Whenever I get a new army together, it usually takes three or four games for me to understand how the force plays and how its special rules work. Sometimes things that I think I "get" don't actually work as I thought. A case in point is my understanding of the "impaler" rule for my Far Harad raiders. Another thing that happens a lot is forgetting special rules. I had to play my Corsairs at least ten times before I stopped forgetting about their throwing weapons.
For most people, the antidote to these problems is to get in a lot of games with the army. As you go, you learn how the force plays and the nuances of its special rules. However, there are some cons to this approach. You might have purchased models that you no longer want in your force, (I'm looking at you, Corsair Arbalesters) or not enough models to make the unit useful. Since you will be stumbling along, you might enjoy your games less and become frustrated with your army. Finally, you might have limited gaming time, therefore prolonging the time to get accustomed to your new army. Trying to solve for all these issues at once seems impossible. But there might be a solution.
Solo play would allow you to address each of these issues. For starters, the entire issue of limited time is solved as your gaming partner is available when you are. Since you will be playing a solo game, you can proxy models to try out different units. You don't even have to use models. You can use paper chits or spare bases with labels. After all, you are just testing out options or checking to see if you like a certain army. If you make stupid mistakes, you can keep that to yourself. Even if not trying to solve for anything specific, the repetition of "the basics" will improve your game.
When I first learned WHFB years ago, I walked through the rules using the Orcs versus Empire models that came with the starter box. I've done this for FoW and other games as well. These sessions helped get the rules into my head. But the solo play rules walk-thru is different from a game where you are trying to meet scenario objectives while dealing with the unpredictable movements of an opponent. You need to be able to surprise yourself. That usually only happens to me when bouncing checks.
This has been a long way around the barn to get to what I want to say. I was thinking of how I might be able to play LotR as a solitaire game. I mainly wanted to do this as a way to learn how some of my newer armies play. But I'd also like to be able to check out other forces before I invest in them. A quick web search revealed that I am not alone in the endeavor.
I found Isildur's Bane, which is a "hack" of the LotR game to allow for solo play. I read through the rules and think that this will fit the bill. I actually set up five models for each side and tested it out. It works! It's not exactly the same game. Move and shoot phases are combined and there are no heroic actions. A test with five models a side was just a way to see if things made sense. I will now have to test out the game with a larger force.
So I'll be hosting a "Battle of the Unpainted Armies" some time this week. I've got about 250pts of Orcs and easily that much of Elves. I've never played either side, so this will be a great test. I don't have much in terms of terrain to make things more interesting. I plan on using just a 2' x 2' board to keep things moving fast. I haven't decided on a scenario either. Maybe I'll make up my own. At any rate, I will post up the results of my test game. Stay tuned!