Monday, 13 February 2012


I was in the midst of adapting and modifying various games when I decided to get back to working on my own. Naturally, the last 6 months of influences and other great games has significantly colored my ideas about solo gaming. Here are the core concepts that have survived:

1. Limited control
This sounds weird, but is something I picked up from the indispensable Solo Nexus blog. He uses simple systems of limting control over EACH force to increase solo enjoyment. playing Combat Cards and THW games both demonstrated to me the usefulness of this technique in solo gaming. It's not half bad in head to head play either, in games like Memoir 44, which I love.

2. Minimal list prep
Being able to get the stats sorted and bullets flying as quickly as possible makes me more likely to actually play a game.
Example: THW games
Counter-example: AE Bounty

3. Minimal clutter
My original Gut Check rules featured a ton of counters. I now find this messy and visually unappealing. Rules which use the minis themselves to indicate status are great. A few counters are OK, but they should not be all over the place and if they are model-able it is a bonus... I like modeling!
Example: Blood Bowl
Counter Example: Gut Check

4. Minimal Dice rolling
As a solo gamer,  I don't like rolling huge buckets of dice, or long strings of dice. For a while I got quite attracted to the idea of using a few polyhedrals, but that's limiting the ease of use for some people.
Example: iTEN
Counter Example: Warhammer

5 Easy force construction using any figures
A key part of the Throwdown idea is just grabbing some of the minis you already have painted and getting to it. Keeping forces small helps this, the 5 figure pack as a starting point seemed great to me.
Example: Combat Cards
Counter Example: 40K

6. Cinematic
Huh? That's right, I'm interested in movie-like action games, not realistic simulations. I admit it. I want to make a game that actually encourages or includes action movie tropes.
Example: And One For All
Counter Example: Advanced Squad Leader

I started off prototyping with an ordinary deck of playing cards. (The idea was that everyone had access to these cheaply). In a couple of days, I had something that worked surprisingly well.

I have now made up a set of custom cards for it, as while the game is still currently playable with a standard deck, it requires a bit of looking at the reference chart that I'd like to eliminate. It's much nicer looking at a "shoot" card in your hand than having to remember what equals what. With the custom deck, your game options are written in plain english on the cards themselves:

The cards, ready for print
Feature list:
Modern to Sci-fi feel, meaning a focus on gunplay. Actual technologies are somewhat abstracted though.( It's John Woo rather than Arthur C. Clarke.)

Suggested force size of 3-10 models
Use any figures, any scale. (15mm on a 25mm grid is just the default.)
Fully customizable but simple force construction
Uses just 1 deck of cards and a 1 page QRS to resolve all action, no dice.
Play on a 1" square grid, no measuring. (Free-move traditional play also supported by replacing squares with inches)

The rules need some playtesting, and I will be emailing the usual Blogosphere suspects I think might like to help in the next week or so. Unlike Gut Check, I am going to try selling this set as a print 'n play PDF as a proper project in the hopes that it will force me to finish it. I'm confident I can create something that meets or exceeds the current standard of PDF rules in terms of quality and value for money. I'm thinking  US $5 as a price point.

As well as the card deck, I'm thinking of including some printable gridded map boards.

The rules themselves are only 5 pages at the moment,  but are free of fluff, examples (needed), or descriptions of the hobby. There is also a single page QRS that has all the info you need for a game on it.

More to come...


  1. This sounds very interesting. I like the feature list a lot.

  2. An interesting change of direction once again; does this bear any relation to the 'Gun Gods' concept you showed me somewhere last year?

    (And something I've been meaning to ask since Gut Check: What font is that you are using for all these things? I rather like it.)

    1. The font is called "Cracked" The gut check one was different, but I don't have it at the moment (old computer)

      It's sadly, nothing like gun gods.. That was d6 based and this is 100% card-run. The stunt mechanic in this is totally different too, but much much better IMHO. I will send you a test copy soon!

    2. The font on the cards is vinca stencil.

  3. Low model count, fast play, and most importantly to me, good storytelling during and after the battle. Sounds like you're covering all my preferred bases, looking forward to this one.

  4. have you ever played "up front"?
    card based tactical ww2 game from avalon hill..
    had some good concepts random cards included terrain effects dice were handled with random cards like combat cards...
    drawing random firepower cards.. if you had a 4 firepower card you could make an attack etc
    i enjoyed that for solo...not always being able to attack when you wanted to

    1. I played it once in the early 90's, found it a bit fiddly, but I was hugely biased toward GW style gaming back then. A friend of mine was quite fanatical about it though.

  5. @SpaceJacker,

    I would really like to help with playtesting your ruleset, as I was really thrilled by the former Gut Check! incarnation.

  6. Sounds interesting. Small scale skirmish with strategy and solo play plus maps from one pdf doc would be great. Loving the idea of the cinematic story making gameplay too! As always your graphic design work looks spot on. Be good to see how this develops.

    1. Thanks, I think there a definite niche to be filled here.

  7. If you need another playtester, count me in. I just completed two cycles of testing for games by two other designers, and I'm ready for more!

  8. Interesting concepts. You haven't named Combat Cards in the examples but there will be cards in your game and moreover you lately were toying with CC. Are you going to include something similar to CC in your game or just the idea of using cards but way differently to CC?

    1. Cards are used exclusively like in Combat Cards (there are no dice), but the game mechanics are totally different. Throwdown has a more complex damage model that allows differences in armor level and weapon type, which requires a different approach.

  9. I am also interested in helping out if needed.

    1. Cheers Graham, just ironing out some final kinks before I get it together.

  10. Sounds good. Looking forward to seeing how this turns out and what your twist will be to make it different from combat cards-although i gues being a bit more specific in your target genre is one way.

  11. Have You heard about game:

    Many clever ideas, even if figures are very overpriced.

    I would love to hlp playtest.

    1. I did see that on BGG, and it sounds pretty cool , but also a bit expensive. The story elements sound really innovative, but I'm very wary of the blind purchase element and the "set" story elements... I nshort I got excited then lost that excitement.

      I will include you in the playtest when it goes ahead :)

  12. Sounds like a tall order you have there. I certainly went for the card activation in Gruntz but you point 4 is going to be a challenge. I actually think you have just described Savage Worlds, which is what I used for 3 years for 15mm gaming, it certainly ticks many of the box's but the ultimate in paired down gaming is SOBH. Of course all challenges are there to be overcome so good luck!

    1. I love SOBH as a ruleset, and I think Throwdown approaches it in terms of simplicity. My solo problem with SOBH is that it requires a 'gamble' from your opponent on activation rolls, and I didn't find a way to play this that I liked, although there are several suggested ways to do it.

      I had an idea last night for a totally different way of handing AI card play in Throwdown, which changes the rules a lot.. I'm sure you have similar problems ;)

  13. Your feature list is really "ticking my boxes" and I think it's a great idea to include ground plans in the package.

    I would be pleased to playtest and purchase this and I think it could really hit the spot for a lot of gamers. Good luck with your project.

    1. Thanks, great to hear! I've been overhauling the solo rules and I'm realy happy with how it plays now. I have a few more tweaks and it will be ready for test.

  14. I am also interested in helping out with playtesting. I will also purchase it when it comes out.

  15. Will follow this with interest! Like the concept.

  16. Our gaming group plays every week. I would love to give this a try. If you need more playtesters, we would be honored.