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.

In Development – Capture the Flag

This is my concept for a non-historical scenario creation system. Like many military “wargames,” the objective is to capture the enemy base.

The idea of buying armies sounds kind of ludicrous. Everyone vying to buy the best army. What generals ever got to pick their exact army? You made do with what you had. The hand fate dealt you. The idea of a fair fight is not a consideration. How well can you do with what you have?

Hence, I prefer a card based system. In this case I prefer a system where each card represents a corps. Some cards will be Fog of War thus the enemy’s true size will be unknown for a time.

I looked at the Waterloo OoB and observed that the armies both have 10 HQs. The French actually have 10 HQs counting the 4 cav corps, and the allies have 8 corps plus Wellington and Blucher.

My idea is this: I have made a French and Allied deck. Each deck has a card for each Corps + Fog of War cards to bring the total to 12.

Then I made a setup deck. Each card will determine your forces and victory conditions.

Players choose a deck, French or Allied, then deal four stacks of three cards. Next draw two cards from the setup deck. The first card is for the French forces, the second card is for the allied forces. Four cards are special (SSS, RRR, SXX, RXX), if one of these cards is drawn, then both players use that card, if two of those cards are drawn, the second card is used. Each card has a strength rating from 1 to 3. If the strength ratings are equal, then the objective is to control both bases at the end of the game. Otherwise, the stronger army must capture the objective from the defender and hold it at game end, or they lose.

Each setup card will have three letters that the players must assign to each of three stacks, the one remaining stack will not be used. The letter S means these forces Start the game on the map. The letter R means these forces enter as reinforcements sometime during the game. The Letter X means that these forces are not used unless the game continues to additional days.

S forces may set up anywhere within 1 mounted move of your home edge. You may set your base/objective up anywhere at least 1/3 mounted move from your home edge. If you control the larger force, you have no base.

If you have one R stack, starting on turn one you roll a die whenever its chit is drawn and on a 3 or less the HQ enters the map on your home edge, or along either side as far as 1/3 mounted move times the turn number from your home edge. If you have two R stacks then the second stack’s chits are put in the cup on turn two, and on turn three for a third R.

Victory conditions: To control a base or objective, you must occupy it at game end. Games will end on turn 10 unless neither side has achieved victory. If neither side achieves victory, and neither side concedes victory, conduct a night turn and play another day. On day 2, one stack of X forces may now enter as reinforcements. If neither side achieves victory, and neither side concedes victory, conduct a night turn and play another day. On day 3, any remaining X forces may now enter as reinforcements. If no one has won by the end of day three, the game is considered a draw, but they both may claim “victory.”

SUDDEN DEATH if at any time a player has eliminated 50% of his opponent’s army, he wins immediately. 

If the Guard is not in play, the French player begins with Napoleon as an Army Commander (and the chit), but without the Guard. If the Guard is part of an R deck, Napoleon does enter play until they arrive!

The Wellington and Blucher HQs are always present as soon as any of their Corps arrive on the board. Wellington and Blucher have no chits and may activate once per turn with any subordinate HQ.

Fog of War HQs. For every Fog of War card you draw, select an unused HQ and add it to your Start or Reinforcement forces. If your total army does not allow you enough unused HQs, you forfeit the Fog of War cards.

Fog of War HQs serve two purposes. The first is to mask your forces, the second is to scout the enemy. FoW HQs actually represent cavalry scouts. When two enemy HQs come within LOS of each other (foot move range) they reveal their identity and they must place their units as if spotted, or remove the HQ if FoW. Army HQs are revealed as regular HQs, but no troops are placed if they don’t have any assigned to them.

Spotting – any time two opposing HQs have LOS (one foot move), the players must place the corresponding units on the map (the opponent still won’t be certain of the identity). Fog of War HQs actually represent scouts who have raced off to report the enemy’s position (and the HQ is now removed from the game).

To calculate the size of the army, count the number of blocks for all Corps drawn (including those arriving as reinforcements). Do not count HQs or Baggage Trains. The strength of the Corps are included on the cards for ease of calculation.

Loss calculation:
Add up infantry, cavalry, and artillery blocks eliminated
Elite count as 2 blocks lost.
Baggage Trains count as 2 blocks lost.

You are not required to include a Baggage Train with a corps.

Optional Leadership Rules

Corps Leadership Ratings

This optional rule is intended to be used with Written Orders. Each corps has a command rating; Great (1-4), Average (1-3), or Poor (1-2). Each time a corps is activated make a roll:
Great – Success means it may change its own orders immediately, failure means it may consider itself Without Orders (write new orders to follow next turn).
Average – Success means it may consider itself Without Orders (write new orders to follow next turn). Failure means it must follow its current orders.
Poor – Success means it must follow its current orders. Failure means it does nothing and its activation is over.

Note: For any HQ besides Poor, if you simply intend to follow the orders as given, no roll is necessary.

Leaders in Combat

After a Corps has finished moving, its HQ (unless Poor) may be placed adjacent to one of its units. If it is in combat, that unit is now considered elite (ignores the first hit). If the unit is eliminated in combat that turn, the Leader is considered a casualty. Re-roll 3d6 to determine the new commander’s rating: 0-2 hits = Poor, 3 hits = Average, 3 sixes = Elite.

Great leaders tended to have an almost preternatural ability to sense what needed to be done. Average leaders could at least be counted on to carry out their orders, and usually would try to confirm orders that didn’t make sense. Poor leaders could rarely be counted on to carry out their orders in a timely fashion and could often be found dithering in uncertainty, giving excuses for their inaction.

In combat, many Corps leaders would take personal control of important fights, often that participation was crucial to the unit’s success. Such activity was risky and might result in the leader falling as a casualty. In standard military fashion, a subordinate would take up command of the corps, but the new commander was likely to be less effective for a time.

Baggage trains 3.0

With the Baggage Train rules of 3.0 baggage trains have finally found their place in the Pub Battles system. Pub Battles originated as a way to play a referee-less Kriegspiel. Baggage Trains are represented in Kriegspiel, so they were included in Pub Battles, but without a referee, their inclusion wasn’t quite right. Now they have a central purpose, without a lot of baggage (pun intended).

Victory conditions are always a sticking point in wargames. You want to reflect the intentions of the commanders going into the battle, the realities that changed those intentions during the battle, and the reflections on what the battle was really about in hindsight. The only constant was that if you destroyed the enemy’s army, you won. Not every battle was fought until one of the armies was destroyed, more often the opposing commander chose to retreat, or worse, the troops broke and the army’s coherence dissolved. trying to decide on Victory Conditions raised a lot of questions.

The 3.0 Baggage Train rules have answered all those questions neatly and simply. You still win by destroying 50% of the enemy army, but on your way to doing that you can also break the army sooner by destroying their Baggage, or force them to exercise discretion and bail out in some order, to fight again another day.

First off, let us understand what is meant by a baggage train. The baggage train is pretty much what its name implies while packed up, but when it is unpacked it represents something more. An unpacked baggage train is a logistical Wal-Mart, plus a field hospital, plus a signal corps, plus all the other myriad functions to address that arise when an army makes camp to support operations. It is not something you can pick up and move on a whim, or in the breach. When your enemy moves adjacent to your baggage train and breaks your army, it isn’t like in ancient warfare where your bags are literally getting sacked. Instead, it captures that figurative moment when the line has been broke through and the troop’s morale fails. No one can ever predict when that moment will happen, but everyone knows there comes a time. Without a referee to tell you this, Pub Battles uses this mechanic. This gives the right feel to the battle.

When you decide to unpack your bags as the defender you have to weigh being close enough to easily and quickly recover spent divisions, while far enough back to not be too vulnerable. That is the easy part, but the devilishly tricky part is deciding when is a good time to unpack, as well as exactly what determines too close and too far at that time. This is an art that requires an accurate instinct more than in-depth analysis.

For the attacker, the issues are similar, but the ramifications are different. You need your bags unpacked to keep your attacking units in fighting shape, but if you setup before the enemy, they are likely to fall back before they unpack, leaving you wasting valuable time traveling back and forth. With only eight turns in a day, a turn falling back, another recovering, and another moving back to the line, means you’ll be lucky to see two fights in a day!

Finally, a strong point to the baggage train rules is they simulate logistics without the tedium that is so often anticipated when encountering logistics in a wargame.

Solitaire with Written Orders!

Hold Roundtop

One of the best things about Pub Battles; one of the things that separates it from so many other titles, is the way it distances the players from the God-like ability to see all and do all with absolute precision and perfect knowledge.

Playing solitaire with written orders takes this one step further.

It accomplishes this with a simple an elegant system that gives an authentic feel without burying you in rules. It removes you from too close control, while inserting you right into the chaos of battle.

How It’s done…

I have tried various combos of specific and conditional orders, all of which proved unnecessary! Simple is best. Just write down a location or range (from here to here) and the HQ will attempt to go there and control the area. If they are in that location, they will defend it. How wide a latitude you want to use to interpret those orders is up to you.

I have also used the orders to attach a unit to a different Corps.

If an HQ has units on its reserve card, I just write the unit’s name and enclose it in brackets.

How it Works

At the beginning of the game, any HQs on the board must be given orders. IF an HQ is without orders, its units will just sit in place.

When a chit is drawn and activated, the first thing the player does is check the orders. If the last order given is not underlined, he underlines it and then carries out that order.

If he wishes to change the orders, he writes the new order underneath the previous order. He then carries out the previous (underlined) order. Next turn he will continue as above with the chit draw and activation. (See optional hands on opportunity below)

The first time a Corps is activated (either on turn one, or when it enters play as a reinforcement) it is given its first set of orders underlined, so it’s not sitting without orders for a turn.

Army HQs – If the Army HQ is adjacent to a Corps HQ, that HQ’s orders take effect immediately. Write and underline new orders.Since the two commanders are together, there is no delay in sending orders.

In effect, this allows you to insert yourself right into the game!

Baggage Trains: Baggage Trains move when their parent Corps moves, but they do not have to follow its orders. They may move and Position themselves any way they want.

Night turns: During night turns the corps ignore their current orders. Additionally, they may be given new orders and those orders are underlined immediately, so they always begin the day with orders!

Order Roster

Here is a simple sheet to track orders: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vTITgxL-yIJnmwOkN67Mo4V5MEAogdaNFmMObjdr75EDDQijivriOF0smfW_HhZ3P2jKzcdj64O_ub0/pubhtml

And that’s it!

Well, almost. Just like real commanders, you will find that your orders leave a lot of freedom of interpretation. Maybe there is a unit just out of direct line between a unit and its objective, should it attack that unit first? You decide.

This is one of the best features of this solitaire system. You control the narrative. You decide whether or not the commander on the ground decides to widely or narrowly interpret the orders.

Maybe the dice have been a little too hard on the Confederates side. Let’s show them a little love and interpret the orders most beneficially. On the other hand, maybe the dice have been giving Lee a free pass, it might be time to attack the objective with A.P. Hill’s lone spent element of Heth’s division, even though it’s got Howard’s whole fresh Corps behind abattis in the woods. Oh Harry, you’ll be bringing tears to many mothers tonight.

The first day of Gettysburg won’t make you feel that frantic, but guaranteed, as day two wears on you will find the battle going in directions you have probably not anticipated.

In one game, the second day opened with the Union in a strong position along historical lines, by the end of turn 3 the only comforting position that greeted Meade was V Corps taking Wolf’s Hill from Ewell’s Corps. Longstreet had captured Cemetery Hill and A.P. Hill was investing the Peach Orchard.

This would not have happened if I had been free to move my troops wherever they obviously needed to be. The scenario went from a replay of History to a very edge of the seat, bare knuckles contest!

One of the biggest differences you notice is the lack of a fireworks display of unit moves, as each division angles for the best attack. Now they have to act in much more historical coordination with their parent HQ. That parent HQ is going to be operating with a one turn delay in changing orders, so gamey moves that take advantage of the players god-like knowledge of the battlefield and unit strengths and positions will no longer be possible.

Optional hands on opportunity

I like having a lot out of my direct control, but if you want to interject some control, try this: When you elect to change an order, if you flip your HQ and make your command roll, you can ignore your current orders and the HQ is treated as being without orders for the current turn and new orders are written to be followed the following (no pun intended) turn.

The HQ is communicating the need for new orders and is not following current orders.

Two Player with Written Orders

Two players may play with written orders, but it is probably too open ended for truly competitive play.

Whenever you give an HQ new orders, you show your previous orders to your opponent, so he can immediately verify you followed them.

Of course, if you have a referee overseeing the game, hidden orders can be fun.

Kriegspiel Remote!

One of the most enjoyable ways to play Pub Battles is remotely. This requires two players and a referee. They can be sitting separately in the same Pub, or in completely different locations and time zones! This gives an authentic Kriegspiel experience because the players have very limited information of the positions of any combatants. They only have the locations of their HQs. They have no say over the divisions or other subordinate units of their Corps.

The player maps don’t need to be the game map. Its more fun, and authentic, to just print out historical maps and gives those to the players.

The referee sits with a copy of the game and an order sheet with all current Corps and orders written on it. He texts the players that he is ready for turn one orders.

The players each have their maps with the starting positions of their Corps HQs and any knowledge of the enemy positions the Referee cares to share with them. They submit their turn one orders, all of which are immediately carried out by the Referee.

The players patiently wait, enjoy their beverage of choice, chatting with nearby friends, while studying and overthinking their plans. 😉

The referee draws chits, carries out orders, and resolves combat. When the turn is complete he texts a dispatch to each player reporting combat results and any changed positions. He also let them know the deadline when their next orders are due.

Players are allowed to text one response to any text from the Referee. They can send additional texts, but additional texts have a strong likelihood of being misinterpreted. The referee’s general guidelines are that the first text is carried out automatically, any additional text requires a check for success (4+). If an order is unsuccessful, the ref has discretion what that may mean. The orders (any sent, including the first) can be misinterpreted, lost, or even captured. The players have no way of knowing.

Notes for Refereeing – Your roll as referee is a fun way to play Pub Battles, as you get to play a game solo with two opponents submitting orders. Here are some general guidelines to make sure the players have a fun experience:

Try to make the experience of them sitting in the command tent as authentic as possible. You can add personality to different commanders, as well as adding game info for color. Commanders can be begging for supplies to recover their depleted divisions. Try to give the players enough info to make deciding when and where to unpack their baggage Trains.

In general, try to provide them with all the info you can. Even if you tell them precisely all the information they need, they are still going to feel like they are boxing with blindfolds. You can tell your players are too confused to be having fun if they start disengaging or writing silly orders.

As you draw chits you can play with the order they are drawn, or you can adhere strictly to the draw. The goal is to make the game interesting for the players. Use chit draws and combat dice as guidelines.

While insuring the players have a good time, you want to avoid teaching players that whining works. Life isn’t fair, and war is worse. Make Corps commander’s personas and abilities come alive. A successful Referee will have players trusting some commanders and not trusting others with important tasks.

In my variable leaders variant I give suggestions on ways great leaders and poor leaders can differ, and this might give you some ideas.

Good luck and Good gaming–Please let me know how your games work out!

What if: Stonewall at Gettysburg!

End of Day 1

With this scenario (all the components are provided with the Gettysburg game), the players get to try their hand at a great what if. What if Stonewall Jackson hadn’t been killed at Chancellorsville, instead he survives his wounds. He is unable to affect Lee’s strategy, but he does rejoin the army soon enough to be present at the battle. In fact, displaying his decisive elan, he gets his Corps there sooner. The leaner original two Corps Army of Northern Virginia fights a different Battle of Gettysburg.

In this foto above, of the end of Day 1, you can judge for yourself what the outcome was.
The lost divisions were all Union, including Buford who made a heroic, though foolish, attempt to stem the rebel tide.


Other than Trimble skirmishing with Reynold’s troops, Longstreet’s Corp has just arrived.
The Union’s glorious dead are being watched by Lee on McPherson Ridge.
On to Pipe’s Creek! 

Compared to the Historical Scenario:

End of Day 1

Here is the end of the day of the Historical scenario. Ewell’s corps arrives a turn later than Jackson’s does in the scenario above, and what a huge difference that makes! Suddenly the Union troops don’t seem quite so overwhelmed.

However, I for one, shall be very interested to see how this plays out. The Union has already had to fall back beyond the North edge of Cemetery Hill. During the night turn the massive Union artillery arrives, but where will it go? Would Meade have ordered a withdrawal to Pipe’s Creek, where he wanted to make a stand? Interesting questions, indeed!

Check out my Gettysburg Victory Conditions.