Connections 2010--Dayton OH: AAR Part 1

Map detail from MILLENNIUM WARS 2.0

Connections is a gathering of DoD and commercial wargamers to exchange ideas--this year's theme is "Enhancing wargaming ability to anticipate the future of warfare." Meeting ever since 1993 under the sponsorship of the Air Force (and led by Matt Caffrey, now a retired reserve USAF Colonel), the conference brings not only the leading lights of the commercial wargaming scene, but also some heavy hitters in industry and the Department of Defense. This year is proving to be no exception to past patterns.

Day 1 was the Air Force Research Lab's "Big Week" classroom sessions on wargaming, tailored for a primarily military audience that has had little to no experience in the subject. Class continued through Day 2, while Connections formally kicked off with Matt's three-hour presentation on the History of Wargaming on Tuesday afternoon. While he gives this presentation at every conference, he's been refining it over the years so it's always a bit different with new insights and demolishing many cherished myths. The day was capped off with an ice-breaker for the Connections crowds at the Comfort Suites just across from the US Air Force museum.

Day 3 saw Connections hit full stride. The morning opened with LtCol Passenault of the Air Force Research Labs giving an overview of the organization, mission, and accomplishments of AFRL. Then, Dr. Al Nofi, Center for Naval Analyses, and LtCol Tim Schulties, AF/A8XC ran a panel presentation titled "Anticipating Military Technology Needs and Opportunities."

LtCol Passenault giving the AFRL perspective on wargaming.

Mike Markowitz kicked off the discussion with a general discussion of how cultural influences affected technological choices, adoption, and employment. Dr. Al Nofi followed this up with a presentation titled "Looking Forward: Predicting Advances in Military Technology" which was quite a tonic for those who presumed that the record of accurate prediction was a good one.

Mike Markowitz goes "old school" with the white board and markers. No "death by PowerPoint!"

The later morning session was co-chaired by Dr. John Tiller, a well-known and quite prolific computer wargame designer, and Dr. William Lademan of the Wargaming Division of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. Dr. Bruce Gudmundsson started things off with a short presentation on the Prussian applicatory method, which included case method, staff rides, and wargaming, which made the German military more receptive to using wargames for educational, evaluation, and operations rehearsal purposes.

Dr. Gudmundsson considers a question on the Prussian readiness to accept wargaming.

Captain Jeff Cares, USN, of the Naval War College, spoke on the resurrection of Naval Operational Art through a manual board wargame they are promoting for numbered fleet use.

CAPT Cares and the Naval War College website URL below where you can find a discussion board on Naval Operational Art (and wargaming support for it).

Dave Ross, of the AFRL, provided a detailed look at a political game modeling counterinsurgency versus insurgency with a host of involved actors, called SMITE.

Dave Ross explains research sources for the AFRL SMITE game.

Over lunch, John Gresham, co-author of many of the Tom Clancy non-fiction books, did his unclassified open source view of current international defense trends.

The always effervescent, entertaining, and thought-provoking John Gresham

The afternoon began with a panel entitled "Innovations in Civilian Wargaming." Peter Bogdasarian started with his informal discussion on the major trends in civilian gaming. While DoD games have been following more "classic" wargame ideas of control and certainty, the civilian games--particularly the Card Driven Games (CDGs)--have gone in the opposite direction.

Peter Bogdasarian relating the divergences between commercial and DoD gaming.

Major Mike Martin, currently a student at Old Dominion University, gave a presentation on automated interfaces in online and computer wargaming, providing a look at emerging technologies and the possibilities inherent for improving not only the simulation itself, but the experience for the player through ease of use.

Major Mike Martin giving the audience a glimpse into new technical interfaces for computer wargame applications.

Brant Guillory ended the panel with his presentation, which basically opened a Pandora's Box of intense discussion in the room over a number of issues in creating games for government use.

The last session was called "Methods of Future Warfare Adjudication." Dr. Roger Mason of LECMgt presented his Afghanistan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) game, in which the players were the Afghan Government, the NATO PRT Commander, or an aggregated NGO operation.

Joe Miranda continued with a discussion of a number of models, to include Mike Anderson talking about Millennium Wars 2.0 and the States in Conflict game that he's given to AGAINST THE ODDS magazine about the Arab-Israeli conflicts.

Mike Anderson explaining OODA loop modeling in the Millennium Wars 2.0 system.

Jon Compton finished with a very controversial and thought-provoking discussion of our unintentional analytical biases in framing questions for gaming to answer, which provoked some very interesting philosophical discussions.

Jon Compton busts some metacognitive bubbles.

Of course, no Connections would be complete without a game night demo. The pictures below give you a sense of what was shown and played:

Paul Vebber demonstrating the U.S. Naval War College game on naval operational art.

Yes, the map just screams at your to play the game! This is part of the inland sea which is mirrored on both sides of an open ocean so neither player enjoys a geographic advantage.

Joe Miranda and Mike Anderson put THE BATTLE OF BAGHDAD through its paces

Brant Guillory and the Bayonet Games ORANGE CRUSH playtest

Yes, there was even a miniatures game in progress!

Map detail and counters for the MILLENNIUM WARS 2.0 system, this covering the Arab-Israeli conflicts, both past and present.

Peter Bogdasarian demonstrating Lock 'N Load's DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT--his design of hypothetical Warsaw Pact-NATO ground combat in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany)

And Dr. Al Nofi and Mike Markowitz demonstrating their naval technology development game, SEAPOWERS, to an Air Force officer.

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Comment by Brian Train on March 29, 2010 at 1:32pm
Thanks for all the photos you uploaded, Eric. I woudl like to know more about the OWA and SMITE games - will Matt have a website where presentations etc. might be available ?
Comment by Peter Perla on March 29, 2010 at 6:49am
Finally, I notice the picture of Peter B and his new Corps Command game. Is that paper map or is it mounted? Totensontag is one of my favorite games of the past few years and the small mounted map is a big plus. I hope they went with the same style for new game, but it looks like paper in the photo. I will probably still pick it up, but the mounted map would make it a must buy! Just saying.

Take care,

Comment by Peter Perla on March 29, 2010 at 6:47am
Oh, by the way. Kim Kanger--I mentioned the game CNA is doign for the Army. Your Ici . . . game has been one of those that have influenced my thinking about that design. I am even using some of your pieces in my playtest set. Good stuff. Thanks, and here's hoping you get some additional interest. I know that some OSD folks have adapted the earlier game that Brian Train did (IIRC) on Algeria to explore some of the same issues a few years ago.

Take care
Comment by Peter Perla on March 29, 2010 at 6:43am
Glad to hear that the OWA got an outing. I saw Mike briefly at the Wargame Wake here Saturday and he told me that he had given you the electrons. If you ever get a chance to take a look at it, I would certainly appreciate any comments and suggestions. The new version we are working on is much different and will be recognizable as a board wargame by any grognard.

I am being more and more disappointed that I wasn't able to show up this year as I read more comments. One of the problems Matt has always had with the commercial side is that he cannot give the impression, even indirectly, that he or anyone connected with Connections (not sorry for the pun), has funding available to those who contribute. From the very first one lo these many years ago, many of us urged that he put out a desing challenge in terms similar to those suggested by Jim. But there always seemed to be resistance within the USAF command chain so as to avoid the appearance of an official solicitation. At least, this is my recollection.

Matt has specualted to me that the next COnnections may be loking for a venue in the DC area. Given the concentration of both amateurs and professionals here, I think that would be a great idea. Anyone else out there have any comments?

Take care, all.

Comment by Jim Snyder on March 27, 2010 at 2:31pm
It was a good time and I hope in the future more effort can be placed in really getting military and commercial folks more focused in what each other needs and what each other can provide. Once I get my energy back from this bug, I plan to write my observations as a first time attendee from the commercial side. There were a number of very good discussions, but I also feel things feel short in the over arching goals of getting both houses to see what the other needs/provides and also in getting a decent AFRL wargame worked on. I almost felt like we would all have been better served having the commercial folks provide designs for a wargame based on the major AFRL requirements, discuss them, show off what might be done, test them even and look at those items which worked and did not work to perhaps arrive at a system to meet the AFRL goal and provide the hooks to get both sides talking about the mechanics of what is needed.

All in all a very informative proceeding with a very impressive and knowledgable group of participants. I'll also remember to have a board game to demo versus a computer one, laptops don't stand out in the crowd.


Jim Snyder
Rocket Scientist by day- Game Designer by night
Comment by Jon Compton on March 27, 2010 at 2:15pm
I'm going to give the same presentation at Booz Allen in the near future. Maybe I'll keep adding to it until I create my own Discourse on Winning and Losing. hehe
Comment by Jon Compton on March 27, 2010 at 6:50am
The conference was great fun, not to mention beneficial. That was the most fun I've had giving a presentation in some time.
Comment by Eric Walters on March 26, 2010 at 9:40pm
Here's Brant Guillory's EXCELLENT "cliff notes" (in outline form) for the conference here.
Comment by Eric Walters on March 26, 2010 at 9:33pm
He did, just not on the demo night. He showed us the game on Thursday--I got pictures of it. At least I think it's the one you did for the Army. Called OWA? He even gave me an electronic copy!
Comment by Peter Perla on March 26, 2010 at 6:58pm

thanks for the report. Makes me even more unhappy that I wasn't able to attend. Sigh. I guess Mike did not demo the game we did for the Army. Too bad. I would have been interested in some feedback about that one. Here's hoping we can meet at next year's celebration!

Take care


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