Take The High Ground…Again!

High Ground 01

This post will build on an original scenario, ‘Take The High Ground’, set out by Stuart Asquith in his ‘Guide To Solo Wargaming’ (Argus Books, 1988).

The same starting conditions apply in this expanded version. Blue Force straddles a ridge that extends across the northern edge of the battlefield and cannot be outflanked. Red Force, which significantly outnumbers Blue Force, is approaching from the south. Although Blue Force are outnumbered, Red Force have a fair bit of ground to cover before they can come to grips with their opponents, who have the advantage of the high ground.

An interesting departure from the original game is to allow for the possibility of Blue Force receiving reinforcements. This will add the element of uncertainty so important for the solo player. In addition, Red Force will have to capture the ridge within a specific time frame or they will be deemed to have lost. Blue Force will be controlled by the NPG (non-player general) and Red Force by the solo player.

I intend to set out the basic ground rules in this post, then run the game through a few times and report back in my next post. I’d be interested to hear how other people get on if they give it a try!

I’m going to run my own game as a 15mm Italian Wars battle, using DBA movement and combat rules with the Humberside extension for Renaissance warfare. Pending experimentation, these are my initials plans for the two forces:

1. Blue Force – Defenders (Spanish) [Throw 1 d6 for Pips]

Knight General

Artillery x 3

Shot x 4

Pikes x 4

Blades x 2

2. Red Force – Attackers (French) [Throw 2 d6 for Pips]

Knight General

Knights x 6

Pikes x 8

Shot x 6

Light Horse x 4

Blue Force Reinforcements [Throw 1 d6 for Pips]

These will be determined at random – see below for details.

Scenario Rules:

1. At the end of Turn 20, throw a D10 to determine how many more turns Red Force has to take the ridge. [Amended after testing]

2. Blue Force reinforcements may arrive from Turn 6 onwards (this is a one-off event). At the start of each Blue Force bound, throw two D10 – a throw of 85% or higher means that reinforcements will indeed appear. To determine their entry point, throw a D6, with the following results:

1-2, reinforcements enter at western edge of battlefield

3-4, reinforcements enter at southern edge of battlefield (i.e. to the rear of Red Force)

5-6, reinforcements enter at eastern edge of battlefield

In all cases they will appear more or less half-way along their designated board edge. Next, dice to see what forces the relief party will include:

1-2, force is made up of 4 Light Horse units

3-4, force is made  up of 4 Light Horse units and 2 Knights

5-6, force is made up 4 Light Horse units and 4 Knights

Then dice to see what action these reinforcements will take:

1-2, attack nearest Red Force flank en masse

3-4, attack rear of Red Force en masse

5, concentrate on eliminating the Red Force general

6, attempt to reinforce the ridge line defenders, avoiding Red Force if possible until the ridge has been reached

Victory Conditions

Normal DBA victory conditions are replaced by the following:

1. Red Force wins if the ridge is taken, i.e. if all enemy forces have been dislodged from it.

2. Blue Force wins if Red Force’s general is killed – at that point Red Force troops will disengage and flee the field.

3. Blue Force wins if any Spanish troops remain on the ridge (on the summit or either slope) at the end of play.

This should provide a tough battle for Red Force! I’ll report back in my next post with photos and a description of how the battle has panned out, including any amendments I have had to make to the scenario for the sake of balance and/or playability.

A Touch Of Magic #2


This scenario turned out to be quite a tough one! I ran the game three times, and the first two battles were ignominious defeats for my Lizardmen, as they found their line fragmented and weakened by the time they charged home. Third time lucky though, and here are some pics recording the fight. Above, the battle lines clash. Below, while my left flank has crumbled my behemoths in the centre have held their position, and the knights on my right have pushed the enemy’s magician general back to his baseline:


The magician general loses the combat, and flees the battlefield, leaving my knights triumphant and in a good position to roll up the enemy flank:


On the far right of my line a couple of units of knights surround the enemy blades, while in the centre another knight unit approaches the rear of the spearmen targeted by my behemoth general:


My general forces the spearmen to recoil, and they die on the lances of the knights. Yes, HOTT players out there will recognise that I resorted to the ‘buttocks of death’ manoeuvre in order to wrap up the victory!

This scenario provided a good, fast battle with the outcome finely balanced. It’s ripe for adaptation and development, both in terms of period (for example with guns replacing the magicians), scale (from 24 point-a-side HOTT to a full scale wargame), and complexity (any number of additional factors can be added in to the mix to pose more problems for the solo player). The basic notion of a ‘programmed’ defender and a player-controlled attacking force offers endless possibilities for the solo gamer.

A Touch Of Magic #1


This game probably represents the very simplest type of solo scenario, where a strong position is defended by a static force.  In this instance, using a slightly adapted version of the HOTT (Hordes of the Things) ruleset, a couple of pesky magicians are ensconced behind a line of feudal infantry.

In HOTT, magicians operate as the equivalent of short range artillery – the precise nature of the spell being cast is not defined. They are able to fire over their own troops and do not need a clear line of sight to their target. So the magicians can cast their spells at will – with the proviso that they need good enough dice throws to do so, and that they must avoid throwing ones (throwing a couple of ones turns the magician into a frog). This feudal human army will act as a more or less programmed opponent for me to attack; it’s commanded by the guy in the pointy hat!

Up against the magicians and their henchmen are my small force of  lizardmen, consisting of a central block of three behemoths ( including the one carrying the general) and two flanks of heavy cavalry classed as knights in HOTT terminology. My troops are likely to be effective against the enemy’s foot troops, but they’re relatively slow for mounted warriors and they’re susceptible to bespelling.

The battle hinges on whether my lizardmen can reach the enemy lines and engage the infantry before they’re brought down by the magicians, and whether there are enough of my guys left when they get there to punch their way through the defence.

I’ve made some minor changes to the rules and game sequence for this particular scenario, as well as some assumptions about how both sides will behave:

1. The human battle line will generally remain static, except that infantry units will move to restore cohesion to the line if it begins to fragment. If the line looks like crumbling completely, either or both of the magicians may step up to help restore cohesion: whether or not they do so will be determined by dice throw (4, 5 or 6 means they will). Magicians will also move if necessary to avoid finding themselves attacked in flank or rear.

2. If the opportunity for a decisive counter charge arises at any point, for example where the points total for my army has fallen dangerously low and some of my units are isolated, the NPG (non-player general) will carry this out on a throw of 4 or higher; all human units able to counter-charge at this stage will then do so. However, this can only be done once per game. If in doubt as to interpretation of this point throw a D6, alloting a 50% chance to each option.

3. My knights and behemoths, apart from the general, will launch an impetuous charge all along the line. Only after initial contact is made and the combats resolved can they pull back or attempt to concentrate their attacks on specific weak points in the line. The general is an exception to this rule – he has complete freedom of movement throughout.

4. As a variant of the usual bespelling rules, during the NPG turn throw a die for each wizard. A throw of 4 or higher means that he can launch a magic attack this round. Magicians will always combine their attacks where possible (one acting as a supporting bespeller for the other) if both have passed this test. Note that this means that pips (dice points) are not used for bespelling.

5. The target for magic attacks is decided at random by dice throw.

6. The magician general will act as the supporting bespeller rather than the main bespeller during joint magic attacks in order to minimise the chances of being self-ensorcelled.

7. The humans do not have a stronghold for the purposes of this scenario. Other than that normally victory conditions apply.

My next post will detail how the battle pans out…watch this space!


De Bellis Solitarius


De Bellis Solitarius is a simple, deceptively elegant (and free!) variant of the DBA ruleset designed to provide straightforward solo battles for the ancient/medieval wargamer. It revolves around the concept of a ‘non-player general’ (NPG), and incorporates a deployment engine and a simple tactical engine which governs the conduct of the NPG’s troops during the course of the battle. It can be used ‘straight’, or adapted for different scenarios and periods. I find it particularly useful for those times when all I want is a quick, easy game with straightforward set-up and a ‘virtual’ opponent who is capable of responding to the changing fortunes of battle – as in the Norse landing-party scenario pictured above.

De Bellis Solitarius provides a ‘bare bones’ tactical engine which has great potential for further development, and for adaptation to other rulesets. Hordes of the Things is an obvious candidate for the DBS treatment!

Click here to check out De Bellis Solitarius for yourself – http://www.fanaticus.org/DBA/variants/vardbs.html

Featherstone Classic Back In Print


I’ve recently received my copy of the new edition of Don Featherstone’s classic ‘Solo Wargaming’. Originally published way back in 1973, this book was long available only via eBay and specialist outlets at the sort of prices that would make your eyes water. This shiny new edition has been edited and produced by John Curry of John Curry Events, and can be had for the very reasonable sum of £12.95 plus shipping. It includes all sixty original illustrations, and is well worth the cover price. Although very much ‘of its time’, it’s an essential addition to the solo wargamer’s bookshelf.

John Curry is in the process of publishing new editions of many classic books and rule sets by Don Featherstone and other early pioneers. Check out his website for full details.