Waterloo Replay 3

Grouchy! This time I’m trying out the Grouchy variant. Grouchy got the message and is racing to join the Grande Armee.

After my quick two turn game last replay, I thought I’d try again. I figured when the situation for a possible cavalry breakthrough move occurred, I’d decide then if I want to change the rule or not.

In the mean time, I thought I’d try the Grouchy variant that allows Grouchy’s Corps to start arriving as if the original message had called him hence. This is turn one after movement, but before combat. Bulow’s IV Prussian Corps HQ can be seen on the extreme right. If this were any other army and a major road, the whole corps would arrive in almost one turn. Instead, it is a minor road and the Prussians must have two blocks trailing each unit to show their huge baggage trains. It will take most of the game to get them on the battlefield!

Turn 1 looks very similar to last game, but note, the artillery has been completely ineffective, just like historically. Historically, there was some damage, but nothing that would affect the readiness of an entire division!

Here we see a more typical French first turn. Spent French divisions everywhere, whilst the British line remains largely intact. When the French infantry failed to reduce any opposing divisions to spent status, the cavalry road off rather than face an enemy in squares. The French lost two infantry divisions and the British had two Corps level artillery put out of action for a bit.

Renewed French attacks on turn 2 again end up ineffective and somewhat costly.
Around 3:00pm Kellerman launches what he hopes is the decisive attack. Picton and his artillery have been driven back in disarray.

This illustrates the Charge! rule that allows certain units (listed by scenario, but frequently Elites and Heavy Cavalry) to move and attack immediately! This is that moment when time seems to stop (as when the Guard is committed). In this case, everything is being thrown in, trying to create a decisive moment.

Success! Well, sort of. Picton’s troops are driven back again, but they are not out. IIIc cavalry is now blown, but another effort will be required.

I did not try to blur out Kellerman’s division, but what a cool effect my poor photography has accomplished this time! There is a Baggage Train a few hundred yards off. Even if I had decided to use my cavalry breakthrough rules, it wouldn’t have mattered, II Corps’ chit has not been drawn yet (remember, this is a Charge!, so there’s still lots chits to draw) and they will move to safety when they get a chance.

Next the Middle Guard and Guard Lancers attack, intending to sweep all before them.
The attack by the Guards was blunted and the Guards were driven back. The Dutch infantry under Chasse, the only unit available, attempts to crash into the sides of the mass of retreating French, which could have been devastating except d’Elon sends over Marcognet’s infantry and the Dutch dissolve.

The combat phase (above) shows the true chaos of war. Charge and counter-charge, desperate men putting in their last ounce of strength. Bulow’s column is cut up by Grouchy’s incoming Corps.

The French attacks have once again been halted, but the Prussians are in disarray. At this point, it would seem Napoleon should admit that his hoped for easy victory has eluded him and he should back off to fight another day. But he is Napoleon, this is Waterloo, if not today, there will not be another day.

On turn 3 Wellington unpacked a Baggage Train and that has allowed him to form a coherent line on turn 4. He had to wait until the French had a chance to either stall or break through. They stalled, and his gamble paid off. During the turn, before regular combat, the answer wasn’t so obvious. Now it can clearly be seen that it was the right thing to do.

The late afternoon looks to be a lull before one final storm towards dusk. The French troops are spent and Grouchy has not made it onto the battlefield, yet.

I have my own way of resolving multiple unit combat. The official rules do it from the inside out, first contacted to last. That works, it is the official rule, and I will support and answer any questions as to how that rule works. I happen to do it the opposite way, outside in. I do this because it keeps the suspense up. Resolving from the inside out tends to make counter-charging flankers pointless since it won’t have any affect on the main battle.

I want to take a moment to look at this combat from turn 3. A classic flank attack being itself flanked. Remember, the actual turn order does not necessarily describe the way events turn out. It is not as if Brunswick flank attacked CIV Watier as he attacked Halkett’s spent Rehnish troops, and then Quiot got the idea to flank Brunswick. That might have happened that way, but I think it is more likely that Watier had requested support and D’Erlon sent Quiot’s division who went wide and found the Brunswickers coming to the aid of the hapless Halkett. Photo effects courtesy picmonkey.

Action, reaction, and couterreaction!
Quiot and the Brunswickers get tied up in intense fighting that neither of them expected.
Watier’s Curassiers mince Halkett’s division, but the chaos to their left forces them to withdraw and reevaluate the situation.
Turn 4 ends with some scuffling on the French right by the oncoming Prussians.
Turn 5 begins with a charge by the Old Guard and the Curassiers.

The Old Guard just can’t catch a break and the Brunswickers throw them back, then to top it off, they throw back the Curassiers as well. After that effort, still fresh, they do retire across the swamp to prevent any more cavalry attacks. They leave a lone lorn attachment to warn of any more French perfidy.

Turn 5 and all 17 Corps are on the field!

At this point with all 17 Corps present on the battlefield it becomes surprising with each chit draw to see who still hasn’t moved. One more grand French effort. If they don’t break the British line this time they will be hard pressed to accomplish anything other than “desperate” measures.

Turn 5 combat complete. French reverses everywhere.

From what I can gather, the appearance of Grouchy only serves to counter-balance the Prussians, not save the day. I am beginning to come of the opinion that If the French don’t win early, they probably aren’t going to win, much like Confederates at Gettysburg.

Napoleon’s Waterloo turn 6

The Curassiers charge and the detachment scrambles across the swamp to warn the rest of the Brunswick division that the French are coming.

It is turn six and the Guard’s chit is drawn early and the blown Curassiers and spent Old Guard attempt the impossible one more time. The French use the Charge! rule again.

The Old Guard seizes destiny and crosses the swamp and scales the escarpment to decide the day.
The Old Guard is stunned by the resolute Brunswickers who say, “You shall not pass!” They fall back and Napoleon is forced to concede as his army, by the repulse of the Guard, turns and flees.

I show a stunned Guard having retreated, but in reality, they rolled three misses and the Brunswickers rolled three hits. A 1 chance out of 64 occurrence. It was not meant to be. Napoleon surrenders.

In reality, the French have nothing left to mount another attack. The oncoming Prussians don’t allow Napoleon to draw troops from anywhere else to mount another attack, and Grouchy won’t make it by night fall.

Plus, I always feel if the Old Guard is eliminated the French are done.

Waterloo Replay 2

Morning at Waterloo, waiting for the ground to dry out.

This game I decided to test a few homebrew rules. The problem with testing more than one rule at once is the likelihood I’ll forget one of them. This time I forgot to use the rule that hits can be applied to either the lead unit, or the supporting unit. The one I did remember was one where attacking cavalry (including cavalry supporting an attack) can follow up and keep attacking after combat. One final rule I was playing with also was one that required eliminated units to retreat before their elimination. These rules can be seen here in my homebew post. What transpired is an interesting study in play testing.

Again, this is a solo game, so I have the British facing reversed so I can see their labels without having to spin the map around. My goal is to recreate, not to “win.”

The Grand Battery pummels the center line and the I and II Corps pry open the gap.

The game opened fairly well for the French as the Grand Battery was able to severely damage the center of the British line. Although they weren’t able to follow up that success, the two flanking attacks that did occur did well enough in their own right.

II Corps plus d’Hurbal’s Curassiers slam into Picton’s Division.

The initial French combined arms assault did manage to destroy the British Artillery, but d’Aubeme’s supporting division drove them off and the British unpacked a Baggage Train which allowed it to recover. Picton’s Elite Highlanders filled the forward position. The center seemed secure. Until the Chit draw helped the French get a flanking and combined arms attack on those troops, as well as inserting a flank guard on the flanking unit and preventing a British cavalry from foiling the flanking maneuver.

Wellington’s Disaster! Foy’s division routs Picton’s men and then destroy’s d’Aubreme as well. The center folds and French Curassiers break the British line! What are the odds?

However, the following combat phase the French then rolled three hits, forcing the Highlanders to retreat, only inflicting one hit themselves, but pushing back I corps’ artillery and pushing back and disordering the HHC! That was followed up by the French rolling another three hits! This caused d’Aubreme’s division to retreat, pushing the previously retreated units past the Unpacked baggage before being eliminated. Now the supporting French Curassiers had their chance and they pursued, ending up adjacent to the unpacked bags and winning the battle on turn 2!

This could lead one to conclude that the pursuit rule is too strong and breaks the game. Perhaps it is, but I am still not convinced. For this amazingly decisive win to occur a few perfect storm events had to happen. The first was unpacking the bags in direct line of the breakthrough. This was actually not a bad move, it allowed the British to quickly and efficiently rebuild their line after the first turn. They were not expecting a French breakthrough. This was sensible. The real key element of the perfect storm was the French rolling 3 hits while the British rolled only one, followed by the French rolling 3 hits again. The chances of rolling 3 hits are only 1:8, the chances of Rolling three hits twice in a row is 1:64! So you could expect these results only once every 64 games, AND that would only be so devastating if the Baggage were unpacked where they were.

Of course, pursuing cavalry may still be too deadly, even if they are historical!

Antietam Replay 1

Welcome to my first replay post. Let me know how you like this and if you’d like me to do more. This is using the 3.0 rules with Baggage Trains, but not detachments (I forgot to add them). When playing an opponent, unpacked Baggage Trains are inverted with the bags down so as to retain an element of Fog of War. When I play solo I turn them up so I can see them. Also, when playing solo, I have turned the Confederate pieces around so I can see them without having to turn the whole board around each chit draw.

Written Orders – I am playing with written orders. The written orders rules I’m playing with are very basic. When I draw a chit I look to see what its orders are, If they are not underlined, I underline them. I must carry those out. If I want different orders I write them down, but I don’t carry them out until the following turn when they get underlined. The underlining just makes sure I remember which orders I should be following.

Written orders make the game play faster because one is not trying to figure out what to do, what gains the best advantage, each turn. The Corps will just follow its orders, with a turn delay getting new orders. Because I am playing solo, there are no miscommunication issues. The main issue is the delay in transmission of new orders. Often, opportunities can not be taken advantage of (like attacking an exposed unit, aiding a near by Corps, or sacking an exposed Baggage Train) because those aren’t the orders.

Initial setup with reinforcements (Franklin’s VI Corps on turn 3 and A.P. Hill on turn 5) at their entry points.

After a dawn conference the Union command is in the field. McClellan has decided on a demonstration North of Sharpsburg to tie that portion of the rebels down while the main drive to the South of Sharpsburg is led by Hooker’s I Corps. Burnside will cross the Antietam at the lower (Rohrbach’s) bridge and clear the heights on the Union’s left flank. Porter’s V Corp will guard the Union’s Artillery sent that way to support Burnside.

Burnside attacks McLaws across the southern bridge!

The initial artillery duel at left has seen the Union artillery south of the Middle Bridge in disarray, as is Jackson’s artillery is also disorganized. On the extreme right II Corps is seen occupying the East woods while below XII Corps is moving to the sunken road. The Middle Bridge has funneled the initial advance of I and XII Corps, neither of which has accomplished much beyond managing a simple crossing.

Longstreet receives the full measure of the Union’s best troops!

Lee confers in downtown Sharpsburg with Jackson and Stuart. There is minor skirmishing North of town with sporadic artillery and musketry, but the assault is obviously heavy south of town and Longstreet sends his regrets that he is unable to join them for coffee.

McClellan instructs Mansfield (XII) to block any Confederate troops observed moving south to reinforce.

Burnside pushes for the Harper’s Ferry Road in an attempt to cut one southern retreat route.

Whilst Burnside’s Large Corps is able to keep the pressure on west of the Lower Bridge, The divisions of both Hooker and Longstreet that fought so heavily south of Sharpsburg must pull back, reorganize and recover, before continuing the fight.

Meta-game notes: The Union and the Confederacy have both elected to unpack one Baggage Train each. This allows both Hood’s Texans and Hooker’s men to refit and recover.

Burnside’s juggernaut is finally halted by Walker’s division as two Union divisions are destroyed!

Porter has received orders to capture the ford that is reputed to exist at the tip[ of the finger of land south of the Southern Bridge, while Burnside tries to reform what is left of his IX Corps after the disastrous late morning assaults. Franklin’s VI Corps arrives and is sent to secure the Hagerstown Turnpike, cutting off another of Lee’s possible LoCs.

Meta game notes: VI Corps enters in column for which I use 1/8″ thick blocks special-ordered from a local supplier (www.tregames.com 1/8″ Birch plywood 3/8″x1 7/8″) @ 30 for $4. I have a divider that I set at 1/3 infantry moves and I use for almost all my measuring needs, and solid metal dice for authoritative dicing! You can see how few orders I have needed to change so far. V corps has been ordered to take the ford. This will change as we go forward.

Both sides have unpacked one Baggage Train. Baggage trains can supply any division within command range. They only use their Corp designation for movement. Since Unpacking is the player’s (General’s) decision, it doesn’t require orders.

Where to unpack is one of the toughest decisions to make, and takes experience to master. Lee has unpacked close enough to allow the troops South of Sharpsburg to gain some benefit. McClellan has unpacked on the East side of Antietam Creek and leaves enough room for a unit to have room to defend it from the creek, even though that limits its range Westward.

Hooker slams into Hood!

Reorganized and reinvigorated, the desperate fighting resumes south of Sharpsburg. Longstreet is steadying his troops on the hill as they prepare for a resumption of Hostilities to the south. There is a steady fusillade of fire from the opposing troops, but neither is committing to a serious effort, yet.

Longstreet delivers a stinging rebuke to Hooker!

Longstreet flanks Hooker’s men, while applying a warm reminder to Burnside’s Corps to stay back. Porter’s V corps has received orders to move south and secure the road to the Antietam Iron Works, leaving Botele’s Ford as the only remaining southern LoC. However, A.P. Hill’s “foot cav” have arrived just in the knick of time! They are met by a dispatch from Longstreet telling them, that they are now attached to him, and he would be most grateful if they were to proceed along the Potomac and turn the Union left.

Late afternoon and Sumner’s gets the orders they have been waiting for to “Hit’em hard!

McClellan decides the time is now and releases the Union right flank against Jackson’s troops North of Sharpsburg, but Mansfield’s XII doesn’t receive the order in time, and so they sit. Burnside is still under orders to secure the road and presses forth, but Hooker’s Corps has been utterly destroyed and with it, seemingly, all hopes for a Union victory. With both IX and I Corps effectively out of the fight, hope seems to have gone over to the Confederacy.

A.P. Hill begins sweeping up the Union left flank as it becomes unanchored from the Potomac.

As A.P. Hill’s division, combined with Stuart’s cavalry, completely overwhelms the green troops of Morell’s Division, Burnside makes one last attempt to break the Confederate line. Walker’s division had moved to protect Hill’s left and this was watched with alarm by Porter as he sat upon his horse upon the hill. He ordered the Artillery to open up and give them a greeting on the warmest terms. The artillery had a most telling affect, one ball careering down a lane taking out a caisson of powder which blew up, causing a most fearful confusion.

Metagame note: The glorious dead are arrayed at the lower left. All of I Corps and half of IX Corps!

Porter, the “Bull of Antietam” breaks the southern line!

Fitz John Porter had a tough decision to make. Come to the aid of his suffering division along the river, or follow his orders to “Break the southern line!” Believing it was safer, even if it appeared more daring, he ordered Sykes division to follow up the rebels retreating from the barrage.

Meanwhile, Lee waited pensively to hear the result of A.P. Hill’s arrival on the Union’s flank when in rode a messenger from Walker’s division. “We are lost, Sir! Them yankees are swarming everything before ’em!” Having listened to the barrage and feared the worst Lee knew he had to save his army and not let it be captured, all the bridges were blown and the only route left was at Botele’s Ford. He sounded the retreat, but it was too late. The Yankees were attacking on all fronts and with the retreat sounded, the retreat turned into a rout. All was lost.

Meta-game discussion: As the designers were struggling for a way to make Baggage Trains more significant (after all, they are critical in Kriegspiel), WITHOUT adding troublesome logistics rules, they finally developed the solution.

Victory conditions are often the hardest part of game design. Key terrain features that end up being fought over weren’t usually decided on until the battle was fought. The previous way Pub Battles handled it was just to say that you had to inflict 50% losses on your opponent. The trouble with this is that it made defense the way to go. At Gettysburg the two armies could just set up on opposing hills and wait for the attack. Forcing Lee to attack just handed the game to Meade. Now there is a sudden death way to break the opponent. and it’s in the player’s hands!

Fitz-John Porter “The Bull of Antietam”*

*Not really an historical nickname, just for this alternate history. Illustrating how fickle fate can be.

Rules Version 3.0!

Version 3.0 of the rules for Command Post Games’ Pub Battles have come out, and they are figuratively and literally a game changer.

One way that you can tell is that I now play with almost no “homebrew” rules. I play the official version. I may add rules for solitaire and so forth, but I play the game primarily by the rules as printed.

The biggest difference is the role of Baggage Trains. They have also added “Detachments” and cleaned up the rules for Hidden Reserves and moved them from merely optional, to regular. They have also added upgrade kits (at no cost!) that include any extra needed blocks, as well as updated scenario booklets.

Baggage Trains – This is the single most noticeable change in 3.0. The rule consists of three components that are inherently simple, but have profound effect on the game play. The first component is that if you contact an enemy Baggage Train, you win a Major Victory. The second component is that if your enemy packs up a Baggage Train, to keep it from being captured, you win a Minor Victory. The third component is the only way a unit can rally is if it is within command range of an unpacked Baggage Train, which cannot move.

If you capture your opponent’s Baggage Train, it signifies you breaking through the defenses and causing the army to rout. If you pack up your Baggage Train first, it signifies you quitting the battlefield in some order and choosing to fight another day.

Baggage Trains signify more than just supplies, they also represent the signal corps, hospital units, fortification tools, etc. They represent everything that comes into play when the General decides on the decisive point of the battle. The loss of which is a good mechanic to determine that point where an army’s morale breaks.

You should devote some resources to protecting your Baggage!

Detachments – Detachments represent those smaller organizations that can have an effect on a battle, yet aren’t divisional in strength. They can only take one hit, and only roll one die in combat. Their primary use is in Fog of War. Until combat, the enemy doesn’t know it’s only a detachment. They can also act as speed bumps, delaying an enemy advance, or even as a last ditch defense when something has to be thrown in the way. They can support an artillery unit in combat, allowing it the retreat option, just like a regular unit.

Hidden Reserves – The rules for Hidden Reserves are cleaned up to avoid some gamey abuses, and they are re-classified from optional to regular rules. You don’t have to use Hidden Reserves, but you always can. In addition to their Fog of War purpose, they are certainly a convenient way to bring on lots of reinforcements, like the Prussians at Waterloo.

New retreat rules – The first is that a retreating unit pushes back and flips to spent any friendly blocks it can’t avoid. The second is that spent dragoons and mounted in column can’t retreat before combat.

Field of Fire – These rules have expanded slightly. One gamey tactic that was being used was to move a unit slightly behind, but not supporting, an attacking unit. If the attacking unit was eliminated, the other unit would remain. Now the unit must retreat if it is in a Field of Fire after combat, but did not participate in combat this turn.

Some folks may wonder why a FoF template wasn’t included, my answer is that it isn’t needed. I made a template and then rarely used it! Just back up till it looks right, and that’s close enough. If it is a big issue, then use the measuring stick. Rather than fiddle with the 45 degree angle, I just measure one third move from the frontcenter of the block. This is slightly less area, which makes sense, as the unit wouldn’t have all that firepower compressed into one corner. Its easy, and it works.

Ancient Pub Battles Review

Ancient Pub Battles: Cannae

Ancient Pub Battles is now available from Command Post Games. It is available for the very economical price of $44.76, Get it here. This is possible because it needs no map, Ancient battles having been generally fought on level fields. Disclaimer: The faux leather playing mat is my own pimpware, purchased from a local fabric store. It looks cool, but is absolutely unnecessary.

Ancient Pub Battles is markedly different from its black powder era predecessors. Rather than command being dependent on subordination (Army>Corps>Division), it is dependent on proximity. The leaders move first and then measure command from their final position. Additionally, it does not matter if the unit has already moved. If you have three leaders, they could move the same unit 3 times! As powerful as this sounds, it means that the rest of your army is just stationary. That is a rare luxury to have. Usually, you are strapped trying to keep your army in one piece.

Instead of depending on units in range, a leader may move adjacent to a block of adjacent units and that whole block may move as one, even if parts of it are out of the leaders command range. In the early turns it is quite easy to move your entire army around, after the lines clash and the large blocks get broken up, you are left trying to manage disparate forces, some ready to press a defeated foe, others spent and fleeing.

The basic game comes with 4 kinds of infantry, 2 kinds of Cav, and elephants! I’m sure future scenarios will include even more.

True to Pub Battles nature, the focus is on a quick play, command focused, gaming experience. This is ideal for those with less time, or for taking along while traveling. If you want a more detailed and specific simulation experience, this may not be for you.

I say may because one of the best features of this system is how adaptable it is to personal preferences. Do you think Roman Legions should get a special bonus? Knock yourself out! The system plays well and is balanced as is. Once you start changing things, all bets are off.

In that spirit, here are the mods I am currently using, developed after a few games.

Cavalry gets +1. This replaces the official rule that cav gets -1 v. fresh units and +1 v. spent units. I feel this is a remnant from the black powder rules where units formed squares. The effect of the official rule is to make cavalry skittish and useless except when facing spent troops and this doesn’t quite feel right, to me.

The Historical scenarios are balanced as is and shouldn’t be changed. For DYO point buy battles, I make leaders work a little differently. For each pip on their leadership rating they get a command action. Each block (of one or more units) requires one pip to move. It also costs one pip to rally one unit. All such units must be within command range with blocks of units only requiring a part of the block within range. Each side gets 9-12 pips (each side equal).
Ex. For 12 points you could get a 5, a 4, and a 3 pip leader, or four 3 pip leaders, or any other combination adding up to 12.

Interestingly, If you play the historical scenarios using this rule, you will see how Hannibal managed to win so many battles. This may even be more historically accurate, but it certainly isn’t fun to play Rome!

Night Rally only (3.0 update)

Gettysburg Day 2 Start Turn 7

Rather than delete this post, which is rendered unnecessary by 3.0 rules, I will leae it as an artifact of what the problems were with pre-3.0 rules.

I have been playing Pub Battles’ titles this past few months with rallying (recover from spent) only occurring on night turns. I find this yields a better feel. Of course it yields higher casualties, in the terms of eliminated blocks, and it magnifies the importance of fresh units, especially late arrivals, appearing on the battlefield.

I feel being able to inflict higher casualties is more important since the victory conditions are dependent on breaking the enemy’s army by inflicting 50% casualties. I have found that, if you don’t care too much about terrain, you can usually give just enough ground to avoid eliminated units while any spent units can rally. This in turn makes it very hard for an opponent to actually eliminate 50% of an army’s blocks.

Had I tested this variant out and found that casualties typically became overwhelming I would have shrugged my shoulders and looked elsewhere. Instead, I was delighted to find that the results led to a very authentic feel, at least a feel that resembles what I have read extensively.

For instance, in the picture above, the Confederates only need to eliminate one more Union block before the day ends (2 full turns) to break the Union army and win the game. The trouble is, they only have three fresh units remaining to the Union’s four.

Two of the three remaining fresh Confederate blocks are Pickett’s division. This is exactly the moment that Lee thought he had on day three historically, when he ordered Pickett’s charge. As the Confederate player in the above game you can imagine thinking “One more push and the Union will break!”

Lest the picture above seem a little confusing, the fine print in the variant reads that dragoons (all ACW cavalry) and artillery, recover normally. So all four Union Artillery and Buford’s cav are fresh, as well as the three Confederate artillery.

Full disclosure on this variant also requires me to let you know that on the night turn all spent blocks rally if they are at least 1/3 away from any enemy blocks. Also, any eliminated blocks are recovered and placed within command range of their HQ (and 1/3 away from any enemy blocks) in their spent condition. Note that if a unit is eliminated on Day 1 at Gettysburg, is returned spent on Day 2 and lasts all day, it could rally to full strength by Day 3.

Of course, it could be concluded that one side or the other isn’t trying hard enough if THAT’s possible! {snicker}

Secesh victory! The glorious dead are arrayed above.

Lee was right and his army did as he asked! On the union left Andersen’s division can be seen recovering from its charge against Sickles Corps. In the center both Hood’s Texans and Reynold’s I Corps remnants have been lost, but Pickett’s men fill the gap. Meanwhile, on the right, Longstreet’s men have collapsed the Union troops. With well over half his army out of commission, Meade concedes the day.

I really like this Night Rally only variant. What do you think?

Movement Rates

You might imagine that determining movement rates to be a fairly cut and dried operation. Just compare march rates or even historical march times and “boom” it’s done. When you’re racing to fill in a gap, or bring forward reinforcements it seems pretty imperative to figure out exactly how far a unit can move.

The problem is that there are a whole lot of soft issues to consider that are as important as the hard calculations of terrain and march rates.

As always, the first thing to note is that Pub Battles is divisional level, as opposed to regimental, or even lower, formations so common to miniatures games that use movement rates based on precise measurements. Other than this style of movement, Pub Battles has more in common with the old Avalon Hill hex based wargames.

All movement is measured in thirds of a movement stick. If you move entirely in clear terrain you move one full movement stick, otherwise you move 2/3. Additionally, you can lose a third for a second facing change, or for moving into or out of march column. Those are the hard factors.

Then there are the soft factors that are every bit as important to consider, even if necessarily less precise. How long did it take for them to receive, confirm, and organize to fulfill the orders? Have scouts brought them reports of possible enemy activity off to the flank? Where is the Vermont regiment, has anybody heard from them? They were supposed to lead the column!

Probably the biggest variable is combat. Do you spend the whole turn moving, or do you include the time it takes to resolve combat? Most games divide turns into movement and combat phases, but technically, combat is going on all over the battlefield at different times. Wargames divide the turns up for ease of simulation.

What designers do is establish movement rates that work within the game. In black powder armies there tended to be two rates of movement, foot and mounted. As long as all similar units are operating with the same limitations, all is good.

In Pub Battles’ Waterloo, the Prussians enter the board on turn 1, but they don’t make a significant appearance in the battle till mid-game. Even so, they weigh heavily on the French player’s mind the whole time. They cannot be ignored! There is some merit to Blucher’s contention that the Prussians saved the day for the allied cause. Developments around Placenoit were a significant drain on the French army, including many Guard units.

All of which goes to show that even if movement rates can’t be figured exactly, they come close enough when everybody is playing by the same rules. When I play, I am pretty loose with movement rates. I often say, “close enough.” Others enjoy much more firmly defined limits. This robust system can satisfy all tastes.

When To Alter Turn Order

The chit draw activation is the most powerful mechanic in the Pub Battles arsenal. The Pub Battles system is as subtle as it is basic. Unlike almost every YouMove/IMove game out there, if you are contacted by the enemy before you move, you can simply move away.

When I first played a game of Pub Battles (Brandywine), I assumed the rules were incomplete because they didn’t say you couldn’t move away if contacted. The result of playing that way was that both commanders tried to move before the enemy every turn. This resulted in no strategy, just simple luck of the die.

When I found out that a unit could move when activated regardless of whether or not it had been previously contacted a light went off in my head. “Wow. Wait…That means…” This was quite literally a game changer for me.

One of the decisions that was made when the rules were written, was they weren’t going to include a lot of “unlearning” guidelines. This has the interesting affect of making the system harder to learn for grognards than newbies to the wargaming world. Since there is no way to guess what “chatter” might be brought forward from previous rules experience, it was decided to not worry about it. There is just no way to estimate all the ways a simple rule might be misunderstood.

Over time and with a little experience, I’ve learned a few things about how to command an Army in the Pub Battles system. Key to understanding the chit draw mechanic is that the order of the chit draw in the game is not necessarily the order of events being simulated. Everything is more or less simultaneous, and often the later drawn command can be thought of as having the initiative, because they see (or accurately anticipate) what the enemy is going to do, and can react to it.

You will note that I almost never use absolutes when referring to the chit draw. The chit draw allows for almost any potentiality. It does not imply anything, but you can infer a wide variety of events based on how the draw ended up.

All you really know for sure is which units were actually decisively in combat over the length of the turn. The only combat that has to be resolved in the combat phase is that combat that results in enough damage to be shown by the effects of one or more hits on a divisional level.

Say a unit moves a short distance before coming into contact with an enemy unit, then the enemy unit gingerly activates and slides a ways back, thus no combat to resolve in the combat phase. It might look like the unit moved to attack and then sat there while the defender moved back a bit and like MC Hammer cried “Can’t touch this!”

If that were the case, then the Pub Battles system would be deeply flawed. Fortunately, although that is what is explicitly shown, this is a situation where there may be a whole lot of implicit combat occurring. Something caused that unit to only move a short distance.

There is a lot involved in getting several thousand men on a battlefield to launch an attack; orders have to be received and understood; logistical concerns have to have been considered; a myriad of things have to go right. Assuming all that goes off in a timely way (often, it may be that some delay kept the unit from moving sooner), you have the enemy himself.

The enemy may not intend to hold the ground, but aren’t going to let you just waltz up and have it for free. Think of Nathaniel Greene and his famous delaying actions which saved Washington’s army any number of times. “Sir, we just can’t get at ’em!” There may be all sorts of hot engagements, just nothing that results in the step loss of a division.

There is also no end to the subterfuge that a clever commander can use to confound his opponent (although, incompetence is probably more common then brilliance).

All this is leading up to some of the why’s and wherefores of the chit draw. Generally, you want to go later, but not always.

If you’re defending, you may want to go later because then you can decide which units that have been contacted want to stay and fight it out, and which ones want to back off and not fight the battle the enemy has chosen for them. You may simply want to see what the enemy is going to do so you can react and prepare a proper reception.

Going first might seem the better option if your defender wants to rally, or set up a defensive position, select the best terrain, before the enemy arrives.

If you’re attacking, you want to go later so you can decide exactly which combats you’re going to fight AND where exactly you’re going to fight them. As always, it’s good to see what the defender is doing and where he is doing it before you decide to attack and prevent him from responding to it.

One critical benefit to moving first is that it allows the defender to yield exactly the terrain you desire without a fight. Besides allowing you to gain ground without sacrifice, it allows you to see what areas he is willing to fight for, and which areas he is willing to let go of. Knowing these priorities gives you a hint as to his strategy and concerns.

Understanding the chit draw and its implications allows you to make better choices as to when to roll to Alter Turn Order. I hope this helps you to imagine the battlefield in a Pub Battles game, and to build a vibrant and exciting narrative around the chit draw.

Chit Draw Example

I want to showcase what I think is the most powerful aspect of the Pub Battles system: The chit draw mechanic.

In the opening situation here, we have the disposition of forces after the previous turn’s actions. Reynold’s I Corps made a spirited charge from the Peach Orchard to the woods North of the Spangler farm. This charge ended in disaster and the Corps (now reduced to a single spent division) tumbled back to the Peach orchard.

The next turn the first chit drawn was Longstreet’s Corps and they charged obliquely to take advantage of the weak spot in the Union line. The next chit drawn was Hancock’s II Corps and they sent Hay’s division forward to bolster Reynold’s shattered I Corps. Finally, Reynold’s chit was drawn and they retreated away. As there were no units in contact, there was no combat to resolve.

This is a good example of implicit and explicit combat. Explicit combat is when two units are left in contact and combat is resolved that results in the destruction or retreat of an entire division. Implicit combat is when the final positioning of the units is determined by chit draw. This is shown in the picture above by the smoke between the two units that are only a couple hundred yards apart, obviously in range to exchange fire, but with neither time nor resources to engage decisively this turn.

So what happened here? The system doesn’t tell you specifically. That would take many pages of rules and would never come close to capturing the drama and action of Day two at Gettysburg. When one describes the action shown, the narrative only illustrates a possible interpretation.

The first thing to understand is that chit draw order is not always linear in time, frequently it shows the anticipated actions of the enemy, or simulates the tactical edge (or even dumb luck) of an opponent.

In a standard You Move/I Move game, Hood’s division would have been able to attack I Corps’ remnants before they got away and the deal would be done, or if the Union moved first, I Corps would have easily slipped away and Hancock would have plugged the hole. All this would have been known before the turn began.

Instead, with the chit draw mechanic, Who moves before and who moves after can mean everything, and isn’t determined until the chits are drawn.

In the example above, because Reynolds’ chit was drawn after Hood’s, he was able to ensure that the remnants of his exhausted Corps were able to delay Hood’s division long enough for Hancock to get Hay’s division into place and they were able to frustrate Hood from getting the decisive battle he was looking for.

Had Hood moved last, Reynolds’ would have had the opportunity to rally Rowley’s division to turn and face Hood in their spent condition, but with good terrain, or retreat out of the Peach Orchard and let Hancock order Hay’s division into the breach. In that case, Hood would have gotten the decisive battle he was looking for (remember, the South is in a race for time), but against a fresh opponent.

There’s still another possibility. If Reynold’s had been drawn first and then retreated, and then Longstreet had been drawn, he could have sent Hood in to secure the Peach Orchard forcing Hancock to attack Hood’s elite Texans in good terrain… This is why no two games of Gettysburg are ever going to be completely the same, you just can’t be sure how the battle’s going to fall out.

Lest you think your totally at the whim of the chit draw, the Alter Turn Order rule really makes for another level of strategy! If you are familiar enough with the system you can anticipate when to try to advance or delay the draw. This isn’t a case of “knowing the rules better.” The rules are really simple, but it is a matter of having a feel for the possible. Bismarck may have said “Politics is the art of the Possible,” but I will go a little further and say that Pub Battles is the art of the possible.

Quick Start Rules

Introduction

Imagine that you are the Army General in your command tent. Before you on a table is the map of the battlefield with the latest best estimates of yours and your opponents positions. You discuss possible options with your Corps commanders and move your units where you want them to move, as well as attack. Aides write down the orders and race on horseback to the field commanders. While this is going on, other aides are rushing back with the latest reports and updating your map. Sometimes everything goes according to plan. Usually, you have some surprises, as well as those moments where you are absolutely astonished by the events you see transpiring right before your eyes. If only you could be right there, but you also need to be right there, and there, and over there. This is real Fog of War at the highest level. This is Pub Battles!

Pieces

Infantry – Basic unit of the game, uses foot movement rate.

Cavalry – Fast moving unit, uses mounted movement rate.

Artillery – Primarily ranged combat, uses foot movement rate, unless labeled “Horse Artillery”

HQ – Small cube that represents commander’s locale, from which command range is measured.

Baggage Train – These represent supply and signals elements, as well as field hospitals.

Terms – Appear in italics when found in rules.

Activation – When a command chit is drawn, that command, and all its units, are activated.

Attacker – The unit that moved into contact.

Bombardment – Ranged artillery fire…

Column – A long narrow formation used to facilitate quick road movement (X2). To move in column a unit is positioned so its length is stretched out along a road. Vulnerable if attacked. It cost 1/3 move to switch into, or out of, column.

Command – A Corps HQ may only command units in its Corps. An Army HQ may command any units in its army, also it may have units attached directly to it alone. Only units in command before they move may move into contact with an enemy. Only active units may move, and only active units in command may move into contact, Thus, an army HQ may command any units, but only activated units may move!

Command Range – 1/3 mounted move as measured from closest edges.

Defender – The unit that was contacted.

Entering/Crossing – A unit is considered entering/crossing a terrain feature if more than half of it is in the feature.

Face – A unit’s front facing is the side opposite its label if fresh, or adjacent to the top of its label if spent.

Field of Fire – (FoF) I measure 1/3 infantry move from the front center of the unit. I find this easier and more authentic than calculating 45 degree angles from the corners of the unit.

Flip – To flip a unit to signify a changed status.

Fresh – An unspent unit.

Hits – A fresh unit can sustain three hits in one round of combat. The first hit will flip it to spent. A second hit will cause it to retreat. A third hit will eliminate it. A spent unit will retreat with one hit, and be eliminated by two hits.

Occupying Terrain – If a unit has at least half its block in a terrain feature.

Rally – A spent unit that is not within 1/3 foot move of an enemy unit and does not move, may flip back to its fresh side. It may also pivot.

Resolves completely – Two units in contact continue rounds of combat until no longer in contact.

Retreat – If you must retreat, you rotate 180 degrees and move 1/3 away from the attacker. If you would pass over half of any friendly unit, you will cause them to become spent (and rotate) and push them ahead of you.

Round – Each time a pair of units roll dice in combat. Units in contact may fight several rounds.

Spent – A unit that has suffered one damage. Spent Artillery may not bombard.

Supporting – Infantry and cavalry may be moved adjacent to, and directly behind, a friendly unit to support it. If the supported unit retreats or is eliminated, the supporting unit may retreat, or advance to contact and continue combat.

Excess hits do not carry over to supporting units.

Unsupported – Artillery that is unsupported is eliminated if forced to retreat.

Turn Order

Activation phase – This is when you draw chits randomly from a cup to activate a command. Spent units may recover per the Baggage Train rule

Combat phase – Units in contact with enemy units now resolve combat.

Reset phase – HQs that were flipped to Alter Turn Order are now flipped back.

Activation: Movement, Bombardment, Recovery

When activated, move the HQ first to bring key units into command range. All a corps’ units may move, but only those in command range may move into contact with enemy units. This is also when Artillery may bombard (not in the combat phase!). Spent units that don’t move may rally if in range of an unpacked baggage unit.

How to move – A unit moves in the direction it is facing as far as 1 movement chain (or stick) of its type; foot or mounted. It may move in echelon (diagonally) up to 45 degrees maintaining its same facing. It may change its facing once for free, or a second time by subtracting 1/3 of its total movement allowance. If it moves entirely without entering any terrain features it may move one full move, if it enters any terrain features it may only move 2/3.

You cannot end your move in an enemies FoF without moving into contact.

It does not matter if the unit moves through a single patch of woods, or through woods, hills, and streams, it moves 2/3 instead of a full move. It is sometimes easier to imagine that units always move 2/3 unless they remain entirely in clear terrain when they can move 3/3. Of course, you still pay another third for other non-terrain reasons (consult the chart on the back of the rule book).

BombardmentFresh Artillery that does not move may bombard. The artillery must have a Line of Fire. Roll 3 dice and apply hits. Bombardment cannot eliminate a unit. Excess hits are ignored.

Recovery – A spent unit that is not contacting or in the Field of Fire of an enemy unit, and does not move, may flip back to its fresh side if it is with command range of a Baggage Train. It may also pivot.

How to have Combat

Combat is fought in rounds until the units are no longer in contact.Each player in a combat rolls 3 dice and scores a hit on 4 or more each round. These numbers can be modified.

A defending unit gains a terrain modifier for occupying terrain.

Flanking – If you contact the side or rear of an enemy unit it is considered flanked. This adds 1 to the attacker’s roll and subtracts 1 from the defender’s roll.

Special Combat cases

Artillery – Bombarding artillery can never eliminate a unit. Any hits that would ordinarily eliminate a unit are ignored. Artillery in the first round of combat always resolves its dice first, and then any remaining defender’s may roll dice and apply effects. Unsupported artillery is eliminated if forced to retreat.

Elites ignore the first hit in each bombardment, and any entire combat.

Militias count the first hit as two hits in each bombardment, and any entire combat.. 

HQs are abstract representation of command and are never affected by combat. Simply move them out of the way. Their location is only critical during the activation phase when determining command. Each activation, command is determined from one point, you cannot move and command from different places during the same activation. When moving you can move them anywhere within 1 mounted move, they ignore facing and terrain (they cannot ignore impassable terrain features).

Baggage Trains – use the foot movement rate. They must unpack (flip them over) to allow units to Recover. Once unpacked they may not move again. If an enemy unit moves in contact with a Baggage Train it is immediately considered to have ‘broken the line’ and the game is over (Major Victory). A player may end the game voluntarily by packing up a Baggage Train (opponent wins a Minor Victory) during its activation.

Other rules for unit types may apply, be sure and check the scenario guidelines.

Design Philosophy

The Pub Battles system simulates fighting a battle from the command post. This is a command simulation, not a combat simulation. This means a lot of detail is hidden from the players. Just like real commanders, you can’t be everywhere at once. Were you to leave your command post for any length of time, you would become completely blind to the battle as a whole.

The map in front of you, unlike most wargames, isn’t an exact representation of the actual positions of every unit on the battlefield. It is the best estimates your aides have of the ever changing “current” situation.

When you move a unit on the map, this simulates the orders you have given to your subordinates, not necessarily where they have moved. Only time will tell how your finely planned orders have been executed.

An exception to this is the “Alter Turn Order” rule where a commander attempts to directly affect the turn order. This can be thought of as those times when the commander leaves the HQ tent and takes direct control of his command. The rest of the time, it is assumed that the commander must rely on subordinates to communicate battlefield reports.

This means that often the disposition of the units on the map won’t make complete sense. “Why aren’t they Attacking!” is a common frustration when viewing opposing units in close proximity to each other. Maybe they’re not really there; maybe they can’t see because of smoke or fog; Maybe they are uncertain where other threats might be. There are many possibilities. Too many to have a separate rule for each.

The chit draw mechanic covers all those eventualities elegantly. Sometimes you want to go first; you want to rally before the next attack, or you want to get there before the defender can rally. Other times, you want to go last so you can pick exactly where and when you fight, or you just want your opponent to reveal his intentions first.

Another reason combat is depicted simply is because of scale. When you see the blocks on the map it is easy to imagine miniatures games where those blocks represent regiments or battalions. Pub Battles is representing divisions, so it’s more like the old hex based divisions…Except this looks so much cooler!

Once you have played the game enough to get the feel of the benefits of moving either earlier or later, you will appreciate the Alter Turn Order rules.