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Conflict Simulation (Module)

Module description

*Please note that although all module information is correct for the 2017/18 academic year, it is subject to change for future academic years.


This option course builds on a corpus of material hitherto almost entirely neglected within War Studies curricula, namely the several thousand conflict simulation board games published in recent decades which attempt to model the dynamics of past or potential campaigns.  Note that the course focuses on modelling actual armed conflict (including asymmetric and guerrilla wars), and not on negotiation and role-playing as in some other 'pol-mil' simulations such as Model UN exercises.  However, you can focus on pretty much any recent or long-ago military conflict of your choice as long as it is sufficiently well documented, so you have tremendous flexibility.  The aims of the course are as follows:

  •  to familiarise students with the various possible mechanisms of conflict simulation, and the strengths and weaknesses of each;
  • to allow students to create their own original simulation of a particular historical campaign or battle of their choice;
  • to use simulation and modelling to encourage students to analyse the key dynamics of conflict situations, thereby gaining greater insight into the physical and human determinants of conflict;
  • to help develop a wide range of skills, including critical appraisal of existing simulations, detailed historical research into a specific campaign, intellectual creativity in devising and testing simulation models, legalistic clarity and precision in drafting simulation rules, and design skills in producing simulation graphics;
  • to allow students to practise broader transferable skills, in particular team work in a variety of contexts, familiarity with handling computer graphics, and the use of the internet to find information, disseminate ideas and receive feedback from the wider simulation community.

Learning Outcomes

After successfully completing the course, students should be able to do the following:

  • understand the various mechanisms through which conflict simulation games may operate;
  • appreciate the artificialities in conflict simulation games, and the inevitable tension between ‘realism’ and ‘playability’;
  • discuss the utility and the limitations of conflict simulation games in helping to understand conflict dynamics;
  • critically assess existing conflict simulation games, and suggest possible improvements;
  • produce to a satisfactory standard their own small conflict simulation game, through all the stages from detailed historical research through concept development, rules drafting, graphic design and rigorous play-testing to the physical production of a finished game with rules, map and counters;
  • reflect critically on the design choices made and the strengths and limitations of their game, in extensive designer’s notes.

Staff information

Professor Philip Sabin*


Teaching pattern

Typically, 1 credit equates to 10 hours of work. For a Full Year 40-credit module, this will equate to 40 hours of teaching time (2 hours per week) with 360 hours of self study.

Module assessment - more information

Coursework only*

Key information

Module code 7SSWM144

Credit level 7

Assessment coursework

Credit value 40

Semester Full-year

Study abroad module No