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 25, 2010 at 11:16am
I'm really disappointed that I could not make it this year - I was at last year's Connections and felt we were a little overwhelmed by the Gametech people. Though Florida in March beats Ohio!
Oh well, next year in ---?
Comment by Kim Kanger on March 25, 2010 at 10:19am
I will cherish my 3 seconds of glory :-)

Well, who knows. Maybe Legion Wargames (Ici) will receive a large and discreet order from Pentagon ;-)
Comment by Eric Walters on March 25, 2010 at 5:59am
Kim, you would have been a valuable addition given the topical treatment. Dan, this is the graphics for the prototype game. We'll see what AGAINST THE ODDS does for their published version of this particular title. Indeed, it does look like a computer screen--and that's deliberate. Meant to evoke one!
Comment by Kim Kanger on March 25, 2010 at 3:17am
I would love to have been there, showing "ici" and discussing insurgency.
Comment by Dan Stueber on March 24, 2010 at 11:47pm
Thanks for the post Eric, very interesting. Is the Millenium Wars 2.0 game what some upcoming game will look like? Kinda reminds me of a computer screen.

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