You are sat at the wargames table, looking out over 24 square feet of green felt that is decked out in beautiful terrain and gorgeously painted miniatures. What more could you want?
Well, if you are anything like me, an opponent would be nice to have…
Despite my best efforts to get my daughter involved in wargaming, I am still very much a solo wargamer. Why? Well, while she likes fantasy wargames, she hasn’t really grasped Napoleonics or World War Two wargaming just yet. I’m not surprised, but it would be nice to see her launch a wave of Japanese troops while screaming “Banzai!” OK, maybe it wouldn’t.
A Wargamers Confession
At this point I am going to confess a deep, dark secret that I have hidden away for far too long. No, I am not scheduled on a Jerry Springer episode. And no, I don’t enjoy wearing high heels at the weekend. I mean a wargaming confession.
Disappointed? Well, make a sizeable donation to the site and I’ll record a battle report dressed in high heels. Let it never be said I am not enterprising. Right then, on with the confession.
I enjoy solo wargaming. In fact I prefer it.
There I said it. Ah that feels better.
The Truth About My Solo Wargaming
The truth is that I have enjoyed solo wargaming since I first started about about 30 years ago. I used to spend hours using my large Airfix collection to set up bases. Then I would spend hours more figuring out how to best attack that base. I never had an opponent, and I still had a huge amount of fun. In fact, I sincerely think most of my childhood was spent reading military books and crawling around the bedroom floor with model soldiers. And listening to my grandfather tell me stories of the Second World War.
When I was about 14 I joined a wargames club at school (yes we actually had one). I remember the first day I attended the guy who ran the club, a spotty 16 year-old, showed us how to storm a bunker using diagrams on a blackboard. We then used super simple rules to game out the situation.
That was great fun and I went straight home with the memorised rules and applied them to my solo wargaming.
And I had EVEN MORE fun.
There I said it again.
What Is It About Solo Wargaming That Makes It Cool?
Wargamers are a fairly tight knit bunch and often gather together in groups to play. These groups repeatedly play against each other, often with the same three or four guys (or gals) pitting their armies against one another.
After a while your opponent becomes predictable. You know what he’ll bring to the table. You know how he’ll react. You know what his favourite troop type is and how he sulks when you blow it up. It’s like eating the same chocolate pudding every day for years. At the beginning it’s fun, but it soon becomes boring.
I think my good friend Stefan and I gamed together for around 10 years. We met religiously every Sunday morning and gamed till lunch time. It reached the point where I knew exactly what he would do in each situation. So my thought process ended up something like, “He knows I’ll go for a flank attack, so should I position these troops in the centre so he thinks I’ll attack in the centre, or should I just put them on the flank so he thinks I’m being predictable and then attack him in the centre Or will he know I’ve put them in the centre so he thinks…”
You get the picture.
Now the great thing about solo wargaming is that your opponent is completely unpredictable. Well they should be if you are doing it properly. OK, well not COMPLETELY unpredictable – they should at least have some notion of tactics and apply them properly. But they will be a little different each time you play.
“How?” you scream.
Ah, that is another issue with solo wargaming.
Introducing Randomness Into Solo Wargames
I am not going to get technical here, but there are a large amount of ways to bring in randomness to a Non Player General (or NPG). Dice, cards or even randomly drawn chits can produce orders that give a lifelike feel to your imaginary opponent.
You can even add in some random events to spice things up. It is not as hard as it sounds and there are some really great systems on the market for doing just that (such as Two Hour Wargames and Too Fat Lardies who both produce some excellent rules).
What I love most is that each game is different and feels like I am playing a different opponent. Having played many opponents before (and having to deal with their various personalities and levels of hygiene) I now really enjoy my imaginary opponents. My NPGs always turn up on time, they don’t drink my beer, don’t eat my food, don’t pee on the floor instead of in the toilet, and they are never rules lawyers.
While I do miss the banter at the wargames table and the social side of the hobby, I am managing to keep my skills sharp for the next time someone calls me and asks me to bring my troops to the tabletop. And until then, I’ll keep talking to myself.
If they do lock me up for that, could they at least make sure I can fit 24 square feet of wargames table in my padded room?