Playing Pub Battles Kriegspiel style.

The first time I played Double blind Pub Battles with a ref, I instantly felt how cool playing Kriegspiel can be. Just that uncertainty, moderated by an umpire, made me feel that THIIS was what no other wargame ever delivered. All the game’s mechanics are invisible to the players. There I was, sitting looking at the map with next to no knowledge as to what my troops were encountering, or where the enemy was.

Like Kriegspiel, the players should never come into contact with any game mechanic. Those are all the province of the ref. All the player does is get sit-reps from the judge (this is what you know, from your command tent), from which they issue orders. All the army commander sees on his map is his Corps HQs, and some limited intel on enemy positions and activities. He can send reinforcements to the Corps, either as a whole Corps, or a single bock (writes orders telling one HQ to send X blocks to another HQ). You would see the refs using Command ratings all the time, not for ATO attempts, but just to see if the orders are understood, or if the HQ does the right or wrong thing. Any time he is trying to decide whether an HQ could/would react to something, he could just roll a die and let fate decide. Maybe there is an exposed flank that requires a block to turn and maneuver a little to reach, do they do that? It isn’t strictly within their orders, would the commander see the opportunity? Roll a die. I think it would be great fun. The players just have paper maps to draw on. The actual map is in front of the ref, who is essentially playing the game solo with written orders. Not trying to “win” the game, just enjoying watching the battle unfold.

One caveat, at least initially, is to keep it simple. Two opposing players and a ref. Their actual locations could be in the same Pub, or the other side of the world. The ref could be playing it out, in a pub, or even better, at his FLGS with a dedicated cadre of interested kibitzers. I think this would be a fascinating game to watch. Being Pub Battles, it would move fast.

My personal opinion is that outside of a military training school where you have an almost unlimited number of participants, trying to incorporate individual Corps commanders is too ambitious. They do each need actual maps and units. You also want to have runners delivering orders. Plus, how do you keep players in a quiet sector engaged while other players in an active area of the battlefield are having a blast? The Jackson commander at Antietam is facing a full Union attack on the extreme Confederate left, while Longstreet guards the lower bridge, as per his orders. 

The ref would be rolling to ATO, trying to carry out the orders given. It would be a very interesting way to play “solo.” Essentially, three people playing solo, together!

Imagine Antietam, for starters. Lee would set up first on the main map, and mark his own map. Then McClellan would do the same. Neither would see the main map until after the battle. You could take pictures at the end of each turn, to show to them after the battle. That would be really fun for them to see. During the game you could have them sit at opposite sides of a table with a screen between them. That way you could walk over and hand them each the Sit rep for their commander, give them however long to write their orders, and then go back to play out the turn on the map and write new sit reps.