The full name of the Latest Pub Battles scenario is Austerlitz: One Sharp Blow. It refers to Napoleon’s assertion (and hope!) That one sharp blow at the critical moment is all it would take to cause the Coalition army to collapse. He was right. He was right in his assertion, and he was right in judging when that moment was at hand.
In contrast, General Lee was not so successful at Gettysburg. He was certain by the third day that the Union army was on the point of breaking, and that all it would take is one sharp blow at the critical moment. We will never know, because Longstreet’s reluctance to make that fatal attack caused the whole thing to be carried off much later in the day than Lee intended. Maybe Lee was right, and had the attack been launched in the morning, the Federal army would have cracked. Maybe Longstreet knew that such an assault would have always failed, it certainly seems so.
Key in any treatment of any battle is whether or not the system can recreate that feeling when refighting the battle. Even more important, is not handcuffing the players into recreating exactly that strategy, but instead, relying on that moment to occur naturally.
Anticipating this, I was very excited to try it out myself, and I eagerly awaited for the game to arrive in the mail. I was not disappointed!
Although I have only played it a handful of times, determining that moment, considering both, the turn and the chit draw, is often most critical. Now that I have played it a few times, and am well acquainted with what makes solo play exciting, I believe that I have come up with a solo scheme that simultaneously keeps the tension high for both sides.
What I do is make the appearance of the optional reinforcements unknown the French elect to deploy them, or the coalition spots them.
Just as always, the French begin with all three HQs showing up on turn 1. When Napoleon decides to place one of the Corps on the map, or when the coalition forces spot one of the HQs, a die is rolled.
1-3= No optional forces
4 = One Corps*
5 or 6 = All three Corps
*If spotted, the spotted Corps is placed, otherwise place one HQ’s forces.
While not historically accurate, since Napoleon knew what forces he actually had to work with, it makes for a far more interesting and varied solo experience. It starts with a 50/50 proposition, was he bluffing? If he wasn’t bluffing, he probably would have brought everything. I think this creates an interesting variation because it makes what is probably the most logical choice (one optional Corps, allowing maximum forces for easiest victory conditions), the least probable. It also rewards the Coalition for making an effort to reconnoiter the enemy, and try to take some control from the French. Actually, that might be an interesting two player variant…
I have just started playing the game and haven’t yet used this system. I will start using it with my Austerlitz5 replay. I will note any changes if experience warrants it. If you try it out, be sure and let me know how it works for you.