Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Thirty Years War: Choosing 6mm figures for Tilly's Very Bad Day

Baccus 6mm Cuirassiers
My immediate wargaming priority has been to get to grips with Steven Thomas' Thirty Years War rules, Tilly's Very Bad Day.

I gave them an intense read which also doubled as a proof-read and raised my queries with Steven. He took valid points on board while putting me right on others, and the result is now Version 1.2 (09 September 2019) which you can download here.

It is not a substantive change, but I think it will be of significant assistance to me and others not immediately in Steven's playing circle. It's inevitable when developing new rules that some part will be carried in the practice of play rather than explicitly expressed in text. Which is why rules should always be subjected to fresh eyes and play testing in isolation from the original developers.

I have previously contributed to proof-reading the Peter Pig Samurai and ACW rules, and, with my friend Ian, contributed to extensive play-testing etc of Irregular Wars. It's good to be involved in this sort of work once again.

Parallel to studying the rules, I am also giving myself a crash course in Thirty Years War military history, including wargaming priorities like troop type and function, tactical doctrine, and uniforms etc. This is on-going.

Next step was to choose a specific historical peg (thirty years is a long time in war) and order some figures. Although I had originally been looking at the Eighty Years' War and the early part of the Thirty Years War, I subsequently decided to do what most other people do and that is focus on the Swedish period.

What and how many figures would I need? In detail that depends on how many figures I actually want to put on a base. That is currently uncertain but I can still get a fairly good handle on overall requirements.

For pick-up games the rules tell you to choose an army size of 15 to 30 units. A couple of 25-unit sample armies,  one cavalry-heavy and the other infantry-heavy, are given in the rules.

For individual historical scenarios - and that for me is the main point of Grand Tactical games - the requirements will need to be researched.

There is some leeway. Foot units, for example represent 1000-2000 men so you can convert historical numbers at a rate of 1000 per base or 2000 per base or any number in between.  In other words you can go small for the big ones while maximizing the number of bases in small ones. This will even out army requirements.

Realising that I would probably need to end up with about 7 packets of Baccus infantry and cavalry to produce an army, the easiest next step was simply to choose about 14 packs as my starting point.

In the end I ran with 4 packs of pike, 4 packs of musketeers, 4 packs of cavalry, one pack of artillery and two packs of generals, together with 4 sheets of Swedish and Imperialist flags. Included in these numbers were some armoured pikemen for the Imperialist front ranks and some helmeted musketeers to mix into the Imperialist shot. The Swedes will be less well armoured.

For the cavalry I was less sure and needed some quick education. The Imperialists had Cuirassiers and  Harquebusiers whilst the Swedes had Horsemen resembling the popular image of both Roundheads and Cavaliers.

Unfortunately, Baccus do not yet do any Harquebusiers, so I settled on two packs of Cuirassiers for the Imperialists and a pack each of hatted and pot-helmeted cavalry for the Swedes.

Once I've played around with the basing options I can always get more figures.


  1. Your TYW project sounds good. Looking forward to seeing this project develop as you build armies and work through the rules.

    1. Jonathan

      I get very enthusiastic about new projects! I become a regular fanboy and chair-leader! Very occasionally this ends in disappointment or disillusionment (e.g. Rommel) but the vast majority of new projects are successful, at least to me.

      I have every confidence that TVBD is going to be one of those, and I hope that it will get enough lift-off to gain a wide following. There are now many other contenders in the field but this one is appealing rather than headache-inducing.

      The basic game mechanisms are simple, clear (well, they are now) and efficient, leaving players to exercise their generalship and enjoy the spectacle of the 'big bases'. This is all I want from a game these days. I have no tolerance for rule clutter and tedium.

      That's why I'm currently so keen on the 'Lion Rampant' series of games, but it's good to get also into re-enactments of major historical battles which many other people will view as 'more serious'.

      The entry price is low: the rules are free and, I think, easy to absorb even if I haven't yet had a chance to play them. I'm building momentum on this one and I have every expectation that I'm actually going to finish painting these in short order!