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 lead 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!

Tuesday 2 November 2021

Imperialist Command Bases

Following on from last months post here are a few more command bases. Some time ago now Simon of Steel Fist Miniatures very kindly sent me this pack of two mounted landsknecht officers: Rather than use them as a pair I decided to use them to make two separate command bases, the first of which was inspired by the Reinhard V. Solms image shown below. I liked the idea of recreating the captain as he rides along in discussion with his men. The finished base can be seen below and shows a mounted landsknecht captain gesticulating with his command baton as he talks to an officer on foot. Along side him march two of his body guards with shouldered halberds. The figures on foot are all by Wargames Foundry and have had their bases raised with plasticard so that they are not dwarfed by the captain's horse. This is a trick I often use to balance figures from different manufacturers on the same base. I am fairly happy with the result although I do wonder if the mounted captain would have looked more dramatic had I position his head so that he was looking forward instead of engaging with the other officer.

Reinhard V. Solms, 1540. This image served as the inspiration for the mounted landsknecht commander base below. 

A mounted landsknecht commander talks to one of his officers on the march.

A Steel Fist Miniatures mounted landsknecht captain. The marching figures are Wargames Foundry.

For the next base rather than have another mounted landsknecht I have used a Steel Fist gendarme head and plume to create a gendarme command base.  The accompanying standard bearer is a Wargames Foundry figure with a Steel Fist plume added. Both of them are mounted on Perry Miniatures plastic horses as oppose to fully barded steeds. The captain's gesturing pose makes him look in more of a commanding than combative role and the unbarded horses also make them more suited to the smaller skirmish actions that I often game. As with the first base, although the figures are of slightly different stature, with a few tweaks they can be fitted to the Perry horses in such a way that the size differences are not noticed. With the addition of one of Pete's excellent flags they really look the part riding out ahead of a couple of units of Imperialist men at arms in the images below.

Steel Fist Miniatures gendarme captain with a Wargames Foundry standard bearer. Both of the horses are Perry Miniatures plastic figures.

Early 16th century mounted captain with standard bearer.

Imperialist Cavalry from the first quarter of the 16th century.

28mm Gendarme command base.

The last command base is for an upcoming Wenzenbach game which I hope to fight with Stuart in the next few weeks. When I finished my Assault Group early landsknecht,, I was left with about a dozen unused figures and some of these have been combined with a plastic man at arms in full harness from Warlord Games to form the command base. Transitional Maxilimian armour would have been state of the art in 1500 to 1510, the decade the clothing of these landsknecht is most suited to. The banner is that of Georg von Frundsberg who led his landsknecht to great success in the battle of Wenzenbach in 1504. Under his leadership they stormed the Bohemian wagonburg and routed the mercenary army of Ruprecht, Count Palatine of the Rhine. A couple of the photos below show the base with all of the early landsknecht in my collection whilst the last couple of images show the detail of the unsual striping that was prominent around 1500, more details of which can be found here: Let's see how they fair on the gaming table!

Early landsknecht command base with a captain in harness. The banner is of Georg von Frundsberg who captained early landsknecht units in the Swabian War and the Landshut War of  Succession. He would of course find even greater fame as a veteran commander in the Italian Wars. 

An early landsknecht pike block with Georg von Frundsberg as the captain in armour and some skirmishing arquebusiers.

The early landsknecht command base from the side.

A view of the early landsknecht from the rear.