The Pub Battles Rules

Many folks, quite reasonably, assume that long rulebooks with dozens of tables and charts, are more work than shorter, more concise rules. The truth is, it’s fun and easy to invent rules for all sorts of things. Almost any aspect of the chaos of battle can have a metric applied, and the effect modeled. All this chrome adds to the perceived value of the game, but does it make for a better game?

This is the sort of question that can’t be answered by a single yes, or no. It depends on the aim of the game, and the desires of the players. The issue comes down to whether or not the game feels real. The whole point of a simulation is to simulate. To that end, it seems obvious that greater detail equals greater realism.

Except for a few key observations. Every time you add a rule for something, it calls into question all details at that level. “If you’re going to cover this, then you should cover that.” Are supply points needed? If you have supply points, shouldn’t they be broken down into food, dry goods, and ammo? What is the rate of consumption? Should ammo be divided into powder and ball? Every designer asks these questions and adds to taste. Detailed supply rules are interesting, but never fun. They feel more like what should be somebody else’s job while you plan strategy!

Most rules details are called “chrome.” Designers add them on after the game is designed, to make it look sexy, and sell. “This game has X, and it tracks Y, so you know a lot of research has gone into designing it, and making it realistic!”

Pub Battles began with the idea that the Prussian Kriegspiel system had it right, and modeled off of that. They discovered that you don’t need to know any rules to play, only to referee. The player just writes orders, the referees must decide what happens. The whole point of Kriegspiel was to train officers to command armies.

The Pub Battles rules simulate exactly that. The chit draw determines the success of your orders (movement phase), and the simple combat results tell you what happened (combat phase).

Looking at the end result, it seems as if not much effort was put into the rules, but that is categorically not true. Quite the opposite! They started with a ton of rules, with more being added constantly, as they removed others. The goal became one of determining how many rules were necessary. Over time, it became surprising how much could be cut away, while still leaving a working game.

From that, it was discovered that the game became more authentic feeling, more enjoyable, and quicker playing. Once all the unnecessary rules were stripped away, players could focus on the essential issues of commanding an army.

Imagine that by yourself, or with a friend, you want to reenact a battle. You have a historical map and some wooden blocks. You both know the battle well, so you set it up and begin moving units, when combat occurs, you add a little narrative and describe the outcome. This is pretty cool, but eventually you want to try your hand at simulating different strategies, with different out comes.

So you draw chits to move, simulating the ebb and flow of initiative, My blog about the chit draw. and create a simple combat system to resolve combat, just rolling some six siders. Boom. Simple. You’ve got Pub Battles.

It’s lean manufacturing principles applied to wargame rules.

Published by

Mr. Q

I semi-retired at 47. I suffered a sever brain injury at 25. I have written 3 books about living with brain injury and have had a regular column in the Brain Injury Alliance of MN's quarterly mag since 1999. I received my BA in English with honors in 2014. One of my avocations is developing simulation games. Weather permitting, I enjoy a round of Disc Golf whenever possible.

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