A discussion group aimed at available or in-development simulations of homeland defense and national security.

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Comment by David Allen on May 7, 2009 at 9:43am
After completing a class in homeland security, I now understand that this is such a broad and deep subject that no one game is likely to prove to be both a fun game and a satisfactory model of homeland security.

Instead, perhaps a game could focus on a single incident? One side would be the terrorist and plan, train, and attempt to execute an attack while the other side would seek to prevent, mitigate, and recover from the attack?
Comment by David Allen on March 13, 2009 at 7:40am
I'm two weeks into my Homeland Defense course through American Military University, and I believe I have already learned a lot about the nature of terrorism and the roles of federal, state and local governments and the private sector in preventing, limiting the effects of, and recovering from a terrorist attack.

I still think a card drive simulation/game could work. Something similar to the game mechanics of Nuclear War or Dan Verssen's Modern Naval Combat. One side represents the US (or some other country) and the other side represents terrorist threats of many different domestic, international, and transnational groups (as well as weak or rogue states that harbor or support them).

The player representing the terrorists has to motivate, train, and equip operatives and then plan and execute attacks. This process itself can be interfered with by the US player through negotiation, intelligence, and of course pre-emptive use law enforcement and military.

In the meanwhile, the US player can allocate resources to developing government and private sector capabilities to predict, prevent, limit, and recover from a terrorist attack. This would include funding military and para-military groups, improving security infrastructure at ports, airports, highways, educating the public, coordinating disaster recovery organizations, etc.

Once the terrorist player has met the prerequisites for an attack (adequate personnel, equipment, training, positioning, etc.) an attack is attempted. The success of the attack would depend on the vulnerability of the target, as well as preventative and recovery capabilities put in place by the US player. The terrorist would score victory points in proportion to the effect (and after-effects) of the attack, assuming it is successful.
Comment by David Allen on February 27, 2009 at 9:16am
BTW, I am a big fan of card-based games for abstract games.
Comment by David Allen on February 27, 2009 at 9:15am
Rex, my personal preference is for a game that is fun but still provides some insight into the real world. Good examples, I think, are titles from Dan Verssen (Modern Naval Battles, Down in Flames) which are card based, or Mark H. Walker's World at War series. Neither are overly-complicated by details that have little impact on the outcome of the game, but the play "seems" right with what I have read and understand about modern combat (which isn't all that much :).

So, I would hope that a HSSim game would reward investment in preventing, minimizing, and recovering from the damage caused to the population or infrastructure, and punish otherwise.
Comment by Rex Brynen on February 22, 2009 at 12:48pm
I think two key issues that need to be addressed first are: 1) is this a game (in which balance and playability are key) or a simulation in which some sense of "realism" is key—even if the result isn't as fun. It sounds from the discussion so far that you're tilting far more to 1 than 2.

A second issue is how many players do you want? I think there are big difference in design issues between game/sim that is designed for solo play, one that is two-player adversarial, or one that is multiplayer (with possibly a mix of adversarial and team play).

Once you've done that, you can decide on the resource limitations and strategic options open to players. It would certainly be possible to quite easily do a HS vs al-Qa'ida type sim, in which (as already suggested) on faces options as to where to allocate resources, while AQ makes decisions about possible attack vectors (local recruitment, visitors, or attack abroad? small sporadic attacks? Mumbai-style swarm attack? mass casualties, and then how? conventional IED? biological or chemical agents? radiological weapons? etc, etc)
Comment by Jason Matthews on January 28, 2009 at 3:36pm
Very interesting topic for a game David. From my vantage point working for Congress, it does seem to be a lot about resource allocation. Intelligence? Preparedness? Response? Recover? Then, which threats? Natural disasters? Biological? Pocket nukes? Net attack? Then what to protect? Vital economic infrastructure? Command and Control? Population? There are tradeoffs for all of this, and less crossover than we would like. Furthermore, there seems to be an inverse relationship between probability and consequences of failure. So, the less likely a homeland security scenario, the more devastating the outcome of its occurrance (that at least fits a game dynamic well).

I can also imagine a Republic of Rome kind of "group competition" style game. You have to beat the game, but you want to be on top when you do -- this might help simulate the bureaucratic infighting and perrogatives that come with the Homeland security problem.
Comment by Jon Compton on January 16, 2009 at 10:10am
Allen, contact me offline if you'd like Dr. Mason's email address.
Comment by Jon Compton on January 16, 2009 at 10:08am
I read through your proposal document. I think if I were approaching this design I'd shy away from quantitative target values, as the real effects from such attacks are the cascading ones, which are usually highly unpredictable (extremistan as it were). You might consider approaching the design as a pure card game (which perhaps you already are). To simulate cascading affects, you can have targets function more as triggers that allow further card play (cascades) which get more and more unmanageable. So the game then becomes a process of trying to collect a series of events that can be put into play that overwhelms the defenses of the HS player. Whenever the Threat player pulls that off, he gets some level of victory.
Comment by Jon Compton on January 16, 2009 at 10:03am
He's works with Joseph Miranda from time to time, but he primarily does contract designs for emergency service agencies.
Comment by David Allen on January 16, 2009 at 9:56am
Does Roger publish games commercially?

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