Musing on resolve – commander rally at a distance

Commander rally is a key element of the morale rules in Tilly’s Very Bad Day. To rally a unit the commander has to attach to the unit. Should I soften this and allow rallying at a distance?

Current commander rally

The current rule is nice and simple:

A Commander attached to a unit can strengthen the resolve of that unit by 1 point.

What isn’t obvious from that is being attached exposes a commander to risk:

A Commander attached to a unit that takes hits, from either shooting or melee, can become a casualty. This is the only way that a Commander can be lost.

Commanders offer their attached units the ability to rally and and advantages in melee. But the commander can be killed. That tension is part of what makes Tilly’s Very Bad Day exciting.

Proposed commander rally

I first suggested this rule in my post on Musing on Commander Ability in Tilly’s Very Bad Day. The idea is that a commander can rally either an attached unit or an detached unit.

I’d like the attached rally to be easier / more effective than the detached rally. So commander rally would need a die roll.

Attached rally

To rally an attached unit either recover one resolve automatically or roll against commander rating. This is a player choice: recover automatically or roll the dice. If you’re not using commander ratings, roll 3d6. Each dice hits on 5+ and each hit recovers one resolve for the attached unit.

Detached rally

Commander can instead rally a unit that is within command range but not attached. Again roll the commander rating in dice (3d6 you know otherwise). You need 6 to hit and each hit recovers one resolve. Note: there is no automatic rally for detached units.

Observations and conclusions

The proposed rule does seem to extend the current rule in a logical fashion. The hit on 5+ for attached versus 6 plus seems to offer encouragement for attaching, and accepting the associated risk.

Giving players a choice on how to do attached rallying seems to offer players a bit more flavour and potential excitement, with associated risk. For example: “One resolve isn’t enough. I’m going for broke and rolling. (sound of dice tumbling) Oh, no! Three 1s. Not hits. No resolve. I’m doomed.”

So far so good.

But will players revert their commanders to hands off, rather ineffectual, rallying machines.

Not sure. Probably worth a play test.

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

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

6 thoughts on “Musing on resolve – commander rally at a distance”

  1. You could combine this with the previous musing to allow a commander to rally multiple units which are not in contact. There would need to be some kind of modifiers so that if you attempt to rally a bunch of units far from the enemy you might get one or more successes, but if you try to rally several units in the midst of combat there is little chance you achieve anything. Might be too complex.

    • Andrew, there are lots of possibilities. But, as you say, they might be too complex. I have a suspicion that all my recent resolve suggestions are drifting towards too complex, without adding value.

  2. I would ask “What is the reality that you are trying to model?”
    To my mind morale does not work as it does in wargames which have adopted a paradigm from the very earilest set of rules and stuck with it.
    An army started to collapse by a cascade of morale failures, a veteran unit cracked and ran and from here units started to collapse on either side until the whole army was in retreat with perhaps a few veteran units standing firm, the Whitecoats at Marston Moor for instance.
    Wargames rules do not model this and individual units run away, say if an attack fails or they get caught in the flank by cavalry.
    Many of the accounts of generals rallying the troops were interventions to stop the cascade, so the general was close by to the point of failure. The individual events did rally but often this was no more than the colonel of the regiment itself stopping the rot.

    You could model this by there being two rallying systems, individual units can roll (by the colonel) just on a die roll. Generals attached to a unit give a modifier to this to make it more effective. However once a unit collapses, I would give the units on either side a morale penalty. This would prompt the player to use his general to lead attacks to stiffen morale.

    On another matter, I was reading a very old post about arquebus and how they were poorly modelled in DBR and how they generally got a bad press. I was reading Ribas, The Battle of Nordlingen 1634, (London Helion) 2021 where he has a great description of the Spanish use of arquebus armed troops as detachable mobile fire units where the Squadrons sent them out to occupy the key hill at Nordlingen.

    • mikhailkoshkin, thanks for your insightful comments here an elsewhere.

      re morale collapse
      I like to think that Tilly’s Very Bad Day, as written, already models cascading morale collapse. A unit routs and a nearby friendly unit suffers. Commanders / Generals can slow this collapse but cannot prevent it. As it happens, none of this needs a die roll, which means the mechanism is very fast.

      Perhaps this is why there is general dislike for my recent resolve suggestions. The basic message is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

      re arquebus
      Yup, the Spanish were still kings of the battlefield during the early 17th Century. A comparison of the ballistic attributes of arquebus and musket might leave the former lacking in hitting power, but not all wargames are 1-2-1 skirmish games. At a brigade level arquebusiers were effective troops. The Spanish knew the capabilities of the weapon and what to use it for.

  3. Hi Steven, can I just add my voice to the “it ain’t broke so don’t fix it” chorus. The attached commander option for rallying is a clear status marker (without the need to add another marker) and also a deliberate choice of how to use a precious resource. A choice which is made before the fact, in the movement or charge phase. Giving players knotty decisions to make is what a good game is all about and Tilly is definitely a good game right now. Just sayin’. Regards, Chris

  4. Had another read through of the Tilly rules while I am busily painting Thirty Years War armies and had a few thoughts and reflections on rules in general.

    I always used to like the PIP points in DBR as a means of introducing ‘friction’ into command without the need to actually model lines of sight, messengers and lower officers initiative. Particulary as the game progressed and the army started to break up from its large formations you needed more PIP points to control everything. On the other hand the need to conserve PIP meant that many armies simply lined up as long groups.

    FOGR handled this better by stipulating fixed formations but in the process strayed away from the original DBA concept of ‘bang your dead’ back to the original figure removal model. You had to erode your 16 element Tercio by killing the individual elements. FOGR abandoned PIP and used an area command system which did not change during the battle. Also the fixed nature of the units did not allow for detachment of shot wings as the Spanish squadrons did at Nordlingen. Interestingly they did bring back a version of PIP for the FOGN to nly allow complex moves if within command range and if the PIP allowed.

    Twilight of the Divine Right has ‘bang your dead’ but commanders simply help units get forward by rethrowing failed dice throws and and adding to morale tests. Cannot remember George Gush’s rules but I am pretty sure that they included little command friction.

    Personally for me, I like the “Command Friction” in games rather than the “All Seeing General”. Paddy Griffiths once created a game where the commander had to plan out his day, reviewing troops, writing home to the government, having lunch and just a few hours for actual generalling!
    Perhaps a combination of the DBR PIPs used with a looser version of FOGRs fixed units (played at Condensed scale so that the units are only four elements strong.) Send your Tercio sleeves off to man a village, by all means, but now you have five units whereas before you had just one.

    Rather than rolling a die for PIP points, you get a fixed allocation of PIP poiints related to the number of units in your command and the die roll moderates this by 1 or 2 up and down. Bad weather -1, Inept General -1, Poor visability -2 and combine it with the area control idea. Units stray too far from your general and he loses control and they cannot access any PIP?

    Likewise, take away some of the flexibility of the All Seeing General positioning his units 2mm outside of enemy charge range. Units with orders to attack, do so, those ordered to move and hold, stop at the end of their full move. Units act without orders, not often but enough to spice things up a bit. The modern trend of moving troops by squares on the battlefield reflects this to an extent. As does the idea of a player having his move until he loses the Initiative and it passing to the other player. Makes you concentrate on the important bits of the battle.

    Anyway I shall be interested to see what you come up with next,


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