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Course of Action Wargaming – an indispensible technique ← Back to Blog index

Of all the doctrinal tools and techniques available to the command and his staff, COA Wargaming is second only to an effective Mission Analysis in terms of ensuring – as far as one can – the success of a plan. That is a bold statement, but true.

COA Wargaming remains little understood and is too often badly executed. The result is a common misappreciation of the benefits that COA Wargaming can deliver and a widespread belief that it is time consuming and adds little to decision making. This could not be further from the truth.

Although COA Wargaming is increasingly accepted as part of the decision making process, current doctrine still fails to adequately explain its aim or the benefits that can be derived. There is no official aim of COA Wargaming given in any current doctrine so what follows has been developed by LBS. The aim of COA Wargaming is to ‘identify risks and issues in a forming plan for subsequent analysis.’ From this you can see that a COA Wargame is absolutely not a Mission Rehearsal, or Review Of Concept (ROC) drill in US parlance; that is something entirely different, even though they might look superficially similar.

Executed properly, a COA Wargame will give you the best possible chance of identifying risks and issues in a plan, and then mitigating them, whether by developing contigency plans, amending the forming plan to reduce them or by avoiding them altogether.

LBS advocates conducting a COA Wargame once a COA has been selected by the commander. Assuming you have conducted a good Mission Analysis and so know what you are expected to achieve, and why, a good COA Wargame will allow you to refine your chosen COA and, quite simply, give it the best chance of succeeding. It will do this better than any other doctrinal or decision making tool or technique. Yes, it is that powerful.

For more detail on all of the above, and to see how a COA Wargame should – and should not – be run, go to the Resources page and download ‘The do’s and dont’s of COA Wargaming’ article.

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