Solo Wargamer

November 15, 2015

Richard Borg’s ‘The Great War’

Filed under: Reviews — Jay @ 10:00 pm

I’m a big fan of Richard Borg’s Commands & Colors game system, especially for solo play. This year has seen Richard port his system into a whole new era of conflict – the so-called ‘Great War’. I haven’t bought the game yet as my playing time is very restricted at the moment, but I thought I’d bring together some of the resources I’ve been checking out prior to deciding whether to invest in a copy myself.

First up is a half-hour review by Marco, whose reviews are generally bang on the money:

Marco’s review is very positive, giving the game a ten out of ten, despite the issues with removing figures from sprues.

Next up is a shorter review by ‘The Chief’ at the Dice Tower:

Check out the Board Game Geek website for more on the game, including plans for future expansions “…which will feature early war, Eastern Front scenarios, tanks, airplanes, other national armies, plus more special personnel figures…”

Everything I’ve seen to date is really positive about this game, which ties in with my experience of RB’s other Commands & Colors games. I’m particularly interested in the possibility, as expansions come out, of tweaking the game to cover the Russian Civil War. So all in all I’m pretty sure I’ll be adding this to my collection some time in the next twelve months.

November 7, 2015

Never Fight Ubba!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 6:49 am

The Last Kingdom

I’ve just caught up with the latest episode of The Last Kingdom, the BBC’s adaptation of the first two books of Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Saxon’ series. I’ve got mixed feelings about it so far. On the plus side, it’s a well-made adaptation with fairly decent cast, scripts and production values – and it covers a period of history which is rarely seen on the telly. On the down side, truncating the books into such a short series (eight episodes in all) necessarily results in sacrificing detail to pace, with some questionable changes to the plot-line as a result.

It has other disadvantages too. Uhtred’s character is under-developed, and his choices (in his shifting allegiance between Saxons and Danes) come across as perfunctory and capricious. While the books are a good read they’re not Cornwell’s best work – for that I would recommend his Arthurian trilogy – and the story suffers further in its abbreviated treatment here. The link between Uhtred’s story and Alfred’s rise to preeminence seems tenuous at times, at least in these early episodes. Moreover Cornwell’s sympathetic treatment of paganism, and his virulent hostility to Christianity, have been written out of the adaptation – presumably because it’s aimed at an American market which would find Cornwell’s attitude unpalatable in the extreme.

There are also, predictably, some historical oddities. A couple of examples from the latest episode will suffice to make the point. In an important scene, Uhtred is shown training the Saxons to improve their fighting technique, by showing them how to use the  apparently alien – and, by implication, quintessentially Danish – tactic of forming a shield wall. As far as I’m aware, this was pretty much standard practice for Saxon armies by the time of the period covered here, so what we’re shown is  something of an anomaly. Again, in the same scene, the Saxons are shown using oblong rather than round shields – a form of protection more usually associated with the Rus, but presumably adopted here so that the Saxons can be distinguished  from their Danish enemies in future battle scenes. Still, at least the Vikings don’t wear horned helmets, so it could have been worse!

On the other hand, the series is fun to watch, and there are some standout performances – particularly from David Dawson as Alfred and Ian Hart (always excellent) as Beocca. And there’s the rub – whatever my criticisms might be, I know I’ll keep right on watching. Purely as entertainment, The Last Kingdom is easy on the eye and holds the attention.

Naturally enough, all of this reminded me of the solo scenario I wrote a couple of years ago based on the same novels. It covers the battle of Ethandun, and is split into two parts. Click on the links below to go straight to the relevant page. And if you do decide to go into battle, don’t forget to keep your shield wall nice and tight – whatever shape your shields are!

https://solowargamer.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/the-battle-of-ethandun-part-1/

https://solowargamer.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/the-battle-of-ethandun-part-2/

October 23, 2015

Army Royal – The Last Apostle

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 4:56 pm
Mired Gun (copyright Stuart Mulligan)

Mired Gun (copyright Stuart Mulligan)

Stuart Mulligan has posted a wonderful battle report for the game he played with Simon Chick based on my Last Apostle scenario. It’s beautifully produced, with lots of eye candy (see sample above!). Check it out here –

Stuart’s Work Bench

Great work and an inspiration for me to get blogging again in the near future!

February 4, 2015

Campaign Maps – The Easy Way!

Filed under: Campaigns,General,Scenarios — Jay @ 12:06 pm

Part of the island of Nylandia

Wargame campaigns have been on my mind a lot recently, after reviewing William Silvester’s book on the subject.

I’ve dusted down my copies of Tony Bath and Don Featherstone’s ground-breaking books covering the same topic, and have been mulling over some of the possibilities.

All three books spend time discussing that first essential of any campaign, however modest or ambitious – the campaign map. In this regard, it’s surprising how little things have changed over the years. Don’s book was originally published in 1970, with Tony’s following a few years later (though it subsequently went through several reprints). William Silvester’s book came out just two years ago. All three books consider the various types of drawn or printed map that are available, and the options for measuring and recording map movement.

Back in the ‘good old days’ the possibilities for acquiring suitable ready-made maps were somewhat limited, and could be expensive. Old classroom maps of the biblical Middle East, tourist souvenir maps, and Ordnance Survey Maps were among the most popular (and, in the first two instances, rather quaint) options. Map movement could be recorded using plastic overlays and marker pens, or coloured pins, always bearing in mind that the map itself was valuable enough to be treated with respect and re-used again and again.

When it came to creating a map from scratch, particularly a map of an imaginary continent or other geographical area, drawing the map by hand was the obvious – indeed the only – option back in the day. Tony Bath famously created his mythical continent of Hyboria, where he fought out battles with other well-known wargaming figures like Charles Grant, in preference to re-fighting a purely historical campaign or using an existing historical map. He makes a convincing case for going down the ‘imaginary’ route (Setting Up A Wargames Campaign, page 7):

“Having at various times tried all three courses, I have no hesitation in saying that I believe the third, of setting up your own continent, to be far and away the best. With a world of your own, the limitations are only those of your own imagination together with a certain sense of realities. For instance, within the boundaries of my own continent of Hyboria existed armies and cultures ranging from the Ancient Egyptian to the 13th Century mediaeval enabling me to make use of the whole ancient-medieval period.”

This is certainly the approach that most immediately appeals to me. Creating my own mythical continent, peopled with a mixture of ancient and mythical nations, has an innate ‘wow’ factor to it. The opportunity to give my various DBA and HoTT armies a run-out against each other, as part of an over-arching narrative, feels too good to resist. I’m planning to start work on this shortly!

So what options are there for creating my map, and for tracing movements on it once it’s been brought to life? My drawing skills are not exactly my strong point, and it would certainly be nice to produce something that has more visual appeal than a rough hand-drawn map. And working with a ‘physical’ map, drawn up on squared or hex-based paper – or using a square or hex acetate overlay – sounds like a rather messy option in this digital era.

In the past I’ve tried one or two cut-price computer-aided drawing packages (CADs), but I’ve found them a bit fiddly to use, and the results less than impressive. Nor has the end product solved the problem of logging and marking map movement as a campaign progresses. So I’ve got to thinking whether other options might be available – preferably ones that come in at a budget price.

The solution, it turns out, was close at hand all along. And I’m sure it’s one that has occurred to other wargamers too, so I certainly wouldn’t presume to claim any originality for the idea!

Like many other gamers, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time over the years playing the various incarnations of Sid Meier’s excellent computer game Civilization, with Civ4 my favourite version. Now, Civ4 happens to have a fantastic in-game editing facility called WorldBuilder. Indeed, one of the keys to the success of the game is the ease with which an enthusiastic community of online gamers is able to create new scenarios for the core game, and – crucially for me – new maps and worlds as an essential part of that. Over the last year or two most of my games of Civ4 have been based in worlds that I’ve either tweaked or that I’ve created myself from scratch.

Civ4‘s WorldBuilder – which comes free with the main program – may seem a little daunting at first, but with a bit of practice it turns out to be straightforward and intuitive to use. The results, once you’ve learned the basics, are visually impressive and highly flexible. You can build an island, a continent or indeed a whole world to your own personal specifications, then drill down to whatever level of detail fits with your campaign requirements. You can add production facilities, resources, fields, mines and buildings to your cities and their environs. You can build new roads and railways, surround a strategic location with a string of forts, or colonize an island to expand your nation’s borders. You can keep it as simple as you choose, or add layers of complexity if fine detail is your thing.

Even better, via a few mouse clicks you can go back into that self-created world any time you like to add or change its features and the location of the units depicted on it. You can mark the movement of armies, the capture or plunder of cities, the progress of fleets and supply trains, the stock-piling of munitions and the building or burning of villages, towns and forts. You can use the program to chart small actions or large – to monitor off-table movement in one small corner of your continent, to set and execute an ambush in a wooded valley, or to move whole battalions at the grand strategic level.

By opting to switch on the ‘grid view’, you have a built-in tool for measuring map movements, one square at a time.

Civ4 will also help with record-keeping, enabling you to save multiple copies of each map to give you a permanent record of your campaign. You can zoom in or out to print maps at whatever level you choose, providing you with a hard copy to work with, or a digital copy to add in to your virtual campaign diary.

Once you’ve got used to the idea of using Civ4 not as a game per se, but purely as an editor, it really does seem to tick all the boxes as a campaign and mapping tool. Note that this is quite distinct from playing Civilization with the world you’ve created in the usual way – what I’m suggesting means that you’re restricted to using it in WorldBuilder (i.e. ‘edit’) mode only. Each time you load the scenario you’ve created, you go straight back into the WorldBuilder to continue your campaign moves, edit the map and so on.

Whether you use one of the many worlds created by the online Civilization community, tweak a computer-generated world, or build your own new world from scratch, I would seriously recommend giving it a try. Retailing for just a few pounds, I reckon it’s a sound investment for the budding wargames campaigner!

Illustrations

Top of page: part of my newly-created island of Nylandia – an imaginary island created for a mini-campaign set in the Pike & Shot era. As you can see, this mini-campaign is going to be nice and simple!

Bottom: zoomed-in shot showing the Swedish port of Svalbard, part of Nylandia and the base of operations for Gustavus’s invasion force.

Resources

Civ4 Fanatics Forum – Creation and Customization Section. Everything you need to know to build your own world!

Svalbard

 

January 31, 2015

Review – Lone Warrior 189, January – March 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 4:05 pm

LW-warrior

Lone Warrior is the only wargames magazine dedicated entirely to solo gaming. I first came across it many years ago, when it was a small format periodical with cheap production values but stuffed to the gills with ideas. When I “rediscovered” it for myself a few years ago after a break from wargaming, it had migrated to the States and grown in size. But this in itself created a problem, with the cost of an annual subscription being a little bit daunting for someone on a budget, primarily because of the transatlantic postage costs. After subscribing for a couple of years I decided that I could no longer justify the expense, so with some regret I let it go.

It was therefore with absolute delight that I recently found that Lone Warrior is now available as a PDF! The cost is just $15 per annum, and for that you get a beautifully produced PDF journal complete with high quality photos, charts and illustrations. The editor, Rich Barbuto, provides a quick and friendly service, and my copy arrived in my Inbox the same day I signed up for it.

So what do you get in this issue? As usual there is a wide spectrum of articles covering different periods and different areas of interest for the soloist.

Paul Le Long has contributed a thought-provoking piece on a “narrative” wargame set during the American War of Independence, which uses a Fate Chart of his own devising and a novel approach to combat resolution.

The editor has contributed a detailed piece, including rules, for a refight of the first day of Gettysburg, complete with rules tailored to the scenario.

There is a fine article by George Arnold detailing his random set-up techniques for a battle between Siennese and Florentine condottieri; this includes a discussion of substituting hex and square based battlefields in place of the standard plain tabletop, a subject close to my own heart. The author’s randomisation methods cover force selection, terrain, and unit placement.

Kevin White’s The Blue and the Grey provides a simple set of ACW rules, complete with provision for a playing-card activation deck. Interestingly he also uses a grid-covered battlefield, and favours the use of printed cardboard soldiers. Everything needed for his ruleset is included here.

Chris Hahn’s article was inspired by an account of a young Winston Churchill’s exploits in the Afghan war, and sets out a small-action scenario featuring an incursion into the Mohmand Valley by British and Sikh brigades, facing the wrath of the Afghan tribesmen.

Jonathon Aird writes about his “dream project” – researching and collecting the materials to refight the Battle of Lepanto.

Rob Morgan contributes a piece detailing his ideas for a small river campaign set in Mesopotamia during World War One, and for a small raid scenario inspired by Don Featherstone’s classic Naval Wargames – as well as a couple of pieces on science fiction models!

My personal favourite so far is another article by Rich Barbuto, this time setting out his re-fight of a small action during the Texas Revolution – I love the solo mechanisms that Rich has used for this, and they can easily be ported into games from different theatres and periods.

This is all on a first read-through, mind you, and I’m sure that I’ll be going back to the magazine again and again to mine it for solo ideas and mechanisms. This has always been the best bit, for me, about Lone Warrior – there are probably more fresh solo gaming notions within the covers (real or virtual) of a single issue than there are in a whole stack of wargames books or generic wargames magazines.

The whole magazine is well presented, with eye candy and pristine diagrams and charts – a definite improvement on the old print editions! The editor seems to have put in place a considered approach to the switch to electronic format, and has canvassed subscribers for ideas as to what they would like to see in future issues. With the shift from paper to PDF, and under the continued fine editorship of Mr Barbuto, I feel confident that Lone Warrior has a very bright future ahead of it. Put simply, if you’re a solo wargamer you really should subscribe to this magazine!

January 29, 2015

A Guide To Solo Campaigning

Filed under: Reviews — Jay @ 4:38 pm

Book Review: The Solo Wargaming Guide by William Silvester. Published by Precis Intermedia, 2013.

Solo

It’s always nice to find a new addition to the small library of books designed specifically for the solo wargamer. This is even more the case when the book is aimed squarely at an aspect of solo wargaming that has not, to date, received much coverage. In fact, outside of the pages of Lone Warrior magazine and the odd website, solo campaigning has barely been touched on at all prior to the publication of this book.

Weighing in at around one hundred and twenty pages, and retailing at a price of £10 or thereabouts, this is a ‘cheap and cheerful’ publication whose main appeal definitely lies in the ideas between its covers rather than in eye candy or fancy production values. That’s no bad thing though, as it should be affordable even for those gamers operating on a tight budget (and who isn’t in these days of government-enforced austerity?).

Mr Silvester has collected a wealth of ideas together here. Unlike some books that wrap a handful of useful notions for the soloist in a whole lot of verbiage about wargaming in general, this guide gets right down to the nitty-gritty of solo gaming and solo campaigning – its advantages, its motivations, its possibilities and (best of all) a straightforward and comprehensive set of mechanisms designed to get you started.

In fact the first forty pages or so contain the ‘meat’ of the book so far as solo campaigning mechanisms go. Short sections cover Mobilization, Time and Transposition, Weather, Logistics and Attrition, Morale, Alliances, Revolts, Sieges and Mutinies. These form the core of the text, and include a simple but effective way to provide for alternative campaign strategies for both the attacker and the defender. Mr Silvester suggests ways to build unpredictability into each solo campaign, both for the solo player and for the counter-strategies of his/her ‘automated’ opponent. Each side may have a number of possible approaches to the coming conflict, and each side is subject to the changing fortunes of war.

I won’t give the game away by going into detail here about what we might call the ‘core mechanism’ for determining the course of each campaign at the strategic level. In truth it’s actually pretty straightforward, but the beauty of it is that (a) it works, and (b) it can be developed in order to add further layers of complexity should you wish to do so. As the author says, rather than set out to write a ‘solo wargamers bible’, he has focused instead on providing ‘guidelines that can be bent or twisted, even broken and reformed, to suit a wargamer’s needs’. Where other books on wargame campaigning occasionally suffer from a rather forbidding complexity, the author here has set out a neat and effective approach which contains everything the gamer needs in order to get started. He gives us a foundation that can be built on, expanded and elaborated to your heart’s content – or used ‘as is’.

Later chapters expand on the core ideas, and touch on everything from naval campaigning and air warfare through to ideas for resolving the table-top battles when the opposing forces finally come into contact. The author goes to some lengths to explain how to transition from map to battlefield, and this is both unusual and immensely helpful – it’s an area that’s often been skipped over by other writers.

Overall, this is a good little primer that covers everything you need to know to get started in solo campaigning. While it might usefully be read in conjunction with older books like Tony Bath’s Setting Up A Wargames Campaign, it works well as a stand-alone introduction to this much neglected subject. Mr Silvester’s book is an extremely useful addition to the solo wargamer’s bookshelf.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers