Here’s by first report of a proper big battle of Twilight of Divine Right – it’s the battle of Stadtlohn (6th August 1623) which took place between Count Tilly’s army of the Catholic League and Christian von Braunschweig’s army.
One year after the win-loss (depending on your point of view) of the Battle of Fleurus, Christian von Braunschweig had taken his newly raised army to campaign in Lower Saxony. These plans were thwarted by Tilly’s veteran army and Christian had to retreat in the direction of the Netherlands, where his paymaster, the ostracized Elector Frederik V. of the Palatinate, and his wife Elisabeth Stewart resided.
Tilly’s army was hot on their heels and made better progress, despite Christian leaving rearguard detachments at chokepoints to slow down Tilly’s advance.. In the morning of the 6th of August Christian had no choice but to turn and prepare for battle.
The Protestant army left a Rearguard Detachment under Franz Bernhard von Thurn back at the village and the river crossing. The army’s main body under Christian von Braunschweig himself and Dodo von Knyphausen, as well as a cavalry wing as reserve under Christian von Braunschweig the Younger is set up for battle on a hill. Their objective is staying alive against the onslaught of veteran soldiers. They also have to evacuate the army (slooooooooooow) baggage train over the two bridges over Berkel River and to the relative safety of Stadtlohn. The Protestant side may claim a ‘morale victory’ if they manage to do that, even if the army is defeated in the field.
Tilly’s army will enter right across the stream from the little village, starting with a vanguard under the capable Johann Jakob von Aholt. After a while the cavalry wing under Timon von Lintelo will show up, and finally Tilly and Jost Graf von Gronsfeld. Their objective is to CRUSH Christian von Braunschweig’s army.
I set up the table to be 5′ by 6.5′ in size, base width used is 5cm and I used 10mm figures as always. I played this one solo.
Catholic League Army
Advance Guard: 2 Tercios, 1 Regiment, Cuirassiers, Harquebusiers
Cavalry Wing: Mostly Cuirassiers, supported by a few Harquebusiers and Croat Light Cavalry
Main Body: 6 Tercios, gun battery, a few Cuirassiers and Harquebusiers
1 Tercio, 2 regiments, 2 Cavalry
3 Tercios, Gun Battery, 4 Regiments, bunch of Cavalry and Dragoons
Cavalry Wing: 4 Cavalry
The game starts with Anholt’s Advance Guard showing up. He sends his cavalry off to the left to cross the stream on their own while he marches his tercios straight down the road and toward the bridge where they’re met with musket fire. The Spanish veterans storm the village and bloody house-to-house combat emerges.
The cavalry at the Catholic left manage to cross the stream without much trouble as the Protestant tercio is sluggish to react to the the enemy in their flank.
After a short while the Catholic Cavalry Wing arrives. They split up, with the main force following their Cuirassier comrades who seem to have found a ford. A small covering force moves to the right.
The strongest Protestant unit on the Rear Guard has some flank trouble, and is too sluggish to react, so the reserve Dragoons hastily move up, dismount and open fire at the enemy cavalry.
The cuirassiers just ride on, clash with the red-clad Protestant cavalry and drive them off.
Eventually they catch up and rout the unit.
The Harquebusiers who hung back get harassed by the Dragoons just long enough for the infantry to get their act together and turn to face the Harquebusiers as well.
The Protestant cavalry reserve receives messages about massed formations of black-armoured horsemen crossing the stream and Christian the Younger attempts a bit of a gambit: Ride up and try to meet the enemy cavalry before they fully cross the stream and reform on the other side.
Then Tilly’s main army arrives.
The vanguard tercios just finished driving the protestant musketeers out of the village. The protestant mercenaries on the Catholic right see the futility of this cause and attempt to retreat to the main battle line, Catholic cavalry is following them across the stream.
Here’s an overview of these early phases:
Protestant cavalry and Catholic cuirassiers meet head on:
The cavalry battle wages back and forth, but ultimately the large formations of armoured horsemen prove to be tougher. Christian the Younger orders an orderly retreat back to the main battle line.
All the while the cavalry battle took place the tercios make their way through the village, and painfully slowly at that. But now they managed to form up in one huge column (two frontmost tercios in line). On the other side of the stream you can see two of three tercios still struggling to get on the road and through the village, despite Gronsfeld’s best organizational efforts.
To the huge column’s right catholic cavalry takes care of parts of the green troops who tried to retreat to the main battle line.
So much for the first round of fighting (figuratively. In fact it’s been a few turns now of course. :-P). The Protestant Rear Guard is more or less broken. The one tercio and the dragoons are holding on for dear life, but soon are in full rout as well.
The Croats take this opportunity to zip off to the left, pass by the Protestant lines at lighning speed and make for the baggage train. Horrible.
It takes a while, but just in the nick of time the Croats are taken care of by the combined efforts of two cavalry units. The relieved baggage drivers continue to evacuate across the river.
Since the light cavalry seems to have caused nervousness in the Protestant lines Tilly gives order for the tercios to form line and has the cavalry take position at their flanks. The time to attack has come.
The evacuation of the baggage train is proceeding pretty well (despite the short Croatian interference), so there’s not time for subtleties. Tilly’s plan is to just drive the row of tercios into the Protestant line, break through, and then cause havoc.
Due to the good roads the Catholic infantry is able to advance very swiftly. Headed by an elite tercio they storm the hill. The cannons are roaring endlessly, firing at the 3rd and 4th tercios in the line.
This pivot may have been a bit unwise. It opens up a large gap in the line and Catholic harquebusiers take the oppunity to break through and off to the very last bunch of wagons who haven’t managed to get across the bridges yet.
This is an overview of what happened in this phase of the game:
The small regiment of cavalry who already took care of the Croats turn around to face them. They do some damage, but in turn get routed and the Harquebusiers go on harassing the baggage.
In a last ditch effort the beaten up dragoons from the protestant left flank get into gear to attack the enemy harquebusiers who keep the last wagons from crossing the river. It’s a gamble, because the dragoons might end up being just one more unit fed into these harassing harquebusiers one by one, but they prevail and once more the baggage train is on their way.
Possibly driven on by the imminent danger the last few wagons manage to get across the bridge and into the relative safety of Stadtlohn. It’s a morale victory for the protestant side. The question is if this is much of a relief for the few thousand guys on the hill facing Tilly’s superior force.
Now that the right is secure the Hessian regiment and Bohemian tercio receive the ‘about face’ order. Just like they just did against the cavalry the Hessians (red eagle on white) move up for flank support while the Bohemian regiment (blue flag) unload their muskets on the rear support.
This takes effect, as the tercio breaks after a few devastating salvos.
Here’s an overview:
The protestant cause is anything but safe yet. The cavalry wing may look good, but two out of the three units are barely holding together and they lost a unit already, meaning that one more routed unit will force them to roll for the whole wing routing.
So the idea is to harass the enemy was much as possible without actually getting caught up in fights. One of the regiments is split off to give rear support to the Bohemian tercio. Christian the Younger takes the other two regiments with him for a wide flanking maneuver to get into the enemy’s back and mess with their morale with the mere presence of cavalry in their back.
In the upper right in the picture you can see the remaining catholic cavalry following a very similar plan.
The catholic cavalry is much more successful with their rear attack. First they rout the wavering dragoons by just looking at them. Them they attack the rear of the centre tercio which finally crumbles. At the same time the second unit of cuirassiers charges the Hessian regiment in the rear who rout immediately as well.
One of the protestant cavalry regiments is routed by musket fire (lower right) as they pass the enemy column, meaning the protestant cavalry wing has to roll for wing morale. So far they hold, but it’s only a matter of time before they have to retreat off the table.
Christian the younger leads his cavalry regiments into desperate charges into the rears of the cuirassiers in the left and the tercio in the cenre. Both attacks bounce off their targets and the cavalry routs.
The protestant infantry (what remains of them) is faring better: The Bohemians attack and rout a fresh tercio, and in the big brawl on the hill another catholic tercio routs. Both sides have to roll for army morale due to excessive casualties:
The catholic army is holding together just long enough (not the least because Tilly is a much more capably commander than Christian von Braunschweig) for the protestants to finally break and flee the battlefield.
It’s a victory for the Catholic League!
…but basically a stalemate as it was decided by army morale rolls. And the protestant army managed to win their ‘morale victory’ by evacuating the baggage train in time.
It’s a victory for the Protestant Army!
Who knows. Again, a very Thirty Years War result, isn’t it. Lots of fighting, nobody wants to give up even though it would make sense, everybody’s miserable or dead. 😛
Well, the first proper big battle. For weeks I’ve been browsing the scenario book for things I could play with my collection (and size of table), as I painted up a few more units. I didn’t want to change the size or order of battle for any scenario yet, as I first wanted to try a battle as written in the book.
Then I found the Stadtlohn one and realized I only lacked five more bases of musketeers (because for some insane reason I’d painted an odd number of those before), and two more cavalry units I’d been working on anyway. Hooray.
It is quite a big one, that battle, but I like the scenario. The way it played out kept me on my toes. Due to me playing both sides I think I was a bit sluggish in some regards. The catholic side could have won a more decisive victory if I had split off the second half of the column earlier. Who would have thought that the protestant units would withstand the onslaught of the full main body of Tilly’s force?
There just was no time to draw up the catholic army in a proper battle before attacking since I wanted to get through before they get the baggage across the river.
Anway, I had a good time, I think I got a pretty good grasp of the rules now (again), and I really enjoy how they play. Some people might dislike the dice rolling taking over quite a bit of the outcome of combat. To my knowledge it’s not too far from what historicaly accounts tell us though. In the back of the rulebook there’s an alternative rule for the use of average dice instead of 2d6 for combat results/morale tests. Maybe I’ll use that on the next game.
Thanks for reading this battle report. I hope that you found it interesting and entertaining. If you have questions or other messages, please use the comments section below or get in touch via the Tabletop Stories Facebook page, Battle Brush Studios, the Battle Brush Studios Facebook page or via e-mail!