Making (commanded) shot more effective in Tilly’s Very Bad Day

We’ve been playing Tilly’s Very Bad Day for a while and it clear some unit types don’t make the grade compared to Pike+Shot and horse. Shot, dragoons, light horse and even cannons are all unpopular. So I’m going to run a short series of posts this week with the theme of making these unit types more effective. Not surprisingly I’m starting to form ideas for a major new version of the rules.

I start with Shot because I was just musing on types of (commanded) shot in Tilly’s Very Bad Day.

30YW-805 - Catholic - Shot

30YW-805 – Catholic – Shot

These are the posts in the mini-series on making certain unit types more effective:


Comparing Shot and Pike+Shot in Tilly’s Very Bad Day

There are several key differences between Pike+Shot and Shot in the current version of Tilly’s Very Bad Day (Version 1.3) and those before:

  • Shot have a resolve of 3 compared to the 4 of Pike+Shot
  • Shot hit on a 6 in melee but Pike+Shot hit on a 5-6
  • Shot and Pike+Shot have the same capabilities in difficult terrain

The net effect is that Pike+Shot are much stronger than Shot. I don’t think that does Shot justice. They are not the same, but they should be equally effective – this is the fair-ness aspect of my The 3Fs of Scenario (and Game) Design: Flavour, Fair, Fun. While we’re in the process we should add a bit more “Shot” flavour as well.


Possible rule changes to make Shot more valuable

A unit is a unit when constructing an army in Tilly’s Very Bad Day so there must be good reasons to, for example, take a Shot unit instead of a Pike+Shot unit. In the current version of Tilly’s Very Bad Day (Version 1.3) there aren’t any.

I can think of a few possibilities to even up the odds.

Tougher

I could bump Shot up to 4 resolve to match Pike+Shot. They would shoot the same but Pike+Shot would still get the melee advantage.

My opinion: I like this change. Detaching Shot from the Pike+Shot would not reduce their resolve. It would change their combat capabilities, more shooting, less melee. This change will also make commanded shot, i.e. mixing shot with horse, more attractive.

Tilly-808 Commanded Shot in action

Tilly-808 Commanded Shot in action

Faster

Both Shot and Pike+Shot move 3 TUM. This was quite attractive, because same = simple, but perhaps I should break that pattern. I could nudge the movement allowance of Shot up to, say, 4 TUM. Not a lot faster but over a couple of turns they’ll pull away.

This would make commanded shot more able to keep up with horse.

My opinion: I’m not convinced detached shot moved faster than Pike+Shot.

Better shooter

At the moment Pike+Shot actually are better at shooting than the same number of men 100% armed with firearms. Pike+Shot firing to their front roll 4d6; Shot roll 3d6.

Increasing Shot’s resolve would balance this up, but perhaps I need to go further. Perhaps give Shot a +1d6 in shooting (a modest tweak) or hit on 5-6 when shooting (a massive uplift).

My opinion: If I go with increased resolve for Shot, I’m not inclined to also add to their shooting. Shot would, of course, have a shooting advantage over a mixed Pike+Shot unit, but I’m not sure I have to simulate this. I’ve seen other rules do this and it turns dedicated firearms units into super troops. I don’t want to do that. They were good at what they did but in a straight up fight they lost to Pike+Shot. If I did get into pike to Shot ratios I’d have to do look at shooting/melee capabilities comprehensively. I’ll leave it for another day.

Difficult terrain

Currently Pike+Shot have a clear combat advantages over Shot in both open and difficult terrain. They have a higher resolve (4 compared to 3) and hit on 5-6 in melee. This if fair enough in a straight up fight in the open but is counter to the use of Shot in actual battles where the Spanish, for example, detached Shot to contest difficult terrain.

I think I can rebalance this and make Shot more effective in difficult terrain compared to Pike+Shot. As a reminder difficult terrain includes villages, rough ground, woods, rivers/streams and difficult hills (have rough ground or woods on top, or steep sides).

Tilly-809 Shot skirmish from rough ground

Tilly-809 Shot skirmish from rough ground

The first option is to prohibit Pike+Shot from entering difficult terrain, but allow Shot to enter. This has a huge advantage that it is simple. Simple is good. I’m tempted to do this for horse as well.

If I don’t do that then …

For movement in difficult terrain, I’ve got a couple of big options:

  • Reduce Pike+Shot movement: I’m tempted to keep the Shot at 3 TUM in difficult terrain but reduce the movement allowance of Pike+Shot to 1 TUM
  • Allow fast moves through difficult: Assuming Shot increase to 4 TUM (see above) then let them still go 4 TUM in difficult

For shooting I’m tempted to to remove the cover advantage for Pike+Shot in difficult terrain, but let Shot keep this

For melee, I’m tempted to remove the to hit advantage of Pike+Shot in difficult. So instead of hit on 5-6 they would only hit on a 6, like Shot. That will make fighting in difficult much slower.

My opinion: Tricky. I think I’ll go with taking away Pike+Shot’s cover bonus and melee to hit advantage in difficult terrain. So, in difficult terrain, Shot will have a shooting advantage (cover) but in a melee they’d be equal. In the open, Pike+Shot will try to close to melee and then beat the Shot.

Evade

Evade is currently an optional rule. Optional as in the players have to agree whether they are using it at the start of the game, not optional as a player can choose to evade. I think I have to make evade rules non-optional, i.e. evades are allowed in every game. Evades, I admit, need a bit of work.

My opinion: Play testing so far suggests Shot do not need an evade. They can move away from approaching Pike+Shot using normal movement.


Conclusions

You’ve seen where my head is in the “my opinion” bits above. The summary is:

  • Shot start with resolve 4
  • Shot lose ability to evade
  • Pike+Shot lose their to hit bonus in difficult terrain, so hit on 6 rather than 5-6
  • Pike+Shot lose the cover bonus of difficult terrain

I think this means, in a confrontation between Pike+Shot and Shot, the Pike+Shot will win in the open and the Shot will win in difficult terrain.

What do you think?


Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

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

6 comments to Making (commanded) shot more effective in Tilly’s Very Bad Day

  • I should think shot could move faster than closer-ranked pikes who need to dress ranks from time to time. I like the P&S losing their melee advantage in difficult terrain. If horse are allowed in such terrain (haven’t read the rules in a while) perhaps they should lose any advantage too.

    I await the next version of the rules.

  • Steven Thomas

    Vincent

    Well, shot did quite a lot of dressing ranks too. Firing tactics e.g. firing by row, firing by file, and triple rank volley fire, all relied on well organised ranks and files. The only real difference was the shot were in a more open order than the pikes. That might make detached shot faster if just wandering around, but definitely not when they are firing.

    In the game, I’m also comparing Shot to Dragoons. The only advantage Dragoons have over Shot is their speed. Making Shot faster undermines that.

    So I’m still weighing it up.

  • Roger Calderbank

    An interesting discussion of different unit characteristics. I wonder if it will be difficult to make units of dragoons/light horse, etc. equivalent to pike+shot/horse. Perhaps another option is to say they are worth half a pike+shot unit, so you could replace one pike+shot or horse unit with two shot, dragoon, light horse or cannon units. The limits on such units on page 11 of the current rules would prevent people having too many of them, but they would be more worthwhile to include in an army.

    • Steven Thomas

      Actually dragoons, shot and light horse are not far away from pike+shot and horse. The sort of tweaks I’m discussing here for Shot, I think will make them close enough to pike+shot to make them attractive.

      Cannon and rabble, on the other, are miles away. So I’m toying with the idea you suggest, i.e. two for one.

  • Chris Helm

    Hi Steven,

    The current series of posts are proving to be an interesting read. Here are a couple of thoughts in response to this one and its predecessor, offered on the basis that you were rash enough to ask ‘What do you think?’

    OK, first a quick review of your summary and some responses and then some further explanation.

    Your summary / my responses.

    You: Shot start with resolve 4. I suggest keep it at 3 but improve the performance of Shot when shooting by allowing them to use an extra ‘to hit’ D6 as you considered. My reasons are that: (a) improved shooting is more consistent with what you are trying to model; but (b) it would be too much to improve both Resolve and Shooting (as you note); and (c) in any case, though I’m not sure that the Resolve of a Shot unit would be markedly different from a P&S unit, there seems to be some indication of that from the various accounts.

    You: Shot lose ability to evade. I agree. Evasion is a tactic only really available to troops (a) in very loose order and (b) operating in terrain that hinders movement by their enemy but not their movement. But see my comment below about trying to use one type ‘Shot’ to represent two very different types / functions.

    You: Pike+Shot lose their to hit bonus in difficult terrain, so hit on 6 rather than 5-6. I’m a bit confused by this. Are you referring to P&S in melee, where the ‘to hit’ target roll is 5,6? In which case the fight between the P&S and the Shot would be more evenly matched if the performance of P&S were degraded in ‘difficult’ terrain? I agree but it seems too severe (as you remarked when talking about improving the shooting performance of Shot). I’d be more inclined to deduct a D6. But see my comment below about ‘difficult’ terrain vs cover.

    You: Pike+Shot lose the cover bonus of difficult terrain. Yes, perhaps, but I don’t think this is the best way to fix this. Rather I think you might be better to differentiate difficult terrain as a hindrance to movement from difficult terrain that provides cover from shooting or protection from melee attack, for these reasons.

    It would add very little complexity.

    Any troop types that you allow to enter terrain types that give cover (e.g. strongpoints, BUAs, woods) would benefit from it, whether they be Pike & Shot or something else. That is as it should be. Shot should be among those least hindered from entering such terrain, so would readily get that benefit. Vice versa Pike & Shot.

    On the other hand, the movement rate of troop types such as Pike & Shot through terrain which hinders movement could be set so that Shot units sheltering in such terrain would have multiple opportunities to shoot and cause damage before having to retire. This also seems to feel more like the circumstances you’d like to model.

    (Of course some terrain types will do both.)

    Some further thoughts.

    Finally let me explain my comment about trying to use one type ‘Shot’ to represent two very different types / functions. I think this thought struck me first, as I read your original post (https://balagan.info/musing-on-types-of-commanded-shot-in-tillys-very-bad-day). As I read it, I started to wonder if you’re trying to make the Shot type work too hard, that is, to cover too many functions. I think you have two different types / functions in mind.

    The first type is a large, coherent body of troops (i.e a brigade, in game terms) armed only with firearms. These can operate in circumstances where attached pikes would not be much help (woods, BUA). Your Nordlingen example is typical and there are several similar from later in the war. (I can dig up a list if that helps.) These seem to be a special version of pike and shot, really. (Call them Shot, for the present purpose.)

    The second type might well be a similar number of troops though they may well not be. More importantly, they’re not operating as a coherent body. You give typical examples such as small bodies occupying outlying locations, just to slow the enemy down and irritate them, or interspersed between squadrons of horse to provide supporting firepower in lieu of sufficient numbers of horse. (Call both these types Commanded Shot, for the present purpose, though I think Forlorn Hope is more romantic and almost certainly more accurate.)

    So what does this mean in game terms?

    I think what you term Shot covers the first type well, putting aside rule tweaks. Conversely, I don’t think the Shot type covers the second option very well at all, especially in terms of the look, feel and flavour because:

    (a) ‘look & feel’ – a brigade sized unit of shot is the opposite of what would be seen;
    (b) ‘look & feel’ – a brigade sized unit of shot extending the front of a cavalry line to represent what would be achieved with the same number of commanded shot between squadrons compounds that anomaly;
    (c) ‘feel & flavour’ – it’s quite likely that Commanded Shot would be stripped from existing units, which reduces the effectiveness of some Pike & Shot or Shot units for the benefit of improving the effectiveness of some Horse units. That’s a difficult tactical choice which the current model does not present to the General. Not least is the issue about what to do with the weakened infantry units.

    Now I don’t see this ‘lack’ as a major flaw in the game mechanics, excepting that: (a) the general can change his mind and redeploy the unit, which wouldn’t be the case for true Commanded Shot; and (b) it isn’t vulnerable to the loss of the Horse, as Commanded Shot would be.

    The existing system of committing a Shot formation to support the Horse does the job but it misses an opportunity improve the feel and flavour of the game if it could be modelled differently.

    Modelled differently how, exactly? Maybe: (a) mark Horse that have Commanded Shot as such and increase their firepower, perhaps increase their resolve too (but probably not), increase the width of their flank buffer zones and decrease their movement rate; (b) mark the infantry units that have contributed the Commanded Shot and reduce their resolve and reduce their firepower.

    Of course the function I don’t have an answer for just now is forlorn hope defending ‘outposts’ as a delaying tactic. That’s one for another time, maybe.

    Well you did ask.

    Regards,

    Chris

    • Steven Thomas

      > ‘What do you think?’
      I may live to regret that. 🙂

      > You: Shot start with resolve 4. I suggest keep it at 3
      Resolve is about attitude. I use Resolve to drive combat performance but combat performance is moderated by to-hit scores and potentially by dice modifiers. These latter change combat performance dramatically.

      From my perspective detaching shot from pike+shot units would not affect their resolve. They are the same men. Same attitude. But their combat performance declines in certain circumstances, via to-hit scores.

      > You: Pike+Shot lose their to hit bonus in difficult terrain, so hit on 6 rather than 5-6.
      > I’m a bit confused by this. Are you referring to P&S in melee, where the ‘to hit’ target roll is 5,6?

      Yes. Melee.

      > I’d be more inclined to deduct a D6.

      I want the shot to be able to contest difficult terrain. They are best placed to to contest if they have the same factors. In this case Resolve and to-hit score.

      I justify it on the assumption the pikes provide less benefit in difficult terrain. After all, historically shot were used on detached duty to take or hold difficult terrain.

      > You: Pike+Shot lose the cover bonus of difficult terrain.
      > Yes, perhaps, but I don’t think this is the best way to fix this.
      > Rather I think you might be better to differentiate difficult terrain as a hindrance to movement from difficult terrain

      Well, I’m a bit funny about movement rates. Particularly in difficult terrain.

      It always bugged me that WRG rules would penalise Swiss pikemen from entering woods. But historically they did it without hesitation if they would gain a tactical benefit. Admittedly usually in the approach march. But they marched through difficult terrain fast.

      Personally I think formed units probably moved about the same speed in difficult terrain. After all, they didn’t move fast anyway, once in engaged.

      But they became disordered doing so and would have to reform once they got out of the difficult terrain. Tilly’s Very Bad Day doesn’t have a “disorder” concept. Instead I simulate the effect of disorder. In this case I’ve chosen to simulate it by a reduction in to-hit. They are other ways.

      I’m also trying to have simple movement rules. I like the simplicity of 3 TUM in difficult. For everybody. I’ll hang onto that for as long as I can.

      > Any troop types that you allow to enter terrain types that give cover (e.g. strongpoints, BUAs, woods) would benefit from it,
      > whether they be Pike & Shot or something else. That is as it should be.

      Well, that is how the rules are currently written and it causes a problem. So something has to change. So I’ve chosen to remove cover benefit from pike+shot. My justification for the lack of cover for pike+shot is that the pike are more inclined to cluster and make themselves targets. Shot are more willing to seek cover.

      > Finally let me explain my comment about trying to use one type ‘Shot’ to represent two very different types / functions.
      > As I read it, I started to wonder if you’re trying to make the Shot type work too hard, that is, to cover too many functions.

      > The first type is a large, coherent body of troops (i.e a brigade, in game terms) armed only with firearms.
      Yup.

      > The second type might well be a similar number of troops though they may well not be. More importantly, they’re not operating as a coherent body.
      > You give typical examples such as small bodies occupying outlying locations, just to slow the enemy down and irritate them,

      This is a forlorn hope. From my perspective, either they’d have enough men to count as a brigade (of Shot) or I just wouldn’t simulate them. Harsh I know.

      > or interspersed between squadrons of horse to provide supporting firepower in lieu of sufficient numbers of horse.

      Yup, TYW style commanded shot.

      > I think what you term Shot covers the first type well, putting aside rule tweaks.

      Cool

      > Conversely, I don’t think the Shot type covers the second option very well at all, especially in terms of the look, feel and flavour because:
      > (a) ‘look & feel’ – a brigade sized unit of shot is the opposite of what would be seen;

      Well, I did say the aesthetics are poor. 🙂

      > (b) ‘look & feel’ – a brigade sized unit of shot extending the front of a cavalry line to represent what would be achieved with the same number of commanded shot between squadrons compounds that anomaly;

      Sorry, I don’t get you.

      > (c) ‘feel & flavour’ – it’s quite likely that Commanded Shot would be stripped from existing units, which reduces the effectiveness of some Pike & Shot or Shot units

      It is true. But I choose to ignore that. Particularly since players are disinclined to take Shot as it is. So I assume they have been taken proportionally from all pike+shot and not reduced the effectiveness of those units. Simple.

      I have some thoughts about how to simulate this at Nordlingen where the Spanish-Imperialists, during the battle, detached shot from unoccupied units and fed them into the meat grinder. Not simple. But provide scenario specific flavour that is important to the battle.

      > (a) the general can change his mind and redeploy the unit, which wouldn’t be the case for true Commanded Shot; and

      That is true. And in fact historical generals could change their mind too. If they get enough time. In Tilly’s Very Bad Day generals get very very little time to change their minds. Melee is possible on Turn 1. So I’m not worried about that.

      > (b) it isn’t vulnerable to the loss of the Horse, as Commanded Shot would be.

      Well, you might find you change your mind about that when you give it a go on table.

      Horse roll over shot if they contact them. The advantage of a horse and shot combo, is that shot can shoot up the approaching enemy horse (reduce their Resolve), and the friendly horse can stop the enemy horse contacting the shot. If the enemy horse do contact the shot, the shot are goners. I think that is a reasonable simulation.

      > Maybe:
      > (a) mark Horse that have Commanded Shot as such and increase their firepower, [Extra rule]
      > perhaps increase their resolve too (but probably not), [Extra rule]
      > increase the width of their flank buffer zones [Extra rule]
      > and decrease their movement rate; [Extra rule]
      > (b) mark the infantry units that have contributed the Commanded Shot and reduce their resolve and reduce their firepower. [Extra rule]

      As it happens I thought about similar options.

      I think the trouble with this solution is that it would add quite a lot of extra rules.
      5 extra rules.

      My solution is simpler and achieves the same results with no extra rules.
      And, in truth, it is even marginally better on aesthetics, because at least in my simulation there are actual shot figures. 🙂

      > Well you did ask.

      I did. And I don’t regret it. I ask to test my ideas. And check out alternatives.

      Thanks for sharing.

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