Jamie came over to play test my rather raw variant of Tilly’s Very Bad Day for the South American Wars of Liberation. We played John Fletcher’s Alternative Chacabuco scenario, my go to for testing out rules.
The rules – Bolivar’s Very Bad Day
I’ve been searching for a set of rules to use for the South American Wars of Liberation for a while. I’ve tried a bunch including Liberators QPR, Liberators HOTT, Live Free or Die, plus others in the Napoleonic mode. I need battalions in line, column and square. I need dashing cavalry charges and rather pathetic cavalry retreats. I need guns. Tiny guns – 4 pounders were common – but lots of them.
Now if you look at Tilly’s Very Bad Day, you’ll see it is for the Thirty Years War and has brigades as the manoeuvre unit. But both Jamie and I were convinced it could form the basis of a set of rules for Liberators. So I drafted something. This set of rules is tentatively called “Bolivar’s Very Bad Day” due to Simon Bolivar’s defeats at the Battles of La Puerta and Aragua de Barcelona, after which he was arrested by the Patriots. These rules are so rough we shouldn’t have tried them, but given Jamie likes Tilly’s Very Bad Day and is happy to have a bash, so we gave them a go anyway.
I play Alternative Chacabuco so often I got custom pieces for both Tahuilaca Hill and Los Tauretes Hill. I also made some new fields and enclosed field pieces for Tilly’s Very Bad Day.
As per the standard deployment, the Royalists (Steven) had Maroto’s division on the right in front of Chacabuco Farm and the Santiago Division further back on the left around Los Tauretes Hill.
The Talavera regiment was the mainstay in Maroto’s Division.
I put the Chillan Regiment on Los Tauretes and hid my horse on the far side of the hill. I had the slightly better Frontier Dragoons at the front (Ordinary Horse) and inferior Concordia Hussars behind. I didn’t fancy their chances against the superior Patriot horse.
The Patriots (Jamie) also had the standard deployment, with O’Higgins’s Division in front of Tahuilaca Hill on the left, and Soler’s Division on the right.
Actually only O’Higgins’s foot was in front of Tahuilaca Hill.
O’Higgins’s horse was the right, where it could head for the more open ground.
The Patriots advanced.
O’Higgins’s foot marched up Tahuilaca Hill in column so they could move faster.
O’Higgins’s horse in the centre rushed toward Chacabuco Farm, past Soler’s foot.
The rest of Soler’s division, with General San Martin, stayed near the small stream.
O’Higgins’s horse got close enough to the Royalist Chiloe Regiment that they could open fire. Sadly without much effect. Note: Chiloe Regiment was in square – one of the rule changes.
Jamie calmly rode his Cazadores a Caballo de la Escolta del General (Hunters on Horse of the General’s escort) across the front of my massed Royalist guns. And I couldn’t affect him – something to think about.
The Royalist Frontier Dragoons countered Cazadores a Caballo de la Escolta del General, by charging them. But Jamie then sent the second wave, of Granaderos a Caballo, into the nearest battery. The Chiloe Regiment was firing into the Patriot cavalry’s flank but did nothing – something else to think about.
Granaderos a Caballo eliminated the guns, as per standard Tilly’s Very Bad Day – something to think about.
The Royalist Frontier Dragoons and Patriot Cazadores a Caballo de la Escolta del General charged each other and got locked in melee.
On Tahuilaca Hill the Patriot regiments had shaken out into line before advancing towards the Royalist in the fields. To their right more Patriot horse and foot advanced on the farm.
By game turn 4 O’Higgis’s Division was spread quite a long way across the table. The foot were coming down Tahuilaca Hill and the horse were fighting in front of Los Tauretes Hill. I suspect command range should have played a part but we didn’t notice at the time.
I had to counter Jamie’s bold move with the Patriot horse, and unhappily brought my own forward.
On the Royalist left there seemed to be a big space between the Royalist line and the bulk of Patriots facing them. But distance can be deceiving in Tilly’s very Bad Day.
The Patriots of Soler’s Division – both horse and foot – advanced towards Los Tauretes Hill.
And suddenly my Frontier Dragoons felt a bit nervous.
And my second squadron of Frontier Dragoons counter charged a squadron of Granaderos a Caballo. I just knew that was going to hurt.
Meanwhile the original squadron Granaderos a Caballo eliminated another battery of guns. Hmm – I really have to think about that.
On the right, Jamie had brought the Cazadores de los Andes battalion to the edge of the fields. They were supported by horse on their open right flank. To the left the 7th and 8th regiments were preparing to march down the hill.
And sure enough the Patriot marched on the Royalists lining the fields.
I’d set up the Royalist foot to defend the edge of the fields. It was only during the game that I realised this gave them no advantage in the draft rules – something to think about.
The Mixed Grenadier and Cazadores battalion – formed from combining the flank companies of the 7th, 8th and 11th battalions into a adhoc formation – started flanking the fields along the road. That forced the Chiloe Regiment out of square and into column.
The Royalist muskets roared and inflicted some casualties on the advancing Patriots.
The Argentine 7th Regiment and Mixed Grenadier and Cazadores battalion both charged – no surprise there. But the other two Patriot battalions also charged. Shooting had reduced the 8th Regiment to 2 resolve and the Cazadores de los Andes to only 1 resolve, but they charged anyway.
Mixed Grenadier and Cazadores battalion routed the Royalist Chiloe Regiment. And they killed the Royalist general. The Royalist division was going to suffer.
The Argentine 7th Regiment drove Valdivia back.
The Argentine 8th Regiment was locked in melee with the Talavera Regiment.
After the morale phase you can see the Patriots were in a shaky position.
Soler’s Division rushed towards the Royalists. Specifically the Frontier Dragoons.
I found my inferior horse facing equal numbers of superior horse. Somehow I didn’t feel good about that.
The charges were predictable.
And the deaths also predictable, starting with another eliminated battery.
Then a squadron of Concordia Hussars routed.
And both squadrons of Frontier Dragoons. Ouch.
On the right the Patriots closed in on the fields. In particular the Mixed Grenadier and Cazadores battalion turned to face into the fields and formed line. Things were looking bad for Talavera.
Valdivia kept up a brisk fire and got the 7th Regiment down to 1 resolve.
Talavera’s musketry also hammered the 8th Regiment.
And the Patriot battalions shot back.
Jamie declared his sole charge on the right – the Mixed Grenadier and Cazadores battalion going into the flank of the Talavera Regiment.
And Talavera routed.
And that was the game.
Observations and conclusions
My rules were far too draft to realistically give a sensible game. But we knew that and did it anyway. Despite being raw they gave a good fast game. We both enjoyed it.
Jamie really liked the game. He said he preferred this variant over the original Tilly’s Very Bad Day. In particular he liked the tactical choices offered by the formations a battalion can take: line, attack column, square or march column.
Jamie also appreciated the speed of the game. It only took his attack columns three turns to march over Tahuilaca Hill and attack Chacabuco Farm. And that includes changing from attack column to line. The whole game was over in 1 1/2 hours.
Now Jamie’s cavalry attack on my grand battery was far too effective. Cannon in the Thirty Years War are pretty ineffective and Tilly’s Very Bad Day reflects this. But artillery was much improved by the Liberators period. What Jamie tried – running two squadrons against four batteries of guns – shouldn’t have worked. Artillery of this period need to be better in both shooting and melee.
- Artillery should have a wider arc of fire than straight ahead
- Pivoting should not prevent artillery from shooting
- Artillery fire canister at short range
- Battalions should get a bonus when charging – we played they hit on 4-6
- Battalions are supported when both flanks have adjacent battalion or horse or difficult terrain
- Battalions get cover from shooting
- Battalions need improved fire power, either more shooting dice or better to hit
- Battalions can change facing with a change of formation
- I had a square that shot, then changed formation into column … should that be allowed?
- Some battalions should have fire discipline (think British red coats in the Peninsular)
- Normal Tilly rule that Horse are supported by other Horse to rear is fine
- Brave and impetuous O’Higgins could get a bonus in melee by hitting on 3-6 instead of 4-6
- My tweaks to Commander Casualties might have made this too unlikely
As I mentioned, this game featured my custom made models for Tahuilaca Hill and Los Tauretes Hill. I play this scenario so often I figured I should just get the appropriate models rather than making do. It makes setting up so much easier. Probably not in time, but definitely in saved brain power.