Thursday 30 May 2024

The Meteoric Rise of Professional Wargaming in NATO


This article is not making a geopolitical statement, it is merely explaining the key driver in the massive expansion of professional wargaming.

The time, effort and money injected into professional wargaming in NATO has increased dramatically in the past five years. The reason is market forces. In defense terms, market forces means war is coming.

A crude summary is that China wants a greater China, which includes areas currently with their own government. A major rival is Japan. Japan’s defense spending is rising and by 2030, it will be the third largest in the world. Shortly after that Japan, own its own, would be able to fight China to a standstill. Anyone who has watched Shogan should grasp that Japan has a warrior culture and when mobilized, the whole national will would be engaged in supporting the war effort.

India is also out growing China. The British Empire valued the contribution of the Indian soldier and no-one who has taught Indian students would doubt they would fight if their country was threatened. So, if China wants to do a regional land grab, it has a limited window of opportunity before its. neighbors reach their full military readiness.

Russia is continually testing Western resolve, on the sea, under the sea, in the air and wants to reclaim the Russian empire. Putin is routinely threatening the West with war and destruction as he seeks to define his legacy. Now Western leaders have broken the cultural norm and have openly threatened Russia (and China) back.  

The impact of Russian/ Chinese rhetoric and policy statements has been to persuade those who really matter in the West, that war is coming. Of course, future history is decided by leaders. Russia and China might decide to become liberal democracies, or at last join the world order again. Western leaders might decide it is not worth fighting over the wilderness of Finland or obscure Baltic Republics. Perhaps some negotiated adjustment of borders might be sufficient to avert war. Wargames are not about predicting geopolitical futures; they are largely focussed on war fighting when diplomacy fails.

In the meantime, there is a surge in the frequency and importance of the wargames behind closed doors. It is no secret that the games are nearly all about fighting Russia and China. War is coming. Professional wargaming is now a career option for school leavers.

Sunday 21 April 2024

New Book: Dark Places- professional wargaming of dark themes

 Stating the obvious, all wargames are dealing with the darkest elements of human experience, that of conflict. However, there is a subset of wargames that are used to explore the darkest elements of conflict. These games are routinely run behind closed doors and rarely, if ever, does the existence of such games reach the public domain, let alone the details. Sometimes these games are part of professional military activity, sometimes part of academic research. Both purposes use the vehicle of designing and playing a wargame as a way to generate different insights from merely reading and attending conferences.

The games in this book were carefully chosen to reduce the risk of offence. They demonstrate the ways of running such games, but without using current or recent conflicts as examples. They include:

Bosnian Mercenary: Gaming the Chaos of the Disintegration of Yugoslavia

WMD 1945

My Aunt’s War: Civilian Experience of War

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Gaming Surrender

Pickett’s Charge: Using Drama

The Button: Nuclear Decision Making

Exercise Hard Rock: Civil Defence

The Tank Factory: Military Management of the Economy During Wartime

The reader should be clear that these games on dark subjects matter and often have real world consequences. This  book is the first to shed some light on these types of games with actual examples.

Thursday 18 January 2024

New Book- Wargames from World War II: Examples of Axis and Allied Wargaming Rules and Umpire Guidelines


It has only taken me a decade to complete this book. It gives actual examples of games played during World War II, a war in which wargaming was just seen as another tool for training and operation planning.

The games played just before and during World War II mattered. As a result of those wargames, battles were fought, campaigns were launched; lives were lost, lives were saved. An overview of such games has been covered in the literature before. This book is different as it aims to examine the detail of these wargames by including primary material; extracts from source documents, wargaming rules and umpiring guides from the pre-war period until 1945.

Included are detailed guidelines on the German use of wargaming during the war based on post war analysis by the American military. This includes outlines of best practise and the value of these games.

Samples of the German map based tactical exercises set at platoon and company level.

An example of a British attack on a village.

British and American umpire manuals with rules for arbitrating field exercises, sand table and map wargames.

A Royal Navy carrier wargame: Find Fix and Strike (1944).

I did a talk and uploaded it to YouTube History Wargaming Book Channel