A Prepared Defense

A “Prepared Defense” showing the increased range coverage.

On a very rare occasion, a rule makes it past my “Does the game work with out it?” litmus test question. One way it can slip past this net is if it is simple, fun, and leads to a better “feel.” The Baggage Train rules did that in a big way.

Now I’m thinking of including the Prepared Defense rule, wherein a player, by scenario definition, may begin with bags unpacked. The advantage is that the rally range is doubled to 2/3 of a mounted move. The disadvantage is, you pretty much are drawing a line in the sand and saying “We will hold here!” No chance to give ground if the chit draw does not favor it.

The rationale behind the doubling of the rally range is that it implies a more planned and laid out defense, where supply routes and staging areas have had time to be developed more properly.

I like this rule for two reasons. The first is that it is almost effortless to include. One need only remember to double the range to rally. The second is it adds a nuanced level of strategy. The kind of thing a new player may have difficulties with, compared to a more experienced player. Not because it’s complex, but because trying to judge where to place the Unpacked Baggage Train is an important decision that relies on a deft touch and feeling for the game. A rule that rewards experience, not rules lawyering.

In my first game testing it, which you can see here, Washington began with a fortified Brandywine line. It worked this time, meaning it helped. I wouldn’t say it was why the British were held at bay, but it didn’t hurt. I can’t wait to try this out at Waterloo!

I’m going to continue to play test this in appropriate scenarios.

The Corps, in Pub Battles

Pub Battles is a command focused system, as opposed to a combat focused system. This doesn’t mean combat isn’t important. It means that a lot of the details of combat are left out. When the composition of a Corps is being constructed, effectiveness as a unit is prioritized over the details of specific unit composition.

When designing a Pub Battles scenario, one can first divide the individual Army’s total manpower by 4,000 to get a rough idea of how many blocks to include. This is just the starting point. Then one must consider cavalry and artillery, and how it acted in the battle. How many blocks, if any, give the right feel? Then there is efficiency. If the units had exceptional leadership and troops, it might be appropriate to include an elite block. If there were a significant portion of green or hastily raised troops, then some militia might be in order.

When all that is done, the OBs are then extensively play-tested. How do they feel? Can they duplicate historical behavior. Maybe a block is added here, or taken away there. Maybe an elite is added/subtracted, ditto with militia.

The very last thing that is done is the naming of the blocks. The unit ID is purely added for color. Without them, the game feels lifeless and generic. With them, the game feels more real, more fun.

When a corps is in combat and one of the blocks is eliminated, say Hood’s Texans at Antietam, it does not mean that the Texan division has been lost (though it might), What it really shows is that the effectiveness of the Corps has been reduced to the point that it is no longer accurately modeled with an elite block.

Of course, it is much more fun to simply think that the last of Jackson’s stalwarts has fallen! No harm, no foul.

Baggage Trains

This is very true with Baggage Trains. What does a Baggage Train represent? It may represent actual bags, hospitals, reserves, etc. All that is known is that if the enemy reaches that point, it’s game over. In actual terms it’s that point where a force is broken, either the troop’s, or the commander’s, will to fight is gone. Every decisive combat has had that point. The trouble in game design is that it must be quantified.

The Baggage Train rule is that mechanic. It takes a hazy uncertain point, a point that only those in the moment can sense, and models it in the game. It is literally vague, so that it can be figuratively exact. That is elegant design.

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.



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.