There are few realistic alternatives to wargaming
The potential benefits that wargaming can deliver are unparalleled in the domains of training, education, analysis and acquisition. It is hard to envisage a technique that can deliver so much for such a relatively low cost. Do not be misled by the fact that the benefits listed below are mere bullet points. Take a moment to consider each one thoroughly and try to think of alternative ways of realising it. You will appreciate these are significant benefits that are difficult to realise without large resource – unless you use wargaming. Wargaming is a fast, proven and cost effective method of delivering powerful results and real benefits. There are few, if any, realistic alternatives.
In the training or educational domain wargaming delivers:
- Better decision makers. The chance to practice key skills under controllable levels of pressure:
- Decision-making in conditions of uncertainty
- Risk management
- Communication, including media training in context
- Situational awareness
- Team work: building confidence, trust and pre-positioning relationships
- A ‘fitness programme for military thinking’: a chance to exercise the conceptual component of fighting power.
- The ability to ‘train as you fight’ without deploying large numbers of troops. Educate, train and assess people in a situation emulating or resembling that in which they will operate.
- The chance to train in a Combined, Joint, Inter-agency, Inter-governmental and Multinational context:
- Introduce people to the full situational complexity of today’s Contemporary Operating Environment.
- Work in a composite HQ including civilians, and thereby gain an understanding of each other’s capabilities, strengths and weaknesses.
- An opportunity to assess people, including their tactical acumen
- Exposure to the full spectrum of conflict at all levels, current and future. Immersing people in as realistic an environment as necessary.
- Exposure to the friction inherent in all military operations. Better understanding of dynamic non-linear processes and Clausewitzian friction.
- Exposure to chance. Learning to cope with uncertainty and setbacks.
- The ability to consider the perspectives and potential actions of all relevant actors, factions and factors. Predicated on having the correct SMEs, a good wargame will even start to identify Rumsfeld’s ‘unknown unknowns’.
- The consequences of a player’s own decisions! People have to live with the results of their own planning decisions. This is also a major incentive to engage fully with the exercise.
- Exposure to an adaptive thinking opponent. This is especially the case in a 2-sided wargame, but also in a well structured 1-sided game. Different actors with different agendas can be easily introduced.
- Exposure to operational CIS. Familiarity with real or emulated ‘look a-like’ opCIS systems that are now at the core of all HQs.
- An enjoyable, challenging and engaging environment. One of the most powerful aspects of a wargame is the ability for the participants to shape events. In conjunction with control staff, they take ownership of a ‘constructed narrative’, as opposed to a ‘presented narrative’ where they have no control. This heightens engagement and internalises training.
In the analytical domain (experimentation, acquisition and support to operations) wargaming delivers:
- Better decision making. Assistance to real-world decision makers, informing – but never replacing – military judgement.
- Innovation in the art of war. A mechanism for experimentation and exploring ‘what if’ questions.
- A mechanism for developing and refining force structures and operational methods and principles.
See the Resources page for a comprehensive guide to understanding and implementing defence experimentation.