Thursday, November 8, 2012

National Security Decision Making Game

As I was surfing the web last night I ran into an article on Kotaku discussing cuts at the National Defense University that would cut into the NDU's ability to conduct wargaming of potential real world scenarios.  That reminded me of a game I used to travel to game conventions to play many years ago, the National Security Decision Making Game.  I decided to see if the game was still up and running and I was glad to see an active Facebook page.

The game is quite interesting for those interested in current events.  Over the course of eight hours players are placed into different country cells in which they play national leaders, members of the legislature and representatives of various interest groups like business, dissidents and the media.  The cells are usually placed in separate rooms with the control staff (think D&D dungeon masters) in communication using short-range radio.  Some players are drafted to play what are in effect non-player countries and are known as facilitators and help the control staff move the scenario along.  Usually at the end of the day the scenario winds up with a major international crisis and sometimes the bullets fly.  Watching the procedure for the release of a country's nukes is always interesting, especially if a player loses the codes.  Yipes!

Eve Online, with its interstellar economic and military simulations combined with its diplomatic, intelligence and propaganda metagame is the closest I've come to the NSDMG outside of a convention.  Where the NSDMG control staff has to condense three or four years into an 8 hour session, conflict in Eve runs in real time and can last for months or even years.  I should add that in both games lying and backstabbing is not only encouraged but rewarded.  The other distinguishing feature of Eve compared to NSDMG is that Eve takes place in a fictional universe in pixel space.  NSDMG takes place in our world, although I see that since I've played that the staff has put together historical scenarios to run through.  The modern scenarios did start to get to me following 9/11 and combined with work led to me last playing at GenCon in 2003.  In fact, I hadn't attended another game convention until I traveled to Reykjavik for Fanfest back in March.

Thinking about all the good times I had makes me want to attend another convention and play again.  The schedule for 2013 isn't up but maybe the crew will set up for a 24th year and I can play again.

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