An audio recording and slides for our first lecture, Peter Perla’s “Way of the Wargaming” is now posted.  Information about the series is also availible on the website.

As the series continues, we’d welcome feedback about if/how you and your co-workers are using these materials.

About elliebartels

Strategic Gaming and Middle East wonk... All writings here reflect my own opinions, and do not represent the views of the National Defense University, Department of Defense, or U.S. Government.
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2 Responses to CASL Lectures on Strategic Gaming – Way of the Wargamer

  1. Firstly, I have always agreed with pretty much everything that Dr Perla has ever said or written. That is not sycophantic, and the relevance of the comment will become clear shortly. Second, I was delighted to be one of the ‘several members of the UK defence community’ who met Peter at the UK Defence Academy last summer and who urged Peter to stick to his guns over ‘excluding actual military forces’ from his wargaming definition. That is not bragging; it simply reinforces the point that Peter’s insights have stood the test of time and I believe that he, and we, should stand by them.

    Peter’s ‘The Way of the Wargamer’ was typically insightful and ground-breaking. I noted that, in discussing ‘analyst’, ‘artist’ and ‘architect’, Peter often used the terms to describe both wargame design and the wargame designer. I can see the utility in categorising wargames as analyst, artist and architect, and I can also recognise these approaches in people. I immediately recognised myself as an architect.

    However, it struck me that, certainly here in the UK, there are very few wargame designers with the experience and sophistication to appreciate the distinctions in game that Peter was making – and then put his insights to practical use. And I mean very few; maybe just Phil Sabin, Tom Mouat and one or two others. You in the States are way ahead of us in this field; the quality of the questions showed that. But I suspect that, even in the US, there are many people designing and delivering wargames (whatever they think one of those is!) who haven’t reached Peter’s level of knowledge and proficiency.

    Hence the reason for my introductory comments. Peter’s talk was thought provoking and we would do well to heed his sage advice. But, for those of us ‘rank and file’ wargame designers, we also need to remain grounded in the home truths of designing wargames that Peter captured in his seminal The Art of Wargaming – and touched on during his CASL presentation. In my humble opinion the most significant problems I see on a daily basis as a professional wargame designer for the military are:

    1. A lack of agreed definitions. This starts, as Peter made very clear in his talk, with ‘wargaming’ itself. We often fail to communicate in our field, even (especially!) among expert wargamers.
    2. Poor wargame design. Peter also made it clear that the aim of a wargame is too often just an afterthought. Not having the aim of a wargame stamped on everyone’s forehead from start to finish inevitably leads to a suboptimal solution.
    3. Not having the correct wargame design team working together from the outset. And here’s where Peter describing both wargame design and wargame designers as analyst, artist and architect is pertinent. To quote from The Art of Wargaming (p.183):

    ‘It is important to make one thing clear at the very start; designing a wargame is an art, not a science. Experienced military officers, practised operations research analysts, and accomplished computer programmers are not necessarily capable of designing useful wargames. Although some or all of the knowledge and skills for such people are important tools for a wargame designer to possess, the nature of game design requires a unique blending of talents’.

    As a number of the questions put to Peter alluded to, many wargames are combinations, or have elements, of analyst, artist and architect. Maybe for this reason alone when designing a professional wargame for use by the military it is critical to have representation from the outset from all three categories of person Peter specifies in the quote above. Even when developing a manual board game I find it useful to have a software engineer or technical expert present for the insights they bring and to identify and mitigate potential issues in instances where the manual board game is subsequently computerised.

    And then, with this team assembled, you add the wargame designer. As Peter says, this person requires a unique blending of talents and his or her skill is as much art as science. That does not make him or her an ‘artist’ rather than an ‘architect’ – it just makes the wargame designer a very rare beast!

    Peter has once again added massive value with his latest contribution, for which many thanks. We just need to ensure that we use his insights judiciously and build on the wisdom he has presented previously.

  2. Pingback: What do gamers need? | Wargaming Connection

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