Why do we need a Testex?
The ‘Design’ phase steps of the wargame creation process, above, are listed on the How we do it page.
The Testex is probably the most important element of the next phase: ‘Develop’. The article ‘The Top 3 Errors in Computer Assisted Exercises and How to Avoid Them‘ available from the Resources page (Avoiding common errors in Computer Assisted Exercises (CAX)) lists the ‘Develop’ steps:
- Validate the scenario, simulation(s) and data. Ensure that these support the exercise aim and Training Objectives (TOs). They must also be sufficiently realistic (verified) to enable participants to ‘suspend disbelief’ and believe in their immersive virtual environment.
- Play-test the simulation(s) and systems; try to break them. Ensure that the simulations contain the correct level of detail and are playable in accordance with the exercise level, timelines etc. Capture all Lessons Identified (LI).
- Play-test the exercise processes. This is the principal testing of the procedures that will make or break the exercise. Rehearse staff in their game roles, preferably in a mini game. Capture all LI.
- Prepare the final rules. Incorporate LI from the wargame Design phase and steps 1 to 3 of the Develop phase.
- Create an audit trail. Document all decisions taken and the reasons for them.
Steps 1 to 3 and much of steps 4 and 5 can be covered in a single Testex, although preparation and follow-up actions are obviously required. To attempt these often diverse activities separately and outside a consolidated Testex is difficult and risks not identifying weaknesses.
Testex Agenda Items
The following are suggested as Textex items in an educational/training context (as opposed to an analytical event):
- Confirm the Testex purpose: to try to break the proposed processes and systems. Stressing these is the best way to identify points of weakness in time to rectify them before the actual event.
- Confirm the wargame TOs. Blindingly obvious but too often forgotten.
- Processes. Test the following as far as resources allow, ideally in a 24-hour mini-exercise that replicates the actual event:
- Player HQ battle rhythms. Walk these through, ideally in real time but, at the least by talking through the various boards, meetings, VTCs or whatever. Will any be held in central plenary so that all players can watch?
- Excon battle rhythm. This must fit around (not disturb) the player HQ battle rhythms. The same 24-hour mini-ex should be held concurrent with the player HQ one to ensure meetings align. Again, if a real-time mini-ex can’t be held, a walk-through talk-through should suffice. This should include each meeting’s:
- Attendance list.
- Outline agenda items.
- Inputs and outputs.
- Anticipated duration.
- Excon processes. See the diagram at the bottom of the What is Wargaming page (a ‘generic setup for a training/educational wargame’). Every text box and arrow on the diagram should ideally be set up during the Testex and stressed with activity that is as close to the reality of the event as possible. For example:
- Excon/player interfaces: COP update process; RFI system; e-mail etc.
- Exercise Management System (Exonaut, JEST, MEEDS etc) if used. Otherwise, how will injects be managed?
- AAR. How, by whom and when are points collected? When are AARs scheduled? Who will lead them?
- Player pressure. How is this gauged and fed back to Excon so the degree of pressure on the players can be adjusted as appropriate?
- Simulation result adjudication. If featured, this should feature as a meeting(s) in the Excon 24-hour mini-ex.
- Locon and simulation operator processes. What is the Locon/player HQ relationship (Secondary Training Audience, Response Cell etc?) How will orders be passed to Locons? Test this during the 24-hour mini game if possible.
- Role players. How many are required, and to cover what areas? How will they be briefed and controlled?
- VIP visits. How will these impact the exercise?
- Scenario. Ideally give the scenario to someone unfamiliar with it to read and then ask their judgement. Is it too simple or too complex? How long does it take to assimilate? Is the amount of COE and CJIIM representation broadly correct? Does the scenario include enough of the following to allow players to start planning:
- Geo-strategic information.
- Theatre of Operations information.
- Strategic Initiation documents.
- Crisis Response Planning information.
- Force Activation and Deployment information.
- Startex material (INTSUMs, ‘Road to crisis’ video etc).
- MEL/MIL. Although dynamic scripting during the actual event is most flexible, the Testex should include a MEL/MIL workshop to review draft topics and themes. All injects must be tied to the TOs and have enough guidance to be developed by SMEs in-game. Identify where the modification/introduction of MEL/MIL injects creates a requirement for additional supporting paperwork (e.g. the text of a new UN resolution, media product etc). Agree how these additional products are to be created and by whom.
- Mapping. Agree the exercise requirement for both paper and electronic mapping, considering the geographical areas to be mapped and the size/scale of the maps. Also consider if environment-specific maps are required (e.g. air or sea charts). Determine which applications (e.g. PowerPoint, ComBAT etc) will need to ingest electronic maps, and the file formats they require.
- Adversary COAs. Ideally get someone (maybe the person who just read the scenario papers) to develop an outline ‘Red’ plan in a 1-sided game, and both sides’ plans in a 2-sided game. This quasi-Red Teaming approach gives a feel for COAs but also provides a start point for play-testing and assessing balance of forces.
- Play-test execution/post Time Jump situations. Ensure that any post Time Jump situations can deliver a narrative that will satisfy the TOs.
- Play-test balance of forces. In a 1-sided wargame the balance of forces needs to deliver a narrative that satisfies the TOs. Should a 2-sided game be fair? Play-test vignettes to get a feel for likely outcomes.
- Simulation and sTimulation setup, integration and testing. Use the outline COAs developed above as a vehicle to test systems integration, plus COA development and rehearsals of likely event outcomes (experimenting with simulation results).
- COP. Including all required symbology, annotations, MOE etc.
- Laptop configuration.
- Room layouts, terminal and projector requirements.
- RFIs, e-mail as above.
- Exercise Management System as above.
- Stand-alone logistic and planning tools. Compare outputs against the primary simulation(s).
- Internet and intranet access.
- IT training burden. Once identified, when will this take place? Who will perform this training? Who will provide “helpdesk” software support during the exercise?
- Briefing points and in-briefs. Much of the above will result in points that need to be briefed to students and/or Excon staff. These points need to be captured and in-briefs prepared and rehearsed.
- Summary & Action Plan. This is the audit trail. Produce notes summarising the Testex against the agreed agenda (formal minutes are usually not required), then agree a plan (details, owner, due date) for all actions raised during the Testex.
The list above comprises suggested items; it is not comprehensive. Please bear in mind, also, that it pertains primarily to a staff college educational/training environment. In an analytical context far more attention would need to be paid to considerations such as data capture, the recording of insights, the choice of analytical methods and so forth.