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Seminar War Game Course

Defence Technology Agency, Devonport, April 2013

The Executive Team

The Executive Team comprises the senior leaders of the organization in question. For a military organization, it may be the commander and his senior staff. In the civilian world, it may be a CEO, or director, or other senior leader and a selection of his advisors.

If there are members of the executive team who are difficult to include due to conflicting time demands (e.g., a commander or a CEO), then the Executive Team should nominate a spokesman who can be more accessible to the Study Team and who has authority to give direction and provide resources.

The Study Team or Wargame Team

Executive Team and Study Team Relationship

The Study Team (or Wargame Team) is the group that has been commissioned to undertake the game. It may include members from within the organization and from without.

The size of a study team may range from one person on a part-time basis for a very small project, to a team of a dozen or more for a complex and lengthy study.

The Study Team leads the preparation for the game, the conduct of the play, and the reporting. It generally includes members with an operational research or analysis background. For war games, it may include military members (or retired military personnel) who can contribute their experience to scenario development, to assisting in game play, and so on.

The Study Team may include a component to deal with technical issues: supporting any adjudication systems (e.g., models and simulations), command and control (C2)  systems, and recording and database systems.

Meetings with the Executive Team

Regular meetings should be arranged between leaders in the Study Team and designated members of the Executive Team. The number of such meetings will depend on the scale of the professional game project: small projects should require only a few meetings, while large-scale projects may require numerous and frequent meetings, even weekly update reports.


Workshops should be convened at various stages to enable coordination and to ensure suitable progress is being made. If the game is being treated as a military exercise, the workshops typically are called exercise planning conferences.

Workshop participants will include many from beyond the internal processes of the Study Team. The Study Team should be holding team meetings more frequently than the workshops.

Reporting Results


A Step-by-Step Approach to Developing a Professional Game

Phased Approach for the Procedures

The 15 steps shown above and described below are for a "medium scale professional game" where the organization in question has little prior history of using such methods. The steps are organized in terms of an operations research study, where analysis and data collection will be an integral part. Many professional games may be conducted with little or no requirement for an operations research component and analysis and data collection may not be required.

Most military organizations will have some history of war gaming and have within them an operations research staff. With these elements already within the culture, many steps may be quickly addressed as they will be familiar. For organizations that are new to professional gaming, the steps may be unfamiliar.

A 'medium scale game' would be one that would take a few days to conduct and a month or so to prepare, and the main participants would number fewer than about a dozen. If the scale were significantly larger, there may be a requirement for more workshops -- these are generally to coordinate various aspects of game development, so a more complex game would probably require more than the two planning workshops shown above to keep it on track. If the scale were smaller, some workshops might be dispensed with, or at least replaced by small and short coordination meetings of a few critical staff.

If the organization (Executive Team and Study Team) already has a good relationship and a history of gaming, many steps could be eliminated or completed with little effort and attention. For example, if a Study Team is a permanent fixture within the organization, Step 3 need hardly be addressed (although some change in personnel might be appropriate from time to time). Similarly, for gaming that is a continuation of some previous effort, steps 4 through 9 might all be truncated if the factors, background information, and scenarios are readily available from a library or archive, or can be reused from one game to another.

The Ralson and Wilson 18-step process for scenario-based strategy development was the inspiration for the format used here. Their book should be consulted for more detail, although some translation may be required if the context is moved from the business world to the military world. Also note that their approach is more about developing scenarios and having others contemplate the ramifications. Professional gaming has a much larger component of playing out the scenarios. When professional gaming is used for course of action analysis or for evaluation concepts or technologies, there should be a larger component of data collection and analysis -- a contribution for which operations research analysts are particularly well suited. When professional gaming is used for training, education, or historical reassessment, military methods of after action reviews and a lessons learned process should be incorporated (and a role operations research personnel may not be required).

Preparation Phase

Step 1: Developing the Relationship with Executive Team.
Step 2: Determining the Focus and the Process.
Step 3: Forming the Study Team and Analysis Plan.

Foundation Phase

Step 4: Initiating the Search of Relevant Information (examples: Master Questions, Perspectives, Issues, Data).
Step 5: Determining the Key Decision Factors and Drivers.
Step 6: Preparing Rules and Support Tools. (Examples: map or chart, spreadsheet formula, look-up table, aide mémoire)
Step 7: Researching Further on Master Questions, Perspectives, Issues, Data.

Scenarios Development Phase

Step 8: Developing Prototype Scenarios.
Step 9: Refining Scenarios.

Execution Phase

Step 10: Selecting and Preparing the Participants and the Venue.
Step 11: Initiating Data Collection.
Step 12: Conducting Professional Game.
Step 13: Providing a "Quick Look Report".

Analysis and Reporting Phase

Step 14: Reviewing and Processing Data.
Step 15: Reporting Results.

Time, Workshops, and Milestones

The steps shown above are in a rough chronological order. However for some specific applications, the sequence may be adjusted.

If the scope is fairly limited or if the problem is familiar to most participants, it may be possible to skip through many of the steps fairly quickly. If this were the case, it is still beneficial to consider each step and confirm that it has been completed.

If there has been a long-standing relationship between the Executive Team and the Study Team and if the problem is familiar with stock scenarios ready to use, it may seem attractive (and expeditious) to jump immediately to Step 10 and Step 11 and get on with the Execution Phase.

Once engaged in a particular step, it may become clear that a previous step needs to be revisited. For example as the key factors and drivers are being determined (Step 5), it may become clear that the focus of the gaming (set in Step 2) needs to be adjusted -- the focus needs to be expanded to include key factors that were not apparent. So it would be appropriate to return to Step 2 to establish some revised focus. If the extent of the adjustment is relatively small, it may be possible to go back to Step 5 fairly expeditiously.

Workshops are opportunities to coordinate activities. If the game is being treated as a military exercise (e.g., a command post exercise), the workshops may be called exercise planning conferences. Members of the Executive Team, the Study Team, and the players should participate. If there is a large technical components (e.g., simulations, models, command and control systems), they should also be represented -- normally support of this sort would be a component of the Study Team, but for a large-scale activity may constitute a Technical Team.