Wargames Evolve: The Rise of Narrative Wargaming

The U.S. Naval War College Review highlights John Curry’s study of the utility of matrix wargames to “include wider aspects of confrontations beyond war fighting, such as national will, social media, economics, and the laws of war. While traditional wargame models have struggled to represent these factors adequately, the matrix game narrative method offers utility for gaming current political crises.”

Ed. note: Military Services have used wargames to experiment with new doctrine, concepts, and war plans. However, the war colleges and the Pentagon have struggled to effectively integrate operations in the information environment such as cyber, social media, economic, and political activities. This study makes the case for the utility of matrix wargames, which use narrative to strengthen the game play, have an important role in gaming current and potential crises, using posturing in the Baltic Sea as a case study.  

“Certain types of scenario are more suited to matrix games than others. Would
gaming a natural catastrophe work as well as gaming a counterinsurgency situation? Experience from the recreational use of matrix games seems to indicate
that multisided games are more suitable than two-sided situations; the narrative
of multisided games allows multiple stories to develop around the actions of the
game. However, some apparently two-sided games might include multiple stakeholders who are notionally on the same side but hold slightly different judgments
about the value of certain aims and objectives.

The matrix game narrative methodology may prove to be a useful tool for
examining complex scenario dynamics, in which strategies are not initially apparent and the interplay of divergent multiple actors cannot be predetermined or
reasoned out even with careful examination of the situation. Like all war games, a
matrix game cannot predict the future, but it can lay out a narrative for a particular
future scenario. Conducting multiple replays can generate more scenarios.”

The full article can be downloaded here.