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

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!

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!


Lots of great progress with our pirate game over this last year. This is really starting to come together!!

This has been a very tough design for us. We’ve been at it for years. We have 15-20 different pirate games now that really suck!!! lol…. If you need one, let us know. 🙂

We are committed to only releasing games that work. Games we really like. Sure we can make them look great but how do they play? Are they really good games? After many attempts and nearly giving up, I’m happy to report that we have a very promising and sound structure for an epic game now.

Our combat system needs a few tweaks. We need to refine and dial in our ship composition some. It works as is but we have several redundant systems in the design now. It needs some streamlining.

I’ve been taking sailing lessons this fall. How can I in good faith design a sailing game if I’ve never sailed before?!! After a couple of months of real sailing, I worked on our Pirate design last weekend. I was truly shocked at just how good of a model this was for sailing. It does a really amazing job of capturing the correct feel of maneuvering boats in the wind. We nailed it!!

My instructor was amazed at how quickly I picked sailing up. I hit the ground running. It was almost like I already knew how to sail. Yeah, that’s because I’ve been playing our Pirate game!

I love it when we can work this kind of ‘realism’ into a game. It is realistic but not tedious. It teaches you something you can actually use in the real world but it is also great fun!! Those are the very best kinds of games.

When do expect this little gem to be released? We are hoping for winter 2022. We already have most of the hard parts worked out. Just need a little time to refine and clean up. I can’t wait!!!

All New Supremacy 2021!

The all new edition of Supremacy is now available for Pre Order! Should be a short wait. We are hoping to begin shipping in about a month!

What’s New in this edition?

First off, all new minis!!!!

We love these things! We had planned to do these with our original Kickstarter but it was just too expensive then. Looking back, I’m glad we waited. These ended up much higher quality than we could have done back then anyways.

Let’s see, what’s next? Ah, new tracks along the bottom of the map! No more tedious change counting for constant transactions. It’s kind of cool for your first game to have a fist full of $100 billion and $1 trillion dollars bills but that gets old quick when you have to count change. This cuts a lot of work out of the game. More time to focus on the fun parts.

Now this 1 track along the bottom tracks everything in 1 convenient place. No more Strategic Reserve cards getting jostled around. This frees up a lot of table space. I really like how you can now see at a glance what everybody has. Everybody’s resources and missiles are now all on the same big track:

All new rules. Combat has been streamlined and simplified. Lots of little changes that bring this back to basics. There are several new optional rules that you can add in now. My favorite is the Alliance rule!

You’re my Ally? Ok, good because now it really counts. Guess what? You can’t suddenly backstab and attack an Ally. It is against the rules!!! You must formally withdraw from the Alliance first. That gives me a turn to get ready.

Next, we have real terrain. It adds a lot of realism with very little complexity. This gives the Defenders an advantage while defending in mountains, jungles, etc. As it should be.

What are all those blue lines? That is a monsoon weather zone. Bad weather can greatly hamper conventional operations in different zones depending on the time of year:

Playing with these rules gives you a lot more realism and accuracy for a ground war. This is very fun to play as just a conventional world war game without any of the nukes.

These new rules aren’t very complicated. They are also optional, so you can still play a clean and quick, classic game format for new players.

We expect high volume on this. We will ship them in the order we receive them. We’ll be buried here for awhile but will do our best to get them out in time for Christmas.

Yes, we are revamping all the expansions as well. First out will be new Minors. We are going to combine this with Fortuna. New Terrorists minis for Rising Crescent. Also a new Boomers & Bombers with minis to fill our the nuclear triad. Those are all in the works. I’d expect to see those coming out by spring. We have to work through this new release first. We’ll get there! =)

You can Pre Order here:

Austerlitz is ready!!

From the very beginning with Pub Battles, we set out to game the impossible.  If it’s gonna break, break it early.  We have specifically targeted ‘ungamable’ battles like:  Brandywine, Antietam and Little Bighorn.  These games just don’t work on the table.  No player would do what they did.  Most designers avoid these battles.  The ones that take them on simply handcuff the players to history.  “Make them do what they did!”  That works in a way but it’s not very satisfying. 

Austerlitz ranks pretty high on the ungamable list.  We’ve been working on it for a couple of years now.  This battle really pushes the envelope, even for Pub Battles.  It did reveal a few gaps in our system.  Much of what we learned from Austerlitz became the 3.0 rules. 

As I look now at the Austerlitz scenario rules, I’m shocked at how short they are.  Where are all the extra rules it takes to make Austerlitz work?  There aren’t any.  It mostly just works right out of the box, or tube if you will.  This is a great sign!

What’s next?  Chancellorsville and Leuthen.  With all the infrastructure now in place, these battles seem easy.  Onwards and upwards.

It’s time to saber the champagne!!

Pub Battles: Germantown

Now available to ship! This makes a very nice expansion to Brandywine. A full on battle using the same blocks. The map is much bigger. The maneuver options are much more open. The British are on defense here. The possibilities are endless.

Attack Upon the Chew House

The game with an open setup here at Germantown is endlessly fascinating. We’ll be doing a Blog and new video on how to do this.

Do I need the Update Kit?

Here is an easy way to tell. Look at your Brandywine blocks. Do you have a ‘Smallwood Militia’ included? If you have that piece, you do NOT need the Update. You are good to go!