Using Period Maps in Wargames

I am designing the Pub Battles Borodino game.  Having researched and prepared the preliminary order of battle, and then prepared all of the blocks I needed to begin working on the deployment of the Russian army, I made an interesting discovery. 

As you may be aware, Pub Battles uses actual period maps of the battlefieldsas the game map.  In the case of Borodino, we are using a French map which,I believe,is from the Atlas prepared to accompany  the History du Consulat et de L’Empirepar,Volume 14 of which covers the battle of Borodino (published in Paris in 1856) by M. Adolphe Thiers.

As I was examiningthe source material and deploying the units on the period map, I was somewhat amazed (though in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been) by what the “game” was telling me.  The period map shows that the area is fairly heavily wooded and is quite hilly and covered with dry streambeds (and consequently, stream banks).  In some of the  ‘hex and counter’ wargames covering the Battle of Borodino, the maps are fairly devoid of terrain, with many clear terrain hexes, and much of the wooded areas depicted on Adolphe Thiers’ period map missing.

While I was placing units on the map, it became apparent that in 1812, Kutuzov was using the terrain to his best advantage.  Of course, his main line of defense is behind the Kalocza (also referred to as the Kalochka and other variants of the Russian spelling), which is a tributary of the Moskva River.  However, there is an area in the center of the Russian line, where Kutuzov deployed a couple of Army Corps in a line perpendicular to the main line.  Why there?  Well, the period map answers the question; behind the small stream running south is an embankment, and the troops placed there are on the high ground just behind and overlooking the stream.  When you look at the blank period map, you can’t help but notice the plateau (the village of Semenoffskoie is in the center of that “line” running north/south).  So, Kutuzov deployed Russian units there in a sort of natural reverse “fishhook” for those familiar with the battle of Gettysburg.  This position would allow the Russian troops deployed there to fire on the approaching French while they crossed the stream and climbed the embankments.  Later, when Kutuzov realized that Napoleon was approaching his left flank and was not planning on an assault over the Kalocza, Kutuzov then extended his line to the left and had the Shevardino redoubt built and added to the Russian position on the extreme left;  however, he left the two corps guarding the stream on the high ground in place

Then, as I was working out the deployment of the Guard corps, I saw “The Old Fox” Kutuzov, using his cunning to deploy the guard in a wooded ravine, where they would be virtually undetectable by the French until they were moved out of reserve.

Kutuzov also deployed Karpov’s Cossacks where they would be hidden in the wooded terrain near Outitsa (also known as Utitsa).  From what I have been able to learn, Tuchkov’s III corps was also deployed hidden ina wooded area not too far from Utitsa and the ‘Old Moscow Road.’(Determining the deployment of the III Corps on September 5th is a tricky undertaking).  Kutuzov wrote to the Tsar about the trap he had laid with III Corps, which was hidden on the left flank, and which was to be sprung when and if Napoleon tried to outflank him on the left.  Unfortunately for Kutuzov, another Russian commander, unaware of the ruse, repositioned III Corps closer to Outitsa and on open ground, without Kutuzov’s knowledge.

All of these things become readily apparent if you take the time to study the period map and look at how the Russian Army deployed for battle.  Having been a wargamer for over 50 years now, I can tell you that often such things are not so apparent when looking at many other wargames.   It seems that often, when maps are abstracted and “translated” onto a hex grid, much is lost in the translation from the source map to the game map.  Because Pub Battles gives you the period map as the game map, no such abstraction takes place; you have the original source right there in front of you.

By: Charles F. Bryant, II

A New History of Waterloo

I’m about half way through Alessandro Barbero’s book “The Battle: A New History of Waterloo.” It is a very readable book that is hard to put down. I can’t wait to play Waterloo again, the Pub Battles coverage is very accurate, and it will be fun playing it again with Napoleon’s plan. His plan was, as always, let’s attack and be prepared to strike wherever opportunity presents itself. He had no idea of Wellington’s defenses because they were all on reverse slopes. He did have the Grand Battery deploy in the center and shelled there, expecting a breakthrough, which d’Erlon’s Corps could exploit. Although Reille had the bigger Corps at the start of the campaign, after Ligny it was smaller than d’Erlon’s fresh I corps. If one was going to be a purist, a block would be switched from II Corps to I Corps, but that’s a small matter.

The cool thing about Pub Battles is that you can read the history of a battle and try out the General’s plans and such. With most detailed combat focused games you get too buried in the minutia to really try out the big picture plans. Plus, with most games it takes many hours of play to get through a battle. Typically, a quicker playing game sacrifices authenticity; Pub Battles focuses on real command concerns, and delivers the goods.

-Mike Strand

Pub Battles Orders Beta

We’ve been getting very good results with these rules!

We plan on including them in the new 4.0 Pub Battle rules we are working on. Here is a copy of them for you to download and test out; along with correctly scaled Order Sheets!

Best Ukraine War Board Game?

“This is by far the most relevant and realistic board game in existence in my humble opinion.” -Spencer A.

Serious wargamers often overlook Supremacy. It’s just a beer & pretzels game, right? RISK with Nukes.

It works well at that but under the hood is a very sophisticated political, economic and military model of simulation! There is a lot more going on in this game than meets the eye.

What causes conflict and tension on the international stage? How do nations manage or mismanage it? How to wars start? How do you contain them and resolve them? These are some of the key questions that Supremacy raises.

Some games claim to model the war in Ukraine but they are missing one key element: No Nukes. If a nuclear exchange is not possible in the game, then it’s not a good model. That would be like playing Poker with no money. It misses the point.

Here is some other recent feedback we’ve gotten:

Minors and Fortuna are a lot of fun. We just played for the first time yesterday. The minors have a mind of their own. A bit like having a NPC/CPU conducting independent actions. As Russia, I’ve had to work with my adversaries (US) in order to eradicate a pandemic in Angola with an ‘expeditionary force’ and take turns across the globe!

-Spencer A.

The Best Parts of Board Gaming

When it comes to being a pirate, less is more.  Don’t ask me why. 

This game has been long in the making.  We started on it 2 years before Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Men Tell No Tales, came out.  It was supposed to be ready for release with that movie!  Ha, ha ha. 

We made about 10 different pirate games that all really sucked.  We wanted a game on this subject but we won’t publish it if we don’t like it.  There are already too many crappy games that just get cranked out there because they know people will buy them.  We want to do games we are really proud of.  Games that WE like playing. We almost gave up.   After many attempts, we finally stumbled onto the right combination of secret ingredients. 

Mike asked about the lack of detail in the game.  Is it too generic?  Usually you see rules for loading different types of shot.  Different qualities of guns and crew.  Some of them have special abilities and such.  The ships could have more detail too.  What about a ship’s log where you can track the status of various kinds of damage and the little differences between each ship?

Yeah, we started with all that stuff.  Just like all the other games have.  We experimented with 10 different ways of doing all that.  In the end, we cut it all out.  Why?  Because it ruined the game.  I know! 

Don’t ask me to explain it.  I’m not sure I completely understand it myself.  I always say that the best test of a game or any particular rule is to just throw it on the table and play it.  Often rules sound great.  I get some brilliant new idea.  The theory behind it sounds fantastic.  True, true, true…   but it just doesn’t work.  I don’t know why.

All those chrome rules sound fun.  On the table, they were just boring.  What did they add to the game?  Lots more time required to play it.  Lots of work for the players to do.  Lots of pages added to the rulebook, that you have to read, learn, teach and remember.  Work, work, work. Not fun. What we discovered was that the more of that we cut, the better the game got! 

Who cares what kind of shot that was?  What’s our damage?  Can we fix it?  How long before it’s operational again?  How bad did we hit the enemy?  What are they going to pull next?  How about we just drift here for a turn and make it look like we are in serious trouble.  When they circle back around, we’ll take off and blast em!!!  Yes!

That’s the fun part.  Who cares about all the details?  That’s what we have crew for, right?  Let them sort it all that out. For crying out loud, we’re the Captain!  OUR job is to outsmart that other wily seadog. Oh, they’re going down.

Of all the pirate games we made, this was the best.  It is actually fun.  It’s intense.  It feels real.  It puts you in the Captain’s chair.  A fantastic story narrative.  To me, those are the best parts of board gaming.

It’s more than good enough for us to publish.  It is truly epic. 


We’ve had a lot of interest in this. Thanks for letting us know! It helps us to know better what to focus on. This project is shifting up into high priority.

What has the hold up been? Well first, we’re not happy with what we have. :/ There is a lot of demand for a title like this. We want to see it too. All too often, I think companies rush out a game because they know it will sell based on the subject. The game is total trash but who cares? They made their money, now on to the next one.

We hate that. We feel very strongly about not releasing a game until ‘we like it’. Games are never really done. They are also never perfect. It has to be a good game though. We have to feel that we’ve got something really good that we would want in our game collection. More importantly, that we like playing!

We’ve been really struggling with this design. We have 3-4 different versions of it that we aren’t happy with. It seems like one of the hardest things about game design is FIRST deciding what exactly you are making. What scale? What complexity? What type of game? What will it cover or not? We keep going round and round about many of these questions.

It occurred to me last week, that I’ve never seen a Bulge game out there that I like. Why not? Well, they all just seem like races to me. What is the Victory system? That can be a critical part to many games. Most Bulge games just boil down to: can you go faster than your sides historical result?

Oh! I got a few extra cities than the Germans did in the real battle. I win!


Oh! I pushed the Germans back 2 turns earlier than they did historically. I win!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That just sounds incredibly boring to me. Why are we even fighting here? Because those are your orders. True but that’s not very engaging.

Pondering this conundrum, we finally found a way to make this interesting: Variable forces with a reverse CRT Victory system. Just like we did in Little Bighorn. The solution has been staring us in the face the whole time. I don’t know why we didn’t see this earlier.

We’ll need to step this up to account for time, support strikes, munitions and oil spent by both sides in their efforts. This is what we need to really make this a fun and interesting game. Sure, if you’re a purist, you can play with the fixed historical forces. Fine but opening up the strategic options will make this infinitely fascinating and replayable.

Now that we know what we are making and why, it should be a fairly short process to pull all this together. No promises but we are hoping to have this ready by the end of this year. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

Pirates? When?

We’ve had lots of interest in the new Pirate game. Reviewers are looking at it now. The Kickstarter is just about ready. We have to update and rearrange our financial accounts for Kickstarter. Once that is done, we are ready to launch!

Hopefully in a week or two. By the end of the month at worst!