Pub Battles combat is quite simple. At its most basic, if two units are in contact, they both roll 3 dice hitting on fours or better.
One hit flips a unit to spent, two hits force it to retreat, and three hits eliminate it. If it is already spent, one hit forces it to retreat, and two hits eliminate it.
That’s it. If the units remain in contact, another round of combat is fought.
Let us understand the odds behind 3 dice hitting on fours. Each die has a 50% chance of hitting, that creates 8 combinations of outcomes:
There is a one in eight chance of no hits.
There is a two in eight (25%) chance of one hit.
There is a four in eight (50%) chance of two hits.
And there is a one in eight chance of three hits.
This means that the odds are against a block still holding the ground after the first round of combat and speaks to the value of having a second unit backing it up, ready to fill in the void.
Look at how powerful this makes an elite unite. An elite unit ignores the first hit in any combat. That means it can’t be eliminated in one round, and there is only a one in eight chance of it being forced back. It is almost as good as having a second unit backing a regular unit up.
Even if it is spent, there is only a one in eight chance of eliminating it in a subsequent Combat. Elite units are tough!
Likewise, militia units are very fragile and likely to be eliminated in the first round of combat. However, whether fresh or spent, elite, or just militia, the attack dice remain the same. This makes militia best used in front during an attack, backed up by higher quality units that will usually be left facing a spent unit, if any.
This mirrors historical practice.
One fourth of the time, two regular units will both be spent and retreat.
Does this mean they both ran away from each other?
Not likely. What can usually be imagined happening is that both units fought to exhaustion and neither controls the contested area. It will go to the first side able to rally or reinforce the position, whoever wins the chit draw next turn. In other words, it comes down to command initiative.
The most common die roll modifier is the minus one for a defender being in cover, each die goes from hitting half the time, to hitting one third of the time.
That means the attacker can inflict three hits just once in twenty-seven times!
You can expect three misses nearly half of the time.
The minus one really stacks up the more dice you roll!
If artillery is attacked in melee, it fires before the attacker. This means over half the time the attacker won’t get a chance to fire at artillery.
Artillery bombardment cannot eliminate a unit, but melee is not bombardment. Artillery can and frequently does, win the first round of combat. Grape shot is devastating!
If cavalry is charging fresh infantry, most of the infantry regiments are assumed to have formed into squares and the cavalry suffers a minus one on its dice.
Conversely, if the infantry are spent, fewer of the regiments are assumed to have managed to form square, and the cavalry adds one to its dice.
If two cavalry units are fighting, the heavier unit gets plus one. Check the scenario rules for cavalry weight.
Finally, there is the charge rule. By scenario definition, certain units (like Guards and some heavy cavalry) are eligible for the charge rule.
Rather than having to wait until the combat phase, these units can resolve combat the moment they move to contact during their movement.
This is very powerful and reflects that epic moment when the guard charges and the whole battle seemingly freezes; waiting for the issue to be decided.
Although not technically combat, I will discuss Supply Trains, as they are most important. On page four of the rules, it says “Bags in contact with the enemy at the beginning of combat are destroyed.” HQs and artillery (as well as Baggage trains) cannot move into contact with the enemy, so they cannot destroy bags. Detachments can, however.
This means that the enemy can move into contact with a baggage train and if the Baggage is unpacked, or has already moved, the only way to rescue it is if it is charged by an enemy unit with the charge capability.
Simply moving into contact with the unit, even if able to destroy it easily, doesn’t matter. If the enemy in contact with the Baggage Train “at the beginning of combat” the bags are lost.