I've been clearing out closet space recently. When I started playing miniature war games several years ago I bought up just about every "big name game" I could find. So you can imagine what I uncovered in my closets: boxes of fully assembled, lovingly painted and totally unused armies.
The most regrettable find was all my Warhammer Fantasy Battle armies. I can't bring myself to sell these. But no one in my local group plays this game, and I don't feel like doing pick up games at the local game store. In fact, doing pick up games in the local game store almost caused me to drop out of the hobby completely. The total suckage of pick up games could be a post in itself.
But by now you are wondering how this post's title connects with my article. Let me explain.
I took out my WHFB boxes from the closet, looked at the models and wanted to play a game with them. I also wanted to renew my collection of WHFB models, and have a purpose for doing so. I considered what I'd enjoy. The story-driven, skirmish game Mordheim sounded right for this. So I pulled out my rulebook, threw some Orcs on the table and started to push these around. I did this to refresh myself on the rules, which reminded me of 6th ed WHFB (where I left off with that game; I'm two editions behind now). Having done that, I decided I'd like to actually play a game.
This is where Mythic's GM Emulator (GME) made all the difference. Originally created to allow GMs to run their RPGs without preparation or to play without a GM, the GME fits war gaming as well. I heard about the GME's use from some forums, and doubted if it would work. But I'm a sucker for these types of things and I plunked down the $6.95 to find out. I'm glad I did.
So here's a quick explanation of how it works. You ask a yes or no question, then determine the odds for a "yes". You check these odds on a table, and roll a d100. If you roll within the percentage given, then your answer is yes. Depending on how you score, you can also end up with an exceptional yes or exceptional no response. Other conditions, such as scoring doubles (22, 33, 99, etc) yield a random event. The success of this system hinges on asking intelligent questions and not dumb ass things like "Do I automatically win the game?" Additionally, as the game progresses, things can become more or less "chaotic" which will also influence the percentages. It's a neat system.
The net result was that my NPC opponent did things that I did not expect and moved more or less like someone else was controlling these models. That's the perfect situation for solo play. Also, with solo play you are allowed to do things like have random events that are not strictly in the rules. The GME helps add those in without any preparation or effort on your part, and these events will always be different. An example of play will probably help with understanding how GME works.
Meet the "Bloody Eye Boyz" These orcs are survivors from a recently sundered Waaagh! led by a now dead orc boss. Time for a new boss! Havak Dreadeye has pounded a few other boyz and gobbos into service to his Bloody Eye Boyz. Uglug Bashead and Durg Smashface are Big 'Uns that help keep the boyz and gobbos in line. They're now wandering the countryside, looking for plunder and violence. They've heard an abandoned home at the edge of town still might have some loot. When they arrive, some of the other boyz from the last Waaagh! are there already. This is great news! A fight is just what Havak and the boyz were hoping to enjoy!
As an aside, Animosity was simply out of control the entire game. I rolled one after one after one after one, until I canned those dice and got out my lucky Vegas dice. Then things got better and I could actually play the game! My Chessex dice cube is malfunctioning again. My casino dice are far more consistent. OK, back to the game.
It's time for the NPC to move. Since this is a test game, I just made a simple band to fight against. There are six Orcs, one Big Un and a Orc Boss in the NPC team, no magic or shooting. After handling their animosity, I ask if the first Orc will go thru the woods. Since he's eager for the fight, I assume he will not want to slow down and make the odds "Unlikely." I roll the dice and get a 5%. Not only does this mean the answer is "Yes" but it is an "exceptional Yes." (5% is in the lower 1/5 of the success range). It's up to me to interpret what this means. So he's definitely going into the woods, and he's really determined. I treat the "exceptional" part to mean he moved like he rolled a 6 on his Animosity chart. This means he gets an extra move above his normal move. He ends up not only going thru the woods, but he exits the same turn. Well done!
I now ask if the other boyz will follow him. I assume seeing their buddy's enthusiasm, they are now likely to follow. They don't want to be left out of the fight! So I roll and score within the 75% success range. They head off thru the woods. I ask for the Big Un and the boss as well, but they prefer to move up the center. I also ask if they would run. I determine that this is very likely because they don't want to get shot and want to get to the fight. However, I roll 87% and they decide to move more cautiously.
I could continue with the report, but won't bother. Now you can see that as long as you ask logical questions the NPC will move and act independently of your influence. I used this method to determine NPC charges, weapons selection, and other things that another player would do. While it sounds like a lot of work, you're really just working it out in your head. It takes only a moment to mentally ask the question and check the result. Once models are in combat, the normal game rules take over and it's just a matter of rolling dice. Using the GME with my Mordheim game, the story unfolded and I was really interested to see how Havak and the boyz would do.
So if you are a solo gamer or would just like to try something different, give the Mythic GM Emulator a chance. You could even use it to add some randomness to your regular games as well. I've only introduced the basics of it. Since it's an RPG tool, you can imagine it has a lot of story elements in it as well. For the seven bucks it costs, you can get a lot of mileage out of it.