Wargaming at the Naval Postgraduate School


Posted: December 1, 2016 | By: Jeff Appleget, Fred Cameron, Robert E. Burks, Jeff Kline

Resident courses

For students taking degree programs at NPS, there are several wargaming courses to choose from. Within the Operations Research Department, there is a basic course on applications of wargaming as well as a follow-on advanced course. Within the Defense Analysis Department, there are courses that provide students with a deeper understanding of the analytical value of wargaming and historical wargaming. These NPS courses stress the contribution of wargaming to decision making and problem solving. Students learn how wargames must be developed and analyzed to provide high quality material for evidence-based decision making, whether in dealing with current operations, in exploring and evaluating options for acquisition projects, or for developing new concepts and doctrine. Beyond the courses specifically on wargaming, there are numerous NPS courses on tools related to analytical wargaming, for example computer-based simulation, data collection and analysis, and statistics.

Wargaming Applications


Fred Cameron facilitates the Zefra seminar wargame with NPS resident students as part of the Wargaming Applications course.

The Naval Postgraduate School has taught the Wargaming Applications course in the Operations Research Department for well over three decades. This 11-week course for NPS resident students focuses on analytic wargaming, which is a wargame designed to collect and analyze information from wargame play, with results that either feed directly into a decision, or are used to develop other analytic products. The course is a mixture of lecture and hands-on practical exercises designed to develop student wargaming knowledge and skills. Since 2009, the course has integrated external DoD or defense partner organizations into the fabric of the course. By the third week of the course, the students have been introduced to their sponsor, and they partner with the sponsor to begin the design process of the wargame that the students will produce for the sponsor. After the completion of formal instruction and the Wargaming Apprentice Certification Exam during the sixth week, the student teams focus solely on designing, developing, executing, and analyzing their sponsor’s wargame. This capstone wargaming project, conducted for the sponsor during NPS “Wargaming Week,” serves as the students’ final exam. While most of the wargaming sponsors have come from DoD organizations, several sponsors have been from allied or partner nations. Additionally, defense industry partners have also sponsored NPS wargames. The course is offered in the fall and spring quarters, and three to four sponsored wargames are designed, developed, executed and analyzed per student section, one section in the fall, two in spring.

Recent sponsors include the U.S. Navy’s N-96 examining the Distributed Lethality concept, U.S. Special Operations Command J-3 (International) exploring the implications of a Russian hybrid threat in the Arctic, and U.S. Central Command seeking a better understanding of the implications of Shia Militia Groups employed against ISIS in Iraq.


The Russian Hybrid Threat wargaming players contemplate the first scenario in the Arctic during NPS “Wargaming Week”

Advanced Wargaming Applications

The Advanced Wargaming Applications course student teams create a military modeling application for an external Defense sponsor and/or an NPS Faculty advisor that will examine sponsor/advisor approved issues with more focus and depth than the initial Wargaming Applications course permitted. While that wargame was a complete, playable wargame, the time restrictions of the course didn’t allow for the design and development of advanced adjudication, data collection, or analysis tools and techniques, or the analysis of their output. The concept of this course is to start with a Wargaming Applications wargame or a suitable capstone project or thesis proposal that provides a functioning framework where these modeling techniques can be designed, developed, integrated and then used to generate output to be analyzed and documented for the sponsor/advisor as the final course project deliverables. For our defense sponsors, this provides an opportunity for student teams to continue to work on their wargame for a second, consecutive quarter.

This course was offered for the first time in the fall quarter of 2016 and has two student team successes including Remote Advise and Assist and High-Arctic thesis projects for the Defense Analysis curriculum.

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