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.


Howe tries one more time to sweep the colonials by attacking from the South at Brandywine. This time I was playing with my latest FoF rule. If you end your move within 1/3 foot move (~ 1/2 mile) of an enemy unit, you MAY move your piece into contact. If you move end your move within one base thickness (500′) you are considered to have contacted the unit and are moved adjacent to signify it.

I found this to be very seamless and smooth to play. This was probably because that’s how I usually play anyway. I don’t get to precise with movement because any wargame movement rate is based on a lot of assumptions and estimates.


New Pub Battles: Marengo vid! This one is a little longer, with a little different style. I drop the pure narrative and talk a little more about game mechanics. Also, an example of the Infantry Ranged Fire rule (experimental replacement for Field of Fire) at 5:10

Also, stay tuned for the final text-only wrap at the end where I explain who actually won, and why!


Every once in awhile you play a wargame and it turns out so cool that you’re wishing you had recorded it. Well, this time I did! Pub Battles: Antietam

I mention some upcoming buildings rules. I make them sound much more official than they are. Take them with a grain of salt. That being said, they do work really well. In summary
1. Infantry suffers a -1 when attacking into buildings.
2. Cavalry cannot attack into buildings.
3. Bombardment suffers no penalty when firing into buildings (howitzers).
4. Spent units in buildings cannot recover.

Lee’s dream: A Gettysburg scenario

Every game starts with Buford’s cavalry west of Gettysburg

The Pub Battles system played solitaire works great for playing out ‘What-if’ scenarios for two reasons. The first is that it plays so fast that you’re not investing a lot of time if your idea doesn’t pan out. Second, is that balance doesn’t have to be a concern, no one has to play the losing side for the entire game.

This time, I’m using the Stuart scenario that assumes Stuart stayed with the army doing his job, rather than gallivanting around trying to capture headlines instead of vital intelligence. This variation includes Stuart’s cavalry on day 1, instead of Day 2. Adding to this, I’ve accelerated the arrival of Ewell’s Corps by one turn, to reflect the initiative gained by improved local cavalry intelligence.
In the Stuart variant, the Union cavalry shows up on day 1 as well, or this would indeed be a complete rout.

Note that retreat distance is 1/3 foot move, no matter who is retreating.It is important to note the difference between what is explicitly shown by the game, and what is implicitly simulated.
Explicitly, Buford formed for battle, Chambliss attacked, Buford retreated. There is no follow up by the attacker, Whether they can take advantage of the immediate result is determined by next turn’s chit draw, and the order is not absolutely good or bad. Implicitly, this can be thought of as a fighting retreat, or delaying action.

If Hill is drawn first, he can immediately contact Buford. When Pleasanton is drawn, Buford can either stay and fight (since he is spent, Chambliss’ two dice could eliminate him!), but he probably will move away and choose a new position from which to carry on the battle.

If Pleasonton is drawn first, he could retreat further, or he could rally (cavalry doesn’t need an unpacked Baggage Train to rally). If he rallies then Chambliss would attack him at a disadvantage since he would still be spent. Chambliss could rally and let Heth advance to contact. If this were to happen, then Buford would have the option retreating before combat (fresh cav attacked by foot).
All that is explicit. Implicitly, there is a lot going on, even if no actual dice are being rolled. When a unit moves away from an attacking unit it is not as if they waited for the attacker to arrive and then simply marched off. What it shows is that the attacker was not able to bring the situation to a decisive resolution. This can be an example of a skillful delaying action, or maybe there was some of many innumerable reasons the attacker did not get there in time (indecision, faulty intelligence,  unclear orders, broken axle, et cetera). This is why I say the chit draw is elegant. Rather than try to simulate exactly why the intended attack was not successful, it merely shows that it wasn’t. 
Also, recall that the chit draw simulates simultaneous movement. The different chit drawn orders don’t reflect “first this, then this” linear time, but different plays of initiative and the enemy ‘showing their hand’ first. It also shows the benefit of the corps and divisional level officers out thinking/out fighting their immediate adversaries.

Cavalry only use 2 dice. Bronze dice are Lee’s, Silver dice are Meade’s. One hit each. Buford retreats. What this really shows is a fighting withdrawal.

This is also where the game removes you, as General, from puppeteering your command structures.  You just can’t be everywhere at once!

Onward to turn 2!

With this variant I am accelerating the arrival of the Confederates by a turn. In a meeting engagement where everyone is trying to be firstest with the mostest, this should set the Union up for failure. This is the benefit of solo play, I can try things like this and no one gets stuck playing the losing side for the whole game.

I have advanced the Union Cavalry’s arrival by a turn as well, because I have no doubt what an extra turn beyond the turn they are already getting would allow a little too much mayhem…Maybe save that for a later day.

Stuart arrives and secures Gettysburg ahead of Hill’s column who march the whole turn to get everyone on the map. Overall, this is a good problem to have, but it limits one’s options to simply marching along the road. There are several minor roads along the way, but they would stretch the line out even longer, and there’s a whole army behind ’em!

Buford races back towards the Union lines as Reynolds deploys his two divisions along the Peach Orchard and Cemetary Ridge. Cemetary Hill is no longer in reach. This will be a very different battle! One thing that does favor the Union is that as they fall back they get closer to their arriving troops, whereas Lee must spend more time marching to the front lines. Things will be worse for the late arriving Hood.

Day 1 will be very interesting.

On turn 3 I make an interesting observation. I always wondered why battles were so set piece. Why one army set up and waited while another army did the same, as if they had seen the “set up diagram” and just filled it in. Now, I see the actual process begin. Two opposing armies move towards each other, then deploy into lines, then attack.

You can also see quite clearly in this photo the march column eighth inch blocks I use to show units in March column on major roads (block on top) and those on minor roads that are forced to be more stretched out (block behind). Rodes’ Division and Baggage Train of Ewell’s corps (coming in from the top) is stretched out over 3 miles! Meanwhile, the first two divisions of A.P. Hill’s III Corps have deployed in attack formation just South of Gettysburg.

Both opposing cavalry commanders are located on the Union left allowing their respective divisions to attack if necessary (thus remaining a threat), while to the East they are taking up more defensive positions.

Reynolds and Howard are planning their defensive strategies and sending off more messengers to Meade, pleading for him to come on at all hazard with greatest expedition.

Turn 4. Meade’s First and Eleventh Corps have set up a makeshift line, but it seems not nearly wide enough! Ewell forms up on the western flank and Hill on the eastern.

Turn 5 In the first heavy combat of Gettysburg Reynolds and Howard have launched an attack in an effort to stun the Confederates fist thing and unbalance them. Starting from the left, Buford’s cavalry charge Hampton’s crack division in an effort to prevent them from freely harassing the attack that is being delivered just below McPherson’s Ridge.
Rule comment: As per the diagram on page 6 of the 3.0 rules (flanking), the blocks must line up as close as possible, but are not required to touch. In the photo, all units are considered to line up evenly, even if the actual shape of the blocks don’t allow it. Their real counterpart divisions would have had much more elastic frontages than the wood blocks allow. The determining factor is whether or not at least half the base width is in contact. It would take several pages of examples to show all possible permutations of this rule. Pub Battles merely asks two gentleman if they could agree on what would likely happen.

Note that Lee’s player drew his commands first, which allowed the Union the rare chance to attack without fear of a Confederate maneuver to prevent it. This simulates a well executed attack where everything goes right…At least until combat begins.

In a good example of Confederate elan, A.P. Hill’s troops score three hits on their union attackers whilst the Union only scores two hits. The rebs were flanked, so they needed 5+ to hit, and the Union only needed 3+. Barlow (Union) was eliminated, and Heth’s boys fell back (they should both be spent, I realized after I took the photo). The rules require the first hits to be taken on the front unit, so it would have been required to flip to spent and retreat. Then the unit backing up could have advanced forward and fought another round. However, I did not think fighting another round with being outflanked would bode well, so they both pulled back. The Union unit backing up the eliminated unit advanced to fill the vacated position (this is the only “after combat” movement allowed. Heth’s boys on the right suffered two hits as well and fell back.

Buford’s troops delivered one hit on Hampton, which their elite status allowed them to ignore, whilst they delivered one hit on Buford. Buford’s mission accomplished (denying Hampton), he fell back, electing not to continue the fight on unequal terms.

Turn 5 action with Barlow’s division sitting behind the dice that wrought its doom!

Turn 6 Here is where the rest of II and III corps arrive. The Union army is pushing up along seminary ridge almost to the day’s starting line. Additionally, it looks as if Reynolds’ Corps will recapture Cemetery Hill.

All of which is accurate, but misleading. Since Pleasanton is over with Buford, facing Hampton and Stuart on the Western flank, the entire cavalry force of both armies on the Eastern portion of the map are without Corps leadership and cannot attack. Furthermore, Wolf’s Hill has been invested by Ewell’s II Corps, and the Union has nothing to fill that gaping hole in their center. Over the next two turns (the rest of the day) the North will get almost no reinforcements, but Lee will be joined by Longstreet’s large Corps, minus Pickett who will arrive fresh in the morning.

The battle could look very different in a couple of hours…

Turn 7. Well, Now we have jumped ahead to turn 8. I have been working on this for awhile and have gotten quite tired. I have forgotten to snap a picture of turn 7 when Lee’s I Corps arrived. The thing to not is that the last division of Hill’s Corp had to leave the road to allow them to pass.

Turn 8 movement ends with Lee finally gaining some initiative. Longstreet swings wide to the left and Hill makes an attack in the center as Ewell is poised to take his deep into the Union right where the Union cavalry delays their southern counterparts on the right. I am once again tired and making mistakes. Pleasanton is over with Buford leaving the rest of his Corps out of command. That cavalry could not have attacked.

Turn 8 after combat. Suddenly, the Union position seems weak with most of I Corps and all of III corps spent. Next is a night turn, with movement, but no combat.

Whoops! Except I realized I had forgotten to bring on Slocum’s XII Corps, and this would have changed things dramatically, With Hancock’s II Corps and all the Union Artillery arriving in the night.

So I decided to call an end to my experiment, for now. I see that it is possible, with the right circumstances, for the Union to hold out.

But what if Jackson had survived the last engagement, and what if Stuart’s cavalry had remained in place… That’ll be my next game.

Pub Battles: Marengo Scenario 3.0

This is a handy guide to bringing you up to speed with the scenario in general, and the 3.0 play in particular.

In the photo below, I have shown the river crossing points available to the Austrians. Of note is the Monte Castello crossing at the top of the map. This crossing was not used historically, but it did exist. Also of note is the fact that six of the blocks for each army are either unpacked Baggage Trains or Detachments, which means that neither army is quite so numerous as first appears. Also, French reinforcement are placed near where they will appear.

Marengo situation: The white arrows show the river crossing points, and the dotted arrows show the supply lines.

The situation, at first glance, is pretty straight forward; the Austrians need to breakout and reach their supply lines by nightfall (end of turn 8). There are however, some complications.

First off, is supply. At the end of turn 8 any units unable to trace a supply line are considered eliminated for victory point purposes. Alexandrie is an Austrian supply source during the game, but after turn 8 the Austrians must have captured one of their supply lines or they lose.

If a Baggage Train cannot trace a line of supply to a supply line, they cannot recover spent units.

Secondly is the time crunch. Austria gets a surprise turn 0 that allows them to get a jump on the French. They need this. If you measure in 2/3 inf move increments from the crossing east of Alexandrie to the eastern map edge, it will take them almost all game to reach their supply lines. The French don’t need to defeat them so much as delay them without being defeated themselves.

In the game setup I have pictured, the Austrians are investing the northern route heavily. I want to see if they have any better luck moving up the road in column and cutting out over half the time to get to their nearest supply line. I have artillery massed in the center with some infantry escort in hopes of drawing off some French responsiveness, or make them pay for abandoning the center. In the south I am threatening the French supply lines, again to drain off the critically overstretched French army. I want to have something to distract Desaix when he appears!

The question I have about this strategy is whether or not having to snake the Austrian army out in a long road column is going to be their undoing.

Brandywine Day 2

French aristocrat and soldier for the American rebels the Marquis de Lafayette lies on the ground with a bullet wound in his leg as an aide helps him to his feet at the Battle of Brandywine, Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, September 11, 1777. Lafayette, in his first military engagement, stayed with the troops during their retreat to Chester before getting medical attention for his leg. (Image by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

For the first time ever, I am playing a second day at Brandywine. The British were trying to avoid heavy casualties and underestimated the colonial’s tenacity. Knyphausen’s smaller wing, instead of demonstrating across the Brandywine, drew the short straw and had to march the nearly twenty miles around to come in and outflank Washington. This left Cornwallis watching and waiting with the Sledgehammer of the British expeditionary force.

Predictably, this got hung up, helped by the Colonist’s stalwart defense. Toward the end of the day, Cornwallis launched his assault and suffered heavy casualties. His right wing collapsed and the intrepid Greene crossed Chadd’s and Pyle’s ford in a brilliant envelopment that left the Grenadiers falling back in disorder as night came.

That night Greene recovered his command’s losses and was able to refresh one division. Cornwallis was able to reorganize his best troops, under Mathew, and was ready to put an end to this congressional nonsense.

Greene scrambles to locate the British Baggage before the British can find him and chase off his exhausted troops.

The bandaged hearts show the recovered units. If Greene gets activated before Cornwallis all he needs to do is send General “Mad” Anthony Wayne forward to make contact with the bags (arrow) and the Rebels will win. If Cornwallis is drawn first, then Mathews (the recovered British unit) will be able to block Greene’s exhausted troops, giving the Knyphausen time to break the American lines.

Nothing is a sure thing, but whoever is activated first will probably win. In a solitaire game, I may not even bother fighting this out (Ha! Yes I will!), but imagine how exciting this would be with an opponent. You’ve fought all of day 1 and the British were almost winning (but getting frustratingly denied) until the last couple turns. Suddenly, with Green across the Brandywine, everything has changed.

Now the chit draw becomes very intense. If Greene’s chit is drawn first, Cornwallis will need to roll 1-4 to jump ahead. If he fails, Howe is near by and can try to roll himself. If either of those rolls is successful, then Greene can roll to jump ahead of whomever got the jump. Greene’s only disadvantage is that Washington is out of command range, and so can’t support the way that Howe can. If Washington were to be drawn ahead of Cornwallis, then he could move within command range of Greene and support him (Actually, I just measured and he comes up about an inch short, so he can’t). The Rebel player would have needed to anticipate the possibility of needing to support Greene, and moved Washington during the night turn.

This is why I am so enthusiastic about the chit draw mechanic. It is so simple, yet the opportunity to Alter Turn Order can have deep strategy that takes time to master (read about it here). In this case the players wanted to go first, but even more frequently the attacking command will want to go after the defending command.

As a player, you can see right where the British Baggage Train is unpacked. Greene would not necessarily know where it was, or whether or not is was vulnerable to a sudden attack. Cornwallis might not be able to organize Mathew’s troops, or recover the Grenadiers in time to counter a rebel effort. Rather than endless charts, rules, and tables, that try to limit the player’s god-like knowledge of the battle; Pub Battles simply uses the chit draw.

Knyphausen opens with an angry assault on the British left. An assault that gets bloodily rebuffed, but the colonists regroup in front of their baggage whilst the British have paid a price too dear to recover from. Meanwhile, Greene bugs out.

Instead of the instant Victory Washington could have got, we instead envision Cornwallis getting the jump and activating first. Knyphausen and Cornwallis get their way…And pay dearly for it!

Knyphausen’s attack is bloodily repulsed, but Ferguson and the Hessians fall back to their own supply caissons and are able to recover, unfortunately his line troops are too decimated and join the ranks of the Glorious dead.

Meanwhile, Mathew and the Grenadiers reform and dare Greene to come att’em. Greene declines the invitation and bugs out, hoping to make it back to their own lines to recover and join the main defense.

After the horrible initial fighting, both sides lick their wounds, recover their spent forces, and Greene’s men continue their long march, in column.
Washington gets the jump and Pulaski’s cavalry break the British line by outmaneuvering their British counterparts!

Turn 4 of Day 2 sees the American cavalry outmaneuver their British counterparts when Washington’s chit goes first. Even if they had not captured the British Baggage, Washington’s dice had been too hot for Howe. British casualties were far too heavy for what should have been a British cakewalk.

Replay 5.1 Brandywine Redux

What if, on the fingertip ledge of determination, Washington holds on?

After I cam back to pick up the game, I thought I might go ahead and see what might have happened if the colonials hung on and didn’t abandon the field before dark. What if they tried to hold on instead on turn 6. Turns 6, 7, and 8 are a long time to hang on when there is almost no room left to retreat. The edge they have, and the only edge that could make this workable, is they can unpack their baggage train right behind the line, whereas the English have their baggage unpacked a couple miles away across the Brandywine.

Greene fights a brilliant delaying action and Maxwell’s troops stand toe to toe with the best troops in the world!

With the new 3.0 scenario, Washington is given Maxwell’s brigade as elite troops. One must note that light troops were the elite troops of the Napoleonic era. They were trained in marksmanship, whereas the rank and file were just drilled on reloading. Actually having troops practice with live fire was very expensive. Maxwell’s light troops were self-trained marksmen of the frontier.

After turn 6 casualties were heavy and about equal. This is not what the British were expecting to have happen.

Here among the glorious dead you can see the Hobbits of the Shire under Bilbo Baggins (actually commanded by a Took) fell in a distant land.

Cornwallis’ troops reorganize for a final assault before night fall as Knyphausen’s troops keep the pressure on Greene’s tired men.

This is a good example of chit draw affecting the battle. Abercromby’s troops were not able to attack before Maxwell and Strand could draw fresh men and equipment from their Baggage Train and recover. With only one turn left, there is no way Howe can reach the American bags. He needs to inflict 50% losses or he fails.

Turn 8, the final drive!
A major British Victory! The Rebels lost two more units and the British win!

This was really close and not decided until the last combat of the last turn.

Nevertheless, the victory was far too Pyrrhic for the British. One more victory like that and Congress will win the war!