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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 10-13-2005   #7
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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 10-18-2005   #8
M. J. Dougherty
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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   #9
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Post Small Wars, Simulations, and Gaming

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   #10
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I am not familiar with Flashpoint what is it?
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Old 11-12-2005   #11
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A civilian computer game: http://www.codemasters.com/flashpoint/

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Old 11-25-2005   #12
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Anyone else heard of this?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4460082.stm
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Old 05-02-2007   #13
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Default Wargaming Small Wars

I'd like to open discussion on various successful ways that wargaming Small Wars can help in training and education. This can run the gamut from government-sponsored wargaming exercises to commercial efforts--role playing, board wargames, and computer games. What seemed to work? Why? What didn't seem to work and why didn't it? Share your thoughts, ideas, comments, critiques, and--perhaps most of all--wargaming recommendations.
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Old 05-02-2007   #14
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Default Algerian War board wargame in development

Khyber Pass wargame company has announced a new game under development on the French counterinsurgency campaign in Algeria. Tentatively titled ICI, C'EST LA FRANCE! this game will cover the entire war from 1954 to 1962 at the strategic level. Khyber Pass Games is asking for pledges so they can resource the development and production of this conflict simulation. As one would expect, a great deal of effort is going into modeling the political aspects of the situation.

The pledge price is $32.00 as of this writing; when published, the game will retail for $40.00.

View the details here.
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Old 05-02-2007   #15
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I've done (and am doing) some work on this sort of thing, but mostly from the non-government standpoint (although I am working on one locally in relation to my ROTC work that may become formal at our Det at least).

Based on this experience as well as many years in the hobby, I tend to think that the best model is a free-play exercise with a control cell and a number of opposing teams. The control cell works as an encounter resolution system, information control point, and general game manager. We do a four team operational air warfare map exercise here every spring (it's too short, but it does give our cadets a taste of planning), and having free play and a control cell allows for many variations. I'm working on one now that will involve both Army and Air Force cadets and cover some aspects of small wars (mainly in a small theater conflict environment).

On the hobby level this is hard to model without computers, since one of the key aspects needs to be intelligence (or lack thereof) and political activity. Board games, IMO, don't model this very well because they ARE board games with unit counters and such. I'm not a huge fan of card-driven games, although they may possibly be able to simulate some aspects of small wars. The RPG framework could be very useful for small wars simulations, since most of their systems deal with interaction and influence on a personal level.

I can't speak much to the computer side of this, since my design experience has been in the paper realm. I do tend to see computers more useful as tools (information management and dissemination) than I do as actual gaming engines (mainly due to AI limitations...but again my experience here is limited).
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Old 05-02-2007   #16
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Bloodtree Rebellion by Game Designers Workshop back in the early 1980's was a quite decent boardgame in the small wars genre. The problems of having the physical counters on the board were worked around by having two values for each piece - one "overt" one "covert" - i.e. the counters lied. If you can find a copy, it's worth looking at.

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Old 05-03-2007   #17
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Default Commercial Small Wars Wargames--Mostly Strategic

Most of what I've seen in board wargaming--such as GDW's excellent science fiction game BLOODTREE REBELLION--has been portraying Small Wars at the strategic level of war. I'll review a good many of them in this particular thread and would encourage others to do the same. What is daunting is that there are few that show the prospects and problems of Small Wars at the operational and tactical levels--beyond those "shoot 'em up" force-on-force showdowns that gamers all love.

For example, were one to survey SPI's old GRUNT and SEARCH AND DESTROY games, there's not a lot of incentive to hold back on the violence in the scenarios. Even Mark Walker's recent game on tactical combat in Vietnam, LOCK 'N LOAD, is pretty similar in that vein.

The only game I can recall that rewarded a "controlled violence" approach was a computer game that was done by the Air Force in the late 1990s. It dealt with the defense of Tuzla airfield and provided all the "toys" (i.e., weapons of war) for the player to go out and bash guerrillas outside the wire. And bash those guerrillas the player usually did, only leading to more mortar attacks on the airfield and the loss of the game. Only when the MP and PYSOPS units were used in conjunction with operations to help/gain intelligence within the urban population in the city proper could the insurgency be best addressed...but most players never stuck with the game long enough to learn this. Slick...and I wish it was still available.
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Old 05-03-2007   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marct View Post
Bloodtree Rebellion by Game Designers Workshop back in the early 1980's was a quite decent boardgame in the small wars genre. The problems of having the physical counters on the board were worked around by having two values for each piece - one "overt" one "covert" - i.e. the counters lied. If you can find a copy, it's worth looking at.

Marc
Yeah, I've seen other games that do this as well. There was an AH Napoleonic game (Struggle of Nations, I think it was) that had generic unit counters, with all the nifty stuff hidden away on a strength table. Downtown does something similar with the air war over North Vietnam.

Though I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, I still feel that the best way to game a small wars setting is either through a modified RPG-type system or something using teams and a control element (double blind, if you will).

Honestly I wish more was being done with this stuff. I think people underestimate how valuable a training aid a good game can be.
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Old 08-12-2007   #19
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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.
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Old 08-12-2007   #20
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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?
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