Unified Quest 2011 included seminars that hardly had a war game structure at all. Participants were given scenarios of the
future and engaged in seminars to assess the consequences in a professional manner on assigned topics. The video describes how scenarios
and seminars (and this was short of being a seminar war game) can address critical issues of the military profession.
Over several decades the Public Broadcasting System and Columbia University produced television programs of seminars intended
to educate Americans on issues of public importance. Fred Friendly, former president of
CBS News and later on Columbia's faculty, initiated this work and his name has become associated with the ongoing activity.
Snippets of recent programs illustrate the use of 'hypotheticals' or 'case studies' that are largely the civilian counterparts to
seminar war games, as they would be used in a military setting. In particular the snippets illustrate the skills required of a
facilitator in seminar war gaming. Some examples can be seen at:
More than twenty years before this presentation, Peter Perla published "What Wargaming Is and Is Not"
(written with Raymond Barrett) where he said "First and foremost wargaming is not analysis in the usual sense of rigorous quantitative
dissection of a problem." So why was he invited to talk to analysts on "Wargaming and Analysis"? Perla restates his position from
1985 and segregates game designers into three categories: "analyst", "artist", and "architect". The delineation is instructive, although
he acknowledges: "Most actual designs incorporate elements of all three approaches." Perla claims that designers who live only in the
"analyst" community are now in retreat, with those incorporating ideas from the other two communities in the ascendency.
Text to accompany Perla's presentation was published in MORS Phalanx
magazine (Dec 2008); it provides a deeper understanding and a more nuanced characterization of his points.
James F. Dunnigan, Wargames Handbook: How to Play, Design, and
Find Them, 2nd ed., HarperCollins, New York, 1992
This is the complete text of the second edition that has been made available on the Web. A third edition has been published
(see below). The book acknowledges recent advances in computer-based gaming, but it seems like the author's
heart is still in a dingy basement in Manhattan when civilian fans of board
gaming felt they could take on the big guys of professional war gaming, like the US Army, and win. Well, they did! But time has passed
and computer-supported games of following generations are more than simply the old rules and maps transferred to computers (as Dunnigan
reckoned they would be).
However, this book is still relevant to game designers for its coverage of issues like roles within a game-designing
team and the production cycle to get a game design out to its audience (have you considered the need for quality control in
game production? Dunnigan was doing that in the early 1970's.)
An issue of US Air Force Space Command's High Frontier magazine was devoted to the Schriever Wargame 2010 (the
sixth in the series). The various articles cover the activity from many perspectives: the Commander's, civilian political
leaders', USAF scientists', and allies'. The main topics within the games were highly technical -- the space and cyber
domains -- but the focus of the games was to have leaders debate the consequences and other issues though a dialectic
approach that would be familiar to the ancient Greeks -- it was largely the
Socratic Method. The senior participants discussed the impacts
of future technologies from the space and cyber realms, and also the implications back on the military of greater engagement
of civilians in these areas. The Air Force's Chief Scientist and his staff found support for various technical initiatives,
such as an increasing need for systems that exhibit "cyber resilience".
Lt Col Caffery opens with his views on distinguishing between modelling, simulation, and war gaming. Most of the article
is a concise history of the various eras of using game-based methods to develop a stronger understanding of military issues
of the day, and to develop doctrines that are relevant and effective for their time. He goes back as far as the origins of
games like chess and go for some historical context, but he focuses on a century and a half of development and application
that started with the Prussian military schools using
in the mid-1800s.
This public statement from the Navy's top leader includes many points on war gaming as an important method in achieving
institutional goals of the US Navy. The document gives guidance for a wide spectrum of issues to ensure the relevance of the
Navy, so war gaming is only a small part of his guidance, but a vital one.
In 1996 a NATO study was launched to consider technologies and their applications in land operations circa 2020. As the
study proceeded a long list of candidate technologies was winnowed down in what was called the CRITECH exercise (for critical
technologies). CRITECH started with 142 technologies and culled this to a list first of 63 technologies and then to 34
technologies. For a subsequent technology seminar war game 12 concept systems were constructed from the CRITECH results.
Chapter 6 of the study report provides a summary of the technology seminar war game method as it was applied. The same
wargaming methods were later applied to a NATO study of urban operations.
Following NATO's Land Operations 2020 study, a follow-on study was commissioned to investigate
specifics of urban terrain and highly populated areas in the same epoch -- the NATO Urban Operations 2020 study. Annex D
covers the application of a seminar war game, and it followed fairly closely the application in the earlier Land
Operations 2020 study.
This article is valuable from a historical perspective. During his tenure as Army Chief of Staff,
General Dennis Reimer initiated seminar war gaming by
Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) to "conduct broad studies of warfare
to about the year 2025 to frame issues vital to the development of the Army after about 2010". The series is now called
Unified Quest and continues to engage the Army's leaders in thinking about its future, linked jointly
to other military services and to allies as well.
This article focuses on efforts to shape the US's military forces through "the conduct of simulated conflicts,
or wargames, in the laboratories of the nation's think tanks and war colleges". It provides a valuable historical
perspective dating back to the early twentieth century, and leading into General Reimer's instigation of a new
round of war gaming to consider the shape of US Army of the future. Acknowledging that it would be unrealistic for
a series of war games to determine "a precise estimate of requirements", the authors propose that "the goal is to
describe a range of capabilities that joint and combined forces will bring to operations in the first decades of
the next century".
The authors start with: "Wargaming is an established and time-honored mechanism through which proposed defense
concepts, doctrine, and tactics are explored, and there is a rich literature that describes its uses and applications."
But they observe that towards the end of the 20th century "single-service wargames find it easy to avoid the tough
choices likely to be generated in a joint environment". They highlight several technologies that should be studied in
a joint context lest a single-service perspective deem them low priorities for that service: "stealth, long-range
precision strike, reduced logistic footprints, and command and control". In the intervening decade all have emerged
as vital in the joint context.
The authors review Title X war games as played by the Navy, Army, and Air Force at the turn of the century
(2001). "The mechanics of the games, each typically involving hundreds of military and civilian professionals, are
quite similar, positing a future conflict between the armed forces of the United States (occasionally assisted by
allies) and a capable, although not necessarily symmetric, adversary." The authors are cautious about the use of
computer support in such activities: "The temptation to trust the 'fast, accurate, but dumb' computer, unquestioned
by 'slow, sloppy, but brilliant' humans, is one of the greatest hazards for war gamers... Describing most large
wargames as 'model-aided' is therefore more accurate than terming them 'computer-driven.'" The authors dwell at
some length on how each of the Title X games of that era had 'a decidedly single-service orientation' (a point they
pursued in a previous article). In the intervening decade determining outcomes in Title X
games continues to be 'model-aided' (no single computer program has emerged with an ability to adjudicate results),
but their nature has tended more towards joint operations, which must allow the authors some satisfaction.
This brief entry provides the context of Millennium Challenge 2002 war game, "likely the largest such exercise in
history". As with the whole Millennium Challenge series, the activity in 2002 was intended to illuminate the impending
transformation of US military capability.
Lt Gen Paul Van Riper, USMC (Ret'd), started JFCOM's
Millennium Challenge experiment of 2002 as the Red Commander. During the play of the seminar war game he resigned his
position in protest over not being permitted to exercise "free play" -- at this point in the game many major surface
combatants in the US fleet that he had sunk or crippled had been "re-floated" by the game's umpire.
The controversy that followed Van Riper's resignation contributed to the perpetual debate on just how much (or how little)
player creativity should be constrained or allowed within a war game.
Under the leadership of MGen Mike Ward, a Canadian Army team conducted seminar war gaming on concepts for the future
army operating in open terrain. The intent was to compare and contrast two force structures (EXFOR A and EXFOR B) through
war gaming them in a scenario set in 2020.
A second seminar war game for the Canadian Army investigated future army concepts applied to urban terrain. In this case
there were three force structures played in three simultaneous war games. The benchmark for comparisons was EXFOR C, a
slightly modernized version of Canada's existing Main Contingency Force. EXFOR A and EXFOR B were redesigned for the era (2025),
one evolutionary and the other revolutionary.
In 2006 the Canadian Forces conducted seminar war games on the Army of Tomorrow, a force for circa 2020. Below are links
to a handbook prepared for the participants, a primer of background information they could use as reference material, and
the proceedings. As a package this trilogy provides prototype documentation how a war game has been planned and executed.
Handbook for Army of Tomorrow Seminar War Gaming. In advance of the
seminar war game, this document was widely distributed to prepare participants and to apprise others of what was about to
transpire. It provides a useful paradigm of the sort of preparatory document that should precede most seminar war games.
Proceedings of the Army of Tomorrow Seminar Wargame. Following the war gaming
activity, this document was distributed to all concerned. In one package it contains a recapitulation of much of the
preparatory material, e.g., rules, scenarios, and force structures. Like the others in this trilogy, it provides a format
for communicating the results of a seminar war game.
The full text of the second edition of this useful Dunnigan handbook is on line. The text has been superseded by a third
edition. All three editions focus on the board games techniques that were popular in 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. While Dunnigan
discusses aspects of computer-based wargames, the second edition sees this as largely a way to automate the algorithms of
the board games. The third edition (published in 2000) is out-of-date about computer-based gaming, and is little better than
the second edition since the text in two chapters on computer wargames has hardly changed.
When Commander-in-Chief of CENTCOM (1999), Gen Zinni commissioned a war game on Iraq that would address a period following
the fall of Saddam Hussein. Declassified material on DESERT CROSSING shows how the scenarios were developed, participants
chosen, and the seminar war game conducted. The after action report is particularly illuminating. Redacted emails from
the preparation phase illustrate some of the issues that were discussed amongst Zinni's staff, such as criteria for choosing
who should participate in war games and what roles they should be assigned.
OR/MS Today - The OR Society Newsletter
In an article from the OR society newsletter Douglas Samuelson remarks on recent publications on
the use of gaming to develop strategy, including a
mention of Gen Zinni's DESERT CROSSING exercise. The author poses a relevant question about seminar war game methods: "Is
There O.R. Inside?"
John Mingers, a noted British OR practitioner, takes his American colleagues to task for largely ignoring
soft OR methods. He outlines impediments he perceives
within the structure of the American OR community that seem to draw OR practitioners towards using quantitative methods,
even while more "qualitative" or "judgement-based" approaches might suit the problem at hand. While not specifically
mentioned in the article, seminar war games should be classified as a soft OR method, albeit with some aspects of
math-physics in areas like resolving combat outcomes. The methods that Mingers describes can be valuable in the problem
structuring that accompanies preparing for a seminar war game, brainstorming in the middle of a seminar war game, and
addressing of the results. Minger's list of references
is available to those who may wish to explore further.
Lt Col Peter Garretson provides a recent briefing (2008) that covers views on the future of war gaming from the
perspective of HQ USAF. He playfully charactertizes findings from gaming by four visceral responses: "A-Ha", "U-Oh",
"Ooops", and "Hmmm". He pejoratively characterizes the current US military communities' Title X wargames as BOGSAT
(bunch of guys sitting around a table) and clearly aspires to see the USAF do better.
Metz wrote this article in 1997 when the Army After Next (AAN) was the focus of the US Army's Title X war games. Here
he uses four "alternate futures" to encourage thinking about where the Army will be in 2020. In many respects it is a
military counterpart to the scenario-based thinking from authors in the business world like
Schwartz, Ralston and Wilson, and
van der Heijden.
Chris Engle focuses on "storytelling games". While his approach may initially seem juvenile, he highlights some
important aspects of seminar war games -- that they could be used to tell stories of military operations, historical or
fictional. "The Engle Matrix Game is a simple low tech game engine for running a wide variety of games." More on matrix
games is available from the hobby gaming community, notably
The report has a very detailed description of seminar war gaming for a domestic security issue, planning for the
Olympic Winter Games in 2010. A presentation
to accompany the report is available. These games were used to draw together agencies with diverse cultures by "helping
the marine security agencies organize their planning, and uncover gaps and issues in their plans, and to gain mutual
understanding of their respective capabilities and mandates". The author points out some serious application of matrix
gaming that were derived from the Engle Matrix Game.
In a period of just over 20 years, the Naval War College
from relatively unrealistic assessments of what might happen in a
US-Japanese war in the Pacific to a fairly accurate assessment of what
the US Navy and the other US services would have to do if they were to
defeat the Japanese Empire.
Although dated, this RAND report contains advice on
design for political-military or military war games. Chapter IV on
"Scenario Composition" in particular has advice on developing scenarios
appropriate to the issues at hand.
This paper is a summary based on the authors' involvement
with war gaming
at the Naval War College in the early 1980s -- war gaming that was
innovative for its time and had a considerable impact on the US Navy,
the other US services, and American allies.
authors take the view that: "A wargame is, at heart, an
exercise in human interaction, and the interplay of human
decisions...". They also make the point that: "The fourth element of a
wargame [of the six they propose] is a set of models, usually
which translate data and decisions into game events. Models must
be flexible enough to deal with unforeseen player decisions". For some
seminar war games an umpire or controller will resolve event
interactions (particularly when the interactions are complex and no
suitable model is available). It is appropriate to note that from the Kriegsspiel
idea the German war games split into "rigid" and "free" Kriegsspiel
with "free Kriegsspiel" having similarity to seminar war games for the
discretion which is allowed to an umpire or control staff in deciding
outcomes. For resolving other event interactions, e.g., the time
required to unload an amphibious ship or the results of a combat
engagement, reliable models may be available; there may even exist
well-respected computer code that can quickly give accurate results.
Perla and Barrett characterize war games as "either
games or system games". They go on: "In a seminar game (typically an
open game), opposing players discuss the sequence of moves and
countermoves they are likely to make in a given situation, arriving at
a mutually reasonable assessment of what interactions are likely to
occur. The control team assesses the results of those interactions and
reports back to the players. The process is repeated for each of the
"moves" in the game. Usually seminar games use moves of various lengths
of real time (time steps) and so tend to resolve different periods of
the war at different levels of detail."
Perla and Barrett provide a comparison of
gaming, campaign analysis, and systems analysis. At that time,
campaign analysis was heavily based on attrition models and gaming
provided a means to investigate the human dimension of military
operations in a way that allowed players to have more impact on
Perla and Branting compare exercises with war gaming:
usually focus on training, with research interests largely centered on
measuring operational capability. War games have also been used
traditionally as training aids, but have become more and more popular
as tools for exploring decision processes." Then they compare analysis
with wargaming: "Wargaming, on the other hand, is a tool for exploring
the effects of human interpretation of information. Wargames focus on
the decisions players make, how and why they are made, and the effects
that they have."
This article provides wider public access to a previous
publication from the Center for Naval Analyses on the topic. Perla
provides a taxonomy if three ways that the Navy evaluates its combat
capabilities: (1) war games, (2) systems or operations analyses, and
(3) exercises. In a detailed comparison between war gaming and
he points out the many similarities, but particularly elaborates on the
ability of war games to 'allow for the continual adjustments of
strategies and tactics by both sides in response to developing results
and events not seen in campaign analysis'.
Thomas B. Allen, War Games:
Secret World of the Creators, Players, and Policy Makers Rehearsing
World War III Today, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD,
This book has an element of conspiracy theory behind it:
author returns over and over to the theme of: What scenarios are gamed
the secret depths of the Pentagon? Why are the scenarios and results
not shared with the public?
Dunnigan, How to Make
War: A Comprehensive Guide to Modern Warfare, rev. ed.,
Morrow, New York, 1988 (Now available in a third
Peter P. Perla, The Art of Wargaming: A Guide for Professionals and Hobbyists,
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1990
This remains an essential reference in the study of war games. It represented Perla's synthesis of many articles of the
previous decade that he had authored or co-authored.
Peter Schwartz. The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future. Doubleday Paperback,
Schwartz singles out Herman Kahn and his
“thinking about the unthinkable” which started with Kahn using
scenario building for the US Air
Force in the early Cold War (when at the RAND Corporation). The book describes a method of using scenario building to foster
institutional learning and to assist long-range planning. The author has experience in using this method with major corporations
(notably Royal Dutch Shell) as a way of encouraging leaders to see beyond the limits of their own perspectives, biases, assumptions
and expectations. The book constitutes a handbook on the process of scenario planning, with a road map included. His approach
consists of the following:
Define a common question
Reflect on individual biases and assumptions
Engage in broad and creative research
Think critically about the most important factors and driving forces
Act out the implications of decisions in multiple futures
Develop a shared analysis and plan of action that is “sound for all plausible futures”
The book has appendices with a step-by-step guide to developing scenarios and a user’s guide for incorporating scenario
building into “strategic conversations”. Schwartz is a co-founder of GBN Global Business Network (now part of Deloitte),
a company that continued to develop scenarios for the business community. The Ralston and Wilson book is
more recent than Schwartz's book and structured even more in the format of a handbook. The Kees van
der Heijden book covers similar ground and is a more recent view of scenario building by Royal Dutch Shell.
James F. Dunnigan, Wargames Handbook: How to Play and Design Commercial and Professional Wargames,
3rd ed., Writers Club Press, San Jose, CA, 2000
The author is a former captain in the US Marines who became a doctrine writer and concept developer. He subsequently
produced this handy guide on developing military concepts. While targeted for readers with a similar background -- service
personnel assigned to a concepts or future-thinking team -- the contents are valuable to all engaged in developing, proposing,
testing, and promoting future military concepts. In the context of seminar war games, this guide covers what is necessary in
concept development to get to the start of the war gaming process, which is covered in the epilogue, along with a spectrum of
other methods used to develop and validate a concept.
TRADOC Analysis Center. Constraints, Limitations, and Assumptions Guide. TRADOC Analysis
Center, 255 Sedgwick Avenue, Fort Leavenworth, KS, May 2005
This guide provides analysts with advice on maintaining a list of constraints, limitations and assumptions (CLA) within a
study. While not intended specifically for seminar war games, the guide remains of value for those preparing to use seminar
war games for any analytic study. Ultimately the results of the study will depend on CLA associated. It is best to maintain a
list as a "living document" as CLA can emerge unexpectedly and should be recorded as they become apparent. (This is available
as a PDF at the Sakai site for OA 4604.)
Bill Ralston and Ian Wilson. The Scenario Planning Handbook: Developing Strategies
in Uncertain Times. Thompson, Mason, Ohio, 2006
This book opens with an introduction on using scenarios of the future to develop strategic plans in the corporate
world. While not intended for those who plan and execute seminar war games in a largely military setting, there is
still a lot of valuable advice for those who do. As the title suggests, the authors provide a series of steps (18 in
all) that go from developing a case with clients, customers, or sponsors on scenario-based thinking through to communicating
the results once scenarios been developed and the consequences studied. The book is not about war gaming, so has little to
say about how to arrange that aspect. However Step 15 is for "rehearsing the future with scenarios", and has advice on how
to engage a team in playing decision-making roles where they have to delve into the scenarios developed in earlier steps and
consider the consequence. Since scenario-based thinking (and this book) is more about developing scenarios and since the
book is for those working largely in a business setting, the procedures of Step 15 are hardly adequate for planning and
executing a seminar war game in the context of military conflict.
The book includes handy appendices with checklists on running workshops -- valuable for any brainstorming workshop, not
just those related to scenario development.
Kees van der Heijden. Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation.
2nd ed. Wiley, Chichester, UK, 2005
The author was also associated with the successes at Royal Dutch/Shell in scenario-based thinking. His book is a
worthy companion to the Ralston and Wilson book. However, this book is a bit less of a
handbook. Nevertheless it well-structured to teach scenario-based thinking. Operational research analysts will
find Chapter 9 "The Practitioner's Art" valuable for its advice, inter alia, on interviewing, running a
SWOT workshop, and eliciting feedback in other forms. Chapter 12
on "Scenario Development" provides excellent advice on the topic (with recipe-like clarity) and includes using
influence diagrams for the alternate reality that will
ultimately be captured in the scenarios.
Perla's article provides background from his talk to a MORS workshop on "Wargaming and the Analyst". While the text
accompanying the original presentation provides a glimpse of Perla's thinking, this article provides a more complete
development of his points. One of his points, with the provocative use of 'black swan', is to point out that much of the
campaign analysis he has seen is based on the most expected outcomes. Thus 'black swan' outcomes, unexpected results, must
be addressed in some other manner -- Perla proposes war gaming to deal with this.
Mark Herman, Mark Frost, Robert Kurz, Wargaming for Leaders:
Strategic Decision Making from the Battlefield to the Boardroom, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2009
The authors have all been associated with seminar war games that Booz Allen Hamilton developed and
conducted for US military commands. The book briefly covers some of these, including DESERT CROSSING done
in 1999 for Gen Zinni when he was CINC CENTCOM. The authors reveal little of the mechanisms their company's
consultants have used to develop and conduct seminar war games. They provide compelling arguments that seminar
war games have been valuable in military decision making in the past and are growing increasingly valuable in
contributions to developing strategies in the business world.
Andrew Krepinevich. 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist
Explores War in the 21st Century. Bantam, 2009
Krepinevich asserts that "Scenarios can help Pentagon planners confront difficult questions
that the secretary of defense poses to them". To assist, he proposes seven scenarios he has crafted
to take them "out of their comfort zone". He does not claim his book will inoculate DoD planners against
all surprises: "Does this [that the seven scenarios cannot cover every eventuality] mean that the United
States may still find itself surprised? Yes, but properly done, a scenario-planning process will reduce
the likelihood of its being caught totally unawares."
This is a practical guide for military desk officers working on
future concepts and deals with assessments of potential concepts. For
example, section 2.6 deals with sources of expertise for assessment,
from the leading "action officer" who typically has considerable
experience from a specialization within military operations, through
all of the supporting expertise that needs to be available, from
doctrine specialists, to analysts, and on to cost estimators.
This check list of necessary expertise is just as applicable to a
seminar war-gaming project, which can be a component of an assessment
study. Thus the steps in the user's guide provide a valuable and
practical road map to conducting studies by applying seminar war-game
techniques. War games are mentioned frequently as one of many methods
that can and should be used in assessments, with an operator's view on
the merits of these diverse methods, and their costs.
As preparation for a report to the Naval War College on
the future of its gaming procedures, the authors interviewed a number
experts and practitioners in multi-level seminar war games.
Participants ranged from those in the private sector through academia
to the four military services -- army, navy, marines, and air force.
This report is a summary of those interviews. Since this report was
largely a transcript of interviews, the contradictions and different
perspectives between experts is evident along with significant points of
This report constitutes advice to the Naval War College on its
future Title X games (predominantly the Global War Game series). The
scale of these games is at the extreme of seminar war game applications,
with hundreds of players representing tactical, operational and strategic
levels simultaneously -- typical seminar war games have tens of players working
at either the tactical or the operational or the inoculate level.
The authors call previous activity like a Global War Game of the 1980s an early
1990s 'a melded seminar game'. In this report they provide the term 'multi-level war game'
for games we are likely to see in the future at NWC. In large-scale seminar war games, the
controller functions are divided between a Game Director and his principal supporters (a
Director of Assessment and a Director of Adjudication), and these may have large staffs in
their own right. While seminar games on a smaller scale may not have the luxury of such a
robust control staff, it is well to keep the functions intellectually isolated to ensure
each role is properly addressed.
Another notion that can be adopted in seminar gaming at all levels is 'a hybrid process
of closed planning and open adjudication' (a term the authors attribute to gamers at Quantico).
This means that player sides are sequestered from each other for planning activity but meet
for 'an open adjudication process'. This is to retain critical aspects of 'surprise and uncertainty',
fundamental characteristics of most military operations.
The US Army and the Army War College -- Seminar War Games for Education and Professional