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cyberwar-2025

cyberwar-2025

Naval Postgraduate School Defense Analysis Thesis/Capstone Interactive Wargame Created By: David "Ty" Long (dtlong@nps.edu) Chris M. Mulch (cmmulch@nps.edu)

Download the Cyberwar:2025 Rulebook

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Overview

CyberWar: 2025 is a turn-based multiplayer cyber wargame for six players that highlights the three core cyber-effect categories of defensive cyberspace operations (DCO), offensive cyberspace operations (OCO), and computer network exploitation (CNE).

The premise of CyberWar: 2025 is to create a collaborative training environment in which leaders, policymakers, and non-technical personnel partner with those who have experience in cyberspace operations, cybersecurity, or a similar technical field. CyberWar: 2025 simulates a realistic cyberspace operational environment and models the effects of current real-world cyber activities in a non-technical and straightforward manner. The complexity of CyberWar: 2025 lies within the core game mechanics of randomization and dynamic board changes, which challenge each player from one round to the next.

Objective

Each player must subvert the other players on the board by eliminating their access to their own base and prevent the same from happening to them. To do this, they must secure their own network nodes while infiltrating their neighbors, and eventually to deny access to a node.

  • Players begin at their own base node
  • Nodes are acquired from adjacent nodes, which in turn grows the players control over the network
  • Players gain Action Points for each node they control

It is very common for a game to end without a clear winner. Many times the board is occupied in such a way that the bases are not accessible to all players.

User Interface

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  • A. Network. The game takes place on this network through a series of interconnected nodes. For more information on the network, see the next section.
  • B. View Reports. Click to open a dialog listing all the actions taken on the last turn and their effects.
  • C. Public Chat. The public chat message history is found here.
  • D. Turn Counter. The history of the state of the board can be viewed using the turn counter.
  • E. Action Points. The total number of Action Points available to use.
  • F. Cost Effects Window. This window shows the actions available to the player. For more information about the Cost Effects Window, see Upgrading Your Capabilities.
  • G. Orders Adjudication. List of all the actions queued for this turn. Click the X button to remove the action.
  • H. Submit Orders. Click to submit your turn. The text of this button will change from “Submit Orders” to “Edit Orders.” Click this button to edit your orders after they’ve submitted. However, the turn will be adjudicated once the last player submits their turn. Once this happens you are not allowed to go back and edit orders.

Network

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  • A. Domain. Each player has its own domain, represented by a color. In the example above, the red play
  • B. Your Base Node. All actions begin from this node. If the nodes on either side are denied, you will lose access to your base node and will therefore lose.
  • C. Other Players’ Base Nodes. The other players’ equivalent to your base node. You may click on it to open the chat window.
  • D. Nodes. Nodes make up the network. Control or manipulation of these nodes expands each players’ control over the network.
  • E. Connections. Nodes are connected through these connections, and actions must be taken along those connection lines through nodes that are controlled.
    • a. The exception to this rule is nodes across the center white hexagon can be controlled from the H node.
  • F. Tiers. Each player's domain is bordered by black walls, which represent security. Actions taken on nodes across this black wall in another player’s domain have a cost represented by the number in each tier (1 through 4)

Playing Your Turn

On your turn, you have a number of action points to spend. These are spent on:

  1. Taking actions on nodes
  2. Upgrading your capabilities

You are not required to spend all your action points during your turn. They may be banked for use in a later turn.

Perform Actions on Nodes

To perform actions on a node, click on a node. If the node is gray, actions are not eligible to be performed on that node.

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  • A. Actions to Perform. Only eligible actions will be displayed here. Its initial cost is displayed on each card.
  • B. Initial Cost of the Selected Action. The cost for the selected action is displayed here.
  • C. Source Node. The node from which the action is performed. Each node can only perform one action per turn.
  • D. Inter-domain Cost. The additional cost for performing actions from one domain to another. This is equal to the domain tier where the nodes are.
  • E. Target Node. The node on which this action is to be performed. There is no choice to be made here, it is only for informational purposes.
  • F. Total Cost. Cost in Action Points for performing this action. It is the sum of the action cost plus the cross-domain cost.
  • G. Owner and Strength. Any information known about this node such as its owner and known strength.  

Upgrade Your Capabilities

Action points can be used to upgrade your capabilities. These capabilities provide you with more actions to perform.

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  • Action points can be used to upgrade your capabilities. These capabilities provide you with more actions to perform.

  • Actions are divided up in three trees, and each tree is separated into three tiers

  • The action in the second tier must be unlocked before the third tier can be unlocked

  • The action is gray if it cannot be upgraded, yellow when it can be upgraded and has some action points allocated to it, and green when it is fully unlocked.

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      • Fully-upgraded. Able to be used
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      • Available. Becomes available (yellow) in the turn after the action above it in its tree is fully-upgraded. Cannot be used until all action points have been allocated, at which point it becomes fully-upgraded.
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      • Either Unavailable or no Action Points Allocated. Once the action in the tier above it is fully upgraded this will become Available.
  • Actions are not available until all four action points have been allocated.

  • Once actions have been upgraded, they are available to use in the next turn.

Chat

Players can send messages publicly or privately.

Private Chat

Private chat can only be seen by the two players involved in the chat.

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To chat with another player, click on the base icon of the player with whom you want to chat.

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When a new unread message arrives from another player, a pulsing dot appears next to the name on their base.  

Public Chat

The public chat is located on the left side of the screen. All messages here are visible to all players.

Reports

The reports dialog contains the list of all the actions taken in the previous turns and the results of those actions.

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  • A. Secure Results. Securing nodes actions will be shown here.
  • B. Failed Defenses Results. If another player succeeded in acquiring a node you formerly controlled.
  • C. Action. Name of the action taken.
  • D. Source Node
  • E. Target Node
  • F. Attack Strength. Dependent on the strength of the node. This can be changed by securing nodes.
  • G. Result Icon. Successful actions are denoted by a checkmark, failed actions are denoted by an X.
  • H. Scan Results. Information found from scanning nodes.

Actions

First Tier

Secure

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  • Available at the start of the game

Increases the value of a server node by one point value to a max of four. The higher value on a server node, the stronger the attack and defense odds are against opposing cyber effects.

Acquire

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  • Available at the start of the game

Overtly seizes control of targeted server node. The Acquire effect cannot be used against bases. The odds of success for an Acquire effect attempt are determined by comparing the value of the attacking server node(s) with the value of the defending server node. Thus, using Secure effects increases the likelihood of a successful acquisition using the secured server. Players also can execute this effect in the blind, or without prior knowledge of someone controlling that server node using the Scan effect. Acquire action strength stacks when attacking the same node from multiple locations.

Scan

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  • Available at the start of the game

Increases the value of a server node by one point value to a max of four. The higher value on a server node, the stronger the attack and defense odds are against opposing cyber effects.

Second Tier

Expel

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  • Costs four (4) Action Points to unlock
  • Actions Points may be allocated at the start of the game

A defensive cyber effect that removes all covertly hidden or exploiting players who reside on your overtly controlled server nodes.

Manipulate

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  • Costs four (4) Action Points to unlock
  • Actions Points may be allocated at the start of the game

Same as Acquire, but can misattribute the acquire action launched and mask the owner as another player on the board.

Exploit

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  • Costs four (4) Action Points to unlock
  • Actions Points may be allocated at the start of the game

Functions like an Acquire action, but on success, you will not actually own the node. You will get action points from it and can perform actions off of it as if it was your node, but you will not be able to Secure it. Other players will not see you have this link unless they scan one of the two linked nodes. Exploit actions do not stack.

Third Tier

Analyze

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  • Costs four (4) Action Points to unlock
  • Actions Points may be allocated after the Expel action is unlocked

More effective version of Scan because it can scan the player’s entire network of linked server nodes (+1) to reveal any exploited players residing on the player's network.

Deny

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  • Costs four (4) Action Points to unlock
  • Actions Points may be allocated after the Manipulate action is unlocked

Calculates an attack similar to Acquire, but will remove the node from play if successful. Cutting off a player's base from the network will eliminate them from the game. Deny actions do not stack and are calculated separately.

Implant

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  • Costs four (4) Action Points to unlock
  • Actions Points may be allocated after the Exploit action is unlocked

Reduces the defensive value of that server node to one for one turn. Then the player must launch another OCO or CNE effect to gain access to that server node. If launched on a base, there is a chance the defending player can be locked out of play for one round.