This is an old article that first appeared on the Solowargames Yahoo Group. It was authored by a resident contributor Seur D’Armadilleaux who was well loved for his detailed and thrillling battle reports. If he can’t help you keep your solo wargames fresh no one can!!!
12 Best Kept Secrets Toward Keeping Solo “Fresh”
Evolve, Instead of Doing the Same Old Thing
How do we keep Solo gaming fresh? We asked a couple of people with 25-plus years in the hobby, and this is really a collection of their good ideas. We’ll start with a list, so we can stick it in the Movie section of our TV Times and ponder on it (while watching reruns of Robin Hood with the Goode Wife in front of the Boob Tube), and then maybe we can have it suitably framed, for a place of honor over the fireplace in our paneled wargames dungeon. (What? You haven’t had the fireplace built yet??)
The Secrets of Longevity
Look into a Modular approach to building and collecting our Solo adversaries (armies, figures, whatever) Don’t neglect the “other” parts of the hobby (history for the period, tactics, painting, fiction) Try a complete change in our “favorite” period, even if it’s “just” to add a handful of large skirmish figures Add a different layer of command to our battle (whether that’s up or down; generalissimo or waterboy) Upgrade one of our parallel hobbies (time for a new Integrated Receiver or Short Wave Radio maybe?)
Upgrade the “worst” stand that we own, and do this in an integrated or programmed fashion Improve the background scenery, roads and buildings, and table lighting — the “ambience” Add some humor (like the Zulu with the water bucket; or the legend of Seur D’Armadilleaux) Improve how we write up the story behind the battle; make it more exciting — Dear Diary Go Digital with a close-up camera & add the detailed little pics to our storyline, or go retro with sketches Teach others about things that worked out well — share the passion, and give at least some of it away free Try our hand at illustrations and sketches, as well as adding maps to our After Action Reports
Revisit Our Mix of Figures with a Modular Approach
It’s a common mistake. People get into one period or one game system, and they get all excited about the new experience, and before we know it, they have 2 of everything, but only in that one narrow range. We get caught in the trap of bigger is better, and so more should be magnificent. Unchecked, we tend to cram 80 figures into a little space more suited towards 20 figures, just because we want to use ALL our painted treasures. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. The same holds true for books or rule sets. We all know a couple of people who have every book, brand new, never-been-opened, sitting there on their shelf.
Instead, we suggest the use of a more modular approach to our Wargames interests and figures. If we really like Alexandrian pike armies, reuse the same pike modules to build up several related armies. And we really should try and build up at least some of those variations that are purposely “less effective”. In addition to a killer army (like Alexander Macedonean) maybe we add units to convert it into an Alexander-Successor army, or a Ptolemaic Egyptian pike army, or a Pyrrhic army as an example. Much better if we start off with a little thought about how we might be able to cover 2 or 3 “different” armies (or even different periods) by using a core group of figures, and some complementary extra stands that we shift in and out, depending on the period.
Why would we go search out something LESS effective? Because then we can tailor our composition to match the capabilities of the people we’re playing with (or in solo terms, the less-effective opponents we want to play against). Think of this as a Frontier Roman Fortress that is thinly manned, and meant to keep the local raiders at bay. Why have 3 legions tied up for what amounts to police work? Convertible armies are definitely more fun, and that way you spread the interest over more territory. As another approach to the same theme, paint up a half dozen stands to add a different option to our “usual” army. This works particularly well with some armies like Medieval Italian City States. And even if you can’t think of options for your Medieval Swiss Pike army, you can find an army that had tons of Swiss Pike in them (like the medieval French army), and that achieves the same effect. Broaden your horizons.
RPG’s and Figure Mix
This idea of mix-n-match is by NO means limited to “just” historical gaming. Lets suppose we like some specific Role Playing Games (RPG’s) such as the Gaslight period (1920’s) and have a nice collection. Why not branch out and add a couple of figures from horror flicks, or from an Indiana Jones style? The point is that we can add a “taste” of parallel universes, without detracting from the main themes that hold our attention, and are near and dear to our hearts. A 10 per cent dilution won’t cause a catastrophic souring of our favorite tipple.
Another example, we can paint up a whole bunch of dark-skinned Nubian allies to create an earlier “light” Ancient Egyptian army, the one the Egyptian army used to put down all the desert bandits who were so abundant anywhere around Egypt. As a Solo wargamer, we should also look for armies with irregular troop options, which don’t react quite as predictably as our regular troops would. Simon Dowell taught me this a long time ago — scrotty rag-tag armies may not win as often, but they are infinitely more enjoyable to play with, and that goes double when we are playing with Solo games. We may not “win” as often with a scrotty army, but we learn a lot, and have a lot more fun in the process, and isn’t that what its all about? The Solo games we’ve played using scrappy little frontier Sertorian vs Pompeian armies from the Spanish Wars (at the time of Caesar) have been among the most exciting we’ve played. And Arthurian vs Saxons have a similar warm spot in our wargames memories for the same reason — no Roman cohort steamrollers here, but just a bunch of grubby farmer-wanna-be’s, fighting off what they see as some upstart invading bandits.
Alternatively, we can get a lot of that irregular feeling, by using a Rules “booster pack”. (Eh?). By that we mean, if we still use our favorite rule set, but add a set of complementary rules like Mythic GME (Game Master Emulator), THAT alone may cause our normal solo games to take on a less-predictable, more-Chaotic air, and produce a lot more action for the time we spend gaming. Well worth looking into!
As a third variation on a theme, I keep one box filled with “common” light and skirmish troops, suitable for a wide range of scenarios. That lets us pack a lot of light troops into the bonus options, (typical of more of the garrison or frontier armies). Role Playing Gamers might consider these as Non Playing Characters, so the bell-hop, the gas-meter reader, the telegram delivery guy — figures who don’t affect the main outcome of the game, but who add a lot of local color.
The common theme in all of these ideas, is that we re-use a lot of what we already have, and just substitute in a couple of stands to “make it fresh”.
Think of Solo as a 4-legged Stool
Are we a true quadraped soloist? Or just a Solo kind of kangaroo? (Find it hard to keep your balance?)
Don’t neglect the “other” parts of the hobby, even if we are not very proficient at some of them. Solo Wargaming is like a 4-legged stool, where First we need to know a little about the history of our Army (I keep a loose-leaf binder on each of my armies). Doesn’t require that we get a history degree, just that we have read the Coles Notes version, and have a reasonable feel for the time. Even if our “period” is a fictional setting, or a future-wars setting, there are ALWAYS sources that we haven’t read yet.
Second we need to understand the historical tactics these armies used (for historical miniatures, have a look in WRG’s books like “Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome” as a start). Again, we don’t need to go back to primary sources, but we want to get the right “flavor” for the period we are gaming. The same is true for RPG games, in that we will get more out of playing-in-period, rather than always adopting Napoleonic tactics (mass the big guns in one group, and pound everything else away).
Third, we should have some pretty good references on the uniforms (like suitable-to-the-period “Osprey” historical books for painting). Have a look on the internet, especially at some of the armies on eBay, or at some of the Osprey Men at Arms painted-up 54mm figures that are periodically offered. Fanaticus.com is a great DBA based source for info on painting the most popular armies. We don’t need slavish museum quality detail here; to quote my buddy Craig Thomas from model trains, we just want a “5-foot-away overall look” that gives the flavor of the times. One source I use for a lot of buildings, uniforms, and background on my North West Frontier battles, is simply back-issues of the National Geographic. Afghanistan wars today look a lot like those of the 19th century (unfortunately) bar the modern weapons. And for those of us who like Star Trek, a lot of their names and races (Bajaur, Gul Dukot, and so on) are directly lifted from the 1850’s North West Frontier of India.
And Fourth, I like to have a moderate collection of historical fiction from that period as an interest-reinforcement, too (umm — Alfred Dugan is one of my favorite all-time broad-topic historical authors, and his books are still available on eBay). In fact, the historical-fiction section of my library is now probably 4 or 5 times larger than the military reference section. I hasten to add that most of my historical fiction books were bought from flea markets and second-hand stores over the years. Fortunately we live in a big-old-rambling house that sports a library room (one of the main reasons we bought the place!).
While we are talking about reading — learn to read with critical intent. That’s right, there is quite a big difference between “just” reading for pleasure (no note-taking, and at whatever speed we want) and reading some book and taking notes on snippets that we can use in our solo games (as part of our lists, or maybe part of a future scenario). We should be jotting down “source” notes, too — we need to be able to refer to some master index, and see that Jezail patterns are shown in the XXX book on page 45, or whatever. For our most popular books, we should keep a copy of the scrap-notes for that book tucked in the back. When we re-read them at a later date, we can just “add” to our body of cross-referenced information.
(What’s that? Oh, Lady D’Armadilleaux begs to differ with respect to the valure I place on my fiction library. She says they are only good for shredding into mouse-nests. Note to self: buy more mouse-traps on the weekend. And a bouquet of flowers, worth roughly the price of another box of plastic Esci figures. Which see, while we are out buying flowers.)
Dabble in Something New
Try a change in the period that we play. If we are always playing 400 BC to 400 AD, we are missing huge chunks of interesting Ancient wargaming stimulation, both from early times like the Biblical armies (light, nimble, and fast) as well as through to the later Horse-armies (410 through 1000AD) and especially up through to Renaissance armies (the Starship troopers of the Ancient scene). Not sure if you’d like a specific period? The local club holds a DBA Doubles tournament quarterly, where the various armies are fixed, and the players just dice for sides. This is a great way to come out and “try” a different army or a different period. The same idea holds true for little local conventions — find some game that looks interesting and outside of our standard fare, and sit in and ask questions. We get more from 2 hours in a demo game, than from days of “just” reading over the rulesets.
The same holds true for RPG players — If we always go to 1920’s quest in the Jungle, we are going to miss some great fun that could be had by shifting the period to the 1820’s and searching around in Colonial Mysore in India. Look afield. If nothing else, we may be able to “import” some fresh ideas into our favorite game or our favorite period. We can learn from the most varied of sources. We once sat down and talked to a guy painting up Dungeons and Dragons little guys, when there was nothing else at a little con that seemed to be of interest. That was over 25 years back, but the ideas he shared are STILL key parts to my painting techniques, even today.
OK, this is the right time to spill the beans — the dreaded dark secret that LOTS of respected long-time solo wargamers hide away in boxes in their basement. Y’see, I actually have 4 different Solo campaigns going on at the moment. Now I used to play one period to the point of burn-out, then put it away and pull out another. These days, I try and do it more systematically, changing among the 4 periods every 4 to 5 weeks (trying to suspend play at a logical “node” so that its easier to pick up where I left off). That way I never “hit the wall”, cause the walls get changed every 6 weeks (that, or else the metaphors get so darned confusing that I no longer have a clue where I am or where I was going with any of this. It helps to take the Solo gaming experience seriously, but not take yourself too seriously).
Satisfaction isn’t a function of army size — try out your interest in a different army or period by painting up a Little Tiddler. Find a DBA army pack (or try one of those great new 1/72 Russian plastic kits) and turn it into an intro-level or skirmish-type collection. We usually try to bulk it out with extra command stand figures, or flags stuck on pike figures. We don’t need 300 figures to get the flavor of the new army or new period. Heck, if we’ve never played Gaslight 1920’s, we should put the wargame figures aside for a week, and go play a Solo Gaslight game with a handful of figures!
Add a Different Layer, and Maybe a Different Figure Scale
If most of our Solo gaming has been 15mm set-piece battles, using Saga rules, DBA, Armati or similar then maybe its time that we try a different “layer”, by going to 25mm Skirmish-level, or going to 10mm Grand-tactical, or to 6mm Battalion-size. And nothing says we have to use the same old rules or the same old size of figures, either. We use Armati Intro with 15mm figures for most of our “serious” historical solo games (like the Burgundian Invasion of Italy), but we also like to run some parallel “skirmish” games with just a handful of 1/72 figures (like a scouting party, that runs into Italian advance elements, or a siege in the Towers at Arches Tombeys). These are short 1 or 2 hour parallel-games that have their own simplified rules, often using Solo card-lists and Mythic to get more of an RPG feel. They don’t seriously affect the outcome of the main campaign, but they add a lot of color and spice to the story lines.
OK so on the odd occasion we’ve even gone back to our old Gladiator rule set, and had one-on-one skirmish with 1/32 figures, mounted on Hex bases. And we still have our 1/32 WWII rules from MIGS (the long-running local “Military Interests and Games Society”) that we haul out and fondle every once in a while. These are quite adaptable to Colonial periods, although they need a set of larger Colonial figures (Standing firing, kneeling firing, and prone) for each combatant fielded. (Umn, OK so I admit that sometimes I use WWII figs to stand in for the Colonials too. Gee, you guys are really tough inquisitors. But I’m gonna find the “right” figs at Cold Wars this year. Honest).
Going the other way, we have a whole slew of smaller figures (both 6mm and 10mm) that we use for Battalion or Grand Tactical level moves. So we might use these on the Map Game that precedes the actual confronting of the enemy. Those 6mm little guys on small pieces of picture-matt thick cardboard can get stuck right on to the pieces that make up the modular map system. They are a lot more satisfying to look at than a bunch of pins, and they survive the cork-board getting put on the top shelf, when we switch periods.
As an aside, the smaller the scale of the figures, the more we get to appreciate where Mythic GME fits in, because we may have trouble “seeing” whether we have a flank attack in 6mm scale, but we can pose the question to Mythic’s Fate Chart (“Does that guy have a flank attack on this guy?”) and come up with a suitable (but still randomized) response.
Maybe its time to upgrade one of our “parallel” hobbies. After about a dozen years using the same old Sony tube Stereo that I bought at a garage sale, I finally broke down and upgraded the integrated amplifier to a new-for-me, (used) Harmon Kardon. Now I can’t wait to get down there into the painting dungeon, just to go through all my CD collection anew. And if I want to listen to that HK box, I have nothing better to do with idle hands, than pick up that verdampt paint brush and do another 40 or so little guys, while I am treating my ears to some of the best (OK, so we made a mistake and promised Lone Warrior some Colonial sketches, and we’ve been working on those, and listening to great music, too). Sometimes (from an inspirational point of view) a “free” $200 is better spent on the parallel hobby, rather than “just” buying another bunch of army figures. (That was my excuse for a new digital cam, and a couple of years back, I used the same excuse to buy a decent short-wave radio — one day the Goode Wife is going to catch on …).
As an aside, nothing adds a new dimension like music that fits the period (when available). My little colonial guys won’t march out of barracks without suitable Sousa marches on pipes and drums. And I have a tape I bought from Cold Wars with earlier (kinda weedy) fife and drum that goes perfectly with the Burgundian and Italian medieval armies. And for Napoleonics, in my humble opinion its hard to beat the martial horse charges in Von Suppe’s Light Cavalry overture (echoes of the charge of the Light Brigade; old von S musta been a wargamer at heart) or the immortal Rosini’s William Tell Overture (the Lone Ranger theme music). OK OK, it may seem jingoistic, but the music just about makes you stand at attention and salute your little guys, marching off for Plastic King and Esci Country and that’s alright by me. (What’s that? Oh, Lady D’Aramdilleaux is threatening to sell that CD at the next garage sale. Says the new stereo is too loud and rattles her china cabinet. It’ll never happen.)
If Star Wars is more our bent, then maybe we find some appropriate Holst (The Planets) or sound tracks from futuristic movies that we like. Adapt these ideas to work with YOUR solo gaming passions.
Time to Upgrade Raggedy Andy
Fess up: We all have some figures that look like they were dragged through the hedge by the neighbors 6-year old. Or ingested and ex-gested by the family dawg. Its upgrade time: we usually upgrade a couple of stands of any army that we play with, within the week after we finish the game. This time there is a local “doubles” tournament coming up (fixed armies, and participants just change the opponents and the tables), so we painted up some fancier command stands for any of the 8 or so armies that we were likely to have to command. Nothing too dramatic, but every General has a bugler and a flag-man, and the stands are flocked. More than most of my Solo troops get.
One of the secrets here, is to build-in the upgrade process. I play one bound of Solo, then I take the worst 5% of my troops (usually one stand from each side) and rework them. In my case, that usually means taking “fresh” little guys, and painting up a replacement stand that then goes on the table in the exact spot (that’s cause I use a LOT of similar stands, that get called up with event-cards; and I admit, there are more little guys down in the painting dungeon, standing around in their brown-coat underwear, than I will ever get to paint this lifetime! Umn, don’t tell Lady D’A that I said that, will you?) Once the replacement “fresh” stand goes on the table, I touch up the new “reserves” for future re-deployment. New eyeballs, black-lining, remounted with maybe a new flag-bearer, and they look quite smashing. Remember, it’s the journey, not the rush to get to the finish line. Who cares if we need to take a week out, to do a bit of fancy painting, before the next couple of hours for the next bound of solo gaming? I once worked for a business perfectionist; at first I did it “right” cause that’s what Gunther wanted; eventually I did it “right” cause that’s what I wanted. (Never did like Gunther much; respected him a lot, though).
Improve the Backdrop
Do more with scenery. Not just trees or rocks, but stuff to go onto those boring 2-Dimensional patches of rough ground or woods. And stuff to go on the back of the table, where we are unlikely to ever have troops marching around (think about a wooden mountain chain, or a thin 2” deep forest, or maybe a veneer of a town wall for Medieval periods).
Keeping the interest fresh with a modular approach extends to the buildings as well as the army itself. Now, I mount buildings (or building ruins) on sub-assemblies, like mini-dioramas, that can be stuck on out-of-the-way rough ground or steep hills. As an aside, I like to have 2 or 3 smaller buildings with interesting more complex rooflines, rather than one large building. I also try and find buildings that fit a longer narrow footprint (like 3 by 8 inches) rather than buildings with a more square-ish (6 by 6 inch) footprint. This gives more compression from front to back on a module, to fit the buildings on the terrain pieces. I scour the model railway shops and model railway flea-markets for old buildings that I can kit-bash or cannibalize. OK I admit, I even paint 2 faces of the model with ONE paint scheme, and the opposite 2 faces with a different (complementary) paint scheme. One way, they are Italian towns, the opposite way, they are Burgundian walled communities.
Some of these parts add extra interest to the diorama, and help to tie in multiple buildings with a common theme (like lots of outbuildings on a module). HO scale has lots of premium metal castings, often offered as kits, many of which will really improve the look of our mini-dioramas. Things like town wells, groups of wooden barrels and crates, or horse-and-buggy types that we don’t normally see. We can revive flagging interest, by simply swapping a couple of different building or diorama sub-modules with the same army’s terrain, so that the change mimics our Roman campaigns marching through Gaul all the way to Galilee.
My buddy Mike came up with a simply brilliant discovery — plastic grass and trees in various heights at the local Dollar store. 20 dollars later, and a pair of scissors, and the jungle terrain is quite fantastic. I’ve since seen the same scenery at a number of conventions, and the tables all looked amazing.
Add some humor to our Solo efforts. As an example, we got bored painting up 60 Burgundian Skirmishers. So now we have one Burgundian cross-bow stand with one guy wearing white with blue polka-dots, and his mate wearing the reverse (blue with white polka-dots). Anyone familiar with the period knows that Burgundians wore a jupon (their equivalent of a T-shirt) which was white, with thin vertical blue stripes. And there is a related story, of course. Seems like these two scoundrels took their allotted uniform money, and fed the tailor a sob-story about not having quite enough to pay for the usual Burgundian Jupon of white and blue. After they duped the tailor, then they took the “savings” and bought drinks in the local tavern. Little did they know the serving wench was the tailor’s daughter, who overheard them boasting and then tattled on them. The last laugh was on the pair of drunken scoundrels, because when the besotted pair turned up hung-over “on parade” next morning, there they were with their new “polka-dot” duds.
Now, most visiting firemen (or the rare opponents at Armati tournaments) don’t even “see” the polka-dots (or any of the Rogue Stands) until about ¾ of the way through the game. We usually know when, cause they all-of-a-sudden break down into gales of laughter, and then out comes the story. One of my Sword and Flame stands of Mahdi Answars had a fantasy figure of a rabbit wielding a wicked falx. Named him Ah-RAH-bit, so help me. Stuck Ah-RAH-bit into the third rank, he blended in so well that many casual viewers never saw him. Ah-RAH-bit became a sort of in-joke, that only friends-of-the-family knew about. While my tournament days are behind me, I still like to include some humorous stands in my Solo games.
Another “Vote of Thanks” to Simon McDowell, who has a very dry sense of humor. He introduced me to the Command-Stand Quirk, with his beautifully detailed Napoleonic command stand with the General’s “actress” friend, complete with her coach and umbrella. Or how about his Aurelian Roman General, with this balding accountant side-kick, in turn trailing a mule laden with the money-bags. I adapted his theme with “Madame Fleurie and the Good Tyme Girles Academie and Dancing School”, one of the camp followers behind my Medieval Burgundian army. Has a Zebra instead of a horse, she does. Nothing too risqué or requiring PG13 warnings by the way, just tastefully (and obviously) less than Puritanical.
Another example of humor is the development of the Avitar I use for wargames bulletin boards — “Seur D’Armadilleaux”. It grew out of the Burgundian Invasion of Italy solo campaign, where I wanted a knight that would be “me” (hence the Burgundian “Seur” instead of Sir, following the lead of the author, Jack Whyte). At the same time, I had a buddy threaten me in jest (I hope) on an email board, with the fact that he is an enormous collector of firearms (or that he HAS an enormous collection). To which I replied that I was gonna be like the Armadillo and go dig a hole to hide in, and ever since then I adopted a conciliatory Flashman-like pose — all bluster and run for the hills. Since then, I’ve signed all my postings with things like “Seur D’Armadilleaux, Defender of the Cookie Jar, Leader of Wounded Teddy Bears, Fearless in the Retreat” and similar ilk. I don’t know if the readers get as much of a kick out of reading this as I do thinking them up, but that’s their problem, I guess. At least one buddy has followed suit, by signing his emails to me as “von Gluttenburg”, and adding a post-script line like: “High brow cusser, knee jerk reactor, back-handed complimenter”. It adds a lot to the fun.
So now Seur D’Armadilleaux as town crier brings you “the latest up-to-the-minute-news, as it happened less than a fortnight ago, about Charles le Cochons, the Last Duke of Burgundy (Piglet to his friends, but not to his face), and the Grand Adventure of the Invasion of Italy”. (Umn . . .They never seem to get there).
Then there is the tale of Emma the Burgundian War Elephant . . . Ah, but I digress. Perhaps another time.
Upgrade your Story Line
We get lost in the wonders of writing up a story on a PC, and then we go back and look at the hand-written soft-cover note books that we used way back when — how I wish I’d had these modern PC tools! They make it so much easier to write up the story behind the battle, or to go back and edit and tweak some parts, so that there is better cohesion to the whole sad (but gripping) tale — such as the development of “Piglet de Bourgoine”, or the “Italians upgrade the Burgundian Terror Threat”. Of course, the corollary is that we spend a LOT more time over this verdampt keyboard, at the expense of moving little guys around on the wargames boards, but we don’t begrudge the shift in focus. Now the report on a solo “bound” may well take up 20 passes, with a little polish and extra spice added over some 30 days, but the end result is a lot more entertaining.
And I admit, I use the same kind of approach when writing an article intended for submission to Saga or to the Lone Warrior (hint hint — everyone should try it at least once). I write the skeleton as a one-pager, or even as a list of related topics, then go back and haul it out and add some more stuff, whenever the muse hits (read, whenever the weather gets so cold that its uncomfortable down in the painting dungeon, one of the few disadvantages of living in a century-old house, aka Castle D’Armadilleaux).
So each of my little Solo adventures gets polished with love until they are finally ready to be posted on line, sprinkled with whatever passes as heart-felt wit (or failing that, some really bad puns), and this becomes almost an end unto itself. As each episode gets put to bed, I print up a copy for my loose-leaf binder file on that particular campaign.
As an aside, I try to keep the story-line separate from the notes. That way we can choose to just read the epic tale itself, or go hunt and peck for the little details showing why something happened.
Go Digital (naw, I don’t mean adding scrambler radios to yer pikemen, but buy and master using a digital camera). Digital cams have really tumbled in price, and we can pick up a goodie complete with a Macro mode lens setting for well under the $200 dollar mark. Maybe half that, if we buy a good used or a name-brand refurbished model. We don’t need 40-gazillion mega-pixel either; something like 3 or 4 mega-pixel will do the job quite nicely, if all we want is to amaze our friends and send bragging rights over the internet. Or add some zip to our on-line posts.
One caution: make SURE we have all the camera instruction manuals, and try to get the seller to show you a typical download from the cam to the computer, so you are SURE that you have all the cables and the software that you need. Also, ask the seller how he manipulates the pics (like red-eye reduction, or how he trims the pics to size, or how he re-sizes them. Its not critical that you remember ALL that stuff, but you need to know you have all the bits, and the seller’s phone number, if he wouldn’t mind coaching you, when you (inevitably) run into something you “forgot” how to overcome. Wonderful tools; big learning curve.
This is the theme of another rant-unt-rave so I won’t exhaust the topic here. But start your “research” into prices and features now, in anticipation of said opus coming shortly. Oh, and sorry, but your old film camera has almost “no” residual value — even if it’s a Nikon. (But don’t throw it out quite yet, cause we have some thoughts on using the old cam, too).
Share with a Friend
One of the most satisfying things we can do, that reinforces our Solo hobby is to share the best parts with our buddies. Doesn’t much matter if that means on-line as part of a web-group, or as a submission to some willing magazine (Saga and Lone Warrior have both run a couple of my rantings, bless em). Nothing movates me to go and do another couple of episodes of a long-run campaign like Tagh Dum Bash (currently more than 20 episodes, and not finished by a long shot), than posting something on line, and receiving the occasional “Wow, so that’s how its done — I can use that!” Doesn’t have to be thousands of long fan-letters, just the knowledge that at least a couple of people are interested.
Current practice seems to be that we can post something on a website, and modify it a little (or add some pics or some extra commentary) and re-present it in a different forum (like the quarterly Saga newsletter). While we may have the time to haunt 6 to 10 web-sites, and still have time to scan a couple of magazines there seems to be a completely different readership with very little overlap.
Collect the Maps and Start a Pics File
Solo wargames allows us to take the time to do things “right”. One of those “right” things is to do up a really good After Action Report, complete with accurate and detailed maps of the main parts of the campaign. Doesn’t have to take hours of our time — usually a couple of quick squares and wiggles, with the occasional measurement between critical elements is most often enough. These can be improved into pen-and-ink maps whenever we have the time.
As an aside, I usually keep everything from any one campaign in its own little binder. Even the scraps of paper that have the casualty figures, or the specific cards or dice rolls in the case of Solo-List card-draws or Mythic GME percentile numbers. I get the sheet protectors from Walmart, and stuff the bits into a sheet at the end of each of the episodes that I do. Over the years, these now follow a bit more of a formula, so I can go back and review at my leisure. I still have campaign write-ups from the late 70’s that I like to go and read, once every couple of years.
One of the more satisfying recent exercises was the time spent doing up some sketches for a couple of magazine submissions. The first was some black-and-white sketches for Lone Warrior (a magazine that has fantastic solo content, and lots of pen-and-ink sketches as opposed to using digital pictures). I dug out my old Magnajector (it’s a kids toy that lets us “project” and image of something like a comic book up on the wall), and a dozen old lithographs of Punjabi Frontier Force Colonial soldiers. By copying one of a dozen figures from each of 6 scenes, we came up with some illustrations for Lone Warrior that were “new”. These are done on large sketch-pads, about 12 x 18 inches in size.
First we copy the specific figures with a pencil, then we can adjust the size of other figures by moving the Magnajector machine forward or back, and refocusing it. That lets us take an element like an officer figure from the background on one print (for example) and put him into the foreground on our pencil-drawing. Then we can pencil in the details like belts and turban wraps, and finally, we ink the whole thing in. Then we can get them photo-reduced at the local business-printing shop. While the first pull (with the figures around 4 inches tall) isn’t all that impressive, the photo-reduced end result is really an eye opener!
There are a couple of different versions of the Magnajector that are still in production (so-called Art Tracers, meant to help beginning artists get the “right” ratios on their work). Have a look through a store that specializes in art supplies, and they usually have a couple of models available. I set mine up on the edge of the wargame table, where I can aim it at the front of the beer-fridge. Then I can stick the paper up on the fridge with brown masking tape.
Next project is to do up some portraits of the significant players (like the Colonel and the Sgt Major). I’ll let you know how that turns out!
One last thought — go with the flow, and ebb around the rocks in the stream. By that I mean, if we Feel like wargaming, great. If we don’t feel like wargaming, then have a look at one of the many related pursuits (like polishing that article, or writing up a diary, or doing some sketches). So there you have it. A dozen or more ways to add the Zest back into your Solo Wargaming (again). Thanks to the many long-term-solo-players who willingly shared so much of their time and their hard-won experience with us.
[Editor’s Note: My Part]
Revisit An Old Game or Character. Whatever happened to that leader? Or I wonder if that siege was ever broken? Did those columns ever break through?
If you have ever played a campaign or scenario and ended at some point in time with questions unanswered revisiting that game or scenario can provide a convenient and satisfying way to refresh your solo wargaming. This is especially true if you switch from period to period as the chance is greater you will have left a period with a lot of unanswered questions or unplayed scenarios.
Even as I type this I can recall a grand naval battle I was playing out in my basement about a year and half ago. The battle represented an invasion of one of my wargaming kingdoms by a heretofore unknown hostile power. The game was being played out using Pirates of the Spanish Main CCG ships. Each ship had a manifest written up for it containing what part of the invasion force was contained on it. As a result if a ship was lost a certain part of that kingdom’s forces would not be available for the rest of the campaign, for example one ship had the command, another ship had the siege equipment, other ships had battalions of troops. In addition the invaders had an initial surprise advantage. But as soon as they appear on board a ship from a strong fort is dispatched back to the main coast to assemble the naval garrison. Once it reached the shore (if it did) a garrison of ships would sail out to meet the invaders and possibly destroy them at sea. When I left off the invaders had made good progress toward the coast and had destroyed most of the shore fort patrols. However the courier ship had made shore and the garrison fleet had been dispatched as well. I never knew whether the invaders succeeded in landing or if they were intercepted and destroyed by the garrison.
You can view some of the action here, the invaders are on the right and are breaking past the shore fort at this point in the invasion: