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Tag Archives: King’s College London

King’s Wargaming Network recruiting graduate students for analyst training

The King’s Wargaming Network is recruiting graduate students for its annual Analyst Training for Analytical Wargaming Programme:

The programme provides King’s students with an opportunity to support King’s researchers in the execution of wargames for research purposes.

The programme is now in its sixth year and is highly competitive. Analysts will support a PhD research project examining US Army doctrinal development practices for current and near-future warfighting. The project is led by Anna Nettleship.

If selected, you will:

Receive 8 hours over 4 sessions of practical training in wargame testing, data collection and analysis

Engage with cutting-edge methods and research

Support the in-person or remote execution of a strategic analytical wargame

Network with peers and wargaming experts

Applications are due no later than 25 October 2021. If interested, please fill out an application here

Barzashka: Do academic standards for research excellence apply to professional wargaming?

The following item has been written for PAXsims by Ivanka Barzashka (Managing Director of the Wargaming Network at the School of Security Studies at King’s College London), based on her recent presentation at the Connections US 2021 professional wargaming conference. This article expresses her personal views and does not necessarily reflect an institutional position. 


Wargaming has long practiced as a professional enterprise but is only emerging as an academic discipline. Civilian universities play an important role in bringing established standards of academic excellence to the theory and practice of wargaming for both research and education. 

Ensuring excellence in analytical wargames is especially important as governments increasingly looking to wargames to innovate and inform decisions. The pool of analytical wargame providers is rapidly expanding beyond the well-established expert circles. 

To achieve and demonstrate research excellence, analytical wargames need to follow established research integrity and ethics principles. Researchers, institutions and funders can then ensure these principles are implemented in practice, and action is taken when behaviours fall short. 

Research Integrity & Ethics in Analytical Wargaming 

What are these fundamental principles and how do they apply to wargames used for research? I answered this question in a recent presentation at the US Connections Professional Wargaming Conference from an academic perspective informed by King’s College London policies. I also highlighted some challenges facing scholars who wargame. You can listen to the talk here and view my slides below. 

The key takeaway: while wargaming scholarship is progressing, there is still a way to go. To properly meet research integrity standards, we need more fundamental research on wargaming, more educational opportunities in wargaming theory, methods and practice, and appropriate publication outlets. It is impossible to follow “disciplinary standard and norms” when scholars do not know or agree what these are. It is difficult to demonstrate rigour in “using appropriate research methods” when scientifically-sound analytical wargaming methods are only beginning to emerge in the open literature and are being applied for the first time for scholarly inquiry. Academics who strive for “transparency and open communication” still have issues publishing wargame findings in reputable journals.  

Expectations for Scholars vs Professional Wargamers 

But to what extent do research integrity and ethics requirements for analytical wargaming differ for academics versus professional wargamers? To advance this discussion, I offer three propositions.  

Most, but Not All, Academic Research Integrity Principles Apply to Professional Wargaming 

First, while the general principles for research excellence are fairly standard, a major difference between academic and professional wargaming is the expectation for transparency and open communication. For example, analysts who use wargames to support research for government clients are not expected to make their methods and findings available to others. In contrast, scholars are required to publish research and are promoted on the number of publications. 

Responding to Research Misconduct and Questionable Research Practices 

Second, the extent to which research integrity principles are applied in practice differs significantly among institutions and sponsors. This includes taking appropriate measures when there is evidence of research misconduct or questionable research practices.  

Research misconduct, which includes falsification, fabrication, plagiarism and misrepresentation, is a potentially fireable offence at a university. But could professional wargamers lose their jobs over poor game design or inadequate analysis of gameplay data?  

Looking at King’s definitions for categories of misconduct, many common wargaming practices would raise red flags in academe. Here are some examples: 

Falsification includes “inappropriate manipulation and/or selection of a research process.” According to this definition, creative injects by a control team that affect or determine outcomes of player decisions, but do not clearly link to research objectives and protocols, would raise questions.   

Misrepresentation includes “suppressing relevant results or data, or knowingly, recklessly or by gross negligence representing flawed interpretation of data.” Cherry-picking insights from a plenary discussion, while ignoring gameplay data, would get wargame analysts in trouble in this category. 

Another issue is plagiarism. Not acknowledging other people’s “ideas, intellectual property or work (written or otherwise)” in wargame design would be especially problematic in an academic setting but is common practice in the gaming community. 

Major Research Ethics Risks 

My third proposition concerns research ethics. The ethical issues that arise from the application of a particular analytical wargaming method that collects data from human subjects are mostly the same – regardless of whether the principal investigator works for a university or a government agency. However, the likelihood and consequence of ethical risks materialising will differ significantly in different settings. 

Scholars applying for research ethics review of an analytical wargaming process are most worried about preserving anonymity of research participants and ensuring the confidentiality of personal data. This risk arises because wargames are conducted in group settings and require support from large research teams (e.g. rapporteurs and facilitators). 

However, scholars can effectively manage these risks by carefully applying best practices, such as minimisation of directly or indirectly identifiable personal data, pseudo-anonymisation, access limitation, data separation and retention policies. These risks can be further reduced by careful recruitment and training of game staff. (At King’s, we spend 6 months selecting and training our wargame rapporteurs.) 

For professional wargamers, the major ethical risk is the conflict of interest between them and their sponsor. Stephen Downs-Martin describes the issue well in this article. Research ethics problems deepen when lines of responsibility and accountability are not clearly defined, and when the research process is not (or cannot) be made transparent. Mitigating these risks requires clear communication between a wargame provider and their sponsor but doing so might not be in the self-interest of the parties involved. 

Other ethical risks will be just as big, regardless of setting. For example, risks of harm to individuals could result from using wargames to investigate topics that could trigger stress or violence. If a principal investigator uses deception, including not fully informing participants of the purpose of the wargame, this also raises ethics concerns. (Thanks to Rex Brynen for highlighting these points.) 

Are Scholars Better Positioned to Ensure Research Excellence in Wargaming?

Ensuring and demonstrating research excellence in wargaming requires understanding, applying, and enforcing integrity and ethics principles. These principles are well established, but expectations differ in academic and professional wargaming settings. Professional wargamers face greater ethical risks than scholars who wargame, and these risks cannot be easily mitigated.   

Overall, scholars at universities are better positioned to ensure research excellence in wargaming than their professional wargaming colleagues. This does not mean professional wargamers are less interested in honesty, rigour, transparency, or ethics. Quite on the contrary – the wargaming community of practice is conscious of these risks and limitations, and the topic of this year’s US Connections conference is testimony to this fact. But there are powerful institutional incentives that influence research integrity and ethics in practice, which cannot be wished away. 

If people who are professional wargamers want to effectively demonstrate research excellence in wargaming, they should consider a sabbatical to spend some time at a university. 

Ivanka Barzashka

KISG PhD studentship – intelligence and wargaming

Anna Nettleship at the King’s Wargaming Network has circulated the following announcement:

The Wargaming Network is pleased to announce the availability of the KISG PhD Studentship – Intelligence and Wargaming award for the 2021-2022 academic year. Details are below, interested applicants may find details on the application process here

The King’s Intelligence and Security Group (KISG) provides a forum for collaborative research and networking between War Studies faculty and PhD students, external partners and affiliate institutions, and practitioners working in intelligence. We bring together a research community with expertise ranging from the history of military and civilian intelligence to contemporary intelligence issues, such as oversight, privatisation, and international liaison. Through an active programme of events, expert workshops and applied research, we foster the public discussion of key issues in intelligence.

This PhD studentship is for a thesis on intelligence and wargaming. The successful applicant will work within KISG but provide a link to the Wargaming Network. We welcome applications on theses that seek to bridge the two disciplines of ‘intelligence’ and ‘wargaming’, particularly around the methodology of forecasting, prediction, and scenario building.

Award value: Home Tuition Fees.

Eligibility criteria:  Applicants must have already applied to the War Studies PhD programme and must satisfy the entry requirements of the PhD programme. The studentship is open to citizens from the UK. 

KCL wargaming update

Ivanka Barzashka of the Wargaming Network, School of Security Studies, King’s College London has sent around an update on the news and activities at KCL:

King’s Wargaming Network aims to advance wargaming as an academic discipline. In support of this aim, we are pleased to introduce new staff and students focusing on wargaming-related research, and a new programme of educational activities funded by the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy’s Education Fund and the Department of War Studies.  

New Faculty and PhD Students  

Dr David Banks joined the Department of War Studies in Aug 2020 as Lecturer in Wargaming and Academic Director of the Wargaming Network. He has designed wargames for education and research on topics such as diplomacy, crises, terrorism, and cyber security. His current research investigates the linkage between theory and rules in game design. Dr Banks is the first faculty member at a civilian university to have wargaming in his title.  

Arnel David and Boukje Kistemaker started PhDs on wargaming topics in Jan 2021 at the Department of Defence Studies and the War Studies Department, respectively.   

Academic Promotions  

Dr Aggie Hirst has been promoted to Senior Lecturer at the Department of War Studies in recognition of her empirical research on the phenomena of play and immersion, and the US military’s use of wargames and simulations for teaching and training purposes. Her projects have been funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy.  

Analyst Training for Strategic Analytical Wargaming  

The WN runs a co-curricular programme to train postgraduate students, research staff and faculty to support Principal Investigators in data collection and analysis of wargames used for research purposes. The 2020-2021 programme focuses on ensuring data quality and research ethics in the shift from in-person to online wargaming to support a Centre for Science and Security Studies research project. Ten new trainees were selected through a competitive 3-stage recruitment process.

Short Courses on Wargaming in Education and Research for PhD Students, Staff and Faculty 

The WN launched two new wargaming courses for faculty, staff and postgraduate research students across the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy. The courses respond to an increased demand for educational and analytical wargames beyond the School of Security Studies.  

Wargame Design and Analysis Module for Master’s Students 

The Department of War Studies approved a new module for master’s students, which will be co-convened by Dr Banks and Dr Hirst. This module enables the next generation of security and defence analysts to understand and apply wargames as part of their security studies toolkit. 

Public Lecture Series on Wargaming Scholarship The WN launched an online public lecture series that features authors of new and noteworthy scholarly publications on wargaming. The next speaker is Dr Jacquelin Schneider who will discuss on 1 Apr 2021 the use of wargames as experiments to understand cyber and nuclear stability.

KWN: Caffrey on “Wargaming in a post-pandemic world” (June 23)

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On June 23, the King’s Wargaming Network will host a virtual lecture by Matt Caffrey on “Wargaming in a Post-Pandemic World: Adapting Institutions to Out-Think and Out-Partner”

We now know we live in a world where a novel illness can take lives, livelihoods and liberties worldwide with rapid speed. At the same time, the character of war is evolving in novel and dangerous ways that are not fully known. Wargaming can help decision makers better understand and address new challenges in a complex and uncertain environment, but reaping these benefits requires the right organisational structures and processes.

For almost 40 years Matt Caffrey has been building organisations to help adapt wargaming to meet evolving threats and opportunities. He will address the following questions:

  • How have wargaming structures adapted in the past to respond to changes in the strategic environment?
  • What institutional adaptations are currently underway in the United States and NATO?
  • What more can and should be done to increase the utility of wargaming to address the full set of threats facing NATO allies?

Matthew B. Caffrey Jr. provides wargame support to the United State’s Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Force Material Command, Air Staff and to NATO. In 1993 he helped found the Connections interdisciplinary wargaming conference.

Further details and registration are via Eventbrite.

KWN: Online Workshop on Wargaming the Pandemic

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The King’s Wargaming Network has announced details of their forthcoming online workshop on “Wargaming the Pandemic.”

King’s Wargaming Network is convening an online workshop on 1-2 April 2020 from 12:30 to 17:00 GMT to understand how wargaming methods:

(1) have contributed to research and education of health-related crises,

(2) could be used to understand the short and long-term effects of the current pandemic and how to address them,

(3) could be used to educate and train decision makers and the public.

We are grateful to those who have submitted abstracts. We have an impressive lineup of 20 presenters, including McGill University, University of St Andrews, University of Maryland Advanced Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security, Université Clermont Auvergne, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Columbia University, Marine Corp University, European Centre for Exellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, Stimson Centre, Mexican Navy Centre for Higher Learning, Netherlands Defence Research Organisation, Global Affairs Canada and industry.

Presentations will feature past and proposed new projects examining the impacts of the pandemic on a range issues, including economic, social (e.g. healthcare, volunteerism and gender equality), political (e.g. regional cooperation in Europe and South East Asia) and military (e.g. hybrid warfare and cyber threats) factors.

Please note that space is very limited and priority will be given to presenters, policymakers and funders.

To register, you will need email the King’s Wargaming Network at wargaming@kcl.ac.uk. If space is still available they will provide the registration link and password.

The draft agenda can be found here.


For more resources on the pandemic, see our COVID-19 serious gaming resources page.

KWN: Online workshop on gaming the pandemic

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Ivanka Barzashka, Director of the Wargaming Network at King’s College London, has announced an online workshop on (war)gaming the current COVID-19 pandemic:

We will postpone Strategic Wargaming Week to a later date to focus on using wargaming techniques to understand the impacts of the pandemic and to inform decision makers and the public.

We are convening an online workshop on 1-2 April 2020 to understand how wargaming methods:

(1) have contributed to research and education of health-related crises,

(2) could be used to understand the short and long-term effects of the current pandemic and how to address them,

(3) could be used to educate and train decision makers and the public.

We are inviting presentations on past projects relevant to the current problem, as well and proposed future projects. Those who submitted a proposal under the previous call and wish to present their ideas are kindly asked to resubmit their pitches.

The deadline for abstracts is 25 March 2020. Please submit your proposal here.

You will be informed by 27 March 2020 if your presentation is selected.

If your organisation is interested in supporting potential projects, please get in touch.


For further resources, see PAXsim’s COVID-19 serious gaming resources page

KWN: Roberts on “The Future of Wargaming,” April 21

On 21 April 2020, the King’s Wargaming Network will be hosting a talk by Dr. Brad Roberts (Center for Global Security Research, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) on “The Future of Wargaming: Innovating to Out-Think and Out-Compete” at King’s College London.

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Additional information and registration via the link above.

KWN: Building the future of wargaming

The Wargaming Network at King’s College London has a series of events planned for November. Details below.

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Please take a minute to complete our PAXsims reader survey.

KWN: Sabin on “The Future of Wargaming to Innovate and Educate”

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On November 22 (16:30-20:00) at King’s College London, Professor Philip Sabin (Department of War Studies, KCL) will address “The Future of Wargaming to Innovate and Educate.”

The lecture marks the first anniversary of the King’s Wargaming Network and Professor Sabin’s retirement after 35 years of service to the university.

Professor Brooke Rogers, Deputy Head, Department of War Studies, will deliver welcome remarks. Ms Ivanka Barzashka, Co-Director of the Wargaming Network, will chair the discussion.

Additional information and (complimentary) tickets can be obtained here.

Connections UK 2019 report

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Picture credit: King’s Wargaming Network.

This year’s Connections UK professional wargaming conference was held at King’s College London on 3-5 September. Participants from almost two dozen countries countries took part, making it one of the most international Connections conferences ever. Of the 285 who registered for the event, about 13% were women. A very large proportion were also younger and first-time participants, underscoring the success of the conference in growing the wargaming community and reaching out to a new generation of serious gamers.

UPDATE: audio and/or slides from all of the conference presentations are now available from the Connections UK website.

Day 1

The first day of Connections UK was divided into several streams.

Some participants took part in a full day introduction to wargaming course, taught by Major Tom Mouat (Defence Academy of the UK) together with Jerry Elsmore. According to Tom:

The “Introduction to Wargaming” course was attended by over 60 people. The course included presentations on “Why Wargame”, “Types of Wargame”, Wargaming Effects, Hybrid Warfare and Influence”, “Wargame Design, Dice and Adjudication” and “Wargaming Pitfalls and Dangers”. I also demonstrated a simple Kriegsspiel based on counter IED operation in Afghanistan, a modified commercial-off-the-shelf game Air Strike (based on IAF Leader by Dan Verssen Games) and a matrix game Kazdyy Gorod about an Eastern European city on the border with Russia, faced with internal dissent and “little green men”. After the session, I also gave an additional lecture on “Game Components and Map Making”.

Jim Wallman (Stone Paper Scissors) ran a full day megagame, Super Soldiers & Killer Robots 2035, which looked at the impact of technological innovation on warfare.

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Super Soldiers & Killer Robots 2035 underway.

Finally, there was an array of types of shorter games that participants could play.

  • Map and counter: Ukraine Crisis– Rik Stolk and Graeme Goldsworthy
  • Map and counter: Afghanistan Provincial Reconstruction Team(PRT) Game – Roger Mason
  • Map and counter plus negotiation: 2nd Punic War– Phil Sabin
  • Map & counter computer-assisted wargame: RCAT Full-Spectrum Adjudication– Graham Longley-Brown, Jeremy Smith, Dstl, NSC and Slitherine
  • Card-driven game: Cyber resilience game – LTC Thorsten Kodalle
  • ‘Euro-style’ board game: AFTERSHOCK Humanitarian Crisis Game–Rex Brynen
  • Board game:  Integrity: Conflict Sensitivity and Corruption– Paul Howarth
  • Matrix game: Hybrid campaign game– Anja van der Hulst

I ran two games of AFTERSHOCK, both of which saw the players do a quite good job of bringing much-needed humanitarian assistance to the earthquake-affected people of Carana.

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Your scribe, about to start a game of AFTERSHOCK.

Impressively, Day 1 also saw a visit by the UK Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, who toured some of the games in progress.

 

 

 

Day 2

The first plenary, chaired by Dr. Aggie Hirst (KCL), addressed the psychology of wargaming.

Captain Philip Matlary (Norwegian Army) addressed the psychology of teaching tactics. He stressed that understanding tactics is a cognitive skill, involving judgment, speed and guile. Since students construct their own understanding, teachers must attend to what students are thinking. Teaching tactics is intended to transform tactics from cognitive, “system 2” analytical thinking to more intuitive “system 1” thinking. However, system 1 thinking—although faster— is also prone to bias and systematic errors, such as confirmation bias and cognitive ease. He emphasized the importance of developing guile. Left somewhat open was how good wargaming was at developing these skills (compared to other methods), how we know this, and what best practices might be. Dr. Neil Verrall, a psychologist with Dstl, addressed the psychology of wargaming. He usefully broke down the internal dynamics of the game (intrapersonal/player characteristics interpersonal/the psychology of individual interaction, and group dynamics) and external dynamics (the context of the game). He stressed the importance of addressing these (confounding) variables, adopting an experimental mindset in game design and execution. He concluded with some food for thought, including cross-cultural gaming, organizational cultures, the role of information, understanding and deception, and responses to future threats. He also underscored the importance of interdisciplinary (or transdisciplinary) approaches to improve wargame design. Finally, Dr. Yuna Wong (RAND) addressed the importance of bringing psychological insights into wargaming. She argued that a lot of political science/international relations training was at the wrong level of analysis to address small group wargame dynamics. She also identified several barriers to bringing psychology more fully into wargaming. These included disciplinary barriers; the excessive quantitative focus of (US) social science and a corresponding atrophying of qualitative analytical skills (“some social scientists could no longer pass the Turing Test”); the lack of senior wargame mentors in psychology; and the failure to recognize psychology and an important area of subject matter expertise in games (as opposed to domain, geographic area or technological knowledge).

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A packed audience listens to presentations on the psychology of wargaming.

Aggie suggested a series of question to start off the discussion period, and then threw it open to the audience to raise additional points. I raised two: first, the issue of how we can psychologically manipulate wargame participants to behave in certain desired ways, and second the psychology of wargame promotion. Regarding the later, I warned of our l own vulnerability to confirmation bias—I think, as a community, we are sometimes prone to oversell our favoured approaches.

Following the coffee break, we broke into four simultaneous “deep dive” sessions:

  1. Quantitative vs qualitative gaming (Phil Sabin)
  2. Answering “so what” questions (Jim Wallman)
  3. Successful playtesting (Graham Longley-Brown and James Bennett)
  4. Data capture and analysis (Colin Marston)

I attended the latter, although I’ll admit that my arrival in the session was delayed by extended discussions with colleagues over coffee that ran late.

The first keynote of the conference was delivered by Dr. Lynette Nusbacher (Nusbacher Associates). Entitled “There’s No Pro like an Old Pro:  Professionalism and Wargaming,” she addressed how games can more effectively shape policy processes. She discussed the value of gaming as a forming of inoculation against strategic surprise and shock. When senior leaders encounter cognitive dissonance and ideas for which they are not prepared for they may stop thinking. Challenge may be unwelcome. At its base, she stressed, simulation and gaming should introduce disruption. In the UK, she suggested, government does not really develop strategy to implement policy, but tends to reverse the direction. Strategy is just presumed to exist. There is typically no structured process to marshal ways and means to deliver ends. The US benefits from a more robust think-tank community (partly as a home for former or aspiring political appointees) that are more receptive to critical analysis.

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Keynote address by Lynette Nusbacher.

The wargaming and simulation community needs to continue to sell gaming to think tanks and universities. Wargaming is still too dependent on creative and ambitious individuals adopting the technique. Gaming needs to be a fundamental part of procurement. Gaming needs to be sold not only on the internal merits of the game, but as a general antidote to some of the endemic pathologies of UK policymaking.

After lunch, there was yet more wargaming available for participants to sample.

  1. Anti-Submarine Warfare: a game for understanding the basics – Ed Oates
  2. Crisis in Zefra: An analytical matrix game – US Naval Postgraduate School
  3. The Camberley Kriegsspiel– Ivor Gardiner
  4. Signal– Sandia Labs and Berkeley
  5. Sweeping Satellites–Mike Sheehan and Mark Flanagan
  6. FITNA: The global war in the Middle East– Pierre Razoux
  7. Dogfight– Phil Sabin
  8. Decisions and Disruptions cyber game – Dr Ben Shreeve
  9. Rosenstrasse – Graham Longley-Brown
  10. Fire and Movement– Mark Flanagan
  11. Next War: Poland – Callum Nicholson
  12. Confrontation Analysis: Wargaming the US/China trade war – Dstl
  13. We Are Coming, Nineveh! –Rex Brynen
  14. A Reckoning of Vultures (Matrix Game Construction Kit) –Rex Brynen
  15. The Al Asqa Intifada – Stella Guesnet
  16. Beggars in Red: The Battle of Waterloo – James Bridgman
  17. Cyber card game– Dstl
  18. Combat Mission tactical computer wargame – Dstl
  19. STRIKE! – Dstl
  20. Strategic Wargame Verden Crisis – Dstl
  21. Canvas Aces –Phil Sabin
  22. Kursk to Kamenets: The battle for the Ukraine 1943-1944 – James Halstead

 

Our game of We Are Coming, Nineveh! saw Iraqi security forces liberate west Mosul after six months of heavy fighting—but at the cost of massive collateral damage. Because of this it was judged to be a Daesh victory.

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We Are Coming, Nineveh!

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Coup plotting underway in Matrixia—the “Reckoning of Vultures” scenario from the Matrix Game Construction Kit.

 

Day 3

Day 3 started off with the usual housekeeping announcements, then a short presentation on the future of Connections UK. Registrations have increased year to year, although it might soon be running up against space limitations at KCL. Moving ahead there will be some institutionalization of the organizational structures have made it all possible.

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The first plenary session was on gaming hybrid warfare, chaired by John Curry (History of Wargaming Project).

Dr. Ben Shreeve (University of Bristol) delivered an outstanding presentation on “decisions and disruptions.” He first introduced a simple card game (with awesome Lego illustrations) that he uses to educate about cyber vulnerabilities and mitigation. He then discussed a study of how different groups played the game, finding that security experts actually played slightly worse than IT managers or computer scientists. Security experts tended to underinvest in basic cyber defences (such as antivirus and basic security training) and instead emphasized more sophisticated capabilities. They also analyzed the kinds of arguments used to support decisions. A full paper on their findings (by Sylvain Frey, Awais Rashid, Pauline Anthonysamy, Maria Pinto-Albuquerque, and Syed Asad Naqvi) can be found here. Next, Dr. Anja van der Hulst(TNO) examined wargaming the hybrid threat. In it she reviewed the various approaches, such as matrix games, scripted connect-the-dots games, and others. Usefully she highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Finally, Dr. Roger Mason looked at wargaming hybrid warfare cyber operations. After a review of the role of cyber in hybrid and conventional operations, he introduced The Battle of Voru, a wargame exploring the employment of cyber in a fictional Russian attack on Estonia.

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Ben Shreeve on gaming cyber security.

John led off discussion by noting that one needs to match wargaming tools to the sort of hybrid warfare issue or question that one is examining. One of the audience expressed some concern about “hybrid” warfare in that all warfare is hybrid, and that combining the terms might obscure that some “hybrid” activities might actually seek to avoid kinetic warfare. (This is rather a hobbyhorse of mine, so I was happy to hear someone raise it.) There was also discussion of the role of non-state actors. I asked about the risk that sponsors want games with exaggerated (cutting-edge, trendy hybrid and cyber threats)—especially there is some evidence from Ukraine and Syria that tactical and strategic cyberattacks have actually had fairly limited effects.

The conference again broke into “deep dive” groups, before and/or after lunch:

  • Wargaming the Future
  • Space Games
  • Technology to Support Wargaming
  • On Wargaming
  • Data Capture and Aanlysis

Once again, I found myself in side discussions and saw less of these than I wished. However, Stephen Aguilar-Millan was kind enough to provide a summary of the first of these sessions, which he cochaired and led.

The session orignated in some thinking about wargaming the future that was undertaken for Connections US. The whole point of thought is to lead to some purposeful action, so we decided to hold a session at Connections UK that would start to act out this process. We decided to examine ‘The European Battlespace 2050’ as the topic of invetstigation and we aimed at unearthing the critical strategic uncertainties that a wargame would be concerned with. The session attracted about 60 participants, with a wide variety of national, organisational, and occupational responsibilities. They were divided into ten groups of six participants and tasked with defining the Blue Team in the European Battlespace in 2050. A set of strategic assumptions were given to the participants, along with a map and a set of crayons. Their output was an annotated strategic map of Europe in 2050, which was presented to the group in the second half of the session. The plan is for the session curators to take the maps after the conference, synthesise the information contained on the maps, and to look for the key strategic uncertainties facing Europe in 2050. This output has the potential to then feed into the next stage of the process – to build a set of scenarios from which the game dynamics can be created.

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In the afternoon, the next plenary session, chair by Colin Marston, addressed the selection and use of commercial off the shelf and modified off the shelf (COTS/MOTS) Games. Jim Wallman (and an absent Jeremy Smith from Cranfield University) offered an air COTS review, in which they examined 17 COTS tactical air combat wargames. Each was assessed against 32 criteria. They also asked, more generally, if the games addressed future technology insight, whether the game was useful for training or development, whether it was useful for capability, how easily it was modifiable, and the game’s learning curve (how quick and easy it was to learn to play).

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Paul Beaves then discussed a land COTS review, which examined existing commercial manual urban warfare games for the purpose of supporting future Dstl wargame development. They focused on games that addressed battlegroup-level operations. They evaluated the extent to which the games addressed a variety of Ministry of Defence requirements—for example, did it address line-of-sight, varying terrain types, and command control. Among those assessed was We Are Coming, Nineveh! Not surprisingly, each of the games had strengths and weaknesses, none fully covered all UK requirements, and many had useful approaches and features.

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LtCol Ranald Shepherd (British Army) addressed COTS wargames and professional development, largely focussing on A Distant Plain. When running games in Afghanistan, participants found themespecially useful in highlighting the divergent interests of the key parties. He suggested that more could be done to use COTS games to support professional development.

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Finally, Wilf Owen raised someconcerns about professional wargames. He stressed at the outset that wargames were extremely valuable tools when well executed by skilled and knowledgeable personnel. However, not all wargames are good. COTS games too often use hexes, too rarely have single player/level of command issues. Digital COTS games run into blackboxing problems. Wargames are too often too different from actual military procedures, and real-world military experience should count for more than skill with the game system. Wilf noted that there was little systematic evidence of the value-added of wargaming. He suggested combat resolution models are less important than people think, and that games need to focus more on the consequences of decisions. He stressed using real maps of real terrain using real planning processes and procedures. It was an excellent presentation, although on some issues he may have underestimated the extent to which his critical views are actually quite widely held in the community.

The second keynote address of the conference was provided by Maj Gen Mitch Mitchell (Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre), who spoke about the importance of “thinking differently.” Given a changing international system, how could horizon scanning and gaming help us be better prepared? Wargaming needs to become both routine (something regularly done) and experimental (in that it examines new threats and responses).

 

 

The last plenary presentation was offered by me, on gaming peace and stabilization operations. The slides for my presentation can be found here (pdf).

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This was Phil Sabin’s last Connections UK as a faculty member at KCL, since he is now embarking on a well-deserved retirement. During the conference several of us spoke to his contributions to teaching and research on wargames and military history, to wargame design, and to building a professional community. Indeed, his conflict simulation course in the Department of War Studies was the orignal inspiration for my own course at McGill university, where we use his book Simulating War as the course text.

All in all it was an excellent conference. Special thanks are due to everyone who made it happen—the organizers, the student volunteers (without whom there would have been chaos), and the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Crisis in South East Europe 2023

Scenario-156x234mm-WEBBack in May, the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London published a Crisis in South East Europe 2023 scenario for use in wargames, table-top exercises and classroom simulations (link).

The scenario was designed to provide a means through which to think through the potential impact of disruptive technologies, such as missile defence, on any future integrated conflict involving NATO and Russia and, by direct implication, on strategic stability in Europe and the evolution of the wider international security environment. Importantly, the scenario also provides the basis for a more general consideration of how crises and integrated, all-domain conflict between NATO and Russia could potentially evolve in southeast Europe.

The southeast Europe scenario was the second of two scenarios developed by Ivanka Barzashka for a project examining how missile defences may affect nuclear deterrence and stability in the evolving strategic environment. Project adviser Ivan Oelrich and King’s doctoral researchers Johan Elg and Marion Messmer contributed to the scenario’s intelligence reports. The project was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York under its initiative to explore disruptive technologies and nuclear stability.

The scenarios key assumptions are:

  1. By 2023, the United States, Russia and NATO have all acknowledged a new era of strategic competition involving major powers.
  2. Global economic growth has enabled increases in defence spending and military modernisation.
  3. Six years of “America first” have produced intended results in the form of improved military readiness and morale, and new military capabilities for both the US and its allies.
  4. Russia has pursued a course consistent with its current security strategy and military doctrine and has met its stated armaments targets.
  5. NATO has continued to adapt and strengthen deterrence and defence against Russia beyond the 2016 Warsaw Summit decisions.
  6. Ukraine has continued on a pro-Western path and has modernised its military, resulting in a renewed ambition to regain control of “occupied territories”.
  7. Turkey has had an ambivalent relationship with the West: support for NATO, opposition toward specific NATO member policies and closer cooperation with Russia.
  8. New advanced conventional capabilities, cyber offence and counter-space weapons have been fielded by all sides.
  9. The US, NATO and Russia have made no major changes to nuclear capabilities beyond current plans, but the INF Treaty and New START are no longer in play.
  10. The US and NATO seek protection against Russian cruise and ballistic missile threats to Europe and make progress in deploying those capabilities.

Including in the package are briefing and background materials for the United States, NATO, and Russian teams. The scenario package does not provide rules or procedures for running the scenario—that is up to you.

h/t Ivanka Barzashka

 

UPDATE: Need a map so you can run this as a matrix game, using the Matrix Game Construction Kit? Tom Mouat has kindly provided one for the Ukraine (pdf):

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A tiled version can be found here.

KCL War Studies podcast: Using Wargaming to Avoid Real-World Conflict

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Ivan Seifert at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, has put together a podcast on “Using Wargaming to Avoid Real-World Conflict.”

What is a wargame? Who should be playing wargames and why? How can simulating real-world events help to avoid real-world conflicts?

In this podcast, we are bringing you five exclusive interviews with organisers and participants of this year’s Connections UK conference. The interviewees are Major Tom Mouat, Professor Philip Sabin, Patrick Kwasi Brobbey, Dr Anja van der Hulst, and Commander Matt Payne.

The Connections UK is a conference dedicated to wargaming. This conference was hosted by the School of Security Studies and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

For more information about the conference, visit www.professionalwargaming.co.uk/ or read this BBC article goo.gl/iUYhyA.

You’ll find it here.

Wargaming at King’s College London

Prof. Philip Sabin (Department of War Studies, King’s College London) has put together a short video that offers an overview of both the recent Connections UK 2014 professional wargaming conference and his own MA module on conflict simulation at KCL.

You’ll even see a brief glimpse of PAXsim’s own Humanitarian Crisis Game being played at 1:32!

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