Hand Solo

My life must be out of control right now, because I’ve felt the itch to play solitaire wargames. When everything else is a spinning maelstrom there’s no better tonic than to settle in with some hexes and counters and just control things. It’s meditative, entertaining, therapeutic … and, I admit, a little bit pathetic. But there you are.

traditional solitaire wargame

There are a number of ways to wargame solo. There are computer games, of course, but I like to watch the gears turn when I play a game, and when I’m pushing a button I feel like I am being controlled, rather than doing the controlling. There are dedicated solitaire boardgames — like Ambush, Phantom Leader, and The Lost Cause — and I hope to play those games and others like them sometime soon. I have a love/hate relationship with solo-only boardgames in that I love to buy them and consider playing them, but I usually find myself hating the experience after a turn or two. Hand-cranking a paper computer is dubious entertainment.

Then there’s the old school way to play solo — you get a regular wargame, and you fake it, pretending the right hand knows not what the left is doing. Since I alienated most of my friends by making them play wargames with me when I was a kid (meaning that in short order, I had no friends for wargaming), I have plenty of experience with this kind of gaming, but I haven’t done a lot of it lately, unless I’m soloing a few moves of a game to get it grooved in before connecting with Andrew for a face-to-face game.

For whatever reason, that’s what I did with Jena 20 the other night, a low complexity, fast-moving, quasi-desktop-published wargame from upstart Victory Point Games. I’m not greatly interested in Napoleonics, but I’ve been curious about the throwback games VPG has been publishing, and I’ve had this title on my to-play list since scoring it in a BGG math trade last year. I’ve also had the game greeds lately and a couple games in the VPG catalog have been calling my name (solo games based on 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea? Or Doctor Strangelove?), but before spending some not inconsiderable coin on these little VPG games I thought the least I could do was to play the one I had.

less traditional but contextually relevant solitaire wargame

And so I set up Jena 20, fully expecting to push it around for a turn or two and then tear it down (or set it up and then never start), but damn me if I didn’t get through the entire game. With pictures. And a written report.

(Which will follow. Probably.).


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