Here is a brief description of a battle we played between Christmas and New Year, the Battle of Lutter am Barenberg – the epic encounter of the Danish Phase of the Thirty Years War. On one side the Imperial/Catholic League forces of Count von Tilly and the Danish army of King Christian IV of Denmark. Tilly had managed to amass his forces for a lethal strike against the Danish king who unfortunately was pre-occupied with evacuating his baggage train from the area – a needless distraction at the start of the battle.
We used the Father Tilly rules which I have been updating over for the last few years – these rules are specifically designed for the Thirty Years War. The game started at about 11:00 and came to a sudden and dramatic end at about 15:30 with the total collapse of one armies morale.
The picture above is a view down the field at the start of the battle with the river crossing at Rohde in the forground and Tilly’s right flank on the left of the picture and Christian’s left flank to the right of the picture. The Danish army is deployed in three lines with the King still absent at the rear dealing with the baggage. The Catholic forces are deployed in one line with cavalry on both wings and a strong central force of infantry in powerful Tercio formations.
A close up of the Catholic infantry deployed in deep and powerful formations, usually unstoppable but very much prone to disorder when crossing difficult terrain such as rivers and streams.
Danish cavalry skirmishing with Imperial Tercios trying to prevent them from crossing the river. A brave but costly effort that only delayed rather than prevent the Catholic advance.
Over on the Danish right wing a detachment of Imperial cavalry outflank the Danish horse that had previously successfully driven back the main assault by the Catholic cavalry. The Imperial cavalry are led by a wave of Croat skirmishers with heavy support provided by several Cuirassier regiments to the rear. So despite the valiant defence of the Danish cavalry this outflanking manoeuvre spelt disaster for the Danes.
The battle ended with utter defeat for the Danes, they where outnumbered and faced Tilly’s far more experienced army. The Danes put up a strong defence in the front line and did manage to throw back some of the early Catholic cavalry attacks. The Imperial army were faced with the problem of attacking across a stream and the high risk of attacking units becoming disordered. What didn’t help the Danes was the absence of the King for half the battle and the inactivity of his command for most of the game. The Danes were also hindered by the awkward command structure that Christian had lumbered his army with, each general commanded the entire of one line with no wing commanders, this led Fuchs, the Danish front echelon commander, basically having to pick a section of the front to concentrate on – to the detriment of the rest of the command. The Imperial army were quick to exploit this fact by applying constant pressure simultaneously across the front – the overworked Fuchs simply could not be in all places at the same time – and despite an heroic fight eventually his battered command collapsed. With front line units beginning to stream to the rear, the morale of second and third rank Danish units began to give way without a shot being fired. At this point the battle was lost for the Danes and Tilly claimed his greatest victory.