CLWG July 2013 Game Reports

There were five of us at July’s CLWG meeting, myself, Nick, Mukul, Dave & John. There were three game sessions presented:

  1. I went first with a two part committee game called “The High Ground” about the consequences of cheaper surface to orbit space travel;
  2. Nick presented an economics card game for educating people about markets and the effects of money and credit;
  3. Mukul’s session on the 1914 campaign on the Eastern Front.

Onside Report – The High Ground

This game was set in the near future, in the same universe as my exodus stories,  where technological developments have made space flight substantially cheaper, on a par with current transatlantic business class travel. So not cheap, but certainly changing the economics of it by a couple of orders of magnitude.

The consequence of that is that for certain applications there can be business benefit (not least of which are the tax advantages of baking yourself outside any nation state’s jurisdiction).

Phase 1 – Risks of Commercial Space Flight

The first part of the committee game was a risk assessment to drive the sort of controls or regulations that might be put in place. I gave each of the players a standard risk assessment template (the sort that you’ll find in most project manager’s toolkit). I also assigned each player an angle, so Nick was a Swiss government official, Mukul was a security specialist, John was a tourist operator (like Virgin Galactic) and Dave was an industrial process operator (we decided that pharmaceuticals and microprocessor production might work better in microgravity conditions).

With their particular hats on the group, ably chaired by Nick, brainstormed a list of likely risks. Once they’d had those they then went through the list and decided whether or not it was worth scoring each of the risks. In the end about eight risks made it onto the longlist and were each scored in terms of their probability of happening in a typical 12 month period and the impact should they happen. This allowed the risks to be prioritised in the order of which they were likely to need to be mitigated. Only the top three had mitigation discussed and agreed by the group.

The upshot of this was that international maritime law was deemed to be the closest parallel to operating in space and the same arrangements should be adopted as for shipping. All security was in the hands of the operators who would be bound by the law of the country that they were registered with. Ground based security at spaceports would be of a similar nature to that employed by companies flying staff to oil rigs rather than early 21st century air passengers.

With that done we moved onto phase 2.

Phase 2 – highjacking the Olympic Forge

Dave & John retained their Corporate hats and I posed them a number of questions about how they would implement the security of an orbital space station conducting research. In parallel Nick & Mukul were cast as a couple of religious fundamentalists (see the briefing) that had managed to get jobs as technical support on a research station with the intent of taking it over and stopping the company from conducting research into genetically engineering humans.

This was gamed using a free kriegspiel approach and as a discussion rather than using maps or counters. Partly this was because I wasn’t quite sure what people would come up with and I was sort of testing out some ideas and partly it was the usual reason of not having had the time to produce the necessary maps etc. One of my constraints is that I don’t often make CLWG and when I do it is always at short notice, which acts against detailed preparation because I cannot be certain that I will get to present my game (I’ve brought games a couple of times and not presented them because the agenda was full).

Anyway I will leave it to the participants to tell you what happened (although if they don’t I’ll write another article for the following Milmud). All I will say is that the outcomes seemed logical in hindsightbut were surprising compared to what I had expected before we started.

Economics Card Game – Offside Report

Nick presented the card game he’d trailed in advance on the CLWG mailer. I had read the rules in advance and although I didn’t quite agree with Pickles’s critique I did think that they were broken as a game system. However having played it, discussed in detail with the others present and thought about the learning objectives of the game I think it is a pretty good solution for illustrating the mechanics of trading.

The initial phase is very likely to be completely broken as a game, although we were playing it with fewer than the recommended minimum number (five against the six recommended). Both times we played it in the first round it was impossible for any of the players to produce a set of four cards with the initial hand dealt (after we’d spent time trading amongst us that is).

As a game this is a major flaw, but as a training aid it helpfully underscores the need either for money/credit (which lubricates the trading by adding in wild cards) or an increased stock of people with whom to trade to ensure a steady flow of cards. In both instances the availability of credit rapidly increases the ability to form sets, and the more you take the better you do.

Whether it teaches people the correct lessons is largely up to the trainers and how they draw those lessons out of the practical experiences of their students playing the game. The value of the game is that it has a very low learning overhead and you can get it going in minutes without much in the way of explanations. I think that would hold true in most groups, not just the sort of people that attend CLWG.

Additionally it plays very quickly, so you can run it to suit the training agenda, either as an ice breaker or in chunks interspersed with discussion about what it tells us and how it works. We did it the latter way and it was both entertaining and informative. One of the things that I would tweak, and this depends very much on the learning objectives, is to ensure that there were fewer uncommitted cards in the remaining hand than there were players in the game. That way there is a guarantee that there is at least one full set out there, which is all that is required to make the game flow.

Eastern Front 1914 (Mukul Patel) – Offside Report

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay for all of this CLWG session as I needed to catch the railway replacement bus to get home in time for Tracy to do her night shift. However I did stay for the intro and the initial discussion. Mukul is reaching for a large CLWG game, or very small megagame, on or about the anniversary of the 1914 campaign on the Eastern Front. This is not the first time that he has approached this topic, but he’s now coming back to it in the light of all the experience we’ve had with game design in the intervening decade or two since he last used this map.

The game is a three day turn for Army Group level teams. Resolution is down to Corps level and the mechanisms have borrowed the intensity of commitment idea from Beginning of the End to layer onto a combat results table along with some random factors to shift things about. Armies are very mobile, as fitted the historical campaign, and only major rivers present a real obstacle. That said there is a movement penalty for some types of terrain, mainly the marshes, and consequences if you push your troops to move very rapidly for a sustained period of time. To keep it simple these halved or doubled the move distance. It would have been nice to see how these played out, as I left Mukul was getting the others to try out a turn sequence to see how it felt.

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About Author:

James has a keen interest in military history, backed with experience as a TA reservist and a 17th century re-enactor. He has designed and run several face to face social games and is the editor of MilMud, the journal of the CLWG game design group. He is currently working on a book on the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution.

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