Our Focus: Analytic Games We Create

Our work supports RAND researchers by applying methodological rigor to design and tailor analytic games to meet our sponsors’ needs. Here are the types of games we develop, with some examples and links.

Seminar-Style Games

Also known as free-form games, or loosely structured games, seminar-style games can include matrix games, 360 games, and “The Day After...” exercises.

Seminar-style games are characterized by the absence of formal rules to determine game outcomes, and they superficially may look like a workshop where a group of people gather in a room, deliberate, and eventually submit a verbal or written “move.”

Unlike games with fully specified rule sets that limit player actions and determine game outcomes, seminar-style games rely on experts to decide how the different teams’ moves interact and what effect they might have. These games are particularly useful for exploring a relatively poorly understood problem.

  • Game on world map

    On Free-Form Gaming

    This paper from 1985 describes the procedures, appropriate uses, and limitations of the free-form game. It discusses free-form gaming as a procedure for organized study of the complex problems entailed in confrontations and crises, whether between nations or within organizations.

  •  ALES wargame brings maritime and amphibious leaders together to explore command and control challenges, discuss future capabilities and interoperability, Official NATO photograph by JWC Stavanger/Released

    A Wargame Method for Assessing Risk and Resilience of Military C2 Organizations

    Wargames typically role-play and exercise the roles, responsibilities, and authorities of a prescribed command-and-control (C2) organizational structure in the scenario rather than compare and contrast alternative structures in a rigorous manner. This report provides a "how-to" guide for conducting a C2 risk and resilience (C2R2) tabletop exercise (TTX).

  • 360-degree gaming cone uses multiple perspectives, illustration by Ryan Henry/RAND Corporation

    Serious Analytical Gaming: The 360° Game for Multidimensional Analysis of Complex Problems

    A 360° Game assembles a cross-section of stakeholders, subject matter experts, and hands-on operators to interactively investigate a problem from an encompassing set of perspectives and approaches. This report is intended to help researchers, project leaders, and sponsors who would like to design and run such a game.

Manual Games

Manual games use physical game pieces such geographic maps, abstract board displays, cards, counters, and dice. Examples include the RAND Framework for Live Exercises (RFLEX), allocation games, and card-driven games. Manual games employ flexible yet systematic methods to adjudicate outcomes and present concrete choices to players.

  • Wargaming shows Russian attack in the Baltics would get to Riga and Tallinn in at most 60 hours

    Paper Wargames and Policy Making

    In 2014, a handful of RAND researchers developed a board wargame to give themselves—and eventually their U.S. Army and Air Force sponsors—a sense of what a Russian invasion and NATO defense of the Baltic states might look like. It gradually became clear to them that they were out in front of most of the official planning, not following in its wake.

  • Military leader briefs a team of government officials, photo by Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock

    Conceptual Design for a Multiplayer Security Force Assistance Strategy Game

    Researchers developed a portfolio game in which players explore the potential benefits and risks of different security force assistance strategies under different conditions. This paper explains the conceptual underpinnings and basic rules for the game.

  • Russian President Putin after a news conference following Russian-Bulgarian talks, with Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov, photo by Kremlin/Public Use

    Design Considerations for a Structured Strategic Game

    To explore how Russia could use gray zone tactics and to what effect, researchers developed a strategic-level structured card game examining a gray zone competition between Russia and the West in the Balkans. This report describes the game's development and the research behind it.

Computer-Assisted Games

Computer-assisted games use computer-based models to determine outcomes from the players’ choices. Computer models can offer systematic adjudication of complex and/or physics-based outcomes, although player decisions are limited to the scope of its often closed design.

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