18 August 2007

The Military Modelling Guide to Solo Wargaming

This is a wonderful little book (from 1988) by the one and only Stuart Asquith, who recently participated in the Wargamers’ refight of Mollwitz at Partizan ’07. In 127 pages, Mr. Asquith manages to pack all kinds of general information about wargaming, as well as more specific material on doing so in a solo fashion. So, where do we start?

First, the cover of the book is wonderful simply because it shows a photo of Mr. Asquith’s own mid-18th century imaginary collection. As many of you know, this is what the Grand Duchy of Stollen project involves, and I always enjoy looking closely at examples of others’ work in this particular arena.

It looks as though most or all of the figures depicted are the old plastic Spencer Smiths, both the classic “musket on left shoulder” types as well as some of the Barry Minot-designed “Connoisseur” figures, firing their muskets, in large, colorful units of about 32 figures apiece. If you look closely, there even seems to be a version of the famous Erbprinz Regiment right in the bottom center of the photo. Glorious!

Where content is concerned, the Guide to Solo Wargaming does not disappoint either, containing eleven chapters on various aspects of solo play. For the most part, Stuart Asquith discusses a variety of methods and suggestions for managing fairly logical actions and reactions of the force that opposes the one actually commanded by a wargamer. The book progresses from basic solo systems to small scale actions, historical play, and solitaire scenarios, to entirely “ahistorical” actions.

There are even chapters dealing with sieges, campaigns, and programmed scenarios. The latter has been borrowed (with permission) from Charles Stewart Grant’s Programmed Wargames Scenarios (1983) and actually serves as a nice link between the two books. Together, the two works will provide virtually everything the avid solo gamer needs to run battles and campaigns in an interesting and logical manner. If you are lucky enough to find and procure an existing (and terribly expensive) copy of Solo Wargaming by Donald Featherstone (1973), then you are one of the lucky few to possess everything of substance that has been written on this sub-branch of the hobby.

If there is a problem with Mr. Asquith’s Guide to Solo Wargaming, it’s the chapter on postal wargaming, which in our current age of information overload makes the book seem a little quaint and dated. For those of us who relish the “Old School” way of conducting our wargaming and figure collecting, however, this chapter may be just the ticket. Although postal gaming could easily be adapted to the Internet, there is admittedly something nice in the idea of returning to a simpler time (not so very long ago) and waiting with anticipation for a letter from your opponent to arrive, retiring to your wargames table to adjust the troops involved as necessary, and issuing your own orders (by mail) in reaction to the changing situation.

The final verdict? Buy the book if you have the opportunity. If the idea of solo wargaming intrigues you, and you can find a reasonably priced copy of the Military Modelling Guide to Solo Wargaming, the book is an interesting and useful purchase for your wargaming library. There is much you’ll enjoy, quite a few ideas that were new to this wargamer at least, and you‘ll enjoy access to one more of the hobby’s earlier “voices” from a time when things were less complicated and all the more fun because of it.

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