Monday, 13 November 2017

Thirty Years War in 2mm - An Update for Patient Readers



For anyone reading this Blog who has been patiently waiting since last year for an update on our 2mm scale Thirty Years War project, I have some good news (and an apology). 

As you might recall, last year I built a collection of 2mm scale armies to re-fight the battle of Lutzen in 1632. Full details of the ideas behind the project can be found on a couple of earlier Blog posts, HERE and HERE.


It’s probably helpful to mention that, during the last year, the thematic ideas which Curt (fellow rules author) and myself started with have not changed a great deal. We are still looking for our rules for the period to create a wargame focused on re-creating iconic 17th Century battles in a manageable space, and in a compressed time period (so you could easily play a game in an evening).

We're still focusing our efforts on the Thirty Years War, which provides a wealth of significant, reasonably well-documented battles to attempt to recreate.  It's also a fortunate co-incidence that next year will be the 400th anniversary of the commencement of the war, which might prompt an interest in looking at different ways of wargaming the conflict.

And we are still looking to try and recreate the unique visual elements of large scale “battle paintings”, and focus on the attributes of battle and warfare which contemporary commanders considered - in their diaries, letters, orders and commentaries – were important in determining victory in the field.

What has been evolving have been the rules themselves as we tinker with mechanisms, talk through variations, play-test scenarios and parts of the battle, read more (and more) and generally try and refine and finesse what we have on the printed rules pages.





As anyone who has written, or adapted wargame rules, this is quite a difficult process. Just when you think progress is being made in one area, something else slips out of place, perhaps as a consequence. The challenge for me has been to try and retain the themes which I consider make the warfare of the mid-Thirty Years War unique, while also making the game playable and fun. Some of the most difficult elements of rules writing and play-testing have involved the combat mechanisms at the heart of the battle.

Part of the challenge has been to both understand what happened in mid-seventeenth century battles and, in particular, how contemporaries believed those events affected the course of the fighting.

As Sir James Turner wrote in his commentary on the arts of warfare, “Pallas Armata”:


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Of all Martial Arts, to fight a Battel well, and gain the Victory, is of the highest importance, and makes the Prince or his General most renown’d: It is this (and neither retreats nor taking Towns, though both these shew the qualifications of an excellent Captain) that crowns them with Laurels.”
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This is all wonderful, stirring stuff. And there are endless exhortations of this type throughout "Pallas Armata". What Sir James’ commentary is rather short of is what actually happened at the sharp end of a melee or a firefight. Here’s the commentary in a key chapter of “Pallas Armata”, Chapter XXII (“Of things previous to a Battel, of a Battel itself, and of things after a Battel”) on melees:


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Your advance on an Enemy, in what posture soever he be, should be with a constant, firm and steady pace; the Musketeers (whether they be on the Flanks, or interlin’d with either the Horse or the Pikes) firing all the while; but when you come within Pistol-shot, you should double your pace, till your Pikes closely serr’d together, charge these, whether Horse or Foot, whom they find before them. It is true, the business very oft comes not to push of Pike, but it hath and may come oft to it, and then Pike-men are very serviceable.  (Spelling all as in the 1671 edition)
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There is an immediacy and great vitality through the whole of “Pallas Armata”. It’s evident Sir James Turner knew precisely what he was writing about. But to me, reading in 2017, the precision, granularity, and detail of the fighting you’re looking for as a (very) amateur rules-designer is absent in the text. And, in my view, the same is true of other commentators (Montecuccoli, the Earl of Orrery, Richard Elton) who were writing around the same time.



So, we’re working through the rules mechanics, and carrying on play-testing, and continuing to try and make sense of what happened in the battlefields of 1632 and 1634 - as well as re-reading Sir James Turner's writing and wondering what on earth he meant! 

When Curt was over last week, we played through a pared down game of the battle. This featured a couple of memorable events, principally the shattering of part of Count von Pappenheim’s impetuous cuirassiers by means of a well-deployed, enfilading Swedish artillery battery. And yes, that is one of the 2mm “shattered bases” being deployed into the ragged Imperial mounted line…



Also featuring in the game were some lovely scratch-built 2mm snow-bound villages made by good friend, Mark Backhouse.  And also, somewhat bitten by the 2mm scratch-building bug, it was the first game in which I fielded the Imperial Chancellery baggage trayne which I made a couple of months back but have only just got around to painting.



Although the rules are written, and fairly comprehensive, we’ve a fair way to go in play-testing a set of rules which I hope will be both accurate and fun. And fear not, you’ll be the first to know when that happens!



37 comments:

  1. Great post Sir. Whilst not a period I am particularly familiar with, I find the whole project utterly fascinating and wish you all every success with it.

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    1. Thanks so much, Michael! So pleased you're enjoying it so far.

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  2. Stunning pictures, mass effect is awesome and fires realistic and splendid...a feast for our eyes!

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    1. Thanks very much, Phil. I doubt that, on the day of the battle, Lutzen was blazing with quite the intensity of the fires I modelled, but I think that the flames stand out well and bring a bit of height to the terrain.

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  3. Great looking photos, looking forward to more!
    Cheers, Peter

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    1. Thanks Peter, I'm hoping that I can blog more on the game in the not too distant future!

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  4. Looks like fun! Superb modelling...

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    1. Part of the thinking was to try and fit an iconic battle in the space you might normally take up for a 28mm skirmish game. So, hopefully, we did that...

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  6. Looks very nice and interested to see what you two eventually produce! The best of luck!

    Christopher

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  7. Looking awesome. I have always wanted to do the battles of the Scanian Wars and you have motivated me to use 2mm scale for this purpose. I have a set of rules that I think will work but I would be very interested in trying out your rules some time. Keep up the great work and I love the idea of the cards in the game!

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    1. Great to hear from you, Rattlesnake. The Scanian Wars would be perfect in 2mm, and you could certainly extend the colour palate I've used to Lund (for example). You could re-create Danish and Swedish armies very reasonably for the period using 2mm. Let me know how you get on!

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  8. I‘m sure you both will deliver a masterpiece!

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    1. Ha!! I'm sure Curt will do.... my bits might be distinctly wobbly, though, Nick !! ;)

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  9. The best projects are grounded in a thorough reading of the literature. This looks like it's progressing magnificently!

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    1. Thanks so much, Ed, for all your enthusiastic comments! We are trying to drill back down to the original literature where we can - simply on the basis that its harder to discount what contemporaries wrote (or seem to have thought) about the battles in which they fought.

      It will hopefully give the final rules a lot of period colour - although they might not recreate quite be the same battlefield as we think we know well !

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  10. Can't wait to see how the rules turn out??

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    1. You'll be right at the top of the list, Ray!

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  11. Whilst not originally a period I was keen on, the latest theme of WSS has intrigued me. Have you seen the film Alatriste? The battle of Rocroi portrays what was probably a realistic scene of pike against pike and the little battle which takes place below the staves.

    If your rules can be used for 6mm its highly likely I have an unexpected project for 2018! I watch your progress with great interest.

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    1. Thanks very much for dropping by! I have seen "Alatriste", or as it is titled in the UK, "The Spanish Musketeer". I think it's a film which is beautiful to look at, but maybe suffers from taking elements from the books without focusing on its own narrative. It seemed a bit disjointed as a result (but still wonderful to look at and watch).

      Rocroi is a classic battle from the period, and one which you would hopefully be able to recreate with the rules. Both the Spanish and French armies in the field were of considerable size, but in 6mm, or 2mm, you could certainly reduce the formations and the troops involved to a manageable collection which (at least in 2mm) would not take long to paint.

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  12. It was excellent to revisit the rules (not to mention those gorgeous figures and terrain). As you say, there are still several things to iron out, but I quite like where the project is going - once more into the breach!

    I have a feeling that 2mm Breitenfeld might be on the roster for me for this year's Painting Challenge.

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    1. Thanks so much, Curt, and for all your great support with this project.

      Breitenfeld in 2mm would be wonderful to see - and the comparative lengths of the armies' frontages (which several contemporaries ascribed to Tilly's defeat) is eminently possible to recreate in 2mm scale.

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  13. The overall scope is impressive. I've always been a fan of winter scenes for miniatures, and the terrain boards and sweep are spectacular. I do look forward to more!

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    1. Thank you, Robert. The winter terrain theme was a big lure of 2mm for me. It was much easier to take the plunge in a winter project in a separate scale than start collecting 28mm winter terrain (although, maybe one day I'll give that a go, also).

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  14. Great post, really interesting, one of my favourite periods, a childhood reading weapons and warfare 1618 /1648 in the reference library in Barnet!
    Best Iain

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    1. Iain, that's a wonderful entry for the period for anyone (and a great shout-out to public libraries everywhere). I think as a wargamer's reference book, it's hard to think of a better, visual starting point than Eduard Wagners' "European Weapons and Warfare 1618 - 1648". Really a lovely book in every respect.

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  15. Hi Sid, good to hear that the project is coming along well. Nice pics too.

    I imagine that discipline, motivation, and leadership would as in all periods matter. Could this be what contemporary writers don't mention? Did they leave these details up to drill manuals?

    I remember reading somewhere that the Swedish "Old Blue's" were so used to winning that they had forgotten how to retreat. Probably also true of the Spanish(less so their allied)tercios. The Spanish were for long the army that all others were measured against.

    Great project.

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    1. Thanks Charles. And thanks for leaving us a great question to think about.

      Discipline and Leadership are definitely themes which contemporaries considered in the 17th Century military manuals, although from a slightly different perspective than we might think of those attributes today. For example, "Pallas Armata" is filled with exhortations for generals to follow the examples of classical generals (Hannibal, Scipio, Caesar), alongside some instructions and advice on more 'modern', contemporary leadership.

      "Motivation" is far more nuanced. I'd like to return to that idea in a future post, if I may, using some examples from the manuals from the 17th Century. It's a very interesting question.

      Thanks again, Charles. And, I'll be in touch here to revisit your points in a week or so.

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    2. Hi Sid,

      Could the concept of disciple and motivation in the 30 Years War be what Frederick said of it 100 or so years later that "Soldiers should fear their officers more than the enemy"?

      Wallenstein seems to have been rather draconian, others might have also. Though later credited to the Prussians this idea might have been dominant in the earlier forces. Commanders clearly read and learned from the past by this time. Roman decimation for poor performance for example? Wallenstein executing men after Lutzen?

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  16. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing!

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