Saturday 9 September 2017

Connections UK 2017: Day 2

The programme for the day was as follows:
  • 8.30am – 09.00am: Arrivals and coffee.
  • 9.00am – 09.15am: Welcome and introduction.
  • 9.15am – 10.30am: Plenary 1: UK Military Tri-Service wargaming.
  • 110.3am – 11.00am: Drinks break.
  • 11.10am – 12.20pm: Plenary 2: US and UK military and Foreign & Commonwealth Office wargaming initiatives.
  • 12.20pm – 12.50pm: Keynote address.
  • 12.50pm – 1.00pm: Games Fair Introduction.
  • 1.00pm – 2.00pm: Lunch.
  • 2.0pm – 5.00pm: Games Fair Session 1. (Break for drinks at 4.00pm).
  • 5.00pm – 6.00pm: Plenary 3: Broader perspectives on wargaming.
  • 6.00pm – 7.00pm: Supper.
  • 7.00pm onwards: Games Fair Session 2.
We had a slightly earlier start to the second day, but this made little difference to the enthusiasm shown by the attendees in getting to the lecture theatre in time to start. After a short welcome and introduction to the day's proceedings, the first plenary session of the conference began.

Plemary Session 1: UK Military Tri-Service Wargaming
This session was chaired by Howard Body (MOD), and the contributions were made by:
  • Lieutenant Colonel Nigel Jordan-Barber, who talked about the use of wargaming at the Standing Joint Force Headquarters
  • Commander Matt Payne RN, who explained how the Royal Navy was revitalising the use of wargaming and how he was using wargaming at the Maritime Warfare Centre
  • Lieutenant Commander Ed Oates RN, who explained how he was using wargaming as a training aid with an anti-submarine helicopter squadron
  • Flight Lieutenant Colin Bell RAF, who talked about the use of wargaming at the Air Warfare School in general and the development of 'Winged Exile: Basic Air Warfare', a warfighting wargame designed to help recruit potential RAF Air Warfare officers
Plenary Session 2: US and UK Military and Foreign & Commonwealth Office Wargaming Initiatives
This session was chaired by Colin Marston (Dstl), and the contributions were made by:
  • Commander Phil Pournelle USN and Matt Caffrey, who talked respectively about the current state of wargaming in the US military and  a long view of the development of wargaming
  • Owen Elliott (FCO), who explained about the gaming that was taking place in the FCO
  • Colonel George Wilson, who talked about the production of the MOD's 'Wargaming Handbook' and the practical use of wargaming as a planning tool in Afghanistan
Commander Pournelle's presentation included two particularly interesting slides which examined the relationship between the required outcomes, the nature of the problems being examined, and the different category of wargame ...

... and the characteristics (and therefore efficacy) of different styles of wargaming in meeting a need. For example, Rigid Kriegsspiel is excellent for predictability, rigor etc., whereas Matrix Gaming is better if you want a more creative outcome.

Keynote Speech

This was delivered by Howard Body of the Ministry of Defence, and covered the interesting initiatives being undertaken with regard to wargaming within the MOD.

After a short introduction in the lecture theatre about the Games Fair by Professor Phil Sabin (War Studies Department, King's College, London), we broke for lunch ... and after lunch we dispersed to the various rooms in which the games were being held.

I was lucky enough to be able to take part in Brian Train's game 'Caudillo', which can best be described as a competitive/co-operative game in which the players represent various political factions/leaders in a small South American country. They all vie for money, power, and influence in the face of a number of card-generated crises and what can be rampant inflation. The winner is the player who ends the game with the most aggregated amount of money, power, and influence!

Brian Train (on the right), explains to the players how the game works.
Two of the players were young King's College students from Venezuela ... and they had no problem recognising the game's background!
One of the player's hand of money, power, and influence cards. The numbers on each card showed how much money, power, and influence each card generated at the start of each turn. Players could acquire further cards during the game if the had the resources available to do so. (Cards 'cost' twice the value of the money, power, and influence that they generated.)
As the number of unsolved crises mounted, the players had to juggle what resources they had available to them to solve the crises by acting together and/or separately. Each player who contributed to solving a crisis gained additional resources depending upon how much they contributed.
This was a great game, with the players having to make lots of decisions. Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended!

When the Games Fair was over, we returned to the lecture theatre for the next plenary session.

Plenary Session 3: Broader Perspectives in Wargaming
This session was chaired by Graham Longley-Brown, and the contributions were made by:
  • Charles Vasey, who talked about current design ideas in hobby gaming, including the 'new New', the growing use of card-driven mechanisms, Eurogaming, and in particular the COIN series of games which usually have lots of asymmetry and are designed for four (and sometimes three) players
  • Paul Strong (Dstl), who talked about the development of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit during World War II, and exemplar of practical, historical use of wargaming ... sometimes to solve real-time problems! (The example he used was the development of tactics to counter the introduction and use by the Germans of acoustic anti-escort torpedoes.)
Western Approaches Tactical Unit in use. In these photographs the player's orders are being processed.
Western Approaches Tactical Unit in use. In this photograph a player (unseen on the right behind a screen) is being given an update of the current situation.
I left to go home after this plenary session, and did not take part in the second Games Fair session that took place after supper.


  1. Slightly heavy stuff at the start but I would have so liked to hear about the Western Approaches (I am already looking forward to Connections 2017 Presentations and Audio) wargame, I have read it was a state-changer in the training of RN officers (and introduced a few WRENS to young RN Captains)!

    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      At least you'll be able to fast-forward through the earlier sessions if you want to; I sat through them and found them quite interesting.

      The story oft my he Western Approaches Tactical Unit was very interesting. Not only was the presenter very easy to listen to, his presentation was first class and showed that real-time tactical wargaming can save lives.

      All the best,


  2. I'm sure I'll enjoy all the content of UK Connections :)

    It's interesting that the Navy and Air Force made an appearance this year which means that wargaming has made significant process since the first Connections UK. That practical and intellectual advance is HUGE. That as you put it so well "will save lives" :)

    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      The RAF seem to have taken on board the concept of using wargames to train potential Air Warfare personnel, whereas the Royal Navy seem to see it as a tactical training tool. Interestingly, when the Naval Constructors did their presentation on the last day, the side view of the warship designs that were being tested looked very akin to something Fred Jane would have used!

      All the best,


  3. Just seen that the Powerpoints are up: The Western Approaches Talk looked brilliant!

    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      It looked like the sort of game one would have liked to take part in.

      All the best,



Thank you for leaving a comment. Please note that any comments that are spam or contain phishing messages or that come from Google Accounts that are 'Unknown' will be deleted.