Friday, 13 September 2019

Roughly how big were Thirty Years War battles of the Swedish phase?

Battle of Lützen 1632
As I eventually want to use Tilly's Very Bad Day to play historical scenarios, I thought I'd better get a handle on exactly how big the major battles were during the Swedish phase of the Thirty Years War (1630-1635).

This is a ‘quick and dirty’ exercise so I’m happy to grab figures where I can. I started with Steven Thomas's timeline of the war before moving on to Richard Bonney’s The Thirty Years’ War 1618-1648. I also have William Guthrie’s two-volume Battles of the Thirty Years War but that’s rather too detailed for this purpose.

Where I have only crude totals, I’ve converted as if the men were all Pike+shot. The various different labels given to factions may need improvement.

The numbers show (1) Actual men, and in parenthesis (2) Representation at the lowest rate where 1 base = 1000 Pike+shot, 500 Horse or 8 Cannon, and (3) Representation at the highest rate where 1 base = 2000 Pike+shot, 1000 Horse or 16 Cannon. The results have been rounded to whole bases.

It can be seen that the numbers of bases required is reasonable and can be tailored to suit what players have available by changing the conversion rate. The default pick-up game in comparison is set at 15-30 units per army which gives comparable numbers of bases. In other words, if you have armies of 15-30 bases you should be able to play scenarios based on these battles without any problems.

Battle of Werben 1631

Swedes vs Holy Roman Empire/Catholic League

16,000 entrenched (16) (8)

Holy Roman Empire
23,000 (23) (12)

First Battle of Breitenfeld 1631

Swedes & Saxons vs Holy Roman Empire/Catholic League

21,400 infantry (21) (11)
10,000 cavalry (20) (10)

14,842 infantry (15) (7)
8,064 cavalry (16) (8)

13,000 infantry (13) (6.5)
5,225 cavalry (10) (5)

Battle of Rain / Battle of the River Lech 1632

Swedes vs Holy Roman Empire/Catholic League

40,000 (40) (20)

Holy Roman Empire/Catholic League
25,000 (25) (13)

Battle of Lützen 1632

Swedes vs Holy Roman Empire

12,786 infantry (13) (6)
6,210 cavalry (12) (6)
60 cannon (8) (4)

Holy Roman Empire
9,870 infantry (10) (5)
6,900 cavalry (14) (7)
38 cannon (5) (2)
Reinforcements: 2,300 cavalry (5) (2)

Battle of Nördlingen 1634

Holy Roman Empire/Catholic League/Spain vs Swedes/ Heilbronn League

23,000 infantry (23) (12)
13,000 cavalry (26) (13)
32 cannon  (4) (2)

13,500 infantry (14) (7)
4,500? Cavalry (9) (5)
Reinforcements: 3,000 Catholic cavalry (6) (3)

16,300 infantry (16) (8)
9,300 cavalry (19) (9.5)
62 cannon (8) (4)

Battle of Wittstock 1636

Swedes vs Holy Roman Empire & Saxons

16,000 (16) (8)

Holy Roman Empire and Saxons
22,000 (22) (11)


  1. The armies are not as large as I imagined. 15-30 BMUs is quite doable.

    1. Hi Jonathan

      So many rules demand so many (i.e. too many) figures and sometimes too much playing space that they put themselves out of reach AFAIC.

      TVBD is essentially a 'Big Base' set or rules, i.e. inspired by Impetus rather than WRG. If you want to make life easy, the trick is to do 'Big Base' rules with small bases, or, at least small scales and relatively small bases.

      I'm settling into a wargaming life of pursuing just a few, physically manageable, games, at least in any given year. I wasn't expecting TVBD to come along, but I can see it becoming one of my favourites. And I haven't even played it yet.

      There is at least one TYW enthusiast at my local wargames club and a number of other keen historical players who will probaly be interested in giving it a go. My interest in Rommel didn't find any takers but that's a strangely abstract game in some respects. This game is very clever IMO but essentially conventional, and I think it will thus have a much better chance of flying.

      I am not only learning the rules but have also been helping to proof-read them, so I should know them backwards before long!


    2. Showing your club members the video of the epic Rommel Normandy Invasion game by the lads over at might get you a few converts ;-).

      On another note: inspired by Sydney Roundwoods TYW project in 2mm (you may have seen it: I got myself a couple of 2mm TYW Irregular armies. Would TVBD work with 2mm?

    3. Thanks for the heads-up on the Rommel video - I'll take a look.

      Sydney Roundwood’s work is absolutely brilliant.

      2mm would certainly work for TVBD as would anything really as it is base, not figure, orientated.

      The problem I found with 2mm is that the block footprints are all rather small so you have to combine them, but I think there is someone who produces larger blocks using 3D printing.

      On the other hand, TVDB units are brigades so a number of small units on a base would be highly appropriate.

  2. Richard, thanks heaps for input into Tilly's Very Bad Day: (1) proof reading; (2) asking probing questions; (3) posting your own thoughts on your blog; (4) and particularly this post on historical to TVBD orders of battle, which I found incredibly useful.

    I admit I made an assumption that my 1000-2000 infantry men per unit and up to 30 bases would work for most battles in the Thirty Years War. Your research backs this up. Thanks.

  3. Hi Steven

    Nice of you to drop by! I’m really excited by this project and glad to be of assistance.

    I'm blogging daily at the moment and have a few more items to post about planning my own armies etc, but once the figures arrive and it’s comfortable to get into ‘painting position’, I will be transferring my attentions to something more physical.

    I hope to get this project finished in record time and ready to put on the table as soon as I get back to gaming.