During the HQ 3 Div Ex IRON RESOLVE 15 a manual simulation (RCAT) was used in Excon to wargame events 24 + hours in advance in order to complement the real-time computer simulation (ABACUS). Read the blog to find out what happened when ABACUS crashed and RCAT was used to drive all real-time exercise activity, both kinetic and non-kinetic.
I am comfortable using manual simulation to model an aggregated approach, but have previously resisted using it in the ‘tactical weeds’ of detailed Line of Sight, individual platform weapon ranges, single shot kill probabilities etc. This due to concerns that manual simulation does not provide the fidelity to successfully model in this space. A recent experiment conducted by Niteworks gave me the opportunity to wargame in the ‘tactical weeds’. Having been forced to do so, I was pleased with the result, and have reconsidered my previous reluctance to use manual simulation in this space below an ‘aggregated modelling line’.
This is not a story about HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes; rather it’s a tale of a carrier being sunk in one RCAT wargame and staying afloat in another. This, and other less obvious variances arising from two separate plays of RCAT: Falklands, highlight a number of interesting observations and insights. Unusually, we ran two back-to-back RCAT: Falklands wargames with different players at Connections UK 2015, simulating the period between the landings at San Carlos on 21 May 1982 and (broadly) the attack on Goose Green. Although the tactics adopted by both sets of Argentinian players were almost identical, the outcomes, while credible in both cases, were dramatically different.
I’ve just spent a month in Qatar delivering a ‘Simulation-supported Exercise’ (SIMEx) to the Joaan Bin Jassim Joint Command and Staff College. I found it helpful to use a simple analogy to illustrate the constituent parts of a wargame and their relationship with each other.
The analogy I settled on was that of a tour bus, with the players being the passengers, their decisions providing the diesel (fuel) and their story-living experience being the route they took through the scenery of the scenario. Read on for more detail.
If we do not train our commanders and their staffs in a realistic and contemporary environment, how can we expect them to successfully operate in one? It is easy to include relevant aspects of reality in an exercise, but this does not always happen. A recent visit to a major training event left me frustrated and disquieted at a failure of imagination and process that is leaving our commanders and their staffs dangerously unprepared.
See why this matters and how easy it is to rectify.
I have just had the pleasure and privilege to work with General Julian Thompson and Commodore Mike Clapp over two days simulating the Falklands War. This was a remarkable opportunity; General Thompson and Commodore Clapp were respectively Comd 3 Cdo Bde and Comd Amphibious Task Group during the Falklands War. The event was part of a series of ongoing Verification and Validation (V&V) activities to ensure that the Rapid Campaign Assessment Toolset (RCAT) is fit for purpose.
The Test Exercise (Testex) has come up recently in the context of a number of European and UK staff colleges. Questions have ranged from ‘what’s it for?’ to ‘why do we need one?’ to ‘what should a Testex include?’. In the same way as play-testing a simulation (computer or manual) is a vital part of its development, so the Testex is an essential part of wargame development prior to an exercise. This blog suggests areas that should be considered for inclusion in a Testex. Although based on staff college requirements they are applicable to most education/training constructive simulation-supported wargames. My thanks to partners at Newman and Spurr (www.nsc.co.uk) for their input to this blog
With campaign lengths increasing, wargames often include one or more Time Jump (TJ). Producing each new situation must be well managed or you risk failing to achieve the event aim and objectives. Sadly, TJ planning is seldom done as well as it might be. Examples of TJ use include: bridging a planning and execution phase; jumping to different campaign phases; and providing comparative contexts for analysis purposes. See how a robust process can be applied that ensures a well managed TJ.
I’d like to reiterate the introduction and concluding points I made at Connections UK, our conference for professionals who use wargaming. We are, I think, facing both a rare opportunity and a threat that could well affect all those who use wargame professionally within UK Defence. Please click on ‘read more’ and take a minute to scan the points made.
Military strategy: War games
To understand war, American officials are playing board games
An article in ‘The Economist’ this week (15 March 2014) summarises some (not all) of the advantages of manual simulations. There is a growing momentum behind the use of manual simulations, which provide a cheaper, faster and more transparent complement or alternative to computer simulations. See the article at http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21599016-understand-war-american-officials-are-playing-board-games-war-games or simply click on ‘read more’ to see the text.
Course of Action Wargaming seems to be gaining ‘traction’ in British Army junior officer courses. This is great news, and all credit to those delivering these courses (for example the Junior Officers Tactical Awareness Course and Captains’ Warfare Course). There are, however, continuing observations, insights and lessons to be learned. Read the main blog for a particularly good example of positive risks and exploitation (or not).
I am more than a little proud to have co-organised the inaugural Connections (UK), a conference for professional wargamers. This was a two-day gathering at King’s College London of 75 world-class wargaming practitioners from the UK, US, Canada, Europe and Australia. Attendees were primarily drawn from professional wargame practitioners for and in the military, defence analysts and academics. Recreational wargamers and invitees from industry added to the knowledge-base. See what was covered, links to all presentations (pdf slides and mp3 audio) and comments.
I have made the point elsewhere on this website that the processes underpinning good wargame design and delivery are critical. To misquote Bill Clinton: “It’s the process, Stupid”.
The training/educational wargame design process is on the ‘how we do it’ page. Step 4 includes ‘determine the setting and scenario…’. While working at a Middle East staff college recently with colleagues from NSC I had the rare opportunity to develop a fictionalised setting and two scenarios from a blank piece of paper (I have developed many settings, scenarios and vignettes, but never written any from scratch). This necessitated developing on the spot a logical and rigorous design process. That process has now delivered credible and robust setting and scenarios that have stood up to scrutiny. You might find the process interesting and, I hope, useful. Follow the ‘read more’ link to see it.
This is a cross-post from the Resources page as it is both a Blog item and a Resource – and we’d hate you to miss it!
The new (Mar 13) COA Wargaming, ROC Drill and Red Teaming Staff Officers’ Handbook (Land) (SOHB) section will be of particular use for anyone with a professional interest in wargaming and any staff officer serving in a unit or formation HQ. Follow ‘read more’ to download the unabridged draft section, which has more detail than the published SOHB version.
You would be excused for thinking that producing a large rubber die from your pocket to illustrate a point to senior military personnel carries a high risk of failing the ‘military credibility’ test. You might be right! However, I have recently found such a move, when well-explained, to be most effective and well-received. Find out what happened…
The question of 1-sided versus 2-sided wargames has cropped up several times recently in an educational context (various European and UK staff colleges). The answer to whether 1-sided or 2-sided wargames deliver better education and training depends on individual circumstances and specific learning objectives. Hence this blog does not attempt to answer the question which is better; rather, it outlines factors that the wargame designer(s) should consider when making that judgement. Of course, ‘2-sided’ could include ‘multi-sided’ if the learning objectives and range of factions and actors so demand.
There is a trend within European NATO countries to exercise only the planning process. It is increasingly rare that wargames include an execution phase in either an educational or, more surprisingly, a training context. This is a dangerous trend that risks failing to properly prepare service personnel for operations. Despite the cost and increased challenges, there are clear reasons why an execution phase should be included in educational and training exercises whenever resources allow.
There is a wealth of information sources pertaining to professional wargaming on the web. Sites and links considered most useful are listed in this Blog main entry (click ‘read more’), although the listing is not in any priority or ‘good to bad’ order. The list is certainly not exhaustive so please add comments or e-mail LBS with additional sources. There are a number of places where you will also find attempts to collate web-based wargaming material, some of which you will find by following the links from this Blog. Sites and forums dedicated solely to recreational wargaming are not included but there is increasing cross-fertilisation between recreational and hobby gaming, so expect some cross-over when you browse.
Injects are an essential element of most wargames, whether these be simulation supported or manual exercises. They are a primary means of shaping an exercise so that it achieves its objectives, and can also be used to introduce information, influence participants or trigger decision making. At the very least they provide context and an ongoing narrative that helps wargame participants’ suspend belief and fully engage. Despite their importance, injects tend to be poorly conceived and executed. At best this reduces the value of a wargame. In the worst case a bad inject will cause participants to disengage from an event, possibly causing it to fail altogether. And yet, although it requires some effort, the management of event injects should be a simple process. The key to successful injects is to ensure that each one is a RAT: Reasonable; Actionable; and Traceable.
‘Brilliant’ says Peter Perla on the back cover of Philip Sabin’s new book ‘Simulating War’. That statement alone should be sufficient reason to stop what you are doing now and go buy it. For those in the military, the second endorsement on the back cover is from Brigadier Andrew Sharpe, Head of Research at the UK’s Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, who says: ‘Wargaming is a neglected and misunderstood art in the modern military; this book does much to put that right, and should be on the shelf of any thinking military professional.’
A BOGSAT (Bunch of Guys Sat Around a Table) or BOGSATT (‘…Sat Around a Table Talking’) is essentially an unstructured discussion. They might have limited utility; for example an initial brainstorming session to flush out factors for subsequent consideration. However, BOGSATs are positively damaging when used in lieu of properly structured analysis. This happens all too often during the military decision making process and frequently results in outcomes that are predicated on faulty assumptions, are not evidence-based and lack credibility. A BOGSAT can occur unwittingly and, most dangerous, might not even be recognised as one, resulting in flawed findings being accepted as credible. Admittedly a sweeping statement, BOGSATs are dangerous and should be eradicated. See how to recognise and prevent a BOGSAT.
Ask twenty people what they think is a wargame and you will get twenty different answers, some wildly different. The ‘Power of Wargames’ Blog (see below) explained how wargames can deliver unparalleled benefits, which are often hard to achieve in any other way. But these benefits are unlikely to be fully delivered unless everyone involved in the planning and delivery of wargames understands what they are and, just as important, are not. This is not just semantics; understanding what constitutes and defines wargames is a prerequisite for their effective planning and execution. This Blog will give you that insight.
Well run wargames deliver benefits and outputs that are difficult – if not impossible – to achieve in any other way. This post summarises why wargames are so powerful. It gives you a bulleted compilation of the reasons why wargaming is such a potent technique. This list makes a high impact PowerPoint slide if you are briefing anyone on the benefits of wargaming; feel free to use it if you think the points would be relevant to your work.
Ongoing work by LBS has repeatedly highlighted the need to differentiate between Course of Action (COA) Wargames used for analytical purposes and wargames used for training and educational purposes. If the distinctions are not understood from the outset there is a high risk that the wargame, and whatever supporting simulation is used, will not be fit for either purpose. See what these differences are and how they fundamentally alter the design and delivery of your wargames.
There is a disturbing lack of understanding of the different types of wargame, exacerbated by the recent trend within the British military to equate the term ‘wargaming’ exclusively with Course of Action Wargaming. Worse still, many people assume that there is a ‘one size fits all’ wargame solution, which is fundamentally wrong. No-one would countenance the idea that the single term ‘exercise’ could describe all the various activities that fall under that heading; and so it is with ‘wargame’. See how wargames must be differentiated, how this categorisation can be done and how this will help you design and deliver successful wargames.
A good wargame designer is essential to the successful delivery of professional wargames. But the role is poorly understood so seldom filled. See the necessary blend of skills and expertise for a wargame designer and find out how these are applied to guarantee a successful game.
The Modelling & Simulation (M&S) industry suffers from chronic miscommunication and a lack of standardisation. LBS has witnessed countless instances of experts thinking that they are communicating when, in fact, they are unknowingly speaking different languages!
The root of the problem is a lack of agreed definitions for key terms, the loose application of definitions and M&S standards still only being in a nascent state across the industry. This Blog entry lists the key definitions and distinctions that LBS considers important in all aspects of professional wargaming. There are more, and the terms metioned here are just the basic ones.
General Helge Hansen was previously NATO’s C-in-C Allied Forces Central Europe. He is a man with a wealth of experience, a towering intellect and great insight. In discussion with him recently he was kind enough to give his thoughts about how to conduct COA Wargames in complex non-kinetic operations; stability ops, for example.
Course of Action (COA) Wargaming is one of the most powerful techniques available to the commander, or decision maker, and is an essential part of any military decision making process. Yet it remains poorly understood and often mis-applied. Find out why, and how you can use COA Wargaming effectively to give your plans the best chance of succeeding.
Connections is a wargaming conference that brings together people across the wargaming community: professional wargamers in the military and government, hobby game designers, and academics. Read the event review. Thanks to Professor Philip Sabin for the link.
Understanding the context of military staff colleges is key to delivering successful wargames in such establishments.
Conventional COA Wargaming can be used by Excon as part of their planning and preparation for a Computer Assisted Exercise (CAX). See how this delivers significant benefits to the Netherlands Staff College Theatre Wargame.