Wednesday, 29 June 2011
Solo CCN - ready for testing
This follows on from my soliloquy - not quite a lament - on my lack of solo gaming since I started using the rules from GMT's boardgame, Commands & Colors: Napoleonics, for my miniatures games. I now have drafted up an approach, which might be of interest (it certainly is to me). It borrows from ideas aired on various C&C Ancients discussion sites, especially by one mst3k, but refines them a little for use with CCN, and incorporates some tweaks of mine own.
I must also thank Messrs Crick and Pearson and The Bandit of Valparaiso (surely that must be an alias?) for their email suggestions, Rafa for his reassuring comment, and especially the gentleman who asked that his comment "not be published, in case my friend sees it" - quite so - we all have to be careful, I think. Thank you all anyway.
The problem, for those who are unfamiliar with CCN, and for those who are familiar with it but would like a reminder, is that the Command Cards which provide activation in the game do not work well for a solo player who can see both hands. GMT suggest that you just play a solo game normally, and try your best for both sides, but it still takes the surprises out of it. My concerns have been that, since the cards are central to the character of the game, any workaround which does away with them or which makes other radical changes to the activation mechanism might spoil everything. I have seen dice systems, which are clever - sometimes very clever - but definitely different, and I'm not convinced. I strongly suspect that having the opponent's game-plan driven by completely random card drawings is very unlikely to give a worthwhile game, if it works at all. A real opponent would be carefully building a good hand of cards, to support his strategy.
To get to the point, my approach (still to be playtested) retains the cards (which seems best), with minimal change from the normal game pack, and has the advantage that the rules remain unchanged, to the point where a game could switch at will between a live opponent and solo play. The mechanism is not fiddly or confusing, and should not slow things down (certainly it should not be slower than a human opponent scratching his head over his choices). Ticks in the right boxes so far. There is even an element of progressive refinement of the opponent's hand as the game goes along.
The game is played as normal, but the opponent's hand is played blind - always face down, and is shuffled each time it is played. Fan the hand out, face down, when it's the opponent's turn to issue orders to his troops. Now we need a throw of 2D6 and a little wrap-around counting. Count from the LH end of the cards for the higher dice throw (start again at the LH end if you run out of cards), and turn over the card you reach, and carry on counting off similarly for the 2nd dice. Take out a second card. Here's an illustration of doing this for a 5-card hand, where the dice come up 6 & 5.
Choose the better of the two cards selected (from the opponent's viewpoint), and that will be the card to be used this turn. The other card, if it is pretty good and/or potentially useful for the opponent, can be put back into his blind hand. If it is not, it can be discarded along with the played card, and replaced. The refreshed hand (back up to strength) is shuffled, and placed face down once more. This way there is a tendency towards improvement of the blind hand, and there should be some consistency in the cards collected, though their actual time of appearance will be unpredictable.
The only other special rule for solo play is that if either the FIRST STRIKE card or the SHORT SUPPLY card appears, discard it and draw again immediately - these two cards are not suitable for solitaire, but leaving them in the pack and just ignoring them makes it easier to switch seamlessly back to a 2-player game if need be.