A Matrix Game: Crimea in Crisis

Tom Mouat, a very clever man associated with the Wargmae Developments crowd, has just made available a matrix-style game on the Crimean situation, called Crimea in Crisis. Free download at:

http://www.mapsymbs.com/wdmatrix1.html

This game is at the top of a long list of other matrix games Tom has developed; you should look into those as well.

What is a matrix game? I guess in its simplest form it is something like “adjudicated duelling arguments”, which doesn’t tell you much.

This type of participatory game was invented by Chris Engle in 1988, after he became involved with the British experimental wargaming group “Wargame Developments” ( http://www.wargamedevelopments.org/matrix.htm.).

Matrix games are well suited to a Bunch Of Guys Sitting Around A Table (BOGSAT) situation, but also are good for online play (by e-mail, chat room or on a bulletin board system). In either case, the usual flow of play is as follows:

  • Each turn players submit “arguments” to a central referee. An argument is a statement of what the player wants to do or have happen, supported with reasons why he thinks this is so (e.g. based on his known abilities, previous experience, etc..)
  • Counter-arguments can be made by other players if the structure of the game permits it.
  • The referee judges the strength of each argument and counter-argument and determines their success or failure randomly (this is modified by the strength of the argument).
  • Outcomes are then announced back to the players.
  • The next turn begins, and so on until some set of victory conditions or time/turn limit is reached.

There are slightly different methods to do the above, but you get the idea. The basic concept is quite simple but very very flexible, in the right hands. Besides their military applications, matrix games have been used in the areas of: creative writing, scenario development, “thought experiments”, management training, psychotherapy (Engle is a psychiatric social worker) and general education.

The Society of 20th Century Wargamers, a group associated with Wargame Developments, regularly plays matrix games at meetings and conventions. Copies of the Society magazine, The Nugget, can be downloaded for free and contain many descriptions of past matrix games, showing the applicability of the game:

http://www.wargamedevelopments.org/nugget.htm

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About brtrain
This blog is mostly devoted to posts, work and resources on "serious" conflict simulation games.

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