The Standard Wargame Integration Facilitation Toolkit (SWIFT), an Office of the Secretary of Defense, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (OSD CAPE) product, provides a computer environment that supports Department of Defense (DoD) wargaming. SWIFT complements, but does not substitute for good wargaming practices. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work has called for the reinvigoration of wargaming in the Department of Defense.1 Wargames require careful attention in their application and execution to maximize their utility. As in all walks of life, computer assistance in the areas of wargame design, visualization, adjudication, and analysis would be useful to facilitate DoD wargaming. Several tools are available to support commercial games, but are inadequate to support the full range of professional wargames within the DoD.
What is a wargame? Peter Perla defines wargaming “as a dynamic representation of conflict or competition in a synthetic environment, in which people make decisions and respond to the consequences of those decisions.”2 Wargames explore the decision process of the players and provide an immersive environment to think about the issues in question. Wargames results are often what the players take with them when they leave. In other cases, wargames are used to support a larger analytic process where the burden on data capture is more significant. The scale of wargames takes the form of small numbers of participants examining political-military issues in a seminar setting with limited adjudication. Other wargames include a large number of participants examining detailed military issues involving rigid, complex adjudication of combat results. The purpose of the game is akin to the learning objectives, such as new insights into a problem, further testing of a concept or hypothesis, or even for socialization of ideas and issues.
As with any method of inquiry, wargames have a number of inherent limitations. Wargames are rarely repeatable, may be resource intensive, and are difficult to design. Wargames with complicated rulesets or system games are often time-consuming to execute and record. Similarly, seminar games with human adjudication face both dynamic visualization and player move recordation challenges as these processes struggle to keep pace with the social interactions. Moreover, as the resolution and scale of the wargames increase, they are hard to record and even harder to analyze. Computer aids should assist in reducing these burdens in DoD games through providing benefits in visualization, recordation, adjudication, sharing, and collaboration.
Figure 1. Development Engines