Which Flag?




We included optional bonus flags for Washington and Howe with Brandywine. What are these for?  What’s the difference?


We did these just for fun. Which is better?  Well, it kind of depends what you want.


The Standard Flags are all the same. The main advantage here is hidden intel.  Which HQ is it?  If they are all the same, you can’t be certain.


Washington’s personal standard is just plain cool. It adds a nice historical touch.  Howe didn’t have one but it seems strange if he doesn’t have something unique if Washington does.  These optional flags look great.  The downside of course is that the opponent knows exactly they are now.


How big a deal is this? Well, if you are playing a standard game, with two players it’s not a big impact.  After the first turn, everybody usually knows who’s who anyways.  Brandywine is a small battle.  There aren’t many commands.  It is easy to watch and keep track of.


With an Umpire, this can become more of a mystery. Except with an Umpire, it also doesn’t matter.  You can’t see the real map.  You only know what the reports tell you.  So the optional flags are still hidden.


How could the optional flags hurt you then?

IF you are playing the optional:

  • early start open
  • hidden command chits
  • turning spent units face down
  • reassigning blocks to other commands before the battle


For a 2 player game, these rules can add a lot of hidden unknowns to the game. Now you can’t be exactly sure what the enemy has, when and where they are, who can still move next and who can still attack?  Unless of course you are using the optional Howe and Washington flags….   That blows a lot of your intell.


Will you be playing these rules often? If not, it probably won’t matter.

Frustration as a Weapon

FrustrationAltanakaCan real command issues be a fun game? Are they compatible?


Conventional wargame wisdom is no. Real command is boring, dull and frustrating.   A game has to be fun. To be fun, it must be instant. No delay. No frustration. No unknowns. Must be complete knowledge and complete power and control.


Some of these ideas are changing. Columbia broke a lot of ground in this area.


This is what surprised me about Kriegspiel. It’s more like real command. It is boring, dull and frustrating? My experience was quite the opposite. It was very exciting and interesting. It can be frustrating. Frustration can = tension and fun in a game.


I think maybe there is more frustration at first. I can’t just move my pieces. I have to write orders first and then wait until they receive it. There is the delay. You have to start thinking ahead and planning for this. It’s not bad but it does run contrary to our instant gratification culture today. I can’t wait that long! I want an answer now! I want to move the piece myself and know what happened immediately. I can’t wait a whole turn to find out!


With a little practice, you adjust to it. Then it’s not frustrating. After a little more practice, then you start thinking…..


Hmmmmmm…….   They do this. I have to see it. Write orders. Delay. Then reaction. There is a lag. I move. Delay. They react. They move. Delay. I react. Let’s look a step further. Could we use this as a weapon? You betcha! People like Alexander, Hannibal, Napoleon, Jackson, Patton and Guderian were experts at it. Let’s think a couple moves ahead here. Much like Chess.


If we move like this, what will the enemy do?  They will likely react like that. Except there will be a 2 turn delay. Guess what? Now you know the future. You know where the enemy will be in 2 turns. You also know where he will not be, even before he does. Is that useful information? Can I get a ‘Heck Yeah!’?


If you know this ahead of time, you don’t have to wait until the enemy reacts, then delay while you send your next batch of orders. Send the orders now!! Then there will be NO delay. At least not for you. Assuming all goes well and you plan and time this right, the sequence will now be:


  1. You order.
  2. Delay.
  3. You move.
  4. Enemy orders to react.
  5. Delay.
  6. Enemy moves to react.
  7. You move.
  8. Enemy orders to react.
  9. You move.
  10. Enemy orders to react.
  11. You move.
  12. Game over.

This is called seizing the initiative. Keeping the momentum. Patton described this as rocking the enemy back on his heels by a good hard shove. Once he is off balance, it only takes repeated light shoves to keep him there, while you steadily advance.


The enemy is always off balance. Always in an awkward position. They never catch their breath. You are always 1 step ahead.



Does that sound frustrating, dull and boring? Dishing it out or being on the receiving end of this, it sounds like a pretty exciting and fun game to me.

Hexless Wargames



Why do we use hexes or areas in wargames? Presumably, to make them easier.  How do the pieces move?  Well, you just move them from space to space.  Just like Monopoly.  Everybody understands that mechanic.  It is more simple to explain in rules and for people to learn the game.  How many spaces does infantry move?  Armor?

One of our primary design goals being brevity in rules, we analyzed numerous wargame rulebooks. An amazing thing that stood out to us was:  the huge amount of pages and text dedicated to explaining hexes and/or areas.  Fine print.  Triple column.  Full sized pages.  Take a look at the rules for the games you are playing now.  How many words explaining moving?  Into hexes, out of hexes, across these certain hexsides but only in these cases.  Then there are hex ZOCs.  How does that affect movement?  Does it work the same for supply?  What if there is a national border?  An enemy ZOC?  What terrain is it if there are multiple types?  Is the hex side terrain different than in the hex?  Is the river in the hex or along the hex side?  How do pieces see into, out of and through hexes?  To the center of the hex or just a corner? Is there facing?  How does that work?  Do they face the spine or the side?  Where is the flank?  It goes on and on and on.

I thought this was supposed to make the game more simple? By comparison, the original Kriegspiel rules were very simple.  How do pieces move?  You just pick them up and move them.  How far?  This far by foot, that far mounted.  Much like miniature rules.  Real simplicity.  Ironic that something the wargame industry invented for simplicity and clarity resulted in so much complexity and confusion.

We noted an added benefit also: The map looks much better!  Any way you do it, hexes and areas are just plain ugly.  Don’t believe me?  Compare the Pub Battles map to the average wargame.

Brandywine hexes




I rest my case.






What is the best method of measuring moves?  Do you have to get the measuring sticks or the compass? 

There are no spaces or hexes in Pub Battles.  The pieces just move. How far? There is an indicator on the terrain effects chart.

So you need to measure this with something.  These are the main options:

You could just use a ruler. Or cut out a piece of paper/cardboard in the exact length. We’ve even used marked strings before. All of these can work fine.

Measuring Sticks
The Kickstarter version came with these for free.

They are NOT included in the game now!

In some ways, I like these better. The stickers denote 1/3 moves. (If you place them right) This makes it handy to account for terrain costs and formation changes.

These are a splurge. You gage them off the Terrain Effects chart. Not quite as convenient or fast as the sticks. They have a wonderful, period, tactile feel. Talk about emersion into the time period. That is the way it was really done.

No, you don’t need them but there is something really cool about using them. Here is a blog on using them from a backer. His aren’t as pretty. You do have to be careful that the sharp points don’t damage the map. It’s not too hard though. Just don’t grind them in.




Blown Away!


So……    everybody’s been waiting to hear how is it?

Here are some emails we’ve been getting from backers:

Marshall, the Brandywine game is all you’d promised and more.  The maps are beyond beautiful:  they are the finest looking wargame maps I’ve seen in all my 38 years of wargaming.  The dice, the pieces, the stickers, the gold foil, the rules and the Terrain Effects chart – all superb in every way.  This is the kind of game I’ve been looking for for 38 years.  Even my wife – a nonwargamer, as all wives are – said she was genuinely impressed.  She was completely taken with the canvas map.


I’d noticed that someone had complained somewhere about the tube delivery and rolled up map and rulebooks.  I wanted to tell him, “Man, get outta here!  Go get a life!”  Fortunately, you, in your diplomatic way, were kinder in your comments to him than that.  Besides, I love the tube; it is a perfect repository for the map when I’m done playing a game (or simply done gawking at it).  And, besides, the map, being canvas, rolls out of the tube almost perfectly flat anyway.


I anxiously anticipate my first game.  I love the simple rules and the format in which they are presented.  Other than all this, gull2112 wrote a review today on Kickstarter after receiving his game that says so perfectly what many of us no doubt feel about the intuitive nature of the rules and the feeling of being in command of the whole field of one’s forces.  I suspect you’ve read it, but, if not, you must read his excellent review.  It will bring a smile to your face.


As a model railroad hobbyist, I recall the highest compliment I ever heard about the best train maker I know, a man in London:  “He is a tiger on quality control.”  So I think must you be.


I am totally on board with your future projects, especially the Gettysburg one I’m reading about, but for now I’m going to just be content with this splendid Brandywine creation.  Thank you so much for all your hard work.  I’ll gladly pay $100 for a game like this any day than 50 or 60 or 70 for something as far inferior as are most wargames out there.


Best regards,



The game is fantastic!

Just received it today.


I was a Kickstarter supported.

Please make sure you email me whenever you have a new campaign(I travel quite a bit!).

Many, many thanks



Needless to say that as the Second Official Kickstarter Backer but the First to Pledge for the two game set, I am extremely excited to let you know my games arrived in the mail today!!! Though one remains open, the other has already been opened, drooled over and as soon as I finish this email, I’m off to read the rules.


Commanding Chaos

Chaos to Order Header 2

If you are used to Wizard of Oz (all knowing, all powerful) wargames, you might be taken aback by all the confusion in Pub Battles.  It is just a big mess!  How can I even formulate a coherent plan and follow it like this?  The chaos is very distracting and can easily get you off your game.

After a turn or two, you can find yourself running around in crisis mode.  Racing to from one fire to the next, trying to keep them out.  If you find yourself in this boat, you have surrendered the initiative to the enemy.  You are reacting, not acting.  This path leads to defeat.

Yes, you do need to have a plan.  You need to keep your eyes firmly focused on the forest.  The leaves constantly smacking you in the face can be very distracting.  It is critical that you maintain your focus.

Let’s look at an example.  You are running Knyphausen’s Wing.  The enemy gets a bad break in the turn sequence.  He is wide open and vulnerable for an instant.  Do you strike?  Seize the moment?!  Let’s say you do.  You take out a Colonial piece, establish a crossing and seize some heights!  That’s great right?

NO!  Not if it doesn’t fit your plan.  What are Knyphausen’s orders?  Demonstrate and tie down Colonials along the river.  What?  But we scored a point and are tying down even more Colonials now.  What is wrong with that?

It doesn’t fit the plan.  You got lucky.  What if the Colonists get lucky next?  What if your little beach head, that you are so proud of, suddenly gets trapped and obliterated by a double move?  How many pieces will you lose?  3?  Now your side is down by 2 points.  You were supposed to be just demonstrating, remember?  That means you aren’t supposed to be making or losing any points.  Now you’ve lost 2!  Cornwallis has to make up for that.  Your opportunistic, whimsical lunge may have just lost the battle!

This situation applies to the offense too.  Let’s say Cornwallis’ opening attack gets very unlucky.  He misses his timing.  The Colonials roll lucky in combat.  Bam, bam.  You’re down 2 blocks and haven’t taken any ground.  Game over?  Give up and try to attack with Knyphausen instead?

No.  Stick to your plan.  It is a temporary setback.  A bad blow.  The tides of luck will flow  with you next.  Re-group, shift your line, then attack.  That is the plan.  If you are persistent, your offensive will crack the enemy line and you can push forward.  A lack of persistence is the greatest cause of failure.

Ok.  Lesson learned.  Always stick to the plan.  Never get distracted and move off of that right?  No.  It’s not that easy.  Here is a great lecture from the Army War College:

This is one of the toughest decisions commanders face.  Change or persist?  There is a time to change the plan.  Mead saw this at Gettysburg.  He seized the opportunity.  McAuliffe persisted at Bastogne.  Another right call.

It is easy for us to sit here with the benefit of hindsight and say when it worked and when it didn’t.  How do you know looking ahead into the dark unknown?  Did Custer persist too long?  Should he have changed sooner?  Would it have mattered?  Is it possible that persisting and losing is the best option?

Share your thoughts and ideas below in comments!

Not Always

not always

I was distracted while setting up so I didn’t pay much attention to where Tony put all of his Colonial pieces.   Washington got pulled first on turn 1.  I thought, good.  I’m used to always wanting Cornwallis to move last on turn 1.  As Tony started moving I noticed he didn’t have anybody on his left flank.  It was wide open!  He must have noticed my eyes getting big looking at that edge of the board because he then asked, “So where does Cornwallis enter?”

After I explained the rule, he started staring intently at his left flank too! (It was his first game.  I thought he knew!)  Washington scrambled to block a couple of the roads on his left.

Next, Greene was pulled! Now, I roll to jump ahead with Cornwallis:  a 5!  Fail.  I roll again for Howe:  6!  Fail.  Greene puts 2 brigades into road column and marches over to the opposite side of the map:  the Colonial left but they are still in column and vulnerable.  A juicy target but just out of range for me to get to in 1 move.

Knyphausen attacks across and gets a bridge head on the Colonial left main road.

Cornwallis moves last. At this point, Tony is over committed on his left.  So what do I do?  Attack where he’s weakest:  the Colonial right!

To Tony’s horror, Cornwallis comes in strong against Sullivan’s lone 3 brigades. Washington and Greene are in transit trying to form up on the opposite side of the field.

Turn 2. Now I really want Cornwallis to move first.  I can flank and obliterate Sullivan.  My Dragoons can also hit the tail end of Greene’s traffic sprawl in road column.  Who gets picked first?  Greene!  I roll for Cornwallis to jump ahead:  6!  Fail.  Howe is in range he rolls too:  6!  Fail.  With my horrible luck, Tony doesn’t even need to roll.  Brian quips, “Looks like Howe just called tea time.”  Sigh

Greene does an about face and forward marches right back to where he started on turn 1. It was an ugly, desperate fight for several turns.  Tony did eventually establish a line but it was thin and weak.  Exciting game.

Lessons learned?

Beware of always doing the same thing every game. It can vary.  It’s not always best to move first or last on certain turns.  You really have to keep an eye on the situation and consider what will work best.

Also, don’t give up if you make a big blunder. With a little bit of luck, you may be able to turn things around and at least have a fighting chance of recovery.  Tony played very well for the rest of the game.  He is a quick study.  It was close but he was able to fight to a respectable draw at the end.

Fog of War

Fog of War

I’m a big fan of Columbia games. They make great products.  Their unique design feature is hidden strength with rotating blocks.  This generates a lot of uncertainty in the game.  Not only is this ‘Fog-of-War’ more realistic, it is more fun!  It’s a win-win.

Does Pub Battles simulate Fog-of-War? Yes!  It does not use rotating blocks but it does model many aspects of real battlefield Fog-of War.  I thought it would be fun to compare / contrast Pub Battles with the Columbia system.


What do these two systems have in common?

Hidden blocks. You can see the enemy moving pieces around.  Unless you actually contact and fight, (or the artillery bombards) they remain hidden.  What does the enemy have?  Artillery?  Infantry?  Cavalry?  You can only guess.


Variable Strength   This is the key feature to Columbia Games.  Is the piece a strength of 1 or 4?  As you would expect, it is much easier to kill a 1.  A 1 strength defender also can’t do as much damage to you as a 4 can.  This effect compounds with more units involved.  Let’s say you attack a hex with 4 blocks in it.  If they are all 1s, the enemy only rolls 4 dice which hit on 5-6 average. (1.33 average losses)  If they are all 4’s, they roll 16 dice hitting on 5-6, generates 5.33 average losses!

So you don’t know if you are walking into a quick overrun or a hornet’s nest of trouble. As you could imagine, players can bluff and threaten with empty stacks.  You can also be surprised when you find out what you thought was just a bluff was real.

Pub Battles doesn’t use 4 step, rotating units. Their pieces do flip to spent status.  This makes them technically 2 step units.  Hits also apply in a cumulative fashion.  The first hit flips the piece.  Second hit forces it to retreat.  The third hit destroys the piece.  In this way, they are effectively 3 step units.  You just don’t have to rotate them.

There is another wrinkle. Pub Battles pieces come in grades:  regulars, elite and militia.  The elite absorb their first hit with no effect.  The militia are the opposite.  They suffer an additional hit.  So effectively, the elites become 4 step units while the militias are 2s.

This is further modified by the status of the piece. Is it fresh or spent?  Spent pieces are already hit once.  So it normally takes 3 hits to kill a regular piece.  If it is already spent, it only takes 2 hits to kill it.  So a spent militia is effectively a 1 strength piece.

An optional rule that we like, is to turn spent pieces face down. This keeps their status hidden from the enemy.  So if you are playing with this rule, Pub Battles essentially does the same thing as Columbia’s rotating blocks.  They just do it in a different way.  Same result:  you are attacking a hidden block.  It could be a spent militia (str 1) or a fresh elite (str 4).  Your guess.


In addition to these unknowns, Pub Battles players must also face an uncertain turn sequence.  Rather than the standard I-Go-You-Go format, your pieces move by command in random order by chit pull.  This results in a very dense fog of consternation.  So you don’t know when the enemy will move.  You don’t even know when your troops will move.

If you think about the real world, this makes sense.  If you order I Corps to occupy the hill, they will but not immediately.  It takes time for the orders to get passed down the ranks, for troops to get ready and actually make the move.  How long?  What is the enemy doing during that time?  Rest assured they aren’t just sitting around.  What if the enemy has designs on that same hill?  Will they get their first?

Everybody is moving all the time in a real battle.  You can order an attack but it’s anybody’s guess as to how and when this actually goes down.  Much of the details are out of your hands as the Commander.  Will your troops move quick and catch the enemy by surprise?  Will the enemy be able to bring up artillery support just in the nick of time?  Maybe.  These are all unknowns.  Fog-of-War.

What can you do as the commander?  Do you have any control?  Yes.  You can try to alter the timing.  Is it imperative that your boys move first to take the hill?  Roll to jump ahead in sequence.  Do you always want to move first?  No.  Sometimes it’s best to get the enemy to move first.  Then you can analyze their defense and attack their weakness.

Does all this chaos make you feel uneasy?  It’s not very clean and orderly is it?  It’s just like real life.  Messy.  Like real command.

Do you want more Fog-of-War?  Add in the Pub Battles optional written orders and live players for the sub command positions.  With an Umpire and double blind play, you won’t even be certain where your forces are or if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.  Is it any wonder that Murphy’s Law, FUBAR and SNAFU came from the military?

Welcome to command.




Napoleon’s Clone?

lego napoleon

I’ve gotten this question a couple of times now. Was Pub Battles inspired by Napoleon’s Triumph?  Surprisingly, no.  Though I can see how people would think that. 


Where did Pub Battles come from then?   It actually started from us playing mini rules, except we hated the idea of painting and storing lots of minis!  What was it?  Napoloen’s Battles from Avalon Hill that came with starter counters to use until you replaced them with minis later?  That’s what put us on this path. 

We started making our own custom cardboard counters to play mini games on maps. Then we moved on to Kriegspiel.  We loved the realistic period looking maps of Kriegspiel. 

Pub Battles actually started with cardboard counters.  Then metal metal rectangle pieces.  They looked nice but were too small to see and too hard to pick up.  We started experimenting with different sizes of pieces and materials to find the most natural and easy size to grab and move around.  Once we had the piece, then it was just a matter of sizing the maps and movement to match!

I actually have a copy of Napoleon’s Triumph but we’ve never played it. We never seem to be able to carve that much time out of our schedules these days.  Interesting how they developed in completely different ways but ended up looking similar.  I think you will find the actual game play entirely different. 

It would be fun to see somebody do a comparison/contrast article/review on Pub Battles and Napoleon’s Triumph. Is anybody interested in doing this?  Let us know!

Teaching New Players



What do you find is the best way to teach the game to new  players?

My opinion is that it is best to let them play the British, as attacking is more straight forward and feels like “doing something.”

To defend is a little more subtle. It also lets you “let” the new guy finish better, maybe even victoriously. It is critical when introducing someone to the game to not completely pants them.




Every time I’ve asked a new player which side they want to be, they always pick Washington.  Is that good?

Well, I on the plus side it’s good to let them play the side they have an interest or affinity to.  Most Americans at least would want to be George Washington!  

Another plus is that it is a bit easier to watch and learn by being on the defense.  You can sit back, watch the attacks roll in.  Learn how it is done.  Then start reacting.  A couple of minor mistakes while you learn can usually be overcome later.

It is harder to be the attacker in a new game.  The burden is on you to kick things off and hit hard.  If you make a critical mistake in your opening offensive, the whole game can fall apart very quickly.  It is tough to strike boldly and decisively when you are new and uncertain of exactly how the game works yet.   

On the negative side, the poor Colonials are badly out maneuvered in this battle.  They are on the defense.  Most new players don’t enjoy getting beat up on the whole game.  Even an experience player can feel shocked and overwhelmed by the opening British attack.  Add a poor opening setup on top of that and a new player can immediately feel like winning the game is hopeless.

On top of that, the Colonials are badly out classed!  The British have many elites.  The Colonials have a Pennsylvania Militia.  Even if a new Colonial player sets up well and quickly moves in to good defensive lines in good terrain, they can still get blown out by British elites.  This can again result in hopelessness or a new player feeling like they suck at this game. 

So what is better?  Players like games they win.  They tend to not like games they lose.  (or get totally stomped in)  Given this, I’d strongly urge them to play the British.  At least if they lose the game, they can at least feel strong and like they are winning for awhile.  Their elite units might be able to cover for some of their amateur blunders.

I would even go a step further.  The tendency is to drag your feet if you are uncertain.  Make sure you emphasize to them before you start, the importance of striking hard and fast.  Time is against the British.  The game is only 5 turns.  You don’t have time to think of something, try it, pull back, think some more and then try something else.  They need to decide before the battle.  They need to move as fast and aggressively as possible.  Keep reminding them how many turns they have left to take a road.  Keep them focused on their goal.  Warn against delaying and foot dragging.  What did Patton say?  “A good plan executed now is better than the best plan executed tomorrow.” 

I would also definitely help and guide them through the first 2 turn orders.  These can be very critical.  In general, both players want to move last on turn 1.  They also want to move first on turn 2.  Make sure they understand why and help them make the right HQ rolls to achieve this. 

Usually I end up losing when I’m teaching the game to a new player.  I don’t throw the game on purpose.  I’m usually just distracted with my own game and strategy because I am focused on helping them avoid major blunders.  That is probably a good approach. 

One final tip:  don’t sit and read the rules to them before you start.  I hate that!  They mostly don’t listen.  They can’t remember everything.  It mostly just wastes time and makes their first impression of the game be:  ‘boring’.  Just jump in and start playing.  Explain as you go.  Just tell them it’s a practice learning game.  No pressure.  You can play a real game later.  They can even be Washington then!  🙂