Chatter: National Security Insights from Board Games with Volko Ruhnke

David Priess, Volko Ruhnke
Thursday, July 20, 2023, 4:52 PM
Gaming might seem far removed from national security, but Volko Ruhnke's experience proves otherwise.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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Gaming might seem far removed from national security, but Volko Ruhnke's experience proves otherwise. During his career as an intelligence analyst and manager, he designed and published many commercially successful historical board games that, in turn, informed his work. Additionally, he applied his skills in gaming to training intelligence officers.

David Priess hosted Volko for a deep dive about board games that included discussion of various game types, the value of in-person vs. virtual gaming, Volko's intelligence career, his many published games, the use of cards in gameplay, the importance of honoring historicity while avoiding forced recreation of exact historical timelines, similarities between game design and intelligence questions, the collaborative nature of historical boardgaming, why military wargaming matters, complexity in intelligence analysis, games ranging from political coalition management to Polynesian exploration and from the suffrage movement in the early 1900s to the manipulation of public perceptions about the functionality of Machu Picchu, and much more.


Among the works mentioned in this episode:

Volko Ruhnke's page at GMT Games

The Kevin McPartland-designed game Conquest of Paradise

The Alison Collins-designed game Wiñay Kawsay

Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Noam Osband and Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.

David Priess is Director of Intelligence at Bedrock Learning, Inc. and a Senior Fellow at the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security. He served during the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations as a CIA officer and has written two books: “The President’s Book of Secrets,” about the top-secret President’s Daily Brief, and "How To Get Rid of a President," describing the ways American presidents have left office.
Volko Ruhnke is a game designer and CIA national security analyst who is most famously known for designing the card-driven wargames Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? and Wilderness War.

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