The series of articles where I am describing my favorite wargames continues. Today’s topic is very current (unfortunately) as forced lockdown and social distancing prevents us from face to face meetings where we could possibly devote time to multiplayer games. Yes, you probably guessed correctly by this time – today I am describing my pick of solitaire wargames. Should you be interested in previous installments of this articles series, please have a look below.
Light / entry Wargames – my 3 favorite Medium complexity wargames – my 3 favorite Complex / advanced wargames - my 3 favorite Solitaire Wargames - my 3 favorite Most anticipated wargames of 2020 - my top 3
COIN Falling Sky by GMT Games
Creation of wargames with asymmetric sides was for a long time a very difficult endeavor and there were very few titles on the market doing it pretty well. However, COIN (COunter INsurgency) series excels in that area and out of multiple titles in that series I am choosing one which is closest to my history interests – The Falling Sky.
The game in wonderful way describes story of last year of Julius Caesar conquest of Gallia – culminating in great revolt in 52 BC. We have all powerful Romans, whom nobody can match in open field, the mighty and proud Arverni confederation, savage Belage in the North and cunning Aedui working with both sides of conflict.
The COIN system was created already from the start with solitaire module in mind. We have specific flowcharts and behavior mechanics for all factions. Still, I often play this game in a way “what is best decision at this moment for that faction”. Really, that gives also very good effects.
The game and system has a widespread fans community and you can get a lot of additional stuff – one of the best is fan made TRu’ng bot system, which will be implemented in Fire in The Lake game. I hope we will get it also for Falling Sky.
D-Day at Omaha Beach by Decision Games
A completely different approach to a solitaire games presents John H. Butterfield – here, instead of flowcharts, you have action cards driving the moves & behaviors of the artificial intelligence. The hallmark game of this author is of course D-Day at Omaha Beach, but if you try other games by him – even so far as theme is concerned like Spacecorp – you will get a very fast paced, unambiguous and straightforward solo experience.
But be ware and do not underestimate D-Day, this will not be piece of cake – the game is so well thought you will need to really plan your actions well to prevail at Bloody Omaha. What I really like is the replayability of game – you have introductory scenario, you have normal and extended ones, there is plenty of optional rules, mainly increasing the difficulty level by bringing additional German reinforcements (tanks, yes!) You have guaranteed hours of great experience, fun and… hardship to prevail!
Time of Crisis by GMT Games
I had possibility to see first time Time of Crisis on Essen 2017 fair and from that moment that pretty light wargame had stolen my heart. It is perfect thematically for me (ancient Rome!), has interesting deck building mechanics, a large level of uncertainty – barbarians and events – and provide unforgettable experiences when played with your friends.
I am aware that this title did not get so much applause and publicity like other wargames games but I think this is definitely an oversight. True, this is not a full simulation of the late roman period. Still, it balances quite well luck factor, with planning of your moves, and appropriate reaction to changing conditions (like growing barbarian menace).
When an expansion was announced, I was really curious – new cards, new types of emperors and… bots! Yes, we got very interesting bots, each with its own agenda – either military, political or populous (populist). I had already some session against them and I must admit this is great fun and challenging game.
Each AI has a dedicated player mat used to track main actions and development progress in three areas of influence, with preferred one at the top. As per rules, each turn, a bot will always have points to spend in two areas of influence, determined by the mode box that is selected for the bot. One area of influence will be the primary one, providing more points to spend, and the other area of influence will be secondary, providing lesser number of points to spend. The bot will generally increase its power in preferred area fastest and will therefore tend to focus more on actions that use these points.
Pretty straightforward and without finesse? You might think so but very economical and providing good effects (almost like Phormio in Pericles, where once it focuses on agenda, it executes it from A to Z). Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best! Should you have a chance, definitely try it!
Again, I have to admit – it was very, very hard to choose only the top 3 solitaire games. Thus I have a very small addendum – two games, which are outside above classification, to some extend because you probably cannot fully treat them as wargames, but also due to the limited number which I could choose as my “top 3”. What are they?
- ROOT – a fantastic abstraction of brutal, merciless and cruel fight for the dominance in the…. forest! Many people treat this as EURO game, but do not be fooled – under beautiful graphic a very confrontational and unforgiving game awaits. With the newest addition – The Clockwork Expansion – you have four very well prepared factions to struggle against in solitaire mode. I had occasion to play mainly against first edition Mechanical Marquise, but now I can play against other forest species too.
- Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea – I am still discovering that game so it is too early for a full review. What I really like is the lengths to which the author of the game went to prepare solo system and countless scenarios to play. The bot mechanics are pretty straightforward and I had occasion already to play Fall of Rome, Greeks & Persians as well as Alexander the Great solitaire set-ups. More will come on my blog.
The wargames hobby for me is mainly a social endeavor, where I am meeting my friends and colleagues face to face to play our favorite titles. However, from time to time I like a solo game – and in today’s situation, except for online play, this is my main source of boardgames entertainment. If you try any of above titles solitaire, you will not regret – I strongly recommend them.
PS. Kind of anecdote – many designers try to create very sophisticated and complex bots algorithms. When discovering new game – whether it was created for solo or multiplayer – I pretty often engage my 5 and 7 years old sons – they are definitely best “bot systems” in the world, making interesting decisions for all parties involved in the game. The results are sometimes unexpected, but I am learning the game, they have fun and it is quality time spent in family atmosphere.
Using your sons as bots sounds excellent! How do you do it? Ask them what they would do and then implement the plan?
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First and foremost is exactly what you said – I ask them what they would do, giving them 2-3 most feasible options. Lately when playing Empire of the Sun, they were holding cards for both sides (US and Japan) and I was only asking them to play appropriate color. This is really great fun seeing him being more and more attracted to games, although titles we play are definitely too much for them still to play on their own.
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Awesome! And good training for when they are old enough to fully play themselves.
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Love the reviews here! I’m trying to find the right intro for wargaming that will be 50% solo 50% 2 player. Not too interested in dice randomness.
Love the look of Falling Sky and the thematic history, would you say I should just take the plunge and go for it for the above scenario? Also love the look of Pendragon for example but probably too complex as an intro war game. Closest we currently have is TS.
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thanks for comment! The Falling Sky might not be the best first choice. Why? It is pretty complex, plays best with 4, not 2 players, has rather complicated Solo rules (I prefer to play with my own intuition) rather than flowchart). This is very thematic game and fantastic position but probably not as intro into wargaming.
I would much more recommend Time of Crisis + expansion as light wargame. It has great theme, simple but interesting rules, very good bots, can be easily played with 2 people by closing some areas or using bots. It has dice, but the amount of rolls evens out the luck factor.
You can read more about that title here: https://theboardgameschronicle.com/2019/11/10/review-time-of-crisis-expansion/
A great 2-player game with no dice is Combat Commander Europe. One of the best rulebooks I have seen. It has fan-made solo system (there should be on BoardGameGeek). You can see some of my AARs here: