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Motivational Factors in Solo Play

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  • Bob Stewart
    What Makes us Tick (Alone)? Ever wonder what are the mechanics of self-motivation with Solo wargaming? What is it that actually keeps us playing Solo (and
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 13, 2007
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      What Makes us Tick (Alone)?
      Ever wonder what are the mechanics of self-motivation with Solo
      wargaming? What is it that actually keeps us playing Solo (and
      hopefully writing and posting as well), in the face of very little
      feedback? Its not like we have some club we go to, or some friend
      that comes around to play on a regular basis. And Web postings are
      notorious for receiving very little acclaim. Some friends I know
      have created some extremely interesting web offerings for literally
      years, and measure the constructive feedback received on one hand.

      Perhaps Leonardo da Vinci might have been a Soloist at heart.
      Surrounded by critics, by clergy hell-bent to drag him down, by
      little people with fancy titles who thought they had bought and
      owned him, Leonardo labored on with his designs, his drawings,
      enough practical stuff to keep a roof over his head, and with an
      insatiable curiosity, throughout his life. He was a self-taught
      genius, with little or no formal training that would explain the
      heights that he aspired to, or the greatness that he achieved. May
      we all be so lucky.

      (The rest of this article has been posted in the Files section under
      Seur D'Armadilleaux's non-card-file notes --- with thanks to several
      friends who sparked the muse)

      Bob

      Seur D'Armadilleaux
      Motivated to lock his Oreo's away with the little guys in a metal
      case with a great big padlock!
    • David W Southall
      Hi All, I have been reading Bob s essays on Solo play with interest. However, I think a fundamental issue with solo play is the lack of specific advice on how
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 14, 2007
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        Hi All,

        I have been reading Bob's essays on Solo play with interest. However, I
        think a fundamental issue with solo play is the lack of specific advice on
        how games are actually played.

        Most people like figure wargaming because they enjoy looking at a well
        presented table top with adequate terrain providing plenty of tactical
        choices ;and two roughly matched armies which are painted to an acceptable
        standard. If an opponent is not available then the enjoyment of setting up
        the figures and fighting a battle should still be available in a solo game.

        The hurdle that a solo gaming needs to overcome is how to maintian a
        suspension of disbelief while manoevering both sides units. This
        suspension of disbelief is not unlike the one someone maintains when reading
        a good novel or watching a well scripted / acted / produced movie or tv
        drama.

        In solo wargaming the suspension of disbelief leaks away if the actual move
        mechanics are burdensome on the player. This is where practical advice is
        important. It is not enough to say, "play both sides" and use a random
        generator to suggest logical move for each unit on the table. The rules
        used for the game must be able to provide an interesting game even with
        fewer units per side. Having seen some rule sets with their lists of
        modifiers/exceptions it is clear that these do not help in creating an
        enjoyable solo game.

        Standard rules sets assume an average number of units to move per side.
        i.e. the mental work expected of a player is for say 12/14 units made up of
        3-8 stands of figures. However when playing solo the player is having to
        do the mental work to move 24 units and obviously many more bases- both
        sides.

        Thus the question that needs answering is whether the rules chosen to fight
        with allow this "work" to be done without tedium or that rules can work with
        only 6/8 units per side i.e. the mental work required of the solo player,
        playing both sides, is roughly the same as would be expected of one player
        in a two player game.

        What is needed then is an assessment of various rules and how many units
        they can handle without becoming tedious and ruining the "suspension of
        disbelief".

        So to begin, my main area of interest is WW2 (6mm/10mm/20mm). Rules I
        have been "testing" are Look Sarge No Charts WW2. They are recommended
        for one battallion per player with unit bases being platoons. A unit would
        be a company with a Co Command Base and 3/4 platoon stands. A battallion
        is made up of 3 Companys plus support stands (this can include off table
        arty/air support which do not require figures/vehicles to be modelled).

        Thus the Solo player would be moving 12/16 "counters" for each side. As the
        unque command control system splits this up the solo player need only
        concentrate on moving a company of 3 to 4 bases at a time before switching
        to move a Co for the opposing side.

        All the unit stats (which include any appropriate modifiers) are on labels
        on the back of the unit bases. The player will spend more time looking at
        the models and less at bits of paper. This is more important than I
        realised at first. Model wargamers use figs/vehicles because they like the
        "substance" of having a replica tank on the table and not a cardboard
        counter on a hex map. The enjoyment of looking at the model is maintained
        if the player is not drawn away from the battle on the table to look at a
        set of card statistics in a rules book.

        Thus the LSNC WW2 rules meet the criteria for providing a manageable game
        for a solo player. They maintian the interest without giving him/her too
        much to do and thus making the solo wargame tedious.

        So what would be helpful if other members could suggest what "off the shelf"
        rules they use, how many units per side they battle with, size of table and
        how the rules minimise "tedium".

        Hope I have not sent any one to sleep with my witterings.

        Best Regards

        David



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Bob Stewart
        Hi David, First, a well-thought-out set of questions, and one that most Solo players have had to face and solve (to their own satisfaction, with their own
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 14, 2007
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          Hi David,

          First, a well-thought-out set of questions, and one that most Solo
          players have had to face and solve (to their own satisfaction, with
          their own unique answers) over the years.

          --- In SoloWarGame@yahoogroups.com, "David W Southall" <davids@...>
          wrote:

          > I have been reading Bob's essays on Solo play with interest.
          However, I think a fundamental issue with solo play is the lack of
          specific advice on how games are actually played.

          Basically quite true --- and most AAR (after action reports) tend to
          assume the general readership is as experienced as they are. A good
          place to look might be in Lone Warrior (the Journal of the Solo
          Wargamer's Association). It's a real bargain at $25 per year in the
          States, for a quarterly 50 page Solo-only (no ads) extravaganza.
          They routinely run whole articles (10 pages plus) on WWII. Check to
          Solo Wargamers Association, 1707 Ridge Road, Levenworth KS 66048 and
          phone number for Rich Barbuto is 913-651-5009. Best $25 you can
          invest, in learning lots more on Solo wargaming.

          Also available through MagWeb (see http:/www.magweb.com) membership
          is around $50 annually for access to TONS of wargamer magazines.


          > Most people like figure wargaming because they enjoy looking at a
          well presented table top with adequate terrain providing plenty of
          tactical choices ;and two roughly matched armies which are painted
          to an acceptable standard. If an opponent is not available then the
          enjoyment of setting up the figures and fighting a battle should
          still be available in a solo game.
          >
          > The hurdle that a solo gaming needs to overcome is how to maintain
          a suspension of disbelief while manoevering both sides units. This
          suspension of disbelief is not unlike the one someone maintains when
          reading a good novel or watching a well scripted / acted / produced
          movie or tv drama.
          >
          > In solo wargaming the suspension of disbelief leaks away if the
          actual move mechanics are burdensome on the player. This is where
          practical advice is important. It is not enough to say, "play both
          sides" and use a random generator to suggest logical move for each
          unit on the table. The rules used for the game must be able to
          provide an interesting game even with fewer units per side. Having
          seen some rule sets with their lists of modifiers/exceptions it is
          clear that these do not help in creating an enjoyable solo game.

          Yes, you've hit the nail on the head --- Solo wargaming is a bit
          different than face-to-face gaming. Soloists need to find some other
          option for the "freshness" of facing an opponent across the table,
          who doesn't always go along with "our" plans. And Soloists need to
          boost the "emotional involvement" (my choice of words for what you
          refer to as "maintaining the suspension of disbelief"). Part of the
          trouble in "evolving" into Solo wargaming, is finding ways of
          introducing "freshness" (read, uncertainty) and "emotional
          involvement" (read "characterization").

          > Standard rules sets assume an average number of units to move per
          side. That is the mental work expected of a player is for say 12/14
          units made up of 3-8 stands of figures. However when playing solo
          the player is having to do the mental work to move 24 units and
          obviously many more bases- both sides.
          >
          > Thus the question that needs answering is whether the rules chosen
          to fight with allow this "work" to be done without tedium or that
          rules can work with only 6/8 units per side i.e. the mental work
          required of the solo player, playing both sides, is roughly the same
          as would be expected of one player in a two player game.
          >

          Most Soloists tend to start off with off-the-shelf rule sets, but
          then add stuff. Oh, at first, these are just little things that we
          excuse as being "more realistic" especially in light of new
          research. Next thing you know, we are adding couriers, scouting
          rules, evade and pursuit rules, and a whole slew of other stuff!
          Wagon trains! Camp followers! Hospital sections! (umn, water boys).
          In other words, Soloists are too dumb to leave well enough alone,
          and too pigheaded to use someone elses ideas. (Oops did I just say
          that?) And no two soloists have the same identical set. And if they
          do, one reads his front-to-back, while the other insists on throwing
          all the dice with just his left hand (get the picture? We're doomed).

          > What is needed then is an assessment of various rules and how many
          units they can handle without becoming tedious and ruining
          the "suspension of disbelief".

          Well, I think you're on the right track, in that Don Featherstone
          and Jack Scruby (among others) always advocated using "simple" rules
          rather than huge legal tombs. I've used both, and have to say that
          simple rules (maybe spiced up with a dash of Mythic GME as an option
          that works with ALL rules, and helps add to the surprise element),
          simple rules like Sword and Flame, or possibly Chain Reaction 2.0
          for WWII, work the best when we try and use them for Solo wargames.

          > So to begin, my main area of interest is WW2 (6mm/10mm/20mm).
          Rules I have been "testing" are Look Sarge No Charts WW2. They
          are recommended for one battallion per player with unit bases being
          platoons. A unit would be a company with a Co Command Base and 3/4
          platoon stands. A battallion is made up of 3 Companys plus support
          stands (this can include off table arty/air support which do not
          require figures/vehicles to be modelled).
          >
          > Thus the Solo player would be moving 12/16 "counters" for each
          side. As the unque command control system splits this up the solo
          player need only concentrate on moving a company of 3 to 4 bases at
          a time before switching to move a Co for the opposing side.

          What you are describing is the time-honored, classic approach, as if
          we had a bird's eye view of the whole battle. Nothing wrong with
          that, either. But its worth noting that there ARE other points-of-
          view, other ways of "running the enemy" (as outlined in Programmed
          Wargames Scenarios by Charles Grant, probably comes up on eBay)

          The other good approach is to find back issues of Gene McCoys
          Wargamer's Digest magazine (came out through to the late 70's). They
          feature a wonderful puzzle position in almost every issue, complete
          with a map, the order-of-battle, and an optimized solution. Required
          reading for any T34 or Sherman commander. Man, I envy you, if you
          haven't found this treasure trove yet. You are in for a real treat.

          > All the unit stats (which include any appropriate modifiers) are
          on labels on the back of the unit bases. The player will spend more
          time looking at the models and less at bits of paper. This is
          more important than I realised at first. Model wargamers use
          figs/vehicles because they like the "substance" of having a replica
          tank on the table and not a cardboard counter on a hex map. The
          enjoyment of looking at the model is maintained if the player is not
          drawn away from the battle on the table to look at a set of card
          statistics in a rules book.
          >
          > Thus the LSNC WW2 rules meet the criteria for providing a
          manageable game for a solo player. They maintain the interest
          without giving him/her too much to do and thus making the solo
          wargame tedious.

          The nice thing about Solo wargaming, is that there is no "wrong" set
          of rules --- we just start with whatever rule set appeals, and add
          bits of other articles or sets along the way.

          > So what would be helpful if other members could suggest what "off
          the shelf" rules they use, how many units per side they battle with,
          size of table and how the rules minimise "tedium".

          I'm not sure that the "rules" will ever minimize tedium, in and of
          themselves. The thing that keeps me going is "wanting to find out
          what happens next". And that's enhanced with uncertainty (which can
          be introduced with cards controlling who comes on next, or who gets
          to move next; or by using Mythic GME), and it is also enhanced by
          my "knowing" more about the various commanders and leader-figures.
          By that I mean, which ones are "rash" (or brave or just cautious);
          and a whole host of other characterizations that I take the time to
          build up for the 10 or so key figures on each side of the conflict.
          These can be built up one at a time, either as they come onto the
          table, or as they come into sighting range, or similar. NONE of
          these (non-rule-set-supplied) characterizations SIGNIFICANTLY
          affects the outcome of the battle (they may add a little here, take
          away a little there, but usually balance out). But what they DO is
          to force us to pay more attention to the specific characters we are
          dealing with. And that leads to emotional attachment. And that means
          that when I reuse Gurkhas under Jemadar Gumpersad Gurung, I have a
          built up "history" and expectations, based on his previous story.

          THAT'S what keeps me up till 3:00 AM, trying to see how Gupersad is
          gonna get out of THIS mess in one piece!

          >
          > Hope I have not sent any one to sleep with my mutterings.
          >
          > Best Regards
          >
          > David

          Far from falling asleep! Always nice to see someone else taking up
          Solo Wargaming. You're in good company. Hope this reply hits the
          mark, and if not, please feel free to ask more questions. (Its a
          part of being a Solo player --- so starved for contact that ANY
          question sounds like a good question!)

          Bob
          Seur D'Armadilleaux
          Box of Oreos in his back-pack, in the fur-lined fox hole
        • aconite13
          ... Bob, Once again an excellent article. Thanks for sharing! For me, the motivation is extremely simple. For decades, my schedule never meshed with any of
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 14, 2007
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            --- In SoloWarGame@yahoogroups.com, "Bob Stewart" <rstewart@...>
            wrote:
            >
            > What Makes us Tick (Alone)?
            > Ever wonder what are the mechanics of self-motivation with Solo
            > wargaming? What is it that actually keeps us playing Solo (and
            > hopefully writing and posting as well), in the face of very little
            > feedback? <SNIP>

            Bob,

            Once again an excellent article. Thanks for sharing!

            For me, the motivation is extremely simple. For decades, my schedule
            never meshed with any of the local gaming groups - the Navy & sea
            duty can do that. I thought (mistakenly) that when I retired (the
            first time) and got a job that I'd have more free time to game, would
            be able to hook up with local gamers, and leave solo for when there
            was no better answer. What I found in my experience was that there
            was no better answer for me than solo. Maybe it was just luck of the
            draw, but my limited experience with gaming groups was not
            rewarding. Whether dealing with the stereotypical rules lawyer, or
            having to play WW2 (again) since no one wanted to play ancients, or
            the frustration with getting ready and building anticipation for a
            weekend major event and having it fall through either because your
            schedule turned to worms, or someone in your group key to the effort
            fell out, or dealing with folks who slaveishly follow the rules
            because "them's the rules" when you are used to the solo ability to
            modify stupidity out of the rules with house rules in solo play, or
            because the period you want to play is fine with others, but the
            rules they use have the wrong "texture / feel" to them, or...

            I think you get the idea. In solo gaming:

            I have the ability to change or adjust rules mid game.

            I can switch from a grand tactical / national level of a game to a
            skirmish level to play out an encounter if I like.

            I can skip battles if I choose to use my limited available gaming
            time to do something else (fast forwarding through a scenario to get
            to the next key event).

            I can "play at a game" rather than just play a game. The color
            coverage and details that add so much to your write-ups would be seen
            by some I've gamed with as unnecessary waste of time. To me, and I
            suspect from your write-ups, the preps, the off-table activities like
            generating card files, character development, creating plot lines,
            etc. is as much a part of and is as enjoyable as the actual gameplay
            itself.

            I avoid the "one true way-isms" of folks who are either convinced the
            rules they favor are perfect and above question, or just as bad, the
            ones who don't like the rules, but having paid as much as they have
            for them, insist on using them just the same. Kinda like some folks
            who buy a boat, and feel they have to use it every chance they get to
            justify the expense, even if they aren't enjoying it.

            That isn't to say that I'm anti-social or of the opinion that all
            gaming groups are as bad as the ones I've seen. On the contrary,
            I've had some great games with other folks in the past. But between
            my very limited time, my uncertain schedule work-wise, and the
            enjoyment I get from solo gaming, I suspect it will be my primary
            gaming outlet for some time yet.

            Cheers,

            John
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