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Subject: DARPA Wargame rss

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Michael Peck
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My look (https://defensesystems.com/articles/2017/11/09/darpa-wargame...) at a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency quest to design a strategic wargame for the Pentagon. This one is a little different in that rather than wargaming to explore whether a strategy will work or not, the outcome is predetermined and the game is there to figure out how to achieve it.

This generated a fascinating discussion on Facebook by Rex Brynen, Christopher Weuve and others on professional wargaming.
https://www.facebook.com/michael.peck.967/posts/172033523133...

Michael
https://twitter.com/Mipeck1
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Tom Swider
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It seems that a game cannot have pre-determined outcome, otherwise it's not a game. Sounds more like a book.

From a training perspective, you determine what your Terminal Learning Objective is, identify the enabling objectives, and choose learning activities that are best or most feasible for the knowledge transfer. For what DARPA is looking for, it sounds like somebody made an edict and said "we're going to use a game", even if it's not proper for the enabling objectives.

FWIW,
Tom
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Martin McCleary
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an acceptable predetermined outcome is (could be) the attainment of a political objective i.e. compel an enemy force to leave country x by a certain time and reestablish the pre conflict international boundary. That's what the military does (tries to do) anyway - achieves mandated political end states.

the question would then be: which particular approach accomplished the political conditions at least cost and risk of escalation?

some of the problems described in the article ring very true in the Army games I participate in at times: little or no ability to simulate information warfare, economic factors, and other "soft" capabilities which are, arguably, moving to the forefront of operations.

Not sure how their effort will turn out but I'm glad someone is starting to talk about strategy rather than tiny tactics, we're obsessed with the latter often to the detriment of all else.
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Jason Cawley
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Clueless.

The enemy gets a vote.

War with one side is a round square and a misunderstanding.
 
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Michael Peck
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JasonC wrote:
Clueless.

The enemy gets a vote.



Yes, but in elections, we have polls to help us predict the outcome. That's wargaming.

Michael
 
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Very Stout
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This sounds like a puzzle more than a game. Either someone will insert what they consider necessary to "win", and then be amazed as others come to the same conclusion that path is the only way to win, or the "game" wins if no one finds a solution.

Either way, it sounds like a contract has already been signed based on a singular line of research.
 
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Steve S
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"It seems that a game cannot have pre-determined outcome, otherwise it's not a game."

"Clueless.

The enemy gets a vote.

War with one side is a round square and a misunderstanding."

"This sounds like a puzzle more than a game."

This reminds me of Pandemic-the goal is to survive X turns, and the players react to the environment to determine the best way to achieve it (coop).

It sounds like the Forbidden Desert/Island series, where the goal is to achieve X (build a plane, build a boat, etc), and the players try to achieve it (coop).

It sounds like Terraforming Mars-the goal is to get Mars to a livable condition (oxygen, temperature, and water content) and the players try to identify the most efficient means to get to that condition (competitive).

It sounds like lots of 4x games: build rocket to space in Civ, build certain number of cities in many games, achieve certain tech level, etc-but what's the most efficient means to achieve it?

It even sounds like most wargames we play. Most wargames have a predetermined outcome (will the allied invasion of France result in the fall of Germany? Of course-the variable is how long it will take. Will the Battle of the Bulge 'succeed'? Of course not-but will it exceed or fail its historical extent? In fact, the overwhelming majority of battles and wargames aren't 'balanced'-the outcome is predetermined, but the timing isn't).


In fact, this sounds like dozens of games that are listed here, and are very popular. And all are games.

Steve


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Jason Cawley
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To be clear, I have no problem with the article, just with the sense of the original DARPA specs and request. Which seems to be driven by pooh bahs commenting on their recent "wargaming exercise" experiences but without any real theoretical understanding of the background of how and why we game conflictual real world situations.

That one actor wants the outcome of a many participant, many power conflictual process to be X is not an outcome of that process and can't be fixed as its outcome, without it ceasing to be a real model of any actual conflictual process in which multiple parties with their own goals have power to influence the state of the world. Because in any real situation like that, any one actor wanting X is alongside anything else it might be, a weapon in the hands of those who don't want X, an opportunity to rent the use of that actor's power for those who are indifferent to X, and so forth.

Your desires are means of predicting your actions, determining the bids and offers you will make in negotiation with others, calculating who will be more closely aligned with you and who will be willing to oppose you, etc. "Mother may I?" is not a strategic competition. In any real strategic competition, what will actually happen is at stake in that competition. That is what it means that it is adversarial in the first place.

To Steve - sure there are non-adversarial games, but not "strategic wargames for the pentagon" modeling actual real world conflicts. Those are not coops, and "pretending" they are is pretending that everyone wants what the pentagon wants - which is false. Empirically.
 
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Abe Delnore
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The ending condition of many competitive games is attainment of a state that in thematic terms would look like project success: all the cities in designated parts of Germany are connected to the player-built Power Grid, we know more about our Solar System after about a couple decades of developing technologies for Leaving Earth, something with trains so you don't ever need to buy another Ticket to Ride (I confess I don't really know what that game is about), someone establishes a Monopoly on real estate in Atlantic City, etc.

Now surely these are all games; we don't need to introduce the possibility of project failure to make them games.

The ludic element is in reaching that endstate faster or more efficiently or after having done more or less of the work.

One way to think about this is that, in some games, you "play until you win." This in contrasts with traditional wargames which you play until a certain span of simulated time has elapsed; e.g., so many strategic games about World War II in Europe simply end in May 1945 because that is when the actual war ended. (Of course not all do.) Games about particular battles only represent the precise time and place where the battle was fought.

This kind of limit is pretty unrealistic for the planning purposes outlined in the article, because when you are executing actual strategy, you are usually in a "play until you win" situation rather than a "play for N turns" situation. So for example the problem for Winfield Scott in 1861 is "how do we crush the rebellion," not "what will military operations look like from 1861 to 1865 and no later"?

Of course, "play until you win" is the same as a predetermined outcome (just as area and point-to-point movement are really the same thing), but I hope we can all now appreciate why it can be appropriate for certain purposes.

 
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Jason Cawley
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For "you win" to mean anything, "haven't won" or "didn't win" also has to mean something. "The game turn marker reaches 20" is an end condition, but not a win condition - a win condition has to require some actual achievement that might not be achieved, or it isn't an achievement. Solos can have achievements that are effectively participation trophies; adversarial war does not. Conflict exists because actors do not actually agree on what they want to occur; supposing otherwise is supposing away conflict and is simply fantasy. It doesn't go away when you don't look at it.
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Leo Zappa
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dtomato wrote:
My look (https://defensesystems.com/articles/2017/11/09/darpa-wargame...) at a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency quest to design a strategic wargame for the Pentagon. This one is a little different in that rather than wargaming to explore whether a strategy will work or not, the outcome is predetermined and the game is there to figure out how to achieve it.

This generated a fascinating discussion on Facebook by Rex Brynen, Christopher Weuve and others on professional wargaming.
https://www.facebook.com/michael.peck.967/posts/172033523133...

Michael
https://twitter.com/Mipeck1


Interesting article. I don't really see any problem with the approach of setting out a desired outcome and then backwards engineering how to get to that answer, especially if the point of the exercise is to identify gaps in current force structures, basing, and combat and logistical assets*. The key, as pointed out in the article, is how to factor in the irrationality of the involved parties. As an analog gamer, my first thought would be a matrix of possible actions that could be randomized, with appropriate modifiers to make more likely actions have a better chance of occurring, but leaving room for extreme choices.

By the way, the link to the Facebook page doesn't work for me. Do you have to belong to the group to view that page?

*As an example, perhaps there is a scenario to examine a conflict in Central Europe between Russia and NATO. The desired outcome is a halting of the Russian offensive and a negotiated end to the conflict which restores the original boundaries. Perhaps a game such as that discussed in the article will reveal that the USA needs additional heavy lift assets and should preposition 3x the heavy gear that it currently does in Europe. Conceivably the outcome of the game might drive decisions on US Army dispositions in Europe and the procurement of more C-17 aircraft.
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Jason Cawley
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Leo - sounds fine, but does someone get to play the Russians? Do they get to have their own win conditions? Are they allowed to attempt things within the game - before you have "enough" extra lift - that *don't* end in a negotiated truce outcome? Unless the answer is "yes" to each of them, you will get "mother may I", not a required force level to achieve X. And if the answer is yes to each of them, then depending on how good the Russian player is, there might not *be* a number of C-17s that stop them. Objectively.
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Leo Zappa
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JasonC wrote:

Leo - sounds fine, but does someone get to play the Russians? Do they get to have their own win conditions? Are they allowed to attempt things within the game - before you have "enough" extra lift - that *don't* end in a negotiated truce outcome? Unless the answer is "yes" to each of them, you will get "mother may I", not a required force level to achieve X. And if the answer is yes to each of them, then depending on how good the Russian player is, there might not *be* a number of C-17s that stop them. Objectively.


Hi Jason - yes, certainly to my mind this exercise will not yield optimal results if there isn't a human team running the OPFOR, in my example, the Russians. I would think the game designers would provide the OPFOR team with some general and specific guidelines to govern the breadth of their choices, based on reasonable estimates of Russian capabilities. However, care would need to be taken not to provide guidance that is too narrow or rigid, otherwise the game could turn into nothing more than a bias confirmation machine and not a true learning experience.
 
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Jason Cawley
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Sure. Here is what I fear such exercises will amount to.

We want a reason to order 20 more C-17s because reasons. Please conduct a wargame exercise that shows the Russians can be prevented from making too much trouble in Poland if and only if airlift command has 20 more C-17s available.

This is not wargaming. It is playing games, but not to learn truths about military anything.

Version 2 - The imperial command has decreed that the navy shall seize Midway island. Please present plans that will minimize the cost and losses in doing so. The outcome that we do seize Midway island, of course, is fixed by the inexorable will of the Emperor, so nothing you say shall cast doubt on this glorious outcome.

Version 3 - The EU is resolved to end all terrorism in the free travel zone, without any new external or internal border controls, restrictions on the civil rights of EU residents whether full citizens or resident aliens, unfair profiling, or escalation abroad outside on the EU area. Please wargame this out and report the lowest cost ways of achieving this goal in the shortest period of time.

What do you expect to result from such distortions of the actual practice of adversarial wargaming to probe strategies, vulnerabilities, and achievable outcomes?
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