Wargaming at CNA

Man's hand moving a yellow cube on a wargaming board
.

CNA’s wargames incorporate our greatest strengths: subject matter experts with deep understanding of the people, processes, and organizations combined to create wargames that deliver actionable, useful information.

As senior military and government leaders grapple with complex decisions, wargames offer the rare opportunity to experience realistic scenarios in a test environment. Leveraging decades of operational experience, CNA creates analytical decision-making games for clients, tailored to meet their unique needs.

At CNA, we believe that wargames are not about solving a problem, but about understanding a given situation and its variables—people, roles, resources, and external events. Our experts design the games and play them – portraying real roles or groups – so that at the end of a wargame, the client walks away with a more clear understanding of the problem and potential solutions. Equipped with new insights, leaders can combine actions they know are possible with underlying data to determine their path forward.

CNA is constantly developing new methods, mechanisms, and mechanics to create wargames that are custom-built for each client; we have several broad categories which serve as the foundation, including:

  • Force-on-Force Operational Wargames – A “classic” wargame where teams controlling opposing forces debate and decide on combat movement and actions.
  • Operational Troop-to-Task Wargames – CNA developed this style of resource management wargame to explore organization staffing. By building a custom wargame around an organization’s staff and specific circumstances, this style of wargame can be used to stress-test a new or proposed organizational design before it is implemented and avoid inadvertent holes in the new structure.
  • Event-driven Decision Support Wargames – These are the most diverse style of wargame that CNA regularly runs. These wargames are best in the early stages of concept development, when participants want to explore the planning process of a potential action.
  • Seminar-Style Wargames – The seminar style wargame focuses less on the specifics of what is happening in an operational setting and focuses more on the exchange of ideas between the participants. Seminar-style wargames bring in the top experts in their field to engage with each other to focus on education and idea generation.

Podcast icon Podcasts

  • The Parallels Between Education and Wargaming, CNA Talks: Episode 66: On this episode of CNA Talks, Wargame designers and former professors, Jeremy Sepinsky and Justin Peachey discuss what the latest ideas in education might tell us about successfully running a wargame.
  • Why We Wargame, CNA Talks: Episode 63: Samantha Hay, CNA's newest wargamer, sits down with Cate Lea, CNA's most experienced wargamer. They discuss the process of designing a wargame and CNA's role in the broader wargaming community.
  • After the Wargame, CNA Talks: Episode 32: CNA’s chief wargame designer Jeremy Sepinsky returns, accompanied by Robin Mays, research analyst for CNA’s Gaming and Integration program, to discuss how they analyze the results of a CNA Wargame.
  • Playing a Wargame, CNA Talks: Episode 26: CNA’s chief wargame designer Jeremy Sepinsky and Chris Steinitz, director of CNA’s North Korea program, discuss what it’s like to play a CNA Wargame.
  • How to Make a Wargame, CNA Talks: Episode 22: Don Boroughs sits down with CNA’s lead wargame designer Jeremy Sepinsky to discuss what it takes to create a CNA wargame.

Report icon Reports

Experts icon Experts

Christopher Ma, Ph.D., Research Program Director
Jeremy Sepinsky, Ph.D., Lead Wargame Designer