Let’s check out these solo wargames rules from Alternative Armies. Grab yourself a small team of heroes (or villains depending on your view point) and prepare to challenge the odds.
So, What is Doom Squad!?
Written by Steve Danes a nerve-shredding game of special forces action that ranges across three hundred years of history. From the time of Napoleon through to the trenches of World War One and right up to special forces operations in the early 21st century. A small team dropped in against the odds. Doom Squad is meant to be played as a solo game system pitting your team against the game engine. You can also opt for a multi-player game of ‘co-operation’ of two or several players going up against the game.Alternative Armies
I received the printed copy of Doom Squad for this review. Clocking in at 44 pages, this is a staple bound A4 monochrome book. Personal preference would have been to drop this down to maybe an A5 but I appreciate the added faff of altering established printing etc. As it stands, the book is clear, easy to read, and will lay flat on the table. All big pluses in my books.
I have to admit that in the past the term was an oxymoron to me. If I was to sum up the pros of playing wargames, up high on my list would be the social interaction. Chatting with folks and crushing your opponents dreams…I jest. Kind of. So, whats the appeal of going solo?
For many it’s time, unless you have a club or friends nearby, it can easily be an hour or more round trip to a venue and then you’ve got the added time of setting up and the inevitable niceties and greetings to get out the way. On top of that, I appreciate for some there’s a distinct aesthetic angle. I’ve seen a lot of fairly heated posts online regarding what constitutes a ‘proper wargame’ in terms of painting and terrain. It’s not a topic that I’ll dwell on here but I acknowledge that for some, they’d prefer not to play against other’s models or on a table that doesn’t meet a preferred standard.
This then leads to the overall greater control one can exert. Solo wargaming gives you the opportunity to play when and where you choose with ultimate control over the choice of models and therefore final look of the game.
Having enjoyed some other offerings from Alternative Armies recently, I was more than happy to throw my caution to the wind and give the game a proper run through. (You can check out my review of Furioso – Rules for Renaissance Gaming here)
How does it work?
The player (or players) will set up the board in a pleasing fashion and then deploy their troops in a zone sized for the chosen scale. Not being linked to a specific size is a thumbs up from me. So if it’s 15mm ACW or 40mm WWII, it’s not going to require a lot of complicated conversion work. Enemy troops work differently, instead placing ‘target markers’.
For each figure in your Doom Squad you place a ‘target marker’ on the table. These should be placed in suitable locations that make sense for the game. In addition, there will also be spawn points. During the course of the game, things are likely to head south with enemies rousing from barracks or entering via tunnels, etc.
I like that there’s a grown-up approach to this. I feel that some may find themselves a little out of their depth if they’re expecting to be guided through every detail in set up and game creation. As these are solo rules, the challenge and enjoyment will come along with a bit of experience. You’ll inevitably want to tweak placement here and there but this won’t ultimately effect the balance of the game or whether one side feels a tad miffed.
The Turn Sequencing
Turns are split into two phases – player and enemy.
During the player’s phase, the player(s) will activate their troops and carry out any of the orders as they see fit. Troopers are bunched into teams, with each team getting two actions. When the players have finished, enemies get the equivalent time to activate.
But where are the enemy troopers, you ask? Well, during the enemy phases, players will carry out tests for each appropriate target marker within a set range. Of course, if the players attempt to spot enemy markers in their turn, they can also potentially reveal whats lurking there. A selection of target markers are given at the back of the book but it is strongly recommended that you come up with your own based on what you have available and what is fitting for the game. I also like that markers aren’t purely enemies but also potentially ‘complications’ like a group of civilians…
The rest of the core rules cover firing and close combat as well as situational modifiers like smoke, darkness and visibility etc. The basics are super slick with players needing a 4+ (on a d6) to hit with enemies needing 5+ with any pertinent modifiers. The level of success will be then determine whether the victim is merely suppressed and dives for cover or if they bite the bullet.
Who, what, where, when, and why?
Doom Squad is ostensibly setting agnostic but that’s not to say that the game rules are intended to cover anything and everything. As the name would suggest, and as I’ve commented above, Doom Squad aims to simulate small scale asymmetric conflict. Furthermore, its asymmetric conflict over the last three hundred odd years; essentially everything since the development of what could be considered ‘sophisticated’ firearms.
The bulk of the book is given over to squad selection with each nominal period, Jager, Rifleman, Stormtrooper, and Special Forces, given it’s own short section and force selections as well as suggested scenarios.
Doom Squad plays a clever move here as well by giving period specific enemy options. For the earlier periods enemy weapons have less effective ranges and consider options such as cavalry. As you progress in time, weapons become more sophisticated and you have to factor in things like vehicles.
Is too much flexibility a good thing?
There’e a lot to be said about games that try to cover a large period of history losing thematic content. As a relatively rules lite system though, I don’t think this would be a fair characterisation of Doom Squad. Instead, the game provides a solid base to allow you to come up with your own scenarios and to posit ideas and what-ifs.
Furthermore, as we’re talking about low model count daring do, period tactics don’t necessarily factor in. A bunch of soldiers or mercenaries operating behind enemy lines will probably eschew a lot of the formalities. Detailed recreation this is not. An opportunity to try something new and get a resolution from a game it most certainly is.
Adding personality and a touch of chaos…
As you have essentially free reign when designing your Doom Squad teams, there’s options for personalisation. The force leader (representing you on the table top) can be assigned special command abilities and hopefully survive to lead multiple missions. These add a bit of differentiation and fosters a connection with your models on the battlefield.
I was a little caught-out by it’s placement in the rules but I welcomed the addition of the formation section. Nestled near the back of the book are details on how your teams should be grouped. Not only do these add a bit of rigidity and strategy to how you can manoeuvre, they also add benefits and restrictions. Column for example, might be useful when trying to hustle to the LZ but it wont help your men in a gunfight.
You can’t have a solo game without random events right!? Doom Squad has you covered with a fair selection which you can either create cards with or randomly roll for during the course of the game.
Plan ahead and get stuck in!
Doom Squad seems an ideal vector to allow you to try a new period without having to invest too heavily. Heck, if I could magic up more free time, I’m pretty sure there’s a cracking scenario in Doom Squad where Santa’s Elves are required to rescue the big man from Krampus and his dastardly snowmen…
The ability to grab some figures and terrain, and get stuck in is a big thing for me. I find my gaming time predominantly occupied with the likes of Mortal Gods, Saga, and Infinity. Notice a theme there? Low model counts and solid, reliable rules. Doom Squad looks like it will also allow me to scratch the itch for settings I wouldn’t normally play. It’s the kind of game I can see me sketching out a mission idea over a coffee break.
As I’ve said, the idea of solo wargaming felt (and still feels) a tad odd to me. I see it as a social hobby to chat with friends and have a few games, maybe even a couple of cheeky beverages; mostly cups of tea these days. That being said, my gaming time is increasingly at a premium. Any game that I can set up and attend at my own pace is therefore a good thing. The bottom line is I had fun trying something new. Doom Squad is definitely a tool which I’ll keep in the wargaming arsenal.
Join in the discussion
Have you done any solo wargaming? What tips or thoughts would you be able to share with anyone considering doing so? Feel free to drop a comment below or join us over on our Facebook page. If you’re intrigued by Alternative Armies offerings then I strongly suggest having a look at their gaming group on Facebook. Loads of friendly folks sharing their gaming knowledge.