Small Boldon Hill – A Tilly’s Very Bad Day Scenario

This scenario represents the Battle of Boldon Hill (24 Mar 1644) in the English Civil War. Historically Boldon Hill was a rather inclusive skirmish, fought in the enclosed fields between the Royalists and Scots Covenanter Armies. It was such a minor affair that some accounts of the Scottish campaign in northern England don’t even mention the battle. However, Vincent Tsao recently played a game of TVBD using the In Deo Veritas scenario for the battle, so I thought I’d see what a scenario specifically designed for Tilly’s Very Bad Day would look like. Given the number of troops involved in the real battle, this is a small game on a small table with small armies (in numbers of units).

I have to say the skirmish nature of the historical battle means it is not really a good fit for Tilly’s Very Bad Day, which is designed for full field battles, but the scenario is small and that might appeal to some players. For it to work, as a scenario, one of the players has to go for it, and risk destruction in the enclosed fields. I have included an option, in the notes, for a scenario that is less historic but probably provides a better game.

Historical Situation

Setting: Between East Boldon and Cleadon, South Tyneside, England, 24 Mar 1644 (Gregorian Calendar)

On 29 November 1643, the Parliamentarians of England and the Solemn League and Covenant of Scotland signed an alliance (Wikipedia: Battle of Boldon Hill). As a result, in January 1644, a Scottish Covenanter army under Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven, entered Northumberland with between 14,000 men (Plant, 2006) and 21,000 men (Wikipedia). The Scots unsuccessfully besieged the strategic Royalist stronghold of Newcastle from 3-22 February and then moved south, leaving six regiments behind to screen the city.

Royalist reinforcements brought the forces at Newcastle to 14,000 so William Cavendish, 1st Marquis of Newcastle, decided to follow the Scots (Boldon War Memories; Wikipedia: Battle of Boldon Hill). On 7 March Cavendish caught the Scots near Boldon Hill (now known as Down Hill). Both sides formed for battle but did not fight because the field between the two armies was impassable with many ditches and hedges. After several inactive hours the Royalists left the field at sunset. In heavy snowfalls the two armies ponderously manoeuvred across difficult terrain for a couple of weeks, trying to gain a tactical advantage over the other. During that time the Royalists got more reinforcements. The Scots captured the Royalist fort at South Shields near the mouth of the River Tyne east of Newcastle (20 March 1644).

22 March 1644 found the two armies at Boldon Hill again, where they had faced each other earlier in the month (Boldon War Memories; Wikipedia: Battle of Boldon Hill). Some time in the next two days the Royalists deployed on Boldon Hill facing the Scots at Whitburn Lizard (Cleadon Hills) 5 km away. The battle began at “Sermon time” on Sunday 24 March, when the Royalists advanced toward the Scots.


The square map area is 2.8 km by 2.8 km; this shrinks to 2.8 km by 1.9 km for the shallow option.

As with many battles, the name doesn’t really make sense. The Royalists camped on Boldon Hill but the battle itself took place on the relative flatlands near the village of East Boldon (Boldon War Memories). According to an eye witness “the armies could not join, the field between us being so full of hedges and ditches” (A Scottish Soldier quoted by McRae, 2013, cited in Boldon War Memories).

Table - Boldon Hill - Tillys Very Bad Day
Table – Boldon Hill – Tillys Very Bad Day

The map is based on that from Boldon War Memories and google maps of the area between East Boldon and Cleadon.

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
  • Two small villages: Cleadon and East Boldon
  • The Don Stream
  • A lot of enclosed fields near the Don Stream (1 Large; 3 Medium; 3 Small)
  • Some rough ground simulating the moorland to the east (1 Large; 2 Small); this flank was presumably more open as all the horse on both sides were deployed here

Pre-game preparation

Normal rules for scouting, deployment, and bombardment.

Scots Covenanter Player (Defending)


Drive off the Royalists.

Forces Available

Boldon War Memories gives the Scot Covenanters approx 1,600 horse and 5,200 foot. Wikipedia: Marston Moor order of battle mentions that the Scots deployed their foot in brigades of two regiments.

Defender Order of Battle

  • Foot Centre (8 Units; 30 Coins)
    • 1 x Commander
    • 4 x Pike+Shot
    • 1 x Shot
    • 1 x Dragoons (Fraser’s Dragoons)1
    • 1 x Unlimbered Cannon [1 Resolve]2
  • Horse Left Wing (4 Units; 16 Coins )3
    • 1 x Commander
    • 3 x Horse
  • 12 Units; 46 Coins; 4 break point

(1) Fraser’s dragoons appear to have deployed, alone, on the left and approached East Boldon. They were the first to contest the hedges. I have lumped them with the other foot in a single command.
(2) There were only three Scottish guns, which had little impact on the battle, so I have reduced the Resolve.
(3) The horse appear to have all deployed together on the side near the moorland.


All units deploy behind the blue dotted line.

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

Cannon deploy unlimbered.



Royalist Player (Attacking)

Begins scenario with initiative.


The Royalist force is attacking. The goal is the drive the Scots from the field. If there is no result within 10 Turns, the Royalists lose the battle.

Forces Available

Boldon War Memories gives the Royalists approx. 2,000 horse and 4,300 foot, and no guns. However, as a Scottish eye witness mentions “the enemies cannon” the Royalists must have had some. Royalist guns are also shown on the map on the Boldon War Memories page.

Attacker Order of Battle

  • Horse Right Wing (5 Units; 20 Coins)1
    • 1 x Commander
    • 4 x Horse
  • Foot Centre (6 Units; 22 Coins)
    • 1 x Commander
    • 1 x Shot2
    • 3 x Pike+Shot
    • 1 x Unlimbered Cannon [1 Resolve]3
  • 11 Units; 42 Coins; 4 break point

(1) The horse appear to have all deployed together on the side near the moorland.
(2) The Royalists had commanded shot. I assume one unit to match Fraser’s dragoons on the Scottish side.
(3) I have given the Royalists the same artillery as the Scots; there were only three Scottish guns, which had little impact on the battle, so I have reduced the Resolve.


Deploys behind the red dotted line.

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

Cannon deploy unlimbered.



Victory Conditions

Normal victory conditions apply. A side loses when, in the Army Morale step, they have reached their army break point (lost at least ⅓ of the original Units). If there is not a result within 10 Game Turns then the Royalist player loses; this reflects the historical result where the Royalists withdrew from the field.

Scenario Special Rules



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

Unhistorical open battle option

The historical battle was a non-event. The same outcome is likely in Tilly’s Very Bad Day or a bloody slaughter as one army tries to fight their way out of the enclosed fields.

If you want a game where both players have a fair chance of winning then try reducing the amount of difficult terrain. Each player choses one enclosed field, rough ground or stream feature. Those two features remain on table. Remove all unselected enclosed fields, rough ground or stream features.

Historical Orders of Battle

Approximate order of battle from Boldon War Memories: The Battle of Boldon Hill (1644) (I think this is actually from McRae, 2013):

  • Royalist Army of King Charles (Wm Cavendish, Marquis of Newcastle)
    • Horse (Sir Chas Lucas) – approx 2000
      • Lord Mansfield’s RoH (Lt.Col Sir Francis Wortley)
      • Sir Richard Tempest’s RoH [Durham] (Lt.Col Sir Francis Liddell)
      • Sir Edward Widdrington’s RoH [Northumberland] (Lt.Col Henry Constable)
      • Sir William Widdrington’s RoH [Northumberland] (Lt.Col John Thornton)
      • Col. Francis Stuart’s RoH [Northumberland] (Maj. Nicolas Burnet)
    • Foot (Lord Eythin) – approx 4300
      • Marquis of Newcastle’s RoF (Lt.Col Sir Arthur Basset)
      • Col. Charles Brandling’s RoF [Northumberland] (Lt.Col Robt Brandling)
      • Sir Wm Lambton’s RoF [Durham] (Lt.Col Henry Lambton)
      • Col. John Hylton’s RoF [Durham] (Lt.Col Lynsley Wren)
      • Col. John Lamplugh’s RoF [Cumberland] (Maj. Christopher Dudley)
      • Durham Trained Band (Maj. Arthur Swindells)
  • Army of the Solemn League & Covenant (Lord General Alexander Leslie, Lord Leven)
    • Horse (Maj.Gen David Leslie) – approx 1600
      • Lord Kirkcubright’s RoH (Lt.Col James Mercer of Aldie)
      • Earl of Leven’s RoH (Lt.Col James Ballantyne)
      • Maj-Gen David Leslie’s RoH (Lt.Col Sir John Brown)
      • Col. Hew Fraser’s Dragoons (Maj. John Munro)
    • Foot (Maj.Gen Sir James Lumsden) – approx 5200
      • Sir Alexander Hamilton’s RoF [Clydesdale] (Lt.Col Wm Carmichael)
      • Earl of Loudoun’s RoF [Glasgow] (Lt.Col Robt Home)
      • Earl of Lindsay’s RoF [Fife] (Lt.Col Thos Moffat)
      • Lord Livingston’s RoF [Stirlingshire] (Lt.Col Andrew Bruce)
      • Earl of Lothian’s RoF [Teviotdale] (Lt.Col Patrick Leslie)
      • Master of Yester’s RoF [Linlithgow & Tweeddale] (Lt.Col Wm Johnston)
      • Earl of Buccleuch’s RoF [Tweeddale] (Lt.Col Walter Scott)
      • Earl of Cassillis’ RoF [Kyle & Carrick] (Lt.Col John Kennedy)
    • 1 heavy gun, 2 light, 1 frame

Scottish description of the historical battle

McRae (2013, cited in Boldon War Memories: The Battle of Boldon Hill (1644)) quotes a Scottish Soldier:

On Sunday, March the 24th the enemy marched towards our quarters intending to have set upon us in Sermon time, and being a foggy day to have surprised us; their approach being discovered, a great port of the army was presently drawn together.

The enemy sent down from Boldon Hill Where they were drawn up, some commanded musquetiers to line the hedges betwixt them and us, and we did the like, for the armies could not join, the field between us being so full of hedges and ditches; our dragoons began the play, and then the musquetiers in the hedges upon both sides, our bodies of foot advancing at all quarters to the hedges, the enemies cannon discharging upon them an hour and a half with very small hurt. This service continued very hot, till after twelve of the clock at night. Many officers, who have been old soldiers, did affirm they had never seen so long and hot a service in the night time; there were divers killed on both sides, but the number of their slain did very far exceed ours as we understood by the dead bodies we found the next day upon their ground, beside the seven wagons draught of dead and hurt men not able to walk, that the Constable of Boldon affirmed he saw carried away. The enemy quit their ground where they left much of their powder, match and arms behind them; and retired to the hill where the body of the Army lay.

On Tuesday the 26th Newcastle withdrew to Durham en route to York.

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

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


Boldon War Memories: The Battle of Boldon Hill (1644)

Lindsay, E. (n.d.) ” The Siege Of Newcastle 1644“. Wayback Machine. Internet Archive. Archived from the original on 12 November 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2020.

McRae, A. (2013). Chapter 2 Battle of Boldon Hill. How the Scots Won the English Civil War: The Triumph of Fraser’s Dragoons. The History Press.

Plant, D. (2006, 29 June). “1644: Civil War in the North“. British Civil Wars, Commonwealth & Protectorate 1638-1660.

Wikipedia: Battle of Boldon Hill

Wikipedia: Marston Moor order of battle

3 thoughts on “Small Boldon Hill – A Tilly’s Very Bad Day Scenario”

  1. From this description it sounds like both sides told off commanded shot who disputed the enclosed fields. It also sounds like the horse and pike & shot units stood by.

    • I assume the historical battle had the Scots Dragoons facing Royalist commanded shot. But I admit the accounts I have are sketchy.

      If the Scots also had commanded shot then I’d convert one Pike+Shot to Shot.

    • Re-reading “Scottish Solider” I tend to agree with you. I’ll tweak the orders of battle.


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