Home Forums General Board Games and Card Games Solo'ing Boardgames, And Why I Love Them

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  • #46554
    Dan Kennedy
    Participant

    In the other thread I was talking about the boardgames I play solo because they allow me to get some kind of gaming in around young kids. Someone asked me what sort of games they are so I figured I’d waffle on a bit more about it – it might be useful to someone, and they serve as great scenario generators.

    Many will call this heresy, but I’ve found boardgames to usually be more satisfying experiences than miniature games. I find that as boardgames designers tend to write for a more tightly-defined set of circumstances (focusing, say, on a specific battle, time period, campaign and so on), they usually write rules that work better for those circumstances, whereas miniature rules often try to be a least a little bit generic.

    As boardgames can be recorded with a camera phone and stored easily overnight, and it’s easy to create makeshift terrain and counters for experimentation and trying things out, they lend themselves well to the stressed parent keen on rolling dice and making ‘pew pew’ noises for half an hour before exhaustion sets in. I decided a while ago to create a way of linking the games so that I can run campaigns of some sort. I thrashed out basic rules for supply, politics, finance and so on and have played a few different – and abortive – attempts before settling on what I now use. It’s inspired greatly by Dan Versenn’s Leader series of games. I have Hornet Leader, and the rules for Thunderbolt Apache Leader and Phantom Leader are available online from DVG, so I’ve read them all and digested them into my own personal ‘universe’.

    Essentially I’ve created something I call ‘Merc Leader’, which is the idea of running a Mercenary outfit – or Free Company, as I call it, in a slightly politically unstable galaxy. As a background I use  – very roughly – the Renegade Legion universe created many years ago by FASA, which I’ve always enjoyed, though I dumped a lot of the political background as it was just too depressing. The objective is to keep your Free Company both financially and operatively viable, able to keep working and taking on Contracts. Even though it uses the title Company, these organisations can grow to tremendous size, thus allowing me to justify using the larger scale boardgames.

    The main structure exists only on a lot of vaguely organised paper and my computer. Once I know what Contracts I’m looking to simulate, I pick the game most appropriate it and roughly figure out how I can use the forces involved to simulate what I want.

    Of course at this point there’s some rough guess work and hand waving away of debatable ideas, but as I’m only looking to please myself, I figure it doesn’t matter? After all, I find it tremendously enjoyable, and isn’t that the point of all this?

    There are four or five main games I use. Which one depends on what the Contract is and what I’m trying to simulate. But they’re all games I really love and enjoy.

    https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/8957/renegade-legion-centurion-blood-steel

     

    https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3613/air-superiority

    https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgameexpansion/3614/air-strike

    https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3711/flight-leader

    https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/6431/air-armor

    https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamefamily/106/fleet-series

    I also use the maps of these games to test out my ‘hex and counter’ variants of Strike Legion:Planetary Ops, as well as some Full Thrust I’ve messed about with and a couple of other old miniature games – not least of which is original 40K Rogue Trader, which I love love love, don’t care that the rules are awful, but generally I’ve had the most success with those listed above. I’ve found Flight Leader also works really well as a small unit naval action game, with some adjustments.

    In terms of solo’ing, well it’s pretty easy. I find it’s just a matter of almost ‘role playing’ the opposition, and avoiding using the fact that I know what everything is and where, and trying to think about things from that point of view, and I quite like that. After all, cheating is idiotic, and cheating myself even more so. If I’m not sure what I would do in a situation I write down all the possible actions and roll dice. Seems to work quite well.

     

     

    A couple of things should be obvious – these are all quite old games. Well, that’s part of it for me. There’s a huge nostalgia element for me – I know some of these rules have great gaping holes in them, that they aren’t perfect and have been superseded by smoother, more elegant mechanics. But that’s not the point; I enjoy these games, they bring me satisfaction, and if I can find a way to make them represent part of something larger (Merc Leader is the main ongoing project that I’m trying to develop into some kind of coherent system) then that’s great. Until then, it gives me the flimsiest of excuses to pull out maps and counters and calculate factors, pushing cardboard across hexes, with is frankly something I’ve always loved. Also, these games are almost all cold war-era, but it’s been enjoyable proxying at first and then later creating data for the fictional units I’ve dreamt up. Is it all a bit clumsy and bolted together? Of course. Don’t care. I’m having fun.

     

    I guess my point is that in doing this I’ve discovered something about what I want from games. In being forced to strip back my collection and play only what I absolutely can it’s been really enjoyable. I’ve still got a lead (or rather mostly plastic) mountain, and a desire to build a load of terrain, but it’s easier to bear waiting for that now. I would encourage anyone who finds themselves short of time and space to do the same, and I hope that you’re also able to find some – any – gaming. It feels all the more satisfying somehow. There’s a lot of house rules and messing about, I’m sure purists would recoil in horror. But somehow it still feels right.

    The hardest thing is finding blank hex sheets!

    I hope I’ve at least amused you with my descriptions of some of the most amateurish wargaming around, and if I can help a stressed parent or two, so much the better.

     

    Dan

     

    • This topic was modified 4 years, 6 months ago by Dan Kennedy.
    #46575
    John D Salt
    Participant

    Many will call this heresy, but I’ve found boardgames to usually be more satisfying experiences than miniature games.

    That’s because they are, in general, better designed. The effort miniatures gamers put into painting figures and making terrain can be put into the actual game when these distractions are removed.

    I’ve found Flight Leader also works really well as a small unit naval action game, with some adjustments.

    You intrigue me strangely. Do say more.

    these are all quite old games […] I know some of these rules have great gaping holes in them, that they aren’t perfect and have been superseded by smoother, more elegant mechanics.

    I’d query that for the games you listed that I’m familiar with — they seemed to be a premium selection, and the choice of someone who knows the subjects of the games very well. Only yesterday a naval wargaming pal of mine was to be heard recommending the “Fleet” series of games because nothing better had been written since on modern naval fleet combat. While “Birds of Prey” might be an improvement on the “Air Superiority” system, no other air rules I’m aware of do a better job for jet fighter combat. And the longevity of “Air and Armour” is I think to be explained by its getting to the heart of the tactical situational awareness problem — where are the other side and what are they up to? — in a way very few games do, although I’m buggered if I can see how you can use it solitaire.

    The hardest thing is finding blank hex sheets!

    OpenOffice Draw, Microsoft Powerpoint, anything like that will do it even if you can’t be bothered with a professional graphics or hex mapping program. The real problem is finding a place that can print maps on A0 vinyl.

    All the best,

    John.

    #46600
    Fredd Bloggs
    Participant

    You can buy pads of hex sheets on amazon, and if you search there are several online hex creator programs to print your own.

    #46601
    Paul
    Participant

    An interesting read, thanks Dan. Like you, I am intrigued with the idea of gaming the running of a mercenary company. I am slowly painting up 1/350 scale aircraft to play Mercenary Air Squadron as an (abstracted) miniatures game, but have always wanted to do this with ground forces (sort of like the unholy union of the Jagged Alliance computer games and a business simulation, except with pen, paper, dice and miniatures).

    I would love to see your notes, so please do let us know if you ever do put them online.

    Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let's go kill them!

    #46608
    Dan Kennedy
    Participant

    Apologies for the weird formatting below – never posted to the site from my phone before.

    I’ve found Flight Leader also works really well as a small unit naval action game, with some adjustments.

    You intrigue me strangely. Do say more.

    Well, I’ve always thought that in Flight Leader one flies the formation, rather than the plane – it’s a game which really shines with multiple aircraft each side. As such it’s focused on the air battle, rather than flying one or two individual planes.

    It occurred to me one day that if I took altitude out of it, it seemed to me that I could make a reasonable approximation of naval action. After all, the information I work with in Flight Leader – how fast am I moving, how quick can I turn if I need to, what are my sensors telling me, what weapons can I employ and so on, aren’t too different from what (I theorised) a naval commander might be working with. I changed the time scale to five minutes per turn, but kept it at one mile per hex.  A lot of it is abstracted away in Flight Leader, to good effect, much as with Shipwreck. Essentially I’m trying to do what I like in a game, which is focus on having that information and decisions that I would reasonably have as a commander in that situation.

    Basically it comes down to what the vessels can physically do (speed, turning), what they can sense, what they can see or what they can hit. Much the same as the game is with aircraft. It allows me to focus on the manoeuvre and tactics, without descending into Harpoon levels of detail.

    Of course, submarines are still awkward to do – I’ve taken to treating them like snipers in ASL – and aircraft have been heavily abstracted (attempts to play aircraft and ships on the same game were a success, but still a bit too much work).

    these are all quite old games […] I know some of these rules have great gaping holes in them, that they aren’t perfect and have been superseded by smoother, more elegant mechanics.

    I’d query that for the games you listed that I’m familiar with — they seemed to be a premium selection, and the choice of someone who knows the subjects of the games very well. Only yesterday a naval wargaming pal of mine was to be heard recommending the “Fleet” series of games because nothing better had been written since on modern naval fleet combat. While “Birds of Prey” might be an improvement on the “Air Superiority” system, no other air rules I’m aware of do a better job for jet fighter combat. And the longevity of “Air and Armour” is I think to be explained by its getting to the heart of the tactical situational awareness problem — where are the other side and what are they up to? — in a way very few games do, although I’m buggered if I can see how you can use it solitaire.

    I should’ve been clearer – I meant that there are miniature games out there which have been more successful. For example I know people who love Air War C21 but shrink from Air Superiority, and although the scale isn’t really comparable I imagine a lot of folk would rather do Shipwreck than the Fleet games, even though (especially with the adjusted rules from The General) Fleet really is an excellent game which does so much more.

    I agree that Air Superiority is excellent if you want to ‘fly the plane’. I wouldn’t use it for more than two aircraft per side usually, but I really enjoy it, especially if I’m planning ground attack with Air Strike.

    Playing Air and Armor solo? Not so hard given what I use it for in this context. I adore this game, and to do it solo I put all ‘Opfor’ units on the map initially without a step counter. I then randomly generate what steps they have when ‘my’ units encounter them, based on a die roll using tables o worked out which vary according to how aggressive/cautious the Opfor is being, and what they are trying to achieve. Often I won’t even generate those tables until the last moment, so I have no idea what I’m playing against. It generates a certain amount of uncertainty for me, and on top of that, if a unit loses contact with an Opfor I remove the step counter, allowing the random tables to decide later what happened to it. Is it perfect? Of course not. But it serves it’s purpose well enough.

     

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 6 months ago by Dan Kennedy.
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