Musing on resolve – recent tweaks rejected

Well, that has been a miserable failure. I’ve been musing on the resolve rules in Tilly’s Very Bad Day. Thinking up possible tweaks and extensions. Taking a good rule and making it better – or so I thought. This got an interesting conversation going, but I did not get universal endorsement for my suggestions. Quite the reverse. People like the resolve rules as they are. It is time to put that thread to rest and I thought I’d summarise where I’ve got to and why.

Shooting Steven’s suggestions down in flames

There I was, expecting a short flight to a sunny location for a jolly holiday, but what I got was WW2 style bomber raid, with flak and enemy fighters. No pina coladas, just explosions and flaming wrecks crashing to the ground.

USAF Douglas A-20G low-level bomber shot down in a hail of flak during WWII.jpg
USAF Douglas A-20G low-level bomber shot down in a hail of flak during WWII.jpg

Not that I mind. Constructive feedback is good. The reason I muse publicly on Tilly’s Very Bad Day, and other rules/scenarios, is to invite feedback. Even if that feedback is, “stop fiddling with it or you’ll go blind”.

I’ve certainly had feedback on my latest batch of musing on resolve:

  • Strengthen before weaken during the morale phase
  • Horse and pike+shot in difficult terrain
  • Unit rally
  • Commander rally at a distance
  • There are quite a few comments and counter suggestions. Thanks to Neil Patterson, jc Prudhon, Chris Helm, mikhailkoshkin, Chris Harrod, Jean-Michel Vray, V Tsao, Mr Tim Kohler, blackseafleet, W. Kipp and Andrew Fisher for contributing to the discussion.

    The most telling moment was when my wargaming crew came over for an English Civil War game using Tilly’s Very Bad Day. After the game one of the players mentioned he didn’t like the idea of unit rally. That led to a general discussion of the four posts above and their pros and cons. Mostly cons. So thanks to Chris Harrod (again), Jamie Wish and Adam Landa for sharing their views.

    Here is a summary.

    Strengthen before weaken during the morale phase

    Chris Harrod really doesn’t like my musing on Strengthen before weaken during the morale phase. He shared some of his view in the comments and more face to face.

    This was basically a plug for the current rules. Firstly, harm before heal, for resolve, makes the units more brittle and speeds up the game. Yay! Lets keep that.

    Secondly, lock step phases accentuates the cascading effect of the morale rules. A unit breaks and that impacts its neighbours. If any of them break, the morale rot cascades further. That works. Lets keep that.

    As Chris Harrod said in the comments, the current rules lead “to decisive battles which gives a fast, exciting game. Dragging a game out doesn’t make it better.” Heard.

    Horse and pike+shot in difficult terrain

    I was hoping to drop an minor exceptional rule with my musing on Horse and pike+shot in difficult terrain. There were two main challenges to this: (1) disorder versus resolve; (2) temporary disorder.

    Some troop types enter difficult terrain and get disordered. The question is how to represent that disorder. My proposal was an attempt to simplify the rules by leveraging the existing resolve mechanisms. I think the resolve mechanism incorporates growing disorder, ultimately leading to rout. But others see it different. Morale is morale. Disorder is disorder.

    The other challenge was any rule that applies a resolve loss for disorder, makes it a semi-permanent impact. The feeling was that moving through difficult terrain should be a temporary effect and the unit shakes it off automatically when it leaves the offending terrain.

    Combine those two things and what do we have … the current rules for pike+shot and horse fighting in difficult terrain …

    12.2.12. Horse shooting in difficult terrain

    • Horse units shoot with 1 less shooting dice when in difficult terrain.

    14.5.2. Melee dice

    • -1d6 when Horse in difficult terrain

    14.5.3. Melee to hit

    • Horse hit on 6 when in difficult terrain
    • Pike+Shot hit on 6 when in difficult terrain

    No change.

    Unit rally

    My musing Unit rally came about for two reasons: (1) it happened; (2) the earlier musing on Horse and pike+shot in difficult terrain created a context where we might need a unit to self rally.

    Nobody liked my the idea. Jean-Michel Vray summed it up: “No need keep it simple.”

    Commander rally at a distance

    My musing on Commander rally at a distance undermines the knife edge decision making of the current rules. 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. Allowing rallying at a distance, even if at a lower level, dilutes that key decision.

    Observations and conclusions

    W. Kipp insightfully shared, “the questions I ask myself before making any rules changes are as follows. Is the game broken? What am I improving by making the change?”

    Tilly’s Very Bad Day is not broken. Quite the contrary, as people seem to really like the resolve rules in particular.

    I was trying to leverage that to improve the game. However, it seems that the tweaks undermine the solid foundations. Good musing. Bad rules.

    The current rules work. They provide cascading morale collapse. They offer fast knife edge games. They demand life of death decisions on commanders – to commit, lead a charge or stop the morale rot, or stay back and be safe.

    Say no more. Leave it as it is.

    Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

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

    1 thought on “Musing on resolve – recent tweaks rejected”

    1. Steven,
      Kudos for acknowledging there’s no need to change things. It’s only natural to go to a set of rules you have written and want to make them better – the quest for “perfection” is it seems an occupational hazard for rules writers; why else do rules morph into multiple editions ?

      I’d argue this is different where there is an obvious flaw that’s revealed in game play. The solution is either a patch (slap another rule on it) or a rewrite where it reveals a major problem with the rules.
      Those flaws should come out in playtesting which is why it’s so important to do it.
      I’m struck by the similarities in software design…..

      You also have a course of “optional” rules but it’s important this can be a bolt on rather than based on intrinsic parts; it was perhaps how I envisaged my thoughts on a separate disorder rule.
      The problem of course is this is just something else to remember; often gets dropped as a consequence and thus ultimately proves unnecessary! ☺

      Perhaps you could write up your tinkerings as optional rules so people can try them?


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