I want to showcase what I think is the most powerful aspect of the Pub Battles system: The chit draw mechanic.
In the opening situation here, we have the disposition of forces after the previous turn’s actions. Reynold’s I Corps made a spirited charge from the Peach Orchard to the woods North of the Spangler farm. This charge ended in disaster and the Corps (now reduced to a single spent division) tumbled back to the Peach orchard.
The next turn the first chit drawn was Longstreet’s Corps and they charged obliquely to take advantage of the weak spot in the Union line. The next chit drawn was Hancock’s II Corps and they sent Hay’s division forward to bolster Reynold’s shattered I Corps. Finally, Reynold’s chit was drawn and they retreated away. As there were no units in contact, there was no combat to resolve.
This is a good example of implicit and explicit combat. Explicit combat is when two units are left in contact and combat is resolved that results in the destruction or retreat of an entire division. Implicit combat is when the final positioning of the units is determined by chit draw. This is shown in the picture above by the smoke between the two units that are only a couple hundred yards apart, obviously in range to exchange fire, but with neither time nor resources to engage decisively this turn.
So what happened here? The system doesn’t tell you specifically. That would take many pages of rules and would never come close to capturing the drama and action of Day two at Gettysburg. When one describes the action shown, the narrative only illustrates a possible interpretation.
The first thing to understand is that chit draw order is not always linear in time, frequently it shows the anticipated actions of the enemy, or simulates the tactical edge (or even dumb luck) of an opponent.
In a standard You Move/I Move game, Hood’s division would have been able to attack I Corps’ remnants before they got away and the deal would be done, or if the Union moved first, I Corps would have easily slipped away and Hancock would have plugged the hole. All this would have been known before the turn began.
Instead, with the chit draw mechanic, Who moves before and who moves after can mean everything, and isn’t determined until the chits are drawn.
In the example above, because Reynolds’ chit was drawn after Hood’s, he was able to ensure that the remnants of his exhausted Corps were able to delay Hood’s division long enough for Hancock to get Hay’s division into place and they were able to frustrate Hood from getting the decisive battle he was looking for.
Had Hood moved last, Reynolds’ would have had the opportunity to rally Rowley’s division to turn and face Hood in their spent condition, but with good terrain, or retreat out of the Peach Orchard and let Hancock order Hay’s division into the breach. In that case, Hood would have gotten the decisive battle he was looking for (remember, the South is in a race for time), but against a fresh opponent.
There’s still another possibility. If Reynold’s had been drawn first and then retreated, and then Longstreet had been drawn, he could have sent Hood in to secure the Peach Orchard forcing Hancock to attack Hood’s elite Texans in good terrain… This is why no two games of Gettysburg are ever going to be completely the same, you just can’t be sure how the battle’s going to fall out.
Lest you think your totally at the whim of the chit draw, the Alter Turn Order rule really makes for another level of strategy! If you are familiar enough with the system you can anticipate when to try to advance or delay the draw. This isn’t a case of “knowing the rules better.” The rules are really simple, but it is a matter of having a feel for the possible. Bismarck may have said “Politics is the art of the Possible,” but I will go a little further and say that Pub Battles is the art of the possible.
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