Fog of War as chit draw: Solitaire Pub Battles

Between two human opponents, Fog-of-War (FoW) is handled by not knowing the identity of Fresh units or HQs. Your opponent doesn’t actually know where key units are located. In solitaire play, even if you have a brain injury like I do, there is no way to truly keep your opponents positions hidden. Additionally, you generally have your hands full keeping track of all the game’s functions when playing solo.

Pub Battles is an ideal system for for playing two handed (both sides, solo). When playing solo, the idea of outsmarting your opponent in competitive play makes no sense. Most truly solitaire wargames do not impress me. The difficulty is usually reflected in tougher die rolls, which just comes down to luck. However, most people that play wargames also do it because it is a chance to recreate a battle and understand the conflict more deeply. In that regard, Pub Battles accommodates the requirements of the solo gamer handsomely. It is details light, simulation heavy. You create your own narrative of how and why the events that are happening in the battle are occurring.

One aspect that is totally different when playing solitaire is the way Fog of War (FoW) is handled. In two player games, FoW is handled by limiting reliable information to players, just like their historical counterparts. In solitaire play, just keeping track of all the basic info you need is quite a challenge, much less obscuring anything.

Enter the chit draw mechanic.

In a two player game, a critical part of the game is the Alter Turn Order ability which allows players to try to control when different commands are activated, allowing you to outmaneuver and outplay your opponent. This is a null concept in solo play.

In solo play, Fog of War is simulated by the chit draw mechanic limiting each side’s ability to capitalize on a position just because they know where everything is. Yes, you know that enemy Baggage is exposed and it is but a simple matter to march a unit up and attack it. However, you need to be able to move before the other side can either move the baggage, or garrison it. This is an example of a very dramatic and critical win/lose chit draw.

Every chit draw makes the game play a little different, just like every battle would have been fought a little different if any of an incalculable number of variables had played out differently. Rather than try to simulate exactly what happens (a truly impossible task!), the chit draw merely shows the result of all those probabilities.

This means that you can play the same battle with the same forces, using the same strategy, and get a different game every time. Mathematically, this becomes quite staggering. Brandywine has 5 chits to draw each turn for a total of 25 different openings on turn one, by the end of the second turn that increases to 625, with 15,625 variations on turn 3, 390,625 on turn 4 , and 9,765,625 different games by the end of the fifth and last turn. Nearly ten million different games, not including the numbers of different combat results, means that’s a lot of variation for even as small a battle as Brandywine. That’s almost 407 days straight play time. If you only played one game a night, with exactly the same strategy, that would be over a thousand years.

All of which is to say, no game of Pub Battles ever plays out the same way. Waterloo is a huge battle that probably has the least variability in basic strategy. Wellington lines up, Napoleon lines up, Napoleon charges the British line hoping to break it before the late arriving Prussians overwhelm him.

But even with that basic an analysis, it is still a fun game. I have played it over a hundred times, probably more than any other Pub Battles title, and every game is still an edge of your seat nail biter. The chit draw and combat results are always different. You have tough and interesting decisions every turn. At what point, and where, do the British want to deploy baggage and solidify their line? Do that wrong and you hand Napoleon the easy victory he is counting on. Too late, and there is no army left for Blucher to rescue. The French must balance keeping the pressure on, in spite of losses, or pause to recover and face the possibility of encountering a fresher, more numerous, opponent.

I have never played a solo wargame that has kept the tension ratcheted up to such a high level. There are no mathematical certainties, you have to rely on your gut feelings and instincts. Experience is your friend. You need to have an appreciation of the probabilities, but all together, it is that undefinable “something” that makes for consistent success.

One thought on “Fog of War as chit draw: Solitaire Pub Battles

  1. Great summary. I really enjoy chit pull games as solo games. Allows the solo player to play in god mode. I do this also for Cataclysm (GMT).
    When i have been playing Pub Battles, at the beginning of each turn (of the 8 each day), I roll one die for each side if their leaders are on the board (e.g. Lee and Meade at Gettysburg). Whoever has a lower number that is less than or equal to their command strength (usually a 3) – I allow them to go first and choose who to activate. Then i return to normal chit pull.. Thanks for all your help.

    Liked by 1 person

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