Lock ‘n Load Publishing is having a Blitzkrieg Sale right now and I picked up their Solo Assistant – Nations at War / World at War 85 (2019). This module is designed to work with either the World War II Nations at War or Cold War World at War 85 series games. My copy arrived at the same time the Armchair Dragoons “Mentioned in Dispatches” podcast episode “Tabletop ‘AI’ & Lock ‘n Load Publishing” dropped so I was able to listen to co-designer David Heath describe the module in words that echoed those found in the Developer Notes:
Lock ‘n Load Publishing originally licensed the Conflict of Heroes (Coho) Solo system from Academy Games in order to develop it further for use with the Lock ‘n Load Tactical. During testing and development of WaW85 [World at War 85] a few testers took the Lock ‘n Load Tactical Solo and converted it to work with WaW85. Since the formations in WaW85 are card activated it made the Solo Assistant (SA) easy to use. The WaW85 system is already solitaire friendly out of the box and the SA was designed for the players who wanted something more.Solo Assistant, Developer Notes
The Academy Games solo system is much different from more common systems for solo gaming such as the Bots in many GMT Games or the Stuka Joe solo system for so many Card Driven Games (CDGs). Academy Games explains what makes its AI (called ‘Athena’) different from other tabletop AI systems:
A player will be able to play Awakening the Bear against a highly reactive game AI. This AI is based on the most modern Emergent Behavior and Agent Based Logic programming systems. AI units are not individually programmed like in past solo games. Instead, each situation is evaluated and the best course of action using available AI resources and unit assets is implemented. This is a radical and groundbreaking implementation of advanced computer programming by Academy Games for their Conflict of Heroes series. Players will be surprised by the AI strategy and actions that emerge as a result of the player’s own battle tactics. This may force even veteran players to hone and adapt their own playing styles in order to overcome the AI.Conflict of Heroes – Eastern Front: Solo Expansion
Section 2.1 of the rules for the Solo Assistant sets out the Lock ‘n Load version of the goals for the AI:
2.1 What to Expect from the AEO [Artificial Enemy Opponent]
The object of the SA is to provide you with a challenging game where many of the options are unknown to the human player, hence causing unexpected battle situations. This unique type of play enhances solo gaming by providing an unpredictable AEO opponent. To this end, it is important that the player follows the order of Orders listed on each AEO Orders Card to get the best results.Solo Assistant 2.1
For a full size box there is actually very little content in the Solo Assistant.
Then again, the Solo Assistant doesn’t need much to do what it needs to do. A 32-page rule book and 66 oversized cards along with a double-sided Player Aid.
The 66 Solo Assistant cards are oversized at 2.75″ x 4.75″ That bigger size is better for “vision challenged” Grognards like myself.
When it comes right down to it, the rules for the Solo Assistant are not that difficult to implement. The most important rule to remember is that YOU are in command:
2.2 You Are In Command, Not the AEO
The AEO is not perfect and will most likely not play the game the way you would play the game. While playing the game, the AEO might make a move that causes you to scratch your head. You have the last word over the AEO, though. If you think the AEO’s action is not in the best interest of the AEO, use common sense to override the situation. In any case, there may still be judgement calls that you will have to make for the AEO. If you are still in doubt of which action to pick at any point, roll a die to make the decision.Solo Assistant 2.2
I’m in the process of setting up the first scenario of World at War 85: Storming the Gap (2019). As I previously used the Conflict of Heroes – Eastern Front: Solo Expansion (Academy Games, 2015) I don’t expect too steep a learning curve. The rule book for the Solo Assistant is well illustrated and easy to follow.
Feature image courtesy RMN
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