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Seminar War Game Course

Defence Technology Agency, Devonport, April 2013

The Zefra Scenario

The Zefra scenario provides the background for a short role-playing game. It will be used as an example during discussions about planning and conducting analysis of a seminar war game.


There is a plethora of methods that use a gaming construct. Some are specifically called games, as in "war games". However, within the military sphere some methods use war game methods for support but are not called games, e.g., a "command post exercise". Within the civilian sphere, there are activities that often resemble war games in structure and process but may be called something like "crisis games" to clarify that warfare is not part of the activity. Many terms are offered below with the intent of showing what characteristics can be associated with the terms and how characteristics change with the different terms.

For some varieties of games, operations research may have no role. For example, many command post exercises within the military domain are played with no involvement of operations research personnel. Likewise there are applications shown below where there is little or no role for operations research personnel, e.g., many applications of war games to replay historical battles may have no operations research component. That said most applications will have some analysis component ("So why was that decision made?") even if it is less formalized than would be the case where operations research analysts participated.

Varieties of Professional Games

Professional Games

The term "professional games" is intended to be inclusive of all forms of gaming.

Serious Games

The term "serious games" emerged after the boom in computer-based gaming, e.g., Steel Pathers. .

Serious Games: Games that incorporate computer techniques and are for purposes other than entertainment have become known as "serious games".

Some may still deal with aspects of combat, but many others deal with a range of topics. Serious games may be used to represent situations in:

War Games

As covered in the history of professional games, Kriegsspiel and its descendents have a prominent role within the military community. Many military applications of war games will involve operations research personnel, but many may not.

Seminar War Games

Technology Seminar War Games

Technology seminar war games are generally focused on the future use by the military of a variety of technological innovations. For examples two NATO studies appliced technology seminar war games to land operations in 2020, one of general combat and the other specifically addressing urban operations.

Title X War Games

These are typically war games involving many participants, usually including several at general officer, flag officer, or ambassador level. The use of Title X for these games comes from Title 10 or Title X of the United States Code that provides the legal basis for the roles, missions, and organizational structure of each of the military services. Title X war games generally draw participants across the service that is the leading proponent of that game, but will also draw from other services, from other government departments, and from allies. Each service generally runs one Title X war game each year.

Command Post Exercises

The military community conducts command post exercises routinely and frequently.

Crisis Games

Crisis games will take potential participants in some crises, e.g., local political leaders, first responders, medical personnel, utilities providers, through scenarios where they will be called upon to make decisions like those that would confront them in a real crisis. Crisis games may have various objectives: strengthen team cohesion, ensure that roles and responsibilities are mutually understood, improve performance (say to reduce unnecessary delays).


Hypotheticals are generally used in an educational environment, e.g., a law school. Students are put into fictional situations (which may have been derived from real events). They then work through a number of "what-if" challenges so they can better understand the interplay of various factors, especially how they would (or could) affect the decisions of the participants.

The Fred Friendly Seminars are a examples of hypotheicals put to senior decision makers in a vivid and professional series of educational productions. They cover topics ranging from heath care to business to national security.

Pol-Mil Gaming

Pol-Mil Gaming began at the RAND Corporation. For example, RAND's pol-mil gaming approach has been applied to Korean Arms Control.

Political Gaming and Simulations

Having participants take on roles in polical events is a means of better understanding the conflicting objectives that need to be resolved through the political process. Courses on this topic demonstrate that there are many political decisions that can be illuminated by the application of professional games.

Applications of Professional Games

Military Domain

Concept Development

Canadian Army Experimental Force (EXFOR) war gaming to address the army structure of circa 2025. Military personnel and scientific staffs worked collaboratively to assess the impact of technological innovation on land operations.

Doctrine Development


Technology Evaluation

NATO Land Ops 2020 and NATO Urban Ops 2020 studies 1999-2000 included some of the larger seminar war activities within the Alliance as it looked to the future of land operations:

These two projects represented a collaboration between military participants from NATO nations and their supporting operations research communities. The technology seminar war game methods were within the studies in combination with other methods of analysis.

Team Building

Sharing Intent

Historical Review

Many war games were developed to revisit past battles. Practically every famous batte has a corresponding war game that allows the players to step through a re-enactment. These range from battles of the German Afrika Korps in north Africa in 1940-44, through Midway.

History Re-evaluation

Course of Action Development

British Doctrine specifies a role for war gaming in course of action development.

Course of Action Analysis

The US Army's Military Decision Making Process includes a role for war gaming during course of action evaluation.

Mission Rehearsal

Rock Drills


Exercises and Rock Drils

Civilian Domain

Assessment of Disaster or Crisis Plans

Rehearsal for First Responders

Antony Zegers and Vancouver Winter Olympic Games

Role Playing Games

Drama Theory

Drama theory applies many aspects of game playing to complex organizational situations. As the name implies, provoking emotional responses from the players is one objective, particularly to incorporate irrational reactions and lead the players to deal with outcomes that might not be apparent from a more clinical analysis approach to some problem.

British OR colleagues have applied drama theory to peace and stabilization activities. In the British operations research community drama theory is generally viewed as a component of problem structuring methods.

Business Forecasting

Business Decisions