In our recent game of Tilly’s Very Bad Day Chris observed that, as the defender, he could exploit the terrain placement rules to his advantage. This is my proposal to address Chris’s concern. These rules allow randomised terrain for pick up battles in any period.
The terrain placement rules described here borrow heavily from Terrain Cards for a ECW Campaign.
Peter of Grid based wargaming – but not always enjoys writing his own rules and provides lots of interesting material – it is one of the blogs I follow. I particularly like his Terrain Cards for a ECW Campaign, so much that I’ve borrowed the idea for Tilly’s Very Bad Day.
The idea is to generate a realistic but random terrain for a wargame. My table sizes are 4′ x 4′, 6′ x 4′, and 8′ x 4′ and this system works for any of those.
I have 36 terrain cards with open, gentle hills, difficult hills, fields, enclosed fields, rough ground, river, streams, villages and town. The number of terrain cards doesn’t really matter, but the proportion of each terrain type does matter. More cards of a terrain type means that type is more likely to appear in a game.
Here is a worked example to illustrate the system.
Step 1: The game was to be fought on a 6’x4′ table so the players chose the 3×2 table layout. They randomised the Terrain Cards, made sure the optional river and bend Terrain Cards were separated out so they couldn’t be selected in the random draw , picked six (one per sector on table layout), and flipped them over. Unusually there were three large features (woods, field, gentle hill) and only two medium (rough ground and stream).
Step 2: The defender has first choice to swap Terrain Cards with the centre but chose not to; they liked having the large gentle hill in their centre and the other large difficult terrain on the flanks. But the attacker was worried about that large gentle hill in the centre of the defender’s deployment zone and swapped it for the open area on the flank.
Step 3: After this the defender could have swapped the two medium features (rough ground and stream) but chose not to as they wanted more open terrain in the attacker’s centre.
Step 4: Next the players placed the stream.
Step 5: The players then placed the other terrain shown on the terrain cards: rough ground, gentle hill, field, wood. The stream split the large wood in two.
Step 6: Finally they added a road that had to cross the stream at a bridge or ford. The defender chose a bridge.
You have to get some terrain and make the cards.
Terrain sizes are approximately. Use whatever you have.
The features on the terrain cards are my normal sizes:
- Small (S) Area Terrain Features: Length: 16cm, 6”, 4 TUM; Width: 12-16cm, 4-6”, 3-4 TUM
- Medium Area Terrain Features: Length: 24cm, 8”, 6 TUM; Width: 16-24cm, 6-8”, 4-6 TUM
- Large (L) Area Terrain Features: Length: 32cm, 12”, 8 TUM; Width: 24-32cm, 8-12”, 6-8 TUM
- Streams: about 0.5″, 12mm, 0.5 TUM wide
- Rivers: about 4″, 100mm, 2-3 TUM wide
Note: TUM = Tilly Unit of Measure = ½ Base Width = 4cm for me with my 8cm wide bases. This is used in Tilly’s Very Bad Day. Triumph has, for example, a similar measure.
Making the cards
You can download the terrain cards and instructions as a PDF. Just follow the instructions to print, glue on cardboard, and cut out the terrain cards. Simple.
Procedure for generating terrain
- Defender fills table layout with Terrain Cards
- Defender and Attacker swap centre Terrain Cards
- Defender swaps Terrain Cards
- Defender places any stream on table
- Defender places other terrain on table
- Defender places the roads on table
Step 1: Defender fills table layout with Terrain Cards
Remove any cards that don’t seem applicable to the location of the battle. For example a particular locale might require less steep hills, rough ground, fields or woods.
Also make sure the optional river terrain cards are set aside. They are not used in the draw.
Place randomised terrain cards on each sector in the table layout.
Terrain is generated, via cards, for each 2′ x 2′ sector of the table. So a 4’x 4′ table has four sections, 6′ x 4′ has six, and 8’x 4′ has eight. The sectors are numbered from top left to bottom right.
Put the deck of terrain cards face down on the table. Shuffle them around to randomise. And change the orientation of the cards at the same time.
For each 2′ x 2′ sector of the table, in the order shown in the table layout, randomly select one terrain card and place on the table layout.
Flip over all terrain cards on the table layout to reveal the type of terrain and orientation.
Here are some examples for different table layouts:
Step 2: Defender and Attacker swap centre Terrain Cards
The guiding principle is more dense terrain moves to the flanks and more open terrain moves to the centre.
Swapping cards is not allowed on a 2×2 table layout (4′ x 4′ table) because these have no centre. There are two chances to swap on a 3×2 table layout (6’x 4′ table) and four chances on a 4×2 table layout (8’x4′). The defender gets the first chance to swap, then alternate. Players can pass on their chance or swap.
If a player chooses to swap, then do the first of the following options that is possible:
- Swap a large terrain card in the centre for an open terrain card on the flank
- Swap a large terrain card in the centre for an small or medium terrain card on the flank
- Swap a small or medium terrain card in the centre for a open terrain card on the flank
Terrain are open, small, medium or large. Open terrain cards are obvious. Large terrain cards are labelled with a “(L)” and small with a (S). All other terrain cards are medium including streams. The centre table sectors are shown in grey in the table layouts.
Step 3: Defender swaps Terrain Cards
- Either choose two medium or small Terrain Cards and swap them (without changing orientation)
- Or change orientation of one Terrain Card.
Step 4: Defender places any stream on table
A single stream terrain card means there is a stream on table. If you the get two stream terrain cards, the Defender replaces one with an open terrain card (there are also two Advanced Rules if you want the option of two streams or a river).
For me a stream is about 0.5″ (12mm; 0.5 TUM) wide.
Rivers and streams are not contained within a single table sector. Both go, more or less, straight across multiple table sectors, flowing through the middle of each table sector.
The orientation of a card will indicate whether the feature is parallel to the long table edge or short table edge.
Step 5: Defender places other terrain on table
Now place the terrain for all of the remaining terrain cards. Adhere to the size, orientation and position of the feature given on the card. If the intended position of a small feature overlaps a river or stream then move the feature to the side, trying to keep the feature in the correct table sector.
If the intended position of a large feature overlaps a river or stream then split the large feature into two medium features of the same type, and put the two features on either side of the water feature, trying to keep both features in the correct table sector. Similarly when a water feature splits a medium feature then split the area terrain feature into two small.
Step 6: Defender places the roads on table
Every table has at least one road on the assumption armies approached each other along a road. Some tables will demand more than one road, which may join at a junction or fork.
The road network must follow these rules:
- The first road must go from long table edge to long table edge
- A road must pass by each town and village
- Roads can ross any river or stream at a ford or bridge, but not all rivers and streams have to be crossed
- Roads must avoid other terrain
Advanced Rule: Two steams
Some historical battle fields had two streams. Use this Advanced Rule if you want that option.
If you get two Stream Terrain Cards, the defender chooses to replace zero, one or both streams with a bend. Bends can be any orientation. The combination of straights and bends can form one of these shapes:
- “T” shape from two straights at right angles
- “h” shape from one straight and one bend curving towards
- “L” shape from one straight and one bend lined up
- “| (“ shape from one straight and one bend curving away
- ”) (“ shape from two bends curving away
Other shapes are not allowed.
The diagram shows some examples.
Advanced Rule: Two Streams makes a River Option
Use this Advanced rule if, like me, you sometimes want the chance of having a river on table.
For me a stream is about 0.5″ (12mm; 0.5 TUM) wide and a river is about 4″ (100mm; 2-3 TUM) wide.
If you get two Stream Terrain Cards, one of them will become a river and the other may become a stream. The diagram shows the six different River-Stream situations possible when the table layout has two stream terrain cards: RS1-RS6.
One of the two stream cards always becomes a river. Depending on the placement and orientation of the two stream terrain cards, the second stream terrain card
- extends the river (RS1),
- becomes open terrain (RS2, RS3, RS4),
- remains a stream (RS5, RS6).
(RS1) Streams lined up
Original Terrain Cards: Two lined up stream terrain cards
Replacement Terrain Cards: Results in a river, with no separate stream.
(RS2) Parallel from short edge to short edge
Original Terrain Cards: Two streams terrain cards which are parallel to each other, and has the flow from the short edge to short edge
Replacement Terrain Cards: A river terrain card and an open terrain card. The defender chooses which stream terrain is replaced by the river and which by the open terrain.
(RS3) Flank and centre parallel from short edge to short edge
Original Terrain Cards: When parallel stream terrain cards are in a a flank sector and a centre sector, and both are flow from long edge to long edge.
Replacement Terrain Cards: The river replaces the stream terrain card on the flank. The other becomes an open terrain card.
(RS4) 2 flank streams from short edge to short edge
Original Terrain Cards: Original Terrain Cards: Two stream terrain cards are parallel to each other, are on on opposite flanks, and both are flow from long edge to long edge.
Replacement Terrain Cards: The defender chooses which one the river replaces. The other becomes an open terrain card.
(RS5) Intersecting on flank
Original Terrain Cards: If the two streams would intersect on a flank
Replacement Terrain Cards: The river is on the flank and the other is a stream; the stream flows from the far short table edge to the river, across the table.
(RS6) Intersecting in centre
Original Terrain Cards: The two streams would intersect in the centre
Replacement Terrain Cards: The river flows from short side to short side and the other is a stream; the stream flows from the far long table edge the the river, across the table.
How to use for Tilly’s Very Bad Day
You will have to decide how the three table layouts provided (2×2, 3×2, 4×2) apply to small and large games in Tilly’s Very Bad Day. For myself a small game in Tilly’s Very Bad Day is on a 2×2 table layout (on a 4’x4′ table) and a large game uses a 3×2 table layout (on a 6’x4′ table).
I have specified the sizes of feature in cm and inches, but also in Tilly Units of Measure (TUM). So just make your features to match.