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Subject: Newbie Tips for Solo Wargame Play rss

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Harvey Dearden
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Set Up

Extended set up times are often complained of, but there is a certain contemplative enjoyment to be had here. Embrace the game set up as an opportunity to reflect on the scenario; the unit identities, their capabilities, their deployment, the terrain, the potential.

Rules

It often takes a big investment of time to assimilate the rules, but there is satisfaction to be gained from understanding how the rules simulate different aspects of a conflict. Think of this time not as an unwelcome burden to be overcome before you can ‘get on with the game’, but as an opportunity to come to understand the game mechanics and interactions and how they reflect (or not) the historical circumstances. There is a pleasure in seeing how the ‘mechanism’ is put together.

Don’t be afraid to tweak the rules if you find this will give a better game experience.

Mistakes

It can be aggravating to realise you have misread, overlooked or mis-implemented a rule, but such mistakes are inevitable. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Real generals made/make mistakes as well. You are merely ‘enhancing’ the simulation accuracy with an additional ‘fog-of-war’ component.

If you realise you made a mistake in execution that somehow breaks fidelity with the scenario and circumstances you have elected to explore, don’t hesitate to take a move back; you aren’t cheating any one!

Research

One of the pleasures of solo play is the opportunity to break from play to research aspects of the historical conflict (you inconvenience no one with the ‘downtime’). This may inform deliberations on plausible approaches (see below).

Analysis Paralysis

The advice usually offered to the solo player is ‘do your best for both sides’. The trouble is that attempting to identify the optimal approach can induce ‘analysis paralysis’ which interrupts the narrative flow of the game. It may be better to focus on an historically plausible approach. If a point is reached where more than one play ‘branch evolution’ option is logically consistent with your nominated approach, you may randomise your selection or make a conscious choice.

Suspension of Disbelief

In the absence of opposed play tensions, this is critical to solo game enjoyment. Without this, and a corresponding immersive experience in the narrative of the scenario, you will find yourself merely rolling dice and pushing cardboard counters around. If you don’t have a rational narrative basis for the moves you make, you will find yourself performing an extended metaphorical ‘coin toss’.

Game Extent

If you come to a point where the outcome and the nature by which it will be reached are beyond question, you will likely have exhausted interest in the current game – disbelief will no longer be suspended. Don’t oblige yourself to work through the play until the end if it will become a chore; you have only yourself to please – move on to something that will re-engage your interest.

Rolling for Both Sides?

Rather than make successive rolls for each side, use different colour dice to represent the two sides to allow simultaneous rolling.

Fog of war

Games that rely on hidden information e.g. hidden cards or hidden counter/block identities, are typically less suitable for solo play, although some offer special mechanics to help overcome the difficulties. Fog of war nevertheless remains present, even when information is not hidden, due to uncertainty in combat resolution, and subtle and unanticipated consequences arising from interactions between the specifics of the scenario and the simulation model (the rule book).

Balance

A lack of balance is sometimes complained of, but imbalance is typical of many historical conflicts. The point is sometimes made that if you want the history you can simply read a book; this is undeniably true, but reading a book is a predominantly linear process and does not facilitate organic exploration and discovery. It is not that a wargame is necessarily better, but it is a different approach, potentially offering new insights or appreciations.

Sometimes a complementary imbalance in the victory conditions may allow the losing side to still ‘win’ by doing better than their historical performance. These considerations are of less importance to the solo player since ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ no longer carry the same significance. The interest lies not in competition but rather in exploration of the scenario model.

There is sometimes talk of ‘being there’ if a wargame is successful in fuelling the imagination. But this is fanciful talk; wargames are never like ‘being there’ - they avoid all the horror, discomfort, hardship, and tedium. (Well, not always that last bit). The phrase is used when there is a strong engagement with the game and the player becomes invested in the narrative; the unfolding story. Not just the ending, which is often a given in an unbalanced scenario, but also the way it is realised.

Central Tendency

In solo play, the interest lies largely in exploring the wargame model and coming to a better understanding of the key features and interactions in any given scenario. This exploration can sometimes be thwarted by an unlikely set of dice rolls, that in combination cause the game to branch towards an atypical evolution. If the dominant interaction appears to be the dice roll rather than the key features of the scenario; e.g. terrain, deployment, unit capability etc., interest in the game may weaken. This may be addressed by re-rolling, or a deliberate selection, but this may feel unsatisfactory.

Another possibility is to use a median roll; roll 3 dice and discard the highest and lowest values. This produces a centralised distribution in the results (rather than the flat distribution of a single die). This possibility is suggested for single die rolls where a range of outcomes would otherwise all have comparable probabilities (as is often the case where a game caters for opposed play). The median roll will support exploration of the central tendency in scenario outcomes. This is not an established approach (it is an experiment of my devising) and it may not be to the taste of many players.

Edit 1: Additional material added after 'Rolling for Both Sides'

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Good post. I go even farther when it comes to rules:

When playing solo, the rules are whatever you say they are.

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Michael Whiddett
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You must always fight against unintended omnipotence!

It helps me to ask "What does he/they know and when did he/they know it?"

Happy gaming
Mike
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Brandon
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Great post! This should be pinned at the top of the forum.
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Jonathan Townsend
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I agree, this is a really good post - especially for those who post with queries about solo play.
It makes me think there should be a solo play subforum in the wargames category, with this pinned in it.

Thanks for writing it.

I find that solo play enhances the kind of afficiando's pleasure in enjoying different styles and types of design as well as situations. As a wine afficiando enjoys comparing wines. In face to face play this is also a component but the solo player has more time and soul space to 'interact' with the designer and system in this way. Too often another player gets in the way of this! : D
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Sean
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After setting up, I like to come up with a loose most likely, a most dangerous and a crazy-Ivan outlier course of action for each side. Then I randomly draw one for each side to feed their plans for the opening moves. As these are adjusted as each plan evolves, it makes for some interesting and unexpected problem sets down the line and makes it a little easier to play each side to the best of your ability.
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Gerry Palmer
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SeanFR wrote:
After setting up, I like to come up with a loose most likely, a most dangerous and a crazy-Ivan outlier course of action for each side. Then I randomly draw one for each side to feed their plans for the opening moves. As these are adjusted as each plan evolves, it makes for some interesting and unexpected problem sets down the line and makes it a little easier to play each side to the best of your ability.


Pretty cool idea. I'll have to try this. Maybe roll a D6 and 1-3 is 'most likely'; 4-5 is 'most dangerous'; and crazy Ivan on the 6.
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Harvey Dearden
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As an addendum, I suggest the use of a median roll in support of solo exploration. If a CRT has a flat(ish) distribution, giving extreme outcomes comparable probability with neutral ones, the exploration can sometimes be diverted down unlikely evolution branches by an 'unfortunate' sequence of dice rolls. As a defence against this, the median roll (roll 3 dice and discard the highest and lowest results), provides a more centralised distribution.

See Perverse Dice Rolls for further discussion of the possibility.
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Cameron Taylor
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It helps when playing games with heavy fog of war when you have an absolutely crap short term memory like I do.
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Wendell
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SeriousCat wrote:
It helps when playing games with heavy fog of war when you have an absolutely crap short term memory like I do.


What's this thread about again?
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Oscar Seneru
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I try and get 3 or 4 games going at once. 1 move per day, or maybe 2. 2 - 3 days later, when I get back to game #1, I find I have pretty much forgotten all the details of what's going on. I find the play is very near what you get from pbem with a real opponent. Not completely, of course, but a much better "competitive" situation.
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Tim Korchnoi
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wifwendell wrote:
SeriousCat wrote:
It helps when playing games with heavy fog of war when you have an absolutely crap short term memory like I do.


What's this thread about again?


It's about note tips for singing Walrus day....no wait...

it's about nuclear tactics for solid war making plotting. Hmmm...that doesn't sound right either.

It's about









Spoiler (click to reveal)

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Mike Frantz
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This was a really fabulous post.

I would add that for these types of two player/solo plays, a little "role-playing" mentality can help. When you switch sides, inhabit a new persona. Try to think differently depending on what role you are inhabiting (you are Lee, what might Lee be thinking in this situation and would he really know why...or even if they really are... the Union is moving that battalion over there). Don't min/max each side. So much of making many war games work is the forced allocation/misallocation of resources. You need to sort of let that happen, IMO.

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Michael McLean
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catosulla wrote:
wifwendell wrote:
SeriousCat wrote:
It helps when playing games with heavy fog of war when you have an absolutely crap short term memory like I do.


What's this thread about again?


It's about note tips for singing Walrus day....no wait...

it's about nuclear tactics for solid war making plotting. Hmmm...that doesn't sound right either.

It's about









Spoiler (click to reveal)



I think I only clicked that stupid spoiler tag 3 times. angry










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Rino
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CaissiaC wrote:

Rules

It often takes a big investment of time to assimilate the rules, but there is satisfaction to be gained from understanding how the rules simulate different aspects of a conflict. Think of this time not as an unwelcome burden to be overcome before you can ‘get on with the game’, but as an opportunity to come to understand the game mechanics and interactions and how they reflect (or not) the historical circumstances. There is a pleasure in seeing how the ‘mechanism’ is put together.

Don’t be afraid to tweak the rules if you find this will give a better game experience.

Research

One of the pleasures of solo play is the opportunity to break from play to research aspects of the historical conflict (you inconvenience no one with the ‘downtime’). This may inform deliberations on plausible approaches (see below).


Two aspects of solo wargame play which I really enjoy as military history buff.
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Carl Paradis
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One other thing I found so very effective when playing solitaire is to have the game table set-up so that you can sit on opposite sides of the board and switch when you play each side. The change of viewpoint does wonders.

Having an evil twin also helps immensely.
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Carl Paradis
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lucky henry wrote:
Good post. I go even farther when it comes to rules:

When playing solo, the rules are whatever you say they are.



BTw, as a long-time wargamer that joined the “dark side” (of game designers) a few years ago, permit me to add:

“When designing or playing my games, the rules are whatever I say they are”.
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John Clemente
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This is a well-done set of guidelines.

Even though this has been placed in the wargame subdomain, and some of the wording is wargame specific, I would maintain this is a good list for playing any boardgame solo.

I am planning to play Terraforming Mars solo, and I will use this list as a guide for that experience. Thanks for providing this.
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Harvey Dearden
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Encouraged by the positive responses, I have added some further considerations in an edit to the original post.
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Jonathan Townsend
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The 'median roll' is an interesting idea. When to apply it and when not could be a challenge to decide.
Also it could seriously alter some situations eg. resulting in more than normal 'exchange' results on a CRT thus attriting both sides forces considerably. I am not saying that this is necessarily a problem, it would just tend to a certain type of story rather than others.
Its interesting to read about your way of living solo play.

 
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Harvey Dearden
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Agip wrote:
The 'median roll' is an interesting idea. When to apply it and when not could be a challenge to decide.
Also it could seriously alter some situations eg. resulting in more than normal 'exchange' results on a CRT thus attriting both sides forces considerably. I am not saying that this is necessarily a problem, it would just tend to a certain type of story rather than others.
Its interesting to read about your way of living solo play.



It is primarily aimed at CRT where there is a spectrum of results from disaster for the attacker through to disaster for the defender, with neutral results in the middle. Instead of all results being equally likely the extremes become rarer and the central ones more frequent - hence the central tendency. It doesn't need any arithmetic and still offers the full range of results.
 
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Saxon 357
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Tip: Cheat if you have to, to win! I don't like to lose angry

https://youtu.be/b9dEI-Ru1CI?t=30
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James D. Williams
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CaissiaC wrote:


Another possibility is to use a median roll; roll 3 dice and discard the highest and lowest values. This produces a centralised distribution in the results (rather than the flat distribution of a single die). This possibility is suggested for single die rolls where a range of outcomes would otherwise all have comparable probabilities (as is often the case where a game caters for opposed play). The median roll will support exploration of the central tendency in scenario outcomes. This is not an established approach (it is an experiment of my devising) and it may not be to the taste of many players.

Edit 1: Additional material added after 'Rolling for Both Sides'



You have opened a can of worms!
 
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Christopher Senn
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Im a noob who wants to solo as well and based on the research I narrowed it down to these

1. Unconditional Surrender (people are flipping out about this one)
2. Enemy Action: Adrennes (crazy good reviews and has actual solo mechanic)
3. D-Day: Omaha (Same as #2. Same creator too. But not really a strategic game to some. I think it is.)
4. Holland 44 (No idea if this game is right for me. But looks nice)
5.FAB The Bulge (I like the block idea. Plus great score)

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S McDougall
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I'd like to reiterate Carl's point regarding playing different sides from different sides of the table. It really helps I think.

A cheap and low energy solution for me has been to place the game on a sturdy clip frame and put the whole thing onto a lazy susan (Ikea - other retailers are available).

Stay seated and carefully turn the board to get the battlefield view from each side in turn.
 
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