In an asymmetric conflict, the state has the preponderance of power, but very little information; the insurgents have lots of information but very little power. Whoever reverses this dynamic first is likely to win. The state must gain information; the insurgent must grow and become more powerful. This concept, originally articulated by Gordon McCormick, forms the basis of the game, Asymmetric Warfare.
The state begins with five all-powerful pieces in the center. The insurgent starts with five pieces, placing them in the outside ring. The insurgent sees everything, but the state cannot see the insurgent pieces (information asymmetry). The state pieces, however, will always win in combat (power asymmetry). The insurgent wins if it surrounds the capital with enough forces. The state wins if it kills enough of the insurgent pieces.
Balance of Terror is a strategic two-player game of terrorism and counterterrorism. Nothing comes easy for either side, with both players facing difficult tradeoffs. The state must protect its citizens (stability), but cannot over-react and lose the support of the people (legitimacy). The state is also financially constrained, with limited resources (budget) to spend each turn, and a reserve fund of unspent resources from previous turns (bank). The terrorist, meanwhile, must grow its organization (mobilization), while protecting existing members (security). The terrorist also has a budget for each turn plus a bank of unspent resources. The state player wins if the terrorist's security or mobilization drops too low, while the terrorist wins if the state's stability or legitimacy drops too low.
Coin of the Realm challenges players to think about many of the core interactions between governments and insurgents. Each player must generate resources, mobilize forces, secure their bases, move units, conduct combat operations, and gain popular support. Importantly, each side performs these tasks in different ways with advantages and disadvantages for each, highlighting the asymmetries of insurgency/counterinsurgency types of conflict. To win, both players need to gain a certain level of popular support (68 for the state, 27 for the insurgents). The higher requirements for the state give the insurgents an advantage. It is also possible for the insurgent to win if the state vacates the capital, whether voluntarily or if all state pieces in the capital are destroyed. This forces the state to always leave one or more pieces in the capital and gives an advantage in operational flexibility to the insurgent.
Contagion introduces players to how terrorists spread their ideologies and how states counter that with their own ideology. Both sides try to gain as much popular support as possible, all while also denying their opponent support. With limited resources, players must choose whether to defend their gains against attacks or grow their support in new areas. They must also weigh the value of promoting their own message versus undermining their opponent's message. While the game is won by gaining sufficient popular support, players can also choose to take actions to undermine their rivals. For every agent placed or boost enacted, players can choose between a positive message, a mixed message (half the power of both positive and negative), or a negative message. Players must pay attention to their opponent's actions and make strategic choices between expanding their own control or undermining their opponent's loyalty, or a little bit of both.
CounterNet is a single-player, web-based game focused on how terrorists use the internet and social media for various purposes, to include: propaganda, financing, training, planning, execution of attacks, recruitment, incitement, radicalization, spreading public information, and for secret communication. The player is assuming the role of a government professional responsible for tracking and ultimately preventing an attack by a fictional eco-terrorist group. The actions they take have positive or negative effects on a series of 'badges' that they are trying to maximize. For example, taking counter-financing actions at the appropriate time in the game will increase the player's counter-financing badge, and ultimately have a positive effect on the overall score.
CyberStrike is a six-player game that simulates the complex strategic environment of cyber conflict. Players can play as criminals, terrorists, hackers, or states, with each role having different capabilities and goals. Players have to consider how their offensive capabilities match up with their adversaries' defensive capabilities, and vice versa; whether to attack opponents or defend against them; whether to retaliate against attacks, particularly if the perpetrator is unknown; whether to invest in offense, defense, or detection capabilities; whether to ally with others; whether to share information or not; and how they can deter future attacks.
The game is intentionally designed for thinking about the macro, strategic decisions in the cyber world. It does not require or teach any technical aspects of cyber conflict.
The Dark Networks game focuses on the organizational structure of terrorist groups and how these structures can be altered to make the terrorist group more or less effective. It reinforces many of the concepts and ideas from the field of social network analysis (SNA). It is a two-player, strategic game between the state and the terrorist. Each player may have a strategy to defeat the other, but they must adapt their strategies over time to maximize their advantages. The core tradeoff in this game is between security and effectiveness for the terrorist group. Measures taken to increase effectiveness (growing, centralizing) will diminish the terrorist group's security, and vice versa. This forces players to think about which attribute (security or effectiveness) they wish to maximize. This will change depending on the timing in the game and players' strategies.
Follow the Money is a game of terrorist financing and counter-terrorist financing. It reinforces some key methods used by terrorists to move money (banks, hawalas, courriers) and a key strategic choice the state must make of freezing or following financial transactions. The terrorists start with full information, while the state has incomplete information.
At the start of the game, the state only sees a small number of the total financial institutions within the game, and does not see any of the terrorist cell members. The player must take actions to reveal more of the network. The state player has ten agents that it can distribute within the visible financial network. Each agent can do one of the following every turn: observe transactions coming through the financial institution, follow the money to the next institution, or freeze (really seize) the money and remove it from the game. From the state player's perspective, this game highlights the strategic choices that must be made on whether to use financial transactions to gain more intelligence on the terrorist network (by following and observing) or to use these transactions to disrupt an operation (by freezing).
What happens when we are playing a different game from our enemy? Guerrilla Checkers allows players to essentially play two different games – the state plays with the rules of checkers, while the insurgent plays with the rules of Go.
The game uses a standard checkerboard (8x8 grid), with six state pieces starting in the center of the board. The state moves one piece each turn and can move its pieces diagonally, like in Checkers. The guerrilla player starts the game by placing two of its pieces on the intersection points between the squares. Every turn the insurgent places another two pieces. Besides highlighting the asymmetries of conflict, this game also reinforces several themes from insurgency and counterinsurgency. For the state, clustering too many pieces together can be dangerous, as are the outside edges of the board. The guerrilla has more forces, but they are weak and must isolate and trap the state pieces to capture them. With pieces moving and fighting differently, both sides must develop their own strategy while also understanding how their opponent is playing.
On the modern battlefield, the informational component of war is just as important as the physical dimension. The game of InfoChess adds in hidden information and Information Warfare (IW) concepts to the classic game of chess.
Each move consists of two phases: a required physical move and an optional information warfare move. Information Warfare moves are either Psyops or Electronic Warfare. Psyops force an opponent's piece to surrender, removing a piece from the board. Electronic Warfare disrupts the opponent's ability to communicate to its units and prevents the opponent from making its next physical move. Each of these moves requires the players to spend limited available points. These Information Warfare moves can also be defended by the opponent.
The game ends when the king is captured, but since the king starts off invisible, it must first be discovered. Players who ignore the informational side of the game do so at their own peril.
Player controls two squads in an attempt to accomplish the mission goals. Squad members will automatically react to threats based on the weapons posture.