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Australian Defence Force

Background for the Basic and Advanced Analytic Wargaming Courses from the Naval Postgraduate School in Canberra, 17 February to 6 March 2020

Develop Phase

The third phase of a wargame project is to develop the game and associated components. As indicated in the diagram this consists of three steps.

The development work may be organized within a design-develop cycle. That is: some design work will be carried out, followed by some development work. If we think of counterparts in building a house, the design phase is like developing the blueprint (under the control of the architect) and the develop phase is the actual construction (under control of the contractor). Sometimes during construction an impediment is encountered -- maybe certain materials are not available to the contractor or perhaps the ground is not of the expected consistency. The architect then revises the blueprint passes it back to the contractor for construction to continue.

On a wargame project, the interaction between the Design Phase and Develop Phase may follow a similar cyclic pattern.

Step 7: Develop Scenarios

There is a separate web page on scenarios. It includes various approaches to scenario development as used in both the civilian and military communities.

"Story boarding", a technique from the cinema, can be adapted to this. Essentially a "picture" of critical stages can be developed. This should provide the context for how this "picture" can be presented to the players through the scenario. Of course, as often happens with cinematic "storyboarding", many of the frames of the storyboard are overtaken by events, and are never used in the final film.

The scenario framework (or storyboards) give guidance to further refinement of the scenario, and for other aspects like what data will be required for this (e.g., data on countries, military forces, biographies and positions associated with key leaders).

Step 8: Developing Game Design

The design components of a game may include a composite of some or all of the following elements:

Manual Rules: James Dunnigan's Complete Wargames Handbook provides an excellent guide for developing manual rules for a game.

Maps and Charts: The geographic context of war games is critical to players awareness of issues. These can either be paper products or computer-based products, e.g., using Google Earth or another geographic information system. If a combat model is part of the project, it will probably include a mechanism for providing players with the appropriate geographic context.

Panels of Experts: For particularly complex issues, e.g., the reactions of foreign populations to collateral damage from military operations, experts from a wide variety of disciples may provide illumination. Panels of such experts may be provided directly to players as they tackle problems or they may participate in adjudication to determine how a player interaction will affect subsequent activity in a game. The Canadian Army seminar war games on the "Army of Tomorrow" illustrate the plan to use panels and the results.

Adjudication Procedures: Many adjudication procedures can be codified. These codified procedures may take the form of manual rules or of a component within a computer-based simulation. When uncertainly is involved random number draws (likes rolls of dice) may be used to determine the outcome. If the players have visited the consequences of one branch of a decision tree, it may be still necessary to re-visit an adjudication and take a different path, leading to an "alternate future". This approach to investigating a variety of branches and sequels may be needed to insure that all critical aspects of an issue are explored. See US Army doctrine on the need to explore alternate branches and sequels, particularly paragraphs 2-13 and 2-129.

Combat Models: Well-crafted combat models can be used to determine outcomes related to detection, to movement, to engagement, and to the consumption of supplies. In cases of well-understood physical aspects, e.g., time and distance, these models are highly effective in determining a plausible outcome.

Serious Games: The popularity of commercial computer-based gaming products has led to the term " serious games". Serious games may be used in conjunction with seminar techniques to have players deal with selected issues.

Planning Aids: For military operations, players will generally have aids they use in planning. These may be as simple as spreadsheet formulas or may use more complicated software packages, many that are incorporated into command and control support systems.

Command and Control Systems: Many combat simulations have been developed where players can stay cocooned within their C2 systems and plug into a "simulator" that delivers game support through the C2 system. One advantage to an arrangement like this is that it will be familiar to the players. A related advantage is that players will not have to train on some unfamiliar system (e.g., a prototype C2 system) to engage in the game. However there may be a number of technical issues that need resolution to make it all work (with requirements for time and resources).

Analysis Support Tools: When designing a game, attention is generally devoted to those tools needed to support the play of the game (tools for players); the need for these is generally quite apparent to all concerned. However attention also needs to be devoted to those tools for data collection and analysis Some proposed tools can be found in sections on analysis and on tools. Some of these may need time and resources as well so it is best to determine the requirement as early as possible.

Computer Networks: If the game activities are not at a central location, there is likely to be some sort of computer network to support the gaming activity. This may provide voice communications (e.g., voice over IP), web conferencing, support to C2 systems, collaboration between players or between analysts, databases of various sort, email and other intranet services. The network structure may require resources and time in its own right to be prepared for the game. It should be tested with a full surrogate load before the game to ensure that elements that worked in isolation work once an appropriate load has been placed on the network.

Step 9: Testing and Rehearsing

Critical thinking should be applied agressively throughout this game development step. When addressing most details of the game design, the study team needs to ask itself: "What can go wrong?"

James Dunnigan, in his Complete Wargames Handbook, comments: "game development... means play testing and changing the game and rewriting the rules and taking a lot of abuse from people who would rather play than design and don't appreciate at all the problems the poor designer has in getting anything done".

He goes on to recommend "blind testing (computer game designers call it beta testing). This is where you take your physical prototype and your written rules and send them out to somebody who can play the game without your presence. This is often very revealing."

Dunnigan later cautions:

"You can never test enough -- Testing should use the same procedures applied to software.

There are several levels of testing.

Unit Testing -- Test individual rule for soundness. Example, test map for completeness and correctness.

System Testing -- Test rule along with other rules that it normally operates with. Example, test map with movement and combat rules.

Integration Testing -- Test all rules together to see that all parts fit correctly.

Validation Testing -- Test entire system to see that all user requirements are met.

Acceptance Testing -- User tests to see that all requirements are met."

Dunnigan's recommendations come from an era when game designs, especially those he developed, were still largely based on manual rules (his handbook's first edition dates from 1980). Appropriately adapted, Dunnigan's description of the levels of testing can be applied to seminar war games. However, blind testing of the sort that Dunnigan proposes may not be feasible in seminar war games where the judgement of the facilitator is so crucial in determining how player activity will govern outcomes (i.e., where there are no codified rules for adjudication). For such games, completely blind testing may not be appropriate; however, an equivalent level of scrutiny should be applied and the facilitator should work through potential branches that need exploration to ensure they will be handled appropriately during game play.

In addition to components of the game itself, the data collection procedures should also undergo testing.

Workshop 2

During game development, a second workshop should be convened. The timing should be late enough that participants can see well developed material -- allowing them to see in fairly concrete terms what the game will look like. But this workshop also needs to be early enough that there are remaining resources (time and funding at least) to react to any shortcomings or changes in direction that emerge after the workshop has applied a critical filter to what has been developed at this point.

Participants should include all members of the study team (although possibly restricted to selected members if this team is very large). In addition, there should be representatives from groups that may not have been engaged in the project to this point, but will be involved in the upcoming conduct of the game. Depending on the nature of the game, this could extend to model and simulation experts, command and control system support personnel, computer technicians, academic advisors, and so on. Support personnel should be included who will be dealing with budgets; accommodation, rations, transportation and travel; and the managers, custodians, and maintainers of the selected venue. If the games will have any classified component, appropriate security managers should be represented. Representatives of the player communities should be involved to confirm scheduling, to cover budget issues, and to ensure that players with appropriate credentials will attend. Since many aspects of the scenario will be discussed in this workshop, the player representatives need to be discrete in sharing this with other players or they will need to recuse themselves from the workshop when scenario material is discussed.

Because of the cycling between "design" and "develop", the study team should be aware that one result of this workshop may be a revisiting of the design phase to make some serious adjustments. This can have a serious impact on the overall project schedule. The study team may need to consider whether those changes that may be made could require further filtering by repeating the workshop

This workshop is typically the last opportunity for large course corrections for the coming game. At the highest level a question to be addressed is: will the game still meet the sponsor's objectives? Typically, by the time of this workshop a number of compromises will have been made -- the budget and timeline may be forcing reductions in some expectations, players who were expected to attend are no longer available, some aspects of the global geopolitical situation may have changed.