Tag Archives: visualization

visualizing savvy

visualizing savvy 


A Speech by: Andrew H. Vachss


January-February 1983

When discussing the “serious, violent, habitual juvenile offender,” we should attempt to reach at least a glimmering of consensus as to whom we are talking about. Some people see serious offenders, violent offenders and habitual offenders as individual types. Because we are here to talk about the type of individual who has all three characteristics, it seems that we are talking about some new breed of juvenile. If you read the papers, watch T.V. or listen to politicians you will believe that somehow genetics and culture have combined or conspired over the years to produce a new kind of child: a kid who rapes and robs and murders with impunity, with abandon, and who seems to enjoy this work. Such a child seems to be completely unresponsive to anything we have to offer. But that’s been kind of an excuse. The kids they write about today, whose faces now appear in the newspapers and on television, are the same kinds of kids who existed 10 years ago, a decade ago, a generation ago … a hundred years ago.

“…One of the reasons that our profession has been willing to accept the idea that there is a new breed of juvenile is that this profession does not want to face the fact that it has failed with a particular, tiny segment of the population for which we are responsible.”

—Andrew Vachss

One of the reasons that our profession has been willing to accept the idea that there is a new breed of juvenile is that this profession does not want to face the fact that it has failed with a particular, tiny segment of the population for which we are responsible. It is much easier to say we are geared up to deal with “delinquents,” that we can handle all kinds of “juvenile” crime, and that there’s a certain type of kid whom we call the “life–style violent juvenile” (I’ll get into that definition in a moment) whose very existence is a threat to every single one of our treasured principles about juvenile justice. Every single bill of goods that we’ve been selling the public for the last century is at risk because of this kid. This kid is the failure of our profession but our fight now is to keep this kid. When I say keep this kid, I mean keep him within our jurisdiction. Keep him within our zone of responsibility. To fight against the idea of waiver, bind–over, transfer, certification, whatever term you choose to use. But to fight against the concept of washing our hands and throwing this kid out with the garbage. That fight is the strength of our profession too. I’m not always proud of our profession, but I am proud of the fact that we are not buying into the idea that we are going to surrender on this critical issue.

Now, what am I talking about? Who is this kid? What are his characteristics? (And when I say “his,” obviously there are female delinquents who also fit within this category. So far, their numbers are relatively small so there’s been little focus on them. So when I use the term “his” or “he,” picture in your mind that the terms are somewhat interchangeable with “her” and “she”). This kid is characterized by a complete lack of apparent empathy for other human beings. He feels no pain but his own. This is the type of kid who will kill three people on separate occasions for no apparent reason, commit a subway robbery, do a push–in mugging, blow somebody away because they “looked at him wrong.” He will show no remorse, and then come into the office of an institution just enraged, veins bulging out of his neck, sweat pouring off his forehead, eyes wild, incoherent almost to the point of tears … all because someone broke his portable radio. And he’ll see no contradiction whatsoever. He simply does not feel anyone’s pain but his own. This is a learned response. People are not born like this.

The second characteristic is lack of perception of the future. He has none. If you ask a kid like this, “What are you going to be doing next year?” you will get an absolutely blank stare. Not because he’s stupid, but because he simply cannot conceptualize such a distance from right now. If you want to speak with this kid, you have to speak within his time frame, and that time frame isn’t ever more than a few hours from the present.

This kid does not relate behavior to consequences. He does not see a causal connection between his acts and a response. What do I mean? To this kid, life is a lottery. Everyone rolls the dice, but not everyone pays the price. He has no perception as to how the dice will come up. In his world, everyone commits crimes. Everybody. Some smaller percentage of that number are arrested. A still smaller percentage go to court; an even smaller percentage go to trial. A smaller percentage still are actually found guilty (or “adjudicated delinquent” if you prefer), and a smaller percentage of that group are committed to a youth authority. Lastly, an even smaller percentage are actually incarcerated.

In his mind, everybody commits these crimes. He sees no connection between his acts and the consequences. He is marked by a chronicity of violence, usually an escalating pattern. Violence permeates his existence until it is his existence. It is not the extent of his criminality that frightens us, but its regularity. Crime is not so much an occupation in the sense of a professional criminal, but a way of life, with violence as the structural underpinning.

He has translator mechanisms in his head. You think of earning money; he thinks of taking money. You think of romance; he thinks of rape. Criminal sophistication is almost totally lacking. He takes money: he doesn’t plan in any real sense; he’s not organized in his criminality. Even what to do with the money is not pre–planned. The money itself has an ephemeral quality. He gets up in the morning about 11:00 a.m., puts on his sneakers, listens to the radio, looks in the refrigerator, sees nothing there … maybe some old corn–flakes. Hits the street with his friend, hangs out. He waits for an elderly woman to come home from the supermarket; follows her to her house. Gets on the elevator with her; she presses the button for the fourth floor; he presses it for the second floor. Jumps off at the second floor and runs up the stairs, watches her open her apartment door, slams forward, shoves the door open and the woman inside, kicks the door shut behind him, smashes the woman in the face until she hits the ground, snatches whatever little money she has. And goes back downstairs to the same corner. If there was enough money, he may buy some soda, some pizza, some marijuana; he may go to a movie downtown. He’ll be back tomorrow. Sooner or later one of the elderly women dies. And then the crime is treated in the media not as an organic continuation of a lifestyle but as some kind of nova–blast of episodic crime. That’s not the way it really is, and we all know better.

I’m not here to excuse or condone such crimes. But I want you to understand them. I’m not talking about an episodic offender. I’m not talking about some human being that just snaps out and hurts other people. I’m talking about a person who has violence so inexorably woven into his life that a fatality is, in fact, predictable at some point in his career.


Who are his role models? Those who are, in his mind, successful criminals. He doesn’t know any real successful criminals. He knows no embezzlers. He knows no computer criminals. He knows no politicians. He knows only what he perceives as success. And what tells him someone is a success? A diamond ring, fine clothes, a car. Not a home, because his perception doesn’t extend that far. He focuses on the things you can carry around with you. And when he goes to jail, that perception doesn’t change. So when you read about one kid stabbing another to death over a fancy pair of sneakers in a juvenile institution, don’t dismiss it as insanity. It may be insane, but it’s consistently so.

So who are the role models? Pimps, dope dealers, armed robbers. And when this kid thinks “armed robbery,” he’s thinking like a cowboy. He’s thinking about the guys who kick in the door of a social club, blow away three or four people, and end up with five hundred dollars. He doesn’t even conceptualize a large–scale robbery, such as an armored car job. He doesn’t even conceptualize stealing anything but cash, or things readily convertible to cash.

This obsession with visible symbols of power and respect translates into the ultimate perversion of the American version of manhood. If you ask one of these kids, “how do you know you’re a man?”, he’ll answer you like this: “I’m a man because I can make a life, and I can take a life.” That kid, that’s his world. Is he dangerous? Of course he’s dangerous. Is he too dangerous to be at large? Very probably so.


Now here’s the question: is he beyond our reach? If we can’t say “No!” to that, we should give it up. We’ve been ducking and dodging that issue for too long a time. If we face reality, this is what “prevention” is all about. Part of the profession wants to say: “We can’t deal with this kid; this kid is (you fill in the blanks with whatever you want … an animal, a beast, a lunatic); we can’t deal with him. Let the adult system take him. We’ll work with the good kids, the other kids.” Now part of our profession wants to accept and acknowledge our collective responsibility for this kid. But even that part doesn’t say: “I’ll take him.” No. What we say is: “We’re going to prevent him. We’re going to stop this deadly flower from reaching full bloom.” Well, people, that’s a joke, a real joke. And the joke is on you and on the American public. You cannot prevent this kid if you persist in starting where you have been. There’s a continuum of production that results in this kid being among us. There’s a virtual assembly line, with components being attached at each stage until this human being has reached his full dangerous growth. By the time you start to “prevent,” it’s already too late.


Now why should we care about this kid at all? The whole profession keeps saying, in a very self–comforting kind of way, that this kid represents only a tiny minority of the juvenile population. A minority within a minority, we keep telling ourselves. People draw pictures that show us this kid is maybe one percent of the whole mixed bag of juveniles. In fact, I’ve talked to people from some states who swear “We don’t have any such kids. Not in the whole damn state. After all, we don’t even have apartment buildings.”

There’s a reason to care. First, these kids have a disproportionate impact on crime in any community. Allen Breed has quoted some scary statistics. He has said that twenty–four percent of all violent crime was committed by people under eighteen years of age. But he didn’t say that twenty–four percent of all criminals are under eighteen. And the fact is that each and every one of these kids is a crime wave. Each and every one of them. They are very few. In Professor Wolfgang’s famous “Cohort Study” he found that about six percent of all juveniles in his study were responsible for sixty–six percent of repetitive violent crime. Think about it. These young human beings impact explosively on communities. Then, too, they have high visibility. These kids are a politician’s dream. People have been elected to office on the backs of two or three violent kids. All because the public loves hypodermic solutions to problems. The public desperately wants to believe that there’s a pill or an injection that will stop crime. So these kids have been a bonanza for politicians. You can pass laws that will provide all kinds of Draconian consequences for kids who engage in this violent behavior on a daily basis, but you are doing nothing whatsoever to stop the behavior itself.

The real reason these kids are so important is that they destroy every piece of mythology that has been built up about juveniles over the past century. This kind of kid does not fit within any “program.” I’ll tell you what I mean.

Not too long ago, we were fighting another battle, the battle for de–institutionalization. We knew, instinctively, intuitively, and intellectually that institutions were bad for kids. They damage human beings; they are criminogenic. We called them “crime factories” and “sodomy schools” and we were right. We wanted to take kids out of institutions.

Community–based programs came into vogue in the late 60s and early 70s, and some folks had some fantastic programs. Some programs really worked. And then along would come one of these special kids, one life–style violent juvenile and, boom! … no more program. All by himself, one of these kids could dismantle a program.

So why did the programs take these kids? Well, there are two basic reasons. Number one, sometimes when people hit on an idea that works, they think it’s infinitely expandable, and that’s a mistake. The second mistake is that these community–based programs were always dependent on funding, unlike juvenile prisons. The more successful the program, the more likely you are to have one of these kids dumped into it.

Now how do they blow up a program? I’ll give you one example. When I was running an institution, we had a young man there I’ll call Raphael. He was a member of a gang in which manhood was expressed in ways I’ve already described to you, and with one additional feature: skill with a knife was most highly exalted. Skill with a knife and distorted visions of manhood and respect.

So Raphael cut a lot of people, hurt a lot of people. In fact, before we arrived, he hurt a lot of people within the institution. He settled all disputes, all conflicts, with a knife. Now, after a while, he was doing okay with us, and by “okay” I mean he wasn’t stabbing anybody. You understand what I’m talking about? I don’t mean he was “self–actualized.” I don’t mean to say he was a heavy participant in group therapy. He wasn’t on the road to college, but he wasn’t stabbing anybody. And we knew, unlike most of the people who seem to run institutions, that some day he would leave us and would be judged in the real world not on our success inside, but on how he acted on the streets. He was making progress.

Now he was a good–looking young man and had the gift of gab. And one day a group of people came in to see us. They’re running a “program;” I won’t characterize it, a group home of some kind. They were looking for candidates for their program. They had some empty beds and they wanted some of our kids. We were opposed to this. But, of course, we were not running the state government. So they roamed around and made a selection, and Raphael was a selection. We sat them down and tried to talk to them like human beings. We said “You don’t want this kid. Ever. You don’t want him in life. He’s going to hurt somebody.” And what do they tell me? “You’re a thug.” “You don’t understand. You have to reach out and touch him.” You know the story.

The temptation was to say “Go ahead and take him” but we still resisted. And we lost. So they took Raphael and figured they’d go to work on him right away. They had a procedure there that they called the “hot–seat.” They’d put one kid in a chair, circle around it, and then verbally attack him. They’d rip him up and then tell him that the house rules are “no violence.”

So they put Raphael in the chair and they decided that the reason he stabbed people, the reason he had tattoos, the reason he carried himself as he did, was that he was a homosexual. They confronted him with this so–called “reality” about himself. He excused himself, got up very calmly and went into the kitchen, found a knife, and gutted another kid, like you would a fish.

Raphael stabbed the other kid, sat down, said “I’m a man” and waited for the police to come. Big deal; an instant replay of his life. The program was totaled.

This happens a lot, and the program people in this case were not completely to blame. They thought they had something good; they wanted to go with it; there was heavy pressure on them to take more people. But every time you try and co–mingle one of these kids with their natural prey, it’s not going to work.


Where did this kid come from anyway? Is he a bio–genetic mutation that has evolved after hundreds of years of reproduction in the human race? I hope you don’t believe that, and I hope you don’t believe that he’s a cultural aberration. Or that once the economy gets back on its feet, he will disappear. I hope you don’t believe it’s as simplistic as a “breakdown of family values.” Let me tell you something. He comes from us. He is a product of the human services profession.

“…I have never seen one of these kids that hasn’t been within our child protective and child–caring system for years and years before the juvenile justice profession is asked to “intervene.”

—Andrew Vachss

I have never seen one of these kids that hasn’t been within our child protective and child–caring system for years and years before the juvenile justice profession is asked to “intervene.” We have to create the beast. It cannot be born whole. If you look at adult life–style criminals (and again I emphasize life–style, not people who made a lot of headlines with one explosive act), you can be guaranteed to see one thing in their background. No matter where such people are politically or socially: from a berserk neo–Nazi like Charles Manson to a prison–created revolutionary like George Jackson, from the Boston Strangler to Carryl Chessman, from John Dillinger to Gary Gilmour, to Carl Panzram to Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde). They all did time as juveniles. Amazing, isn’t it?

You probably never heard of Carl Panzram. He was a mass murderer who killed more than a couple of dozen people at different times in his short life. He killed for the fun of it. He liked to kill people. The only things he liked better than killing people were sodomizing little boys and arson. He caused more destruction than a small army.

Finally, Panzram, who was intelligent despite his lunacy, decided he wanted to die. But the state wouldn’t kill him. He kept killing, but he didn’t die. Finally, he killed a prison guard and ended up on trial for his life. Do you know what lie he told the jury? “I am what you made me. You put me in that training school for boys and you trained me that the greatest joy in life is sodomy and murder. And if you don’t kill me now, while you have the opportunity, I’m going to kill some of you. The state gave me birth, let the state take my life.” The state finally did.

Now I’m not Carl Panzram’s attorney. I’m not trying to excuse his behavior.

Even if I could explain it, he was too dangerous to walk among us. But he spoke the truth. When Charles Manson said, “You can see me in the eyes of your ten–year–olds,” that was not an original line. We have been producing the life–style violent criminal for generations, and the factory has been the child protective and juvenile justice system.

In order to create the kind of sociopathic, non–empathetic, violent human being I’ve been talking about, you need an institution. You need a controlled environment. You need an environment where might makes right.

You need an environment where there is a hierarchy of exploitation; where the rule is “be exploited or exploit others.” For many, many years we have run our institutions on a jungle model where the strong not only survive, but thrive. And when the beast is released, we all pay.


Now how did we get to this stage?

First, all we’ve ever done as a profession is react. From the beginning of juvenile justice, we’ve reacted to things. How did this all start? At the turn of the century, we said to the public: “You can’t lock up adults and children together. It’s going to criminalize the juveniles. Prison is a bad experience.” And when the public bought this proposition, we proceeded to simply react to the opportunity without going further. We did not say that prisons were a bad experience because of the way they are run. We did not design particular kinds of incarcerative options ranging from ultra–minimum to full maximum security. All we did was take the kids from the adult prisons and then replicate the adult prison system, brick for brick, program for program, and failure for failure.

Then we invented a whole lot of euphemisms. We changed all the names. Crime becomes “delinquency,” a “finding of delinquency” is substituted for guilty, prisons become “training schools.” We kept talking about “the best interests of the child,” “the needs of the child,” and it was all nonsense. We didn’t develop anything, we simply reacted, like any politician would.

We’ve been in hot pursuit of “rehabilitation” for a hundred years and we haven’t caught it yet. We bought into a medical model that we knew in our hearts was pure junk. You break a bone, you go to physiotherapy, you work with the therapist, you follow the program, you take the medicine, the cast comes off, the arm works again … it’s rehabilitated. But the kids we’re talking about today never functioned. They dysfunctioned starting before they ever came into the juvenile justice system. What can we return them to?

“…Child protective and juvenile justice professionals pay a terrible price for not being willing to take responsibility for these kids. That price is giving up the control we need to prove once and for all that we can do the job.”

—Andrew Vachss

Child protective and juvenile justice professionals pay a terrible price for not being willing to take responsibility for these kids. That price is giving up the control we need to prove once and for all that we can do the job.

We don’t want to bite the bullet and admit that there are certain human beings on this planet, in this country, in our cities who need basic socialization before they can be among us. I don’t mean that these kids need exotic drugs; I don’t mean that they need bizarre treatment modalities. I mean they need to learn how to be human beings. They can#39;t learn that on the street. They can’t learn that in group homes.

There are people who require incapacitation, because if it’s not provided, we end up where we are today, with a public that doesn’t trust us a good goddamn. The public has been listening to us, albeit with a jaundiced ear, for a century. And we’ve been promising them the moon. Now the only promise the public wants to hear is that we are going to do something about the crimes that affect the quality of their lives. We are too fond of parables that are just plain nonsense. Here’s one of my favorites: “It costs less to send a kid to Harvard than it does to incarcerate him for a year.” If Harvard would take them, we’d ship them to Harvard. Well, Harvard won’t take them, and if we want out from under the domination of these kids, we can’t get there with clever sayings.

What we have to realize is that kids will be adults. If all we do is put them on ice until we are no longer administratively responsible for their behavior, we’ve committed a mortal sin. If we get a kid that’s, say, 15 years old we probably will hold him in some kind of suspended animation, doing nothing but time until he’s eighteen. If after he’s released he kills a cop, he’s an adult. And we have nothing to do with it. Well, maybe not legally, but certainly morally. The public’s finally waking up to the fact that once you put your hands on something you have a responsibility for it.

I agree that we should fight wholesale institutionalization, but we should not fight it so hard that we abandon the field to our traditional adversaries. We should be against institutionalization, but we must also understand that we must have the capacity to remove the tiny percentage of life–style violent juveniles from society while work is being done. Without secure treatment units we show society nothing, and we show the kids nothing.

What do we do with the criminally insane, violent juvenile? The hospitals won’t take him. Nobody will take him. So he ends up in a juvenile institution, doing time with others who are criminal, but not insane. What other profession does this?


If we were truly to “individualize the offender,” we would take the responsibility upon ourselves, not pass it along to prosecutors, or to legislators. We would keep it. And if we were to respond to the problem by establishing secure treatment units for this tiny minority, we would take a crushing weight off the entire juvenile justice system.

Our skilled professionals then could get on with doing their business, freed from constantly watching their backs for the emergence of one of the kind of kid who can destroy their programs. Because we’ve known for a long time that if we could just get the life–style violent juvenile and the criminally insane juvenile out of our system, we could make that system work. In reality, we have to take collective responsibility for all kids, below whatever age the legislature establishes, and on a statewide basis. Accepting this as fact, within our collective responsibility we can and must make our own decisions. No law can prescribe the treatment required for an individual. The law can only define what constitutes an offense. Most people believe that murder is the worst offense of all. To me, murder is the offense for which there are the broadest possible range of motives. If I were told about a 15–year–old boy only that he killed somebody, I would actually know very little about him and I would certainly not be prepared to make an incarcerative placement or treatment decision about him. But we do that all the time.

Child protective and juvenile justice professionals pay a terrible price for not being willing to take responsibility for these kids. That price is giving up the control we need to prove once and for all that we can do the job. The public will accept construction of secure treatment units, not only because they guarantee incapacitation of those that they fear, but because such units are a visible symbol of the jurisdiction’s commitment to do something about violent crime. All we’re doing now is fighting a losing battle against the concept of treating juveniles in the adult criminal justice system. The fact is, if we say to the public, don’t send the kid to adult corrections, the public has a right to ask us “What are you going to do with him? More experiments? More R&D? No thanks. The risks are too high. Go ahead and conduct your experiments. Take a chance and see if maybe you can help this kid. But do it in some place where the kid can’t come around and visit me at night.” Until we can promise this to the public, we haven’t said a thing.

What the public really wants is a kind of “soft death penalty” for these kids: not to kill them, but to knock them out for a few years and then have them emerge, reborn as good citizens. We have sold the public a bill of goods about that too. We quote the old “burn out” baloney. “Kids who commit acts of vandalism burn out. They stop eventually. Kids who steal cars for joy rides; kids who get into fist fights, kids who shoplift. They may all burn out.”

But the kid who gets up every morning for crime and goes to sleep each night dreaming of violence doesn’t burn out. He burns people up. We’ve got to stop selling that bilge to the public. We have to advocate strongly for special programs for the life–style violent juvenile.

Years ago, the so–called “wolf children” were found in Europe. They had, apparently, been raised by wild animals. They were completely amoral, unsocial. They were feral, wild things. They lacked any semblance of social control; just responded, as animals, to stimuli. And millions and millions of dollars were spent understanding those kids.

Today we have “wolf children” in every city… and they scare the hell out of us. So, we try the “quick fix” solution: make them into adults. That will work. That will give the public half of what’s wanted. It will, in fact, temporarily, cage the animal.

New York, for example, has a life sentence possibility—for 13–year–olds. A kid may serve nine, 10, 15 years on a life sentence by the time he reaches the age of 28. Half his life has been spent in a maximum security prison. Is he going to rejoin society as a computer programmer? Of course not. He’s going to hurt people, very quickly, and, depending on what he’s learned in prison, perhaps very efficiently. This is not the solution to the problem of violent juvenile crime.

The public doesn’t really care about crime. The public cares about violence. The public cares about robbery, rape, arson, and murder. A bomb is ticking within the juvenile justice system. We have (and we have had before) the opportunity to defuse that bomb and we’ve been wasting time passing the buck instead.

There has been a lot of talk about “prevention,” but if by “prevention” we are talking about preventing vandalism we are probably perpetrating another rhetorical rip–off. If we’re serious, we’re going to try to prevent violent crime.

We are just beginning to realize that the protection of children from child abuse is protection of society in the long run. We are finally waking up to the fact that victims don’t just shrug off child abuse and go about their normal lives.

“…We are just beginning to realize that the protection of children from child abuse is protection of society in the long run. We are finally waking up to the fact that victims don’t just shrug off child abuse and go about their normal lives.”

—Andrew Vachss


Here’s the problem: a kid progresses from birth until the time he finally impacts on our system. I have seen (and please, don’t anybody ask me to “look at the numbers” because I haven’t received $3 million in federal funds to reinvent the obvious), as have others, an astounding causal connection between children who were horribly abused at an early age and those who end up as tenants in our juvenile institutions, convicted of serious violence.

Here, then, is the paradox. When social workers get an abused kid that’s been tortured, they say the kid is a victim. Several years later, when the juvenile justice system gets the kid, the kid is a predator.

When the kid kills, the newspaper coverage is sure to include a line about how this kid was known to the juvenile justice profession. He was on probation, on parole, a graduate of one program or another, a runaway from a training school… it doesn’t matter.

“…Here, then, is the paradox. When social workers get an abused kid that’s been tortured, they say the kid is a victim. Several years later, when the juvenile justice system gets the kid, the kid is a predator.”





synchronized swimming in the corporate shark tank






book progress report:

57 Books in blue have been fully annotated and re-shelved

13 Books remain to be annotated

3 Books in red need to be read and annotated

13 Books have not been read and may not be of value

1 Book dropped from list: it did not include a certain specific word

1 book has one sentence noted



I love driving.  I love to get out on the open road and just go.  Scenery, good weather, a nice destination, great music, top companionship… you’ve been there. I could put together a list of my favorite drives. In fact, I think I already have…


But I was looking the other night in a moment of dream state for an article that would describe the top vehicles for driving on America’s fractured infrastructure roadways, you know, with the thunks and the heaves and the potholes and the possible loss of control, to say nothing of potential damage to tires, rims, shocks and suspension.

I did not find that list. 

That vehicle probably includes a heavy-duty suspension, special tires, specially-sprung seats for occupants, secure luggage storage, protected-and-secured engine components if not the engine mounts themselves, racing harnesses for all passengers, and more.  What the authorities in the USofA allow for maximal headlight performance, for example, is near-criminal.

Riding on some highways inside New England is becoming like running the Baja 500. 


But I did find this list, and I had to share it with you. Hop in.






[Ed.: Ayuh: http://boydownthelane.com/?s=Summon+The+Magic ]


Finally, I was working the comments and back links section of my own web site here just before Ipostedd this and cleaned out a lot of stuff that slipped through (sorry, I won’t post links to erotic tapes, tales, toys, etc., not that there is anything wrong with erotica, but there’s a time and place for it and this ain’t it) when I found a link to a musical rendition that was probably the product of someone’s hard work.

Hard work and creativity are in short supply and need all the help it can get, and I apologize for having missed it previously; here it is:



YouTube had previously coughed up this; enjoy it all. 




four hours of jazzy chanteuse

wargaming two

wargaming for disinterested bystanders

Part Two

Now that you’ve had a thoroughly-disinteresting introducton to wargaming (the Persian Gulf being halfway on the other side of the globe), it’s time to shift to the second area of operation that ought to be of interest to you.  And it’s much closer.

Go find a good map of North America.

Don’t worry too much about the quality and nature of that map. You needn’t concern yourself too much with all the detail, the sheer size, the varied terrains.

Remember, this is simply a thinking exercise, and we won’t spend too much time on this AO.

I’ve provided a simple map above that will help you zero in on some essential factors:


Secondly, find yourself a good source of news.  I happen to have one nearby — occurrencesforeigndomestic.com — but choose one you can trust as a real barometer of what’s going on with regard to economics, the government and its pronouncements, etc.  And get yourself a source of information about active and ongoing weather you can believe and trust.

Thirdly, get down to the library, or the bookstore; there will be books you’ll want to read.

Finally, if you haven’t already done so, sit down with your significant adult members of your household, extended family, and immediate neighborhood, and jump-start a conversation.

Armed conflict is coming to America.

Now, before you go calling the local office of the FBI or Jeh Johnson down at Homeland Security to say “there’s this crank on the Internet…”, here me out and check my logic. It’s pretty simple. And it’s been widely expressed by many others. Serious people who’ve been around for some time.

I said that you won’t be required to buy an assault weapon. Or a shotgun.  Or a sidearm of some sort.

There’s no obligation at all.

I can’t make you do anything you wouldn’t think was in your best interests anyway.

But walk though the game scenario and keep a map and a notepad handy, and don’t forget to ask the adult members of your household to follow along with you.

Now, before we get underway, let me tell you that I don’t own a gun. Never have. I am, however, a full supporter of our Second Amendment rights, the right of self-defense, etc. I did, two nights ago, again ask myself the question as to whether I should get one.  Previously, I had zeroed in and with the help of the late, great Frenchy, decided on a sidearm and a shotgun. Had ‘em picked out.  Thought about it long and hard. Decided that then was not the time.  I went though and did the homework  last week as to what I could buy (and where) in this state, and looked into where I could take the necessary courses and what it would all cost. All totaled, the bottom line runs to about $4,000.  I don’t have that kind of money that I think is important enough to invest in that acquisition. At this time. Tick tock. But I know just what to do, in what order, with whom. I paused to read and learn more about the forthcoming scenario. You can think right along with me.

Armed conflict is coming to America.

Why? Because massive social and financial upheaval is on the doorstep. The situation with Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, quantitative easing, inflation and deflation, the price and supply of oil, the status of the banking industry, the worldwide movement of goods and commodities (actually, the lack of it, given what’s happened ot the Baltic Dry Index), and the viability of the food production processes are all in the news. You can read.

You can sift through the political propaganda that circulates around these topics.  If you understand that the valley that provides an eighth of the fresh produce to the US just went through the worst drought in its history…. If you understand that much of the middle of the nation (the breadbasket) which provides much of the wheat, corn, beef, pork, etc. has gone through its own severe cycles of weather….  If you understand that the nation is deeply in debt and that the people who hold that debt are in deep financial straits themselves…. If you understand that the value of our currency is tied to the supply of oil and that the supply of oil is in trouble… If you understand that those who invested in our continued ability to provide oil have seen their investments fail… If you understand that our infrastructure is weak and broken because we have been horn-swaggled into paying for expensive and dysfunctional military hardware and the costs of overseas wars to provide profits for oligarchs and security for small groups of psychopathologically narcisstic and otherwise disturbed and duplicitous peoples…

Well, we’ll maintain the focus here at home. What’s the percentage of people who have solid jobs and incomes in your community? What do you think is going to happen when a lot of people can’t put food on their families?

Now, that’s just a bunch of questions, but let’s look at other forecasts for violence in America. It’s old news now… this is where your library can provide the books … that we’ve undergone a radical militarization of local law enforcement.

Since 2006, 44 agencies spent $71 million on tactical gear.

Federal agencies have armed themselves and bought up massive amounts of .40-caliber hollow point ammunition, a round so deadly it’s outlawed by most nations, and there’s enough for five rounds for every adult in America.

The US DOJ/ATF debacle known as “Fast and Furious” ships arms to the Sinaloa narcotics cabal in Mexico, and the US has armed and supplied ISIS. Everyone is pointing to Muslim terrorists behind every tree but there are well-armed gangs poised to enter America; some of them are already here.

And we haven’t even broached the idea of global armed conflict involving Russia, China, Israel and the US. That was back in Part One, starting in the Persian Gulf, focused on oil supplies and the trans-shipment of oil.

Another forecast of conflict inside America comes in John Whitehead’s book “Battlefield America”. [Here are the Barnes and Noble and Amazon links so you can read the reviews, comments, etc.]

Whitehead says, over at zerohedge.com:

“There is no end to the government’s unmitigated gall in riding roughshod over the rights of the citizenry, whether in matters of excessive police powers, militarized police, domestic training drills, SWAT team raids, surveillance, property rights, overcriminalization, roadside strip searches, profit-driven fines and prison sentences, etc.

The president can now direct the military to detain, arrest and secretly execute American citizens. These are the powers of an imperial dictator, not an elected official bound by the rule of law…. the schools, the churches, private businesses, service providers, nonprofits and your fellow citizens—many are also marching in lockstep with the police state. This is what is commonly referred to as community policing. After all, the police can’t be everywhere. So how do you police a nation when your population outnumbers your army of soldiers? … Trust me, if it looks like a battlefield (armored tanks on the streets, militarized police in metro stations, surveillance cameras everywhere), sounds like a battlefield (SWAT team raids nightly, sound cannons to break up large assemblies of citizens), and acts like a battlefield (police shooting first and asking questions later, intimidation tactics, and involuntary detentions), it’s a battlefield…. If you haven’t managed to read the writing on the wall yet, the war has begun.”


Whitehead mentions Jade Helm.  I’ve written about Jade Helm extensively. It’s a controversial subject and I’m not sure if I’ve clarified the issue or muddied the water, but there’s a lot going on inside that topic that has to do with covert ops, social engineering, and more.

“If you have been following along for some time and have taken in, read, watched, and absorbed the series here that focuses on the advancing totalitarianism and the merger of software, biomedical engineering, simulation and surveillance that seems to be culminating in Jade Helm and which have been discussed serially in


/alarumed/ ,


/sinister-designs/ and


then, listen up; your next stop is here:


I say that not because I got a mention but because there’s a video there that you need to watch (or listen to).

It’s the Caravan to Midnight episode #309 that comes after 35 paragraphs and a bunch of other videos, and it’s two and a half hours long , and it’s followed by another 40 minute video and then the Hagmann and Hagmann report podcast that runs for another two hours and 45 minutes….”


Follow on if you’d like at these three links:





In “Sinister Designs”, citing  “Jade Helm And The Point Of No Return” :

two attendees of Bilderberg, Peter Thiel and Alex Karp, have created the database on US Veterans at Palantir that has so infuriates Santilli as he tells us in the video below. Why would Thiel’s database targeting US Veterans match up nearly perfectly with Jade Helm 15’s geography? Is this more proof US Vets are being targeted?”

“Well, folks, this makes what I have already posted about Palantir [see created by elves ] come into sharp focus. It looks like the apps for SmartPhones created by DARPA …were given a test run at the Boston Marathon bombing. Maybe they were concerned that the minute men of the current day would be responding to the mass state police presence (pardon the pun).

That’s what you’re up against.

How smart is your phone? How smart is the fellow carrying your phone?”



Have you seen Dahr Jamail’s report on U.S. military plans for war games in Washington state? I’m sure some observers imagine that the military is simply looking for a place to engage in safe and responsible and needed practice in hand-to-hand combat against incoming North Korean nuclear missiles, or perhaps to rehearse a humanitarian invasion of Russia to uphold the fundamental international law against Vladimir Putin’s existence.

But if you look over the history of domestic use of the U.S. military — such as by reading the new book Soldiers on the Home Front: The Domestic Role of the American Military — it’s hard not to wonder whether, from the U.S. military’s point of view, at least a side benefit of the coming war game isn’t rehearsing….



General Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, is quoted in an article of the May/June 2012 issue of the Council on Foreign Relations official journal, Foreign Affairs, entitled The U.S. Army in a Time of Transition: Building a Flexible Force, which proposes using the Army to plan and carry out domestic law enforcement missions in the United States:

“Where appropriate we will also dedicate active-duty forces, especially those with niche skills and equipment, to provide civilian officials with a robust set of reliable and rapid response options.”



So clearly the United States government and military are planning for armed conflict inside the continental US. 


And I assume that it has occurred to you that

It’s probably time you war-gamed your situation and scenario.


The United States Marine Corps is already deeply involved in war-gaming and training for your situation and scenario.

“I’ve trained in every environment, jungle, the desert, the mountains, cold weather, but I’ve never really trained well in an urban environment,” said Brig. Gen. Julian Alford, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory commander, earlier this month at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) in Orlando, Florida.


“We are going to have these megacities that are ringed with these shanty towns and we are going to fight there because it will be the people who are uneducated, unemployed, the young men who are not married and they are mad about their lot in life,” Alford said.

“We talk about the three-block war, but we are moving quickly to the four-floor war,” he added. “We are going to be on the top floor of a skyscraper . . . evacuating civilians and helping people. The middle floor, we might be detaining really bad people that we’ve caught. On the first floor we will be down there killing them. … At the same time they will be getting away through the subway or subterrain. How do we train to fight that? Because it is coming, that fight right there is coming I do believe with all my heart.”


See Mark Safranski’s perspective on “Beltway chattering ninnies who reek of what military historian John Keegan termed ‘….the air of the seminar’” here. 



I’m not suggesting that you sit down and play the game of The Second American Civil War.

You don’t really have the time, the necessities, or the wits unless you’ve already been actively involved.

If you have been actively involved, keep your head down, your wits about you, and God speed.

If you haven’t been contemplating the possibilities and potentials, then you’d best begin.

The idea of a second civil war is not a new one. There are dozens… Call them alternative histories, science fiction, dystopian novels, preppers’ hallucinations….  Characterize them as right-wing terrorism, fringe politics, collapse-oriented predictive novels, whatever.

It might be best if you found one or two that you deemed tolerable enough to read, and you sat down and read them.


http://www.amazon.com/2015-The-Second-American-Civil-War-ebook/ [This is a five book series on Kindle for $16]




https://survivalblog.com/ [John Wesley, Rawles]

There are others; don’t be shy and reticent, fearful, stupid.

If you had a community book club that could go through a stack of these in the next 10 days, I’d suggest doing so. Any effort along these lines could and would constitute an effort at least as good and perhaps more efficient than trying to think about, create or actually play a wargame of an event that would leap like wildfire from geographic region to region, would play out on the mainstream media as well as in the social media (see note below), and which might flare in and out of existence over a period of time.


My best advice, especially if you have never given the whole idea of what it will take to survive in the middle of an “indefinite life-or-death nightmare”, is to read the classic piece of science fiction aimed at young adolescents by the late great Robert Heinlein entitled “Tunnel In The Sky”. There are audiobook and e-book versions available as well.


Here it is on YouTube! (7.5 hours…)


That’s a fun and painless way to dip your toe into the pool.

But you don’t have a Ramsbotham gate in your town.

Though subway entrances look and feel like they are going to transport you to a new place, it’s still a truth that wherever you go, there you are.


So you are going to have to focus on your own personal situation, environment, and circumstances; you can think through them with a wargaming approach, taking clues from Heinlein and other novels, gathering up some tools, etc.

Remember the best tool in your kit is the one you carry around between your ears.


Your own personal situation, environment, and circumstances is your third and final area of operations. Yes, you have the option of moving, or mobility, at all times. “Choose your ground wisely.”

Or, as Stewart Rhodes said a few days ago

“… stay home and get your own AO squared away… you need to get that done before you even think of running off to another state….”



Start by doing some mapping.

You must, as Dunnigan put it, compile information.

Do the compilation that Dunningan talked about in your own locale or community and plot out the critical elements of your situation, environment, and circumstances. Get some street maps, highway maps, local emergency management maps, et al and use the hex overlap method to identify critical locations, intersections, supplies, police stations, fire stations, hospitals, urgent care centers, doctors and nurses, known potentiators of disaster, local reserve units, militarized police, MRAP’s, grocery stores, farm stands, soup kitchens, sources for free fresh water, transportation bottlenecks, critical bridges, etc.  You must become intimately familiar in depth and breadth with the community in which you live.

Put your intelligence down on paper in a simple graphic shorthand.

Samuel Culper, a former Military Intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst who spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the executive editor of Forward Observer Magazine and the author of SHTF Intelligence: An Intelligence Analyst’s Approach to Community Security.

He says there are five ways that you can better prepare for community security through intelligence. Mapping is the first, assuming it’s accurate, up-to-date, verified, simplified.  Make it highy visual with icons; use sticky tabs cut to the size of your hexes and on which you have written key data or numerics with fine-point indelible marker. You’ll be amazed, once you have a system and a little practice, how much data you can pack into a small space.


Get creative with how you use small items you can find in lots of locations, like your local hardware or crafts stores.

Do hex map overlays on USGS and street maps.


Culper says ‘once you have our maps and map overlays set up, identify and note any critical infrastructure in the area, along with what’s called the human terrain. Pay attention to the people, places, and things that keep life-as-you-know-it up and running. You need to not only know exactly where they are in relation to your AO, but also how they’ll affect your AO.  Doing the legwork now in order to understand the community is a top priority, and this work never ends’.

All maps should have easily-retrivable data about distances and travel times for those who travel by car, on foot, etc., as well as some indicator of degree of difficulty of movement during inclement weather through either terrain indicators or some form of modifier. Newer online mapping and GPS software include mass transit; you should include it as appropriate for your locale. Don’t forget to include critical vertical data if there are significant numbers of high-rise buildings. underground facilities, large indoor facilities like malls, etc.

Here is an archive, a veritable treasure trove, of articles and podcasts by Culper which constitutes an advanced education on related topics,. I scratched the surface and pulled out a video, two links and a pdf as a sampler.  Pursue more as you see fit.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GRkCyvIz70 (62 minutes)







As noted, I do not own a weapon. I am not trained in their use, in tactical battle skills of any sort, etc.  That does not mean I’m a victim-in-waiting, nor does it mean I’m not a capable participant in the Second Civil War.  There is a growing number of law enforcement officers who are recommending that you take steps to arm yourselves within the legal limits of the local laws.  You may already be armed and proficient, and that’s all well and good. I thank you for your service and your responsibility; it is also possible you will be in a position to teach and train others when and as necessary. If you are between the ages of strong adolescence and early aging, reasonably fit and in good health, you also need not be armed (unless you want and choose to be); there are plenty of other worthwhile things to be involved in, and there is no reason you shouldn’t be involved, especially in terms of awareness skills, unarmed self-defense, etc. At a minimum, you can learn, practice and become proficient at atemi. This is a physical sklll of presence and movement that can save your life. Atemi comes in two categories: soft, and hard.

“Atemi … are often used to briefly break an opponent’s balance (see kuzushi) or resolve. This is the predominant usage of atemi in aikido. A painful but non-fatal blow to an area such as the eyes, face, or some vulnerable part of the abdomen can open the way for a more damaging technique, such as a throw or joint lock. Even if the blow does not land, the opponent can be distracted, and may instinctively contort their body (e.g., jerking their head back from a face strike) in such a way that they lose their balance.”  Metaphorically, an atemi move in a sudden encounter may open the path to escape, disappearance, or diversion.”  It’s especially important to think of the metaphorical applications of atemi in sudden and potentially combative encounters.

Here is a series of short YouTube videos, set on autoplay, that explain and demonstrate atemi.


This and the learning and practice of a martial art that emphasizes awareness in action and movement is also a form of wargaming that is simultaneously energizing, keeps you in shape, teaches meditation skills, and is fun.

Speaking of fun, in the middle of the middle of my refresher research into games and learning, I discovered this tasty morsel:

I recently saw this video of Ian Bogost (of Persuasive Games fame) talk at UX Week 2013 about fun. He argues that ‘fun’ isn’t something that can be added to a task (a.k.a. the chocolate-covered broccoli model) but that it is intrinsically related to the structures of an activity and is generated by the feeling of operating in a constrained system. This is exemplified in the following quote from the talk:

“[we believe that] we have to bring something to the table that makes intolerable things tolerable … but what if we arrive at fun not through expanding the circumstances that we’re in, in order to make them less wretched, but actually by embracing the wretchedness of the circumstances themselves.”

This brings to mind Papert’s notion of ‘hard fun‘ and the idea that things are not fun despite being hard, but because they are hard.


If you have not already done so, focus on your personal and family health care needs, medications, supplies and training. Get as much emergency and/or medical training as you can.

Discover and map all discoverable means of surveillance; think also in terms of sousveillance. Lots of people are watching you; to what degree are you observant yourself?

Think, like Samuel Culper says, “in both short and long terms, from afar and nearby, in terms of “threat analysis”. Where are problems likely to arise from? “Threats are broken down into four categories:  conventional, irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive.” Jim Acosta points out that “local city, county, and state emergency planners probably have done a “hazard analysis” for their Emergency Operations Plans, and their analysis is public record and available for the asking. They likely had the advantage of access to police, fire and emergency management pros with long memories to better pin down historical hazards in a particular area.” Rob Hanus has more on threat analysis here.

Criminal elements, including and especially gangs, operating in your community may be the biggest threat. Samuel Culper details the analysis of “signature”, profile, associations, contrast and the duration, repetition and timing of exposure that will be eminently useful in identifying threats from criminals and gangs.



“… It is a modern-day assumption that major players in the global political arena are guarded by (and probably otherwise command) sizeable contingents of former military-trained and previously-employed covert operators. Even major influential corporations employ them. There is a burgeoning industry in the tools, vehicles, training etc. for these kinds of forces.

Peter Dale Scott, the global expert on deep politics, focused on “the marauding condottieri or private mercenary armies contracted for by the wealthy city states of Renaissance Italy” in his widely-mirrored article the-myth-of-the-grand-chessboard-geopolitics-and-imperial-folie-de-grandeur.

Numerous efforts have been made to document the phenomenon; here are five examples:








Sourcewatch.org notes that “These services include risk advisory, training of local forces, armed site security, cash transport, intelligence services, workplace and building security, war zone security needs, weapons procurement, personnel and budget vetting, armed support, air support, logistical support, maritime security, cyber security, weapons destruction, prisons, surveillance, psychological warfare, propaganda tactics, covert operations, close protection and investigations.”


Jon Rappaport has a fascinating look at politicians and others with class and privilege who maintained armed protection.


So in your mapping of the human terrain, you must also consider and be aware of where their protected estates, bunkers, and Shogunate castles are located so that you may steer clear of them. Cryptome recently ran a photo series on El Chapo’s hideout, and the piece from Britain’s “Daily Mail”  on el Chapo’s .50-caliber echoes through the tubes of the world wide web.

Jim Dunnigan, the expert on wargaming noted in Part One, wrote about the payoffs from games that support local decision-making, but also issued some warnings.

Manual games are now created all over the place to support local decision making; note the focus on casualties and terrain in that article.  He cautions that there must be some allowance in the game and in your thinking for “command control” problems:  “… you could be certain that some of your orders would not be carried out, and you never knew exactly which ones. Bad communications, inept subordinates, misunderstandings, the reasons are endless.”  Note that this is said of military chain of command, and is controversial, but how much more communications noise and chaos is going to be present in a civilian environment among pople who may not see themselves as being on the same team?


Finally, Brandon Smith provides you with a moral compass for your adventures.

And ask yourself, as Charles Hugh Smith puts it, “what you are doing every day to build community, health and productive enterprises that generate value, wealth and positive social roles for all participants”.


wargaming for disinterested bystanders

Part One

We live in an a dry tinder world populated increasingly by angry, conniving, well-armed and well-funded bands of angry, immoral and unethical tribalists playing with flammables and matches and several categories of flash-bangs. 


There have been, in the last several weeks, concerted reminders by noted authors, Presidential candidates and others that we are at war and that you are a combatant.

Lots of people want to have a war; shouldn’t we pre-think the concept?

In order to help you and those closest to you better understand what is going to go down, and thus perhaps to prepare and survive and come out on the other side without having been consumed or destroyed, I’ll detail several devices or tools by which you can follow the news at home and make the necessary preparations that lie within the realm of your budget, abilities and available time

This is not about economics, though they are a factor.

This is not about weapons, or arms, though they may be a tool.

You do not need to own or acquire an assault rifle in order to participate. This is not about being in or starting a “militia”.

This does not require that you first buy 100-lb. bags of beans and rice.

I am going to assume that you still have a little time. These tools will help you accelerate your understanding within a short period of time.

I am going to assume that you have precious little in the way of funds that can be earmarked for this project; it’s okay, as the means and the tools I’ll ask you to employ require little if any expenditure.

What we are talking about are mental exercises.

In the very beginning of my e-book Summon The Magic, and throughout it, I cite evidence and examples of how thinking about and using the senses to mentally see an event in advance in a detailed, simulated way is equal to doing it.

The great thing about war games is that you don’t get killed.  No one’s legs are blown off. No one has to be Aerovac’ed.  What PTSD there is is easily treated with a post-game pizza and beer debriefing.

You can begin these mental exercises — think of it as though you were playing five games of chess at the same time — by availing yourself of online tools, some scraps of notepaper, Post-It notes, tiny cardboard squares, and push pins.

I’m going to walk you through the delightful, zany, silly and deadly serious worlds of wargaming. (I’m not talking here about PlayStation or Nintendo “first-person shooter” or action games like War Thunder, though the graphics are good and will draw you in to the experience.) Nor do I include miniatures, but this does not disparage those who are into that form.




“Wargaming is a discipline embodying the creation, use, synthesis, and analysis of wargames, whether to entertain, educate, or analyze. Operations research is scientific and quantitative; wargaming is about decisions and players. The natural alliance between the two is separated by “players,” a messy category that OR would often prefer not to deal with.”

I used to play war games with a very limited number of friends.  I started with the Kissingerian strategic board game Diplomacy in high school; it was based on the Congress of Vienna and I was introduced to it by the children of a Pacific Theater military historian.

It is very difficult to find someone to play these kinds of games because they are difficult and complex and they require a very large investment in time, thinking, reading, research, etc.; they often require fine-finger dexterity as well as mental dexterity (unless the game has been computerized), and they require a lot of set-up time as well as closure time; the post-game discussion and de-briefing is the most important part!  Then you have to put the game and its myriad components and pieces all back in the box for the next time, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a large dry room with a big table and a locked door.  Even the household cat can inadvertently destroy your painstaking re-creations.  (I named mine General Thumbs.)

In our case, you are simply going to open your mind; eventually, you must inevitably turn your mind to something else, but you can pick up where you left off very easily.

The best wargames are a notch or two above what would be called a “beer and pretzels” game. Regatta was a fun game that taught me some basics about sailing races, but I haven’t crewed on a one-meter yet.  The best tabletop game I ever played was about war of a different sort: manufactured by Tudor, based on the probability understandings of a guy with a Ph.D. in math who spent his Sundays quarterbacking the Cleveland Browns, NFL Strategy offered 86 offensive plays against 13 defensive sets, along with special teams’ kicking game, penalties, and time outs. It’s a simple example of the vast gap between simulation and performance that few outside of Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, or Bill Belichick can close.]

Even that small group of rare friends who will, perhaps with some trepidation or concern for your psychological well-being, participate tentatively in such a strange pastime will wonder why you would want to simulate mass violence and death.  One of my friends (a college roommate, my best man and the dude I named my first-born after) said, with high conviction and some authority and accuracy, that playing war games was the same as supporting war.

I tabled that idea (pardon the pun) for some time as I used the art form to better understand a good deal about war, history, battle management, logistics, time vs. movement, and so much more. In my case, I beat the sword of wargaming into the plowshare of emergency management, only to have it smeltered back down into a “Gladio” sword for the induction of chaos. Simulations, models and games are discussed at length in the second or middle section of my white paper. Earlier phases in this decades-long inquiry, described in further detail here, enabled the development of the game “Incident Commander”.

Today, I think (as should you) that even the slightest participation in a mental exercise of wargaming may help you save your life and those of your family. Aside from asking you to read a very long article and perhaps do some follow-up digging, I’ll try mightily to limit the degree of “heavy lifting” that you will have to do. Much work has already been done, and I merely have to point you in the right direction. The degree to which you apply it is up to you and the ready availability of intelligent playmates.


My own exposure to wargaming came in stages, courtesy of some old Avalon Hill games, a venture into the lengthy and detailed Sage publication in the early 1980’s of a guide to games and simulations edited by some folks from the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA), and eventual exposure to and reading of James Dunnigan. You’ll hear much more about him in due time.

I dabbled in such things as “Railroad Management”, “Wilderness Survival” and “Le Mans”, pausing to recreate my own world of Formula One circuits on paper.  (The fact that I drove a Fiat X1/9 also prompted me to create the local equivalent of a mini-Monaco, a tight-cornered, slow-speed 3 AM timed-trial circuit that triangulated the city where used to  drive an ambulance, turning down Prospect from the hospital corner at the memorial park, snaking round the hill on Crescent.)


The board game Wilderness Survival will not teach you how to survive unless you’ve spent decades sitting on a couch in some urban megalopolis. Even then, it’s only an introduction. You need water and food, and you’ll die without them. Lots of these types of games are online now; if you want to go down that path, here’s a trailhead.

I’d dabbled in model railroading, and I spent a year as a “plebe” in a very low-level college ROTC special ops training group with overnight 20-mile forced marches, a week-long search and evasion drill in the winter woods, and some hand-to-hand combat and weapons training.   BFD.

In college, I learned about Presidential elections through an 18-hour 90-player classroom simulation exercise. I played the centrist media reporter and, in a way that made my professor of political science aghast, I brokered a ticket to break a convention logjam. [I was into free play before I even knew what it was. Carpe diem.]

I moved on to numerous re-creations of the battle of the bulge, built a library of books about the battle, and began to read deeply about strategy and tactics. It takes a lifetime to understand Lao Tzu unless you approach it with an empty glass. I found Clausewitz, revered by others, to be cloying and and annoying.  Basil Liddel-Hart’s book “Strategy” (on the value of the indirect approach) was worth its weight in gold, even today. Boydian “OODA Loop” and related matters are available for advanced readers; I’ve gone there, but I don’t profess to be an expert.

I sidetracked into “1776” and “Gettysburg”, read a lot of Revolutionary War and Civil War history, visited some battlefields, and played a really good tabletop game of Napoleonic warfare; that was enough to get me into an intensive study of “Le Grand Armee” and the little corporal, and to have designed and built my own full hex-paper approach to the battles of Spotsylvania, the Wilderness, and Bull Run.

If it’s mindless entertainment you want, you can get it a low price for your electronic pad.

If it’s understanding you want, you are going to start at the beginning, and you won’t have to build anything.

This article will offer three AO’s [areas of operation] for your mind to chew on. 


Our first focus will be on the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz.  Recent news items emanating from here focus our attention intensely, if briefly, but I’ll use it as a teaching tool to allow you to explore the two other AO’s on your own time.

The Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz are of intense interest because they undoubtedly will become a major theater of war for numerous reasons. The first is that virtually all of the world’s major military players border on or have a presence and a geo-strategic interest in the Mideast and what is going on there.  The second major reason is oil, and its linkage to currency and economy. More than a few people have suggested that these inter-relationships push us inexorably into World War Last. An extension of this geographic focus goes into Syria and the Caucasus region. One wil drive another.


Recent news items that focus our attention are these:

the stories of the wandering riverine boats;

the emerging presence of three new military bases on the fringes of those theater of war.

Your first step is to get as big and as detailed a map as you can find (and manage) of the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz.  Today, of course, a number of maps are available to you right inside your computer monitor.

This is essentially a war game about naval encounters, though there is without question a major land-based element as well.  (Any simple survey will disclose other bottlenecks of sea lanes that may be contested.)

We’re going to start our little foray into make-believe war with Jim Dunnigan, who has designed over 100 conflict simulations. “In 1979, he wrote The Complete Wargames Handbook, and in 1980 How To Make War.  In addition to writing, Dunnigan is a principal in StrategyWorld.Com and chief editor of StrategyPage.Com. Podcasts of his commentaries on history, military affairs, and the contemporary world are regularly posted on StrategyPage.Com… Dunnigan regularly lectures at military and academic institutions, such as the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group, in Newport, Rhode Island.”  It’s my understanding that Newport features one of the world’s most sophisticated computerized naval wargame facilities in the world.  Of course, it’s open by invitation only. I don’t have one, and the odds are very very high that you’ll never see it either.

Dunningan’s templates are available to you, as are his years of experience. As you consider this first major theater of operation, and the two yet to be introduced, you’ll want to keep in mind his advice:


Determine the Process to be modeled. Many different aspects of your model must be defined before you can proceed. Scale (Strategic, Operational, Tactical), Environment (Land, Air, Naval, Combined), Intensity (Low, Medium, High), Basic Aspects (Movement, Combat, Order of Battle), Special Aspects (C3I, Logistics, Doctrine & Tactics, Fog of War (Is the situation highly dependent on one, or both, sides being in the dark about what is going on? If so, you will have to model this aspect of the situation.)

What do you want this model or simulation to do? There are several different tasks you can direct your modeling towards. These can include training, research, analysis, etc. For example: You may want to test a hypothesis. This can be historical, contemporary, or future. It can be about weapons, tactics, organization, or whatever. Be rigorous in defining your hypothesis. A model/wargame will eat you alive if you are sloppy. Perhaps you want to better define a process. You may want to break down an existing system into only its essential parts. A wargame building exercise is excellent for this.

How do you want the game to go about its work? Do you want to use a map (most common with wargames), or cards, or a computer interface? The customer, or user, might not even be sure which form of game would work best. You have to figure this out before you proceed.

For our purposes, you’ll stick with maps, a computer file or two, maybe a large bulletin board or flat table, if that. Frankly, most of you will stick with mental visualization and some really simple and cheap paper aides, stick pins, etc.

To help you visualize, you might start by focusing on the Victory Games product entitled “Sixth Fleet”. It’s a relatively-modern example of naval warfare involving the Mediterranean; when I checked this link, there was a full-boxed game available on EBay for $30. One review is found here.


You can also look around for blank hex sheets or hexagon grid paper, perhaps in bulk; it’s a cheap and effective way to doodle and design.  Fire up your printer and go here: http://www.printablepaper.net/category/hexagon_graph

You’ll have to give some thought to how large your hex needs to be. Amazon.com sells 100-page tearsheet books of 1-inch Hexagonal Graph-Paper for $8.

Once you give some thought to Dunningan’s process notes for each of your “three areas of operation”, you have to start to do some research.

You must, as Dunnigan puts it, compile information.


“Here is a sample checklist.

Area of Operations– Where, in time and geography, is the conflict to take place?

Scale– What is to be represented on the map, a few square miles or a continent?

Significant Terrain– For the Terrain Effects Chart, this is a winnowing process, in which you reduce all the terrain information you have gathered into a usable format.

Order of Battle– Units involved, their movement capability, combat capability, and other characteristics.

Victory Conditions– This is a critical element, and often slighted or overlooked. What were the goals of the combatants?

Combat Results– Attrition rates in combat, with adjustments for other factors as needed and likely distribution of results for use with non-deterministic (unpredictability of combat) procedures.

Sequence of Play– The sequence that appears to work best in most situations is:

1-Planning and preparation operations,



4-Post operations checks (victory, morale, command control, etc.).” [These must include status updates, probably include a refreshed “sitrep”, etc. which begin the cycle again and enable planning and preparation as well as unit/personnel assessment.]


You can also look around for databases and spreadsheets if you care to get that involved or particular. Whoever you are, wherever you are, remember the dictum that “victory goes to the side that is best able to cope with the details”.  Remember the adage about generalship about logistics.  Your thinking and your data have “to reflect the reality of your current situation as much as possible.”

The game “Persian Gulf” derives from the 1990 land-air battles, involves the Turkish Caucasus region, elite forces, air power, and diplomacy, but, more importantly, note the links down the right side.

Previous military exercises in that theater involved commandos, parachutists, mobile shoulder-firing units, electronic warfare teams, special forces, rapid reaction forces, and helicopter and drone wings. Some units had access to intelligence electronic, anti-electronic and communications systems to jam communications. Surface-to-sea tactical missiles are a new and threateting technology.


“… “The state of the art [Pakistani] Ra’ad ALCM (air-launched cruise missile) is equipped with highly advanced guidance and navigation system that ensures engagement of targets with pin point accuracy.”

Aircraft carriers supported by minesweepers, ballistic missile cruisers, frigates, destroyers, and assault ships carrying thousands of U.S. Marines and special forces may also be operating in the region. Don’t forget the logistics ships, the merchant vessels,  mini-subs, fast attack boats, minefields, and shore-based anti-ship missile batteries.

Order of Battle is important and is a place where Dunnigan excelled in his book “How to Make War”. Find a copy in a library somewhere and do some browsing. The data itself is surely outdated by now. For your purposes, some crude but reasionaly accurate informaiton will suffice. If you’re in the military, the hard-core details are provided to you. If you’re an armchair warrior, there is still a lot of data available to you if you want to dig very deeply but, for our purposes, not really relevant. The speed of that anti-ship missile is a meaningless factor when dealing with hexes and the kinds of scale you’ll be looking at. [More on this below…] For most of us, this will play out in your minds or in the news.

The impression I want you to get when creating a mental simulation of warfare in the Persian Gulf and surrounding areas is the sheer density of weaponry and power that is amassed there, and the number of nations that are represented. The nature and quality of armamentaria is equally important.  35 ships from 41 countries were involved in a real-world minesweeping exercise last year, and that’s just the US/NATO team. A year ago, “Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards staged war games in the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, including a gunboat attack on a model U.S. warship….”

Beyond a certain curiosity, unless you are an actively-engaged staff officer in some military unit, OOB is unnecessary and will drive you nuts. In your limited mental exercise, much detail is unnecessary and can be submerged into game elements of “factors”, modifiers on outcome tables, etc. Counting Kalishnikovs doesn’t strike me as a worthwhile investment of time. The US is the largest purveyor of small arms and is currently flooding the arena  with state-of-the-art fighter planes, helicopters, missiles, battle tanks and electronic warfare systems.

As Mark Gaffney points out, “The peril for the world today in the “Persian Lake” is many times greater than it ever was in the Gulf of Tonkin.” But in the Millennium Challenge wargames of 2008 the Millennium Challenge wargames of 2008, involving 13,500 military members and civilians battling in nine live exercise ranges in the United States, and double that many computer simulations to replicate a number of different battles, “ingenious low-tech alternatives” applied en masse in a coordinated fashion against a certain “schwerpunkt” were shown, in at least one iteration. History bears out the lesson many don’t want to acknowledge; whether it was a young boy with a sling and stone or a collection of day farmers with muskets they used for hunting small game, giants can be brought to their knees.

And note, as announced within the recent past, the expansion of the Turkish navy to a base in Qatar, and the increased presence in the region of China, starting in Djibouti, perhaps a soft military presence in support of their geo-political interests.

Consider also the Pakistani naval bases located in close proximity to the entrance/exit to the Straits of Hormuz. Pakistan shares geo-strategic interests with China.

Google maps viewer


Ashton Carter, who according to Christopher Bollyn is the Rothschild agent currently running the Pentagon, has been guarded about the detail but is clearly not adverse to using the secretive capabilities of special operations units. Lots of nations have special units, but Israel’s are noted for their ability to appear to be Islamic, their vast capacity in forged passports, and more. The new SOCOM chief Gen. Joseph Votel will perhaps soon have the ability to use torpedo-like, 30-foot mini-submarines to put Navy SEALs on enemy shores.


Special ops units are like the ninja in the old Milton-Bradley simulator of warfare in an age of duplicitious oligarchs entitled Shogun, a tabletop game for up to seven players game that is now so rare that it sells for over $300 at Amazon. [I still have mine.] Shogun is a mix of Risk, Diplomacy and the feudal era of Japanese daimyo. [Players must bring their best poker faces.]


And, if the “game” stretches out well into the future, your OOB must consider the development and use of autonomous robotics, whether in land, sea, undersea, or airborne applications. Certainly swarms of single-minded clouds of weaponry constitute ingenious low-cost alternatives. The US, Germany, Russia, Israel, Japan and South Korea are already well down the road in robotics manufacturing; soon we will have robots making other robots.  Surveillance drones are already recording movements of warships deployed in the Persian Gulf.

From DefenseOne’s DBrief of January 20, 2016:


“Various technological advances are about to make hundred-drone swarms a reality, and a nightmare for today’s top-of-the-line weapons, writes retired Marine Corps general T.X. Hammes, who is working a study on the matter for the Cato Institute. Read on, here.”

“The U.S. military is banking on an emerging technology called cognitive electronic warfare to give the jet an almost-living ability to sniff out new hard-to-detect air defenses and invent ways to foil them on the fly,” writes Defense One Tech Editor Patrick Tucker.

To understand what cognitive warfare is, you have to know what it isn’t, he writes. “EW makes use of the invisible waves of energy that propagate through free space from the movement of electrons, the electromagnetic spectrum. Conventional radar systems generally use fixed waveforms, making them easy to spot, learn about, and develop tactics against. But newer digitally programmable radars can generate never-before-seen waveforms, making them harder to defeat.”

Tucker puts it all in context—including the overarching concern the U.S. is falling behind its peers in emerging weapons tech, and what to do about it—here.

The social and human dynamics of war, the focus of a new report from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) , include “a technology shift, a democratization of information technology that now connects and empowers civilian populations. Civilians have access to things like smartphones which mean real-time information at their fingertips…. Rogue actors now have access to things like precision-guided weapons. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) took a heavy toll on U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, emerging drone and ground robotic technologies are expanding the ways with which improvised weapons can deliver attacks.”


Try not to dwell on how many of these units can carry or deliver tactical or strategic nuclear weapons, or the possible use of chemical or biological warfare capabilities (beyond, of course, the depleted uranium, DIME and white phosphorus  already in widespread use).

“… This redesigned nuclear weapon is the country’s first precision-guided atomic bomb, with a computer brain and maneuverable fins that enable it to more accurately target sites for destruction. It also has a “dial-a-yield” feature that allows its handlers to adjust the level of its explosive power.

Supporters of this revamped weapon of mass destruction argue that, by ensuring greater precision in bombing “enemy” targets, reducing the yield of a nuclear blast, and making a nuclear attack more “thinkable,” the B61 Model 12 is actually a more humanitarian and credible weapon than older, bigger versions. Arguing that this device would reduce risks for civilians near foreign military targets, James Miller, who developed the nuclear weapons modernization plan while undersecretary of defense, stated in a recent interview that “minimizing civilian casualties if deterrence fails is both a more credible and a more ethical approach.”

Other specialists were far more critical. The Federation of Atomic Scientists pointed out that the high accuracy of the weapon and its lower settings for destructiveness might tempt military commanders to call for its use in a future conflict.

General James E. Cartright, a former head of the US Strategic Command and a retired vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conceded that possessing a smaller nuclear device did make its employment “more thinkable.” But he supported developing the weapon because of its presumed ability to enhance nuclear deterrence. Using a gun as a metaphor, he stated: “It makes the trigger easier to pull but makes the need to pull the trigger less likely.”


Another weapon undergoing US government “modernization” is the cruise missile. Designed for launching by US bombers, the weapon – charged William Perry, a former secretary of defense – raised the possibilities of a “limited nuclear war.” Furthermore, because cruise missiles can be produced in nuclear and non-nuclear versions, an enemy under attack, uncertain which was being used, might choose to retaliate with nuclear weapons…..”


If you want to play the nuclear game, check out CityLab. “Mapmakers Anya A’Hearn and Allan Walker recreated the iconic WarGames world map in a fully 1980s digital aesthetic, populated with open-source data on the current whereabouts of the world’s known nuclear weapons.”

And don’t look up, or you might see surveillance satellites, combat in space itself (yes, they wargame that too), or incoming rods of god (militarized or spiritual).

“… Although few people are actually assigned to the JICSPOC, the IC and Air Force bring together several hundred people to run the war games — which is what they really are — and then to figure out what the lessons are and they can improve their performance and implement the lessons learned…..”


But focus… Any wargame or simulation worth a hoot has to be played out at a manageable level.  Back in the Straits of Hormuz and environs, where you focused on fleet battle scale, you have to have rules. Most wargames come with a thick booklet that maintains order; you can’t move that aircraft carrier very fast, and it takes a while to get it to turn. Your game has to stay within the limitations of reality, and a set of rules acts as a built-in system of referees.

You have to define how large a hex is, how long a turn is, and what the game intervals will allow. There is an inherent ma-ai (harmony of space) in war gaming. Space, time, and relationship. Nothing kills a good war game encounter faster than a player who debates within himself what move to make for a period of time that is five times greater than the game interval. Chess has a clock. So does life. In war, the clock is merciless. Here is an example of a rules set for a fleet battle game. 

Rules give the players “a “window” into “Combat Results Tables”, some basic “trigger and response” behaviors (a critical one is “detection”), and allow you to manage differing scenarios, “missions”, fuel and ammo usage, casualties and damage, and more.

Dunnigan’s chapter on “Wargames at War” talks about the history of wargaming among professional soldiers, and its eventual emergence as a command tool.

The development and application of computers, operations analysis (OR) and systems analysis during World War II firmly implanted the idea that simulations of war had to, and could, provide precise and unambiguous answers. It was ignored that history based wargames, despite being relatively imprecise and ambiguous, had usually been accurate enough to be useful.

The chapter goes to to discuss the advent of chaos theory in the 1980’s, and discusses the return of investment of time versus the gain in accuracy of predictability for calculators, spreadsheets, and linear programming with computers. “There is a trade off between the accuracy of your wargame and how much time and resources you have available”.

His chapter on the military experience with wargames looks in detail at Operations Research.

His chapter on professional wargames and military decision-making discusses the problems of low-intensity conflict and of complexity in wargames, models and simulations. It also discusses the history of wargaming at the United States Army War College.

Says Dunnigan: “People who are into playing or designing wargames do not think like the rest of us. Actually, this applies to most people in the sciences, or anyone who uses the scientific method (testing hypotheses until you get a proof in the form of a reproducible result). Wargamers look at wars, and most other things, in a more analytical fashion, taking into account historical precedents and antecedents….”

Perhaps wargamers are part of what is called the scientific dictatorship as discussed in that e-book and by Andrew Gavin Marshall, an illuminated devotion to science that minimizes faith, belief, emotion and indeed humanity itself.


If you think this kind of thing is reserved for overweight geeks to do while chowing down on pizza on nights they don’t have a date with that hot chick they met at the pub last week, consider this:


111 students from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University in Washington, DC, playing s simulation focused on the Middle East that took 4 hours and 45 minutes of real time, covering approximately 2 months of simulated time (September 19 – November 19 , 2015), representing: ten people from the President’s staff and the National Security Council; thirty-five people from the Pentagon (from the SecDef down through the Joint Chiefs to selected staff from Under Secretary’s and Assistant Secretary’s Offices); thirty-five from the diplomatic community and the office of the Secretary of State; and thirty-one people from the intelligence community.

Or this:


Paxsims.wordpress.com is a blog “devoted to the development and effective use of games and simulation-based learning concerning issues of conflict, peacebuilding, and development in fragile and conflict-affected states, as well as to the policy application of gaming and simulation techniques”. It’s a very serious place for heavy hitters and is loaded with relevant and interesting posts, links and categories.  The editors, associate editors and contributors are all noted here.


Rising Tides: A Simulation of Regional Crisis and Territorial Competition in the East China Sea, 7 November 2015


David Shlapak of RAND’s Center for Gaming, Dan De Luce and Keith Johnson of Foreign Policy magazine recently tried their hand at descalating a simulated Sino-Japanese naval confrontation over the Senkaku Islands.

Other recent offerings included:

  • a review of a humanitarian crisis game;
  • a look ahead to the China Futures Wargame at the US Army War College in Carlisle;
  • a crisis simulation of “Sino-African Relations in the Heart of Africa“ at George Washington University;
  • the announcement of a wargaming faculty position at the US Naval War College; and
  • an invitation to sign up for New World Order 2035, a day-long mega-game at McGill University in Montreal on 2/20/16, a “day full of political intrigue, conspiracies, and crisis” “with 100 scheming people in several large rooms while confronting the most pressing global issues of the 21st century”.

While it’s not wargaming, the upcoming World Economic Forum, where “things are arranged to avoid argument, confrontation, provocation”, revoked Ri Su-Yong’s invitation after his country’s recent “test” of a mini-hydrogen bomb. But this event, perhaps like many, aren’t constructed as “free play” events. “The World Economic Forum is an intensely orchestrated event with nothing left to chance,” Frank Vogl wrote in the Global Policy Forum in 2001. “Every topic for discussion is carefully considered and researched, every participant is thoroughly prescreened and every moment of every day is micromanaged. The Forum is programmed to tick like the best Swiss watch.”  Certain subjects may be avoided.

In Coram’s biography of Lt. Col. John Boyd, there is a discussion about free-play that I excerpted into the 15th chapter of Summon The Magic entitled  “Psychology of Strategy”:

“In free-play exercise  with no scenario and no rules, orchestrated performance gets tossed out through introduction and simulation of the unexpected. It is a great way to select and test leaders because free play will produce clear winners and losers.  Free play involves post-exercise critiques by subordinates. Leaders dislike being contradicted by subordinates, especially when they are correct. Marine Lt. Col Ray Smith, a graduate of the free-play exercises at Fort Pickett, led a battalion during the invasion of Grenada. Intelligence reports indicated a large building flying a curious flag; it was assumed to house one of the revolutionary organizations. A Navy admiral ordered it attacked by Smith’s marines, an order that ordinarily would be carried out quickly without a second thought. But a new fundamental tenet, derived from freeplay experience, the history of maneuver warfare, trust and the OODA loop theory, is to give the officer on the scene the authority to make tactical decisions. A young captain under Smith’s command was not sure the building housed revolutionaries and suggested sending out a patrol. Smith had confidence in him and agreed; he could always call in naval gunfire to level the building. As the patrol approached the building, a civilian came out to welcome them. Dozens of guns were trained on the man; if he had twitched or reached into a pocket, he probably would have died. He waved and said “Gentleman, I am glad to see you; I am the ambassador of Venezuela.”


One of the things I discovered, having been a beta tester for “The Game of Games”, having read a lot of Thiagi, and having had a delightful penne peloponesse dinner with a British game designer at the NASAGA convention in Montreal, was that you can force dialogue and awareness by having players play competing roles in different phases of the simulated event.

I am pretty sure, though it’s no longer within my pay grade or security clearance ( I never had that in the first place), that DARPA and DOD operate sophisticated round-the-globe round-the-clock desktop-to-desktop military simulations covering all branches from platoon-level tactics through logistics all the way up to grand strategy.  Perhaps they have progressed to the point where they’ve taken it away from the anchoring office/desk with the advent of smartphones and tablets.

What is unfortunate is that, beyond the entertainment value of things like SimCity, no one has yet placed self-empowering grassroot-level coordination and collaboration simulations, tools or games into the hands of the people.

We’ll assume that you haven’t yet amassed sufficient political cache, coinage or clearance to attend any of those PaxSim-style mega-game events.

This is just as well because you should be staying at home thinking about the two other areas of operation of concern to you.

We’ll talk more about that tomorrow in Part Two.

BBC Transatlantic Sessions 4

Allan MacDonald & Jerry Douglas

Jewels Of The Ocean



http://www.strategypage.com/wargames-handbook/chapter/Contents.aspx Second Edition of James Dunnigan’s “Complete Wargames Handbook” [1992], free and online


http://www.academia.edu/1010817/Maps_and_mapping_technologies_of_the_Persian_Gulf_War  [requires registration]

http://www.amazon.com/Wargaming-for-Leaders-Strategic-Battlefield-Boardroom/ [by Mark Herman and Mark Frost]










Journals & Periodicals 

[clickable links from paxsims]

Academic Gaming Review

Battles Magazine

C3i Magazine

Eludamos: Journal of Computer Game Culture

GAME: The Italian Journal of Game Studies

Games and Culture

International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations

International Journal of Role-Playing

Sciences du jeu

Simulation & Gaming

The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation

Training & Simulation Journal

Virtual Training & Simulation News

Well Played

Web Resources: fragile and conflict-affected countries

Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation

Current Intelligence

International Alert

International Peace Institute

OECD DAC—Conflict and Peace

OECD DAC—Development Effectiveness in Fragile States

PRIO (International Peace Research Institute)

Small Wars Journal

UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations

UN Peacekeeping Resource Hub

UNDP—Crisis Prevention and Recovery

US Army—Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute

World Bank—Conflict and Development blog

World Bank—Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries

World Bank—World Development Report 2011

Web Resources: games and simulation

A Force More Powerful—game

A Horse of Peas

Acrasian Security Blog

Active Learning in Political Science

Against All Odds—game

Air War College—wargames, simulations, and exercises

APSA—simulations for teaching political science

Barnard College—Reacting to the Past

Best Delegate

Beyond Intractability—Exercises and Simulations



Class Wargames

Columbia American History Online—classroom simulations

Community Organizing Toolkit—game


CRISP: Crisis Simulation for Peace

CUNY Games Network

Darfur is Dying—game

Economics Network—classroom experiments and games

Emergency Capacity Building project — simulation resources

Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds

Fletcher School/Tufts University—SIMULEX

Game Design Concepts

Game Theory .net




Games & Social Networks in Education

Games for Change

Games for Educators

Games for Health

Games Without Frontiers


Giant Battling Robots

Global Justice Game

Grog News

Guns, Dice, Butter

History of Wargaming Project

Ian Bogost

ICT for Peacebuilding

International Game Developers Association

International Simulation & Gaming Association

Journal of Virtual Worlds Research

Kings College London—Conflict Simulation

Little Wars

Ludic Futurism


Macquarrie University—Middle East politics simulation

McGill Model UN

McGill University—Brynania simulation

Mike Cosgrove—wargame design class

MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program—simulation materials

Model UN Headquarters

MODSIM World conference

MORS Wargaming Community of Practice



National Center for Simulation

National Security Decision-Making Game

National Security Decision-Making game

Naval Postgraduate School—MOVES Institute

NDU—Center for Applied Strategic Learning

Negotiation-Based Learning

News Games

North American Simulation and Gaming Association

Oil Shockwave Simulation

Open Simulations Platform

Pax Warrior

Peacekeeping the Game

Pearson Peacekeeping Training Centre—exercises and simulations

Pervasive Games: Theory and Design

Play the Past

Play Think Learn

Public International Law and Policy Group—Negotiation Simulation Exercises

Purple Pawn

Reality is Broken

Red Team Journal


Santa Clara University—Conflict Resolution Simulation

Serious Games at Work

Serious Games Institute

Simulations Interactivity Standards Organization

Social Impact Games

Strategikon (French)

Technoculture, Art, and Games

Terra Nova (Simulation + Society + Play)

The Ludologist

The Open-Ended Machine


Tom Mouat’s wargames page

Trans-Atlantic Consortium for European Union Studies & Simulations

UN Association USA—model UNs

University of Maryland – Laboratory for Computational Cultural Dynamics

University of Maryland—ICONS Project

University of Michigan ICS: Arab-Israeli Conflict Simulation

US Army Combined Arms Center—Military Gaming Blog

US Army—Modelling and Simulation

US DoD—Games Developers’ Community

US DoD—Modeling and Simulation Coordination Office

US DoD—Modeling and Simulation Information Analysis Center

US Military Academy – Warfighting Simulation Center

USC—Institute for Creative Technologies

USIP—Training and Education Center

Virtual Peace

Virtual Worlds Research Consortium

Wargaming Connection

Web Grognards

World Bank—EduTech

World Peace Game Foundation

Zones of Influence

Web Resources: games and simulation (commercial)

Booz Allen Hamilton—modeling and simulation

BreakAway—serious games

Brian Train-game designs

Civic Mirror

Consequences Consulting—peacekeeping simulation


Decisive Point

Defense Linguistics

Fabulsi—online roleplay simulations

Fiery Dragon Productions


MCS Group

MegaGame Makers

Military Training & Simulation


Peacemaker Game

Persuasive Games


Potomac Foundation: Hegemon simulation

RAND Center for Gaming

Sea Change Simulations

Serious Games Interactive


Strategy and Tactics Press


Two-Stone LLC





The King’s Shilling 

Karan Casey and James Taylor, Transatlantic Sessions #4

Lyrics by Iain Sinclair

Oh my love has left me with bairnes twa

And that’s the last of him I ever saw

He joined the army and marched to war

He took the shilling, he took the shilling and he’s off to war


Come, laddies, come, hear the cannon roar

Take the king’s shilling and you’re off to war

Well, did he look as he marched along

With his kilt and sporran and his musket gun?

The ladies tipped him as he marched along

He sailed out by, he sailed out by the Broomielaw

Well the pipes did play as he marched along

And the soldiers sang out a battle song

“March on, march on,” cried the captain gay

For king and country, for king and country we will fight today

Repeat Chorus:

Well the battle rattled to the sound of guns

And the bayonets flashed in the morning sun

The drums did beat and the cannons roared

And the shilling didn’t seem, oh the shilling didn’t seem much worth the war

Well, the men they fought and the men did fall

Cut down by bayonet and musket ball

Many of these brave young men

Would never fight for, would never fight for the king again

Repeat Chorus: 3x

die in war…

die in war…

Take the king’s shilling and you’re off to war…


Further reading beyond the scope of this post:

Important piece by (US Deputy Secretary of Defense) Bob Work and (Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Paul Selva on the need for the United States to revitalize wargaming


On November 9-10 the World Wildlife Fund and the Center for American Progress conducted a crisis game examining global food security, Food Chain Reaction. The game design was undertaken by CNA, with funding and technical support from Cargill and Mars.

https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/food-chain-reaction-a-global-food-security-game/ [two videos]





Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming, coedited by Pat Harrigan and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, will be published by The MIT Press in the spring of 2016. The book contains more than sixty contributions by scholars, game designers, and practitioners [which] can now be preordered from Amazon.







Veiled Ambition is a simulation that examines the complex relationships in the Middle East in four distinct areas: Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. In each of these countries, writers constructed plotlines which asked the participants to consider the question of Shi’a and Iranian influence throughout the Middle East, and the shifting posture of the United States in relation to that influence.





Part Two, discussing the two other areas of operation,

will appear here Sunday at noon.