The aim of Connections (UK) and Connections is ‘to advance and sustain the art, science and application of wargaming’. The purpose of this first Connections (UK) was to bring professional wargame practitioners together to share what we do and spread best practice. Connections (UK) elicited a rich array of insights from the best wargaming practitioners from around the globe. The spectrum of wargamers was broad, encompassing humanitarians to military to academics to recreational gamers. Topics covered during Connections (UK) included:
- ‘Don’t lecture; game!‘ Using games for educational purposes.
- Using wargames for military purposes.
- Key note address: ‘Once and Future Kriegsspiel‘ by Dr Peter Perla, the leading professional wargamer of our time.
- ‘The fuzzy edges of wargaming’. Exploring non-kinetic conflict dynamics.
- Addressing the common faults of wargaming in the military.
- Addressing the stigma and scepticism wargaming attracts.
Anyone with any interest in professional wargaming, Operational Analysis/Research or gaming in general should look at:
- The Connections (UK) web site. You can download all presentations in pdf and mp3 formats here.
- An overview of presentations and proceedings by Rex Brynen here.
From my perspective (as someone who designs and delivers wargames specifically for the military, as tools for training and/or analysis) the key take-aways were:
- Well-conducted wargames are extremely powerful; they save lives and money. At the very least they provide a rare opportunity for a cerebral work-out in the conceptual component of fighting power: a ‘fitness programme for thinking’.
- However, although there are pockets of good-practice within the UK military, wargames generally remain misunderstood and even scorned. The potential of wargaming has certainly not been fully grasped (possibly excepting the use of virtual simulations [‘1st person shooters’]). There is not even a lead proponent for wargaming within the UK military.
- The (correct) use of extant military language, doctrine and concepts in the design and delivery of wargames is crucial. Recreational terms should be avoided where possible. The military audience must immediately be familiar with the wargame they encounter; this in terms of language, look and feel. This was expressed by Peter Perla in his keynote address as the ‘schema’: an organised pattern of thought or behaviour; a mental structure of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some aspect of the world, or a system of organizing and perceiving new information.
- This goes some way towards addressing the ‘military credibility test’, which must be passed for military personnel to engage with the wargame. Fail this test and you might as well pack up and go home.
- There is a high likelihood that a facilitator is required to deliver the wargame. For some reason only a minority of people ‘get’ wargaming mechanics, procedures etc. The ability to deliver successful wargames seems to reside in relatively few people and, quite likely, not in those military personnel who arrive in posts responsible for delivering them. It is probably a waste of time trying to turn a military person into a wargamer if he or she does not have a background in the field (probably as a hobbyist).
- Wargames have wide utility in better understanding non-kinetic conflict dynamics. The ‘fuzzy edges of wargaming’ was one of the stand-out sessions for me. I won’t try to summarise this; watch and listen to the presentations.
- Active learning has huge benefits. ‘ I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand.’ This reinforces Peter Perla’s concept of a ‘constructed’ vs a ‘presented’ narrative in ‘Why Wargaming Works’ (download from the Resources page). Wargames must be accessible to participants. They must be fun. An event that includes execution is far superior to one based on just planning in this respect.
The future. Connections (UK) is not-for-profit; it is a service to the wargaming community. Its future will primarily be determined by feedback from attendees at the 2013 event. However, if you have a view on what happens (and where) in 2014 and beyond, please e-mail me at the info@ address at the top of this page.