S12 Fighting Across the River – A Tilly’s Very Bad Day Scenario

This Tilly’s Very Bad Day scenario is based on Scenario 12: Fighting Across the River from “Scenarios for all Ages” by Charles Grant and Stuart Asquith. It is a small game on a small table with small armies (in numbers of units).


Setting: Either Thirty Years War or English Civil War.

The Red Army is advancing from the north towards the river. The numerically outnumbered Blue Army has taken up position south of the river line. The river is wide, deep and fast so only be crossed at the bridges. Red must press home an attack across the river, crossing it under fire, and then attack and defeat the Blue army. The outnumbered Blue force must leverage every advantage it can from the river and prevent Red establishing a bridgehead.


The map is:

Table - S12 Fighting Across the River - Tillys Very Bad Day v2
Table – S12 Fighting Across the River – Tillys Very Bad Day v2

Key features are:

  • A small table of 30 TUM x 30 TUM (this is 4′ x 4′ with my 80 wide bases)
  • Shallow small table lines for those who want a more smaller battlefield – these are the thin green dotted lines – use as the base edges
  • Flank lines – these are the grey dotted lines – used for deployment
  • A centrally placed west-east river; this feature is impassable; my river is 4″ wide on a 4′ table
  • Two bridges, which count as difficult for all purposes
  • Six hills (Small 3 TUM x 4 TUM; Small 4 TUM; Medium 4 TUM x 6 TUM; Medium 6 TUM; Large 6 TUM x 8 TUM; Large 8 TUM)
  • Four woods (Small 3 TUM x 4 TUM; Small 4 TUM; Medium 4 TUM x 6 TUM; Medium 6 TUM)
  • The 8 TUM Large hill has the 6 TUM medium wood on top

Pre-game preparation

Game set-up (Phase 1) is a bit different. The steps are:

  • Step 1.1. Agree game size – Small Game
  • Step 1.2. Recruit army – Scenario specific
  • Step 1.3. Determine attacker – Defined by scenario
  • Step 1.4. Place Terrain – Defined by scenario
  • Step 1.5. Scouting – None
  • Step 1.6. Deployment – Scenario specific
  • Step 1.7. Bombardment – Normal

Step 1.2. Recruit army

The army composition is given by the scenario. Blue and Red organise their armies into commands.

Step 1.5. Scouting

No scouting.

Step 1.6. Deployment

Red attacker first deploys all units. Red attacker must obey the normal deployment rules apply e.g. all Pike+Shot units must deploy in the centre (between the grey dotted flank lines). Blue defender deploys second and can deploy any units anywhere in the deployment zone.

Red Player (Attacking)


Cross the river and defeat the Blue Army.

Forces Available

The following units divided into two commands:

Red Order of Battle

  • 2 x Commanders
  • 3 x Horse
  • 1 x Light Horse
  • 6 x Pike+Shot
  • 1 x Shot
  • 2 x Cannon
  • 15 Units; 56 Coins; 5 break point


Deploys first, before Blue.

Deploys behind the blue dotted line.

Otherwise, normal deployment rules apply e.g. all Pike+Shot units must deploy in the centre (between the grey dotted flank lines).

Cannon deploy limbered or unlimbered at the player’s choice.



Blue Player (Defending)


Prevent the Red Army from crossing the river.

Forces Available

The following units divided into two commands:

Blue Order of Battle

  • 2 x Commander
  • 2 x Horse
  • 3 x Pike+Shot
  • 1 x Shot
  • 1 x Unlimbered Cannon
  • 9 Units; 34 Coins; 5 break point

Note: Blue has a higher than normal break point.


Deploys second, after Red.

Deploys any units anywhere behind the Blue dotted line. Ignores normal deployment rules apply e.g. all Pike+Shot units must deploy in the centre (between the grey dotted flank lines).

No troops deploy on table.



Victory Conditions

The victory conditions, and which side wins, depends on whether:

  • The Red army has reached its breakpoint
  • The Blue army has reached its breakpoint
  • Red has two or more units south of the river at end of Game Turn 10.

The diagram shows the combinations resulting in a Red or Blue victory.

Victory - S12 Fighting Across the River v2
Victory – S12 Fighting Across the River v2

Scenario Special Rules

As is normal for Tilly’s Very Bad Day the river is impassable for its entire length except at bridges/fords and the bridges/fords count as difficult terrain. In addition, units cannot fire while any part of the unit is in a water feature, and that includes crossing a bridge or ford.


Nominal unit size: 1000 for Pike+Shot, Shot, and Rabble; 500 for Horse, Dragoons and Light Horse; 8 guns for Cannon.

Colours for attacker/defender

In the earlier versions of this scenario, Blue was the attacker and Red the defender. I flipped it to give the Light Horse to the Red (Imperialist) attacker rather than the Blue (Swedish) defender.

Option: Defender’s off table reserve

In an earlier version of the scenario the river was fordable and the defenders got a reserve to compensate. If you find the current version unbalanced then try adding a reserve to the side that needs it. One side has an off table reserve arriving from the base edge. They arrive on Turn 7 for a shallow table and Turn 6 for a normal table. The breakpoint remains unchanged.

Off table Reserve

  • 1 x Commander
  • 3 x Pike+Shot
  • 1 x Horse

(Thanks for Roger Calderbank for suggesting the reserve)

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

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


Grant, C. S., and Asquith, S. A. (1996). “Scenarios for all Ages”. CSG Publications.

4 thoughts on “S12 Fighting Across the River – A Tilly’s Very Bad Day Scenario”

  1. I tried this scenario solo, as it is somewhat like the Battle of the Lech (the Very Bad Day). My feeling is that it is just too difficult for Red. Red has little option except to form a cordon along the river line to try to prevent Blue crossing. Blue can then use its superior numbers to dominate a shooting duel across the river, until a gap appears to allow it to get enough units across to meet the victory conditions.

    When I tried it, the game was effectively over by turn 4. The Swedes (as Blue) were getting the better of the shooting with the Catholic League when a stray bullet killed the Elector of Bavaria. The resulting commander loss and morale erosion saw all the Elector’s units rout, and the Swedes could cross the river with ease. All they then had to do was survive until the game end, which was also easy as Red was now too weak to drive them back. I tried again, and although there were no dramatic collapses, the Swedes still managed to win the shooting duel, make a gap in the Red line, and get enough units across the river before the end of the game.

    If I was playing this face-to-face, I’d probably give Red some reserves to arrive later in the game, and bolster any weakness in Red’s cordon line. Blue may then have to attack more vigorously to try to break Red, rather then just get a couple of units across the river by shooting until a gap appears.


    • Roger, I really appreciate you giving these scenarios a go. I’ve not had a chance to play test them myself yet. The new Covid lock down in London prevented getting together with my usual crew.

      The scenarios from the books often give the attackers a massive advantage in numbers.

      I like your suggestion of Red reinforcements. That would also put an additional time pressure on Blue.

      Of course, it would simpler to just give Red more troops to start with.

      I wonder if I should change the victory conditions to ensure Blue has to push past the river and so give Red an option to deploy further back on the hills. So rather than…
      > Blue has two or more units south of the river at end of Game Turn 10.
      perhaps …
      > Blue has two or more units out of the river, on the one or more of the three central hills, at end of Game Turn 10.

  2. Thank you Steven. I realise you are adapting these scenarios directly from the book, and I am playing solo, so there may be better tactics for Red than I’ve realised. Having said that, my view is that Red has to hold the river line to have a chance, and saying that Blue must get to the hills wouldn’t change things. In the two earlier games I described, Blue was firmly on the hills by game’s end.

    I tried it with a Red reserve. The reserve was 3 units of pike+shot, 1 of horse, and a commander, arriving (on my shallow table) in turn 7. I decided not to change Red’s breakpoint once the reserve arrived. As before, Red defended the river line and, coincidentally, Blue got a breakthrough also in turn 7. The breakthrough and the Red reserve clashed, and it came down to the final melee in turn 10. With commanders joining the fight, it could have gone either way, but Red managed to rout 2 Blue units, so Blue had only one unit across the river at game end. Both sides had also lost 4 units at that point, so one more loss for either side would have also decided the game. Looking back at the two earlier games, I doubt the reserve would have helped in the first where the Elector was killed in turn 4, as Blue got too many units over the river for the reserve to deal with. In the second, the reserve would probably have been enough to stop the late breakthrough.

    I’ll use the reserve again when I get to play this scenario face-to-face.


    • Thanks for the latest battle report. Sounds like a 5 unit reserve for Red might be the way to go.


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