Thursday 26 November 2020

The Low Countries 1411 - 1478

Interest in the Low Countries of the 15th century came as a result of my researching the Holy Roman Empire with a final goal of developing a campaign game, similar to one made for the Merovingian period. The Low Countries of the period encompassed modern day Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, parts of Northern France and some German lands bordering Limburg. For most of the century these were the sovereign domains of three dynastic families, Luxembourg, Hapsburg and Wittelsbach.

Broadly speaking, the House of Luxembourg held Limbourg, Luxembourg and Brabant, which reached as far south to France and the House of Wittelsbach, the counties of Holland, Hainaut, Zeeland and Friesland by the first half of the 15th century slowly losing territory from dynastic marriages to Burgundy. Following the death of Charles, the Bold, the House of Habsburg asserted its sovereignty over Burgundian territories gaining all by the first quarter of the 16th century. During the 15th century, the Low Countries experience of economic and social growth among its urban centres followed a similar path to that experienced in Northern Italy and Northern Germany, but its town councils asserting more power than other parts of Europe. This was a time when trade and prosperity generated a relative period of peace. Yet, it was not without its disagreements.

There were few major battles in the Low Countries during this time, but in its place were an abundant number of skirmishes, sieges and plunder raids such as the one which devastated the Hague in 1528. High taxation, trade and customs barriers and succession disputes often led to conflicts between the duchies and counties of the Low Countries (see link below) and fortunately, many are documented in Dutch or the Frisian language. My research continues, but from what has been done I will pass on a few observations.

The DBA list

The sub-list IV/57c (1411-1478) for the Low Countries gives a large number of pikemen supported by billmen, crossbow, handgunners and artillery with a home terrain of arable. Designing a historical scenario, one may wish to consider adding a few optional troop types and include a second home terrain.


An arable home terrain suits the Low Countries, yet as one passes north of the Maas and Rhine rivers, littoral would seem a better fit. The Maas River empties into the North Sea passing the islands of Zeeland; the Amstel, Eem and Ijssel Rivers empty into the Zuiderzee whose shoreline touches the counties of Holland, Friesland, the Duchy of Gelderland and the Bishopric of Utrecht. More importantly, the cities of Deventer, Groningen, Arnhem, Nijmegen, Zutphen, and Zwolle were a part of the Hanseatic League, all with harbours on the coast or inland. Lakes, bogs and marsh were common enough to be present on the game board and with and for the modeller, most castles or fortified manor houses did have moats.

List review

In the link below you have long list of internal conflicts, yet what is surprising, 57c is not listed as an enemy of itself. This is well the case with the Italian Condotta and the Medieval German, likewise, 57c should also be listed as an ally to reflect mutual assistance among counties and duchies.

While north of the Maas and Rhine River is not cavalry country, ducal retinues (3Kn/4Bd) or mercenary cavalry (Cv) would not be out of place on the battlefield, albeit in small numbers. At the Battle of Brustem (1467) 500 cavalry were present on the side of Liege when they faced a Burgundian host.

At times, guild infantry was less than enthusiastic to take to the field and in their place, mercenaries were hired from Flanders or Brabant. This can be listed as a separate entry for a portion of guild pikemen (4Pk or 7Hd).  

Main holdings:

House of Luxembourg

Limbourg, Luxembourg, Brabant, Silesia, Bohemia and Moravia. They also provided two Holy Roman Emperors (1355-1378, 1368-1437)), one King of Bohemia (1346-1378), one King of the Romans (1346-1378),

House of Wittelsbach

Bavarian, the Palatinate, Brandenburg, the counties of Holland, Hainaut, Zeeland and Friesland, provided one Holy Roman Emperor (1328-1347), one King of the Romans (1400-1410), one King of Hungary (1305–1309) and one King of Denmark and Norway (1440–1448).

House of Hapsburg

Principle holdings included Austria, Steiermark, Carinthia, Krain, Tirol, Sundgau and Breisgau adding later Burgundy following the death of Charles the Bold. 

Two finely painted armies of the Low Countries. 

Low Countries (Ghent) DBA Fanaticus (paddy649) 

Low Countries DBA Fanaticus (goragrad)

War in theNetherlands in the Middle Ages (Wiki)

List of Castles in the Netherlands (Wiki)

Map: Muir's Historical Atlas - Medieval and Modern, London 1911, Internet Medieval Sourcebook, Paul Halsall

Friday 13 November 2020

War in Silesia (battle report)

 In the summer of 1434 Wladyslaw III ascended to the throne of Poland and not having reached his majority, matters of state were conducted by powerful clerics and the chancellor of Poland. One issue that festered with the powerful was the contested frontier with Bohemia of the lands known as Silesia. Forces were marshalled and crossed the Wista River. Scouts reported the enemy encamped a half days march to the south. It was decided to rest the troops and attack at dawn.

The voivode (war leader) deployed his heavy cavalry in two divisions, each a mix of knights and czeladz and Polish Light horse were positioned on the left with the war wagons supported by rustics secured the right.   

The Bohemians marched out of their camp to form two wings, on the left all their banners of cavalry and on the right mercenary pike and handgunners.

Miscommunication plagued the early phase for the Polish, but the voivode moved the war waggons forward while the light horse, on the left trotted off to make an excursion of the enemy line.

Unperturbed by the activity on the flanks, the Bohemian commander moved his troops forward with one objective, to quickly close and destroy the enemy centre.

The Bohemian pike moved forward maintaining their formation and expressing some surprise as Polish cavalry remaining stationary. Such was not the case on the Polish right as Polish knights and supporting czeladz crashed into the Bohemian deep formations resulting in both sides tasting brief advantages. Harassing fire from the war waggons forced the Bohemian commander to despatch a banner against them.

Dispelling any thoughts of trickery, the mercenary pike struck the awaiting Polish cavalry wreaking havoc on man and horse with both sides losing casualties. To support this success, the field guns were hastily ordered forward to bring their guns in range of the Polish city militia. Elsewhere, the cavalry battle continued with the Polish suffering more casualties and sensing victory the Bohemian commander and escort charged into an open Polish flank.

From the rear of the Bohemian position, the Polish light horse viewed the battle. Bohemian pike were thinning the ranks of Polish cavalry and artillery fire was forcing the city militia dance, the battle was becoming grim. Seeing the enemy commander’s banner, the rotmistrz cried ‘Na wroga!’ joined the cavalry battle. The clash was brief, but the Imperial banner falling to the ground disheartened the Bohemians and with the loss of their general, the army slipped away from the field of battle.


This was the last of three test games. The Polish handily took the first two crushing the Bohemians 6 – 0 in game two. But the final test became a nail-biter as the Polish casualties reached 3 to the Bohemian 2. The Polish light cavalry turned the day.

Sunday 8 November 2020

The Late Medieval Polish

The appearance of the Polish army at the later half of the 15th century was quite similar to other Western European armies. This was due in part to the lucrative tax incentives offered to European armourers to settle in Poland. Building the Later Polish was less a problem as the Polish would serve for the later conflict known as the Thirteen Years War. Naturally, the Battle of Tannenberg (Grunwald) has a certain alure, but Poland’s conflict with the Teutonic Order did not end in 1410. The link below you will find a long list of Polish conflicts, not only with the Teutonic Order.

A Later Polish army was predominately a mounted force of knights, mounted crossbowmen, horse archers with a small number of infantry as a support. There remained sufficient elements to build the Later Polish, but new figures were purchased to add some variety, namely knights and mounted crossbowmen.


The DBA3 Later Polish may field either town militia or war waggons. The militia are double based element of spear and crossbow and these are a mix of infantry and peasant types to represent an assembly of guilds. From my research, only the cities of Krakow, Lviv and Gdansk did send their militia on campaign which makes painting flags for them less of a problem.

Of the cavalry, the czeladz or ‘followers’ are a mix of lance and mounted crossbow figures. Information as to their armament after 1450 conflicts as some sources state the lance replaced the crossbow as primary weapon and other sources state just the opposite. Placing a mix of lance and crossbow on the same base sidestep that issue.

The older knights required little work as armour and leather items were given a colour to brighten their appearance. The newly purchased knights, fully armoured rider and horse, were painted with more detail. Unfortunately, the photos do not do them justice.


The plan was to have each element display a gonfalon or banner, but stopped after 18. Given that an element represents historically 250 – 300 horse this equates near enough to the strength of a Polish “banner”. The flags are modelled after those present at Tannenberg (1410) as these most likely would survive to the mid-15th century, but without the schwenkel. 


Medieval Polish Armies, Matt Haywood, Slingshot 237, p. 8-14.

List of wars involvingPoland (Wiki) 

Balthasar Bohem Codex (link)

Monday 2 November 2020

The Latest Updates

DBA3 examples of troop types


7204    Pikemen (4Pk)

7209    Scythed Chariots (SCh)

7210    Elephants (El)

7217    Cataphracts (4Kn)

7220    Galatians (4Wb)

7223    archers (Ps)

7225    camps (Roman + Greek)

 7226    Indian light horse (LH)

7232    Indian cavalry (Cv)

7235    Indian elephants (El)

7237    Indian archers (4Lb)

7239    Indian auxilia (4Ax)

7244    Indian heavy chariots (HCh)