has also posted (24/11/2014) updated rules to his website.

He has now (02/12/2015) posted completed new rules:

The game now concentrates specifically on the first 6 months of the crisis, from Yanukovytch’s departure in late February 2014 to about the time of the adoption of the first Minsk Protocol in September. This was the period in which a large and overt Russian military intervention might have taken place, and while violence continues in Ukraine, the main threat of a military invasion seems to have passed.

Two important changes to the game include: game is lengthened to 8 turns, and instead of there being a pre-invasion and invasion phase of the game either player can declare a Combat or a Strategic turn . This gives players a bit more time to fill out strategies, and fits with the stop-and-start nature of how the crisis played out militarily. Following on from this, the map has been revised slightly and the cards also have additional or changed functions.

Still no NATO units.

The latest files for the game are here, and links are also on the original page:


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Even before the crisis, Brant Guillory was (rather presciently!) in the process of producing an operational-level wargame of civil war in a future Ukraine, Next War I: Orange Crush – Civil War in the Ukraine . You can follow its development on BoardGameGeek or at the Bayonet Games website .


Following a series of contentious elections in which both sides accused the other of support from outside the country, the Ukraine began to fracture.   What started as competing protest marches in the streets rapidly escalated into a shooting war between the different factions.   When the President of the Ukraine finally ordered the Army to restore order, several units revolted, and the President appealed to NATO for assistance.

Ignoring Russian warnings against intervening, NATO provided a small UK-led force, which the Russians countered with a reinforced mechanized corps, plus reinforcements from their Belorussian allies.   The US sent their available forces to the Polish frontier, hoping that their deterrent effect would stabilize the situation.

The Ukrainian “Interventionists” (so named for their favorability toward Russian “intervention”) had organized their own fighting force around the two mechanized brigades (and assorted smaller units) that mutinied against the national command.   Russian operatives assisted in arming and organizing the “101 Brigade” from provinces near the border; other partisans throughout the Ukraine also took up arms on the Interventionist side.

The Ukrainian government incorporated their volunteers into the standing army, hoping to avoid any public relations backlash from having irregular forces on the battlefield, as they attempted to paint the conflict as a civil war in which the Russians were meddling and NATO were invited peacekeepers.

The first battles were joined near Lvov, as the Interventionists bypassed Kiev and pushed as far west as possible, hoping to prevent the NATO forces from establishing a bridgehead in the Ukraine. Russian and Belorussian reinforcements arrived from the north to try and flank the existing Ukrainian national forces before NATO could join the fight. The Americans were moving through Poland, but had concerns about the security of their supply lines.

Earlier this month Michael Peck gave a preproduction version of the game a try at Foreign Policy magazine.

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Finally, there is one already-published  game on the area set in the modern era, Millennium Wars: Ukraine, This was designed by Joe Miranda and published by One Small Step games in 2003:

Millennium Wars: Ukraine presents a possible invasion of Ukraine by Russia later this decade. Scenarios put the Russians in the roles of seizing oil, driving to the Black Sea, or pursuing fleeing rebels while NATO forces move to aid Ukraine. External political events can impact the ability of both sides to prosecute their desired strategies.

The BoardGameGeek page for the game can be found here. A 2014 update for the game will be available shortly from the publisher at the end of September 2014.


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Digital wargamers have been examining military conflict in the Crimea too. For example, have a look at Flashpoint Ukraine 2014, an impressively detailed current order of battle and scenario depicted by the Baloogan Campaign (@BalooganCamp) using the Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations platform by Matrix games.

OPERATION TIGER RIFLE examines an attempted NATO amphibious landing in the Crimea:

The Russian Federation has taken Crimea by force and within 48 hours a major NATO assault is planned. You must clear the way for the HW Bush to lead an amphibious assault group. Destruction of the 11th Anti-submarine Ship Brigade and (most importantly) the S-400 and Bastion ASM located near Sevastopol is required for the amphibious landing.

There is a lengthy discussion thread on this at the Matrix Games website.

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Tom Mouat has put together his own quick wargame of the Crisis in Crimea, which he has kindly passed on to PAXsims. This takes the form of a free-form “matrix game”:

Matrix games are different to normal Wargames. In most of those games you compare lists of statistics and peer at complicated books of rules containing someone else’s idea about what things are important, before rolling a dice. It takes a long time and can be very difficult to explain to a newcomer. Instead, in a Matrix Game you simply use words to describe why something should happen, the Umpire or the players (or both) decide how likely it is and you roll a dice. If you can say “This happens, for the following reasons…” you can play a Matrix Game.

The game involves up to six-players: Olexander Turchynov, Victor Yanukovych, Barak Obama, Vladimir Putin, the European Union and China

You’ll find the map here, and the guidelines, roles, and other supporting materials here. You’ll find it an interesting introduction to how a matrix game works (although you really need to see one in action to get a full understanding).

UkraineMap* * *

Kickstarter features a proposal for a tactical boardgame based on the 2013-14 Euromaidan protests in Kiev, pitting demonstrators against the authorities. You’ll find more details here. (The game has since been withdrawn.)

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Majdan is a game of the Euromaidan protests by the Polish game company Symeo Games. According to the game summary at BoardGameGeek:

Majdan is trying to simulate events which took place in Ukraine in January and February 2014 during what is called an “Euromaidan”. The players create the political situation of this state on their own. Depending on their strategy, the paths of Ukrainians future may develop in many different ways. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that the moral loser will always be a faction which decided for the force solution fighting for control over districts as the first and allowing the blood to be spoiled.

The goal of each faction is to gain as many Victory Points as possible, i.e. retain the power in hands of Government and his supporters or to create a new government by the opposition.

Victory Points are scored by taking Control or getting Support in 25 districts, which differs in value. When two factions meet in one district there is a Struggle (for Support or Control). To win a Struggle, players use Cards which portrays means used to win: Masses (supporters of Government or Euromaidan), Militia, Berkut, Army, Specnaz, Media or Titushki. Cards have different values (value part of them is defined by a dice roll). For example, Media has value 5 in Struggle for Support, and 0 in Struggle for Control.

Players has several types of action to choose: get a Card, initiate a Struggle, influence a district, make an peace offer. 5 Actions made an Action Round. 6 Action Rounds makes an complete game (unless someone get to automatic victory earlier).

Majdan reimplements Pomarańczowa Rewolucja game – mechanics was slightly changed, as district values on the map. Cards was changed (new images and its quantity).

All changes were fit to the 2013/2014 political situation on Ukraine.

h/t Volko Ruhnke


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abrams-0_tnBattlefront has introduced Combat Mission: Black Sea, as part of its Combat Mission series:

Combat Mission: Black Sea is a military simulation depicting a fictional 2017 conflict between NATO and Russia in Ukraine. Following the events in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in 2014, the Kiev government and Russia continue to clash over the status of the contested regions. This culminates several years later in a dramatic announcement by Ukraine that they will be joining NATO and the EU. Tensions explode as Russia perceives a direct threat to Russian citizens and deploy troops to the Ukrainian border again, while Western governments, welcoming a chance to expand NATO and EU influence eastward, mobilize as well. The escalation continues until the summer of 2017, when a large firefight erupts between Ukrainian and Russian troops in the Donetsk region. The next day fighting flares up on the border, and on a dark early morning in June 2017, pre-positioned Russian and NATO forces roll forward into Ukraine.

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The private sector intelligence and analysis firm Stratfor will be unveiling the results of a series of analytical wargames of the Ukraine crisis in March. You’ll find the introductory video to the series here, and some initial PAXsims thoughts here.

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The Polish gaming magazine Tactics & Strategy might be producing a game of the Ukraine crisis, Mariupol 2014-15. Their website is here.

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In an article in Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy 21, 2 (April 2015), Richard E. Ericson and Lester A. Zeageroffer an analysis of strategic interaction in the Ukraine crisis through a game theoretic lens.

Review: Somali Pirates

MW003-2Somali Pirates. Decision Games/Modern War magazine/Strategy & Tactics Press, 2013. Designer: Joe Miranda. $30.00 (including magazine).

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The real-world problem of Somalia-based piracy poses a number of interesting policy challenges. Over the years, the international response to such piracy has included expanded multinational naval patrols, improved communication and coordination, the outfitting commercial ships with anti-boarding devices and pirate-proof citadels (to which a crew can retreat, disable the ship, and await rescue), the deployment of armed private security personnel onboard ships (once the legal issues involved in doing so were resolved); securing the agreement of regional states to prosecute captured pirates; and various other measures. From time to time various naval forces do occasionally open fire on pirate boats or mount rescue operations, but these are comparatively rare.

Such efforts have been increasingly successful. In 2012 Somali pirate attacks dropped to a three-year low, and they are much lower still so far this year (see below).

Overview Piracy Incidents CN 30 Apr 13_Page_1

Source: NATO Shipping Centre (2013).

However, the often rather dull policy initiatives that make for effective anti-pirate measures do not necessarily make for a good game. In an effort to make things more interesting, therefore, the Somali Pirates game included in the January/February 2013 edition of Modern War magazine imagines a near-future in which Somali pirate warlords have grown much more powerful, and the international response is much more muscular. No outfitting freighters with high-pressure hoses or hiding in a safe-room here: instead, the Coalition player employs naval assets, combat aircraft, UAVs, Special Forces, larger ground forces, the CIA, private contractors, oil workers, and even a potentially sizeable Chinese military contingent as s/he competes against the three regional pirate factions (plus al-Qa’ida) controlled by their opponent. The game presumes the continued existence of a weak Somali federal government, but doesn’t separately include the current autonomous governments of Puntland or Somaliland, nor does it permit African Union forces to start the game in Somalia as part of the current AMISOM mission. Oil politics plays a role in the game, with potential oil-producing regions of somewhat greater value—something that has started to be a factor in real Somali politics. By contrast, there is no attention to Somali aid, humanitarian, or development issues beyond a couple of possible AFRICOM Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which simply act as asymmetric combat units.

This isn’t the first time that the Somali pirate issue has been dressed up by someone to make a better game challenge—much the same was done by the Naval Postgraduate School for their 2011 playtest of MMOWGLI.


Military assets from Somali Pirates, indicating kinetic combat, (asymmetric combat), and movement factors respectively.

The game itself features a 22″ x 34″ map of Somalia and the Horn of Africa, depicting a number of linked regional movement zones. Each zone has  a predominate terrain type (clear, rough, urban, or sea), a main box for units that are in the open, and an “underground” box for units that are in hiding. Combat units have both movement values and both kinetic and asymmetric combat ratings. The latter are used when undertaking a range of special actions, including piracy, terrorism, counterinsurgency operations, or attacks on high-value targets. “Netwar” points represent public opinion/political support, and are also used as victory points. They are won and lost through control of territory or  military operations, and can be spent to mobilize forces or purchase random “Netwar chits.” The latter provide a player with intelligence capabilities (essential for targeting underground units) or special game opportunities. The difficulty of coordinating coalition warfare is nicely modelled by requiring a player to generally move and attack with each faction or national contingent separately.

While the game may not model the Somali pirate issue very well, I did like the overall game system which seem adaptable to a variety of settings, and which makes its next appearance in the  Decision Iraq (recently published in the July/August 2013 edition of Modern War magazine). There were a few rules that it would be useful to modify. In particular, it seemed slightly odd that pirate bases could spring up even in areas that the Coalition had garrisoned, provided there was at least one pirate unit underground there. It might also have been appropriate to limit most Coalition use of airpower in urban areas, or at least assign some cost in Netwar points for using it in that way.


Game turn 5. After the Coalition defeat at Mudug, the surviving oil engineers have retreated to Garacao. The stand-off continues in Mogadishu Central, while US special forces conduct operations in Puntland and Coalition naval units hunt covert pirate units at sea.

In our game, pirate units overran part of Mogadishu before US Navy and Marine reinforcements stabilized the situation there. African Union forces advanced north from Kenya, capturing Kismayo (just as they recently did in September 2012).

Units of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa pushed out a little from their base in Djibouti, but al-Qa’ida activity limited their advance. Backed by airpower, units of the Joint Special Operations Task Force seized a number of coastal ports from the pirates, and were then reinforced by follow-on forces from US AFRICOM. When AFRICOM forces pushed inland to relieve besieged oil workers in Mudug, however, they were set upon by a large combined pirate force, suffering heavy casualties and a major political reversal.

At sea, Coalition naval forces had difficult identifying “underground” pirate raiding ships, and so generally concentrated on restricting their movement. The game ended in a draw.

The one serious problem we encountered during our game was the tremendously powerful effect of a few of the Netwar chits, notably “Tactical Edge”:

Do one of the following: (1) Double the Kinetic value of all friendly units in one combat. Or: (2) Add “one” to the Kinetic value of each friendly unit in one combat (including those with a zero value).

Since doubling kinetic strength can dramatically affect the outcome of battles, and since major victories and defeats can have a large effect on the players’ Netwar points, the latter part of our game largely devolved into buying up many (face-down) Netwar chits to guarantee receiving “Tactical Edge,” playing the chit, buying it back again the next turn, and so on. This created a sense that the game largely hinged on possession each turn of one or two key chits, rather than strategic acumen. We would recommend that the chit be reduced in strength, for example by making it a one column shift on the combat results table instead. A few more ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) chits in the counter-mix would be useful too, as would some chits representing the security measures undertaken by commercial shipping. If time allows, I might even put together an optional expanded set of Netwar cards to replace the chit set in the game.

Overall, Somali Pirates is an enjoyable medium-low complexity wargame, playable in about three hours. I wouldn’t recommend it for educational purposes on the Somali piracy issue, given the extent to which its representation of Somali politics, amplified pirate threat, and heavy kinetic focus all diverge from the actual dynamics of contemporary Somali piracy. However, the game system is both easily modified and easily transposed to other situations of mixed regular and irregular warfare, so it would be a useful to use to with students to explore issues of wargame mechanics and design.

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Further reading:


The Afghan Provincial Reconstruction game

Today a group of volunteer students from my POLI 450 (Peacebuilding) course at McGill University helped me playtest the Afghan Provincial Reconstruction game produced by LEC Management. The game was designed by Roger Mason (LECMgt) and Joe Miranda, with input from Eric Patterson at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University and COL Eric Wester at National Defense University.

A full description of the game by Mason and Patterson will be appearing in a forthcoming issue of Simulation and Gaming, but the basics are fairly straightforward. The 12 players each in the game belong to three different groups: the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRA), NATO, and the fictional “World Church Union.” While the WCU is meant to represent faith-based humanitarian NGOs—the game originally grew out of a symposium on religion and military affairs—in practice they pretty much function in the game as a generic NGO or collection of NGOs.

The game is played in front of four display maps. Three of these represent Afghan provinces, while one represents the national situation. One player each from GIRA, NATO, and the WCU sit at the national map, receiving resources at the start of each turn and allocating these and other assets to their counterparts in the provinces. Each provincial map, in turn, will also have a player each from the GIRA, NATO, and the WCU. The players utilize the resources the receive to try to complete various development projects.

The objective of the game is to stabilize Afghanistan by gaining influence and completing projects. If Afghanistan’s “National Stability Index” rises above a certain point, everyone wins. However, group players can also win if their group completes all their assigned projects (for example, all WCU projects are completed), while provincial players can win if all GIRA, NATO, and WCU projects in a particular province are completed.

Sound simple? Well, there are complications. The allocation of resources by the national players to the provinces can be the subject of considerable bargaining, especially as players try to allocate scarce resources in ways that create synergies and optimize effects. The provincial players need to build influence with local powerbrokers before projects can go ahead—in the game this is represented by a triad of a local government official (malik), a local religious leader (mullah), and a local council of elders (shura). There are random event cards at both the national and provincial level that can create all manner of complications for the various players’ plans, ranging from suicide bombings to religious backlash to cholera outbreaks. The Taliban and hostile warlords make an appearance, damaging reconstruction efforts. al-Qa’ida might even take hostages. The various bad guys can be dealt with, but that usually requires a combination of local influence and military assets provided by the national-level decision-makers. Of course there are never enough resources to go around. Intelligence matters too, sometimes giving players an opportunity to look ahead to the next event, and prepare accordingly.

As is evident from the summary, the Afghan Provincial Reconstruction game is not meant to be a detailed simulation of actual Afghan combat and development operations. Indeed the province “maps” aren’t really maps at all, but rather identical displays with different names on them. The possible random events and game dynamics and project costs are the same for each province too. Anthropologists could endlessly quibble about the abstract model of local power dynamics. However, this isn’t what the game is about. Rather, it is trying to capture some of the difficulties of stabilization and development efforts in nonpermissive environments, with a particular focus on the challenges of resource allocation and coordination. So how does it fare in this?

Judging from student reaction, it was a considerable success. Resource allocation discussions soon became noisy, even heated. In some provinces actors worked together well, while in others there was a little more tension and a little less sharing of information and resources. Successful programs were rapidly undone by adverse events, and the tension was quite palpable when it came time to flip the event cards each turn. In one notable case, some miscommunication resulted in a failed SAS hostage rescue mission in Khost, creating a crisis of confidence among local power-brokers. In Kandahar, an aid convoy was ambushed. All manner of things complicated the lives of the Kunar provincial team, with the increasingly stressed NATO official there suffering from what seemed to be a simulation-induced case of PTSD.

In the end, however, the players manage to achieve an impressive “Total Victory,” pushing the National Stabilization Index up over 100 for two successive turns. Hurrah! Whether this was due to innate skill, good luck, the insights generated by my POLI 450 lectures, or the security-and-development facilitating powers of Angela’s Pizza we were unable to determine.

Although the facilitator manual suggests that a game can be played in two hours, ours ran significantly longer than this even though we didn’t need to play through the full eight turns. This included some time for briefing the rules at the outset, however, as well as pizza distribution. I’m not sure I would have wanted to hurry it along any faster, however, since the player discussion and strategizing were the most important part of the process.

We also ran into a few cases where the rules seemed unclear, or where the rules seem to say one thing but the event cards suggested another. This was quickly resolved by divine intervention, however.

Finally, the game also generated a number of ideas for tweaks and add-ons. Far from being a weakness,  I view this very much as a strength: unlike a digital game, a “cardboard” boardgame is easily modified. Next year, therefore, we are likely to roll out our own version 2.0 with an active Taliban player, rather than having all opposition activity generated by the event cards. Doing this will allow us to explore adaptive-counteradaptive cycle of insurgency and counter-insurgency. It will also generate even more tension into the classroom setting, thereby further encouraging student engagement.

I’ve invited student participants to add comments below, which some may choose to do. I certainly would like to thank them for all participating—I was impressed at the turn-out on a slushy, wet Saturday morning! Thanks are due as well to my co-facilitator Tommy Fisher, who took a break from designing anti-corruption and financial intelligence simulations (and surviving our gaming group’s ongoing zombie apocalypse) to help us out.

For further information on the game, contact LECMgt at

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