Sunday, 27 September 2020

Fine Tuning the Medieval German Army List

The last Medieval German list of 1494-1518 simulates the Imperial armies that fought against France in the Low Countries and the Venetians in Norther Italy. Unfortunately, the same list cannot be effectively be used for the internal conflicts between the city states, ducal forces or those fielded by the Church.

The DBM army list for the Medieval German Army does allow for this with armies representing the feudal provinces, city states, or those led by clerical commanders. This took time to recalculate the number of elements for each troop type and note the technical changes in tactics and their weapons use. 

Below are three proposed lists that will be used for an upcoming campaign set in Northern Germany, the time frame is not set buy should end by the first quarter of the 16th century. 

The Medieval German 1494-1518

1 x General & Guard (3Kn)

1 x Burgundian Gendarmes (3Kn) or Landsknechts (4Pk or 3Bd)

2 x Knights (6Kn)

1 x Crossbow cavalry (Cv)

4 x Landsknechts (4Pk)

2 x Handgunners (Ps)

1 x bombards (Art)


Knights (3Kn or 6Kn)

The double based element simulates the deep formation used by German heavy cavalry, at its head were the armoured nobles with rear ranks filled by lesser armoured men-at-arms. Eltis mentions the nobility organising themselves in associations and holding exclusive tournaments which maintained their martial skills but underscored their separation from other classes including the urban elite. After 1450, German heavy cavalry could form separate formations having the less armoured troops in cavalry (Cv) units. This will be listed as an option for those troops. 

Crossbow cavalry (Cv)

In Slingshot 209 “The Medieval German Issue”, Viljana writes mounted crossbow performed a number of tasks which were better suited for light cavalry (LH), DBA3 lists them as cavalry (Cv). The difference may come from the German manual (Seldneck) describing them as capable of ‘falling on an enemy’s flank’. DBR have crossbow armed LH(S) for French, Italian and German Minor States of the same time period. The best solution is to them as either Cv or LH. 

Crossbow (4Cb) and archers (Ps)

Tournaments were held to test one’s skill with the crossbow or bow and this is well documented in “A Towns Defence in Medieval Germany”. Such weapons were an individual’s property and were required to be presented at the general mustering. Units so armed could still be found among the armies raised by cities and the church.

Mercenary pikemen (4Pk) and Feudal retainers (7Hd)

By 1450, the pike had replaced the spear throughout the Holy Roman Empire. Feudal retainers are similarly armed but lack weapon skills and drill to be classed as 4Pk, so are horde. Eltis relates the expense of hiring mercenaries and campaign rules should reflect their rapacious behaviour. The quantity of mercenary pikemen varies among the three proposed lists with a few electing to use the Heerban or city militia as a viable alternative.    

War waggons (WWg)

The German northern plain would be ideal terrain for their use, but the increase use of artillery would certainly lessen their use on the battlefield. The DBM list give feudal and clerical armies the use of war waggons and will remain so for this revised list. 

City militia (4Cb)

Deploying city militia for operations far from their home would risk a high rate of desertion and should be a factor to be considered when developing a campaign rule set. Feudal commanders would be less affected as handguns replaced the crossbow, but others were slow to make the change clerical and city led armies).

Field Guns on wheeled carriages (Art)

Many cities and town did strengthen their fortifications with the addition of artillery pieces especially those fortunate enough to have their own foundries. With such resources it would be tempting to raise the quantity of models to two.

Conflicts Within The Empire 

Using the DBM German list as a starting point, this can serve to create three possible lists ending with the reign of Maximilian. These are feudal (minor German states), city (independent city states) and clerical (Bremen, Utrecht). This would greatly aid the development of historical scenarios or a campaign set in empire during the period of the Italian Wars.

Feudal German Army up to 1518

1 x General (3Kn)

2 x feudal knights (6Kn or 3Kn or Cv)

1 x feudal mounted crossbowmen (Cv)

1 x feudal retainers pikemen (7Hd)

1 x feudal archers (Ps)

1 x mercenary handgunners (Ps)

4 x mercenary pikemen (4Pk)

1 x feudal bombards (Art)

City State German Army up to 1518

1 x General (6Kn or 3Kn)

2 x clerical knights (6Kn or Cv)

1 x mercenary mounted crossbowmen (Cv)

2 x city militia crossbowmen with pavises (4Cb)

2 x mercenary pikemen (4Pk)

2 x Heerban pikemen (7Hd)

1 x mercenary handgunners (Ps)

1 x city bombards (Art)

Clerical German Army up to 1518

1 x General (6kn or 3Kn)

2 x clerical knights (6Kn or Cv)

1 x mercenary mounted crossbowmen (Cv)

2 x city militia crossbowmen with pavises (4Cb)

1 x city militia halberdiers (4Bd)

2 x city militia pikemen (4Pk)

1 x Heerban pikemen (7Hd)

1 x city militia handgunners (Ps)

1 x city bombards (Art)


Slingshot 179, The Cavalry Wedge, Jim Webster

Slingshot 197, Late Medieval Sweden, Kent Hägglund

Slingshot 204, Russia 1425 – 1505, Michael Fredholm von Essen

Slingshot 209, The Medieval German Issue, Susanna Viljana

Slingshot 237, Medieval Polish Armies, Matt Haywood

Slingshot 239, The Hapsburg-Burgundian Army of the Netherlands, Duncan Head

Towns and Defence in Later Medieval Germany, David Eltis

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Medieval German 1490 – 1515

Army list IV/13d Medieval German is also known as the Maximilian Imperial in the DBR rule book. Maximilian Imperial is a better description as it covers the campaigns of the army in France, the Low Countries and Italy. The original plan was to build to commands, each representing a minor German State such as Brandenburg, Holstein or Pomerania, however researching deeper into this subject I discovered the 13d did not suit the armies raised by the northern German States, so more figures will need painting.

In the meantime, pictured below are two commands of Imperial Germans complete with knights in their deep formations and plenty of landsknechts ready to fight the French in the Low Countries or the Venetians in northern Italy.


The commanders have the standard black double headed eagle on a yellow flag. The field of each gonfalon is split indicating Imperial service and their particular domain. The links below offer some inspiration. 

Each element of Landsknecht pikemen have one flag identifying the unit with a second their employer, the Imperial House. This follows the standard practice so Landsknecht flags posed little problem to paint. 

Useful links

Das mittelalterliche Hausbuch aus der Sammlung der Fursten von Wolfegg

Spiezer Chronik, 1484/95

Manesse codex 1310 – 1340

Thursday, 3 September 2020

French Ordonnance and Italian Condotta

French Ordonnance

During the Italian wars, Swiss mercenaries formed the bulk of the infantry for which two elements of Swiss supported by Gascon skirmishers are present. In addition, French pikemen’ (7Hd) are listed representing the ‘old bands’, these were present at the Battle of Ravenna (1512). Currently, horde are on 30mm deep bases, but as this did not look right alongside the Swiss I increased their depth and added more pikemen.

Blue is the theme colour for the French uniforms, a nice contrast to the red seen on many flags. The Swiss are of Bern as can be seen with their banner and a second element carry the red/yellow of Bern with the cross of St. Denis to signify French employment. A red flag and white cross in differing shapes and sizes can be seen in many period illustrations and here they are carried by the French pikemen of Picardy, the mounted archers and an element of French knights. Anticipating the expansion of the French Ordonnance, I have flags for the Swiss of Uri and the ‘old band’ of Navarre done.

Italian Condotta

After 1405, the Republic of Venice had increased its domain by annexing the cities of Vicenza, Belluno, Feltre, Verona, Padua & Este to name a few. To bring more contrast to the ranks, the infantry represent four; Venezia, Verona, Bologna and Brescia. Spearmen and crossbow are separately based as my research found Florence as the sole candidate to field a double based unit of 8Cb at this time.

Flags were taken from the city coat of arms and uniforms reflect a similar colour combination. Lacking concrete information of the noble houses of Brescia and Verona the ‘elmetti’ carry flags of the same colour combination but in a different pattern. I did not use the ‘Lion of St. Mark’ as the banner for the general, but an alternative emblem, the cross. My plan is to expand the Condotta to 24 elements which would rectify this and include infantry from other cities.

Flags; Venezia (red ground/white cross), Verona (blue ground/yellow cross), Bologna (white ground/ red cross) and Brescia (white/blue).     

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Danish (Union) and Swedish army


The Swedes

The allmoge form the core of the Swedish infantry. A few livery can be seen, but the majority wear earth coloured clothing to signify their militia/yeomanry status. This meant leather items needed a bit more red or orange to be noticed. Mounted elements are better dressed and even horse were given a darker colour wash then later highlighted. Garish colours were avoided as these are reserved for the Condotta.

Flag designs were taken from armorials of the noble houses, cities and municipalities. Another useful option is to find illustrations of the battles that took place between the Danes and Swedes. 

The Danes

In contrast to the Swedes, the Union have uniforms of a sort. The infantry was split into two groups and painted with a red-white theme for the Danes and green-yellow for German mercenaries. Both groups have a mix of spearmen, bill and crossbow or skirmishers. During the last two decades of the 15th century, the pike would replace the spear and Landsknecht figures have arrived and will be painted soon.

Flags are for the most part red and white in a variety of shapes and sizes, only the commander carries the ‘Dannebrog’ flag. No early photos were taken so it is not possible to compare the change, but the photo below during the test games, but the photo below shows the effect that banners and flags have for a collection. 

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Scots Common and Tudor English


During the test phase of this project I was very surprised how well the Scots Common and Tudor English are evenly matched. Historically, this was not so, but such is the charm of DBA3.

Following the army lists, 24 elements were set aside for some alterations.  

The Scots

Ground colours were darkened so highlighting became noticeable; a vast improvement over the ‘splash and dash’ method used previously. Clothing colour for the pikemen was varied as were the Highland rabble and archers. In George Gush’s Renaissance Armies states the blue bonnet did not become fashion until the next century, yet I found many depictions of Highlanders at Flodden wearing them. These will be fashioned later with Milliput as there are figures in other armies that will need similar treatment.

James died among his pikemen, so he is depicted fighting on foot under the royal banner. In the six tests this did prove effective. The flags are a small sampling of brigades led by Lord Home and those led by the King. I do have a flag painted for the Highlanders of Lennox and Argyll but,  I am still unsure if the Highlanders carried any flags at all.  

Tudor English

The army, led by the Earl of Surrey were for the most part assembled from the northern regions with the exception of those that marched from London. Therefore few figures have the green and white Tudor livery, but sport an array of colour in a similar fashion as the Scots. The original painting lacked detail and this was added enhancing the figures by a mile. All weapons and armour were redone. One element required rebasing and these were the cavalry converted to a LH Borderer. 

Elements used in the test games. 

Same elements made over. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Further Test Games (1490 – 1515)

To explore conflicts outside the Italian peninsula I began with the Spanish invasion of Portugal. This will be followed by a number of nations bordering the Baltic Sea, such as Poland, Livonia, Lithuania, Muscovy. This should be interesting.

The Portuguese vs. the Spanish

Fast and furious can best describe the six matches. The Portuguese infantry are all classed as ‘fast’ (3Pk + 3Bd + Ps) which gave them an edge, whereas the Spanish were mindful of their pike block of four elements. Both sides ended their tests scoring three victories each.

Later Polish (IV/66) vs. Livonia (Teutonic Order IV/30)

Wooded landscape did not deter the Sword Brothers from trouncing the Polish in the opening game (4 – 2). The Polish countered enveloping both Livonian flanks earning a 4 – 0 victory. Livonia bounced back to winning game three, however, the best is yet to come. Bizarre can best describe game four as the Polish Hetman fell in turn two. Most of the Polish units were engaged leaving a column of Hungarian horse archers to fall on an exposed Livonian flank initiating a chain reaction to include the death of the Livonian Landmeister and the collapse of the entire army (5 – 2). The town militia (8Cb) were exchanged for war waggons in the last two games. The WWg earned their keep by supporting a third and fourth win for the Later Polish. In retrospect all were great games.

Muscovy (IV/44b) vs. Finland (Swedish list IV/54d)

The Swedes held an advantageous position between two woods leaving only half their army exposed. Muscovy failed to lure the Swedish out of their position and seeing their indecision the Swedes moved their archers forward to disrupt their formation. Taking advantage of the chaos, the Leidang closed on the Boyars to scatter the Muscovites (4 – 1). The Muscovites came close to winning game three with well-coordinated attacks by boyar and tartar horse archers, but this was not to be. The Muscovites lost all six test games mainly to cavalry lines falling in disarray by archers leaving surviving boyar to confront Leidang blade.

Tudor English (IV/83a) vs. Scots Common (IV/16)

Like Flodden Field both commanders dismounted, leaving the Border pickers the only mounted unit for these tests. Simulating Landsknecht pike tactics, the Scots handily won the opening test (5 – 1). However, a second win was not to be as the English blade fell on an open flank of a pike column to tip the scales in their favour (4 – 3). In the following test, the Scots held favourable terrain however, it also offered the English an opportunity to chip away at the pike blocks of the Scots earning a 5 – 1 victory. Game four was long and tenacious, both commanders locked in personal combat, however the deafening yells and shrill of Highland bagpipes signalled the defeat of the English left flank earning the Scots another victory (5 – 4). The next game is better described as a brawl than a battle, the Scots won a narrow victory (4 – 3) again through the effort of the Highland rabble. The final game was nearly a repeat of game four, long and tenacious struggles with both sides incurring even losses. An unlucky pike column sealed the fate of the Scots and England held the field with a 5 – 3 victory.


Of the three tests, the army of Ivan the Mis-understood was disappointing. Their composition is not unlike the early Byzantine which have proved successful in the past. Yet in contrast, the Swedes, well supported by their archers, were not averse to taking the battle to the Muscovites. The test games between the Scots and English were a nice surprise. All games were close with the artillery of both sides doing excellent work.  

After the completion of eight test matches of six games each there are not many more left to do. Between matches, I had time to rebase a few figures to make sword and buckler men, fast pikes and jinetes for the Spanish and Portuguese. After the final test matches, I can determine which armies I would focus on. This will mean some repainting to correct livery and of course adding flags.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Revisiting the Renaissance (1490 – 1515)

To asses which armies to focus on I decided to test a number of historical pairings that were involved in the Italian Wars, principally, the French Ordonnance, the Medieval German and the Italian Condotta. Standard size armies were used in the test but the primary goal is to build double size armies. 

Six games were played with each pairing as this would generate enough variation in deployment, terrain and combat opportunities. This generated some surprising results.

French Ordonnance vs. Italian Condotta
All six games were quick lasting an average of three or four turns (25 min.). Both sides made use of their mounted arm and artillery to score three victories. There were a few games where infantry played more that a support role and launched their own assaults. Doing so, they frequently prohibited the artillery to be fully employed. Condotta crossbowmen were 4Cb and not DBE in these tests. 

French Ordonnance vs. Medieval German
Surprisingly most were one sided games, the French scored five devastating victories. The last two games, the German swapped their 3Bd for a knight to help their mounted force. This produced a better match in game five forcing the French to earn their victory. The German sole win caught the French Ordonnance in an imperfect deployment. The lack lustre performance of the Germans might change by doubling their command size. 

Medieval German vs. Italian Condotta
The Imperial side won the first match followed by three defeats including the loss of a general in game four. The combination of Condotta artillery and crossbow played havoc with the Imperialist shredding their pike block. Game five, the Imperialist, amassing all their cavalry in one division surprised the Condotta to squeak by with a narrow victory. To repeat their success, the Imperial troops used the same deployment, but the Condotta countered this by neutralising Imperial support troops with artillery and crossbow leaving the Italian mounted to win a decisive victory. One the whole, matches required double the amount of time (50 min.) to reach a decision. 

After 18 games, I paused for a day and searched the internet for other conflicts set in the years 1490 to 1515. This next match was very interesting. 

Kalmar Union vs. Swedish
Like the French and the Condotta, these were brisk and fun games. Both sides had equal number of mounted troops (three elements), but infantry compositions had slight differences to make each game interesting. The Danes had artillery, pike, spear and fast blade to meet the blade and crossbow of the Swedes. Tight games with many troops locked in combat for several bounds with the victor edging the opponent out by one.

Further testing will continue with Poland, Lithuania, Muscovy, Livonia in the east and Portugal and Spain in the west. Certainly after another week of test I should have a better idea of which armies I should focus on and paint up flags.