Bolivar’s Very Bad Day – Is that the right name?

I’ve been musing on a variant of Tilly’s Very Bad Day for the South American Wars of Liberation for a while. Back in 2021 Jamie and I had a go at the then draft rules with Alternative Chacabuco. “Bolivar’s Very Bad Day” has always been the working name of the draft rules. This is partly to honour the Liberator Simón Bolívar and partly because I couldn’t think of anything else. With my War in the North Project rushing towards me, I thought I should get a bit more definitive about the name.

What do you think? Should I stick with “Bolivar’s Very Bad Day”? Make it official? Or go for something else?

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Ponte Palacios y Blanco (Simón Bolívar)

Simón Bolívar, full name Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Ponte Palacios y Blanco, is probably the most famous of the Liberators. After all he has two countries named after him: Bolivia, and his native Venezuela, which is officially named La Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela.

Bolívar and his allies defeated the Spanish in New Granada in 1819, Venezuela and Panama in 1821, Ecuador in 1822, Peru in 1824, and Bolivia in 1825. Quite an achievement and to reflect that the Latin American nations still call him El Libertador (The Liberator).

Simón Bolívar - English stipple engraving, contemporary
Simón Bolívar – English stipple engraving, contemporary

Despite his successes, Bolivar was later was alienated and lost faith in South American politics. He died in 1830, aged 47, while waiting to leave for exile once again. Opinions vary on whether he died from tuberculosis, histoplasmosis (a fungal infection with similar symptoms), or arsenic poisoning.

What’s in a name?

To quote Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” The point the Great Bard is making is that names should not be important. But of course they are. The entire branding industry is all about getting the right identity for products. And that starts with a good name.

Why “Bolivar’s Very Bad Day”

I have a simple criteria for the names of Tilly’s Very Bad Day variants. They are named after a good general cut down by defeat in battle. After all, on the original “Tilly’s Very Bad Day”, Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, actually died.

“Bolivar’s Very Bad Day” is the name I’ve tentatively given my Liberators variant of Tilly’s Very Bad Day.

Good general criteria:
Simón Bolívar’s credentials as a commander stand by themselves. I think there were better generals, for example Jose San Martin had him beat on the logistics front, but you can’t discount Bolivar’s military achievements both strategic and tactical.

Cut down in defeat criteria:
I think Simón Bolívar’s “Very Bad Day” was a result of his defeats at the Battle of La Puerta (15 June 1814) and the Battle of Aragua de Barcelona (18 August 1814). Following these defeats the Patriots – his own side – arrested him and sent him into exile (8 September 1814). Now that isn’t quite as terminal as Johann Tserclaes’s very bad day because, despite these setbacks, Bolivar return, raised the flag of rebellion again and was ultimately successful in liberating South America.

On balance I think that works. I do wonder if being exiled by his own side is sufficiently “bad” to qualify for a variant of Tilly’s Very Bad Day. But Bolivar’s fame probably outweighs any disadvantage there.

What do you think? Should I go with Simón Bolívar or should I hunt for another general to give a bad day to? If I keep looking, I’d need a good general of the South American Wars of Liberation, generally successful but with a devastating defeat, preferably terminal. Suggestions appreciated.

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

Tilly’s Very Bad Day is available for Download (PDF).

8 thoughts on “Bolivar’s Very Bad Day – Is that the right name?”

  1. I like Bolivar’s Very Bad Day! I have the figures for Maipo, so I am looking forward to the rules and scenarios.

  2. Bolivar in the title makes sense, but the phrase doesn’t work as well with Bolivar as Tillly. This quote from the longish Wiki article on Bolivar might help in terms of period flavor. ‘On the top of the ruins I found Don Simón Bolívar … He saw me and [said], “We will fight nature itself if it opposes us, and force it to obey.”’ How about ‘Bolivar: We Will Fight Nature Itself”? That seems to fit the romantic nature of the period and the geographic challenges characteristic of the Wars in South America.

    • Bill, nice suggestion. Quite poetic. But I’d prefer to stick with the “Very Bad Day” naming.

  3. Hi Steven! I was about to object that San Martín should be mentioned in the title, because he is the one we call “Libertador” here in Argentina, with major avenues names after him, and one of our few undisputed heroes — he is universally revered. I will also mention that, like Bolivar, San Martín also became disillusioned with South American politics, and ended up dying in exile.

    However, your reasons for choosing Bolivar have swayed me.

    A version of your ruleset fo the Wars of Liberation would be welcome!


    • Andres, I’m a huge san of San Martin. He is definitely my number one in the Liberators line up. And, in contrast to many other Patriots of the time, he was not seeking his own power. A humble man who did great things.

      But I struggled to find a “very bad day” for San Martin. The only thing I could think of was the Guayaquil conference with Bolivar (26 July 1822) which marked the end of San Martin’s military career.

  4. Not what you asked, but Bolivar’s very bad day strikes me as the time he had to hide during a Bogata coup. He and hs pastry chef hid under a bridge while armed men ran over it looking to kill him.


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