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Effective Time Jump Planning and Execution ← Back to Blog index

In a training wargame post-Time Jump (TJ) situations must: enable the associated Training Objectives, maintain scenario coherence; and present a picture the players recognise as related to their plans. In a research wargame the post TJ situation must: enable the relevant data to be derived to answer the Research Question (or the anticipated aspects of it); and ensure consistency of relevant variables and analysis.

All too often planning a TJ consists of an unstructured discussion based on a loose understanding of what has to be considered, the necessary process and the outcomes and products required. The start point is not ‘where shall we jump to?’ with a subsequent argument of the implications; that is the wrong way around – although often what actually happens. In training wargames TJ consideration is usually reliant on information or plans from the Training Audience (TA); these are frequently incomplete or contradictory due to the inherent pressures of the training environment.

Hence a robust and logical process is essential to draw together all required information, resolve discrepancies and enable the production of a coherent post-TJ situation. Such a process is shown below. The personnel required will vary, depending on each exercise and wargame construct, but the steps below indicate who needs to attend.

Time Jump Process

  1. Review the event aim and objectives. Apparently obvious, it is amazing how quickly people forget why they are supporting an event. It is always worth confirming understanding of the aim and objectives, even if this is no more than a re-statement of them. Experience shows that time spent reaffirming objectives is time well spent, certainly with respect to ensuring that the post-TJ situation will enable the achievement of those it is designed to address.
  2. Confirm the player HQ’s plan. The plan should be briefed to ensure that all elements of Excon – including AAR and analysis personnel – understand it.
  3. Confirm any subordinate player HQs’ understanding of their role in the higher commander’s plan. Subordinate HQs could be players or part of Excon.
  4. Confirm any critical timelines. One common example of a key timeline is the arrival into theatre of forces; in this instance both the forces available, their desired order of arrival and planned ‘laydown’ must be known. Another example could be developing trends on any of the Comprehensive Approach lines of activity, many of which trends will take weeks or months to deliver results. All such time lines need to be confirmed before the decision is taken where to time jump to.
  5. Confirm the plans of other actors in the scenario. Most simply this is the adversary, or situational forces, but it will likely include many other actors such as neutrals, IOs and NGOs, nations’ political reactions etc – the list is long. Controlled by Excon, these actors provide the key variables available to shape the post-TJ situation.
  6. Determine the situation required to achieve the reaffirmed objectives. The variables controlled by Excon are compared to the players’ plans. This is to set the conditions for the players to have to make the required decisions, address dilemmas or take whatever actions the event objectives call for.
  7. Determine the TJ date. This should fall naturally out of the preceding process. It is that point at which the managed projection of the existing situation into the future is intersected by the players’ plans and the actions of other actors to deliver the situation required to support the objectives. Selecting the TJ point is the penultimate step of the process, not an initial guesstimate to be used as the start point for general discussion.
  8. Determine TJ products required by the players, and how and when they will be delivered. These can range from a simple brief to a full set of documents encompassing complete operations orders, annexes etc. The workload must not be underestimated; it has to be assessed in advance and time and people allocated to the task.
  9. Brief the new TJ situation. If a brief is to be given it should be rehearsed if possible. As a primary means of conveying the new situation to the players, the TJ brief is a critical activity. If it is not clear in every respect it will, at best, slow down player assimilation of the new situation and, at worst, risk achieving the event objectives.

Once the process has delivered the new TJ situation this must be adhered to unless a major flaw is identified – in which case the process has not been followed rigorously enough. Subsequent changes risk individuals supporting the exercise not being aware of them, which leads to inconsistency when the new situation is briefed or developed.

There are additional considerations from the players’ perspective, which apply whether the wargame is in the training or analytical domain. These are:

  • Sufficient time must be allocated to allow players to assimilate the new situation before expecting them to make decisions or continue planning. The length of time needed must not be underestimated.
  • The new situation must be recognisable to the players. If the proposed post-TJ situation cannot be related to the pre-TJ position then players can react adversely and disengage from the exercise. This is not to say that reverses and set-backs should not be introduced, but these need to be clearly explained and credible.
  • The situation must be credible. The conditions must have been set to introduce any major themes or events so they do not come as a surprise to the players.
  • Major decisions that the players could have made during the TJ period should be avoided if possible. The risk is that players react to the new situation by saying ‘but we would have done x, y or z to prevent that happening.’ As soon as this happens the players will disengage.

In common with all suggestions on this site, this sounds straight forward. While logical and simple, do not think it is easy; considerable consideration must be given to TJ planning.

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