Capture Those Colors

Pub Battles works great for scrappy little battles like Brandywine and Little Bighorn.  Is that what this system was built for?  Is it capable of modeling bigger engagements like Gettysburg or Austerlitz? 

This is a great analyses by Mike Strand.    -And by the way, we have pieces for Gettysburg and started on the graphics for the map this week!  I would expect to see this out sometime next year. 

The way many folks talk about Gettysburg, you’d think it was a fait acompli that the union would win, yet there are those who also maintain the 1st Minnesota “saved the union.” This dichotomy creates a real problem for game designers. How do you make the game realistic in the sense of what could the participants have realistically expected from various actions, and then factor in such unpredictable variables as the case of 264 man battalion charging a fresh 1400+man brigade and stopping them cold. 


One way is by just ignoring such anomalies and saying “well this game doesn’t count actions by smaller units.” Another design technique would be to include a deck of cards, one card would be the 1st Minnesota card that allowed a combat re-roll. Unfortunately, having the card be a known quantity that a player can lay down at any time is too powerful.


Now look how this plays out in a Pub Battles game. The Union has a bunch of spent units that have just retreated off Seminary Ridge and some fresh units behind those. The confederates facing them are all in good order. Whoever moves first will decide whether or not the Confederate player rolls up the Union line or not. The confederate command chit is drawn first, the union player rolls for his divisional commander to alter turn order…Fail! Next he rolls for his corps commander, success! The union spent units rally to fresh and the confederate attack is repulsed when Picket’s division is chewed up by a couple of the union units rolling 3 hits.


What happened historically? The corps commander, General Hancock, was trying to move up his fresh brigades to fill the hole in the union line, but Wilcox’s Virginians were already closing in, a 1400 strong fresh brigade. He had to delay them just a few minutes. Looking around, he spotted the only unit available, a Battalion of a couple hundred Minnesotans. He rode up to their Lieutenant and pointed to the Virginian’s colors. He said simply, “I want you to capture those colors.” The lieutenant said, “Yessir!”  The little Battalion surged forward and captured the colors before being repulsed with 83% casualties. The delay was time enough for Hancock to move his troops into position. The line and the Union was saved.


Pub Battles does not try to recreate the heroics of the 1st Minnesota directly, instead it creates the same results with a player’s decision to involve the corps commander directly, and with a die roll showing how successful he is.


Simple. Elegant. Brilliant. 


-Mike Strand


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