Solitaire System for Fields of Despair, Part I

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    Designer, Fields of Despair

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    Hey Solitaire Gamers!

    Now for Something Completely Different.

    Solitaire Design for a Block War Game!

    Solitaire play for Fields of Despair was first brought up by developer Mike Bertucelli who my family affectionately refers to as, “your other wife.”  Every so often Mike would say, “You know what would be awesome?” (pause – I know what’s coming) “If you could figure out a way to add a solitaire scenario!” Any rookie designer will tell you that the process can be exciting and overwhelming at times.  You’ve handed over your design to a developer.  You think it’s near completion.  Aaaand you would be wrong because here he is (again) asking for something that perhaps you never considered or maybe you considered but thought impossible.  Maybe he’s just toying with me because he knows I’m new….

     21 monty_python

    This article will cover the solitaire player turn and a future article will detail how the game’s AI moves and attacks. The easiest way to understand solitaire play is walk through an action phase (the heart of the game) so here we go. This seems like a good time to throw in the disclaimer that everything you’re about to see is play test art.  I stink at art.  I made this stuff. 

    To play solitaire, simply set up the Allied side of the 1917-1918 scenario is set up as if for a 2-player game.  You command the Allies.  The game’s AI or the “Bot” will play against you as the Central Powers.  To set the Central Powers blocks up, all you need to do is place one Central Powers block face down in each hex they occupy.  The facedown block reminds you that the Central Powers occupy the hex with 3 blocks (stacking limit), none of which have been revealed. They will look like this…


    Setting Up the Central Powers Blocks w/ Hindenburg Line Markers

    A couple new components are included for solo play.  First, there’s the “Solitaire Player Board” to help you manage the Central Powers artillery, air, etc.  Second, the “Central Powers Block Combat Value Table.”

    4  IMG_3294-web

    Map at Set-up

    5 Solo player board

    Solo Player Board


    The “Central Powers Block Combat Value Table” makes the solitaire engine run. This allows you to keep track of the total size of the Central Powers army and the amount of that army that remains hidden to you. Thus the fog of war element remains.

    Consider this. At the start of the scenario, you already know the sum total combat value (CV), or “Total CV” (grey marker), of the Solitaire Play Aide: Central Powers Block Combat ValueCentral Powers army.  It’s common knowledge, because anyone can read a set-up sheet, right?  Against that you track any “Revealed CV” (blue marker) as blocks are revealed through play.  As the markers draw closer to each other, less and less of the Central Powers army remains hidden.

    Note: The numbers below 100 are 101, 102, etc.  Again with the playtest art… 

    The importance of managing this table correctly cannot be emphasized enough.  Other tables that drive play depend on it being accurate.    More on this later as we work through an Allied turn…

    Here’s the action phase sequence for both solo and 2-player games.  Let’s go step by step.

    Action Phase Sequence of Play:

    Aerial Dogfighting and Reconnaissance



    Breakout Movement

    Aerial Dogfighting and Reconnaissance

    Time to scout the enemy before you attack! Place all of your air squadron counters in hexes where you wish to reveal Central Powers blocks.  Then, one hex at a time, check to see if the Central Powers want to try and shoot you down first.  A little dogfight never hurt anyone.  The hex with the largest Allied total is checked first.  Resolution order is key.   It greatly reduces the chances 7-Solitaire-Play-Aide-with-Tables-Only-1of the AI responding in large numbers to your hex with very little.  It’s much the same a human might react if he saw you drop 4 counters in one hex, he’s likely to respond there.

      Simply follow steps 1 and 2 (below) for each hex with your squadrons, placing Central Powers air squadrons from your solitaire player board and reducing the “Total Value of CP Air Counters ‘Available’ ’’as you go.

    Step 1: Do the Central Powers Respond?

    For each hex, roll 1d6 adding any DRM.

    Cross reference die result with the total value of CP air counters in the “Available Box.”  If the result is “N”, no CP counters are added.  If, “Yes (Y)” go to the next step (2).

    Step 2: How Much Do They Respond With?

    Roll 1d6 adding any DRM.

    Cross reference die result with the total value of CP air counters in the “Available Box.”  The result is the total CP air counter value added to the hex.

    Dogfighting is resolved per core rules. Central Powers air squadrons placed in hexes for dogfighting will take damage, return to the “Used Air” box, and are made “available” again in the same manner as a 2-player game.  The key difference is that you are managing them on your solitaire player board.

    Allied aircraft that survived dogfighting will now reveal blocks in their hex.  The results of the reconnaissance are determined by the “Air Recon Results Table.”

    Wait! – Pause.

    Before we reveal blocks, there are a couple things you should know.

    First, every air squadron counter has a number in the upper right hand corner.  This number is the “recon value” and determines9--1-150-table-color-at-start the number of blocks that a revealed in a hex.

       8  Allies Air 3

    Second, remember that table I told you was so important?  You need to check it to see how much of the Central Powers army has not been revealed.

    In this example, looks like a bunch: 95 block CV remain hidden.

    Okay, so what’s in the hex?

    Roll 3d6 and cross reference with the amount of CP block CV not yet revealed this turn.  Place Central block CV in the hex face up equal to the result.  Values below the blacked out lines are minimum results.


    The following restrictions apply:     

    Recon Value 1: do not exceed the 13-16 column. Reveal only 1 block

    Recon Value 2: do not exceed the 25-28 column. Must reveal 2 blocks.

    Recon Value 3+:  Entire hex revealed.  Must reveal 3 blocks.

    Let’s walk through our example assuming we have three hexes with recon to check.  The first hex has a recon value of 3, the second 2 and the third only 1.

    The recon value 3 is resolved first with 95 block CV are not yet revealed. Tossing 3d6…13!  The table tells me that the Central 11--1-150-table-color-add-29Powers are 29 strong in the hex.  Because my recon value was 3, I use 3 blocks to make the total.  This is key because 3 blocks is the max per hex.  This means the hex is fully revealed as it would be in a 2-player game and there should be no surprises later.

    After recon for each hex, the table is adjusted by the amount revealed.  The hidden amount is now hidden is 66.  Rolling 3d6 for our recon 2…7!  Although more than 37 remain hidden, the recon value of 2 means I cannot exceed the 25-28 column.  Therefore only 4 CV were revealed.  I use 2 blocks to make the total due to my recon value of 2.  This means that if  you attack, there’s still a 3rd block waiting to be revealed.  Rolling low resolving recon is good for you BTW.  Filling the hex with low numbers equates to finding a weak spot in the line.

    Update the table again and now with 64 still hidden the recon value 1 is resolved.   Tossing 3d6… 13!  With a recon value at one, the 13-16 column cannot be exceeded.  This places 1 block with a value of 9 into the hex.  If you attack this hex 2 more blocks will be revealed.

    Our map might look something like this…

    12  air-recon-result-web

    We will continue with the example of Combat in Part II of this article. We hope you have enjoyed this look under the hood of the Solitaire System for Fields of Despair!


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    2 thoughts on “Solitaire System for Fields of Despair, Part I

    1. Looks great! I’m really happy that I pre-ordered this game, and I’m hoping more people will jump on the bandwagon soon!