Musing on Commander Ability in Tilly’s Very Bad Day

I like the way John Fletcher (2005, 2006) assigns explicit abilities to the generals of the South American Wars of Liberation. In Liberators QPR generals are classified on a five rating scale from abysmal, through poor, average, good to excellent. And then he gives come generals extra abilities e.g. improved initiative. So how would that work in Tilly’s Very Bad Day for the generals of the Thirty Years War?

How good were the 30 Years War Generals?

I’ve done rough assessment of some generals of the Thirty Years War.

I have to admit assessing the generals was difficult. Basically I just read the Wikipedia page and went for gut feel. I started by making lots of Generals “Superior” because they were capable military men. But I realised I was being overly generous. So I moved the competent military men to “Ordinary”. That still left a few who seemed larger than life to me.

General Special abilities In service of
Hapsburg Coalition Anti-Hapsburg Coalition
Superior (4)
Ambrogio Spinola Spain
Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly Catholic League
Franz von Mercy Bavaria; Austria
Bernard of Saxe-Weimar Various Protestant powers; France
Gustavus Adolphus +1 to Initiative Sweden
Henri de La Tour d’Auvergne, Viscount of Turenne France
Lennart Torstensson +1 to Initiative Sweden
Louis II de Bourbon, Prince of Condé France
Ordinary (3)
Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein -1 to Initiative Austria
Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand Spain
Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim +1 to Initiative Austria
Jean Reichsgraf de Merode Austria, Spain
Johann von Aldringen Austria
Ottavio Piccolomini Austria, Spain
Peter Melander Austria Sweden
Carl Gustaf Wrangel Sweden
Gabriel Bethlen Transylvania
Dodo zu Innhausen und Knyphausen Sweden
Johan Banér Sweden
Peter Ernst, count of Mansfeld, or simply Ernst von Mansfeld Various Protestant powers
Inferior (2)
Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria Austria
Matthias Gallas “destroyer of armies” Austria
Rodolfo Giovanni Marazzino, also known as Ruldof Morzin Austria
Christian IV Denmark
Christian of Anhalt Palatinate
Raw (1)

Here are a few that I need to assess:

  • George, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Sweden)
  • Jost Maximilian von Gronsfeld (Holy Roman Empire)
  • Lothar Dietrich Freiherr von Bönninghausen

Commander Rating

I’m thinking of using the same Superior, Ordinary, Inferior, Raw scale as Troop Quality. I’ll call that “Commander Rating”. Commander Rating could influence command range and commander rally.

12.1.1. Being “in command”

Commander Rating could affect the command range. Perhaps an inferior commander would have a command range of 6 TUM, an ordinary one 8 TUM (standard rules), and a superior general on 10 TUM. Or something like that.

15.5. Commander rally

Perhaps make the commander rally a die roll. And a commander could rally either an attached unit or an detached unit.

To rally an attached unit either recover one Resolve automatically or roll against Commander Rating. In rolling, roll the Commander Rating in dice and hit of 5+; each hit recovers a Resolve for the attach units.

Generals can instead rally a unit that is within command range but not attached. Again roll the Commander Rating in dice, hits on 6, and each hit recovers one Resolve. Note: there is no automatic rally for detached units.

What other special attributes might generals have?

I haven’t really tried to put in other attributes for these generals. That would require more analysis than I did. But possibilities are:

High initiative: +1 to initiative roll
Low initiative: -1 to initiative roll
Brave: 2d6 in melee not 1d6
Inspiring: +1d6 for rallying with Commander Ability
Tactical flexibility: if win initiative can give it to the enemy
Strong tactician: +1 Scouting Hits
Strong strategist: +3 Scouting Hits
Predictable: Enemy gets +1 Scouting Hit
Coward: Cannot hit in melee i.e. 0d6
Old Man: Cannot hit in melee i.e. 0d6
Artillery man: Double bombardment dice
Head strong:

Some of these can be combined. For example an Old Man who is a Strong strategist. But others can’t e.g. Coward and Brave.

What do you think?

I’m interested in your ideas on Commander Rating, how it could be used, other special abilities, or how to apply special abilities to the game. And other generals that really warrant a rating. What do you think?

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

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


Fletcher, J. (2005). Liberators! Volume 1: The War in the South. Grenadier Productions.

Fletcher, J. (2006). Liberators! Supplement 1: The War in the South. Grenadier Productions.

4 thoughts on “Musing on Commander Ability in Tilly’s Very Bad Day”

  1. I never really liked the idea of different levels of commander skill. It should be my skill and competence as a player (commander of the army), not an arbitrary rule, that says who has better commanders.

    About detached unit rally, plus some other abillities, such as Old man – it reduces players incentive to attach commander, which is the only situation in which he can be killed. Commanders in Tilly’s Very Bad Day are currently very powerful but also very vulnerable when attached. When not, they are completely safe, but less useful on battlefield. Afformentioned rules change this balance, particularly the detached rally, which makes commanders effective (although only to some extent) while remaining vitrually invincible.

    • > “I never really liked the idea of different levels of commander skill. It should be my skill and competence as a player (commander of the army), not an arbitrary rule, that says who has better commanders.”

      Agreed when talking about the overall commander of all the forces, i.e. the player. You are you, with your own flaws.

      But what about when you have subordinate commands? I think having subordinate commanders that do not follow your orders to the letter (because of cowardice, incompetence, impetuousness, treachery or whatever) is appealing and simulates some of the friction a real commander must face.

  2. On the other hand, changing command range might be interesting if nothing else. I would also imagine it would not only simulate individual qualities of the commander, which I don’t like, but also the skill and experience of other lower officers under his command, efficiency of messengers and so on. It might also simulate weather – mist of too much smoke on battlefield reducing command range of all commanders by 2 TUM.

    Regarding the initiative, it would be nice to create some alternative to those rules for people, such as myself, who like to give initiative to the attacker all the time rather than roll of every turn.


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