Solo Wargamer

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

 

April 8, 2014

The Joy Of Dave

Filed under: General — Jay @ 10:23 am

Soccer referee

When I lived in London I used to wargame with a bloke called Dave. Now, Dave had firm views when it came to tabletop battles. One day we were playing an ECW game at my place using home-made rules (this was way back in the 1990s). Dave’s Royalist musketeers were positioned behind a low wall when I charged them with my Roundhead horsemen.

“My cavalry will be fighting at minus one,” I announced, “on account of the wall”.

“No,” said Dave. “No, that’s not right mate.”

I was perplexed.

“What do you mean? Look, it’s here in the rules – your lot are behind a wall, so my lot are minus one in the melee.”

“No,” he repeated, “that’s definitely not right mate.”

Dave was adamant. His view was that my cavalry would be quite unable to “reach over the wall”, as he put it, so his musketeers were safe as long as they did the natural thing – and adopted a crouching posture. I couldn’t attack them at all. I must have misinterpreted the rules.

“I don’t think so Dave,” I replied. “I wrote them.”

“It’s still not right mate. I’m not having that.”

And so it went on. Dave had very firm views, and generally won out through sheer attrition – in real life as well as on the battlefield.

The Daves of this world are one of the reasons I prefer to play solo. Dave is a bit of a one-off, but you often find pronounced Davidian tendencies in the wargaming community.

Dave lived alone. He’d had a relationship many years before but it hadn’t worked out. “I don’t understand women, mate,” he’d say, as he downed another lager and carefully searched for loopholes in our latest ruleset. “They’re different from us.”

Dave didn’t have a regular job, but he used to referee football matches on Sundays down the park. One day he sent five players off in a single game, and got chased off the pitch by the remaining players. He had to lock himself in the dressing room till the other refs could rescue him. “I’m telling you mate, it wasn’t right. It wasn’t right at all,” he explained plaintively some time after the event. “They didn’t have any respect for the ref.”

After another year of gaming with Dave I was beginning to feel the same way. Eventually our wargaming sessions petered out, doubtless to his relief as much as mine. As for the refereeing, Dave eventually gave that up too. He decided it was, and I quote, “too dangerous”.

Dave and I stumbled across each other again in cyberspace many years later, and eventually I invited him to come and visit me in my new town. We got on well. Better than ever in fact. And we talked a lot about DBA, which Dave had bought when it first came out and which he had tried – unsuccessfully as it happened – to introduce to our little group back in London.

Next time he visited we decided to play a few games. I’d got into DBA in the years since we’d parted company, and Dave had owned a copy of the rules ever since the old days. He still had the figures he’d painted and based for it, and he brought a couple of his DBA armies along with him on his second visit. I had a few DBA armies myself, so we set up our first battle and got stuck in.

Everything was going swimmingly until my wing advanced towards his camp. “Dave,” I reminded him, “you’ve got to protect your camp.” He ignored my advice, so I warned him again. He ignored my advice again. “Fair enough,” I thought, “he must know what he’s doing.”

A few rounds later Dave lost his camp, and consequently – given combat results elsewhere – he lost the game.

“It’s worth two elements,” I explained patiently.

“That’s not right mate.”

“I did warn you.”

“It’s not right.”

“It’s in the rules…”

“It’s still not right mate.”

And that was it. Dave refused ever to touch DBA again. It was not, all in all, a happy weekend. In fact Dave hasn’t exchanged a single word with me since.

By then, in any case, Dave had discovered FoG Online. In the absence of anything else to distract him (friends, partner, social life) it became the epicentre of his existence. By the time a couple of years had passed he’d realised, judging by his FoG forum posts, just how inadequate the PC version of the game was from both the gaming and the historical perspectives (click here for more on FoG). But by then he’d severed most of his links with the outside world. He currently resides in cyberspace. In a keep, presumably. With a moat. With the drawbridge up. I get the impression he doesn’t game much these days, either online or in the real world…

Nowadays I mostly play solo, apart from occasional sessions with my wargaming buddy Jammers. Jammers is affable, good company, and averse to rules lawyers. He doesn’t take his gaming too seriously. In all the time I’ve known him I’ve never once heard him utter the dreaded words “I don’t think that’s right mate”. That’s a big plus in the post-Dave era, believe me.

Another big plus is the ability to play solo. As time goes by more and more creative systems are being produced to facilitate solo play, to turn solo games into a challenge that is constantly fresh and endlessly rewarding. Of course, it’s never going to be cool. People turn their noses up and ask “why on earth would you want to do that?“. I’ve got an easy answer for them. A one word answer – “Dave”!

Footnote: This article is not intended to offend people called Dave. In fact, “Dave” is a pseudonym – using the guy’s real name somehow just felt wrong. Anyway, some of my best friends are called Dave…

March 6, 2014

Marco Solo

Filed under: General — Jay @ 2:56 pm

For any solo gamer who isn’t already familiar with his YouTube videos, Marco is a prolific and erudite video blogger who discusses and reviews all sorts of boardgames, often discussing their solo playability as part of the review. I can’t recommend his stuff too highly. Although not a tabletop/figure wargamer as such, his reviews are a terrific resource, covering as they do primarily military (and sometimes magical/D&D type) games. His reviews are short but comprehensive. The main page for Marco’s reviews is here – http://www.youtube.com/user/marcowargamer?feature=watch

Below are a couple of examples. First up is his review of Battle Cry, a Richard Borg game with obvious solo potential (the review was good enough to persuade me to go out and buy a copy!). Second is his review of Thermopylae, a free print and play game available here – http://battreps.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/thermopylae.html.

I’ve found that Marco’s video reviews are a great way of sorting the wheat from the chaff.

March 23, 2011

Typical Army Behaviours

Filed under: General — Jay @ 10:06 am

Jim Zylka: Enemy Behaviour In Action

The April-June 2009 issue of Lone Warrior featured a fascinating article by Jim Zylka called Enemy Behaviour In Action: Renaissance Swiss. As Jim puts it:

“One of the very first solo systems I developed many years ago and still use today is Army Behaviour. What that is can best be described as how your solo enemy’s…forces will act on the battlefield. It is not a list of orders on what to do or where to go but how these actions will be conducted.”

Jim proceeded to outline six typical deployments for the Renaissance Swiss, and then set out guidelines as to how they would conduct the battle – for example how their pike columns would advance and what role their limited artillery and cavalry would have. Jim also included notes about Mindset and Unsure Action with an associated table of actions based on a D6 roll.

If you haven’t come across Jim’s article already I’d strongly suggest that you acquire a back issue of the relevant Lone Warrior. The kernel of his approach is to model the typical behaviour of an historical army based on meticulous research, with some chance factors built in that can be triggered by specific conditions on the battlefield, but which will still fall firmly within the range of authentic options that the army would have had at its disposal.

Jim’s article was quite simply one of the most thought-provoking pieces on solo wargaming that I’ve ever read. It suggested a very fruitful approach to a perennial problem for the solo wargamer – how do you prevent your “automated” opponent from doing things that are either (a) incredibly dumb, or (b) incredibly ahistorical/atypical. I’ve recently started looking at my collection of armies – mainly DBA and HoTT armies – to think about defining “typical army behaviours” for them. And one of the things that struck me immediately is that it is, of course, perfectly possible to do for fantasy armies something similar to what Jim did for the Renaissance Swiss.

My Dwarves are a case in point. Thinking about how they’ll generally approach a battle means looking both at the source material for the army and at the actual make-up of the forces on the tabletop. And it provides a quick thumbnail sketch of how Jim’s approach might be applied to a very different kind of army from his Swiss example. My HoTT Dwarves consist of the following elements: 8 Blades (including the General), 2 Shooters, and 1 Behemoth (a stand of friendly giants). They’re based on the standard image of fantasy Dwarves as primarily a heavy infantry force. On this basis I found it fairly straightforward to devise a simple TAB (Typical Army Behaviour) for them:

Dwarves: Typical Army Behaviour

Blades will form up wherever possible in single line as the main battle formation, with the General towards the centre (either in the front rank or to the rear). A single Blade unit may be detached to protect the Stronghold, where relevant.

Blades may fight in bad going but will avoid doing so against Warbands (who quick-kill Blades in HoTT).

Shooters will generally be placed on the flanks, often to cover or advance through bad going. If facing an enemy with significant mounted units, the Shooters may instead mingle with the Blades.

The Behemoth will be placed either in the centre of the Blade line near the General, or towards a flank – where its own flank can be covered by a Shooter unit.

Dwarves favour a steady, coordinated advance. They will tend to focus on maintaining the cohesion of their main battle line until they have succeeded in breaking the enemy formation by sheer muscle and persistence. If their line is fractured they will hold position and regroup rather than plow on regardless.

Dwarven Generals may be cautious or steady, but will very rarely be impetuous. They will favour open battlefields with a minimum of bad going, unless facing a primarily mounted opponent. They may choose to place impassable terrain to maximise the effectiveness of their heavy troops and minimise the risk of being outflanked.

Conclusion

This TAB has resulted in a couple of close-fought games. Where different options have been listed, I’ve assigned a probability to each and diced accordingly. The Dwarves have given a good account of themselves, and when I’ve needed to think about what the Dwarven general is likely to do next I’ve had a clear set of guidelines to base my probability calculations on.

Of course in some ways this is a rather tongue-in-cheek application of Jim’s approach. But I think it shows just how flexible the army behaviour model can be, involving as it does both firm guidelines and carefully boundaried chance elements. In time, I hope to develop a detailed TAB for all of my armies – with rather more research and detail going into the historical armies than was the case with my Dwarves! Indeed, it would be possible to develop a very elaborate TAB for an army based not only on their historical performance and capabilities, but also on the type of opponent they face and the sort of terrain they will fight over. Combined with other mechanisms, I think that the army behaviour model is a very useful tool for the solo wargamer.

March 21, 2011

Ten Things Bob Likes About Solo Wargaming

Filed under: General — Jay @ 4:08 pm

Thanks to the inimitable Bob Seur D’Armadilleaux (and to Saga Online e-zine) for another thought-provoking guest post.

Really Accommodating
My Solo Wargames buddy likes the same periods that I like — he never gripes or wants to do some other obscure period (one that I have NO interest in). What’s more, he even likes the same rules I use (right down to all the “house-rules” that I’ve concocted, over the years, including the one about the advantage for left-handed axe-men). When I goof-up and put one of my key units in danger, why, my Solo opponent is more than accommodating and lets me take back the obvious blunder with nary a “Tsk tsk, my good chap!” (And he never reminds me about it, later, either!)

No matter what units I put on the table (even those beautifully painted antiques with the skinny fragile prototypically-sized pikes) my Solo Wargaming buddy never manhandles them, or bends them over unmercifully. He’s as careful of my figures as I am! Nice to see that.

All the Time in the World
My Solo buddy doesn’t care how long I take to move — 5 minutes, or 5 hours over an interesting puzzle, or maybe 5 days, while I go back to paint up a better representation of some stand of the troops I am currently maneuvering. If I want to research a particular rule, he just sits there, contemplating the ceiling, as if he has all the time in the world. If I complain that the rules “as written” don’t reflect MY idea of reality, why, it’s all the same to him — he agreeably lets me down-tools while I go and try to find (rare) examples from history that support my contentions. He even lets me change the rules as I see fit, and then is quite ready to let the chips fall where they may, as part of our Solo game. (He’s a prince, that Solo buddy).

(Umn … he’s even starting to LOOK a bit like me, although he’s a bit more reticent and not as handsome).

Eager to Play at 3:00 AM on a Week Night
My opponent is always “on time” and always “there” when I need him. He never gets delayed by family circumstances, or because the dog got sick. He doesn’t care about chores, or helping HIS kids with their homework. He doesn’t complain that he wants to sleep in on Sunday morning.

And the corollary is that he never complains when I don’t feel up to one of our usual sessions, because I want to do something else (like read a good book). And if I propose to “shelve” this particular campaign for a bit, in favor of picking up some OTHER campaign or project, who do you think is “right there” to support the change? Yep, my Solo Wargame buddy.

Play in Your Underwear
My Solo opponent doesn’t care if my little guys are painted to the nth degree, or if they come to play Solo in their Underwear (primed figures on temporary cardboard bases, to see if I like the period, or the rules, or that particular army). Graham adds, “Even using cardboard strips painted in appropriate colors to pad out your hordes until the pocket money and or the painting catches up will not be frowned upon by your opponent” (note 1). My Solo buddy doesn’t snigger when some of my little guys have the “wrong” tabs on their uniform (out by 2 years), nor does he mention the fact that my Spanish Warbands are really imported Gauls (“how tacky”). And if there are a couple of Colonial figures on the back ranks of one of my warbands, why, he turns a blind eye to them, and just plays out the scenario “for the fun of it”.

Come to think of it, my Solo buddy doesn’t care if I’ve shaved, or if I’ve brushed my teeth, either. Nor does he bat an eye when I eat in front of him, and don’t share the cookies. He’s just there for the excitement and the purity of the Game.

Suspension of Disbelief
Why did the warbands always go down to defeat? Why couldn’t they have had a good day, a downhill charge, a favorable wind, and promising omens? Maybe the Romans trod up that dirt path until it was nothing but mud, that day.

My Solo buddy doesn’t care if I tweak the rules a bit, such that they favor the underdogs a bit more than the “official tournament” types might like. My Solo buddy realizes that there is a LOT of fun to be had, by reaching deep into the Official Lists, and pulling out two “also-ran” armies — Off-the-beaten-track third-raters, Frontier Funnies the pair of them, but capable of providing some exciting matches when they play against someone in their own local league.

Meticulously Straight; Deceptively Sly
My opponent never “fudges” his move (to get behind my flank, for example), unless I actively encourage him to do so. None of this prance-forward, take-it-back, prance-the-other-way stuff. He’s a paragon of gentlemanly behavior. At the same time, I use Mythic Game Master Emulator (a neat little $7 download from DriveThruRPG.com) that introduces variability (like move distances) and unpredictability (“Did he get around enough to pull a flank attack?”) Mythic can answer that, statistically.

And occasionally, the sneaky Pete even manages to land a raiding party behind me, so I have to ALWAYS keep some active (realistic) reserves to beat off his nipping at my heels. (The rotten fink!).

Side-bar, Yer Honor
Don’t like the way it’s going? Then leave the Solo Wargames table, and try a couple of different set-ups to prove to yourself that you are using the right tactics, or the right strategy. Try using those Egyptian chariots like swooping biplanes — sort of mobile firing platforms; try using them to crack the opponent’s battle line; try using them as a taxi service to ferry light troops off to the needed area. Do they give you better command-and-control? Which role seems to make the most sense to YOU? There is no right or wrong, just interesting observations. You too can explore the world of reconstructive history.

Graham adds, “Yes it is quite amazing how amenable your solo companion can be when you wander off to explore some new obscure factor like logistics right in the middle of a campaign.  Of course they don’t mind either if you don’t come back for months and are just as happy to pick up exactly where you left off.  Should you be unfortunate enough to lose [and yes it does happen] then of course they don’t stand there gleefully jumping up and down announcing loudly to the world, that they have clobbered you.” Your secret is safe with your Solo Wargaming buddy. Mum’s the word.

Oh, and take as long as you like, young man!

Personal-Size It
Some like small armies (6mm); some like only a few stands (DBA). Some like larger armies (28mm), and some like tons of stands (DBM). Doesn’t matter what other people like, when you play Solo you can do your own thing. If you like DBA but prefer more men on a stand, go for it. If you like DBM, but really don’t want to buy tons of lead, you can spread ‘em out and put only ONE figure on a stand.

Graham adds, “Whatever basing you choose is solely up to you and even the formations on the stands are (of course) down to personal choice.  There is no rigidity of format in Solo play — whatever rules you are using, will do just fine, since no-one except your solo buddy is going to see them.”  Some bases too deep? Or perhaps a touch too wide? No problem! We’ll just “guestimate” where the junctions ought to be!

You can even make up stands for arrangements outside of any rule set. I have a number of “squares” of British Colonials that look magnificent, that have been cobbled together using second-rate figures that I’ve “retired” from front-line Solo duty. They don’t really follow any rule-set, but I use them all the time in my Colonial Solo campaigns.

Insert Yourself In The Middle
Most Wargames rule sets are written as if the player were the General. Nothing says you can’t revise the rules to set yourself up as a middle-management Captain, with some orders flowing downhill, and some reports and requests being sent back UP the chain of command. This is a very interesting change to the top-down know-it-all viewpoint as presented in most rule sets, and gives you a much better feel for how any army really ran.

Graham pipes in, “Absolutely right.  Place yourself at the head of “just” a regiment and you will soon learn that there are a whole different set of frustrations to overcome.  You may well find yourself sat waiting for the command to advance simply because a sister regiment is not ready yet.  You can find yourself receiving orders from your brigadier which get superseded by a staff officer from division.  Whether you follow your original order, seek clarification, or follow the new ones will depend upon the character of the officer.  So that will [should] lead you off into a whole new area of exploration.   You are no longer the omniscient and all-seeing mighty general you are merely a cog in the machine.”

Especially if you insert some variability and unpredictability into the equation. You may send out all the “right” orders, but some may go missing or be delayed. Some orders may no longer be applicable, when some of the troops get held up, diverted, or pinned down. Those extra munitions that you requested? Well, get in line, cause there was a major enemy offensive elsewhere that commandeered all the available supplies, so you may have to do with tokenism for a turn or two. (Course, the General will want progress, regardless of the fact that your men are reduced to throwing stones).

Graham adds, “Oh the wonderful world of ‘Chain of Command’ — the couriers who get lost, the regiments who stray, the Brigadiers who cannot read, the cautious democrat who holds a discussion-group to decide the best course of action, the bold or even rash leader who also ignores orders and just launches his forces straight at the nearest enemy.  Then of course there is the aspect of support which covers supply wagons that breakdown or get commandeered, and support regiments that never turn up.  Then you find yourself extricating your troops from the embarrassing situation of being surrounded on three sides because your friends did not turn up for the party.  These and of course many other problems are yours to taste and enjoy when you enter the arena of chain of command with characteristics applied to officers at all levels.”

Digging and Transcribing
Some of the best ideas that I’ve come across for Solo Wargaming required a bit of digging around on OTHER forums (like an ACW re-enactment group, that taught me a lot about horses, uniform durability, and the intricacies of hauling around a canon and casement). I would NEVER have gone looking for this, except for some Solo Wargaming needs — I was actually researching speeds, daily travel allowances, and equipment maintenance for 4-wheel war chariots from 2500 BC, and that was the closest I could find for “real world” experience. That’s the Digging part

Some of the best ideas that I’ve found on “how to play Solo” have been in completely different kinds of wargames. An after-action report by a sci-fi gamer put me on to using Mythic for ancient wargames; it needed a bit of adapting or transcribing, but it turned into a really potent set of tools, that works out brilliantly with most face-to-face wargames rule-sets. All you have to do is keep an open mind, and be prepared to transcribe it into YOUR period. Similarly, I tend to read a LOT of after-action reports in magazines such as Lone Warrior, with the intent of finding other ideas (from Chris Hahn’s Lace Wars campaigns, as an example) and then transcribing the ideas so they work in ancient wargames.

The point is, that Solo Wargaming makes you keep an open mind, and also makes you focus your efforts on finding that nugget of info that you can pat onto your OWN efforts, to improve the blend. Graham adds,
“An open mind is essential because you never know where the golden nuggets are hidden.   Anything and everything you read that is outside your favorite period, still has the potential to contain the nugget of info which you can then adapt to suit YOUR Wargaming needs.  It is one of the freedoms of Solo play that you are not constrained by other people’s preconceptions (rules, or battlefield size and make-up) — you can explore a myriad of different options in search of the most comfortable answers to your questions.”

Two Soloists are Better Than One
And if you are really lucky, you will find another long-suffering stalwart soul who is pursuing his own Solo interests, but is also prepared to swap “universal” ideas, and that doubles the collection and analysis efforts in terms of coming up with productive Solo Wargaming approaches and techniques. A Solo buddy — some one who is prepared to dissect your ideas, give you some constructive criticism, and maybe add a few ideas of their own — is a wonderful find, and worth all the efforts put out in cultivating his company.

It’s a strange thing but the Solo Wargamers Association was created to enable Soloists to converse with each other without ever meeting.  Even the fathers of the hobby had a few friends with whom they conversed because from a few short conversations you can gain enough insight and momentum to last you years.  You can even find yourself pursuing new and unusual directions.  At the same time of course you realize that you are not the only madman in the asylum which is something of a comforting thought.

The strange corollary of having a Solo buddy, is that they tend to encourage you to explore more interesting challenges, and into trying to codify new and unusual Solo variations. Something about the hybrid vigor means that YOUR novel solutions (to problems that come up during Solo campaigning) and YOUR stories (after action reports) seem to take on some resulting exotic or extra flavor — almost as if the very process of incorporating new ideas gives a fresh look to what might otherwise be dated rules and regurgitated “old” simulations.  So much of Solo Campaigning is keeping the drive alive, that anything that adds a new flavor is a truly wonderful thing.

So there you have it — Ten things I like about Solo Wargaming, plus a “spare”, just in case one of the ideas doesn’t resonate.

Bob
Seur D’Armadilleaux

Note 1: Comments from my Internet-Solo-buddy, Graham Empson (with thanks)

March 8, 2011

Keeping Abreast Of The Russian Revolution

Filed under: Game Reports,General — Jay @ 10:07 am

I suppose we’ve all endured those awkward moments when an opponent points out that the epaulets on your guard battalion are painted the wrong shade of blue.

Well, last night I experienced an interesting variation on the theme. I’d just set up my 15mm Russian Civil War HoTT army (Reds of course!) when my opponent John quipped: “Ah, you’re fielding mixed sex units then are you?”

I was bemused by his comment, so he elaborated: “Well, half of them appear to have breasts…”

Dear Reader, I was shocked. I know that my eyesight is becoming a little less acute with the passing years, and that sometimes purchasing ready painted troops on eBay can be a recipe for disaster. But it was a bit galling to realise that I’d mixed up the regular infantry with some doughty members of the Women’s Shock Battalion! Ah well. I can see that I’m going to have to spend an hour or so with a magnifying glass and my rebasing kit. Although I’m sure some of those women have moustaches…

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