Sunday, 4 August 2019

Balagan's Thirty Years War

The prolific Steven Thomas (of has just published a free set of fast-play Thirty Years War rules called Tilly’s Very Bad Day. You can download them here. As readers may know I've been musing about Thirty Years War rules for a very long time but have never actually got round to trying any of them.

My first consideration is to see if a game is compact enough for my tastes and resources. The last set I was seriously looking at was Twilight of Divine Right but it requires an on-table measurement for mounted pistols which is only 1/8 of unit frontage. This means that unit frontages need to be fairly large if this measurement is not to become impractically small.

Unfortunately, large bases need to be filled with a large amount of lead or plastic, and need to operate over a large surface area, but my current preference is to use 2mm blocks, small bases and a small playing area. TVBD would allow me to use 2" wide bases which provide a good fit for 2mm blocks, would facilitate on-table measurement in user-friendly inches and would require a table size of only 30" x 20" for a small game and 45" x 30" for a large one. In that respect the rules tick all the boxes.

My second consideration is unit types. Many rules covering this period (Eighty Years War, Thirty Years War and English Civil War) differentiate 'gallopers' from 'trotters' etc and early, large formations ('Tercios') from later battalions with a variable number of intermediate troop types. TVBD has only one category of Horse and one category of Pike+shot.

It may well be that other rule authors have overemphasised (or even invented) distinctions, but this is quite a radical step. I won't go into the arguments for this simplification here, but I believe they may well be justified. However, Steven is considering an early, large infantry type on a deeper base and I'm rather hoping he adopts that. For the early part of this period, the Bastioned Square is a defining icon.

The rules themselves appear to be simple, clear and elegant and l look forward to trying them out with counters or substitute figures. My regular sparring partner is particularly concerned that 'Pike and Shot' rules should handle 'pike and shot' warfare. While, at this level, pike and shot are combined and not separately modelled,  we will be looking closely at the 'paper, stone, scissors' interaction of infantry, cavalry and artillery.