Musing on resolve – unit rally

Continuing my musing on the resolve mechanism in Tilly’s Very Bad Day, I’m wondering if there is one thing missing … the ability for a unit to self rally.

This is one of a series of posts musing on resolve in Tilly’s Very Bad Day.

Current rules to recover resolve

Two things currently allow a unit to recover lost resolve: (1) commander rally and (2) unit heroics.

Commanders automatically rally a unit they are attached to, and allow the unit to recover a point of resolve. I like that.

In unit heroics, a unit that routs enemy also recovers a point of resolve. I like that too.

Currently a unit cannot rally itself.

Possible rule: Unit Rally

A self rally would represent the unit’s officers taking a moment to steady the troops and get them back into formation. That kind of thing did happen in historical battles, so how about allowing units to rally independently without the intervention of a staff officer.

Rally if don’t move, declare a charge, shoot, melee, or take resolve losses

I don’t want to go down the drain of morale tests. So I need a mechanism to limit which units can rally. I reckon if they remain inactive they can rally. If they are active they can’t. More specifically a unit can self rally if none of these apply:

  • The unit shot
  • The unit moved
  • The unit fought in melee regardless of the result
  • The unit suffered resolve losses this game turn (from shooting or melee or morale)

There is no way that unit moved this game turn

Unfortunately I suspect that is too much to remember. I can imagine a dialogue along the lines of this:

Swedish Player: The Red Brigade rallies itself (Unit Rally)
Imperialist Player: It can’t, it moved.
Swedish Player: No it didn’t. You are thinking of last turn. It moved last turn.
Imperialist Player: Nope, this turn. It came up alongside the Yellow Brigade.

Option 1: Unit rallies if stationary

So I’m wondering if a new marker is warranted: “Stationary”. It can probably replace the current “Move Marker”. In the movement phase, if you want to declare a unit “Stationary” then put a stationary marker next to it. Cannons cannot do that if they have already fired, but other shooting units can. Remove the stationary marker immediately the unit moves, declares a charge, shoots, or melees. A unit that is still stationary by the morale phase can do a unit rally.

Option 2: Unit declares intent to rally

Actually perhaps the marker should be “Rally” rather than “Stationary”. Place the “Rally” marker in friendly movement as an intention. Remove it unit moves, declares a charge, shoots, melees, or takes resolve losses. We’d have to retain the current “Move Marker” as that is something else.

Option 3: Unit rallies if a long way from enemy

Maybe “moves, declares a charge, shoots, melees, or takes resolve losses” is all too complicated. Maybe it is only possible to self rally if there is no enemy within 8 TUM and no cannon are shooting at you.


Well, I’m vaguely inclined to introduce unit rally. After all, it happened.

Of the options discussed above, I suspect the “intent to rally” is probably the way to go. I can imagine nice markers comprising an officer, standard bearer or musician on a stand. They would look cool.

But introducing a unit rally rule would change the balance of the rules considerably. At the moment the commanders have a very real purpose: they help in melee (and put themselves at risk) and they rally. If units can self rally, the contribution of commanders is undermined.

The reason I’m thinking about this is because I am considering more causes of loss of resolve e.g. moving in difficult terrain as a cause of weakening resolve for horse and pike+shot. They way I imagine it is, the unit goes through difficult terrain, gets disorganised, and comes out the other side. It doesn’t need the general to intervene to reorganise it, the unit’s officers do that. But it takes time.

Is that enough reason to undermine game balance? I don’t know.

What do you think?

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

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

7 thoughts on “Musing on resolve – unit rally”

  1. #3, long way from the enemy. Doesn’t require memory or markers. Doesn’t happen too often, so won’t overly affect game balance. Or don’t bother.

  2. I would use the “intent” marker. I’ve played a number of systems where you can rally if you’re a certain distance from the enemy, and generally, if you need to rally, you’re too close, so nobody actually does this (unless the rules allow/force you to pull back out of the combat line). I do think units should be able to rally, as you say, it did happen.

  3. In my home brew games for this period, I always have rallying as one of the core tasks of the units’ leaders (generals can chip in as well, but it’s not their main job).

    I agree with your criteria for being able to rally (no moving, shooting, close combat, etc) and I can see the difficulties with your three possible solutions.

    Implicit in what you say above is the place of this in the turn sequence: phase 6 Unit Morale … and that’s where the problems come in.

    I suggest introducing a new phase for rallying. This should be phase 2: ie before Initiative (which would be bumped to phase 3). Both sides rally any unit they wish. Each unit that rallies may not move, shoot, charge, etc. in this turn but will fight back, if attacked. Mark a unit that has rallied with a snazzy marker (as you describe above) so you know which units may move, etc and which ones may not. This is much easier to record.

    It also gives players a decision right at the start of the turn: rally or not.

    I think this should be before Initiative so that both armies have the same (lack of) information when they take the decision on which units to rally.

  4. 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?

    The rally sequence change is minor as you are simply switching fix before break.

    Unit rally is a major change as you both change unit tasks and command focus. Are you really gaining that much compared to what you are giving up by creating more complexity and reducing player influence by there command position focus?

    My opinion is the sequence change is more of a question of taste, that being I want to see units last longer. The rally change to me seems unnecessary and complicating the game for little net gain.

  5. Hi Steven,

    On the whole I’m on the same page as Jean-Michel about this, vis you don’t need to bother. To us it seems to be working fine right now so there’s nothing to fix. On the other hand you have experience of more and larger games so maybe you’ve spotted a problem that we haven’t.

    If the primary driver behind this is because you are “considering more causes of loss of resolve e.g. moving in difficult terrain as a cause of weakening resolve for horse and pike+shot” then I think that strengthens the argument that I set out in the relevant post for limiting that effect.



  6. Btw, if you really did want to add this option in then a simple mechanism for deciding which units can rally would be to reverse the support rule, vis if a unit is capable of giving support (so there are friends between it and the bad guys) and there are no enemy units within 4 TUM then it can choose to rally as an alternative to moving or shooting. The decision to rally would be taken in the movement phase but rallying would occur in the morale phase at a time to suit the owning player.


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