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Bohemians Unbowed: Refighting White Mountain (1620) in 6mm

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

On 23 May 1618 Bohemian rebels ejected two of the Holy Roman Emperor's regents - Vilem Slavata and Jaroslav Martinice - from a tower window of the Bohemian Chancellery in Prague, precipitating war...

Friday's refight of the Battle of White Mountain (1620) - the first major engagement during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) - was a clash between two worldviews and two contrasting systems of war, using my 6mm figures and Wallenstein rules.

The Catholic Imperial armies used the proven infantry Tercios - deadly in close combat, but rather slow and not so good at firing.

The Calvinist Bohemians employed the Dutch system: smaller infantry units set up to maximise fire effect, but not so great at close combat. Who would win?

Doug and Patrick, occupying the White Mountain near Prague, were on the Bohemian side, with 12 'Dutch brigades', six medium and two heavy cavalry units, and three artillery batteries, organised into 11 battalia, under Prince Christian of Anhalt, and Counts Thurn and Schlick.

Mark, Theo, and Tim, deploying in the valley, were on the Imperial side, with ten Tercios (four of which were veteran), four medium cavalry, three heavy cavalry (two veteran), and one (veteran) light cavalry unit - the dreaded Polish Lisowski Cossack marauders - and three artillery batteries.

The Imperial side consisted of two distinct forces. Mark controlled Tilly's (largely Bavarian) Catholic League army, while Theo (until 9pm, then Tim) controlled Bucquoy's Spanish Netherlands army. Their combined army was organised into 12 battalia.

Using my rules, both sides had to activate their battalia (brigades) and could change infantry formations for optimum tactical effect. Each side deployed historically behind the screen.

Mark's Catholic League forces surged forward towards the mountain from the get-go. Doug and Patrick initially responded with artillery fire from behind the redoubts.

Theo swung Bucquoy's Spanish and Walloons on the Imperial right towards the less populated Bohemian left flank on the hill.

Tim quickly moved his cavalry towards the Bohemian centre to support Mark's tercios. His heavy cavalry under Pappenheim proved to be especially zealous and impervious throughout the game.

Mark's infantry were met by increasing artillery and infantry fire, and, moving at only six inches in their default formation, took mounting losses, but continued to advance against the Bohemian line owing to a high unit resilience rating.

Tim's Imperial cavalry eventually cleared away the Bohemian artillery positions, and began to seriously threaten the Protestant centre.

Doug was compelled to order two infantry units there into hedgehogs. Pappenheim's heavies spearheaded the assault on the Protestant centre and luckily survived withering fire from the hedgehogs and assaults from the Bohemian cavalry.

Tim took over from Theo around 9pm, but some unlucky activation rolls delayed a timely advance against the Bohemian positions, the heavy cavalry and Lisowski's Polish Cossacks proving particularly immovable.

Now Patrick's units on the Bohemian right began a flanking manoeuvre against Mark's tercios, which were still advancing but taking heavy casualties and starting to become disorganised.

By the end of play, Tim's tercios and part of his cavalry were assaulting the weaker Bohemian flank under Doug, but were partially repulsed.

The game ended with the Bohemian centre seriously disrupted by sporadic Imperial infantry and cavalry attacks, but not broken.

Yet Tilly's Catholic League army (Mark) had lost its shape and taken heavy losses. With more time, and better luck, Bucquoy's men (Tim) may have broken the Bohemian left wing...

The Imperial armies lost two tercios (one of which was veteran) and three medium cavalry units, besides 18 additional casualties. The Bohemians lost two artillery batteries and 20 additional casualties.

A victory for the Bohemians then, and a galling setback for Emperor Ferdinand II!

All in all, a fun game to umpire and a decisive result. Some rule tweak suggestions from Phil regarding hedgehogs, and reserving fire, will be pondered for incorporation into the rules...

Historically, neither army was enthusiastic about fighting. The Imperials (24,000 men) outclassed the Bohemian army (21,000), which was inexperienced and hastily reorganised into Dutch brigades just before the battle. In the space of one hour, for the loss of 700 men, the Catholics routed the Protestants, who lost 4,000 killed and captured. Prague was occupied on the following day. But this was only the start of one of the bloodiest, and most fascinating, wars in history...



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