English Civil War play tests of Tilly’s Very Bad Day by Brett Simpson

Brett Simpson got me inspired to write Tilly’s Very Bad Day and he has kindly been play testing them as the rules evolved. Brett’s interest is the English Civil War so, nominally at least, these play tests are for that war not the Thirty Years War. He has shared three play tests with me over the last couple of weeks.

Brett’s emerging English Civil War forces

You will notice cardboard units in these play tests. That is because when Brett started this project he had no figures. So his first play tests were purely with cardboard bases.

However, Brett being Brett, the troops are quickly starting to appear. Here are his first two Royalist Units: Earl River’s Regiment of Foot and Lord Byron’s Regiment of Foot.

Brett Simpson - First two Royalist Units - Earl Rivers Regiment of Foot and Lord Byrons Regiment of Foot
Brett Simpson – First two Royalist Units – Earl Rivers Regiment of Foot and Lord Byrons Regiment of Foot

Version of Tilly’s Very Bad Day

Tilly’s Very Bad Day is available for Download (PDF) and currently at Version 1.0. However, Brett was play testing from the beginning so he was using a very draft, extremely pre-production version. The rules evolved considerably during and after these games.

Brett’s Play Test 1

I ran a play-test game today (solo) using cardboard counters: tan for the Parliamentarians and white for the Royalists. I used identical forces of only 16 units (including commanders), but I thought that might be a good start. I did feel that the distances were a little cramped, especially shooting for cavalry.

[Steven’s Note: as a result we increased range of horse from 1 TUM to 2 TUM. We also increased all movement: infantry from 2 TUM to 3 TUM; horse from 4 TUM to 6 TUM]

Brett Simpson - Play Test 1
Brett Simpson – Play Test 1

One thing I noticed was that the dynamic of pike and shot didn’t have the same feeling as the original game. Overall, infantry are now superior in both range combat and melee to both cavalry and dragoons, but this was not the case in the other game. Infantry received four dice to shoot and dragoons five, and at short range cavalry received six. Musketeers were useful in melee (hitting on a 6), but inferior to pikemen (who hit on a 5 or 6). Now they are the same, which lifts their overall fighting ability and seems to take something away from cavalry. I liked dragoons having superior firing ability to pike and shot units; that and their mobility seemed to be their strength.

[Steven’s Note: as a result we reduced the resolve of pike+shot from 4 to 3.]

Play Test 2 – Battle of Brook’s Farm

My second game was the Battle of Brook’s Farm.


The forces were identical

  • 5 x Infantry
  • 4 x Cavalry
  • 2 x Dragoons
  • 2 x Cannon
  • 3 x Commanders (1 x Centre (Infantry) and 2 x Wing (Cavalry and Dragoon) Commanders).

16 Units total. The first army to suffer a loss of 5 Units must concede defeat.


Infantry, Cavalry, and Dragoons each had 3 Resolve, and I used 1, 2, 3 base-width measurements.

[Steven’s note: originally all measurements were in base widths. The “1, 2, 3 base-width measurements” Brett mentions are: 1 base width for horse shooting; 2 base widths for foot shooting and moving; 3 base widths for horse moving. As a result of this play test we moved to TUM where 1 base width = 2 TUM. ]


5’ x 3’ Battlefield with a farm and fields at the northeast and a hill at the west.

Brett Simpson - Play Test 2 - Battle of Brooks Farm
Brett Simpson – Play Test 2 – Battle of Brooks Farm

Turn 1

Royalists begin with initiative and advance their infantry (centre), cavalry (west wing), and dragoons (east wing). An exchange of fire, and the Parliamentarians advance to intercept the Royalists. There are clashes between cavalry to the west, and infantry at the centre. The west Royalist cannon comes under heavy fire from the Parliamentarian cannon and is eliminated. A unit of Royalist dragoons rode toward the farm, but is chased off by cavalry emerging from the field.

Turn 2

More movement and fire, although the latter had little effect this time. A clash broke out between cavalry at the base of the hill, and the Royalists were forced to retreat. Parliamentarian Infantry were routed on their left wing (east), and Royalist cavalry charged forward on the east, chasing off the cavalry who had routed their dragoons.

Turn 3

The Royalist infantry on the right wing (east) are routed by cannon-fire, and a clash breaks out between Parliamentarian cavalry (supported by dragoons) and Royalist cavalry on the hill, but this has surprisingly little effect. There is heavy fighting at the centre, resulting in a unit of Parliamentarian infantry being routed, and two units of Royalists breaking and running. The second unit of Royalist dragoons fled, and the Royalist cavalry who chased off the Parliamentarian cavalry last turn rushed the flank of second unit of cavalry, causing them to break and run.


Parliamentarian Victory (7 units to 4).
No commanders were killed in this battle, although sub-commanders on both sides were in the thick of the fighting (mostly supporting cavalry).


A fast and fun game. It was much closer than the end result would indicate, up until the end. 3 Resolve for Infantry seems to work quite well indeed. They did their fair share of the fighting and this was very interesting; they seemed neither over- or underpowered. The Royalist cannon being knocked out at the very start was lucky (good shooting?) and the Parliament Artillerymen deserve a pay rise (or a case of fine wine!) as they broke a unit of Infantry also (weak from fighting other infantry, but still).

Great ruleset, Mr. Thomas. Fast, fun, and straightforward. I can see that as I paint my armies and establish my terrain it will be quite visually appealing too, and 15mm will help to give that epic feel I was hoping for.

I’m very excited about this period — it’s something I can sink my teeth into and build on, and that’s just what I was hoping for.

Reflections on Distances

With regards to ranges, I felt that infantry now seem a little fast. I was using 4, 8, and 12-inches, but I’m wondering if 4 (or 3), 6, and 12 might be better? I wouldn’t want to go any greater than 12 inches (3 base widths) and I think 4 inches (1 base width) looks about right for cavalry fire from an aesthetic point of view (I’m not talking about the realistic range of pistols and/or carbines, just what looks right to me on the table). Also, I was going to suggest that one base depth be the closest a unit can advance toward an enemy before charging as there was one instance that prevented cavalry from advancing due to the one base width rule even though they still seemed quite a fair way off.

[Steven’s note: We changed the distances to 1 base width for horse shooting and closest distance to enemy; 1.5 base widths for foot movement; 2 base widths for foot shooting; 3 base widths for horse moving. It was that awkward 1.5 base widths for foot movement that pushed me to introduce Tilly Units of Measurement (TUM) where 1 base width = 2 TUM. So foot became 3 TUM rather than 1.5 base widths.]

Play Test 3 – Battle of Edgehill

I was looking up the Battle of Edgehill earlier. What’s exciting is that, according to Wikipedia: Battle of Edgehill this OOB is very close to the army size I was looking at building to begin. I’ve added the number of units based on 1500 foot per unit/750 horse. I will continue to research things, but Edgehill might be worth looking at.

Royalist Forces

  • 2,500 Horse: 3 Units
  • 800 Dragoons: 1 Unit
  • 9,100 Foot: 6 Units
  • 16 Guns: 2 Cannon
  • (15 Units including Commanders)

Organised as:

  • Right Wing: 2 Horse
  • Centre: 6 Foot
  • Left Wing: 1 Horse and 1 Dragoon

*According to the account I read, the Royalist Cannon was positioned too far up the slope to offer effective fire.

Parliamentarian Forces

  • 2,300 Horse: 3 Units
  • 700 Dragoons: 1 Unit
  • 12,000 Foot: 8 Units
  • 7 Guns: 1 Cannon
  • (16 Units including Commanders)

Organised as:

  • Right Wing: 1 Horse, 1 Shot, 1 Cannon
  • Centre: 6 Foot (4 to the front, 3 behind)
  • Left Wing: 2 Horse, 1 Shot, 1 Dragoon


This is the map I used for inspiration for Edgehill

Battle of Edgehill Map - Brett's Inspiration
Battle of Edgehill Map – Brett’s Inspiration

The battle

I just played through Edgehill using the forces I listed a couple of nights ago.

It was all over in three turns. A stalemate, with both sides losing seven units; the Royalists lost two wing commanders and the Parliamentarians lost one.

The Parliamentarian right flank was holding a farm property, but was quickly overrun by Royalist Dragoon and Horse, losing their cannon, a unit of Shot, and their right wing commander (a Royalist commander was killed in the same fight).

The Royalist right flank collapsed early on, two units of cavalry were routed (one at the very sight of the advancing enemy — two units of Horse, and one each of Shot and Dragoons), and the Royalist right-wing commander was lost. The Parliamentarians then charged forward, outflanking the Royalists Shot and Pike, who were already caught up in a heated melee.

The fighting continued, and was rather bloody, and until the Royalist right flank collapsed, it looked as if they would win.

Both sides withdrew from the battle to lick their wounds, reflect upon the day, and look for new strategies.


A rather fast game that was over in one hour of real time.

It was a good game, and I do believe it was a good simulation.

The addition of Shot added an interesting flavour.

[Steven’s note: Earlier versions only had combined pike+shot. In this play test we introduced a new unit type called “shot”. This is detached shot units; the most common example is commanded shot. Commanded shot featured quite a lot in the English Civil War, sometimes in large numbers.]

I liked the earlier version of the rules better though, where units could fire and then charge. It might be less realistic, but from my point of view it had a better feel.

[Steven’s note: Between play test 2 and play test 3 I made units choose between shooting and charging. This was to reflect national and unit preferences for shooting or charging. I might have to moderate that, after all, I want Brett to enjoy this game]

3 thoughts on “English Civil War play tests of Tilly’s Very Bad Day by Brett Simpson”

  1. It’s interesting to see what people like and dislike in a rules system when it comes to feedback.

    I’m currently building a 2mm army for the battle of edgehill using these rules and its interesting that Brett opted for a brigade/unit size to be 1500 foot & 750 cavalry as I opted for 1000 & 500 respectively as I wanted enough bases on the table for each side without getting too crowded.So each side had approximately 20 bases, keep in mind my basing is far smaller than Brett’s.

    Have you rationalized the unit sizes any further or do you think you will keep it the way it is? I myself like the flexibility as i just see the brigade/unit as just a grouping of smaller units.

    • Matthew, I think “flexible” is useful when simulating history. We like to think we know a lot about what was happening but really we have very little visibility or understanding of what warfare was like pre-1900. And we are all looking for something slightly different in a game and in our simulations. For myself I don’t see much difference between the protagonists in this period and I like lots of figures on table. So I wrote Tilly’s Very Bad Day with generic troop types and use big bases with lots of figures. Once I get into making scenarios we’ll see if I get obsessive (there were 5 Spanish infantry squadrons so i’m going to have 5 Pike+Shot units) or stay flexible (there were 6,000 Spanish infantry and at my chosen ratio that makes 4 Pike+Shot units even if there was 5 on the day).

      Speaking on Brett’s behalf, and this is always unwise, he also wanted lots of figures on big bases (they look great). But he has a small table so that means he cannot have many units. Simple really. By the way, Brett, with his 100mm wide bases, is also using inches for his measures. 1 TUM = 2 inches.


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