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
The Study Team
The Study Team is the group that has been commissioned to undertake the seminar war 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 seminar war game, the conduct of the play, and the
reporting. It generally includes members with an operational research or analysis background. 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 seminar war game project: small projects should
require only a few meetings, while large-scale projects may require numerous and frequent meetings, even weekly
Workshops should be convened at various stages to enable coordination and to ensure suitable progress is being
made. If the seminar war game is being treated as an 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.
- This workshop may be the first opportunity for many involved in
the project to meet. The first part of the agenda should provide
introductory information for those who may not be at all familiar
with the project.
- The Study Team should provide information from the steps that
have been completed or are in progress (Steps 1 through 6).
- A key objective of Workshop 1 is to reach a consensus for the
overall context for the study. Generally this can be captured in a
framework for the scenario. (Note a seminar war game series may
involve several scenarios if a single scenario cannot capture all
of the key elements associated with the study)
- The second workshop is generally last opportunity to resolve
any remaining big issues. The scenarios should be largely written
and the number and even identity of player-participants should be
evident. The venue should have been checked for suitability with
representatives of all concerned, particularly players and the
Study Team. See under SWG Workshop for key elements for the venue
and check on their suitability during Workshop 2.
- This workshop must be scheduled while sufficent time and some
resources remain for additional development of the game design and of the
scenarios. Since a principal purpose of this workshop is to determine
inadequacies in the game design and scenarios, it is of no benefit if
preparation time has expired and all resources expended and, consequently,
the inadequacies can no longer be addressed.
- The playing of the seminar war game can be viewed as a "workshop"
in its own right. It should draw together members of all groups
working on the project: the Executive Team, the Study Team, and the
- Key aspects of the venue include:
- A room configuration that will promote discourse: typically a
large U-shaped table for the main players, with "overflow seating"
along the walls.
- Handy white boards and flip charts.
- Computer access and projectors.
- Power supplies for equipment (e.g., for computers and audio or
- Break-out rooms (if appropriate).
- Convenient proximity of food and beverages (to ensure players
do not wander too far during breaks).
- Conclude with an
- If the project is large or of a long duration, workshops additional
to those above may be needed:
- It may be appropriate to conduct a workshop as the "Prepare"
Phase is concluding (Steps 1, 2, and 3).
- If the venue will have to support more than 20 players or so, a
"rehearsal workshop" at the venue may be in order. This is to confirm
that facilities will be adequate for a large group, and that there is
flexibility to adapt as play unfolds, say to spin off a parallel
activity into a side room to delve into some issue that requires it.
Preparation for a Workshop
Ralston and Wilson provide a useful checklist for preparing for a workshop. See their Appendix B.
- Generally reporting will be in three phases: a "quick look report" (step 13), the final report
(step 15), and additional publicizing of results (as and when required after the conclusion
of the study).
- Above all, the "quick look report" should avoid an irrevocable commitment to some contentious
result. In the heat of concluding a seminar war game, the Study Team may feel they can commit to some
result, but may find that a review of material discloses that it has flaws.
- A "quick look report" should include:
- Paraphrases what participants said (to get confirmation from them that it has been accurately
- Tentative mandates for areas of future study -- e.g., new questions that have emerged during
the seminar war game.
- Any points that have been resolved. If there is developing agreement, but not unanimity, point
out the remaining sources of disagreement. Without this, participants who are not part of the consensus
may feel that the whole process was intended to gain endorsement of some issue they feel is still
- A "final report" should include:
- Full descriptions of the methods, the participants, the scenarios
(including orders of battle and equipment specification in many cases),
the results and the logic behind them.
- Some examples of final reports of significant seminar war games
- Subsequent reports for publicizing the results can be largely left to the Executive
Team for format. The Executive Team may feel that parts of their organization who did not attend
the seminar war game should be provided with some form of synopsis. Generally the material for this
(e.g., PowerPoint slides) can be abstracted from the Final Report.
A Step-by-Step Approach to Developing a Seminar War Game
The 15 steps shown in the diagram and described below are for a "medium-scale seminar war game"
where the organization in question has little prior history of using such methods. However, most
military organizations will have some history of war gaming. With that already within the
culture, many steps may be quickly addressed as they will be familiar.
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 a dozen or so. 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,
the task of forming a study team in 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 war 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 to move the
context from the business world to the military world. Also note that their approach is more
about developing scenarios and having others contemplate the ramifications. Seminar war gaming
has a much larger component of playing out the scenarios. When seminar war 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 analysts are
particularly well suited. When seminar war gaming is used for training, education, or historical
reassessment, military methods of after action reviews and a lessons learned process should be
Step 1: Develop the Relationship with the Sponsor.
- The Executive Team (typically a commander and senior staff if the activity is for a
military organization) may require some convincing that seminar war
gaming will resolve some of their obstacles or illuminate some quandary
they are confronting. However, it is highly likely that the use of war
gaming in the decision-making process will already be a familiar method
for the investigation of courses of action (COA) within a military
organization. For example, in the Military Decision Making Process
(MDMP) as used by the US Army, Step 4 of 7 is specifically called 'COA
Analysis (Wargame)' (see Figure B-1 for the seven steps and Figure B-5
for Step 4 in FM-5
The Operations Process).
- While the specific form of war gaming within MDMP may remain
unspecified, at least the existing doctrine specifies that war gaming
should be applied. That other military organizations are familiar with
the use of war gaming (or command post exercises) means that the Executive
Team will be familiar with the general procedures and the potential value.
Some civilian organizations may be familiar with procedures that are similar
to war gaming, e.g., legal scholars review prior
case law as hypotheticals
of how new evidence might affect an outcome and software engineers use
walkthroughs to see the branching that might occur in a computer program.
- Beyond simply persuading the Executive Team that seminar war gaming would
benefit their situation, the relationship between the Executive Team needs
periodic attention through to the final step. It may be appealing to gamble
that the Executive Team can be excluded until the final step when the report
will vindicate the Study Team and convince the Executive Team that the
resources for the seminar war game were well spent. However, periodic reviews
with the Executive Team should ensure a continuing bond of mutual respect.
- Continuous attention to the relationship with the Executive Team can have
several additional and more practical benefits for the Study Team. For example,
it may be that, as preparations unfold for the seminar war game, the larger
context has changed, say due to new information or a change in course at the
top. If the Study Team is aware of this as it happens, the direction for the
gaming can be adjusted accordingly. Or, it may be that the Study Team finds
after the project is underway that it needs access to some special information
or to engage some inaccessible individual (with special skills or knowledge);
if the Executive Team has been periodically advised of progress and impediments,
they may intervene to ease the course of the Study Team.
- Note: The dotted arrow in the diagram to the right of Step 1 indicates that
the relationship with the Executive Team will last to the conclusion of the work.
Indeed, the long-term trust that the Executive Team will have in the Study Team
and their work will depend fundamentally on the successful conclusion of Step 15
and the quality of the final report.
Step 2: Determine the Focus and the Process.
- Most seminar war games are intended to assist in a decision-making process
or in resolving a problem. Establishing the decision alternatives will focus
gaming activity on those alternatives, and not on irrelevant alternatives.
Using seminar war gaming to resolve a problem may not be as simple: often a problem
persists precisely because it cannot or has not been properly described. Gaming can
often help to characterize a problem more clearly, with beneficial effects on eventually
resolving it. As problem solving may not be as simple as decision making where the
alternatives may be evident, this step should include describing the general
characteristics of the problem and the constraints on potential solutions as well.
- Note that, for gaming to resolve problems, the result from gaming may be no more
than determining in greater detail some of the conditions that have led to the problem;
an appropriate resolution of the problem may still be unclear, but it may be clearer
than without the gaming results.
- Also note that, as with many operations research studies, a sponsor's
description of a decision or of a problem may be wrong, say because the
sponsor is too close to the issues. So some 'negotiations' with the sponsor
(or Executive Team) may be required to uncover such issues. In fact such a
situation may not be apparent until the conclusion of the last few steps:
"Fine, but you've solved the wrong problem". While not the ideal outcome,
getting to this stage through seminar war gaming rather than some larger and
more expensive project may be a much more efficient investment.
- This step should include an estimate of the resources needed to complete
the seminar war gaming activity. While this estimate may still be subject to
revision a bit later, the general scope of the seminar war game activity
should be clearer -- Will it be a small, medium, or large activity? Will it
take weeks or months? Will it involve a few people or lots? Can most of the
people do it on a part-time basis, or will full-time participation be required?
Does the organization already have all the resources needed or will outside
assistance be required? Will the participants come from a central location,
or will their involvement mean significant travel costs? Will automated tools
be required (audio or video recording, models or computer support)?
Step 3: Establish the Project Team and Study Plan.
Capabilities-Based Assessment (CBA) User’s Guide
from the Joint Chiefs of Staff material on future
joint warfare provides extensive guidance on assembling a study team or project team for a
Capabilities-Based Assessment or CBA (in Section 3.1). In many respects a Study
Team for seminar wargaming needs similar expertise. The organizational matrix,
used for planning purposes, shows roles or the skill sets down the left and potential
sources across the top.
- Some additional skills or roles not mentioned for CBA but potentially important
for seminar gaming include:
- The facilitator (see below)
- Experts on
- geographic areas (e.g., country experts),
- specific systems or equipment (e.g., weapon, sensor, or mobility systems), and
- specific geo-political aspects (e.g., foreign policy, foreign aid)
- Support personnel for any unique systems that are used within the seminar war game.
For example the players may be cocooned in a real or surrogate command centre, with
access to automated C2 systems; technical support to train on these systems and to
keep them running may be required. Or the analysts may wish, for example, to deploy
data-capture systems, audio or video recording equipment, geographic information
systems -- such systems will require appropriate technical support.
- Note that not all of this expertise will be required at all times. For example,
an expert on video recording might be needed in Step 6 'Preparing Support Tools'
and in Step 12 'Conducting the Seminar War Game'. When not needed in the
Study Team, such experts can continue with their other duties.
- The Title X war games of the US military services are large-scale seminar war
games and the Study Team extends to hundreds. Such a study team is organized in a
hierarchy. Perla and Markowitz in
Wargaming Strategic Linkage
propose a triumvirate at the top for Global War Games for the playing of the games:
an overall Game Director, supported by a Director of Assessment and a
Director of Adjudication. The Director of Assessment would manage a team of
Facilitators. And the Director of Adjudication would manage a team of "pucksters" -- staff
who work intimately with any supporting combat simulations or models. The Game Director, the
Director of Assessment and the Facilitators work closely with the players, particularly for
activity at the strategic or operational levels.
- If there is a large technical component (e.g., command systems, communications
systems, combat simulations, models, databases, audio or video recording equipment),
the Study Team may include a technical sub-team to deal with related issues.
- Special attention should be paid to who can play the role of the facilitator
(aka umpire, adjudicator, or controller). A facilitator should be chosen early in the
study (in Step 3 if possible); he or she should participate in Study Team sessions that
determine key factors and initiate quests for information (Steps 4, 5, 6, and 7), and be
mindful of how these will need to be addressed in subsequent steps. In general the Study
Director should not assume the role of facilitator as, during the seminar war gaming, the
Study Director may be otherwise engaged (e.g., participating in the discourse, escorting VIPs,
interpreting or providing guidance from the Executive Team, even critiquing the
facilitator to ensure even-handedness is maintained). The role of facilitator will
become a full-time role by this point (Step 12) and a Study Director has other
- Videos from the Fred Friendly series of seminars
illustrate how a facilitator should behave. These are hypothetical situations largely in
non-military contexts, but the skills for a facilitator in seminar war games are largely the same.
A full set of videos is available showing
excellent facilitation (enable pop-up windows to see the video player).
- The primary abilities of a good facilitator are:
- Ability to stimulate frank and open discourse.
- Attention to detecting and handling biases when they appear, which
is inevitable. (Biases when dealt with properly often lead to valuable
discourse. However, the biases exhibited by participants should never
be used to embarrass or to attack them... well, within reason -- see
comments below on using "good humour".)
- Confidence from the Executive Team that the seminar war game has
explored all reasonable outcomes in suitable depth, but without undue
diversions due to biases and without unnecessary and wasteful digressions.
- Abilities a facilitator may be able to finesse:
- The facilitator may not need extensive expertise in any specific
topics the participants may pursue. If there are extensive technical
issues lurking within a seminar war game, the facilitator may have a
panel of experts to call upon to assist in adjudication, or in discussing
the consequences of some participant's actions or proposed actions.
- In some cases a facilitator who has too much expertise in some
particular area of military competency, e.g., qualifications as a submarine
commander, as a pilot, as a combat soldier, could be detrimental. He or she
may be viewed by participants as coming into the game with his or her own
biases, and they may feel a sense of hostility based on a perception of
bias (even when no such bias is evident).
- The facilitator does need to be familiar with common concepts and
jargon terms. Asking repeatedly for participants to explain terms that are
already well known to the others will probably reduce the respect for the
facilitator. However, many participants will appreciate a facilitator who
challenges other participants to explain terms that are not familiar to all,
or that are fuzzy or woolly
(e.g., "effects based operations").
- Additional competencies of a facilitator are:
- Keeping the participants on time and on the agreed-upon agenda. (But a facilitator should
maintain a reserve of time so participants can complete their thoughts while energy levels are
still high and the debate is lively, by shortening coffee or lunch breaks for example).
- Ensuring that debate remains professional and that participants are generally retaining their
good humour (or regaining it if they temporarily lose it).
- Keeping a clear record (although the Study Team may have others to do this, typically a
- Listening carefully and respectfully to the participants -- including an ability to ensure
more reticent participants have their say, an ability to draw participants out when the point
they are trying to make is still too obscure for the others, an ability to paraphrase a discussion
for the sake of clarity or to promote further deliberation, and an ability to maintain a balance in
- Sensitivity to non-verbal cues from individual players that they may have something to contribute,
but are reluctant to speak (e.g., use of body language).
- Having the knowledge and skill that can encourage the group's creativity and not to diminish or
- Determining that a consensus has not or cannot be reached, and then working with the group to
understand the reasons for remaining dissension.
- Maintaining a good sense of humour, and ensuring all participants find the experience rewarding.
- The Analysis Plan should be a living document for the project. At this stage (for steps 1, 2, and 3)it
should document matters that have been discussed with the sponsoring organization (a.k.a. the Executive
Team). It will be extended and revised as the project proceeds. As the project continues to
develop, the Analysis Plan will eventually contain aspects from the general (sponsor's objectives,
focus areas) to the specific (manning levels, resources required, scheduling, even a daily battle
rhythm, if appropriate). Fortunately, the
Analysis Handbook from the ABCA Armies' Program provides detailed guidance on developing an
Step 4: Determine the Key Decision Factors and Drivers.
- With the focus established and initial collection of master questions
and issues in progress, it is timely to outline key decision factors and
drivers. The idea is certainly not to draw conclusions prematurely. But
it is relevant at this point to develop a framework for the problem or
- The Study Team may use diagramming methods for this. Speculative
influence diagrams may be useful; however they need to be viewed as
prototypes at this step, since the subsequent steps may result in
- It may be appropriate to develop lists of perceived resources,
assumptions, and constraints. As well, there may be a perception of
what the commander's intent may be (unstated so far by the commander).
Perceptions of these elements often drive decisions -- and those
perceptions may be wrong. A seminar war game is an effective tool to
question those perceptions in a relatively benign and frugal context,
before significant resources, even lives, are on the line. At this
stage recording the perceptions of drivers -- intent, resources,
assumptions, constraints -- provides a framework for the following steps.
Step 5: Search for Information (examples: Master
Questions, Perspectives, Issues, Data).
- Once the focus has been set and early members of the Study Team become
available, a search for relevant information should be undertaken. Developing
a list of master questions will be valuable even if specifying the focus may
already provide some of this in general terms: what are the higher level
questions that the Executive Team hopes may be resolved, or at least
illuminated. As the project continues, some of these questions may be deferred,
or re-worded. But beginning the documentation early will provide master
questions for later steps as the scenarios are constructed and the data
collection and analysis plans are developed.
- As the master questions materialize, perspectives of the participants
(both on the Executive Team and on the Study Team) should emerge. It may be
that different members have perspectives that are diametrically opposed and
the war game can determine flaws (and strengths) of each of these. For one
participant the perspective may be that resources and logistics are the key
to resolving the problem, while another's perspective may be that poor
training is the obstacle. With an idea of the perspectives that are in play,
the game can be designed to provide material that will assist with all of
the critical perspectives, even if it should determine that some formerly
key perspective is really a myth and needs to be of no further concern.
- The term "issues" is for matters that the seminar war game may illuminate
without seeming to take sides. The participants are aware of issues where no
one yet holds a position, but where a better understanding will benefit the
- As lists of master questions, perspectives, and issues are compiled it
will become apparent that more information will be required in certain areas.
This may be data on a country's armed forces, or the strength of its economy,
or on geographic features that may become key in some conflict. The Study Team
can pursue some this data at this stage as it will be required in subsequent
steps. There is a step later (Step 7) where the quest for such information
will be at a more refined level. For Step 4, the Study Team will need information
at a granularity sufficient to begin Step 8 (Developing Prototype Scenarios).
- Master Questions. The Study Team should maintain a running
list of master questions, questions that are usually open-ended and
broad. As the Study Team moves through the various steps these master
questions may be re-worded, say if the context was not properly
understood at the start or if more nuances emerge. It is likely that
many of the master questions cannot be answered even after conclusion
of the gaming (Step 12). Some may be set aside entirely if they are
seen as far beyond the agreed scope of the study. A good example of
master questions are the ten proposed for General Zinni's
DESERT CROSSING exercise of 1999 when he was CINC CENTCOM (Section
II of the AAR Report).
- Perspectives. Perspectives from key individuals on what
the study should deliver need to be recorded. In particular,
perspectives of members of the Executive Team are particularly
important, after all the fundamental decision or problem belongs to
the Executive Team and they have been living with for some time. A
perspective may be that
- Issues. In many respects the master questions and the
issues may be indistinguishable (the DESERT CROSSING AAR report
Section II for example, uses the terms interchangeably). Sometimes
it can be useful to maintain a Master Questions List or MQL (actually
framed as questions) and an Issues List. The entries in the MQL will
suggest that the seminar war game will provide an answer (although
often it will clarify some aspects of the question, but then propose
codicil questions). Using a question format, may have an advantage in
making clear there is presently no good answer, so study is required
before committing to one.
- Data. In preparing for a seminar war game, the required
data may cover a broad spectrum: maps and charts for the geographic
area of interest, orders of battle for military components and
specification sheets for weapons, platforms, and sensors, geo-political
positions of the main players, and so on. As shown in the diagram at
the top, the process of gathering this sort of data will continue
through to the execution phase (to the start of Step 12). The quest
for data in this step should be in harmony with Step 7, Step 8, and Step 9 --
namely what details are necessary to provide the players with a plausible
scenario and support tools.
Step 6: Prepare Methods, Models, and Tools. (Examples: spreadsheet formula, look-up
table, aide mémoire)
- While many adjudications in seminar war games rely upon the judgement
of the facilitator (or umpire), there are many areas where support tools
may be required. These may be of four general types: command and control
(C2) assistance for players, planning aids for players, the means for
resolving combat outcomes for interactions within the game (to aid in
adjudications), and data collection and analysis procedures. There is a
page specifically on tools that provides more
- Players in seminar war games may be cocooned in a network of command
and control systems. For instance, if a "command team" can use familiar
C2 systems, they can collaborate using familiar approaches and procedures.
But if they have to develop a bespoke C2 approach specifically for the
seminar war game, this may be a drain on resources or a distraction.
- Players may be provided with the typical tools they would have
available for planning, or surrogates of those tools. For example,
they may have geographic information systems that can give them time
and distance estimates, say to move a convoy from one location to
another, or a spreadsheet to calculate the consumption of fuel and
rations. Players can use these tools, as they would if they were
planning a real operation, to estimate various outcomes. Note: these
are generally tools used to estimate results without regard for what
an enemy or opponent may do (or even what fate might impose). Such
results are considered to be the results of adjudications.
- Adjudication will be applied when factors that are unknown to
the players affect results. The unknown factors may be as simple as
environmental factors, e.g., the weather. Or, they may be the results
of the decisions of others, e.g., a thinking enemy. Computer support,
say in the form of a combat simulation, may be essential here to
account for complex aspects of weapons and sensor systems of friendly
and hostile forces. However, panels of experts may be required to
adjudicate other results; this is generally the case when subtle human
reactions are a critical component of the result -- say the response
of a local population to collateral damage.
- For adjudication in military operations, combat simulations have
proven to be particularly effective. Even gaming techniques developed for
the commercial market can be employed to determine the outcomes of military
operations (these often are called "serious games"). While computer-based
combat simulations provide excellent support for seminar games, developing
bespoke combat simulations or adapting existing ones often require
considerable resources and preparation time. A decision to use a combat
simulation within a seminar war game requires careful consideration.
- Finally, for the sake of the study itself, support tools may be
required for data collection and analysis. These may range from a
facilitator tracking issues on a flipchart in point form, to audio or
visual recordings, to surveys or questionnaires and associated
statistical analysis (see the Analysis web
page for more).
Step 7: Develop Scenarios.
- There is a separate web page on scenarios.
It includes various approaches to scenario development as used in both the
civilian and military communities.
- "Story boarding",
a technique from the cinema, can be adapted to this.
Essentially a "picture" of critical stages can be developed. This should
provide the context for how this "picture" can be presented to the players
through the scenario. Of course, as often happens with cinematic
"storyboarding", many of the frames of the storyboard are overtaken by
events, and are never used in the final film.
- The scenario framework (or storyboards) give guidance to further
refinement of the scenario, and for other aspects like what data will
be required for this (e.g., data on countries, military forces, biographies
and positions associated with key leaders).
Step 8: Develop Game Design
The design components of a game may include a composite of some or all
of the following elements:
- Manual Rules: James Dunnigan's Complete Wargames Handbook provides an excellent guide
for developing manual rules for a game.
- Maps and Charts: The geographic context of war games is critical to players awareness
of issues. These can either be paper products or computer-based products, e.g., using Google
Earth or another
geographic information system.
- Panels of Experts: For particularly complex issues, e.g., the reactions of foreign populations
to collateral damage from military operations, experts from a wide variety of disciples may provide
illumination. Panels of such experts may be provided directly to players as they tackle problems or
they may participate in adjudication to determine how a player interaction will affect subsequent
activity in a game. The Canadian Army seminar war games on the "Army of Tomorrow" illustrate
the plan to use panels and
- Adjudication Procedures: Many adjudication procedures can be codified. These codified procedures
may take the form of manual rules or of a component within a computer-based simulation. When uncertainly is
involved random number draws (likes rolls of dice) may be used to determine the outcome. If the players
have visited the consequences of one branh, it may be still necessary to re-visit an adjudication and take
a different path, leading to an "alternate future". This approach to investigating a variety of branches and
sequels may be needed to insure that all critical aspects of an issue are explored. See
US Army doctrine on the need to explore alternate branches and sequels, particularly
paragraphs 2-13 and 2-129.
- Combat Models: Well-crafted combat models can be used to determine outcomes related to detection,
to movement, to engagement, and to the consumption of supplies. In cases of well-understood physical
aspects, e.g., time and distance, these models are highly effective in determining a plausible outcome.
- Serious Games: The popularity of commercial computer-based gaming products has led to the term
serious games". Serious games may be used in conjunction with seminar techniques to have players
deal with selected issues.
- Planning Aids: For military operations, players will generally have aids they use in planning. These may
be as simple as spreadsheet formulas or more complicated software packages, many that are incorporated into
command and control support systems.
- Command and Control Systems: Many combat simulations have been developed where players can stay cocooned within
their C2 systems and plug into a "simulator" that delivers game support through the C2 system. One advantage to
an arrangement like this is that it will be familiar to the players. A related advantage is that players will not have
to train on some unfamiliar system (e.g., a prototype C2 system) to engage in the game. However there may be a number
of technical issues that need resolution to make it all work (with requirements for time and resources).
- Analysis Supoort Tools: When designing a game, attention is generally devoted to those tools needed
to support the play of the game. However attention also needs to be devoted to those tools; some proposed tools can be
found in sections on analysis and on tools. Some of these may need
time and resources as well.
- Computer Networks: If the game activities are not at a central location, there is likely to be some sort of computer
network to support the gaming activity. This may provide voice communications (e.g., voice over IP), web conferencing,
support to C2 systems, collaboration between players or between analysts, databases of various sort, email and other
intranet services. The network structure may require resources and time in its own right to be prepared for the game. It
should be tested with a full surrogate load before the game to ensure that elements that worked in isolation work once an
appropriate load has been placed on the network.
Step 9: Test and Rehearse.
Critical thinking should be applied agressively throughout this game development step. When addressing
most details of the game design, the study team needs to ask itself: "What can go wrong?"
James Dunnigan, in his Complete Wargames Handbook, comments: "game development... means play
testing and changing the game and rewriting the rules and taking a lot of abuse from people who
would rather play than design and don't appreciate at all the problems the poor designer has in
getting anything done".
He goes on to recommend "blind testing (computer game designers call it beta testing). This is
where you take your physical prototype and your written rules and send them out to somebody who
can play the game without your presence. This is often very revealing."
Dunnigan later cautions: "You can never test enough -- Testing should use the same procedures
applied to software.
There are several levels of testing.
- Unit Testing -- Test individual rule for soundness. Example, test map for completeness and
- System Testing -- Test rule along with other rules that it normally operates with. Example,
test map with movement and combat rules.
- Integration Testing -- Test all rules together to see that all parts fit correctly.
- Validation Testing -- Test entire system to see that all user requirements are met.
- Acceptance Testing -- User tests to see that all requirements are met."
Dunnigan's recommendations come from an era when game designs, especially those he developed, were
still largely based on manual rules (his handbook's first edition dates from 1980). Appropriately adapted,
Dunnigan's description of the levels of testing can be applied to seminar war games. However, blind testing of
the sort that Dunnigan proposes may not be feasible in seminar war games where the judgement of the facilitator
is so crucial in determining how player activity will govern outcomes (i.e., where there are no written rules
for adjudication). For such games, completely blind testing may not be appropriate; however, an equivalent level
of scrutiny should be applied and the facilitator should work through potential branches that need exploration
to ensure they will be handled appropriately during game play.
Step 10: Prepare the Participants and the Venue.
- The Executive Team: There should be sufficient participants from
the Executive Team that those not present will have reports from a
source they consider particularly reliable on the credibility of the
process and the results. The senior leadership from the Executive Team
may engage personally, or they may nominate one or more representatives.
- The Study Team: Key members of the study team who will participate
are the Facilitator and the Scribe. These should be different individuals
as each role is a full-time commitment when gaming is under way. Data
collectors and analysts should participant in the Execution Phase. Other
members of the Study Team may also attend the Execution Phase, e.g.,
scenario writers may double as country experts or foreign policy experts.
- The Technical Sub-Team: If hardware and software are key components
(e.g., combat simulations, geographic information systems, databases,
C2 systems, audio or video recorders), anticipate that a substantial
technical team may be required. Allocate time for technical aspects to
be resolved before the play begins -- avoid keeping players waiting
while technical glitches are resolved.
- Players: The context of the game should generally dictate the player
expertise that is recruited.
- Numbers: As with facilitated workshops for other purposes, the players
should not number more than a dozen. Unfortunately, this may have to be
violated for larger war games.
- Seating: A large U-shaped table is best, with the main participants
seated around it (up to about 15). Beyond those numbers, arrange additional
seating against the walls. (Classroom or theatre style seating should be
avoided as players will find it difficult to make eye contact in this arrangement.
Eye contact is a critical component to vigorous and lively interaction.)
- Physical Environment: Pay attention to issues that will keep participants focused
like sight lines to other participants and to screens and white boards. Ensure
comfort in terms of ambient temperature, ventilation, lighting, acoustics, seats,
and potential distractions from noise and similar factors.
- Ensure the facilitator has freedom to rove about the room. Most of the time
the facilitator will be stationed near the opening of the U of the table to be
equally accessible to all. But the facilitator should be prepared to move about
to engage specific participants on issues where their input will be crucial.
Step 11: Collect Game Data.
- Various methods for data collection are described on the web pages on
records and feedback. In
many respects data collection, in a way, should start at Step 1 (with entries in
a study work book). Step 11 is specifically oriented towards collecting data as
the game itself unfolds.
Step 12: Conduct the Game.
- A web page on rules provides more background on the
specifics of conducting play and resolving issues.
- Before initiating a game, there should be agreement on whether the conduct
should conform to some anticipated sequence versus full "free play".
- Creative players will often take a game in some unanticipated direction.
Sometimes a scenario can be adapted on the fly to this. But if necessary the
facilitator should use a "Tactical Pause" to re-work a scenario.
Step 13: Provide a "Quick Look Report".
- Sponsors and players have a large investment in their seminar war game and will
certainly wish to hear of some successes immediately at "close of play". Also the players
are owed an acknowledgement of their contributions and something to justify the
valuable time they contributed to the seminar war game. So the facilitator and
the rest of the Study Team should plan on a "Quick Look Report" within hours
of close of play. However some Study Teams may feel that this will oblige them to endorse some
crucial finding without the opportunity for sufficient deliberation. So some compromise may
- As with most studies, there are certainly dangers in reporting incipient
results too early. An obvious risk is that the preliminary results may be wrong
(and corrected after further analysis and deliberation). But if the wrong results
were offered in a "quick look report", myths may develop as the "quick look results"
are accepted and acted upon before they should be. Also those involved in the study
may feel they must remain committed to the "quick look results" long past when these
should have been corrected (no one likes to admit a mistake).
- If a "quick look report" must be given upon completion of the play of
a seminar war game, here are a few guidelines:
- Conduct it within hours of conclusion of the gaming. Many participants may have
travel plans and only a short time to participate in the "quick look report". It is
best to have their attention rather than have them fretting about getting away.
- Exploit the collected wisdom provided by the participants: frame the issues in
the form of a confirming question back to the participants. For example, points can
be framed: "We heard you say this. Did we get that right?" Just ensure the activity
does not turn into a revisiting of material that has already been covered extensively.
If someone wants to go on a length about some point, have them take it "off line".
- Frame most issues in terms of "study mandates" for further work. Doing this means
that the Study Team has not staked their reputations on some specific course of action.
If there are still questions in the minds of players about the validity of results,
they should respect a conclusion that the issues still need further study.
- To give participants a sense of progress, give them an assessment of material that
has been resolved or clarified. Point out that all concerned have a better understanding
of issues, even if more work remains.
- Conclude with acknowledgement of the time and effort from all concerned and a
statement of appreciation.
"Analyze and Report" Phase
Step 14: Review and Process Data.
- During the course of a seminar war game project, a considerable amount of material
(data) will be collected. This includes information dating back even to Step 1 (for
larger context of the study). Novice analysts may assume that what they need starts with
Step 11: "Collecting Game Data". While the game data is certainly critical, the dashed arrow
leading in to Step 12 in the diagram indicates that the Analysis Sub-team should be collecting
material long before the game is played. This material will be used to provide important context
in the report: Why was the game conducted? What compromises were agreed? If the game failed in any
way to satisfy the sponsor's objectives what were the sources of these? Can shortcomings be dealt
with through some follow-on study?
- Much of the record preceding Step 12 (the game itself) can be assembled as it develops, thus
reducing the time required after conclusion of the game to generate the report. However the extent
and complexity of the other data will be contingent upon how the game unfolds.
- The material can consist of records of the activity
and of feedback from the participants. There are diverse
means to capture both aspects and the effort required to process them will be a
consequence of the prior choices on which means to use.
- In a very simple seminar war game, the data on game play may be little more than
a gist of the discourse, supplemented by flipcharts of some of the brainstorming. For
more substantial efforts, there may often be records of the ranking of courses of action
or of expressions of group preferences for new concepts or candidate technologies for
future employment. And, the rationale for such preferences should be included. For any
particularly astute intervention, the record should elaborate on the issue, and give
due credit to the participant who offered it.
- Analysts should beware of audio and video recording as a means of data collection.
These can provide invaluable augmentation to other means, and may be a source of resolving
some ambiguity or the source of some dispute. However audio and video records can be
tedious to review and the process can be time consuming. The results may also prove
disappointing if some particular intervention should go unrecorded when out of microphone
range or out of view of the cameras.
- At the start of Step 12 (the game) players should be told if they will be needed at
the conclusion (e.g., for interviews or questionnaires) and time should be committed on
their agenda for this. Players can become notoriously hard to find once a game concludes,
especially if they were not warned in advance they would be needed in Step 14.
Step 15: Report Results.
- A study if not complete until the final report has been issued -- if there is no
report, there was no study! As with the report on a scientific experiment, this report
should include background on methods and procedures, and not simply on results. The
credibility of any results will depend on the professionalism of the Study Team's
activities, beginning way back at Step 1. Material in the report on these steps should
be sufficient for any reader to see how the project developed, which aspects were included
and which were rejected, the backgrounds of participants, some commentary on how the seminar
war game unfolded. To ensure that the main body of the report is concise, many of these
elements can be consigned to annexes or appendices. See the NATO Land Ops 2020 and Urban
Ops 2020 reports for how such a report may be configured for a major activity, and the
Canadian Army of Tomorrow report for a configuration for a medium scale activity.
- Most readers on the Executive Team will be interested in specific results: issues
that have been resolved, remaining problems that have been better defined, subsequent
studies that may be required. These should be highlighted in an "executive summary"
of the report.
- Typical seminar war games require the support of many individuals. Some acknowledgement
of this support should be included. Apart from expressing appreciation, such acknowledgements
may add credibility (derived from the reputations of those who were engaged) and provide
contacts for readers to get perspectives directly from players with whom they are in contact.
- A web page on numbers provides some examples of using
quantitative methods within the framework of seminar war games. Bauman's Inferno and
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
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 seminar war 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
Workshops are opportunities to coordinate activities. If the seminar war 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