The other week Cpt.Shandy came over for a game of Twilight of Divine Right to see what all the fuss was about.
This essentially being a try-out game to learn the rules, I wanted to keep the scenario small and manageable. After some reading I came across the battle of Wittenweiher, 9th August 1638.
By 1638 France had dropped any pretenses and openly entered the war. One of their chosen commanders in Germany was Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar.
Bernhard, orphaned at 13 and a stout Lutheran, started his military career under Ernst von Mansfeld and fought for the cause of the protestant uprising in Bohemia from 1622. After a short stint with the Danish army he was one of the first (and few) German nobles to join Gustav Adolph’s army as soon as 1630.
At the battle of Lützen he commanded the left wing and after the Swedish king’s death, he took over command of all the army and turned the battle into a victory. While Swedish high command regarded him with mixed feelings, Bernhard was viewed as a glorious figures by German protestants.
After the devastating defeat of the Swedish army (then led by Bernhard and Gustav Horn) at Nördlingen in 1634, Swedish government was unwilling to fund Bernhard any more. Thus he turned to France for support. Richelieu was willing to fund his army of 12,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry and artillery. In January of 1638 Bernhard began a campaign in South-Western Germany, starting by crossing the Rhine. In quick succession he took several towns and cities, with the ultimate goal of besieging the mighty fortress city of Breisach.
Imperial troops under marshall Frederigo Savelli and Bavarian troops under Johann von Götzen were sent out to guard a large supply train heading for Breisach. Bernhard’s army caught wind of this and went after them, catching up with Savelli’s army at the small village of Wittenweiher (which in the course of the battle got completely destroyed).
I based the game roughly on Merian’s copperplate print of the battle, made around 1638:
As so often with engravings of battles at the time things like proportions, scale, and relative positions of things are probably way off. But then, those usually are off on wargames tables as well. I didn’t have much time to prepare the game, and most probably wouldn’t find a better source.
There are no terrain features of great importance. To the Protestants’ left there’s a thick forests, behind the Catholics we got a stream and the village of Kappel. The feature with the most impact on our game probably is the road across the battlefield, which is atop a dam, so it takes extra actions to cross.
The setup is based on the copper engraving, I took a few liberties with the exact type of units. For the Catholic side I chose more Tercios and Cuirassiers than probably would be around at 1638. For the Protestants I chose a mix of Swedish and Dutch cavalry. Basically cranking up the “recognizable army-specific units” a little.
The goal of the game is to make the other side retreat. If the Protestant army wins they get hold of the supply wagons heading for Breisach, which might spell doom on the soon to be beleaguered fortress. An Imperial/Catholic victory would be a major setback for Bernhard’s ambitions in South-Western Germany.
The Catholic army had a numerical advantage on the day (18.500 vs. Bernhard’s 13.000; although Götzen’s infantry didn’t show up in time for the battle). Overall they have tougher, but fewer and less maneuverable units.
Imperial/Catholic League Army
Right Wing (Savelli): 3x Cuirassiers
Centre: 3x Tercio, 1x Cuirassiers, 1x Small Harquebusiers, 2x Field Cannon
Left Wing (Götzen): 1x Cuirassiers, 2x Harquebusiers
Right Wing (Rosen): 2x Dutch Cavalry, 2x Foot Regiment
Centre (Saxe-Weimar): 4x Foot Regiment (one of them consisting of Swedish veterans who got away at Nördlingen), 2x Dutch Cavalry, 2x Field Cannon
Left Wing (Taupadel): 4x Swedish Cavalry, 1x Foot Regiment (Muskets only, regimental gun, forward in the woods)
We rolled for who’d get to play which side. Cpt.Shandy played the Protestants, I took command of the Imperial/Bavarian army.
The battle report itself will be a bit shorter this time, as we spent some time (especially in early phases) discussing the rules and so on, so I didn’t have enough time to take many photos.
Here’s an overview of the battle during the Protestants’ first turn:
You can see Rosen’s cavalry in the bottom (= Protestant right flank) moving up to the Cuirassiers, while at the other flank Taupadel’s cavalry also advances cautiously while my cannons try to slow them down.
During this phase of the game most of the action takes place across the elevated road, between the right Protestant and left Catholic wings respectively.
A firefight between Dutch cavalry and my Harquebusiers emerges. My Cuirassiers (top left in the photo) get caught by infantry musket fire as they try to get into the flank of one of Rosen’s cavalry regiments. During the subsequent wiggling to get out of this sticky situation, the Cuirassiers take a lot of fire and eventually rout.
Here’s an overview of the action so far:
The Protestant army advances in full (including limbering up the cannons and laboriously setting them up again further down the line) while I choose – and am forced to due to large, sluggish formations – to hang back and try to have my cannons damage and disorder Taupadel’s scary Swedish Cavalry at my right.
My left flank (bottom in the photo) advances to meet the enemy attack, which goes OK. Rosen’s cavalry gets destroyed. One of the Harquebusiers regiments pursues them, and now move up for some flanking, while the other Harquebusiers get shoo’d off by the infantry. A minor setback. The cuirassiers still try to get out of getting battered by musket and rout soon thereafter.
Due my overstretched lines and my left wing battling, a large gap between the centre and the left flank emerges, which is instantly exploited by the Protestants’ centre’s cavalry. One regiment slips through (despite the small Harquebusiers’ regiment’s worst efforts to hinder them), the other cavalry (along with supporting infantry) regiment meets my centre cuirassiers and a firefight emerges.
At my right flank the Swedish Cavalry charges. First my cuirassiers (who retreat towards the stream), then my precious artillery. Those prove more steadfast though, at least for one more turn. Ample time for another regiment of Cuirassiers to move up and battle the enemy cavalry.
Cuirassiers manage to wipe out the regiment of musketeers quickly, turning the affair at my right into a straight-up cavalry skirmish.
With lines shriveling down to local brawls things get a bit chaotic:
From top to bottom: The whole left flank decides that everybody’s done a good job and I turn my cavalry to support the centre. One of my Harquebusiers regiment refuses to move though, which the protestant infantry (from Bohemia and Brandenburg) take for a sneaky maneuver and they form up in defensive formation.
The cavalry skirmish in the centre is resolved somewhat quickly, as one regiment of Dutch cavalry is routed by the cuirassiers, and the Harquebusiers are thrown back by the cavalry who broke through earlier. Now my cuirassiers turn to meet them.
This means that the infantry regiment who supported the now routed Dutch cavalry is free to fall into the flank of my tercio. This should speed up the battle between them and the protestant regiment to their front considerably. The centre tercio fails to come to their aid due to getting peppered by the enemy cannons, almost routing the tercio over the course of several turns of fire.
At my right flank things get going: My poor artillerymen rout, and the enemy cavalry pursue them right to the stream. At least the water isn’t too cold in August.
My cuirassiers in turn manage to destroy another cavalry regiment. In pursuit of the fleeing horsemen they crash into the Swedish blue infantry regiment, and are sent back, right into the Swedish Cavalry who just return from sending my artillery into the river. Due to this weird series of events my cuirassiers get bounced back and forth between Swedish infantry and cavalry. Eventually the Swedish left wing breaks and retreats altogether due to casualties, freeing up all of my cuirassiers. They took a bit of a beating, but still look good at this point. Immediately they advance to attack the Swedish infantry.
Here you can see the situation shortly thereafter: One of my tercio finally broke due to the flank attack, but so did the last unit of Protestant cavalry. Just before the cannons destroy my centre tercio (standing at an angle here) the Harquebusiers from left manage to charge them. In the right you can see the cuirassier regiments attacking the blue regiment infantry.
At this point we decided to call it a night. The Protestant army’s infantry would probably still do some damage, but eventually would probably crumble away due to lack of cavalry and thus flank protection and mobility.
It’s a victory for the Imperial/Catholic League army!
First games are never easy, but Cpt.Shandy picked them up quickly. It still takes a bit getting ‘a feel’ for how the movement works and so on.
As we had relatively few units there was very little in the way of rear support. Especially with my cavalry this showed, as each failed morale check made them bounce back quite far and having to rally.
After the game we came to the conclusion that it works well, it’s fun, and it’s reasonably fast for a battle game. We’ll make sure to play it again, maybe as a multi-player game.
I hope that you enjoyed the battle report. For any questions, comments and so on feel free to drop your messages here in the comments section, on the forums or contact me directly via Battle Brush Studios, the Battle Brush Studios facebook page or via e-mail!