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.

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    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


    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

  • Wargaming shows Russian attack in the Baltics would get to Riga and Tallinn in at most 60 hours
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates meets with the other NATO Ministers of Defense and of Foreign Affairs


    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

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    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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

  • Map of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania


    Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics

    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?

    Jan 29, 2016

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


    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


    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


    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


    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

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    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


    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

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    Dangerous Thresholds: Managing Escalation in the 21st Century

    Historical examples and the analysis of two modified Delphi exercises augment an examination of approaches to escalation management within the demands of today’s security environment and its attendant threats involving not only long-standing nuclear powers, but also insurgent groups and terrorists.

    Jul 8, 2008

  • nuclear war game maze


    The Challenge of Nuclear-Armed Regional Adversaries

    North Korea's test of a nuclear weapon in 2006 shows that such weapons are within reach of determined regional powers. Thus, defense planners in the United States and elsewhere must begin now to confront the new security challenges posed by nuclear-armed regional adversaries.

    Mar 10, 2008

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    Can Terrorists Use Publicly Available Information in Attacks?

    How much data regarding U.S. defenses is publicly available and how easily could it be found by individuals seeking to harm U.S. domestic interests? A new framework guides assessments of the availability of such information for planning attacks on the U.S. air, rail, and sea transportation infrastructure.

    Jul 18, 2007

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    Analysis, Analysis Practices, and Implications for Modeling and Simulation

    Reviews analysis and analysis practices for defense planning and draws important implications for models and simulations.

    Apr 9, 2007

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    Considering the Effects of a Catastrophic Terrorist Attack

    A description of the results from a scenario analysis and strategic gaming revolving around a catastrophic terrorist attack on the Port of Long Beach, including many of the primary analysis results.

    Jul 14, 2006