Monday, 20 May 2013


Firstly, a big welcome and congratulations to Dale who is the first official follower of my humble blog!

Over on his Solo Battles blog, he has some philosophical musings and a goodly exchange of views in the comments section. One concern is that the turn sequence and other mechanics "changes the way [gamers] think and how they approach tactics, to win the game", suggesting that you might end up exploiting the idiosyncrasies of the rules resulting in an unrealistically played-out scenario.

Some of Dale's ideas and followers' comments made me realize that the simple alternate turn sequence really ought to be improved upon, away from the clunky swinging of a grandfather clock's pendulum to something organic, with more flow, less 'whole army activation', by design giving the feel of engagement action instead of chess moves. Perhaps a bit more like initiative in Crossfire with a frequent shifting of activity from one side to the other to replicate the speed of action in a firefight with seconds (fractions of most game turns) between events and irregular & variable windows of opportunity. You could also try to replicate another player with a programmed opponent with the decisions of one (or both) sides of the game determined by rules.

However, if the player wishes to operate both sides, there are a few game features (some inspired by discussion at Yahoo Solowargames) which could be altered or included to add interest to the solo game:
    • Unit activation: With a regular turn sequence, all units activate and complete their actions, then the opposing forces react. Sometimes this entails units moving back in time to where they became, for example, pinned down or destroyed. Having to enact on the gaming table the equivalent of  "actually, because of my dice rolls, that didn't happen" is a little unsatisfactory so I would use single unit activation but allow a reaction and for groups to be activated as opposed to units in the case of a number of units acting together or as one (advancing in line or waiting in ambush for example)
    • Specifics of terrain features are unknown until scouted: The penetrability of woods, locations of river fording points and bridge strengths, fields that may or may not give cover due to crops, areas of soft ground or hard going and steeper slopes which may prevent vehicular access, are not known in advance. Also units would only discover if hedgerows were of the twiggy variety (offering cover only) or overgrown dry stone wall type (soft and/or hard cover, including possible AFV hull-down position) until encountered
    • Surprise reinforcements: Unless scenario specific, the composition of units is diced for upon arrival on table
    • 52 'randomly' triggered wildcard events: Reaching for the regular deck of playing cards instead of dice reinforces to the player that something off the wall is about to happen! It could be an orders glitch, command failing, ammunition, fuel or vehicle breakdown or reinforcements snag, or the event might be a stroke of luck like surprise reinforcements, radio message interception or other intelligence coup, a 'free change of plans' or dice roll bonus. Effects could be immediate or the card could be retained for play later in the game. Possibilities are limited only by imagination (partisans or 5th Column units!) but game balance should not be upset. I mostly use percentage dice in my rules so it is easy to set the triggering probability (any "0,0" or "9,9" occurring, for example)
    • Battle-testing of conscripts: If the rules allow for variations in troop quality, the morale of second line or raw recruit units could be determined randomly at first contact
    • Random battlegroup composition: The player draws up a few sets of forces for each side to tackle the scenario at hand, then dices to determine which army each uses
    Up to now I have only introduced a random element through the use of wildcards but will do a bit of rule writing before the next game.