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.

The Importance of  Weather Gage:  Pirate Scenario

This is a fun little exercise to teach and learn the importance of weather gage.  You are windward if you are closer to the wind than your opponent.  In square rigged ships, this gives a tactical advantage called:  Weather Gage. 

If you have weather gage, you can decide IF there will be an engagement at all.  If you don’t want a fight, you can turn about and reach up into the wind.  A leeward ship, (downwind from you) will never be able to catch you.  Assuming they go the same speed:  you are both square rigged ships with no damage.

Both players start with Sloops.  The Merchant has 1 crew and 5 cargo.  The Pirate has 3 crew and 3 guns.  Arrange the ships thus, with the wind to the Merchant’s back:

Merchant in Red

Pirate in Black

As the Pirate, see if you can force a fight and capture / sink the Merchant. 

As the Merchant, see if you can escape and slip past the Pirate.  If you can’t, call off the engagement and just escape safely off your own map edge. 

With practice, a skilled Merchant will ALWAYS win.  The Pirate should never be able to catch them. 

Play this several times on each side.  Got it down?  Good.  Now give the Pirates a Brig.  Can the Merchant still win?  The Brig is faster but the Merchant still has Weather Gage. 

Alright, now give the Pirates a Schooner.  Schooners are actually faster beating up into the wind, while you are slower!!  Who wins most of the time now? 

The Baltimore Privateers (schooner)  were smaller but they were a favorite of Pirates.  Do you see why?

What do we learn from all this?  Here are some general guidelines to follow:

With Weather Gage, against other square rigged ships:

-Use it!  Fight on YOUR terms. 

-If things go wrong, you can break off the fight and escape by beating into the wind.

 With Weather Gage, against Schooners:

-You are in a very dangerous situation.  You can’t escape by beating into the wind!  They’ll catch you. 

-IF you can’t fight them, your only chance is to juke past them with a brilliant move and then make a run for it!  Remember, Schooners go slower while running.  You go faster.  With a little luck and a very tricky maneuver, you might be able to escape downwind.  It won’t be easy.

What if you’re both sailing Schooners?  Well, then you’re on equal terms, right?  Since you’re both going the same speed, standard Weather Gage advantage applies.  You can escape windward.  You can fight when and where you want. 

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.

How to Ask Questions Like Captain Kirk

I’ve always been a big fan of Captain Kirk.  One of the things that amazes me most is his brilliant questions.  He always seems to ask just the right thing at just the right time.

Why does God need a starship?

The right question at the right time is incredibly powerful.  It is like a superpower!  Imagine what it could do for you in sales with your customer, in management with your employees, in parenting with your kids, or in a relationship with your spouse. 

Long ago, I set out to learn to ask questions like Kirk.  I read books.  I watched him in Star Trek.  I studied Socrates.  I tried to focus.  Think, think.  What would Kirk ask?!  What do I say?  A critical moment would come up and I would just freeze like a deer in headlights.  Nothing. 

After years of trying?  Nothing at all.  No change in my behavior or skill level.  I finally just gave up.  I guess I’m just not brilliant like Captain Kirk.  Ha, if I only had a team of great Hollywood script writers working for me!  Maybe this isn’t something you can do in real life.

Last year we made and released a Pirate board game.  Fun!  After playing it for several months I started noticing some changes in my behavior.  Subtle at first, but then a massive shift.  Kirk like questions were effortlessly flowing out of me in rapid succession.  In just about all areas of my life: 

Our tire is looking a little low on the car.  Why?  Is it really low?  What is the pressure?  Is it safe to drive on?  How far to the nearest tire shop?  Can we make it?  How old is this tire?  How much tread is left?  How worn are the other tires?  Should we replace them all or just 2?  Can the others wait until fall? 

Wow.  I was finally doing it!  Asking questions like Kirk, but how?  Why?  I wasn’t even trying to.  I gave up years ago.  I had mostly forgotten about it.

Then it occurred to me.  It was the Pirate game.  What?  Really?  Yes!  The Pirate game turned me into Captain Kirk.  This is a profound lesson on learning and training.  I now realize that I had it all wrong.  I was doing it backwards.  This was my thinking:

Here I was at the bottom.  My goal?  To be like Kirk.  At least be more like him when it comes to asking questions.  Ok so how do I get there?  Well, I have to focus on and figure out how to ask questions better right?  Makes sense. 

WRONG!!!!   That doesn’t work.  I tried in vain for years with zero results.  That’s backwards.  To achieve this breakthrough, you have to do the opposite.  Here’s what the process actually looks like:

The goal isn’t to be like Kirk.  Asking great questions is the goal.  Actually it’s more like the natural result:  where you end up.  Ok, so how do you get there?  You BE Kirk.  Captain a ship for about 10 years. 

Kirk doesn’t ask great and timely questions because he is naturally brilliant at asking questions.  He didn’t learn it by going to school, reading books or practicing questions.  His questioning skills are what resulted from his career.  Serving as a Captain makes you that way.  It rewires your brain to think like that.  Captain a ship for 10 years.  Lead it through 10 battles at sea and you’ll start to think and behave like a Captain too.  Just like Kirk. 

Gee, that’s great but I don’t have 10 years to spend captaining ships in battles at sea.  How could anybody ever do that?  By playing Pirates! 

Yep, as silly as that sounds, it’s true.  That is one of the amazing powers of playing games.  They can give you real life experience;  but not just any game.  It has to be a good game that is designed and set up to teach you the right lessons. 

Most games are really just puzzles.  What exactly are they teaching you?  How to get through the next level faster? Most of them teach you how to be a good little worker bee.  Pirates! the Devil & the Deep, teaches you to be a leader.  It puts you in the role of captaining a ship.  You are responsible for that ship and all aboard.  You have to assess damage and assign your crew accordingly.  You have to get inside the head of the enemy.  Where will they go next?  How can you out maneuver them?  Learning to play this game, teaches you to analyze and think in terms of questions.  It teaches you to anticipate and plan for the future. It rewires your brain to think like a captain.

A good game can teach us in the natural way. The way our brains are designed to learn best:  through experience.  They can do it much quicker too!  It won’t take 10 years.  You can fight 10 Pirate battles in about 5-8 hours, if you wanted. 

I wouldn’t recommend doing it all at once like that.  I fought 1 battle per week.  Each game took 30-60 minutes.  In between battles, I spent lots of time in self reflection.  Why did the game end up like that?  Where did I go wrong?  What did I do right?  What should I try in the next game to be better?

After about 10 games, you’ll start to change too.  You’ll start to think like a real Captain.  Why?  Because you’ll have experience as a captain. 

Just like Kirk. 

Waiting to Move

What to Do in a Board Game with Lots of Players

Some people don’t like big multiplayer board games.  There’s too much down time.  What do you do while all the other players are doing their turns?  You sit around being bored.

This is a HUGE mistake!  The trouble isn’t that the game is boring.  You just don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing.  They don’t tell you this in the rule book.  You’re just supposed to know. 

Here are 5 Tips: While you’re waiting to move.


We’re using Supremacy here as an example but these same principles apply to most big multiplayer board games. 

What to Do While You’re Waiting to Move?

No Phones

First of all, silence or turn off your cell phone.  Our standing House Rule for board game night is:  No Cell Phones!  This is a great rule to adopt.  If you just want to sit by yourself and check your posts, messages, etc. then go do that.  You’re here to play a game right?  Then play! 

We think we ‘multi-task’ but we really don’t.  Scientific studies show that we can really only focus on 1 thing at a time. 

Besides being rude, it also hurts your play!  There are a ton of things you’re supposed to be doing.  In a FPS video game, this is obvious.  How well would you do in Call of Duty if you spent 30% of the time on your cell phone?  Just because it’s not your turn, doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do.  The game is afoot!

If you don’t have a House Rule for no cell phones, watch for players on their phone.  Target them.  They will be easy prey.  They will always be surprised and unprepared. 


How do you defeat your enemies?  You attack their weakness.  Avoid their strength.  Great but how do you know what that is?  You watch!  This is your Intell operation.  While they are moving, you should be watching them like a hawk.  Every move.  What does that mean?  How can you best exploit that?  In most games, there are pros and cons to every action.  This is especially true in Supremacy.  Here are a few specific examples:

1 Let’s say Japan moves first.  The Market prices are high.  They sell off all their resources.  Ok, what does that mean?  It means they just made a TON of cash.  You’re not going to be bankrupting them anytime soon. (their strength)  Economic pressure won’t have any immediate effect, but without resources, they won’t be able to build! THAT’S their weakness.  They won’t be able to move and fire in a conventional fight.  Now is your time to strike!!  Invade.  Seize their key factories.  It will be several turns before they can respond.  By then, it may be too late.  Start planning your attacks now, while waiting to make your trades.  How many resources will you need to launch these attacks?  Will your production be short?  How many extra will you need to buy?  NOW is your time to think and plan all of this!

2 China builds.  Fine but what do they build?  A bunch of Navies!  That is unusual for a land power.  What does that mean?  It means that they must have worked out some sort of diplomatic agreement with Russia and the Commonwealth.  China trusts them.  It means that they are about to project their power out across the sea, but to where?  Watch their eyes.  When they look at the map, what part of the map do that look at the most?  All these clues telegraph their next intentions. Prepare now. Note also that if they built lots of Navies, that means they will be weaker as a ground force on land. That is a vulnerability. How can you take advantage of that?


If you get a chance, try to spend some time thinking about and planning your next move.  This will speed up the game.  It also minimizes the intell other players can pick up on YOU!  While you’re moving, you won’t need to be looking at the area of the map you are going to be invading next.  You already did that while they were distracted making their move.  You won’t have to think. 

What resources are you going to buy?  Which ones to sell?  How many?  If you work out what you will do ahead of time, you will execute it quick.  In a flash your turn will be over.  Out of sight, out of mind.  The less time they will all have to carefully watch you during YOUR turn. 

Strategy management planning process flow chart showing key business terms analyze, develop, plan, execute and monitor


As with planning, you can also conduct diplomatic efforts while other players are moving.  This can help to speed up the game.  It gives you something to do while you ‘wait’ for your turn.  It can also be a huge advantage. 

Coalition and Alliance building is key in Supremacy.  This is also true with most multiplayer games.  While certain players are distracted moving, now is a great time to launch sneaky diplomatic efforts.  Build new allies!  Point out to neutral players the ‘aggressive’ actions of the player that is moving.  While distracted, they likely won’t hear or be able to defend themselves.   

This is also a good time to chip away at their alliances.  Sew doubt in the minds of their partners.  “Are you sure you can trust them?  Do you see what they just did?  I hope they don’t double cross you!  That looks exactly like something a player would do before they attack you!”, etc.


Can you influence and alter a player’s move?  You bet!  What are they doing?  Is that what YOU want them to do?  What exactly do you want them to do?  You know what your plan is now right?  Ok, so what would be the best thing for them to do for YOUR plan? What would make your job easier?  Yep, add this to your planning mission.  After you have your own plan, you need to have a good plan for all the other players too!  Friends and foes. 

You’re getting ready to launch an attack on the EU this turn, right?  Well that attack would go a lot easier for you if they were short on minerals and couldn’t supply a committed defense right?  Can you encourage them to sell more when they trade? 

“Oh no.  They are very stubborn.  They would never do anything I suggest.”  Good, then push them to do the opposite.  Suggest that they buy lots of extra resources!  “You never know when you might need them for a rainy day!  You better not sell so much.”

“Oh yeah?  What are you trying to do?  Make sure I miss out on lots of great windfall profits like everybody else?  I’ll show you!”

Yep, they sure did, didn’t they? 

See?  Now you have so much to do during other player’s turns, that you’ll be hoping they take even longer!  Soon you’ll wonder how you were ever bored while everybody else was moving. 

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.

Kriegsspiel Example 3

What do I do now?

I’ve been fighting at Brandywine with the Rebel army. I made a stand further forward. Stirling’s brigade defended forward on the Osborne’s hill to the left. I held the woods with Nash’s reserve brigade and the Pennsylvania militia. Both my brigades were thrown back in Total Defeat. Stirling fought a controlled withdrawal back to Birmingham Hill here on my left.

By the time the British advanced and formed up for a new attack, I was able to reorganize my troops and bolster their strength with a battalion of Sullivan’s Marylanders and some 6 pound artillery.

In the center, the British regulars have been watching and threatening to attack but they must have chickened out. They are just sitting there.

On the left, Stirling was attacked by the British Grenadiers and Guards several times. He was lucky and able to drive them back. The British were brave and fell back in good order but took horrendous casualties in devastating musket fire laid down by Stirling. Reminds me of the slaughter at Bunker Hill! Yes, those are the best troops the British have on our left but they’ve been defanged now.

The Hessians and Abercromby’s Light infantry attacked Sullivan’s battalion holding our right twice. We were very lucky and repulsed them both times.

Fine except that Abercromby’s Light shifted to our right. Our far right was screened by our dragoons but Abercromby struck them with the support of the Hessian Jaeger dragoons. That sent my dragoons reeling back.

Now the trouble is my exposed baggage trains: that dark line of blocks on the road. :/

Any way I can salvage this situation? I’ve been doing just fine till now but this looks really bad.

I could launch my dragoons forward in a suicide attack. Maybe they’ll give the baggage train the time they need to escape.

I could attack Abercromby’s Light with Sullivan’s battalion. (2 right blocks) That might distract them enough to save the dragoons but then my artillery will be exposed! Seeing that, the Hessians will attack and wipe them out. So, I’ll have to pack up the guns and send them to the rear.

Ok but then that still leaves my center line of Nash and the militia with an exposed right flank and no artillery support. Those patient British regulars will probably attack my center with artillery support while the Hessians hit my right flank. Just in time for me to get the terrible luck I am about due for. :/ Even with good luck, I probably won’t win that fight.

If I do all of that, I can most likely get out my baggage and artillery, while the rest of my army takes a beating and then routs from the field.

Is that worth it? What’s the alternative? Any other ideas out there? My main MSR runs down that road to the right by the dragoons. I can’t retreat to the left off map. The enemy is attacking from that direction also.

It looks so peaceful and secure right now but all hell’s about to break loose. I hate it when that happens.

Kriegsspiel Silence

You command this small colonial brigade at Brandywine. You hold the center of the field for your side. Your orders are to defend this ford and prevent the enemy from crossing it. An enemy Hessian brigade attempted to cross and launched an assault up the hill. You won! A Total Defeat for the enemy, with heavy losses.

You considered following up your victory to drive across the river and finish the Hessians off. The enemy baggage train is likely behind them, however a fresh British brigade moved up from reserve and bolstered the Hessian line. Given that, you called off the attack and have held your line.

Since then? Nothing. The enemy has not made another attempt to cross the river. As the hours wore on, you’ve heard sporadic fighting back and forth to your left and to your right (about the 4 o’clock position). There were 2 friendly brigades to your right and rear, but they marched off towards the sound of combat to your right. For you, just turn after turn of sitting here.

The sound of combat to your right is growing in intensity and is moving closer to you…

What should you do? Continue to follow orders and hold this position? The enemy isn’t attacking anyways. If the enemy breaks through to your right rear, you could be surrounded and cut off! Your commanding officer is probably in the middle of heavy fighting to your right. He probably doesn’t have time to write you. Did he forget about you? If he gets shattered and has to make a run for it, will he have time to inform you first? Has that already happened? The enemy could be maneuvering around to encircle you right now! How long do you sit here and wait?

If you wait too long, your troops will have been wasted in the battle. Maybe if you marched to the sound of the guns, you could arrive at a critical moment to turn the tide and help your side win the battle!

On the other hand, that march would be disobeying direct orders in the middle of a critical battle. What if your side is doing fine over there? What if the Hessians cross the ford while you march over there without orders? Losing that key position in the center of the line, in the middle of a battle could cause your side to lose this battle!

Will you be the hero that saved the day? The fool that disobeyed orders and lost the battle? The fool that sat there doing nothing while his side was defeated, and was then captured & taken prisoner? Spend the rest of the war in prison, if you aren’t hung as a traitor by the British.

You might think that getting stuck with this command in a game would be boring. What did you do during the game? Well, the enemy attacked us once. We drove them back. Then I just sat there for the whole game doing nothing.

In Kriegsspiel, just sitting there “doing nothing” can be agonizing. How long do you sit there? What is going on around you? Has it come time to move under your own initiative or should you stay the course? What justifies disobeying orders? Can you defend your actions in a courts martial?

How about now? How about now? The clock is ticking and the situation is changing from turn to turn. More time has past and been lost. More time with no orders or updates. More fighting heard. The fighting is growing in intensity and moving from 4 o’clock to 5 o’clock and approaching 6 o’clock now. Is that enough? How much do you need? How long do you wait? It’s not boring. It is excruciating!!!! Agonizing!!!!!

Terrific fun! The kind of fun you don’t see in wargames but it is the exactly the kinds of things you see in real life.

This is the Umpire’s map during the game that you couldn’t see.