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 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.
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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
I’m pretty sure there were six turns. Might have been seven. It is hard to tell now.
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.
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.
Adam had a lot of horse out on his left wing. And they were headed for that nice exposed Swedish 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.
You can see Chris’s problem here.
Chris got stuck in quite quickly and Swedish horse unit charged the Imperialist foot near the village.
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.
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.
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.
But you can see the great flags carried by the Imperialist foot.
We had a few incidents where units became locked in melee. The Swedish cavalry horse was one of those.
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.
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.
There were a few charges this turn. Near the village the second unit of Swedish horse charged an Imperialist pike+shot unit.
The first unit of Swedes lost and had to rally back.
The second unit got locked in melee.
Over the other flank, two Imperialist horse went in. Adam left the weakened unit (Resolve = 1) out of it.
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.
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.
Out on the left the Imperialists continued to envelope the Swedish foot. But this time they were facing pike+shot.
The Swedes were firing for all they were worth.
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.
I’m biased but I do like the look of games of Tilly’s Very Bad Day.
The isolated Swedish horse lost its melee and had to 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.
Chris had another go at the village.
But again they were attacking dragoons in cover. So the advantage was with the Imperialists.
While in the centre the infantry were getting into range of each other.
Here is another shot of Adam’s infantry “line”. They might not be much on drill but they could certainly fight.
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.
The Swedish shot and cannons opened up but I suspected it wouldn’t keep the tercios away.
The Yellow Brigade might have more luck shooting off the Croats.
Lots of charges this turn. Imperialists on the left and Swedes in the centre.
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.
But the resulting melee was inconclusive.
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.
The Grey were reduced to one resolve but they held the enemy horse off.
At the village the Swedish dragoons withdrew again.
By this stage Chris was having to fight a battle on two fronts. He had two units facing the Croats to his rear.
The Imperialist tercios continued to press forward into Swedish musketry.
The Swedish Yellow Brigade continue to pour fire into the Croats. Although to little effect.
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.
This is also where the Imperialists hit the Yellow Brigade in the rear. Ouch.
The battle was turning into one giant melee. At least that is what it looked like.
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?
The two entire lines seemed engaged in one giant scrimmage.
But there were still opportunities for charges, both Imperialist and Swedish.
Bring his dragoons into the open might have been a mistake for Adam. Swedish horse rode down one of the units.
The Swedes also lost a pike+shot unit towards the left of the 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.
But it wasn’t enough. That last routed unit tipped the balance against Chris and Adam took the field.
Observations and conclusions
It was a great game. Small and fast but with lots of excitement.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.