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Seminar War Game Course

Defence Technology Agency, Devonport, April 2013


The DTA course on seminar war gaming will deal with analytic practices associated with seminar war games. This web site is intended to provide read-in material for participants who will be attending the course.

See the general outline of the course for the topics that will be covered and the agenda.

The main topics covered in this web site are shown in the sidebar on the left. In the sidebar on the right are elements of a seminar war game set in and around Zefra, a troubled nation in the South Pacific. The game has both military and civilian components; it is not a traditional war game that would be focussed on combat.

A short game based on this scenario will be played by course participants as part of an introduction. Participants will be expected to take on roles within the scenario. So please be prepared.

The material for the course have been adapted from similar material used for a course in war game applications at the US Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. Most of the techniques used for seminar war games can and have been adapted to situation that do not involve war, and indeed to situations where the military may have no role or a very constrained one. While the term war game may be used from time to time, in most cases the material has been revised to show its application across the full panoply of professional gaming.

Since data and analysis are woven through all aspects of seminar war gaming involving operational research, this web-based material will cover many issues related to preparing for and delivering a seminar war game as part of an operational research study. When seminar war games are used by the operational research community, it is best that these games be planned from the beginning to be operational research studies (with the gaming methods merely as part of the methods applied to overall study) and to engage analysts from step 1. The steps in preparing for such a game are shown in the diagram, Phased Approach for the Procedures and addressed in some detail under procedures.

Professional seminar war games may be conducted where no deep analysis is expected or required. For example, many role-playing games are conducted simply for entertainment value. Or they may be played for educational or training purposes. Such games need not have an operational research component (although some may benefit from it).

This web-based material will occasionally refer to professional games that have been conducted for non-OR purposes; many of these may be well-designed and very valuable within the context of their purposes, although they may totally lack an analysis component. Many of the best practices from such non-OR activities can be incorporated with considerable success into professional games that are part of an operational research study.

Reading assignments for the DTA course

Before the start of the course:

Scan References and follow links you find interesting.

Read web pages at History and Definitions (and scan Characteristics)

Scan The Zefra Scenario to prepare to play a short role-playing game on the afternoon of Day 1

For more scenario background, see The Army of Tomorrow Seminar Wargame Handbook: scan pp 23-37 and scan pp 38-46. (discretionary)

Once you have an assigned role, review the scenario for elements that are particularly relevant to your role.

Read web page at Procedures (and scan Rules and Tools)

Read web pages at Records, Feedback, and Numbers


1. The pages have many links. These are to provide background for the points on the main pages. Follow and read the embedded links at your discretion.

2. Some changes have been introduced into the Zefra scenario specifically for role-playing at DTA. This means there are some differences from the Army of Tomorrow scenario. Where there are such differences the scenario material at this web site should be taken as authoritative for the meeting.

Seminar War Games at Taught at the US Naval Postgraduate School

Within the larger realm of professional games, seminar war games have been widely used within the defence and security domains for a couple of centuries. Seminar war gaming is a special topic within a course at the US Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Wargaming Applications (course OA4604) as taught in the Graduate School of Operational and Information Sciences (GSOIS).

The Seminar War Game Week at NPS covers many techniques associated with war games, but is primarily intended to provide students with skills they can use in the design and construction of seminar war games, a form of wargaming that blends in many aspects of seminar-style education.

The purposes for a specific seminar war game can range from educational, through development and assessment of potential courses of action for some upcoming operation, and on to evaluations of future concepts or assessments of prototype systems and new technology. A specific seminar war game may have a combination of objectives, say to educate the participants on selected issues while also evaluating courses of action for the commander. As with most military activities, striving for too many objectives may result in failing to achieve any, so objectives for a specific seminar war game must be carefully chosen. At NPS the students are exposed to seminar war games as they would be used within an operations research project, although there are many other purposes to which seminar war games may be applied.

Participants in the NPS course conduct an abbreviated seminar war game set in the fictional world of Zefra, a failed state in the South Pacific Ocean. This case is then used for further study of seminar war gaming techniques.

For the NPS the four lessons of Seminar War Game Week have the following structure: