Professional football compared to solo wargaming

By Mike Crane

I hope the readers who are not familiar with American professional football will make an association with international soccer (or what the rest of the world calls football). The emotions and conditions will probably be similar.

Well, the calendar says it is December 3, 2012, and this is the morning after my wife and I attended a football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles in Dallas. We have always been Cowboy fans and, knowing our attachment to the team, our daughter gave us bus, hotel, and game tickets as a Christmas present. Although we have been life-long fans of the ‘Boys on radio and TV, we had never attended a Cowboy game in person until last night.


Cowboys Stadium

Our daughter thought we would enjoy seeing the new stadium, which is described as the largest domed stadium in the world. (You can Google “Cowboys stadium” if you are interested.) Sure enough, it was a truly awesome building. Unfortunately, we had to walk to get to it, around it, and inside it. Like a distant mountain, it appeared to be closer than it actually was. After a day of shopping in the Galleria, walking great distances proved to be a challenge. Nevertheless, we did it and we enjoyed seeing our team win.

We arrived home at 3:30 this morning and went to bed immediately. When we awoke, we took hot baths in Epsom salts to untie the knots in our legs and relieve the pain in our backs and feet. While soaking in the tub, I began to compare the professional football game with a solo wargame experience.


A Cowboys game takes place in Dallas approximately every other weekend during the fall and early winter. A solo wargame can take place any day of the year — morning, noon, or night. It is always solo wargaming season.


The Cowboys game nearest us will be in the super stadium at Dallas—190 miles away. My solo wargames take place on top of the bed in my bedroom or in one of the guest rooms down the hall. If I set up a game in a guest room, the setup may be left in place for two or three days. This is especially helpful when I play a game and write up an article afterward. The solo wargame is much more convenient.


Going to a Cowboys game requires a bus (I don’t like to drive in Dallas), a hotel room, food, and shopping money. A solo wargame requires rules, dice, figures, a board and some spare time. All of the wargaming objects are reusable.


The Cowboys game I attended involved approximately 100 players on opposing teams, 50 scantily clad cheerleaders, about 125 drummers and bagpipers, and 80,000 rabid fans.  The solo wargame requires only one person — me. (Well, a tolerant wife might be included in this equation also.)


Except for the purchase of a large diet soda pop and the resulting trip to the men’s room, nothing that happened at the football game was within my control. The noise level was unimaginable. The rap music (?) that was played for 45 minutes before the game created a tremendous headache that is slowly going away. Take heed! A good pair of ear plugs is definitely a must! On the other hand, in a solo wargame everything is within my control: rules, maps, terrain, figures, music, etc. My wife says she thinks I enjoy preparing for  games more than playing them because I will spend hundreds of hours reading, collecting, and painting compared to spending a few hours actually playing. She is probably right.


I will always be a Cowboys fan, even when they don’t win, but I can say I have been to the super dome and seen the elephant. At my age, once is probably enough. But, now I am convinced more than ever that solo wargaming is definitely the best of all possible pastimes for me!

About mike crane

I am a retired high school teacher living in Texarkana, Arkansas, USA. Although I enjoy wargaming in all periods, my favorite eras are WWII, Colonial, ACW, and Napoleonic. I enjoy making rules that are simple, fast, and fun.
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8 Responses to Professional football compared to solo wargaming

  1. Chris Hahn says:

    I enjoyed reading your post about your visit to the “Dome of Dallas” and about the comparison it inspired.

    Aside: I cannot recall if it was SUNDAY MORNING or 60 MINUTES, but isn’t there an art museum (or at least an extensive collection of art) within the confines of this football stadium?

    Second Aside: Your comparison reminded me of listening to one of my history professors – years ago – when he rattled off the similarities between an NFL game and warfare. The quarterback “marshalls” his troops; there is a “battle in the trenches”; there is an “aerial attack” – often involving “bombs”; there are often “blitzes,” and of course, it’s a matter of offense versus defense, involving strategy and planning. The overall goal is to mount a successful campaign to get to and win the Super Bowl. Anyway.

    I completely identify with you on the “Under What Conditions” paragraph. I’ve noticed that I, too, seem to enjoying the preparation rather than the actual playing. For example, I am presently working my way through the “grind” of the last turns of a solo game based on an action of the Crimean War. Through no fault of my own (at least I like to think so), the pre-game stage was, by comparison, more fun than the current turn and subsequent moves. (I think three more will suffice.) As if this development were not enough of a distraction, I find myself more interested in an ECW project that was inspired – at least in part – by the arrival of Steve Morgan’s Pike & Shotte rules.

    Your comment about being in control of “everything” is noteworthy, I think. I wonder if this is a general character trait (or flaw?) of solo and social gamers?
    It’s interesting that we apparently derive a large degree of enjoyment from the orderly depiction of the chaos of battle on our respective tabletops.


  2. Mike Crane says:


    Your comment is much appreciated. It is good to get some feedback. Sometimes I feel as if I am hollering down a well without an echo. On the other hand, I admit to being guilty of not commenting whenever I read articles that I find really enjoyable on the blog or in the Lone Warrior magazine. (Usually they are all exceptional.) It takes a lot of time and effort to work up an article and I should be more outspoken with my appreciation. Without a doubt, the people who have been writing articles for Lone Warrior are the very best. I always learn something that gets squirreled away for a future game.

    Other blogs seem to receive more comments than ours. Do you think this has anything to do with the personality or character of a solo gamer? I don’t like to think we are unsociable people, but perhaps we do keep our thoughts to ourselves more than the average gamer.

    Well, that was totally off the subject, but it has been on my mind for a while.

    Yes, like you I saw a TV presentation that said Jerry Jones wife hired famous artists to paint some of the walls in the stadium with high-priced art. I didn’t see all the art, mind you, but what I did see did not impress me very much. I guess I am just a Philistine, but I have seen better art on the sides of abandoned buildings and railroad boxcars. My wife cracked three of my ribs with her elbow when I made up a name for one painting. No! Don’t go to Cowboy Stadium for the art!—but the cheer leaders aren’t so bad.

    I am glad to hear that you enjoy the preparation time also. It embarrasses me to admit it, but I will often prepare for a period so long that by the time it is ready to play I have lost interest and will begin to work on something else. George Arnold describes this phenomenon as “seeing something shiny.” I think that alludes to the brief attention span of a spider monkey. The only thing to do in that situation is to save the research and game map because the urge to game the forsaken period will reappear in a few years.

    Yes, your observation about control is valid. The desire to be in control of “everything” is a flaw. I try to balance solo games so they will be fair to both sides—but it really is upsetting if my favorite side doesn’t win. (Why do the Confederates keep losing that darn war?) If that happens, I just tell myself that as a solo gamer I will always win regardless of which side triumphs. (The down side to that argument is that I also will lose in every game. Bummer!)

    Thanks again for the comment, Chris. I appreciate you.

  3. Paul Le Long says:

    I often have a comment in mind on posts but since no-one else comments much I feel a bit embarassed to post it – like I’m shooting my mouth off. But it would be nice to have more comments on the blog on all kinds of subjects.

    So with that in mind:

    Mike – I love your games, including the one put on the sample articles page recently – they look simple but they play really well – your Battle of Britain game was a corker.

    I identified with your football piece – I have loads of interests and stuff I like to do – even going to (proper!) football matches; but nothing really compares to wargaming for me. I’m not sure about the control thing (though when I used to play Dungeons & Dragons I was always the DM…) I think for me I prefer soloing because I’m basically an unsociable person! I have quite a busy job with lots of chat & when I get home I just want quiet solitude mostly. And I like miniature soldiers.

    Which brings me on to Chris – I could never wargame the way you do because I love the miniatures too much. But boy do I admire your approach which I think has much to recommend it – inexpensive, no need to paint, easy to set up, versatile etc. I also admire the way you swim against the miniature-centric tide; a true soloist.


  4. Mike Crane says:

    Thank you, Paul. I am glad you like the games. The story of the CSS Arkansas is truly amazing. And, as you may have guessed already, the Battle of Britain is one of my favorite periods of all time. An article containing colored models of the airplanes used in the Battle of Britain games are in the queue and, perhaps, will appear on the blog before Christmas. Rob Morgan sent me an old magazine article about Malta that would use the same type of British and German aircraft with additional planes from the Italian air force. It is “something shiny” and I think I feel a new game coming on. (Thanks, Rob.)

    Your comments to Chris reflect my feelings exactly. I started to mention names in my reply to him (yours was among them) and then I realized that there is not a contributor to the hobby whose writings I do not admire. Some have a completely different style of playing to mine, but all of them have some great ideas to share and I love it.

    The possibility of a play-by-e-mail (pbe-m) was mentioned in the comments between you and Jon Aird. I have never played any kind of play-by-mail (pbm) game but would advise you to ask George Arnold for suggestions. He ran a pbm game called “Shenandoah” in the past and now he is the man in charge of running the blog. He may not be interested in hosting the pbe-m game himself, but he would probably have the answers to some of your questions and some suggestions for the gamemaster as well.

  5. Paul Le Long says:

    Synchronicity… of the campaigns I thought would be good for a pbe-m was WWII in the Mediterranean! Because there is so much hidden movement, spotting etc it’s difficult to recreate solo but as a committee game is perfect – different players for German air force, Italian air force, Italian Navy, British air force, British navy, convoys, islands (like Malta) and so on.

    Shiny enough to tempt you Mike?

  6. Mike Crane says:

    A pbe-m of the Mediterranean in WWII? Hmmmm. Well, that’s mighty shiny, Paul. You can count me in. Has anyone spoken for an air force job yet?

  7. Paul Le Long says:

    Whoa there cowboy! I meant do you want to run the game! If not, it strikes me that Rob Morgan – our resident navalist might be a good choice….Rob?

    Anyone else interested in this?

  8. Mike Crane says:

    “Whoa!” is the right word, Paul. I have never played a PBM or PBE-M game. Furthermore, I know very little about WWII in the Mediterranean. I plan to be learning as I go. On the other hand, I don’t know of anyone who would be more knowledgeable on the subject than Rob Morgan.

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