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The Battle of Nördlingen, 1634


The Thirty Years War, Homegrown Rules, 28mm

The long faces in the photo above were because the wargamers were listening to a background to the game, when the table layout was being explained. In fact it was a rather fun day, and a change from a diet of pistachio nuts, leftovers and seasonal TV. Every year, on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year, the Leuchars club lay on a large game. Leuchars is in Fife, near St. Andrews, and is home to what was once an RAF air base, but which is now run by the British Army. These games are staged in an off-base community centre, and the hosts are terrific in laying on coffee and nibbles throughout the day. This year we were refighting the Battle of Nördlingen, where the Protestant Swedes and their allies were decisively thumped by a Catholic army consisting of Spanish, Imperialist and Bavarian troops. I know this was a Thirty Years War battle, but as I don’t have a section for the war this game report will appear with the English Civil War ones. There were about eight players a side – my command was an Imperialist one, on the centre right of the Catholic line. In the real battle the Swedes concentrated their attack on the Catholic left – a fortified hill called the Allbuch. That’s where they got chopped up in the real battle. In our refight, to give the Protestants more of a chance their army was deployed further to the left as well, which of course also meant we had a longer battle than the real thing, where everyone could play a part in the action. With such a long table and so many players you land up focusing on one part of the battlefield – in my case the bit to the right of the Haselbach woods – and only see what’s happening elsewhere when there’s a break in the action. So, it was always a bit of a surprise when you got a chance to see what was happening on the Allbuch – the real key to the battlefield. Oh, and apologies for the lurid colour of the battlefield. The Leuchars lads are a bit old school, and still use pool table baize for their tabletop!My main opponents were Erik Priessman of Figures in Comfort and Steve Rimmer from the Kirriemuir club. My leading unit – the Imperialist Blue Regiment – suffered from Swedish artillery, until the battery was destroyed by counter-battery fire. That pretty much saved my regiment, but it was then charged by Erik’s Swedish horse, who were relentless. The musketeers hid behind the pikes, but the way the rules work the odds are in the cavalrymen’s favour, and the infantry were pushed back.

The same happened for another two turns, until I brought up a regiment of Imperialist cuirassiers, who eventually drove off the Swedish horse. Over on my right Bill Gilchrist’s old Minifigs German cavarly were holding off three times their number of Imperial horse and foot, even when two of his units were down to one or two figures apiece! The homegrown rules might need a little tweaking, as there was a lot of small remnants of one, two or three figures cluttering the table by the end of the game.Another strange feature of the rules was the Warhammer-inspired saving throw. If you wear a back and breastplate, you can save a 6-pdr. roundshot hitting you on a “6”. Having fired replica 17th century artillery, I defy anyone to try this for real! Anyway, our guns played on his remaining cavalry in the centre, while over to my right the last of Bill’s cavalry were overwhelmed. That allowed us to begin rolling up the Swedes on the right hands side of the battlefield, but was this in time to help the defenders of the Allbuch?The Swedes now had to storm the defences of the Allbuch to win. They had already been repulsed earlier that day, but by early afternoon they were massing again, ready for an all or nothing assault on the Imperialist redoubt. Strangely they still had a couple of spare brigades hidden in the trees of the Haselbach, right in the centre of the table, but they were pinned by our Bavarians. Still, this reserve meant that our hard-won success on the right flank wasn’t going to help the defenders on our left, unless we assaulted the Swedes and Germans lurking in the woods. In the end we ran out of time, so the Imperialist defenders – almost all Spanish troops – were left to their own devices.The assault was a fierce one, ands swept up the hill, only to falter at the redoubt. A coupled of units even broke in, but the Spanish had plenty of reserves on hand, and the defences held. On either side of the redoubt it came to push of pike, but it seemed that the Swedes weren’t making headway. In fact they were starting to falter. That was when we called it a day, having fought for the best part of six hours. The umpires scanned the table, and declared the game to be a Catholic victory. Halleluiah! We had held on the left, stood off in the centre, and rolled up the right. While it was a win, we didn’t do as well as the Catholics did in the real battle, where the Swedes suffered 50% losses, and the Allbach was strewn with their dead. Still, it was a fun day out, and it was a memorable game. I’m already looking forward to next year…

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