By Jim Rohrer
Having been involved with Lone Warrior long enough to see two issues of the journal come out, and having read most of the material on the website, and having fought a lot of solo battles using a variety of methods, I have reached some conclusions. These are true for me today. They may not be true for everyone and they may not be true for me next month. But here goes.
1. Solo war gaming is not about the size of the table or the number of figures on it. Bigger is not necessarily better. Fighting a large battle once in a while is fun but often a mid-sized battle or a skirmish is just what the doctor ordered.
2. Solo war gaming is not about the figures. Some hobbyists spend of their time assembling exquisitely painted armies that are perfectly accurate for their historical period. But gamers who are interested in the battle and play it alone do not need to do that. Card board or paper works fine to represent units, as do chess pieces or anything else you find laying around. We do not need to worry about how our opponent views our figures because we get to play without subjecting ourselves to criticism from anyone else. We do it for our own enjoyment and do not need to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’
3. Solo war gaming is not about a particular set of rules. We all have our favorites but most have experimented with different sets. Whatever floats your boat.
4. Solo war gaming is not about a particular scale. Mostly I have used 54mm figures because I can see them better but with One-Hour Wargames rules the little ones will work just as well. In fact, I just realized that my poor painting skills are more visible on the large figures so heck I might as will try a battle with the little ones. Some gamers use unpainted figures. Brilliant. I cannot see the details anyway so why bother.
5. Solo war gaming is not about history. It can be about history for those who enjoy history but the scenario could also be alt-history, hypothetical, science fiction or fantasy.
6. Solo war gaming is not about grand strategy and not too much about tactics. A lot of it is the luck of the roll or the luck of the draw.
7. Solo war gaming is not about managing your opponent. If you try to be fair to an opponent then you can confuse yourself. Game mechanics like blinding yourself to the actions of the opponent and creating hidden areas that you pretend you cannot see might be okay but are not really necessary. My insight last week is this: a clear battle plan for both sides eliminates the need to choose one side as the opponent. Play enthusiastically for each side in turn. Try it; it works for me.
What, then, is enjoyable solo war gaming about? Here is what I think: a well-crafted scenario is important. Off-the-shelf scenarios might work for some people but my brain seems to have trouble with abstract diagrams, even simple ones, so I like to put terrain out on the table and give it a try. A good scenario starts with a mission objective, an order of battle, and specific battle plans for each side. Placement of terrain looks like a random process but actually terrain dramatically shapes the movement of the units in ways that I do not anticipate. Therefore, terrain is just as important as the other elements of the scenario.
That is my rumination for the day. My next goal is to plan a battle with the little guys. The paint is falling off my 54mm figures anyway so they can go to their boxes for some R&R.