It has been awhile since I looked at my wargame practitioner library. So much is being published that it is often hard to keep up. Here are some of the more interesting articles I have read in the past few months.
“Acey Deucey Can Teach Military Strategy” by Captain Robert C. Rubel, U.S. Navy (Retired), Proceedings (March 2023, Vol. 149/3/1,441).
The article starts with a somewhat bold assertion:
Acey Deucey is a variant of backgammon that has been played in the Sea Services since the early 1900s. It is a competitive game that combines luck and strategy, and after many hundreds of games, patterns emerge that have lessons for real-world strategy.Rubel, “Acey Deucey Can Teach Military Strategy”
Rubel then moves into a bit of abstract game design, and this is where the connection to wargames is made:
Abstractions have internal tiers of competition. The first is based on the rules. In simple games, players can find winning combinations of moves or at least ones that force a draw. The second tier involves the intellectual and emotional interactions of the players. Who can lure the other into making wrong moves? Who can intimidate the other? In abstractions using dice or some other method of introducing chance, a third tier of probability is added. Acey Deucey involves all three tiers, and in this lies the potential for deriving some lessons on strategy.Rubel, “Acey Duecy Can Teach Military Strategy”
Rubel goes on to look at how Acey Deucy teaches the principles of Deterrence, Aggression vs. Caution, Attrition, Disruption, and Concentration of Force. As an added bonus, the rules for Acey Duecy are also included.
The Wargames Development Handbook, Third Edition, Editors John Armatys and John Bassett OBE, October 2022.
Published by wargamedevelopments.org out of the UK which describes itself as “a group of like-minded [hobby] wargamers who are dedicated to developing wargames of any type whatsoever. It is a non-commercial, largely informal, organisation, and its aims are to:
- Provide a forum for the exchange of new ideas and concepts.
- Examine and explore existing methods of wargaming, and to
- Develop new wargames and new approaches to wargaming.”
The Handbook is full of many useful wargame-related definitions that may or may not be familiar to many wargamers or wargame practitioners on the North American side of the Atlantic.
Schneider, Jacquelyn and Schechter, Benjamin and Shaffer, Rachael, “Cyber Operations and Nuclear Use: A Wargaming Exploration” (November 4, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3956337 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3956337
Did you know that the 1983 movie Wargames led to a National Security Decision Directive signed by President Reagan? See National Security Decision Directive Number 145, “National Policy on Telecommunications and Automated Information Systems Security,” September 17, 1984. In the movie, Joshua/WOPR learned, “The only winning move is not to play.” How does one teach that?
Abstract. “In the movie WarGames, a 1980s teenager hacks into a U.S. nuclear control program, almost starting a nuclear war. This movie has become a common illustration for the dangers of increasingly digitized nuclear arsenals and reflects what many scholars and practitioners see as the most perilous implication of the rise of cyberattacks–instability to states’ nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3). Research conducted during the Cold War suggested that even the threat of serious vulnerabilities to states’ NC3 could incentivize preemptive launches of nuclear weapons. Despite this widespread concern about the destabilizing effects of NC3 vulnerabilities, there is almost no empirical research to support these conclusions. In order to test these theories, this paper uses an experimentally-designed war game to explore the role that vulnerabilities and exploits within a hypothetical NC3 architecture play in decisions to use nuclear weapons. The game, which uses 4-6 players to simulate a national security cabinet, includes three treatment scenarios and one control scenario with no vulnerabilities or exploits. Players are randomized into the scenario groups and games are played over the course of a year in seven different locations with a sample of elite players from the U.S. and other nations. Together, a longitudinal analysis of these games examines the role that culture, cognitive biases, and expertise play in the likelihood of thermonuclear cyber war with significant implications for both cyber strategy and nuclear modernization.”
“The Promise and Peril of Wargaming” by Taylor Grossman, CSS Analyses in Security Policy, No. 319, March 2023.
Abstract. “Wargaming can be a powerful tool for educating soldiers, developing military doctrine, and determining future investment strategies. However, wargaming also has real limitations: if misapplied, wargaming can reinforce bad assumptions and be used to justify unrealistic or faulty battle plans, argues Taylor Grossman in this CSS Analysis.”
Scott, Keith. “‘Out Beyond Jointery’: Developing a Model for Gaming Multi-Domain Warfare.” International Conference on Cyber Warfare and Security (2022): n. pag.
Abstract. “What Huizinga is saying here is not that conflict is playful, but rather, it is a game, following set rules of conduct and occurs within a defined zone of action. Elsewhere in Homo ludens, he argues that modern warfare operates without the ritualised, rule-based structure of, for example, the mediaeval tourney. The purpose of this paper is to consider the ways in which a model based on the structure of games may help us better engage with the challenges of Multi-Domain Conflict. We are all familiar with the concept of Cyber as the 5th Domain of warfare, but we need to consider it not as a discrete zone, but as running through and interpenetrating the other 4 (Earth, Sea, Air, Space), the informational spine that enables all other forms of conflict. This paper will: 1. Discuss the developing concept of Multi-Domain Conflict as a move ‘beyond jointery’ (as General Sir Nick Carter put it) into a truly integrated form of warfare, blurring and collapsing boundaries between kinetic and non-kinetic, between the services, and between military and civilian authority; 2. Outline a theoretical model for conceptualising Multi-Domain Conflict as gamelike in form, with environments of operation (‘boards’), protagonists (‘players’), and possible forms of action (‘moves’). As befits a conference on Cyber and Information Warfare, it will argue that the D5 model of IW (Deny, Disrupt, Degrade, Deceive and Destroy) is portable and scalable across the other 4 domains (Land, Sea, Air, Space); 3. Show how this theoretical model can be employed both to model and simulate Multi-Domain Conflict; wargames have been a key element of military planning and training for at least a century – this paper argues that we need to develop a new Kriegspiel to better understand coming conflicts.”
“Coup d’œil and Cognition: How to Build Adaptive Tactical Experts” by Trent J. Lythgoe, PhD, Military Review, March-April 2023.
Dr. Lythgoe argues “we can think of coup d’œil as warfighting expertise. It describes commanders who routinely outperform their opponents in warfighting.” To build expertise requires Critical Event Training and wargames have a role:
There are several ways to incorporate critical event training in all domains of Army leader development. As mentioned above, collective training events can be critical event training with a slight shift in focus during after action reviews. However, notional scenarios, historical case studies, and wargames are all low-cost methods that can serve as critical event training. Regardless of method, the leader must receive coaching feedback from an expert on their thinking. However, as performance and metacognitive skills improve, leaders will eventually progress without the help of an expert coach. For example, a leader can apply the principles of deliberate practice to the study of military history as part of a self-development program. Reading about historical battles and engagements can be critical event training repetitions if the practitioner has the foundational knowledge to think through each case as an adaptive tactical problem.Lythgoe, “Coup d’œil and Cognition“
Cynthia Rosenfeld (2022) “Sit down and talk”: Doctor Who and an imperfect peace myth, Communication Quarterly, 70:1, 42-62, DOI: 10.1080/01463373.2021.2016879
Are wargames a metaphor for strategy or luck? Surprisingly, Doctor Who has something of an answer…
Abstract. “The globalized age of the Anthropocene, a spacetime in which humans regularly come into contact with other human and non-human ways-of-life, creates an exigence for stories that encourage living together-in-difference, or peace myths. In “The Zygon Inversion,” Doctor Who offers an imperfect peace myth that saves two species from war. To illuminate this myth, this essay first discusses the significance of memory and myth for national and cultural identity and situates Doctor Who in a sociopolitical context. Next, I show how the Doctor’s myth (1) reconceptualizes the metaphor of wargames from a game of strategy to one of luck, (2) invites a de-escalation of conflict through the Doctor’s enargeic rendering of his own, pained guilt, and (3) remains problematically partial as peace is achieved through a retention of the status quo at the cost of Zygon ways-of-life. Finally, I discuss how Doctor Who contributes to theorizing peace myths.”
Feature image courtesy Navy History
RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2023 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0