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New Course of Action Wargaming, Rehearsal of Concept and Red Teaming Doctrine

This is a cross-post from the LBS Blog page as it is both a Blog item and a Resource – and we’d hate you to miss it!

I was delighted to be asked to write the sections in the new UK Staff Officers’ Handbook (Land) (SOHB) on Course of Action (COA) Wargaming, Rehearsal of Concept (ROC) Drills and Red Teaming. Due to the amount of potential material that could be included in the SOHB, my original draft has been condensed. This is right and proper as the SOHB must be a useable ‘pocket-size’ guide, not some unapproachable tome. However, some key sections have been omitted or edited. In particular the suggested extra step of Consequence Management has been deleted (Action – Reaction – Counter Action – Consequence Management – Consolidation). Hence I think it would be useful to make the original text I wrote available for those with a specific interest in professional wargaming, COA Wargaming, ROC Drills and Red Teaming. Taken alone, these sections are unclassified, although the overall SOHB is Restricted. I made no changes to the Red Teaming section, this being owned by DCDC. Note the post on the recent (Jan 13) Red Teaming Guide.

The unabridged COA Wargaming/ROC Drill/Red Teaming section for the new SOHB can be downloaded here

New DCDC Red Teaming Guide (January 2013)

The UK Developments, Concepts and Doctrine Centre published Edition 2 of its Red Teaming Guide in January 2013. This is unclassified and available here

Red Teaming is a discrete but related technique to Course of Action (COA) Wargaming. They are often confused, as are COA Wargaming and Rehearsal of Concept (ROC) Drills. The table below sums up the differences. Needless to say, any practitioner of professional wargaming should be conversant with all three techniques.







COA Wargaming

A systematic method of analysing a plan to visualise the ebb and flow of an operation or campaign

To identify risks and areas of weakness in a forming plan

Chief Controller (e.g. COS, Bn 2ic)

Blue Team

Red Cell

Staff branches




(Red Team)[3]

During any or all of:

1. COA development

2. COA evaluation

3. COA refinement

ROC Drill

A visual, sequenced rehearsal of a plan

To enhance understanding of a formed plan


Chief Controller

Staff branches

Unit/sub-unit commanders


After orders have been delivered


The provision of honest, constructive and objective criticism to improve a commander’s decision-making

To challenge assumptions and fully explore alternative outcomes to reduce threats and increase opportunities

An independently constituted group of SMEs with appropriate skills for the project under consideration

Throughout the estimate/7 Questions process

[1] If available

[2] If desirable

[3] If formed

Fϋhrungsakademie Der Bundeswehr COA Wargaming Guide

Not for the fainthearted or casual reader, the Fϋhrungsakademie guide to the preparation and execution of Wargames is a very detailed and useful guide to COA Wargaming. Note that the document title should read ‘Course of Action’ Wargaming rather than just ‘Wargaming’.

It is recommended reading for anyone who will be running COA Wargames. (Download here)

Fundamentals of War Gaming, Francis J. McHugh, 1966

The US Naval War College (with Skyhorse Publishing) have reprinted the Fundamentals of War Gaming, by Francis J. McHugh, originally published in 1966. This provides a wonderful snapshot of the state of wargaming at the time. Most of the second half of the book gives a detailed account of the various systems and simulations, both manual and computer, that were in service at the time. Devotees of the history of professional wargaming will find this fascinating.

It is the introductory chapters, however, that contain insights as relevant today as they were in 1966. McHugh relates some wargaming basics that still need reinforcing today, almost 50 years later; the necessity to differentiate between educational/training and analytical wargames, for example. The genesis of wargame-related definitions (and the need for them) is also noteworthy.

If pushed for time just read the first three chapters; the rest, as they say, is history.

Details are:

ISBN: 978-1620876411
Search for  ‘US Navy Fundamentals of War Gaming’
Paperback, about £13 or $16

Professional wargaming information on the web

This is a cross-post from the LBS Blog page as it is both a Blog item and a Resource – and we’d hate you to miss it!

There is a wealth of information sources pertaining to professional wargaming on the web. Sites and links considered most useful are listed in the full Blog, 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 in the 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.

Why Wargaming Works

Why Wargaming Works’ by Peter Perla and ED McGrady was published in the US Naval War College Review in June 2011. It is an excellent article that anyone involved in wargaming should read. It differentiates between a ‘presented narrative’ and a ‘constructed narrative’: “…all games derive their power from the same source – their ability to open up their participants to self-transformation through the power of shared and constructed narrative.”  (Download here)

Professional Wargaming Abbreviations and Acroynms

This article provides a list of all the common abbreviations and acroynms that the professional wargamer needs. Let us know if any are missing and we’ll add them (Download here)

Recurring errors in the Modelling & Simulation industry

The fundamental assumption challenged is that the M&S industry is doing a good job. We are not! This PowerPoint presentation illustrates key areas where we are failing those we purport to support (Download here)

Avoiding common errors in Computer Assisted Exercises (CAX)

This article describes the 3 errors most commonly made in the design and delivery of Computer Assisted Exercises (CAX). Most importantly, it tells you how to avoid them!

Whether an experienced professional wargamer or newly posted to a position that involves wargaming, reading this article will help you deliver more successful wargames in any domain (Download here)

The Do’s and Don’ts of Course of Action Wargaming

Course of Action (COA) Wargaming is an incredibly powerful technique in any commander’s military decision making process tool bag. A well run COA Wargame will identify risks in a forming plan better than any other doctrinal method. They can then be mitigated, greatly increasing the chances of success.

LBS has provided advice to, and observed on, countless COA Wargames. Common mistakes made by practitioners rarely change from year to year or event to event, irrespective of the level of warfare or the operational context. The Do’s and Don’ts of Course of Action Wargaming explains those errors and tells you how to avoid them. Following the advice in the article will ensure that your COA Wargames are effective and efficient, delivering maximum benefit for minimum effort. (Download here)

Still the best book written on professional wargaming – ‘The Art of Wargaming’ by Peter Perla

20 years on, The Art of Wargaming by Peter Perla remains the best book written on designing wargames. It was published in 1990 by the US Naval Institute Press. Remember the term ‘wargame’ refers to the holistic elements of wargaming, not just the simulation; don’t buy this book if you want to know how to code models!

Paste the ISBN 0-87021-050-5 into Amazon or any other book retailer to find it. It’s about £16 ($25) for a used copy. If you are involved in any way with professional wargames you MUST own this book. The sections on hobby gaming might seem irrelevant; they are not (even though they are obviously dated), but many people might wish to skip them to save time. Whether you read them or not, make sure you get to the chapters on designing professional games.

‘Computer Assisted Exercises – A Reference Guide’

Erdal Çayirci and Dušan Marinčič have recently published Computer Assisted Exercises (CAX) and Training – A Reference Guide. This explains how CAX are designed and delivered from a NATO perspective, and is structured as a educational course. It is an excellent book and, being published in September 2009, describes current NATO best practice. Erdal is Chief CAX Support Branch at the NATO Joint Warfare Centre and knows more than anyone else I have met in NATO circles about CAX.

Paste the ISBN 978-0-470-41229-9 into Amazon or any other book retailer to find it. It’s expensive at about £60 ($100) even for a used copy, so maybe only for the committed professional wargamer!

History of Wargames – Matthew Caffrey

Matthew Caffrey’s Jan 2000 article provides one of the most comprehensive studies of the history of wargaming. It is an unbiased account of the good and the bad of historical wargames and a recommended read for any serious student or practitioner of wargaming. It is written from an American perspective, which is very much in evidence during Caffrey’s discussion of late 20th century wargame developments. (Download here)

Wargame design factors – a simple check list

A simple list of factors to be considered as part of a training wargame design (Download here). This does not constitute the outcome of a full design phase; it is just a list of example questions.