Adjudication and Game Development

I’m curious what folks might list as some of the key skills / knowledge you would expect someone to have for developing and running an applied strategy/war game.

Obviously you’re going to need some knowledge of adjudication to provide meaningful feedback to participants on the effects of their actions, but what the “details” contained withing “knowledge of adjudication”?

What sorts of skills would you need in the development of game and the scenarios to be explored?  In the process of developing the game for the end-users, what’s needed for the development of the game/scenarios, and how does that shift when it’s time for the execution of the game?


About Brant

Brant is a game designer, writer, and contractor with Harnessed Electrons with over a decade of uniform time, and over 20 years of game design experience in RPGs, tabletop wargames, and professional training sims. He's part of the brain trust behind
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6 Responses to Adjudication and Game Development

  1. Paul Vebber says:

    Game design is a synthetic, not analytic activity. Operations research (as opposed to operations analysis – a hair to split elsewhere, but OA is a subset of the broader OR) is one of the vital skills. There is no job title of “synthyst” (synthecist?) as foil to “analyst” and this is at the crux of much of complexity science. Perhaps the most unappreciated skill is that of storyteller. Games are narrative at their core and much of their power comes not from direct experiece but inference and metaphor.

    Subject matter expertise in what the game is about is required at a moderate degree, but its far more important to be a competant mechanic – expert at putting pieces together and taking them apart, than the equivalent of a NASCAR driver. Not surprisingly, drivers (military officers) who want to suddenly retire become mechanics (wargamers or analysts more broadly) take great exception to this claiming that one can’t really understand the car, and thus work effectively on it, if one is not an expert driver.

    More later…

  2. Jon Compton says:

    Fairly broad questions, Brant. Paul has some very good points; I’d add that a healthy dose of creativity and the need to be a generalist are quite helpful. The SMEs are usually the guys playing the game, so adjudication can be as much an exercise in flexibility as anything else, but that depends on the game structure. Not all wargames are created equal, and depending upon what they’re intended to do, the skill sets that best suit can vary.

  3. Stephen Downes-Martin says:

    Further to Paul’s comment, there is no known correlation between being good at a job and good at analysing a job. And the latter is required for developing, running and analysing the results of a wargame. The players should be operators, the designers, adjudicators, analysts etc. should be analysts. Trouble is, the wargaming world is full of operators (and very good at driving their ships and planes they were too) now masquarading as wargame designers, adjudicators and analysts. So, I would say the primary skillset for a developer of a strategic game is analysis of strategy.

  4. Paul Vebber says:

    “analysis of strategy” That is where I was going with the “Operations Research” vs “Operations Analysis”. There are numerous definitions making distinctions between the two, but in my mind the Operations Analyst answers the question “what happens when I…(insert UJTL task here)” the Operations Researcher asks “why should I do Task A rather than Task B (or C or D) to achieve (insert objective condition)”. We are all enamored with the former (re: performance chains and related stuff) but never want to give a critical eye to the output of the planning process and whether the COAs prouced has any chance of achieving the desired objectives. A recent event showcased that in spades – but why should we expect military officers to be able by effective operations researchers, because they understand “Operations Execution” (i.e. “how do I perform…(insert UJTL task here).

    • Stephen Downes-Martin says:

      But what does “strategy” mean in the context of the original question? Too many board wargamers refer to “strategic games” just because they are using Divisions and produce a tactical game Note that the war colleges teach the Division is a tactical unit. Divisions engage in Operations in support of a Strategy. The war colleges teach that military strategy is the matching of military resources to political goals. Game theorists have a different definition, they refer to moves as strategies. And then of course there is geo-political strategy / grand strategy in which military strategy takes a component role. So what is meant by “a strategy war game”?

      And I am not sure that operations analysis (“what happens when I…(insert UJTL task here)”) is relevent to strategy. I have never come across any mention of the UJTLs or some equivalent during stragey discussions.

  5. Paul Vebber says:

    “And I am not sure that operations analysis (“what happens when I…(insert UJTL task here)”) is relevent to strategy. I have never come across any mention of the UJTLs or some equivalent during stragey discussions.”

    That is the point of much of the argument I’ve been trying to form about how gaming can contribute to planning and overal “commander’s estimate of the situation” development. “Analysis of ways and means to achieve desired ends” (or affect a competitive landscape of interest) is probably a mismoner. Unfortunately we don’t have a job description for a “synthesyst” who looks at how solution spaces are constructed (game design?), rather than how problems are decomposed (traditional analysis).

    I started to get at this on milgames…

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