From DSTL: Stuart Lyle on the Urban Operations Planner Course

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(photo credit: CA Army National Guard Public Affairs)

https://www.gov.uk/government/case-studies/stuart-lyle-international-knowledge-exchange-on-urban-warfare

Stuart Lyle of the UK Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) writes about his experiences teaching and learning on the 40th Infantry Division Urban Operations Planner Course in July. I was really glad to meet Stuart and the lectures he gave were fantastic! He’s the one in the middle of the group, with the beard.

I also owe him a beer or three for helping me set up the game sets the night before we played the QUICK game, and for his introductory remarks before we started that set the context for the use of games in professional military education – he was far more articulate about it than I could ever be.

Urban Operations Planners Course: featured on the Urban Warfare Project podcast!

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COL John Spencer of the Urban Warfare Project, and one of the three principals of the recent Urban Operations Planners Course, has BG Wooldridge back on his program to discuss how the second iteration of the course went… what changes they made, what was dropped and added and why, and how the course generally achieved its aim quite well!

The whole podcast is great listening – this course was run really well, in my opinion, and that was obviously not without a lot of prior work and thought. The QUICK wargame as a concluding exercise gets some discussion about 34:40; both were impressed with how the wargame went over and COL Spencer terms me “the Yoda of wargaming” – but apparently not because I am short or pudgy or sometimes difficult to understand!

Next serial of the course is 14-20 May, 2023.

https://mwi.usma.edu/urban-warfare-project/urban-warfare-project-podcast/

Urban Operations Planner Course: story in the Digital Grizzly

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https://grizzly.shorthandstories.com/40thIDhostsweeklongUrbanOperationsPlannerCourse/index.html

A profusely illustrated story on the Urban Operations Planner Course in the Digital Grizzly, the  online version of the California National Guard magazine. (photos: California National Guard Public Affairs)

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Youtube channel: 40th ID Urban Warfare Center

The videos shot of the lectures during the recent Urban Operations Planners Course have been posted to the 40th Infantry Division Urban Warfare Center’s Youtube channel.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF2zf038pwkv6N0mQfcskMw/videos

  • Non US Approaches
  • Information Warfare
  • Civil Affairs in Urban Operations
  • Protection in Urban Operations
  • Sustainment in Urban Operations
  • Intelligence in Urban Operations
  • Movement & Maneuver
  • Fires & Electronic Warfare in Urban Operations
  • C2 in Urban Operations
  • Subterranean Equipment /Tools
  • Subterranean Doctrinal Overview
  • Identify Threat Capabilities and Urban Tactics
  • Divisional Operational Approaches
  • The Liberation of Manila 1945
  • Joint Special Operations in Urban Environment (a long, entertaining talk by the very clever “Duc” Duclos)
  • Civil Military Integration in the Urban Operations Environment
  • Civilian Harm Mitigation (CHM) Practical Tools (one of two presentations by Ms. Sahr Muhammedally, an amazing person who has been at the centre of many major urban engagements and campaigns trying to prevent undue harm to civilians. This was a constant theme during the course.)
  • IPB in Urban (LTC Higgins, NYARNG)
  • Tools to Visualize the Urban Environment (goshwow presentation by technical folks from ESRI)
  • Urban Science: Trends in Urbanization Now and Into the Future (presented by the very smart Stuart Lyle of the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory)
  • Urban 101 (another introductory lecture by COL John Spencer)
  • Historical Trends (presented by MAJ Jayson Geroux of 1 RCR)
  • Why is Urban So Hard (presented by BG Wooldridge and COL Spencer, this was really the keynote of the course)
  • Law of War & Rules of Engagement (also by Ms. Sahr Muhammedally)

2022-02 Urban Operations Planner Course

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(photo: Jayson Geroux)

I’ve spent the last week attending the second serial of the Urban Operations Planners Course, run by the 40th Infantry Division (California Army National Guard) and held at Joint Force Training Base Los Alamitos. And what an interesting week it was!

A solid week of really great lectures and exercises on urban warfare, featuring people like COL John Spencer of the Modern War Institute’s Urban Warfare Project, Stuart Lyle of the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Dr. Jacob Stoil of the School of Advanced Military Studies, and MAJ Jayson Geroux of the Royal Canadian Regiment. I met a lot of really interesting students as well – most were Americans but there were also  students from the Australian, British, Chilean, Dutch, and German armies.

Unfortunately soon after I arrived at the Base I developed a bad summer cold that also turned into laryngitis… fortunately my voice recovered just in time, for the last day was a “learn by doing” exercise featuring group play of the Quick Urban Integrated Combat Kriegsspiel or QUICK, designed by yours truly… I’ve been working on it since last December.

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It landed very very well; the 40 students seemed really engaged by it. Also, about 20 remote students played online at the same time, using a VASSAL module produced by Curt Pangracs at the Command General and Staff College.

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(Of course people got to use their Military Pointing Skills!)

This was the first time I had the opportunity to teach a game, any game, to a large group of people, many of whom were non-gamers. Fortunately I had a set of great facilitators including faculty from the Joint Special Operations University, Stuart Lyle and students and instructors of the course. It never would have worked without them!

The QUICK now joins the range of free print-and-play games I offer on this website; it’s available to everyone – files are on this separate page: The QUICK Page

However, be aware that I will soon be making some small changes and revisions to the game rules and charts due to feedback and comments from the students.

Me and BG

Me and BGEN Robert Wooldridge, Deputy Commander of 40ID, sponsor of the course and avid wargamer himself.

Urban warfare: 40ID’s new webpage

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https://calguard.ca.gov/40id-urban-warfare

The US 40th Infantry Division (headquartered in California but responsible for National Guard units from Nebraska to Guam) is becoming the centre for development of training and doctrine in urban operations. Last summer they ran the first serial of the Urban Warfare Planners course (More on the Urban Warfare Planners Course) and will do it again in July 2022.

This new webpage is a great resource for manuals, case studies, links to other resources, and yes even a page for civilian market wargames on urban combat (District Commander: Maracas gets a look in, and there’s more to come).

Check it out!

Space-Biff! on Bloc by Bloc (3rd edition)

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(image: National Lampoon, ca. 1971)

https://spacebiff.com/2022/01/29/bloc-by-bloc

Thankfully, Bloc by Bloc isn’t ideologically agnostic. It’s radically and refreshingly committed to egalitarianism, clear-eyed about the contradictions that tug at modern efforts to effect change, and both deeply angry and hopelessly idealistic.

Oh, Daniel Thurot just keeps swinging and hitting them wayyy over the fence… what a nice surprise today to see that he has written a piece on the new edition of Bloc by Bloc: Uprising. It is the third edition, coming soon on Gamefound and I will be there for it, just as I was when the game was first noised about on Boardgamegeek.

Bloc by Bloc: compelling subject matter, good presentation, and genuinely interesting mechanics for both cooperative (Kumbayah) and semi-cooperative (duelling agendas) versions. One of the more inspiring things I’ve played in years.

The point is, change begins somewhere. The bug of hope must first be contracted. Whether it speaks of suffrage, liberty, civil rights, opportunity, or true equality before the law, Bloc by Bloc is no mere polemic. It understands its contradictions and grapples with them. It speaks a message while remaining playful. Most importantly, it instills a yearning for something better.

February 15, on Gamefound!

Bloc by Bloc: The Insurrection Game

https://gamefound.com/projects/draft/zxc58ag7firw48g1aggj8ue80qo

More on the Urban Warfare Planners Course

The US Army’s First Urban Warfare Planners Course

(photo: Modern War Institute website)

A couple of weeks ago I posted a news item on the first ever Urban Warfare Planners Course, run by the staff of the 40th Infantry Division in California. News you can use

The Urban Warfare Project at the US Military Academy, Modern Warfare Institute has posted a very good podcast where they interviewed BG Robert Wooldridge, deputy commanding general for support about this first course – how it came about, what it is intended to do, and where they want it to go. Normally I do not have the time or patience to listen to podcasts but I did this one. You should too!

https://mwi.usma.edu/the-us-armys-first-urban-warfare-planners-course/

Podcast includes just a few tantalizing details of the tabletop exercise they ran, facilitated by LTC Luke Gygax (yes, the son of That Gygax, he serves in the California National Guard) on the adventures of a multinational task force engaging in combat operations in a dense urban area against a peer enemy. Factions included US forces, Allied forces, Civilians, the Enemy, and a Criminal element. Dice were rolled and chaos ensued!

This is inspiring me to return to work on an idea I had a while ago, the Scaleable Urban Combat Kriegsspiel… I had thought about the District Commander system could be useful as a manual system the Army could use for tabletop exercises, and it quite likely is, but perhaps I could work out something even easier to get into than District Commander Maracas. I easily forget how far these manual games lie outside “ordinary” people’s experience and frame of reference.

[ETA: A later post about their thoughts on offering the course, and what they plan to do next: https://mwi.usma.edu/what-we-learned-creating-the-armys-first-urban-planners-course]

News you can use

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[Unfortunately could not link to a corker of a photo by BGEN Wooldridge of the course students standing around a giant map with their hands in their pockets.]

https://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/entertainment/story/2021-10-26/with-an-eye-on-china-los-alamitos-based-army-division-looks-at-fighting-in-cities

PRIMUS

An interesting piece on the US 40th Infantry Division (a National Guard formation, with brigades in Hawaii, Oregon and California) and its offering of the Urban Warfare Planners course, a first on the topic.

Maj. Gen. Laura Yeager, commanding general of the 40th Infantry Division, and Wooldridge have led the charge on urban warfare training partly because they could be called upon to fight in an all-out war with the People’s Liberation Army.

While the U.S. Army has long maintained its Ranger and Mountain Warfare schools, urban warfare has no equivalent training center in the service.

[Brig. Gen. Robert] Wooldridge underscored his division’s readiness to fight wherever and whenever they’re called, but he still wants to do everything possible to avoid some of the casualties U.S. forces will endure fighting in megacities.

“I hope we never have to use this, but if we’re planning to take back some city in the Indo-Pacific region maybe some staff officer or planner will think back to the course and say, ‘Thank god we went through this,’” he said.

Sir, I do not think a one-week engagement with the subject material is enough. 

And realistically, if the 29th Infantry BCT (Hawaii component of the 40th) finds itself fighting to clear formations of regular PLA troops out of a major city, several Very Large Things have already gone wrong. 

But I maintain that there will continue to be irregular warfare within cities, some of them very large, and it behooves professional militaries to learn how to deal with them, as best they can. So it’s a start. 

 

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Playing Guerrilla Checkers with Michel Boucher – deux vieux avec un jeu nouveau.

https://www.wired.com/story/this-ai-resurrects-ancient-board-games-lets-you-play-them

http://ludeme.eu/outputs/index.html

SECUNDUS

Here is a new word for you to learn today: digital archaeoludology, “a new field of study involving the analysis and reconstruction of ancient games from incomplete descriptions and archaeological evidence using modern computational techniques.”

First link is to a story in Wired about the Digital Ludeme Project, which is I guess the first and possibly only institution dedicated to this field. The Artificial Intelligence described in the article breaks what is known about the dug-up ancient game into “ludemes” which are then cross-referenced with other similar pieces to try and reconstruct how the game might have been played and to what end, and then to attempt playing the reconstructed item. Fortunately the team includes an anthropologist who evaluates the games via their social aspect and probable alterations to the rules, since there are rulesets that are perfectly logical but make for bad games. I wonder what this software would do with Monopoly or RISK.

Second link is to the outputs page of the Project itself, where you can find and use the Ludii software and see its applications. One of these is a Youtube demonstration video I haven’t had time to see yet on “Designing, Playing and Testing Games with Ludii”, which seems interesting.

TERTIUS

https://rockymountainnavy.com/2021/10/27/wargame-wednesday-my-wargame-news-feeds

A link back to RockyMountainNavy’s blog where he talks about where he gets his wargame news from. He’s a lot more choosy than I am, I think!

Meanwhile… in a faraway city

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/08/venezuela-caracas-gun-battles-police-gangs

H/t to James Buckley for noticing this one!

What would Jesus Shaves do?

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