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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 you want to get one of these beautiful games: Click this. 

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!

Grognard Guide

Grognards (grumblers) was the name Napoleon affectionately gave to his Old Guard, and it is now used to describe older wargamers. Pub Battles is relatively easy to learn…Unless you’ve been playing regular wargames for years! I had some difficulty wrapping my head around some concepts because they were so unlike typical Hex and Counter games. This is a hybrid system, really; part Hex and Counter, part miniatures. Because the rules are so short, one is tempted to skim over them, and get right to the game. This is what you should do! Just be aware that you will probably be doing a few things wrong. Before you dismiss the system, and accuse Command Post Games of poor rules writing, be advised that close and careful inspection of the rules should answer most questions.

To help others who might be climbing the steep learning curve, I’ve put together a handy tip guide to draw your attention to a few points that are commonly missed, or misunderstood by many who are learning this system.

The Map Those who are used to hex and counter maps may be a little overwhelmed by having no hexes. A block is considered to be in the terrain that most of the block occupies. Make sure your block is clearly in one terrain type, clarify it with your opponent if you anticipate a question.

The Units The blocks can be thought of as representing divisional level units, but not specific divisions. If a Corps had 50% green troops and has two blocks, one of those blocks will be militia. It does not mean that the division named on the block was historically composed of all green troops. The system is accurate at the Corps level.

Elite/Militia All units have the same attack strength, even spent units. The difference is how well they stand up to enemy fire. Spent units are very brittle, and don’t last long in combat. Militia are liable to run away and dissolve from combat. Elites tend to keep coming, like terminators!

Detachments are not specifically attached to any HQ, but they are only allowed to move once a turn when a friendly HQ is drawn.

Artillery bombards in the movement phase, instead of moving. In the combat phase it only defends when attacked.

Baggage Trains must be unpacked to rally friendly units. They may rally any friendly unit in command range. When a Baggage Train is packed up again, it signals the owning player is admitting defeat and bugging out. If a unit is in contact with an enemy Baggage Train at the end of the movement phase, the enemy has been beaten, the game is over.

The Chit Draw You may always move when your chit is drawn, even if previously contacted. The chit draw simulates simultaneous movement.

Alter Turn Order It is not always advantageous to move earlier or later in the turn. It depends.

Command Range is 1/3 mounted move.

Difficult Terrain reduces total movement by one third. It does not matter if you spend the entire turn moving through a single terrain feature, or if you move through multiple features. Think of it as being able to move a full three thirds if you spend the entire move in clear terrain! Terrain features that are less than half a base width have no effect on the game and are only for there for aesthetic reasons.

Combat Mods no matter how many conditions may add or subtract from a die roll, when all is said and done, the final mod can never be more than plus or minus one. Essentially, you either have an advantage, or you’re at a disadvantage.

Most Recent Homebrew

As with all my Homebrew rules, these are ways I find that enhance the system, with out adding weight to the rules. This includes and replaces any previous homebrew rules I’ve used.

Artillery – Spent Artillery may fire.

Originally, pre Baggage Train Rally rule, blocks just rallied from spent automatically if they didn’t move. So the proscription from bombardment felt right. Now, with an unpacked Baggage Train required to rally, it is too harsh. If you don’t rally your artillery, it is still very vulnerable, just not nearly useless! Instead of being a new rule, this is just eliminating an old rule!

Cavalry – Foot retreating from mounted are eliminated.

It just feels wrong to have mounted charge foot, and then have them pull back while the cav just stands there!

Infantry – Supporting infantry blocks may choose to suffer any of the hits of the unit they are supporting.

This makes more sense when Infantry are guarding Artillery, or if you imagine the two defending blocks half as wide and double deep. You can also imagine elite troops, or Grenadier Regiments, “stiffening” the line by ignoring the first hit.

Kriegspiel style Artillery in Pub Battles

I believe that with the addition of the requirement for an unpacked Baggage Train to Rally from spent, that the proscription against spent artillery bombarding is too much.

New Artillery rules:

Spent artillery may bombard.

New support rules.

Each hit may be applied to either the front, or the supporting block, in combat (owner’s choice). Note that only infantry blocks can support in combat!

I want to make sure these feel right, and don’t open up any loopholes.

Let me know what your reservations might be, or why you think this might be inappropriate. 

How “Real” is Pub Battles?

I often heard it said that, while Pub Battles is good for what it is, it isn’t very real.

This comes from people who equate real with detailed combat, and endless tracking of logistics, and “down to the man” unit strengths. They can’t be faulted, because when one reads the histories, especially “I was there” accounts, those details are thrilling. The army commander’s eye view of the events are certainly interesting, but not as viscerally engaging as descriptions of battlefield actions.

Yet, when gaming these actions, almost the opposite is true. Keeping track of all those minute combat details, consulting endless charts, and the endless hours it takes to simulate minutes of time, is a challenge to enjoy. We all want to be Napoleons, Wellingtons, and Lees. It is far more exciting to be making the big decisions, when to send in the guard, when to bluff and feint, trying to judge how much more the enemy’s army (or yours!) can take.

The exciting narrative is still there in Pub Battles, you get to make it up yourself! Why were the Elite Guard Cuirassiers pushed back by the inexperienced Dutch dragoons? It shouldn’t ever happen, yet in my last Waterloo, it did (Cuirassiers rolled really bad, and the Dutch rolled really well). Is this because the system is broke? Hardly, but it probably means there was something going on that dissembled the French. Maybe there was a morass of mud in a low area, maybe there was a SNAFU that resulted in the charge being completely disorganized and ultimately called off, or maybe an unsung Dutch cavalry officer organized a surprise flank charge that succeeded because it was so unexpected. Rather than try to simulate each of these unlikely events, Pub Battles merely allows that something happened that resulted in the outcome shown on the map. Finally, there is the very real possibility that the information on the map is not correct. As wargamers, we want everything to be exact. just like our historical counterparts wanted all their intel to be accurate. That was rarely the case. Who knows what those Cuirassiers ran into, it probably wasn’t Dutch dragoons, maybe the Prince of Orange was there, gathering the Household Guard for a planned surprise counter-attack!

What Pub Battles does do very accurately, is simulate being an army commander. You’re in your command tent, looking at the latest picture your staff has assembled of the battlefield. You can wonder “Does Jackson have the left secured, what strength does he have after driving off the last Federal assault?” Before he leaves, Jackson assures you that A. P. Hill has reinforced his left, and that he has already pulled Pender’s men off the line to rest and recover. Thirty minutes later an excited Lieutenant arrives exclaiming A.P. Hill will join the battle “before nightfall!” Jackson had already departed, and you’re left wondering…

Maybe Pub Battles is too real!

The Measure of a Commander

Let’s take a moment to examine measuring movement, and how exact a player needs to be.

The first thing to consider is how exact are the movement rates. They are, after all, based on Kriegspiel movement rates, as determined by officers of the time. I definitely think this makes it a great place to start, but there are two huge areas of “fudginess” that place a limit on how exact those movement rates can be considered to be.

The first is that every foot and every mounted block moves the same. If a block is travelling the same straight path a few turns in a row, then it might be considered to be moving the full 90 minutes of a turn (one movement stick). A similar block might receive new orders. One can imagine the formation commander interpreting the order, issuing new orders to his command, who then might have to react to a complete change of plans, who might need to verify the orders, get their men moving in the new direction, maybe scouting the terrain to determine the best path (more on that in the second point), move to the new location, where they might possibly be involved in combat, which itself requires some further maneuver and giving/interpreting of orders, all that, and they too can move one movement stick in a turn.

The second consideration is the terrain penalties. If a block moves through any terrain that reduces it’s movement, say a grove of trees wider than 1/2 a block, or moves the entire time through woods and over hill and dale, it loses one third. This is not some arbitrary amount, this is how the Kriegspiel rules work. Such an adjustment was considered “close enough.” The terrain itself can be varied. Are there wide paths through the woods, or are they thick and almost impenetrable? How steep is that hill? does it include cliffs, washouts, or large boulders (great for cover, impossible for artillery)? In the grand scheme of things, when you are talking about moving a few thousand men, such variables get handled, and Pub Battles docks the formation a third. That is “close enough.” For everything else, there is the chit draw to determine who might have got where, and who might have outguessed their opponent.

One should be satisfied with “close enough,” because it is a fact of life that the map and blocks are going to get jostled. When I’m moving, I use a divider and walk it out however far it says I can go, and that’s where I move to. If I come to the end of my move and am close enough have interlocking Fields of Fire, I just go ahead and move to contact, or stay out of the FoF. Battlefields are fluid and chaotic, and within reason this allows a little slippage in measurement. How much? Enough to allow smooth play, but not so much as to allow one to game an advantage. Gentlemen’s rules.

The Realism of Pub Battles

You want a realistic system? This is the reality!

Some players feel like Pub Battles is too simplistic. They want more detail. If that’s what they want, then Pub Battles is delivering an authentic experience. Every commander in history has wanted more detail. They hungered for all the intel they could gather. Did they get it? Ha! The more detailed the intel, the more likely its inaccuracies!

The best way to think of Pub Battles and what it is simulating, is to imagine yourself in your command tent, looking over the map that your staff has prepared for you. It has all the latest and best information. Is it accurate? You hope so. Historically, its probably mostly accurate, but it isn’t an exact mirror image.

On top of that, you have people. People who must receive and carry out your directions. Do they understand? Do they think you understand what their situation is? Do you think you understand what the situation is? You’re telling them to take Sharpsburg, but they haven’t even crossed the Antietam, yet! Was this message meant for Hooker’s Corps? How much time is lost while riders scurry back and forth confirming orders?

This is what the chit draw simulates. You can have a good plan, but if the chit draw (chance) doesn’t cooperate, at least a little, you may find your scheme dashed. How you react and respond to what happens is what really makes a good commander.

This is Pub Battles at its core.

New Blog Identity and address!

Hey gang. I have decided to align my Blog and YouTube channel under the same “brand.”

I will no longer be using this blog. My new Blog is found Here.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but going forward this will work much better. Part of the problem is in the name Pub Battles: My Homebrew. It gets very hard to find due to the bazillion pubs and home brewers that use similar names! I believe the name “Boom Simple Pub Battles” will work much better!

Playing Pub Battles

Pub Battles was created as a 2 player Kriegspiel game. The object was to create a system that “reffed” the game. 

Playing Kriegspiel requires no knowledge of the rules, you simply write your orders and are told what happens; the refs handle all the heavy lifting.

This makes it similar to playing a fantasy role playing game like D&D. It is essentially playing D&D, except your character is a military officer, and your “world” is the real world.

A good Kriegspiel referee will throw a wrench in the works, and ruin the best laid plans. Not every time, but often enough, that players learn to expect the unexpected.

Pub Battles does this with the chit draw mechanic, and simple and dramatic combat resolution.

As an army commander (player), your role is big picture. You send out your orders (move your units), and await news from the front (battle results). Formations, weapon ranges, tactical maneuvers, and the like, are all details that you rely on your subordinate officers to handle. Napoleon famously led brilliant campaigns, but let his officers and troops fight the battle.

For a wargame, Pub Battles is very simple. This is because it is command focused, not combat focused. In a combat focused game, details are everything, they are the simulation. In a command focused game, such details are inappropriate for the Army General. They hinder the player’s authentic experience. 

In Pub Battles,  what you see on the map, including the map itself, are approximations at best. Commanders are as desperate to know exactly what’s going on, as they are uncertain what’s actually going on! This is very authentic, and very like playing Kriegspiel. 

Wellington himself, said no one will ever know what actually happened at Waterloo. Everyone, even he himself, was only witness to a small slice of the whole battle.

Command is an exercise in managing chaos and uncertainty. In this respect, Pub Battles is one of the most authentic simulations available.