The Solo Gamer sits cogitating his next "in game" turn.
Applied here the title of this post really means (for solo wargaming at least) when you get it right, `going it alone` is the quickest way of achieving total success and utter blissful fulfilment within the hobby... which in turn leads to a sort of deep inner emotional high, which only comes on after a really good game or two, as that satisfaction seeps though our pleasure senses like a wave of euphoria (which takes a hold when something is very right in what we are doing).
For me this happened when I first knew I wanted Alan and Michael Perry`s (of Perry Miniatures) Travel Battle - complete game in a box. An interesting choice of title "Travel" battle, apt of course... but I think it falls far short of what this lovely little game is really all about. Its little yes .. so hence is ideal to carry with you anywhere, even while you travel. But its oh so much more than that. It`s actually got all the hallmarks of being a complete hobby in a small, slim, very light carry case. Just with the components of one boxed set, I was not slow to realise this `diamond in the rough*` for what it really is.. i.e. a whole host of gaming potential. And seeing this I`m afraid I went and blew a bit more money on the thing, because I knew what I had my hands on, and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, this was something I wanted to pursue to its full and logical conclusion ... solo gaming bliss for myself. Yes I play and enjoy the hobby mostly with the good wife, family and dear friends, and very good friends down at the local club. But many, many, many years ago, when I started in the hobby, I started as a soloist. Even during my youth and my college years, it never took much for me to closet myself away.. alone... to enjoy a good game of Micro Armour (1/300th scale/6mm) tank battles, or a good old solitaire game of Thane Tostig (prize for anyone who knows or can even remember that one). I long ago learned the elusive secret to playing Dungeons and Dragons RPG games alone (thank you Mythic), and... well yeah, you get the picture. I`m a bit of an old die hard solo nut on the quiet: a state of affairs, I notice, many bloggers also are in nowadays, whether by choice, situation, or family and work restrictions on their spare available time. For me, playing solo is a choice and a passion, and very much a self indulgence I don`t get nearly enough time to enjoy anymore... not on the scale I used to do it anyway; as I`m usually sharing the hobby with other people, of course.
* why diamond in the rough? Because upon opening the box up for the first time you could easily be forgiven for thinking: "hmmmm not much in here is there?"
Can't sleep... in my pajamas, I come down stairs and play a move or two of an ongoing battle, while I sip a cup of tea. Takes so little space, you can quite easily leave a game in situ for days and days.
BUT, then along came this new game. It doesn't even matter if you`re not a Napoleonics person (maybe time you were then? After all, its never too late to take up a new interest). As it happens, as I have mentioned before, I always had an interest in this subject, but somehow I allowed it to slip away from me. This Travel Battle game, end of the day, doesn't really matter if you are primarily a fantasy gamer, or you naturally prefer another genre to game in. The point here is that this game is deeply and deceivingly immersive, and I would strongly recommend to anyone out there who likes to play alone, don't hesitate, don't stop, don't think, just BUY IT, do yourself a huge big favour. I don`t think you will ever regret. Not if you approach this one in the right spirit of integrity and dedication.
A French Division desperately tries to punch through the British centre. But Maitland`s boys are prepared and stubbornly refuse their enemy the farm and outhouses.
How many times have you, for instance, joined a club, and found they play a subject you don't follow. "Drat!" you think to yourself, "These guys play Warammer and I like Malifaux." or "I play American Civil War and these guys only seem to do World War Two." But the club looks good, the guys who attend seem like a decent bunch, so what do you do? Like so many others before you, you attend a few nights, watch them play, join in their laughter and excitement, and before you know it you`re going: "Hmmmmm I think I could get into this after all.
The French Young Guard push forward, valiantly, despite losses, but they are being surrounded by overwhelming firepower and flanking cavalry support from the British Union Brigade.
Look what Hils and I have just done? We both knew nothing about Doctor Who, had absolutely no interest in the genre (Hils actually had less than no interest to start with), and yet through reading endless posts from you guys, your enthusiasm, the obvious fun you are all having, in the end it got our own gaming juices working, and look at the end result.... we`re now avid Doctor Who nuts, just like everyone else hahaha. So yeah I`m saying, don't dismiss this Perry Miniatures game just because it's a genre you don't currently follow. The game itself is superb. I was highly dubious of the rules that come with it at first. Five pages long, and seemed almost - abstract to my thinking, as I read them through. But The Perry Brothers really are hardcore gamers and know e-x-a-c-t-l-y what they are doing. The game is brilliant and inspiringly simple, but BOY does it give surprisingly realistically thematic results. Yes the game is crying out for house-ruling here and there, whatever fits your own ideas psyche, but even without, played as is out of the box, it plays very well. For me, its opened up a whole world of enjoyment, and has got me back into reading books on the era (and Osprey books for uniform guides), had got me back into "Sharpe" hahaha... and "Hornblower" on DVD, and a whole host of other similar period costume dramas from that same era, and documentaries too of course (I`ve not ruled out the possibility of adding in "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" either, at some point). But the point I`m making is, this game can become as immersive as you want to make it. As I said, I realised early on this was exactly what I wanted, and first of all, I ordered some more sprues of figures (Perry Miniatures also sell the box game components separately you see) so I had more options for larger games. But then it wasn't long before I realised to see the full vision for this game completed I thus went and bought a second (duplicate) boxed game as well: more boards,. which comes with more houses and more trees: two additional full armies of course, and all the potential in the world now to play truly epic scale games - all on the size of a small coffee table! Not bad huh?
My interest in this era is Napoleon`s last campaign, his last desperate attempt to make a comeback: "The Hundred Days War" culminating in "The Battle of Waterloo."
With two games and the spare sprues I ordered direct from Perry, I can now field many factions, Austrians, Russians, Belgians, Netherlanders, Prussians, Brunswickers, Kings German Legion.. not to mention vast armies of French and British. Dead easy to paint too, due to being so small, and painted they do look rather WOW, especially en masse on the boards.
Casualties feel realistic too. A whole game played to conclusion, and these were the losses on both sides... from a total of six whole divisions (about 200 miniatures).
Imagine having everything at your finger tips to play Zombiecide in miniature - in 8mm? This game is like that. Why so many solo gamers fail to play many games is, it's a lot easier to sit and talk about games than it is to pull everything out and actually do it. BUT with a game of this diminutive size: waking up and going "I want to play a game today" then setting up and beginning play is DEAD EASY, and quick too. You can have the idea to play, and be set up and rolling for who gets to move first on turn one, all in less than five minutes.
No, what I have here is a game which I can study, read lots of books about. Watch TV and enjoy war films, to get myself in the mood, enthused and motivated. And best of all, I can immerse deeper and deeper into this; adding in supply lines, ammunition depletion and quartermaster rules for shot and shell. Weather rules, and adverse conditions of smoke, rain, wind, and freezing cold nights. Different effects of brigade commanders on morale.... and best of all, hunt down all those sundry things which brings a board to life: from ancillary staff, civilians, farm wagons, priest attending church and refusing to leave the village hahaha (like happened at Waterloo... and a farmer`s wife too, who refused to leave the animals), all this can be factored in, to make this a game you can enjoy for an entire lifetime.
I can`t recommend it highly enough.
What`s really cool is that right now (all this month I presume) if you buy the game from Warlord Games, they are giving away a free copy of "Wargames Illustrated" magazine with it (Issue 355), which has a delightful article about this game, and a few really cool articles on "Test of Honour" as well. So wow, what a nice bonus treat.
I could really wax lyrical about this game, and go into the true merits of solo gaming with it. But that can wait for another post :)
Article by Steve.