6 Years of Solo Games

On January 28 2012 I published my first post on this blog.


It’s six years since then and I thought this could be a good time for some retrospective reflection. I published 185 posts, initially in Italian, then switching to English. I don’t remember which system I used for my first posts: they seem to be pure map-based world building. In these early experiments I already sketched simple drawings of my characters: something I have continued doing with all the different settings and games I have played. Later experiments with this initial fantasy setting (the “Albus” world) included Mythic, John Fiore’s 9Qs and Two Hours Wargames “Chain Reaction”.

I tried a few games of 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars. While I loved the idea of drawing planet portraits, the game proved too “rail-roaded” for my taste.

In April 2012, I invested 5 Eur in the plastic army men I still use for my games. I must have played a hundred games with a dozen different rule-sets with these guys! These could easily have been the best spent 5 Euros in my life.

There was a long gap in my games lasting until September 2014. When I resumed playing, I was still blogging in Italian, but I had discovered Five Core by Ivan Soresen. My first games with this system were about Italian partisans in ww2.

I then switched to English and to a different setting (cold war fights on Mars: Red Planet 58). The campaign started with Ivan’s Five Core, but I later switched to Pulp Alley.

Red Planet was possibly my most extensive campaign. I also experimented with using a board game (Patrol Lost) to create game maps and that was the subject of my first Lone Wolf Roleplaying G+ post. I got a new set of soldiers (10mm, this time) and started collecting old toy cars I buy at flea markets.

The most ambitious project in 2015 was a solo go at Lady Blackbird: a simple RPG with an amazing setting. I played 10 sessions with the game, but I was bogged down by the relatively high number of PCs. Too many open threads, in the end. The sessions I remember more fondly are those based on Chris Stieha’s RND random zine.

I also played a few Dungeon games with the delightful Dungeon Squad II by Jason Morningstar.

For #SGAM2015, I started the Weirdgate 88 project: a silly setting of soldiers vs robots vs monsters which I mostly used to play with plastic toys and WarStuff, by One Page Rules.

I experimented more with isometric maps with both 3D toy soldiers and paper flats. One of the first applications was to ancient skirmishes with Song of Shadows and Dust by Ganesha Games. “Isometric 2.5D” is a style of play that I greatly enjoy: I think I will revisit it in the future.

In 2017 I made a new ambitious go at solo RPGs, with a campaign based on Planet of Adventure by Jack Vance (Eve of Tschai). It was very free-form, with ample use of paper minis and isometric sketches. I left the campaign in a much better state than Lady Blackbird (having a single protagonist is clearly more manageable for me). I might decide to continue this campaign, some day. The idea of exploring a world that is only partially known is of the greatest appeal. I am particularly proud of the Tschai globe I created at the start of the campaign.

The rest of the year mostly was about skirmish games with Chain Reaction by Two Hour Wargames, the bug-hunting Stay Frosty RPG by Casey G (for SGAM, still in the Weirdgate setting) and, finally, a go at the WW2 hex-based wargame Valor and Victory, with a return to the Italian resistance and scenarios inspired by One Hour Wargames (a book by Neil Thomas).

So what was this all about? Is it possible to see patterns with a few years of perspective?

All in all, I guess there are three recurring themes. In order of increasing “gaming” ambition:

    • War War II (in particular, in Italy). I now realise this is a period I am interested in from a historical point of view. I love books and movies about the subject. In my opinion, that was the last time that Europe went through something really epic. My games, however simple and silly, are a way to get in touch with the terribly meaningful events of those times. Anyway, this theme obviously lends itself to a structured “wargaming” approach, with specific rules and scenarios.
    • While WW2 is history, my games often deviate towards a lighter SF variant (cold war on Mars, or army vs monsters). Rule-wise, this can be the same as WW2, but obviously the underlying story is less constrained, which makes games more challenging from my point of view.
    • The most challenging projects have been those closer to proper role-playing/world building. It was interesting to re-discover that this was the subject of my very first posts. This is the area I am less comfortable with: the total freedom and the need to rely on random oracles instead of “facts” risk to put me off or entrap me in inconsistency and overly complex plots. My most successful attempts in this line have been in the context of solid (however imaginary) settings: Lady Blackbird and Jack Vance.



In my disorderly way, I cover the whole span from pure wargaming to free-form role-games, I guess that I will often find myself exploring the middle ground: skirmish games with some kind of background story. We will see. At the moment, I have no definite plan, but the near-term one of finishing my Valor and Victory + Ironsworn Sicily ww2 campaign.


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