Musing on Cavalry Pursuit in Tilly’s Very Bad Day

I asked whether I should introduce baggage camps to Tilly’s Very Bad Day. Opinions where mixed, of course, but for me the big take away was baggage camps were a red herring. The thing to simulate is cavalry pursuit. The questions is how? I’ve been mulling over pursuit in a couple of contexts. I thought I’d share and see what you think. These are not well formed thoughts. Just a bit a jumble to reflect the various considerations and possibilities.

Prince Rupert's cavalry at Edgehill
Prince Rupert’s cavalry at Edgehill

What context to simulate cavalry pursuit

Cavalry can/did pursue in a number of different contexts. These are related but can be simulated separately. The three pursuit contexts I see are when an enemy:

  1. Unit routs
  2. Command breaks but rest of the army hangs around
  3. Allied army has one ally breaks but other ally hangs around

I’ve been focussing on context 3, with the occasional attempt at context 2, and distant consideration of context 1.

Context 1. Unit routs

Several wargaming rules have cavalry that are successful in melee pursuing their defeated opponents.

In Tilly’s Very Bad Day this could mean that when a Horse or Light Horse Unit has all enemy in contact routed or rally back they pursue.

In practice I don’t think any such pursuit would last long because this localised fight in part of a much larger battle. Other events would quickly distract the pursuers. This is in contrast to the other two contexts I’m considering.

Context 2. Command breaks but rest of the army hangs around

Several of the English Civll War battles feature cavalry commands breaking on the wings and the enemy cavalry pursuing them off table. The fate of the left and right wings were separate, so the left could break and be pursued off the battlefield, while the right wins and pursues their opponents off.

The only element of command morale within Tilly’s Very Bad Day is commander casualties. Lose the commander and all Units lose a Resolve. But that is nothing like all Units fleeing the table as fast as they can.

Possibilities for the command morale are:

  1. Rely on any new rule to cover Context 1
  2. Adapt the army morale rules to commands so introduce a command breakpoint

I’ve struggled with these options. For a start I haven’t figured out a good solution to Context 1 i.e. pursuit when a unit routs.

I’ve considered 1/4, 1/3, and 1/2 for command breakpoint. But it isn’t straight forward for me. A low breakpoints makes commands of 2-8 units terribly fragile. A high breakpoint will potentially slow the games.

I’m also struggling to find a command breakpoint that fits sensibly within the wider context of army morale. When does the army break? Stick with an army wide breakpoint (1/4/ or 1/3) or have to break all commands? I dunno.

Some of the approaches I outline in the next context can also apply here.

Context 3. Allied army has one ally breaks but other ally hangs around

Breitenfeld is the big example. There were four allied armies present, two on each side. Tilly’s army comprised Imperialist and Catholic League components but they operated as a coherent whole, at least as far as we can tell from this distance in time. The Anti-Hapsburg allied army, however, didn’t. The Swedes and Saxons fought separately. Swedes deployed on the right and the Saxons deployed on the left. All infantry, aside from commanded shot, were in the centre with the Swedes deployed right centre and the Saxons left centre. The Saxons fled the field rapidly and the Swedes fought on and won the battle. Quite a specular result and a perfect example of the conditions I am trying to simulate.

As I see it the main different between the Hapsburg and Anti-Hapsburg armies at Breitenfeld was troop quality. The Imperialist, Catholic League, and Swedish armies were all experienced and confident troops. The Saxons, although well dressed, were relatively raw, comprising “untrained conscripts and militiamen, and had very few muskets” ( Wikipedia: Battle of Breitenfeld (1631)).

In Tilly’s Very Bad Day I think the best way to represent this is for each army to give allied armies have their own Commands and Units. They should deploy, fight, and win/lose separately from each other.

The combined army must have a single Centre Zone. All Pike+Shot Units, from all friendly Allied Armies, must deploy in the friendly Centre Zone.

I don’t think units from Allied Armies should be able to provide support in Melee. Support in Melee is a candidate rule for the next version of the rules, that I’ve mention before. It is to encourage deploying in multiple lines. It doesn’t make sense to me to allow Allied armies to support each other in this way.

I think it best to use the normal army morale rules for each Allied Army in isolation. An Allied Army “loses” by the normal army morale criteria (1/4 or 1/3 losses). Other Allied Armies fight on and are unaffected by the destruction of their colleagues.

The published rules (version 1) have 1/4 losses as the army breakpoint and I’ve to 1/3 losses in my own games. But the Saxons were really poor quality. So perhaps 1/5 losses would be enough to break them. So, for example, a normal army of 16 Units would have a army breakpoint of 6 Units (1/3 round up) but a Saxon army of 16 Units would have a lower army breakpoint, possibly 4 (1/5 round up).

The question is, what happens when an Allied Army “loses”? Possibilities for the army that has just “lost” are:

  1. All remaining Units in that army Rout and are removed from the table
  2. All remaining Units n that army flee across the table to and are removed only when they reach the base line
  3. The army fights on but all Units lose two Resolve immediately
  4. The army fights on but turn up morale erosion (another rule that is proving itself in play testing) so for every rout friendly Units must loses Resolve
  5. The army fights on but for every rout it loses another Unit routed

I think removing all Units is simplest. It accelerates the action to the next interesting bit of the battle. Rather than simulated the destruction of hte component units and how they run away, the action focusses on the forces that pursue the defeated army and what else is going on.

But also what happens to any enemy facing them? This is exactly where cavalry pursuit comes into play. At Breitenfeld the Hapsburg cavalry pursued the Saxons off the battlefield. so I need a cavalry pursuit rule to cover this situation. And it has to have the cavalry disappearing.

Additional or common rules

I thought I’d share some rules I have been toying with that I haven’t mentioned above in the discussion of pursuit contexts. They can apply in any of the contexts.

Who pursues

Cavalry were more inclined to pursue than foot. So Horse and Light Horse should pursue. Light Horse were particularly feared in that situation.

I’m inclined to add in Dragoons because anybody with a horse is going to pursue more effectively than guys on foot.

Rules to stop pursuit

Units continue to pursue until one of:

  1. charge another enemy unit (pursuing units that can charge must charge)
  2. pursue off table with potential to come back
  3. make a successful Command Check (if, for example, you also don’t want to charge)

Simulating fleeing troops

I have thought about:

  1. Leaving units on table and fleeing them individually so they move across table to the baseline
  2. Replacing fleeing units with “fleeing men” markers so show these are no longer units in the normal meaning, and then fleeing them individually
  3. Using “fleeing men” markers to mark on the baseline the destination of any fleeing unit/command/army. Could be a single fleeing men marker (perhaps behind where the fleeing general was). Or could use two fleeing man markers to mark out a sector of the base line, indicating the outer edges of the command/army that has fled. Or could be one per unit that is fleeing. All fleeing/pursing units head for these markers.
Tillys Very Bad Day - Markers - Fleeing Man
Tillys Very Bad Day – Markers – Fleeing Man

Pursuit to stop rallying

Pursuit occurs for two reasons: (1) to inflict casualties and (2) ensure the defeated enemy don’t come back. The two are related of course. More casualties means the defeated enemy is less likely to come back. But if pursuit stops I think there should be a chance to rally any unit, command or army that has fled off table.

The basic idea is to allow players to rally off table units, perhaps with a command check. I’ve toyed with many ideas for how pursuit hinders this, some of which can be used in combination:

  1. Count the number of pursuing units as a negative modifier against rallying off table units
  2. Only allow rallying of off table units if there is no pursuit
  3. Leave routed units on the baseline and let pursuing units eliminate them by touching them; only those routed units that are still on the base line can be rallied
  4. Leave running men markers on the baseline and let pursuing units eliminate them by touching them; only one unit can be rallied for each remaining running man

Pursuing off table

Pursuers often left the battlefield. It was hard to prevent pursuit and even harder to stop pursuit once it had started. This is, if I take an outrageous liberty with historical interpretation, the reason the Royalists lost the English Civil War.

In Tilly’s Very Bad Day pursuit should lead to the pursuers leaving the table. Need some mechanism to bring them back. Some troops will be more inclined to pursue and leave the table (Royalists) and some less (Cromwell’s Parliamentarians).

19 thoughts on “Musing on Cavalry Pursuit in Tilly’s Very Bad Day”

  1. Hi Steven, so, here are my similarly jumbled first thoughts as an initial response. I hope they’re useful.

    1. Unit routs. Nice to have, as it can add some flavour, but not critical enough to do so if the means adds too much complication. I’d deal with it in a similar manner to DBA. Some unit types are likely to pursue an opponent who gives ground, whether rout

    Command breaks but rest of the army hangs around
    Allied army has one ally breaks but other ally hangs around

  2. Sorry, finger slipped … so continuing more carefully …

    Hi Steven, so, here are my similarly jumbled first thoughts as an initial response. I hope they’re useful.

    1. Unit routs. Nice to have, as it can add some flavour, but not critical enough to do so if the means adds too much complication. I’d deal with it in a similar manner to DBA. Some unit types are likely to pursue an opponent who gives ground, whether falling back or routing. Force these to pursue for one charge move (standard move plus charge bonus) unless halted by a successful, optional, command check. If that move takes them off board, they’re gone but not lost for the purposes of command break point. Of course that means distinguishing between impetuous types and steady types, which introduces an unwanted complication. (Unless that is you simply make all cavalry prone to pursuit.)

    2. Command breaks but rest of the army hangs around. I think this is the mechanism that would add value to the game. I also think that it’s a generic mechanism that should cater for context 3 ‘Allied army has one ally breaks but other ally hangs around’, so I’ll address that in this context.

    I think you are on the page that an army is a group of commands all from one nation, for our purpose, but that there may be more than one army on the same side.

    For command morale: morale is good unless commander lost (per current rules) or the command losses reach 1/3 (rounded up) of its original total Resolve. At that point take a Command Check, using the remaining resolve to determine the number of D6s used.

    If Hits >= Resolve losses then all OK.

    If Hits < Resolve losses then then take the difference as Resolve losses across the remaining units in the command, starting with the one(s) with the lowest Resolve.

    Carry on until further losses are accrued from combat (not from this check), then repeat the check.

    I don't think it'll take long before all the remaining units in the command are gone.

    The main advantage (as I see it) of this process is that it avoids having to work to an arbitrary break point. (Of course in its place there's an arbitrary 'start checking whether you break' point.)

    The main disadvantage is that it introduces additional things to do and additional things to do are never compatible with quick play.

    Once the command is completely routed, any neighbouring commands from the same national group check morale using the same mechanism, regardless of their current losses. Neighbouring commands from other national groups are unaffected until the last allied command is routed from the field, at which point I think it would be reasonable to expect the same process to start with them. I'd certainly start looking over my shoulder at that point no matter what language the terrified shrieking was couched in.

    So those are the suggestions about how to decide whether troops run away, now what about pursuit?

    Maybe deal with pursuit at the unit level, per 1 above. So if a unit is in melee with an enemy unit that breaks as a result of the Command Morale check (or possibly just it within its own ZOC) then operate the 'unit routs' rule at that point.

    A couple of further observations

    Who pursues? Sounds right but not entirely convinced about the Dragoons, unless already mounted up.

    Simulating fleeing troops? My proposal for context 1 would obviate the need to keep them on the table so I'd be inclined just to take them off and, in my own case, I haven't got time to paint all the brave soldiers that I own so I'm very unlikely to get around to painting and basing useless mobs of craven dolts.

    Pursuit to stop rallying. I don't think that having the opportunity to do this is worth the trade off in game time, frankly, and in any case, the mechanism I'm suggesting to handle context 2 would imply that there's not much left to rally.

    Right, I've run out of time. (Was that a sigh of relief?) Gotta go. Can't wait to discover what you finally choose to do.

    Oooh, before I forget, all the best for the season. Chris

    • I have toyed with ideas similar to this. Low command breakpoint but units hang around until their own morale fails. But on balance I always find them too complicated for fast play.

      I agree re fleeing troops … “just take them off”.

      I wouldn’t have a command failure lead to other morale checks. The whole point of the rule is to allow part of the army to run while other fight on.

      I have dragoons pursing, along with horse and light horse, because we are talking about the situation where the entire enemy line in front of the unit has collapsed. Dragoons will find their horses to join in. Foot don’t have that option.

      Have a great festive season. I’m already on holiday and loving it.

  3. Quick clarification of some more than usually poor English.

    Towards the bottom of my post I wrote; ‘Maybe deal with pursuit at the unit level, per 1 above. So if a unit is in melee with an enemy unit that breaks as a result of the Command Morale check (or possibly just it within its own ZOC) then operate the ‘unit routs’ rule at that point.’

    I’m trying to say: ‘Maybe deal with pursuit at the unit level, per 1 above. So if a unit is in melee with an enemy unit (or possibly just has the unit within its own ZOC) that breaks as a result of the Command Morale check then operate the ‘unit routs’ rule at that point.’

  4. Steven

    My head is spinning just reading this! I think you need to start by simplifying the questions!

    The first issue is breakpoints. For a fastplay game (with emphasis on ‘fastplay’ and ‘game’) you need something simple. Talking about Commands AND Allied Armies is too complicated. I suggest sticking with just Commands and having a simple rule such as: A Command breaks if it loses [50%] or more of its units, and an Army breaks if it loses [50%] or more of its Commands.

    I’ll come back about some of the other points.


    • My head was spinning. So that is why I thought I’d write it down and share.

      Hidden in my post was a set of questions:
      1. Should I simulate cavalry pursuit when an enemy unit routs? (Context 1)
      2. Should I simulate cavalry pursuit when an enemy command breaks? (Context 2)
      3. Should I simulate cavalry pursuit when an enemy allied army breaks? (Context 3)
      4. How?

      I have played with lots of complicated maths, but I do recall your wise advice to avoid this, so I kept coming back to a scheme that matches your suggestion i.e. ” A Command breaks if it loses [50%] or more of its units, and an Army breaks if it loses [50%] or more of its Commands.”

      Even there, there is choice.
      – You have suggested equal or more to 50%.
      – Another option is more than 50%.

      Typical command and army sizes make this an important game design decision:

      Here are the 50% breakpoints (and the number for more than 50% in brackets where they differ):
      1 of 2 Units (or 2 of 2)
      2 of 3 Units
      2 of 4 Units (or 3 of 4)
      3 of 5 Units
      3 of 6 Units (or 4 of 6)

      So which is better a command breakpoint of 2 or 3 for a command with four Units?

      Similarly for army break points based on commands. 3 or 4 commands is typical but just to prove me wrong Chris Harrod fielded an army with only two and the Imperialists at Lutzen had more. The maths is the same…

      1 of 2 Commands (or 2 of 2)
      2 of 3 Commands
      2 of 4 Commands (or 3 of 4)
      3 of 5 Commands
      3 of 6 Commands (or 4 of 6)

      Which is better for an army of four commands? What what about armies of two commands?

      So many things to consider.

  5. What an interesting discussion! There are many more issues here than I’d realised.

    For ‘context 2’, Chris’s scheme has many appealing features. However, I think it will be very difficult to get the numbers right, for all possible sizes of battle. Apart from small commands being brittle, it also seems to me that a reserve couldn’t help out a damaged command, as I think it ought to be able to do. I expect the problems can be solved, but I wonder about the extra complication. For the moment, I’d be inclined to stick with ‘army morale’ rather than ‘command morale’. The idea of ‘morale erosion’, mentioned as an experimental rule, may provide an element of ‘command morale’, whilst still keeping TVBD simple.

    For ‘context 3’, I wonder if this is scenario specific? Yes, Brietenfeld is the memorable example, but I can’t immediately recollect another 30YW battle where two allies behaved in such different ways. Mostly, I think they operated more coherently, but I’ll try to try to check. Otherwise, except in the largest of games, I can’t see anyone wanting to have a weak ally. It also goes against the idea that all units are equivalent to each other, if some units are part of a command that is more likely to fail than another command.

    That takes me back to ‘context 1’ which is where my thoughts began. I’ll see if I can think of a scheme (to be shot down by others, of course, but maybe something can come from the wreckage).

    On the ‘additional rules’, I probably would restrict pursuit to horse and light horse. I can’t really see dragoons getting back on their horses to chase after an enemy their shooting has dispersed. I would have thought that dragoons are unlikely to cause units to rout in melee.

    Do pursuers come back if off-table? I suspect that, after pursuing for a while, the pursuers aren’t in a fit state to intervene again. The Hapsburg horse didn’t come back at Brietenfeld. Similarly, I can’t recall many cases where a routed unit reformed enough to come back. At the moment, an on-table unit can only rally 1 resolve per turn, and only when a commander is with them. In that context, how fast would off-table rallying be?

    I’ll think some more.


    • Hi Roger, that’s a thought provoking contribution.

      The point you make about a mechanism whereby reserves help out is an interesting thought. HFG deals with that quite well by allowing the CinC to transfer elements between commands, including from a reserve command to another command. The transfer effectively increases the breakpoint of the receiving command. It’s simple and elegant and it definitely works (I play HFG fairly often), without introducing any additional complexity to speak of. The same system could be used in conjunction with my suggestion for managing Command Break-point.

      Nevertheless, when all’s said and done, the point Richard makes above (17 Dec 2019 at 17:33) is very valid. This is all beginning to feel just a touch like additional complication with limited added play value. Regards and season’s greetings to all, Chris

      • Thanks Chris; that transfer of units from the reserve could be a solution, despite the added breakpoint calculations. I’d still prefer to keep things simple, so with Richard there.

        How many elements are there in a typical HFG command? Part of my difficulty is that I’m generally playing ‘small’ TVBD games, with commands of 3 to 5 units. Lose a couple of units in a command (which could happen in the first turn), one bad roll of the command check, and the game is probably over as a contest. I don’t want my games of TVBD to end so quickly!

        Very best wishes for Christmas to you and all here.


      • Chris, interesting suggestion to transfer units. It does give Reserves more of a purpose. I’m also conscious that the Catholics did this at Nordlingen or, more specifically, channeled shot from unengaged tercios to those engaged with the Swedes on the hill. So, whether as a general rule, or a scenario specific rule, I’ll need something like that.

    • Roger, your comment that “I’d be inclined to stick with ‘army morale’ rather than ‘command morale’” resonates with me. Personally I’m not convinced I need command failure to be a universal rule. I can tuck it away in the Advanced Rules for those who want the added complication.

      Context 3 is definitely not a universal situation. Breitenfeld and perhaps no where else. Perhaps it is a scenario specific rule.

      I would allow Dragoons to pursue in Context 2 or 3, when all nearby enemy have fled. Then, unlike the friendly foot, they have a horse to join in the general pursuit. And pursuit means possibility of loot … so I reckon they would run for their horses.

      I like your question “Do pursuers come back if off-table?” I think the answer is probably “not quick enough to make a difference”. So the general/player either holds them on table or has lost them for good.

  6. Commands or wings should have higher breaking points than their army does. If the army breaking point is 1/3, then the wing break-point should be 1/2.

    Or have the break-point remain the same. When reached, the wing checks morale/resolve/whatever you prefer to call it. If it fails, it breaks. If it passes, carry on but test whenever another unit is broken. Or have each remaining unit in the wing lose 1 resolve when passing a test.

    • I agree “Commands or wings should have higher breaking points than their army does”.

      I have experimented with variants like the option you suggest but ended up back with simple.

  7. A routing unit is reduced to a dispersed mass of running men. It’s unlikely to return to the battlefield as an effective fighting force, and IMO is probably best removed from play.

    The important thing is not what happens to the routers but to visualise what happens to the victors. Many rules allow pursuers to charge fresh enemy, though in reality successful pursuers could actually be quite vulnerable to counterattack.

    Perhaps victorious cavalry whose opponents have routed should continue to move in the same direction, like automatons, unless or until they can be rallied.

    They might contact fresh enemy. They might be contacted. They might leave the table. They might or might not come back.


    • Richard, there are instances were a command that has fled returned to fight again. But it was rare so I probably don’t have to simulate this. As you say “probably best removed from play”

      I completely agree that “The important thing is not what happens to the routers but to visualise what happens to the victors”. This is why the post is about “musing on cavalry pursuit” even though a lot of the content is about the fleeing troops.

      I have ended up thinking along the lines of your cavalry “automatons”. Although the phrase I had in mind was “uncontrolled advance” … an echo from early WRG.

  8. I said I’d put forward a scheme for pursuits to trigger discussion, so here goes.

    When a horse or light horse unit routs an enemy unit, it is given a ‘pursuit marker’. In its next movement phase, it makes a command check, adding a die if a commander is attached. If it gets a ‘hit’, it rallies. If it doesn’t get at least one hit, it loses 1 resolve, wheels to face the enemy baseline (because that is where the routers are running to) and moves directly forward 3 TUM, or until it is stopped by a buffer zone. In the charge phase, it moves directly forward another 3 TUM, or until it contacts an enemy. If it doesn’t contact an enemy, it retains its pursuit marker, and will repeat the command check, resolve loss, etc. next turn. If its resolve falls to 0, or it leaves the table, it is removed, but doesn’t count as routed. Instead, the number of units in the army is reduced by 1 for subsequent army morale tests.

    That largely follows Richards suggestion for ‘automatons’, with a couple of tweaks. The move of 3 rather than the normal 6 TUM for cavalry is to stop the unit vanishing off table too fast, so probably giving a couple of chances to pass a command check and rally. Also, if a commander is with the unit when it leaves the table, he too is lost, carried away by the pursuit.

    That’s about as simple as I can make it. By all means say it has too many weaknesses or problems. I hope something useful will emerge eventually.


    • Roger, my own thinking includes elements of your suggestion, but sometimes with a different twist.

      re “pursuit marker”
      I was thinking a charge marker behind the unit with the arrow pointed at the unit. It has the advantage that players will already have that kind of marker.

      But was also toying with the fleeing man markers. My thinking was all friendly troops will pursue when an enemy command flees in front of them. So perhaps marking the friendly units is less important that marking the flight of the enemy command. Closer to a enemy fleeing man than other enemy troops and a unit pursues. But perhaps it is more complicated than a pursuit marker.

      re command check to rally
      That is what I was thinking.

      re command adding to command check
      I can argue either way. Commanders were as likely to be caught up in the pursuit as their men.

      re losing 1 resolve if fail command check
      Wow, that is both genius and super harsh. I like it. Definitely fits with the concept of resolve. The longer a unit pursues the less resolve it becomes and hence less responsive to command.

      re Pursuit move
      You’ve suggested 3 TUM move plus a 3 TUM Charge. I was going the other way, even considering enhanced movement when pursuing. After all, if a cavalry unit is not trying to maintain order, it can move pretty quick. Perhaps the normal movement rate plus charge is a nice compromise.

  9. Steven

    In view of the relatively small number of units in a command, I think it should rout at 50% loss rather than >50%, i.e. 2 out of 4 units rather than 3 out of 4. Cannons should possibly be left out of the equation. For armies I would set the breakpoint at 2/3 of its commands so that a routing allied command would be ignored.

    Are these differing percentages (50, 66.6) rational and justifiable? I would say definitely yes because the more immediate the unit the more susceptible it will be to the infection of fear. In other words a battalion is more likely to rout than a brigade and a brigade more likely than a command etc.

    Having an ‘uncontrolled advance’ after routing another unit is a reasonably clear situation. Pursuing a routed Command is less so. I think it would still have to be dealt with on a unit by unit basis, maybe something like this…

    “A horse unit must start an uncontrolled advance if an enemy unit routs directly to its front and within its charge reach.” This would kick in when units of a command rout even if enemy units are not actually in contact with them. Units see enemy units but they don’t know what commands they belong to.


    • Richard, sensible suggestions. I like your uncontrolled advance idea.

      And just to get the numbers straight I thought I’d type up your suggestions for command and army breakpoint …

      For Command Breakpoint (1/2)
      1 of 1-2 Units
      2 of 3-4 Units
      3 of 5-6 Units
      4 of 7-8 Units

      For Army Breakpoint (2/3)
      1 of 1 Command
      2 of 2-3 Commands
      3 of 4-5 Commands
      4 of 6 Commands

      That could cater for Breitenfeld. Assuming the Protestants had 4 commands, when the two Saxon commands fled the two Swedish commands could fight on.

      I do wonder if two commands would become a popular configuration for pick up games.


Leave a Reply