Speeding up solitaire play

Every gamer has their own techniques when it comes to playing a game solitaire. Over the years I have come to prefer using a deck of cards instead of rolling dice, as a mainstay of my approach. Why?

Do you feel lucky?

First, I find flipping cards to be faster than rolling a die (or rolling dice). You do not have to worry about finding the damn things, nor whether they are properly flat. And you banish the type of disaster that can occur when a stray die cuts a swathe across the mapboard, sending counters everywhere.

Second, using a fixed set of numbers means each result will happen, but no more often than it should. So, for example, the “1” will show up 10% of the time in a 1-10 deck. This does not eliminate chance, but it curbs the impact of the extremes.

Third, I confess that there have been times when rolling dice in a solitaire game, and I have been tempted to reroll a ‘bad’ result – perhaps with a pretense of justification. (“Oh, I did not roll the dice properly.” Or “That die is not quite lying flat.“) And, yes, I have sometimes fallen to that temptation. However, because using a deck of cards gives the correct range of random numbers (and because it’s much more difficult to persuade yourself that a card has been improperly drawn from a deck) I found the temptation had disappeared. So, using the deck has improved the purity of the play.

Fourth, and it’s related to the speed aspect, I like to assign random chance to choices when playing solitaire. For example, I assess there’s a 20% chance this unit will sit tight 40% it will move up in support, and 40% it will charge into contact with the enemy. So, there is more need for the generation of random numbers when playing solo. And therefore, using the faster card deck delivers even greater savings of time.

Band of Brothers

Recently I have been playing a lot of Band of Brothers: Ghost Panzer. (See my review here.) In that system, infantry type units must take and pass a morale check every time they want to move or fire; this involves a 1d10 roll, needing to score less than or equal to their morale rating.

On the face of it, that’s a lot of die rolling. However, until they take any losses or suppression, units have a morale rating of 10. This means they do not need to take such a check. However, I wanted to tweak the system so that there was some small chance of even a 10 morale unit failing. I believed a house rule to that effect would add to the chaos of the game, as well as the fun.

For a game such as Band of Brothers: Ghost Panzer, I use a standard playing deck of cards, with all the Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Jokers removed. That leaves 40 cards in four sets of 1-10. (Playing solitaire, I use one deck for the game. With an opponent who wanted to try out the cards, I would use one deck for each player.)

To try out the house rule, I added one Joker to the deck of 40. So now units had to check morale, even with a 10 rating. However, units with a 10 morale only failed if the card drawn was a Joker. (I suppose, it’s an 11!) For all other purposes, I treated the Joker as a 10.

I played the infantry training scenario and was reasonably happy with the results. It was bit more fiddly, but not excessively so.  However, it had close to no effect – only once did a unit get stopped in its tracks – and I wasn’t sure if it was worth the effort. So, I added a second Joker and that seemed to be a better balance; it delivered more of what I was looking for.  And although it is purely subjective, I didn’t feel that the additional cards had a disproportionate effect on other game systems.

I still need to try this with one of the full scenarios and see how I get on. Yes, of course, I may be tempted to do further tweaking…

The good thing is that the game continues to be a blast. (I cannot wait for the updated Screaming Eagles counters to be available!)