Four Great Solitaire & Print-and-Play Wargames to Play While Self-Isolating26 Mar 2020 1
Things have been interesting these last few weeks. Work had taken me out of the country and Editor Joe and I agreed this would be a good time to talk about some of the Print and Play wargames that I tend to take along with me. Fears of Coronavirus spreading rapidly were popping up here and there, but nothing like current levels. Turns out I would eventually had to make a speedy return home and am now in 14 days Quarantine.
To that end, I present: 4 Excellent Quarantine wargames that are relatively easy to Print and Play (or buy) now that we're all spending a more time indoors. If you’ve got a printer, or access to Amazon, you can get a hold of these games and much more like them. Get printing, get clipping, have some fun, and above all: be safe, isolate if you can, and call your loved ones.
Turns out, fighting an unpopular war in a far away country with a long history of imperial interference and a strong will to independence is a difficult prospect. Vietnam Solitaire models this quite well, mostly by dooming players to an eventual loss. The victory comes only from how long you manage to keep America involved in South Vietnam through an ever shrinking track of action points. Everything you do, from bombing the north to deploying American units to the field cost points. If you ever reach 14, the game is over. My first few games ended almost immediately. Turns out the Vietnamese and American public don’t take too kindly to extensive bombing campaigns that achieve nothing while simultaneously losing Hue and the Mekong to determined NVA attacks. Vietnam Solitaire is one of those unforgiving games that require a bit of luck, and a lot of thinking to get good results.
Dice rolls establish where concentrations of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army units appear, and Ho Chi Minh Trail markers ensure a steady supply. The combat is interesting, with every region divided into 4 boxes with different terrain. Some units fight better in certain terrain over others. This means it’s a risk sending your South Vietnamese soldiers into the jungle to dislodge the NVA camped there. If they succeed however and clear the 4 boxes of their region by the end of the turn, you can win back some crucial points. For travel purposes, the map is a single A4 sheet, though I printed mine on American letter, and only a couple dozen counters. You only really need a single die, but the game recommends 2. You can grab it for $4 USD on wargames downloads.
Terror War is a bit of a beast. Trying to model the political and military campaigns that dominated the world in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks in the US is a tough task. There’s a lot going on and a lot of different scenarios for players to try out. Some err closer to history, and some go completely bonkers, like a total war strategy that involves conquering most of the map by force. I only played the ‘historical’ game, and that kept me going for some time. Each turn you play out ‘covert’ and ‘diplomatic’ segments to try and position yourself well before moving on to troop movements and battles.
I spent a lot of money right off trying to track down Osama Bin Laden and negotiating with Turkey. Plans changed drastically when Pakistan fell into civil war as the random events took off. There are tables and tables of random events that are tied to specific time frames and to some player decisions. They aren’t completely random but manage to keep the game interesting.
For a travel (Quarantine) game, it has pros and cons. It is currently free on Wargame Downloads but the map is large enough that I separated it into two pieces of US letter paper. It also comes with a lot of counters, covering almost every military eventuality, but as with the rest of my travel games, they fit snugly in an envelope. Good production for a free game but takes up a bit more space than a single page and dozen counters. It’ll definitely keep you playing for a long time, especially if you want to try out the different scenarios and strategies available.
Ultra Tiny Epic Galaxies
Ok, so I guess this isn’t a wargame specifically, but it is a 4X strategy game with empire building and abstracted combat over colonizable worlds. I include it because it does the seemingly impossible and stuffs a massive, colourful game for 1-5 players into your standard 52 card deck box. I picked it up on a whim before my flight based entirely on its size, its inexpensive price, and the fact that it boasted single player suitability.
It’s fun, if light. Single player involves setting out a ‘Rogue Galaxy’ for you to compete with for colonial control over a host of planets. Players roll a number of special dice based on the size and quality of their empire and must allocate them to best expand and defend yourself from the oncoming attacks of the Rogue Empire.
The player then rolls for the rogue, following a very simple chart of actions based on the dice rolled. It provides a decent challenge. Players can spend resources to force rerolls for the AI and try to use colonized worlds to alter the flow of the game. A shorter game for sure, but quite fun and light after a hard day. Also, if you’ve got family traveling (quarantined) with you, then it seats up to 5. Available on Amazon for $14.99 USD.
Keep Up the Fire
Now this is my personal favourite, and tragically, one of the harder ones to find. Fitting into a reasonably sized Ziplock bag, complete with map, cards, counters, and two pages of rules and history, Keep Up the Fire is an excellent solitaire production. It’s a little pricier than the previous entries, but it is both a beautiful production and a lot of fun. I’ve heard similar things about some other games in Victory Point Studio’s lineup of States of Siege games, including Zulus at the Ramparts, so I’m sure there’s a theme out there for everyone. Personally, Keep Up the Fire’s telling of the Boxer War and the Siege of Peking is right up my academic alley.
Gameplay is split between defending the legation quarter in Peking and organizing the relief expedition that is trying to work its way up the coast. As with many solitaire wargames, there are many ways to lose and only one way to win. Each turn a new card is drawn that offers a bit of history and tells players what forces are advancing towards the legation from each of the cardinal directions. The different contingents of marines defending the legations each has a unique trait. The Japanese contingent for example, reduces defender casualties by one, whereas the Italian contingent gets a bonus to firing at extreme range, and the Russian contingent increases any defender casualties.
It quickly becomes very difficult to stave off the advance. For the relief, getting to Peking is a balancing act of building up supplies and increasing logistical support while constantly being checked by opposing Boxer and Qing forces. Get bogged down in a dangerous area, and it could take turns before the relief is able to move again. I find myself returning to this one again and again, and if I’m ever able to grab more States of Siege Games I don’t think I’ll hesitate. They’re a solid addition to any solitaire lineup.
I’m always in the market for good solitaire games and especially good travel sized examples. Once this whole thing settles down a bit and the world resumes I’ll be back out there alongside everyone else. Drop some of your favourites below! For now, keep yourselves and those you love safe, keep gaming, and wash your hands!
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