S01 Attack on Prepared Position – A Tilly’s Very Bad Day Battle Report 1

I invited Chris and Adam over to play test my version of S01 Attack on a Prepared Position Scenario for Tilly’s Very Bad Day. This is an adaptation of a scenario from “Scenarios for all Ages” by Charles Grant and Stuart Asquith. My scenario is Thirty Years War with Spanish attacking entrenched Swedes in high ground.

Summary: Short and intense. A much better game than any of us anticipated. It was a close run thing with Swedish (Adam) breaking the Spanish army (Chris) just as the Spanish horse broke past the Swedish line and were going for the baseline. We all agreed it would be good to play again with some minor tweaks.


Phase 1: Game Set up

A lot of the set up was dictated by the scenario. Spanish (Chris) attacker with 8 game turns to win. Swedish (Adam) defender on the hills. I think I chose Spanish and Swedish because the scenario specifies the two sides as Red (Spanish colour) and Blue (Swedish colour).

1.2. Recruit armies

Just before the guys turns up, I decided the defenders need a boost to allow them to stop the attackers. So I gave the defenders six field fortifications, not two. That means, for this game, the Swedish defenders (Adam) had:

Defender Order of Battle

  • 2 x Commander
  • 5 x Pike+Shot
  • 1 x Shot
  • 1 x Unlimbered Cannon
  • 6 x Field Fortifications (up from 2)
  • 9 Units; 46 Coins; 3 break point

I show the orbat here because after the fact I added a horse to the Defender’s order of battle and changed the orbat in the scenario.

1.6. Deployment

The table is fairly open but a range of hills blocks the exit to the northern table edge.

prepared-101 Table with hills of the prepared position in the distance
prepared-101 Table with hills of the prepared position in the distance

Unusually the attacker deploys first in this scenario.

prepared-102 Deployment
prepared-102 Deployment

Chris went for a fairly standard deployment.

prepared-108 Spanish army
prepared-108 Spanish army

The Spanish centre was pike+shot in chequerboard.

prepared-110 Spanish Infantry
prepared-110 Spanish Infantry

Chris had a second infantry command, which you can see in the distance beyond his centre. This was a mixed formation with both pike+shot and pure shot units.

prepared-111 Spanish Army
prepared-111 Spanish Army

The Spanish only had a couple of units of horse. They were tucked away to the rear, facing the left of the Swedish line.

prepared-112 Spanish horse on the flank at rear
prepared-112 Spanish horse on the flank at rear

Adam spread his Swedes across the range of hills, hence across the table width. Each redoubt had a small garrison. On his extreme left his redoubt had both a cannon and supporting pike+shot.

prepared-103 Swedish field fortifications with cannon and pike+shot (yellow)

Near the centre was a bigger hill with two field fortification pieces and two pike+shot.

prepared-104 Swedish field fortifications with pike+shot (green, blue)
prepared-104 Swedish field fortifications with pike+shot (green, blue)

To the left and right of the road was a fort with a single pike+shot unit.

prepared-105 Swedish field fortifications with pike+shot (yellow)
prepared-105 Swedish field fortifications with pike+shot (yellow)
prepared-106 Swedish field fortifications with pike+shot (green)
prepared-106 Swedish field fortifications with pike+shot (green)

Adam’s last redoubt was on the extreme right.

prepared-107 Swedish field fortifications with shot
prepared-107 Swedish field fortifications with shot

1.7. Bombardment

The photo is of the Swedish cannon during the ineffective Swedish bombardment.

prepared-113 Swedish bombardment
prepared-113 Swedish bombardment

The Spanish bombardment hit a Swedish unit, despite cover provided by fortifications, but the attached general rallied them in game turn 1. In fact this general got hit several times during the game but saved every time.


Turn 1

The Swedes didn’t do much in game turn 1. Just watched their opponents approach.

prepared-114 Swedish infantry waiting in their fortifications
prepared-114 Swedish infantry waiting in their fortifications

In contrast the Spanish moved forward en masse. Notice that the Spanish horse had started their movement towards the centre.

prepared-115 Spanish movement
prepared-115 Spanish movement

Turn 2

The Spanish continued to advance.

prepared-120 Spanish movement
prepared-120 Spanish movement

The tercios of the Spanish centre marched forward, impressive in their chequerboard formation. Behind them Chris’s horse continue their journey from left to right.

prepared-118 Spanish centre advances
prepared-118 Spanish centre advances

To the right of the road, Chris had one infantry command moving through the woods.

prepared-117 Spanish shot advance through woods
prepared-117 Spanish shot advance through woods

Turn 3

The Swedish musketeers opened up in turn 3.

prepared-123 Swedish shooting
prepared-123 Swedish shooting

Adam clearly decided his fortifications were too far apart or too far from the road, so he started nudging him troops towards the road. This meant they were only partially protected by the fortifications.

prepared-126 Swedish foot drift right towards road
prepared-126 Swedish foot drift right towards road
prepared-124 Swedish foot drift right towards road
prepared-124 Swedish foot drift right towards road
prepared-125 Swedish foot drift left towards road
prepared-125 Swedish foot drift left towards road

The Spanish infantry were now at the foot of the hills.

prepared-127 Infantry lines close
prepared-127 Infantry lines close

And the Spanish musketeers began firing.

prepared-128 Spanish shooting on right
prepared-128 Spanish shooting on right

Now it was the Spanish turn to move.

prepared-129 Spanish movement
prepared-129 Spanish movement

The battle lines were close as the Swedish fired their muskets.

prepared-131 Battle lines
prepared-131 Battle lines

Three Spanish units closed in on the redoubt to the right of the road.

prepared-130 Spanish close in on redoubt to right of road
prepared-130 Spanish close in on redoubt to right of road

Musket smoke covered the hill to the right of the road.

prepared-134 Musketry to right of road
prepared-134 Musketry to right of road

The only charge was by the Swedish garrison of the redoubt on the extreme right.

prepared-135 Swedish musketeers charge out of the redoubt on far right
prepared-135 Swedish musketeers charge out of the redoubt on far right

They charged out and scored four 5s! Which, unfortunately, is no hits for a shot unit.

prepared-136 And left the Spanish shot untouched
prepared-136 And left the Spanish shot untouched

Turn 4

The battle continued on the hill to the right of the road.

prepared-138 Musketry on hill to right of road
prepared-138 Musketry on hill to right of road

Musketry followed by Spanish charges.

prepared-139 Charges to right of road
prepared-139 Charges to right of road

The Swedish garrison was battered but held the Spanish at the fortifications.

prepared-140 Close combat to right of road
prepared-140 Close combat to right of road

And on the extreme right there was a spectacular example of a non-event.

prepared-141 Lack lustre melee on rar right
prepared-141 Lack lustre melee on far right

Turn 5

Turn 5 saw the Spanish horse approaching their target … the gap between the extreme right Swedish redoubt and the table edge. They wanted to sneak past on the flank. Adam had encouraged that ambition by venturing out of the fortification.

prepared-143 Spanish horse aims to outflank on far right
prepared-143 Spanish horse aims to outflank on far right

In the centre Chris decided it was time to put the pressure on and the Spanish tercios marched forward.

prepared-144 Spanish centre advances
prepared-144 Spanish centre advances

But way out of the left the Swedish cannon was still firing and managed to rout one of the Spanish pike+shot units.

prepared-145 Swedish guns on left are still firing
prepared-145 Swedish guns on left are still firing

The main action was still around the hill to the right of the road. Adam was bring in support from the left of the road to counter the Spanish numbers. Both the Swedish and Spanish charged.

prepared-146 Charges around the road
prepared-146 Charges around the road

Both sides suffered but the Swedes still held the ground.

prepared-147 Melee around road
prepared-147 Melee around road

And on the extreme right the Swedes on the hill threw the assaulting Spanish back. But they were now surrounded by Spanish, both horse and foot.

prepared-148 Swedish throw Spanish back on right
prepared-148 Swedish throw Spanish back on right

Turn 6

On game turn 6 Chris pushed his horse through the gap behind the valiant Swedish shot unit. There was nothing Adam could do about it.

prepared-151 Spanish horse sneak around flank
prepared-151 Spanish horse sneak around flank

To the left of the road the Spanish fired their muskets.

prepared-152 Only a little musketry
prepared-152 Only a little musketry

The action was getting quite intense and there were a lot of charges. As you can probably tell from the next photo, the Spanish were pretty strong on the extreme right. But the Swedes still had a shot unit on the hill.

prepared-153 Lots of charges
prepared-153 Lots of charges

Stalemate in the melee on the road.

prepared-155 Deadlock on the road
prepared-155 Deadlock on the road

And on the extreme right.

prepared-157 Deadlock on extreme right
prepared-157 Deadlock on extreme right

On the hill to the right of the road, both a Spanish unit and the sole Swedish unit routed. That left the Spaniards in possession.

prepared-156 Mutual routs to right of road
prepared-156 Mutual routs to right of road

Turn 7

Adam was managing to get more troops in from the left flank. By game turn 7 they were arriving at the fight at the road.

prepared-159 Swedish movement

The Spanish replied by shooting.

prepared-160 Spanish shooting
prepared-160 Spanish shooting

In the centre, Chris kept the pressure up to fix the Swedes in place.

prepared-162 Spanish movement
prepared-162 Spanish movement

The allowed the horse to go for the base edge unopposed.

prepared-161 Spanish horse going for the base line
prepared-161 Spanish horse going for the base line

Lots of Spanish charges, again Chris keeping the pressure up, and one Swedish charge.

prepared-163 Charges
prepared-163 Charges
prepared-164 Melee
prepared-164 Melee

The big news was on the hill to the right of the road. The Swedes managed to rout the Spanish on the hill and kill the general. End game. Spanish loss.

prepared-165 Swedes rout Spanish shot and kill general
prepared-165 Swedes rout Spanish shot and kill general

Conclusions and Observations

It was a fast and intense game. I’d set up the game before hand so, after a bit of a chat, Adam and Chris got right to it. It only took 1.5 hours to play to a conclusion. Adam won by breaking the Chris’s attackers. But if he hadn’t, Chris would have won by marching his horse off table to the north in game turn 8. Everybody was up for trying it again.

Just before the game, I decided the scenario favoured the attackers, that the defenders wouldn’t be able to stop them, and hence the defenders needed a boost. So I gave them six field fortifications, not two. This made a massive difference to the game. The defenders were staunch. Field fortifications are a serious obstacle for the attacker. Even when Adam ventured out of the fortifications, they provided small chunks of difficult terrain to blunt the Spanish attack. I’m almost tempted to nudge the number of fortifications up to eight.

I do feel the field fortifications rules are a bit messy. Not sure how to tighten them up, but something is niggling at me. I don’t like the way on table assaulting units have to climb over the fortification features to get to the garrison. It is an accurate simulation, but messy on table.

Adam, as defender, felt he needed a horse unit as a mobile reserve. This bumps the defender’s army breakpoint to 4 units, which he also thought was necessary.

Chris was pressured by the 8 game turn time limit. In turn 7 he was one turn away from getting his horse off table. There was no way he could get any infantry off table in 8 turns. So we decided to extend the game duration to 10 turns (8 for a small narrow table). But even this might be unfair given marching speed of infantry. I might go for 11 or 12 turns (9 or 10 turns on a small narrow table).

Chris asked, do cannon still get eliminated on contact when garrisoning a field fortification. The answer is yes, particularly as they can be supported by foot, but I’m now wondering whether this is reasonable.

Commenting on the scenario, not the game, Adam didn’t think breaking through a prepared position was realistic for a battle. He could imagine it as a small rear guard action, but couldn’t imagine it as a big set piece between two armies. Adam suggested viewing each unit as 100-200 men not 1-2,000. I’m sympathetic to Adam’s challenge on army-versus-army, but personally I can imagine a situation where this could happen: on occasion an army did attempt to fight through a smaller blockade to break a siege. I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourselves what the scenario represents.


Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

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

3 thoughts on “S01 Attack on Prepared Position – A Tilly’s Very Bad Day Battle Report 1”

    • Thank Vincent. I haven’t really started to think about an update to the field fortification rules. Just collecting niggles.

      The field fortification rules as they stand try to use existing rules, rather than add too much. So they rely on cover from shooting for the defending unit and disorder for any units assaulting across them fortifications. The effect is about right. There are other ways to get a similar effect and your suggestion is one of them.

      My real concerns were elsewhere. I mentioned physically moving stands across the physical model of the fortification. It looked ugly. Realistic but clumsy with nicely painted 15mm models.

      The other niggle was when Adam moved stands half-in / half-out of a field fortification. It is allowed but seemed a bit odd for a redoubt. I’d prefer a unit is either in (the garrison) or out. Although, I can understand why Adam did it as the fortifications are modelled as a line.

      Reply
  1. I would leave the Artillery as it is even behind fortifications. If contacted without support they should be gone. The guns were still manned by civilians.

    Reply

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