Interest has recently grown in alternatives to standard venues of warfighting experimentation. Continued interest in diversification; simplification; economies of cost and time; scalability/repeatability; focus on jointness, interagency participation, and multinational participation at levels above the tactical; and ease and enjoyment of play has recently prompted briefings on COTS (Computer Off The Shelf) wargames as viable and worthwhile experimentation venues.
The thesis is that using a conflict simulation based on the features of two or more COTS wargames, merged together and modified to suit our needs, we could conduct worthwhile experimentation at a fraction of the current cost in both time and money. Such experimentation would necessarily compliment, rather than supplant our existing venues of experimentation; but they will offer value.
I have long advocated a similar approach based on the COTS game "Diplomacy". After the briefing referenced above, I was asked by a few people to conduct a series of informal workshops introducing Diplomacy, and my ideas on how to modify the game to better suite our purposes. In the course of preparing for and conducting these workshops, it came to light that government agencies; both here and abroad, have already acted on this idea, and have already incorporated the game Diplomacy into their training regimens. We expect next month to start an internet or e-mail-based game with a group from the Australian MOD.
It occurred to me that an ideal arrangement would involve nation-teams from multiple real-world nations; each team representing the full joint and interagency community of a given power in the game (typically there would be 7-12 such powers). I am working with our multinational LNO community now to try to bring that about.
II. Why we would benefit from such a game
I believe that the formats of the war games that I have participated in professionally have not well served our needs for analyzing warfighting concepts. I have observed that many other participants have shared this view.
A. Problems that I observed have included the following:
B. I submit that we would be better served by:
C. There may be many ways of doing this; but I believe that a workable solution is best offered by a global variant of the board game Diplomacy.
For information about Diplomacy generally, I would like to direct your attention to the following informative URLs:
Each of these is well and good, but won't mean much to you until you get bloodied in a first game. The standard rules can be explained in about 15 to 20 minutes. I can take a single prospective player all the way through an initial practice one-on-one game in about an hour. A standard, seven-player, face-to-face game (that incorporates the dynamics of multilateral conflict) normally takes a few hours. Games of any variation or number of players can be spread out over any period, by pacing the moves to occur at any desired interval (once an hour, a day, a week, etc.). The basics are essentially this:
1. The game is played on a map (shared board, individual map sheets, or shared or networked computer display). The standard game is played on a map of Europe and the Mediterranean dated 1914. It can be played on any map of any real or imagined area (the skills required are not dependent upon specific geography).
2. It involves multiple players (two to infinity).
3. It employs military units (the standard game and most variants incorporate Armies and Fleets, but Air Forces would not be difficult to integrate in).
4. The mechanics of play are very simple.
A. All moves take place simultaneously (and are adjudicated by an automated or human Game master).
B. All players may move all units on each turn.
C. All units are of equal fighting power.
D. Armies may move only on land, Fleets at sea or along coastlines.
E. Each designated geographic entity can accommodate only one unit at a time.
F. In any given turn, any given unit may:
2. Support another unit to move or to hold;
3. Convoy; or
G. Units may only move to, or support action in, or convoy to adjacent locations in any given turn.
H. Adjudication is simple, and based on numerical strength (one being less than two, two less than three, etc.).
I. Free negotiation periods precede every move.
J. No agreements are binding.
K. The map has specified locations of intrinsic value ("Build" or "Supply" "Centers", usually major cities) that support units.
L. The number of each player's units will rise or fall according to the number of such centers in their possession.
5. It already heavily emphasizes interacting among shifting international coalitions and sovereign countries.
6. By assigning multiple players to each country (a General for Armies, an Admiral for Fleets, and perhaps an Air Marshall for Air Forces), joint operations and interactions can easily be simulated (this can get especially interesting if they submit separate orders, and during build times (every other turn) when decisions must be made on building or disbanding units).
7. Operational-level warfare is already simulated in the standard game. Larger variants can incorporate the strategic level and simultaneous multiple operational level scenarios. In larger variants, countries could have Regional CinCs appointed.
8. Interagency play can easily be simulated by designating one or more additional players from each country to conduct international negotiations (State Department), or for even greater fidelity (although with greater difficulty), by adding additional dimensions and players to the game (for economics, etc.).
9. A good game can be played with as few as three players, and can be completed in a few hours. With a global game of up to 18 powers, each with multiple flag-level officers in the NCA, multiple Regional CinCs, and multiple "negotiators", played at a rate of a move a week, it could involve over a hundred people for the better part of a year. Anything in between can also be accommodated. A standard game of up to seven players can be adjudicated electronically. Any larger or variant game will require a (at least nominally) human gamemaster.
The game, in spite of its simplicity, is an excellent model of real human conflict on the operational and strategic levels. I am in the process of building a large (but foldable and briefcase-storable) global playing board now. I have assembled enough counters for up to 12 countries to be fully equipped with armies, fleets, and air forces. A computer programmer could easily build a computer-playable version of this game.
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