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Wargame Military T Shirts

Wargame T Shirts based on Military History:  Army of Northern Virginia, Potomac, Napoleonic Flags, Ancient Rome, 7th Cavalry.

I’ve always wanted to have some cool T shirts based on my favorite hobby:  wargaming.

We found a great new supplier that can make good quality shirts, quickly and lots of variety.  We are working on a series of Napoleonic shirts now.  Next we are going to start on WWII shirts.

Don’t see what you want?  Let us know.  We’ll make it!

You can check out all of our new shirts here.

Sun Tzu at Brandywine

“To unfailing defend, defend that which is never attacked. To be unfailingly victorious when attacking, attack that which is never defended.”


How would Sun Tzu command the Colonials at Brandywine? Are there any lessons here we can learn from his wisdom? 

Washington came up with a plan. He prepared for the British attack.  Sun Tzu would say this is a mistake.

 “Do not attack the enemy.  Attack the enemy’s plan.”  

Attacking the enemy’s plan is exactly what the British did. How could Washington have attacked the enemy’s plan?  He couldn’t.  He had a failure in intelligence.  He didn’t understand the true enemy’s plan until it was too late.  At the real battle, Washington was caught by surprise.  He deployed assuming the enemy’s approach.  This is why Sun Tzu strongly emphasizes intelligence gathering.  If you don’t know what is going on or what the enemy is up to, how can you attack his plan? 

How can you re-create the element of surprise in a game? You have the historical map.  The historical OB.  The British are flanking.  There is no surprise to the player in most games like this.  Often times games like this come with ‘bandaid’ rules.  Rules that handcuff players and force them to do stupid things.  Force them to sit for several turns of delay before they can respond.  Other games on Brandywine force the Colonials to setup historically.  They begin the game badly out of position.  This is not so in Pub Battles.  

Remarkably, the Colonial player is free to setup anywhere he wants. Free to have any plan he wants and react immediately.  How could that work in a game?  Wouldn’t that doom the British to an automatic defeat?  No.  This is something Pub Battles pulls off remarkably well.  The Colonials are truly surprised.  How?  Because they must setup first.  The British setup second and can enter on either flank.  As a result, the British can ‘see’ the Colonial plan and then attack it! 

This does an amazing job of recreating the historical sense of panic and urgency in the Colonial player. The game starts off and feels like a scramble for survival.  This is what the battle really was.  It is recreating the historical feel.  What can the Colonial player do?  This is a significant handicap.  Can the Colonial player ever win?  How should you setup?

First of all, if intell is your biggest concern, what can you glean from the British Wing deployed on board? Where are they?  What is there intent?  What does that tell you about where the flanking wing is likely to attack. 

I feel it is a mistake for the Colonials to setup committed to any specific course of action. You are supposed to be receiving an attack.  Not launching one.  You do at least have the foreknowledge that a surprise flank attack is possible and in fact very likely.  Also consider that you have a massive intell failure.  Where is the enemy?  Where are they coming from?  Before the game, you have no idea. 

How can you ‘attack the enemy plan’ if you don’t even know what that is? In this situation, I think Sun Tzu would say: Be mysterious and formless. Gathering intell is your first mission.  How do you setup before you have any intell?  In a mysterious and formless void.  Napoleon liked the central position.  This is a position of power.  This situation calls for the bulk of your forces to be held in a central reserve, surrounded by a thin, delaying screen for recon.  All roads should be blocked to prevent a rapid road march deep into your interior.  More cavalry would be helpful but you only have 1. 

Think about this from the perspective of the British. How do they attack your weakness?  There is none.  You’re just a big scattered blob.  They might as well just flip a coin to decide where to attack from.  Wherever your central reserve is, make sure it is on roads so that they can rapidly respond to the flanking threat. 

Which force should you use as the reserve? This is a dilemma.  Washington’s force can react quicker.  –If using the RPWG, Washington can move immediately without waiting to receive written orders.  This is a nice advantage but Washington’s force includes the Cav, Militia and Artillery.  Greene’s force is larger and contains more brute force.  Which is better? 

Many players want to attack with the Colonials. It may feel good but remember, you aren’t there to defeat the British and win the war in 1 battle.  You’ll be lucky to survive.  Keep the victory conditions in mind.  To ‘win’ you don’t have to beat them.  You have to delay their advance (by holding the major roads) and save your army (maintaining a reasonable balance of losses). 

Keep losses in mind while fighting. This is a common mistake I see Colonial players make.  You want to WIN!  You want to beat the British and throw them back!  The battles can be very exciting.  You take a hit.  The British lead piece doesn’t but it’s not an elite.  You don’t want to run away.  You want to hold the position.  You want to WIN right? 

You want to win the battle, NOT this particular combat. Do you have to win this fight?  How critical is it to winning the battle?  If your lead piece is flipped but the British lead is not, there is a much bigger chance that you will lose that piece if you fight another round.  That will cost a VP.  What is the current VP count?  Can you afford that loss?  If you retreat from this fight, can you still have a reasonable chance of holding the major roads before the battle is over?  All too often I see Colonial players losing points on casualties over battles they ‘want to’ win, not ‘have to’ win. 

How do YOU play the Colonials? What is the best setup?  What is the best defense?  Do you have a favorite?  What seems to work the best?  What works very badly?  Share your thoughts here!



French Strategy Guide for Marengo

Lessons From Marengo

What does it take to win in Pub Battles? What skills are rewarded by the system?  Play testing this battle has given me keen, new insights into not only this battle but the entire Pub Battles system.   

New players often fight every round possible until they either win or are destroyed. If you do this, you are leaving the game up to fate. You can mitigate much of the luck factor by exercising good discretion. Remember that additional rounds are OPTIONAL. Before you agree to fight another round you need to ask yourself some very important questions:  This is especially critical for the French early on. Initially, they only have 6 blocks to stop an entire Austrian army of 18 blocks. EVERY piece is critical. What is the best you can accomplish by staying a 2nd round? You might kill an Austrian piece and delay the Austrian advance for a turn. So what? If the Austrians drop to 17 blocks against your 6, that won’t hurt them much. What happens if you lose? Now you only have 5 blocks to stop 18. That is WAY too big a risk to take. You must fall back. You don’t have to win every fight. Keep your eyes focused on winning the battle. Walk away. There will be a better time to fight.

How critical is this particular fight? How important is it to the battle? How badly will nearby units suffer if this ground is lost? What is the current force ratio? Every loss is critical. If you lose 1 more piece trying to stay in this fight, how will this impact your army as a whole? Will you still be able to face the enemy across the field effectively if you lose this piece (or pieces)? You have to carefully examine your risk/reward ratio. What do you stand to gain vs what you stand to lose?

I love the clear open terrain at Marengo. I love the huge force disparity. It really brings the fundamentals of maneuver, force and position into focus. You might be wondering how 6 blocks can fight 18. Note this picture from a historical opening:




The Austrians have just crossed the river. Yes, they have 18 blocks but most of them are bottled up behind lines in a traffic jam. How many blocks can they present to the front? Only 3. How many blocks can the French present? 3. There you go. Those 18 blocks don’t matter. They cannot be brought to bear.

Now the French must fall back at some point to prevent losses, as previously discussed. As they fall back, the Austrians can expand the front and bring more forces to bear. Fine. What can the French do then? Fall back again. Falling back prevents your flanks from being turned. It prevents the Austrians from being able to bring their power to bear. You trade ground for time. You also greatly limit the damage the Austrians can do to you. Those 18 blocks mean nothing if they can’t get a hold of you or do any damage.

Another interesting result of running, is that it virtually negates the massive Austrian artillery advantage. As you fall back, the Austrians race to keep up. The guns fall behind. They are almost always out of range to fire. If they can’t fire, they might as well not be there. Perfect.  

While monitoring your force ratio with the enemy, you should also keep an eye on the number of spent units.  What portion of your army is fresh vs spent? How does this compare to the enemy?  Ideally, you would like to see a mostly spent enemy army vs your army that is mostly fresh.  This is a position of strength and power.  The French will likely find themselves on the weaker side of this curve.  That’s ok.  It just means that now is not the time to stand and fight. Fall back and as you do, try to get some portion of you army back on line. In the mean time, try to flip a few Austrians along the way. Remember, they can’t rally either while they are pursuing you.





Desaix’s arrival is more important that it seems. He only has 2 blocks to reinforce with. That may not seem like much but it is likely all it will take. Have you ever spotted a weightlifter? Have you seen how little force it takes to help him lift the last rep that he can’t do on his own?


By now with some luck, you have picked off a few Austrians with judicious Cavalry and Guard charges. The Austrian army is now spread out and thinned. If you listened to me and didn’t squander several blocks to stubborn, unnecessary fights, you should be getting close to parity. It may not look like it but always remember: 4 of those blocks back there are artillery. You will run those down easily once you break this line in front of you. You also don’t even need ‘parity’. Remember that you have the Consular Guard and Murat’s Cavalry. Those units are easily worth double their number of Austrians.  

Marengo teaches you a keen sense of timing. There were many times with the French I wanted to strike back. I wanted to attack and halt the relentless Austrian advance. I could have but it would have cost me the battle. You have to charge when the enemy is spent.

There were several turns I wanted to charge but I didn’t get the timing sequence I needed. The Cav missed their roll then bam, the Austrians rallied. The door of opportunity shut before I could strike. That is ok. Bide your time. Have patience. Wait it out. Keep your Cavalry ready to charge. They should be fresh and positioned behind lines to strike anywhere along the enemy line. This alone should force the Austrians to slow down and advance with caution. The Austrians won’t get lucky on timing every turn. Eventually, you will get the right timing sequence. The Austrians will be repulsed and spent. Your Cavalry will get the next move. Imagine the damage your Cavalry could do with a double move turn sequence! You could shatter 3 spent Austrian infantry, THEN charge again hitting 3 artillery behind lines! That is 6 kills in 2 successive moves.







This illustrates why exactly patience will pay off. It only takes 1 or 2 breaks in timing to crush the Austrians and win the game. This won’t work if you insist on attacking when YOU want to. You must wait for the right time to arrive. I can’t find the exact quote now but I remember Napoleon describing the critical timing moment in battle when victory is achieved. He said it was like adding the last drop of water that causes the dam to overflow and break down.

“This is why it is said that victory can be seen but not made.” -Suz Tzu  

Museum Quality Game

Well, I always say our maps are “museum quality”.   It’s not just marketing hype now, this game actually IS in a museum!!  Amazing!  Pub Battles are in an exhibit on display at the Washington County Historic Courthouse .  These aren’t the best of photos but check it out:


Here is their FB page:


The museum is using them as part of their Civil War exhibit to show the position of the armies for the battles of Gettysburg, Antietam and Manassas.  

Disaster at Little Bighorn

This is our first After Action Report, from a Backer on Little Bighorn.  It was a DISASTER!!


The game took 1 hour, including sorting out all of the little cubes, glancing at the rules, and then playing the entire game.

He took Custer and a fake Mathey north along the ridge (hoping to draw me toward Custer, as he told me later), while Reno and Benteen came across the river straight at the villages.  I sent two of my nations straight at Reno and Benteen, while the 3rd nation escorted the NCs toward the edge.

Reno and Benteen ran into bad luck.  As he realized afterward, he advanced too far from a good crossing place and then frontally charged my line. He forced most of my line to run, but killed only one, while I forced a couple of his to retreat, creating holes in his line.

Next turn, Reno went first, and began to pull back, but then I went next, and he failed Benteen’s roll. I swarmed behind Benteen and trapped a couple companies.  I then realized Custer was on his own and the 3rd nation moved straight toward Custer. The NCs (Non-Combatants) were all able to flee off the board.

Meanwhile, by the time Reno and Benteen were able to get to the river, they had both lost half their companies.  Warriors then poured across the river and trapped some of Custer’s companies and he ran back to join the remnants of Reno and Benteen.

He decided afterward that was perhaps a mistake.  By the time he decided to circle on hill tops, the damage was done.  He lost 9 of the 14 units, and the Natives lost about 9 units.

It was a disaster, and we laughed through the whole game!  It was just plain fun!


If you can scrounge up another few players, it gets even more fun because you can only ‘communicate’ with other players if your HQs are touching.  Intense and hysterical. 

Top 4 Great Things About Bobby Lee

Top 4 Great Things About Bobby Lee, from Columbia Games

#4  Blocks

Columbia is known for their block games which incorporate Fog-of-War. The blocks rotate to conceal the strength of the unit:  1-4.  This is mechanic is interesting.  It creates a sense of fear and uncertainty.  Yes, fear.  Remember fear is often rooted in the unknown and Bobby Lee is full of unknowns. 

Hidden blocks allow for bluffing. The enemy just created a big huge stack of blocks.  This looks intimidating but are they all full strength or is this a ruse?  They could all be strength 1 units that will collapse like a house of cards if you have the guts to strike.

The blocks and hidden strength are fun. They do add to the game but you may be surprised that I ranked this as #4 on the list.  Isn’t this the main attraction?  Hidden blocks with rotating strengths? 

Surprisingly no. I don’t see this as the best thing about Bobby Lee.  Considering all the other features, this effect seems minor in comparison.  



#3 Political Will

How do you win? Cities are worth VPs.  When you take them, the Victory marker moves towards your side that many spaces.  Get the marker all the way down to your side and hold it till the end of the turn and you just won the war! 

I love this. Simple, accurate and effective.  Basically it is tracking the political will of your side to continue hostilities.  Need troops really badly?  Institute a new draft.  You get to raise ‘free’ troops but it costs you VPs.  The Confederate player gets free VPs over time.  The clock is ticking for the Union.  The burden of offensive is squarely upon their shoulders.  They must invade the South.  They must take and hold cities.  If you can’t do this, international pressure and support for Southern Independence will become insurmountable. 

The VPs threshold drops for the election. The Union is very vulnerable here.  This gives Lee the perfect motivation to launch a northern Gettysburg style invasion.  You don’t have to conquer the North, just crash their support for the war right before the election.  


#2 Two Scales at Once

Is it a strategic game? Is it a battle game?  A campaign game?  Somehow, Bobby Lee amazingly pulls off all of these at once.  To me, this fills a perfect niche.  The overall Strategic game is played on the big strategic map.  Once forces collide for a battle, you pull them off and place them on a smaller battle board to slug out the results blow by blow.  You play on two different maps and at two different scales at once.  Amazing. 

All the other games struggle with this dilemma. If you have a Strategic game, the battles and maneuver are abstracted.  If you have a battle game, the over arching strategic situation is strictly regimented. 

I usually hate battle games. What are you fighting for?  VPs on terrain?  Why do I need to take that hill?  I don’t care.  Battle games often feel pointless.  Not in Bobby Lee.  You are fighting the campaign.  All of the strategic concerns are right there.  You are always fighting the battles with these in mind.  How hard should you push it?  How badly do you need to win?  At what cost? How will the campaign continue over the next few turns if you lose or win?  The players must weigh all of these concerns against every battle move and die roll they make while fighting.  Finally, the battle makes sense.  The campaign makes sense.  The whole war makes sense!  All in one, small neat package. 

#1 HQs

The number one best thing about Bobby Lee? HQs!  Their HQ system is nothing short of brilliant.  In real wars, you see long periods where both sides mostly just sit and wait, broken up by brief periods of insane levels of furious activity.  Hurry up and wait.  You never see this in most games.  It’s I-go-you-go.  Every turn, every piece moves and attacks.  Very unrealistic. 

Bobby Lee flows like a real war. Months and months where both sides sit and build.  Wouldn’t that make for a boring game?  No!  If both sides pass for the month, then the turn is over.  You build and off you go to the next turn.  You can blow through 6, 1 month, turns in a few moments.  When both sides start marching, then the game slows down to savor every delicious moment of conflict.

How does Bobby Lee do all this? With HQs.  The troops can’t move by themselves.  They are natural slackers.  They need lots of shouting officers to get things going.  When an HQ activates, all units in range can move and attack.  The catch is, after it deactivates, it drops a level.  So you can only activate and move so many times before you can’t move anymore.  How many times?  It depends.  How many levels did you have the HQ build up to?

Imagine a game where the enemy can move and attack but you can’t. How long would the game last?  Not long at all.  So it is critical that you keep enough HQs around with enough steps left to respond to the enemy. 

Building up your HQs costs Production Points. Note how this simulates logistics and supplies as well.  A huge part of war that is mostly just ignored by most games.  Now the game flows like a real war.  No fuss, no muss.  Quick, easy and all integrated into one seamless system.

Absolutely brilliant.


You can get Bobby Lee here!


Why Move?

I was teaching a new guy to Wargaming recently. I noticed a strange phenomenon.  It’s not just him.  I see veteran players do this also.  What did he do?

I noticed that every time he moved, he moved the maximum distance possible. He pushed it EVERY time.  I had to constantly watch and police him.  He kept trying to nudge each piece just a little further. 

I even noted that he wasn’t in a hurry!   There was no reason for him to be moving fast.  There was no urgent tactical or strategic crisis at hand.  No benefit to be gained from going a little further. 

It is strange when you think about it. Why do we do this?  Have you notice this in your play?  Do you and your friends do it too?

Syria, Prequel to WWIII

Is Syria our generation’s Spanish Civil War?


Is Syria our generation's Spanish Civil War?


Identifying Unit Types

We started Pub Battles with cardboard counters.  We switched to blocks later for ease of use.  They are easier to grab and flip around.  We also loved the look once we saw it. 

We never really intended them to be used for hidden intelligence.  When the piece is spent you can see what it is.  You can also see what it is if it is facing away from you.  It can happen. 

Units could be spotted from about a mile out.  On a dry, clear day with dirt roads you could even identify the unit type (cav, inf, art) and size out further by the dust cloud shape formed by marching. 

Once on the field, I’m thinking you should be able to identify at least the unit type at a certain distance IF it can be spotted. 

Should we clarify this in the rules?  What exactly should the rule be?   What are your thoughts?



So What Happened in Mega Supremacy?

I meant to write up a full report in our Blog for what happened in our Mega Supremacy game.  It was an incredible success.  Jim Owczarski over at Grogheads did a great interview with us a few weeks ago on it.  It was such a great interview and discussion that  I  forgot all about reporting on the game myself!

So if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out!  You can find it here.

Excellent questions about Mega-Supremacy and Pub Battles.  It is a very interesting discussion about big multiplayer games and the future of our hobby/industry. 

They run a very good site on gaming also.  Lots of good info here on Kriegsspiel.  You will find lots of other cool things here.