Friday, 15 November 2019

Successful Professional Wargames: A Practitioner’s Handbook

Graham Longley-Brown, who is one of the driving forces behind professional wargaming in the UK, and who is also one of the organisers of CONNECTIONS UK, has very recently had his book entitled SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL WARGAMES: A PRACTITIONER'S HANDBOOK published by John Curry's 'History of Wargaming' Project.

Between 1986 and 2003, Graham Longley-Brown was a Regular Army officer. Before he retired, he spent from 2000 to 2002 at Shrivenham as the UK Joint Services Command and Staff College Directing Staff Subject Matter Expert for wargaming. Since then he has worked across the world running wargames for the armed services of various countries as a self-employed consultant for LBS Consultancy.

Graham has also:
The book has forewords by both Peter Perla (doyen of the professional wargaming world) and Colin Marston (Head of the UK's Dstl Wargaming Team), and is split into four parts with twenty-eight chapters, and a bibliography.
  • Part 1: Wargaming Fundamentals
    • Chapter 1: Why Wargame? And When Not To
    • Chapter 2: What is a Wargame?
    • Chapter 3: Wargaming Misnomers and Misunderstandings
    • Chapter 4: Adjudication
    • Chapter 5: Wargame Formats, Contexts and Variants
  • Part 2: Establishing the Conditions for Successful Wargames
    • Chapter 6: Essential Characteristics for Successful Wargames
    • Chapter 7: The Wargame Team
    • Chapter 8: Analysis
    • Chapter 9: Appropriate Technology
    • Chapter 10: Incorporating Non-kinetic Effects and Semi-cooperative Play into Wargame Design
  • Part 3: The Wargame Lifecycle
    • Chapter 11: The Wargame Lifecycle: An Introduction
    • Chapter 12: Wargame Design
    • Chapter 13: Wargame Development
    • Chapter 14: Wargame Execution
    • Chapter 15: Wargame Validation
    • Chapter 16: Wargame Refinement
    • Chapter 17: The Top 10 Things that Make a Good Wargame Designer
  • Part 4: Practising Successful Wargames
    • Chapter 18: High-Engagement Games
    • Chapter 19: Scenario Writing
    • Chapter 20: Scenario Development
    • Chapter 21: Scenario Execution
    • Chapter 22: Controlling Wargames
    • Chapter 23: Facilitation
    • Chapter 24: Generating Outcomes
    • Chapter 25: Presenting and Affirming Outcomes
    • Chapter 26: Course of Action Wargaming
    • Chapter 27: Connections: The Conference for Wargaming Professionals
    • Chapter 28: Conclusion
  • Bibliography
This book is aimed at those involved in developing professional wargames BUT much of its contents will appeal to those hobby wargamers who take an interest in that end of the wargaming spectrum. It will also be relevant to those hobby wargamers who are interested in the eternal verities of good, basic wargame design. After all, almost all of the the people who are developing professional wargames are also hobby wargamers, and the lesson they have learned are applicable across the wargaming spectrum.

SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL WARGAMES: A PRACTITIONER'S HANDBOOK was written by Graham Longley-Brown, edited by John Curry, and published in 2019 by the 'History of Wargaming' Project. It is available in both printed (ISBN 978 0 2448 0364 3) and Kindle formats.


  1. My regular gaming chum is an ex Royal Marines officer, now in the reserves and still very much involved in NATO exercises etc. We were discussing the subjects covered by this book earlier in the year in a post-game chat and it was very illuminating to hear his views. Broadly speaking it is very much about handling logistics at a 'professional' level, which most likely damned boring for us 'hobby' wargamers. Having heard him recount the wargames at the Staff College, I would have to agree.

    However, that is not to say that there aren't interesting bits to this book, but it's not for me, but I'm glad it's been published. As an aside, I did consider applying for a recent wargames job with DSTL, but having had experience of working with the company, I'm glad I didn't and am happy being a hobby gamer.

    1. Steve J.,

      I'm not surprised to read your comment about your friend's experience of wargaming in the military. Some of it is excellent ... but some of it isn't very good at all. If what participants do is not very challenging, then they are hardly likely to learn very much from the experience. Logistics is very important ... but within a wargame context, I should imagine that it is hardly the most inspiring role for a participant to undertake.

      Had I been a few years younger (quite a few!), I might have applied for the job at Dstl, but now I am a bit too long in the tooth to take on new challenges ... and I'm enjoying my retirement far too much!

      All the best,


    2. You mean there's such a thing as war games jobs?! Why am I always so far behind the fair?

      One of the interesting features of Lloyd Osbourne's Harper's magazine article 'Stevenson at Play' was his step-father's focus upon the logistical aspects of maintaining his armies in the field. Come to think of it, it would be not be hyperbole to think of R.L. Stevenson as a kind of spiritual father of modern 'operations level' war gaming.

    3. Archduke Piccolo,

      Judging by the number of students on the post-grad wargame design option of the War Studies course at King's College, London, it is a growth area for employment. Furthermore, the use of wargaming techniques is spreading, with - I understand - at least one UK political party using wargames to examine different election and voting strategies, and some businesses using it to examine future development policies.

      Logistics can seem boring, but it is vital when looking at operational-level combat. Stevenson certainly included maintenance of supplies in his games, as did H G Wells to a somewhat lesser extent. Interestingly, the contemporary military/professional wargames seemed to see logistics as something that happened between battles, and always seemed to ignore supply failures on the battlefield.

      All the best,


    4. The MoD is desperately trying to play catch up on the wargames front, as most other NATO countries have long ago adopted it as a way of training the commanders and soldiers. On a recent NATO exercise, my friend was throwing in curve balls at a higher level that commanders were not used to nor expecting, but something that we wargamers, dare I say it, have come to expect with the vogue for command and control in a wargames.

    5. Steve J.,

      Interestingly, the impression I've had from attending CONNECTIONS UK is that the UK is leading many of the developments in professional wargaming ... and that has come from talking to representatives from our European NATO allies, not from people in the MoD.

      There is a significant group within the leadership of the NATO armed forces - including the US - who do not see wargaming as being of great use ... and they are matched by another group who see it as a cost-effective means to train personnel, a valid method to analyse possible future operations, and a way in which to assess the feasibility of different responses to crises.

      The problem with many military exercises is that they are 'scripted', unlike open-ended wargames, hence senior officers being averse to the unexpected when it occurs.

      Another problem is finding the right people to be the Red Team. I've heard of participants wanting to avoid being on the Red Team as it was regarded as being a potential career dead end if you didn't let the Blue Team 'win'.

      All the best,


    6. I remember reading about a wargame organised at a US Naval base on the Chesapeake, where the naval commanders were almost paralysed by indecision and not wanting to take losses etc, in case it reflected badly upon them!

    7. Steve J.,

      I would have thought that being indecisive was a greater sin - and blight on one's career - than taking losses.

      One of the big advantages of wargaming is that you can fail and learn in a safe environment.

      All the best,


  2. Replies
    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      Sounds like your Christmas present list is getting longer!

      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.