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This Note describes the procedures, appropriate uses, and limitations of the free-form game. It discusses free-form gaming as a procedure for organized study of the complex problems entailed in confrontations and crises, whether between nations or within organizations. The author suggests that to be useful, a study game must have a substantively informed design and playing teams whose members, in combination, bring knowledge of the issues and processes being simulated into the exercise. Free-form games have a number of limitations: They cannot adequately represent the multiple and diverse staff and systems operations that go on in "real life" national crises; they rarely can be used to cover a simulated crisis from beginning to end; and they do not lend themselves to detailed and mechanically rigorous comparative analysis across several games.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

This research in the public interest was supported by RAND, using discretionary funds made possible by the generosity of RAND's donors, the fees earned on client-funded research, and independent research and development (IR&D) funds provided by the Department of Defense.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.