October 2010

Some Space Marine stuff I painted recently. I swear I’m making progress on my Khazad build. I mean it!

You probably know I am a solitaire gamer. Even though it was started out of necessity, it is something I’ve learned to enjoy very much. It’s my private playground, and probably 70% of my painted figures have only been used in solo games.

I don’t think playing solitaire is the same deal for every game, period, or ruleset. There are games easier to adapt, others harder. Some require this while others require that. You can see that clearly on my specific set of solitaire rules for the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game called Isildur’s Bane.

Song of Blades and Heroes is a pretty amazing little game for skirmish gaming from Ganesha Games. It’s quality has been proven by adapting it to several settings and eras. The basic rules are set in a generic fantasy world, and the lists of troops show an amazing mix of troupes. It is a very good game for scenario play, creative warband creation with lots of character, and maybe even narrative campaign play. And it suits my solo play perfectly.

The game’s system has, however, two very specific instances where player choice is essential. The most obvious one is what each figure does with its allocated actions. This happens in most every game and we will deal with it a bit later. The other one is more important and a big part of the game. A player can freely choose how many activation dice to roll, from 1 to 3. The more succesful rolls the more actions the figure has. But two or more failures mean the turn passes to the opponent. You can see this game is pretty hectic and when playing solitaire it has a life of its own.

A couple of warbands, in this case historical opponents not really from a fantasy world.

I must now give credit where it’s due. This system to randomize the activation roll was not created by me but by Mr. Timbo75 from Tim’s Wargaming Stuff and left in a comment on a post from the month of May 2010. It’s quite elegant and simple. You take 3 different colored dice and give them a priority rank. For example, I use green, blue and red and consider them in that order. Now you take a 3 sided die, which is usually a d6 with two 1s, two 2s and two 3s or you can simply use a regular d6 considering the following: 1-2, one, 3-4, two, 5-6, three. Roll them all together and the first thing to do is look at the fake d3. This die will tell you the amount of actions the figure is going for. Now check the rest of the dice to see which ones beat the Quality rating of the figure. Be mindful of the priority you gave them. An example will show this clearer.

I roll the dice and get 2 (d3), 4 (green), 1 (blue), 6 (red). Figure’s Quality is 3+. Since the d3 rolled a 2, that means we will only check the first two dice. Given our priority, we discard the red die. We keep the green and blue, giving us a success and a failure. We use the single action for the figure and go onto another from the same side.

This time I roll 3 (d3), 2 (green), 1 (blue), 5 (red) for a similar figure. I will get to use all three dice, and I’ve got two failures and one success. The figure will carry out its only action and since it has two failed rolls play passes to the other side.

It’s actually harder to explain than it is to execute. Now, how do I apply this to my games? There are two ways normally used in solo gaming. One is giving both sides to the “AI,” in this case using the aforementioned system for both forces. The other one is letting one side act randomly while the other is played normally. For this game I prefer to have one side under my complete control. I do however roll to see which force I will be “using” before play.

My dice. The d3 came in one of GW’s box sets (Epic 40K) and it’s pretty useful for playing solitaire.

Now I have my randomized activation roll, but what to do with the figures? A popular approach is to have the automated warband be in a defensive stance, and the actual player’s force in the attack. Personally, if I were to do this, I would not even need a system for them, since most choices would be pretty obvious. I rather device a scenario with very clear objectives for both forces, preferably different goals. And if one of the sides is going to be mildly in the defensive I rather have it be the one I am playing. This way the automated enemy’s choices become more entertaining, making you make the most of what you’re given by the randomizing system.

SoBH lends itself perfectly for campaign play as well. The warband upgrades are fun things and if you keep them on your “real” warband, so to speak, they can grow and change from battle to battle. It’s a game that lets you pit your guys against a horde of goblins, then against a single dragon with its wizard master, and then maybe go underground for some ruins exploration with the weirdest enemies. It’s not a competition game and I believe it can create good narratives, specially playing solitaire, where you can focus on your characters alone and every battle is uncertain.

I make these cards with a Magic card creator. A pic, the Q and C of the figure, and its special rules. A lot prettier than a roster sheet.

So, what’s going on here?

Well, let’s begin. I’m painting 93 warriors of Rohan on foot in one go. Yep, that’s like 4 boxes. All together. 12 companies for War of the Ring. I really like them.

Also painting Tau. I started with the vehicles, which I like the most (and can use with Drans). Already have some infantry though waiting for the brush.

Thinking about game design. This takes a lot of time of reading and writing, which might seem useless compared to painting and gaming, but I enjoy it.

Playing the hell outta Memoir ’44 with my girl, going to playtest some Imperial Roman and Celt figure stats for Song of Blades and Heroes I found in some French site (I think), and realising Gruntz is quite the Stargrunt clone. My design efforts are better helped going to the original than squeezing stuff from Gruntz, probably. Go check Stargrunt for free on the GZG site.

Also received Apocalypse Z from the Mongoose insane sales page. It’s an awful book, but with some good zombie content. And to be honest, I really like the Battlefield Evo system. Played it solo a couple of times, the World War 2 version.

Also received two wicked limited edition LotR figures from a UK gamer killing some of his stuff. The collector in me is very happy. I’ll show them soon enough.

So there, a brief update. When doing lots of hobby things the first thing you forget is to take pics and write about it, you know?

You thought I was kidding…