Friday, 24 January 2014

ConSim guest session at King's College, London

Yesterday's ConSim guest session at King's College, London turned out to be even more enjoyable an experience than I had hoped it would be. After arriving just before midday, I met Professor Phil Sabin, Ted Raicer (who was the main guest), and three former ConSim PhD course graduates/teaching assistants in Phil's office, and then most of us went for a snack lunch in the canteen.

I thoroughly enjoyed the very informative chat that we had over our meal, and then it was off to the meeting room where the session was being held. After a brief introduction by Phil Sabin, Ted Raicer shared his experience of being a board wargame designer with 26 published games to his credit. This was followed by a very short Q&A session and then each of the 'guests' (the ConSim PhD course graduates/teaching assistant and myself) briefly introduced ourselves and 'shared' what we considered to be the most improtant lessons we had learned when designing wargames.

After a short break to restore our personal comfort, it was then the turn of the students to tell the 'guests' about their projects and to share any problems that they were experiencing. The 'guests' were then invited to make suggestions as to possible solutions or avenues that the students might wish to follow. The session ended with most of the attendees (but not me as I had an appointment!) going over to the nearby pub to continue the discussions informally.

Several things struck me about the students. Firstly that the range of projects (i.e. wargames) they had chosen was very diverse including:
  • The Anglo-Zulu War
  • The Russo-Turkish War of 1877/78
  • The Battle of the Yellow Sea
  • World War I from 1914 to 1918
  • The Linebacker Bombing Raids over Vietnam
  • The fighting in Fallujah
  • South African Army operations against Seleka in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The second thing that struck me was the gender balance of the students. I expected that the majority would be male, but in fact there were slightly more female than male students on the course ... something that was very encouraging to see.

Thirdly this was a truly international group of students, and reflects that course's uniqueness. I do not think that there is another non-military university in the world that offers a PhD course in Conflict Simulation Design (I may be wrong, but an Internet search did not find any), and I was honoured to be able to meet and listen to them.

I would certainly go to future ConSim guest sessions if the opportunity arose ... and would make sure that the next time I did not have an urgent appointment to go to straight afterwards!

8 comments:

  1. Sounds like a stimulating session. I have a friend - Brian of 'A Fist full of Plastic' who is very much interested in Conflict Simulation and developing scenarios in which conflict - or contention - is resolved in ways other than 'advance and engage the enemy'.

    I tend to see wargames myself as dealing on the table top with 'military problems'. For instance, should a battle game end with the defeat of the enemy (how about organising a pursuit?) or of one's own army (how do we bring off the survivors in some semblance of order, whilst fending off the pursuit we can rely upon the enemy to mount?). that sort of thing can open doors into all kinds of problems, tasks and solutions.

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  2. Archduke Piccolo,

    It was a very interesting afternoon, and I would love to be able to take part in more of them.

    The students all have to develop what is basically a board wargame as part of their PhD, and some of these are available online here. One thing that did strike me is that very few of them seemed to have ever tried wargaming with anything other than board games ... and that the crossover between the two approaches (figure vs. counters) was very small indeed. There was a lot of talk about victory conditions and command points, but I am not sure that some of the students quite understood that opponents might not have mutually exclusive ideas about what constituted a 'victory' or a 'defeat' ... which is the point you touch on in your comment.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. I must say that I am a little envious! I am a fan of Phil Sabin's designs (Lost Battles particularly) and I would love to have been a fly on the wall at that particular session.

    What a shame you couldn't have repaired to the pub for a little more convivial discussion, but a great day by the sounds of it even without that!

    Best,
    Aaron

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  4. Prufrock,

    Phil Sabin lives just three miles away from me, and I have actually had the opportunity to re-fight one of the battles from 'Lost Battles' with him ... and to lose rather easily!

    If I am invited to go to a future ConSim guest session at King's College, I will do my utmost to go to the after-session drink in the pub.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Very envious of you Bob, I did consider taking the MA course but wasn't prepared to move to London from the wilds of West Yorkshire... I get confused enough visiting a big metropolis like Sheffield.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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  6. Pete,

    You are never too old to change your mind. Two of the former PhD 'guests' were mature students ... and London is (sometimes) not as bad as people make it out to be.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. I'm doing a distance learning MA at the moment Bob but I would like to do a PHD so who knows....

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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  8. Pete,

    Good luck with your MA ... and once that is done your could certainly think about whether or not you want to do a PhD. After all, as Arthur Daley once said, 'The world is your lobster ...'.

    All the best,

    Bob

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