Musing on Units and their attributes in Tillys Very Bad Day

Although Tilly’s Very Bad Day is for the Thirty Years War, I’m thinking of expanding the system into other periods. The Ancients, Medieval, and Gunpowder settings all look suitable. I’ve already experimented in the South American Wars of Independence with Bolivar’s Very Bad Day. I’m looking for inspiration so in this post I explore the attributes assigned to units in Tilly’s Very Bad Day.

Unit Types in Tilly’s Very Bad Day

There are eight Unit Types: Commander, Horse, Light Horse, Dragoons, Pike+Shot, Shot, Rabble, and Cannon. Pike+Shot, Shot, Dragoons and Rabble are infantry and fight on foot. Dragoons are mounted infantry so move like cavalry although they generally fight on foot. Horse and Light Horse are cavalry and fight mounted. Mounted units include Horse, Light Horse, and Dragoons.

Unit types in Tilly’s Very Bad Day have different attributes. Put another way the attributes of a unit are mostly dictated by the unit type.

The table below has all the attributes I could think of.

Unit Attributes in Tilly’s Very Bad Day
Starting resolve 4 for foot; 3 for mounted; 2 for artillery
Troop quality +1 Resolve for Superior, 0 for Ordinary, -1 for Inferior, -2 for Rabble
Big Unit 2 bases in deep column, each base with full resolve
Move (TUM) 3 TUM Normal / Foot and Limbered Cannon; 6 TUM Fast / Mounted; 8 TUM Very fast / command; 0 TUM Immobile / Unlimbered Cannon
Charge Move (TUM) 3 TUM
Move in difficult (TUM) Unlimbered Cannon cannot move and otherwise 3 TUM for All combat units
Move in impassable (TUM) 0 TUM
Move backward (TUM) 1 TUM Normal / Foot; 3 TUM Fast / Mounted
Unlimited change of direction Generals are unrestricted in movement
Wheel All combat units. Only change of direction allowed to Rabble
About face and move All combat units except Rabble
Oblique move All combat units except Rabble
Right/Left Turn All combat units except Rabble
Sideways move All combat units except Rabble
Backwards All combat units except Rabble
Pivot instead of move Unlimbered Cannon can pivot but cannot otherwise move
Unlimber Cannon can unlimber but once unlimbered cannot limber again
Range (TUM) 2 TUM for Pistols (Horse, Light Horse); 4 TUM for Muskets (Shot, Pike+Shot, Dragoons); Artillery unlimited
Shooting to hit 6 for all combat units that shoot (Horse, Light Horse, Dragoons, Pike+Shot, Shot, Cannon)
Shooting in difficult -1d6 modifier when Horse in Difficult Terrain are Shooting
Cover in difficult -1d6 shooting at Dragoons or Shot in difficult terrain
Melee to hit (except below) 4-6 Commander; 5-6 Horse, Pike+Shot; 6 Light Horse, Shot, Rabble
Melee to hit in difficult terrain 6 Horse, Pike+Shot
Melee dice in difficult terrain -1d6 when Horse in Difficult Terrain
Melee to hit charging in open terrain 4-6 Horse
Melee to hit when charging pikes to front1 5-6 Horse
Melee to hit charging behind-flank or to-rear 4-6 Light horse
Melee to hit charging unit with resolve of 1 4-6 Light horse
Infantry with long pointy weapons reduce enemy melee to hit when charged to front1 5-6 Horse get, rather than 4-6, when charging Pike+Shot frontally
Infantry reduce enemy melee to hit when defending up hill -1d6 when Charge at Infantry (Dragoons, Pike+Shot, Shot, or Rabble) in favourable terrain (e.g. uphill)
Infantry Support Infantry support infantry in melee
Cavalry Support Cavalry support cavalry in melee

(1) These are the same attribute, but from the perspective of the attacker and defender.

Combat modifiers

Some of the attributes are relate to combat modifiers, which I repeat here for clarity:

Shooting Dice
1d6 if Secondary Shooter
1d6 if Primary Shooter at enemy To-Flank
Unit’s Resolve if Primary Shooter at enemy To-Front:
-1d6 modifier when Horse in Difficult Terrain are Shooting
-1d6 modifier when Shooting at Dragoons or Shot in Difficult Terrain
-1d6 modifier when Shooting at Dragoons, Pike+Shot, Shot, Rabble or Cannon in Field Fortifications

Melee dice
1d6 if attached Commander
0d6 if a Combat Unit in Melee with any enemy To-Rear (whether Primary Fighter or Secondary Fighter)
1d6 if a Secondary Fighter in Melee with any enemy To-Front or To-Flank (none To-Rear)
1d6 if Primary Fighter in Melee with any enemy Behind-Flank (none To-Rear)
Unit’s Resolve if the Primary Fighter in Melee with enemy To-Front or To-Front-Flank (none Behind-Flank or To-Rear):
-1d6 when Horse in Difficult Terrain
-1d6 when Charge at Infantry (Dragoons, Pike+Shot, Shot, or Rabble) in favourable terrain (e.g. uphill)
-1d6 when Unit is Unsupported


We find the support rules encourage chequerboard for infantry but encourage blocks for cavalry.

Infantry Support: Infantry (Pike+Shot, Shot, Dragoons, Rabble) are supported when both these criteria apply:
No enemy Unit To-Rear within 4 TUM
At least one friendly Infantry Unit To-Rear within 4 TUM

Cavalry Support: Cavalry (Horse, Light horse) are supported when both these criteria apply:
No enemy Unit To-Rear within 4 TUM
At least one friendly Cavalry Unit To-Rear within 4 TUM

Unit Quality

Unit quality is a different dimension to unit type. Historical units ranged from inexperienced recruits to hardened veterans. In Tilly’s Very Bad Day unit quality is defined as one of raw, inferior, ordinary, or superior. Ordinary is the default and the only unit quality in the basic game. Superior, inferior and raw units differ in resolve, ability to conduct changes of direction, and unit cost.

Superior: Superior units were viewed by both themselves and their contemporaries as significantly better quality than others of their troop type e.g. veteran Spanish tercios, veteran German Cuirassiers, and the Swedish Yellow brigade. Being superior is about attitude not equipment. However some superior units would also have had better quality arms and armour than their counterparts. In game terms:

  • Increase the starting resolve of superior units by one.
  • Superior units cost 5 coins

Ordinary: By default all units are ordinary. Commanders are always ordinary. In game terms:

  • Normal starting resolve
  • Ordinary units cost 4 coins

Inferior: Inferior units are poorly trained troops and/or those affected by adverse campaign conditions. In game terms:

  • Deduct one from the resolve of inferior units
  • Inferior units can wheel, about face, turn, and rally back as normal
  • Inferior units cannot use oblique, sideways, or backwards movement (except to rally back)
  • Inferior units cost 3 coins

Raw: Rabble and Cannon are raw. Rabble are i.e. peasants with improvised weapons, and the most raw of recruits regardless of weapon type. Cannon were generally manned by civilians with little staying power so considered comparable to the peasants. In game terms:

  • They only have 2 resolve
  • Changes of direction are restricted to wheel
  • They cost 2 coins

Unit Size

In standard Tilly’s Very Bad Day all units are one stand. But there is an advanced rule for Large Pike+Shot such as Imperial Tercios and Swedish Brigades.

A Large Pike+Shot unit:

  • Has a double depth, perhaps created by putting two normal Pike+Shot bases together
  • Counts as two units for Recruiting the army and for unit losses / army morale
  • Has a high starting resolve: 8
  • If resolve is 4 or more, the unit has 4d6, rather than resolve, for shooting dice as primary shooter and also for melee dice as primary fighter to-front (before combat modifiers)
  • If resolve is 2 or more, the unit has 2d6, rather than 1d6, for shooting dice to-flank and melee dice to-flank; in addition their flank will be bigger given the unit is deeper
  • Remains a Large Pike+Shot unit even when resolve drops to 4 or below
  • Otherwise all other rules apply


The unit types get a lot of variation via the attributes, e.g. moving faster/slower, getting cover from terrain or not, what they get support from, etc. Although unit quality has an impact on some unit attributes, e.g. Raw Rabble can only wheel, mostly quality impacts combat ability and morale via higher/lower resolve.

I think this gives me a rich set of options for creating new unit types for other genres and periods.

I’m tempted to give each of these attributes a name. For example, the “Shock” attribute which gives the unit a to hit of 4-6. “Mobile” could be the ability to move 6 TUM not 3. “Fast” bumps that to 8 or 9 TUM. “Dispersed” units could benefit from cover in difficult terrain. Etc, etc.

Unit size only comes in as a special rule for big unwieldy units, but even this hints at possibilities for two stand units.

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

Tilly’s Very Bad Day is available for download as a PDF:

Tilly’s Very Bad Day (PDF)

10 thoughts on “Musing on Units and their attributes in Tillys Very Bad Day”

  1. My son and I are interested in this musing as we have decided to use the TVBD rules for the NYW and WSS.

      • Infantry with pikes and shot

        Infantry without pikes with ou without bayonets

        Converged grenadiers elite but possible lesser numbers to consider as an option

        Dragoons can dismount = 1/2 infantry ( so 2 dragoons on horse = 1 infantry base or a lesser infantry base ?)
        Dragoons on horse are lesser cavalry, elite dragoons are ordinary cavalry

        Add light artillery able to follow the infantry ( batallion guns), may limber/ unlimber and maybe manhandled

        Wss : consider (or not) to differenciate platoon and rank firers (curiously ( for me) military historians here in France seems to be doubtfull of the real advantage it gave to the platoon firers

        Hussars = croats ( Light horse)

        I like much your rule about the Sun King but TVBD is superior with the one unit one base principle ( for me).

        As concern bases we think more miniatures are needed because strenght of units were greaters :

        So we plan 16 infantry in 2 ranks ; 8 foot dragoons ( on a half base ? ) with 2 units = 1infantry base or 8 on the same base as other types but with firing, melee or lesser starting value points

        Cavalry, mounted dragoons 6 to a base

        Hussards 4 to a base

  2. Very interested in where you are taking this musing. Ive long felt that TVBD is an excellent framework for games set in other eras and would give a really good game. More of this please!

  3. I’d been having vague hints of such thoughts, glad to hear you are doing this. You know me, how do my beloved horse archers fit into this scheme? One hint of an idea: light horse can evade from slower troops in close combat. They ignore one hit in return for retreating full distance, if they have room to do so. Otherwise they take the hit. Feel free to embroider or ignore this.

    Hmm, some Mongol units are superior, some ordinary, some tribal levies inferior and dragooned subject infantry rabble.

  4. I have been toying with Tilly’s Very Bad Day (which really hits the right level of playability and complexity for me!), and have wondered if this is the solution for my itch for big scale Napoleonics? Picton’s Very Bad Day?

    • By coincidence I was thinking about that yesterday. Whole brigades manoeuvring around the battlefield of Albuera, or Salamanca, or ….

      “Picton’s Very Bad Day” would be appropriate name as Picton was a good general who died in combat. In his case at Waterloo.

      My own Peninsular inclinations mean I’m more tempted by “Moore’s Very Bad Day”. Another good general, but one who died in the Peninsular.

      But we’re quibbling.


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