Back to Quantico

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Next mission: back to Quantico!

The Military Operations Research Society (MORS) is having a special “Analysis of Urban Warfare” event, 2-5 April at Marine Corps University. I’ve been asked to join the Analytical Tools working group, which hits on wargaming, so I’ll be presenting on some aspect of how urban combat’s been treated, in both my and other’s work. If all goes well, I may have a new playable thing to bring too….

Details here: http://www.mors.org/Events/Analysis-of-Urban-Warfare

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Back to the Green

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Telling the US Defence Attache I will not hesitate to disarm their refugee survivalist militias by force, or something else sternly declarative. I guess for CDS verisimilitude I should be wearing my glasses halfway down my nose. Photo: Kevin Farnworth?

Okay, back from Montreal, and while I didn’t need a reminder of what real cold felt like, I still got one.

Presentation went fine and I met a lot of familiar faces as well as some new ones. My substandard pre-production replica copy of Nights of Fire even got a spin for a couple of turns!

Rex Brynen wrote a very good summation of the conference here: https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2019/02/21/connections-north-2019-conference-report/

The Apocalypse North megagame was also an excellent experience. For six intense hours I played the Chief of the Defence Staff: I had two division commanders, five brigade commanders, a Special Operations commander and an Air commander to boss around. Things went pretty well and I hardly ever had to use “knife hands”*.

Again, Rex does a great and copiously illustrated writeup here: https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2019/02/21/alas-poor-windsor-an-apocalypse-north-megagame-report/

On Monday Jim Wallman and I had a session with some of Rex’s students, dispensing free advice on the games they were designing for his 422 course. Worth every penny they paid for it, I’m sure. It was great hanging out with Jim; we hatched ideas for games like strings of firecrackers.

A long and fortunately not involved flight back and here I am. It was six degrees, sunny and almost springlike out here today. I can see the buds on the cherry trees.

* American usage: also known as the “Sandhurst chop” or the “pie cutter”. https://angrystaffofficer.com/2017/06/26/the-history-of-the-military-knife-hand/

Into the White

Over the last five days Victoria has seen a huge dump of snow, the worst since the Great Blizzard of 1996, which was the worst since 1917.

Okay, all in all it’s been about 50 cm over that stretch of time, but it isn’t gone yet and at this time of year we are used to kicking our way through cherry blossom petals, not slushdrifts.

Just yesterday alone Montreal got 40 cm, and more to come… and I am heading into it very early Friday morning  (that is, if the airport is not shut down!), to attend the Connections-North conference on professional wargaming, organized by Professor Rex Brynen at McGill University.

This is the second time Rex has run the “northern franchise” of the Connections family of conferences on professional wargaming, started and maintained to this day by Matt Caffrey. Other Connections regulars will include Stephen Downes-Martin, Anja van der Hulst, and Jim Wallman.

More details at https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2018/11/13/connections-north-2019/

I’ll be presenting on “Integrating the Political, Social and Economic in Insurgency Games”, just a quick talk profiling the non-kinetic design elements in Tupamaro and A Distant Plain, as examples. I found a number of other good examples but I don’t have time to cover them all and they were mostly long out of print or small-press hard to find items. A partial list is at the end of my script, which I am putting here with my slides, for the curious to access:

Soft Power Maps 11 feb  (script)

Soft Power Maps 11 feb  (slides)

The conference is a one-day event on Saturday the 16th, but I will be staying on a couple of days. Sunday is “Apocalypse North”, a megagame that will have about 70 players in it, and I have the role of Canadian Chief of Defence Staff! And on Monday Rex has laid on something like a master class Q&A on game design with members of his POLI 422 course, in which students design conflict simulation games to present their research topics.

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2019/02/02/mcgill-gaming-winter-2019-edition/

Sila willing, I’ll be leaving Monday night and returning to Victoria, where I hope all this snowy mess will have been cleaned up in the meantime.

CFP: Connections-USA 2019

This is reposted from an email received by Tim Wilkie, a Great Guy who is organizing the Connections-USA conference.

I’ve posted many times on this blog about how interesting and valuable these conferences are, at least to me. You should consider attending, if you have any interest in how government (primarily the military, but the lessons are often widely applicable) uses wargaming.

/ / / / /

Connections 2019 will be hosted by the U.S. Army War College at the Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA, August 13-16.

Connections is an interdisciplinary* wargaming conference that has been held annually since 1993, with the mission of advancing and preserving the art, science, and application of wargaming.  Connections participants come from all elements of the wargaming discipline, and include those in the military, government, academic, private sector, and commercial hobbyist fields.  By providing a forum for practitioners to share insights and best practices, Connections works to improve gaming as a tool for research, analysis, education, and policy.

Presentations on any aspect of professional wargaming are welcome.  The 2019 conference theme is Futures of Wargaming, and with that in mind, presentations on wargaming future events, advances in wargaming techniques, wargaming to train future leaders, and related topics are especially encouraged.

Please submit your proposal via the Google Form at the following link (which contains additional information):
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeyDQazE8CCsGmzjKorpEdaB1eQF9ijsKOdnYwMC5JnL8-uOg/viewform?usp=sf_link

It is by no means necessary to have attended a previous Connections conference to participate as a speaker.  More information about past Connections events and current updates on the status of planning for Connections 2019 can be found at the conference website:
https://connections-wargaming.com/

Feel free to pass this along to those who you think might be interested, including posting this in appropriate places online.  For additional information or any questions or concerns, please contact me at timothy.wilkie@ndu.edu

Timothy Wilkie
Research Fellow
Center for Applied Strategic Learning (CASL)
National Defense University
timothy.wilkie@ndu.edu
(202)433-4865

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*[best thing I read on the Net yesterday, from “S**t Academics Say”: “We’re all two drinks away from becoming interdisciplinary.”]

Back from Connections-UK 2018

Well, that was a great time! Connections was great, went better than I expected.

Rex Brynen did a very good report, and the Connections-UK website has audio and some slide decks.

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2018/09/07/connections-uk-2018-conference-report/

http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/2018.html

The first day was the megagame – “Green and Pleasant Land” by Jim Wallman. It concentrated on UK government internal operations as they dealt with different natural and artificial crises and emergencies – floods, a death in the Royal Family, and some nefarious doin’s as well. I had fun as the the “Adversary” (Russian) Minister of Defense (Phil Pournelle played Putin). Before the game began, Anja v.d. Hulst and I “bugged” seven tables in the UK Government room with sticky notes – they had no game function but when the Cabinet found one of them they panicked and withdrew to a secure bunker. Their nuclear submarine fleet had just put out to sea so we didn’t know what they were up to! Uh oh…

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Photo: Tom Mouat

Second day was my “Game design as Journalism” presentation and later, the dialogue between me and Volko Ruhnke. It went far better than I ever thought it would, I had been spinning so many brain-cycles over it I thought it was no good. But I never want to talk or write about Creativity itself ever again, it’s easier just to make things.

There was also a game fair: I had brought giveaway copies of Guerrilla Checkers, which attracted quite a few people, and got two fellows into a game of Second Lebanon War.  “We are Coming Nineveh”, which we had playtested a couple of days before, was also on display. (two right photos: Tom Mouat)

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With LCol Neil Stevens and LCol Ranald Shepherd, all looking very pleased with ourselves.

On the third day, I chaired a plenary session on “validation” that featured two presentations by people who had used my work. The first was by two LCols in the British Army who had used A Distant Plain as a training aid for their staff officers to give them some appreciation of the complexity of the Afghan situation, and in the second John Curry talked about recent games that examined the Ukraine Crisis… I am quoted as saying I got it “half right and half wrong.” (Yes, just don’t ask me which half is which.) Even if the games are not a perfect mirror of historical reality I felt validated myself and was very grateful, as always, to hear about my stuff being used in contexts outside sheer entertainment.

Before and after the conference, I had a day or two to enjoy London… I went museum hopping. At the Imperial War Museum I saw this:

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“Douglas” the ventriloquist’s dummy.

“Douglas” and his handler have quite a story. Arthur Harden joined the Artillery and served in the 59th Division’s Divisional Ammunition Column. He was a hobby ventriloquist and entertained the troops with Douglas (possibly named after Douglas Haig) when out of the line. His commanding officer recognized the morale-maintaining function of the dummy and took him on his orderly room staff and promoted him to Sergeant (Harden, not the dummy). Harden said later, “The Colonel enjoyed Douglas so much that he prevented my posting elsewhere and mildly discouraged my taking a commission.” It certainly saved his life, though Douglas’ case has a hole in it from a piece of shrapnel (hidden in this shot).

https://www.forces.net/news/creepy-dummy-entertained-soldiers-during-ww1

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The kids didn’t quite get the point.

I also went to the National Army Museum, which was quite fun. There was an interactive display where a CGI drill sergeant from the Guards would come out and berate you (in clean language) over your sloppy drill when you stood on the footprints.

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Wellington’s cloak and barometer. Also, the skeleton of Marengo, one of Napoleon’s horses.

 

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T.E. Lawrence’s robes and dagger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also went to the Victoria & Albert and British Museums, but did not have a lot of time to spend in either. I liked the 20th century design rooms at the former and just went to the Roman Britain room in the latter to take some pictures for my dad.

I also went to Richmond, to see a puppet show in a barge moored in the Thames river. The barge is brought up into London during the winter for shows. Very talented puppeteers.

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Puppets from earlier shows hung on the walls.

On my last day I went out to suburban Dagenham to visit David Turczi, where we talked about our newest projects and played Root, a very interesting asymmetric game by Cole Wehrle. I didn’t really know what I was doing but still won as the Cats, on a Domination card.

Now, back to work!

 

And awaaay we go once more…

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For the Last Big Trip of 2018. I’m leaving for the UK on Friday the 31st, for the Connections-UK conference on professional wargaming at Kings College London, 4-6 September.

http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/2018.html

I’ll be presenting on game design as journalism (a very revised version of the San Diego PCA presentation), doing a semi-structured dialogue on creativity and design with Volko Ruhnke on stage (and I think I will never write about creativity or the creative process again, I’ve spent weeks dithering and thinking about it and it has been driving me nuts…), and chairing a plenary session on “wargame validation” where the speakers are using A Distant Plain and Ukrainian Crisis as examples.

“Journalism” presentation text: Games journalism 29 Aug and the slides: Games journalism 29 aug

We’ll also have the game demos and plays: I am bringing Guerrilla Checkers as always, and advertising play of Second Lebanon War from the Brief Border Wars quad (actually I am bringing the whole quad, in case someone wants to play Cyprus 1974 or Vietnam 1979 instead). And we will be demonstrating We Are Coming, Nineveh! too.

Before and after will be playtesting of things, merry meetings, a megagame organized by Jim Wallman (one of my favourite madmen), a puppet show on a barge, and general snooping around!

I may post from Blighty, or I may not… as usual I am working off the little tablet with tiny keyboard.

Be good while I’m gone!

Off again, off again, jiggety-jig…

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On Monday I am going to Washing Tundy Sea, for the 2018 iteration of the Connections conference on professional wargaming.

https://connections-wargaming.com/connections-2018/

I’ll be at National Defense University at Fort McNair… among other things, facilitating a gamelab table discussion and giving a short seminar on “Perspectives on Counterinsurgency Gaming” (largely my usual talk on how games on modern irregular warfare are rare and subversive, and don’t get no respect because they upset people for a variety of reasons when they pay attention to them at all… so you’re not missing much if you’ve heard it from me before).

Also, demonstration/participation games of Guerrilla Checkers, Second Lebanon War and We Are Coming, Nineveh (Mosul urban combat game).

Looking forward to seeing many of the Usual Suspects again!

Going to be hot (32-35 degrees) and humid (with two days of thunderstorms). Quite a change from Arizona (though I hear the monsoon season has started there now).

Probably won’t be posting from there as I will be working off a teeny tiny tablet; more when I get back.