I don’t play to win, even when playing against a live opponent. I enjoy the simulation. I enjoy the “what if” scenario.
What makes Pub Battles so ideal for solo is its simple mechanics and fast play, coupled with its authenticity. By not attempting to replicate the details, it more faithfully mirrors the big picture.
I play Double Blind Solo. This means I play each side as if they knew only what their historical counterparts would have know re: nothing about the enemy’s intentions and positions beyond what they might guess.
This makes it ideal for trying out different strategies. I get a kick out of my fellow grognards who talk grand strategy, but walk in tactical boots. They argue about what Napoleon should have done, while playing the roles of colonels trying to break an enemy regiment. Watching them play, I realize it would be quicker to actually fight the whole damn battle over again!
I find Pub Battles attractive to the intelligent historian because it feels like you really are in command of an army. It locks you out of details your historical counterpart didn’t have access to, and couldn’t have used if he did.
I also like its seemingly endless replayability. Not only with the chit draw, but with the combat as well. You end up thinking like your historical counterpart, not like one of his subordinates, nor like a gamer trying to “win” the game.
The combat system, because of its simplicity, simulates a vast array of possibilities that a more detailed system misses. A more detailed system will only calculate the probable outcomes of X rifles firing Y meters, at Z enemy. There are very precise figures available for that action. What it doesn’t account for is what cover actually exists in that patch of terrain, not all woods have equally spaced trees. What about the hazy smoke that obscures and confuses the soldiers and their officers? What about the wind? It can blind and deafen just as well as smoke and gunfire.
What all that says, and I’ve hardly scratched the surface (morale, leadership, etc.), is that the same two units in combat can have vastly different outcomes, even if all the conditions are accounted for. The same side shouldn’t win the firefight every time. The historical commanders didn’t know the outcome ahead of time, why should a player?
You try to reduce the gamble as much as possible, but great results are the provence of risk.
All of which is to say that the Pub Battles system, solo-able because of its simplicity, ends up being a great tool to try out different strategies. It even is great for replaying the same strategy again and again, to find out how many different ways it could have played out.
One of the great strengths of a quick playing solo game is that when you do reach a point where that final move, or that final die roll, ends the game, you can easily acknowledge the win, and then redo it with a different roll or move, just to see where it leads.
Finally, I have never had a wargaming experience as immersive as Pub Battles. Complicated games are continually pulling you out of the narrative to check this rule, or consult that table. When I play Pub Battles, I have this running narrative describing the action just like an exciting eyewitness account. This narrative is what makes the game fun and “real” to me.