How to resolve complex combats is an issue in most game systems, including Pub Battles. I have come up with a simple and definitive solution. It comes from my training as a mathematician (I have nearly mastered basic algebra). What I do know is that when combining fractions, you must reduce to lowest terms. In Pub Battles, the lowest terms in complex combats are two opposing blocks. Therefore:
1. Every combat is first reduced to two combatants.
2. Each combat is resolved entirely before another combat begins.
The rules for each Scenario define which side decides the order of combat. As you will appreciate, this becomes significant. The side which gets to decide the order of combats will be referred to as the Tactically Dominant side.
In the above combat, the French are Tactically Dominant, and will likely choose the Wathier/Stryk combat first, if Stryk is eliminated or retreats, then Lewis has the option of advancing to continue the same combat. In other words, the combat is not complete, and no other combat can begin, until the original combat is resolved.
If Wathier wins the combat, there is still the combat between Wathier and Jankovich which will have to be resolved before the end of the combat phase, although it does not need to be the very next resolved.
If the Russians had Tactical Dominance, then it is likely that the Wathier/Jankovich combat would get resolved first. If Wathier lost that combat (likely, since he’s flanked) then Caferelli would be on his own versus Stryk and Lewis.
The other advantage to choosing the order of combat is already part of the rules. The rules say when an army reaches 50% losses, it breaks. The rules don’t specify “at the end of the turn,” so it can be interpreted as immediately. In close games, like my last Marengo game where both sides were reduced below 50% in the same combat phase, choosing which combats go first can stack the deck in your favor. This seems completely plausible when pairing off a commander like Melas, with Napoleon!
Does this unbalance the scenarios? I would argue that it does not. First of all, complex combats are not common. Second of all, the players are aware of how the combats get resolved. A commander knows the limitations of certain troops, as well as what can be expected of certain troops. Pub Battles thrives on asymmetric battles. Few would call Brandywine a fair fight, but most would agree it is a fun fight. No one is ever guaranteed to win, but how much sweeter is victory to the underdog! A fair fight that usually ends in a stalemate is a pretty dull affair.