Musing on Sequence of Play in Tilly’s Very Bad Day

For Version 2 of Tilly’s Very Bad day I’m thinking of making some changes to the sequence of play. Most of these are to make implicit steps explicit. There is one more radical proposal (changing initiative). But much of the sequence of play remains unchanged, even though some steps have changed names. I thought I’d share a few thoughts on why it is the way it is and why I’m changing some things.

Possible Version 2 Sequence of Play

Here is the sequence of play from Version 1.3 and the current proposal for the sequence of play in version 2. This is definitely draft, not set in stone, and subject to change. I’m toying with ideas.

Pre-game Sequence of Play
Version 1.3 Possible Version 2.0
<did not exist>
<did not exist>
Phase 1. Game set-up
Step 1.1. Agree Game Size
Step 1.2. Recruit army
Step 1.3. Determine Attacker
Step 1.4. Place Terrain
Step 1.5. Scouting
Step 1.6. Deployment
Step 1.7. Bombardment
Game Turn Sequence of Play
Version 1.3 Possible Version 2.0
<implicit and once pre-game> Phase 2. Initiative
Phase 1. Attacker
Step 1.1. Attacker Move
Step 1.2. Defender Shoot
Phase 3. Active Player
Step 3.1. Active Player Move
Step 3.2. Reactive Player Shoot
Phase 2. Defender
Step 2.1. Defender Move
Step 2.2. Attacker Shoot
Phase 4. Reactive Player
Step 4.1. Reactive Player Move
Step 4.2. Active Player Shoot
Phase 3. Close Combat
Step 3.1. Declare Charge
Step 3.2. Charge
Step 3.3. Point Blank Shooting
Step 3.4. Melee
Step 3.5. Rally Back
Phase 5. Close Combat
Step 5.1. Declare Charge
Step 5.2. Cancel Charges
Step 5.3. Evade
Step 5.4. Charge
Step 5.5. Melee
Step 5.6. Rally Back
Phase 4. Morale
Step 4.1. Command Morale
<did not exist>
Step 4.2. Unit Rally
Step 4.3. Unit Heroics
Step 4.4. Army Morale
Phase 6. Morale
Step 6.1. Remove Shooting Markers
Step 6.2. Commander Loss
Step 6.3. Morale Erosion
Step 6.4. Unit Heroics
Step 6.5. Commander Rally
Step 6.6. Army Morale

Adding the pre-game phase

Even in version 1.3 the pre-game has a bunch of steps you have to go through. The steps are unchanged in version 2. I have just made it explicit: Agree Game Size; Recruit army; Determine Attacker; Place Terrain; Deployment. I thought it would be clearer for players if I included these steps in the sequence of play. Obviously they only happen once as opposed to every turn.

Scouting and Bombardment are new steps in version 2.

I’ve mentioned scouting in Making Light Horse more effective in Tilly’s Very Bad Day and Making dragoons more effective in Tilly’s Very Bad Day.

Bombardment is basically a free shot for unlimbered Cannon.


My lot are very happy to give the Attacker initiative in every game turn, and this is what version 1.3 does. Some other folk like it to swap between the Attacker and Defender, so I’m thinking of endorsing both approaches.

I move, you shoot

One of the things my group likes about Tilly’s Very Bad Day, that makes it unique, is the fact that one side moves and the other side gets to shoot at them. Then they swap around.

Clearly this disadvantages the side that moves into shooting range. Usually this is the Attacker. The Attacker is even more likely to be the one moving into shooting range in version 2 because they will be on a time limit.

Some folk think that waiting for the other player to move within shooting range is gamey. I think it is historical.

So we think “I move, you shoot” is one of the distinctive features of the rules.

Simultaneous Melee

I rejected simultaneous shooting for the reasons above, but I’ve gone for simultaneous melee. Both sides fight in melee at the same time. Where possible I prefer simultaneous activity and I gain nothing in the simulation by splitting melee into two parts.

That giant “Morale Phase”

Tilly’s Very Bad Day uses a bunch of markers: Shooting Marker, Rout Marker, Commander Casualty Marker and others. One of the main reasons for the separate morale phase is to deal with those markers. For a start the players have to remove the markers at some point.

More importantly the resolve system in Tilly’s Very Bad Day relies on the Morale Phase. I toyed with the idea of immediately actioning when units rout or commanders get killed. THat would drastically reduce the number of markers necessary for the game. However, Adam Landa convinced me the game would play better if we completed the combat (shooting, melee) before looking at the consequences. So I moved all of that – commander loss, morale erosion, unit heroics, and commander rally – to the end of the game turn. And introduced the Rout Marker and Commander Casualty Markers to keep track of things.

Explicit steps for Remove Shooting Markers, Cancel Charges, and Evade

We do those things – removing markers, cancelling charges and evading – so I thought I may as well call them out in the sequence of play. Mostly to help folk remember them.

Deleting point blank shooting

We have never used the point blank shooting rule because players have already decided whether the unit will shoot or charge.

New Morale Erosion step

New in version 2 is morale erosion. We like the resolve rules and how resolve is at the heart of both combat and morale. So to take it further I have introduced morale erosion in version 2. One friendly unit loses resolve even time a unit routs.

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

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

5 thoughts on “Musing on Sequence of Play in Tilly’s Very Bad Day”

  1. Prefer I move, you shoot. Defenders should normally fire first.
    I also like rolling for initiative. Adds uncertainty. Better generals can get a +1 and choose to move first or second.

  2. I too am happy with ‘I move you shoot’, and rolling each turn for initiative (which is how we’ve played it anyway). You might want to say who declares charges first (we’ve said the ‘active’ player) to avoid ‘I’m going to charge if you are’ issues. We’ve occasionally used point blank shooting when it isn’t clear to the shooter which unit is going to charge, but I don’t suppose we’ll miss it too much. I’m still a bit nervous about ‘morale erosion’ resulting in units vanishing too fast from our ‘small’ games, but we can see how it works out.
    I guess the fact that you are still thinking about these issues means it’ll be a while yet before V2 is published.

    • I’ve posted this, about sequence of play, because generally I want to air direction of travel to those interested before making it official.

      Version 2 is with the proof readers. I’ve already had some massively constructive feedback and I’m making changes as they suggest things. So there is nothing stopping me making other changes at the same time.

      When two units can mutually charge I don’t believe a charge by either was a surprise. One goes. The other goes. So I’m okay with “I’m going to declare a charge if you are”. That is, for me, the TVBD simulation of a counter charge.

      Our play tests suggest morale erosion just adds a nice bit of flavour, but is not decisive.


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