Over the period 11-12 April, the Australian Defence College (ADC) held the ADF Wargaming Conference and The Cove team attended. Here are three points that stood out to us:

1. Wargaming is Normal

If wargaming refers to structured roleplay by multiple actors representing military decision-makers in a safe-to-fail environment, then it is already pervasive in the ADF. At the tactical level, we see it in the structured rehearsal of Courses of Action in the context of the Military Appreciation Process. At the highest strategic level, we see it in the multi-actor experimentation and analysis of possible international scenarios involving the ADF, government, and other organisations. These are normal and integral parts of planning and decision-making.

So why does the playing of tabletop or digital wargames as a part of Professional Military Education still seem like a niche interest? Perhaps because the word ‘game’ makes it sound like a hobby pursuit that lacks serious application. But, as was pointed out at the conference by Colonel (Retd.) Tim Barrack of the U.S Marine Corps University, our allies in the US, Canada, and elsewhere are making a concerted effort to include tabletop and digital wargaming as part of training an intellectual edge.

2. Wargaming is Varied

The conference exposed us to a variety of wargames aimed at achieving different outcomes. There were wargames for the intelligence community, for strategic decision-makers, and for junior commanders in Army and Navy. There were also numerous wargames developed specifically for an Australian context.

During the conference, The Cove hosted a poll, asking participants to select wargaming features that they considered to be most important. Responses were quite varied: some wanted a tabletop experience, while others wanted computer-based gaming; some wanted realistic complexity, while others wanted ease of play. The top two desirable features were gameplay that extended over multiple domains, and gaming that provided the opportunity for planning before conducting action. You can see the full results on the Wargaming Community of Practice page here, if you have access to ADELE.

You can see more of the variety of wargames used in Army by looking at the Army Wargaming PME page here.

3. Wargaming is Easy

... not really. Sometimes it can be sophisticated and nuanced, requiring experience and deep thought. But it is easy, we found, to make a start. One of the games showcased at the conference was 'Take That Hill', an entry-level game developed by UK Fight Club. The ‘blue team’ player is a platoon commander who must choose how to manoeuvre three rifle sections to ‘take that hill’ on which the ‘red team’ player is positioned. This game can be played within twenty minutes and can easily be picked up after seeing a single run-through.

In fact, The Cove was so impressed with this game that we are producing resources to help an Australian audience to make use of it, and will be giving copies of Take That Hill away in the near future. Stay posted!

Your Say

Were you at the conference? Or do you have thoughts about wargaming? We would love to hear from you. Please consider sharing your ideas with The Cove community by submitting a written or audio article here.