Matrix games

IMG_2289 “Matrix games” ares a free-form, umpired alternative to more rigid, rules-based wargames, first pioneered by Chris Engle In such games players take turns making an argument about what they wish to do, why they believe they would be successful, and what effects they expect this to have. Other players may be invited to identify counter-arguments. The outcome is then adjudicated by the umpire, with or without the use of dice.

You’ll find more on the approach at Hamster Press, and at Tom Mouat’s matrix game page.

In recent months, a number of new resources have appeared on this approach to wargaming:

  • matrixgamesJohn Curry and Tim Price of the History of Wargaming Project have published a booklet on the topic, Matrix Games for Modern Wargaming (2014). You’ll also find a review of this at PAXsims.
  • A matrix game addressing the current situation in northern Iraq was convened in the UK in August, involving Middle East, defence, foreign policy, and intelligence experts. You’ll find a brief report here at PAXsims, and an even fuller account of play by John Curry here at the History of Wargaming Project. Revised materials for the game are also available at Tom Mouat’s wargames website.
  • Ben Taylor (Defence Research and Development Canada) has offered some reflections on using matrix games for policy analysis and decision support.

UPDATE: You’ll find additional accounts of some recent games of the “ISIS Crisis” here:

About Rex Brynen

Professor, Department of Political Science, McGill University.
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2 Responses to Matrix games

  1. joesaur says:

    In re the arguments for/against free form vs. rigid wargames: looking back on the experiences of the Prussians from the beginnings of Kriegspiel, and on my own experience in the US Navy in the 70’s, it would appear that free form, or “professional military judgment” adjudication works fine for about the first 5-10 years after the latest conflict, when the individuals who get to be umpires have the knowledge and experience needed to do the job. Beyond that, as their ranks are filled by those whose conflict experience was at a junior officer level, the need for more “guidance” seems to grow, and the push for more rules, formal CRTs, etc., becomes insistent. Just an observation…

  2. Thanks for sharing this source.
    Our platform could be kind of twisted into making this possible during an online roleplay session, but I’m going to create a custom plugin it make it a more natural fit.

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