Too often war game objectives become laundry lists detailing 20+ things the game will accomplish. After all, if one objective is good, then more must be better! Multiple objectives are often cited as creating more “bang for the buck.” Adding just one more objective shouldn’t be a problem, right? However, if you see the objective as:
(1) An outgrowth of the sponsor’s problem statement (i.e. why he wants a game),
(2) The driver for game design, and
(3) The successful outcome of the game (i.e. end state),
Then how do multiple objectives fit the design logic? The tendency is to mistake methods for objectives, which explains why so many games end up with multiple “objectives,” most of which are verb based. “Explore the implication…” or “Identify shortfalls…” or “Review operational plans…” etc.
Using a Purpose-Method-End State structure, you can see how you could have multiple METHODS, but there can only be one END STATE (objective). How do you want the participants or the state of the project to be different at the end of the event? One question to ask a sponsor is “This event will be a success if…” to get at an end state type objective. You’ll need a way to know if you actually achieved the objective, so it should be specific and measurable, otherwise how will you know if your game did what is was supposed to do?
War gaming is much more than “hosting a war” and sending out invites - “You’re Invited to a War Game (bring your own order of battle).” Without a clear objective, you might as well throw some plastic army men, model ships and toy planes into a shoe box, shake it up, and ‘hope’ something interesting happens to justify the travel and per diem expense. While you’re at it, toss in a Buzz Lightyear figure and your favorite Godzilla toy, because without a solid objective, Godzilla is just as likely to produce “something interesting” as anything else.
After dumping the contents of your war game box back out onto the table, everyone will “see” what they want to see amongst the pile of toys. Like Ouija boards and horoscopes, everyone will be able to claim that the war game has validated their preferred outcome, even if they’re analytic opposites.
This “throw a war together” approach is too often the default. It becomes more and more about creating the virtual environment, and less and less about why you’re trying to create the environment in the first place. You can see the potential problem when you have toys lying around, and for lack of a better approach, feel compelled to toss them into play.
The objective is the game’s foundation. Bad foundations seldom lead to good outcomes!