By Jim Rohrer
Most people are not sufficiently interested in solo wargaming to ask about it, but when they do, Frequently Asked Question #1 might be something like this: Why do you enjoy it? How is it fun?
To answer this, we might separate what is fun about wargaming from what is fun about solo wargaming. Wargaming is enjoyable for people who like military history, or collecting toy soldiers, or painting, or making terrain, or designing games. Solo wargaming, on the other hand, can be a turnoff for many wargamers. They try it, don’t like it, and never come back. For them, wargaming is a social activity. And maybe they are competitive and want to beat someone in what they believe to be a game of skill.
Let me suggest that the enjoyable aspect of solo wargaming can be identical to the fun part of any other solo game. Consider Solitaire, the card game many of us learned as kids. When you pick up a deck of cards to play Solitaire, you already know the rules and the best way to play so the outcome is mostly due to the lay of the cards. You play a game, you probably do not win, but nevertheless you shuffle and deal them out again for another game. And then a third time. Why? If you will not be having fun until all the cards are up at the top, then you might have to play 10 or 20 games. Your spouse or partner will worry about this kind of obsessive behavior.
I suspect most people play another round of Solitaire because subconsciously they want to beat their score on the previous play or beat some approximation of their average score. If you got 10 cards up to the top, then this time you want more than10. Intellectually, you know that you cannot control the outcome, but most of the cards are hidden so you will not know your chances until most of the cards have been played.
Solitaire is enjoyable because you can try to beat your previous score and because random elements insert mystery and uncertainty.
Solo wargaming can be enjoyable for the same reasons and it can be more enjoyable if your game allows for more mystery and uncertainty. Dice rolls are good but if the game depends entirely on dice rolls, then it might get tiresome. Event card decks can help a lot. And you need a way to keep score, such as the ratio of casualties or achieving mission objectives or a combination of both.
Solo wargaming is fun for all the reasons that wargaming is fun, plus mystery and uncertainty. Done properly, it is as addictive as Solitaire. When you want to play another round of the same scenario, then you know you are on the road to happy solo wargaming.
And when that gets old, change the scenario. The possibilities are not infinite but they are broad enough to keep anyone engaged with the hobby.