Review – Lone Warrior 189, January – March 2015

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!

A Guide To Solo Campaigning

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.