The Gaming Lab at CNAS

From armed conflicts to global pandemics, military strategists and policymakers use gaming to gain insights into some of the most challenging problems they face. Games help develop and test strategies, support effective decision-making, and communicate vital lessons to key stakeholders.

The Gaming Lab at CNAS, nested under the Defense Program, develops and runs innovative unclassified games and exercises on a range of challenging national security issues. Drawing on its extensive game design and subject matter expertise, the Gaming Lab develops tailored games along three primary lines of effort: operational wargames, strategy games, and expert elicitation exercises. The Gaming Lab conducts rigorous post-game analysis, identifies key insights from its games, and makes concrete policy-relevant recommendations.

To learn more about using wargaming or similar methodologies to explore difficult problems, contact the Gaming Lab at

Primary Lines of Effort

Operational Wargaming

The Gaming Lab at CNAS runs unclassified wargames to examine critical operational issues in Asia, Europe, and beyond. These games may be used to develop innovative operational concepts, test new strategies or capabilities, or to explore novel scenarios. Examples of past operational wargames include:

Strategy Games

The Gaming Lab at CNAS designs custom strategy games that explore critical aspects of national security, ranging across diplomatic, information, military, and economic activities. CNAS also runs political-military games that focus on the non-military aspects of competition and conflict. Examples of past strategy games include:

Expert Elicitation Exercises

The Gaming Lab at CNAS develops and runs scenario and tabletop exercises, simulations, and red team analysis to explore security issues through subject matter expert elicitation. CNAS also uses such exercises to educate audiences about critical problems in defense and national security. Examples of past expert elicitation exercises include:

The Gaming Lab Team

Recent Publications:


It’s Time to Rethink our Wargames

National security practitioners held several high-profile pandemic wargames and exercises in the years prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. Often, these games eerily predicted e...


Slaughter in the East China Sea

The year is 2030. Chinese troops seize a Japanese island in the South China Sea. Japan dispatches an amphibious task force to retake the island. Soon, U.S. warships and aircra...


A Deadly Game: East China Sea Crisis 2030

On July 22, 2020, audience members played along as the CNAS Defense team and leading experts conducted a virtual wargame in the year 2030, exploring command and information co...

Middle East Security

Interactive Tabletop Exercise on the Future of Iran’s Nuclear Program

Nicholas A. Heras, Eric Brewer, Elizabeth Rosenberg, and Ilan Goldenberg lead an interactive tabletop exercise about the future of Iran's nuclear program....

Indo-Pacific Security

No Safe Harbor

Introduction China is challenging America’s and Japan’s long-standing ability to uphold a peaceful order in the Asia-Pacific region. This is particularly true in the East and ...


Virtual Panel Discussion: Serious Games: How the Pentagon Uses Wargames to Develop Ideas and Inform Decisions

Jun 16, 2020