General Orders for Attacking Germantown, 3 October 1777

I came across this the other day. After playing Pub Battles Germantown, it is very interesting to read. You can find the full article here.

The troops to be ready to march this evening at six O’Clock.

The divisions of Sullivan & Wayne to form the right wing and attack the enemy’s left; they are to march down Monatany road—The divisions of Green & Stephen to form the left wing and attack the enemy’s right; they are to march down the Skippack road. General Conway to march in front of the troops that compose the right wing and file of to attack the enemy’s left flank. General McDougall to march in front of the troops that compose the left wing and file off to attack the enemy’s right flank.

General Nash & General Maxwell’s brigade[s] form the corps de reserve and to be commanded by Major General Lord Stirling. The Corps De reserve to pass down the Skippack road.

General Armstrong to pass down the ridge road [&] pass by Leverings tavern & take guides to cross the Wessahiecon creek up the head of John Vandeering’s mill-dam so as to fall above Joseph Warners new house.

Smallwood and Forman to pass down the road by a mill formerly Danl Morris’ and Jacob Edges mill into the White marsh road at the Sandy run: thence to white marsh Church, where take the left-hand road, which leads to Jenkin’s tavern on the old york road, below Armitages, beyond the seven mile stone half a mile from which [a road] turns off short to the right hand, fenced on both sides, which leads through the enemy’s incampment to German town market house.

General McDougall to attack the right of the enemy in flank. General Smallwood & forman to attack the right wing in flank & rear. General Conway to attack the enemy’s left flank & General Armstrong to attack their left wing in flank & rear.

The militia who are to act on the flanks not to have cannon.

Packs & blankets to be left, the men are to carry their provisions in their Haversacks, or any other manner least inconvenient.

All the pioneers of each division who are fit to march are to move in front of their respective divisions, with all the axes they can muster.

Pickets on the left of Vanderin’s mill to be taken off by Armstrong: one at Allen’s house on Mount-Airey by Sullivan—One at Lucans Mill by Greene.

Each Column to make their disposition so as to attack the pickets in their respective routs, precisely at five OClock, with charged bayonets and without firing, and the columns to move on to the attack as soon as possible.

The Columns to endeavour to get within two miles of the enemy’s pickets on their respective routs by two OClock and there halt ’till four and make the disposition for attacking the pickets at the time above mentioned.

The Columns of Cont: troops & militia to communicate with each other from time to time by light horse.

Proper flanking parties to be kept out from each Column.

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!

2mm Miniature Gettysburg

This is my first miniature army! I know!! Time for show and tell. I’m using these directly on the map, in place of the standard Pub Battles blocks.

Buford’s Cavalry screens along McPherson’s Ridge. Heth’s Division comes down the pike and deploys along Herr’s Ridge. That is Hill’s HQ and the baggage train behind them.
Here comes Reynolds marching up the Emmitsburg Road. That’s Wadsworth in front, followed by Robinson and the baggage train.
This is how they compare to the regular Pub Battles blocks. Each unit is made up of 4 little, metal stands.
These are the next reinforcements coming in.
Titus ponders the implications of Rowley’s division entering on Heth’s right… Nah, he’s probably thinking about swiping them off the table.
This is Reynold’s Corps in blocks.
Buford in block equivalent. I’m surprised that Titus hasn’t taken out Rowley yet.
How do you know who is who? Each unit is made up of 4 stands. I use the Right most stand for ID. I painted the bottoms of the stands in white. Then I wrote the ID with a fine tipped Sharpie. So the left unit here would be the 3rd Division from III Corps. (In this case, it’s Heth’s left because the Reb Divs. are so big.) Hill is marked there with a III.
So they all look the same when they are standing up. This is good for FoW but is a bit more fussy. How do you track Spent status? I suppose you could flip them over but that doesn’t look good. Mark them with some kind of token / chit? If you track them on a separate OB sheet, you could also count additional step losses. -Kind of like in Kriegsspiel. I’m not sure if all that is worth the trouble.
Heth attacks and drives back Buford. Reynolds marches up to the Seminary.
Wadsworth, supported by Robinson attacks Heth on McPherson’s Ridge. Rowley marches in on his left. That’s Pender and the artillery coming around behind Heth.
Here comes Howard up the Emmitsburg Road. The baggage train moves off the road onto Cemetery Hill for now.
This is a view of the same situation from Titus’ angle.
What’s cool about these minis, is that they are scaled to Kriegsspiel! Each of those little stands equates to a standard KS block.
This is what the Cav and baggage train would look like in KS blocks.
This came out a little blurry but you can see how they all compare: minis, Kriegsspiel blocks, Pub Battles blocks.

You can get these minis at Irregular Miniatures. They are a great company. They have lots of great minis. They also make standard KS blocks in metal! Check them out.

Pub Battles -Not So Simple

When I first tried Pub Battles, I played it like any other wargame with ZoC’s and units frozen in place once contacted by the enemy.

Using Alter Rolls to move first became the order of the day. (Successful Alter Rolls allow a player to jump ahead or delay when they move.) When Andrew and I were playing Brandywine, we would frequently roll for every command. We thought moving first was so critical. 

It became a dice-off every turn. We both kind of concluded the system didn’t really work. I went back and reread the rules several times trying to make them fit with my preconceived notions. We were playing it all wrong. After exchanging a few e-mails with the company, I finally “got it.”

That was when I became obsessed with this system. The subtlety of choosing whether to move first or last; and understanding the ramifications is incredibly complex. Which is better? It depends on the situation and what you are trying to do. I was hooked.

I didn’t get the point of adding Baggage Trains at first. Now I love them. It pulls together strategic concerns, C&C, logistics and victory, all in one simple little rule. It’s brilliant.

As simple as the rule seems, it is bewildering to new players. This feels in line with the Pub Battles system. Simple rules, very complex decisions.

It has become my favorite game.

-by Mike Strand

Increasing the Fog of War

Pub Battles does a great job at Fog of War.  Here are a few variant or house rules we’ve been experimenting with to make this even thicker!

Hidden Status

Why rotate the block face up when spent?  It shows the enemy what you have and their status!  Shouldn’t this be kept secret? 

Instead of rotating Spent blocks up, we flip them upside down.  We also keep them facing their player when they retreat.  This keeps them hidden, as they should be. 

-Instead of centering the stickers, I put these on lined up with the bottom edge.  Just for kicks.  ??  I kind of like it better.  They look more like the Kriegsspiel blocks this way.  It also gives you a better visual cue for which way the block is facing.  They are also easier to put on the block without getting crooked.  You can just line them up flush with the bottom.  I think I’m going to keep stickering my new games this way!

Hidden Blocks

While we’re on the subject, why not keep the whole block secret too?  Why tell the enemy which unit it is?  What its quality is?  Is it just a Detachment or an Elite? 

Let them keep guessing as you fight round to round.   They should at least know the type:  infantry, artillery or cavalry. 

Hidden Dice

Why should the enemy know how many hits you just took in that last shot?  This should be unknown really, right?  We’ve been experimenting with pulling chits from a bag or pool rather than rolling dice.  The player taking the hits should pull and then implement the results in secret.  You can easily make your own chits or maybe even a small deck of cards.

Hidden HQ

The board looks cool with the flags all showing face up. 

The problem with this, is that when you flip your HQ when it Alters, it reveals who that general is! 

Why should the enemy know that?  Better to keep this secret, right?  Instead, place your Fresh HQs with the gold, leader’s name side down, the flag facing towards you. 

Rotate it Flag up when you Alter.  There.  Now you can still keep track of who has already Altered, but the enemy is still left in the dark.  As it should be. 

Yes, some of this will help with Solitaire play too. If none of the blocks are face up, when you spin the board around, all you see is a field of hidden blocks. That makes it easier to forget exactly what they had where and their status.

Alexander’s Tactic:  The False Gap

Does it work?

Alexander the Great

A trick used by Alexander was to leave a false gap in the center of his line.  What would this look like in Pub Battles?  Is it possible to duplicate?  Let’s see. It would look something like this:

Both sides are equal here. The white blocks represent Alexander. He looks week and vulnerable, doesn’t he? We don’t like big gaps in the line. That’s usually bad news. If you are the Red enemy, it makes you want to attack, right? Ok. What would that look like?

If Red advances in a similar fashion, that leaves a big gap in their line. That’s no good. The whole point is to advance and take advantage of Alexander’s ‘mistake’ here, right? A Red attack would likely look something like this:

Notice how this thins the Red enemy’s line in the center.

Alright, now knowing the enemy will likely respond like this, as Alexander, we would probably put strong elite units there on the gaps. We know they are going to be flanked. Those White blocks sitting in reserve, those are elite units too; half of them cavalry. What is Alexander’s response? Here is his next move:

Yep. Who’s got a gap in their center now? How is a combat like this likely to resolve? In theory, it should end up in something like this:

Ooooo….. Feeling all warm and fuzzy inside now as the Red commander? It got bad real quick didn’t it? Where is this going? If Alexander moves next, it devolves into this:

Yep, and it just goes downhill from here. Nasty trick huh?

Now, I’m illustrating this here in perfect conditions. Pub Battles is chaotic, like real war. You likely won’t get to execute this in ideal, textbook format but this is what it looks like. So you have a good visual on what you are trying to achieve.

How would you set this up? How do you pull it off? It’s going to come down to timing. There is a lot that could go wrong on the battlefield. As Alexander, it would be best if you moved last on the turn the enemy strikes. Then move first on the next turn to follow that up.

You know, looking at this, I can’t help but think of the Nazi’s concept of schwerpunkt for an armored spearhead.

Heinz Guderian

The geometry here is fascinating. How does this go from looking so good, to a total disaster, so quickly?

Amazing. Alexander truly was Great.