The Craft of Wargaming: A Detailed Planning Guide for Defense Planners and Analysts

  • Published

The Craft of Wargaming: A Detailed Planning Guide for Defense Planners and Analysts by Jeff Appleget, Robert Burks, and Fred Cameron. Naval Institute Press, 2020, 362 pp. 

Retired US Army Colonels Jeff Appleget and Robert Burks, and Fred Cameron, are instructors at the Naval Postgraduate School, specializing in teaching wargaming, combat modeling, and quantitative analysis. The Craft of Wargaming: A Detailed Planning Guide for Defense Planners and Analysts is a distillation of their experience in developing and using analytical wargames. 

War-gaming is almost as old as war itself, but The Craft concerns itself with the so-called “modern era” of military wargames, starting with the Prussian introduction of kriegspiel into officer education and war planning.  The authors introduce the reader to the structural characteristics of a wargame and illustrate the use of wargaming for war planning, analysis, and education through examples from the pre-World War II US Navy and United States Central Command’s planning for Operation Desert Storm.

The middle of the book is a thorough tutorial in wargame design, development, conduct, and postplay analysis, built around a series of practical exercises that move the reader through the process of creating and executing a wargame. The last section examines variations in design and purpose and highlights best and worst practices. Also, a collection of appendices comprising almost one-third of the book contains background information supporting the practical exercises and a summarized list of wargame case studies to study as examples. 

While not a difficult read, The Craft of Wargaming is a specialized textbook and reference guide designed for upcoming and experienced  analytical and educational war-gaming practitioners. As such, the target audience are those assigned to or supporting organizations such as the Air Force Wargaming Institute, HAF/A9 (Studies, Analysis, and Assessments), their sister service and Office of the Secretary of Defense counterparts, or who want to expand their talents in analytical modeling and defense analysis. Readers looking for a broader description and history would be better off starting with Peter Perla’s The Art of Wargaming or James Dunnigan’s The Complete Wargames Handbook.

Colonel Jamie Sculerati, USAF, Retired

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."