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What is a wargame?
Why wargame?

Wargaming provides decision-makers with greater understanding of the complexity of the operating environment in which they act. It is a tool that enables critical thinking
and foresight in order to improve decision-making. 

Wargaming is used to train, educate and inform, wargames ensure that the training audience:

  1. gains an in-depth understanding of the conflict and its complexity

  2. have the opportunity to test courses of actions and plans within a comprehensive simulated environment 

  3. have the opportunity to understand and take risks in a safe learning environment

  4. improve decision-makers and their decision-making skills (individually and within groups).

  5. are able to share knowledge and understanding with each other and subject matter experts within a fast paced learning setting

But most of all: wargaming saves lives, time and money. By wargaming one’s planned operations, you will be able to refine, adjust or alter your strategy and courses of action in order to avoid casualties, parliamentary enquiries and even defeat. 

What is a wargame?

A simulation, by whatever means, of a military operation involving two or more opposing forces, using rules, data, and procedures designed to depict an actual or assumed real life situation (US Joint Publication 1, 2013).

A scenario-based warfare model in which the outcome and sequence of events affect, and are affected by, the decisions made by the players. (UK Development, Concepts
and Doctrine Centre (DCDC, Red teaming guide, 2013).

Our approach to wargaming

The Goldsworthy, Stolk & Associates’ (GS&A) approach to wargaming is characterised by acknowledging that conflict is not solely kinetic. Conflict always is the outcome of many societal dynamics. Acknowledging those dynamics is crucial to ensure a realistic simulated operating environment. GS&A have applied wargaming within various contexts: ministerial, NATO, universities and civil security. 



Wargaming in different contexts

GS&A develops wargames to enable and refine political decision-making. Participants and spectators gain insight into the (geo)political ramifications of their - courses of - actions. Additionally, participants get the opportunity to experience the 2nd and 3rd consequences of their decision-making. By gaining this understanding political decision-makers become more effective and better prepared in their decision-making. 

A few examples:

  1. When engaging in multiparty peace negotiations, appreciating the impact of one’s operations within the environment allows the negotiator to alleviate or increase pressure on the adversarial party whilst retaining the moral highground.

  2. Within an educational context, it provides participants an understanding of the nexus between the Armed Forces as well as NATO, and political decision-making. GS&A has used wargaming for teaching officers (rank Major) at Advanced Command and Staff Courses (UK, NLD) to understand the intricacies of political decision-making.

  3. Within a policy design context, wargaming can be used to explore the benefits and the limitations of an integrated approach by testing several scenarios. Additionally, fallout scenarios can be tested to ease a political decision-maker its state of mind. 

Wargaming for political insight 

Wargaming within the operational domain


At the operational (national) level, wargaming is traditionally used to test Courses of Action and Military Plans. However, at the operational level, wargaming has the potential to offer more:

  1. Enable a comprehensive approach. By involving all "friendly" stakeholders (governments, forces, business, NGOs & IOs) a dialogue can be achieved that focuses on long-term stabilisation, the mitigation of unforeseen 2nd and 3rd consequences and the minimisation of use of force. 

  2. Combined inter-agency planning and execution. Be more effective in the executions of plan by a greater understanding of the abilities and activities of other agencies in the field. Combined planning using wargaming enables agencies to pool resources and allocate tasks in order to avoid repetition of activities related unnecessary costs.

  3. Talk the same language on the basis of a shared situational understanding. 

  4. Gain insight in the political costs of operations prior to when events occur. It allows Political Advisors to experience possible fall out of offensive or defensive actions.

  5. Wargaming also allows humanitarian organisations to prepare and relief missions and coordinate and/or de-conflict activities with military counterparts.

A few examples:

  1. A wargame at the operational level provides insight into casualty numbers of a planned offensive action. When expecting significantly high mortality numbers not only can the plan still be altered, but also a Political Advisor can prepare the necessary arguments about the necessity of the planned actions for the Home Office as well as Parliament.  

  2. Whilst wargaming, discussing displaced persons and refugees (DPRE) flows within a country with humanitarian counterparts, an opportunity is created to enable an integrated approach. Civil counterparts are able to voice their concerns about the impacts of military actions on the ground, reducing the impact on civilians.

  3. By proper adversarial red teaming, wargaming allows for plans to be refined in order to minimise the loss of life, reduce the impact on the civilians and retain positive public opinion.

At the tactical level wargaming allows decision-makers to create strategies focused at achieving practical objectives. It enables participants to experience the outcomes of their actions in a simulated fashion. As an educational tool for a non-military audience, it provides insight into the military mindset and decision-making.


An example:

To wargame the capture of a point of interest (village, town, critical national infrastructure) participants rehearse and refine their actions. Non-military spectators can give input by providing information on demographics, societal factors, protection cultural heritage, etc. in order to minimise the impact of the offensive action.

Wargaming for tactical purposes
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