Wargaming

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Wargames are analytic games that simulate aspects of warfare at the tactical, operational, or strategic level. They are used to examine warfighting concepts, train and educate commanders and analysts, explore scenarios, and assess how force planning and posture choices affect campaign outcomes. RAND has developed and can execute various types of wargames, including scenario exercises, tabletop map exercises, “Day After…” games, and computer-supported exercises.

  • Making a move during a unique wargame hosted by RAND with a group called Girl Security, photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation

    Essay

    A Wargame at RAND Puts Teen Girls in Command

    Aug 20, 2019

    RAND analysts developed and hosted a wargame to help young women learn firsthand about national security. It's a lesson in strategy, in the hard realities behind news headlines, but also in agility and resilience. In that, it's not so far removed from the daily life of a teenage girl.

  • Map of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

    Report

    Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics

    Feb 1, 2016

    A series of wargames examined the threat Russia may present to the three Baltic republics. As currently postured, NATO could not defend the territory. What might be done to prevent Russia from attempting to reclaim it?

Explore Wargaming

  • Wargaming at the Naval Postgraduate School

    Commentary

    Adding Shots on Target: Wargaming Beyond the Game

    Figuring out what the future may look like—and what concepts and technology we should invest in now to prepare—is hard. How can the wargaming community build a cycle of research to help understand what these paths might be?

    Oct 9, 2017

  • Dice representing flags of United States, China, and Russia on a world map

    Multimedia

    Gaming Solutions to Global Problems

    In this Call with the Experts, David Shlapak, a senior international research analyst at RAND, talks about how serious games can help find solutions to global problems.

    Jun 8, 2017

  • Report

    Dominating Duffer's Domain: Lessons for the U.S. Marine Corps Information Operations Practitioner

    To support the U.S. Marine Corps and its curriculum for information operations personnel, RAND has adapted the premise of the military classic The Defence of Duffer's Drift for a modern-day audience of Marine Corps officers.

    Apr 20, 2017

  • Report

    Dominating Duffer's Domain: Lessons for the U.S. Army Information Operations Practitioner

    Adapting the format of military classic, The Defence of Duffer's Drift, this report analyzes alternative courses of action in the same hypothetical mission in order to derive lessons about integrating information operations into operational planning.

    Apr 20, 2017

  • Researchers demonstrating a gaming exercise for board members in Santa Monica, 1966

    Multimedia

    The Serious Role of Gaming at RAND

    RAND uses gaming techniques to develop insights into a host of 21st century challenges. In this Events @ RAND podcast, David Shlapak, codirector of the RAND Center for Gaming, discusses the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of using gaming in research.

    Mar 23, 2017

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates meets with the other NATO Ministers of Defense and of Foreign Affairs

    Multimedia

    Rethinking Russia's Threat to NATO

    A series of wargames examined the probable outcome of a Russian invasion of the Baltic states. The wargames showed that a near-term Russian invasion could reach the Estonian and Latvian capitals in less than 60 hours.

    Sep 30, 2016

  • Report

    Capabilities for Joint Analysis in the Department of Defense: Rethinking Support for Strategic Analysis

    This report stems from a congressional request for an independent report about the U.S. Department of Defense's capabilities for joint analysis and ways to improve them.

    Sep 12, 2016

  • David Shlapak

    Q&A

    Gaming and Public Policy: Q&A with David Shlapak

    David Shlapak discusses how using games in research can help improve decisionmaking across a wide range of areas, including national security, health care, and climate change.

    Aug 11, 2016

  • Lithuanian Land Forces fire a smoke screen from an M113A1 Armored Personnel Carrier during a joint exercise with their American partners in Rukla, Lithuania, May 22, 2015

    Commentary

    In Defense of a Wargame: Bolstering Deterrence on NATO's Eastern Flank

    A series of wargames examined the potential results of a Russian invasion of the Baltic states. While such an invasion appears unlikely, its consequences would be so dangerous that not taking steps to deter it more robustly would be imprudent.

    Jun 14, 2016

  • Globe on a chessboard

    Commentary

    How Can Gaming Help Test Your Theory?

    The act of designing a game will force you to articulate your theory or to be more specific about it. It will also require you to operationalize your variables and theoretical constructs of interest into a specific context, and prompt you to anticipate the ways in which it may play out in that scenario.

    May 18, 2016

  • Russian paratroopers wait to board a helicopter during a military exercise outside the southern city of Stavropol, Russia, October 27, 2015

    Commentary

    Outnumbered, Outranged, and Outgunned: How Russia Defeats NATO

    Today NATO is outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned by Russia in Europe and beset by a number of compounding factors that make the situation worse. But it is possible to begin restoring a more robust deterrent posture and to do so at a price tag that appears affordable.

    Apr 21, 2016

  • Naval officers from the Colombian, Brazilian, and U.S. Navy work together as a control group at U.S. Naval War College during the 2013 Inter-American War Game

    Commentary

    Gaming the System: Obstacles to Reinvigorating Defense Wargaming

    Reinvigorating wargaming in the defense community offers great potential value given the complex strategic situation that the U.S. faces today. DoD should educate sponsors and consumers about the appropriate use of wargames, set realistic expectations, and build the right amount of risk acceptance into its gaming enterprise.

    Feb 18, 2016

  • Members of the 183d Air Operations Group conduct simulated battle operations during exercise Virtual Flag, December 2015

    Commentary

    Getting the Most Out of Your Wargame

    Some famous historical wargames offer a compelling narrative of what wargames can be at their best and worst, but they cannot illustrate the full range of contemporary wargaming that leaders should strive to achieve. A better understanding of how wargames can be helpful — or backfire — is critical.

    Jan 26, 2016

  • Capt. Chuck Marks, commanding officer of Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, listens to Martin Gallivan, associate professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, talk about the artifacts his team of students uncovered during the excavation of a Powhatan Indian village, a field study being conducted under a cooperative agreement between the Navy and the college

    Commentary

    A Funny Thing Happened When These Military Officers and Academics Got Together

    If senior officers and academics find themselves divided, is there a way to build respect and trust earlier in their careers, when less is at stake? A tabletop exercise suggested that the best way to bridge the civilian-military divide is not via large conferences or formal papers. Instead, it can be done by building trust, one person at a time, over time.

    Apr 6, 2015

  • Paratroopers perform an airborne training exercise

    Report

    Enhancing Army Airborne Forces

    U.S. Army airborne forces could play a pivotal role in key missions in the future, particularly against hybrid threats and in anti-access environments. However, they face serious threats that could become more severe. To overcome these new threats, the airborne force will need new capabilities.

    Jan 23, 2015

  • A wargames board game

    Commentary

    Anatomy of a War Game

    War games are especially important as countries prepare to counter adversaries who use asymmetric strategies or weapons, forcing military planners to deal with unfamiliar threats, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jun 12, 2012

  • Report

    Assessing the U.S. Air Force Unified Engagement Building Partnerships Seminars

    Using RAND’s security cooperation framework, RAND assessed the U.S. Air Force’s Building Partnerships Seminars to enhance program objectives and improve cooperation amongst partner-nation air forces.

    Sep 27, 2011

  • Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel,Abdel Fatah Saeed Al Sisy,Egypt

    Report

    The Day After... in Jerusalem: A Strategic Planning Exercise on the Path to Middle East Peace

    Starting in 2008, the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy conducted a series of exercises to help the new U.S. administration address the challenges of the Arab-Israeli conflict (and of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular) as a key component of the broader effort to secure stability in the Middle East.

    Oct 30, 2009