Monday, 16 January 2023

AI and wargaming articles


Chat GPT uses an enhanced predictive text generator, along with a large database of knowledge (until the year 2021, it knows nothing beyond that). It has no understanding, but can generate plausible content. For example see these random questions posted by members of Wargame Developments. 

 How will this affect authors and journals? Will blogs be full of automatically generated content?

 Does sound effects enhance wargames

Answer: Sound effects can enhance the experience of playing a wargame in several ways. They can help to create a more immersive and realistic atmosphere, adding to the sense of being in a battlefield or strategic environment. Sound effects can also help to emphasize important actions or events in the game, such as the firing of weapons or the activation of special abilities. Additionally, sound effects can add an element of excitement and drama to the game, making it more engaging and enjoyable for players. Ultimately, the use of sound effects in a wargame is a matter of personal preference, and some players may find that they add to the enjoyment of the game while others may prefer to play without them.

Describe Confrontation Analysis

Answer: Dilemma analysis is a method of analyzing and resolving ethical dilemmas or conflicts of values. It is a systematic approach to problem-solving that involves evaluating the potential consequences of different courses of action and choosing the option that best aligns with an individual's values or ethical principles.

Dilemma analysis typically involves the following steps:

Identify the dilemma: Define the problem or conflict that needs to be resolved.

Gather information: Collect data and evidence to better understand the context and implications of the dilemma.

Identify options: Generate and evaluate potential solutions or courses of action.

Evaluate the consequences: Consider the potential outcomes of each option and how they align with ethical principles and values.

Choose a course of action: Select the option that best aligns with ethical principles and values, taking into account the potential consequences of each option.

Dilemma analysis can be applied to a wide range of ethical dilemmas, including those related to business, personal relationships, and public policy. It is a useful tool for helping individuals and organizations navigate complex ethical issues and make decisions that are consistent with their values and principles.

Write a short article for the Nugget, the journal of Wargame Developments:

"Creating Realistic Military Units in Wargames"

As wargame developers, one of our main goals is to create a realistic and immersive experience for our players. One important aspect of this is creating military units that accurately reflect the capabilities and characteristics of real-world military units.

Here are some tips for creating realistic military units in your wargames:

1. Research and gather accurate information: It's important to gather accurate information about the military units you are trying to recreate in your game. This includes their equipment, organization, training, tactics, and any other relevant details. You can find this information through research, consulting with military experts, or even by reaching out to military personnel themselves.

 2. Consider the unit's role and mission: Military units are designed to fulfill specific roles and missions, and it's important to consider this when creating them in your game. Is the unit a heavily-armed and armored tank unit designed for front-line combat? Or is it a smaller, agile unit designed for reconnaissance and special operations? Understanding the unit's role and mission will help you design it appropriately.

3. Balance realism with gameplay: While it's important to be realistic, it's also important to keep in mind that your game needs to be enjoyable to play. This means finding a balance between realism and gameplay. For example, it may not be realistic to have a unit that is completely invulnerable, but it may be necessary for the sake of gameplay.

4. Test and iterate: As with any aspect of game development, it's important to test and iterate on your military units to ensure they are balanced and fun to play. Playtest your game with a variety of players and gather feedback on the units to see what works and what doesn't.

By following these tips, you can create military units in your wargames that are both realistic and enjoyable to play. Happy game development!

Why is it a good idea to clip the corners of counters in Advanced Squad Leader"

Answer:  Clipping the corners of counters in Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) is a good idea because it can make it easier to distinguish individual counters from each other on the game board. Clipping the corners can also make it easier to pick up and move counters without accidentally moving other nearby counters. Additionally, clipping the corners can help to prevent counters from sliding around on the board or falling off the board altogether, which can be especially helpful when playing on a slanted surface or when the board is bumped or jostled during play. Finally, clipping the corners of counters can help to prevent wear and tear on the counters over time, especially if the counters are frequently handled and moved during gameplay.

Why is it a bad idea to clip the corners of counters in Advanced Squad Leader"

Answer:  "In Advanced Squad Leader (ASL), it is generally a bad idea to clip the corners of counters because it can lead to confusion about the orientation and facing of the counter. The counters in ASL represent individual military units, and their orientation and facing are important for determining line of sight, range, and other game mechanics. Clipping the corners of the counters can make it difficult to determine the orientation and facing of the unit, which can lead to mistakes and misunderstandings during gameplay.

Additionally, clipping the corners of the counters can damage them and make them less durable over time. ASL counters are often handled frequently during gameplay, and the corners are a point of stress that can become frayed or bent if they are not rounded. This can make the counters harder to use and less visually appealing.

Overall, it is generally best to avoid clipping the corners of ASL counters to maintain their integrity and clarity during gameplay."

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Confrontation Analysis and the Ukraine War

Confrontation Analysis is a method of analysing and gaming situations involving multiple stakeholders with competing aims and objectives. It has been used professionally by various organisations interested in modelling the options for all sides and obtaining clarity on who wants what to happen. The result is often a series of dilemmas and the method presents suggestions on how each type of dilemma can be potentially solved.

The method is documented in Curry J. and Young M. (2017) The Confrontation Analysis Handbook: How to Resolve Confrontations by Eliminating Dilemmas: Innovations in Wargaming Volume 3.

At the start of the Russian invasion I used the method to identify and analyse the strategic options available to each side. Imagine each side has cards (options) in their hand. Each card states what it does and summaries the other stake holder’s position on the card (i.e. they want it to happen, the don’t want it to happen, or they do not care). Cards can be held secretly in a player’s hands, put on the edge of the table as a threat (i.e. I will play this card if you do something I do not like) or be played (i.e. actioned). The method allowed me to largely model the strategic options that have since come into ‘play’ during the subsequent war. I wish I had documented these efforts to an academic standard at the time.

For example, Russia plays “Threaten Norwegian gas and oil installations” (they did this with drones and close target recces). NATO plays “Mobilise Norwegian military” card, and “Deploy Royal Marines and Royal Navy” cards to counter the Russian threat. Russia then has a belief dilemma, as NATO does not believe that Russia could cripple Norwegian production.

Another example is Russia plays “Threaten grain shipments by sea from Ukraine”. NATO plays “Deploy Turkish Navy to protect merchant shipping”. Again, Russia has a belief dilemma, as Turkey thinks it would sink Russia’s entire Black Sea Fleet with just three of its ships.

Nuclear weapons first use by Russia is an example of a threat card that is on the card table. Russia could do it (i.e. it has the delivery means), but just having the card as a threat does not commit Russia to use or non-use.

The USA also has many threat cards, largely centred around delivering weapons to Ukraine e.g. Training Ukraine pilots on F15/F16’s. Having trained pilots and ground staff just waiting for the aircraft to be delivered to Ukrainian airfields is a powerful threat card.

Having revisited Confrontation Analyse and used it for the Ukraine War, I am very impressed the way it helps encourage identifying strategic options available to all sides. As the cards are played onto the card table it dynamically inspires the creation of further cards (options). Unlike game theory that assumes a static state, Confrontation Analysis assumes the playing area changes as cards are played and discarded.

The card which most surprised me was created during the game, it was called “if you think your oil and gas industry will be working in the morning…” The card was generated by NATO and the aim was to shut down the Russian energy industry for the immediate future. It inspired an interesting discussion about the feasibility of cyber, special forces, hitting critical transport nodes(pipelines) etc. the only card the Russians could play to counter that particular threat was “go nuclear”. This was disturbing card to say the least to see on the card table at the end of the session.

Wednesday, 28 December 2022

Wargames are better predictive tools


On Dec 27th 2022, the BBC published an article Ukraine war: Five ways conflict could go in 2023 ( Five experts give completely different predictions.

1.       Michael Clarke, associate director of the Strategic Studies Institute, Exeter, UK says the war depends on the outcome of Russia’s spring offensive with its 250,000 mobilised troops.

2.       Andrei Piontkovsky, scientist and analyst based in Washington DC says Ukraine will win back its land due to “motivation, determination and courage of the Ukrainian military and Ukrainian nation as a whole, which is unprecedented in modern war history.”

3.       Barbara Zanchetta, Department of War Studies, King's College London says the war will grind on for years.

4.       Ben Hodges, former commanding general, United States Army Europe says Ukraine will win.

5.       David Gendelman, military expert based in Israel avoids saying how the war is going to end.

Five experts and five contrasting interpretations.

I have been wargaming the Ukraine War at an operational and sometimes tactical level since the war began. This was to develop my professional understanding. In November I published on my blog ( my conclusion that the Russian army would rout by the end of the winter. I outlined my reasoning and said, of course, I could be wrong as leaders make decisions that influence future outcomes.

Models must be continually re-evaluated in the face of actual real-world data. My crude model is only a model and is not reality. I assumed Russia would keep 33% of their PGM as a strategic reserve v NATO or Chinese aggression. I was wrong, Russia has used almost everything they have (leaving them very vulnerable, especially to China if the latter decides to realign the international border in the Far East)

In the real world, leaders make decisions that may be different from those used in a wargame (even if those decisions are not rationale from our perspective). The Ukraine power system has been hit badly, but it is not to the extent that the country is moved back to the 19th century.

This is because:

  •  Ukraine has a large repair capacity that is expanding (they have taken on 1000 more staff recently)
  •  Europe is feeding in power directly to the Ukrainian grid (10% of what Ukraine needs)
  • Power lines are hard to knock out
  • Europe is sending staggering numbers of generators to the Ukraine. Ukr has spare truck capacity to move anything it needs, including fuel for generators.
  • Spares for their grid are coming in from around Eastern Europe. They can use second hand and repair the broken.
  • The Ukraine power grid was designed to stand up to NATO attack during the Cold War

The majority of Ukraine has had no interruption to its power supplies. This should not be seen as in any way mitigating the misery of those in the east facing regular power cuts every day.

The military and the state war machine are largely inoculated from civilian power shortages, as the former tends to have generators and fuel. Hitting the Ukraine power system may cause misery for some, but it does not impact Ukraine national combat power. So, in summary, Russia has used far more PGMs than I expected (I was wrong), but it would need many times more PGMs fired within a short period of time to create a lasting impact on the power grid of the Ukraine. To me Russia seems to be repeating Hitler’s terror bombing directive from World War II; historical hindsight shows Germany should have focussed on military targets with its limited airpower. Similarly Russia should use its dwindling stockpile to attempt to have a military impact.

There are big questions about what will happen next:

  • Will Ukraine decide to advance during the winter? Ukr combat power is increasing in terms of troop numbers, armour and IDF. Russia is still waiting for the next batch of troops (though it did put perhaps 50,000 mercenaries, foreign troops, penal battalions and newly mobilised troops into the front line to replace the 100,000 casualties)
  • Will Russia fall below the critical level of resupply (67% according to QJM) and have to fall back?
  • Will the Russian army rout?

I think the answer is probably yes to all three questions, but probably is not 100% certainty. Of course, senior leaders may also make decisions that change future outcomes.

No wargame will tell us if Belarus will launch an invasion of the Ukraine (or whether Poland will then invade Belarus without NATO agreement). However, a wargame allows us to explore these possibilities.

As wargamers, we tend to overlook the value of the integration in our wargames of the inter-related factors of geography, time, space, ORBATs, logistics, etc. Personally, I have little interest in trying to determine the outcome of future wars just by talking about it.  I say let us get out a map, get some counters to show the military forces involves, label the military geography, talk through our underpinning assumptions, then discuss the future course of the conflict. If you want to understand something you have to do some analysis, game it, and then do more analysis

In the world of computing, we design IT systems, networks and software applications using a whole variety of models such as network diagrams, decision trees, data dictionaries, UML etc. If someone wanted to design a multimillion-pound system by just talking about it they would be seen as slightly detached from reality. So why do people think they can discuss one of the most complex intractable problems of all, war, without the mental tools imbedded in wargaming to analyse the situation?


If you want to know why the Ukrainian power system is still up see the Reuters article