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Solitaire Gaming with Avalanche Press
February 2014

We frequently hear from folks wanting to know which Avalanche Press games work best for solitaire play. Here's a look at the different levels of solitaire play possible with Avalanche Press games.

Basic Solitaire: Alternating Activation

The simplest form of solitaire wargaming involves alternating activations, where each side takes turns moving and fighting with small numbers of its units, rather than activating all its units at once. This allows the combat situation to develop quickly and spontaneously, and absolves the solitaire player from having to make any detailed plans in advance. He can simply move and fire with one attacking group of units, then have a defending group move or fire, then back to some attackers, etc.

   

Panzer Grenadier fills this bill admirably. The game’s design requires the solitaire player to focus on each side’s leaders rather than the totality of their units. Combat unit in multiple hexes can’t activate at once, nor can they move into enemy fire range, unless they’re ordered to do so by a leader. Also, a leader can activate a lower-ranking leader adjacent to him in the same action segement that he activates, and the lower-ranking leader can do the same to a subordinate leader next to him, etc. So, the solitaire player will want to start the scenario by setting up each side in a formation that lets leaders communicate with and activate each other as much as possible, so as to let the maximum number of units get the jump on the other side.

Such formations will fragment during game play due to morale failure and opportunity fire. Most “damage” inflicted in Panzer Grenadier is not in the form of destroyed tanks or dead troops. Combat results consist mostly of morale checks, and when a unit fails such a morale check it either becomes disrupted (meaning its fire strength and movement are reduced) or demoralized (meaning it can’t fight and will flee if it doesn’t recover).

Also, units in Panzer Grenadier move individually (rather than in stacks) and enemy units can fire at them while they move (this is called opportunity fire). This means that units often don’t end up where the solitaire player was moving them, since morale failure requires an immediate halt. This produces a game in which the solitaire player presides over a fluid situation, where each side’s tight formations become fouled by slow disrupted units and fleeing demoralized troops. In the end, the victor is determined just as much by the uncertainties of morale and recovery as by fire strength and battle plans. This gives Panzer Grenadier the excitement and unpredictability necessary to be an enjoyable solitaire game.

Intermediate Solitaire: Alternating Variable Activation

In Panzer Grenadier, each side can usually count on activating all its units each turn (radio communications on the battlefield help with this). But in earlier time periods, battlefield communications were much less reliable, depended more on the organizational ability of the leaders on the field, and could be interdicted much more easily. We simulate this at Avalanche Press by using a system where during a turn, both sides alternate rolling against the initiative ratings of their commanding generals, to see how many leaders and units they may activate at one time, whether they can activate any units at all, or whether they have to stop in the middle of the turn and activate no more units.

This produces games where the solitaire player must constantly prioritize the relative importance of moving and fighting with some units on each side over others, because there’s no guarantee all of each side’s units will be able to activate. Avalanche Press games which produce this more challenging form of solitaire are in the Rome at War and War of the States/Empires series.

Advanced Solitaire: Random Variable Pre-Selected Activation

For the most challenging form of solitaire play, we use a system where gamers must once again prioritize the relative importance of each formation’s ability to activate each turn. But in addition to picking the formations each side should activate each turn, in many scenarios he must spend supply points in order to be able to activate the formations he wants. He must also be sure that a side which must spend supply points doesn’t spend too much to early, lest it run out of supply points before it reaches its objectives. This can be tough if that side is getting bogged down — the temptation is to go for one big push, but if the push fails, it’ll be out of gas . . .

   

Then, to make it even more challenging, we require the player to put chits representing all desired formations into a conatiner at the turn’s start. He then draws out one chit at a time, activating each formation as its chit is drawn. So, he’ll never know which formations, or which side’s, will activate in which order. Finally, once a certain number of chits have been drawn, there’s an increasing chance of an “operational halt,” where no more formations can activate that turn (even those that were paid for, meaning the supply points were wasted). So, the solitaire player will have to be careful not to attempt to activate too many formations on each side in one turn, lest he only draw the chits of the lower-priority formations before operational halt happens.

Games which use this chit-draw system, and require the level of pre-planning that makes for the most challenging form of solitaire, are Bitter Victory, Alsace 1945, Gazala 1942, and Red God of War.

Keep visiting our website for more articles on games using the solitaire-suitable systems above.