Sunday 21 March 2021

The Battle of Seckenheim 1462 – the refight

Play-testing the Battle of Seckenheim produced three lively cavalry fights resulting with victories for both Frederick I and the coalition led by Charles I of Baden-Baden. Initially, the battle began as a cavalry fight but according to German sources, Frederick I sealed his victory with the help of Swiss mercenaries and local farmers. The Medieval German list (IV/13c) has been adjusted for this scenario. 

Prince Elector of Palatine

1 x Frederick I (3Kn), 1 x Hans von Gemmingen (3Kn), 1 x Archbishop of Mainz (3Kn), 3 x crossbow cavalry (Cv), hidden in the woods {2 x archers (Ps), 1 x angry farmers (7Hd)}.

Coalition Forces

1 x Charles I, Baden-Baden (3Kn), 1 x Ulrich V, Count of Württemberg (3Kn), 1 x Louis I, Palatine-Zweibrücken (3Kn), 1 x George of Baden, Bishop of Metz (3Kn), 4 x crossbow cavalry (Cv).

From the photo, you will note terrain features deviate some from the standard DBA as Dossenwald forms a continuous line of trees along two sides of the battlefield. Grain fields dotted the landscape but count as good going on this hot summer day. Neither side need position any camps as historically both were four or five kilometres distance and out of sight. Two minor changes were made for this scenario; the handling of Frederick’s hidden troops and taking of prisoners. 

Frederick’s hidden troops

To simplify and avoid the use of maps, we recommend the HOTT rule for ‘Lurkers’. Hidden troops may appear at any forest edge for the cost of 2 pips and on the player’s subsequent bound elements may make tactical moves. Unlike the HOTT rule, elements remain on the board enabling them to engage in combat elsewhere. 

Taking prisoners.

The wealth garnered by capturing nobles may best describe medieval warfare as financial venture and historically, Frederick I did reap financial benefit from his victory at Seckenheim. Knights may be taken prisoner if a recoil outcome is hindered by enemy frontal contact on its flank or rear. In the rare instance of single combat between two knights, the defeated may elect to yield or die a poetic death. Captured nobles count as elements lost when determining the winner of the game.


The Battle of Seckenheim 1462

The morning of 30 June promised to become a hot day as Frederick’s forces deployed in echelon with the Dossenwald protecting their rear. The view of the Neckar River in the distance however was obstructed by the gathering of coalition cavalry arriving from different directions, jostling one another for position. Frederick allowed them time to gather under their banners and despite their numerical superiority, Frederick was confident his troops would perform well including those hidden in the wood. 

Game one and two were nearly identical in their development and result. Coalition forces took several bounds to reach their enemy as Frederick remain stationary. In both cases, the cavalry action produced more dust as troops moved back and forth. Both sides becoming totally committed to combat was the moment Frederick’s troops now moved out of cover to attack exposed enemy flanks. In both games, Charles of Baden-Baden was captured sending confusion among the coalition troops and garnering two victories for Frederick I, (4g-3) and (5g-1). 

In both tests, I tried to imagine the moment of surprise to Charles I as Frederick formed his line offering battle. After a moment of panic, Charles would dispatch messengers to gather raiding parties while sounding the ‘recall’ to gather nearby cavalry. To simulate this, I randomly place knights and crossbow armed elements resulting in two different deployments as can be seen above. However, for game three, I gave Charles the benefit of a text book deployment generating a slightly different battle.  

Game three

Charles deployed four divisions with three forming the first line the fourth positioned behind the centre as a reserve. As before, Frederick awaited the coalition onslaught so as to benefit from the surprise ambush. This time as the cavalry of both sides were heavily engaged, the reserve cavalry was ideally placed to deal with the farmers coming out of hiding. This was followed later by the appearance of Swiss mercenaries joining nearby melees. Events turned differently however as the archbishop of Mainz was captured leaving Frederick’s centre in a precarious state, as enemy cavalry began seeking richer pickings. On two occasions, Frederick’s own conroi was surrounded and luckily repelled each assault. However, seeing the battle taking a sour turn, Frederick called for a retreat and returned to his castle and prepare for a siege. A coalition victory, 4(+Hd)-2.      

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