Monday, 17 April 2017

300,000 hits and a history of my solo gaming

The Russian bots hit for a while late in 2016 and have managed to push the blogs hit to 300,000 earlier than I expected.  So here we are anyway!

First up,  would just like to again say that joining the gaming blogosphere has been one of the best choices I have ever made – the community spirit is fantastic and rewarding.  It has been part of my life for the last 7 years and is still great to be part of it.

After the stats and a review since 200,000 there a bit of a ramble on my solo gaming experience to date, if interested.

It has been 19 months since 200,000 hits.  I finally managed to crack the 100 followers in January 2017 – something I never expected to ever see when I first started this blog almost exactly 7 years ago in 2010. At least my wife now believes that people are actually reading what I write :-)  My hit rate per month have been relatively consistent for the last few years (about 4,000-5,000 per month), probably because I still only post on average 24 posts per year.  I have diverged very far from what I first started the blog for: replaying the same ancient battle using different rulesets.  Every year for the last 3 years I promise myself I will get back to this aim but get distracted by other projects.  Maybe next year (maybe not!).

Most popular posts/pages (via Google Analytics, not Blogger):
  1. WW2 rules ramblings and draft rules (page)
  2. Starfire Miniatures game
  3. Peter Sides ancient Scenarios list (page)
  4. Ancient Reviews battle report links (page)
  5. Cold War 1986 first game with Tank Wreck!
  6. 6mm British 7th Battalion 1944 at La Londres
  7. Take Cover!! WW2 rules review
  8. 6mm British 7th Battalion 1944 at Contour 180
  9. Irregular Miniatures rules review
  10. NUTS! Comic Battle Report Cheux Game 01

The top three are the same as at the 200,000 mark and there are a few of the newer posts on the list, while a few have dropped off.  Once again, I add this comment:
Don't use Google Analytics if you love your blogger stats! While you can do far more analysis and detailed drill downs on blog data via Analytics, the actual hits are only about 30% (or are for me) than reported by blogger due to not recording bot or known spammers.  The 30% actual hits is even a lower ration than the previous 100,000 (100,000 to 200,000) where actual hits were 50%.

Gaming Overview for 200,000 to 300,000
Since 200,000, the very first thing I did was play 30 games in 30 days with my own ancient rules (Ancient Battlelines Clash) to test out a programmed opponent.  It went well but since then ancient games at home have be sparse.  It has mostly been WW2 gaming testing out versions of my own rules. The good news on this front is I think I am finally settling down my own rules into something I will not drastically change very much.  From now on it is likely to been tweaking slightly rather than the large modifications I keep making every few months.   Of course, I say that now and look forward to eating my own words as I may write this exact same sentence in a year or two! (for more on my journey with the WW2 rules see this recent blog post).

I still play almost all my wargames in the map drawers on 2’x2’ (or close to that) with the occasional 20mm WW2 game on half a table tennis table.  For 2017 I am participating in the 6x6 challenge set down by Kaptain Kobold and this may be finally make me play at least two of the many boardgames I have collected and not played over the last 30 years.

My children are now 8 and 10 and I find I am playing a lot more family oriented games in the evening with them such as Sushi Go!, Adventure Time Love Letter, Uno, Ludo, Ghooost! Cluedo, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Snakes and Ladders, Warhammer Quest etc.  If the game is longer than one hour, we don’t seem to be able to fit it in.  It also needs to be able to be played with the 3 of us and co-op games seem to be on the agenda more and more.

During the last couple of years I did get in a one solo non-ancients or WW2 game (medieval ships).  I have re-ignited face to face games with Andy – recently Memoir ’44, Dragons Rampant and Triumph – which I have enjoyed immensely and this, along with playing with my children, has made it harder to solo game as FTF is more fun!  I also got in some some other games with friends (e.g. Wings of War, ThunderBirds).

This face to face gaming increase with family and friends has made me grapple with what I want from solo gaming as I really only started solo gaming in 2010 with the start of this blog. The problem is I don’t think I can explain it all without some background, which I keep to a minimum below – well, my definition of minimum.

My solo gaming journey so far 

The Early Years
I have been miniature gaming since I was 14 (1979) doing mostly WW2 with Tractics but some Ancients up until about 2000. In that time I do not think I ever played a single solo game, but 100s of FTF mini or multi-player boardgames (I did not really do 2 player boardgames except for some Squad Leader). For me it was all about fun and social. In fact, I did play a few RPGs but tended to talk to much (socialise) rather than focus on the game. Kicked out of one game for it (quite rightly) and realised they were not really for me.

As an aside, my peak time was 1979-1986. 1986 was when I moved in with my partner, now wife. So I slowed down a lot from 1986 and it really was about 10 games a year fading to a few a year by 1999.

2000-2006 were the IVF years. There is nothing fun about going through IVF for years – the summary is soul destroying where your entire life becomes focused solely on the IVF cycles process. They are really just a blur. I got in one game of ancients per year with a friend and one game a year of WW2 with another. I did a couple of solo games but that was more about getting out the miniatures on the table to not forget about them.

But, now having two children (born 2006 and 2008) I did want to get back into gaming but being (my choice) time poor in that did not really want to spend hours playing a game, or a day at the club (meets on Sundays). So, how to get back into gaming? There was a lack of rules reports that detailed the actual mechanisms so I thought: I know, I will test out various ancients rules (my favourite period) and post the battle report with a detailed blow by blow account to show the mechanisms in action. And use the same battle to enable a comparison of mechanisms. I also knew I would not be able to set up a table for months, so set up a 2’x2′ board in the map drawers we have in the lounge room. I had never used 2’x2′ before, the smallest I had ever played on would have been 6’x4′. By using the map drawers, I could play the game over weeks and the children would not disturb it. From 2010 to about 2014 I used 27 different rulesets across two battles (Callinicum and Heraclea). Shameless plug: here is the blog page with the list of all the Ancient battle reports with the different rules:

I believe I enjoyed these games (solo) as I was getting almost into the designers head and figuring out why they had made the choices they did and how that applied mechanism to ancient warfare. Learning new rulesets was fun (except for two that were either poorly written or very badly laid out). Some people do play solo to learn new rules, and I was learning new rules all the time! and also getting understanding into designer choices and exposure to different mechanisms.

Ancients solo
Early on, I played Warrior Kings that is now revised into Rally Round the King. Warrior Kings was the first THW rules Ed published and they are for mass ancient battles. And have a reaction-type system that is the core of many THW games (note that WK and RRtK use different reactions to Chain Reaction etc as the focus is on mass battles). THW are very solo friendly and this led to a side project, that eventually because a main project to create fast solo friendly rules for use on a 2’x2′ game. It was loads of fun designing and playtesting these rules. I have have probably played 150 games with these rules. The reaction system is what makes them fun as even though I am playing both sides, the position changes so much from move to move that you are constantly having to make and revise decisions based on the current position (this is a key thing). The rules are effectively finished as of 2016, apart of filling in some gaps in the army lists. Another shameless plug to the blog page with the rules:

WW2 solo
In 2011, Dave Howitt passed away. He was the author of Take Cover!!, and owner of Britannia Miniatures. Take Cover!! is important as from 2001 to 2004 I played Take Cover socially – again only a few games a year. It was very different to Tractics, with a battalion on the table, and I found the focus on suppression and spotting very refreshing and fit my view of WW2. It is sort of a Rapid Fire version 1 clone, but I prefer Take Cover’s mechanisms. From 2011 I played a few games solo (to commemorate Dave’s legacy) and realised I do really like 20mm WW2 gaming, especially as it has terrain (unlike ancient games) that makes it a joy to look at as well as play. I also realised I still liked the rules but wanted to streamline them, and so began another project of testing out various rules changes to create my own WW2 battalion (and then company) level rules. Enjoyed playing solo because again, playtesting out new rules (even if they were my own) to see how things worked. But I have recently (last year or so) really found just playing both sides a little harder, and started to see how I can add reactions into the game (as per WW2 skirmish, see below) to make it a little more chaotic and so you constantly have to revise tactical plans (not the overall game plan though) every time you move or fire with a unit. Every time is important – my ancient rules you play unit by unit but every time you do something the enemy is likely to react, and you react to that. So the game position changes a lot after a single unit has activated.

Note: I also find that campaigns games are not really my style. I like scenarios, and I like recreating specific battles to get some sort of understanding of the challenges faced at the time. So I have not played many games that are just random setups.

WW2 Skirmish solo
In 2014 I decided to play some skirmish games. I had always steered away from skirmish games for two main reasons

(1) Individuals are very unpredictable characters and reading on WW2 their are so very varied in what they will and wont do. i was not really convinced there were rules that could capture this unpredictability

(2) using individual figures that represents an actual soldier was hard for me to differentiate from the actual battle. While playing with 1 figure = 10 soldiers or a stand of figures that is a section/squad was an abstraction, there is no abstraction with 1:1.

I am over (2) somewhat as it is a game and not reality I am representing. And (1)?  This was solved with NUTS! (the Two Hour Wargame rules). I had read about NUTS! for a long time and wanted to play it as I thought it would solve point (1). The friend who had a bunch of 54mm figures was keen (he collected them rather than gamed with them but was interested in a game) but 5 years ago he moved to England and I got the figures (which reminds me I need to get them out and play a game with them in the backyard – the children hopefully will join in). I got NUTS!, played a few games and it was everything is was promised to be. I did streamline it a little as I found rolling 2d6 so many times for so much stuff a little much for the fast game I was looking for. NUTS! definitely delivers a game that is unpredictable for solo play. And also good for co-op play with you and children against the system (i.e. the other side).  I have also since played 5Core Skirmish and while the system is different to NUTS! is has limited activation, reactions etc and is very solo friendly, and also very good!

Summing up (if you made it this far)
So where am I now in regards to solo play? I do still want to get back to testing out more Ancients rulesets. I do miss it, but find it has become a side project rather than the only project I had when I got back into gaming in 2010. I like discovering new mechanisms and how designers have approached recreating ancient warfare. I find I am not so interested in doing this for WW2 for some reason, probably as I have a great interest in ancient history, but not as great an interest in WW2 history (still an interest, just not as much!)

I do want to play more WW2 with more unpredictability. And a company level so I can play scenarios/replay battles. I am becoming a solo player that is finding it sometimes hard to play a game just by playing my best for both sides. I thought I was, but have realised that this has been more about testing out rules rather than just playing the rules. For solo play, I need the constant change, the chaos, the large changes that occur in the game position so that you have to make big decisions all the time. There are no small decisions in NUTS! There are no small decisions in 5Core. And the game changes all the time so that when you are called to make a decision, the game has changed so much since last time. And the time between each decision is not a lot either (minutes in playing time). Playing against someone else is even more interesting (as the unpredictability is even greater).

The short of it? I do see me continuing to play solo with different rules, and solo testing my own rules, but probably just not as much as I used to!


  1. 3,000,000 or 300,000? ;-)
    Congrats anyway. I know what you mean about the bots...up until recently I´ve been getting whacked by them..and not from Russia, but the US and suprise..Germany

    1. Thanks for pointing that out - I would have never noticed otherwise! I have fixed it. My bots have always been Russian. I am jealous that you are getting some variety in your bots :-)

  2. Nice one Shaun! Congrats, and here's to 3000,000 more!

    1. Thanks Aaron! Your blog was one of the first ones I followed when I started blogging.

  3. Good post Shaun and congratulations on 300,000. I agree the blogosphere is a nice place to roam, with large helpings of creativity and politeness all around us.

    Have enjoyed all your posts, at least the bots have good taste :-)

    1. Thanks Norm. I am glad you are only had a short hiatus from being a blogger - I enjoy all your posts.

  4. Congrats on the 300,000 mark. As my situation changes, I find that solo gaming might be more likely, and I look forward to more posts.


    1. Thanks Greg. I still owe you a rules comparison after the Heraclea games, but find it hard to invest the time with other projects on the go :-(

  5. Well done - you're way ahead of me!

    1. Thanks Paul - although I would have thought you were way ahead of me (unless you thought I was 3,000,000 which was an error in my post hear)!

  6. Congratulations on making the 300,000 milepost!
    Very enjoyable to read of your gaming background and interests.

  7. Many congratulations on hitting 300000, a big number whether counted by Blogger or Google Analytics. And I have shamelessly raided your rules reports to see what else might be out there!

    1. Thanks Martin. And nice to know my blog is useful to someone!

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