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Thread: Wargaming Small Wars (merged thread)

  1. #81
    Council Member ericmwalters's Avatar
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    Default Complicated and Complex Systems in Wargaming

    PVEBBER makes a lot of interesting observations and comments which deserve some responses, so I thought I'd take a stab at some of them. He writes:

    1) Linear, or at least analytically tractable relationships between cause and effect - the whole "metrics mania" that even Congress is getting into. Part of the snake-oil being sold as "network-centric assement theory" applies only to 'complicated' not truly 'complex' systems, which differ fundamentally by the very fact that cause and effect are discernable in complicated systems, but are not in complex systems - there are two many feedback driven interactions to know where the output needle will swing when you "twiddle the dials."
    I see a lot of this--the idea being that we can use wargaming to forecast outcomes in very complex, messy situations and use them as a way to "test" or "validate" commander courses of action. Lots of money is being poured into such efforts, and I am not convinced that such are based in solid theoretical foundations, as PVEBBER writes of above.

    Usually when I run across such simulations being used for these purposes, I immediate want to dive into the algorithms to see if it's indeed a complicated versus complex system that is being simulated. If it's the former, then it's easy to attack the simulation design. If it's the latter and somebody is trying to prove that it can validate courses of action, then I start asking how many "runs" were done and with what differences in variables...a good complex system will usually have wildly different outcomes even with the same variables. Typically when somebody is trying to peddle this kind of system, they've only done one run for the buyer who is golly gee so impressed with this latest technology.

  2. #82
    Council Member ericmwalters's Avatar
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    Default Wargaming and Strategy

    PVEBBER writes about the typical situation in wargaming--at least from what we see in the DoD world:

    2) The operational level is driven top down by strategy, not bottom up by tactics. Well "ought to be" - you can drive it bottom up, but evaluating "exit criteria until bells and whistles go off is not a 'strategy'.
    Unfortunately, most of the theater wargames I've been involved with do exactly what PVEBBER complains of in his second sentence. I'm personally convinced that not many DoD wargame/scenario designers, military officers, and the contractors who support them are not very conversant in strategy as a subject. While it is taught in various command and staff colleges and war colleges, lessons learned there are rarely reflected in exercises run in the operating forces. Most exercises are really tactical evolutions--it's rare to even see campaigning practiced well, mostly because of the lack of time. CPX evolutions normally are run in "real time" with no time compression, so one hour of exercise time equals one hour of real time. Thus, wars are won or lost in a week or two...because that's all the time we have to exercise. Training objectives are overwhelmingly tactical/procedural, so the entire scenario is skewed to achieve those goals. Unfortunately, we learn a lot that we shouldn't learn in such evolutions...

  3. #83
    Council Member nichols's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ericmwalters View Post
    Going to the TECOM website gave me no clues on how to do this.
    Sir,

    TechDiv's website is here:

    https://www.intranet.tecom.usmc.mil/...v/default.aspx

    You need to have your CAC certs on the computer to view the site.

  4. #84
    Council Member ericmwalters's Avatar
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    Default Games on the American Insurgency, 1775-1783

    As long promised, here are some capsule summaries of games on the American War for Independence. All tend to focus on the purely military aspects of the conflict, with little of the economic or truly political strategic threads which were important considerations in the real war. Nevertheless, such games are worth playing for insights into classic insurgency/counterinsurgency from a military standpoint.

    1776 (The Avalon Hill Game Company, 1974). For many years this was the only popular wargame on the topic, rivalled only by SPI's American Revolution game. While there are a number of scenarios covering some of the famous campaigns, these are only "training wheels" for the campaign game covering the entire war--this takes quite a long time for two players to complete as each turn covers a month. The British and Tory Militias seem to have the edge until the Loyalist player realizes he has a great deal of terrain to occupy which tends to negate his numerical superiority; while the Rebel Militia and tiny Continental Army (victim of Winter Attrition in the northern states) are small, they tend to be a bit more nimble inland and can evade most Crown sweeps to fall upon smaller outposts. The Americans receive a good boost when the French show up--particularly with the French fleet which complicates British maneuvers up and down the coastline. The focus on the system is on operations and strategy and is designed to force the players to aim for maximum militia recruitment for their particular side from quarter to quarter. Tactical cards add a bit of color and uncertainty--to say nothing of time--to resolving combats, and create good bit of tension. The leader variant available online is recommended to spice up the game even further. Despite gracefully aging, 1776 could do with a second edition incorporating more "Miranda-esque" considerations on politics and economics. Still, it's recommended if you can find a copy.

    You can take a gander at the components here.

    You can follow the CONSIMWORLD FORUM discussions on the game here.

    American Revolution (Simulations Publications, 1972). While an early area movement game, this simulation plays much faster than 1776 and covers the war at the primarily strategic level. Operational/campaigning aspects are heavily abstracted when compared to the Avalon Hill game. While good in its day, other games (notably We The People and Liberty) would seem to have eclipsed it given the scale. Best wrinkle in the game are the victory conditions for the American Player--to bring in the French and to win the game, various numbers of clear victories in battle must be won.

    Check out the game components here.

    Read up on the CONSIMWORLD FORUM discussions here.

    13: The Colonies In Revolt (Simulations Publications, Incorporated, 1985). This is perhaps the only serious rival to 1776 as of this writing. While the map is something of a graphical disaster, this Strategy and Tactics magazine game (Issue #104) is a hidden gem. Leadership is covered and the game plays faster than 1776, although perhaps not fast enough compared to other available titles. The emphasis here is on strategic decisionmaking but the operational-level is nevertheless covered adequately enough.

    Game components can be seen here.

    Discussion about the game is available here.

    We The People (Avalon Hill Game Company, 1994). Probably the most fun and most accessible wargame on the War for American Independence ever made. Quick play combined with an emphasis on card driven event/activation mechanics and political control of colonies make for a tense, exciting experience that nevertheless captures the essentials of the war. This was the title that provided the foundation for the current trend in Card Driven Games (CDGs) that include popular titles such as For The People, Wilderness War, Paths Of Glory, and many others. Some may have difficulty describing this game as a pure wargame compared to some of its brethren on this list, but a wargame it definitely is. Most definitely focused on the strategic level, with campaigning concerns heavily abstracted. Still a favorite at game conventions and tournaments, attesting to its interest level and replayability. Most recommended.

    You can look at the components here.

    You can read about what people say about the game here.

    Liberty: The American Revolution (Columbia Games, 2003) Another in its series of block games, this recent title plays quickly and--as does Columbia's other titles--provides some tension in its limited intelligence aspects. For quick play and excitement, it rivals (but does not supplant) We The People. As with that title, the focus is on the strategic aspects of the war. While the game has cards, it lacks the color that cardplay provides in the Avalon Hill work. Nevertheless, it's a good replication of the problems and prospects of the purely military applications in insurgency/counterinsurgency at that level--and in simulating the psychological pressures of the commanders involved (e.g., both players constantly think they are losing)--it perhaps has no peer.

    Look at the game components here.

    Follow what people have to say about the game here.

    As a nod to the 2006 and 2007 Revolutionary War Wargame Convention (RevCon) champion--Dr. Donald Hanle, currently a professor of Asymmetric Warfare at the National Defense Intelligence College--I'd like to mention that both We The People and Liberty are played at that tournament venue, usually in conjuction with PrezCon in Charlottesville, Virginia. Don also has an excellent book entitled Terrorism: The New Face of Warfare; I say this so that you won't be discouraged by the primarily military aspects of the American War for Independence covered by these games. Perhaps someday Joe Miranda or another enterprising designer will do justice to the full political, economic, and informational complexity of that war. Any takers?

  5. #85
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Wargaming Iraq

    Colonel Gary Anderson on Wargaming Iraq - SWJ Blog - video interview of Col Anderson on the Charlie Rose show.

  6. #86
    Council Member Dominique R. Poirier's Avatar
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    Default Communication and image.

    This Colonel seems to be a prepossessing person.

    By the way, is there any department within the DoD which would be in charge of selecting and training officers publicly expressing themselves about current issues and else; so as to treat the Army's image with care, I mean?

  7. #87
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Quite a lot you say there...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dominique R. Poirier View Post
    This Colonel seems to be a prepossessing person.

    By the way, is there any department within the DoD which would be in charge of selecting and training officers publicly expressing themselves about current issues and else; so as to treat the Army's image with care, I mean?
    ...he is retired so he is his own person, he is highly respected within and out of DoD, he has served from Vietnam through Iraq to inlude Somalia, Sri Lanka and Lebanon, and he is a colleague and a friend of mine. I'd do some homework before attacking the person and not the message. Message - fair game - personal attacks - off limits here. Thank you.
    Last edited by SWJED; 08-13-2007 at 12:11 AM.

  8. #88
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default

    By the way, is there any department within the DoD which would be in charge of selecting and training officers publicly expressing themselves about current issues and else; so as to treat the Army's image with care, I mean?
    Dominique, I'm afraid I don't understand your question. Although the institution that is the Army could be considered an entity, we tend to view the U.S. Army as the people who serve in it. This may be very different from other states (the nation types) in which an Army or other military branch might have had been its own sort of political body. Since around the late 1700s , we've had the same constitution, albeit with a few ammendments. I think we're a culture apart in that regard - meaning the circumstances of that have created some uniqueness to our military culture. That is why the chiefs are sworn to give their best military advice to the government and not just a sole branch, and also why we take oath to the Constitution, and not a party or sitting president (although he is in our chain of command).

    OK - that was the long answer. The short answer is no, and I think if we did adopt a sort of political education we'd quickly move to the shallow end of the gene pool and drown in blue blood.

    Hope that helps - Regards, Rob

  9. #89
    Council Member Dominique R. Poirier's Avatar
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    Default

    I am sorry if you felt offended in some way by my comment, and I sincerely regret it.

    It intended to be a critic, as you rightly assumed; but on the form, not the content which I do not question at all, indeed.

    It all comes from my professional experience in communication, a middle in which one uses to be highly sensitive about the form which exerts tremendous influence upon image.
    This applies to politics and to public services too and, as in the realm of communication for private companies, this factor is as much influential as the content of the discourse.
    In the history of politics, many very good candidates lost just because they lacked and neglected training and experience in public speeches before a camera.

    However, I do not regret my remark since I consider that it is of no service not to warn when such problem occurs; quite on the contrary.

    I have once read somewhere that Napoleon 1st would have said (I quote in substance from recollection): “Never warn an enemy who he is doing a mistake.”

    Sincerely,

  10. #90
    Council Member Dominique R. Poirier's Avatar
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    By the way, and still in order to make my talk constructive, the best example of the good way of expressing oneself before a camera I have ever seen while talking about the U.S. Army in particular and the DoD in general is this of Colin Powell who does it with mastery.

    Although itís a personal opinion about which, I concede, not everyone may agree with, itís a professional opinion nonetheless.

  11. #91
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Apples and Oranges between talking points and discourse

    Dominique,
    I believe there are several different expectations to public discourse. Often those of an admistration, while thoughtful, are constrained to "staying on message". Col Anderson was engaging in a different type of discourse. As a guest without an admistration's agenda, he has the intellectual freedom to discuss things in a more give and take way. I just watched it and think he did us a world of good on several different levels by discussing key issues (many of which we discuss here). By doing so he raises questions and provides insights that many of us beleive are critical to both the health of the Armed Services, and their ability to carry out policy objectives in the post 9/11 world. This was not a FOX Sunday with Chris Wallace where we hear political themes and talking points aired, but a very informative type of Q&A that provides the context required to have serious public debate.
    Hope that helps, Rob

  12. #92
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default Anderson's also a Marine....

    Dominique,

    I can see where to an extent you might consider Anderson's presentation prepossessing, but it's also important to remember that he comes from a branch that actually values speaking your mind. A quick browse through the pages of the Marine Corps Gazette as compared to, say, Field Artillery may show you some strong differences in presentation and dialog. He's a product of his environment to a degree, just as Powell was of his.

    Personally, I found his presentation refreshing as compared to the soft-shoe act often put on by folks like Powell (I should also mention that I'm not a huge fan of the former secretary) or the babble put forward by Franks and others. He's looking at and talking about things that need to be brought forward.

    Anderson may look a bit wooden in front of a camera, but he's also not a politician. Powell is and was.

    If you just listen to the audio (as I'm doing while typing this) he comes across quite well. But I also find his presentation refreshing. Listening to other military types talk, I have to keep the BS filter and translator running full blast. With Anderson you don't have to, and that's a major plus.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  13. #93
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    Default simulating war-to-peace transitions

    Some years ago, when I started teaching a couple of courses in peacebuilding (one undergraduate, one a graduate seminar), I ran into the problem of how to get beyond the reading materials to highlight the "fog of war/peace operations"--issues of negotiation, CIMIC, donor coordination, peacekeeping, challenges refugee repatriation, development, information shortfalls and overload, etc (and particularly the highly political and sensitive nature of these interlinked tasks).

    To address this, I started running a civil war simulation over several days, in which students played the role of the local government, various opposition/insurgent groups, donors, diplomats, NGOs, the press, UN agencies, peacekeeping contingents, etc. It was more or less a free kriegspiel, with minimal rules and actions subject to CONTROL's adjudication of effect. The SIM starts with a deliberate hurting stalemate, with no actor easily able to gain military supremacy so as to encourage negotiations (and to prevent it from degenerating into a giant game of RISK).

    The class has now grown (to about 120), the simulation has stretched (to 12+ hours a day for a full week), conducted face-to-face, by email, telephone, SMS, podcasts, and over IM and VoIP connections. This covers 7 months of simulated peace operation (1 hour = 1 day). Its not unusual for enthusiastic students to put in 18 hours a day during SIM week (yes, we simulate burnout too!)

    The downside is that this involves me monitoring about 10-11,000 emails over this period (I live in my basement in front of my mac that week).

    The upside is that its become enormously complex and dynamic, nicely simulating the complexity of war-to-peace transitions. Over the years students have also contributed a rich historical background: in addition to their briefing papers, there are fake CIA Factbook entries, fake newspaper articles, songs set in the simulation universe, fake BBC video reports, even a fake e-Bay page and a regional soccer league. There is also quite a campus oral tradition about it too (including ethnic cuisines, regional accents, sayings, and gender relations), creating a fairly vibrant cultural "universe" within which peace negotiations, PKO deployment, aid activities, etc. take place There is also quite bit of Pythonesque humour that arises in the course of a SIM, which might seem odd to military wargame practitioners, but in my view is important to engage student interest for 7 straight days during what is often the busiest time of the year.

    If anyone is interested, they'll find last year's simulation website here.

  14. #94
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default Thanks for the link!

    This is the sort of thing that I've been working on/toward for some time, and I think it's really the best way to simulate the complexities of Small Wars. You really HAVE to involve people, since the randomness they're capable of is very difficult currently to simulate.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member pvebber's Avatar
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    Default

    Any of you folks going to the MORS Wargaming and Analysis conference next week?
    "All models are wrong, but some are useful"

    -George E.P. Box

  16. #96
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    I should be so lucky....
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  17. #97
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Rex's web site on building peace

    Rex, that is a very cool web site and idea! I don't think I've heard of anything like it before done like you have it laid out.

    Shek might be interested in this for one of his classes. I can see good utility for this across the PME - I like it because the numbers of people almost guarantee complexity and the problems with getting people to accommodate other views. It could be about brokering peace, dealing with a HN bureaucracy, getting tribes to work together, etc. Doing it over a full week allows people to come around - or at least to better understand each other's position. Do an AAR (a "what did we learn") at the end of it about each other, ourselves and the process and you have some "how" to learn about people and their interests stuff going on.

    You should consider doing a paper on this for the SWJ - and discuss how the process evolves.

    Best, Rob

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    Default

    Rex, I have three questions, which I couldn't find answers to on the website, though I may have just missed the correct links.

    1. Are the students more likely to reach agreement under lots of pressure, or if someone comes in and relieves the pressure?
    2. Are they more likely to come to agreement if there's no fighting, or if they've bloodied each other a little?
    3. What can we learn from these experiments? (Feel free to point me to someone's thesis. There's no reason you should do all the work.)

  19. #99
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default

    To add to what Rob said, this looks like an excellent and rich simulation that would have a lot of relevance for NGOs that are deploying teams to a mission environment. Have you seen any such interest from that quarter?

    I'm involved in training delivered by the Humanitarain Distance Learning Center out of Australia (Security Management), and something like this would make for a great practical exercise among students who are on the long study track towards certification.

    That has to be a huge effort. Kudos on it.
    Last edited by jcustis; 10-11-2007 at 12:08 AM.

  20. #100
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    Rex, I have three questions, which I couldn't find answers to on the website, though I may have just missed the correct links.

    1. Are the students more likely to reach agreement under lots of pressure, or if someone comes in and relieves the pressure?
    2. Are they more likely to come to agreement if there's no fighting, or if they've bloodied each other a little?
    3. What can we learn from these experiments? (Feel free to point me to someone's thesis. There's no reason you should do all the work.)
    The military part of the simulation is designed to be a hurting stalemate from the start, with no one actor able to achieve an easy victory on the battlefield. Usually it takes a day or two before they fully realize this, though--and it is not unusual to get hardliner vs softliner splits emerging early on within the government and the various insurgent groups. It is rare that an agreement is reached without some fighting during simulation week, and poorly-framed agreements usually break down anyway.

    It is, of course, not intended to be a military simulation (I have lots of experience with those on the hobby side, but this is really about other issues). I sometimes have to restrain the passions of students with military experience who want me to draw up detailed tactical maps of a country that doesn't exist.

    After a few days of jockeying, the government often tries to negotiate a partial peace with one of the main combatants, to allow them to concentrate on the others. It is a useful lesson in the fact that peace negotiations and agreements can be as much about gaining operational or strategic advantage as gaining peace.

    On the rebel side, meanwhile, they're often trying to hold an anti-government coalition together while fundamentally mistrusting each other. It can go in very different directions at this point.

    The simulation is in a vaguely African setting overall, as evident from the weak economy and military, the poor transportation system, conflict diamonds, and the limited levels of international engagement. It is not considered a US vital interest, so the Marine BLT potentially available to the US team (if it does anything at all) is usually limited to evacuations of foreign nationals or offshore backstopping of a UN or other multilateral PKO. One of the things I really have to do in the class is highlight that, in the real world, only limited numbers of forces are ever likely to be available for peace operations, only under certain conditions, and that external actors have much less leverage over civil wars than is commonly thought. They all seem to think you service guys are omnipotent

    On a side note, I've run the SIM some years when the US team is all Americans, and the French team is all from France. That can be fun, as I know Tom and Stan can attest from their real adventures in central Africa!

    As for broader lessons, it is largely a teaching device, intended to demonstrate things I've lectured on in the classroom during the previous 10 weeks. Usually students manage to reproduce (without any interference from me) all sort of real life problems of coordination, unintended consequences, fog of war/peace, UN Security Council paralysis, national rivalries, military vs UN vs NGO worldviews, etc.

    To give one of my favourite examples: one year the UNICEF team did a ton of research, and put together a technically outstanding maternal/child health care project, complete with a family planning component. It was great work, and they managed to get enough donor funds to launch the project in several districts. They did a needs assessment, and decided to launch the project in the areas of greatest need, in the south. It all seemed routine enough, so they didn't consult very closely with the UN SRSG, who in any case was tied up in sensitive negotiations.

    The main ethnic rebel group then learned that UNICEF was introducing family planning only in the south--that is, the home base of their "Zaharian" ethnic group. In a civil war that is in large parts about demographics, this was seen as highly threatening--and so the rebels started kidnapping UN staff in response to what they termed the "UN eugenics program." Of course, cynically, the fact that they had found an issue to beat the SRSG over the head with was far from inconsequential. The net result was a severely distraught UNICEF player, and a UN mediator that had to bend over backwards to calm supposed Zaharian fury.

    As Rob suggests, they do after action reports/debriefs/lessons learned post-SIM. We may play around this year with embedding a social psychology experiment in part of the SIM--but I can't provide details lest I prewarn my web-browsing students
    Last edited by Rex Brynen; 10-11-2007 at 01:47 AM.

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