D’you know I could never fathom out how chess players played with themselves…No! Let me clarify that a little. How they played a game of chess against themselves. Surely you know what other-you has planned so you-you can simply plan and act accordingly…it is, I am am sure, not possible to pull the wool over one’s own eyes with cunning strategy? My enquiring mind was never quite so enquiring as to actually make a concerted effort to ask any one of these unusual chess type gamers to find out.
Now this is where my story starts.
This line of thought did, however, extrapolates its self, albeit in a somewhat meandering fashion, to the hex n chit war-game fraternity. I always fancied getting involved but as a solo gamer thought ‘how the ‘ecky-thump do I do this solo?’…and ultimately ‘what would be the point?’
Meat & Potatoes
Now this is where my story really starts….And here comes a rather surprising discovery, certainly one I didn’t see trundling along the battlefield in my direction…me, the complete war game outsider. Whilst absentmindedly perusing the files of BGG and watching the occasional instructional playthrough of several wargames…and nodding-off at some of the rather unnecessary over analysis-paralysis, I chanced upon a piece from a C3i magazine (#26) which could have knocked me down with a feather (assuming said feather spanned several metres in length and weighed in at several hundred kilograms)
A solitaire rule set for GMT’s No Retreat: Russian Front.
Now we’re talking!…and this is where my story really starts…
To the printer, quick, said I. But halted in mid stride as I discovered this was not an all singing, all dancing super Bot, akin to those found lurking in the depths of A Distant Plain or Labyrinth. Not at all. You, as the only player have to play both sides. ‘What is the bloody point in that?’, I mused. And mused I did well. I did very well at musing.
And this is where my story really, really starts….here is the interesting part. Yes! You have to play both sides but, and here is the canny part, there is a small deck of opponent action cards.
These cards have a series of actions intended to be followed by the opponent revealed only once the player has completed his movements. There are actions, reactions, decimals and fractions that should be followed as close as is humanly possible to the letter, when moving and acting on behalf of the AI opponent. This intervention really helps take the pressure off the player, reducing the need for having to formulate strategies for both sides…….and pretend that they are in the dark with regards to the opponent’s future actions.
…but this still feels a little too much like playing both sides for my liking so far…so, just how is this solitaire?
I told you it was canny little fellow! Let’s say we are trundling across eastern Europe as the Axis side, hellbent on USSR destruction…and we think “I know, I’ll make those dopey Russian units blunder into a bog or some-such. That will make life so much easier for me and victory will be mine…it WILL BE MINE, I TELL YOU…muahahahahahahahahahaha!” Well this is what I think is particularly cleaver. Firstly if you don’t carry out the objective actions set out each turn, you forfeit victory points. What is more, part way through the game events/circumstances result in an initiative switch and the player has to change sides. So now, rather than being the German behemoth war machine crushing, destroying everything, eating all the ice-cream in its path, you are the Russian defenders completely on the back foot without any mint-choc-chip.
Win conditions are different for each side and it would appear you can only win if you have the correct conditions and the initiative. So, it pays to play both sides as evenly, aggressively or as defensively as each other because at any moment the table swings round (slowly, I hope, because there are a lot of small counters for centrifugal force to wing off the playing surface.
Multiples of Solo:
I am not in the habit of over justifying myself but this little system has provided, what I think, is a devious, and ingenious way of making a 2 player head to head war game challenging for the soloist. There is a nice 4 page rule book that provides how, when and where all the interesting solo-ish stuff gets applied to the main ruleset and links references to this rulebook.
(Minor disclaimer: I will point out I was using the living rule book from the GMT site so do not know how the original set that shipped with the game plays differently)
This not-quite-a-bot puts immeasurable pressure on a player to play as optimally as possible for each side because….well anything can happen in love and war!
This sort-of-but-not-quite-a-Bot earns its self a solitary BSoMT 1d8 roll of (7) for making this title so much more than a ‘play with yourself’ variation of an excellent title for the soloist war-game
Something for the Weekend Sir?!
RBM Studio: https://twitter.com/RBMStudio1
GMTGames No Retreat Russian Front: http://www.gmtgames.com/p-444-no-retreat-the-russian-front-deluxe-ed-reprint.aspx
Game System Design: Carl Paradis
Solitaire System from GMT website: http://www.gmtgames.com/noretreat/NoRetreatSolitaireSystem.zip