Wednesday 24 November 2021

Wenzenbach, 1504

This weekend Stuart visited and we played out the battle of Wenzenbach, 1504, a game which had become inevitable once I had finished the Bohemian Infantry, This was a victory that Maximilian I was particularly proud of, featuring in his legacy projects; the Triumphal Arch, the Weisskunig and the Triumphal Procession. In all of these the battle is depicted with the German troops in the latest fashions. For example in Weisskunig we can see landsknecht in the fashions of 1516 as oppose to 1504 when the clash actually took place. With the resources we had available Stuart and myself were keen to try and make this game match the 1504 images, see the first two below, as closely as possible.

In an effort to achieve this we used the Assault Group early landsknecht miniatures for Frundsberg's contingent and we tried to pick gendarmes and men at arms for the cavalry that fit in well with an Imperial army at the start of the 16th century. Some of Stuarts heavily converted lesser armed French men at arms and demilancers being good examples of suitable miniatures. Similarly his Picard pike carrying pavises fitted well with my Bohemians. We also matched the Nuremburg and Augsburg flags of the 1504 images along with the Imperial Eagle and of course the Habsburg saltire. This careful selection from our collections combined with the suitable flags meant we could refight this very unique battle of the early 16th century.

Die Behemsch Schlacht, Hans Burgkmair,  1504.

Schlacht von Wenzenbach, Codex Germanicus c.1504-1505. Note the early landsknecht fashions in the block of pikemen on the left.

The Battle of Wenzenbach, The Triumphal Arch of Maximilian c.1512-15. The landsknecht are now depicted in the fashions of the 1510s.

The Battle of Wenzenbach, Hans Burgkmair, Weisskunig c.1516.

Die Behemisch Slacht, Albrecht Altdorfer, The Triumphal Procession of Maximilian, begun c.1512.

As with some of the Hungarian battles I have covered English sources for this battle appear to be scarce so for this account I have had to rely on google translate for much of the information relating to what happened. This report to the City of Cologne three days after the battle was particularly useful:

Wenzenbach, 1504

The death of George the Rich, Duke of Bavaria-Landshut in December 1503 led to war in the Holy Roman Empire. A 14th century agreement between the Wittelsbach duchies of Bavaria-Munich and Bavaria-Landshut had stipulated that if one branch of the Wittelsbachs died out in the male line then the other branch of the family would inherit, whilst Imperial law decreed the Emperor should inherit if the line failed. In breach of both of these George the Rich, not having any sons, had named Elisabeth his daughter as his heir. She was married to Ruprecht, Count Palatine of the Rhine, son of the powerful Elector Palatine.

Maximilian I of Habsburg was called in as a mediator and decided in favour of Albert Duke of Bavaria in the Munich line, he was after all married to Maximilian's sister, Kunigunde of Austria. He did offer Ruprecht a third of his father-in-laws inheritance by way of compromise. This was refused by Ruprecht, which led to two years of war. Maximilian supported Albert's claim, offering military assistance along with the Swabian League, Duke Ulrich von Wurttemberg and the Imperial City of Nuremburg. Ruprecht was supported by his father, Philip of the Palatinate, and Vladislaus II, King of Hungary and Bohemia.

The battle of Wenzenbach, also known as the Battle of Schönberg or the Bohemian Battle, took place when the castle of Schönberg and the nearby village of Wenzenbach were threatened by an army of Boheminan mercenaries that had been provided by Vladislaus II. Following the Hussite wars of the early 15th century the Bohemians had become successful mercenaries. As they raided close to Regensburg they were caught on 12 September 1504 by Maximlian I and his forces. Georg Wisbeck was the leading Captain in the army of Ruprecht and Elisabeth but when he saw the 4,000 Bohemian mercenaries in his army attempt to escape with their wagonburg he left with the 300 cavalry under his command. Outmaneuvered by Maximilian and his 1,600 horsemen the Bohemians formed the wagonburg on a hill. 

Maximilian had wanted to wait for his 3,000 infantry and heavier guns but they were lagging behind the cavalry after a long march. Worried that the raiding Bohemians would escape he launched his cavalry in mounted assaults against their pavises and war wagons. Maximilian was personally involved in the assault, at one point his horse fell and he was at risk of being trampled in the chaos. Erich von Braunschweig managed to rescue the Emperor Elect and get him to safety. 

It was only with the arrival of the infantry, particularly Georg von Frundsberg, later to become even more famous at the battles of la Bicocca and Pavia, and his landsknecht that the Bohemian defences could finally be successfully stormed. Using light artillery and arquebusiers the Imperialists were able to soften up the wagonburg to the extent that it could be breached by the landsknecht. Possibly as many as 1,600 Bohemian mercenaries were slain with hundreds also being captured. The war ended the following July with George the Rich's two grandsons receiving a small part of their inheritance as both Ruprecht and Elisabeth had died of dysentry during the campaign that resulted in Wenzenbach. Most of the duchy fell to the Munich line of the Wittelsbachs with Maximilian and the Imperial city of Nuremburg also receiving some of the territorial spoils for their parts in the campaign.

A view of the field from behind the Bohemian lines.

Abandoned by Georg Wisbeck and his 300 horse, the Bohemian mercenaries prepare to defend the hill.

The Bohemian mercenaries in front of the wagonburg.

Ruprecht and Elisabeth's mercenary army.

The pavisiers line the hilltop.

A close up of the Bohemian mercenaries.

The pavise wall.

A view of the mercenaries on the hill.

The Bohemian mercenary army of Elisabeth and Ruprecht, Count Palatine of the Rhine.

A view from the Bohemian wagons.

The Scenario

In the scenario we played the Bohemians were deployed at one end of the table along the hill.  Rather than fight it out as a straight up battle with an attacker against a defender we decided it would be more fun if we each took control of half of the Imperial army and then competed against each other to see who could break into the wagonburg first. After a dice roll it was decided that Stuart would take control of Georg von Frundsberg's mostly infantry retinue whilst I took command of Maximilian I and the majority of the Imperialist cavalry.

The aim of the game was simple. The winning player would be the first player to break into the Bohemian wagonburg, by destroying a wagon and then using a move activation to enter their camp. As always we used our heavily modified Renaissance Rampant rules for the game with even more adaptations to account for the Bohemians and the war wagons. In some ways this was a much a play test as it was a game based on a historical battle.

The Bohemian Units 

We revisited some of the rules used in "this is like no house of praier",, for this game with the Bohemian army being a mix of static and mobile units. The 6 Pavise Units, 3 backed by crossbowmen and 3 backed by arquebusiers, formed the Bohemian front line of static units on the top of the hill. Behind them were the mobile units, comprised of the Bohemian Captain, crossbowmen and halberdiers, and then behind them the war wagons were another block of static units in front of the camp.

During the Bohemian turn the static units always activated first. All of the static units could attempt to activate every turn and would always fire at the nearest target. The only movement they could make was to attempt to return to their original position if they retreated. If the crew in one of the war wagons retreated by being broken then that wagon was considered destroyed as the crew had fled.

For the mobile Bohemian units we both started with 5 playing cards. Each turn we played a card and whoever played the highest card took control of the mobile units for that Bohemian turn. Both of us would then take another card. These units behaved like a normal retinue and a failed activation would end their turn. During the actual game this rule changed as my friend Dave, who I used to wargame with for years as a teenager, turned up to see the game. Stuart and I decided to let him take control of the Bohemian mobile units as a third player. This drastically changed the game as rather than either Stuart or I deliberately using the mobile units to block the other Imperial player whilst at the same time letting our own troops nearer to the wagons Dave consolidated the Bohemian defence and made it very difficult for Stuart and myself to get our units anywhere near the wagons!

Maximilian I's army.

The Imperial cavalry of Maximilian I.

Georg von Frundsberg and his early 16th century landsknecht.

Early 16th century landsknecht.
Pikemen under the banners of the city of Nuremburg. The Nuremburg banner can be seen in the first two contemporary images shown above.

Pikemen under the banner of Augsburg, as with Nuremburg, this banner can clearly be seen in the contemporary images produced very soon after the battle.

The Armies

The armies we used, shown in detail in the photos above, were as follows:

The Bohemians

Static Units (see the Scenario above)

3 Units of Pavise Arquebus Infantry
3 Units of Pavise Crossbow Infantry
2 Artillery War Wagons 
3 Infantry War Wagons

Mobile Units(see the Scenario above)

1 Unit of Foot Knights (the Bohemian Captain) 
3 Units of Halberdiers
2 Units of Crossbowmen 


Maximilian I, King of the Romans, and the Cavalry

2 Units of Imperial Knights (1 unit contains Emperor Maximilian I)
5 Units of Imperial Men at Arms
2 Units of Mounted Crossbowmen

Georg von Frundsberg and the Infantry

1 Unit of Landsknecht Halberdiers (Georg von Frundsberg)
2 Units of Landsknecht Pike 
1 Unit of Landsknecht Arquebusiers 
2 Units of Pike (The Nuremburg and Augsburg City Contingents)
1 Culverin
2 Units of Imperial Men at Arms

During the battle both of the Imperial retinues rolled up reinforcements as a result of a double 6 during activation roles.

A brief write up of the game is below with the accompanying photos. The light towards the end of the day was poor and did limit the pictures, as did the fact that Dave had taken control of the Bohemians and was slaughtering us both!

Maximilian's forces begin the attack.

The Imperial forces are strung out as they reach the Bohemian forces.

The Imperial cavalry can be seen in the distance as they charge towards the mercenaries.

The Imperialists are taking casualties from the Bohemian crossbows and arquebus fire.

The forces are about to clash.

A view of the armies from above.

Wenzenbach, 1504.

The battle started with the Imperial cavalry predictably outpacing their infantry and nearing the pavise wall before the accompanying pike and shot. A small group of Bohemian crossbowmen emerged from the wall of pavises and polearms to skirmish with the Imperialists as they came within range. Some of Maximilian and Frundsberg's men fell to the Bohemian crossbows. Within moments the first charge was launched when Imperial men at arms under Frundsberg's command clashed with the Bohemians on the Imperialist left. Whilst this disrupted the mercenary lines the men at arms did not break through and fled back down the hill. 

The disruption the first charge caused was followed by successful Imperial artillery fire which helped to push back one of the pavise units and cause significant casualties. The next charge came from the Imperialist right where Maximilian I and his fully barded knights charged headlong into the pavise wall. Initially they met with great success and the first unit of Bohemians to be engaged was sent fleeing for their lives into the surrounding woods.

Frundsberg's artillery opens fire.

The first Imperial lancers crash into the Bohemians and are repulsed in a bloody melee.

The Bohemian lines have been disrupted by the first clash. Maximilian and his knights lead the second attack.

Maximilian I and his Imperial Knights charge the Bohemians.

Maximilian I charges the Bohemians.

A second fierce clash occurs on the crest of the hill.

Maximilian I and his men at arms push into the Bohemian lines.

The Imperial cavalry charge the Bohemian army.

A view of Frundsberg and his landsknecht advancing.

The city contingents of Nuremburg and Augsburg come under heavy fire from the Bohemian mercenaries.

The top left shows where Maximilian and his knights have pushed back the defenders.

Another charge is launched at the Bohemians.

In the chaos Maximilian I is unhorsed and brought down, his remaining knights flee. The Bohemians have held against the assault.

Supported by units of men at arms Maximilian and his knights pushed further into the Bohemian army on the Imperial right and succeeded in routing more units of the Bohemian mercenaries. It looked as though this would be an easy victory for the King of the Romans until disaster struck and he was unhorsed and brought down in a clash with the Bohemian captain and his personal bodyguard. This time there was no Erich von Braunschweig to rescue the Emperor and he was left on the hill as his remaining Knights fled.

With this dramatic cavalry charge beaten back it was the turn of Georg von Frundsberg and his infantry to try and punch through the pavise wall but try as they might the constant rain of crossbow bolts and hail of arquebus shot meant they struggled to get up the hill. Another large scale cavalry charge was launched on the right in the hope that the wagons could be reached. Some armoured horsemen did break through and for a moment it looked as though the Imperialists would have a bloody victory and breach the Bohemian camp but it was not to be. The Bohemians had regrouped and plugged the gaps in their lines preventing further Imperialists, be they cavalry or infantry, from reaching their last line of defence. This battle of Wenzenbach had not been a triumph for Maximilian!

The infantry of Nuremburg attempt to push up the hill.

Another wave of cavalry attack...

...some of them get to the wagons but are beaten back. The Bohemians have consolidated their defence and the wagons hold. The Imperial army has been unable to crack the Bohemian wagonburg.

This was a really different game to play, it felt very much like a 16th century Battle of Hastings. Stuart and myself had a lot of fun vainly trying to breach the wagonburg. Once Dave had taken control of the Bohemian defenders we didn't stand a chance, especially as during the preparations for the game we made the war wagons quite tough units. It was also a joy to behold the line of pavises along the hill facing off against the mass of Imperial cavalry and infantry marching under the Habsburg banners. Wenzenbach has always seemed an odd battle to me and the images depicting it have fascinated me for a long time. It was great to recreate it on the table top. Stuart and myself also played a very different early 16th century Irish game set in Ulster which I will cover in my next post, I think Wenzenbach deserves a post all to itself!


  1. Wonderful looking game and great AAR.

    1. Thank you Peter, it was great to do something different.

  2. Great looking units/flags/table dressing; a very interesting AAR which also was good uniform and standard info. Quite a busy field. War wagons are tough!

    1. Cheers pancerni, Stuart and I had a lot of fun attempting to make the battle look like the earliest images of Wenzenbach. Yes the war wagons were really tough in the rules!

  3. Replies
    1. I am really glad you enjoyed it Robbie, it such an unusual battle!

  4. This is a visual feast & a cracking read - many thanks for posting.
    Best wishes,

    1. Cheers Jeremy, it was a lot of fun to research and play out this one.

  5. Outstanding article! Good background history, clear AAR, clever scenario, and fabulous figures and terrain. A feast for the eyes.

    1. Thank you, it was great to get Maximilian I on the tabletop.

  6. Thanksgiving Day here in the USA and one of the things for which I am thankful is reading this wonderful piece. Such a fantastic source of motivation and inspiration. Something I will be revisiting. Great job!

    1. Thank you Jonathan I really appreciate that. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving Day

  7. An excellent write up of a great day’s game. I’ve longed to play with those early landsknechts and this was very much worth the wait. ( how many years?). Such a visual feast made all the better by our effort to do it right and use the correct figures. It really does make for that effect where the games almost look like contemporary woodcuts. A truly fantastic effort Oli

    1. Mate it was a joint effort and a lot of fun! I finished those early landsknecht in 2017 so it has only been 4 years for us to get a game with them, although I can already think of at least 3 other scenarios where we could use them. That new camera of yours is superb, we definitely need to use it for other games!

  8. Splendid game,it looks terrific! The pavisses and early landsknechts look great,as does the scenery and war wagons!
    Best Iain

    1. Thank you Iain, it was great to put the results of all the different projects together to do the wargame.

  9. Great article and game, but it seems the website

    This report to the City of Cologne three days after the battle was particularly useful:

    is broken. Do you have the article? I am really interested on this battle.

    Thank you.

    1. Thank you - yes the link still works for me - here is a translation of the info from it, KM is Maximilian:

      1504 Sep 15, Regensburg - Wenzenbach
      URI Notice
      Heinrich Slebusch, the envoy of the city of Cologne at the Kgshof, reports to the city of Cologne: (1) KM camped in a burned-out village called Berching (near Regensburg) with 1,500 horsemen and 3,000 servants for two days and nights in the open under tents, because there were there was hardly an acceptable house and nothing to eat or drink. - (2) Since his last letter of August 26, Slebusch has been campaigning with KM about the jubilee money as instructed: KM should assert his authority over the jubilee money against the Pope. There were negotiations with KM's councilors and with the Fuggers: in this area there is no need for money. - (3) Slebusch secretly found out that KM was said to have been particularly angry with the city of Cologne when he was told that he could now see what he could expect from the city of Cologne in difficult times. KM said angry words that Slebusch didn't want to repeat at all. Slebusch should advise the city of Cologne, if it is dear to him, to accommodate KM. - (4) KM has 8 o'clock in the morning of September 12 in Mensepach(Wenzenbach) pursued and caught 3,000 Bohemians who had caused the greatest damage in the lands of Hg Albrecht (of Bavaria-Munich); he beat them in a wagon castle on a mountain (Wenzenberg). KM was very angry because the foot soldiers, who had been marching all night and were very tired, arrived later with the heavy artillery. Therefore the riders had to wait; They opened the skirmish at the foot of the mountain, with KMs Schenk Peter von Winternlost his life. - (5) The Bohemians withdrew to their wagon castle on the hill. KM wanted to wait for all the guns and all the infantry before he started the battle. But when he saw that the Bohemians wanted to flee with the wagon complex, he immediately sent the lost squad (elite troops) against the Bohemians, who barricaded themselves between two little fir groves behind their paves (posting shields) in front of their wagon complex, so that no one could get to them . KM had the guns fired against the Bohemians and then attacked the horsemen. The Bohemians began to give way. At 2 o'clock (afternoon) the battle was won. Around 1,490 Bohemians remained at Walstatt, 735 prisoners were taken to Regensburg. The rumor speaks of 3,000 dead and prisoners; but KM had them counted and piled on top of each other on the battlefield. The Bohemians had no horsemen in this battle. Wisbeck had 300 riders; When he saw that the Bohemians were lost in front of the wagon castle, he abandoned them and fled. - (6) 250 loaded wagons were found in the Bohemian wagon castle. As the car covers with their coats of arms show, some of them belonged to noble people. If the footmen had come an hour earlier, the riders would probably have been beaten too.

    2. - (7) KM had 1,600 well-equipped riders. He rode in front with Hg (Erich) von Braunschweig, who was on the arm and in the soft tissues, = As the car covers with their coats of arms show, some of them belonged to noble people. If the footmen had come an hour earlier, the riders would probably have been beaten too. - (7) KM had 1,600 well-equipped riders. He rode in front with Hg (Erich) von Braunschweig, who was on the arm and in the soft tissues, = As the car covers with their coats of arms show, some of them belonged to noble people. If the footmen had come an hour earlier, the riders would probably have been beaten too. - (7) KM had 1,600 well-equipped riders. He rode in front with Hg (Erich) von Braunschweig, who was on the arm and in the soft tissues, =In this thin and secret room , he was wounded so that people feared for his life. He has already been given the Holy Sacrament. He fought so manly that he was only wounded on the third horse. - (8) The Mgf (Friedrich) of Brandenburg (at Ansbach-Bayreuth) was hit by pistons and iron flails, as he himself said; He has fought against the Bohemians four times so far, but it was never as hard as this time. His two sons Kasimir and Georg were also there, as was Hg Albrecht von Munich, (Eitelfritz) von Zollern and many others - (9) Around 40 men fell, including Peter Roboetz (Rubatsch), KM's doorkeeper , Peter Wilmersdorfer, Jörg Schenk et al. Around 100 horses were killed; The Hg (Erich) of Braunschweig had around 30 horses shot. - (10) Up st. maternity day(September 13) KM had a thanksgiving service held by the auxiliary bishop of Regensburg, who had a prayer procession held before the battle. Had the Bohemians won the battle, one cannot imagine what would have happened to the neighboring countries: they would have spared neither kg nor fsten and taken no one prisoner; they had even poisoned their arrows, as Bohemian prisoners testified. - (11) It is not yet known what KM will do with the prisoners; he treats them well and says they are our neighbors that we must treat as friends. The servants wanted to hang all Bohemians because of the poisoned arrows. - (12) KM knighted a few soldiers and had von Zollern (Eitelfritz) thank everyone solemnly for their commitment in the battle of faith. - (13) Hgin (Elisabeth) informed KM of the death of her husband Hg Ruprecht and asked that KM take her and her abandoned children under his protection and shield and persuade Hg Albrecht to do the same. KM didn't want to give her a comforting answer, but sent her some Bohemian farmhands, to whom she owed their pay; they should tell her that she deserves no protection and protection because she has taken the infidel Bohemian heretics into her service. - (14) The city of Regensburg wanted to thank KM for the rescue with a large gold-plated cup and a few hundred guilders; but KM did not accept the thanks because the city had refused lodging to its weary servants as if they were Bohemians. - (15) The news arrived that the farmers in the area had killed 800 Bohemians who had fled into the forests.All in all, there were 4,000 Bohemians: 800 of them were captured, 836 were killed and 2,390 remained on the Walstatt and in the forests. - Sunday after Holy Cross Day Regensburg .