A computer model is described for studying the kinetics of the self-assembly of icosahedral viral capsids. Solution of this problem is crucial to an understanding of the viral life cycle, which currently cannot be adequately addressed through laboratory techniques. The abstract simulation model employed to address this is based on the local rules theory of. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 91:7732-7736). It is shown that the principle of local rules, generalized with a model of kinetics and other extensions, can be used to simulate complicated problems in self-assembly. This approach allows for a computationally tractable molecular dynamics-like simulation of coat protein interactions while retaining many relevant features of capsid self-assembly. Three simple simulation experiments are presented to illustrate the use of this model. These show the dependence of growth and malformation rates on the energetics of binding interactions, the tolerance of errors in binding positions, and the concentration of subunits in the examples. These experiments demonstrate a tradeoff within the model between growth rate and fidelity of assembly for the three parameters. A detailed discussion of the computational model is also provided.