Complex Combat Solution

How to resolve complex combats is an issue in most game systems, including Pub Battles. I have come up with a simple and definitive solution. It comes from my training as a mathematician (I have nearly mastered basic algebra). What I do know is that when combining fractions, you must reduce to lowest terms. In Pub Battles, the lowest terms in complex combats are two opposing blocks. Therefore:

1. Every combat is first reduced to two combatants.

2. Each combat is resolved entirely before another combat begins.

A complex combat.

The rules for each Scenario define which side decides the order of combat. As you will appreciate, this becomes significant. The side which gets to decide the order of combats will be referred to as the Tactically Dominant side.

In the above combat, the French are Tactically Dominant, and will likely choose the Wathier/Stryk combat first, if Stryk is eliminated or retreats, then Lewis has the option of advancing to continue the same combat. In other words, the combat is not complete, and no other combat can begin, until the original combat is resolved.

If Wathier wins the combat, there is still the combat between Wathier and Jankovich which will have to be resolved before the end of the combat phase, although it does not need to be the very next resolved.

If the Russians had Tactical Dominance, then it is likely that the Wathier/Jankovich combat would get resolved first. If Wathier lost that combat (likely, since he’s flanked) then Caferelli would be on his own versus Stryk and Lewis.

The other advantage to choosing the order of combat is already part of the rules. The rules say when an army reaches 50% losses, it breaks. The rules don’t specify “at the end of the turn,” so it can be interpreted as immediately. In close games, like my last Marengo game where both sides were reduced below 50% in the same combat phase, choosing which combats go first can stack the deck in your favor. This seems completely plausible when pairing off a commander like Melas, with Napoleon!

Does this unbalance the scenarios? I would argue that it does not. First of all, complex combats are not common. Second of all, the players are aware of how the combats get resolved. A commander knows the limitations of certain troops, as well as what can be expected of certain troops. Pub Battles thrives on asymmetric battles. Few would call Brandywine a fair fight, but most would agree it is a fun fight. No one is ever guaranteed to win, but how much sweeter is victory to the underdog! A fair fight that usually ends in a stalemate is a pretty dull affair.

Alt Austerlitz (Schrödinger’s Napoleon)

I really like Pub Battles Austerlitz, especially with the variable French setup. Are the French as weak as Napoleon says? The Austrians must attack as though they were, if they wait too long to find out, then it might be too late.

For enthusiasts like myself, after numerous plays there becomes an optimal French option, just bring on the Guards and all you need to win is not to lose big.

To keep the game exciting, I use a certain variation on the suggested setup. I can not take sole credit for this, it is mostly a particular variation on the setup that could be chosen. It is also optimized for solo play.

The French player has two options, bluff, or all in. The French always have Soult, Lannes, and Davout (III, IV, and V, Corps),. Alternatively, they can bring on Napoleon, the Guard, Bernadotte, and Murat (everybody). There is no option to bring on just one other Corps.

On turn one, the French player adds Napoleon’s HQ to the cup. He must make a note if it is the real Napoleon, or just a decoy. He does not have to reveal anything until the HQ is seen by the enemy. So far this is exactly one of the suggested options. The difference is that IF the French player does not bring on everything, then all that is available are the first three Corps. Not even Napoleon is there!

It is assumed that if Napoleon isn’t there, then he has come up with a different plan, and needs the rest of his army to pull it off. Whatever he has planned won’t work if his other forces don’t last the day at Austerlitz. He doesn’t need them to win, he just needs them to tie down those Allied forces.

If you are playing solo, it is called “Schrödinger’s Napoleon.” Like Schrödinger’s cat, Napoleon is both there, and not there, until you examine the HQ. When the HQ comes within the Allied LOS, roll a die. On a 4+ Napoleon is there with the rest of his army. Otherwise, only the first three Corps are on the map. If you find it difficult to play as though you didn’t know, then this option solves that.

The biggest difference between this and the official rules, is that the official rules allow Napoleon to appear with one other Corps, and the Austrian must still win decisively, or lose the game. I feel it is tipped too much in Napoleon’s favor if he appears with the guard (besides, the Guard is always with Napoleon), and all he has to do is not lose decisively to win. At least, that’s how it is for me after many, many, plays.

As always, let me know how this works for you!

New Rules on the discussion board (in playtesting)

Marshall Barrington, the system’s designer, has been reviewing the original Kriegspiel rules for his new book on Kriegspiel for modern audiences.

Although Pub Battles emulates Kriegspiel, it does not mirror it. Pub Battles creates a way to play Kriegspiel without an umpire, and focuses even more on command. Most of the Kriegspiel rules are a GM’s guide to running a Kriegspiel battle. Playing Kriegspiel is fun and easy. Running Kriegspiel is daunting.

However, Marshall has garnered some nuggets of wisdom from the original designers of Kriegspiel, things about how combat really went down on a 19 century battlefield. They fought in the Napoleonic era, they didn’t have to rely on other’s accounts.

There are many things that Pub Battles glosses over because the blocks represent divisions. In a sense, it is most accurate to compare Pub Battles to a divisional hex and counter wargame. The blocks tend to make one think of regimental level units, but that is inaccurate! The labels on the blocks tend to make one assume that is the exact unit represented, that is also inaccurate. The labels add color and drama, but that is all. Each block represents between 1000+ to 7000+ men (half that for cavalry). That’s a lot of wiggle room! When designing a Pub Battles scenario, the critical issue is what feels right, not what exactly is there.

Cavalry has never felt quite right to me. Cavalry was to 19th century armies what armor was to WWII armies, but it didn’t feel that way in Pub Battles. With all that in mind, these rules are under consideration:

  1. Any block may retreat before the first round of combat from an infantry block without becoming spent.

2. Foot (infantry or artillery) that is required to retreat from Mounted is eliminated instead.

3. Artillery rule that was here has been discarded.

Note that dragoons can/will be handled differently. As with any cavalry rules, you always want to read scenario special rules.

As always, the focus is on keeping Pub Battles a fast playing, smooth, command focused, simulation.

1 Hit Wonders: Experimental Pub Battles

Marshall Barrington, the Pub Battle system’s designer, was studying the Kriegspiel rules, and came up with a variation for resolving Pub Battles Combat. Rather than becoming spent on the first hit, a block retreats. With a second hit it is reduced to spent. All this means is that the hit process is reversed; Retreat then spent, instead of spent then retreat. If a fresh unit retreats, it maintains its facing.

This is a relatively subtle change, and yet it can have profound effects. The Baggage Train rules make becoming spent more of an issue, because the unit doesn’t automatically rally, it now needs an unpacked Baggage Train.

After giving it some thought, I decided it would be more interesting to let players decide whether or not the unit would hold or retreat. So, when you receive a hit you decide whether to hold your ground and become spent, or to voluntarily retreat in good order.

A key concept at this point is the voluntary retreat, which I will call “Fall Back.” The difference is that if you retreat, you turn 180 degrees and face the other way. If you Fall Back, you retreat, but maintain your same facing.

One additional rule I want to add, is that if you have been contacted by the enemy prior to your chit being drawn, you must either remain in combat (you can turn to face), or Fall Back. You can no longer move any way you want. The reason being, if you are there to block the enemy’s movement, then you are affecting them, which means you must have been there when they moved. You are still preventing them from moving, and you are successfully Falling Back (fighting retreat) without them forcing a decisive combat.

In this case, moving after your opponent can be thought of as having the command initiative. You have anticipated your opponent’s intentions. The combat is occurring on your terms.

Experimental Rule: First Hit

Definitions:
Retreat: Involuntary movement from combat, if fresh, become spent, and turn around moving 1/3 away from enemy.
Fall Back: Voluntary movement from combat, maintain facing and move 1/3 from enemy.

If you are in contact with an enemy block when your chit is drawn, you must either remain in contact, or Fall Back.

A fresh block that receives only one hit in combat must flip to spent and remain in place, or Fall Back. If fresh, don’t become spent. If spent, You must Fall Back, but maintain facing.

A fresh block that receives receive two hits must Retreat and becomes spent. A spent block that receives two hits is eliminated.

Movement before combat:
Any fresh unit may Retreat before combat, except fresh Dragoons in contact with infantry, may Fall Back.

I am going to try these rules in my next game. One of my purposes in writing this blog is to put all my thoughts in writing. I intend to find out if it is too fiddley to be worth the effort, or if it makes for a better experience.

What do you think of this new rule?

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.

Field of Fire Redux

I tried the variant in my recent post https://pubbattleshomebrew.blog/2021/07/17/field-of-fire-review-with-solution/ and quickly found it wanting. 1/3 is just too much! That is basically a half mile away, and forcing troops a half mile away to fight, with muskets that aren’t effective at much beyond 50′, seems a little silly. Then again, determined troops that are trying to reach an enemy aren’t going to stop 2/3 of the way there! If a block can move its full move and fight x rounds of combat, then a determined attacker should be able to follow through and make the attack if within a third.

Here is what I am going to try next:

A unit that finishes its movement within 1/3 of an enemy unit may be moved to contact, if it finishes its move within one base thickness (3/8″) it must be moved to contact.

Stay tuned for my next video and we shall see how this plays out!

Austerlitz Coalition Variant

Setup, showing forces on reserve cards.

In this variant I reorganize the Coalition army into 3 large Corps. Like many strategies in Pub Battles, there is no “best” way to do something. Large or small Corps have their advantages and disadvantages. Large Corps are great for concentrating a lot of forces on a narrow front for an assault, but can be challenging if trying to react with any precision. They tend to be big hammers. On the defensive, where combat command isn’t so crucial, they can be quite adequate.

(DISCLAIMER) Pub Battles Austerlitz is an excellent game as is. This variant is only presented as an alternative that highlights the flexibility of the system.

Smaller commands can make mounting an effective attack difficult, but can make for a more flexible defense.

The big factor to consider is your Leadership rating. The French (or the Confederacy), with a 4 rating, can usually make their Alter Turn Order rolls, and gain both flexibility in concentrating their efforts, and in reacting to enemy actions. On the other hand, the Coalition (or the Union), with a rating of 2 (or 3), can have a very tough time.

For this variant, while I allow the Coalition player to reorganize their army, it comes with a limit. The original Corps can’t be broken up, only combined with others. This is because of the intermixing of troop quality. In most armies, the lower quality troops were intermixed with higher quality troops. The regiments tended to be of one quality, but different regiments would then form higher level organizations. A Corps may be comprised of 50% conscripts, but those battalions would be spread around. In pub Battles, that is shown when half the blocks of the Corps are militia. The Corps with 50% militia is less effective than one without, so it works at the Corps level. Remember that the names on the blocks are given for color, not because that division was actually all conscripts (or elite!).

In the foto above, I only intend on attacking with Docturov’s Corps (on the left), but to disguise my intentions I have my army organized into 3 large Corps. This disguises my intent, and is very unnerving to the French player as he sees three large threats to contend with. Which one does he prepare for?

Because the French begin with over half their army off board, this gives the Coalition player a slight edge in the early turns. If they can do enough damage early on, the French may never recover. If they decide to remain on the defensive, the French can chip away at their less adaptable army and where them down while watching for an opportunity to administer that “one final blow.” Either strategy is viable, and either can be countered.

War is uncertain. Sometimes, using the above setup and strategy of having Docturov attack the French right, will see all his attacks thrown back, other times will seem him sweep the stretched French defenses, most times it will be a combination. Every game will play out differently. Often the chit draw will serve to compliment or confound your plan! You must have a plan, and yet be flexible.

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.

My Smooth Brew 3.0

This blog will be updated from time to time as I find smoother and cleaner ways to play Pub Battles.

I am happy to play with the tried and true “official” rules. Pub Battles is quite a robust system and you can add all kinds of rules. These can be fun or satisfying, but most are unnecessary. I am very leery of adding any rules, other than those that smooth or speed play, as the system can quickly bog down. Remember, Pub Battles is first and foremost a command simulation, not a combat simulation.

I have three simplified rules, and an easy written orders system.
1) Single die combat
2) Multiple Unit Combats
3) Cavalry vs. Infantry

Title in bold. Rule is normal font. Discussion/clarification in italics.

Single Die Combat

Each combatant rolls 1D6 and divides the result by 2 rounding down (1D6/2 round down) Giving a range from 0-3.

Die modifiers are now hit modifiers. 3 hits maximum, ignore the fourth hit if a flanking attacker rolls a 6!

This means that fresh units in cover cannot be killed in one round, they will always have a chance to retreat. This also means that flanked units will always suffer at least one hit. Flanked units can never suffer four hits, but they do triple the chance of sustaining 3 hits.

Multiple Unit Combats

Reduce all combats to two contacting units. Each pair of combatants resolve combat completely before proceeding to the next.

Cavalry versus Infantry
Infantry that must retreat from cavalry as a result of combat, is eliminated.

Cavalry was the armor of the black powder era. It was scary, but also brittle. This gives it a better feel.

Written Orders

These written orders rules work well for solo games and two player games between non-contentious players. The fun of using these rules is the delay in transmission and the increased feel of maneuvering as a corps. This is in contradistinction to the “carefully choreographed bar fight” that some wargames feel like.