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Old 10-04-2005   #1
Steve Blair
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Default Gaming and Small Wars Education

Moderator's Note

I have merged seven threads today( 30th June 2014), which all refer to wargaming and small wars. A couple of threads refer to major wars: South China Sea and Iraq - so have been left alone (end).


Given the trend towards using computers and other simulations for training, what's the general opinion regarding these systems and Small Wars?

I would tend to think that networked free play games would be the best option here; with one side taking the role of the insurgents and the other being the force tasked with suppressing their activities. It would be harder to model the activities of civilians and political entities, although I suspect that a third team could be factored in to take that role.

The important thing here would be the interface framework and possibly some of the modeling involved with the AI. Provided this could be worked out, I would think that this would be a valuable and cost-effective way to conduct initial SW training and possibly some advanced activities as well.

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Old 10-05-2005   #2
Tc2642
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Default Operation Flashpoint?

Just a thought but does the US army use Flashpoint as a tool for battlefield tactics?
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Old 10-05-2005   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tc2642
Just a thought but does the US army use Flashpoint as a tool for battlefield tactics?
I'm not sure...but for the training to be effective I would think that certain of the scripted methods or "school solutions" would need to be thrown out the proverbial window. Small Wars are anything but scripted, and exposure to the differences found in them are essential, and at all ranks. As has been pointed out before, SW are often (if not always) more political than military. Tactics are necessary, but they need to be wedded to good IO/Psyops methods and a parallel (in many cases) political structure.

Computers offer an outstanding platform for this type of training, if it's run correctly and allowed to take its "natural" course.
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Old 10-05-2005   #4
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Default Computer Assisted Training and Education

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Blair
...for the training to be effective I would think that certain of the scripted methods or "school solutions" would need to be thrown out the proverbial window. Small Wars are anything but scripted...

Computers offer an outstanding platform for this type of training, if it's run correctly and allowed to take its "natural" course.
I agree with much of what I think you mean. Computer aided Small Wars M&S for training, PME, planning and analysis is (and will remain) imperfect at best.

That said, we learned (USMC) during urban operations field experimentation prior to OIF that while you cannot expose our small unit (and higher for that matter) leaders to the exact scenario they may face - you can most certainly expose them to situations that force them to think "out-of-the-box" thus enabling a mind-set that expects the unexpected as a natural course in the conduct of urban and other Small Wars related operations.

No rocket scientist here - maybe someone can figure out how to provide M&S and other computer assisted aid for the items I mentioned above...
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Old 10-05-2005   #5
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You may be able to get into a certain level of freeplay using CCM, but another venue to look at is the online gaming community. There may be avenues worth exploring among the varied MUSH/MUDs out there, as well as the MMORG community. The key is being able to create unexpected scenarios using the input of multiple "player groups," such as one representing insurgents, some taking on the role of local power groups (and just locals caught in the middle), and then the 'good guys.'

Any time you can interject a 'third party' into the mix it creates for a more realistic training opportunity. Computers provide a framework for this to happen, as well as the virtual environment.

This isn't a really technical answer, and I'm sorry I can't provide platform examples for what I'm talking about. Within the traditional face to face gaming community it's easier to create non-scripted situations. The key with computers may well be to stop looking for a single shot solution and look instead at how a computer could provide a framework (a 'world,' if you will) where various groups could interact. There would be a starting scenario, of course, but what happened from there could be determined by players with a minimum of umpire/controller oversight and random "acts of God and politics."
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Old 10-10-2005   #6
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Here comes a stick...
I think you need to further define purpose.

There are fundamental limits to what can be achieved in a computer simulation (CS from now on). The input system (mouse, keyboard, etc) limits what is possible to learn as far as actions go, such as shoot, move, communicate - speaking of root learning.

When you simulate a world, you are restricted in what you'll allow to happen in that world. There's a lot of specific programming going into this. That means that whatever solutions people care to come up with, the framework for them has actually really been figured out before. Same thing with threats. The negative side is that the incorporation of new possible actions are not extremely easy to add on, even if developers and users/Soldiers would have direct contact.
Example: A number of insurgents are in a safe house, lacking resources and weaponry. A sweep is long over due and one day a man walks up to the house and says that the Americans know that they have a safe house there. It's a two-story building, so the insurgents sharpen punji sticks, put feces on them (yah, familiar) and fit them under a stair case, which they tamper with to make unstable. Then they leave. As coalition forces sweep the house, they move up the stairs and fall through onto the sticks.

It is such flexibility in situations that is severely limited in CS.
Another problem is scope. Geographically, this is becoming easier as computers become more powerful. On the other hand, an insurgency, based on my little knowledge, seems to depend on social interaction for not only opinion, but also levels of cooperation or resistance, support, etc. Add to this everyone and everything involved in constructing methods for infiltration, evasion, escape - complete networks of people with various levels of resources that need to be able to assess at least local situations and based on that choose to perhaps hide a few days more, or a few hours.
AI is not at a level that can flexibly and realistically handle that today. It does bring us to the next limitation, which is time.

Insurgency is unfolding under a long duration of time, during which insurgents often design their attacks to be suprising. Narrowing of time span restricts this. It also puts a limit on the social processes that are unfolding. Relationships develop bit by bit and if the simulation were to be conducted in a compressed time frame it would be difficult to solve it by having SME:s suggesting reactions to the populace, nevermind how the Soldiers would gauge it.

And with relationships and intelligence comes a feel for interpreting people, and interacting. Emotions, both positive for persuasion and compassion for the father of a child lost, and fear as allied forces move out of an AO and insurgents move in, those feelings don't come along as well when described in ones and zeros.

All the people involved, with AI unable to fill the gap, if you're going to hire them, isn't a role play or FTX better fitted? I think you risk trying to use a tool for which it isn't fit for, where it isn't yet needed because of it's lack of capabilities.

I like what Major Strickland proposed in another thread.

I don't believe this to be God's given truth, but it is a pretty realistic view of what is not possible today. Written for you to tear to shreds, or to see another perspective.

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Old 10-10-2005   #7
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I actually have no problem with a free-ranging role play (hereafter RP), and think it would be a better tool for most instances. However, I have also seen a knee-jerk reaction against such proposals ("What? D&D here?") so chose to frame the issue as a computer simulation. You could, I think, use the computer model to simulate certain larger-scale activities or as a "super calculator" for the RP.

I'm not overly familiar with the practice side of military gaming, so I don't know how much use they make of major RP-type activites. Frankly, based on my own experience, I can see a number of very dynamic and viable ways they could use such RP (even a text-based MUSH type environment as opposed to graphics-heavy first shooters or tactical models) to simulate this environment. With such systems and settings it is very easy to model dynamic environments. You could use the CS side to model resulting firefights or combat actions, while keeping the rest in the human realm.
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Old 10-13-2005   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tc2642
Just a thought but does the US army use Flashpoint as a tool for battlefield tactics?
The army may not use it but one of my fellow NCOs used it to experiment, practice and develop TTPs for guntruck crews, prepairing for deployment. He found a desert map and set up the weapons and vehicles to match our MTOE. Using a WiFi router, we networked about 12-15 personal laptops in six different barracks rooms. In each room was an assigned gun crew with two laptops. The gunner had his own laptop for a turret view, the driver had his own laptop with a drivers view, and the TC stood over the driver with a talkabout radio. We even had one of the rooms designated as Opfor. We would use command detonated satchel charges in place of IEDs and emplace snipers along the routes. If anything it was good for building communications within the crews. The TCs were able to get accustomed to sending their report formats over the radio. It was alot of fun! But like all good ideas it was shot down.

(sorry for the rant)

Last edited by GorTex6; 10-17-2005 at 07:02 PM.
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Old 10-13-2005   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Blair
I actually have no problem with a free-ranging role play (hereafter RP), and think it would be a better tool for most instances. However, I have also seen a knee-jerk reaction against such proposals ("What? D&D here?") so chose to frame the issue as a computer simulation. You could, I think, use the computer model to simulate certain larger-scale activities or as a "super calculator" for the RP.

I'm not overly familiar with the practice side of military gaming, so I don't know how much use they make of major RP-type activites. Frankly, based on my own experience, I can see a number of very dynamic and viable ways they could use such RP (even a text-based MUSH type environment as opposed to graphics-heavy first shooters or tactical models) to simulate this environment. With such systems and settings it is very easy to model dynamic environments. You could use the CS side to model resulting firefights or combat actions, while keeping the rest in the human realm.
RP is the only way to go on this because irregular warfare is too unpredictable for a computer simulation. It is the ability of insurgents to continuously adapt their tactics to their enemy that makes it impossible to model via cs.
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Old 10-14-2005   #10
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I think problem is predicting how other side will react and then fitting that in your "game". Assume it's early 2003 and you want to prepare program for troops that will be stationed in Iraq after the war (the war hasn't started yet).

What will situation be like after Saddam is toppled? Who will be your friends and who your enemies? What methods will they use? Which way will population swing? And many, many more

The biggest problem is human behaviour. You simply can't reduce it to mathematical formula that will neatly fit into computer program. People act irrationaly, people act on different impulses than you expected, peopel work on different set of values etc.

I agree that computer programs are valuable for certain task, which are more or less mechanical and don't work on many variables. Say convoy escort. However certain task can't be simulated by computer. Say checkpoint duty.
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Old 10-14-2005   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aktarian
I think problem is predicting how other side will react and then fitting that in your "game". Assume it's early 2003 and you want to prepare program for troops that will be stationed in Iraq after the war (the war hasn't started yet).

What will situation be like after Saddam is toppled? Who will be your friends and who your enemies? What methods will they use? Which way will population swing? And many, many more

The biggest problem is human behaviour. You simply can't reduce it to mathematical formula that will neatly fit into computer program. People act irrationaly, people act on different impulses than you expected, peopel work on different set of values etc.

I agree that computer programs are valuable for certain task, which are more or less mechanical and don't work on many variables. Say convoy escort. However certain task can't be simulated by computer. Say checkpoint duty.
That's why you use traditional RP techniques, and bring out the computers for modeling combat. Computers are a tool to facilitate the game, and not the game itself.
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Old 10-14-2005   #12
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Default Small Wars Gaming

I have two problems with gaming solutions and events such as Millenium Challenge and Urban Resolve. First, they are expensive, and in a battle of limited reosurces, eat up tremendous sums of money that could be used for less "whiz-bang" things like seminars, books, training videos, and staff rides with police-officers during community policing intiatives. Second, the outcomes and "findings" of these events are usually within the realm of the "i knew that entering the game" and make these events worthless. Clausewitz spoke of events that tried to replicate military actions being less than useful due to the lack of "fricition" present.
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Old 10-14-2005   #13
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This is why people need to reach for new solutions when gaming.

If you use a role-playing framework it is very easy to add in friction. A tabletop game isn't going to eat up the kind of money you're talking about and will always expose people to new things. They are also interactive by nature, which makes them more valuable than seminars or training videos.

People who haven't had much RP experience often underestimate the usefulness of the method, IMO. Properly managed, it's a very open environment that will allow all sides to learn something new.
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Old 10-14-2005   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Blair
That's why you use traditional RP techniques, and bring out the computers for modeling combat. Computers are a tool to facilitate the game, and not the game itself.
I understand what you are saying but you'll still have troubles with "rules" and even model itself. You do something and rules say you win. Fine, but in real life it might not work that way. Specially when you are dealing with nonconventional war/terrorism.

Plus you can really calculate reactions. Let's say you kill some number of enemy. Will rest surrender or raise those killed into martyrs and fight even more fiercly? If you create jobs for locals will this help you with creating image that you really have their best interests at heart or will workers be targeted and jobs themselves used to spy on you?

So you can write rules "If you do this this happens." Well, in real life it might not.

It might work if other side is played by somebody who has experience in such conflicts and if rules are flexible.
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Old 10-14-2005   #15
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With RP that's exactly what I'm talking about. You have a controller or group of controllers and then a number of teams taking the role of various sides within the game (insurgents, military forces, civilians, relief organizations, and so on). You could use computer systems to handle some of the paperwork and interaction, but the bulk of the effort would be in the hands of people. Rules within RP deal with methods of interaction, not the interaction itself. The game itself would be based on a time model, with results tabulated at the end of that time.

I personally have designed RP rules systems and done extensive modifications on existing systems. Such systems can and do work well for 'modeling' these kind of events. What is needed mainly is a flexible mindset and the willingness to use computers as calculators and mechanical helpers and not the main basis for the game.
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Old 10-15-2005   #16
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That would work. But the purpose of "game" shouldn't be "victory" but rather indentifying procedures that work and don't work.
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Old 10-16-2005   #17
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That is precisely what RP does. You take a situation and game it through variables and events until you reach the end of the scenario time limit.
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Old 10-18-2005   #18
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Default How do we model Complexity?

I recently watched an Art of War episode where they used a simulation of crowd behavior in a congested environment to illustrated the flow of battle at Agincourt and why the French suffered such high casualties compared to the English.

I am wondering if the same models of complex human behavior can be applied to the equally complex behavior of insurgents in a complex operational environment? Contemporary insurgent capabilities to dynamically adapt and change course make them much less predictable than conventional military forces or state actors. But f we could model certain influences (economic self interest, political attitudes, fear, Maslow's heirarchy) could we not find some variable to influence behavior.
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Old 10-18-2005   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M. J. Dougherty
I recently watched an Art of War episode where they used a simulation of crowd behavior in a congested environment to illustrated the flow of battle at Agincourt and why the French suffered such high casualties compared to the English.

I am wondering if the same models of complex human behavior can be applied to the equally complex behavior of insurgents in a complex operational environment? Contemporary insurgent capabilities to dynamically adapt and change course make them much less predictable than conventional military forces or state actors. But f we could model certain influences (economic self interest, political attitudes, fear, Maslow's heirarchy) could we not find some variable to influence behavior.
There are ongoing attempts to do this. The problem is that these models of crowd behavior work well only for confined time-limited situations where the individuals in the model are physically restrained and only have limited choices.

In an insurgency, it is not always the direct responses of the people that matter, it is the second, third and forth order reactions between people directly and indirectly impacted by events. Current attempts to model these interactions assume that people can only react in a specific number of ways and leave no room for innovation, imagination or individual initiative. These models give the false impression that one can predict second and third order effects.

Wm. T. Sherman had it right when he made the comment about the rigid Kriegspiel style of wargaming and said that "Men are not Blocks of Wood". He knew from direct experience that you can not accurately predict how well a leader will lead or how hard a body of troops will fight nor can you predict how the cowardly or heroic actions of any one individual or small group at a crucial moment can change the course of a battle. Many Civil War board games have this random factor in the rules and provide good lessons for just how hard it was to conduct combat operations and to control units in the U.S. War of Rebellion.

You could possibly use these computer models to explore actions and reactions in a clearly defined event such as an ambush but not for the entire theater. The course of an insurgency is influenced by millions of human interactions to the second, third or more order, combined with the initiative of know leaders and the spontaneous initiative of previously unknown individuals that often arise in such situations and determine the course of the insurgency.
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Old 11-11-2005   #20
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I am not familiar with Flashpoint what is it?
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