Last month my friend Tom visited to continue our series of wargames. We decided to focus on a battle from the very start of the 16th century which took place outside the Imperial City of Nuremburg. There is a contemporary painting of this clash, shown below, which has been a source of inspiration for a couple of my previous blog posts (see http://camisado1500s.blogspot.com/2020/09/war-wagons.html and http://camisado1500s.blogspot.com/2016/08/maximilian-mounted-crossbowmen.html). Having recently read a translation of Götz von Berlichingen's autobiography which contains a great account of the battle, in which Götz naturally played a decisive role, we had to give this battle a go. Inspired by all the fascinating details of the painting and von Berlichingen's account we thought a battle that featured war wagons, landsknecht, reisläufer and lots of men at arms would be a real spectacle and also make for a great game.
|Contemporary painting of the "Battle before the gates of Nuremberg" or the "Battle in the forest near St. Peter near Nuremberg", 1502.|
"The battle before the gates of Nuremberg"
The summer of 1502 saw tension building between the Imperial City of Nuremberg and Casimir, the eldest son of Margrave Frederick IV of Brandenburg-Ansbach. In the early 15th century the family sold their castle in Nuremberg and many of their privileges and prerogatives to the Imperial City. Despite the sale of their prerogatives the Margraves had clashed with the city over a variety of issues and were still able to harass Nuremberg from their territories in Ansbach, Kulmbach, Bayreuth, Schwabach and Erlangen.
In June 1502 the church fair of Affalterbach was the point of contention. Affalterbach was a small village to the east of Nuremberg, which the City Council of Nuremberg claimed the right to protect. Casimir disputed Nuremberg's authority over the area and raised a force of around 6,000 foot and 700 cavalry. The cavalry included three counts (von Schwarzburg, Öttingen and Hohenlohe) and many knights including the now infamous Götz von Berlichingen (who still had his right arm at this point) and his brother Philip. The vast majority of the foot were local peasants raised from his father's lands but Casimir stiffened these levies with 600 hired professional infantry, 300 landsknecht and 300 reisläufer. The Knight Ewald von Lichtenstein was given overall command by Casimir with Paul von Absberg leading the advance guard. Hans Hund and Christoph von Giech commanded the main cavalry force.
Knowing of Casimir's intended hostility the City Council of Nuremberg commanded captains Hans von Weichsdorf and Wolf Haller to lead a force 2000 men, a wagonburg and twelve guns to protect the fair in Affalterbach. Casimir's scouts reported the deployment of this force to Affalterbach and so he ordered his men to move against Nuremberg instead. They raided the suburb of Lichtenhof driving away the local cattle. To protect Nuremberg itself the city had appointed Ullman Stromer to captain 700 infantry, 60 horse and 40 war wagons plus a number of accompanying cannon. It seems the city mistakenly thought that the bulk of Casimir's forces had been sent to Affalterbach. Stromer was provoked to leave the city by the raiders and was drawn into the forest thinking they were retreating. He was suddenly attacked by Casimir's larger force causing his men to flee back towards the safety of the city walls.
At this point the Nuremberg force under captains Hans von Weichsdorf and Wolf Haller arrived, having returned from Affalterbach. After a long march their men were very tired. Far from stemming the rout these troops also panicked and fled only adding to the general chaos as men rushed for the city gates. Not all of Nuremberg's troops had routed as Willibald Pirckheimer (incidentally also a close friend of the artist Albrecht Dürer) had been given command of a force of 800 men, to act as a second line of defence for the city. They had been stationed outside one of Nuremburg's fortified gates, the Frauentor. Though these men never entered the battle their presence served to dissuade further pursuit by the forces of Casimir and an attempt to storm the city itself.
Casualties on both sides were relatively high. Casimir's forces lost between 600 to 700 men. The peasant levies had routed in the face of the Nuremberg gunfire. This meant that only Casimir's cavalry supported by the landsknecht and reisläufer had entered the battle attacking Ullman Stromer's contingent. They suffered high casualties from the wagonburg's guns before managing to break into it and rout Stromer and his men. The City of Nuremberg lost around 300 men. Casimir's forces captured the Nuremberg standard. It had been carried by Peter Schmied von Donauwörth. Being mortally wounded he was unable to hold the standard so bit into it with his teeth in an effort to keep it from the enemy. The captured banner was carried back to Schwabach where it was displayed in the church.
Götz von Berlichingen fought under the captain of the advance guard, Paul von Absberg. His autobiography describes the initial retreat of Casimir's advance guard as it encountered Ullman Stromer's contingent defending Nuremberg. When Casimir's forces clashed with Stromer's contingent he assigns the decisive action of the battle to himself, stating it may have even been divinely inspired! Berlichingen's account contains lots of interesting details such as the intensity of Nuremburg's gunfire, the dense smoke, how he broke the wagonburg by killing the lead horse and preventing the wagons from linking and how many men simply died of heat exhaustion in the battle. The extract from his autobiography detailing the battle is as follows:
"The Master of Absberg tried to gain an advantage by marching through the water ditch towards Nuremberg to scout out their positions and fortifications. To our surprise, the Nurembergians were prepared with a large force and cannons, and sent one shot after another into our lines. Von Absberg and his troops retreated, in a mad dash to get away as fast as possible. We could not take good cover inside the forest. The Nurembergians were putting so much pressure on us with their cannons and wagon forts that we could not remain anywhere for a long time, because no one particularly enjoys getting shot at.
We then arrived at the area where the Margrave (Casimir was not actually Margrave at the time, he was only leading the Margrave's contingent against Nuremberg) was waiting with his formation of cavalry and infantry for the enemy to arrive. It was near the city, not far from the forest around Nuremberg, which gave them the advantage and put us in a tight spot. Our strength was around seven hundred cavalrymen, together with footmen numbering around three hundred landsknechts and three hundred Swiss pikemen. When the time felt right for them, the Nurembergians started marching towards us with their cannon, their wagon forts, and their foot soldiers together. They truly were not unprepared , but appeared to have trained their cannons and wagon forts well. When both sides collided, we and our captains sent messengers to Margrave Casimir asking his grace to support us. It was urgently needed and the enemy had the advantage, requiring our full attention. Margrave Casimir responded by telling us to keep going and in God's name, he would reinforce us and be with us soon like a brave prince should. We held position in God's name, but all of the Margraves infantry fell back besides the cohort of Kitzinger, which remained with us and the three hundred landsknechts and three hundred Swiss footmen, and the remaining cavalry. With this force we pushed towards the enemy but the shots of the enemy cannon hit in such mass that we could barely see each other through the smoke. When we got to the wagon fort, they were almost able to close it up, coming quite close through efforts of the quite talented waggoneers.
An instinct arose in my heart, or was perhaps inspired by God. It compelled me to slay the horse from under the lead rider of the wagon fort. Thereby I prevented the others from moving forwards, compelling them to halt. I then, without any directives or orders from the captains, stopped the enemy closing the gap between the wagons. The delay caused against the enemy was a great advantage for us, and surely not insignificant for our good fortune and victory. I, for one, do not know how this battle could have turned out any other way if not for my actions. The enemy was strong and had cannons and the wagon fort in position. They were rested and we were tired; enemy reinforcements were on the way and were already so close that we were already skirmishing with them. Against those reinforcements we lost most of our cavalry, because we first thought they were our allies until their cannons opened fire and put many troops of our cohort to flight. Those reinforcements I beat myself , together with Sir Hans Hund, captain of the Margrave's cavalry, or else we would surely have been captured. We fought so bravely that the enemy was forced again to retreat. This was our luck, because when the Nuremburgians saw their injured troops fleeing from us they realised that they had lost the battle and that their army was beaten. We still lost many brave men. I considered myself dead at one point because my horse was heavily injured, and it later died of the same injury. Additionally, it was such a hot day that more people were strangled by the heat than were killed by weapons."
The game represented the initial clash between Paul von Absberg's advance guard meeting Ullman Stromer's contingent. Casimir's main force would then join the fray followed by the Nuremburg forces under Hans von Weichsdorf and Wolf Haller arriving after marching back from Affalterbach.
At the start of the game Paul von Absberg's advance guard and Ullman Stromer's contingent were deployed facing each other, with von Absberg's troops in front of the forest and Stromer's troops in front of the gate (see the above photo). In order to provoke the defenders away from the city Absberg's advance guard had to attempt to burn three target buildings representing the suburbs of the city. Once this happened Casimir's main force would join followed by the returning Nuremburg force from Affalterbach. Victory was based on victory points. As always we used our adapted Renaissance Rampant version of Lion Rampant.
Burning the Buildings
To burn one of the three target buildings Casimir's forces had to have at least one base from a unit in contact with a target building at the start of their activation phase. As an ordered activation, they had to use that unit to try to set fire to the objective (instead of Moving, Attacking, or Shooting). The fire was started on a roll of 8+ on 2D6.
The arrival of Casimir's forces
Once either two of the target buildings were burning or Paul von Absberg's advance guard had been so mauled by Ullman Stromer's contingent to be at half strength then the following turn Casimir's main force could deploy from the woods via move activations. Casimir's main force units could only enter the table via move activations and could not shoot, attack or skirmish when first arriving.
The arrival of Hans von Weichsdorf and Wolf Haller back from Affalterbach
The turn after Casimir's main forces first units moved onto the table the Nuremburg player could roll 2D6. On the first turn an 11+ would herald the arrival of the contingent back from Affalterbach, the following turn a 10+ would mean they could arrive, the following turn an 9+ and so on.
As with Casimir's units this contingent would deploy via move activations. They could only enter the table via a move activation and could not shoot, attack or skirmish when first arriving.
Unlike Casimir's forces this contingent would not enter from a known point but from either of the longer table edges. The Nuremburg player would dice for which of the two long table edges the Affalterbach contingent arrived from once he had successfully rolled to bring them on.
Götz von Berlichingen
To represent von Berlichingen's divinely inspired attack on the war wagons in his own account if his unit of men at arms attacked a war wagon it had -1 to its armour.
Peter Schmied von Donauwörth and the Nuremburg Standard
To represent the power of the main city standard any Nuremburg unit within 12" of it could reroll missed "to hit" rolls in combat.
If the Foot Knight unit with the standard attacked in hand to hand combat (not a challenge involving Hans von Weichsdorf the retinue leader) the Casimir player had to roll a D6, regardless of casualties taken. On a 5+ the standard was captured in the melee and now belonged to the unit it was in combat with. A token would be placed to show this.
If the capturing unit was then subsequently attacked the standard would be recaptured by any Nuremburg unit on a roll of 4+ on a D6. If the unit was destroyed in combat or routed the standard could be reclaimed either by the victorious unit or by a unit that moved to the standard counter if they had routed.
The standard could only initially be captured in combat. If the Foot Knight unit was defeated in combat and a 5+ was not rolled or the unit was routed the standard was simply considered to be lost in the chaos.
As we each had two large retinues in this game, each turn each player would take 5 cards from a deck. Any King, Queen or Jack cards from the 5 they took could be used to get a reroll on an activation fail for that turn for their retinue. At the end of the turn all unused cards were put in a discard pile. Once the deck ran out a fresh deck was used for the reroll cards. The leader of each army also had the Lion Rampant "Command" ability which could allow for a reroll within 12" of the leader.
Victory Points were awarded as follows:
The forces of Casimir
3 Points for each one of the three suburb target buildings burnt
5 points if at least one unit moved into base to base contact with the gate of Nuremburg, sending a powerful message to the city!
5 points for capturing the main Nuremburg battle standard
2 points if Ullman Stromer was killed or routed
2 points if Hans von Weichsdorf was killed or routed
1 point for every war wagon "killed" or routed
1 point for every culverin "killed" or routed
Potential total of 31 Victory Points.
The forces of Nuremberg
5 points if Casimir of Brandenburg-Kulmbach was killed or routed
3 points if no Casimir unit made it to the gates of the city
3 points if Paul von Absberg was killed or routed
3 points if Ewald von Lichtenstein was killed or routed
2 points if Götz von Berlichingen was killed or routed
2 points for every gendarme unit killed or routed
2 points for each one of the three suburb target buildings not burnt
1 point for every unit of men at arms killed or routed
Potential total of 32 Victory Points.
|Ullman Stromer's contingent which has been left back at the city whilst another force from Nuremberg has marched to Affalterbach to protect the church fair.|
|The war wagons and the "quite talented waggoneers" in Götz von Berlichingen's words!|
The forces of Casimir of Brandenburg-Kulmbach
Paul von Absberg's advance guard
1 Unit of Gendarmes - (Paul von Absberg retinue leader)
2 Units of Men at Arms - (1 unit contains Götz von Berlichingen)
2 Units of Lancers
2 Units of Mounted Crossbowmen
Casimir of Brandenburg-Kulmbach
2 Units of Gendarmes (1 unit contains Casimir, retinue leader, 1 unit contains Ewald von Lichtenstein)
2 Units of Men at Arms
2 Units of Lancers
1 Unit of Landsknecht Halberdiers (Mercenary Captain)
2 Units of Landsknecht Pike
2 Units of Swiss Pike
2 Units of Swiss/Landsknecht Arquebusiers
The forces of Nuremberg
Ullman Stromer's defenders of Nuremberg
1 Unit of Foot Knights (Ullman Stromer retinue leader)
2 Artillery War Wagons
4 Infantry War Wagons
2 Units of Pikemen
1 Unit of lancers
1 Organ Gun
Hans von Weichsdorf with the Affalterbach force
1 Unit of Foot Knights ( Hans von Weichsdorf, retinue leader, and Peter Schmied von Donauwörth with the main battle standard )
2 Units of Pikemen
2 Units of Halberdiers
2 Units of Arquebusiers
1 Organ Gun
1 Unit of Lancers
From Von Berlichingen's account and the contemporary painting it seems that the war wagons were moving during the clash. To represent this I used the figures from a unit of mounted arquebusiers to represent the waggoneers. Whilst not perfect we thought they gave the right look. Similarly this was a tricky game to do in terms of banners. Whilst I had quite a few for the Nuremberg forces, and a particularly smart one from Pete's Flags to represent the main standard of the city, for Casimir's forces I tried to use more generic banners as well as some Imperial ones.
Tom took control of Casimir's forces whilst I took command of the defenders of Nuremberg. The captions below the photos give a good idea of how the game went and a brief description follows.
Tom took control of Casimir's forces whilst I took command of the defenders of Nuremberg. The captions below the photos give a good idea of how the game went and a brief description follows.
|Götz von Berlichingen and his men at arms, supported by lighter lancers and mounted crossbowmen, attempt to ride into the suburbs and burn them.|
|Götz is the first into the fight when his troop of men at arms attack one of the war wagons They suffer badly as the guns of the wagons force them back and Götz flees the field!|
|Lancers charge one of Nuremberg's guns only to be forced back.|
|Paul von Absberg's force has suffered in the hail storm of shot from Nuremberg's war wagons and cannons but his horsemen have managed to set fire to two of the buildings outside the gate.|
The battle started with Paul von Absberg's advance guard making a dash for the buildings in the suburbs. Götz von Berlichingen was at the forefront of the attack and was first into combat as his unit of men at arms attempted to slay the horses of the leading riders of the wagons. Whilst they did cause some casualties the fire power of the wagons drove them back and, unlike his participation in the historical battle, Götz was one of the first to flee in this refight.
Ullman Stromer's artillery pieces and the guns in the wagons took a terrible toll on Von Absberg's men. As they charged the defenders, hoping to ride them down, Von Absberg's men were slain by the fire of the organ gun and the culverin as well as being caught by volleys of shot from the waggoneers. The small scouting force was mauled as it clashed with Stromer's contingent of Nuremberg militia but it did succeed in setting alight two of the buildings in the suburbs, achieving objectives for Casimir's army and heralding the arrival of his main force.
|Casimir of Brandenburg-Kulmbach rides onto the field supported by some of the landsknecht he has hired for this feud with the city...|
|...but at the same time Hans von Weichsdorf arrives, accompanied by Peter Schmied von Donauwörth and the Nuremberg standard, leading the force back from the fair at Affalterbach to reinforce Stromer and his men.|
|Hans von Weichsdorf and the men back from Affalterbach march onto the field.|
|In front of the gate troops from Nuremberg prepare to defend the suburbs.|
|In the distance Casimir's forces can be seen emerging from the forest.|
|Casimir's knights, landsknecht and reisläufer march out of the forest.|
|Men at arms and mounted crossbowmen attack the war wagons but the guns of the crew send them back.|
|A view along the battle field. Casimir's cavalry are charging into the Nuremberg forces whilst the mercenary infantry are following up behind them.|
|Casimir's cavalry race ahead of the infantry.|
|The knights and men at arms in Casimir's army are fought off in a series of bloody melees with Nuremberg's pikemen...|
|...and war wagons.|
As soon as Casimir arrived, emerging from the forest with his band of knights and mercenaries, then Hans von Weichsdorf and the Nuremberg contingent that had been sent to defend Affalterbach also arrived, much earlier than expected (unbelievably I rolled an 11 on 2D6 the turn after Casimir arrived which meant the two contingents arrived within a turn of each other). Von Weichsdorf's contingent flooded into the suburbs and began taking up positions to strengthen the position of Stromer's men who had already engaged with Casimir's advance guard.
With some of the scouting force under Von Absberg shaken but still on the field, the knights and lancers from Casimir's man force rode to aid them. They made repeated cavalry charges against Nuremberg's infantry and war wagons. The Imperial knights broke against the wagons and pikes like waves against the rocks, they were simply unable to get through. It was not long before they were falling back in disorder, although Von Absberg was still leading from the front. He called for Casimir to reinforce him, "like a brave prince should", with his still uncommitted barded knights and the mercenary infantry.
|With many of the cavalry defeated Casimir's hired infantry try to break the city's forces.|
|Nuremburg's militia prepare to engage with Casimir's mercenaries.|
|Casimir himself charges into a fight with some of the city militia, attempting to ride them down as they take up position. The halberdiers use the hedge to avoid being destroyed by the charging cavalry.|
|An infantry clash is about to take place.|
|As the reisläufer advance Paul von Absberg charges into the war wagons with his heavy cavalry. The waggoneers are slain and some of the guns are silenced.|
|Casimir's landsknecht and reisläufer clash with the pikemen and halberdiers of Nuremberg.|
|The fighting is fierce and for a while neither side looks to have the advantage.|
|As the pike blocks clash Casimir's mercenary arquebusiers fire into the close formations of the city militia.|
|The Nuremberg infantry begin to be pushed back.|
The fighting really intensified as the landsknecht and reisläufer marched on Nuremberg's defenders. Seeing what had happened to the cavalry attack one of the landsknecht pike blocks decided they were not going to face a hail of shot from the Nuremberg lines and fled. The other landsknecht and reisläufer marched on with determination and took the fight to the city's defenders. Many of the wagons were still crewed and firing into the advancing mercenaries but these professionals had brought their own arquebusiers who were now deployed effectively and sent volleys of shot into the wagons and pike of Nuremberg.
Ullman Stromer and Hans von Weichsdorf called for reinforcing units to plug the gaps that were appearing in their lines. They directed their artillery to try and mow down the ranks of mercenary pike and it looked as if the city's lines would still hold. Both Casimir and Von Absberg with their units of heavily armoured knights joined in the attack and when combined with the infantry they were finally successful in breaking through. Stromer attempted to unhorse Von Absberg but the mounted captain was able to ride away and lead his men in a devastating charge into some of the city's militia.
|In the fighting Ullman Stromer attempts to unhorse Paul von Absberg but the clash is inconclusive...|
|...allowing Von Absberg and his men to charge into the doomed Nuremberg pike.|
|One of the guns from the force that went to protect Affalterbach is deployed to the side of the infantry clash and enfilades Casimir's army. It is soon ridden down by some of Casimir's remaining heavy cavalry.|
|Paul von Absberg is slain in a confused melee amidst the war wagons.|
|Reisläufer arquebusiers take up positions in the suburbs.|
|Hans von Weichsdorf and Peter Schmied von Donauwörth lead reinforcements into the fight.|
|Hans von Weichsdorf engages Casimir in personal combat but the city captain is slain by the Margrave's son. Casimir himself is soon unhorsed in a fight with some of the retreating Nuremberg pikemen.|
|The city's infantry have broken and the crew from the war wagons have fled. The reisläufer charge through the suburbs. Ullman Stromer attempts to stop them but is killed in the chaos.|
With most of the Nuremberg wagons out of action, their crews having been slain or routed, the battle developed into chaos. Some of the city's men tried to flee whilst others bravely attempted to stop the onslaught. The reisläufer led the charge through the broken wagons and into the suburbs. Everywhere small clashes were taking place as remnants of Stromer and Von Weichsdorf's contingents attempted to resist. It was at this time that the captains on both sides were slain. Von Absberg was unhorsed by the crew of one of the last wagons and Von Weichsdorf was slain by Casimir himself. Stromer was over run by the advancing reisläufer and Casimir fell as he attempted to charge down one of the remaining blocks of Nuremberg pike.
As the battle drew to a close one last moment of drama took place. Ewald von Lichtenstein and his knights seized the Nuremberg standard from Peter Schmied von Donauwörth. As the horsemen attempted to ride off in triumph they were slowed by the debris of battle that littered the field, especially the broken and abandoned war wagons. Von Donauwörth was able to win the standard back, killing Von Lichtenstein in the process, only to then be felled by some of the rampaging reisläufer. As they raised the captured standard in triumph a unit of landsknecht made it to the very walls of the city and were able to knock on the gates in mockery of the citizens.
|...Von Donauwörth's relief is short lived as he is then slain by some of the reisläufer who mockingly raise the Nuremberg standard for the citizens on the walls to see.|
|Casimir's small army was never intended to besiege the city but with it's defenders routed some of the landsknecht are able to reach the gates, sending a threatening message to the citizens cowering behind the walls!|
This was a hell of a game. The nature of the scenario and the way the forces arrived in waves meant it played out as a series of clashes. There was the initial fight between the scouting force and Stromer's men, where the scouting force suffered badly but did succeed in burning two of the buildings. Next was Casimir's second wave of horsemen against Stromer's pike and wagons where Stromer's men still held out. After this the big clash happened with all of the infantry engaging and Casimir's mercenaries winning the upper hand. The final phase was when the main Nuremberg forces were broken and the remaining units attempted to stop Casimir's troops from achieving more victory points.
My Nuremberg forces were not successful in stopping them from getting these victory points as Tom managed to get the maximum possible for Casimir's army, 31 points! I picked up 23 which shows what a back and forth game it was. The war wagons were a lot of fun. They were quite devastating when they could use their guns but brittle once attacked. The Nuremberg standard with its ability to inspire units in combat made a huge difference to the Nuremberg defence and was a fun addition. The only real disappointment was Götz von Berlichingen who failed to live up to his legendary reputation in this game! Now to plan something equally epic for our next tabletop clash...