IDR Blog

Potential of Wargaming in Enhancement of Professional Military Education
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Col Saikat K Bose and Lt Gen (Dr) SK Gadeock, AVSM (Retd)
•  Col Saikat K Bose •  Lt Gen (Dr) SK Gadeock, AVSM

Professional Military Education (PME)[1]

New techniques of warfare appearing since the seventeenth century (siege warfare, firearms, artillery, coordination of battles, ormanagement of logistics) required mastery over mathematics, geometry, physics, and account-keeping. Expertise in these subjects werenot readily available with traditional nobilities. Rather, men of mercantile and industrial classes possessed such knowledge, who also saw in warfare a path to social progress and competed with nobilities to emerge as a professional class holding in trust specialised knowledge of management of violence.[2] Militaries sought to internalise this expanding and diversifying corpus of professional military knowledgethrough academies[3] and permanent staff establishments.[4]

Initially, training in these academies centred on the motor, technical, and execution skills in weaponry, or planning procedures and staff duties, all of which had an element of certainty in conduct and outcomes. However,the foresight, planning, and ability to decide conceptual issues, which were requiredto apply such procedural knowledge, had no precedentor readily available solutions.[5] These comprise the propositional component of professional military knowledge, and was difficult to train for. Thus, leaders were left to build their knowledge through a lifetime of hits and trials.[6] Suchluxury is not available to modern leaders who must be fully prepared in the abstract skills of planning and decision-making by the time they are tested in battle.

Developing on Rakesh Sharma’s pithy definition,[7] that training is for the relative certainty of procedural knowledge while education is for the uncertainty of propositional knowledge, it can be seen that in today’s multi-domain environment, the latter covers theory of warfare, military history, political science, and international relations, military technology and cultural anthropology, as critical knowledge awareness. Unlike, as commonly presumed, training must shade off into‘education’ at all levels and not limited or restricted by the hierarchy, so that professional military knowledge can be applied with discernment. A young captain in a peacekeeping mission, who is highly trained in the battle drills and procedures of his subunit but quite ‘uneducated’ in ethnocultural nuances of host populations, will be at a loss if left on his own to decide what deviations from the rules of engagement he may make to protect his charge.Military leaders must be educated in the propositional knowledge of his field, in order to instantly appreciate potentials, implications, and military consequences of his actions, beyond procedures and ratio of forces alone.

It is thus that modern military increasingly stress on propositional knowledge, which is sought to be acquired not only on-the-job in formations and from peers, but also through periodic military related courses.It is important to learn working through dilemmas in decision-making in a realistic ‘Decision Environment’. Such experiential learning is speedily generated in wartime when Kolb’s learning cycle[8] revolves speedily, but is limited in peacetime. Thus, in addition to what is obtained second-hand from military history, militaries seek various exercises with or without troops to synthetically generate such experience.

Experiential Learning from Exercises with Troops

Field manoeuvres were effective at one time, but are increasingly beset by large conurbations, paucity of commensurate training space, and competing demands on time and finances which enforcesexpedients such as ‘telescoping’ time and distances. Such expedients suppress the dispersed, isolated, and episodic nature of warfare and exaggerate its perceived tempo, especially in large-scale exercises. If conflated with leaders’ preparation in planning and execution, their focus shifts to meeting exercise deliverables dictated by organisational sociology, further reducing their effectiveness. Such limited opportunity can be more optimalif instead of such instruction, they are used intensely for training comparatively smaller echelons in battle procedures, accompanied by vivid picture-painting, creative umpiring, and uncooperative ‘exercise enemies’, with leaders also practicing their own battle drills without getting distracted with plan optimisation and presentations.

Using Indoor and Outdoor Exercises without Troops for Experiential Learning

Alternate means, such as staff rides and outdoor Tactical Exercises Without Troops (TEWTs) and sand-modelexercise (indoor), can provide military leaders and headquarters with the experience of ‘going to ground’ and analysing plans in stages, seeing a battle through, and identifying contingencies and responses. Such reflective practices conforming to small-group seminar dialogues for collaborative enquiry[9] have great potential in helping participants think through problems. However, they often focus on planning and remain staff exercises, only cursorily examining post-H-hour scenarios. Realistic scenarios by Red Teams and ‘exercise enemies’ help in developing decision making in unexpected situations. However,organisational requirements often stymie adversarial contentprecluding uncomfortable situations.

Experience of Using Wargame in PME

Wargaming is another tool used in training courses and formations intended for experiential learning. It has immense potential for interactive and experientialPME, especially if it is made competitive and adverse sociological and organisational factors are suppressed. Before the world experience in using wargaming for PME is examined, it is wise to cast a quick eye on the history of its development.

History of Wargames

Modern wargaming appeared in 1824 when the von Reisswitz father–son pair introduced the game Kriegsspiel.[10] This game, played on a sand-table or map with wooden blocks, was originally recreational till its military potentialwas recognised and it was adopted for training by Von Müffling, the Prussian Chief of Staff who famously exclaimed “This is not a game! This is training for war!” during a demonstration.Kriegsspiel went through ups and downs in popularitytill (the elder) von Moltkemade it a regular part of officers’ training curriculum in Prussia. The Prussians, and later the Germans, tested leaders and tactics without sending troops to the field (forbidden by the 1815 Maastricht Treaty), which proved vital for grooming of junior officers.[11] Experimentations rose, and by the end of the century,many variants had appeared across Europe and America. By WWII, wargames were being widely used for both plan optimisation and training,[12] giving leaders and staff realistic foretastes of what to expect and identify means of negotiating decision dilemmas.

Wargaming was prone to sociological issues—the younger von Reisswitz, who had attained a brief celebrity status due to royal interest, committed suicide due to hostility of his colleagues. After the WWII, socio-political apathy towards war stymied interest in wargames, while apprehensions of nuclear war encouraged synthetic construction of nuclear warfare as a niche subject in the hands of Operations Research and Systems Analysis (OR&SA) specialists[13], their mathematical orientation encouraged by increasing availability of computers. This gradually eroded manual wargaming, reducing lien ofofficers in wargame development as they grew increasingly unaware of the algorithms and computer jargon, and felt inadequate before the highly qualified OR&SA and computer professionals.

Manual games did persist, such as TACSPIEL (a slow-time wargame for detailed skirmish-level evaluation of the Vietnam War)[14], the division-level First Battle, the Dunn–Kempf Wargame[15], or Tacwar, a series of four different levels of games,[16] for training of officers. The US Navy used games such as the Harpoon and Seatag. Such military gaming was reinforced by recreational games, which not only were directly put to military use[17] but also developed specifically, such as the McClintic Theatre Model (MTM) out of games by the iconic hobby wargame developer Jim Dunnigan.[18]

While even manual games were affected by mathematical modelling, despite the base of sand problem[19], an overall familiarity with recreational wargaming did ensure that western militaries used wargames creatively, an advantage not available to armies without a general awareness of wargames.However, with even recreational wargames turning computerised, with splendid graphics, the advantage of Western armies also seems to be eroding.Western governments were prompted several times to encourage wargaming:in the Sixties USSecretary of DefenceMcNamara, and more recently, the US Secretary of DefenceRobert Work. Similar exhortations are observed in other forces, such as in Australia.[20] Such approaches were however not shorn of fascination with OR&SA. McNamara, whose mechanics-oriented understanding of warfare, ignoring human factors, was largely blamed for the debacle in Vietnam, encouraged US Army officers to acquire OR&SA skills for wargaming.

Wargaming in PME

Use of wargames for plan optimisation had gone hand in hand with their use in training and potential building till the WWII. The inter-war Wehrmacht, banned from outdoor exercises and raising mechanised forces by the Treaty of Versailles, used wargames to design and train in tactics and procedures of mechanised warfare, most spectacularly the Blitzkrieg.[21] A major part of the C-in-C Hans von Seeckt’s techniques of rejuvenating the Reichswehr was to train an overwhelmingly large number of NCOs in the highly limited army in officership, and all officers for tasks far above their ranks, so that they could be easily promoted to higher ranks when the army would eventually start expanding. In the absence of permission to conduct any large field manoeuvres, wargaming was used intensely to provide operational experience to these NCOs and officers. The US Navy Plan Orange was a series of games exploring options against Japan[22], enabling officers to visualise all possibilities except the Kamikaze tactics, make flexible plans, and adapt themselves to situations. Wargames allowed the Germans and Americans advantages over their opponents—the British did not use wargames much, while the Japanese navy used only plan optimisation games, even ‘cheating’ to uphold their plans.[23] Wargaming continues to be used byfighting formations to refine and optimise plans. However, plan optimisation games tend to reiterate established ideas, limit thinking, and prove rather than optimise, plans—the Imperial Japanese Navy wargames did not stimulate thinking[24] and ‘cheated’ to force-fit solutions to expectations.[25] This attitude also evident in western wargames prior to the Iraq War, when the US and its allies were in denial of several options open to the Iraqis.[26]

Use of wargames for training is far more limited today, and beset by organisational issues including paucity of expertise. Also, the military penchant for scientising and reification leads to regularising everything in PME institutions, overburdening classes with activities, monitoring course curricula, and representing success through quantitative metrics, all of which leave little time to think about what is sought to be learnt. This hampers not only second-hand experience-gathering from military history, but also makes field manoeuvres, TEWTs and sand-table exercises scripted and artificial, with choreographed enemies kept from acting adversely. Wargames are marked by endless plan presentations and theoretical staff-work, an identification that has led some armies to discourage wargames at echelons lower than brigades. This calls for deeper examination.

Warfare is a complex adaptive systemwhich demonstrates little causality, let alone mathematical certainty.[27] Each point in conflict can precipitate a combinatorial explosion of possibilities, a non-linearity is exacerbated today by accelerated changes, which makes it impossible to predict beyond the immediate future.[28] In this light, the policy of restricting plan optimisation wargames to higher formations is just, because leaders of combat echelons at lower levels must keep their heads in chaos, be agile enough to adapt plans to situations, and make alternate plans quickly, and take satisficing but timely decisions rather than spend prolonged periods analytically optimising any one plan because, as the saying goes, the first bullet fired in battle will go right through the plan!! Contingency planning should be in as much detail as the main plan, as also ability to handle yet other unforeseen developments, in order to attain the higher commanders’ intent. In this contingency theory of organisations[29], good decision-makers must be able to assess situations and take quick decisions heuristically, in what has been called coup d’oeuil by Clausewitz and phronesis by Aristotle, as the desire to have complete information before deciding is anathema. They must reduce cognitive load using what Kahnemann has called System 1 thinking, while System 2 thinking intervenes and ensures discernment.[30] This requires practice, discernment, and experience, so that the first time a leader finds himself taking major decisions in an ambivalent environment is not battle itself![31]

Thus, leaders need to continually brainstorm and practice decision-making with System 1, developing tolerance for ambiguity and ensuring that demand for psychological demand for data does not overwhelm decision-making, using System 2 to keep themselves free of biases.It is here that wargames provide a solution, creating synthetic decision-making environments, marked by incomplete, contaminated, or overloaded information, paucity of time, psychological pressure of staking lives, chance of failure, trade-offs and unintended effects, and anawareness that not all decisions would get implemented. The fact is that wargames have limited analytical ability andmust not be taken as a source of producing rigorously analysed theoretical knowledge. Rather, they have proven more valuable in exploring the ‘role and potential effects of human decisions’[32], and as a potent pedagogical tool of experience-building and ‘intellectual cross-training’, humans being predisposed towards the narrative as a sense-making paradigm.[33] Well-run games encourage users to examine problems in diverse ways, not only developing plans but thinking them through in a synthetic environment to examine strengths, weaknesses, and dilemmas. This way, they develop banks of experiential patterns for use with heuristics, and cognitive skills to eliminate biases, which would be of use to all levels of leadership and meet the objectives of PME.

The general suspicion and en bloc rejection of wargames[34] stems from lack of familiarity with the above potential development and training use, and also because they upset comfort zones.[35] Thus, even where they are part of pedagogical toolkits in PME institutions, they focus on higher levels of decision-making, ignoring post-H-hour scenarios. Even field formations use wargames for planning process and ‘course of action’ analysis, i.e., plan optimisation games, and seldom training games. Thus, while limiting plan optimisation games to higher formations is a step in the right direction, also limiting training and potential-building games for lower echelons is throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. 

Spectrum of Wargames Today

Quite a wide repertoire of wargames has emerged with time, which can be classified using various criteria—modelling, closure, control, or purpose (which has been seen in plan optimisation and potential development). Based on playing format, they can be classed as per Figure 1 below. 

Figure 1: Categorisation of Wargames[36]

Seminar Games

Seminar game is the most common format used in training schools and formations. While it is easy to develop and allows examination of a host of issues, it can get scripted and tell a convenient story ignoring the fact that there is a thinking and competing enemy side. Its use is largely limited to the planning construct, but it can, given the expertise, handle the most complex, ill-defined scenarios. Unless expertly run,it is difficult to play post- H-hour scenarios and can degenerate to talking matches (BOGSAT in wargame slang for bunch of guys sitting and talking).

Matrix Games

Matrix games are a more rigorous version of seminar game with greater potential for assessment. They progress along event adjudications based on formalised player inputs, and can handle multiple sides and role-players with hidden agendas and cross purposes.[37] Highly suited for strategic and geopolitical games, they are little known and require greater expertise to run.

Kriegsspiel or Analogue (Manual) Games

Manual or analogue games are called kriegsspiel after their prototype. They have faded out of most armies, but a strong sector of boardgames publishers and suppliers exists. These games can have rigid rules that take time to understand, but the rules are comprehensible by users who may modify them if required. It is also easy to convert the rules to more free formats. These games are really qualitative agent-based models, and can aptly mimic conflict as a complex adaptive system if designed well, and are better than computer games in representing behaviourial aspects, and aspects of the modern, grey zone.

Computerised Games

Militaries use elaborate structures and dedicated facilities for computerised wargames, which are expensive and time-consumingto develop and difficult to access. These games are often dominated by OR&SA professionals, making them opaque to military personnel.[38] They are therefore difficult to modify and keep up with newer kinds of warfare and threats. The same problem appears with computerised hobby games—though they have attractive interfaces (not so for military computer wargames), they are also increasingly blocking out hobbyists who are no more aware of the logic used.

How Wargames Help Handle the Modern Battlespace

Wargames meet these criteria of gamification, which is application of game mechanics to non-game situations, and fits definition of game in terms of immersion, and limited and abstracted rules.[39] Thisassists in understanding warfare in mutually reinforcing manners.

Understanding the Modern Battlespace

Teaching the principles of conflict in the classroom with narrative reasoning, though illustrated with historical or hypothetical examples, lacks adversarial counternarratives. Instead, if students wereplaced in adversarial contexts themselves where they suffer for violating the principles, or face dilemmasof choosing between violating one of two principles, their comprehension would be more ‘in the round’. These are discussed with greater specifics hereunder.

Tactical and Operational Precepts

Operating machineguns, laying mines, establishing belts of machinegun fire, and creating obstacle systems across a divisional frontageare procedural knowledgeor knowledge-how. To be used profitably, their tactical and operational aspects, i.e., knowledge-wh, i.e., where and when, and why, is essential.The latter profits when their logic is questioned and demolished. In classrooms and one-sided exercises, instructors and ‘exercise enemies’ do ask these questions but in a static atmosphere. If instead students were to be countered by equally intent ‘enemy’ students in the dynamic environment of a game, both would learn better, experience uncertainty, and see alternative viewpoints.) Rather than providing solutions, they replicate decision-making environments, confronting students with situations and dilemmas similar to those in reality,[40] and fostering a learning-to-learn culture.[41]Players can test ideas and gain experience outside live exercises and direct combat, and build confidence.[42] Repeated practice in wargame inoculates participants against expectations of perfectly executed plans, teaching them to better  understand aspects of flexibility, adaptability, focus, and perseverance towards attaining operational objectives in time and space.

Military precepts are fundamental and timeless, applying despite changes in materiel. Thus, military history is an important source for experiential understanding of these precepts, as long as they are contextualised. Many COTS boardgames or miniature rules based on past wars, for example,the monster game Campaign for North Africa 1940–42 (SPI) to simpler but highly playable games such No Retreat: The North African Front (GMT Games) or Desert Blitzkrieg: Rommel’s North African Campaign (Compass Games) on the North African Campaign, can aid in understanding some precept or principle or the other, which are thereafter applicable to all other scenarios.

Jointness and Multi-domain Environment

Today’s joint and multi-domain battlespace has players other than military forces—civil police, intelligence agencies, volunteer aid workers, administrative agencies, refugees, or populations. Organisation limitations often restricts their participation in training events. Not only civilianbut even several military echelons are not available beyond the notional. Also, some elements are precluded due to high cost or sensitive signatures (heavy artillery or missile launchers). Thus, the little intermittent opportunity to train with these forces must be utilised intensely for procedural knowledge—interacting with weapons detachments, coordinating communications between different types of radio sets, and conducting joint operations. Squandering these opportunities in command and staff training—coordination, communication, joint planning or force deployment—is suboptimal as these can be learned and rehearsed in wargames. This would also ensure enhancing awareness and dissuading branch and service parochialism. Well-designed games can give players experience in controlling vast forces and such diverse elements.

Combat-responsive Logistics

The Napoleonic adage – the army marches on its belly – is more vital today in the hi-tech battlefield environment. However, enthusiasm for operations and tactics often leads to logistical aspects getting overlooked in classrooms and live exercises, which is also a sort of bias. Planning wargames and exercises do insist on detailed logistical ‘staff checks’, but then ignore them during the conduct, except cursory mention during reviews. Even if considered, it must be remembered that logistics of live exercises in peacetime are entirely different from wartime logistics. Wargames must creatively enforce logistic consideration, penalising players for oversight and grinding operations to a halt if logistically unsustainable; as the old proverb goes—war want of a nail the kingdom was lost. Instead of detailed logistic track-keeping which can lead to a lot of infructuous mathematics, heuristic methods could be used for modelling logistics, as seen in many COTS boardgames. For instance, the proverbial tyranny of distance, i.e., the logistic difficulty of operating at distances from bases, can be represented using methods ranging from simplistic  trade-offs between range from base and duration of deployment, through more complex means of having to maintain an uninterrupted Line of Communication (LoC) to the base (which can be interrupted by the enemy), to the requirements of having to supply logistic ‘bricks’ to deployed element to maintain their effectiveness. The Compass Games product above, which illustrates Rommel’s predicament at the gates of Egypt, when his LoC was neither defined nor safe, uses a simple, point-to-point map, and supply status counters, where keeping roads open to maintain a minimum number of such counters per fighting formation is as much the player’s concern as planning offensives, driving in the lesson which is true for all other theatres and periods of war.

Such games help brainstorm combat-responsive logistical systems optimized, explore logistics requirements of new concepts of operations, and identify natural and adversarial vulnerabilities in logistics networks, and understand the dynamics of supply chain management.

Wargaming Conflict Beyond the Operational Battlespace

Policy decisions of national security importance are often made in an adversarial context but outside the immediacy of the battlespace. This could include decisions as to procurement of weapons,munitions, equipment and immediate replenishment of such foreign equipment, mobilisation of youth for induction in the forces, of military cooperation with another country. Some decisions would have greater immediacy—what if oil reserves drop, when and where the navy should interfere with enemy SLOCs, what if an international firm supplying weapon-locating radars suddenly decides to sell its algorithms to a potential enemy. Though taken away from the immediacy of battle and in an apparently more relaxed setting, their information-environment is equally ambivalent, they require negotiation and second-guessing, and have greater uncertainty. Also, decision-makerswould not be monolithic, but organisations with competing interest groups. In such ambiguous situations, much of the decision-making would still beheuristics-dependent rather than analytical.

A major concern of nations is to attain their aims, for which they often try brinkmanship but do not want to precipitate a war. An IR-wargamecan be designed to play operations short of war where the premium is on attaining aims without precipitating a war; syndicates representing international players can have factions and rogue elements, with private aims and hidden agendas. Such games must have an overall regime of trade-offs and thresholds laying a premium on intents—trade-offs between qualitative variables defining military advantage and loss of international prestige, or trade benefit versus triggering a clash, and thresholds on crossing of which unintended consequences (such as war) could be triggered. Nuanced victory conditions—attaining an aim, maintaining a certain level of trade, prestige, or chance of winning an election—would require players to choose between which conditions they must maximise, and which they can trade away, as in reality. Much of these trade-offs would lie in domains like cyber, space, use of nuclear and bio weapons.

Such games must ensure that players mimic actors they represent credibly. Though matrix games are the most suited format for such IR-wargames or crisis games, some computerised or manual system games, such as Hedgemony, credibly replicates the hedging that goes on in diplomacy.[43] Such games usually do not require detailed maps, and can make do with schematic or point-to-point maps.

Command and Control (C2) and Decision-making

Phrases like C2 hierarchy and OODA loopgenerate images of determined structures. In reality, there is not onebut many headquarters each performing OODA loops at its own pace, all creating an amorphouspile with no unidirectional feedbacks and instructions,and endless cross-linkages and intermeshed loops. This is exacerbated by patchy introduction of digitised C2 systems. Functioning in this amorphous structure requires independence, initiative, and creativity; information will neither be complete nor accurate, and analytical decisions will always be too late and always fail. Modelling C2 is the most difficult aspects in wargames, unless seen as a system of various styles of command using different decision-making techniques.

Heuristics and Biases in Decision-Making

Leadership in battle requires clear thinking[44] and quick decision-making, as mentioned earlier, decisions in battle being time-critical. Less the physical threat, wargames can give credible and immersive experience[45] of decision-making situations, repeated exposure to which populates the library of memory patterns for intuitionand heuristic decision-making.[46] System 1thinking collects information, frames an abstract of the problem reducing cognitive load,[47] and compares with these memory patterns via heuristics.[48] The results yielded by such simple strategies, used not only by humans but also animals and organisations, and even machines, do suggest simple solutions, but may not be optimal and are open to biases. System 2 thinking tries to keep biases out from the above process. However, militaries tend to suspect such fast-and-frugal heuristicson several counts[49], alleging that they yield second-best results, are used by minds with cognitive limitations, and are suited only for routine decisions of little importance.In reality, the second best, satisficing but timely result is far better than analytically optimal results,[50] it is the sharper mind that can employ heuristics yet keep them bias free, and commanders have always used heuristics and non-procedural decisions[51] for important decisions.[52] A good commander tries to understand his subordinate’smental ability in problem solving and decision making. He modifies/ builds this into his initial plans so as to cater for the contingencies that he will need to be prepared for considering his subordinates abilities.That is the quality of a battlefield commander, ready and responsive to the contingencies arising.

Yet, the military tendency to scientise and reify[53] rigidises these procedures.[54] While olderMilitary Appreciation Process (MAP) with its ‘sequential-access’ verbal appreciation has been largely replaced with the more graphic, non-linear (thus random-access) Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) and Course of Action (COA)-wargaming of the Military Decision-making Process (MDMP), the latter too are ‘linear’ in that the decision-support and synchronisation matrices remain linear and sequential. Literatures and manuals of these processes seldom explain how they can be used in the frenzy of battle, though they acknowledge the issue by themselves suggesting shortcuts and quick-fixes.It is for reasons such as the above that these processes have remained theoretical, and it is essential that military decision-makers do not get bogged down in rigid MDMP but go on taking timely satisficing decisions. However, just as they must not overthink and let opportunity pass, they must also not take too hasty and immature decisions. The real value of procedures lies in slowing down heuristic processes and forcing System 2 thinking to take over.

The three commonly usedheuristics are availability, representativeness, and anchoring heuristics.[55] The broader the repository of familiar situations, the better can availability heuristics be employed. A mind can manage up to seven ideas[56], and a person with more than seven selects the best ones. Needless to say, availability heuristics would fail if there is nothing available—the Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling had famously said, ‘… there is one thing that you cannot do, no matter how educated and smart you are, and that’s to make a list of every idea that never occurred to you’.

An exhaustive wargaming programme would create this bank of available situations, and also militate against biases that afflict availability heuristics. One such bias is that of recalling experiences with greater salience or vividity, which affects after-action reports and mission debriefs.This bias was used by the British to lull Rommel, by repeated announcement and rescindment of the date of Auchinlek’s offensive in Libya (Operation Crusader) 1941, into ‘retrieving’ another cancellation, but catching him off guard when the operation actually began.[57] Repeated wargames can distribute salience of memory patterns, so that not any one pattern appears too striking. After-Action Reviews of wargames reveal how much of players’ decisions were influenced by their imagining situations based on inputs, and readiness to correlate, both of which are biases.

Decision-makers’ application of representative heuristicscan be moderated with wargames, by showing where careless use,based on limited input or sample size, can cause stereotype and confirm what one fears or desires. Repeated gaming can reveal the biases, teach what the real categories are, and identify what actual data is neededso that such snares can be avoided in war.Anchoring heuristics, if used carelessly while trying to decide, would cause fixation with certain values and ideas, often because players are unsure of what to do differently. Wargames can show when anchoring heuristics has been misleading, and tell the player when to stop being heuristic and actually analyse.

There is no strict taxonomy of heuristics and biases, but taken together they show how cognitive skill must be used and heuristic processes refined and trained to avoid mental snares, includinggroupthink. This extends not only to System 1, but also to System 2 which itself is vulnerable to biases such as the confirmation bias. Biases may still preclude estimation, making one ignore incremental changes[58] or ill-known enemy strategies, especially where the enemy is a non-state actor.[59]

While the mentally agile are more comfortable with heuristics, everyone can refine heuristic decision-making skills[60] with experience and battery of memories. Repeated use of wargames, in addition to enabling thorough dissection and analysis of problems, develops ‘mental muscle memory’ of heuristics, reducing the chance of players getting caught off guard in battle. Replays and after-action reviews of wargames help recognise where and when decisions were fouled by biases, faulty reasoning, and logical fallacies.[61] Wargames, which act as a forum to share experience and deep, critical, and alternate thinking,[62] also indicate where to stop heuristics and use rigid tools like IPB.

Culture and Styles of Command

The rigid, ‘science-of-war’ approach of the erstwhile Soviet Army had engendered the assumption that autocratic powers essentially allow little initiative and freedom to its commanders. This idea is belied by the remarkable auftragstaktik of the Nazi Wehrmacht, which gave immense leeway to commanders, inculcating independent decision-making and initiative, even encouraging ‘creative’ disobedience by deliberately including such terms of reference in wargames as had to be violated in order to attain the mission. This enabled inculcation of the Schwerpunktprinzip, a heuristic tool in use since the nineteenth century to prioritise decisions towards the focal point or main effort. At the same time, Soviet officers, though with less freedom than their NATO counterparts, were exasperated by Arab rigidity and inertia when acting as advisors.[63]

Through the Arab–Israeli wars, Arab officers seldom grabbed opportunities, terrified of doing anything not explicitly sanctioned the highest headquarters.And yet, Arab officers demonstrated remarkable initiative in their traditional razziyah raids shows that command styles are really cultural and not organisational phenomenon regular’ armies were culturally alien to Arab forces while the razziyah was essentialist. Modern forces desire directive command styles, but organisational cultures can be reoriented within national cultures only to an extent. As a matter of fact, cultural preferences in many armies weed out officers with initiative, readiness to experiment, and greater tolerance for ambiguity, promoting those that do everything ‘obediently’ and ‘by the book’ to positions that they cannot do justice to.[64] A more mundane version of this is that commanders who are unable to get the larger picture, the so-called bird’s eye view, prefer to compensate with over-detailed, worm’s eye view of small aspects. Such commanders often distrust subordinates who are more comfortable with ambiguity and heuristics, baulking at micro-management.

While wargames can be deliberately designed to help encourage initiative, like the Prussian games that inserted unsustainable terms of reference, even wargame design and implementation are cultural phenomenathemselves.


Wargames provide immersive experience[65] of competing with an uncooperative enemy, thus according 3600-consideration of problems andbuilding libraries of experiential patterns. For ensuring authenticity of this experience, it is essential that the ‘enemy’ in a wargame, including where they are non-state actors, is and acts credibly, i.e., just like the real-world enemy would be expected.

In providing safe-to-fail arcades to try ideas they allow players to experience the law of unintended consequences and encourage pluralist habits of mind, i.e., a disposition towards behaving intelligently when confronted with problems for which immediate answers are unavailable.[66] Regular wargaming brings leaders in contact with subordinates, encourage professional question and suggestion by lower echelons (like violating the terms of reference in the Wehrmacht), expose fallacious assumptions and comfort-zones, and make each see the other’s point of view overcoming branch parochialism. It is thus that a wargaming culture expands professional military knowledge, converting an organisation into a learning organisationwith a learning-to-learn culture.[67]


Notwithstanding the above, wargames are misunderstood[68] and even maligned.[69] Several reasons for maligning wargames are correct in individual, local senses: some models are indeed inaccurate, some interfaces are indeed bad, some games are indeed designed with unrealistic rules. It is therefore important to remember some caveats, and the ways around them, before considering a pathway towards a wargaming culture for PME.

Design Biases

While wargames help overcome decision-making biases, designing wargames itself is open to biases, such as designing the ‘enemy’ inaccurately, orignoring aspects that are unexciting (logistics) or difficult to model (intangibles and behavioural).[70] Another bias is taken a historical event as the truth and building probabilities around them, which is ananchoring bias. In theory, even a black-swan event appears completely predictable in hindsight, and a model can be prepared taking that occurrence as the mode.

Another common bias is that ofconfirmation, which occurs when purposes of the designer and user are different. Officially sponsored games often encourage indoctrination. A game sponsored by the infantry can give extra effectiveness to infantry antitank weapons;Firefight, a game officially used by NATO, allowed far greater engagement ranges than possible in the forested undulations of Bavaria, driving in unfounded confidence in tank crews.[71]

Realistic Modelling

No model is completely accurate, and thus no wargame can be correct, complete, or universal. The point is to design wargames that work, and able to reasonably recreate the uncertain environment of combat.[72] A primary part of this, as alluded to above, is the recreation of a realistic enemy, which entails not only credible databases of enemy organisation and equipage, but encouraging in various manners replication of the enemy’s tactics, procedures, and other ways of behaving.This includes reasonable accurate modelling of non-state adversaries—who with democratisation of warfare are likely to be present on the battlefield in larger numbers—and the ability to continually refine them with better appreciation and empirical observation.Also,anchoring heuristics used in constructing game rules and Combat Results Tables (CRTs)must be adjusted empirically, and not by mere ideating which is a rational and not empirical approach.

Player behaviour and decisions may be inspired by factors other than tactical situation—not being convinced by the rules, knowledge of gaps in rules, or desire to win at all costs, or simply not caring—and be quite different than how the same players might take decisions in actual war. This is because wargames can recreate neither urgency, nor physical discomfort and danger, nor real psychological pressure of sending men and women to their deaths. This is especially true for ‘enemy players’ who may be knowingly or unknowingly discouraged from acting aggressively enough.

It is thus essential that wargame rules enforce realistic decisions. Rules should not be excessively details, which can encourage boredom in some and over-detailed staff work in others. Nor should they be too simplistic, which might encourage levity and lack of seriousness. Ideally, rules and algorithms must have tradeoffs to penalise and discourage rash and unrealistic.

Wargame and Knowledge

Wargames do not satisfy Rubel’s search for rigour and organisation of knowledge so that they approximate to a hard science.[73] Rather, there is very little determinism about them and they are experimental only in a limited sense as they can never be replicated and play out differently each time. A real war would still be different, but leaders can use patterns of possibilities revealed by the many wargames to form a loose mapping of decisions and possible outcomes. In other words, while a linear decision support matrices from wargames is fallacious, multiple matrices can be credible.

Wargames and Winning

Some players have a knack of winning every game, as mentioned in the rubric of attaining excellence in military wargaming and programming simulations. They may not however be equally successful in real war. The fact is that they win wargames because in it they encounter only cleansed, filtered and uncluttered information expressed in well-defined metrics, whereas war’s information environment would be fuzzy, unabstracted, chaotic, with each variable clamouring for attention. Only leaders or staff that can sieve relevant and usable information without getting overwhelmed and process them timely succeed. Utility of wargaming actually lies in showing the key information elements and their levels of distillation.

Wargames and Reputation for Overs implification

Though competition and immersion of well-designed wargames are appealing, wargames have a reputation of being childlike as several games have oversimplified rules to permit quick play, flashy interfaces, and devices such as dice. Such a reputation has led to a general lack of attention to wargaming as a serious academic subject, with little officially endorsed views.[74] Thus, serious wargaming communities are small, with a few gifted amateurs making a difference in designing and implementing wargames, but in an episodic manner.


The potential of wargaming in PME can be exploited only if attitudes, designing approaches, and institutional structures are adequately geared for it at all levels—individual, formations and units, PME institutions, and the overall military, as in Figure 2 which is deliberately not filled. The elements of each column are discussed further.

Levels \ Changes Attitude Model Design Structures
PME Institutions

Field Formations


Overall Military


Figure 2: Structure of the Recommendations

Changes in Attitudes

Wargaming nurture individualities of leaders, meeting educational objectives of ‘[maximising] …individual differences by discovering and releasing individual potential’.[75] Thus, wargames at PME institutions must be demanding in cognitive abilities and have intense adversarial component, so that they can complement and amplify course work and actual experience.At the same time, performance in wargames must not be co-axed with course gradings, because then wargames’ characteristics of providing asafe-to-fail environment is violated. Rather, games should be designed and executed so strictly that participants regularly fail.[76] 

Groups produce fewer ideas and of lower quality than when members work independently and combine their ideas.[77] In PME wargames, groupthink leads to many students actually remaining idle though they believe they are contributing.[78] If idle members are engaged in sub-syndicates to play offshoots of the main wargame, the results of these roads-not-taken can be compared afterwards for greater learning and what-if analysis. This is known as swarm gaming.[79]

PME is a continuous process with field formations having major roles. Formations must explore beyond plan optimisation wargames, using capability-building games for applied PME. This would practice players in getting bigger pictures from sketchy inputs in an adversarial context, developing tolerance for ambiguity and comfort with uncertainty, without distracting from field manoeuvres. The following specific actions could assist:

    • Lower formations and units can use training games, including Tactical Decision Games (TDGs), light board-games, and sand-table games.
    • COTS boardgames can selected by units with guidance from a Central Wargaming Agency, and suitably modified. The US Marine Corp’s 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit uses the boardgame Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal[80] to practice their operational deployment related situations. Such games will not be hampered by requirements of confidentiality.

In order to form the habits of mind early,[81] some armies commence wargaming early in career paths of officers (even in pre-commission training[82]). Various western armies have also encouraged the establishment of Fight Clubs for soldiers and junior officers as own-time-work, which help competitive and creative critical thinking, adaptation, and proliferation of a wargaming culture.

For successful wargaming for PME, instructors and students should develop realistic expectations from wargames and also believe in its system.[83] While both should be able to self-design and improvise games, instructors must move away from the sage-on-the-stage format, yet not lose control over the proceedings. Also, while semi-controlled games steer the progression in desirable directions, the tendency to ‘script’ games to meet narrow training objectives must be resisted. Instead, competitive situations must be providedto put officers under realistic pressures to behave ingenuously. This is best exemplified in the pre-WWII German games where wargames were designed such that players had to violate some terms of reference or the other in order to succeed.

Change in attitude also requires dropping some determinations drilled into one’s military knowledge. An officer in an offensive formation will insist that having attained a 3:1 combat superiority, he is unstoppable. The same officer, when in a defensive formation later, would insist that as he could muster a 1:3 ratio, he can certainly hold back the attacker. The wargame would help him understand that the 3:1 rule is only that an attacker that is thrice as strong as the defender, adjusted for all effects (quality of defence, morale, elevation, logistics, artillery support, fatigue), has a ‘reasonable’ chance of victory, say 70%, and might yet fail.

Approaches to Model Design

Attitude towards wargaming determines not only use of wargames, but also wargame designing, some aspects of which are:

    • Wargames must be ‘simple and lively’ so that professionals can use them with the briefest orientation; in other words, interfaces, procedures, and languages must be those that users are familiar with, without introducing new processes and jargon. The tendency of such games to use absurd graphics, like using the lasso system where the mouse is used to draw a loop around elements and group them into C2 echelons, must be avoided.
    • To capture the complexity of conflict environments, games need not be mathematically accurate but use techniques like agent-based models to create ‘multiplicity of situations’.[84] Such designs require a move away from the OR&SA controlled models, towards models that military users can understand. Qualitative agent-based models with discrete-time simulations and heuristic designs is one such effective tool—they are easier to develop and deploy, comprehensible, easy to modify, and can incorporate extra-kinetic options such as hybrid operations, including cyber-attack, and psychological operations, all impossible to replicate in exercises.
    • Such games must use simpler tools based on tradeoffs and thresholds to model features such as stealth, AI, solid-state lasers, Mw attacks and other New Generation Effects that can be easily considered in one-sided exercises but very difficult (though deceptively simple) to model mathematically.
    • The fallacious hunt for one single solution should be shunned, because that bloats games and make them unplayable, as happened with some US Army games such as TACWAR and TacSpiel. The high-resolution games like Dunn-Kempf (1/ 285 scale models on a 30 second turn) plays slow time, taking hours to complete a duration of a few minutes. Such games allow deliberate consideration of situations and development of tactics, rather than decision-making practice.

C2 is difficult to model in manual games as there is only one or two levels of command. They can be better modelled in networked computer games, provided the command and staff frictions are also included—orders delayed by friction, deliberately left vague or corrupted, mutually conflicting aims and hidden agendas assigned, and so on. This requires close cooperation with other official agencies of militaries that task relevant departments to collect this data. Also, as C2 structures are always experimental and change, bespoke computerised wargames must have multiple and modifiable C2 layers. 

Though COTS games are often based on historical scenarios, they provide the same type of decision-dilemmas that a modern leader may face. Suitably selected COTS games, modified if required (after obtaining required permissions), can reinforce PME at various levels.

    • PME institutions can use COTS boardgames in classrooms to reinforce concepts.
    • These games need not always be played from start to finish, but start at points of decision where students are faced with major dilemmas or trade-offs.
    • Senior PME organisations, chartered to enhance military leaders’ familiarity with a wider range of subjects including international relations, economics, politics, human nature (and philosophy), can use COTS games such as GMT Games’s Twilight Struggle, an IR game at the end of the Cold War which incorporates a large number of factors other than military strength alone, and which can be easily brought up to date. Matrix Games methods could be easily improvised to further enhance contexts of this game.
    • In contrast, COTS computer games for PME (such as TacOps and Combat Mission used in several NATO armies), have problems of very high resolution, extra-vivid graphics, and interfaces not matching military processes. They do not have intent-based orders, all orders requiring to be (unrealistically) fed for each cycle. All these result in micro-management.

In light of the above, while central agencies design computerised, distributed games, PME institutions, and field formations can design their own manual or computerised games, the process of designing itself providing great insights and experience. Solitaire games, which allow players to repeatedly play against themselves (i.e., against the ’bot of the game), can be designed. However, this will require wider availability of expertise and institutional support.

Frequency of Wargaming

As mentioned above, while plan optimisation games should be a regular feature in higher headquarters, commanders at all levels must also be continually exposed to capability enhancement wargames to develop their decision-making skills, making their processes more discerning, and also improve tolerance for ambiguity. The ability of an army to keep modifying their plans during and after contact, to keep up with the unforeseen of the situation so that the plan gravitates back to what is desired, is a mark of mental agility of its decision-makers at all levels. This is especially true when not only do expected adversaries of each nation develop and refine their plan, the decision-making atmosphere is itself rendered more ambiguous by the changing nature of warfare, including the aspects of grey zone and hybrid warfare. This ability can be developed by repeated exposure to wargaming so that thinking on one’s toes becomes second nature to decision-makers. This calls for not only designing of suitable wargames, but also for reorienting institutional structures to exploit its potential.

Reorientation of Institutional Structures

Optimal exploitation of wargames will necessitate institutional changes at various levels. Most armies have Central Wargaming Agencies to coordinate wargame development with technical agencies. Effectiveness of such agencies is often limited due to certain organisational reasons, one of which is lack of general wargaming culture. Beyond designing computer games in coordination with nominated agencies, charters of such agencies could be extended to the following:

    • Procure identified COTS games and maintain a repository. Modify such games (after procuring necessary rights and permissions) to meet interfaces and TTPs of user militaries.
    • Develop other formats of games, such as Matrix Games, for intangible and incorporeal effects such as third columnists, collusion, deep nexus, and hidden agendas.
    • Conduct sponsored wargames, which would be exploratory in nature, for analytical and policy-making purposes, and forward their results to government agencies for consideration in time.[85]
    • Coordinate wargaming activities and share know-how with PME Wargaming Cells, field formations, and individuals (as discussed below).
    • Provide talented wargame designers with more opportunity to develop wargames.

The next level of institutional changes will require establishment of formal Wargaming Cells at PME institutions with dedicated positions, roles, and corresponding responsibilities. These would identify scope of wargame exploitation in the institution, enhance awareness of gaming and ensure that instructors and students view games as useful, and coordinate bespoke development or select COTS games for modification.Going ahead, they can operate wargame forums on internal networks for ex-students. Similarly, field formations could convene local Cells among interested individuals who would thereafter coordinate wargaming activities, in coordination with the Central Wargaming Agency.

Fight Clubs institutionalised in several national armies, where distributed groups of like-minded junior officers and soldiers play solitaire or manual games procured COTS or designed by themselves,[86] have been encouraging distributed thinking and bottom-up participation, training members to outthink and outmanoeuvre one another through self-driven learning, enabling self-teaching and progressing at one’s own pace.[87] Thus, they are helping create a wargaming culture from the bottom upwards. The Central Wargaming Agency of the nation, in coordination with formation or PME Wargaming Cells, can exploit this apparatus to decentralise the wargaming culture. These can also be held online on secure networks, where available. Fight Clubs would not only promote a culture to think, but also nurture interested and talented individuals leading to better game designing.[88]


As of today, the potential of wargaming as a PME apparatus is far from exploited optimally. One of the main reasons is that wargaming is restricted to a few talented individuals whose influences are temporary and tenure-based. The required changes in attitude towards using and designing games, and developing a supportive institutional structure, must be reinforced by creative leadership, institutional funding and enduring partnerships with wargaming organizations. At the same time, designer biases, including the temptation of using wargames to ‘indoctrinate’, must be avoided. Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in optimising PME modelling techniques developed by experts in the domain, could help towards better assimilation with de novo application techniques.

An ‘Information Age’ approach in a hybrid warfare environment should focus on active, student-centred learning, using a problem-posing methodology to challenge students to learn through critical thinking (as individuals) and collective wisdom (in tactical groups). It may not be incorrect to suggest that PME venues hosting competitive wargames award prizes to individuals and competing teams (representing tactical units/ subunit or other participating organizations) for creativity in handling situations and even suggesting design changes.


[1]This paper is a result researches conducted for a Ph.D. programme at the Amity Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Amity University NOIDA.

[2]Samuel Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. New York, NY: Belknap, 1981, p. 11. Leadership provided by nobilities centred on skills of dash and bombast, and not on these mundane skills.

[3]See Saikat Bose, Boots, Hooves, and Wheels: The Social Dynamics Behind South Asian Warfare, Delhi: Vijbooks, 2015, p. 428 for the emergence of early military schools.

[4] Martin van Creveld, The Training of Officers’, New York: The Free Press, 1990, pp. 17–18. Also, Hajo Halborn, ‘The Prusso–German School: Moltke and the Rise of the General Staff’ in Peter Paret (ed.) Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Modern Age, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986, pp. 281-95.

[5] Nicholas J. Bosio, Understanding War’s Theory: What Military Theory Is, Where It Fits, and Who Influences It? Australian Army Occasional Paper—Conflict Theory and Strategy No. 001, Canberra: Australian Army Research Centre, 2018, pp. 11–14.

[6]Lord Cornwallis, after his defeat in America at the hands of George Washington, was redeployed as Governor General in India. Shaista Khan was sent in Bengal to restore his reputation after his severe embarrassment at the hands of Shivaji. Kutuzov, despite defeats and reversals, retained command and confidence till he successfully drew Napoleon into the wintry depths of Russia.

[7] Rakesh Sharma ‘Army Officers and Professional Military Education (PME):Need for Focussed, Systemic Change’, CLAW Focus, Apr 17, 2021,

[8] David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1984, pp. 121–31. Also, see Donald A. Schön, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, New York: Basic Books, 1983.

[9]  Christopher R. Paparone, and George Reed, ‘The Reflective Military Practitioner: How Military Professionals Think in Action’, Military Review, vol. 88, No. 2, March–April 2008, pp. 66–76.

[10]Before that, there were several experiments with chess.

[11] Matthew B. Caffrey, Jr., On Wargaming: How Wargames Have Shaped History and How They may Shape the Future, Newport Papers 43, Newport, RI: Naval War College Press, 2019, pp. 17, 46.

[12]For history of wargaming, see Caffrey, On Wargaming, pp. 11–17; Ed McGrady, ‘Getting the Story Right about Wargaming’, War on the Rocks, 8 November 2019, at: 

[13] Thomas B. Allen, War Games: Inside the Secret World of the Men who Play at World War III, London: Heineman, 1986. Operations Research used real data statistically to solve tactical problems, while System Analysis mathematically and conceptually defines a synthetic environment, largely without data, within which it tries to predict. Though they try to predict, what they predict is already embedded in the models.

[14]Caffrey, On Wargaming, p. 82

[15]Caffrey, On Wargaming, p. 90.

[16] C.A. Leader, ‘The “TACWAR” Wargame’, Marine Corps Association (Webpage), July 17, 2019 (article date Dec 01, 1989),

[17] Victory Games’ Gulf Strike, based on the Iran–Iraq war scenario, and SPI’s Firefight, were used for initial assessment and prognostication by Pentagon in the immediate aftermath of the Kuwait invasion. Subsequently, Internal Look designed by Gary Ware was shifted to. This game allowed modification to cartographic and military data to match ‘real’ scenarios; the effectiveness of this game is acknowledged in General Schwarzkopf’s memoirs (1992), which says that the authentic were so realistic that the reports had to be prominently stamped with the disclaimer ‘Exercise Only’. See H.N. Schwarzkopf, It Doesn’t Take a Hero, Bantam, 1992.

[18] Roddy MacDonald, ‘W.W. III’, Journal of Defense and Diplomacy, May 1988, p. 26.

[19]Paul K. Davis, and Donald Blumenthal, The Base of Sand Problem: A White Paper on the State of Military Combat Modelling, RAND Note N-1348-OSD/DARPA, RAND, Santa Monica, CA, 1991.

[20]Bosio, ‘Gaming to Win’, p. 53.

[21]Murray, War, Strategy, and Military Effectiveness, 7.15 (quotation)

[22]It was part of a wider Rainbow plan

[23]Nicholas Bosio, ‘Gaming to Win: Enhancing Military Decision-Making’, Australian Army Journal, vol. XVIII, No 1, 2022, pp. 37–68.

[24] Milan Vego, Operational Warfare at Sea: Theory and Practice, Abingdon: Routledge, 2008, pp. 211–12; Caffrey, On Wargaming, pp. 56–57

[25]Christon I Archer, John R Ferris, Holger H Herwig and Timothy HE Travers, World History of Warfare, Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2002. p. 521.

[26] Nicholas Bosio, ‘Gaming to Win’, pp. 37–68.

[27] Jim Storr,The Human Face of War, Birmingham War Studies Series (eds.) Gary Sheffield and Don Todman, London: Continuum, 2009.

[28] Such rapid change renders it nearly impossible to assess training requirements of even the near future—whoever had forecasted today’s disruptive technologies till a few years ago.

[29] Adrian P. Banks, David M. Gamblin, Heather Hutchinson, ‘Training fast and frugal heuristics in military decision making’, Applied Cognitive Psychology, vol. 34, 2020, pp. 699–709.

[30] Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, ‘Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases’, Science, vol. 185, 1974, pp. 1124-31; Kahneman and Tversky, ‘Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk’, Econometrica, vol. 47, No. 2, 1979, pp. 263–92.

[31]Michael Howard famously compared the officer’s task to that of a professional swimmer who had to ‘spend his life practicing on dry land for an Olympic championship on which the fortunes of his entire nation depended’. M. Howard, The causes of wars and other essays (2nd ed.), Temple Smith. 1983, p. 194.

[32]Peter Perla, The Art of Wargaming: A Guide for Professionals and Hobbyists, Annapolis, 1990, pp. 231–32.

[33] Peter Perla and Ed McGrady, ‘Why Wargaming Works’, Naval War College Review, 64(3), article 8, 2011, available

[34]Eric M. Walters, ‘Wargaming in Professional Military Education: Challenges and Solutions’, Journal of Advanced Military Studies, 12/ 2, 2021, pp. 81–114.This is exacerbated in certain cases where the few experiments with designing training wargames center on developing immensely expensive and cumbersome computerized systems that however have not delivered their promise.

[35]Caffrey, On Wargaming, pp. 166–67; Cheng, ‘People’s Liberation Army on Wargaming’, War on the Rocks, Feb 17, 2015.

[36]C. F. Roennfeldt, D. E. Helgesen and B. A. H. Reutz, ‘Developing Strategic Mindsets with Matrix Games’, Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies, vol. 5, Bo. 1, 2022, pp. 257–268. DOI: https://doi. org/10.31374/sjms.132

[37] Rex Brynen, ‘Engle: A Short History of Matrix Games’, PAXsims, 26 July 2016

[38] Paul K. Davis, and Donald Blumenthal, The Base of Sand Problem: A White Paper on the State of Military Combat Modelling, RAND Note N-1348-OSD/DARPA, RAND, Santa Monica, CA., 1991.

[39] B. Suits, ‘What is a game?’ Philosophy of Science, vol. 34, No. 2, 1967, pp. 148–156.

[40]D. Dörner, The logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations, Revised edition. Basic Books, 1997.

[41]Caffrey, On Wargaming, pp. 282–283.

[42]Nick Bosio, ‘Moulding War’s Thinking: Using Wargaming to Broaden Military Minds’, Australian Army Journal2020, Volume XVI, No 2, pp. 25–48

[43] Brian W. Cole, ‘Hedgemony: A Wargame to Evaluate Senior Joint Professional Military Education Learning Objectives’, Journal of Advanced Military Studies, vol. 12, No 2, 2021, pp. 154–166.

[44][W]hat people think cannot be separated from the question of how they think Azar Gat, A History of Military Thought: From the Enlightenment to the Cold War,Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 256.

[45]See Sara I de Freitas, ‘Using Games and Simulations for Supporting Learning’, Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 31, No, 2006, pp. 4:344; John Lillard, 2016, Playing War: Wargaming and U.S. Navy Preparations for World War II (Lincoln, Nebraska: Potomac Books), p. 137.

[46]Storr, Human Face of War, pp. 145–55

[47]Storr, Human Face of War, p. 155.

[48] Gerd Gigerenzer, ‘Why Heuristics Works’, in G. Gigerenzer, Why Heuristics Work. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(1), 2008, pp. 20–29.

[49] Peter E.D. Love, Lavagnon A. Ika, Jeff K. Pinto, ‘Fast-and-frugal Heuristics for Decision-making in Uncertain and Complex Settings in Construction’, Developments in the Built Environment, vol. 14, 2023.

[50]Patton said, ‘a good solution applied with vigour now is better than a perfect solution ten minutes later’. See Storr, Human Face of War, pp. 132–34.

[51]Defined in the US Army FM 3-0[51], Operations, as ‘reaching a conclusion that emphasizes pattern recognition based upon knowledge, judgment, experience, education, intelligence, boldness, perception, and character’.

[52] Arthur L. Costa, Bena Kallick, ‘Habits of the Mind: Strategies for Disciplined Choice Making’, System Thinker,

[53] Karl E. Weick, The Social Psychology of Organizations, 2nd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979), 34.

[54]Information collection, framing of the problem, identification and preparation of mental models, and risk comparison and consideration before deciding are mirrored by the intelligence preparation of the battlespace, mission analysis, COA development, and COA analysis.

[55] Blair S. William, ‘Heuristics and Biases in Military Decision Making’, Military Review, September–October 2010, pp. 40–52.

[56]George A. Miller, 1956, ‘The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information’, The Psychological Review   63, no. 2; Alan Baddeley, 1994, ‘The Magical Number Seven: Still Magic After All These Years?’ Psychological Review 101, no. 2: 356

[57] Thaddeus Holt, The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War, New York: Scribner, 2004, pp. 39–40.

[58] Colin Camerer and Dan Lovallo, ‘Overconfidence and Excess Entry: An Experimental Approach’, American Economic Review, vol. 89, No. 1, March 1999.

[59] Hugh Courtney, 20/20 Foresight: Crafting Strategy in an Uncertain World, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA., 2001.

[60]D. Dörner, Logic of Failure, argues, “Geniuses are geniuses by birth, whereas the wise gain their wisdom through experience. And it seems to me that the ability to deal with problems in the most appropriate way is the hallmark of wisdom rather than genius.”

[61]Philip Sabin, Simulating War: Studying Conflicts through Simulation Games, London: Continuum, 2012, p. 62.

[62] John Lillard, Playing War: Wargaming and U.S. Navy Preparations for World War II, Lincoln, Nebraska: Potomac Books, 2016, p. 137

[63]Benny Morris, 1948: A History of the Arab Israeli War, Yale University Press, 2009.

[64]Storr, The Human Face of War, pp. 168–69.

[65]Carrie Lee and Bill Lewis, ‘Wargaming Has a Place, but is No Panacea for Professional Military Education’, War on the Rocks, Aug 5, 2019,

[66]A pluralist habit of mind is defined as having or using thinking dispositions that accept pluralism, are willing to consider alternative views, and can accept and integrate a wide range of schools of thought and worldviews. Pluralism is a key part of military theory, and is defined as the use of different paradigms or schools of thought, and their related theories and methodologies, to consider problems within a field of study, in this case military theory. Nick Bosio, Relationship between Contemporary Western Military Theory, Systems Thinking, PhD Thesis. Australian National University, 2022, pp. 56, 58–60, 223–227.

[67] John A. Nagl, Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory And Practice, New York: The Penguin Press, 2014, p. 37; Maj Gen Robert Scales, Too Busy to Learn, Available at :; Also see Michael Howard, ‘Jomini and the Classical Tradition in Military Thought’, in Michael Howard (ed.), 1965, The Theory and Practice of War: Essays Presented to Captain B.H. Liddell Hart (London: The Camelot Press), 8; Azar Gat, 2001, A History of Military Thought: From the Enlightenment to the Cold War (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 255–256; 

[68] Ed McGrady, “Getting the Story Right About Wargaming,” War on the Rocks, 8 November 2019

[69]Sebastian J. Bae, Forging Wargamers: A Framework for Wargaming Education, Quantico, Virgina, 2022, p. 7 (Introduction).

[70]Janice B. Fain, R.C. Anderson, T.N. Dupuy, G.M. Hammerson, and C.F. Hawkins. ‘Forced Changes of Combat Posture’, Data Memory Systems, Fairfax, V.A. 1988 consciously excludes all intangibles simply because data is unavailable.

[71] James F. Dunnigan, The Complete Wargames Handbook: How to Play, Design, and Find Them, 2nd. Ed., New York: Quill William Morrow, 1992, pp. 239–40.

[72] ‘All models are wrong, but some are useful’, as attributed to George Box. James Clear, “All Models Are Wrong, Some Are Useful,” James Clear (blog), accessed 2 August 2023.

[73]R. C. Rubel, ‘The epistemology of war gaming’, Naval War College Review, vol. 59, No. 2, 2006, pp. 108–128.

[74] N. Wojtowicz, ‘Professional Wargaming: From Competence Model to Qualifying Certification’, pp. 9­–29; Tom Mouat, ‘The Use and Misuse of Wargames’, Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies, p. 210.

[75] Ernest R. Hilgard and Gordon H Bower, Theories of Learning, New York: Appleton Century Craft, 1966, p. 542.

[76]Sebastian J. Bae, ‘Put Educational Wargaming in the Hands of the Warfighter’, War on the Rocks, July 13, 2023,

[77] Peter Perla, ‘View from the Hobby World’, In-Stride Adjudication, Working Group Report, Connections US Wargaming Conference 2018, pp. 105–116.

[78] B.Nijstad, W.Stroebe, and H. Lodesijkx, ‘The illusion of Group Productivity: A Reduction of Failures Explanation’, European Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 36, 2006, pp. 31-48

[79] James Lacey, ‘How Does the Next Great Power Conflict Play Out? Lessons from a Wargame’, War on the Rocks (website), Apr 22, 2019,; Stephen Downes–Martin, ‘Swarm Gaming: Regaining the Strategic Innovation Initiative’ (Blog) Wargaming Room, (October 09, 2020)

[80]Yvonne Guyette, ‘Developing Better Decision-Makers Through Wargaming’, Marines (website), Nov 5, 2021,

[81] A summary of this is in Nicholas J Bosio, ‘Want the Edge? More “ME” in “PME”’, LandPower Forum (Australian Army Research Centre), 27 February 2015

[82] Kyleanne Hunter, ‘Immerse Early, Immerse Often: Wargaming in Precommissioning Education’, in Sebastian J. Bae (ed.), Forging Wargamers, pp. 30–50.

[83]See “Instructor Buy-In” in Johan Erik Elg, Wargaming and Military Education for Officers and Cadets, Doctoral Thesis, King’s College London, September 2017, pp. 6–11.

[84] Peter Perla, ‘Wargaming and The Cycle of Research and Learning’, Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies, vol. 5, No. 1, 2022, pp. 197–208.

[85] Prakash Katoch, ‘We Have to War Game Future Conflicts to Stay Ahead of Our Rivals’, Raksha-Anirveda (website), June 06, 2021,

[86]‘Experimenting with a COTS Wargame as a PME Tool’, The Cove, Apr 29, 2017,

[87]Oli Elliott, ‘UK Fight Club: Iron Sharpens Iron’, Wavell Room, Aug 27, 2020,

[88] Scott Jenkinsen and Jo Brick, ‘Wargaming in PME: Introducing Wargaming to the Australian Defence College’, in Sebastian J. Bae (ed.) Forging Wargamers, pp. 115–38.

Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

Post your Comment

2000characters left