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Pub Battles: Homebrew

A playtester’s guide to enjoying the Pub Battles System. I am not part of the company beyond playtesting, but I am here to answer any questions about the official rules as well. To order the games go to the Command Post Games website:

If your curious about the system here’s an overview.

If you are new, here’s my quick start rules

My current homebrew rules are here.

My rules discussions are here: Movement rates  How can a unit just sit there?   When to Alter Turn Order   More combat rules?    Chit Draw

My Variants are here: Night Rally   Optional Leadership  Baggage Trains  Solitaire with Written Orders    

Gettysburg posts: Stonewall at Gettysburg   

Waterloo posts: 3.0 has rendered my Waterloo post unnecessary and it has been removed.

Play the Map!

Grasping Pub Battles Combat

Pub Battles combat is quite simple. At its most basic, if two units are in contact, they both roll 3 dice hitting on fours or better.

One hit flips a unit to spent, two hits force it to retreat, and three hits eliminate it. If it is already spent, one hit forces it to retreat, and two hits eliminate it.

That’s it. If the units remain in contact, another round of combat is fought.

Let us understand the odds behind 3 dice hitting on fours. Each die has a 50% chance of hitting, that creates 8 combinations of outcomes:

There is a one in eight chance of no hits.

There is a two in eight (25%) chance of one hit.

There is a four in eight (50%) chance of two hits.

And there is a one in eight chance of three hits.

This means that the odds are against a block still holding the ground after the first round of combat and speaks to the value of having a second unit backing it up, ready to fill in the void.

Look at how powerful this makes an elite unite. An elite unit ignores the first hit in any combat. That means it can’t be eliminated in one round, and there is only a one in eight chance of it being forced back. It is almost as good as having a second unit backing a regular unit up.

Even if it is spent, there is only a one in eight chance of eliminating it in a subsequent Combat. Elite units are tough!

Likewise, militia units are very fragile and likely to be eliminated in the first round of combat. However, whether fresh or spent, elite, or just militia, the attack dice remain the same. This makes militia best used in front during an attack, backed up by higher quality units that will usually be left facing a spent unit, if any.

This mirrors historical practice.

One fourth of the time, two regular units will both be spent and retreat.

Does this mean they both ran away from each other?

Not likely. What can usually be imagined happening is that both units fought to exhaustion and neither controls the contested area. It will go to the first side able to rally or reinforce the position, whoever wins the chit draw next turn. In other words, it comes down to command initiative.

The most common die roll modifier is the minus one for a defender being in cover, each die goes from hitting half the time, to hitting one third of the time.

That means the attacker can inflict three hits just once in twenty-seven times!

You can expect three misses nearly half of the time.

The minus one really stacks up the more dice you roll!

If artillery is attacked in melee, it fires before the attacker. This means over half the time the attacker won’t get a chance to fire at artillery.

Artillery bombardment cannot eliminate a unit, but melee is not bombardment. Artillery can and frequently does, win the first round of combat. Grape shot is devastating!

If cavalry is charging fresh infantry, most of the infantry regiments are assumed to have formed into squares and the cavalry suffers a minus one on its dice.

Conversely, if the infantry are spent, fewer of the regiments are assumed to have managed to form square, and the cavalry adds one to its dice.

If two cavalry units are fighting, the heavier unit gets plus one. Check the scenario rules for cavalry weight.

Finally, there is the charge rule. By scenario definition, certain units (like Guards and some heavy cavalry) are eligible for the charge rule.

Rather than having to wait until the combat phase, these units can resolve combat the moment they move to contact during their movement.

This is very powerful and reflects that epic moment when the guard charges and the whole battle seemingly freezes; waiting for the issue to be decided.

Although not technically combat, I will discuss Supply Trains, as they are most important. On page four of the rules, it says “Bags in contact with the enemy at the beginning of combat are destroyed.” HQs and artillery (as well as Baggage trains) cannot move into contact with the enemy, so they cannot destroy bags. Detachments can, however.

This means that the enemy can move into contact with a baggage train and if the Baggage is unpacked, or has already moved, the only way to rescue it is if it is charged by an enemy unit with the charge capability.

Simply moving into contact with the unit, even if able to destroy it easily, doesn’t matter. If the enemy in contact with the Baggage Train “at the beginning of combat” the bags are lost.

Appreciating what Pub Battles is doing

I often hear Pub Battles criticized as too simple by folks who are used to battalion and regimental combat simulations. Pub Battles is an excellent Army and Corps level command simulation.

Some will look at a single block, with it’s fresh and spent sides, and imagine there is a whole lot more to a division in combat than just those two levels (three, if you count eliminated). I will argue that is a case of looking to closely at the trees to see the forest.

Let us look at how detailed Pub Battles treats a Corps in combat. Rather than simply a single Corps chit with twelve hit points, it has four blocks with three hit points each. Three of those hit points might be mounted dragoons, and three of those hit points might be elite grenadiers.

Additionally, each of those “packets” of three hit points have the possibility of recovering a hit point by rallying.

Further, rather than being constrained to a single square counter with a zone of control, these Corps can expand and contract as the situation demands (or combat requires).

Success in Pub Battles requires the player to think in terms of the Army and its component Corps. If you focus on the individual divisions, you’ll be like the army commander who micromanages too much.

A decision was made early on in the development of Pub Battles to use unit (divisional) level names. It adds to the experience and the immersion into the scenario, but it can be mistaken as exactly correlating with the unit’s so named. For instance, at Waterloo some of the Prussian Corps were as much as 50% landwehr. No entire division was, but many were composed of regiments and battalions of these lower grade troops. In Pub Battles this means that in some Corps, half the blocks are militia, which makes the Corps feel and act appropriately, even if the named divisions weren’t strictly landwehr.

Also, Leadership quality in Pub Battles is reflected in troop quality as well as the leadership rating. Troop quality can reflect how much confidence the troops had in their leaders. Elite units in Pub Battles can be counted on to get the job done, they hit harder and last longer. Conversely, militia tend to fall apart faster, you find yourself hoping they can hold. At least some of this rests squarely on the quality of leadership. This is why the best leaders were rewarded with the best troops. No one wasted their best troops on mediocre, leaders!

Pub Battles deserves to be regarded as the Corps level command simulation it is. Seeing it this way will improve your play.

Intro Video: Instant Pub Battles

I have just added this video. It would be good to watch before you read the rules, if you just purchased your first Pub Battles scenario.

It would also be great to have a friend watch before coming over to play Pub Battles for the first time.

I intentionally left a lot out, so as not to overwhelm. Just a quick, under 5 minute, intro to the system.

New Waterloo for Kriegspiel

Command Post Games has just come out with a Pub Battles Battalion scale Waterloo scenario. It is primarily intended as a Kriegspiel tool, and gives a link to Too Fat Lardies copy of the Kriegspiel rules.

It does include Pub Battles battalion scale rules, and you can order a paper map to use for playing on. it is a different, closer scale, map of just the area where the battle was fought. The regular Pub Battles map won’t have the details that are desired at battalion scale.

I enjoy the current Pub Battles scale, and am not interested in battalion scale or Kriegspiel, but if that’s your thing, go for it!

Kriegsspiel Scenario: Waterloo

Desperate Troops

We are looking at a new rule to simulate the effect on troops if no retreat is available. Although you could include this rule as an “always on” type of rule, we really are intending it mainly for battles where desperate defenses were a critical part of the battle. For instance, elements of Lee’s army at Antietam if backed up against the Potomac. Like any Pub Battles rule, the intent is to have as simple a rule as possible that retains authenticity and the feel of command.

A block that has no legal retreat is considered Desperate and ignores a treat result.

That is the whole rule, but just to make sure you can wrap your head around it, this is what it means:

The retreat is still counted, a fresh unit would still require 3 hits to be eliminated, but if a final result requires a retreat, it is simply ignored.

Note that it still counts the retreat, it just doesn’t actually retreat. So a Militia unit that takes a hit would flip to spent, but ignore the retreat requirement. Artillery can cause a unit to become spent, but not force it to retreat.

Let me know if you find something unclear about the rule. It seems pretty clear to me, but so does every rule written, to its author. It often depends on underlying assumptions that are impossible to anticipate.

Antietam 14 demo

This time I am asking, “What if McClellan went all in at the Lower bridge and fords?”
I am also experimenting with zooming in on particular combats. When I zoom in, the image gets a little grainy and pixelated, but it is easier to follow. Working on transitions more, and added Yakkity sax to the speed replay. When I edit it I see all the mistakes I made, and I finish asking viewers to comment if they have any questions.


https://youtu.be/Og0aiP1Dsr0

Waterloo 14

Waterloo as a decisive and explosive engagement! This time victory is decided by turn 3. As is so often the case with a Pub Battles game, victory can go either way, and the sudden collapse of one army would have been as much a surprise to the commanders as the players in this instance.

In this game, I was playing a variant where Wellington’s British troops, who had trained and fought with him for many years, fire first when on the reverse slope. His allied troops in Belgium do not, as they had not received any specific reverse slope training. If you believe this to be incorrect, please let me know in the comments below.