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Computers and Solo Wargaming: An Example

For me, as for many miniatures wargamers, the hobby combines a love of modelling and military history with more social aspects - hanging around with your gaming buddies and killing some time and a few lead soldiers. But some people - due to geography or other considerations - are not able to do this on a regular basis. The urge to lay out the figures and terrain and fight a battle on the tabletop does not go away, however, even if it is less fun to do when you are by yourself. You may have read Lone Warrior, published by the Solo Wargamers Association. There are also several books on the subject.

What role could computers play in this activity? I have been exploring this idea a little bit, and would like to suggest that, while a computer cannot replace one's gaming buddies entirely, it can usefully assume many of their functions.

When playtesting a new system, I often run "solo" battles to see where the game needs fixes. I don't think of this as solo wargaming but that is, in fact, what it is. The problem with solo wargaming has always been the exact knowledge of what the 'other player' is thinking. It turns what is fundamentally a competitive contest into something much less challenging and fun. But with computers, the behavior of the other player can be programmed into the computer, hiding it from the player. Yes, some honesty is still required to not cheat, but that is probably an inescapable aspect of solo play. Besides, why lie to yourself? (OK - I do not want an answer to that question!)

I am currently in the playtesting stages of a game which uses the approach of putting all of the players on one side of the contest - in this case, it is a game of skirmish action during the Peninsular War. I conceived of it as being a game for a referee (running the computer and the French) and a number of players, each running a couple of British units, but there is no reason why one person could not perform both roles. I decided to put out the non-final version to illustrate my idea: comments are welcome from those who give it a try, and will be taken seriously.

You can download the game as a .ZIP file here. It is a simple web page running Javascript, so it should be useable on most computers and devices (if not, please let me know). It requires that Javascript be enabled in your browser, and that pop-up windows are allowed, as this is how the game communicates with the user. It is called The Other Side of the Hill and is meant to be a 28mm fast-play game based on Sharpe's Rifles-type action, so not a serious simulation. Unzip the file onto your computer and open up the file Peninsula.htm. The rules and documentation can be found in the file PeninsulaRules.htm. For those who want to see what it is like without downloading, these files are also posted here:

Peninsula.htm   PeninsulaRules.htm

Play sequence is very simple: press the Initiative/Event button - either some new forces appear on the table (an Event) or a Player Unit or Non-Player unit is allowed to act. Figures in the unit may all make the same action, or may make different actions, but each unit makes only a single action each turn. Firing and combat actions are always done by individual figures. Morale checks and other tests (for artillery results) don't use a figure's action for the turn, but are made as needed. Initiatives are ignored if they don't apply (when there are no units left to use them that turn, but units on the other side have yet to act). When all units have acted for the turn, it is over, and a new turn starts. For more details, consult the rules.

It strikes me that this is an area where solo wargaming could really benefit, but it may also be an area where approaches pioneered in solo wargaming could be very useful for those creating computer-assisted miniatures games as well. As always, comments and bugs are welcome.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Arofan Gregory. All rights reserved.