Combat in Pub Battles

I’m sure you’ve heard, and probably thought, that combat in Pub Battles is really simplified. I have been guilty of that, too. However, under analysis, it doesn’t hold up.

I think part of the problem, a big part of the problem, is that Pub Battles blocks look like they should be regiments, or the unit names on them make you think that the specific divisional unit named is the actual unit represented. Both are false. Divisions did tend to cover an area with the same general geometric outline as a regiment. The names on the labels are purely for color.

First off, what does a Pub Battles block actually represent? It actually represents from 4,000-6,000 men, more or less. A Corps that numbers ~20,000 men will have around 5 blocks, maybe more for nimble, well organized units, less for awkward, poorly organized units. Numbers are half that for cavalry. It will also possess artillery, including battalion guns (equivalent to modern day heavy weapons battalions). Many formations within the block will be light troops, and maybe even grenadiers to stiffen the line.

Typically, when two regiments closed, fighting began with a ranged duel between the light troops at a few hundred yards, one side drove back the light troops of the other, and then began picking off the main line troops. At this point, those troops not liking getting picked off, charged, or retreated.

That detail is not simulated by Pub Battles. In Pub Battles, when two blocks close, it begins at an area around a half mile square, within that half mile, Brigades and Regiments are maneuvering and jockeying for local advantage. Artillery is being brought up, harassing their opponents. All of this is resolved with a dice roll and a couple of modifiers. When playing, you can happily dream up what may have happened.

If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of small formation combat, there are numerous excellent titles. I myself, have enjoyed them, but to play an actual large battle at that level is exhaustive, and really not accurate to the feel of the whole battle. No one experienced every small combat, and every grand tactical decision, in any battle of size. So, we must choose.

I happen to enjoy Pub Battles, and feeling like I’m commanding a whole army, and enjoying the full sweep of a battle, in a pleasant couple of hours.

How do you feel about Pub Battles level of simulation?

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