Now in its seventh year and organised by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the UK Defence Academy and King’s College London, Connections UK was attended by more than 250 people across 22 nations. The attendees hailed from the military, government, academic, humanitarian and commercial game design sectors.
"We wargame because we must. There are certain warfare problems that only gaming will illuminate."
Professor Robert Rubel, Chairman of the Wargaming Department, US Naval War College
The importance of Connections UK was underlined by a visit to this year’s event by Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace. The Defence Secretary was given a tour of the conference and a detailed practical presentation of the benefits of wargaming by Colin Marston, a Senior Principal Analyst in Dstl’s wargaming team, and Dstl Fellow Mike Larner.
Throughout the three days there were talks; practical gaming sessions; a mega-game; a games fair; plenary sessions on “the Psychology of Wargaming” and “Wargaming Hybrid Operations”; and deep dives on topics such as “Technology to Support Wargaming”, “Space”, “Wargaming the Future” and “Data Capture and Analysis”.
Connections UK featured two keynote speeches, the first by Dr Lynette Nusbacher, former Head of the Strategic Horizons Unit in the Cabinet Office, who offered an assessment of how games can more effectively shape policy processes. The second from Maj Gen Mitch Mitchell from the MOD’s Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, who spoke about the importance of “thinking differently”. He argued that wargaming needs to become both routine (something that’s regularly done) and experimental (in that it examines new threats and responses).
Dstl Senior Principal Analyst and Connections UK organiser Colin Marston, added:
“The only certainty about the future is its inherent uncertainty, and the world is becoming ever more complex and volatile. Wargaming is increasingly relevant to today’s problems and can help us to prepare for the future. It can help us to get ahead of a competitor, save money and – most importantly – save lives. Wargaming is recognised by Dstl as an area of strategic importance for our Defence and Security customers and has had impact up to the level of the National Security Council. We are working closely with industry to grow the wargaming capability in our supplier base and have doubled the size of our wargaming team in order to meet the growing, and increasingly sophisticated, demand for wargaming. In the near future, I hope that there will also be wargaming teams embedded within each of the UK Services.”