Thursday, 8 September 2016

Connections UK 2016: Day 2: Wednesday 7th September

The programme for the day was as follows:
  • 9.00am – 09.20am: Arrivals and coffee.
  • 9.20am – 09.30am: Welcome and introduction.
  • 9.30am – 11.00am: Plenary 1: The psychology of successful wargames.
  • 11.00am – 11.30am: Drinks break.
  • 11.30am – Midday: Games Fair briefing.
  • Midday – 1.00pm: Lunch.
  • 1.00pm – 2.15pm: Plenary 2: Non-combat (non-map and counter) wargames.
  • 2.30pm – 5.00pm: Games Fair Session 1. (Break for drinks at 4.00pm).
  • 5.00pm – 6.00pm: Keynote address: Advancing and Expanding the Craft of Wargaming: Ten (Not Entirely Randomly-Generated) Reflections on Wargaming.
  • 6.00pm – 7.00pm: Supper.
  • 7.00pm onwards: Games Fair Session 2.

Plenary 1 was held in the King's College Great Hall, and chaired by Ed McGrady (Research Team Leader at CNA).

It covered three different aspects of the psychology of wargaming:
  • High engagement wargames (Graham Longley-Brown, Leading Developer at Dstl/Cranfield University)
    Graham Longley-Brown defined these wargames as being about:
    • People
    • Decisions
    • Story-telling experience
  • Creative Thinking in games (Nick Hare, Aleph Insights)
    Nick Hare explained how creative thinking in games helped to identify potential answers to questions.
  • Wargaming to deceive the sponsor (Dr Stephen Downes-Martin, US Naval College)
    As usual Dr Downes-Martin was provocative and played the role of Devils Advocate.
These were all very interesting and thought-provoking, and I came away with the thought that I need to think more deeply about the impact of psychology on wargame design.

After lunch Plenary 2 (which also took place in the Great Hall) was chaired by Anja van der Hulst (University of Amsterdam), and covered:
  • NHS Emergency Planning Exercises (Russell King)
    Russell King talked about the use of planning exercises in the NHS to help to train and prepare hospital staff at all levels to deal with a major incident.
  • Scenario-based policy discussion (Mark Stoop, Scenarios4Summits)
    Mark Stoop talked about developing scenario-based discussions for Ministers and Heads of State.
  • Wide Area Persistent Messaging (Michael Lee, Systems Engineering Consultant)
    Michael Lee gave an explanation about a recently developed decision game that examined the various means by which governments could use different and appropriate technologies to communicate with a population.
These dealt with types of games that one would not normally associate with the term 'wargaming', and they made it very apparent that the basic structures used when deigning wargames is applicable to a much wider spectrum of games.

I had hoped to attend the Matrix Game about a potential conflict in the Baltic, but I was allocated to my second choice, which was about emergency services planning. This was run by Russell King, Liz Bacon, and Lachlan Mackinnon, and looked at two separate situations. The first was Russell King's resource management game which involved a hospital that suddenly had to deal with a major incident. (It was an air crash at a nearby airport.) Decisions had to be made with regard to the hospital's existing patients so that casualties could be dealt with. The second situation was run by Liz Bacon and Lachlan Mackinnon of Greenwich University, and revolved around a major urban disaster, and examined the need for individual emergency plans for the survivors.

The final session of the day was a keynote address speaker by Professor Rex Brynen (McGill University, Canada). (He is somewhat obscured in the following photograph as he moved behind one of the conference facilitators as it was taken!)

He spoke eloquently and entertainingly, and covered the following ten points:
  1. Framing matters
  2. Greed and Grievence
  3. Intrinsic/Extrinsic Motivation
  4. Culture matters
  5. Subcultures matter
  6. Game cultures matter
  7. Lessons from prediction
  8. Threats, Deterence, and Signalling
  9. Game and Learning
  10. Social dynamics are often non-linear
This was a very different sort of day from the previous one, but was equally enjoyable and thought-provoking.


  1. Replies
    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG (Mark),

      It was great to meet you and to put a face to your name. Here's hoping that we will meet again in the not too distant future.

      All the best,