When you play a wargame and are expecting an authentic experience, you must know the intent of the designer. Pub Battles was designed with the intent of creating a two player Kriegspiel experience. In a refereed Kriegspiel game, the many players write orders which the referees then interpret on the battle field. They then report to the players some version of what happened. Kriegspiel is very fun, but takes a long time to organize.
Pub Battles was created with the intent that two players could sit down and play a quick and fun game. The focus would be on command, and combat would be a simplified extension of that. Of course, no one can leave a simple system alone and there have come many suggested additions to the rules to make them more realistic.
While many of these rules have been fine, I’ve yet to feel that they improved the game, they just made it different. In response to the increase in rules volume, I have created my own homebrew version. Unlike many home brew version of games, my “brew” focuses on how few rules are really necessary.
My view of what the game is simulating is this:
When you move a piece on the map this does not mean that the unit is literally moving exactly like that, this is equivalent to writing orders to that effect and sending them off via an aide de camp. After the combat phase is complete you see the map after other aides have received reports from the field and scrambled to translate these into a coherent diagram of the battle.
This should leave you feeling a little removed from the action! Gone is the godlike feeling of moving armies around like marionettes, with perfect knowledge of yours and the enemy’s positions and strengths. In this way, Pub Battles comes much closer to feeling authentic than any other game system, no matter how many pages of rules they use.
In fact, I see rules as coming between you and the authentic experience you desire. After a few games of Pub Battles you probably won’t even notice the rules. There are no combat charts, movement is simple. Once battle is joined you may find yourself rarely even using the movement measuring sticks. It’s that good.
And yet, what rules there are have a profound effect. Militia is almost useless, you hate to have to rely on them. The all too rare elite units can seem very intimidating. Many of the scenarios have special rules for just those battles or periods that provide a very unique feel.
When you feel that you have a good idea for a rule (sometimes I have so many I can hardly play a game without stopping everything to try one out) it is a good idea to ask yourself if the game works fine without it. Using this culling technique I have never added a rule, unless it was to make something even simpler.
There are many times when what you see on the map does not make sense, or look quite right. Usually, this is because two opposing units seem close but are completely ignoring each other. Remember, the unit’s actual positions may be different than the approximations that you have before you on the map in the command post. There are limitless reasons why they may not be in combat, one of which may be that they aren’t really there! Remember, the black powder era was a long way from our current GPS calibrated maps. I bet modern commanders still feel out of touch with what is really going on with a modern battlefield. Not to mention counter-intelligence efforts.