Imperialists beat Swedes – 2 Player Game of Tilly’s Very Bad Day

Adam and Chris played an Imperialist versus Swedish match up of Tilly’s Very Bad Day. Adam and Chris have a very different play style to Jamie and I so this game played out in an interesting way. Very gritty with one giant scrimmage forming. Eventually Adam’s Imperialists took the day. We were playing several draft rules for a major revision.


Version of Tilly’s Very Bad Day

We played Tilly’s Very Bad Day (version 1.1) with the same experiments as last time:

  • We used Terrain Cards – Random terrain placement for pick up wargames
  • To address the weakness of chequerboard deployment units suffered a -1d6 in melee if unsupported. Support meant any friendly unit to rear within 2 TUM.
  • We also stretched the victory conditions so the winner had to inflict 33% loses on the enemy rather than just 25% loses. In our case six units out of 16.

In addition:


Armies

I gave them 16 units in each army. Because I wanted to try out some rule tweaks, I insisted that they took at least two units from dragoons, shot, and/or light horse.

Adam took 2 dragoons and my only light horse unit. Controversially he took no cannons because they don’t offer the value of other troops types.

Imperialist Army (Adam)

  • Right Wing
    • 1 x General
    • 2 x Dragoons
  • Centre
    • 1 x General
    • 6 x Pike+shot
  • Left Wing
    • 1 x General
    • 4 x Horse
    • 1 x Light horse

Chris took lots of exotics: 4 cannons, 2 dragoons, and 2 shot. And he only took two commands.

Swedish Army (Chris)

  • Right Wing
    • 1 x General
    • 4 x Pike+shot
    • 1 x Shot
    • 4 x Cannons
  • Left Wing
    • 1 x General
    • 2 x Dragoons
    • 1 x Shot
    • 2 x Horse

Terrain

We used Terrain Cards – Random terrain placement for pick up wargames. We got a Large Wood, Large Gentle Hill, and Village. And we didn’t move them around. We forgot the road; ooops.


Deployment

Chris decided to bunch up towards his left flank, near the village, so his right flank was open. Adam stretched out so overlapped Chris’s line by a considerable margin.

Tilly-089 Deployment

Tilly-089 Deployment

At the last moment Chris also angled all four of his cannons towards the Imperialists behind the village. So no cannons were pointed at the enemy directly ahead.

Tilly-090 Deployment from Imperialist left

Tilly-090 Deployment from Imperialist left


The battle

I’m pretty sure there were six turns. Might have been seven. It is hard to tell now.

Turn 1

The Swedes rushed horse and dragoons towards the village. But they had under estimated how long it would take them to get there and meanwhile the Imperialist dragoons, who started closer, sauntered in.

Adam also took the opportunity to close the gap between the village and his main battle line of foot. He did this by an oblique advance. Similarly he advanced obliquely with his left wing, towards the Swedish right.

Tilly-092 Imperialist advance

Tilly-092 Imperialist advance

This game featured my Imperialist reinforcements. The Imperialist pike+shot were all brand new – thanks to Martin at Silurian Wargames for painting them. I particularly like the hand painted flags.

Tilly-093 Imperialist tercios approach Swedes

Tilly-093 Imperialist tercios approach Swedes

Adam had a lot of horse out on his left wing. And they were headed for that nice exposed Swedish flank.

Tilly-094 Massed Imperialist cavalry rush towards exposed flank

Tilly-094 Massed Imperialist cavalry rush towards exposed flank

The Swedish cannons opened up. Chris had deployed all of the pointing at the Imperialist dragoons behind the village. But by the time these guns had a chance to fire the dragoons had moved out of arc and into the village. So only a couple could actually fire, at other Imperialist units that had wandered into arc.

Tilly-095 Swedish cannon fire to flank

Tilly-095 Swedish cannon fire to flank

You can see Chris’s problem here.

Tilly-096 View from the village

Tilly-096 View from the village

Chris got stuck in quite quickly and Swedish horse unit charged the Imperialist foot near the village.

Tilly-097 First charge by Swedish horse

Tilly-097 First charge by Swedish horse

Tilly-098 First melee

Tilly-098 First melee

Turn 2

Turn 2 saw the battle for the village commence in earnest. The Imperialist defenders had the advantage of cover so had the edge in the fire fight.

Tilly-100 Skirmish in the village

Tilly-100 Skirmish in the village

Chris now had two units of horse in front of the Imperialist pike+shot near the village. And Adam’s disinclination to form lines was already evident.

Tilly-101 Orderly rows is not Adams strong point

Tilly-101 Orderly rows is not Adams strong point

Musketry isn’t super effective in Tilly’s Very Bad Day and the single unit of Imperialist pike+shot did nothing to the approaching Swedes. The foot unit had already had its resolve weakened by cannon fire (Resolve = 2) so it had even less oomph than usual.

Tilly-102 Imperialist foot fend off Swedish horse

Tilly-102 Imperialist foot fend off Swedish horse

But you can see the great flags carried by the Imperialist foot.

Tilly-103 Imperialist foot fend off Swedish horse

Tilly-103 Imperialist foot fend off Swedish horse

Tilly-104 Imperialists shoot

Tilly-104 Imperialists shoot

We had a few incidents where units became locked in melee. The Swedish cavalry horse was one of those.

Tilly-105 Locked in melee

Tilly-105 Locked in melee

Out on the Imperialist left wing some of Adam’s horse lined up to face the Swedish foot while others began to flow around the flank.

Tilly-106 Imperialist horse flow around Swedish right flank

Tilly-106 Imperialist horse flow around Swedish right flank

This time, with a fresh unit, pike+shot dealt rather harshly with approach horse. The Imperialist cuirassiers were reduced to Resolve = 1. And Chris had sensibly pivoted his cannons back to facing the approaching tercios.

Tilly-107 Swedish gun fire

Tilly-107 Swedish gun fire

There were a few charges this turn. Near the village the second unit of Swedish horse charged an Imperialist pike+shot unit.

Tilly-108 More Swedish horse charge Imperialist foot

Tilly-108 More Swedish horse charge Imperialist foot

The first unit of Swedes lost and had to rally back.

Tilly-110 Swedish horse rally back from original melee

Tilly-110 Swedish horse rally back from original melee

The second unit got locked in melee.

Tilly-111 Second melee a draw

Tilly-111 Second melee a draw

Tilly-112 Melees on Imperialist right

Tilly-112 Melees on Imperialist right

Over the other flank, two Imperialist horse went in. Adam left the weakened unit (Resolve = 1) out of it.

Tilly-109 Imperialists charge Swedish shot

Tilly-109 Imperialists charge Swedish shot

The target was a unit of shot, not pike+shot, these were detached musketeers. Chris had tried an experiment and used them to anchor his exposed flank. Ooops. The Imperialist horse just rode straight over them. Lesson for next time … put shot in difficult going or with friendly horse. Chris also lost a unit of cannons.

Tilly-113 Imperialist horse ride down Swedish right flank

Tilly-113 Imperialist horse ride down Swedish right flank

Turn 3

The Swedes, not doing so well at the village, pulled back. The nearby horse had already rallied back last turn and then got routed by fire from the Imperialist dragoons.

Tilly-116 Imperialists secure village

Tilly-116 Imperialists secure village

Out on the left the Imperialists continued to envelope the Swedish foot. But this time they were facing pike+shot.

Tilly-119 Imperialists surround Swedish foot

Tilly-119 Imperialists surround Swedish foot

The Swedes were firing for all they were worth.

Tilly-123 Swedish fire does not slow the Imperialists

Tilly-123 Swedish fire does not slow the Imperialists

Back near the village Chris had a unit of horse locked in melee. And now three Imperialist pike+shot were trying to line up on it.

Tilly-121 Swedish horse outnumbered

Tilly-121 Swedish horse outnumbered

I’m biased but I do like the look of games of Tilly’s Very Bad Day.

Tilly-124 View from the Imperialist Left

Tilly-124 View from the Imperialist Left

The isolated Swedish horse lost its melee and had to rally back.

Tilly-126 Swedish horse rally back

Tilly-126 Swedish horse rally back

Tilly-129 Swedish horse rally back

Tilly-129 Swedish horse rally back

But the two units of Imperialist horse that had charged on the left also didn’t have much luck. One had to rally back and the other got locked in melee.

Tilly-127 Imperialist horse rally back

Tilly-127 Imperialist horse rally back

Tilly-128 Imperialist horse rally back

Tilly-128 Imperialist horse rally back

Turn 4

Chris had another go at the village.

Tilly-131 Swedes form up for another go at village

Tilly-131 Swedes form up for another go at village

But again they were attacking dragoons in cover. So the advantage was with the Imperialists.

Tilly-132 Imperialist dragoons open fire

Tilly-132 Imperialist dragoons open fire

While in the centre the infantry were getting into range of each other.

Tilly-133 Imperialist pike and shot open fire

Tilly-133 Imperialist pike and shot open fire

Here is another shot of Adam’s infantry “line”. They might not be much on drill but they could certainly fight.

Tilly-134 Imperialist foot advances in ragged line

Tilly-134 Imperialist foot advances in ragged line

Adam moved some of his cavalry around. A horse that had lost resolve moved sideways behind another to get out of arc o the Swedes. Another unit of horse moved into position behind the Swedish grey brigade. And the Croats (light horse) moved to threaten the rear of the Swedish yellow brigade. The yelllows turned to face them.

Tilly-138 Imperialist horse prepare to charge

Tilly-138 Imperialist horse prepare to charge

Tilly-140 View from Imperialist Left

Tilly-140 View from Imperialist Left

The Swedish shot and cannons opened up but I suspected it wouldn’t keep the tercios away.

Tilly-141 Swedish fire

Tilly-141 Swedish fire

The Yellow Brigade might have more luck shooting off the Croats.

Tilly-142 Swedes Yellow Brigade shoots at Croats

Tilly-142 Swedes Yellow Brigade shoots at Croats

Lots of charges this turn. Imperialists on the left and Swedes in the centre.

Tilly-143 Charges

Tilly-143 Charges

We had a couple of “dodgy flank attacks” in this game. This was the first. An Imperialist pike+shot unit was lined up with a Swedish unit. A second Swedish unit, right next door, more or less charged straight ahead but hit the Imperialists on the side. Give the rules are quite flexible on this I ruled it a flank attack. We agreed that this was a bit too generous and the rules needed tightening up.

Tilly-144 Dodgy flank attack

Tilly-144 Dodgy flank attack

But the resulting melee was inconclusive.

Tilly-146 Infantry deadlock

Tilly-146 Infantry deadlock

By this time three Imperialist horse units were swarming around the Swedish Grey Brigade holding the flank. The Greys had one of the horse units behind flank so they fought with only 1d6 in melee.

Tilly-145 Imperialist Horse swarm around pike and shot

Tilly-145 Imperialist Horse swarm around pike and shot

The Grey were reduced to one resolve but they held the enemy horse off.

Tilly-147 Surrounded Swedish foot hold out

Tilly-147 Surrounded Swedish foot hold out

Turn 5

At the village the Swedish dragoons withdrew again.

Tilly-148 Swedish dragonos withdraw

Tilly-148 Swedish dragoons withdraw

By this stage Chris was having to fight a battle on two fronts. He had two units facing the Croats to his rear.

Tilly-149 Swedish all around defense

Tilly-149 Swedish all around defence

The Imperialist tercios continued to press forward into Swedish musketry.

Tilly-150 Imperialist foot advances

Tilly-150 Imperialist foot advances

The Swedish Yellow Brigade continue to pour fire into the Croats. Although to little effect.

Tilly-151 Fire from Yellow Brigade keep Croats at bay

Tilly-151 Fire from Yellow Brigade keep Croats at bay

And again, lots of charges. This is when the second dodgy flank charge happened. An Imperialist horse unit had access to about 1/2 of a base depth of an Imperialist pike+shot unit. Again I let the player (Adam this time) do it. But it was super generous and I need to think about a tighter restriction on charges through gaps and being behind flank.

Tilly-152 Charges

Tilly-152 Charges

This is also where the Imperialists hit the Yellow Brigade in the rear. Ouch.

Tilly-153 Crunchy contact

Tilly-153 Crunchy contact

The battle was turning into one giant melee. At least that is what it looked like.

Turn 6

Adam brought his dragoons into the open, on the Swedish side of the village.

At this point I spotted another potential gap in the rules. Adam shot through a narrow gap (1-2 TUM) between friendly units. I let him do it because the rules don’t forbid. The question is should they?

Tilly-156 Imperialist right advances

Tilly-156 Imperialist right advances

The two entire lines seemed engaged in one giant scrimmage.

Tilly-157 One giant scrimmage

Tilly-157 One giant scrimmage

But there were still opportunities for charges, both Imperialist and Swedish.

Tilly-159 Charges

Tilly-159 Charges

Bring his dragoons into the open might have been a mistake for Adam. Swedish horse rode down one of the units.

Tilly-161 Swedish horse dispose of Imperialist Dragoons

Tilly-161 Swedish horse dispose of Imperialist Dragoons

The Swedes also lost a pike+shot unit towards the left of the giant scrimmage.

Tilly-162 Still one giant scrimmage

Tilly-162 Still one giant scrimmage

Adam’s Grey brigade were still holding out against three Imperialist horse units. They even managed to drive one of them off. Heroic Greys.

Tilly-164 Heroic Greg Brigade

Tilly-164 Heroic Grey Brigade

But it wasn’t enough. That last routed unit tipped the balance against Chris and Adam took the field.

Tilly-165 End game

Tilly-165 End game


Observations and conclusions

It was a great game. Small and fast but with lots of excitement.

Adam’s Impressions

I captured a WhatsApp discussion between Jamie (who wasn’t present) and Adam. Adam was buzzing with excitement.

Jamie Wish: How was the game last night? Looks like a very different battle to the ones we’ve fought so far! Cavalry charging infantry eh?

Adam Landa: it was a really good game IMO (and not just because I won) – very plausible. Cavalry charged infantry, but only enjoyed success when either ganging up on them, or taking flanks. Just the way it should be! Plus infantry is pretty resilient, and it only took a few bad rolls for one infantry unit to hold up multiple cavalry units for several turns. Really liked the way that cavalry and dragoons can evade combat that doesn’t suit them – there was a really plausible fight between our dragoons over a village on the flank.

Adam Landa: also cavalry made a mess of things like shot units and dragoons

Adam Landa: we also did manage to get a general line engagement, and the resilience of infantry meant that it was left to what happened on the flanks to decide the battle first

Adam Landa: yeah, it was great.

But not all was rosy…

Adam Landa: Problems were that it was too easy to flank, that we were having to be quite lenient with interpenetration, and that some units are inherently better than others if we treat them all as costing the same. But all very solvable imo

Adam Landa: my thoughts being 1) to make it harder to flank 2) allowing cavalry interpenetration in any direction, not just straight on 3) recruiting units by divisions of varying cost, rather than individually with equal cost

Jamie Wish: How would you deal with making it harder to flank?

Adam Landa: we thought maybe requiring the unit to start behind the frontage of the unit they’re charging in order to get the flank bonus. Both of us benefitted from some pretty shonky flanks from units essentially to the front of the target unit. Not sure about specific implementation though.

I pick up these points below, plus a few others.

Definition of Flank

The rules as written mean it is pretty easy to hit the flank of a unit. Even from ahead of the target. This was too generous. We were tempted to restrict this to units that start and end their charge behind flank.

Interpenetration

I was deliberately lenient on interpenetration in this game to see what happened. Adam liked it. But for me it looked odd to have one horse unit wheeling through another horse unit to line up to charge an enemy. Admittedly, at the scale of the game, there would have been sub units within a “unit”, but I still feel that interpenetration should be for units that are facing the same (or opposite directions).

Cannons

Adam and I think the rules simulate Cannons accurately: not a game changer, only really have an impact if they get to shoot over many turns, fragile in melee. However because they are not as effective as other unit types Adam doesn’t take any. This is because we are using army lists up to a certain number of units, of any unit type.

Adam suggested recruiting units by divisions to solve this, effectively forcing players to take a mix of units, including Cannons. I think a simpler approach is to make one Cannons unit mandatory. I’m also tempted to make them worth less points, for those using points. For those using the simple approach of a number of units per army, it would be even better if Cannons were as effective as other units, but I don’t think that is possible. Perhaps have two Cannons units count as only one unit when recruiting an army.

Recruitment by divisions

Both Adam and Chris are keen about a Campaign style of game where players get the troops randomly, without much player selection. This is where Adam suggested recruiting units by divisions of varying composition and cost.

That is fair enough for a Campaign but not necessarily for pick up games. Even with one generic army list our battles of Tilly’s Very Bad Day have had quite varied armies.

I have also played more randomised games, and it can go too far e.g. RFCM’s AK47.

ZOC directly back

We had a situation where a Unit was ZOC-ed but wanted to go backwards to get out of ZOC. It seemed reasonable. Highlights a gap in the rules.

Remove smoke in morale

The rules don’t have a specific step to remove the Shooting Markers. We find we do it in the Morale Phase. Perhaps needs this to be explicit so other folk know.

Turn to face when locked in melee

Buried in the rules there is a clause that allows units locked in melee to turn to face enemy To-Flank or To-Rear. So buried that I couldn’t remember if it existed. After the game I checked, and found the clause, which is a relief. But it probably needs to be clearer and more memorable.

Shooting through gap

We got a situation where a Imperialist Pike+Shot unit was shooting through a gap between friendly Units. The gap was about 1 1/2 TUM so less than a base width. I allowed it because I forgot the rules forbid it. After the battle I had to go and check the rules.

Game length

The game took six turns. That is important for two reasons:

  • It suggests possible game lengths for scenario games
  • It suggests a time restriction to impose on an attacker in a pick up game

These armies had 16 units. Perhaps a suitable time restriction would be half that i.e. 8 turns. For a game with 26 unit armies, that would make a time restriction of 13 turns. Just a thought.

8 comments to Imperialists beat Swedes – 2 Player Game of Tilly’s Very Bad Day

  • Sounds great. How long did the six turns take to play?

    • Steven Thomas

      1 hour and 52 minutes of game time. Plus choosing armies and setting up terrain. Probably a fraction over 2 hours.

  • Roger Calderbank

    My friend Mark and I played a game of Tilly’s Very Bad Day recently and enjoyed it very much. We used the version 1.1 without any of the modifications you discussed in your recent posts. Some of the topics you mention in the report above came up during our game.

    ZOC directly back – we assumed ‘directly away’ included backward movement, but maybe that needs to be made explicit.

    Interpenetration – as written, this is very restrictive, requiring both same or opposite facing and sides aligned. This seems to allow interpenetration only when the units are in column (perhaps with gaps between the units) and significantly limited the rally back moves that were possible in our game. I don’t think interpenetration should be too easy, so not when wheeling, but maybe easier during rally back than when advancing or charging, as the rally back move is already restricted.

    Definition of flank – perhaps I’ve misunderstood, but if you say the charge must start and end behind the flank, then there won’t be any flank charges, only rear ones. The ‘flank’ extends to the back face of the unit (diagram, page 9). I’m not sure how to solve this: maybe the impact has to be at greater than 45 degrees?

    Cannons – I’d be happy with 1 compulsory cannon, and two cannons costing a unit. Pity there aren’t any other worthwhile things that also cost half a unit (and rabble are unlikely to be an option!)

    We also noted that, in a ‘small’ game, the command radius of 8 TUM is wide (a commander can keep units in command over the whole of the centre zone. Of course, this may change if he attaches to a unit, but we found we could eep units in command even when they were widely spaced. Have you done this?

    Keep up the good work! We’re looking forward to a new version incorporating whichever of the changes you decide are worthwhile.

    RogerC

    • Steven Thomas

      Roger, thanks for giving TVBD a go, and sharing your experience.

      re “directly away”
      I will allow both interpretations in the updated version.

      re interpretation
      My original idea was only cavalry in column (with gaps allowed). Play testing shows this is very restrictive and might be too restrictive to allow historical outcomes. But like you I don’t fancy wheeling through other units.

      re flank
      Too hard to explain without a diagram.

      re cannons
      cool. That might mean two cannons suddenly become the norm.

      re 8 TUM command radius
      It is really just to stop silliness. In this battle, for example, Chris couldn’t split his single mounted command across the two flanks. That is all I was really trying to avoid.

  • PaskudnyOrk

    Hello,

    compulsory cannons seems not to be a good idea – it would be better (in my opinion) if the rules encourage players to get at least single piece of artillery instead forcing them to do so. Though the artillery fire agains massed blocks of troops had devastating effects, from very begining of the XVI c. (like e.g. at Ravenna 1512).

    Possession of strong artillery was measure (at least one of major factors) of army modernization, those without filed artillery were outdated and significantly weaker than their opponents.

    Maybe the rules could reflect occurrence of artillery duel, opening the battle – the result of artillery fire intensity from both sides should affect both armies morale (or even cause some direct looses in particular units); army with no artillery at all, condemned to stay in place under furious storm of lead, with no ability to response with even single volley, should suffer severe morale fall.

    Result of such artillery duel could also have interesting aftermath, like e.g. at Fodden Filed in 1513, where army of Scotland, despite better, higher position on hills and stronger cannons, but due the lack of experienced crew, lost the artillery combat with their more skilled opponents, and in face of suffering constant casualties main scottish battle was forced to abandon defended position and move downhill to attack – with dramatic final result.

    • Steven Thomas

      PaskudnyOrk, I agree that “encourage” is better than “compulsory”. This is exactly why I’ve been musing on making light horse, dragoons and shot more effective.

      The compulsory approach to cannon is a tweak to the generic army list. I’m kind of okay with that. After all armies did have cannon.

      But you are right the rules should mean that the compulsory cannon is a benefit for the player, and not seen as a burden.

      You are right that the “artillery duel, opening the battle” is the place to explore value for cannon.

  • Richard

    I used to know someone (sadly prematurely deceased) who was a great enthusiast for Tactica. Delivering a glancing blow to the side of a unit from the front apparently constituted a flank attack and was devastating. I never played the game again.

Leave a Reply