Rex Brynen
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Manual/board wargaming is enjoying a small but significant renaissance in a few professional military educational institutions. A case in point is the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, which will be introducing a simple, platoon-level semi-free Kriegsspiel into the curriculum in February. You'll find details here:

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/sandhurst-kreigsspi...

More generally, it remains striking how little adversarial wargaming is used in the training of most military officers. While the recent push in the US to reinvigorate wargaming across DoD and the service branches may partly offset this, there has still been no decision to actually teach wargaming (design, analysis and facilitation) skills in professional military education. As a result, surprisingly few know how to use it as an effective training or analytical tool.

[edit: typos corrected]
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At U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, there are those few professors who have designed their own manual wargames for use in the classroom to support learning objectives. James Sterrett has even created a MS Windows-based application to reinforce World War I history courses through wargaming. But these efforts are not yet mainstream.....
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RexBrynen wrote:
Manual/board wargaming is enjoying a small but significant renaissance in a few professional military educational institutions. A case in point is the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, which will be introducing a simple, platoon-level semi-free Kreigsspiel into the curriculum in February. You'll find details here:

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/sandhurst-kreigsspi....

Note: It's "Kriegsspiel". Same vowel spelling (and pronunciation) in both syllables.

There is a group at the RAND corporation that is making heavy use of board wargaming for analysis purposes. One of the group keeps posting on CSW.

Thanks for the link. It's rather amusing though, the first edition of Exercise Aldershot Skirmish fit on two pages.

Then it went to seven pages: http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/RMASExerciseAldershotSkir...

Now we're at I don't know how many. Soon they'll need a subaltern to carry the materials...
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Brian Train
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Who would that be Markus?

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Karl Mueller. They use hexmap overlays over normal maps.
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Brian Train
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Thanks Markus.

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This is the one he did on Russia invading the Baltics.

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Rex Brynen
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M St wrote:

Thanks for the link. It's rather amusing though, the first edition of Exercise Aldershot Skirmish fit on two pages.

Then it went to seven pages: http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/RMASExerciseAldershotSkir...

Now we're at I don't know how many. Soon they'll need a subaltern to carry the materials...

I believe that the non-hex, map-based version Tom posted today and linked above is the current version which they'll be using in February. If so, the actual rules are only a page (as the DS notes state, "There aren't any 'rules' per se, just military common sense and a few guidelines.")
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Given the leap in wargaming the last ten years (see: Welcome to the GaGa Zone: Wargames with High Fanboy bases and lots of LUST: 2nd Golden Age of Wargaming Edition or Top BGG Ranked Wargames of the Decade), why not use some of the great titles produced? Guess it goes to be what the military wants taught. Initiative? Surprise? Dealing with chaos? Adaptability? Or, some b.s. ability to execute a plan, based upon an inaccurate modeling of the critical factors, that won't survive the first random event?

I can see that there is a need to improve proficiency operating the machine the military uses to prosecute war - which would seem to the province of the consulting firms (those firms will have access to data about "the machine" that civilian game designers do not).

But, the ability to navigate the chaos and get there firstest with mostest? That would seem to be MUCH better taught by any number of wargames we're familiar with - which could be somewhat easily adapted to situations the military anticipates facing in the near term. Really surprised that hasn't been done. Yes, there is the rulebook and learning curve hump, but, compared to what the military has digest to any number of topics, that can't be that big of challenge.
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I actually don't see much of a leap in wargaming in the last ten years when it comes to representing the real world. The games that I see doing a decent job at representing real-world decisions are almost equally spread across the last 35 or so.

Quote:
Or, some b.s. ability to execute a plan, based upon an inaccurate modeling of the critical factors, that won't survive the first random event?
Actually, the emphasis on accuracy of modelling individual properties seems to be something that hobby wargamers focus on. The military seems to be happy with much more abstract representations. (As has been pointed out with regard to those 80's air combat training games, Check Six! and FEBA - their commercial counterparts, Flight Leader and Tac Air, were more focused on detailed information.)

The focus seems to be more on the ability to develop a plan based on very rough assessments of capability given the assets available. (The Exercise Aldershot Skirmish units have purely qualitative abilities.)

There is of course another space where accurate data are sought but not necessarily easy to come by, that is the simulation space, where you try to evaluate doctrine. But that's different from training games where you are trying to give soldiers a quick insight into the scope of options. I note that Exercise Aldershot has deterministic combat resolution. Still seems to do the job.

Regarding chaos, the tendency seems to do it in what is still the best way - fog of war and an umpire. No need for the intricate mechanisms that hobby wargamers have developed to avoid that umpire requirement. (And I say that as a great fan of such mechanisms.)
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Rex Brynen
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The problem with most commercial wargames is one of complexity and suitability for classroom use. As Phil Sabin has noted (and I've found too), newbie players can find even medium-low complexity games daunting. Consequently you either need to design appropriate facilitation/umpire mechanisms so that players don't need to fully know the rules, or simplify the game design.

Most commercial games also don't model the military planning process very well.

In the case of the Sandhurst Kriegspiel, the instructors only get the cadets for a few hours, so there's an incentive for the game mechanisms to be light and simple. This also aids in the post-game review, since there are fewer moving parts to complicate analysis. There's a lot that competes for attention in professional military education, so wargames that can be played quickly and easily have an advantage finding space on course curricula.

The US Army War College has been experimenting in the past few months with Engels matrix games. These have the advantage that they have almost no rules at all to learn--possible actions, effects and probabilities of success are assessed during the game through player discussion. However, while matrix games work well for some things (like the war against ISIS) they work less well for others.
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I was a U.S. Army officer in the 80's and early 90's and I can confirm that at that time, at the battalion staff level up to group/regimental/brigade staff level with which I was familiar there was no institutional wargaming in any sense in which wargamers would recognize. I can count on one hand the number of fellow officers I knew at the time who were also hobby wargamers. I did try to introduce wargames to a couple of others without much success and never had any meaningful success integrating their use into our training. Where I did see some potential benefit at my level to wargaming was to test out decision making capacity with junior officers but even then, we only tried that out once or twice at the unit level and it never caught on. Frankly, the Army at that time was fairly anti-intellectual and such "brainiac" activities were not actively encouraged by the chain of command, so far as I could see. The Army was more interested in physical, hands-on training and exercises in the field, and I mostly agreed with that mindset, though I thought there was room for both approaches. Doesn't sound like things have changed all that much in the intervening years.
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RexBrynen wrote:

In the case of the Sandhurst Kriegspiel, the instructors only get the cadets for a few hours, so there's an incentive for the game mechanisms to be light and simple. This also aids in the post-game review, since there are fewer moving parts to complicate analysis. There's a lot that competes for attention in professional military education, so wargames that can be played quickly and easily have an advantage finding space on course curricula.


Isn't there a bijou trapette there though? The games are made simple in order to entice people to play them but the real benefit will come when they move up to the next notch (the sort of stuff RCAT does). The question is do they (the authorities presumably) make that move? Does reading the Classics Illustrated version of a book make you read the original?
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Charles Vasey wrote:
The games are made simple in order to entice people to play them but the real benefit will come when they move up to the next notch (the sort of stuff RCAT does).

Hi Charles

could you elaborate on this? What do you think will be the real benefit of increasing the complexity?
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desertfox2004 wrote:
...The Army was more interested in physical, hands-on training and exercises in the field, and I mostly agreed with that mindset, though I thought there was room for both approaches. Doesn't sound like things have changed all that much in the intervening years.

As far as I know, simulations are still run (well, take this as a definite yes), but largely in automated fashion, that is, a set of parameters is introduced into the engine and then the simulation is left running for x amount of cycles to create a set of results for analysis. This is really not doable with manual simulations.
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jurdj wrote:
Charles Vasey wrote:
The games are made simple in order to entice people to play them but the real benefit will come when they move up to the next notch (the sort of stuff RCAT does).

Hi Charles

could you elaborate on this? What do you think will be the real benefit of increasing the complexity?

Increasing the lessons that can be extracted from the exercise. Given that the officers can spend so little time on wargaming it seems we are trapped into teaching them the simpler things. In the last RCAT game I played of the three main playing groups one practised terrorism, another engaged in no military activity whatsoever, and the third a mixture of military and non-military. That additional detail seemed much more useful than a simpler version. As one of the participants I needed to know very little about the game's structure, umpires assisted here and all I did was hurl in my "real world" inputs. Nothing complex for me. I'm guessing the RMAS game is to be played without skilled umpires.
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Charles Vasey wrote:
jurdj wrote:
Charles Vasey wrote:
The games are made simple in order to entice people to play them but the real benefit will come when they move up to the next notch (the sort of stuff RCAT does).

Hi Charles

could you elaborate on this? What do you think will be the real benefit of increasing the complexity?

Increasing the lessons that can be extracted from the exercise. Given that the officers can spend so little time on wargaming it seems we are trapped into teaching them the simpler things. In the last RCAT game I played of the three main playing groups one practised terrorism, another engaged in no military activity whatsoever, and the third a mixture of military and non-military. That additional detail seemed much more useful than a simpler version. As one of the participants I needed to know very little about the game's structure, umpires assisted here and all I did was hurl in my "real world" inputs. Nothing complex for me. I'm guessing the RMAS game is to be played without skilled umpires.

So you mean to say that the complexity is not so much in the rules/mechanisms, as in the situation? And the latter mostly by adding non-military context? I would agree on that point, but I got the feeling that in the above discussion simplicity referred to the underlying mechanisms. Which put me on the wrong foot.
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jurdj wrote:
Charles Vasey wrote:
jurdj wrote:
Charles Vasey wrote:
The games are made simple in order to entice people to play them but the real benefit will come when they move up to the next notch (the sort of stuff RCAT does).

Hi Charles

could you elaborate on this? What do you think will be the real benefit of increasing the complexity?

Increasing the lessons that can be extracted from the exercise. Given that the officers can spend so little time on wargaming it seems we are trapped into teaching them the simpler things. In the last RCAT game I played of the three main playing groups one practised terrorism, another engaged in no military activity whatsoever, and the third a mixture of military and non-military. That additional detail seemed much more useful than a simpler version. As one of the participants I needed to know very little about the game's structure, umpires assisted here and all I did was hurl in my "real world" inputs. Nothing complex for me. I'm guessing the RMAS game is to be played without skilled umpires.

So you mean to say that the complexity is not so much in the rules/mechanisms, as in the situation? And the latter mostly by adding non-military context? I would agree on that point, but I got the feeling that in the above discussion simplicity referred to the underlying mechanisms. Which put me on the wrong foot.

The extra detail (we need not descend to complexity to avoid being simple - this is a continuum) is in both, the rules and situation. I read simple in this case being quick to read, quick to grasp, quick to play.


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Rex,

The first two page version I tried in 2014 was a nightmare it was basically unplayable because the original (thanks god they replaced him with one of our former students) designer tell you that unit were spent after movement, but he forgot to tell you how to recover, and had a provision that only non-spent units could do anything... guess when me and Tom tell him of the problem what was his reaction...

Said that I would disagree with your and Phil experience. In my classes I have found that students could take even reasonably complex wargames provide you give them time to read the rules in advance (and they are willing to spend time... you cannot do anything with the non-physical 'absentees'). This year I had used Fire in the Lake and Ici C'est la France in class and they worked reasonably well with an audience of non-wargamers. Actually I had two players asking for more details (more on them later)...

Previously I have used Flying Colours with BA2 students and they picked the game very quickly.

I still use facilitators (me and someone else...) but more for taking notes and then facilitate discussion. There is no point of letting the student run for themselves if we do not have a discussion. The original idea of the Aldershot 'Thing' was that student would have played alone (it was more or less a drill based wargame with a single solution and also no real choice). If you are using games for drill this is fine, but if you are using them for something more you need discussion and having the facilitators around is useful to provide a focus point for the discussion.

I am moving away from the simple/simplistic approach and I am starting to think this reflects more Phil own preference than the students. I have not find too many problems in using out of the box commercial games. Of course there is an important factor: you need to keep groups small, and in large classes/training groups this could be a problem.

Of course speed of play has some advantages, but I am not very enthused of the low end of the design spectrum. IMHO they give very little benefit for the effort.

As the planning process. Well I would say that the commercial wargames focus on the execution phase, but you can insert a real planning element. The problem with this is that the military (at least the British Army) are used to a much more 'blue-friendly' environment, plus they expect to have planning cells for everything. They also do not like abstraction. Often commercial wargames present bot 'combination' and 'abstraction'. I was surprised by my two former officers playing Ici, they complained not so much about the game itself but the fact that it was strategic and they wanted to play tactical COIN, and then having the result of the tactical action feed in a broader game...

Usually the students (including the Consim ones) are often put off by excessive abstraction.

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Mad Archeologist wrote:
Said that I would disagree with your and Phil experience. In my classes I have found that students could take even reasonably complex wargames provide you give them time to read the rules in advance (and they are willing to spend time... you cannot do anything with the non-physical 'absentees'). This year I had used Fire in the Lake and Ici C'est la France in class and they worked reasonably well with an audience of non-wargamers. Actually I had two players asking for more details (more on them later)...

Previously I have used Flying Colours with BA2 students and they picked the game very quickly.

...

I am moving away from the simple/simplistic approach and I am starting to think this reflects more Phil own preference than the students. I have not find too many problems in using out of the box commercial games. Of course there is an important factor: you need to keep groups small, and in large classes/training groups this could be a problem.

The instructor/student ratio is key, as is the contact time required and available. I've also played the GMT COIN series with small groups of students, and yes they can manage it with substantial facilitation. However, given that my classes range in size from 100 to 600, it isn't something that's possible under normal circumstances. I could train up multiple facilitators, but at that point the cost/benefit payoffs would render it a less effective form of teaching.

Your experience regarding prior rule-reading runs contrary to mine. We ran a series of experiments with AFTERSHOCK, giving students less or more time to digest rules before play--and short exposure (with rules introduced during game play) proved more effective, reducing the degree of student anxiety considerably. In the case of AFTERSHOCK, it had the added advantage that any initial game play confusion nicely mirror the initial confusion of early HADR operations.

I'm not suggesting, of course, that there aren't cases where out-of-the-box commercial wargame designs can work well in the classroom. Clearly your own experience, and that of others, suggests that they can in same contexts. I do think, however, that commercial hobby wargames are generally not optimized for teaching/instructional purposes, which is among the reasons they aren't used more in professional military (or civilian) education.
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Charles Vasey wrote:

Isn't there a bijou trapette there though? The games are made simple in order to entice people to play them but the real benefit will come when they move up to the next notch (the sort of stuff RCAT does).

It isn't really a case of "enticing." Rather, the RMAS Kriegspiel needs to be played and debriefed in a little over two hours or so, as I understand it--there is simply no more time available on the schedule that day.

On the other hand, it is certainly the case that a simpler game can pave the way to more later, more sophisticated gaming with broader pay-offs.

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RexBrynen wrote:


The instructor/student ratio is key, as is the contact time required and available. I've also played the GMT COIN series with small groups of students, and yes they can manage it with substantial facilitation. However, given that my classes range in size from 100 to 600, it isn't something that's possible under normal circumstances. I could train up multiple facilitators, but at that point the cost/benefit payoffs would render it a less effective form of teaching.

Your experience regarding prior rule-reading runs contrary to mine. We ran a series of experiments with AFTERSHOCK, giving students less or more time to digest rules before play--and short exposure (with rules introduced during game play) proved more effective, reducing the degree of student anxiety considerably. In the case of AFTERSHOCK, it had the added advantage that any initial game play confusion nicely mirror the initial confusion of early HADR operations.

I'm not suggesting, of course, that there aren't cases where out-of-the-box commercial wargame designs can work well in the classroom. Clearly your own experience, and that of others, suggests that they can in same contexts. I do think, however, that commercial hobby wargames are generally not optimized for teaching/instructional purposes, which is among the reasons they aren't used more in professional military (or civilian) education.

Rex,

it is better I do not comment on the 600 students class... words escapes. As a former student I think it is madness, as a teacher... the same. I will be blunt with 600 students I am even worried they understand a normal lecture. In KCL we have smaller classes, for MA module often the size you have seen in CONSIM in 2014 is the average. Using a mix of lectures and seminars we really cannot go for 600...

It is a different approach to teaching and certainly we tend to put more contact hours. I make an effort to remember the name of every student for example.

I think in KCL we are a bit blessed, Phil has me running around from 2009... I have now trained one of the former MA students (the Korean girl from 2014 class, probably you remember her). She is trying to get in for a PhD so if she get accepted I am safe for 4 more year... plus she really likes game. She ran the Ici game by herself for example. I am also trying to train some BA students to be able to use them in the future for several year.

In the end everything rest on the logistical situation. It would be nice ot have a ready pool of trained people. This is similar to the RMAS game. Originally it was designed as a drill tool (completely different aim of RCAT and was designed by a a partially lapsed hobby wargamer), now Major Farren (or he is still captain? gosh he was in the class in 2009... I am getting old) has a different approach but still RMAS teaching approach is based more on drill rather than education. Anything more than 2 hours is a nightmare. RMAS is not West Point and they are more or less chopping subaltern.

But as Peter Perla or even Graham L-B would say this is not even proper wargaming, even if it uses a wargame tool. RCAT is more close to wargames.

But after I shhow a game (ripped off from LnL Totensonntag) to a staff group from the 20 Arm Bde they got the kanck and I was told that they were doing a lot of it in the Bde staff and also on the staff of the QRH (Queen Royal Hussars). It helped I had General Sharpe backing me when I did the presentation, officers were taking it more seriously. Also I found that officer in deployed units tend to be more interested that the (military teaching) people at RMAS.

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There has been a very niche push by a few officers to introduce wargaming exercises such as this into training. I saw a couple of presentations a few years back which referenced ASL amongst others. It's worth noting that we do wargame at BG level and above by using red and blue teams to test plans amongst the staff prior to dissemination but it is always heavily weighted to blue success. Personally I believe something along these lines may be of limited use in support of TEWTs but I'll bet money that it will not presage any fundamental shift in training focus at RMAS or elsewhere.

If people are interested then first map is of Aldershot training area (as alluded to in the article) and I believe the second is of Barossia training area that is part of the academy.
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elgin_j wrote:
There has been a very niche push by a few officers to introduce wargaming exercises such as this into training. I saw a couple of presentations a few years back which referenced ASL amongst others. It's worth noting that we do wargame at BG level and above by using red and blue teams to test plans amongst the staff prior to dissemination but it is always heavily weighted to blue success. Personally I believe something along these lines may be of limited use in support of TEWTs but I'll bet money that it will not presage any fundamental shift in training focus at RMAS or elsewhere.

If people are interested then first map is of Aldershot training area (as alluded to in the article) and I believe the second is of Barossia training area that is part of the academy.

Colonel Ivor Gardiner's shadow... he is the chap using ASL in training. Now let me put some signposts... the British Army does not wargame at BG level (I do not say this this comes from the former head of DCDC Major General Andrew Sharpe), the Army calls it wargame, but as Major Longley Brown calls it... is more Bunch Of Guys Sitting Around a Table. For one reason, as you say, these exercises are made in a way Blue tends to win (worth to note a friend of mine, who is an officer in the PLA, says their equivalent are Red Team slanted...). The other problem is the adjudication part. In a wargame both sides are gaming agaisnt each other using the same set of rules, in your case the CO is adjudicating results more or less (based on his perception). I think the correct name is Course of Action Wargaming. Remember the TEWT is supposed ot be the wargame itself, the Course of Action is just a tool.

The descriptions I have see usually have the BG operations officer working as the Red Side and every one is on the other side. I have seen planning syndicate at work during a battlefield study and I was not impressed with the method, in the end everything fit expectations.

People like colonel Gardiner and General Sharpe are trying to change the mentality. They do this because the Course of Action approach and the lack of real wargaming is hurting the army effectiveness. I agree with them.


Last year we did a big contract for DSTL for an higher level wargame (RCAT) and it is manual (but still a lot of it is referee/blue slanted). The idea is not to replace the Course of Action (by itself is not a bad thing, it is bad when everyone conform to the CO course of action), but to add another tool to perform training on the fly and on the cheap. A paper wargame is extremely cheap. The idea is doing real adversarial training in a 'controlled' environment. If oyu are re-fighting the battle of Berlin and you lose there is nothing at stake, but you still learn lessons in urban warfare. if the blue team equipped as a British Army armour BG loses even in a fictional city it would be annoying (at best).

I do not think there will be an huge shift in focus (I am pessimist), but certainly right now in the Army and in the MoD in general there is a lot of synergy toward proper wargaming. Remember this is not a new thing, 30 years ago proper wargaming was used as a military education education tool with no problem. So there is not real reason why we cannot do it again. Said that I also think there must be a real shift in focus and I while I am just a civilian (from an allied country) that sometime helps the Army, there is pressure building inside for a change in training methods. Even TEWT are criticized. They end up being Blue slanted anyway, plus there is no incentive to innovate but to follow the drill. In the big FTX the by the book mentality is even bigger. I had Major General Julian Thompson RM and Captain Michael Clapp RN telling me and other people that if they had a proper wargame at Ascension in 1982 they would have avoided a lot of error (actually they told us 'Could you please travel back in time with this thing and come at Ascension before we left?').

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Mad Archeologist wrote:
But as Peter Perla or even Graham L-B would say this is not even proper wargaming, even if it uses a wargame tool. RCAT is more close to wargames.
The RMAS Kriegspiel has an active Red, an active Blue, a system of rules/adjudication, etc. so it certainly ticks off Peter's requirements for a wargame.

That being said, yes RCAT offers a much fuller experience at the operational/strategic level. I took part in the Canadian playtest at the Department of National Defence in November, and was favourably impressed. Then again, even that playtest saw one observer unimpressed by the entire notion of stress-testing planning scenarios via RCAT-type wargaming, so there is still resistance to be overcome!
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