Tag Archives: Urban Nightmare

UNSOC Playtest After Action Report

UNSOC = Urban Nightmare: State of Chaos. UNSOC is Jim Wallman’s latest evolution of the megagame. After the 300 player Watch the Skies the next step was multiple simultaneous and linked megagames.

I blogged about Urban Nightmare during its first run. I played as the emergency services with a friend. UNSOC is multiple cities in multiple states. Each city will have political and emergency services player teams in the same way Urban Nightmare has. There will also be state level teams covering politicals, press, emergency services and military. So far there are games planned in several locations, you can sign up to play UNSOC which runs on 1 July 2017.

UNSOC Playtest

This afternoon we played two city games (physically one in Brussels and the other in Cambridge). We also had a State Governor and a national guard player (both in Cambridge). I was the President/White House and Jim was the Pentagon. Jim and I were in our respective homes using the internet for comms.

The players in the cities had a game map with counters on it in a very traditional megagame fashion. This will continue for UNSOC. Being some distance away I couldn’t see this, and that was realistic. I got some updates by email from the Pentagon. There were also some general game updates on Facebook, mainly in a message thread.

Most of the way that I experienced UNSOC was via Twitter. I set up a temporary account @PresidentBrump to follow this, and tried to use #UNSOC when I tweeted, although I often forgot to add it. There were about four or five active people, and you can probably follow the whole game from reading their timelines. Here are some example tweets.

Lessons for UNSOC

  • The White House team probably needs some pre-programmed events to keep them busy with other things until the crisis becomes Federal
  • Twitter is good for public announcements, and OK for a 1:1 private message but not quite so good for proper behind closed doors political deal making.
  • Email is good for getting sitreps from the Pentagon players, but there probably becomes a point when POTUS needs to be in the situation room
  • The White House needs a clear method for speaking to people and communicating orders. Possibly there needs to be something in the briefing materials about what communications methods will be used, and perhaps a suggested list of twitter hashtags for the game day to make it easier for people to find out what is going on.
  • There are several federal agencies that could be called on in UNSOC, not all of it is appropriate to task military players with.
  • The Federal political control needs to factor in the Senate and House views on things. There’ll be concessions needed for support to be given.
  • The President probably shouldn’t be directly played, there really aren’t that many decisions to be made. The Chief of Staff and a Press Secretary, maybe Secretary of Homeland Security or Defense could be played too if there were a lot of Federal players. When those players decide it’s above their pay grade then control can be the President.

Urban Nightmare – the megagame pt.2

Shortly after lunchtime (when I ate my lunch, megagames don’t have breaks, they run continuously until the end) I changed role. The trigger for this was that the Emergency Services didn’t really need two players (and Geoff had clearly got the hang of megagames even though it was his first time). Also Federal assistance was invoked, and there wasn’t a player team at Federal level (because it was always uncertain if it would be required and carried too much risk of boredom to be staffed before it was required).

Combat Service Identification Badge of the 101...
Combat Service Identification Badge of the 101st Airborne Division (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I ended up as a Major General in charge of the 101st Airborne Division and in command of the Federalised State National Guard forces. I also had a special forces team attached. The direct Federal team was lead by a (female) Presidential Envoy who had a direct line to the White House and was told to get the situation under control. Me and the Special Forces Colonel were the other two players in this team, although effectively I had all the National Guard players in my team too.

First steps were to work out a containment plan to stop this spreading, and then to deal with rules of engagement for the soldiers under my command. I observed that what we were dealing with were (virus infected) US Citizens on US soil and that just shooting them all wasn’t an acceptable position. I also observed that preventing innocent citizens from leaving an area could be seen as an unlawful arrest without charge, and was effectively suspending habeas corpus. What we really needed was an appropriate Executive Order to ensure that none of my soldiers could be held liable for civil action. It turned out White House counsel agreed, and I got the following as my rules of engagement (endorsed by the Deputy Attorney General)

[– start ROE –]

Rules of Engagement – Romero Virus Outbreak

Within the specified area all US Military forces are authorised to use reasonable force to detain people within the specified area and to direct them to appropriate medical and/or containment facilities.

Lethal force is authorised to prevent people leaving the specified area, or where they refuse to obey clear instructions to go to a medical or containment facility. Before opening fire at least THREE WARNINGS of “ARMY! HALT OR I FIRE!” (or similar words to the same effect) must be given. Only individual small arms, firing single, aimed shots may be used. Artillery, rockets, bombs or other explosive weapons are not authorised for use unless on the direct express order of a Colonel or more senior officer.

[– end ROE –]

This, however, was only the first of the philosophical discussions that I was involved in. Like all good generals, mine was a political game, not one of issuing orders (although I did some of that too, largely by giving mission objectives to the National Guard General and the SF Colonel). So I made sure that not only the military, but also the political and police players knew what our ROE were and our intent to cordon a wide area before moving in to eradicate the problem. However I was careful to deploy some regular troops to Romero City so that we could truthfully state that we were directly assisting the city authorities and that we were providing humanitarian aid to those made refugees by the outbreak.


Other Player Viewpoints

If you want to read what other players in this game thought about it then here are some more links:


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Urban Nightmare megagame

The Urban Nightmare megagame, is a political crisis management game of a zombie outbreak in Romero City. I played the Deputy Chief of the Emergency Services. (A combined paramedic and firefighter service). We had 20 fire appliances and 8 emergency ambulances to service the city. During the megagame I posted tweets of what we were doing, remembering not to start talking about zombies at any point. This was my attempt to keep it realistic. It meant that some of our decisions weren’t optimal for the zombie apocalypse. They did make sense for major emergencies though.

The Start of Urban Nightmare

Overnight we’ve had four emergency calls for paramedics at Sin Street, Cass Tech High School, Elmwood Park & the Water-works Park. All four incidents have had their casualties taken to City General Hospital (which is the closest).

Live Tweets from Urban Nightmare

I live tweeted during the megagame (until it overwhelmed us, see pt.2 for my follow on role)


PS no idea why it locates me in Luton, we were playing the game in Anerley Town Hall in South London!


Urban Nightmare megagame pt.2

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