Game On!

Syria Simulation assets

Action cards & player profiles

On Monday, 4/22 we finally launched the simulation to a group of Cultural Foundations students who signed up for the experiential learning event. In the 3 hours of the event, we managed to make it through 3 rounds of play. We started with an overview of the conflict from the site, Syria Deeply.

In Round 1

The students who played the Salafi Rebels kick-started the action by attempting to suicide bomb Assad. Their justification–they didn’t believe in the regime and wanted to recreate the time of the prophet Muhamed.

Of course, the group playing Assad used the occasion to point out that the attack was a violation of Syria’s sovereignty, and by extension blamed the United States sanctions for creating the humanitarian crisis. The Islamist group allied with the Free Syrian Army. Support by non-Actor states such as the US and Russia split along ideological lines and the Syrian population condemned the actions by the Salafi Rebels.

In Round 2

The Salafi group continued to stir the pot by staging a violent demonstration condemning Assad for

corrupting Islam and “putting it to shame”. The Islamists pleaded for humanitarian aid, stating they didn’t support the radical Islamists.

Turkey built shelters to house the refugees that continued to pour out of Syria and Assad took to social media to show the world how the “sanctions are hurting civilians more than helping”. Iran pledged financial and military aid for Assad while the West, troubled by the alliance between the Islamists and the Free Syrian Army encouraged the alliance to split.

In Round 3

The Free Syrian Army broke their alliance with the Islmaists, stating they couldn’t stand by their violent ends and instead dedicated their support to the Western powers. The Salafi Rebels brought the conflict to full boil by attempting to procure WMD’s

procuring wmd's

The risky, WMD action card

in support of their jihad and to bring attention to their cause to kill corrupt, secular non-believers.


In response, Assad, sick of the getting attacked, played the “Scorched Earth” card and used biological and chemical weapons on his own people.


Assad's scorched earth card

As a result of the Assad group’s decision, “winning” (achieving peace) was all but impossible. The Syrian population began fleeing the country in droves because of the lack of security and the west condemned the action, stating the “red line” had been crossed.

The west increased its aid to the Free Syrian Army. Iran deftly pointed out that the West, once upon a time, used biological warfare against Iran. Iran then backed Assad by providing military support.

Finally, the United Nations General Assembly met and passed a resolution to support UN Peacekeepers in Syria–as long as the effort was not led by the US.

Syria Simulation – Creating a game-like simulation for CULF students

This spring, I’m working with a group of St. Edward’s University faculty members–Mity Myhr, Selin Guner, Christopher Mickelwait and Christie Wilson–to pull together a workshop for students in Cultural Foundations courses around the topic of the Syria conflict.  Our goal for this is to provide an experiential space in which students can learn about the complexities of this conflict by role-playing actors and agencies involved in the conflict.  These represent entities such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in addition to countries like Turkey in addition to Iran, Russia and the Western Powers.

On April 22, 2013, student groups will role-play these actors and non-actors in a game-like fashion in which they will be given choices of actions to play across a period of 6 game rounds.  Each round will be prefaced by a description of one or more critical events, and students will be asked to make decisions about how to respond.  Play will be divided into 3 phases–Research, Action and Voting.

Students will be asked to research the event and the actions they can take prior to taking action, and non-actors will be asked to cast votes of Confidence or Contempt for these actions.

Actions will generate scores across dimensions including casualty rates and refugee counts and groups will be presented with a “Win” condition to promote peacemaking in the region.

We successfully pilot-tested this design at a recent World History Association of Texas conference and are looking forward to fleshing out this work for the full event in mid-April.

Here’s to a productive next few weeks!