Accession Number:



Use of Game Theory at the Operational Level

Descriptive Note:

[Technical Report, Monograph]

Corporate Author:

Army Command and General Staff College

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Political scientists and national level policymakers have used game theory at the strategic level for decades, but there exist minimal reviews of its use at the operational level. Three main challenges have traditionally prevented planners and analysts from using game theory at the operational level, the complex operational environment, the dynamic interactions of the actors and, the use of complex mathematical skills that most Army staff officers do not possess. This monograph demonstrates that these challenges can be overcome, and game theory can provide novel insight during the planning process. Army staff planners can fruitfully use basic game theory with simple math at the operational level for understanding the operational environment, understanding actors and their motivations, and comparing courses of action during the military decision-making process. This monograph shows how to avoid the cumbersome mathematical procedures advanced game theory uses to solve theoretical problems and instead focuses on using basic game theory to provide value during the operations process. It demonstrates the utility of game theory by reviewing the uses of game theory at the strategic level, teaching basic game theory, and covering a few basic games. Then it examines a historic campaign to show how the use of game theory would have arrived at an alternate recommended course of action and outcome, perhaps altering the course of history. Finally, it provides a guide to use game theory by applying it to an exercise at two steps of the military decision-making process, mission analysis, and course of action development.

Subject Categories:

  • Operations Research
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]