Quick Start Rules

Introduction

Imagine that you are the Army General in your command tent. Before you on a table is the map of the battlefield with the latest best estimates of yours and your opponents positions. You discuss possible options with your Corps commanders and move your units where you want them to move, as well as attack. Aides write down the orders and race on horseback to the field commanders. While this is going on, other aides are rushing back with the latest reports and updating your map. Sometimes everything goes according to plan. Usually, you have some surprises, as well as those moments where you are absolutely astonished by the events you see transpiring right before your eyes. If only you could be right there, but you also need to be right there, and there, and over there. This is real Fog of War at the highest level. This is Pub Battles!

A very few of these rules differ from the official Pub Battles rules. I’ve played hundreds of games and I have a few things I home rule. I denote these with an * so no one is confused and looking for them in the regular rules.

Pieces

Infantry – Basic unit of the game, uses foot movement rate.

Cavalry – Fast moving unit, uses mounted movement rate.

Artillery – Primarily ranged combat, uses foot movement rate, unless labeled “Horse Artillery”

HQ – Small cube that represents commander’s locale, from which command range is measured.

Terms – Appear in italics when found in rules.

Activation – When a command chit is drawn, that command, and all its units, are activated.

Attacker – The unit that moved into contact.

Bombardment – Ranged artillery fire…

Column – A long narrow formation used to facilitate quick road movement (X2). To move in column a unit is positioned so its length is stretched out along a road. Vulnerable if attacked. It cost 1/3 move to switch into, or out of, column.

Command – A Corps HQ may only command units in its Corps. An Army HQ may command any units in its army, also it may have units attached directly to it alone. Only units in command before they move may move into contact with an enemy. Only active units may move, and only active units in command may move into contact, Thus, an army HQ may command any units, but only activated units may move!

Command Range – 1/3 mounted move as measured from closest edges.

Defender – The unit that was contacted.

Entering/Crossing – A unit is considered entering/crossing a terrain feature if more than half of it is in the feature.

Face – A unit’s front facing is the side opposite its label if fresh, or adjacent to the top of its label if spent.

Flip – To flip a unit to signify a changed status.

Fresh – An unspent unit.

Hits – A fresh unit can sustain three hits in one round of combat. The first hit will flip it to spent. A second hit will cause it to retreat. A third hit will eliminate it. A spent unit will retreat with one hit, and be eliminated by two hits.

Line of Fire – A line measured from the center of a unit, that can see at least half of its target and is within one foot move. The target must lay within a 45-degree angle from the front of the artillery unit.

Occupying Terrain – If a unit has at least half its block in a terrain feature.

Rally – A spent unit that is not within 1/3 foot move of an enemy unit and does not move, may flip back to its fresh side. It may also pivot.

Resolves completely – Two units in contact continue rounds of combat until no longer in contact.

Round – Each time a pair of units roll dice in combat. Units in contact may fight several rounds.

Spent – A unit that has suffered one damage.

Supporting – Certain types of units may be moved adjacent to, and directly behind, a friendly unit to support it. If the supported unit retreats or is eliminated, the supporting unit may retreat, or advance to contact and continue combat.

Only infantry may support other infantry or artillery. Only cavalry may support other cavalry.

Excess hits do not carry over to supporting units.

Unsupported – Artillery that is unsupported, and forced to retreat from combat, is eliminated.

Turn Order

Activation phase – This is when you draw chits randomly from a cup to activate a command.

Combat phase – Units in contact with enemy units now resolve combat.

Reset phase – HQs that were flipped to Alter Turn Order are now flipped back.

Activation: Movement, Bombardment, Rally

Once activated, you may move the HQ first to bring key units into command range. All a corps’ units may move, but only those in command range may move into contact with enemy units. This is also when Artillery may bombard (not in the combat phase!). Spent units that don’t move may rally.

How to move – A unit moves in the direction it is facing as far as 1 movement chain (or stick) of its type; foot or mounted. It may move in echelon (diagonally) up to 45 degrees maintaining its same facing. It may change its facing once for free, or a second time by subtracting 1/3 of its total movement allowance. If it moves entirely without entering any terrain features it may move one full move, if it enters any terrain features it may only move 2/3.

It does not matter if the unit moves through a single patch of woods, or through woods, hills, and streams, it moves 2/3 instead of a full move.

BombardmentFresh Artillery that does not move may bombard. The artillery must have a Line of Fire. Roll 3 dice and apply hits. Bombardment cannot eliminate a unit. Excess hits are ignored.

Rally – A spent unit that is not within 1/3 foot move of an enemy unit* and does not move may flip back to its fresh side. It may also pivot.

How to have Combat

*Combat order – As you draw the chits from the cup be sure to line them up in a row. Each command, in reverse chit draw order, resolves its attacks. Attackers that begin the combat phase in contact resolve combat. Each side rolls 3 dice simultaneously, any result of 4 or more is a hit. Defending units in a command do not resolve until the attacking unit’s command resolves. Each attack, even if part of a larger multi-unit combat, resolves completely before moving on to the next unit.

A defending unit gains a terrain modifier for occupying terrain.

*Flanking – If a single unit is contacting the rear of a unit, or if a unit is contacted by more than one enemy, it is considered flanked. This adds 1 to the attacker’s roll and subtracts 1 from the defender’s roll.

Special Combat cases

Artillery – Bombarding artillery can never eliminate a unit. Artillery in combat always resolves its dice first, and then any remaining defender’s may roll dice and apply effects. Unsupported artillery is eliminated if forced to retreat.

Elites ignore the first hit in any combat phase.

Militias count the first hit as two hits in any combat phase. 

note: This is per entire combat phase, not per round!

*In cases with multiple units in contact with multiple defenders, the last unit to move into contact is resolved first.

HQs are abstract representation of command and are never affected by combat. Simply move them out of the way. Their location is only critical during the activation phase when determining command. Each activation, command is determined from one point, you cannot move and command from different places during the same activation. When moving you can move them anywhere within 1 mounted move, they ignore facing and terrain (they cannot ignore impassable terrain features).

Other rules for unit types may apply, be sure and check the scenario guidelines.

Design Philosophy

The Pub Battles system simulates fighting a battle from the command post. This is a command simulation, not a combat simulation. This means a lot of detail is hidden from the players. Just like real commanders, you can’t be everywhere at once. Were you to leave your command post for any length of time, you would become completely blind to the battle as a whole.

The map in front of you, unlike most wargames, isn’t an exact representation of the actual positions of every unit on the battlefield. It is the best estimates your aides have of the ever changing “current” situation.

When you move a unit on the map, this simulates the orders you have given to your subordinates, not necessarily where they have moved. Only time will tell how your finely planned orders have been executed.

An exception to this is the “Alter Turn Order” rule where a commander attempts to directly affect the turn order. This can be thought of as those times when the commander actually leaves the HQ tent and attempts to take direct control of his command. The rest of the time, it is assumed that the commander must rely on subordinates to communicate battlefield reports.

This means that often the disposition of the units on the map won’t make complete sense. “Why aren’t they Attacking!” is a common frustration when viewing opposing units in too close proximity to each other. Maybe they’re not really there; maybe they can’t see because of smoke or fog; Maybe they are uncertain where other threats might be. There are many possibilities. Too many to have a separate rule for each.

The chit draw mechanic covers all those eventualities elegantly. Sometimes you want to go first; you want to rally before the next attack, or you want to get there before the defender can rally. Other times, you want to go last so you can pick exactly where and when you fight, or you just want your opponent to reveal his intentions.

Another reason combat is depicted simply is because of scale. When you see the blocks on the map it is easy to imagine miniatures games where those blocks represent regiments. Pub Battles is representing divisions, so it’s more like the old hex based divisions…Except this looks so much cooler!

A single defender cannot be flanked by a single attacker. At smaller echelons this is an effective tactic, but at the divisional scale of Pub Battles this would be inappropriate and take advantage of the wood blocks. A division would arch backward on the end and refuse the flank if threatened. Of course, being attacked in the rear would be very devastating, and is given the flanking bonus.These quick start rules will get you up and playing. Once you have played the game enough to get the feel of the benefits of moving either earlier or later, you will enjoy adding the Alter Turn Order rules. When I play, I use these quick rules, plus the Alter Turn Order rules, and Supply Wagons.

17 thoughts on “Quick Start Rules

  1. Ok, I’ve got my new Antietam game with a number of chains. I have two gold, of two different lengths and four silver, two each of different lengths. How are these to be assembled? Do the two longer silver ones get connected to the longer gold one with the gold one in the middle? Same for the shorter lengths?

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  2. Not sure if this is a real concern or just my OCD kicking in, but…looking at the chains depicted on page 5 of my Monmouth rules I see that my infantry chain has 13 gold links instead of 14 and one of the silver ends has 7 instead of 8. My cav chain has 13 gold instead of 14; and both silver ends have 20 instead of 19. I did write to CP games about this and am awaiting their answer…

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    1. I thought I had replied to this, sorry if I have not. When I play, I rarely use any measuring device unless I’m using road movement. I simply go by “close enough.”
      The movement rates are estimates at best and are really just guidelines to allow both sides to move relatively equally.
      A turn is so much more than just moving, you must allow for decision time, logistical and organizational hiccups, as well as combat.
      You can even imagine the time per turn as telescoping. Maybe when lots is going on it represents much less time, and during quiet lulls it can be thought of as longer.
      As long as both players are using the same measuring chain, that is fair.

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  3. Hi, What do you think about using kriegspiel pieces with pub battles rules ? Do you try it ? Just we have to change the scale ? 1/3 infantry move is about 400 paces : that matches the musket range.
    For a better and quicker play turn, a turn will be of 4 / 6 minutes.
    May be test between FOE or FOF. FOF for 1870 units (chassepots) and FOE for napoleonic battles. I will wait for your opinion.
    Thanks for your work on this nice piece of game

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    1. The game’s designer and several of the playtesters, who are into kriegspiel, have played it with kriegspiel pieces. My understanding is that they either use two kriegspiel pieces side by side to represent one PB piece, or they simply halve the scale.
      However, once you do that you need to take into consideration more tactical level concerns, like ranges and weapon types. At that point it becomes a different game.
      PB focuses on army command level decisions and leaves the lower echelon concerns to lower level commanders.
      There are a lot of games that cover that better and I have enjoyed them, however I have no illusions about how far one strays from actual simulation as one gets more detailed.
      I enjoy PB immensely for all the reasons I have written about and have no desire to add rules that are not necessary. I can readily imagine what is actually happening on the battlefield without the added rules “telling” me.
      One thing you will note is that two kriegspiel pieces side by side allow you to flex the division to deny a flank, which can provide a better look on the table top. You may have noticed that my rules don’t use the positional flanking rules as printed, but simply require multiple attackers. This is my nod to local superiority, while preventing unnatural advantage being taken of the wooden block’s size.
      You will note also that I try to smooth out the game rules, not add to them.
      To each his own! There was a time when I would have welcomed any effort to simulate a battle in greater detail. The PB system is robust and will accommodate the added rules and variations.
      Thank you for your comments and interest!

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      1. Thank you for your quick answer ! I will try it and see what will going on. with a smallest scale without too much rules. The reason is that i’d like play some French and Prussian battles with Pub Battles system. Beside this : i’ve played Dracula’s pub battles with my kids the week : a nice piece of game too.

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      2. Let me know how that period works for you. The system really works best with Napoleonic era corps level combat, because it was designed around that command structure and army size.
        Ancien Regime era, like 7YW armies were smaller and the command concerns different.
        Soldier on!

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  4. After playing around with Monmouth I’m getting ready to move on to Antietam. But, here’s some questions:
    Can units only cross Antietam Creek via bridges or fords? I’m assuming, yes.

    If a unit starts in column on a road, and assuming no terrain restrictions, using the 6/6ths principle, can the unit move 3/6ths on the road, then deploy into line using 2/6ths…can it use the remains 1/6th to move half of the one third remaining movement?

    When a unit tries to move into combat and cannot quite reach the target unit, must it end its movement farther back to be at least 1/3 movement away? What if it ends its movement in woods, and is located the thickness of a block deep, but still closer than 1/3 movement thus being blocked, would this be allowed?

    It looks like Antietam comes with the optional baggage trains. True?

    On turn one an elite unit takes two hits. It ignores the first hit but flips. On turn two, the flipped elite unit takes two more hits. Does it still ignore the first hit and retreat? I’m assuming yes as long as these are separate battles and not part of the first one.

    Same question as above with elite units. On turn one, two units attack an elite unit. Elite takes two hits from first attacker and ignores the first hit. Elite unit eliminates the first attacker. Second attacker then inflicts two hits. Is elite then eliminated? Can elite still fire at second attacker?

    Thanks…Jim

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    1. Great questions, Jim!
      Antietam can only be crossed at bridges and Fords.

      You are correct about road movement.

      Elite units ignore the first hit in a combat each turn. That combat may last several rounds, but only the first hit is ignored.

      Antietam comes with baggage trains.

      According to the official rules, a unit that cannot contact an enemy must remain a third away, unless LOS is blocked. So your example of the woods would allow closer movement. This rule is not uncontested within the circle of rules developers, but that is the official rule.

      There are some who think that with skirmishers and pickets acting as eyes and ears, LOS shouldn’t matter.

      Then there is my camp that plays that if the attacking unit is within 3/8″, that is close enough and they should be placed in contact. If not that close, then simply end movement without combat (the end result being that any combat that might occur was not decisive enough to result in step loss or retreat).

      According to official rules, each unit can only fire once each round, which means a defender facing two attackers is facing 6 dice off attacks.

      My own rules handle it a little differently, but those are the official rules.

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  5. Thanks for the quick response! I do have some follow on ones…to cross Antietam Creek via a ford or bridge, I am assuming that a unit must be in column. Is this correct? Also, if there is a CSA unit blocking the crossing such that a USA unit can not deploy into line after crossing, or in the process of crossing, would the USA unit attack at a -2 die roll modifier? Same for the defending CSA unit; would it fire defensively (and simultaneously) with a +2 modifier? Sorry for all the questions…I’m a long time hex and counter wargamer trying to get a grasp on this system. Thanks…Jim

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    1. You do not need to be in column to cross a ford or bridge, it does count as entering terrain so your max move is reduced by a third, same as with any other terrain.
      If you switch from column to line (minus a third) and then enter any terrain (another third) you will only have one third left to move.

      A simple way to grasp terrain costs is to imagine that you normally move 2/3 unless you move in only clear terrain, in which case you move the full 3/3. Switching formation, or pivoting more than once is an additional (for each case).

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  6. Hello Mike,
    I really like how you have faced the rules for Pub Battles and I think your additions are clever and improve somehow the official rules, I specially like the twist with flanking as per offcial rules I found very gamey the situation where each enemy unit coming to attack your unit where always searching a flank position to weak it. That was not too real to me, ok , it come be done sometimes simulating a unit could take you by surprise but not when is done 90 % of the times if movement rate distance allow it.

    I have also read your comment above concerning defenders number of rolls:

    “According to official rules, each unit can only fire once each round, which means a defender facing two attackers is facing 6 dice off attacks.

    My own rules handle it a little differently, but those are the official rules.”

    I would like what is exactly your suggestion to handle this , could you please explain it ? Thanks

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    1. It’s always good to hear from you, Jose!

      In my own house rules I keep the chits in order and then in the combat phase I go in reverse chit order (start with the last chit drawn and go towards the first chit drawn). I resolve each combat as a pair of units. In the case of two units facing one defender, each attacker rolls versus the defender, and the defender rolls as well.

      In the above example, The first combat is resolved entirely (until the two units are no longer in contact). Since the defender is suffering the flanking die roll modifiers, this usually is the only combat fought since after being eliminated or retreating the defender is no longer in contact with any attacker’s.
      If the defender wins the combat, then the second combat is fought without the flanking modifiers since the defender is no longer flanked.
      In the case of flanking units being themselves flanked, the reverse chit order guarantees that the multiple unit combats get resolved from the outside in.
      Hope this makes sense!

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  7. Thanks for the quick answer Mike!
    Sorry I missed the combat order phase with reverse chit order, good addition as well to the system.
    It is a long time I dont play my game, reading your blog makes one wish to play again !

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