A Simulation of Simulation

NB This is a very rough first draft of this game, following online goading (of myself)

Objective: to provide new users in Political Science of simulations as a pedagogic tool with a better understanding of the practical dimensions of that use.

Number of players: 1+. When 1 player, then they need to work through steps (including decisions on choices). Additional players can take this latter role, in which case they can make choices that present particular difficulties to the designer(s). Small groups (3-4) would work best in designing simulations together.

Equipment: a die. This simulation could easily be converted into an online programme (not that I have yet).

Game play:

Step 1:

Player(s) pick one a starting point, by rolling the die:

1.      Comparison of individual voting under First-Past-the-Post and an Open List proportional representation system;

2.      Building a majority for a vote in a parliament;

3.      Designing a legislative proposal;

4.      Implementing a pre-agreed policy in an emergency situation;

5.      Lobbying by special interests during the legislative cycle;

6.      Political communication strategies for a topical subject;


Step 2:

The player(s) should identify one key aspect that they wish to capture in the simulation.


Step 3:

The player(s) produces a basic gameplay mechanism to simulate that key aspect. Optionally, they can roll the die to try using one of the following:

1.      Formal meeting, with assigned roles;

2.      Abstract game, with non-political content;

3.      Informal gathering of interested parties;

4.      Collaborative production of common document;

5.      Production of briefing paper(s);

6.      Political campaign;


By the end of this step, the player(s) should have a basic scenario written down.


Step 4:

The player(s) roll the die to determine the number of players of the basic simulation. This may require adjustment to the scenario and involve consideration of parallel strands, multiple levels/stages, or radical simplification.

1.      One player;

2.      Two players;

3.      Five players;

4.      Ten players;

5.      Thirty players;

6.      One hundred players;


Step 5:

The player(s) roll the die to determine the amount of time available to run the simulation’s actual game play (i.e. not including individual player preparation). Again, this potentially requires major adjustments, either by compression or unpacking of stages/roles. Consideration should also be made of the rooming requirements for each option:

1.      Two days (9am-5pm);

2.      Blocks of two hours, for eight weeks;

3.      Two hours;

4.      45 minutes;

5.      No face-to-face contact, only remote discussions over an eight week period;

6.      No face-to-face contact, only remote discussions over three days;


Step 6:

The player(s) roll the die to determine the assessment strategy for the simulation. Optionally, the player(s) can think about their own institutional requirements for assessment (e.g. need for second/external marking, quality assurance, documentation, etc.):

1.      No assessment required at all;

2.      Assessment of development of substantive knowledge of key aspect modelled in simulation;

3.      Assessment of development of negotiating skills;

4.      Assessment of development of full range of inter-personal skills (including self-reflection, and self-development);

5.      Assessment of verisimilitude of simulation to real-world examples;

6.      Assessment of application of substantive knowledge to the simulation’s scenario;


At the end of this step, the player(s) should have a developed set of instructions for game play, and associated elements.


Step 7:

The player(s) should now conduct an overall evaluation of their simulation, by answering the following questions and considering the possibility of making appropriate adjustments:

  •       Is the central purpose of the simulation (step 1) still clearly in focus, i.e. is it conceptually clear?
  •        Can the simulation be explained to players in simple terms, i.e. is it practically accessible?
  •        Is the volume of work placed on players reasonable and proportionate, i.e. it is practically viable?
  •        What is the worst that could do wrong with the gameplay, i.e. does it have failsafes?
  •        Could the work all be done in another way that met all the objectives, that wasn’t a simulation, i.e. is it worth doing it at all?


Feedback points:

For an instructor observing this, it is helpful to reflect on the relative weight of different elements and how their shape each other. When players encounter frustrations with the requirements then there might be a discussion about how to channel that into more radical responses that might completely overturn the initial structure. Feedback and discussion can logically be given at all stages of this game: prior to starting there could be a consideration of anticipated issues; after each step, a brief reflection; at the end, the evaluation questions should open up debate, including on when simulations are not appropriate.



This is an endlessly adaptable simulation, since choices can be changed and/or enlarged, or even reduced, if players are working within specific limitations.  Similarly, the initial objects can be modified to suit other areas, even to a focus on a specific need. Most of the content is not discipline-specific, except steps 1 and 3.


Subpages (1): INOTLES version