Version 2 of Tilly’s Very Bad Day

We’ve been playing Tilly’s Very Bad Day for a few months now and I think it is time for some substantive changes – a version 2. This post describes the changes.

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3. Table of Figures

I have added a lot more diagrams. I could probably add more so let me know where you think there is a need.

5. Using These Rules

I have also added heading numbers throughout the document. This is so I can, for example, talk about “section 7.1” with the proof readers, rather than the name or page number. It also helps the description of the other changes below.

This created the rather ungainly “14.4. Step 5.4: Charge” so I rearranged to put the step at the end i.e. “14.4. Charge (Step 5.4)”.

Starting with this version I have highlighted where game terms are defined. I also distinguish normal rules from examples and designer notes.

I have added a few designer notes and a lot more examples.

7. Recruiting your army

7.2. Units.

7.2.1. Unit Types

I have tried to make Light Horse, Shot, and Dragoons more effective relative to Horse and Pike+Shot. This required changes to all five Unit Types. I have rationalised on 4 Resolve for Pike+Shot and Shot. Then 3 Resolve for Horse, Light Horse and Dragoons. I figure the Resolve of the units was consistent based on the number of troops in the unit (remembering that mounted have half the men of the foot), but other factors varied.

And cannons can now start limbered.

The changes affect different parts of the rules but I’ve compiled them here for clarity.


The changes to Make (commanded) Shot more effective in Tilly’s Very Bad Day are:

  • Shot start with Resolve 4 (like Pike+Shot)
  • Shot lose ability to evade
Light Horse

The changes to Make Light Horse more effective in Tilly’s Very Bad Day are:

  • Light Horse start with Resolve 3 (like other mounted)
  • Light Horse hit on 4-6 when charging an enemy unit in flank or rear and when charging an enemy unit that has a Resolve of 1 (regardless of terrain)
  • Light Horse can (still) evade (but dragoons and Shot cannot)
  • Light Horse contribute (a lot) to scouting at the start of the game
  • Light Horse hit on 4-6 in a command check (everybody else is a 6)

The changes to Make dragoons more effective in Tilly’s Very Bad Day are:

  • Dragoons start with Resolve 3 (like other mounted)
  • Dragoons lose ability to evade (they have to do this via normal movement)
  • Dragoons contribute to scouting at the start of the game

The changes to Shot, Light Horse, and Dragoons also impacted Pike+Shot:

  • Pike+Shot lose their melee to hit bonus in difficult terrain, so hit on 6 rather than 5-6 (so in difficult they fight the same as Shot)
  • Pike+Shot lose the shooting cover bonus of difficult terrain (this is reserved for Shot and Dragoons)

The changes to Shot, Light Horse, and Dragoons also impacted Horse:

  • Horse lose 1d6 in difficult terrain when shooting and in melee

So difficult terrain provides a safe haven for Dragoons, Shot and Light Horse.


I have increased the Resolve to 2 so make them comparable to Cannons.


I have renamed “Cannons” to the shorter “Cannon” i.e. “Cannon Unit” rather than “Cannons Unit”.

Cannon Units can now start the game limbered and move 3 TUM. Once they unlimber they cannot move except to pivot. They cannot limber again.

Cannon are now raw, the worst unit quality, previously called rabble. Rabble units are also raw.

7.2.2. Infantry, Cavalry, Mounted, Formed Units, Combat Units

Commanders and Cannon differ from other Units in a number of key ways so I have introduced the term “Formed Units” for all non-commander Units (Horse, Light Horse, Dragoons, Pike+Shot, Shot, Rabble, Cannon). The term Combat Units is used for Formed Units and Cannon i.e. all Unit Types except Commanders.

7.2.5. Unit facing and position

Split “to-flank” into “to-front-flank” and “behind-flank”. Basically this makes it harder to be behind-flank in melee.

7.3. Army

7.3.2. Army List

Make one Cannon compulsory.

7.4. Markers

Added a “Limbered” marker for limbered cannons.

Added a “Moved” marker to prevent shooting after a backward movement or a pivot by a Cannon.

8. The Battlefield

8.1. The wargaming table

I’ve gone to a square table (30 TUM x 30 TUM) for small games. But still allow the more shallow table of previous versions as an advanced rule.

8.2. Terrain types

Made fields a terrain type – both in-season fields and enclosed fields – separate from rough ground. Although the effect is the same.

8.3. Area Terrain Features

Area terrain features include villages, hills, woods, rough ground, and fields. Villages and fields should be square or rectangular. Hills, woods, and rough ground should be roughly circular or oval.

I changed the size of terrain to match Terrain Cards. Previously “villages, rough ground, hills, and woods are at most 12 TUM long and at most 8 TUM wide.” I’ve made them much smaller. That is part of the reason for allowing more of them. Area terrain features can be either small, medium or large. Small area terrain features are 4 TUM across but can be as small as 3 TUM on one dimension. Medium area terrain Features are 6 TUM across but can be as a small as 4 TUM on one dimension. Large area terrain teatures are 8 TUM across but can be as small as 6 TUM on one dimension.

8.4. Linear terrain features

Grouped together roads, rivers and streams as linear terrain features because they share common rules.

9. Sequence of Play

The sequence of play had a couple of minor adjustments. The big changes are including the game set up in the sequence of play. The second biggest is moving the checking initiative into the sequence of play for a game turn.

  • Phase 1. Game set-up
    • Step 1.1. Agree Game Size
    • Step 1.2. Recruit army
    • Step 1.3. Determine Attacker
    • Step 1.4. Place Terrain
    • Step 1.5. Scouting
    • Step 1.6. Deployment
    • Step 1.7. Bombardment
  • Phase 2. Initiative
  • Phase 3. Active Player
    • Step 3.1. Active Player Move
    • Step 3.2. Reactive Player Shoot
  • Phase 4. Reactive Player
    • Step 4.1. Reactive Player Move
    • Step 4.2. Active Player Shoot
  • Phase 5. Close Combat
    • Step 5.1. Declare Charges
    • Step 5.2. Cancel Charges
    • Step 5.3. Evades
    • Step 5.4. Charges
    • Step 5.5. Melee
    • Step 5.6. Rally Backs
  • Phase 6. Morale
    • Step 6.1. Remove Shooting Markers
    • Step 6.2. Commander Loss
    • Step 6.3. Morale Erosion
    • Step 6.4. Unit Heroics
    • Step 6.5. Commander Rally
    • Step 6.6. Army Morale

10. Game set up (Phase 1)

10.3. Determine attacker

During this period most battles were consensual so there is little practical difference between the attacker and defender. However, I have introduce a modest level of pressure for the attacker to attack. There is now a time limit of 10 game turns. If the time expires without a conclusion then the attacker loses the game.

10.4. Place terrain (Step 1.4)

Terrain is selected using one of three mechanisms: (1) Historical terrain; (2) Defender choice of terrain; (3) Terrain cards. When the defender chooses terrain …

I allowed more terrain to correspond the sizes and number available via Terrain Cards.

The defender places a number of terrain features chosen from village, rough ground, fields, woods, hills, river and/or streams:

  • Shallow small table: 1-3
  • Small table: 1-4
  • Big table: 2-6

In addition to the above the defender can choose to place a road. Roads cross rivers/streams at a ford or bridge.

You can have at most one road, one village, and one stream (or river). You can have at most three rough ground, three hills, and three woods. At most one Area Terrain Feature can be large, the rest are small.

All villages, rough ground, fields, woods, and streams are Difficult Terrain. Rivers are Impassable Terrain; no other Impassable Terrain is allowed. Hills can be gentle or difficult.

Attacker chooses, zero, one or two of terrain alteration options (can choose the same option twice):

  1. Remove an area terrain feature from the table centre
  2. Move an area terrain feature up to 8 TUM towards the closest table side edge
  3. Move an area terrain feature up to 8 TUM towards the closest base edge
  4. Swap two area terrain features
  5. Improve chance to get preferred base edge

The attacker chooses a preferred base edge, which must be a long edge if using a rectangular table. The attacker rolls 1d6 to see if they get their preferred base edge or that opposite. The score to get the preferred table edge is normally 4-6, 3-6 if they chose to improve chance to get preferred base edge once, 2-6 if they chose this option twice.

10.5.Scouting (Step 1.5)

Scouting in the Thirty Years war was delegated to Light Horse and Dragoons. Although Horse could be used for scouting the preference was to reserve them for battlefield duties. I assume any contribution to scouting by the opposing contingents of Horse counter balance each other, so it is only the Light Horse and Dragoons that make a difference.

Light Horse and Dragoons conduct pre-battle scouting. If you achieve Scouting Advantage you receive Scouting Benefits.

10.7. Bombardment (Step 1.7)

To make Cannon more effective I introduced pre-game bombardment. Unlimbered Cannon can shoot once before the game starts. They cannot move or pivot, just shoot. The Defender shoots their Cannon first then the Attacker shoots their Cannon. Each Cannon Unit either shoots once or doesn’t shoot. Place a Shooting Marker as each Cannon shoots, then remove them all once all Cannon Units have shot. Otherwise normal shooting rules apply.

11. Initiative (Phase 2)

Initiative is now checked every Game Turn rather than once for the game. And initiative is different to determining the Attacker/Defender. Initiative determines the Active Player and Reactive Player.

12. Active Player (Phase 3)

The “Attacker” phase has become “Active Player” phase because initiative is checked every game turn.

12.1. Active Player Move (Step 3.1)

12.1.2. Command check

Light Horse now hit on a 4-6 in the command check. David Kershaw reminded me that Light Horse we intended to operate more independently.

12.1.6. Limbered Cannon movement

Limbered Cannon can move 3 TUM in Open Terrain. They can do a Wheel at the start of movement but not any other change of direction. They can cross rivers/streams at a Bridge but otherwise cannot enter Difficult Terrain. Limbered Cannon cannot Shoot.

12.1.7. Unlimbering

Instead of moving Limbered Cannon can unlimber. Simply remove the Limbered Marker. But the Cannon cannot shoot this Game Turn so place a Moved Marker (cotton wool) next to the Unlimbered Cannon.

12.1.12. Interpenetration

Remove interpenetration restriction: “The Units must line up so the sides of the two Units are aligned”.

Shot can now interpenetration any. They could already interpenetrate mounted (Horse, Light Horse, Dragoons). David Kershaw suggested I extend this to Pike+Shot to simulate a capability of forlorn hope. But once I’d taken that step I realised I should extend shot interpenetration to all units.

12.2. Reactive Player Shoot (Step 3.2)

12.2.1. Shooting marker

Unlimbered Cannon can shoot and limbered Cannon cannot.

12.2.2 Shooting criteria

Made criteria for shooting through gaps more restrictive. Removed the word “friendly” so even enemy units block. So criteria changed to “The target is beyond a narrow gap (less than 2 TUM) between Units (friendly or enemy) and/or blocking terrain”.

12.2.3. Blocking Terrain

Blocking Terrain includes villages, woods, in-season fields, enclosed fields, and hills. Rough ground is usually not blocking terrain, but might be for a specific scenario. Roads, rivers and streams are never blocking terrain. Units can shoot into blocking terrain but not through blocking terrain.

12.2.8. Shooting dice

Pike+Shot no longer get benefit of cover so the modifier is now: ” -1d6 modifier when Shooting at Dragoons or Shot in Difficult Terrain”

Field fortifications have become an advanced rule.

12.2.12. Horse shooting in difficult terrain

Horse Units Shoot with 1 less Shooting Dice when in Difficult Terrain.

Historically Light Horse operated in difficult terrain and Horse did not. This rule tips the balances towards the Croats.

12.2.13. Dragoons and Shot get cover in Difficult Terrain

Restrict the cover benefit of difficult terrain to dragoons and Shot.

12.2.16. Commander casualties

We found commanders got killed a lot. Too much. So I am introducing a saving throw. The rules for hitting a commander remain unchanged, but once a command is hit they can save.

14. Close combat (Phase 5)

14.2. Cancel Charges (Step 5.2)

I made the cancellation an explicit step in the sequence of play.

Point Blank Shooting

I have removed point blank shooting. Repeated play showed that this never happened, at least not for our group.

14.3. Evade (Step 5.3)

Evade was an optional rule, as in player could agree to use it or not. It is no longer na option, so evade is always an option. However, evade is now restricted to Light Horse. Dragoons and Shot can no longer evade. Evade requires a Command Check to succeed.

14.4. Charge (Step 5.4)

14.4.2. Charges To-Front, Behind-Flank and To-Rear

The starting position of a charge determines where the charging unit can contact the target unit. A charge starting:

  • To-front must contact the target Unit to-front
  • To-front-flank must contact the target Unit to-front-flank or to-front
  • Behind-flank must contact the target Unit behind-flank or to-front-flank
  • To-rear must contact the target Unit to-rear or behind-flank

14.5. Melee (Step 5.5)

14.5.1. Choosing which Melee to fight

Fight the Melees sequentially, from one side of the table to the other. Start on the attacker’s right flank.

14.5.2. Melee dice

Introduced the concept of support. Support is a modifier for melee:

  • -1d6 modifier if unit is unsupported

Horse units melee with -1d6 modifier in melee when in difficult terrain.

14.5.3. Melee to hit

Light Horse get a ferocious charge on shaken enemy:

  • Light Horse hit on 4-6 when charging an enemy unit in flank or rear and when charging an enemy unit that has a Resolve of 1 (regardless of terrain)

Pike+Shot lose their melee advantage in difficult terrain:

  • Pike+Shot hit on 6 in difficult terrain and 5-6 in the open

14.5.6. Support in Melee

Unsupported Units suffer a -1d6 modifier in Melee. Support defends on the Unit Type and context.

Commander Support: Commanders neither support nor are supported. Commanders assist in Melee in other ways.

Cannon Support: Cannon always count as supported themselves, regardless of the location of friendly or enemy troops (not that they fight in Melee). Cannon do not support other units.

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 of a similar type To-Rear within 4 TUM

14.6. Rally back (Step 5.6)

I now let foot rally back e.g. Swedes getting thrown back from fortifications at Nordlingen. The distance of the rally back is fixed: Infantry 1 TUM; Cavalry 3 TUM.

14.6.1. Which Units must Rally Back

These criteria govern whether a unit will rally Back:

  • A Unit cannot rally back if it won or drew in melee
  • A Unit cannot rally back if it lost in melee but has enemy in contact behind-flank or to-rear
  • A Unit must rally back if it lost in melee and is only in contact with enemy to-front

15. Morale (Phase 6)

15.1. Remove shooting and moved markers (Step 6.1)

I thought it better to make this step explicit.

15.2. Commander loss (Step 6.2)

Rename “Command Morale” to “Commander Loss” so I can use “Command Morale” for something else.

15.3. Morale erosion (Step 6.3)

I introduced morale erosion where friendly routs cause a gradual degradation of morale. For every friendly routed unit, one friendly combat unit (non-Commander) has its resolve weakened by one. The unit must be in the same command. Choose either the unit nearest to the routed unit or nearest to enemy, owners choice.

15.4. Unit Heroics (Step 6.4)

The unit benefiting from unit heroics must be fighting the routed unit but no longer has to have inflicted a hit this game turn. Mainly because we could never remember.

15.6. Army Morale (Step 6.6)

Army breakpoint: 1/3 losses rather than 1/4. Makes the game longer.

16. Advanced Rules

I have renamed “Optional Rules” to “Advanced Rules” and moved all of them to the end.

16.2. Advanced Rule: Large Pike+Shot

I have also bowed to pressure from Richard (doctorphalanx) and introduce a “large Pike+Shot” Unit Type. Large Pike+Shot represents the Swedish Brigade and also Tilly’s big tercios which I discussed in Musing on Large Pike+Shot in Tilly’s Very Bad Day.

Large Pike+Shot is a special variation on Pike+Shot. You will only need this unit type for certain historical scenarios where big brigades coexisted with normal sized units. That means large Pike+Shot units would only be applicable at the lowest level of game representation where one normal Pike+Shot unit is 1,000 men; in that case a large Pike+Shot unit would be 2,000 men. At the highest level, where infantry units are 2,000 men, the bases would already represent large brigades or two regular units – so you don’t need a separate unit type.

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

Use two Resolve Markers for a Large Pike+Shot Unit. The Resolve Marker on the front half is used for fighting (Shooting, Melee) and stays high. Weaken the Resolve of the rear Resolve Marker until it reaches zero (and is removed) then weaken the Resolve of the front marker.

16.4. Advanced Rule: Aggressive Attacker

Having aggressive attackers is a common mechanism in wargames to encourage attackers to attack. It is offered here to match expectations of some wargamers.

In a pickup game, the player who got attacker can choose to take bonus Units at the cost of a shorter time limit. The time limit is of 8 Game Turns. The bonus units depend on the Game Size:

  • Small Game: 2 bonus Units (or 8 Coins worth)
  • Large Game: 4 bonus Units (or 16 Coins worth)

All bonus Units are must be Pike+Shot and/or Horse. The mix is the player’s choice.

16.5. Advanced Rule: Field fortifications

I made Field Fortifications an advanced rule because they are not used in pick up games.

16.6. Advanced Rule: Terrain Cards

I allowed the use of Terrain Cards, as an option.

16.7. Advanced Rule: Two Streams

Many historical battlefields had two streams (e.g. Lutzen), however, the terrain card system explained in Section 16.6 does not allow two streams on the table. The “Two Streams” Advanced Rule uses the optional Bend Terrain Cards to create interesting stream shapes including many options that leave two streams on table.

16.8. Advanced Rule: Shallow Small Tables

In version 1 small games were fought on tables the same width as in version 2 but more shallow. This advanced rule is to allow players to continue to use shallow small tables. A shallow small table is 30 TUM wide by 20 TUM deep.

16.9. Advanced Rule: Giant Games

If you want an even bigger game, more than in a big game, then go for a giant game. A giant game will have about 40-60 Units a side on a giant table. A giant table is 60 TUM by 30 TUM. The neutral zone is still 8 TUM. The Centre Zone is 30 TUM.

16.10. Advanced Rule: Command Morale

This advance rule replaces the army morale (Step 6.6) rules. It allows individual commands to break while the rest of the army fights on. Army breakpoint is now based on the number of broken commands in the army. A command breaks depending on the number of units lost. Some victorious mounted units now pursue to allow for cavalry that win against their local opponents to disappear off the battlefield and leave friends to fight alone.

17. Making Stuff

I include instructions for making terrain cards and markers.

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

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

Tilly’s Very Bad Day is available for print-on-demand from This is cost price and I make no money on it. But Jamie pointed out that some folk would prefer to get a paper copy rather than PDF.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

12 thoughts on “Version 2 of Tilly’s Very Bad Day”

  1. Oh frabjous day! Thank you very much for publishing V2. Having had a quick look at it, I realise just how many changes (large and small) there are, and I’m grateful for all the work you’ve had to do. Now to play it…


    • I’m glad you’re excited Roger. Thanks for your feedback over the months. I’m sure you’ll see your self in parts of version 2.

  2. The rules now look really mature and I look forward to actually playing them shortly. Including the markers was very helpful.


  3. First time I have seen these, and they look really good. A high page count for a fast play system, but they have all the hallmarks of a fast moving game: Relatively simple combat modifiers, sensible method to assess multiple combats and a sensibly small list of troop types.

    I’m really struggling to find information about how different armies organised their units, especially foot.
    I know of the large Spanish formations, and that the swedes organised large battalions. I don’t gat much feel for the numbers in each nation’s typical pike flanked by shot block.

    Can you point me to any references?

    • The first version of Twilight of the Sun King I wrote was on two sides of an A4 sheet of paper (even before it appeared on the web). Being limited to one sheet of paper was one of my design goals. My experience of ToSK was many people wanted more. That is why a big version appeared.

      V2 of Tilly’s Very Bad Day has 70 pages. I could probably write TVBD on 2 pages – I might do that as a personal challenge – but the terse version would have no guidance, no examples, no diagrams, no sections on making stuff, no army list, no, well, not much really.

      My hope is that people won’t have to refer to the rules often. I will also publish a Quick Reference Sheet (QRS) in the near future. A week or two. So that will help fast play.

      Our games at least are fairly consistent in game length. 2 hours for a small game and 3 hours for a big game. Fast enough for us as they fit in an evening. Hopefully others will view that as “fast play”.

    • Large Spanish formations are a bit of a myth. Paper strength of a Spanish Tercio in the 1530s had very little bearing on how the Tercios were deployed in the 1530s, let alone in the 1630s. The Spanish did field big squadrons e.g. Nieuport 1600 AD. But even in these cases the sleeve of shot were intended to manoeuvre semi-independently of the pike.

      In particular battles Spanish tercios could be smaller than Protestant battalions. The unit sizes were different, and different nations fielded different sized units in different battles.

      Personally I chose to gloss over much of that. The European armies had more or less settled on brigades as a sub-unit of the army. It is this level I focus on. The formations adopted inside a brigade varied enormously, but I chose to ignore all of that as we no longer understand why they differed, and what difference it made on the battlefield. So at the Battle of Nieuport a Spanish squadron has 5 sub-units and a Dutch brigade has 4 sub-units, but for my purposes they are both a brigade.

      I have ended up settling on a single type of Pike+Shot unit for the Thirty Years War, representing a unit of 1-2,000 men. In some battles there where big and small units; for these battles alone the normal Pike+Shot units are used for 1,000 man brigades (the majority) and Large Pike+Shot for 2,000 man brigades (Tilly’s Big Tercios and Swedish Brigades).

  4. Hey, thanks for doing all this. I was wondering if at some point you would add rules for eastern armies(Russia, Poland, Ottomans, etc.) in the time period. Or at least suggest some values for the advantages/disadvantages I see common to them.

    Excellent steppe cavalry: Advantage to scouting? Disadvantage to damage due to archery?

    Fanatical and devastating charges: Infantry Advantage to charging, maybe full flanking bonus to front-flank? Disadvantage to getting charged by Cav due to shorter weapons. (swords, bardiches, etc.)?

    Higher percentage of and reliance on cavalry: Maybe extra cav resolve traded for lower infantry resolve?

    Idk just spitballing. Some suggestions or an official addendum would be neat. Really like your work. Thanks for listening if you do.

    • Hi J, thanks for the suggestion. I would love to add the eastern armies. I admit that is unfamiliar ground for me. I might start with a post about it. See who else is interested.

  5. I’d love to see your works regarding a Polish, Muscovy conflict as well as the polish-Swedish wars.

  6. I have been wargaming for 58 years (March 1963 I took ‘Wargames’ out of the library) and these are the most clearly written set of rules I have come across. Well done. I have been musing while I wait for my printed copy to arrive:-
    On shooting it says “However, a unit cannot shoot to either the left/right flank if there are friendly units on that flank” this seems a bit harsh as it precludes units in line giving support to those next to them, what was your thinking here?
    Is there a forum for players anywhere? I’d like to see how other people have based their units; I’m thinking of 6mm Baccus on 40mm x 30mm bases.

    • Thanks for the praise Malcolm.

      The intention with the rules is to have the units fighting to the front. Fighting to the flank is allowed but is quite ineffective.

      Most of the discussion on Tilly’s Very Bad Day is on this site, in the comments of various posts. There is a forum but it is inactive. You could help turn that around.


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