Movement Rates

You might imagine that determining movement rates to be a fairly cut and dried operation. Just compare march rates or even historical march times and “boom” it’s done. When you’re racing to fill in a gap, or bring forward reinforcements it seems pretty imperative to figure out exactly how far a unit can move.

The problem is that there are a whole lot of soft issues to consider that are as important as the hard calculations of terrain and march rates.

As always, the first thing to note is that Pub Battles is divisional level, as opposed to regimental, or even lower, formations so common to miniatures games that use movement rates based on precise measurements. Other than this style of movement, Pub Battles has more in common with the old Avalon Hill hex based wargames.

All movement is measured in thirds of a movement stick. If you move entirely in clear terrain you move one full movement stick, otherwise you move 2/3. Additionally, you can lose a third for a second facing change, or for moving into or out of march column. Those are the hard factors.

Then there are the soft factors that are every bit as important to consider, even if necessarily less precise. How long did it take for them to receive, confirm, and organize to fulfill the orders? Have scouts brought them reports of possible enemy activity off to the flank? Where is the Vermont regiment, has anybody heard from them? They were supposed to lead the column!

Probably the biggest variable is combat. Do you spend the whole turn moving, or do you include the time it takes to resolve combat? Most games divide turns into movement and combat phases, but technically, combat is going on all over the battlefield at different times. Wargames divide the turns up for ease of simulation.

What designers do is establish movement rates that work within the game. In black powder armies there tended to be two rates of movement, foot and mounted. As long as all similar units are operating with the same limitations, all is good.

In Pub Battles’ Waterloo, the Prussians enter the board on turn 1, but they don’t make a significant appearance in the battle till mid-game. Even so, they weigh heavily on the French player’s mind the whole time. They cannot be ignored! There is some merit to Blucher’s contention that the Prussians saved the day for the allied cause. Developments around Placenoit were a significant drain on the French army, including many Guard units.

All of which goes to show that even if movement rates can’t be figured exactly, they come close enough when everybody is playing by the same rules. When I play, I am pretty loose with movement rates. I often say, “close enough.” Others enjoy much more firmly defined limits. This robust system can satisfy all tastes.

When To Alter Turn Order

The chit draw activation is the most powerful mechanic in the Pub Battles arsenal. The Pub Battles system is as subtle as it is basic. Unlike almost every YouMove/IMove game out there, if you are contacted by the enemy before you move, you can simply move away.

When I first played a game of Pub Battles (Brandywine), I assumed the rules were incomplete because they didn’t say you couldn’t move away if contacted. The result of playing that way was that both commanders tried to move before the enemy every turn. This resulted in no strategy, just simple luck of the die.

When I found out that a unit could move when activated regardless of whether or not it had been previously contacted a light went off in my head. “Wow. Wait…That means…” This was quite literally a game changer for me.

One of the decisions that was made when the rules were written, was they weren’t going to include a lot of “unlearning” guidelines. This has the interesting affect of making the system harder to learn for grognards than newbies to the wargaming world. Since there is no way to guess what “chatter” might be brought forward from previous rules experience, it was decided to not worry about it. There is just no way to estimate all the ways a simple rule might be misunderstood.

Over time and with a little experience, I’ve learned a few things about how to command an Army in the Pub Battles system. Key to understanding the chit draw mechanic is that the order of the chit draw in the game is not necessarily the order of events being simulated. Everything is more or less simultaneous, and often the later drawn command can be thought of as having the initiative, because they see (or accurately anticipate) what the enemy is going to do, and can react to it.

You will note that I almost never use absolutes when referring to the chit draw. The chit draw allows for almost any potentiality. It does not imply anything, but you can infer a wide variety of events based on how the draw ended up.

All you really know for sure is which units were actually decisively in combat over the length of the turn. The only combat that has to be resolved in the combat phase is that combat that results in enough damage to be shown by the effects of one or more hits on a divisional level.

Say a unit moves a short distance before coming into contact with an enemy unit, then the enemy unit gingerly activates and slides a ways back, thus no combat to resolve in the combat phase. It might look like the unit moved to attack and then sat there while the defender moved back a bit and like MC Hammer cried “Can’t touch this!”

If that were the case, then the Pub Battles system would be deeply flawed. Fortunately, although that is what is explicitly shown, this is a situation where there may be a whole lot of implicit combat occurring. Something caused that unit to only move a short distance.

There is a lot involved in getting several thousand men on a battlefield to launch an attack; orders have to be received and understood; logistical concerns have to have been considered; a myriad of things have to go right. Assuming all that goes off in a timely way (often, it may be that some delay kept the unit from moving sooner), you have the enemy himself.

The enemy may not intend to hold the ground, but aren’t going to let you just waltz up and have it for free. Think of Nathaniel Greene and his famous delaying actions which saved Washington’s army any number of times. “Sir, we just can’t get at ’em!” There may be all sorts of hot engagements, just nothing that results in the step loss of a division.

There is also no end to the subterfuge that a clever commander can use to confound his opponent (although, incompetence is probably more common then brilliance).

All this is leading up to some of the why’s and wherefores of the chit draw. Generally, you want to go later, but not always.

If you’re defending, you may want to go later because then you can decide which units that have been contacted want to stay and fight it out, and which ones want to back off and not fight the battle the enemy has chosen for them. You may simply want to see what the enemy is going to do so you can react and prepare a proper reception.

Going first might seem the better option if your defender wants to rally, or set up a defensive position, select the best terrain, before the enemy arrives.

If you’re attacking, you want to go later so you can decide exactly which combats you’re going to fight AND where exactly you’re going to fight them. As always, it’s good to see what the defender is doing and where he is doing it before you decide to attack and prevent him from responding to it.

One critical benefit to moving first is that it allows the defender to yield exactly the terrain you desire without a fight. Besides allowing you to gain ground without sacrifice, it allows you to see what areas he is willing to fight for, and which areas he is willing to let go of. Knowing these priorities gives you a hint as to his strategy and concerns.

Understanding the chit draw and its implications allows you to make better choices as to when to roll to Alter Turn Order. I hope this helps you to imagine the battlefield in a Pub Battles game, and to build a vibrant and exciting narrative around the chit draw.

Chit Draw Example

I want to showcase what I think is the most powerful aspect of the Pub Battles system: The chit draw mechanic.

In the opening situation here, we have the disposition of forces after the previous turn’s actions. Reynold’s I Corps made a spirited charge from the Peach Orchard to the woods North of the Spangler farm. This charge ended in disaster and the Corps (now reduced to a single spent division) tumbled back to the Peach orchard.

The next turn the first chit drawn was Longstreet’s Corps and they charged obliquely to take advantage of the weak spot in the Union line. The next chit drawn was Hancock’s II Corps and they sent Hay’s division forward to bolster Reynold’s shattered I Corps. Finally, Reynold’s chit was drawn and they retreated away. As there were no units in contact, there was no combat to resolve.

This is a good example of implicit and explicit combat. Explicit combat is when two units are left in contact and combat is resolved that results in the destruction or retreat of an entire division. Implicit combat is when the final positioning of the units is determined by chit draw. This is shown in the picture above by the smoke between the two units that are only a couple hundred yards apart, obviously in range to exchange fire, but with neither time nor resources to engage decisively this turn.

So what happened here? The system doesn’t tell you specifically. That would take many pages of rules and would never come close to capturing the drama and action of Day two at Gettysburg. When one describes the action shown, the narrative only illustrates a possible interpretation.

The first thing to understand is that chit draw order is not always linear in time, frequently it shows the anticipated actions of the enemy, or simulates the tactical edge (or even dumb luck) of an opponent.

In a standard You Move/I Move game, Hood’s division would have been able to attack I Corps’ remnants before they got away and the deal would be done, or if the Union moved first, I Corps would have easily slipped away and Hancock would have plugged the hole. All this would have been known before the turn began.

Instead, with the chit draw mechanic, Who moves before and who moves after can mean everything, and isn’t determined until the chits are drawn.

In the example above, because Reynolds’ chit was drawn after Hood’s, he was able to ensure that the remnants of his exhausted Corps were able to delay Hood’s division long enough for Hancock to get Hay’s division into place and they were able to frustrate Hood from getting the decisive battle he was looking for.

Had Hood moved last, Reynolds’ would have had the opportunity to rally Rowley’s division to turn and face Hood in their spent condition, but with good terrain, or retreat out of the Peach Orchard and let Hancock order Hay’s division into the breach. In that case, Hood would have gotten the decisive battle he was looking for (remember, the South is in a race for time), but against a fresh opponent.

There’s still another possibility. If Reynold’s had been drawn first and then retreated, and then Longstreet had been drawn, he could have sent Hood in to secure the Peach Orchard forcing Hancock to attack Hood’s elite Texans in good terrain… This is why no two games of Gettysburg are ever going to be completely the same, you just can’t be sure how the battle’s going to fall out.

Lest you think your totally at the whim of the chit draw, the Alter Turn Order rule really makes for another level of strategy! If you are familiar enough with the system you can anticipate when to try to advance or delay the draw. This isn’t a case of “knowing the rules better.” The rules are really simple, but it is a matter of having a feel for the possible. Bismarck may have said “Politics is the art of the Possible,” but I will go a little further and say that Pub Battles is the art of the possible.

Quick Start Rules

Introduction

Imagine that you are the Army General in your command tent. Before you on a table is the map of the battlefield with the latest best estimates of yours and your opponents positions. You discuss possible options with your Corps commanders and move your units where you want them to move, as well as attack. Aides write down the orders and race on horseback to the field commanders. While this is going on, other aides are rushing back with the latest reports and updating your map. Sometimes everything goes according to plan. Usually, you have some surprises, as well as those moments where you are absolutely astonished by the events you see transpiring right before your eyes. If only you could be right there, but you also need to be right there, and there, and over there. This is real Fog of War at the highest level. This is Pub Battles!

A very few of these rules differ from the official Pub Battles rules. I’ve played hundreds of games and I have a few things I home rule. I denote these with an * so no one is confused and looking for them in the regular rules.

Pieces

Infantry – Basic unit of the game, uses foot movement rate.

Cavalry – Fast moving unit, uses mounted movement rate.

Artillery – Primarily ranged combat, uses foot movement rate, unless labeled “Horse Artillery”

HQ – Small cube that represents commander’s locale, from which command range is measured.

Terms – Appear in italics when found in rules.

Activation – When a command chit is drawn, that command, and all its units, are activated.

Attacker – The unit that moved into contact.

Bombardment – Ranged artillery fire…

Column – A long narrow formation used to facilitate quick road movement (X2). To move in column a unit is positioned so its length is stretched out along a road. Vulnerable if attacked. It cost 1/3 move to switch into, or out of, column.

Command – A Corps HQ may only command units in its Corps. An Army HQ may command any units in its army, also it may have units attached directly to it alone. Only units in command before they move may move into contact with an enemy. Only active units may move, and only active units in command may move into contact, Thus, an army HQ may command any units, but only activated units may move!

Command Range – 1/3 mounted move as measured from closest edges.

Defender – The unit that was contacted.

Entering/Crossing – A unit is considered entering/crossing a terrain feature if more than half of it is in the feature.

Face – A unit’s front facing is the side opposite its label if fresh, or adjacent to the top of its label if spent.

Flip – To flip a unit to signify a changed status.

Fresh – An unspent unit.

Hits – A fresh unit can sustain three hits in one round of combat. The first hit will flip it to spent. A second hit will cause it to retreat. A third hit will eliminate it. A spent unit will retreat with one hit, and be eliminated by two hits.

Line of Fire – A line measured from the center of a unit, that can see at least half of its target and is within one foot move. The target must lay within a 45-degree angle from the front of the artillery unit.

Occupying Terrain – If a unit has at least half its block in a terrain feature.

Rally – A spent unit that is not within 1/3 foot move of an enemy unit and does not move, may flip back to its fresh side. It may also pivot.

Resolves completely – Two units in contact continue rounds of combat until no longer in contact.

Round – Each time a pair of units roll dice in combat. Units in contact may fight several rounds.

Spent – A unit that has suffered one damage.

Supporting – Certain types of units may be moved adjacent to, and directly behind, a friendly unit to support it. If the supported unit retreats or is eliminated, the supporting unit may retreat, or advance to contact and continue combat.

Only infantry may support other infantry or artillery. Only cavalry may support other cavalry.

Excess hits do not carry over to supporting units.

Unsupported – Artillery that is unsupported, and forced to retreat from combat, is eliminated.

Turn Order

Activation phase – This is when you draw chits randomly from a cup to activate a command.

Combat phase – Units in contact with enemy units now resolve combat.

Reset phase – HQs that were flipped to Alter Turn Order are now flipped back.

Activation: Movement, Bombardment, Rally

Once activated, you may move the HQ first to bring key units into command range. All a corps’ units may move, but only those in command range may move into contact with enemy units. This is also when Artillery may bombard (not in the combat phase!). Spent units that don’t move may rally.

How to move – A unit moves in the direction it is facing as far as 1 movement chain (or stick) of its type; foot or mounted. It may move in echelon (diagonally) up to 45 degrees maintaining its same facing. It may change its facing once for free, or a second time by subtracting 1/3 of its total movement allowance. If it moves entirely without entering any terrain features it may move one full move, if it enters any terrain features it may only move 2/3.

It does not matter if the unit moves through a single patch of woods, or through woods, hills, and streams, it moves 2/3 instead of a full move.

BombardmentFresh Artillery that does not move may bombard. The artillery must have a Line of Fire. Roll 3 dice and apply hits. Bombardment cannot eliminate a unit. Excess hits are ignored.

Rally – A spent unit that is not within 1/3 foot move of an enemy unit* and does not move may flip back to its fresh side. It may also pivot.

How to have Combat

*Combat order – As you draw the chits from the cup be sure to line them up in a row. Each command, in reverse chit draw order, resolves its attacks. Attackers that begin the combat phase in contact resolve combat. Each side rolls 3 dice simultaneously, any result of 4 or more is a hit. Defending units in a command do not resolve until the attacking unit’s command resolves. Each attack, even if part of a larger multi-unit combat, resolves completely before moving on to the next unit.

A defending unit gains a terrain modifier for occupying terrain.

*Flanking – If a single unit is contacting the rear of a unit, or if a unit is contacted by more than one enemy, it is considered flanked. This adds 1 to the attacker’s roll and subtracts 1 from the defender’s roll.

Special Combat cases

Artillery – Bombarding artillery can never eliminate a unit. Artillery in combat always resolves its dice first, and then any remaining defender’s may roll dice and apply effects. Unsupported artillery is eliminated if forced to retreat.

Elites ignore the first hit in any combat phase.

Militias count the first hit as two hits in any combat phase. 

note: This is per entire combat phase, not per round!

*In cases with multiple units in contact with multiple defenders, the last unit to move into contact is resolved first.

HQs are abstract representation of command and are never affected by combat. Simply move them out of the way. Their location is only critical during the activation phase when determining command. Each activation, command is determined from one point, you cannot move and command from different places during the same activation. When moving you can move them anywhere within 1 mounted move, they ignore facing and terrain (they cannot ignore impassable terrain features).

Other rules for unit types may apply, be sure and check the scenario guidelines.

Design Philosophy

The Pub Battles system simulates fighting a battle from the command post. This is a command simulation, not a combat simulation. This means a lot of detail is hidden from the players. Just like real commanders, you can’t be everywhere at once. Were you to leave your command post for any length of time, you would become completely blind to the battle as a whole.

The map in front of you, unlike most wargames, isn’t an exact representation of the actual positions of every unit on the battlefield. It is the best estimates your aides have of the ever changing “current” situation.

When you move a unit on the map, this simulates the orders you have given to your subordinates, not necessarily where they have moved. Only time will tell how your finely planned orders have been executed.

An exception to this is the “Alter Turn Order” rule where a commander attempts to directly affect the turn order. This can be thought of as those times when the commander actually leaves the HQ tent and attempts to take direct control of his command. The rest of the time, it is assumed that the commander must rely on subordinates to communicate battlefield reports.

This means that often the disposition of the units on the map won’t make complete sense. “Why aren’t they Attacking!” is a common frustration when viewing opposing units in too close proximity to each other. Maybe they’re not really there; maybe they can’t see because of smoke or fog; Maybe they are uncertain where other threats might be. There are many possibilities. Too many to have a separate rule for each.

The chit draw mechanic covers all those eventualities elegantly. Sometimes you want to go first; you want to rally before the next attack, or you want to get there before the defender can rally. Other times, you want to go last so you can pick exactly where and when you fight, or you just want your opponent to reveal his intentions.

Another reason combat is depicted simply is because of scale. When you see the blocks on the map it is easy to imagine miniatures games where those blocks represent regiments. Pub Battles is representing divisions, so it’s more like the old hex based divisions…Except this looks so much cooler!

A single defender cannot be flanked by a single attacker. At smaller echelons this is an effective tactic, but at the divisional scale of Pub Battles this would be inappropriate and take advantage of the wood blocks. A division would arch backward on the end and refuse the flank if threatened. Of course, being attacked in the rear would be very devastating, and is given the flanking bonus.These quick start rules will get you up and playing. Once you have played the game enough to get the feel of the benefits of moving either earlier or later, you will enjoy adding the Alter Turn Order rules. When I play, I use these quick rules, plus the Alter Turn Order rules, and Supply Wagons.

In Development – Capture the Flag

This is my concept for a non-historical scenario creation system. Like many military “wargames,” the objective is to capture the enemy base.

The idea of buying armies sounds kind of ludicrous. Everyone vying to buy the best army. What generals ever got to pick their exact army? You made do with what you had. The hand fate dealt you. The idea of a fair fight is not a consideration. How well can you do with what you have?

Hence, I prefer a card based system. In this case I prefer a system where each card represents a corps. Some cards will be Fog of War thus the enemy’s true size will be unknown for a time.

I looked at the Waterloo OoB and observed that the armies both have 10 HQs. The French actually have 10 HQs counting the 4 cav corps, and the allies have 8 corps plus Wellington and Blucher.

My idea is this: I have made a French and Allied deck. Each deck has a card for each Corps + Fog of War cards to bring the total to 12.

Then I made a setup deck. Each card will determine your forces and victory conditions.

Players choose a deck, French or Allied, then deal four stacks of three cards. Next draw two cards from the setup deck. The first card is for the French forces, the second card is for the allied forces. Four cards are special (SSS, RRR, SXX, RXX), if one of these cards is drawn, then both players use that card, if two of those cards are drawn, the second card is used. Each card has a strength rating from 1 to 3. If the strength ratings are equal, then the objective is to control both bases at the end of the game. Otherwise, the stronger army must capture the objective from the defender and hold it at game end, or they lose.

Each setup card will have three letters that the players must assign to each of three stacks, the one remaining stack will not be used. The letter S means these forces Start the game on the map. The letter R means these forces enter as reinforcements sometime during the game. The Letter X means that these forces are not used unless the game continues to additional days.

S forces may set up anywhere within 1 mounted move of your home edge. You may set your base/objective up anywhere at least 1/3 mounted move from your home edge. If you control the larger force, you have no base.

If you have one R stack, starting on turn one you roll a die whenever its chit is drawn and on a 3 or less the HQ enters the map on your home edge, or along either side as far as 1/3 mounted move times the turn number from your home edge. If you have two R stacks then the second stack’s chits are put in the cup on turn two, and on turn three for a third R.

Victory conditions: To control a base or objective, you must occupy it at game end. Games will end on turn 10 unless neither side has achieved victory. If neither side achieves victory, and neither side concedes victory, conduct a night turn and play another day. On day 2, one stack of X forces may now enter as reinforcements. If neither side achieves victory, and neither side concedes victory, conduct a night turn and play another day. On day 3, any remaining X forces may now enter as reinforcements. If no one has won by the end of day three, the game is considered a draw, but they both may claim “victory.”

SUDDEN DEATH if at any time a player has eliminated 50% of his opponent’s army, he wins immediately. 

If the Guard is not in play, the French player begins with Napoleon as an Army Commander (and the chit), but without the Guard. If the Guard is part of an R deck, Napoleon does enter play until they arrive!

The Wellington and Blucher HQs are always present as soon as any of their Corps arrive on the board. Wellington and Blucher have no chits and may activate once per turn with any subordinate HQ.

Fog of War HQs. For every Fog of War card you draw, select an unused HQ and add it to your Start or Reinforcement forces. If your total army does not allow you enough unused HQs, you forfeit the Fog of War cards.

Fog of War HQs serve two purposes. The first is to mask your forces, the second is to scout the enemy. FoW HQs actually represent cavalry scouts. When two enemy HQs come within LOS of each other (foot move range) they reveal their identity and they must place their units as if spotted, or remove the HQ if FoW. Army HQs are revealed as regular HQs, but no troops are placed if they don’t have any assigned to them.

Spotting – any time two opposing HQs have LOS (one foot move), the players must place the corresponding units on the map (the opponent still won’t be certain of the identity). Fog of War HQs actually represent scouts who have raced off to report the enemy’s position (and the HQ is now removed from the game).

To calculate the size of the army, count the number of blocks for all Corps drawn (including those arriving as reinforcements). Do not count HQs or Baggage Trains. The strength of the Corps are included on the cards for ease of calculation.

Loss calculation:
Add up infantry, cavalry, and artillery blocks eliminated
Elite count as 2 blocks lost.
Baggage Trains count as 2 blocks lost.

You are not required to include a Baggage Train with a corps.

Optional Leadership Rules

Corps Leadership Ratings

This optional rule is intended to be used with Written Orders. Each corps has a command rating; Great (1-4), Average (1-3), or Poor (1-2). Each time a corps is activated make a roll:
Great – Success means it may change its own orders immediately, failure means it may consider itself Without Orders (write new orders to follow next turn).
Average – Success means it may consider itself Without Orders (write new orders to follow next turn). Failure means it must follow its current orders.
Poor – Success means it must follow its current orders. Failure means it does nothing and its activation is over.

Note: For any HQ besides Poor, if you simply intend to follow the orders as given, no roll is necessary.

Leaders in Combat

After a Corps has finished moving, its HQ (unless Poor) may be placed adjacent to one of its units. If it is in combat, that unit is now considered elite (ignores the first hit). If the unit is eliminated in combat that turn, the Leader is considered a casualty. Re-roll 3d6 to determine the new commander’s rating: 0-2 hits = Poor, 3 hits = Average, 3 sixes = Elite.

Great leaders tended to have an almost preternatural ability to sense what needed to be done. Average leaders could at least be counted on to carry out their orders, and usually would try to confirm orders that didn’t make sense. Poor leaders could rarely be counted on to carry out their orders in a timely fashion and could often be found dithering in uncertainty, giving excuses for their inaction.

In combat, many Corps leaders would take personal control of important fights, often that participation was crucial to the unit’s success. Such activity was risky and might result in the leader falling as a casualty. In standard military fashion, a subordinate would take up command of the corps, but the new commander was likely to be less effective for a time.

My Gettysburg Victory Conditions

Victory Conditions are difficult to come up with. What was the goal of the commanders going into the battle? Did this change during the battle? Defeating the opponents army is always a good idea, but if that’s the only condition, why would you attack? Just grab some good terrain and hold it. To this day, many heated discussions can be had over who won a certain battle!

Gettysburg can be particularly tough since neither commander planned on fighting there; Both were dragged in somewhat reluctantly. So what constitutes Victory?

The current Victory Conditions are simply to be the first to destroy 50% of the enemy’s army for a major victory and to simply total and compare losses for a minor victory. While technically accurate, this simply rewards cautious defensive play. Yawn.

I keep the Sudden death Victory conditions of being the first to destroy 50% of the opponents army for Victory.

Failing that, the winner is the army that is the only army within 1/3 infantry move of Cemetery Hill at the end of Day 3.