One of the best things about Pub Battles; one of the things that separates it from so many other titles, is the way it distances the players from the God-like ability to see all and do all with absolute precision and perfect knowledge.
Playing solitaire with written orders takes this one step further.
It accomplishes this with
a simple an elegant system that gives an authentic feel without burying you in rules. It removes you from too close control, while inserting you right into the chaos of battle.
How It’s done…
You can give your units two types of orders. “Attack Location” or “Defend Location.” The example in the picture is for the order “Defend Round Top.”
When a Location is given, a foot movement marker is centered on that point, and the Location in question encompasses anywhere within that perimeter.
Perimeter – The Location is the point from which the perimeter is defined. Place the center of the foot move marker on the center of the objective, the ends of the marker show the perimeter. If you name a geographic feature that is quite large, the actual Location is the center. If the geographic feature is larger than the foot move marker, you may want to specify a more exact spot, or else the extreme ends of the feature will not be covered. You may also describe a line from point to point, and the HQ will attempt to occupy the line.
The “Attack” order will have the Corps HQ attempt to occupy that Location and drive all enemy units from its perimeter. How exactly this is accomplished is left to the player to decide.
The Hold order will have the Corps HQ to attempt to occupy the Location and its perimeter, but it will not move to contact (attack) an enemy.
Artillery always has the option to bombard, no matter what its HQ’s orders may be.
Way Points – If you want your HQ to follow a certain path you may select way points which the units will move towards. Once one way point is reached the units proceed towards the next way point on the list.
Ex. Attack Willoughby Run |
Attack Peach Orchard
Or Attack Cemetery Hill
Defend Cemetery Hill
This will order the unit to attack Cemetery Hill, and once that is accomplished, it will then defend it, rather than pursue the enemy and possibly leave an advantageous defensive position.
Helpful Hint: If you don’t want to center on the objective, you can add a finer point on that objective. McPherson Ridge – Lutheran Seminary,
How it Works
At the beginning of the game, any HQs on the board must be given orders. IF an HQ is without orders, its units will just sit in place. If an HQ with the defend order is forced off the Location, or is unable to occupy it because the enemy is currently occupying it, the unit is without orders!
When a chit is drawn and activated, the first thing the player does is check the orders. If the last order given is not underlined, he underlines it and then carries out that order.
If he wishes to change the order, he writes the new order underneath the previous order. He then carries out the previous (underlined) order. Next turn he will continue as above with the chit draw and activation. (See optional hands on opportunity below)
The first time a Corps is activated (either on turn one, or when it enters play as a reinforcement) it is given its first set of orders underlined, so it’s not sitting without orders for a turn.
Army HQs – If the Army HQ is adjacent to a Corps HQ, that HQ’s orders take effect immediately. Since the two commanders are together, there is no delay in sending orders.
In effect, this allows you to insert yourself right into the game!
Baggage Trains: Baggage Trains move when their parent Corps moves, but they do not have to follow its orders. They may move and Position themselves any way they want.
Night turns: During night turns the corps ignore their current orders. Additionally, they may be given new orders and those orders are underlined immediately, so they always begin the day with orders!
And that’s it!
Well, almost. Just like real commanders, you will find that your orders leave a lot of freedom of interpretation. Maybe there is a unit just out of direct line between a unit and its objective, should it attack that unit first? You decide.
This is one of the best features of this solitaire system. You control the narrative. You decide whether or not the commander on the ground decides to widely or narrowly interpret the orders.
Maybe the dice have been a little too hard on the Confederates side. Let’s show them a little love and interpret the orders most beneficially. On the other hand, maybe the dice have been giving Lee a free pass, it might be time to attack the objective with A.P. Hill’s lone spent element of Heth’s division, even though it’s got Howard’s whole fresh Corps behind abattis in the woods. Oh Harry, you’ll be bringing tears to many mothers tonight.
The first day of Gettysburg won’t make you feel that frantic, but guaranteed, as day two wears on you will find the battle going in directions you have probably not anticipated.
In one game, the second day opened with the Union in a strong position along historical lines, by the end of turn 3 the only comforting position that greeted Meade was V Corps taking Wolf’s Hill from Ewell’s Corps. Longstreet had captured Cemetery Hill and A.P. Hill was investing the Peach Orchard.
This would not have happened if I had been free to move my troops wherever they obviously needed to be. The scenario went from a replay of History to a very edge of the seat, bare knuckles contest!
One of the biggest differences you notice is the lack of a fireworks display of unit moves, as each division angles for the best attack. Now they have to act in much more historical coordination with their parent HQ. That parent HQ is going to be operating with a one turn delay in changing orders, so gamey moves that take advantage of the players god-like knowledge of the battlefield and unit strengths and positions will no longer be possible.
Optional hands on opportunity
I like having a lot out of my direct control, but if you want to interject some control, try this: When you elect to change an order, if you flip your HQ and make your command roll, you can ignore your current orders and the HQ is treated as being without orders for the current turn.
The HQ is communicating the need for new orders and is not following current orders.
Two Player with Written Orders
Two players may play with written orders, but it is probably too open ended for truly competitive play.
Whenever you give an HQ new orders, you show your previous orders to your opponent, so he can immediately verify you followed them.
Of course, if you have a referee overseeing the game, hidden orders can be fun.