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.
Howe tries one more time to sweep the colonials by attacking from the South at Brandywine. This time I was playing with my latest FoF rule. If you end your move within 1/3 foot move (~ 1/2 mile) of an enemy unit, you MAY move your piece into contact. If you move end your move within one base thickness (500′) you are considered to have contacted the unit and are moved adjacent to signify it.
I found this to be very seamless and smooth to play. This was probably because that’s how I usually play anyway. I don’t get to precise with movement because any wargame movement rate is based on a lot of assumptions and estimates.
I tried the variant in my recent post https://pubbattleshomebrew.blog/2021/07/17/field-of-fire-review-with-solution/ and quickly found it wanting. 1/3 is just too much! That is basically a half mile away, and forcing troops a half mile away to fight, with muskets that aren’t effective at much beyond 50′, seems a little silly. Then again, determined troops that are trying to reach an enemy aren’t going to stop 2/3 of the way there! If a block can move its full move and fight x rounds of combat, then a determined attacker should be able to follow through and make the attack if within a third.
Here is what I am going to try next:
A unit that finishes its movement within 1/3 of an enemy unit may be moved to contact, if it finishes its move within one base thickness (3/8″) it must be moved to contact.
Stay tuned for my next video and we shall see how this plays out!
Once again into the breach! Howe attacks from the South and I start testing the new 1/3 variant for FoF, but quickly determine it doesn’t work. I have a solution and will be posting another demo using that variant. Ultimately, unless I’m explaining what I’m doing, no one can tell anyway. So, there it is!
Movement is simultaneous in Pub Battles. This is important to remember when a unit sometimes passes by an enemy with out so much as a “How d’ya do! This can happen because there is no way to determine apriori what that unit’s action will be, it is better to not worry about the details.
It is a mistake to take quite literally what you see on the board. Since movement is simultaneous, it is better to view it in a more non-linear sense, i.e. all that really matters is where units end up at the end of the turn, and even that might be suspect. A unit is probably in a location, as far as the Generals can tell. Heck, sometimes the division commanders aren’t really sure where they are, and they certainly aren’t sure of where anyone else is! That is where I believe Pub Battles handles Fog of War in spades. Not in literally hiding unit IDs and locations, but in the fact that it is almost impossible to even be sure of what the board is showing you. All you can do is juggle (ATO roll) what the chit draw hands you. When I play double blind solitaire, I have perfect knowledge of where everyone is, but such knowledge is often of little avail if the chit draw does not allow me to do what I intend. That, and other than dragoons, I usually move my infantry in nearly straight forward marches if entering combat, simulating the level of uncertainty that accompanies most tactical operations.
What do you think? Is this what Pub Battles means to you? There is no right or wrong answer, it is a matter of how you feel most comfortable in viewing it.
The Field of Fire rule was created because it was felt that units in close proximity, but not actually in contact with enemy units, shouldn’t be able to just sit there with impunity. That makes sense. Problems arose immediately once the matter was investigated more closely. Are we talking about small arms fire and battalion guns, or are we including skirmishers and such. If we are including skirmishers, then LOS shouldn’t be a factor since skirmishers could move into position regardless. Well, what about firing across a body of water, like an unfordable river? Skirmishers couldn’t cross that, so perhaps FoF should only count if the intervening terrain is impassable. The simple “Blocks can not enter a FoF without moving to contact” FoF rule was getting laden with clauses and exceptions.
I simply chose not to use it, and my games worked fine. Except I wasn’t really happy with the rules, so I had to fiddle. Most recently, I came up with the concept of Infantry Ranged Fire, which allowed infantry to fire just like artillery bombards, except with a range of only 1/3. This worked mostly because enemy blocks stayed out of Infantry Fire range. Recently, when playing Brandywine, it was used fairly often by troops firing at each other across Brandywine. A lot of units suffered one or even two hits, which is pretty major since Baggage Trains are rarely unpacked in this fast and frequently mobile battle. Infantry Ranged Fire with smoothbore muskets and no battalion guns shouldn’t be able to do that kind of damage from over 250 yards away. I liked Infantry Ranged Fire better than FoF, but not much better.
Back to the drawing board I went. I reasoned that I didn’t like FoF because it had the effect of forcing a player to move back a block that ran out of movement before actually making contact. This just seemed counterintuitive, to me. It felt wrong to have a unit stopping when in reality it should have been picking up the pace. Most combat started at range as the combatant closed, why can’t the rules reflect that! I decided to reverse the process and try a different rule:
If you end your move within 1/3 of an enemy unit (ignoring facing and LOS), you must immediately be moved into contact (as an Attacker or into Support) with the closest enemy unit.
If all enemy units within range are already contacted and supported, you may ignore this requirement.
This rule recognizes that once you end your move within 1/3 of an enemy unit, ranged fire and light troops are already becoming engaged, closing to contact just acknowledges this. Of course, if the enemy hasn’t moved yet, and subsequently moves away, then combat has has been avoided. Perhaps your intentions have been foiled, perhaps you were simply hoping to maneuver him out of position without resorting to costly combat.
I don’t bother measuring too exactly. You can spend all your time measuring down to the finest hair, only to have the map jostled, or suffer big meat hooks like mine, fumbling around with closely packed units. Even effective firing ranges aren’t exact. Among the variables can be visibility and powder quality. You do have to draw the line somewhere. The actual movement rates are there, and should be used as a guideline.
This rule should speed the game up even more with less measuring. Frequently, you may not be sure if you can close to contact, but it is more obvious whether or not you can get to within one third. I’m going to try this in my next video. You won’t be able to tell I’m using it, units will either be in contact, or more than a third away. I’m testing it to find out if anything seems not right. You can never be sure until you try it out.
Here is the game where I tried this out and immediately decided I didn’t like it!
In this variant I reorganize the Coalition army into 3 large Corps. Like many strategies in Pub Battles, there is no “best” way to do something. Large or small Corps have their advantages and disadvantages. Large Corps are great for concentrating a lot of forces on a narrow front for an assault, but can be challenging if trying to react with any precision. They tend to be big hammers. On the defensive, where combat command isn’t so crucial, they can be quite adequate.
(DISCLAIMER) Pub Battles Austerlitz is an excellent game as is. This variant is only presented as an alternative that highlights the flexibility of the system.
Smaller commands can make mounting an effective attack difficult, but can make for a more flexible defense.
The big factor to consider is your Leadership rating. The French (or the Confederacy), with a 4 rating, can usually make their Alter Turn Order rolls, and gain both flexibility in concentrating their efforts, and in reacting to enemy actions. On the other hand, the Coalition (or the Union), with a rating of 2 (or 3), can have a very tough time.
For this variant, while I allow the Coalition player to reorganize their army, it comes with a limit. The original Corps can’t be broken up, only combined with others. This is because of the intermixing of troop quality. In most armies, the lower quality troops were intermixed with higher quality troops. The regiments tended to be of one quality, but different regiments would then form higher level organizations. A Corps may be comprised of 50% conscripts, but those battalions would be spread around. In pub Battles, that is shown when half the blocks of the Corps are militia. The Corps with 50% militia is less effective than one without, so it works at the Corps level. Remember that the names on the blocks are given for color, not because that division was actually all conscripts (or elite!).
In the foto above, I only intend on attacking with Docturov’s Corps (on the left), but to disguise my intentions I have my army organized into 3 large Corps. This disguises my intent, and is very unnerving to the French player as he sees three large threats to contend with. Which one does he prepare for?
Because the French begin with over half their army off board, this gives the Coalition player a slight edge in the early turns. If they can do enough damage early on, the French may never recover. If they decide to remain on the defensive, the French can chip away at their less adaptable army and where them down while watching for an opportunity to administer that “one final blow.” Either strategy is viable, and either can be countered.
War is uncertain. Sometimes, using the above setup and strategy of having Docturov attack the French right, will see all his attacks thrown back, other times will seem him sweep the stretched French defenses, most times it will be a combination. Every game will play out differently. Often the chit draw will serve to compliment or confound your plan! You must have a plan, and yet be flexible.
Austerlitz out of the tube works great. This variant isn’t to “fix” something, but is actually a variant. A “What If.” I have played the regular version over a dozen times, and I want to try something a little different.
What if Napoleon felt that the Coalition wasn’t buying his charade that he was weak. So he starts all in. Davout still doesn’t make it from Vienna until turn 2, but other than that, all French forces start on the map.
There are occasions where both sides are better off defending and making their opponents attack. Austerlitz is one such battle, hence Napoleon’s deception. If the deception, which was daring and not sure of working, had not been successful, then actually attacking would have been necessary. How to make the French attack a larger foe?
To answer this, I have created the concept of Bridgeheads. Not actual bridgeheads, but close enough to make for an adequate label. In addition to the other two ways of winning, routing the enemy, or capturing their Baggage Trains, let us introduce a third way.
By scenario definition, a bridgehead is created when you are the first player to unpack a Baggage Train in a designated enemy area. At the end of the game, if the Bridgehead has not been destroyed by the enemy, you win!
Unlike when a regular Baggage Train is unpacked, when a Bridgehead is created, the label is exposed and the enemy is made aware of the Bridgehead. Only one Bridgehead can be created per game. Deciding when can be critical. Too soon, and the enemy has time to destroy it, too late, and the enemy may deploy it first!
For Austerlitz, The coalition needs to Build a bridgehead across the Goldbach (i.e. the west side), and the French must build one in the town of Pratzen.