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The ART of injecting wargame events and incidents

Event or incident injects are a key element of almost every training wargame. They feature less in analytical wargames, largely due to the necessity to keep variables constant, but are still important. Injects are called different things by different people, but essentially fall into 2 categories: events and incidents. The distinction between the two is a little loose but the implication is that an event is relatively major while an inject is more minor. The difference is largely irrelevant – as long as you do not draw the inference that an incident somehow needs less planning. This is absolutely NOT the case; any inject, be it an event or an incident, needs careful consideration and management.

The two main terms for injects are:

  • MEL/MIL. Master (or Main – both terms are used) Events List and Master Incidents List. This is NATO parlance.
  • MSEL. Master Scenario Events List. This is US parlance.

Another term worth noting is a ‘Pick List’ of events and incidents, which is self explanatory. This usefully abbreviates to PL, which also stands for ‘Pressure Lever’. The relevance of this is explained below.

The systems used to manage injects range from sophisticated distributed software applications written specifically for the purpose (such as NATO’s Joint Exercise Management Module (JEMM)) to a manually updated white board with a ‘synchronisation matrix’ of injects. There is no right or wrong method, but remember that increasing use of IT generally leads to a greater training burden plus the task of populating the system and then managing the data. As with any aspect of simulation support, the inject management solution should be determined as part of a logical design process applied to the entire wargame event.

However they are managed, the key to ensuring that injects are effective is to make sure that each is a RAT. Every one must be:

  • Reasonable. Injects must be credible in the eyes of the participants and, hence, readily accepted. This demands significant effort on behalf of Excon, and this must start well before the inject is executed. Ideally, the setting and scenario should contain ‘hooks’ that enable injects to be played in. Just a line or two of text in the exercise papers, a reference in an intelligence product or a mention in a ‘road to crisis’ media clip is sufficient. It might be that a precursor inject is needed to establish the conditions for the main inject. It is essential that injects do not simply appear ‘out of the blue’ because, if this happens, there is a risk of participants disengaging.
  • Actionable. Some injects are designed simply to have an effect on participants, generally to impose a constraint of some kind. The purpose of others is to cause participants to make a decision or take action of some kind. If the participants cannot do anything with, or about, an inject, there is no point using it. The only effect will be that Excon ends up exercising itself.
  • Traceable. The rationale for participants’ decisions must be apparent. In a training wargame this enables the After Action Review process, in a research wargame analysis. These are the raison d’être for the respective events so their derivation must be as explicit a possible. The origin and purpose of any inject that influences participants’ decisions must be absolutely clear.

To satisfy the ‘RAT’ (or ART) criteria each inject must be pre-considered, with the following pre-determined:

  • Purpose. What is the desired effect on participants?
  • Pressure. What level of pressure on participants is required, and can this be raised and lowered as required after the inject is played?
  • Trigger. What will trigger the inject, and when? Are any precursor injects required to introduce it?
  • Required actions. Who needs to do what to introduce the inject, and how will their actions be coordinated?

As an aside, the same RAT criteria can also be applied to the outputs produced by any simulation supporting a wargame. The penultimate diagram on the what is it page shows that there are two primary means of influencing participants: human in the loop injects; and simulation outputs. RAT (or ART) applies to both.