Download Tilly’s Very Bad Day – Fast Play Rules for the 30 Years War

I’ve been on the hunt for a set of wargaming rules for the Thirty Years War for a couple of decades. The hunt has taken so long that I’ve ended up writing my own. I’ve called the rules “Tilly’s Very Bad Day” in memory of the Battle of Rain (15 April 1632) where Field Marshal Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, got hit by a Swedish cannonball. He, of course, subsequently died. I’d like to thank Brett Simpson for the inspiration to undertake the project and for play testing from the first draft.

Tillys Very Bad Day Logo


Backstory

Recently Brett Simpson pointed me at a simple set of rules for the English Civil War called Rupert’s Very Bad Day: Battle of Marston Moor (1644 AD): Fast Play Rules for Students by Matt Fritz. Rupert’s Very Bad Day relies on lots of bases and base removal so isn’t very friendly with my Big Bases and Thirty Years War units with both pike and shot on the same base. But I liked the simplicity, saw considerable potential, and really liked the name.

So I immediately began writing a version that would suit my pike and shot big bases for the Thirty Years War. My initial draft started very close to Matt Fritz’s work, and I remain heavily indebted to him, however the rules have evolved quite far from the original. The biggest similarity to the original rules is probably the name although even there “Rupert” became “Tilly”.

Tilly-67 Massed Swedish Horse

Tilly-67 Massed Swedish Horse

I have introduced more types of stand (light horse, pike+shot, rabble), single stand units (hence pike+shot), a new concept called “resolve” to replace stand removal, terrain including the option to allow infantry to “defend the hill”, distances based on base width, a more complex interplay of shooting and charging to reflect different national and unit attitudes to these combat options, increase purpose for commanders, optional troop quality (superior, ordinary, inferior, rabble) and hence an optional point system, and probably other things. Despite these additions, and the complexity they bring, I think the rules still allow “fast play”.

Although I’ve got the Thirty Years War in mind “Tilly’s Very Bad Day” should be applicable to the Eighty Years War and English Civil War.


Download Tilly’s Very Bad Day

You can download Tilly’s Very Bad Day as a PDF.
Tillys Very Bad Day - Download


Versions

Version 1.1 (03 August 2019)

After proof reading by Vincent Tsao. Corrected typos and clarified intent. No substantive changes.

Version 1.0 (27 July 2019)

The first publicly available version.

22 comments to Download Tilly’s Very Bad Day – Fast Play Rules for the 30 Years War

  • Jurjen

    I adore your hard work. I’m quite lazy myself, and/but curious, so I wonder, what’s wrong with: Warlords Pike & Shotte, DBR, Tercios or the Twilight rules from the Pike & Shotte society?

    • Steven Thomas

      There are many sets of rules out there. Typically they haven’t worked for me because of some or all of these problems:
      1. They are confused about the scale of the game. They talk about brigades and simulate them with battalions with a stand being a company.
      2. They believe the convention of pike and shot units with pike in the middle and shot on each side was universal. This was a formation, and common, but the combatants of the period used many others. These other formations are basically useless under many rules. For example, the famous Swedish brigade had shot behind the pike. That isn’t going to work under most rules.
      3. They are too complicated.
      4. Rules writers consider the Spanish infantry worse than their peers. The convention is that the Tercios were in decline and need to be useless in the game. And the Spaniards as individuals were no better than their opponents. And because the Spanish retained the arquebus long after other nations abandoned, they should be penalised.
      5. They use individual figures.

      My solution to the first two problems is the abstract up. My unit is a brigade and I don’t care what happens inside the brigade.

      In terms of complexity, I confess that Tilly’s Very Bad Day has, well, expanded as we play tested and I fiddled. Sorry about that.

      From my perspective, and those of contemporaries, the Spanish tercios ruled the battlefields of this period. They did not win 100% of the time, but there are many factors involved in any particular battle. None-the-less the Spanish infantry were universally considered superior to those of other nations, and I think rules should reflect this. Of course, I’m biased.

      I like bases and dislike individual figures. Bigger bases the better.

      In terms of the other rule sets you mentioned, I should start by saying that different people like different things. The most popular set of rules for WW2 is Flames of War, but it just doesn’t work for me.

      I have played DBR. It didn’t provide what I wanted for the period. If I’d gone the WRG way, I’d have used a DBA variant. I still see enormous potential in DBA like games.

      I confess I didn’t consider looking at Pike & Shotte because Warlord are about 28mm figures I don’t do 28mm. In hindsight this might have been unfair bias. A quick google suggests they would be worth a try.

      I have mixed feelings about Twilight of the Sun King series of rules and scenario books. I wrote the original Twilight of the Sun King rules and have, against my wishes, lost control of their development. Andrew Coleby, my co-author in the first version published by the Pike and Shot Society, may feel the same. I do not even own a copy of the various books that have come out of the Pike and Shot Society, even though they are based on my work. You might understand that I would resent paying money for them. So, unfortunately, I cannot comment on “Twilight of Divine Right: From Defenestration to Restoration”. It might be great.

  • John Rohde

    Thank you for your hard work Steven. The rules look excellent.

    • Steven Thomas

      Thanks. Is this a period you play?

      • John Rohde

        I played DBR some years ago. My two seconds of fame came from being among Phil’s acknowledgements. I quite enjoyed them: the support rules effectively made pike and shot units and the recoil rules effectively functioned as disorder. Still, the head to head rolls, lists of factors and the contortions of the arbitrary doubling put me off them in time.
        I play Volley & Bayonet and I like rules that put a premium on manoeuvre rather than process. Re Pike & Shotte: I don’t much like the Black Powder command system it uses – though I can see it’s utility for solo games and for adventure scenarios. Pike and shot form separate units within what amounts to a brigade, so low level tactics are possible. For your mixed pike & shot big bases, there is a pike company rule that’s used for the late C17th.

  • Andrés F.

    Hey Steven, sorry for the slight off-topic (maybe on-topic if we consider this post to be about “rules written by Steven” instead of the 30 Years War):

    Did you ever manage to have an “alpha” version of your Deep Battle rules that we could test? I’ve been following your posts about that subject with great interest, and read your comparison of operational wargame rules — and how they fall short — and I’m very keen on playing any rules you write. The reason is that you obviously know a lot about WW2 wargaming, and your love of Crossfire means you understand successful rules must be abstract and simple enough that they don’t “get in the way”. (For example, I was just watching a very cool report of the Battle of Kharkov done by the Little Wars TV guys, using the Fistful of Tows 3 rules and… wow, I never want to have to read those rules, let alone play them. Hundreds and hundreds of pages just to push toy soldiers around? No, thanks.)

    I know your rules are half-written (or possibly entirely inside your head), so consider this an encouragement to write them down, even in draft form. Also, could I ask you to consider how to scale them to a 3×3 (actually, 90×90 cm) board? At this time it’s the largest board I can muster.

    Again, sorry for the off-topic! I wish there was a more convenient form to contact you about general wargaming topics 🙂

    • Steven Thomas

      Hi Andres. That is a fair question. All that excitement last year and then … nothing. Actually I have two complete drafts of Deep Battle with competing mechanisms. I’m just not happy with either. And then I got distracted.

      My experience with Tilly’s Very Bad Day has taught me something. I should stop fiddling and publish. Because there is a temptation to tweak forever. So I’m make you a promise … I’ll publish Deep Battle before the new year.

      In terms of 3′ x 3′ table for Deep Battle, I reckon it’ll be fine. For smaller campaigns anyway.

      • It is said that the enemy of “good” is “perfect”. Publish ’em.

        By the way, I’m one of the fans who kind of ran away with Twilight, though I had nothing to do with the new versions. Sorry they don’t comp you with copies.

  • Andrés F.

    More on-topic: even though I don’t wargame the TYW, I must say I’m impressed by the presentation of these rules. Color pictures, lots of diagrams, concise rules, clearly worded. No small feat for a free one-man ruleset. Kudos!

  • Richard L

    Hi Steven

    Thank you for providing this. I like the scale, potentially compact battlefield and approach, and look forward to trying it when I get time. I’ve been on the lookout for TYW rules for ages.

    Richard

    • Steven Thomas

      Richard, I recall our detailed discussions about 30 YW and basing from a couple of three years back. I hope these rules provide some satisfaction.

      • Richard L

        Yes, indeed! I looked at Tercios and then at Twilight but never got round to actually trying them. I wanted a set that could use very small bases (featuring 2mm blocks) but in which the unit of measurement would not then be too fiddly. TVBD looks promising.

        I note you haven’t got bogged down in differentiating pike and shot or horse ‘types’. I appreciate that these may have been over-emphasised by other rule-writers.

        I also like your one base per unit decision. Don’t see the point of using more.

        Richard

        • Steven Thomas

          How big would you bases be for 2mm blocks?

          I’m going to blog about my rationale on horse shortly.

          I toyed with differentiating pike+shot by the ratio of shot to pike. I will probably blog something about that. But basically I didn’t see it as core to the game.

          re one base per unit. Well, don’t tell anybody, I do like 2 bases per unit as it gives a lot of flexibility in showing formation for either brigades or battalions. But that is more a Napoleonic thing. I didn’t think I needed it for 30 YW. One base is enough.

          • Richard L

            The Irregular 2mm blocks are tricky as they don’t come in quite the range I’d like. You can either go small with one block on a small base, maybe as small as 20mm, or go big with multiple blocks on larger bases. Whichever way you go the bases need to look reasonably filled.

            I had originally favoured going small, but I’m now mindful that multiple blocks remind everyone that it’s a brigade.

            Although formations aren’t differentiated under your rules, a decision I respect, I’d want to ‘depict’ Eighty Years War Tercios, later Tercios and Dutch and Swedish brigades differently, and I’ve spent many happy hours playing around with the options in a drawing program.

            One thing that has suddenly occurred to me is the possibility of depicting an early Tercio as one Pike+Shot and 4 separate Shot.

            I agree that 2 bases per unit works very well for Horse and Musket.

          • Steven Thomas

            I’ve never actually seen 2mm blocks so I struggled to visualise it. But I do think the idea of simulating brigade formations on a stand is really cool.

            The tercio wasn’t, of course, a battlefield formation. The hapsburgs formed infantry tercios and regiments into squadrons on the battlefield. (The Spanish cavalry formed into “battalions” on the battlefield; go figure).

            By the middle of the 30 YW tercios/regiments were quite small and sometimes it took 2 or 3 of tercios or regiments to form a squadron.

            Even accepting the early tercio/regiment/squadron/whatever was big, it probably is not 1 Pike+Shot and 4 Shot in Tilly’s Very Bad Day because that would be 5-10,000 men depending stand-to-men ratio. Nobody ever did that.

            My view on it is start simple. The Hapsburgs talked about squadrons but they were about the same size as protestant brigades, so I just treat both as a Pike+Shot unit.

            If you think something more is necessary for the early war squadrons/tercios/regiments, I have an idea about a double based Pike+Shot unit with a longer flank (of course), more resolve than normal, and more ability to shoot to the flank. All around defence seemed to be one of the attractions of clumping more men.

            But the other advantage of hapsburg, and Spanish in particular, squadrons was the ability to peel off manga for separate duty. During the battle. At Nordlingen the Hapsburgs won the infantry battle by detached a lot of shot infantry from squadrons in a quiet sector and deployed them to the fight. That is what the Shot troop type is for in Tilly’s Very Bad Day. For this battle I was thinking of a bunch of Pike+Shot for the Hapsburg squadrons, but in addition give them some, not many, detached Shot units to allow on table reinforcements. Say 1 Shot for every 4 Pike+Shot (the reverse of your proposed ratios).

  • zel

    Nice effort . You should take a look ADLG-renaissance (via FB group). Fast play and has sufficient granularity (pistol cav, carbine cav) also has some nice period flavour traits like a Salvo ability for the Swedes. We played Breitenfeld type game in an evening for a good TYW feel. These look to be a further zoom out as we had ~6 pike Blocs/tercios a side.

    • Steven Thomas

      Zei, thanks for the suggestion. I have ADLG (although not the ADLG renaissance mod). I’ll have another look.

      I have decided to combine pistol and carbine cavalry into a single troop type called horse. I’ve a number of reasons for this which I’ll blog about shortly. The short story is all horse could charge. All horse could shoot. Although there were two official troop types concentrating on these two roles (charge, shoot) a unit’s behaviour on the battlefield did not necessarily align. Some shock cavalry shot and ran. Some shooting cavalry charged, get recognised for this, and promoted to the shock category. I think the differentiator was the men not the weapon. But more on this soon.

      I thought about salvo as it is a famous differentiator of the Swedish. Part of the military mystique around Gustavus Adolphus. I decided to ignore salve for Tilly’s Very Bad Day because it was mechanism that would have had an effect company level but not brigade. Put more plainly I don’t believe the Swedes had superior firepower at brigade level. By the way, although the convention was the Swedes were unique in using salvo, I read (yesterday as it happens) that other nations including the Spanish adopted the technique. So by the end of the 30 years was it was universal, meaning part of the tool kit, although not necessarily universally applied, not even by the Swedes.

      I’ve a long held ambition to play Nordlingen 1634, but Breitenfeld is close behind.

  • Steven Thomas

    I have added Version 1.1 (03 August 2019). This is the result of proof reading by Vincent Tsao (thanks Vincent). I’ve corrected some typos and clarified the intent of some more ambiguous phrases. There are no substantive changes so if you have version 1.0 then you don’t need 1.1 but 1.1. is better. 🙂

  • Richard L

    Steven

    No reply link in your last post in our previous exchange – maybe that option runs out after a while? – so I’m starting a new response.

    Here’s an idea of what 2mm can look like:
    http://sidneyroundwood.blogspot.com/2016/03/thirty-years-war-2mm-imperial-formations.html

    Personally I wouldn’t want to go that busy, but you can see that 2mm can look very realistic, and no bendy pikes!

    The addition of a deeper, larger formation for the early period would probably be a good idea. I like the idea of depicting EYW Spanish in Bastioned Squares even though I know that was only one tactical option.

    For later units I’d have TYW Catholics as a single deep S-P-S formation, Dutch in two S-P-S units and Swedes in three S-P-S units, but I’d try to get the ‘figure count’ on each type of base about the same, except for those larger units should you introduce them.

    In the meantime I plan to make some MDF counters. (MDF might also lend itself to creating simple 3D geometric blocks.)

    Richard

    • Steven Thomas

      Nice idea there. Modelling the lower formations on a base for the higher formation adds flavour without complicating the simulation.

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