31 August 2011

GameTalk - Nation-Building

Yesterday's "Sound Off" brings up the follow-on question:

How do you build this into a game?

In any examination of current military events, there's a need to understand the civilian governance component of the conflict. How does this aspect influence the design and implementation of current-events wargames?

What games do it well?
What games try, and fail, to do it?
What games aren't doing it but should?

By: Brant


Rex Brynen said...

I'm not sure any commercial/hobby wargame does it very extensively.

In Labyrinth improving governance in Muslim countries through "war of ideas" actions are essential to the game, but the details are highly abstracted. The issue of protecting infrastructure and building state policing and other capacities comes out in Andean Abyss too (an excellent forthcoming game, I might add)--although again with considerable abstraction. Battle for Baghdad has its "infrastructure" units but it's all rather generic. None of these really get into how non-kinetic things work in COIN, peace, and stabilization missions. The non-kinetic aspect comes out a little in several Brian Train games, although most substantially in ones (like Kandahar) that he hasn't published yet.

Outside the commercial realm, the Afghan provincial reconstruction educational game (designed by Roger Mason and Joe Miranda, and used at NDU and elsewhere) gets much closer to the relevant dynamics, but it isn't commercially available. The World Bank's Carana training game also addresses these issues, although largely from an economic planning perspective. Again, it isn't commercially available.

I do know of one effort to design a post-conflict reconstruction boardgame, but it is still in the very early stages.

Brian Train said...

Rex is right: no commercial/hobby wargame does it very extensively, at least no published one does, for the reason that there are few gamers who would even look at it twice.

I have built aspects of nation-building lightly into several of my published games, e.g. in "Algeria" the French player can conduct Civil Affairs missions. In my last couple of as-yet-unpublished designs, there is the concept of "civic chits" that represent local services and economic activity/amenities. These can be built, protected, and attacked.

Joe Miranda and I also worked on an Afghan brigade-level game that used the ideas of the presence or absence of social infrastructure (SWET - Sewage, Water, Electricity, Trash removal) and networks (insurgent local support and parallel government mechanisms) that could be built up, yielding certian advantages. Again, a bit generic and I don't know if the idea will persist into whatever version gets published.