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The Wargame Designer – explaining the role essential to successful wargames ← Back to Blog index

Although key to the successful delivery of any wargame, the role of wargame designer is little understood. Indeed, many wargaming and simulation practitioners fail to even recognise the need for such a person. The result? Wargames that fail to deliver the massive benefits described on the What it delivers page.

So, what is a wargame designer? He or she is, above all, a facilitator. Someone who can weave together all of the stands involved in designing, developing, executing, validating and refining a wargame, as described on the How we do it page. To do this effectively a wargame designer must have sufficient knowledge of the skills required in each of these steps. He or she might have a background in any of Perla’s principal categories of professional wargamer (military, Operational Analyst or software engineer) but must not be so entrenched in any one silo so as to be predjudiced or risk being drawn into, or distracted by, unecessary levels of detail in any one field. That tends to be the problem when wargames are designed by an expert in any one of Perla’s categories; they focus too much on their area of expertise and do not have the breadth of vision to consider the holistic elements of the wargame.

Furthermore, the Wargame Designer needs knowledge of all 7 elements of a wargame, as described on the What is wargaming page. Hence he or she needs a skill set that encompasses: training design and analytical design (for example of experiments); scenario design and writing; IT; military exercise processes and procedures; and analysis techniques (for example after action reviews and scientific analysis).

Due to the complexity of many modern wargames it is also desirable to have knowledge of project management (including change management and configuration management) and more general skills such as stakeholder management.

Add to all this the necessary communication and people skills and you will find that such a combination of talents is rare indeed! In 20 years LBS has come across no more than a handful of such people throughout the UK, NATO, ABCA and Netherlands wargaming and modelling and simulation industries. And yet a wargame designer is vital to maximising the huge benefit that a wargame can deliver.

Finally, remember Peter Perla’s quote from the How we do it page: ‘It is important to make one thing clear at the very start; designing a wargame is an art, not a science. Experienced military officers, practised operational research analysts, and accomplished computer programmers are not necessarily capable of designing useful wargames. Although some or all of the knowledge and skills for such people are important tools for a wargame designer to possess, the nature of game design requires a unique blending of talents.’ (Perla, P. The Art of Wargaming, Naval Institute Press, 1990).

A good wargame designer possesses this blend of talents, and is as much artist as scientist. A rare find.

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