Musing on types of (commanded) shot in Tilly’s Very Bad Day

Tilly’s Very Bad Day has a “Shot” troop type. I thought I’d explain my thinking behind this troop type including how it simulates “commanded shot”.

30YW-805 - Catholic - Shot
30YW-805 – Catholic – Shot

What shot simulates in Tilly’s Very Bad Day

When we talk about shot without pike, most wargamers use the phrase “commanded shot”. But commanded shot was only one possibility. Tilly’s Very Bad Day defines the shot unit type:

Shot are units containing only firearm armed men detached from the pike+shot units for special duties, e.g. commanded shot, forlorn hopes, or detached Spanish manga (sleeves).

My shot units are intended to represent all of these.

Forlorn hope, musketeer regiments, and detached Spanish manga

Thirty Years War battles featured shot units wandering around detached from pike. This might have been German musketeer regiments, detached Spanish shot (sleeves”), or whatever.

30YW-803 - Catholic - Shot
30YW-803 – Catholic – Shot

These detached shot units were exposed when fighting horse, were less aggressive than the pike and shot units (were not so keen on “push of pike” because they didn’t have pike), and were best in difficult terrain. In fact the Spanish often detached shot to contest difficult terrain, e.g. at the Battle of Nordlingen.

Tilly-809 Shot skirmish from rough ground
Tilly-809 Shot skirmish from rough ground

Commanded Shot

In the Thirty Years war commanded shot were usually split into small units and interspersed with horse. Sometimes the small shot units were tiny, e.g. 50-100 men. At other times they were larger.

Generally commanded shot were used by the side weaker in cavalry. They extended the cavalry line and meant the weaker side would not be swamped. Commanded shot was not seen as a winning strategy, it was to prevent losing, or at least prolong the experience of losing. Sides with superior numbers of horse didn’t do this.

The Swedes were fond of using commanded shot but this is because they were often facing Imperialist armies with a superiority in cavalry.

As I understand it, in the English Civil War any units of shot, separate from pike, were called “commanded shot”. Some of these were just detached musketeers as I described above. Some were commanded shot in the Thirty Years War sense, i.e. shot attached to horse. As in the TYW they could be divided up into penny packets, but the ECW also featured big shot units “commanded” to the horse.

So commanded shot could be any of:

  1. big detached shot units (see above)
  2. big shot units attached to a horse wing to strengthen the horse
  3. small shot units interspersed with the horse to lengthen the cavalry line

The shot units in Tilly’s Very Bad Day represent all of these. As a game mechanism having shot units separate from the horse units makes sense for the first two styles of “commanded shot”.

30YW-802 - Catholic - Shot
30YW-802 – Catholic – Shot

The third style of commanded shot, the penny packet style, needs further discussion. The simulation for this in Tilly’s Very Bad Day is shot unit next to horse unit. This combination extends the line (the original purpose). And the combination is likely to lose to two enemy horse units, but the contest is not a given. For me the simulation is fine. The fly in the ointment is the visuals representation of the penny packet commanded shot. It is quite difficult to intersperse small units of horse and foot when each unit is a brigade of 1,000-2,000 infantry or half that number of cavalry.

I considered other simulations of the penny packet commanded shot. Rejected options were:
1. Mix horse and foot on the same base. Rejected because would necessitate duplicating figures.
2. Put a unit of shot behind a unit of horse. Rejected because doesn’t extend the line.

On balance I decided simple was best.

Tilly-808 Commanded Shot in action
Tilly-808 Commanded Shot in action

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

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


3 thoughts on “Musing on types of (commanded) shot in Tilly’s Very Bad Day”

  1. Tricky thing to simulate all right. DBR’s effort made ‘groups’ consisting of Pistol elements interspersed with Shot elements very tough to crack unless you rolled brilliant dice against them. The only weakness in such groups is that they were a little slower.
    Am yet to find an opponent for your rules, but am looking forward to giving them a crack.


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