(photo of Ukrainian Crisis in play, from Paxsims website)

Over at the Paxsims blog, Rex Brynen tells about a recent and very busy week spent at the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL):


Among many other things, people played a series of games to explore “hybrid warfare”, including LCOL Dave Barsness’ Kaliningrad 2017, Volko Ruhnke’s Labyrinth, and my own Ukrainian Crisis.

Rex concludes matrix games FTW for analyzing this form of warfare, at least for the broad strokes, and I would tend to agree. But here’s the typical Brynen wit:

Ironically, one of the problems of a matrix game approach is that it does not require a great deal of preparation, nor need it involve a great deal of materials and complexity. This makes it an unattractive proposition for defence contractors and consultants since product creation and delivery generates relatively few billable hours. Similarly, a sponsor may feel that it does not seem enough of a tangible product compared with a more complex, traditional wargame.

Hm! Words to live by, I guess… though a poorly prepared and executed matrix game is just as much a failure as a poorly done game of another type.

MORS Workshop on Professional Gaming, 28 September – 1 October

Hopefully not as illustrated.

Week after next I am heading out for a few days in Fairfax, Virginia, to co-facilitate a working group at the Military Operations Research Society’s (MORS) Workshop on Professional Gaming.


Wargames used for analytic purposes have been around almost as long as operations research, maybe even longer if you are flexible about the word “analysis”. Many of the members of MORS are military, or civilians working for the military, with backgrounds in math, computer science or engineering so the games they produce and use tend to be quite technical and numbers-based, with results to a specific question validated by data. But there are also others in the organization, often with social science backgrounds, who struggle with the more qualitative side of contemporary problems and questions. More and different methods of looking at these problems through games are being used, and I think that’s where my contribution to this workshop will lie… games for analysis are a bit out of my line of country, but they still have to work as games, which in this case are a particular kind of model I have some experience building. It’s all in how you frame the problem, right….

The workshop will have eight working groups, and I will be working in the “Quick-Turnaround Game Development” one – plan is to take the participants from idea to (at least partially) playtested design, on a topic of their choice, within 36 hours. The inestimable Rex Brynen of Paxsims will be there too!

We’ll also have a chance to show and demonstrate some new game designs. I will be bringing demo copies of

  • Algeria (140-counter rework of first design on Algeria, for OSS Games’ Folio line)
  • Binh Dinh 69 (Vietnam 1969, for OSS Games as well)
  • Caudillo
  • Colonial Twilight
  • District Commander Kandahar
  • Guerrilla Checkers (free copies to give away)
  • Third Lebanon War
  • Ukrainian Crisis (have made some changes to the design recently, will post later)

I hope there’ll be room for all that lot, and clothes too… otherwise I’ll have to bring some binder clips, and use the hotel sheets and blankets instead.

Also, Rex will be demonstrating his very clever humanitarian aid/ disaster relief game Aftershock, and possibly ISIS Crisis as well, to introduce people to the idea of matrix games.

Will be a busy but fun week!