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.

  • Report

    Findings on Mosaic Warfare from a Colonel Blotto Game

    Jan 5, 2021

    Is Mosaic warfare more cost-effective and robust than more-monolithic approaches to conflict? Game theory can be a useful tool for studying the relative utility of these strategies.

  • Intricate real life-like models in a wargame at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia, August 23, 2017, photo by Frances Seybold/U.S. Marine Corps

    Commentary

    Wargames as an Educational Tool

    Feb 8, 2021

    The benefits of games for military education are well documented. But harnessing the potential of games to foster innovation may require a commitment to sustain gaming over the years needed to explore a problem space and develop and stress-test new ideas.

Explore Wargaming

  • A helicopter lands during the trident juncture exercise in the Netherlands

    Report

    NATO's Amphibious Forces: Command and Control of a Multibrigade Alliance Task Force

    At the request of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, RAND researchers facilitated three wargaming events exploring how to leverage and enhance the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)'s existing amphibious capacity by organizing extant national forces into a coherent multibrigade command and control (C2) structure.

    Jun 27, 2019

  • Report

    Report

    OCEANS 17 Tabletop Exercise: Findings and Recommendations

    In December 2017, the RAND Corporation conducted a tabletop exercise on air operations across the boundaries between geographic combatant commands. This report describes the exercise's design, key insights from our analysis, and recommendations.

    May 9, 2019

  • Military leader briefs a team of government officials, photo by Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock

    Report

    Conceptual Design for a Multiplayer Security Force Assistance Strategy Game

    The authors explain the conceptual underpinnings and basic rules for a RAND-designed security force assistance strategy game. The game is a tool to explore the potential benefits and risks of different security force assistance strategies.

    Feb 7, 2019

  • Binoculars on a map, photo by Angel_a/Getty Images

    Report

    The U.S. Department of Defense's Planning Process: Components and Challenges

    This report explores the current defense planning process used by the U.S. Department of Defense, with a focus on how scenarios are developed and employed to support defense planning.

    Feb 4, 2019

  • L-R: Caroline Baxter, Cherie Emerson, Melissa Rowe, Elizabeth Bodine-Baron, Christine Wormuth, Kimberly Kagan, Cortney Weinbaum, Stacie Pettyjohn at the Roberta Wohlstetter Forum on National Security in Arlington, Virginia, October 24, 2018

    Blog

    RAND Hosts Forum on 21st-Century Warfare Honoring Roberta Wohlstetter

    National security experts, flag officers, and decisionmakers attended the Roberta Wohlstetter Forum on National Security at RAND's Washington office on October 24. The featured speakers, moderators, organizers, donor, and namesake for the event were all women.

    Nov 26, 2018

  • Wargaming at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, March 9, 2018

    Commentary

    Building a Pipeline of Wargaming Talent: A Two-Track Solution

    How does the Department of Defense imagine the future of war and make long-term investments to confront the challenges ahead? On issues ranging from potential conflicts with Russia to the future of transportation and logistics, senior leaders have increasingly turned to wargames to imagine potential futures.

    Nov 15, 2018

  • Report

    Report

    Realigning the Stars: A Methodology for Reviewing Active Component General and Flag Officer Requirements

    The authors developed and employed a methodology to review general and flag officer requirements in the U.S. military, used results to identify opportunities to eliminate or downgrade positions, and explored the implications of reductions.

    Oct 22, 2018

  • Naval Postgraduate School students participate in analytic wargames they designed to explore solutions for some of DoD's most pressing national security concerns

    Commentary

    Just Let Them Compete: Raising the Next Generation of Wargamers

    Wargames are games that simulate aspects of warfare at varying levels, aimed at analyzing human decisionmaking. To develop the next generation of avid wargamers, the first step is both radical and simple: Let them compete.

    Oct 9, 2018

  • Landing ships putting cargo ashore on Omaha Beach, mid-June, 1944

    Report

    What Shapes a Nation's Will to Fight?

    When considering threats from Russia and North Korea, it is natural to focus on military capabilities. But incorporating will to fight into the analysis of actual or potential conflicts will enhance strategic planning. A model that can be tailored and applied to various conflict scenarios can help U.S. leaders better understand and influence will to fight.

    Sep 20, 2018

  • Ferrying South Vietnamese rangers, U.S. helicopters swoop in on a landing zone on the fringe of a pineapple plantation in the Mekong Delta on August 21, 1967

    Report

    Assessing Will to Fight at the Military Unit Level

    Will to fight is vital to understanding war, but it is often ignored or misunderstood. A model of unit will to fight that can be applied to ground combat units of any scale can help U.S. military leaders better assess partner and adversary forces and incorporate will to fight in their planning.

    Sep 20, 2018

  • Soldiers receive a safety and mission brief before a training exercise at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., June 18, 2018

    Report

    Improving U.S. Force Development

    The U.S. armed forces are larger than needed to fight a single major war. But at the same time, the military is failing to keep pace with adversaries and is poorly postured to meet key challenges in Europe and East Asia. How can the Department of Defense respond?

    Jul 9, 2018

  • ALES wargame brings maritime and amphibious leaders together to explore command and control challenges, discuss future capabilities and interoperability, Official NATO photograph by JWC Stavanger/Released

    Tool

    A Wargame Method for Assessing Risk and Resilience of Military Command-and-Control Organizations

    Guide to conducting a command-and-control (C2) risk and resilience tabletop exercise, a new wargaming method of assessing metrics for C2 structures in terms of risks from adversary efforts or the operational environment and resilience to those risks.

    Jun 21, 2018

  • Members of Battle Group Poland stage their vehicles upon arriving at the city of Suwalki, Poland, during an exercise to enhance NATO throughout the Baltic region and Poland, June 17, 2017

    Report

    The Russian Challenge: Deterring Aggression in the Baltics

    The risk of Russian aggression in the Baltics can no longer be ignored. To successfully deter Moscow, the United States and its European allies should invest in NATO's ability to defend its eastern boundary.

    Jun 4, 2018

  • Tool

    Tool

    Defensive Space Analysis Tool (DSPAT): Version 2.0

    This manual explains how to use the Defensive Space Analysis Tool (DSPAT), which was developed to compare alternative approaches to space control in terms of their mission effectiveness, feasibility, escalation risk, and political cost.

    Jan 5, 2018

  • Report

    Report

    Gaming Space: A Game-Theoretic Methodology for Assessing the Deterrent Value of Space Control Options

    This report introduces and explains a game-theoretic methodology to help decisionmakers assess the potential effects of alternative approaches to space control.

    Jan 5, 2018

  • 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

    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

    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, founding codirector of the RAND Center for Gaming, discusses the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of using gaming in research.

    Mar 23, 2017