With the Baggage Train rules of 3.0 baggage trains have finally found their place in the Pub Battles system. Pub Battles originated as a way to play a referee-less Kriegspiel. Baggage Trains are represented in Kriegspiel, so they were included in Pub Battles, but without a referee, their inclusion wasn’t quite right. Now they have a central purpose, without a lot of baggage (pun intended).
Victory conditions are always a sticking point in wargames. You want to reflect the intentions of the commanders going into the battle, the realities that changed those intentions during the battle, and the reflections on what the battle was really about in hindsight. The only constant was that if you destroyed the enemy’s army, you won. Not every battle was fought until one of the armies was destroyed, more often the opposing commander chose to retreat, or worse, the troops broke and the army’s coherence dissolved. trying to decide on Victory Conditions raised a lot of questions.
The 3.0 Baggage Train rules have answered all those questions neatly and simply. You still win by destroying 50% of the enemy army, but on your way to doing that you can also break the army sooner by destroying their Baggage, or force them to exercise discretion and bail out in some order, to fight again another day.
First off, let us understand what is meant by a baggage train. The baggage train is pretty much what its name implies while packed up, but when it is unpacked it represents something more. An unpacked baggage train is a logistical Wal-Mart, plus a field hospital, plus a signal corps, plus all the other myriad functions to address that arise when an army makes camp to support operations. It is not something you can pick up and move on a whim, or in the breach. When your enemy moves adjacent to your baggage train and breaks your army, it isn’t like in ancient warfare where your bags are literally getting sacked. Instead, it captures that figurative moment when the line has been broke through and the troop’s morale fails. No one can ever predict when that moment will happen, but everyone knows there comes a time. Without a referee to tell you this, Pub Battles uses this mechanic. This gives the right feel to the battle.
When you decide to unpack your bags as the defender you have to weigh being close enough to easily and quickly recover spent divisions, while far enough back to not be too vulnerable. That is the easy part, but the devilishly tricky part is deciding when is a good time to unpack, as well as exactly what determines too close and too far at that time. This is an art that requires an accurate instinct more than in-depth analysis.
For the attacker, the issues are similar, but the ramifications are different. You need your bags unpacked to keep your attacking units in fighting shape, but if you setup before the enemy, they are likely to fall back before they unpack, leaving you wasting valuable time traveling back and forth. With only eight turns in a day, a turn falling back, another recovering, and another moving back to the line, means you’ll be lucky to see two fights in a day!
Finally, a strong point to the baggage train rules is they simulate logistics without the tedium that is so often anticipated when encountering logistics in a wargame.
After using these baggage rules in a few dozen games, I can definitely say they “make the game.” Originally, I thought of them as sudden death because it didn’t require that you eliminate 50% of your opponent’s army. Now I find that many of my games do end up with one side losing 50% because of the fights over the Baggage Trains! This has really upped the tension level of the game.
I can even quantify why the level of tension has increased so much. First off, the game starts out more tense because you aren’t whittling away hit points on units, a process that can take the whole game. With Pub Battles, entire divisions can be lost in one turn, though rarely without a player’s chance to withdraw. Making it entirely possible to reduce an army to the breaking point in less than an hour of game time.
Then you ratchet that up a notch by adding baggage trains that must be kept reasonably close to the front lines to be effective, but end the game if captured.
The effect of THAT is to see desperate battles over the Baggage Trains that can easily push one of the armies to the breaking point. The possibility of a dramatic end is rarely more than the next combat result.
This is Pub Battles. This is war.