The title of this book, The Craft of Wargaming: A Detailed Planning Guide for Defense Planners and Analysts tells you exactly who this book is aimed at and who will get the most use out of it. This is a book for professional wargame practitioners, not casual wargamers.
Come Here, My Young Apprentice
The introduction of The Craft of Wargaming makes it quite clear what the authors goals are:
This book is designed to support defense planners and analysts on their journey from wargaming apprentices to journeymen in the craft of wargaming. Our focus is on providing those individuals a window into wargaming, which is part of their professional development. Despite the book’s focus on wargaming apprentices, we believe that professional wargamers, senior leaders, and all decisionmakers in government and industry will gain something from the principles covered in this book. Hopefully, these individuals will acquire new insights or wargaming techniques to augment their capabilities or simply a better understanding of what wargaming can do for them. Despite our focus on the Department of Defense (DoD), the topics covered in this book will apply to the whole of government and any groups or individuals wrestling to gain insights into complex or wicked problems. We also believe that hobby or commercial designers will find part II of the book, with its focus on designing the wargame, of particular interest int he design and development of their own wargames.Introduction, p. 2
If you are a hobby wargamer and pick up The Craft of Wargaming you may get lost. This book focuses on analytic (or analytical) wargames which are quite different from what many wargamers may may think when they hear the word “wargame.”
An analytic or analytical wargame focuses not on educating the players but on extracting knowledge or information from the game to support a sponsor who is seeking answers or insights to a particular problem. The primary products of an analytic wargame are the insights and findings that address the sponsor’s problem, usually communicated with a written analysis report. Planning wargames, many of which seek to assess different COAs [Courses of Action] as part of the U.S. Armed Forces’ formal planning process, are arguably the most important type of analytica wargames as they seek to identify risks and vulnerabilities, enabling the organization to produce viable, executable plans for future military operations.Introduction, p. 6
Breaking it Down
Part I of The Craft of Wargaming cover the “Foundations.” Here are the necessary definitions and the obligatory “What is a wargame?” content along with the historical review.
Part II is more a “doer’s” section which gets into the mechanics of how to design and run an analytic wargame. Here the authors use a five-step process of Initiate-Design-Development-Conduct-Analysis. This is the section that the authors think has applicability to commercial wargame designers.
Part II covers more of the management of wargames and other wargame forms. There are sections covering Course of Action Wargaming and other “less structured” wargames (like the BOGGSAT – Bunch of Guys & Gals Sitting Around a Table). There is also a section on Educational and Experimental Wargames which is where the use of commercial hobby wargames for education comes up. The authors also have a section of Best and Worst Practices which further supports their “teaching an apprentice” approach.
Appendix 1-6 in The Craft of Wargaming is a practical exercise in developing a Matrix Game. It is literally a ready-made lesson plan showing the process of developing an analytic wargame from beginning to end. Appendix 4 is the “Wargaming Gateway Exam” that tests you on the content of the book! Appendix 5 includes eight case studies; I really want to see these designs! Appendix 6 is The Crisis of Zefra: A Matrix Game.
Useful for Wargamers?
If you are a defense planner or analyst who uses or is charged with wargaming then The Craft of Wargaming can be an invaluable resource, even a “bible” of wargaming in some respects.
If you are an educator, inside or outside the military and looking to teach wargame design, there is much of value in The Craft of Wargaming.
If you are a wargame designer, even commercial, the approach used in The Craft of Wargaming is probably worth studying.
If you are a commercial hobby wargame player, and especially if you are a historical conflict simulation/wargame player, then the Craft of Wargaming may be of limited value. If you are looking for a history of wargames the authors themselves recommend Matt Caffrey’s On Wargaming: How Wargames have Shaped History and How They May Shape the Future (Naval War College Press, 2019).
Appleget, Jeff (Col., USA (Ret.), Col. Robert Burks (USA, Ret.) and Fred Cameron, The Craft of Wargaming: A Detailed Planning Guide for Defense Planners and Analysts, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2020.