How to Play Block War Games Solitaire (Part 2)

I’ve heard several wargamers say that Block games can’t be played solitaire.  I strongly disagree.  In many ways, I think they are easier to play solitaire.  There are many advantages.  Block games do present a few challenges for solitaire play.  Here are some tips to help you along!

We already covered many of the basics on solitaire play wargaming in a previous Blog: How to Play (War) Games Solitaire (Part 1)

First of all, what’s the big deal?  What is so different about block games?  The key difference is that the unit types and strengths are usually hidden.  Something akin to Stratego.

Most of the time, you can see only your forces. Enemy forces remain hidden. -Euro Front from Columbia Games
East Front -Columbia Games

Doesn’t that make it impossible to play solitaire?  I KNOW what the enemy has and where.  I just saw it!  I KNOW what that piece is. 

True, true but we are already used to that with solitaire play right?  We KNOW what the enemy plan is.  We KNOW what they will be trying to do over the next few turns.  We already have methods to work around this right?  Pretend you don’t know.  Play AS IF you didn’t know.  Imagine that you were the enemy and didn’t know what was coming.  What would you do then?  Guess what?  This still works exactly the same with blocks!

Spin the Board

In fact, I’d argue it is even easier to play solitaire with blocks.  In most games you can see all the pieces all the time.  You know exactly where all forces are:  friendly and enemy. 

British point of view at Brandywine

Walk over to the other side of the table and look at the board again.  The change of perspective makes it easier for me to forget what the other side was doing.  Most of the time, I forget what exactly was there.  It just looks like a sea of hidden blocks now.

View of the very same British from the Colonial perspective. Remember what each of those red blocks were? What if there is more hidden in reserve?

On occasion, I do actually remember some of the blocks.  If you do, no big deal.  Pretend you don’t.  Analyze the situation as an unknown.  If you were the enemy and didn’t know what was going on, what would you think?  What would you know?  Why?  How could you know that?  Guess what?  If this is the only thing you know right now, what would be your best course of action?  This is GREAT training for how you should be thinking and analyzing all the time anyways!!

Let’s look at some examples:


Ok, now here comes the British flank attack!

Fine but as the Colonial player, we still don’t know where the main threat is.  What kind of troops are in this flanking attack by the British?  Just a bunch of light troops to distract us from the main force to our front?

Note:  there is nothing held in reserve on the cards but the Colonials can’t see that. 

Or is this the real deal, with all the heavy hitting elite units backed up by a strong reserve.

The HQs (flag cubes) can hide pieces at their location on these cards. Here they are backed up by artillery, elite & regular troops and baggage. Note the units on the far left are full strength cavalry and Hessians, not just a light screen of detachments. This is a huge threat to the Colonials!

What would you do here as the Colonials? If you’re not sure this is a feint, you kind of have to respond as if it were a real attack right?


It is the end of day 1 at Gettysburg. The Confederates have been driving hard all day.  The Federals are paper thin. 

The Feds have their HQs up behind their front line in support but there is no one left in reserve.  What is on the field is all there really is but the Confederates don’t know that!

Empty reserve. The blank block over on the left is a 1 step detachment screen. That block behind the front line is the Baggage Train. If the enemy hits that, it’s game over!

Let’s take a look at this from the Confederate perspective.   IF we knew that’s all there was, we’d launch one final push to knock them out.  –But what if we didn’t know?  Hmmmm….  

Confederate perspective. Looks good but is it really?

The Rebs have taken lots of losses today too.  What if they attack, and push hard to fight through a possible 2nd Federal line?  It would be very likely that they lose 3-4 blocks.  (because they are already spent and fighting up a hill into difficult terrain.)  That would devastate their ability as the Confederates to fight into a second day. 

Would you be willing to gamble the entire battle, entire war on this one desperate attack?  Would the Rebs have any indication of the strength of the Federal reserve now?  How many units have they seen today?  How many losses did they inflict?  How many pieces are they likely to have left?  How many Federal pieces have they spotted earlier in the day that are currently unaccounted for?  Have the Feds been maneuvering throughout the day in such a way as to keep their forces hidden from the enemy?  What does that look like?  What things give away your strength and intent? 

Alternatively, the Federal forces could have a real, fresh reserve. Wadsworth (an elite unit) is supporting Robinson. Barlow could easily move to back up Schuz on the right.

When you are thinking and playing like this, you are playing Kriegsspiel. This is REAL wargaming. The difference between god like knowledge of everything and playing as if it were real.

Train as if it were real!!

That is the very best training there is. The more you put in, the more you get out. This can still be very effective, even solitaire. In some ways, it’s even better.