I play tested this game the other day for the first time. There is a lot I like about the game, but I would also say I would prefer that pieces can't move or change formations after contact also. Two situations arose that make me say that.
1) The Colonists had a piece in road formation, and I could have hit it with an infantry piece thereby obtaining flanking fire. The problem arose in if I moved first, the piece could then simply change formation and decide if it wanted to fight or not, or I could have let him move first and get into line before I hit him. Why would I want to do that?
2) Later in the game, I had two pieces set up (using a clock reference) with a regular infantry piece facing 9 o'clock and an elite unit facing 11 o'clock to the right of the regular. During combat, the regular piece was disrupted and retreated due east, leaving the elite by itself. I then tried to use initiative twice to reform my lines, but failed to do so twice. A colonial piece then made contact on the elite units left flank. I then was able to simply rotate the elite unit and break contact, thereby benefitting from failing two initiative rolls.
In both cases this seems to fly in the face of common sense of what I wanted to do. The game modeled perfectly a unit retreating and leaving the flank of another piece exposed, but it amounted to nothing. This flaking move occurred three other times in the game with each one resolving the same way. I would suggest combat either occurring after each move, or simply stating once a unit is in contact it can neither move, change facing, or change formation.
Why did it work out like that? Because the timing worked out that way that time
. That won't always be the case.
Many of these concepts came from playing Kriegspiel. Pub Battles isn't pure Kriegspiel but we tried to base it around how Kriegspiel plays and feels.
Much of this really amounts to fog-of-war. It can feel a little frustrating when you are used to games where you have more control. You know where your pieces are. You know where the enemy is. You can make your piece move and attack when and where you want to. You don't get this in Kriegspiel. Forget the enemy. In Kriegspiel you don't even know where your pieces are half the time! -or if they are going to do what you told them to do.
Pub Battles actually comes pretty close to recreating this atmosphere without an umpire and written orders. So you can order an attack. There is no guarantee that attack will be carried out. With the time delay, there is no way to tell if the enemy will even still be there by the time your forces start to execute their orders.
If you think about it, this is actually much more 'realistic' than most wargames. Everybody is moving in real time on the battlefield. If an enemy unit starts approaching your flank, you can see that coming. They don't strike instantly. You also can't adjust your defense instantly either. While the enemy is advancing on your flank, can you get out orders quick enough to fall back or turn to receive the attack? Maybe. Maybe not. This is something you often can't control. You can try to influence it. -But you can't try to influence everything, everywhere, all the time. You have to decide what is most important.
In Pub Battles, your HQ can roll in an attempt to influence something like this but you can only make 1 roll per turn. That is about right and is matched to the time scale from our experience with Prussian Kriegspiel.
It can be frustrating if you want to control everything. We find that if you embrace the fog-of-war concept, it is actually great fun! It's not about being perfect. It is about trying to manage the chaos and accomplish your mission in spite of it. SNAFU: Situation Normal. All F-ed Up. This is actually a much better model of real command and leadership.
Pub Battles may look 'simple'. In many ways it is very sophisticated and complex. What do you want to model? Pub Battles puts the emphasis on real command, not weapons details, ranges, morale and such.
If you add an umpire with live sub commanders and written orders, this becomes very realistic. Brandywine is a pretty small battle but we plan to push this direction with future releases.
I see what you are saying. I am planning on playing it again, and I will obviously get a better feel of the initiative with another play. Let me do that and see if it becomes more apparent.