For many, sound reasons, not all of us are able to fight wargames against a regular opponent, or play games against any opponent on a regular basis away from a club. Now this is not always a bad thing - it can give you time to start/finish that building/terrain board/army that you have been looking at for ages! However, if you need to play a game, the only real answer is a solo game.
Bren Wasp variant
Solo wargaming was tackled, like many other things, by the erstwhile Mr Donald Featherstone back in the day and his works are still held in high regard in many circles. Hey! - the man talked a load of sense but a lot of his solo wargaming work involved the Napoleonic era and was based on the principle that you had so much to think about as two Generals, you were bound to forget what was happening on all four corners of the board. This theory has some merit - even now, without written orders or reminders, in a larger game it is easy to forget why a certain unit is stationed at a certain place or quite what their objectives were they they set off through the wood.
There have always been 3 ways to play a solo game - you played as both Generals and have some way of "not knowing" what the other side was doing, you played one General against a programmed opponent - Charles Stewart Grant's "Programmed Wargames" book is a classic example of this, or you played neither General and just moved the pieces around the board as a spectator. Let us dismiss this latter option as it is probably more fun to watch a good film!
The programmed opponent is such a difficult thing to do that I have never gone down this route although I confess that the scenarios CSG puts into the above mentioned book are very good and I have used a number of them as test battles/campaigns.
I have concentrated my efforts on playing both Generals - note Generals and not necessarily table-top commanders. In this way, a number of factors come into play to detach me from the actual fighting.
I do not play as the table-top commander and the plastic figure representing him can interpret my instructions slightly differently from my original intentions. This happens through a mechanism that gives him a number of options (The Variable Order Rule) with suitable weightings for each option. I would take action A (weighted 60%) but he might do B (20%) or even C (20%). A random decision maker (a dice!) makes the actual choice. Similarly, the officers under his command will make slightly different decisions, move later or earlier than proposed etc. These are all what I call disruptors - that is things that disrupt the expected flow of the army's progress.
So what do you get?
Chief amongst these disruptors is the effect of enemy fire and you will find that the Continuous Momentum Score of an element is a precious thing, well worth protecting. FYOB does not use morale or command points - instead, the CMS of an element determines whether or not it can carry out the orders assigned to it and if so, when. Full rules and charts are included showing how and when CMS is affected by fire and casualties.
FYOB also doesn't do alternate-move, so you will get details of the mechanism that produces a random turn effect. Better officers have the opportunity to promote their elements up the order but for the rest, you need a bit of luck and the fall of the cards here!
Some officers rush in and others wait to contemplate. Your officers will have a rating that determines which category they fall into and this can affect whether or not they move this bound or not. Incidentally, they also get the chance to seize the moment and "go for it".
Certain rules are FYOB-specific and you get a bunch of these as well - like appointing a new officer after the original falls in battle, radio communications, etc.
Finally, there are some solo-specific rules - like surprise and concealment. These link into the Variable Order Rule mentioned earlier. You set your attacking strategies before the defenders deploy in detail and this can give those defenders a chance to use ambushing tactics against your advances. That does require a bit of honesty and the ability to watch your favourite armour fall foul of that hidden PanzerSchrecke team!!!
Right - British troops storm ashore from their landing craft at the start of Operation Overlord - D-Day 1944. FYOB gives a helping hand to assaulting troops by allowing them to take more fire and casualties before they start to crumble and consider returning to the comfort of their ships!!
Left - FYOB can also be used to play out little skirmish actions like a German raid on this south-coast airstrip. Elite Wermacht troops, coming ashore in rubber boats, have navigated their way inland to Belsley Airfield where they will attempt to put some of the AA and radar equipment out of action. The small garrison will get a rude awakening at dawn as the raiders press home their attack. Can they hold off the German force?