The material at this web site is based on a decade of the US Naval Postgraduate School developing procedures and practices for high quality analytic war games. The Joint Experimentation Directorate in the Australian Department of Defence has adapted NPS procedures and practices to their mission to support senior decisionmakers. Most of the changes are in terminology or to provide specific titles, roles, and mandates within the Australian Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force. Some aspects of the differences are covered in a web page devoted to practices within the Joint Experimentation Directorate.
The diagram shows an ideal war game project in terms of five phases. These are divided further into 15 steps. More detail of the phases and steps can be found by following the links in the sidebar for the phases.
This diagram represents the process in the ideal. In reality there may be more overlap of the steps than is suggested in the diagram. Also, during some steps it may become apparent that earlier steps have to be revisited. For example, new information may indicate a need to revise something from an earlier step and then proceed through the subsequent steps again.
This is particularly relevant during the design and develop phases. In many cases, some design aspects will be settled, and some limited development will then start. Then it may be necessary to return to design to address new elements, or if development activity has indicated that a design choice must be revisited because development of it is infeasible or too expensive.
For simplicity, the "return loops" are not shown, but the potential need to return to an earlier step should always be kept in mind. In extreme cases the "return loop" may represent a considerable change in direction of the study, and a significant impact on project management for the budget and the delivery schedule.
The 15 steps shown in the diagram and described below are for a "medium-scale seminar war game". They are presented under the assumption that the organization conducting the study has little prior history of using such methods. However, most military organizations will have some history of war gaming. With that already within the culture, many steps may be quickly addressed as they will be familiar to all concerned.
At the bottom of the diagram the time scale shows scheduling of workshops. The playing of the game is also shown as a workshop in its own right. The internal procedures of a given organization may use other terms for these events; for example, some workshops might be termed "planning conferences". Large projects may require more preparation workshops than shown here.
A 'medium-scale game' would be one that would take a few days to conduct and a month or so to prepare, and the main participants would number a dozen or so. If the scale were significantly larger, there may be a requirement for more workshops -- these are generally to coordinate various aspects of game development, so a more complex game would probably require more than the two planning workshops shown above to keep it on track. If the scale were smaller, some workshops might be dispensed with, or at least replaced by small and short coordination meetings of a few critical staff.
If the organization (Executive Team and Study Team) already has a good relationship and a history of successful games, many steps could be eliminated or completed with little effort and attention. For example, if a Study Team is a permanent fixture within the organization, the task of forming a study team in Step 3 needs hardly to be addressed (although some change in personnel might be appropriate from time to time). Similarly, for gaming that is a continuation of some previous effort, steps 4 through 9 might all be truncated if the factors, background information, and scenarios are readily available from a library or archive, or can be reused from one war game to another.
The Ralson and Wilson 18-step process for scenario-based strategy development was the inspiration for the format used here. Their book should be consulted for more detail on scenario building, although some interpretation may be required to move the context from the business world to the military world. Also note that their approach is more about developing scenarios and having others contemplate the ramifications. Seminar war gaming has a much larger component of playing out the scenarios.
When seminar war gaming is used for course of action analysis or for evaluation concepts or technologies, there should be a larger component of data collection and analysis -- a contribution for which operations research analysts are particularly well suited. When seminar war gaming is used for training, education, or historical reassessment, military methods of after-action reviews and a lessons-learned process should be incorporated.