I have been playing and enjoying a bit of Four Against Darkness – the solo dungeon delving game from Ganesha Games recently. It is quite a bit of fun. The idea is you have four adventures and then randomly generate a dungeon for them to explore, enemies to fight and treasure to loot. You do this by drawing the dungeon on a sheet of graph paper. In the Four Against Darkness book the recommended size of paper is 20 squares by 28 squares. However, the free download available from Ganesha Games is only 15 by 24 squares. I am not sure why this is, but I have created my own graph paper using Word. You can download a copy of the version I have created in PDF format by clicking the link below.
If you’re contemplating solo wargaming then there is a wealth of information online – some good and interesting. But if like me you’d rather get to grips with a subject by reading a good book then there’s also some available too. There are rules books that contain some options for solo wargaming – and indeed some games have been specifically designed for solo or cooperative games in mind – I’ll cover those in another post. But if you want some rules-agnostic ideas, then here’s some good books to have a look at.
This the granddaddy of books on solo wargaming – a classic by a well-known legend of Wargaming. I have bought the kindle republishing of this by John Curry and found it an interesting read. I have started exploring some of the ideas in the book, which are inspiring, fun and relatively simple. However, this book won’t provide a concise system for solo wargaming – it’s written in a rather meandering conversational style, which is very charming, but also a bit frustrating if you’re wanting to use it as a resource. Also some of the ideas are a bit tricky to apply nowadays – who has loads of matchboxes kicking around for instance!
But I would heartily recommend reading it – and it’s fairly cheaply available.
Another one from the Don – I’ve not read this one – it’s only available in Paperback and I have only just come across it – it’s been reissued by John Curry as well – so perhaps there will be a kindle version at some point as well? From what I can tell it provides 15 historical battle scenarios of actual battles, together with notes on how to play solo. That sounds like a great resource to me.
This is a more modern book – I think by an American author. From what I have read it seems to be a good resource of different solo methods:
Features methodologies for campaigns (mobilization, weather, logistics, morale, alliances, revolts, sieges, and mutinies), sea campaigns, integrating fantasy, tactical actions (terrain, weather, commander’s competency, concealment, ambushes, and minefields), and air warfare.
It’s in Paperback only though and I haven’t got it – again it would be great to see something as an eBook. I simply don’t have the space to collect loads of printed books!
Previously published as the Military Modelling Guide to Solo Wargaming, this has been taken on by Partizan. Unfortunately, this is also only available as a printed book, but again it does look really useful. I have read on various forums that it is a useful resource. Certainly one for my wish-list!
Well I hope that was useful to somebody. If you know of any other books, or have comments about these, please add in the comments section below.
This is a battle report of a small Hundred Years War skirmish I played with the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games rules. I also tried out one of the simplest of solo wargaming techniques to add a bit of AI to the game.
Solo Wargaming method: Random Deployment
In Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming book he recommends a number of different techniques to create a more interesting challenge for the solo wargaming. I’m going to call this a solo wargaming AI method as shorthand in this and other articles (until I come up with something better!)
One of the simplest methods he recommends is to randomise deployment of each force. You roll a d6 for each unit and that determines where they deploy. The battlefield is split into 5 sections:
Each has a number (1-5). If you roll a 6 then that unit is in reserve. The theory with this method is that a lot of the tactics employed by an army will be determined by it’s deployment. For instance if a lot of units are on a flank or flanks then an envelopment will be a good strategy.
I tried this out with the game I played – and will describe how that worked below.
Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games for Historical Medieval games
I used the fan made Age of Trebuchet rules supplement to enable me to play an historical game using the Middle Earth SBG rules. I know the rules well and I think they are great for skirmish level games – nice and simple but with a lot of tactical decisions to make. I found the Age of Trebuchet supplement easy to use and it gave some flavour of a medieval battle.
Battle Report: Hundred Years War skirmish
I didn’t give the game any historical or fictional background. The forces were roughly equal, but I didn’t work out points. The aim was to use the figures I had available. So from the pictures you may notice that many of them are Wars of the Roses or Feudal era – I wasn’t so worried about that. And as it was a quick game to test out some rules and a solo wargame AI method I wasn’t too fussed about terrain – a simple green baize cloth, some trees, bushes and paper buildings sufficed. You will also notice that this is an oval kitchen table – 5 foot by 3 – but some of the flanks are minimal, but it works for a skirmish level game at 28mm.
Sir Gilbert – hero on foot
Sir Guillaume – hero on horse
3 mounted men-at-arms
4 foot men-at-arms
7 heavy infantry – mixed weapons
Deployment – how did the method work?
Random deployment worked out in an interesting and lopsided way in this skirmish game – there were only 4 units on one side and 3 on the other. The English men-at-arms deployed as a reserve and the other two units were widely spaced as you can see below.
In contrast the French deployed mostly on one flank – with the crossbows in the middle. As hoped this lead to influencing the subsequent strategy quite a bit. Without this random deployment I would have probably deployed most of the forces in the centre and the flanks might well have been ignored.
The French started off by sending their men-at-arms around the flank to see off the longbowmen. There was an exchange of fire – with one longbowman dying. The small unit of English billmen started their march towards the hamlet. The French infantry marched behind the crossbows towards the small wood behind the hamlet.
The French men-at-arms started getting closer to the longbows – who used their half move each turn to retreat and then fire. They only got one of the French cavalry though. The English men-at-arms could now enter the battle as there had been an exchange of fire.
Here you can see the English moving through the hamlet.
Moments before contact. The French men-at-arms are about to charge the longbows. The French infantry are on the other side of the wood from the English.
Sir Gilbert and his men-at-arms decide that the protection of the bushes and hedges might be a good idea when faced with sustained crossbow fire and the French knights!
After a couple of rounds of combat the longbows were seen off by the French knights. Sir Gilbert and some of his men went to attack the French foot men-at-arms and the others went to support the billmen who had engaged the French infantry in the woods. The loss of most of the longbows and some of the billmen meant that the English were now broken (needing to make courage tests as over half had died). Unfortunately Sir Gilbert and many of his men decided to flee the field, leaving only four brave men of St George left to face the massed French. At this point I decided the battle was over! Here’s the ending positions – even the crossbows decided to up sticks and move to get a better position to fire from.
I thought that the Middle Earth rules worked well for a medieval skirmish game – probably with some more miniatures on the field it could have been a better game perhaps. I also felt that I had let down the longbowmen by leaving them exposed to the French knights – they should have found the cover of the hedges next to the hamlet.
Random deployment worked well as a simple method of creating solo wargame AI – I would definitely use it again. It would be interesting to use it for a game with more units.
I will try to look at a different solo wargame AI methods next time!
There is no better time to think about how to play solo wargames. Unfortunately due to the Covid 19 crisis many people who used to meet up to game – whether RPGs, boardgames or wargames – can no longer do so. There’s a few different alternatives, such as playing computer/console games instead, or trying out various online solutions – for instance Tabletop Simulator, Roll20, Zoom etc. But just because those options are there doesn’t make them easy to use or a replacement for getting a physical game out. In particular tabletop wargaming with miniatures is much harder to do remotely.
So I expect a lot of wargamers are instead having a think about how to play solo. I actually do this anyway, as under normal circumstances I only venture out to a wargames club once a month anyway. I really enjoy playing solo. It’s a great way to try out new rules for instance, but is also great if you want to run your own scenarios and campaigns without constraint from the whims and desires of others. Solo wargaming is ideally suited to creating your own imaginations and narrative games. So far that’s not something I have done a lot of, but I think now would be a great place to start. I am hoping to post some ideas and experiences here on a regular basis – partly battle reports of trying out different rules, but also some tips and advice on how to run a solo game. For instance how do you make things “fair” – and is that important at all or not.
I usually play one solo game a week – usually early Sunday morning on the dining room table before it is in use by the family. Last Sunday I played Rangers of Shadow Deep for the first time and had a lot of fun with it. Once I have played it a bit more I will post an article about it. This weekend I would like to try a Medieval skirmish using the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games rules. There are some fan versions available that convert it for use for Medieval games, so I am going to try those out. Hopefully I will post some pictures and a battle report here next week.