Board-based wargame used for CGSC elective

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Jamie Hood (left), Georgetown University game development student, explains the set-up and play of Thor’s Hammer to Command and General Staff College sustainment students April 22 at the Lewis and Clark Center. Looking on are Team Leader Todd Guiggisberg (center) and Army Capt. Jon Abshire, also a member of the Georgetown development team. Abshire will complete his master’s degree at Georgetown this spring and attend CGSC beginning in August. Photo by Dan Neal/Army University Public Affairs

Harry Sarles/Army University Public Affairs

Sustainment students from the Command and General Staff College used a board-based wargame to practice principles of sustainment in their elective class April 22 at the Lewis and Clark Center.

The game, Thor’s Hammer, (not related to the commercial e-game of the same name), set in Norway and Sweden, was designed by game-design students at Georgetown University in cooperation with the Department of Sustainment and Force Management at CGSC. CGSC’s Department of Simulation Education assisted in the design and development of the game.

“The game teaches that sustainment is more than a logistics function,” said Lt. Col. John Lord, DSE director.

Wargames are an effective teaching tool because they engage students, play into the student’s competitive nature, and make learning fun, explained Todd Guggisberg, team leader for CGSC Team 17 and lead instructor for the elective.

Cards in the game control weather and a variety of capabilities available to support the fight. Photo by Dan Neal/Army University Public Affairs

Lt. Col. Chris Baldwin, the assistant instructor added, “This allows them to execute the imperatives of building combat power, sustaining operational reach and enabling endurance.”

Doing it as a board game rather than a computer-driven scenario allows the instructor to have more freedom in how to incorporate the game into classes, Lord said.

While most wargames focus on maneuver and kinetic engagement, the Sustainment Department was looking for a game that downplayed the battle and focused on the importance of sustainment in the success of combat operations. They contacted Georgetown, and the design of the game became a class project for students in the university’s design class.

Jamie Hood, one of the game designers from Georgetown, said basic design of the game took about eight months and was completed in December. Since then the design team has tested and tweaked the game preparing for the CGSC elective that serves as a learning experience for the CGSC students and a culminating test for the game.

In order to simplify the game, make it quick to learn, and allow it to be played within the class framework, the designers decided not to play the air and sea elements and to limit the classes of supply to fuel, food, and ammunition. They also designed the game to be played by one or two people on each side to allow the most engagement for students.

The game board for Thor’s Hammer features Norway and its borders with Sweden and Russia. Also on the board are matrices for tracking units and food, fuel, and ammunition. Photo by Dan Neal/Army University Public Affairs

The free-flowing nature of the game was evident during the class gameplay. Four games were played simultaneously, and although played on the duplicate maps, the tactics and successes varied greatly from game to game.

During the after-action review, students pointed out some game issues such as the game favoring defense over offense and allowing for regeneration of units that could not be regenerated in the field. They were also able to see how the game reinforced the principles of sustainment, principally anticipation, survivability and integration, and how during the game they changed the priority of supply or priority of support to adjust for game events.

All of the students taking the elective were sustainment officers, but they said it would be a good icebreaker exercise to play with officers from other specialties.

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