Twilight of Divine Right: Battle of Wimpfen

A short while ago I played the battle of Wimpfen (1622) already. While I had the table set up I was curious about playing the scenario again. This time using an older favourite of mine – Twilight of Divine Right.

Same scenario as last time, different set of rules. I mainly did it because I just can’t decide which set of rules I like better – In Deo Veritas or Twilight of Divine Right. Let’s see if this game can settle the question!

 

I’ll spare you the lengthy prelude to the battle and Georg Friedrich von Baden-Durlach’s biography this time, as I wrote about that in the prior article on this battle. Again, I’m playing this one solo because social distancing is a thing we should adhere to, and will for the forseeable future.

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Sebastiaan Vrancx – Battle of Vimpfen on 6 May 1622 (Source: Wikipedia)

So let’s go straight to…

 

The Scenario

I took the scenario directly from the latest Twilight of Divine Right scenario book “To the Peace of the Pyrenees”.

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Excellent book, from what I can tell.

I did change two little things about the scenario though – first, I made Tilly the CinC of the Spanish-Leaguist army rather than Cordoba. Because I think I read that this was actually the case. Might be wrong though. The same goes for the other little change I made – I made Georg Friedrich von Baden-Durlach the commander of the Baden cavalry wing and left command of the infantry to a certain Generalkommissar Bleickard von Helmstatt. No big differences at all.

Here we got the setup from Baden-Durlach’s army’s perspective. In the top we got the Spanish-Leaguist army under Tilly (behind them Donet forest on a hill). In the right we got the village of Untereisesheim (which won’t play a role in our game), bottom right we got the village of Obereisesheim (which very much will). Way in the right there’s the impassable marsh/swamp around Böllinger river. At the bottom we got the protestant army of Baden, led by Baden-Durlach, sitting in defensive positions behind their Wagenburg.

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The Armies

The setup is pretty much the same as on the prior game, but some small changes have been made and some different nomenclature is used to suit the Twilight of Divine Right rules.

Baden-Durlach’s Protestant Army

The army was set up in two lines: Infantry behind the Wagenburg in the front with two regiments in good defensive positions anchoring the flanks. Behind them we got the cavalry reserve.

CinC: None

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Infantry Centre (Helmstatt):

Behind the Wagenburg: 5x Tercios, 2x Field Guns

In the forest at the left flank: 1x Regiment (muskets only)

In Obereisesheim at the left: 1x Small Regiment

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Cavalry Reserve (Baden-Durlach):

6x Cuirassiers

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Spanish-Leaguist Army

The catholic army was drawn up in two large commands. Cordoba’s Spanish in the right (as befitting their rank as serving a king, while Tilly’s army just served a Duke), Tilly’s force in the left. Infantry at the centre, drawn up in two lines, cavalry left and right at the flanks.

CinC: Tilly

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Right Wing (Cordoba):

1st Line: 2x Cuirassiers, 2x Tercios, 1x Field Gun

2nd Line: 2x Small Cuirassiers, 1x Small Tercio

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Left Wing (Tilly):

1st Line: 1x Small Harquebusiers, 3x Early Tercios, 1x Small Harquebusiers, 1x Cuirassiers, 1x Field Gun

2nd line: 2x Small Early Tercio, 1x Small Cuirassiers

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The Game

Without losing much time, the attackers move towards the Wagenburg. Protestant cannon fire isn’t too effective at stopping the Tercios, while the catholic guns focus on the centre Tercio behind the Wagenburg.

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There’s a short stop as the Spanish cavalry attack the protestant left flank. The infantry’s hoping for the cuirassiers to break through so they’d have a much easier job attacking the Wagenburg to the front.

Baden-Durlach commands two of the cavalry brigades to the left to stop the Spaniards from doing just that. The rest of this cavalry he directs to the right.

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The protestant musketeers at the edge of the forest turn out to be elite troops! They hold their fire until right before the Cuirassiers hit them, and the very first salvo disperses the Cuirassiers brigade. They flee off the table.

Twilight of Divine Right got this rather fun optional rule for depicting troop quality: Each scenario lists units with a rating, (A) to (E). Either at the start of the scenario or the first time they see combat (which is the variant I prefer) you roll for the unit’s actual rating (Raw, Trained or Elite) based on a table. A (B) rating unit will be more likely to be Elite or at least not be Raw than a unit rated (D) for example.  A very nice little mechanic to have a unit’s performance ‘on the day’ rather than knowing beforehand. You get a general idea of how they’ll probably perform, but you never quite know.

Dead set on pushing through, more cuirassiers charge at the musketeers. One of the curiassier brigades Baden-Durlach sent from the centre arrive and try to get rid of the rest of the Spanish cuirassiers.

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The Protestant cuirassiers have to withdraw though. The Spanish cavalry follow them in hot pursuit, …

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Dotted arrows indicate retreats.

…but they have to turn to the flank again as the second Protestant curiassiers unit turns up, and they don’t want to be caught in the middle when the unit who retreated rally.

The small unit of Spanish cuirassiers see a gap and cheekily move in to get in the back of the Wagenburg. However, they hesitate for a bit, which gives the enemy cuirassiers time to wheel on them and drive them off.

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The elite musketeers, pretty shaky at that point, rout the second unit of cuirassiers.

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Seeing as the Spanish cavalry still hasn’t quite punched through the enemy lines yet and the Spanish infantry sitting in place, not doing much at all, Tilly sends in his army. Tercios start attacking the Wagenburg frontally. Baden-Durlach sees an opportunity for a surprise attack and sends his cavalry against Tilly’s comparatively weak cuirassiers.

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The cavalry battle back and forth, but the Baden cuirassiers slowly get the upper hand.

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One of the cuirassiers brigades drives the smaller catholic formations before them and destroys them one by one.

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…while the last of Tilly’s cuirassiers units holds. The infantry garrison of Obereisesheim move out of their position to support their cavalry comrades.

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The small Early Tercio in the top of the picture (yellow flag) are very nervous about enemy cavalry going by and don’t manage to wheel to the side for some support.

Here’s an overview:

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In the left (Baden-Durlach’s view) the cuirassiers are pursuing the routing enemy cuirassiers. At the centre of the Wagenburg the enemy gunfire (guns way in the top of the picture) is starting to take a toll on the tercio (indicated by the little smoke puff). In the right Tilly’s early tercios move in against the Wagenburg. The rightmost of the Bavarian tercios is rated Elite. The smaller second line tercios follow the first line closely to give rear support.

On the defenders’ side the second-from-the-right (late) tercio, Goltstein’s, is rated Raw. The guns next to them are attacked by the enemy and the artillerists flee into Goltstein’s tercio.

In the right you can see the two smaller harquebusier and cuirassier getting chased down by Baden’s cuirassiers.

At this point I had to take a break and the battle recommenced the next day. At that point I think I was at turn#14. The battle lines for the most part have engaged and from now on movement would be much more limited.  In terms of cavalry things didn’t look bad for the protestant side, but things could still swing against them on the flanks. And Baden-Durlach already committed all of his reserves. In terms of infantry the Spanish tercios are reluctant to attack the well-defended Wagenburg. They know that, apart from the fortification bonus they can neither out-gun nor out-fight the enemy tercios behind the Wagenburg due to its special rules. And the tercios behind are mostly armed with pikes, which in close combat gives them the edge against the musket-heavy Spanish units.

So they hang back and wait for the large Bavarian tercios to break through. Their chances of doing so are much better. Not only are they just massive, got Elites among them, AND have a poop-load of pikemen with them, they also got  a lot of flank and rear support. 

The protestant infantry are putting up a stiff defense. Their commander Helmstatt is fighting alongside Goltstein’s tercio, which is mostly raw recruits. Over time the centre infantry probably will be ground up by the Bavarian tercios. Their hope rests on the cavalry on the right to break through and help roll up the enemy battle line.

In a surprising turn of events the last remaining small Harquebusier brigade rally just in time before the pursuing cuirassiers hunt them down and counter-charge. The cuirassiers are surprised and flee back to their lines. The harquebusiers in turn follow up and crash into the Obereisesheim garrison infantry.

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Things just got more complicated at the protestant right flank again.

Meanwhile at the protestant lef flank: The protestant cuirassiers who routed the small Spanish cuirassiers earlier and pursued the fleeing horsemen decided to turn around and help fighting the last remaining enemy cavalry unit on that flank rather than breaking through enemy lines. A very wise move.

After some heated maneuvering the two rather shaken cuirassier regiments manage to catch the elite Spanish cuirassiers do not  enjoy this situation and rout.

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The protestants won the left flank and Cordoba’s wing is in danger of collapsing. The soldiers have utter trust in their capable commander though and decide to stand extra-honorably.

This development makes the protestant musketeers from the treeline get a bit cheeky. They decide to leave their position and threaten the Spanish infantry’s flank. To make clear that Spanish infantry is not impressed by Swiss mercenaries the smaller reserve tercio wheels around and shoots the snot out of the protestant musketeers. They rout.

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The harquebusiers in the back are from Tilly’s command and part of the reserve. They were sent over to help keeping the protestant cuirassiers from breaking through.

Here’s an overview of the going-ons at this point:

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From bottom to top:

.) In the right you can see the two protestant cuirassiers getting rid of the Spanish elite cuirassiers.

.) To the left you can see the smaller reserve tercio (red flag) who move to the flank to patch the gap and keep the now free enemy cavalry from breaking through. Same as the small harquebusiers brigade who moved in from the middle.

.) Spurred on by the cavalry not getting the job done, the Spanish infantry finally move into combat to show why they are the premier arm of the Spanish army.

.) At Tilly’s wing the reserve tercio finally manages to move towards the flank as well and wheel around to defend against possible enemy cavalry attacks. Just in time…

.) …because the small contingent of harquebusiers at the flank is finally beaten (red dotted arrow). One of the cuirassiers brigades breaks through and immediately go for the Bavarian guns. The spanish/bavarian guns start taking a heavy toll on the centre tercios behind the Wagenburg by now.

Finally Goltstein’s late tercio rout. The recruits in the end are no match for the experienced Bavarian soldiers and all of their support. Even worse, the wing commander Helmstatt is killed in the final push!

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After some chaos regimental commander count Otto Ludwig von Salm steps up to keep the lines somewhat in tact, but right from the start it’s evident that a command larger than a regiment is beyond the abilities of the dashing young noble.

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Otto Ludwig Graf von Salm, Wild- und Rheingraf zu Kyrburg und Mörchingen, copper engraving by Merian. (Source: Wikipedia)

As little of note his efforts at Wimpfen were, lateron he became a commander under the Danish king and later under Gustav II. Adolph, the king of Sweden. During the early 1630s Otto Ludwig became one of the more successful commanders of the war. After Gustav Adolph’s death he was appointed governor of Swedish- occupied Alsace where he beat down several uprisings against the marauding Swedish and had 1600 peasants massacred at Dammerkirch. After successfully being late to the defeat at Nördlingen his fortunes turned against Otto Ludwig. He died in October 1634 of the plague.

…but right now he’s commander of the infantry centre wing of Baden-Durlach’s army. The main concern being that a big gap just emerged in the defensive line.

There’s good news for the protestant cause too though. At the right flank the last of Tilly’s cavalry is destroyed and after a stroke of good fortunes (and a flank attack) even the reserve tercio crumbles.

This captures the attention of one of the main tercios (blue flag, left) of Tilly’s army. They wheel around and make ready to just bulldoze anybody in their path.

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Here’s another overview:

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Again, from bottom to top:

.) The Spanish reserve regiment (red flag) moves in to plug the gap. Protestant cuirassiers run waves of attack against the Spaniards.

.) The small unit of harquebusiers turn around to somehow fend off the protestant cuirassiers who broke through from the left flank (catholic point of view), put the artillery out of action and now threaten the Spanish infantry’s backs.

.) The Spanish infantry move in to fight the protestant defenders. The leftmost (protestant view) regiment turns out to work exceptionally well on this day (Elite rating despite the D in their stat line).

.) In the centre Bavarian units keep up the pressure. After all these turns of artillery fire the protestant infantry are in such a shape (and the fact that right next to them huge tercios are breaking through) that they decide to move away from the frontline and move backwards. Catholic infantry move in to break into the Wagenburg.

.) The Bavarian tercio who routed Goltstein’s brigade made it into the Wagenburg. Now they try to get ordered again to turn to either side and be a pain in the backside.

.) At the protestant right flank the reserve tercio just got routed. Given the fact that the enemy has next to no cavalry (small harquebusiers in the centre notwithstanding) left they are free to act as they please. However, the enemy infantry is still very much a danger and the protestant cuirassiers are a bit shaken by prior combat. Nevertheless one more of them break through and try to put pressure on the Spanish infantry. Losing that whole wing would make it very, very hard for Tilly to justify fighting on.

After a few attacks the protestant cavalry even manage to rout the Spanish reserve brigade:

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As usual though, if things look nice at one flank usually disaster strikes at the other:

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The rightmost protestant tercio finally breaks under the pressure of the Elite Bavarian Tercio (Schmidt, I assume). The Bavarians got their feathers ruffled quite a bit as well, but stand as firm as they ever did. Now they attempt to break into the Wagenburg as well to finish the whole affair.

Meanwhile at the other end of the defensive line both Spanish tercios break (with a little help of protestant Cuirassiers).

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Cordoba’s wing is entirely destroyed. They bravely fought on despite heavy losses, but in the end the heavy fortifications and the unwillingness of the defenders to give way broke them. Still, there’s a whole lot of Bavarian units in the Wagenburg now, and they aren’t very impressed by the slightly damaged cuirassiers whizzing around them.

In a maneuver that would put Napoleon’s guard infantry to shame the protestant infantry reforms (because they love a bit of reformation! badum-tss) into a whole new battle line centered around the totally not-Swedish elite yellow brigade. (I think I rolled five 6s in a row on those action tests for the late tercios to pull off this maneuver.)

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Another overview, because things happened at that point:

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.) In the lower left you can see the sort of shuffling that went on as the remaining protestant infantry turned around and set up a battle line, backed up with cavalry. The cavalry are pretty shaken at this point, the tercio to the right is only holding together because von Salm (the replacement infantry commander) is with them, but they got the yellow brigade to rely on and the Hessians on the left are also in good shape. They open musket fire at the Bavariany who just broke into the Wagenburg, and now have trouble getting organized again, so they don’t turn towards the enemy. The big Bavarian tercio in the middle (white flags) isn’t sure whether or not to charge the enemy to their front while their comrades are under fire and can’t return fire properly.

.) In the left of the Wagenburg we pretty much got open field at this point. Two of Baden-Durlach’s cuirassier brigades zipping around, as well as that one last small harquebusiers brigade of Tilly’s. Right now everybody’s rushing back to the flank at Obereisesheim. The cuirassiers way in the left are a.) pretty shaken, and b.) pretty happy with themselves after they took out all the enemy gun batteries. So they refuse to move or even turn around for the rest of the game.

.) On the top of the picture we got the flank at Obereisesheim. The big elite tercio just fended off a flank attack by protestant cuirassiers and threw them back across some fields. The other early tercio (blurry, top centre; blue and white flags) is in a bit of a bad spot: To their front there’s the very easy-to-squash Obereisesheim garrison regiment, but they got a brigade of enemy cuirassiers in their flank, so they can’t move towards the enemy infantry, and with enemy cavalry to their open flank they get very nervous. While keeping good order for now they don’t manage to turn towards the cavalry and have to roll morale checks.

The catholic harquebusiers arrive from the other flank to get that pesky cavalry out of their flank, but the cuirassiers stick to their plan of unnerving the early tercio. This will probably lead to the cuirassiers getting charged in the flank by the harquebusiers (or at least getting shot at; either one’s bad), but they decide to sit it out.

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Meanwhile the cuirassiers also arrived fom the other flank. They don’t go after the harquebusiers though, but instead they go for a coordinated attack to the back and front against the already battered elite tercio.

All battle long they stood firm and whacked enemy units left and right, but this does it. The early tercio falls apart under the pressure, they got nowhere to go and get cut down.

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Seeing his best and favourite tercio being beat like that makes Tilly realize that Virgin Mary woudn’t grace them with a victory today and orders the army to withdraw. It’s a close victory for the army of Georg Friedrich von Baden-Durlach.

 

Aftermath

This battle lasted for a whopping 23 turns, and from turn ~7 on it was a nail-biter. The protestant army wins the left flank cavalry skirmish – a reserve tercio moves in, routs the musketeers and ALMOST breaks the cavalry.

Baden-Durlach’s cavalry attack at the right (which really happened in the battle pretty early on and worked rather well up to a point) gets rid of the enemy cavalry as well, but just before the protestant cuirassiers break through the tercios manage to turn around and things very much are in question again at that flank.

The Spanish infantry attack is squashed, while at the same time Bavarian troops clear the right side of the Wagenburg and break through. Before they can exploit that victory though the protestant infantry all of a sudden become 18th century Prussians and reform into the finest battle line known to man. Maybe there’s something about that Otto Ludwig von Salm.

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Through the mid-stages of the game I thought “wow, those early tercios are just beasts!”. That was when they were up against a static defence position, aimed towards said position, just waiting for someone in a big hat and big pants to say “go”. At this point of the game though, which requires turning and things like that the shotcomings of these huge formations show.

Anyway, it was good playing Twilight of Divine Right again. Despite not having played in a year I felt at home with them again very quickly. Because they just aren’t very complicated. I know that the two big tables (combat modifiers and action tests) put off a few people, but it’s not a big problem at all I found.

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So, after having played the same scenario using both Twilight of Divine Right and In Deo Veritas, what have we learned? Nothing. I really like both sets of rules. They do things differently. If anything, I would suggest anybody to get both. It’s actually funny how different the two rules sets approach the period. Granted, ToDR covers a tighter timeframe (1618-1660s, but they easily can be used for 1600 to 1680s at the very least. IDV covers the whole 17th century and also can be expanded in terms of timeframe), and goes into much more detail concerning pike-to-shot ratios, different cavalry doctrines/tactics and so on. IDV has a bit more to its command structure and activation, as well as the more in-depth rules for disorder, wing cohesion and delightful little extra bits like the lovely post-battle pursuit thing. ToDR’s wing and army morale system is simpler.

In fact these rules sets actually put their focus on different things. IDV builds fog of war/friction into wing activation and wing orders. ToDR puts the friction into individual unit movement. IDV’s combat is more simple and slightly more predictable than ToDR’s, but by comparison lacks depth. ToDR’s morale rules are more simple than IDV’s. I think it wouldn’t be hard taking bits from either system and put it into the other. In fact you could take them as they are and fuse them together.

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(Source: DragonballSupers.com, Copyright: Bird Studio/Shueisha)

Unit classifications from ToDR, orders/activation/command ranges from IDV, movement from ToDR, shooting/combat from ToDR, Wing/Army morale and pursuit from IDV. I guess that would give maximum ‘bulk’. Or, for a light variant: Unit classification from IDV, activation from ToDR, movement from IDV, combat/shooting from IDV, wing/army morale from ToDR.

In the end it doesn’t matter all that much. Both sets of rules give a good game. After the last few games I was almost convinced I like IDV better, now I played ToDR again and remembered why I like those rules so much. Of course the point in favour of IDV is that there’s a lot of pictures of my figures in the book and a big old ad for Battle Brush Studios in the back. On the other hand ToDR is more tightly written and worded, I think. It’s crazy how different these two are and yet both give a good gaming experience that feels appropriate to the period.

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Originally I had planned to play the same scenario using Baroque as well (and possibly Tilly’s Very Bad Day), but i just didn’t have the time. These games take me very long to do, writing the battle reports take even longer. But I do hope to give Baroque another go as well. I feel bad for these rules because of how overlooked they are (same with Impetus really). Oh well.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed the battle of Wimpfen (again). Do you have a particular favourite of 17th century rules?

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