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Thread: War-Gaming Insurgency

  1. #21
    Registered User bongotastic's Avatar
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    A whole lot can be modeled nowadays. The technology to do it isn't very hard to work with, but it is still mostly used in research labs and proprietary software outfits. There are ways to encode what we know about an issue using knowledge models (or ontologies) and perform reasoning on these.

    Furthermore, the ability that software can learn and take decisions in blurry situation is today easy to implement, and pretty robust. The days of neural networks are long gone now, thank God. I know a bit about this because I do research in the field and keep on wondering on how this stuff would apply to modeling 4GW (which unfortunately has nothing to do with what the research money is there for).

    Take knowledge models and robust learning algorithm and a lot can then be done. As I mentioned before, COIN isn't going to be all that much about the battles, but about the context of these battles. COIN is definitively a setup for an RPG, but software can do now much more than what most game/sim have to offer.
    Last edited by bongotastic; 02-02-2009 at 06:47 PM.

  2. #22
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    Both theories are valid, but fall victim to "Black Swans" pretty easily, but that doesn't disqualify their utility.

    However, have played a lot of strategy games in the past, especially ones like the "Civilization" series and derivatives therof (space conquest, etc). Almost all feature a negotiation/alliance model for trade and security. However, I have yet to find one that looks like real-world relations for war decisions, even though most are based in rational choice theory. People aren't that mathematical/logical in the real world, and coding of the social/environmental/internal political constraints seems to be the missing factor - but the hardest to quantify.
    True dat. Neil's experiences and COIN efforts in Anbar Province would not translate to success in Diyala. Conversely, my approach to Diyala would not have translated to Anbar. Each province has a unique "conflict eco-system" (Kilcullen) or social fabric.

    So, I'm a little skeptical on the ability for the M&S community to develop an application that FORECAST behavior.

    However, these programs y'all are working on may help to develop training tools. Back in the day, we used to head to CCTT and UCOFT to practice tank gunnery and maneuver in a 3D environment. While it was not as realistic as the OIF Thunder Runs, it served a purpose of helping to training. I found some utility in taking my platoon there.

    Simarly, I am optimistic that someone will develop a useful wargaming or RPG to serve as a training tool for the next level of company grade officers and young soldiers/NCOs to practice PRIOR to experiencing the blunt force trauma of on the job training.

    v/r

    Mike

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    Council Member BayonetBrant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bongotastic View Post
    A whole lot can be modeled nowadays.

    I guess you need to decide up front if this is just a training tool to help (eventual) practitioners learn when/how to make decisions, or whether or not this is a modelling/rehearsal tool for testing the decisions before deploying them. One requires much greater accuracy than the other.


    If you're just trying to help teach the guys who/when/how to make decisions, then you don't need a perfect model of the reactions of people from downrange to learn that the JAG does need to be involved in some targeting decisions and that the Chaplain can be useful for more than just supporting your own guys.


    If, however, you want a robust predictive model that says "if we do this action, with these assets, in this province, within this time frame, we should see this specific result within the population" then you're smoking dope - that's just too hard to accurately predict, and when it goes wrong, someone will inevitably scream "but the sime told us this was a good idea!"
    Last edited by BayonetBrant; 02-02-2009 at 07:09 PM. Reason: cut off before I was done.
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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    True dat. Neil's experiences and COIN efforts in Anbar Province would not translate to success in Diyala. Conversely, my approach to Diyala would not have translated to Anbar. Each province has a unique "conflict eco-system" (Kilcullen) or social fabric.

    So, I'm a little skeptical on the ability for the M&S community to develop an application that FORECAST behavior.

    However, these programs y'all are working on may help to develop training tools. Back in the day, we used to head to CCTT and UCOFT to practice tank gunnery and maneuver in a 3D environment. While it was not as realistic as the OIF Thunder Runs, it served a purpose of helping to training. I found some utility in taking my platoon there.

    Simarly, I am optimistic that someone will develop a useful wargaming or RPG to serve as a training tool for the next level of company grade officers and young soldiers/NCOs to practice PRIOR to experiencing the blunt force trauma of on the job training.

    v/r

    Mike
    Mike,

    Good points. What I would like to see is a series of "choose your adventure" type game/scenarios where your actions affect the environment - i.e. how you act during a raid, negotiation, etc.

    At the risk of making the actions formulatic, it can reinforce best principles, especially if logical consequenses ensue for actions. That's why I have enjoyed BioWare's series of RPG's the past few years - your choices significantly influence the route/outcome of the game, and the actions of those around you.
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  5. #25
    Registered User bongotastic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BayonetBrant View Post
    If, however, you want a robust predictive model that says "if we do this action, with these assets, in this province, within this time frame, we should see this specific result within the population" then you're smoking dope - that's just too hard to accurately predict, and when it goes wrong, someone will inevitably scream "but the sime told us this was a good idea!"
    100% with you. You can't do that. For training though, what's needed is to bend the randomized reaction to account for a number of key factors to reward good decision making. In the end, this can't be anything else than rolling a die.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    And that's one reason I tend to go back to the freeplay RPG style. It's about the only way you can really capture the rather unique elements that go into some human decision-making. Strategy games can capture this to a degree, but some of the better versions I've seen have been "house rules" built for things like Risk and the like. A robust RPG framework with computer aid (for resolution of some tasks like development and local infrastructure issues) still strikes me as the best way to go, although it would also be the most intensive in terms of manpower (training, white cell, and so on).
    I absolutely agree—there is so much that unexpectedly crops up in a COIN or peace operation setting that a hard-coded computer simulator just couldn't handle, but which an experienced White Cell can easily deal with.

    A case in point, from my own classroom simulation:

    One year, the UNICEF player put together an integrated child/maternal health initiative for our fictional war-torn country. She was a very bright international development student, had done her homework, and frankly did an excellent job. Because donor funds were limited, she decided to target its initial application to those areas with the highest infant mortality rates.

    The program was to be conducted in conjunction with local NGOs, and those local NGOs also offered a family planning component. Because of the nature of our simulated civil war, infant mortality rates were highest in the southern areas (where the war was largely being fought). Those areas were predominately inhabited by Zaharians, a secessionist ethnic minority.

    The ethnic insurgents in those areas, who were in sensitive peace negotiations with the government through UN channels at the time, immediately condemned the UNICEF program as a "UN sponsored eugenics program intended to lower the Zaharian birth-rate." They complained bitterly that most of the areas being targeted had a Zaharian majority. A few insurgent units even went so far as to detain UNICEF and UNDP workers ("to protect them from the righteous wrath of the people," of course).

    This was all a cynical ploy to increase pressure on the UN SRSG in the negotiations—right down to the organization of noisy demonstration by diaspora supporters outside UN headquarters in NY ("Peace, yes! Eugenics, no!") It worked wonders, as the SRSG started to press the government for concessions to mollify the angry Zaharians, and pressed other UN agencies to offer increased humanitarian and development assistance in the south.

    The UN folks were released a week or so later. The SRSG read the riot act to the UN aid agencies, and insisted on a new structure for UN coordination that would increase political oversight. The UN agencies grumbled. The peace negotiations continued.

    That particular intersection of ethnic demographic politics, peace negotiations, development assistance, and internal UN dynamics has only happened that one year out of the ten or so that I've run the sim. It was hugely instructive for the students, illustrating my constant lectures on 'all aid is political" in a way my lectures never could. More to the point here, it seems to me doubtful that an AI-based computer simulation would have been able to anticipate, capture, and moderate it as effectively.

    The problem with an RPG or frei kriegspiel approach is that it is very dependent on experienced moderators—its not just something you can ship off to folks for local training.

  7. #27
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    The problem with an RPG or frei kriegspiel approach is that it is very dependent on experienced moderators—its not just something you can ship off to folks for local training.
    Quite so, but that's an issue I'd much rather deal with than an incomplete or broken computer model. However, it might just be possible to have a central white cell and conduct remote training via one of the online gaming models out there (text based might work best, as then folks would focus on the scenario and not the pretty pictures).
    "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."
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  8. #28
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BayonetBrant
    I'm not saying this can't all be done, but good Lord that's a huge task from a game-design perspective, before you ever start writing a single line of code. No matter how good your code is, if the underlying game-mechanics aren't wired tight, the game will fail as a training tool.
    Good points. My intent is to enable 'kits', which will enable users to define scenarios (factions, units, actions, and effects) according to their needs. There will be base ratings for each category, and how they interact with one another will remain the same, but the relative value of each will differ according to the estimates of the users (established prior to starting a session). So while a faction will always have units that conduct actions that have effects, the types, scopes, and capabilities of those units, actions, and effects will differ. The number and types (determined by the actions available) of units will determine the extent of a faction's capability. So if a faction is an armor company, its units (and their available actions) will reflect that, and the user will be restrained to those choices. Similarly, if a faction is a terrorist organization, its units (and their available actions) will also reflect that, and the user will be constrained to a different combination of choices. Large or small, regular or irregular. Ultimately both are governed by the same operating principles. I think it will help clarify what choices are available, and which are most likely, in particular conditions.

    Quote Originally Posted by CavGuy
    I just don't think a simulation wargame can account for the human-centric complexity of a COIN/Stability environment. Perhaps with a real-live Red Team, immersed in the thought/thinking context of the host, but predicting second and third order effects of human interaction has remained near-impossible.
    That is why I do not intend to program an AI. A permanent Red Team is a good idea, but part of my sell for this program is that it will be light on resources. If used as a war-gaming tool, I imagine the S2 section running the opfor and providing the estimates for the impact of effects in the particular AO.

    I would label this simulation as a "strategic RPG". Users will roleplay different factions, but will be making decisions toward the accomplishment of particular aims.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Quite so, but that's an issue I'd much rather deal with than an incomplete or broken computer model. However, it might just be possible to have a central white cell and conduct remote training via one of the online gaming models out there (text based might work best, as then folks would focus on the scenario and not the pretty pictures).
    You can also try to combine a primarily rules-based system (either computer-based or otherwise) with a moderator, to develop a system that is both nuanced but can possibly be provided to others as a training kit.

    As I understand it, the World Bank's Carana simulation (which explores budget and development prioritization in a fictitious post-conflict country) works this way: part of it looks a bit like a customizable card game (you have limited allocated resources, and an broad array of semi-fixed policy choices), but the presence of a human moderator allows the participants to think outside the box, develop alternative approaches, represent otherwise unrepresented actors and issues, etc. One could easily adapt the approach to focus on, say, the operations of a PRT instead of cabinet-level decisions. The key part of the process is the debate, coalition-building, shared analysis, coordination, etc. among players, in which a traditional pen-and-paper RPG excels.

    Maybe, if time ever allows, we could put together something, at least as proof-of-concept.

  10. #30
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    This might be of interest, from the Modeling and Simulation Builder for Everyone (mōsbē) software package:

    BreakAway has developed tools and editors to enable the scripting of human emotion and behaviors, group and alliance affiliations, and demographic characteristics to the population of a simulated environment. This technology enables a user to assess the overall political, social, economic, and military situation in detail; select and prioritize objectives; plan appropriate strategy and tactics to achieve those objectives; and respond appropriately and effectively adversarial actions to achieve desired end conditions.
    The "Force More Powerful" simulation that they showcase on the website has similarities with the mac game Republic: the Revolution (which I happened to pick up for $5 in a bargain bin recently). I sure hope its more stable, runs faster, and has a better interface, though...

    EDIT:

    There seems to be a whole range of materials on A Force More Powerful, which you'll find here and here.
    Last edited by Rex Brynen; 02-03-2009 at 04:34 AM. Reason: added additional URLs

  11. #31
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    I can do some pretty heavy AI programming with an out of the box ready engine, but from my research the last few week I have found that may be a bad. For the war game I'm considering removing technology is a good idea. I want to figure out the thinking strategies and techniques. So removing crutches or covers is important. In one of the books I recently read (I'm on book 7 of war gaming), the author said chess can be played by a computer, but all you know is the computer knows the rules. Kind of made me think.

    I'm slightly stoned on game theory right now...
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    Registered User bongotastic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    Mike,

    Good points. What I would like to see is a series of "choose your adventure" type game/scenarios where your actions affect the environment - i.e. how you act during a raid, negotiation, etc.
    I'm paytesting a MATRIX-based game with the French Military. It is a great experience and would be amazing if played with people who were on the ground at some point. The quick gist is that each player gets 5 points. Each point can be used to make an argument, the stronger the argument, the more likely it will pass and influence the game. People can counter-argue, etc. The discussion on the strength of each argument is usually very good. I find very interesting to have to think like an Al-Quaeda operative, or a local Sheik.

    It's light on rules, but quite in-depth as far as nailing the issues with COIN.
    Last edited by bongotastic; 02-03-2009 at 03:37 PM. Reason: typo...

  13. #33
    Council Member BayonetBrant's Avatar
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    For training purposes, the problem with having human arbiters in an exercise is that the lessons that should be learned by the losing team will inevitably be dismissed as arbiter-bias... I've seen that waaaaay too often.
    Brant
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  14. #34
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BayonetBrant View Post
    For training purposes, the problem with having human arbiters in an exercise is that the lessons that should be learned by the losing team will inevitably be dismissed as arbiter-bias... I've seen that waaaaay too often.
    And you can get the same thing with computerized games....except that it will be the fault of the program or the other team hacked in and cheated. Some people just won't want to learn anything from an exercise.
    "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."
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  15. #35
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BayonetBrant View Post
    For training purposes, the problem with having human arbiters in an exercise is that the lessons that should be learned by the losing team will inevitably be dismissed as arbiter-bias... I've seen that waaaaay too often.
    Similarly, while information operations are important when nested within a hollistic COIN strategy, the Great Communicator/Debator approach WILL not unilaterally persuade an insurgent, sheik, or shop owner.

    Words are meaningless if not backed with action. One of the reasons an insurgency exists in the first place is the fact that a group of people are so frustrated with their perception of the government that they desire to change it outside the confides of the political process.

    v/r

    Mike

  16. #36
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    All,

    Thanks for your input. Here are some definitions (that I will use in my brief) to clarify the concept:

    A faction is a political or military organization that commands units and is at the direction of a single user.

    A unit is a military, political, social, or economic figure or element that conducts actions and is commanded by a faction.

    An action is a military, economic, political, or social task conducted by a unit and that has effects.

    An effect is a military, political, economic, or social consequence of an action. An effect will be measured in how it alters any of the values for factions and units (ie. increasing/decreasing legitimacy, etc).

    As you can imagine, these four components will form the building-block of the sim. I'm busy developing the descriptive values for each (i.e. nationality, ethnicity, religion, cohesion, legitimacy, credibility, loyalty, mobility, survivability, etc). The values can either be numerical or text. As new factions, actions, units, and effects are created, users can mix and match any of them to represent conventional military units, unconventional fighting forces, individuals, or any other kind of organization of any size; military, political, or other.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  17. #37
    Registered User defense linguistics's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bongotastic View Post
    I'm paytesting a MATRIX-based game with the French Military. It is a great experience and would be amazing if played with people who were on the ground at some point. The quick gist is that each player gets 5 points. Each point can be used to make an argument, the stronger the argument, the more likely it will pass and influence the game. People can counter-argue, etc. The discussion on the strength of each argument is usually very good. I find very interesting to have to think like an Al-Quaeda operative, or a local Sheik.

    It's light on rules, but quite in-depth as far as nailing the issues with COIN.
    Hey, there Christian! Reading this thread with interest.

    I developed this game with Chris Engle after originally trying to come up with a way of implementing TacOps in my classroom. After several failures I've come to the idea that quantifying COIN simulation is a huge, expensive job--especially if you don't know exactly what you want the simulation to teach. Chris and I wanted to engage my trainees with the conceptual framework of COIN and to provide an opportunity to read important documents and immediately employ the concepts therein. I don't care about training particular battle drills, but I do care about learning how to shape narrative.

    I recently gave a short presentation to most of the brigade commanders in the Armée de Terre, the notes of which can be found here.

    I would welcome anyone interested in watching how this exercise works to register as a guest here. If you have any trouble logging in as a guest, please PM me and I'll set you up.

    Soon, I will be modifying the game for (an American) friend of mine whose next billet will be as a bn XO.

  18. #38
    Council Member BayonetBrant's Avatar
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    Just make sure that the 'actions' you allow to the units/factions are appropriate for their anticipated resources, and that they have some way to tangibly affect the other players and/or the victory conditions. If it doesn't affect the VC or other players, then think long and hard about whether or not to include it, b/c at that point it's purely cosmetic.

    To do that, you've got to get your VCs straightened out first. That might seem wierd, but especially for a COIN game, you absolutely have to define 'success' for each faction before you get anywhere close to the tools for them to meet that criteria.
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  19. #39
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BayonetBrant
    Just make sure that the 'actions' you allow to the units/factions are appropriate for their anticipated resources, and that they have some way to tangibly affect the other players and/or the victory conditions. If it doesn't affect the VC or other players, then think long and hard about whether or not to include it, b/c at that point it's purely cosmetic.

    To do that, you've got to get your VCs straightened out first. That might seem wierd, but especially for a COIN game, you absolutely have to define 'success' for each faction before you get anywhere close to the tools for them to meet that criteria.
    Good points. I intend to let the user define the objectives (or VC) for the factions at the initation of each scenario. The objectives will be expressed either in the completion of X number of actions or the achievement of Y value in a particular or combination of ratings (a full list of which I have yet to develop). The ratings will capture the intangible concepts implicit in war and politics -- legitimacy, credibility, cohesion, morale, etc. As for 'resources' -- that is an excellent point, and something over which I will have to think. Right now, I have a table of twenty or so ratings for units, while the cost of initiating and completing an action will have a degrading effect on any one or combination of those ratings.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    Council Member Jason Port's Avatar
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    Pride,

    This is really impressive and I am coming really late to the party here. Brant and I work together and have white boarded out this concept with our development team a few times. Conceptually, all things discussed here are extremely important to factor in. However, there are a couple of concepts which may be being overlooked.

    1. EBO already has a good framework for examining the impacts of actions by a faction (to use your terms) in the DIME/PMESII concepts. You may want to consider this.

    2. Decide if the tool is going to be a trainer of process or a predictor of behavior. Process is easier to model and easier to teach. Behavior lacks the rules and will be significantly harder.

    3. Use of an arbiter is critical. As you know systems follow rules, and these rules remain a constant in game play, until your engine/framework are powerful enough to "learn". A key aspect of human behavior is cavguy's idea that we cannot predict our wives, let alone a bomb maker. Balance the rules with the arbiter. Conversely allow the rules a flexibility through constrained random behavior to keep the player from "learning to play the game well"

    4. Don't only use your S-2 as the arbiter. From my experience in working with the civil military folks, they will often bring a non-military solution to issues, which are often right. Not disparaging the MI team, as they have certain grown into civil-military guys in their own right. However, I would suggest that the IO or CMO team could help OC the play

    5. Consider a non-server based, LAN instantiation of the system. This type of training is invaluable, but Marines on ship, or guys at NTC might not have the internet access your solution requires.

    6. Pick an Echelon - If you are really serious about this as a prototype consider narrowing the echelon. The surest way to fail is to try to please all and ultimately please none. If you can do a proof of concept using the Battalion for example, selling other echelons to stakeholders is easier.

    However, with all that being said, I submit the obvious, which has been in the subtext of others posts here. If you are starting out with a development environment and a good idea, you might be starting a little behind. There are several engines which are a good start (I have seen MOSBE and it is sexy, but it too has some limitations). You could spend months just examining the engines and finding the right one, but it will also save you years in new development. Beyond that, I would suggest that once you have an engine, this becomes more of a systems integration and software customization effort than wholesale new development (which saves a lot of time and money, in the long run)

    Last, there are ideas which I haven't posted as they are propriety or more sensitive. You can PM me and we can chat offline on the concepts. However, I would suggest that there are several major agencies solving for this right now, and I don't believe anyone has a real comprehensive solution, and ultimately, many of them will wind up shelved when users determine that their value only takes them part way. Again, I am not trying to kill any enthusiasm - I believe in this idea, especially the more we rely on the E-6 squad leader to be an ambassador of good will. Let me know how we can help drive this ahead.
    "New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become."

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