Solitaire Pub Battles

This is my unofficial Home Brew version of Pub Battles. This is the way I play when it is just me. Not a true solitaire game, there is no AI, but just a way of playing when no opponent is present. Pub Battles is well suited to solitaire play as it is simple and the chit draw serves as a convenient ‘save point’ if you get called away.

One of the ways I frequently play Pub Battles solitaire is as a simulation engine. I have an idea for a different strategy or I want to try out a new rule with a familiar strategy and this let’s me “run it through” a few times. Pub Battles plays so quick and easy that this is a viable option.

Pub Battles is an amazingly robust system. I have seen many different rules tried (and mostly discarded) and the system works with them or without them.

Of course you can always add rules that factor in this or that. You can always add different combat modifiers and effects that give the game a slightly different feel. Maybe there is one thing that blocks your enjoyment of the game. Fine, add it in and have a blast.

I generally go the other direction. I try to eliminate every rule that isn’t absolutely necessary. I find this speeds up the game. The whole point of the rules is to focus on command interaction, and simplify and gloss over combat detail. This is the main reason I developed a single die per side combat system. It’s quicker and easier. Not a huge difference, I am happy to play “the right way” when playing in public or introducing new players to the game.

The really cool thing I find about this is that by not specifically trying to model one thing, the system models everything in general. So let’s dig into my version. I’ll add my designer’s notes in italics.

All official Pub Battles rules are in play, except as modified below:

Field of Engagement rules are not used. There is no ranged combat resolution besides artillery bombardment. If any block ends its movement within one base thickness (3/8″) of an enemy block it is simply moved into contact. If you wish to move out of contact you must move at least 3/8″ away.

Alter Turn Order – For the most part, when I play solitaire, I just deal with the chits as they are drawn. This forces me to learn to roll with fate. As a consequence, I rarely try to Alter Turn Order when playing versus a live opponent!


  • Each side rolls one die for combat adding any appropriate modifiers. If one side’s final score is greater they score one hit, unless their score is more than double, in which case they score two hits. If the results are equal, both sides suffer a hit. If the units are still in contact after combat results are applied you must fight another round.
  • Dragoons, if still in contact with infantry at the end of a combat round must retreat.
  • If infantry or artillery suffer a retreat result from cavalry, they are eliminated instead.
  • Bombardment – As above except artillery bombarding another unit does not suffer any adverse effects unless firing at another artillery unit. Artillery always rolls when bombarded, even if it has previously bombarded or been bombarded. As no units are in contact, bombardment only lasts one round. Artillery (unless spent) treats the first round of combat as bombardment, i.e. it suffers no adverse effects.
  • Flanking – If a defender is in contact with more than one enemy, it deducts one from each die it rolls for the round. If an attacker is in contact with the rear of a block, then the normal flanking modifiers apply (+1/-1).

Developer’s Notes

I don’t care for Field of Engagement. I find it time consuming and inelegant. No unit is ever necessarily just sitting, they are always in motion. Their fluid movement is chopped up by the arbitrary turns that are superimposed over the battle simulation. In addition, there are plenty of incidents where a unit did not do what it should have done, maybe they didn’t recognize the identity of the unit, maybe they were confused about there orders, maybe a regiment got lost, or the commander just had cold feet. All the game shows are those combats that actually were executed to the extent that resulted in an entire division suffering some sort of dramatic effect. Also, all you are really seeing is your best intelligence as regards the unit’s position. Maybe it’s not attacking because its not precisely there! Hopefully, your next orders will make sense for them to follow (or will they have to write for clarification?). The system doesn’t attempt to tell you precisely why a unit did or didn’t follow your orders, it merely shows what happened.

Field of Engagement doesn’t allow for implied combat. Nearby units may be exchanging shots and the pickets or skirmish troops may even be engaging in some very hot exchanges, but nothing that results in the parent divisions being adversely affected to the extent modeled in Pub Battles.

The ‘one die per side’ combat is just a simpler way to resolve combat, but it also yields some powerful simulation effects. Fresh or spent infantry may be able to form squares, and whether or not they are swept away in the first round answers that question, although spent are less likely to survive a cavalry charge.

If using one die per side combat, artillery can eliminate some units. Of course, this doesn’t mean they’re eliminated to the man, just that they are too discomfited by the barrage to be able to operate effectively that day. Any elite, or any fresh line units, are still immune to elimination by artillery since even two hits does not eliminate them.

Counter-battery fire now has a downside as you could suffer hits yourself. Unlike modern artillery warfare, pre-twentieth century, counter-battery fire was generally discouraged by army commanders. This system models this. You can still do it, but why take the risk? Still, it could be worth it in some situations. You make the call, not the rules.

Flanking by merely having a single unit attack along the side of a block is gamey in the sense that it takes advantage of the wooden block’s inability to curve and deny a flank the way actual formations did.

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