Wargames – A Viable Research Method?


  • Lauri Teppo




wargaming, characteristics of forces, mobility, protection, firepower, decision-making environment, geographical environment, battle success


This article provides an overview of the use of operational-tactical level wargames as a research method. Wargames can be described as simulations of war or battle, where the results are a consequence of the decisions of individual players. Although there is a wide variety of wargames, this article focuses on rigid operational-tactical wargames The author outlines the following main components of a wargame: force composition, force capabilities, geographical environment, the decisionmaking environment for players, the rules of the game and analysis. A process to determine force capabilities (i.e., mobility, protection and firepower) was described through the concept developed in the author’s master’s thesis. In the conventional framework, the success of the battle or operation is usually based on the status of the three operational factors controlled by the opposing players: time, space and forces. In addition to that, this article introduces another tool, used in the author’s research project, to determine the success of an operation. However, the success criteria of non-conventional operations (e.g., counter-insurgency) may be different and as such, may need specific measurement tools. The outcoming data from wargames are usually of qualitative nature. To illustrate that aspect, the article provides an overview of the data collection and analysis methods used in the author’s research (including coding guidance). The author puts forward an argument that analytical wargames can be used for the purposes of conducting research in operational and tactical matters by using mainly qualitative research design. However, such research methodology entails careful determination of unit characteristics (i.e., mobility, protection, firepower). The article ends with a short overview of using wargames for analysing and modelling tactical processes and force development, and also as a supplementary instrument for operation analysis formulas. In addition, a brief description of the method’s strengths and weaknesses is provided.



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