Austerlitz Homebrew variant: Bridgeheads

Austerlitz out of the tube works great. This variant isn’t to “fix” something, but is actually a variant. A “What If.” I have played the regular version over a dozen times, and I want to try something a little different.

What if Napoleon felt that the Coalition wasn’t buying his charade that he was weak. So he starts all in. Davout still doesn’t make it from Vienna until turn 2, but other than that, all French forces start on the map.

There are occasions where both sides are better off defending and making their opponents attack. Austerlitz is one such battle, hence Napoleon’s deception. If the deception, which was daring and not sure of working, had not been successful, then actually attacking would have been necessary. How to make the French attack a larger foe?

To answer this, I have created the concept of Bridgeheads. Not actual bridgeheads, but close enough to make for an adequate label. In addition to the other two ways of winning, routing the enemy, or capturing their Baggage Trains, let us introduce a third way.

By scenario definition, a bridgehead is created when you are the first player to unpack a Baggage Train in a designated enemy area. At the end of the game, if the Bridgehead has not been destroyed by the enemy, you win!

Unlike when a regular Baggage Train is unpacked, when a Bridgehead is created, the label is exposed and the enemy is made aware of the Bridgehead. Only one Bridgehead can be created per game. Deciding when can be critical. Too soon, and the enemy has time to destroy it, too late, and the enemy may deploy it first!

For Austerlitz, The coalition needs to Build a bridgehead across the Goldbach (i.e. the west side), and the French must build one in the town of Pratzen.

Marengo 13

This time, Napoleon decides to fall back and not fight the Austrians immediately. One of the things that I really enjoy when playing double blind solo, is that I can try different things out, and then “Run the simulation” and see how it goes.

I’m not trying to win, but the “boots on the ground” certainly are! I’m directing each command to the best of their abilities, given their limited knowledge, and the orders they were given. I let the chit draw simulate things like lost or confused orders.

The Alter Turn Order rules work great for simulating different leader’s abilities, especially when facing a human opponent, but I still think it gives players too much control. Yes, different leaders had different abilities, but isn’t the whole point of playing competitive wargames wondering “What if I had been in charge?”

Gettysburg 13

Pub Battles: Gettysburg. Epic 3 day battle in under 15mins of video. The actual game took almost 5 hours to play, with both sides nearly winning on several occasions. Ordinarily, I don’t like playing any game for that long, but I couldn’t stop, I had to keep playing to find out what happened next. Sometimes my dialogue is a little off, because I was pretty exhausted after hours of narration. Hope you can cut a brother some slack.šŸ˜‰

As always, I was playing double blind solo. I don’t use written orders, but I do imagine what their orders might have been. That never includes: Hey, if you see a possible flank attack open up in another corps operational area, go ahead and rush over there and jump right in. It’ll be fine!

Chit Draw and Dynamic Leadership in Pub Battles

The chit draw simulates adept leadership very well. Whether or not you’re able to ATO isn’t even a central concern. What matters is how you handle the chit draws you get. This is nothing as ham fisted as the charge rule, this requires a subtle understanding. Not unlike fly fishing compared to dropping dynamite into the lake.

The most powerful attack is the one that you choose. This is similar to the charge rule, you get to move and fight, it is just a matter of moving last, or at least after, the opposite command. It is kind of a sign of a novice, to roll to go first, except in the specific situation where you need to rally. It is almost always best to go last.

This means you have to formulate your plans, wait for the right opportunity, or be able to adjust to the situation. In the Gettysburg12 video, this was at 1:50 when AP Hill’s artillery opened up, followed by Heth and Pender driving into the Federal line. Then at 2:48 AP Hill once again got the chit draw he needed to break the Union line. This was classic Blitzkrieg tactics!

In the Antietam video before that https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgE7eghvVjI Hooker makes good use of the chit draw, while Fitz John Porter’s V corps attacks aggressively, but with considerable less effect, and to his mid battle demise. Note that Jackson uses chit order, not with ATO, but with reading the situation correctly, to skillfully make the Federal’s pay for each bit of ground they acquire. In the southern sector at 5:15, the chit draw is used by Sumner to attack at a very propitious time. He was waiting, like a prize boxer, for his opponent to be off balance and unable to respond when he hits them with a critical blow. The thing that finally cost the Union the Battle was the arrival of AP Hill’s division and Longstreet unpacking his bags in what turned out to be a critical point. This allowed the South to recover and the North to attack with spent troops, which ultimately pushed the Federal losses too high. Both, the chit draw, and the Baggage Train rules, are the most subtle and powerful parts of the Pub Battles system.

All of which is to say that the Blitz is already built into the Krieg of Pub Battles. Taking advantage of the chit draw, just like handling your baggage trains, is a skill that requires a deft touch. The kind of touch like the best commanders of the period demonstrated.

Buford at Gettysburg

I have a minor nit to pick with the way Buford is handled at Gettysburg. Pleasonton is placed on the map with him. Pleasonton wasn’t there, but it saved having to add extra scenario rules. I get that, and that is the way it should be played until, like me, you’ve played it almost 200 times and you start exploring novel ways to use Buford. I have found several ways to make Buford really annoying. Ways that weren’t physically impossible, just highly unlikely.

As long as Pleasonton is on the map, Buford is in command and can attack. This allows his cavalry unit to be especially threatening. Threatening because as the player, you know exactly who and when all the troops are going to show up for the battle.

What to do about this? What is the simplest way to have Buford behave more historical?

Easy, don’t have Pleasonton appear until day 3 with the rest of the cavalry. That means that Buford can’t attack any units. He is completely a defensive unit. Now he acts as he should, historically. The actual rule reads like this:

Pleasonton does not appear until Day 3 with the rest of the Union cavalry. Until then, Buford may activate once per turn when any Union chit is drawn, but cannot be in command range until Pleasonton arrives on Day 3.

Boom. Done.

I’m going to try it in my next Gettysburg video, which should be posted by 5/17/21.