Do not confuse simple for simplistic
Much of what you will read on this site sounds simple. It is. But ‘simple’ should not be mistaken for ‘simplistic’. Nor should it be mistaken for ‘easy’; if that were the case then errors seen repeatedly in the design and delivery of wargames would be avoided.
A short anecdote sums this up. A business guru once presented to the board of a multinational company. At the end of the talk a board member said to the speaker ‘All you have told us today – at great expense – is no more than obvious common sense.’ The reply: ‘Of course. If it wasn’t common sense you wouldn’t pay me; but, if it’s so obvious, why aren’t you already doing it?’ This truism applies to many professional wargames.
The 4 categories of error made regarding professional wargames and the simulations used to support them, as observed most often by LBS, are:
- (The lack of agreed) Definitions
- (Loose) Distinctions
- (Poor) Design and development
- (Bad) Delivery
These are explained, and mitigations suggested, in an article on the Resources page: see Avoiding common errors in Computer Assisted Exercises.
Addressing the errors
Our approach to professional wargaming is based on addressing each of these most common and widely seen errors. Agreeing the key relevant definitions and distinctions at the outset of any wargame project ensures a common understanding among everyone involved at any stage. The next step is building the correct design team – the key members of which should be involved from the start – and following logical and robust design and development processes. All aspects of the holistic wargame (processes too, not just the supporting simulation) must then be rigorously tested; try to break the game! The wargame is then executed and validated by a delivery team with defined roles and responsibilities in a well managed wargaming environment using robust processes tailored to the type of wargame and the specific event objectives.
Sound easy? No more than obvious common sense? Remember the anecdote above.
A little more detail
There are articles on the Resources page that go into greater detail, but the key points to note in addressing the common errors are:
- Definitions. The wargaming and modelling & simulation industry suffers from a lack of agreed definitions. Basic terms include:
- Simulation (live, virtual and constructive)
- Distinctions. The distinctions between the following must be understood:
- Verification vs validation vs accreditation
- A War vs The War vs Future War
- Training vs education vs analysis
- Simulation vs sTimulation vs emulation vs representation
- Red Teaming vs the Excon Red Cell
- Design. The different approaches to designing a wargame for use in a training/educational and research/analytical event are detailed in an article on the Resources page, but the outline steps are shown below. Design is part of the overall wargame creation process shown below. Another simple looking process, but the devil is in the detail; each of the phases below has a number of steps and sub-tasks that, when sensibly applied, guarantee the best chance of success for a wargame, be it training/educational or research/analytical. These steps are detailed in the article called Avoiding Common Errors in CAX on the Resources page.
|Wargame Design Steps
|Training or Educational Wargame
|1. Specify the exercise Aim and Learning Objectives (LOs)
|1. Specify the aim (to include the overall Research Question) and objectives
|2. Identify the people to be trained, their roles and the decisions they will be expected to make
|2. Identify the subject(s) of the analysis, and any critical elements within these
|3. Determine the desired effects on the players and the exercise activities required to achieve these
|3. Determine how the subjects of analysis will be evaluated, the required setting, scenario and vignettes, and any variables that will be required to achieve this
|4. Determine the setting and scenario and types, level and sources of information the players will need to make their decisions and to enable the LOs to be achieved
|4. Identify the metrics that will need to be gathered to measure and gauge this evaluation, and how this data capture will be done
|5. Identify the structures and processes required to achieve Steps 3 & 4
|5. Identify the people required to ensure of validity of the analysis
|6. Identify or design the tools, technology and SMEs needed to populate and enable these structures and processes
|6. List any assumptions made to date
|7. Create an audit trail by documenting all decisions taken and the reasons for them
|7. Identify the processes required to achieve the objectives
|8. Devise the tools, techniques and SMEs needed to make the processes work
|9. Create an audit trail by documenting all decisions taken and the reasons for them
- Delivery. The most common errors made during wargame delivery are detailed on Resources page articles. Examples of recurring key mistakes, all of which can be avoided if pre-considered, are:
- Failure to identify and define the key Excon roles and responsibilities
- Losing sight of the aim and objectives and the overall event context (e.g. educational rather than training)
- A lack of coherence of Excon product presented to the Training Audience
- Assuming that a simulation designed for one type of wargame will be valid (fit for purpose) in a different one (e.g. using a simulation designed to support training wargames in a research context)
- Interference by senior officers who are insufficiently immersed in the wargame
- The simulation becoming a beast demanding to be fed rather than a tool to support the wargame