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.
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.
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.
In this replay I have used an experimental variant, which I have decided I really like, that requires the French player, if he really is as weak as he bluffs, to have to actually be much weaker. Leaving just the IV and V Corps to hold the Coalition’s attention, while he uses a more viable force elsewhere. If he does this, Napoleon does not appear at Austerlitz!
I want to increase the importance of Baggage Trains in Pub Battles and give added reasons for wanting to unpack them. They mean more than just a depot for supplies, they are the entire logistical network that supports an army in the field.
In addition for being necessary to rally spent units, I want to add the concept of them being critical for an army’s ability to recover from protracted combat. Let’s replace the 50% night turn recovery rule with this:
During a night turn an army may recover two blocks for each unpacked Baggage Train.
This means that a player can take stock of the situation at the end of the day, and during the night turn decide to unpack Baggage Trains in order to recover more units.
The optional starting forces for the French are a great method for introducing the uncertainty that is key to simulating Austerlitz. While the official rules work great, I have a little trouble swallowing that the French player would have any reason for bringing on his whole army and having to win, when he can just as easily leave Davout and Murat behind, while bringing on the Guard (who were always with Napoleon), and only require a draw to win?
What if Napoleon split his army in two, intent on mounting a real threat elsewhere whilst pinning down the Coalition Army at Austerlitz? What if his choices were to bring his full army to Austerlitz, or merely leave Soult and Lannes to tie down the Coalition Army?
Let’s look at the French army:
In this variant, if Napoleon doesn’t bring on his whole army and fight with the regular Victory Conditions, he can simply fight a holding action with two Corps, and all he needs to do is manage a draw. If he does this, he wins.
Soult and Lannes have a significant force, maybe not enough to defeat the Coalition Army, but certainly enough to possibly force a stalemate. On their side is their superior organization and staff work. This is reflected in their 4 leadership rating compared to the Coalition Army’s 2. This means that when the French want to Alter Turn Order, they probably can, and when the Coalition want to Alter Turn Order, they probably can’t.
Now let’s look at the Coalition Army:
The Coalition Army actually has pretty good troops, they are just poorly organized and led. This isn’t so bad if they are merely defending (not so good either, but not so bad), but if it turns out that the French player only has a couple of Corps on the board, then they must attack!
Their poor leadership rating will make it hard for them to coordinate an attack on a key point at the right moment. Their artillery superiority is hard to use effectively because early on when they’d really like to have it, the fog will prevent its use.
Adding to their woes, the French have Five HQ cards to hide and disperse/or concentrate their forces, the Coalition player has only 3! Two wily players will only have HQs on the map and all their forces hidden in reserve. This makes it very hard for the Coalition to cover a broad front while searching for the French army.
The other tough part is they have very poor intelligence of the real French strength. Whether or not they are all there, All the French HQs will be on board until they can see them and call their bluff.
All of which puts them in a tough spot. They must begin as though the French only have the two Corps in play, and if it turns out they bet wrong, they have to quickly revert to the defensive with a slow, disorganized command structure.
Fought this way, the battle is actually quite even. If the Coalition strikes hard and quickly, they should usually break the French army, but if they find themselves stuck in and suddenly facing the whole French Army, they are in desperate straights. In either case, victory will go to the player who best manages the crises as they develop.
Now I want to add one little flavorful rule that you can take or leave. The historical battle was won when the French forces gained the Pratzen in strength and “broke” the coalition’s will to fight. I replicate this moment by saying that if the French player ends the game with an unpacked Baggage Train in the town of Pratzen, then they win, it’s as if they have broken the Coalition army.
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!