Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Tag Archives: NDU

The New World Order comes to NDU


Earlier this year, we ran a very successful New World Order 2035 megagame at McGill University, overseen by the infamous Jim Wallman.

Now he’s back, and taking the capital of the Free World/global capitalism/neoimperialism/Pax Americana by storm:

When: Tuesday and Wednesday, May 24-25, 9:30-4:00

Where: National Defense University, Ft. McNair, Washington, DC

What: Jim Wallman will demonstrate his techniques for designing and running larger-scale games by presenting New World Order, a Megagame set in the not-so-distant future.  NDU’s Center for Applied Strategic Learning is hosting the event as a way to better understand the Megagame format – the focus will be on learning the format rather than maximizing gameplay, but it should be a useful experience for all.

How to attend: email to register and to receive directions, or if you have any questions.

“Burning Shadows”: Toward matrix gaming as a tool for joint professional military education

PAXsims has been pleased to publish a variety of pieces on matrix games, including various iterations of ISIS Crisis, Ben Taylor’s analysis of serious matrix game techniques, and a report on the use of matrix games at the US Army War College.

This latest piece has been contributed by Luke Nicastro and Ian Platz from the Center for Advanced Strategic Learning, National Defense University.



At the National Defense University’s Center for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL), we develop experiential learning materials in support of the university’s core academic mission of joint professional military education (JPME). Essentially, we support the component colleges here by providing course-relevant wargames and exercises, with a particular emphasis on current and future strategic-level security challenges.

In view of its importance to the curriculum here, much of our work is centered on examining unconventional or ‘gray’ conflict. For our purposes, gray conflicts are characterized by low to medium intensity fighting (which, though pervasive, stays below the threshold for conventional conflict), the substantial use of non-kinetic tools, and the extensive involvement of non-state actors. The complexity of gray conflict makes it difficult to model through traditional tabletop gaming, since formal rulesets tend both to obscure and restrict students’ understanding of precisely those dynamics most crucial to an understanding of gray conflict. In search of another way to ‘gameify’ gray conflict, we came across the work being done by other wargaming professionals with matrix gaming. With its lack of comprehensive rules, inclusion of abstract concepts, and emphasis on structured argumentation, matrix gaming struck us as a potentially valuable tool for national security practitioners to explore dynamics of unconventional conflict. To test its applicability at CASL, we created a matrix game focused on Libya, to which we’ve given the working title “Burning Shadows.”

Libya Map North

Libya was chosen as the focus of our game for a number of reasons. The current situation in the country exhibits all of the most salient characteristics of gray conflict – a multiplicity of ill-defined actors, endemic low to mid-intensity conflict, and the prevalence of unconventional/non-kinetic tools. Libya is also becoming increasingly important to U.S. interests and operations in the Middle East and North Africa, even as it remains understudied and ill-understood (especially compared to Iraq and the Levant). Centering a game on Libya thus creates an opportunity for national security professionals to focus on the country in an academic, JPME environment. Additionally, the setting allowed us to utilize many of the dynamics present in ISIS Crisis, which served as an invaluable guide for us as we developed “Burning Shadows”.

Though the game was developed in January 2016, it is intended to reflect whatever situation exists in Libya at the time of gameplay. A basic map of territorial control is included in the game materials, but facilitators are encouraged to update the setup based on changes in the geopolitical situation. There are four playable factions in “Burning Shadows”: the House of Representatives (HoR), based in Tobruk; the General National Congress (GNC), based in Tripoli; the Islamic State (IS), based in Sirte; and Western partner countries/NATO. These four factions represent the most important geopolitical actors in Libya, and are described in detail in the game materials. As in ISIS Crisis, there is also a one-page role sheet for each faction, giving players an overview of their position, objectives, relationship to other factions, and special conditions. In addition to these playable factions, several other state and non-state actors (e.g. neighboring governments, tribal militias) can be controlled either by a facilitator or subject matter expert.

Libya Map South

Gameplay is represented on two large maps of Libya – one depicting the country’s Mediterranean coastline and the other showing its vast interior. By splitting up the map into two separate sections, we hope to emphasize the drastic difference between the two regions’ operating environments. More than 85% of the Libyan population lives in urban settlements along the Mediterranean, and the majority of Libya’s oil production is also located in this region. Southern Libya, by contrast, is sparsely populated and lightly governed. The vast wastes of the Sahara render it difficult for Libya’s rival governments to project power, and it is often the region’s indigenous populations (e.g. the Tebu and Tuareg ethnic groups) that are best-placed to act.

Gameplay is turn-based, with players making their moves in a set sequence (HoR -> GNC -> IS -> NATO). Turns are divided into two phases – Diplomatic and Movement. During the Diplomatic phase (which should last no longer than four minutes), the current player undertakes whatever negotiations or communications he/she may wish to make with other players and factions. After these have been concluded, the Movement phase begins, in which the current player outlines the major action they intend to take and provides relevant supporting arguments, which are adjudicated and then resolved. Each player is allowed to undertake one major action on the northern board and one on the southern board.

We’ve run a few ‘playtests’ of “Burning Shadows”, mainly among others in our office. Overall, we’ve been satisfied with the way the game runs, particularly the quality (and intensity!) of the discussions it’s generated. However, there are two persistent challenges we’ve run into. The first is probably an inevitable consequence of the subject matter – the complexity of and participant unfamiliarity with the Libyan situation (even after background reading and an introductory briefing) tends to create uncertainty and paralysis among players during the first few moves. Unsure of what a reasonable or ‘typical’ move might look like, new players often spend inordinate amounts of time planning actions, slowing down gameplay and impeding the flow that is so crucial to matrix game success. Although there is no way to remedy this altogether, one solution we’ve adopted has been the use of “suggested move templates” for the first turn, along with robust suggestions from facilitators.

The second challenge is one that I believe to be common to matrix gaming as a whole – the question of victory. The participants that have been generous enough to ‘playtest’ this game have observed that it is difficult to coherently organize strategies without a clear idea of a) how you win; and b) how you know you’re winning (or losing). There is a general concept of victory – physical/strategic control of Libya – but nothing more specific, and few metrics along the way. While matrix gaming can absolutely create a valuable forum for discussion and analysis without clear victory conditions/pathways, we believe that it would be optimal, especially when dealing with an understudied environment like Libya, to have those incentive structures present. This is a problem we’re currently working on –we have no answers yet, and would welcome and all input on ways of integrating victory conditions and metrics into the matrix game format.

We see this game (and JPME-focused matrix gaming in general) as a way of extending the DoD’s call for “increased innovation through wargaming” from the analytic into the educational sphere. The uniquely free-flowing nature of matrix games, the lack of constraints on participant action, and the entirely player-driven scenario progression together create a unique opportunity to foster precisely the sort of innovation and creative thinking demanded of national security professionals.

The game materials for “Burning Shadows” – which include instructions, role descriptions, map boards, and tokens – are still in draft form, but we’d be more than happy to send the current drafts to those who are interested. For more information, questions, ideas, or just to talk shop, we can be reached at and

Luke Nicastro is a defense analyst at NDU’s Center for Applied Strategic Learning in Washington, D.C. Ian Platz is a defense consultant from Booz Allen Hamilton working in support of NDU’s wargaming capabilities.




Yesterday Gary Milante and I ran a couple of demonstration games of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at National Defense University in Washington DC. David Becker—who had served as the Stabilization Coordinator at the US Embassy in Haiti during the 2010 earthquake, and who was one of the original resource people for the project—was in attendance too. It was nice to bring the game back to NDU, since AFTERSHOCK has its origins in the Connections interdisciplinary wargaming conference “game lab” held there in 2012.   They had even set up a nice display poster to welcome us!

Gary and the welcome poster—I think we were both jealous they had a large format colour printer to hand.

Gary and the welcome poster—I think we were both jealous they had a large format colour printer so readily to hand.

After a short orientation to the design philosophy of the game, and an equally short overview of how game play works, we then threw everyone into the deep end with two games of eight players each. In general we find that confusion and even a bit of chaos at the start of game play helps generate an appropriate atmosphere. After all, a catastrophic earthquake has just struck!

In the game I facilitated the group was initially overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, but soon began to get a handle on things. The international military “Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Task Force” focused on opening up the port and airport, thereby allowing an adequate number of relief supplies to flow into the country. The NGO team proved especially good at planning ahead, while the UN played a major role in supporting a relief-to-development transition through infrastructure repairs in the latter part of the game. Cluster meetings were used to coordinate humanitarian response. The local government often took a lead in suggesting collective priorities.

My group discusses how best to allocate scarce human and material resources.

The group discusses how best to allocate scarce human and material resources.

The players were rather slower to recognize the importance of buttressing the already shaky government of Carana, however. Towards the end, some social unrest had even begun to appear.

President Becker and Vice-President Fox of Carana review conditions in their earthquake-ravaged country.

President Becker and Vice-President Fox of Carana review conditions in their earthquake-ravaged country.

Fortunately, effective relief operations—coupled my a last-minute public information campaign by the government—helped to stabilize the situation, and the players all achieved a victory.

The players in the other game were less fortunate. They had an incredibly unlikely draw of cards in the initial turns, and ultimately triggered the -30 relief points “instant lose” condition. They continued to play, however, so that they could explore the game mechanics.

Conditions were especially severe in Gary's game. Of course, natural disasters aren't fair, and some are much worse than others.

Conditions were especially severe in Gary’s game. Of course, natural disasters aren’t fair, and some are much worse than others.

I hope the participants found the experience useful and enjoyable—we certainly had a great time running the games.

(For more information on AFTERSHOCK, click the tab at the top of the page.)

NDU CASL: Roundtables on Innovation in Strategic Gaming (10/10/2013)


The Center for Applied Strategic Learning at National Defense University will be holding another one of their “Roundtables on Innovation in Strategic Gaming” on Thursday, 10 October 2013 at NDU.

National Defense University’s strategic gaming group, the Center for Applied Strategic Learning, would like to invite you to participate in the thirteenth session of our roundtable discussions on gaming. Our intent is to continue to build a regular forum for practitioners and scholars to exchange ideas and compare notes about issues relating to game design, the use of games for analytical and teaching purposes, and interesting projects in the field. We will also have an audio feed available via internet streaming or teleconference (depending on technical issues), which we hope will make it easier for colleagues outside the Washington, DC area to participate. (Please contact one of the organizers for more information about the audio feed.)

Each roundtable invites a few speakers to present short, informal, talks on some aspect of strategic-level games to spark discussion among the group. Please feel free to circulate this invitation to interested colleagues – we’re hoping this will be a means of getting to know and building lasting professional connections between gamers.

Speakers: Scott Martin of George Mason University will present on Mason’s academic initiatives in computer game design, as well as an overview of the Serious Games Institute. Kristan Wheaton of Mercyhurst University’s Intelligence Studies program will speak on “The Five Myths of Game-Based Learning.”

For further information, contact:, or the coorganizers:

Tim Wilkie, Research Fellow, Center for Applied Strategic Learning, National Defense University: (202) 433-4865,

Elizabeth Bartels, Research Analyst, Center for Applied Strategic Learning, National Defense University: (202) 685-2634,


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CASL: Operations Research and Wargaming


The folks at the Center for Applied Strategic Learning at National Defense University will be convening another of their “Lectures on Strategic Gaming” on January 24th at 1130-1230. The speaker this time will LTC Mary Lou Hall (J8, Studies, Analysis and Gaming Division), who will presenting “We’re All McNamara’s Children: Connections between operations research and wargaming”.

As part of CASL’s efforts to reach a broad segment of the gaming community, the series will be conducted in a distributed environment. In this case, the event on January 24th will be held as a teleconference. To participate in the teleconference on January 24th, please RSVP to The presentation will later be publicly available here from the CASL website.

For those who have not joined us for this series in the past, the aim of the lectures is to create a resource for educating “journeyman” gamers outside of the dominant mentorship training methodology. The resulting library of presentations will help to bring gaming expertise and lessons-learned out ofisolation and ensure they are accessible to a wider community.

NDU Roundtable on Strategic Gaming (10 December 2012)

The Center for Applied Strategic Learning at National Defence University has announced that the next of their roundtable series on innovations in strategic gaming will be held at NDU (Washington DC) on December 10. Col Uwe Heilmann of the German Air Force will present on the use of commercial-off-the-shelf board wargames for leadership competence training, based on his work at NATO’s Joint Air Power Competence Center. Dr. Scott Martin of George Mason University will present on Mason’s academic initiatives in computer game design, as well as an overview of the Serious Games Institute.

More details can be found here.

Peck on “Washington’s War on Wargaming”

Pentagon budget-cutters descend upon NDU.

At Kotaku today, Michael Peck decries the Pentagon decision to cut funding for National Defense University, and especially the Centre for Applied Strategic Learning:

The only thing that’s cheap about war is the gaming. The US military services and their assorted war colleges, the Department of Defense and various thinktanks do quite a bit of wargaming of potential conflicts such as Iran. Compared to a billion-dollar aircraft carrier, wargaming isn’t terribly expensive (all you really need is a table, chairs, coffee and danish, and PowerPoint). It’s a lot less expensive than learning the hard way in war.

Now, to the military, wargaming doesn’t mean games. It’s actually an analytical technique in the Military Decision Making Process, which essentially means analysing the likely outcomes of various choices and then making the best one. Nonetheless, what Joe Gamer thinks of as wargames — simulations involving players, maps, playing pieces and goals — is done by the military.

But one bastion of military wargaming is under assault. National defence University, at Fort McNair in Washington DC, is the Pentagon’s flagship for joint professional military education. It’s where officers leave the cloistered world of their individual service and come together to study joint high-level strategy and operations. “Jointness” is a fuzzy word but an important concept. Though sometimes the American military services seem to be at war with each other, modern warfare is a combined endeavour; the army needs ships and planes to get overseas, the navy needs the army because ships can’t occupy territory, and the air force provides an umbrella for both (and needs both to protect its airfields).

A vital part of that training is the centre for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL), which conducts wargames for military and civilian personnel, Congressional staffers, and even a journalist like me, who had a chance to play the Gemstone counterinsurgency game.

But NDU’s budget is being slashed by Pentagon staffers who believe that the college is too expensive, wasteful and is doing too much namby-pamby intellectual education instead of focusing on real military education. CASL is being chopped by half, which means a much less robust wargaming capability. Though all of the military is feeling the pain of budget cuts, what is happening to NDU and CASL is an example of the military mind at its narrow worst….

Michael has weighed in on this before, in a piece back in August at Foreign Policy. We agree with him, too—see our earlier take on the situation at NDU.

Picture above: The Gamer’s Table blog.

Anxiety in the archipelago of gaming excellence: NDU faces “alignment”

Last week, Michael Peck had a piece at Foreign Policy Magazine highlighting both the impending cuts and the (re)alignment of priorities at National Defense University:

The budget axe is descending on National Defense University, the Pentagon’s flagship institution for professional military education. The cuts come amid controversy over whether NDU should focus solely on Joint Professional Military Education (JPME), which addresses military strategy and cooperation between the services, or whether it should also serve as a think-tank for strategic analysis. According to an internal Pentagon document, the Joint Chiefs of Staff want NDU to stick to JPME, and have recommended a long list of budget cuts that would slash other functions. But critics worry that narrowing NDU’s mandate will deprive the United States of big-picture thinking at a time when American planners are struggling to adapt to changing geopolitical and budgetary circumstances.

The budget cuts, including dozens of layoffs from NDU’s 800-strong workforce, are part of a long list of recommendations compiled by the Joint Staff, which works for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. JCS spokesman Richard Osial refused to comment on the grounds that the cuts are part of an internal staff document under review, but a copy obtained by Foreign Policy says the changes are intended to “align NDU organization and funding with [the] new fiscal reality.”

Some cuts were bound to come, of course, especially under the current US budget sequestration process that will see some $50 billion or so lopped from the DoD envelope in FY2013 (and additional cuts of a similar amount each year thereafter). Personally, I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing given budget realities, but that really isn’t an issue for PAXsims—at least, not until we expand our mandate from fragile and conflict-affected countries to include the even scarier world of American fiscal and budgetary politics.

Somewhat more of an issue for PAXsims (since both of us work professionally in and on conflict-affected countries) is the apparent view from the Pentagon, quite separate from DoD budget constraints but undoubtedly reinforced by them, that the US military needs to have its professional military education reduced to a much narrower vision. If anything, the last decade has highlighted the need for a highly interdisciplinary and interagency understanding of national security issues, and NDU has done a great deal to support precisely such an understanding internally, in its research activities, and through its outreach and networking. Now much of that seems to be at risk.

However, my main point in raising all of this is what the both the cuts and new direction at NDU could mean for the professional (war)gaming community. In recent years the Center for Applied Strategic Learning at NDU has played an enormously valuable role in bringing together the many people across the military, other agencies, the gaming industry, and various academic communities together to share and develop professional best practices. It has also provide an opportunity for those relatively new to the field to increase their knowledge of the art, craft, and science of crisis simulation and wargaming. CASL’s quarterly roundtables on innovation in strategic gaming have provided a forum that, quite simply, exists nowhere else in the world, let alone elsewhere in the US. CASL did an extraordinary job of hosting the last two Connections interdisciplinary wargaming conferences. It has also featured special lectures on wargaming, and pushed these out to a broader audience through online streaming. If professional wargaming does indeed comprise often isolated “archipelagos of excellence” as has sometimes been suggested, NDU has been an unparalleled bridge-builder between and among these.

Unfortunately, the recommendations compiled by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff propose major cuts for CASL, as well as a narrow focus on supporting joint PME—with the attendant implication that outreach and networking activities across the broader gaming community is not part of what CASL should do:

Organization: Center for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL)
Way ahead: Re-orient and rescale to support JPME.
Rationale: Elimination of non-JPME efforts allows for a smaller organization. Resource savings: Reduced annual costs of approximately $1.02M direct and $0.5M reimbursable funding and a workforce reduction of 7 direct funded FTEs and 1 other. Four military officers become available for reassignment or return to the Services.

By my uninformed count, that would appear to be almost one-half of CASL’s current staff.

Michael’s piece in Foreign Policy ends with some pithy criticism of the proposed cuts and realignment from (understandably) anonymous NDU staff and associates. I am not now, nor have I ever been, associated with NDU. However, I—like many others in the professional/policy gaming community—have certainly been an eager beneficiary of their intellectual and professional outreach. A major diminution of CASL’s contribution in that regard would hardly serve anyone very well as we prepare to face the complex security challenges of an uncertain future world.

simulations miscellany: the 100,000 visitors edition!

We’re pleased to report that PAXsims reached its 100,000th visitor today. Of course, that’s not a huge number in the world of the interwebs—indeed, a blog by a nine year-old Scottish girl about her school lunches has over 6.8 million hits now—but we’re quite pleased with it nonetheless. We would like to think all of our contributors, commentators, and regular readers who have made it such a pleasure to work on this project. Onwards to the next 100,000!

We’re also pleased to report that a special issue of Simulation & Gaming devoted to “simulations and games to build peace” is now working its way through the production process at SAGE. In addition to an introductory article by us, it will feature contributions by  Elizabeth Bartels, Margaret McCown, and Timothy Wilkie on level of analysis, scenario and role specification in peace and conflict exercises; Richard Powers and Kat Kirkpatrick on teaching conflict resolution through simulations and games; Julian Schofield on classroom modelling of nuclear war fighting; Tucker B. Harding and Mark A. Whitlock on  leveraging web-based environments for mass atrocity prevention; Roger Mason and Eric Patterson on wargaming peace operations; Sean F. McMahon and Chris Miller  on simulating the Camp David negotiations; and Peter Landwehr, Marc Spraragen, Balki Ranganathan, Kathleen M. Carley, and Michael Zyda on integrating games, social simulations, and data in the “Sudan Game.”

Finally, in other recent simulation news:

  • The second annual Serious Play conference will take place 21-23 August 2012 at the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington.
  • In his “Best Defense” column at Foreign Policy magazine, Tom Ricks has been discussing possible cuts and constraints at the National Defense University. Among the alarming news (in this case, reported by an anonymous NDU staff member) is this: “The research, gaming, and publications arms of the university — a major part of the big-think, future concepts and policy business here — will be cut to somewhere between half and a third of their original sizes.” This would indeed be both short-sighted and a tragedy—the Center for Applied Strategic Learning is a true centre of excellence in the policy gaming field, and has been immensely important in building a broader gaming community that reaches outside the military to include interagency folks, academics, commercial game designers, and others.
  • Over at Defense News/Training & Simulation Journal, Michael Peck reports that military budget cuts will increasingly force the US Army  to rely more heavily on simpler, lower-end simulation exercises.
  • The video game company Valve has hired an economist to study in-game virtual economies. He has a blog too.
  • A reminder, once again, that the Connections 2012 interdisciplinary wargaming conference will be held on August 23-26 at NDU in Washington DC. If you haven’t done so, register soon.

NDU CASL Roundtable on Strategic Gaming (26/6/2012)

Yes, it’s that time again—the announcement has gone out for the next iteration of the regular quarterly series of roundtables on strategic gaming at the Center for Applied Strategic Learning, National Defense University:

The Center for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL) is pleased to announce another session in our quarterly series of Roundtables on Innovation in Strategic Gaming. The event will take place on June 26 at the NDU campus, located at Ft. Lesley J. McNair in SW DC. Details of exactly when and where will be provided to those who RSVP (see below).

Our speakers for this session will be Michael Wasserman of the Intelligence Community Simulation Center and CDR Phil Pournelle of OSD Net Assessment.

Please RSVP to by June 22 if you would like to join us in person or remotely via audio streaming (and please specify one or the other or both, if you need to keep your options open). We will be using the NDU streaming service, so if you would like to listen in please follow the link and watch one of the saved events to make sure this service works on your computer. You will still need to RSVP to receive the speakers’ slides.

Please note, this stream of the roundtable will NOT be saved or archived for later access, unlike the events in CASL’s Lectures on Strategic Gaming series, which are maintained for future download. The Roundtable series is meant to stimulate ongoing professional discourse within the gaming community, while the goal for the Lectures is to gradually create a set of saved presentations for journeyman gamers to have available for reference.

Whether you are a newcomer to the roundtable or a veteran participant, we hope that you will be able to join us in person or online. Our goal of creating a regular forum for gaming practitioners to meet and discuss issues in the field is being realized and it is thanks to you, the gaming community, and your continued interest.

These are excellent meetings, and well worth attending (in person or online) for those with an professional interest in strategic gaming. I’ll certainly be watching and listening to the livestream.

Connections 2012 conference registration open

Registration for the Connections 2012 interdisciplinary wargaming conference at National Defense University (23-26 July 2012) is now open:

On behalf of Col Matt Caffrey, USAFR (Ret.), I am pleased to announce that registration for Connections 2012 is now open. This is the second year that the Center for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL) at National Defense University (NDU) will be hosting the Connections Inderdisciplinary Wargaming Conference, and we are proud to be a part of this longstanding tradition. This year’s dates are July 23-26.

Connections is the only conference that captures the full range of educational, analytic, research, policy, and commercial wargaming. The 2012 conference theme is “Methods for Tomorrow’s Wargames.” This theme will be reflected throughout the conference in speaker panels, working groups, and a new workshop element, the Connections Game Lab.

The invitation link below also provides a link to the conference website with more information, including the current draft of the conference agenda.

Click here to view the invitation and complete the R.s.v.p. form:

IMPORTANT NOTE: You may receive an error message from your browser that says something to the effect that the site’s certificate is not valid. This is because most browsers do not by default accept certificates generated by U.S. government sites as valid, and this website is a product of the Air Force Institute of Technology. If your browser gives you the option of proceeding to the site anyway (which Internet Explorer and Firefox should), you can click through, secure in the knowledge that this is a common issue that does not mean whatever terrible thing your browser is trying to tell you it means. If your browser does not allow you to click through (as Google Chrome seems to), you can try a different browser or download the certificate authority by following the instructions on this page.

Thank you and we hope to see you at Connections 2012.

Timothy Wilkie
Research Analyst
Center for Applied Strategic Learning
National Defense University

Both of PAXsims editors both attending so we hope to see you there.

Connections 2012 update

An update on the forthcoming Connections 2012 wargaming conference at NDU:

From London England to LA California Connections 2012 will bring together the leaders, the innovators from each community within wargaming. Hosted again this year at the National Defense University, Washington , DC, Connections will take place from Monday 23 July through Thursday 26 July.

Since 1993 the Connections interdisciplinary wargame conference has worked to advance and sustain the art, science and application of wargaming.  It has done so by bringing together wargame practitioners from across the elements of the field; military, recreational, academic and more recently even business. This is done so the participants can learn needs, achievements, and best practices from each other and from experts in areas typically not wargamed or not wargamed well.

Connections 2012 includes several innovations that promises to make it the best Connections to date.

The innovations start before the formal kickoff of the conference. Traditionally Monday of the conference consists of two optional tutorials in the afternoon (wargaming 101 and Defense 101) and an evening icebreaker.  This year Connections is adding a tutorial by Joseph Miranda on wargame design. As the most prolific print wargame designer worldwide and the editor of Strategy and Tactics magazine Mr. Miranda is perhaps THE most qualified instructor for this tutorial. After the icebreaker for the first time we will be conducting a 1940’s vintage wargame.   Its design permits all/any who would like to participate to quickly learn all they need to know to jump in and participate.

Innovations continue with the formal opening of our conference.  One of our keynote speakers will be Professor Philip Sabin, author of Simulating War will be speaking by streaming video from King’s College London.  In addition to our standard speaker panels, working groups, demos of wargames and associated technologies as well as mentored execution of selected wargames, for the first time we will conduct a “Game Lab” during which all can participate in wargame design.

Finally, Thursday morning we will continue and expand last year’s innovation: streaming video of our working groups – and this year our Game Lab – out briefs to organizations and individuals who could not attend Connections in person.

Further information can be found at the conference website here.

NDU: Phil Sabin on “The Continuing Merits of Manual Wargaming” (9/5/2012)

Professor Philip Sabin (King’s College London) will be giving a talk on “The Continuing Merits of Manual Wargaming” at National Defense University in Washington DC on 9 May 2012. PAXsims recently reviewed Phil’s excellent new book, Simulating War.

For further information, contact Ellie Bartels or Tim Wilkie.

NDU: Nuclear Wargaming (2/5/2012)

***Unfortunately, the event below has now been cancelled.***

Duck and cover! The Center for Applied Strategic Learning at National Defense University will be having a “bonus” session of its roundtable on strategic gaming on May 2, devoted to the topic of nuclear wargaming. Contact them for further information.

Center for Applied Strategic Learning

National Defense University, Ft. Lesley J. McNair

Roundtables on Innovation in Strategic Gaming

Special Session on Nuclear Wargaming

National Defense University’s strategic gaming group, the Center for Applied Strategic Learning, would like to invite you to participate in a special session of our roundtable discussions on gaming. We are departing from our quarterly schedule to take advantage of the visit of experts from AF Global Strike Command to the DC area. We will also stream audio from this event live over the internet, which we hope will make it easier for colleagues outside the Washington, DC area to participate. (Please contact one of the organizers for more information about the audio streaming.)

Each roundtable invites a few speakers to present short, informal, talks on some aspect of strategic-level games to spark discussion among the group. The meetings last two hours and are held quarterly (with exceptions made for special sessions such as this one). Please feel free to circulate this invitation to interested colleagues – we’re hoping this will be a means of getting to know and building lasting professional connections between gamers.

What: National Defense University Roundtables on Innovation in Strategic Gaming

When and Where: 2 May 2012 (email for specific information)

Organized by: Tim Wilkie and Elizabeth Bartels

Speakers:  Dr. Tim Moench, of Air Force Global Strike Command Wargaming and Strategic Studies, will present on Nuclear Wargaming.  Dr. Chris Yeaw, Air Force Global Strike Command Chief Scientist, will present on Air Force Nuclear Escalation in 21st Century Conflicts.  Mr. John Harris, of Headquarters Air Force Concepts, Strategy, and Wargaming Division (Skunk Works), will present on Unified Engagement 2012″.

RSVP – By April 30 to – Please let us know if you plan on coming! We will arrange speakers and coffee, if you bring ideas and enthusiasm. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, let one of the organizers know:

Tim Wilkie, Research Analyst, Center for Applied Strategic Learning, National Defense University: (202) 433-4865,

 Elizabeth Bartels,  Research Analyst, Center for Applied Strategic Learning, National Defense University: (202) 685-2634,

5th annual Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds Conference

The 5th annual Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds Conference will be held in Washington DC on 16-18 May:

5th Annual Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds Conference: Inspire the Future 

May 16, 17 & 18

National Defense University, Washington DC

Don’t forget to register for the best FCVW Conference Program ever!

Conference schedule will be on the FCVW website ( very soon.

WORKSHOPS—May 16: You will have the choice between 17 workshops offered throughout the day.

Three-hour workshops include: iHub (Stylianos Mystakidis), DoD Virtual Worlds Framework (Carl Rosengrant), and Developing Content in Unity 3D (Eric Hackathorn).

75-minute workshops include: Authentic Avatar (Brock-Richmond), Designing 3D VW Education & Training Courses (Reyer), Cognitive Ethnography (Dubbels), Immersive Intelligence and 3D Data Virtualization (Richard Hackathorn), Growing Your Organizations vTraining Presence (Perkins), PTSD (Kevin Holloway), Microsoft and VW, VWs for Analysis and Experimentations (Aguilar), Lessons from goXOgo (Kearney), NTER (Cohen), Personal Transformation in a VW (Deveneaux), Advanced Telemedicine (Dillion), MOSES Open Simulator (Maxwell), and Using Serious Games in OpenSim to Model Taxpayer Behavior (Creekmore). Schedule will be available this week.  More detailed information on each workshop will be available on our website by April 30.

SPEAKERS: We have incredible speakers this year.  Check out the schedule and bios of the speakers on the website.

Randy Hinrichs, CEO 2b3d and editor of “Transforming Virtual World Learning” and “Engaging the Avatar” will be the opening keynote!

James Blascovich, Director and co-founder of the Research Center for Virtual Environments at UC Santa Barbara and co-author of “Infinite Reality: The Hidden Blueprint of our Virtual Lives will discuss the reality of the avatar.

Michelle Fox, Chief Strategist for Education and Worksforce Development at the Department of Energy will show us the NTER project and its virtual world capabilities.

Jesse Schell, game designer  at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center will challenge us to think outside of the box with games and 3D environments.

PANELS: Charles Wankel, author and editor of more than 30 books, including a co-Author of Transforming Virtual World Learning (Cutting-Edge Technologies in Higher Education) (2011) and Higher Education in Virtual Worlds: Teaching and Learning in Second Life (International Perspectives on Education and Society) (2009) is putting together a great education panel.   Other panels include: a telemedicine panel led by Kevin Holloway, Army psychologist from T2 and award winner for his PTSD island; DoD panel that will address the use of OpenSim MOSES Project a virtual world space for groups in DoD and led by Douglas Maxwell, Science and Technology Manager Virtual World Strategic Applications created by Army Research Labs.  The final panel will address the important topic of Cyber Security in Virtual Worlds.  The Panel will be led by Barbara Endicott-Popovsky, the Director for the Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecuity and the Academic Director, Master of Infrastructure Planning and Management at the University of Washington.   More details with panel membership will be posted on the website no later than April 30.

GOVERNMENT POSTER SESSIONS: We still have room for a few more government project poster sessions.  Awards will be given for the best poster sessions voted by conference participants.  If you have a virtual world or 3D collaborative game project with the government, please send your name and contact information in an email to   Complete list of government poster sessions will be posted by April 30, 2012 on the website.

VENDOR FAIR: We still have some vendor spaces available for the conference vendor fair.   Please send your inquiries ASAP and we will send you the information you will need to be part of this conference.

RECEPTION (May 17) 3:30-7:30—Come and network with a great group of people, see government projects, and interact with vendors.

Paulette Robinson, PhD
Associate Dean for Teaching, Learning &Technology
National Defense University, iCollege
Washington DC

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