Appreciating what Pub Battles is doing

I often hear Pub Battles criticized as too simple by folks who are used to battalion and regimental combat simulations. Pub Battles is an excellent Army and Corps level command simulation.

Some will look at a single block, with it’s fresh and spent sides, and imagine there is a whole lot more to a division in combat than just those two levels (three, if you count eliminated). I will argue that is a case of looking to closely at the trees to see the forest.

Let us look at how detailed Pub Battles treats a Corps in combat. Rather than simply a single Corps chit with twelve hit points, it has four blocks with three hit points each. Three of those hit points might be mounted dragoons, and three of those hit points might be elite grenadiers.

Additionally, each of those “packets” of three hit points have the possibility of recovering a hit point by rallying.

Further, rather than being constrained to a single square counter with a zone of control, these Corps can expand and contract as the situation demands (or combat requires).

Success in Pub Battles requires the player to think in terms of the Army and its component Corps. If you focus on the individual divisions, you’ll be like the army commander who micromanages too much.

A decision was made early on in the development of Pub Battles to use unit (divisional) level names. It adds to the experience and the immersion into the scenario, but it can be mistaken as exactly correlating with the unit’s so named. For instance, at Waterloo some of the Prussian Corps were as much as 50% landwehr. No entire division was, but many were composed of regiments and battalions of these lower grade troops. In Pub Battles this means that in some Corps, half the blocks are militia, which makes the Corps feel and act appropriately, even if the named divisions weren’t strictly landwehr.

Also, Leadership quality in Pub Battles is reflected in troop quality as well as the leadership rating. Troop quality can reflect how much confidence the troops had in their leaders. Elite units in Pub Battles can be counted on to get the job done, they hit harder and last longer. Conversely, militia tend to fall apart faster, you find yourself hoping they can hold. At least some of this rests squarely on the quality of leadership. This is why the best leaders were rewarded with the best troops. No one wasted their best troops on mediocre, leaders!

Pub Battles deserves to be regarded as the Corps level command simulation it is. Seeing it this way will improve your play.

Intro Video: Instant Pub Battles

I have just added this video. It would be good to watch before you read the rules, if you just purchased your first Pub Battles scenario.

It would also be great to have a friend watch before coming over to play Pub Battles for the first time.

I intentionally left a lot out, so as not to overwhelm. Just a quick, under 5 minute, intro to the system.

New Waterloo for Kriegspiel

Command Post Games has just come out with a Pub Battles Battalion scale Waterloo scenario. It is primarily intended as a Kriegspiel tool, and gives a link to Too Fat Lardies copy of the Kriegspiel rules.

It does include Pub Battles battalion scale rules, and you can order a paper map to use for playing on. it is a different, closer scale, map of just the area where the battle was fought. The regular Pub Battles map won’t have the details that are desired at battalion scale.

I enjoy the current Pub Battles scale, and am not interested in battalion scale or Kriegspiel, but if that’s your thing, go for it!

Kriegsspiel Scenario: Waterloo

Desperate Troops

We are looking at a new rule to simulate the effect on troops if no retreat is available. Although you could include this rule as an “always on” type of rule, we really are intending it mainly for battles where desperate defenses were a critical part of the battle. For instance, elements of Lee’s army at Antietam if backed up against the Potomac. Like any Pub Battles rule, the intent is to have as simple a rule as possible that retains authenticity and the feel of command.

A block that has no legal retreat is considered Desperate and ignores a treat result.

That is the whole rule, but just to make sure you can wrap your head around it, this is what it means:

The retreat is still counted, a fresh unit would still require 3 hits to be eliminated, but if a final result requires a retreat, it is simply ignored.

Note that it still counts the retreat, it just doesn’t actually retreat. So a Militia unit that takes a hit would flip to spent, but ignore the retreat requirement. Artillery can cause a unit to become spent, but not force it to retreat.

Let me know if you find something unclear about the rule. It seems pretty clear to me, but so does every rule written, to its author. It often depends on underlying assumptions that are impossible to anticipate.

Antietam 14 demo

This time I am asking, “What if McClellan went all in at the Lower bridge and fords?”
I am also experimenting with zooming in on particular combats. When I zoom in, the image gets a little grainy and pixelated, but it is easier to follow. Working on transitions more, and added Yakkity sax to the speed replay. When I edit it I see all the mistakes I made, and I finish asking viewers to comment if they have any questions.

Waterloo 14

Waterloo as a decisive and explosive engagement! This time victory is decided by turn 3. As is so often the case with a Pub Battles game, victory can go either way, and the sudden collapse of one army would have been as much a surprise to the commanders as the players in this instance.

In this game, I was playing a variant where Wellington’s British troops, who had trained and fought with him for many years, fire first when on the reverse slope. His allied troops in Belgium do not, as they had not received any specific reverse slope training. If you believe this to be incorrect, please let me know in the comments below.


In this replay I have used an experimental variant, which I have decided I really like, that requires the French player, if he really is as weak as he bluffs, to have to actually be much weaker. Leaving just the IV and V Corps to hold the Coalition’s attention, while he uses a more viable force elsewhere. If he does this, Napoleon does not appear at Austerlitz!

The full variant is explained Here.

Baggage Trains: Homebrew

Baggage Trains mean more than just food and bullets in Pub Battles.

I want to increase the importance of Baggage Trains in Pub Battles and give added reasons for wanting to unpack them. They mean more than just a depot for supplies, they are the entire logistical network that supports an army in the field.

In addition for being necessary to rally spent units, I want to add the concept of them being critical for an army’s ability to recover from protracted combat. Let’s replace the 50% night turn recovery rule with this:

During a night turn an army may recover two blocks for each unpacked Baggage Train.

This means that a player can take stock of the situation at the end of the day, and during the night turn decide to unpack Baggage Trains in order to recover more units.

Austerlitz: Optional start variant

The optional starting forces for the French are a great method for introducing the uncertainty that is key to simulating Austerlitz. While the official rules work great, I have a little trouble swallowing that the French player would have any reason for bringing on his whole army and having to win, when he can just as easily leave Davout and Murat behind, while bringing on the Guard (who were always with Napoleon), and only require a draw to win?

What if Napoleon split his army in two, intent on mounting a real threat elsewhere whilst pinning down the Coalition Army at Austerlitz? What if his choices were to bring his full army to Austerlitz, or merely leave Soult and Lannes to tie down the Coalition Army?

Let’s look at the French army:

The whole French Army. In this variant, only the right most two Corps appear.

In this variant, if Napoleon doesn’t bring on his whole army and fight with the regular Victory Conditions, he can simply fight a holding action with two Corps, and all he needs to do is manage a draw. If he does this, he wins.

Soult and Lannes have a significant force, maybe not enough to defeat the Coalition Army, but certainly enough to possibly force a stalemate. On their side is their superior organization and staff work. This is reflected in their 4 leadership rating compared to the Coalition Army’s 2. This means that when the French want to Alter Turn Order, they probably can, and when the Coalition want to Alter Turn Order, they probably can’t.

Now let’s look at the Coalition Army:

The somewhat disorganized Coalition Army

The Coalition Army actually has pretty good troops, they are just poorly organized and led. This isn’t so bad if they are merely defending (not so good either, but not so bad), but if it turns out that the French player only has a couple of Corps on the board, then they must attack!

Their poor leadership rating will make it hard for them to coordinate an attack on a key point at the right moment. Their artillery superiority is hard to use effectively because early on when they’d really like to have it, the fog will prevent its use.

Adding to their woes, the French have Five HQ cards to hide and disperse/or concentrate their forces, the Coalition player has only 3! Two wily players will only have HQs on the map and all their forces hidden in reserve. This makes it very hard for the Coalition to cover a broad front while searching for the French army.

The other tough part is they have very poor intelligence of the real French strength. Whether or not they are all there, All the French HQs will be on board until they can see them and call their bluff.

All of which puts them in a tough spot. They must begin as though the French only have the two Corps in play, and if it turns out they bet wrong, they have to quickly revert to the defensive with a slow, disorganized command structure.

Fought this way, the battle is actually quite even. If the Coalition strikes hard and quickly, they should usually break the French army, but if they find themselves stuck in and suddenly facing the whole French Army, they are in desperate straights. In either case, victory will go to the player who best manages the crises as they develop.

Now I want to add one little flavorful rule that you can take or leave. The historical battle was won when the French forces gained the Pratzen in strength and “broke” the coalition’s will to fight. I replicate this moment by saying that if the French player ends the game with an unpacked Baggage Train in the town of Pratzen, then they win, it’s as if they have broken the Coalition army.

Pratzen, just East of Kobolnitz