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Tag Archives: NATO

RAND: Nuclear weapons and deterring Russian threats to the Baltics

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Last month RAND released a report examining—in part, through wargaming—whether nonstrategic nuclear weapons use might deter a Russian attack against Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The study, Exploring the Role Nuclear Weapons Could Play in Deterring Russian Threats to the Baltic Stateswas prepared by Paul Davis, J. Michael Gilmore, David Frelinger, Edward Geist, Christopher Gilmore, Jenny Oberholtzer, and Danielle Tarraf.

Despite its global advantages, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s current deterrent posture in the Baltic states is militarily weak and generally questionable. A Russian invasion there would almost surely capture some or all of those states’ capital cities within a few days, presenting NATO with a fait accompli. The United States is currently considering tailored deterrence strategies, including options to use nuclear weapons to deter Russian aggression in the Baltic states. This report examines what role nonstrategic nuclear weapons could play in deterring such an invasion. As part of that analysis, the authors review relevant deterrence theory and current NATO and Russian nuclear and conventional force postures in Europe. They draw on wargame exercises and qualitative modeling to characterize the potential outcomes if NATO, Russia, or both employ nonstrategic nuclear weapons during a war in the Baltic states. The authors then discuss implications for using such weapons to deter a Russian invasion. The insights derived from the research highlight the reality that, even if NATO makes significant efforts to modernize its nonstrategic nuclear weapons, it would have much stronger military incentives to end a future war than Russia would. That is, Russia would still enjoy escalation dominance.

Readers might also want to review the 2016 report by David A. Shlapak and Michael Johnson on Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank.


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Simulation & gaming miscellany, 18 October 2019

 

wordle181019.pngPAXsims is pleased to present some recent items on conflict simulation and serious (and not-so-serious) gaming that may be of interest to our readers.

Aaron Danis suggested some of the items included in this latest edition.

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The NATO Allied Command Transformation website features a piece by Sue Collins on “wargaming the future” at the 2019 Concept Development and Experimentation Conference.

There has been resurgence in interest in wargaming amongst NATO organizations and NATO Nations. The practice of wargaming has been around for hundreds of years, so it is nothing new, but it fell out of favour to all but hard-core hobby-wargamers and now a new generation of staff are re-discovering the practice and its associated benefits, and building up their wargaming experience.

Recent examples of wargames that Allied Command Transformation staff designed include; a matrix game for Allied Command Operations to test NATO’s Military Deterrence Response Options and further the Deterrence Concept; a human-in-the-loop simulation wargame to test Anti-Access Area Denial strategies; and a game to validate NATO’s Urbanization concept. Upcoming games are planned to explore and test the NATO Mine Warfare concept and the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept.

At the 2019 Concept Development and Experimentation Conference in Madrid, Spain, there will be a workshop called “Wargaming the Future” where participants will be introduced to the practice and get the opportunity to play games including a dilemma game and matrix wargame. The games will focus on scenarios relevant to Allied Command Transformation’s Strategic Foresight Analysis exploring future trends such as the Arctic and High North, China and new technological advances. Participants will learn how wargaming can be applied to individual Nations’ Concept Development and Experimentation projects. The “Wargaming the Future” workshop is a joint venture between Allied Command Transformation and the Netherlands Defence Research Agency.

Beyond the workshop, NATO is continuing to advance the art and science of wargaming. NATO Nations host annual wargaming conferences, and the NATO Science and Technology organization are sponsoring research task groups to advance wargaming practices.

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csm_Koerber-Policy-Game_What-to-expect-if-the-US-withdraws-from-NATO_25ce26163c.jpgSpeaking of NATO, how would Europe organize its security and defence if the US were to withdraw from the alliance? The International Institute for Strategic Studies organized a policy game to explore this issue in July, and the report is now available.

The Körber Policy Game brought together a high-level group of senior experts and government officials to address a fictional scenario that involves a US withdrawal from NATO followed by multiple crises in Europe.

Recent developments in transatlantic relations have reignited the debate about the need for Europeans to assume greater responsibility for their own security. Yet, efforts by European leaders to substantiate the general commitment to ‘take their fate into their own hands’ are so far lacking sufficient progress.

Against this backdrop, the Körber Policy Game brought together a high-level group of senior experts and government officials from France, Germany, Poland, the UK and the US to address a fictional scenario that involves a US withdrawal from NATO, followed by multiple crises in Europe.

How will Europeans organise their security and defence if the US withdraws from NATO? To what extent will future European security be based on mutual solidarity, ad-hoc coalitions or a bilateralisation of relations with the US? Which interests would the respective European governments regard as vital and non-negotiable? What role would the US play in European security after the withdrawal?

The Körber Policy Game is based on the idea of projecting current foreign and security policy trends into a future scenario – seeking to develop a deeper understanding of the interests and priorities of different actors as well as possible policy options. The starting point is a short to medium-term scenario. Participants are part of country teams and assume the role of advisers to their respective governments.

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The UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has put together a brief overview of the recent Connections UK professional wargaming conference.

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For more on Connections UK 2019, see also the Connections UK website and PAXsims’ own report on the conference.

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Linköping University in Sweden is planning a climate change megagame for April 2020.

“The Climate Change Megagame” takes place in Östergötland. It starts in 2020 and the scenario may run right up until 2100. The participants play various local roles, such as politicians and representatives for the business world. At least half of the participants will play the role of local inhabitants. As the climate changes, they will be faced with new situations and must take difficult decisions.

“One aim of the game is to cause participants to consider how we will have to adapt the way we live in response to climate change. We also want to know more about decision making in a future characterised by uncertainty about the climate. This uncertainty is not just about the physical climate, but also the political climate, where effects such as large-scale refugee movements, and food and water shortages, may have an effect”, says Ola Leifler.

One intention of the research project is to investigate whether a megagame is an effective way of passing on knowledge about climate change.

“I hope that the game can be held as a course here at LiU in the future.”

This is the first time that a megagame is used for research at Linköping University.  Ola Leifler wants to determine whether decision making can be studied using this type of game.

“Do the players gain insight into the significance of climate change? Some members of the project team are experts who have previously studied how decisions are taken in simulated worlds.”

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Event201-logo.jpgThe Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, together with the World Economic Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, hosted Event 201: a high-level simulation exercise for pandemic preparedness and response, in New York on 18 October. According to a report in Modern Diplomacy:

The exercise will bring together business, government, security and public health leaders to address a hypothetical global pandemic scenario. It will also feature a live virtual experience from 08.50 – 12.30 EDT to engage stakeholders worldwide and members of the public in a meaningful conversation of difficult high-level policy choices that could arise in the midst of a severe pandemic.

The world has seen a growing number of epidemics in recent years, with about 200 events annually including Ebola, Zika, MERS and SARS. At the same time, collective vulnerability to the social and economic impacts of infectious disease crises appears to be increasing. Experts suggest there is a growing likelihood of one of these events becoming a global threat – or an “event 201” pandemic – that would pose disruptions to health and society and cause average annual economic losses of 0.7% global GDP, similar in scale to climate change.

“We are in a new era of epidemic risk, where essential public-private cooperation remains challenged, despite being necessary to mitigate risk and impact” said Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Shaping the Future of Health and Health Care, World Economic Forum. “Now is the time to scale up cooperation between national governments, key international institutions and critical industries, to enhance global capacity for preparedness and response.”

Additional information can be found at the Event 201 website.

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“A series of September and November wargames led by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff will evaluate new battle plans for fighting China and Russia, Pentagon officials say.” according to Defense One.

“What we don’t have is a concept that accurately and with rigor describes how the services will fight against a peer adversary,” Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Futures Command and director of Futures and Concepts Center, told reporters Wednesday on the sidelines of the Defense News Conference.

A key part of the Global Integrated Wargame will be testing new gear intended to help troops in the various military services to communicate more seamlessly with one another. Today, each branch generally uses stovepiped networks — meaning, for example, that a pilot over the battlefield cannot easily talk to ground troops, who cannot easily talk to a ship’s crew just offshore.

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Many studies of educational simulation and gaming use self-reported learning as a measure of effectiveness. However, we have long known this is a poor indicator, since students are likely to assess teaching methods (in part) on how much they have enjoyed them—not how much they have actually learned. Ars Technica discusses recent studies that suggest “College students think they learn less with an effective teaching method.

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A posting at the Institute for World Politics discusses 9/11 – The Second Wave, a strategic game designed by IWP interns.

An eight-week summer gaming workshop utilizing the skills of IWP’s intern team resulted in a mid-August presentation at the Connections 2019 wargaming conference at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA, by project coordinator Professor Aaron Danis.  “The poster session at Connections garnered a lot of foot traffic and interest, as it was the only terrorism-themed analytic game at the conference,” stated Professor Danis.

The strategic analytic game, titled 9/11 – The Second Wave, is based on a little-known disrupted al-Qa‘ida plot to attack the West Coast and Midwest with aircraft after the 9/11 attacks.  While al-Qa‘ida was unable to conduct follow-on attacks because of increased U.S. security measures, the plot remained in the mind of 9/11’s primary planner until his arrest in 2003.  This “what if?” game postulates that the Second Wave became the primary targets for 9/11.

Prof. Danis comments: “The purpose of this game is to provide students in my Counterterrorism and the Democracies course with a challenging terrorist scenario on scale with 9/11, while mitigating some of the hindsight bias of those who have read a lot about or have personal experience from 9/11.  Game objectives include counterterrorism response, crisis and consequence management, and indications and warning of further attacks.”

The interns did research into the plot, worked on game mechanics, designed the play map, and drafted the action cards that drive play.  They also did an initial playtest of the first day, which focuses on the actual attack, its consequences, and the U.S. response.

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Rebel Inc is an outstanding iOS game that is also perhaps the best stabilization simulation out there. Now it’s coming to the PC, in an expanded version, Rebel Inc: Escalation.

According to Rock Paper Shotgun, the full and final versaion will be available in late 2020. The early access version is already available on Steam.

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Giaime Alonge has written a thoughtful piece on “Playing the Nazis: Political Implications in Analogue Wars” at Analogue Game Studies.

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Last month, a truck turned too sharply on Interstate 75 in Atlanta and spilled much of its load: 216,000 gaming dice.

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Further details at Kotaku.

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Board-demo.pngThe Military Operations Research Society Cyberspace Wargaming & Analytics II Workshop is taking place 22-24 October in Alexandria, VA.

The primary objective of the workshop is to build upon the success of the 2018 Cyber Wargaming Workshop and continue the collaboration on data, models and wargaming best practices and sharing lessons for current cyberspace wargames and operations.  This includes describing the current state, clarifying gaps and developing solutions for cyberspace operations data, models and wargaming.  The workshops are geared to span the spectrum of wargaming experience from the novice wargamer, who want to increase their knowledge of wargaming techniques in the training working groups, to master game designers, who want to share and increase the wargaming body of knowledge within a cyber-context.  A new addition this year is a working group which will focus on cyber data science.

There is still time to register.

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The American Political Science Association’s 16th annual Teaching and Learning Conference will be held 7-9 February 202 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The conference includes a simulation and gaming track:

Simulations and games can immerse students in an environment that enables them to experience the decision-making processes of real-world political actors. Examples include in-person and online role-play scenarios like the Model European Union and ICONS, off-the-shelf board games, Reacting to the Past, and exercises that model subjects like poverty, institutions of government, and ethnic conflict. This track will examine topics such as the effects of gamification of course content on student motivation and engagement, cognitive and affective outcomes from simulations and games in comparison to other teaching techniques, and the contexts in which the use of simulations and games makes sense for the instructor.

Additional details can be found here.

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Registration is open for the 2019 annual conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association, to be held in Chicago on 6-9 November.

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The Winter conference of the Reacting to the Past Consortium (“Engaging the Future: Purposeful Teaching for Real World Learning”) will take place on 18-19 January 2020 at the University of Georgia. Further information is available here.

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On the subject of conferences, don’t forget that registration is also now open for the Connections North professional wargaming conference at McGill University, Montréal on 15 February 2020, as well as the ATLANTIC RIM megagame on February 16.

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BEAR RISING matrix game

I would like to thank Dani Fenning of NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation for making the BEAR RISING briefing materials available to PAXsims readers.

The full description of the scenarios, together with briefing materials and a map, can be found here. The map alone can be found here.

The briefing pack does not include counters or initial set-up—if running a session, use your best judgment as to what needs to be included. Remember that in a matrix game an asset need not be displayed on a map to be used—it need only exist.


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BEAR RISING is a matrix wargame that examines the political and strategic military pre-crisis actions within the Baltic region amid a failing Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.  Earlier this year NATO Allied Command Operations used BEAR RISING to challenge NATO deterrence planning, strategic thinking and decision making.  Opposing player teams were invited from several external organisations who were subject matter experts in the nations they played, including some more experienced wargamers from US Center for Army Analysis and US Army War College. The game was played over a three day period, with player teams of 2 to 3 in size, beginning a new vignette each day.   Overall, the game met its objectives to challenge NATO’s decision making with deterrence plans and activities, however, one of the unexpected outcomes of the game was the development of a unique narrative through the employment of a white cell “Press Officer” role.  During the game the “Press Officer” supported the development of the narrative by injecting likely media (including social media) and news headlines in direct response to actions made throughout the game.  The vignettes explored three different situations in which NATO nations and Russia faced escalating tension:

  • A Darker Shade of Gray: Ethnic Russian protests in Latvia turn violent because of recent changes to laws regarding language instruction in schools; Russian minority groups in Estonia begin to stage sympathy protests with a widespread social media campaign. Through hybrid tactics Russia seeks to exploit the situation in Latvia to win the narrative and gain popular support.
  • The Islanders: Tensions rise as a NATO vessel returning from a large exercise crashes into a Russian trawler, an unfortunate series of events result in a Russian threat to a NATO partner nation’s territorial integrity in a geo-strategic location.
  • A Bridge Too Far: Social unrest rises as pro-democracy Russian protests against a ‘rigged’ regional election spread across Kaliningrad. Russia demands that Lithuania allows a large-scale deployment of Russian National Guard units via rail. Tensions begin to rise as military postures heighten in the region.

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Wargaming and analysis: reflections on the 13th annual NATO OR&A conference

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On Wednesday, War on the Rocks published a piece by Jon Compton on the obstacles on the road to better analytical wargaming. As Jon tends to be, he was blunt in his assessment:

As an advocate for, and practitioner of, analytical wargaming within the [US] Department of Defense, I’ve witnessed some good things emerge over the past few years, but also enough poor practices to reinforce, to no small extent, the criticisms of gaming made within the operations research community. Peter Perla’s 2016 call to improve wargaming, while widely read and commented on at the time, was mostly ignored by wargame practitioners among federally funded research and development centers, universities, and defense contractors, who, frankly, seem largely content to continue on with business as usual.

Several agencies within the Defense Department, particularly within the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the combatant commands have now seen the effectiveness and impact of a complete analytical process that incorporates wargames and are now beginning to consider how they might do the same thing. The notable exception to this interest has been among more traditional wargame practitioners in the wargame community. To date not a single federally funded research and development center, contractor, or educational institution that purports to provide a wargame service has shown the slightest interest in providing a complete analytical solution that incorporates wargames, nor have they shown interest in analytical ownership of the outcome. To my knowledge, none has even been interested enough to ask what the requirements are. Apparently there is enough demand elsewhere to keep the wargame community busy, and if the reports I’ve read generated from recent wargames are any indication, the BOGSAT is alive and well.

Coincidentally, the day the piece appeared was also the final day of the 13th annual NATO Operations Research & Analysis conference, held this year in Ottawa (full programme here), with a few of the PAXsims crew in attendance. What insight did the conference offer into the issue?

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Ben Taylor (DRDC) at the start of the conference.

First of all, wargaming was very well represented. It formed one of five conference streams, the others being methodology, data-driven analysis, operations, and strategic decision-making. A total of nine presentations on wargaming were delivered:

  • Sue Collins (NATO ACT) gave an excellent presentation on NATO analytical wargaming (SAS-139). She started by making the argument for wargames, but also highlighted several serious challenges (such as rigour, cognitive overload, data collection, game analysis). She discussed where there might be value in automating the process. She also pointed to the value of more effective data visualization, as well as techniques for obtaining greater rigour. The Connections professional wargaming conferences got a prominent shout-out. She concluded with a request for participants to share their insights, issues, and concerns with the NATO SAS-139 panel.
  • Matthew Stevens (Lessons Learned Simulations and Training) presented on simulation-based humanitarian training. He noted that humanitarian organizations do not typically red team their operations, and thus make avoidable mistakes. Furthermore, military wargames tend to portray civilian actors poorly: they are often treated as injects or random events, and rarely does a game give any insight into their concerns and decision-making. He discussed a valuable approach to modelling civilian behaviour this based on 6 key steps: identify lessons to be learned; identifying relevant actors and stakeholders; identify the goals and motivations of those stakeholders; identify the kinds of decisions they take and actions they make; understand the systems and contexts that shape their behaviour and choices; and finally model those systems.
  • Dani Fenning (NATO ACT) addressed analytical wargaming in support of NATO military deterrence options, focusing on the Rising Bear matrix game. Sadly I had to miss some of this, since I was scheduled to run a game of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game at a local high school.
  • Rudy Boonekamp (TNO) outlined how a crowdsourced game could be used to generate insight into radicalization processes, in the context of a larger analytical project on opponent modelling. Psychological research provides insights, which can then be studied through experimentation using gaming techniques. The Opponent Immersion Game is an online, narrative selection (“choose your own adventure”) game in which elements of the narrative can be experimentally manipulated to assess causal relationships. Players provide feedback on their perceptions through dialogue with non-player characters and similar mechanisms. Following his presentation, audience questions addressed how artwork/graphics choices might affect gameplay, participant rewards, ethics approval, and extending the methodology to examine attitudes of other actors. (Coauthors: Vladimir Hazeleger, Lucia Tealdi, Helma van den Berg, Bob van der Vecht.)
  • Håvard Fridheim (FFI)  addressed wargaming reachback support to the headquarters planning process. Military headquarters lack reliable, processed information due to limited ,forward-desployed OR&A capability. Moreover, HQs are limited wargaming expertise and capability. Is it possible to reach back to offsite wargaming? They provided several examples of how this might be done. They also outlined a number of challenges: wargaming must offer real benefits, there may be HQ skepticism regarding the method, and games must be developed and run in a timely fashion that synchs with the planning rhythm. Headquarters may be unwilling to give up some control over the process to external providers. Classification and communication issues need to be overcome. At this point, these are a set of ideas that could be pursued in the Norwegian context. Comments from the audience emphasized the importance of trust in making reachback processes work, with one commentator suggesting that it might be too much to fight the “value of wargaming” and “value of reachback” battles at the same time. Another audience member commented on the difficulties of a remote wargaming site having adequate situational awareness. An parallel point was made about the value of participating in a wargame, versus simply reading about the results. (Coauthor: Stein Malerud.)
  • Pilar Caamaño Sobrino (NATO STO DMRE) looked at combining qualitative and quantitative wargaming approaches to support NATO analysis. She suggested that the largely qualitative outputs of many wargaming leads to problems of inadequate rigour. The combined use of qualitative and quantitative games, coupled with modelling and simulation, improves the quality of data and findings. Qualitative, human-in-the-loop  games (matrix, seminar, red teaming) can be enriched with (M&S) visualization tools. Quantitative (software-inp-the-loop) wargames can be assisted with M&S tools that expand exploration of the problem space. She discussed application of this approach in the case of an A2/AD simulation study, for the development of deployment plans, and for autonomous counter-maritime IED systems. (Coauthors: Alberto Tremori, Lucia Gazzaneo, Wayne Buck.)
  • Abderrahmane Sokri (DRDC) addressed a possible analytical wargaming approach to cyber deterrence. He discussed the logic of deterrence in general, and then applied some of this to potentially gaming cyberattacks. Members of the audience suggested that his approach would be enhanced by a more nuanced representation of the cyber realm, as well as a more complex treatment of deterrence.
  • Koen van der Zwet talked about applying OR game theory analysis to military cooperation, with a focus on logistics This was really a multi-actor optimization question, however, rather than application of a wargaming tool. (Coauthor: Wouter Noordkamp)
  • Mike Larner (Dstl) spoke on “wargaming for strategic decision-makers in the UK”—but since that formed part of the strategic decisions making panels, I missed Mike’s presentation.

Finally, one of the conference keynote addresses was by Stephen Downes-Martin (Naval War College). Stephen emphasized the analytical and ethical responsibility of analysts and sponsors, as well as the possibilities for malpractice. He noted the effect—sometime adverse—that small group dynamics can have on wargames and analysis, especially when actors have preferred outcomes that they would like the game to validate. These are issues he has raised before, notably in his important “Three Witches of WargamingNaval War College Review (2014) article, as well as his February 2019 Connections North presentation.

The non-wargaming panels I attended were good too. I very much enjoyed the keynote by Peter Singer (New America Foundation) on the impact of new technologies. The keynot by Christine Fox (Johns Hopkins APL) was awesome by all accounts, but I missed that as I watched the students of Robert Borden High School deal with a simulated earthquake in Carana.

On the third day of the conference, participants had the option of taking part in a full-day multi-domain wargame, or participating in a wargaming best practices workshop.

The former was run by Altan Ozkil (Atilim University) and Levent Berke Çapli (NATO):

The wargame is played by two teams Red and Blue with four sub-groups, with approximately two persons each sub-group. The four sub-groups represent the Tactical (Battalion) Commander, Joint Staff, STRATCOM Office and Cyber Command. Finally, the city is a green/white cell which is a non-playable character reacting to the team’s activities. All of these groups need to coordinate their activities both before and during the conflict.

The workshop was delivered me, with assistance from Stephen Downes-Martin, who skillfully role-played a problematic boss or sponsor. You’ll find the slides for the wargaming workshop here. I also provided an annotated two page bibliography of useful readings on serious wargaming.

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As to Jon’s point in War on the Rocks, he’s absolutely correct to emphasize that wargaming must form part of a broader, data-driven, methodologically-sound, and results-oriented analytical endeavour, rather than used as a stand-alone tool. Overall, I think both the workshop and the majority of the presentations at the NATO OR&A conference did this.

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Several times in my presentation I highlighted the WWII work of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit, the (predominately female) Royal Navy analysis unit that undertook both all-sources/multi method analysis and games-based professional training. If a small group working with 1940s technology on the upper floor of the Exchange Flags building in Liverpool can get it right, surely we can too?

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One of the readings I recommended was Becca Wasser’s recent New York Times Magazine piece on women in professional wargaming. By my count, around 15% of the wargaming workshop participants were women, as were 30% of the conference wargaming presenters. That’s likely far better than it would have been a few years ago, but also indicative that there is a way to go.

Finally, thanks are due to the organizers. Everything ran very well—even the weather. It  is a shame there wasn’t an even larger contingent of Canadians present, since it was an excellent opportunity to network with NATO and other colleagues. It was also an opportunity to enlighten even more folks from the Department of National Defence and other government departments on the value of OR&A, including serious gaming.


The conference proceedings will eventually be made available through NATO STO. 

13th annual NATO Operations Research & Analysis Conference

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NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (ACT) and the Science and Technology Organization (STO) will be holding the 13th annual NATO Operations Research and Analysis (OR&A) Conference in Ottawa, Canada on 7 to 9 October 2019.

The 2019 theme is Challenges for NATO OR&A in a Changing Global Security Environment. The conference will kick off with a number of keynote addresses and continue in five streams:

  1. Strategic Decision Making
  2. Wargaming
  3. Methodology
  4. Data Driven Analysis
  5. Analysis in Operations

This is a professional conference, is open to participants with expertise in military operations research and professional wargaming/serious games. On Monday and Tuesday there are a series of wargaming panels. On Wednesday there are two optional full-day workshops: one involves participation in a hybrid, multi-domain wargame and the other (led by yours truly) explores wargaming best practices.

Further details can be found here. Registration is via the NATO STO events website. The conference will be conducted at an unclassified level.

CFP: NATO 13th Operations Research and Analysis Conference

 

The NATO 13th Operations Research and Analysis Conference will be held in Ottawa on 7-8 October 2019. The conference is cosponsored by Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and the Science and Technology Organization, and is open to all NATO nations, STO Enhanced Opportunity Partners (Australia, Finland and Sweden) and Partnership for Peace nations.

The 2019 theme is “Challenges for NATO OR&A in a Changing Global Security Environment”. The conference will kick off with a number of keynote addresses and proceed through various streams. The Programme Committee welcomes papers that address the conference theme from different perspectives. Papers describing emerging techniques and approaches as well as case studies of analysis undertaken are equally welcome. Based on the submission of abstracts, the PC will group papers for the conduct of running parallel sessions.

The organizers have issued a call for papers.  Potential presenters are asked to submit an abstract by June 1. To have the widest distribution possible, they ask that presented material should preferably be unclassified.

 

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.

Simulation NATO Trilemma: Strategic Direction South

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The NATO Civil-Military Center of Excellence has issued a report, written by Natalia Wojtowicz, on their NATO Trilemma: Strategic Direction South (SDS) simulation.

TIME The starting point of the simulation was year 2018. The simulation proceeds in turns. Average duration of 4-players iteration is approximately 60 minutes.

SPACE The board represented the SDS/MENA region and the risk level of particular area. There are three categories (see picture below), marked as high risk (RED), medium risk (YELLOW) and low risk (GREEN). This distinction also dictates possible actions of the participants.

PARTICIPANTS This simulation is designed for 2-4 players. The participants have to assume the role of a decision-maker in the region. They will choose between possible actions and try to balance the strategy in three aspects: security, development and population.

MODEL A successful strategy requires a balance between security, development and population. This means, that all actions affect the three elements, providing the view on effects in military, civilian and local perspective.

The general goal is to improve security and development in the region while simultaneously achieving the acceptance of the local population. This goal is supported by resources available to the participants and action which can be undertaken by paying the indicated price.

MAIN FACTORS Improvements are tracked by a scale, ranging from 0 to 10. All participants are starting the simulation at point 0 and can move up the scales. Population is a special scale, which affects the effects of the actions. If the population is not accepting the player, the action remains without effect. In case of neutral attitude, the effect is normal. If the player manages to become recognized as friendly to the population, the effects of improvement are doubled.

WINNING The winning player has to achieve 15 points on two scales in any combination – for example 10 security and 5 infrastructure.

RESOURCES To play an action card, participants have three resources to use: funding (money), personnel and supplies. Those are the costs of possible actions and improvements. To receive more resources, participants have to come back to the Headquarters.

You can read the full report here (pdf). There is also an overview available on the CCOE website.

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Wargaming NATO Eastern Flank: asking the right questions

The following piece has been contributed to PAXsims by Natalia Wojtowicz of the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence. In it, she asks whether wargames focused solely on military response to a Russian conventional attack against NATO might be missing key elements of the picture: alliance resolve, population attitudes, non-kinetic and hybrid operations, crisis management, and conflict mitigation.


Wargaming is largely an intellectual exercise: posing dilemmas before we need to face them in reality. It needs to challenge notions, assumptions and ways of acting. It is about heads making decisions. The problem with NATO Eastern Flank is that we already prepared the answers. We have not given any thought to the question we are posing.[1]

Protracted fighting in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea has awaken the contingency planning for collective defence in NATO. Newly discovered sense of urgency has taken us back to thinking of East-West divide and Cold War times. The question which simulations are currently posing is: How to win the war with Russia? The critical assumption made is that there will be escalation and that the war will be decided by military victory.

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In September, the ZAPAD 2017 military exercise involved large numbers of Russian and Belarus forces. Image source: Sputnik.

The build-up in forces, readiness and narratives has been compared to the Cold War levels.[2] That is exactly the case in point for the question in mind: did the Cold War end as we have simulated it? Was it achieved with final battle between East and West? Was it readiness and tactical brilliance that dissolved Soviet Union? No. It crumbled under population resistance, organized social movements and political craft. Looking backwards might not always provide us with way forward – after all, the world took more than one twisted turn in the last 27 years.[3] Looking South and East of NATO to the destabilized zones, clearly the population has been the trigger for the tensions, the target of the operation and the mobilized force used to achieve political aims.

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Canadian soldiers with NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup Latvia coordinate a plan with a Polish tank commander. Image source: Canadian Armed Forces.

RAND Corporation has wargamed the Russian invasion on the Baltics, promptly concluding that NATO would be left with very limited options, all of them bad.[4] The answer based on the military potential can be calculated with a high degree of accuracy. If we treat the confrontation as blue (friendly) versus red (enemy) forces, simple Lancaster equations would suffice. A counterargument against this predictions is that we have seen different use of force in the East, especially with regards to Ukraine. We also saw different decisive force in the East considerably earlier, which rendered the predictions useless – fall of the Soviet Union.

Second consideration should be given to the objective of NATO. It has been founded for the collective security, which enshrines two elements: territory and population. We can safely conclude that NATO territory is not under attack (despite intense wargaming aimed at Northern-Eastern borders). On the other hand, we can also easily enumerate attacks which targeted population. This leads to the need for adaptation: first in thinking, second in the environment we nurture and third in responses we can employ.

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Meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence – Brussels, 8 and 9 November 2017. Image source: NATO.

Think of it as a deck of cards. Even simplest two-player game starts with a goal. For NATO, this goal is to preserve peace by preparing for war. It is of utter importance not to confuse this two. The end is the peace and the mean is the military alliance. The ends and means have been mixed – we are wargaming the military confrontation to prove our peace objectives. This translates to having two cards instead of a deck of 52 – peacetime and all-out war. If you look to the enemy, it is testing this resolve – where is the line in the sand that pushes NATO to war. Can I destabilize the situation without collective response? The example of cyber-attack on Estonia following the removal of Soviet monuments in 2007 has shown Russia is playing their cards on the whole spectrum. NATO has regained its stance, confirming that cyber-attack can be recognized as a trigger for an Article 5 (collective defence). The problem is, this declaration followed in 2014. Adaptation rate was slower than the testing resolve. It also did not offer proportionate response options, which need to be available at first in the wargame, and eventually in reality.

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LOCKED SHIELDS 2017 cyberdefence exercise in Estonia. Image source: NATO CCDCOE.

What has not been recognized is that Ukraine has not fallen prey to all-out conventional attack – what NATO has named as the “hybrid warfare”, the Russian doctrine has labelled as New Generation Warfare. Putting the terminology aside, it has become apparent and urgent that different forces are at play. The question, which needs to be to starting point for NATO Eastern Flank wargaming is: how to prevent war with Russia?

To this question, new cards can be created, bridging the gap between all-peace and all-war. If we retreat to reality as the live laboratory, additional non-kinetic capabilities come to mind and people stand in the way of clinical strike. Our prepared answers do not fit the questions – raised readiness and posturing at the Eastern Flank can represent the cards needed to win the military confrontation with Russia. To prevent the war, we need proportionate response to testing of NATO resolve, means that enshrine population from attacks below Article 5 threshold and most importantly, full-deck-of-cards concept of security. In short, we must ask the right question: how to keep the peace, not how to win the war.


[1] Along several wargaming sessions on NATO platforms and independent simulations, the defence of Eastern Flank has been mostly based on military means, e.g. Potomac Foundation Hegemon Simulator.

[2] This rhetoric of intensified military exercises has been visible in NATO and Russian media. See, for example, this report in the Guardian.

[3] Counting the year 1989/1990 as the decisive time of Soviet Union dissolution.

[4] Reinforcing NATO Deterrence at Eastern Flank, full report available here.

The Austin Archaria Experiment

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Allan Shearer (School of Architecture and Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Texas at Austin) has kindly shares his report on the “Austin Archaria Experiment,” which explored the action and interaction of key local stakeholders in the context of NATO peace and stabilization mission.

PURPOSE

This discovery experiment explored potential dynamics among key host nation and international community actors who could contribute to social order in the Archaria 2035 scenario. It follows from several conversations held during the 2016 NATO Urbanisation Wargame on ways civilian stakeholders might expand or limit options for military courses of action during high intensity conflict.

The experiment was predicated on the following propositions:

• That governance significantly contributes to, if not establishes the basis for, the stability of a populated area (region, nation state, city).

• That governance is achieved through combinations of governmental offices, public institutions, and markets.

• That successful compositions of governance (that is, combinations of government, institutions, and markets) vary due to local social and cultural factors.

• That the relative importance of government offices, public institutions, and markets will change over time.

• That a stable social order can include illegitimate actors who wield power beyond the rule of law.

• That in times of acute stress related to unprecedented or little imagined situations, power within and among sectors of governance will be contested and may change abruptly.

• That fluid conditions of governance may reduce the bases for stability and will, therefore, be a critical factor in a dynamic military operating environment.

METHOD

The method of the experiment followed from the RAND Corporation Research Memorandum ‘Factional Debates and National Commitments: The Multidimensional Scenario’ (1967), which sought to game how governments within a region would respond to a crisis situation for which postures or positions had not been previously stated. It assumed that a given state’s official stance would emerge through interactions among various stakeholders in or near the national government.

Thirteen roles were developed for Archaria. This relatively large number reflected assumptions with regard to the fragility of the Archarian government, uncertainties about state and city government interactions in the provision of basic services, and the ability of non-governmental actors to exert influence. Each role has an assigned primary interest, a limited ability to act, and a set of connections to other roles. However, as a layer of complexity, the underlying personal values that motivate (or partially motivate) a given interest are made intentionally ambiguous through each actor’s biographical profile.

As such, while it is possible to read the profiles and have an initial understanding of what each character will pursue in the near term, participants must contribute their own interpretations of the background material to round-out or complete the portrayal of a role. Subsequent interactive gameplay requires that these added assumptions be declared and allows for a more nuanced assessment of negotiated decisions.

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The scenario (based on the Archaria 2035 scenario being used by NATO ACT to explore the effects of urbanization on military operations) involved growing militarized tensions between Positania and Catan:

The region spanning Yorbia to Central Landia is characterized by ongoing political upheaval and economic disruptions related to globalization, migration, climate change, cyber-attacks, and transnational crime. Centrium and North Yorbia pose global problems due to the rise of extremist groups that strike around the world. In the center of the region, relationships between Positania and Catan have significantly deteriorated over the last year due to: (1) Positania’s strengthening political ties with the Confederation of Northlandia Nations (CNN) and its efforts to join NATO, and (2) The increasing economic importance of the Port of Archaria, which is critical not only for Positania, but for global trade. These two issues are combined in escalating tensions over the control of the primary routes across the Sidonian Sea. Within Positania, people are divided over the short- and long-term bene ts of better relationships with CNN or Catan. The majority of middle- and upper-class Neapolitans see a more prosperous and independent future through partnerships with the North. Those living in crowded slums are distrustful of Catan and opposed to its aggressive posturing, but they also believe policies of the Northlandia Nations have worsened their standard of living. Ethnic Catans living in Archaria—some families for generations— feel they are not fully enfranchised citizens in Positania. Alongside state-level geopolitical maneuvers, factions and stakeholders operate at Archaria to influence the way the city functions and shape its relationships with other municipalities.

May 1, 2035: United Nations’ Security Resolution 12991 condemns the Government of Catan for its failure to abide by international law and authorizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to deploy a response force (known as the NATO Positania Force or NPF) for an initial period of twelve months. NPF is to support the efforts of the government of Positania to ensure sovereignty and integrity of its national borders and to safeguard the freedom of navigation in the Sidonian Sea. Further, NATO is to support the creation of a safe and secure environment for the civilian led delivery of humanitarian assistance and the voluntary return of internally displaced persons and refugees. The President of Positania has offered host nation facilities to a multinational NATO force that would deploy in support of peace and stability.

The NATO military instrument of power will be complemented by the political and economic instruments of power of the International Community and the significant role played by the Positania’s armed forces.

The response involves achieving three objectives: (1) Military threat to Positania posed by Catan is degraded and the territorial integrity of Positania is restored. (2) Freedom of movement in South Landia, and, in particular, the Sidonian Sea is maintained. (3) Safe and Secure Environment (SASE) for humanitarian assistance is supported.

TODAY—June 20, 2035: Catan forces are arrayed in defensive positions in a band along the north-south autostrada A1 from autostrada A3 in the south to highway 57 in the north. Catan forces have been unable to secure either the port or airport of Archaria; however, both are within indirect re range of Catan forces’ artillery, mortars, and air defense weapons. Catan forces have been actively patrolling and probing along their frontage and are in position to launch local attacks against lightly defended targets. Additionally, Catan is focusing its psychological warfare campaign and perception-shaping efforts against the citizens of Positania. It is maintaining that conflict in the region would not exist if it were not for the bullying and intimidation of the Confederation of Northlandia Nations and NATO allies. The message has been generally well received by governments across the region and it has inflamed the emotions of Archarian citizens of Catan descent.

You’ll find the full report here (pdf).

“Our Sea”—An Eastern Mediterranean matrix game

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The ever-prolific Tom Mouat has completed the design of another matrix game, this time devoted to strategic jockeying by Russia, NATO, and others in the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean:

President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin has sought to reverse the post-Cold War era transformations during which Russia lost its satellites, withdrew militarily from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), forfeited its regional predominance, and curtailed its international power projection. Moscow’s primary strategic objective under the Putin presidency is to create a Eurasian bloc of states under predominant Russian influence that will necessitate containing, undermining and reversing NATO influence throughout eastern Europe. Even where it cannot pressure or entice its neighbours to integrate in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Kremlin attempts to neutralize nearby capitals by preventing them from moving into Western institutions, particularly NATO and the European Union (EU).

In this strategic context, Russia’s supremacy in the Black Sea becomes critical for restoring its east European and Eurasian dominion, as well as projecting power toward the Mediterranean and Middle East. Its offensives in and around the Black Sea are part of a larger anti-NATO strategy in which naval forces play a significant and growing role. Russia is using the Black Sea as a more advantageous method of revisionism than extensive land conquests. Control of ports and sea lanes delivers several benefits: it prevents NATO from projecting sufficient security for its Black Sea members; deters the intervention of littoral states on behalf of vulnerable neighbours; threatens to choke the trade and energy routes of states not in compliance with Russia’s national ambitions; and gives Moscow an enhanced ability to exploit fossil fuels in maritime locations.

All of this assumes particular significance, of course, against the backdrop of Russian deployment of its (rather dilapitated) aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to support combat operations in Syria, reports that NATO is again playing hide-and-seek with Russian attack submarines in the Med (and vice-versa), continued conflict in the Ukraine, political uncertainty in Turkey, the regional migrant crisis, and the growing value of eastern Mediterranean oil and gas deposits.

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The actors represented in the game include the US, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Cyprus, and the UK, and turns represent around 2-4 weeks. Rules, counters, and maps are included, and can be downloaded from here (pdf).

2016 NATO urban wargame: first impressions

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Scott Kinner (Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group) recently returned from participating in the 2016 NATO Urban Operations Wargame that was held 28 September to 7 October at the NATO Defense College in Rome:

The wargame utilized personnel from 18 member countries, dividing them into four brigade teams, each of which worked a MEB-level problem set placed in a 2035, smart city, of 5.7 million people.

The wargame addressed offensive, defensive, stability, and expeditionary activities using three vignettes; joint forcible entry into an urban area, offensive and defensive actions to defeat an enemy in an urban area, and transition to host nation government. The brigade teams analyzed proposed 2035 capabilities, and discovered new ones, by fighting each vignette twice – first as today’s force against a 2035 enemy, and then again with 2035 capabilities.

While the wargame would have identified capability requirements and gaps, the presence of Marines proved instrumental in maximizing the event’s potential. This presence, to include a substantial number of practitioners from the Operating Forces, allowed the Marine Corps to fully exploit the game and develop a draft operating concept for the urban environment that will nest under the Marine Operating Concept and join the rest of the Marine Corps family of operating concepts….

You’ll find Scott’s full unclassified “first impressions” report here (pdf).

More information on the wargame can be found at the website of the NATO Modelling and Simulation Centre of Excellence, while broader background information on NATO’s current urbanization project can be found at the NATO ACT website.

h/t Scott Kinner 

Simulation and gaming miscellany, 14 October 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. Ryan Kuhns contributed to this latest edition.

PAXsims

Strategic Crisis Simulations

Strategic Crisis Simulations will be holding its next simulation, Rising Tides: A Simulation of Regional Crisis and Territorial Competition in the East China Sea, on 7 November 2015 at George Washington University:

The East China Sea is one of the most contested regions in the existing geopolitical climate. A small body of water, whose mass is dwarfed by the world’s oceans, the East China Sea is hotly divided, with overlapping claims by four different regional actors: Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea. Though the exact territorial claims vary from state to state, all actors have held firm in their demands, and recent aggressive expansionism has once more brought the East China Sea to the forefront of geopolitical focus. This tension is fueled by the immense strategic and economic value of the region: the East China Sea is home to an abundance of marine life, rich fishing grounds, vast natural gas reserves, and several highly strategic trade arteries, all of which are integral to the economies to the surrounding regional actors. These attributes combine to make the East China Sea one of the most economically valuable, and strategically advantageous, oceanic regions in the world.

This simulation will examine the complex maze that actors must negotiate when dealing with the tense social, political, and military dilemmas currently occurring in the East China Sea. Participants will assume the roles of influential policymakers, and must work with both state and non-state regional actors to execute comprehensive and multilateral government responses to issues ranging from great power politics, piracy, and natural resource conflicts; to state bargaining dilemmas, humanitarian assistance, and collective action problems. Participants will have the unique opportunity to grapple with serious questions of national interest through the eyes of the government of the United States and the People’s Republic of China as they are divided into teams in order to develop their respective policies and agendas. Participants will need to develop strategies in line with their team’s objectives to manage a variety of crises and react to actions from other teams. Whether through the Politburo or the National Security Council; the Pentagon or Central Military Commission; the Ministry of State Security or the Central Intelligence Agency; participants will be challenged to work together to develop policy solutions for the complex myriad of issues that will determine the fate of the East China Sea.

PAXsims

USIPAlso in Washington DC, the United States Institute of Peace will be offering a course United Nations Peacekeeping Today: Why it Matters on 2-4 November 2015:

By the end of this course, participants will understand:

  • The new and challenging environment that confronts UN peace operations, including asymmetrical warfare, terrorist operations, drone surveillance, and organized crime.
  • The planning and implementation of modern peace operations, including the roles played by the Security Council, NATO, EU, AU, troop contributing countries and the United States.
  • The key issues confronting UN peacekeeping and the recommendations of the High Level Panel’s Report and the Presidential Summit for going forward.
  • The planning of a peace operation through interactive role play with a diverse group of well-informed fellow professionals.

The course includes a simulation/role-play exercise on planning for a fictional UN Mission in Equatorial Kundu (UNIMEK). More information is available at the link above.

PAXsims

The latest (Summer/Fall 2015) newsletter of the American Political Science Association political science education section, The Political Science Educator, contains a short article on AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game:

After the earthquake that devastated the capital, aid was slow to reach the slums of District 3. Poor coordination resulted in duplication of effort in some areas, and shortages of essential aid supplies in others. The port and airport remained severely damaged, creating transportation bottlenecks. The latest reports suggested a cholera outbreak too. It was no surprise that social unrest was growing.

The vignette above is drawn from AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game. AFTERSHOCK was developed for classroom use to highlight the challenges of multilateral coordination in the context of a natural disasters or complex humanitarian emergencies. The game has spread well beyond its initial use at McGill University, and has been taken adopted for professional training of aid workers, peacekeeping personnel, and military officers. This article briefly describes the genesis of the project, the development and production of the game, and some thoughts about using it in the classroom.

You read the whole thing here.

PAXsims

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The NATO website briefly summarizes a North Atlantic Council crisis simulation for European university students held in Forli, Italy last week:

“How does the North Atlantic Council (NAC) respond to an emerging crisis situation?”

That was the question posed to 28 students from leading European Universities from throughout Europe, including Cork, Dublin, Bath, Lisbon, Palermo, Istanbul and Pavia, as well as the European University Institute in Florence, in a realistic re-enactment of a NAC session.

Based on the Memorandum of Understanding with NATO, the University of Bologna, School of Political Sciences, hosted the 9th North Atlantic Council Simulation (NATO Model Event) in Forli, Italy, 8-9 October 2015.

During the NAC simulation, the students explored, discussed and seek resolution to a fictitious scenario, led by Lieutenant Colonel Alfonso Alvarez, Commander Matteo Minelli and supported by Ms Tracey Cheasley, Mr Nicola Nasuti, Ms Cristina Siserman from Allied Command Transformation Strategic Plans & Policy Branch (ACT SPP) and Lieutenant Commander Dave Jones from ACT StratCom.

As an evaluation, the students participating to the event stressed that the realism of the discussions, decision-making and eventual consensus on actions, cannot be overstated and that they are very glad to be able to take part in this simulation.

Finally, Lieutenant Colonel Alvarez mentioned his gratitude to return to the University of Bologna to stage the NATO Model Event this year.”The Sala del Consiglio, Fondazione Cassa Dei Risparmi Di Forli is a perfect venue for the event and we are welcomed here with most gracious hospitality. It is a real honour to showcase our NAC simulation here at the university with such enthusiastic and well-prepared students.” he added.

As part of SACT’s Educational Outreach programme, NATO Model Events are held in Turkey, Italy and the USA throughout the year to help students and faculty members learn more about NATO and to understand more about the countries that they represent and that make up the Alliance.

PAXsims

A recent article by Quintin Smith in The Guardian highlights those aspects of the boardgaming experience that digital games cannot truly replicate.

Surely there’s nothing a board game can do that a video game can’t do better, right?

After all, board games are so limited. You have to fit them on a table, and make them out of real, tangible stuff. Video games can do whatever you can imagine!

And the best video games should already be stealing from board games. I think game designers ought to be out-and-out burglars, pausing their larceny only to remix and rethink the latest haul of ideas.

But there are also things that make board and card games great that can’t be stolen. At least, not yet. Those elements that exist only within the sphere of real-life cards, smiles and dining room tables.

He goes on to identify three characteristics of boardgames that are hard to replicate with artificial intelligence or in a digital environment: bluffing, physicality, and ownership. (Be sure to read the readers’ comments too for further thoughtful discussion on the topic.)

PAXsims

According to research highlighted in the New Scientist, the placebo effect works in videogames too:

Even in virtual worlds, life is what you make of it. A study has found that gamers have more fun when they think a video game has been updated with fancy new features – even when that’s not true.

Paul Cairns, a professor of human-computer interaction at the University of York, UK, wondered if the placebo effect translates into the world of video games after watching a TV programme about how a sugar pill had improved cyclists’ performance.

“People have a preconception that a little round white pill that doesn’t taste nice will have a certain effect on their physiology,” says Cairns. “It’s changing your perceptions of the world around you in some profound way.”

To test their idea, he and colleague Alena Denisova asked 21 people to play two rounds of Don’t Starve, an adventure game in which the player must collect objects using a map in order to survive.

In the first round, the researchers told the players that the map would be randomly generated. In the second, they said it would be controlled by an “adaptive AI” that could change the map based on the player’s skill level. After each round, the players filled out a survey.

In fact, neither game used AI – both versions of the game were identically random. But when players thought that they were playing with AI, they rated the game as more immersive and more entertaining. Some thought the game was harder with AI, others found it easier – but no one found it equally challenging.

“The adaptive AI put me in a safer environment and seemed to present me with resources as needed,” said one player.

“It reduces the time of exploring the map, which makes the game more enjoyable,” said another.

A different experimental design, with 40 new subjects, confirmed the effect. This time, half of the players were put in a control group and told that the game was random, while the other half thought the game had built-in AI….

PAXsims

Ahmed Moussa is a controversial Egyptian television host known for his strong support for former Egyptian dictator Husni Mubarak. He’s also a strong supporter of Russian intervention in Syria, and recently broadcast apparent satellite images that showed Russian helicopters at work, hunting down terrorists…

…except that it was actually imagery from the 2010 video game Apache: Air Assault.

PAXsims

Pocket Tactics, which reviews  iOS and Android games, is taking over The Wargame. They also will soon be launching a new site, Strategy Gamer, devoted to stragey games on all digital platforms as well as tabletops. As a result, they’re looking for writers and game reviewers:

If you want to join Dave and Kelsey and the gang, now’s the time — the first call for writers we’ve put out since 2012. We’re looking for reviewers to do 2 to 3 (paid!) reviews per month. We’re also looking for another news writer, somebody who can write funny, insightful news posts most weekdays — also a paid gig.

You’ll find more on how to apply here.

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Heading back to Raleigh and Fjordland

I am in Brussels and have been invited back to the troubled island of Raleigh by NATO and will be facilitating one of the syndicates over the next few days, more from the mid-Atlantic, Internet permitting.

simulations miscellany, 28 April 2012

A few recent items that might be of interest to PAXsims readers:

  • Drew Hamilton has reviewd Phil Sabin’s recent book Simulating War at Times Higher Education. It is good to see the book getting notice outside the wargaming community, since it has much to offer to both teachers and historians.
  • Robert Hossal—a student in Phil’s conflict simulation course at King’s College London—has finished his class assignment/wargame of the 2007 Baghdad security plan, Fardh al-Qanoon. You’ll find both the game and his reflections on the design process over at his Smart War blog.
  • Strategy & Tactics Press will be launching a new war-game magazine on the modern era, Modern War, in June.
  • There’s been loads of excellent discussion lately at both the Simulating War Yahoo group, and over at the Wargaming Connection website.
  • Earlier this month, Catalysts for Change—a “48-hour online game to engage people around the world to reimagine the future of poverty and global well-being”—was held. The game (which is more of a crowd-sourcing/social media tool) was produced using the Foresight Engine platform designed by Jane McGonigal and developed by Institute for the Future (it all looks very MMOWGLI-like). I’m afraid that I was rather underwhelmed by the general quality of the discussion. Measuring the impact on social engagement is a a trickier issue, though—do initiatives like this lead to social activism, or digital slacktivism?
  • NATO recently released its first serious training game app for mobile devices, an Android version of Boarders Ahoy! The game is designed to improve maritime interdiction skills, or more precisely boarding and search procedures. You can read about the game’s development on the Caspian Learning website, and the game itself can be downloaded from the Google Play marketplace.

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