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Subject: The solace of solo wargaming rss

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Paul
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"Capitaine Conan," by Roger Vercel (1934).
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I first started playing wargames when I was a teenager, back in the late 70's. I was lucky enough to have some friends to play with and I have a lot of good memories associated with wargaming.

My father lost his business when we were kids, and there were some tough times, and there was a period of time when didn't have a lot of money. In addition to playing with friends, I spent a lot of quiet time playing games solo, and found it really helped me to forget our troubles, and playing games I already had, it didn't cost anything--so I could afford it.

I took a break of about 20 years from gaming, and came back in 2012. Since then I've been lucky enough to have met local gamers, and I really haven't done any solo gaming.

This has been a bit of rough year for us. We've had two deaths in the family, and I've recently started playing solo again, the first time since I was a teenager. The quiet time playing solo has really helped me a lot to focus on something else and leave my worries behind, if even for a few hours.

Playing solo is a real source of solace, and I've been really glad I've rediscovered something that helped me through some hard times as a kid.
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Nick Wade
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Some similar themes in there for me too.

I find solo wargaming a very enjoyable and relaxing experience, akin to reading a history book. It similarly helps me focus on something interesting and distracts me from worries.

I just took a week off work, stayed at home and played six games solo, a great week to unwind.
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G.W.
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When I first started war gaming, circa 1970-73, I soloed games mostly because it was so rare to find a willing and available opponent.

But I also recall spending hours after a new issue of S&T arrived, reading the articles and then pushing counters around in the magazine games.

The experience of gaming and reading history became two aspects of the same thing. Once I outgrew the "betcha can't beat me" competitive mindset of younger years, I found I really preferred solo gaming because I could lose myself in the story of the game, just enjoying the experience without worrying about who was winning.

The last few times I played at a table, circa 1984, I recall feeling uncomfortable at the sense my opponent was waiting on me to move, or waiting to pounce on a rule issue, and then often bored while waiting for his side to move. Or he'd go away to make a sandwich and not offer me one!

I find it much easier to sit alone and do a PBEM vassal turn or solitaire session for an odd hour at a time than to spend a day at a table, knowing what a nice day it is outside and thinking of all the other things I could be doing.
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Michael Lind
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Having retired a few years ago and gotten all the "have to do's" out of the way, I've gotten back into solo gaming, too.

My feelings echo those above - much like reading and studying a history book.

I'm fortunate as I do have a few opponents most of which are not so focused on winning as on experiencing the game (Combat Commander tells a great narrative as you play).

There are so many solitaire games available not to mention all the wargames that can be played enjoyably solitaire. A very inexpensive, thoughtful and enjoyable hobby.
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Jeff K
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All the best to you, Paul. It's a shame that Life tends to kick you when you are down, but I am glad you have found some peace in this. Yet another wonderful thing about games.

I earnestly hope things turn around for you. I always believe that they will, and hope you do too.
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Andrew
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Your story hit the mark for me. I've returned to wargaming after many years away from it, and like you, I've found that solo wargaming is a remarkable way to escape from a world that is so busy.
For me, it's not just solo wargaming, it's the whole immersive experience from researching an era or battle, reading accounts of battles, watching movies about the battle, painting figures, making the tabletop game boards, designing rules, website design and then playing the battle solo. When I'm in that space, not much else matters.
I've just completed a solo game over about 4 weeks, that I completely documented with photos and commentary.
Battle of Vyazma
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Neil Mooney
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I played solo as a kid because I had to (no wargame opponents).

I play solo now because I want to.
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michael connor
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I still think the most enjoyable wargaming experience I've had was during high school in the mid 70's. I read an official Marine history of Khe Sanh, this book which I got from the library:

http://www.marines.mil/portals/59/publications/the%20battle%...

I then designed my own solo game with an area-system map and a very clever AI. I recall the game was nail-bitingly tense to the end with cunning NVA thrusts and 130mm shelling from Laos. I've never been able to duplicate the pleasure I derived from the experience. Maybe age has something to do with it.
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Luke Campbell
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DerTroof wrote:
I played solo as a kid because I had to (no wargame opponents).

I play solo now because I want to.


Oh yes, in a short phrase, I believe you have captured what many people here experience. For myself, I turned to PC games a while back. By chance, I got to play a solo board wargame (B17 Queen of the Skies)It changed my perspective. I found that the level of engagement is so much greater with boardgames compared to pc games. I also find that competitive wargaming is not my thing - I want to explore history, not exploit player or system weaknesses. Solo board wargaming sparks my interest in the history of war, and history in general.
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Holman
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There's a pleasure in solo play that partakes of the pleasure of reading a book. You're engaged in seeing events unfold, engaged in understanding them, and engaged in being a part of them. Maybe competition (as enjoyable as it is at other times) takes a back seat to appreciation of the whole.

Wishing you the best, Paul.
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Gregg Keizer
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My experience has been the same as others posting here.

Playing solo, originally the way in the late 1960s because I lived in a sparsely-populated state, has rejuvenated my love of the hobby since I again began to buy games 18 months ago.

It's a quiet, peaceful, somewhat-contemplative activity that is entirely analog, a nice contrast to the digital rest of the day. Because I can let a game remain on the table -- and the house's cat is too old to jump up -- I'm never rushed. I can contemplate moves, stare at the board if I want, and dip in and out over days, weeks, even months.

(The latest, The Caucasus Campaign, has been on the table for 10-12 days, and I've played just three full turns.)

Even if I could find opponents interested in the same games and eras, I doubt I'd play. Solo gaming isn't zen, but it is relaxing. That's something that is all too rare these days.
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Paul
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Just reading through all the interesting posts this morning. So nice of folks to share their feelings and experiences. It's interesting quite a few people equated playing solo to reading a book. I guess it's either a result of my age, or a result of our times, but I have a devil of a time concentrating and finishing books these days. Games can still hold me though!
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Eddy Sterckx
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hedererp wrote:
. I guess it's either a result of my age, or a result of our times, but I have a devil of a time concentrating and finishing books these days.


Isn't that a complaint usually directed at kids these days ? whistle

Don't sweat it - unlike back in the old days, today there's 1001 interesting things tugging at our sleeves, vying for our attention. There's only so much you can do, so if you find that some things get ignored it usually means they're not ranked that highly on your inner list of "fun things to do with my spare time"
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gkeizer wrote:

It's a quiet, peaceful, somewhat-contemplative activity that is entirely analog, a nice contrast to the digital rest of the day.
This sums it up for me. As a book editor in "real" life, sometimes I don't want to come home and read at the end of a day because I have spent so much of my 9-5 time reading at work.
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Clint Pewtress
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adm1 wrote:
gkeizer wrote:

It's a quiet, peaceful, somewhat-contemplative activity that is entirely analog, a nice contrast to the digital rest of the day.
This sums it up for me. As a book editor in "real" life, sometimes I don't want to come home and read at the end of a day because I have spent so much of my 9-5 time reading at work.


LOL, good theme, this post... I'm a bus driver (and truck driver before that). I don't want to go ANYWHERE after I get home, the basement war room is my fortress of gaming solitude!

Clint
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Tony Doran
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hedererp wrote:

Just reading through all the interesting posts this morning. So nice of folks to share their feelings and experiences. It's interesting quite a few people equated playing solo to reading a book. I guess it's either a result of my age, or a result of our times, but I have a devil of a time concentrating and finishing books these days. Games can still hold me though!


I have always just plain enjoyed reading rules, charts, OB's and all the other impedimenta which come in wargames. I am continually fascinated by the creative things designers do to depict armed conflict. Plenty of dogs out there, I know, but lots of good thoughtfully done systems that are fun to try to grok.

So it is like reading a good book for me.
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Lance McMillan
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This:

Broadsword56 wrote:
Once I outgrew the "betcha can't beat me" competitive mindset of younger years, I found I really preferred solo gaming because I could lose myself in the story of the game...


And this:

Andrewrexwall wrote:
...it's not just solo wargaming, it's the whole immersive experience from researching an era or battle, reading accounts of battles...
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p55carroll
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I can relate to the thread title. Throughout my life I've relied on solo wargaming (or, in past years, playing with a friend) as a sort of private refuge.

I have mixed feelings about that, however. On one hand, I'm glad I have someplace to go for stress relief. But on the other hand, I feel like a wimp for not boldly venturing forth and welcoming even the severest or most prolonged challenges that life dishes out.

Since strategy games are typically seen as competitive, playing them alone (often just playing both sides against each other without much thought of trying hard to win) sometimes seems like another level of cowardice. If I were a real man, I'd be testing myself against strong opponents.

On top of all that, there's the military subject matter. My dad was a decorated combat veteran; I washed out of ROTC and never did anything military, and I'm not really cut out for it. So here I am playing at doing something I probably couldn't or wouldn't do in real life. Isn't that kinda pathetic?

But at this stage of my life, I'm not likely to pull off any big turnaround. Too little energy, and too much water under the bridge. Besides, I've grown used to living as I do. Other people drink or watch TV or curl up with pleasant novels; I lose myself in games. Not all the time, of course, but anytime I'm not taking care of daily business or dealing with an emergency. It's nice to have a comfortable leisure-time routine.

In the past week or so, I've begun to rediscover the special joy of board gaming (as opposed to computer gaming). I've put some time and study into finally learning Magic Realm, and I'm really enjoying the experience. It'll take a lot more practice and rereading before I'll feel I know the game and can play competently, but I'm going to have lots of fun with the process. And it's a great way to take my mind off all the problems I need to deal with in daily life.


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Lupi
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My main issue with solo playing is I find it hard to forget enough about the other side to match the enjoyment of discovery during a game.


Last time we had a hurricane inspired electron outage, did get a chance to play through all the scenarios in the original SL module though. May have made it to at least one expansion but had to read all the rules again.
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Neil Mooney
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One drawback of playing solo is you are more likely to miss interesting strategies you could learn from an opponent. But hopefully reading/watching session reports can make up for that.

On the other hand competitive play is much more likely to bring out "gamey" aspects of a particular game (and all games have them to varying degrees), which detracts from the immersive experience.
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Russ Williams
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DerTroof wrote:
One drawback of playing solo is you are more likely to miss interesting strategies you could learn from an opponent. But hopefully reading/watching session reports can make up for that.

Yep. And also you are more likely to miss rule errors which an opponent would catch. But hopefully reading the rules forum can make up for that.
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Paul
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"Capitaine Conan," by Roger Vercel (1934).
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Quote:
On the other hand competitive play is much more likely to bring out "gamey" aspects of a particular game (and all games have them to varying degrees), which detracts from the immersive experience.


Funny that you mention this. In my recent sessions of The Great War in the East I actually used "gamey" tactics against myself! I discovered that one of the rules as written allows you to sacrifice a very small unit against very bad odds when they lose to prohibit the enemy from advancing. This works really well when defending a high VP hex. I wrote myself a house-rule modifying this.

Quote:
Yep. And also you are more likely to miss rule errors which an opponent would catch. But hopefully reading the rules forum can make up for that.


I can attest to this. While playing Serbia/Galicia I read a rail movement rule wrong, and applied it to both sides, when it only applied to the Austro-Hungarians. It impacted the game and I replayed it.
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Tim Parker
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When I first discovered waragames I played solo all the time. I grew up on a farm in the middle of BFE and there was basically no one to play with at all.

Wargames, along with chess, gave me an outlet for my creativity and wargames in particular because it linked nicely with my interest in history. So not only could I read history but then I could go play with it.

Totally cool
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p55carroll
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russ wrote:
DerTroof wrote:
One drawback of playing solo is you are more likely to miss interesting strategies you could learn from an opponent. But hopefully reading/watching session reports can make up for that.

Yep. And also you are more likely to miss rule errors which an opponent would catch. But hopefully reading the rules forum can make up for that.

I think I do better with rules when I'm by myself. Years ago, when I played wargames with others, it got to where we were all sure we knew the rules, and nobody wanted to interrupt a game to read rules (unless a situation came up that made it unavoidable), so at least a couple times I discovered that we'd been playing wrong.

But when I take up a wargame on my own, I practically live with the rule book, reading and rereading with a determination to get it all fixed forever in my mind. Only if I run into an ambiguity or gap do I start searching rules forums.

Come to think of it, learning (the rules to) a wargame is what the (solo aspect of the) hobby is all about. I'll devote lots of time to getting the rules down and figuring out how to put them into practice. But once I've done that, my interest in playing the game diminishes considerably. I don't want to compete with anybody, and I don't especially care to try out different strategies; nor do I ever believe the game is a very good simulation. But if it's supposed to be a great game, and it takes time and effort to learn how to play, I'm up for that (part of the) challenge.
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Eddy Sterckx
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One other angle : sometimes I get the impression that FTF/Vassal players and solo wargamers are two different worlds, but I'm sure there are hybrids too :

Wargamers who play a solo game in preparation for a FTF/Vassal game in order to get the rules down.

Or wargamers who want to try some wacky strategy and want to test to see if it is even remotely possible, without wanting to waste a game-night on it.

Basically the above describes me - on top of that : back in my youth I was rather competitive and used solo play to hone my skills, resulting in many, many more solo plays than FTF, but I never considered myself a solo wargamer. It was just training.
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