Solo Pub Battles

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash

I like playing solo.

Like many wargamers, I play solo mostly. Not always, but mostly. I can certainly find opponents. My Favorite Local Game Store has a large dedicated area for playing games, and it is relatively easy to find a willing opponent. I also have many friends who enjoy Pub Battles.

I prefer playing solo. I don’t have to go anywhere, nor need I accommodate another player’s schedule, or entertain at my house. I can play for awhile, go do something else for a bit, deal with Real Life, whatever.

When my family gets together for a game night, they prefer other games, which I also enjoy.

Pub Battles has many qualities that make it not just suitable, but ideal, for solo. It is smooth playing, by which I mean that it isn’t covered in game chrome (charts, tables, nitpicky rules, etc.). You don’t have a lot of extraneous desiderata laying about the map.

There is a of Fog of War element to Pub Battles. Part of it is the chit draw, part of it is the hidden identities of the fresh units. When I play solo, I turn one set of blocks around so that they are all facing me, so I know what every block is. That’s okay. I don’t play competitively, which is a misnomer when playing two-fisted solo. I play to recreate the battle, and try different strategies. I play each side as if they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

When I play solo, I let the chit draw be the fog of war. I may know exactly where the enemies baggage Train is, and it might be wide open, ripe the picking. Unless the enemy gets the drop on me, and moves first. The chit draw decides. I can even roll to alter change order and jump ahead, it is out of my direct control.

I got a secret. When I play, especially if I’m making a video, I will go with the straight chit draw, even if it means that one side is going to lose. If it makes for a dramatic end, BOOM! I use it. No one enjoys playing, much less watching, a grindy game.

Playing Pub Battles as intended

My three ring binder with all my Pub Battles rules and scenario booklets.

One of the most common reactions for veteran wargamers upon reading the rules to Pub Battles is “These rules are incomplete!” This is because as veterans, they are accommodated to the wordsy rules of most wargames. They are used to rules that tell them exactly what they are, and are not, allowed to do. This is in contrast to novices, who find the rules easily understood, i.e. they don’t see what’s missing.

Pub Battles rules are written in a different style from most wargame rules. Wargame rules are written to encompass all possible interpretations, and misinterpretations. Very necessary when played uber competitively and in tournaments.

Pub Battles rules are “Gentlemen’s rules.” Not “Gentlemen’s” in the exclusionary, sexist meaning of the term, but in the polite society way of saying “Don’t be a dick!” Two players, with a fondness for history, should be able to recreate, not unlike reenactors, a historical battle. The rules provide a good general guide to enable two players to refight the battle. If a question arises that isn’t covered specifically in the rules, these same two players should be able to use history and common sense to come to an equitable solution.

Take the Line of Sight (LOS) rules. They basically say “Look at the two points on the map, are they within 1 infantry movement stick AND could they see each other? The only real question is how far into any terrain that counts as cover can you see? The thickness of one wood block. Boom simple.

What about occupying terrain? Whatever terrain the majority of the block is in, is the terrain it is occupying. State clearly what terrain you are in, if there is likely to be a question. Don’t be a dick!

If you are a veteran wargamer, used to hexes or area movement, You might be a little taken aback by a plain map. Think of it like this: Infantry in clear terrain can move one movement stick, if it moves into any terrain, it can only move 2/3; as if there were 1/3 size hexes, and instead of moving 3 hexes, it can only move 2. Boom simple. If occupying terrain requires at least half the block to be in it, then mapboard details smaller than half a block are ignored, other than for aesthetic purposes. Pub Battles maps are meant to be studied, and enjoyed. I like to think I traded studying rules for studying maps. What do you think actual military officers do?

Pub Battles is so authentic and realistic, it is used by the military to train officers. It is based on the Prussian kriegspiel model, but modified so that one, or two, players can enjoy it without a referee.

Pub Battles is so boom simple that any player worth his salt will have a million rules come to mind, I know I have! A rule for this and a rule for that, until I discovered I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I had made it too complicated. I had made it so “realistic” it was no longer any fun to play. Always remember, Pub Battles is a very detailed Corps level game, with the Corps broken down into component elements of 3,000-5,000 troops, it is not a regimental simulation! It can look like many regimental level military atlas maps, and most eye witness accounts are far more detailed than divisional level. When you’re playing a corps or divisional level hex and counter game, with each unit having 3-5 hit points, you aren’t going to worry about what kind of muskets the soldiers were carrying. You order this unit to attack that unit, and assume the local commanders are going to sort out all the details.

Do you have any questions about the system? As a lead playtester, I am happy to answer any and all questions. If I don’t know the answer, I have a priority line, I’ll find out for you. Command Post Games is a small company, and everyone is very busy wearing several hats. I will try to answer any questions posted within a day, usually much sooner.