Recently a group of us assembled at the University of Ottawa to matrix-game the current conflict regarding the self-styled “Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria. For practical reasons and to limit the number of players/teams, the game largely focused on Iraq. The purpose, as with an earlier game held at the UK Defence Academy, was to explore the value and limits of matrix games as an analytical method.


Our players and teams were well qualified: wargamers and operations research analysts from Defence Research and Development Canada, game designers, political scientists, and current or former Middle East intelligence analysts. How did it all work out?

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Comment by Rex Brynen on April 15, 2015 at 8:25am

Several of the players in various games have been involved in intelligence support to the current fight, and the game has also been run with current military (although not necessarily those involved in counter-ISIS ops). Anecdotally I would say that the players who do best are those with area knowledge + strategic common sense, regardless of professional background.

Comment by Michael "Sudsy" Sutherland on April 15, 2015 at 6:16am

Did you have any former or current war fighters involved?  Sometimes that perspective, from first hand experience, can be enlightening to any process of conflict analysis.

Comment by Roger Morley on March 4, 2015 at 2:30pm

Discussions, debates and civil arguments are good to have, something that this place has lacked for a while

Comment by Rex Brynen on March 4, 2015 at 1:39pm

Yes, Roger--I was thinking the same. It's nice to have a proper conversation.

Comment by Roger Morley on March 4, 2015 at 1:35pm

If anything it has brought some life back into ConsimworldSocial, as it has lacked decent activity for a while

Comment by Bill on March 4, 2015 at 1:33pm

We did Roger :)

Comment by Roger Morley on March 4, 2015 at 1:27pm

No probs Bill. I think at the start of these comments, I do not think I was getting the right answers out of Rex and I was not giving you or Rex the rights answers.

I think we got there in the end :)

Comment by Roger Morley on March 4, 2015 at 1:18pm
Thank you Rex for your last two comments, as it has explained and elaborated what you get out of this game and how such big variables are dealt with, and I can appreciate what you have done with this game, and how you have done it.
Comment by Bill on March 4, 2015 at 1:06pm

Thanks Rex. Very interesting.  Roger: Ok, at least I understand where your coming from.

Comment by Rex Brynen on March 4, 2015 at 12:53pm

Roger: Thanks for that, it clarifies where you are coming from.

We're dealing with a situation that: 1) has to be analyzed, and 2) where there are a great many variables, some of which cannot even be identified as variables in advance, and others for which their value cannot be determined with any precision. Dice are simply a quick way of representing all that uncertainty, and to avoid the umpire imposing his/her own views on the game narrative.

The game is not intended to ask question such as "will current Iraqi operations in Tikrit be successful?" Rather it explores questions like "how would ISIS respond to slow but steady IA gains on its southern flank?" or "how might such gains affect the perspective of current ISIS Sunni allies and fence-sitters?" (etc).

In this respect it's not all that different from the usual seminar-type brainstorming discussions that are very common in the intelligence community--it's just a different way of doing it.

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