Simulations at sea—and beyond
Wargaming has been an integral part of Naval War College (NWC) since 1887. While the tools and technology used in simulations have evolved over the past century, the value of wargaming in maritime leadership development remains strong. Today, we conduct more than 50 gaming events per year, and they range in variety from complex, multi-sided computer-assisted games to simple, single-sided seminar games.
Wargaming supports our academic mission in many ways. Games foster an understanding of the decisions that military leaders and civilians make in maritime and joint warfare. Wargaming also opens discussion and debate of strategic and operational concepts. Finally, gaming provides insights and builds important risk assessment and analytical skills.
History of Wargaming at NWC & Captain William McCarty LittleClick to Open
“Now the great secret of its power lies in the existence of the enemy—a live, vicious enemy—in the next room waiting feverishly to take advantage of any of our mistakes, ever ready to puncture any visionary scheme, to haul us down to Earth.” -- William McCarty Little, 1887
Our building, McCarty Little Hall, is named for Lt. William McCarty Little (1846-1915), who was instrumental in developing Naval War College’s wargaming techniques. In 1884, Little left active service after losing sight in one eye and began volunteering in the library of a new war college. In 1886, he introduced wargaming and soon became the U.S. Navy’s first expert in the field. One of his earliest activities including working alongside NWC’s second president, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, to develop a system of graphical representations behind historic naval battles.
In 1903, to honor Little’s contributions to NWC, Congress passed a special act that promoted him to captain and permanently assigned him to the college faculty. He served on the faculty and continued to develop wargaming for 30 years, retiring in 1915.
More on Wargaming
Wargaming FacilitiesClick to Open
Inside our 111,000-square-foot wargaming facility, you’ll find a 180-seat auditorium, a television studio, 20+ reconfigurable gaming cells, and classroom and conference space.
Our gaming cells can host up to 400 computer stations—and access to classified and secure networks—and all are equipped with state-of-the-art video technology and the ability to broadcast throughout the facility and around the world. The largest of our gaming cells is the Joint Command Center, which can hold up to 100 computers.
The auditorium is equipped with high-definition cameras and video-conferencing capabilities—and its large floor can double as an additional gaming cell or hold a 25-by-40-foot map to conduct a rehearsal of concept drill.
In addition to our on-campus facilities, our wargaming professionals also travel off-site and abroad to conduct tabletop exercises or give seminars.
Wargaming Topics, Collaborations, and Partnerships
Wargaming allows students to gain practical experience and a better understanding of the dynamics of warfighting, but simulations are also designed to prepare military leaders for national disasters and humanitarian relief.
Collaborations and partnershipsClick to Open
Gaming not only helps our students grow as leaders, but it supports internal research needs and external requests from other commands and civilian agencies. We work individually with requesting sponsors to develop gaming programs.
Partners and games have included:
- Chief of Naval Operation (Global Title X War Game Series)
- Office of the Secretary of Defense (Proliferation Security Initiative Game)
- OPAV (Maritime Domain Awareness Operational Game)
- U.S. STRATCOM (Strategic Deterrence and Escalation Game)
In support of Naval War College’s academic mission, the Wargaming Department conducts high-quality applied gaming, research, analysis, and education. Simulating these complex war scenarios builds analytical, decision-making, and risk assessment skills.See Department