Solo Wargamer

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!


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!

January 31, 2015

Review – Lone Warrior 189, January – March 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 4:05 pm


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!

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