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Vauban Tile 500 pixels

A wargame of the Battle of Lützen is described below.

The schematic of the battlefield above has been scaled down to fit our beloved bit of 5′ by 4′ for the wargame recreation. The scale used is board 1mm = battlefield 2 m; each move represents 5 minutes, and each figure represents 100-120 men using 25mm figures. Thus our 5′ by 4′ board rescales to 3 by 2.4 km on the battlefield. The number of troops need to be reduced accordingly to keep the troop density equivalent. The Imperialists had about 17,000 men at the start of the battle with 24 guns, and the Swedes/Germans about 19,000 with 60 guns. Reducing this by a factor of 1/2, the following order of battle is given.

In this battle, we use the principle of Sauve qui peut to define the level of losses (in terms of base units of 1 figure) sustained by each side before mass panic sets in. The levels are shown below for each army.

For both sides, once the threshold of losses exceed the following percentages, a dice roll is made to ascertain if mass panic has set in.

For the Imperialist army, the loss of up to 12 base units can be withstood before testing for morale. As soon as the relief force under Pappenheim arrives, the morale levels are lifted to 14 base units at the 15% threshold, to reflect the higher level of troops on the field. In the case of the Swedes and German allies,  19 base units can be lost before the 15% threshold is reached, reflecting their advantage in numbers. One additional complicating factor for the wargame is the effect of the weather. The Battle of Lützen was fought in fog which varied throughout the day. To simulate the capricious nature of fog, a dice is rolled to determine the visibilty.

Each position shows the visibility on the battlefield, so at position 1, the visibility falls to 100m (50mm) etc, whereas at 5-6 the visibility is unlimited, subject to line of sight. The generals refighting the battle use suspension of disbelief, so that if enemy troops are bearing down unseen upon your own because of the snow visibility, you cannot react until they would emerge… as happened during the original battle. After 15 minutes (3 moves) a dice is rolled and the new visibilty is established. Given the fog rose in the morning, but fell in the evening, a modifier to the dice roll is given for the time of day. Between 10:45 and 11:00 am, +1 is added to the roll. Between 11:00 and 13:00 + 2 is added to the roll, 13:00 and 14:00 no modifier is added, 14:00 and 15:00 -1 is added to the roll, and finally after 15:00 until nightfall -2 is added to the dice roll. This alters the probablilty of being in clear weather or thick fog, depending on the time of day.

Similarly, the arrival of Pappenheim and his men is given to chance. It’s known that he appeared shortly after 12:00, so to account for this at 12:05 a dice roll of 6 will allow Pappenheim’s men to appear on the board. At 12:10 a dice roll of 5,6 is needed, 12:15 4-6 is needed and this dice modification of shortening odds continues at 5 minutes intervals until at 12:30 the troops definitely arrive on the board. Rules used in the games can be found in this link.

A final point:- the little puffs of white cotten wool on the battlefield pictures below signify firing and the clouds of white smoke it made, the ‘fog of war’ that black powder produced.

Move 1 (10:45)

The Swedish army, led by their King Gustavus Adolphus finish singing “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” and begin to sing “Verzage nicht du Hauflein klein“, King Gustavus‘s own battle hymn.

Be not dismayed, thou little flock,
Although the foe’s fierce battle shock,
Loud on all sides assail thee.
Though o’er thy fall they laugh secure,
Their triumph cannot long endure,
Let not thy courage fail thee.

He signals the advance, and the cannons ring out, sending their shot through the mist at the enemy.

Wallenstein the Imperial commander sees the Swedes through the fog, a straggling line of sinners. He has recalled Pappenheim and his men to the field. If his troops can hold on until they arrive, then surely the Lord of Hosts will give the day to his men and not to these Northmen.

A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

Above the fray, Auster the God of fog breathes his mists over the plains of Lützen. He cares little for these mortals arguments. The visibility at 400m is enough for these men to see their emnity reflected.

Move 2 (10:50)

The Swedes march on in the centre, led by General Major Brahe. On the left, Gustavus Adolphus starts to wheel the cavalry around to outflank the Imperialists facing his men. The Swedes are singing the last verse of their hymn.

Our hope is sure in Jesus’ might;
Against themselves the godless fight,
Themselves, not us, distressing;
Shame and contempt their lot shall be;
God is with us, with Him are we; To us belongs His blessing.

The Imperialists before them, Catholics, count the beads on their rosaries as they retice their Pater Nosters and Ave Marias. There is still time to find redemption before the bullets start flying.

Move 3 (10:55)

Gustavus’s men continue to wheel, Brahe’s men continue to close on the enemy. There is no singing now, only the steady beat of drums. The novice soldiers on each side look on in disbelief at what is unfolding before their eyes, as the moment of truth beckons. The veterans of the Imperialists spit into the ground and check their weapons one last time.

Move 4 (11:00)

First contact between the troops, as a fight breaks out between the Swedish cavalry, interspersed with musketeers against the less well trained Croats. The Imperialist artillery fire on the Swedes, unnerving them.

Move 5 (11:05)

The Swedish cavalry under artillery fire break in confusion. To their right, Gustavus Adolphus and his men fight the Croats. The first line of infantry have now almost closed to fire contact. What was once cloaked in mist is now plainly visible.

Move 6 (11:10)

Gustavus Adolphus falls wounded to a lucky pistol shot from a Croat in the mêlée.

Sweden and all Protestant will grieve in due course for the lost Lion of the North. Catholic Europe will sing Te Deums for their deliverance.

Salvum fac populum tuum,
Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.

The Swedish cavalry press on their attack, seeking vengence. The Swedish and Imperialist infantry send each other into a disorganised state as push of pike takes over from the musket exchange.

Move 7 (11:15)

The first line of Imperialist infantry wavers and breaks at the end under the Swedish assault, creating a dangerous gap in the line. As if to underline the danger, the Imperialist General Colloredo falls to a musket ball as the troops he stood before crumple under the assault.

The Croats responsible for the fall of the Swedish King break in confusion. All goes badly for the Imperialsts, except on the extreme left, where their cavalry hold the Swedes on the line of the River Flossgraben.

Auster, the God of fog, sucks his breath in and the mists disappear over the plains of Lützen. The folly of men is for all to see.

Move 8 (11:20)

Remember Magdeburg! Magdeburg Quarter! ” roar the Swedes as the Imperialst front line crumples even further into retreat, throwing the troops they flee past into chaos.

Providence has spoken again, the battle  is all but won by the Swedes, or is it? News of the fall of their King reaches the Swedish blue regiment. A flicker of doubt creeps into their hearts.

Wallenstein has no time for doubt. He must lead a cavalry counterattack to stem the haemorrhage of troops in his centre or lose all.  “Vorwärts”! he shouts, and the men of his right wing obey.

Move 9 (11:25)

The counter charge in the centre scatters the Swedish Blue Regiment, as their defensive hedgehog breaks under the pistol shots and sabres of the Imperialist cavalry.

On the extreme left, by the River Flossgraben,  the Swedish cavalry also scatters before the Imperialists, as the truth of the loss of their King sinks in, and unnerves their fighting resolve.

Move 10 (11:30)

The scattering of the Swedish cavalry continues, and their retreat puts fresh heart into the Croats, who stop retreating. The Swedish infantry are pressed back by the Imperialist cavalry, with more troopers rushing to try their luck on the last standing Swedish infantry regiment in their front line.

Wallenstein’s gamble has paid off so far. He rides to rally the infantry in the centre, who begin to come to order again.

On the far right, Duke Bernhard receives news of the  fall of Gustavus Adolphus in silence.  He is, by seniority, the new leader of the army. The battlefield is quiet at his end, with no chance of an attack by the Imperialists. He shall take his cavalry with him to reinforce the army, and lead it to avenge the death of his King.

Fortuna Belli has favoured first one side, and then the other. Where her eventual indulgence will fall is not yet clear. Only time, and more fighting will tell.

Move 11 (11:35)

Duke Bernhard begins wheeling his cavalry around behind the second line of Swedes in the centre.

The front line of Swedish infantry suffers a furious cavarly charge and much of the infantry is thrown into confusion in the mêlée.

Behind this battle line, Wallenstein continues to rally the Imperialist infantry in the centre.

Move 12 (11:40)

Mars rides with the Imperialist cavalry as the Swedish infantry breaks before the onslaught. The riders hew down those who stand, those who run. Providence was with the Swedes just a short while ago?

The Imperialist infantry threaten to sweep forward and complete the partial victory won by the cavalry.

Wallenstein knows that if Pappenheim and his men come to the field soon, he can win against the odds, and the gratitude of the Emperor will be great indeed.  His mercenary heart knows such praise may beckon pay and further privilege.

On the left, the Imperialist cavalry pulls back behind the River Flossgraben under the command of Holk. Much of the Swedish cavalry first attack continues to rout.

Move 13 (11:45)

In the centre, one small clump of Swedish infantry valliantly battles on against a caracole attack by the Imperialist cavalry. Another clump breaks under the cavalry assault.

To the right, a mass of  Imperialist cavalry ride on to face the Swedish infantry second line. They are made of sterner stuff than their compatriots, and they stands their ground, in a defensive ‘hedgehog’, bristling with lowered pikes.

To the rear of this action, Holk leads the Swedish cavalry of their left wing towards the centre.

Move 14 (11:50)

The cavalry vs infantry battle in the centre rages on, with the Imperialsts getting the worst, as a troop of Swedish cavalry scatter the cavalry on the right. The Swedish infantry hold firm, a shore against the waves of horses.

Wallenstein has succeeded in rallying the Imperialst infantry behind the front line.

Move 15 (11:55)

The Imperialist cavalry retire in confusion, and the Swedes have held for now. The cavalry charge gave the Imperialsts breathing space, enough time for Pappenheim and his men to close the distance to the field.

The victorious regiment of Swedish cavalry sweep through the gap between the Imperialist infantry in the centre and on the right as they pursue the fleeing cavalry.

Move 16 (12:00)

The cluster of Swedes that fought off the Imperialst infantry pit their arms against a regiment of Imperialists who swiftly become disorganised in the push of pike. The Imperialst cavalry by their side retire through a gap between the infantry.

The small regiment of Swedish cavalry continue to pursue the Imperialists, but notice they are now separated way ahead of their comrades, and also a regiment of cavalry, led by Wallenstein is riding towards them. Instinct tells them they should return back to their own lines.

The Swedish cavalry of the left wing has now reached the centre of the battlefield.

Move 17 (12:05)

The Swedes win the push of pike and sends the imperialist infantry back in disarray.

The small regiment of Swedish cavalry on the right hand side of the battle plunge into the flank of an imperialist regiment of infantry, who break in disarray and begin running towards their cannon on a hill for safety.

Wallenstein leads his cavalry group towards the successful Swedes. If he can catch them, he will be extracted his revenge.

Move 18 (12:10)

The Swedish cavalry on the right-hand side of the battle continue to harass the Imperialist infantry regiment which flees in terror. But help is at hand, Imperialist cavalry ride towards them in the certitude they will overwhelm their enemy. Meanwhile Wallenstein continues his advance to their rear in the hope of encircling them.

In the centre, ebb and flow is order of the day. The reformed Swedish line joined the victorious group of infantry which has just seen off the Imperialists. However to their rear, a small group of cavalrymen break the extreme of the Swedish second line.

Far to the rear, the Protestant cavalry has nearly completed its transfer from one side of the battlefield to the other.

Wallenstein‘s wish has been granted. Pappenheim has arrived on the battlefield with his reserve of Imperialist cavalry.

Move 19 (12:15)

Pappenheim‘s cavalry waits for their leader to survey the battlefield and pick their spot for deployment.

In the centre the Imperialist infantry strengthens its line, ready for renewed struggle with the Swedes.

On the right, the isolated Swedish squadron pursues the broken Imperialist infantry, but slowly, surely the Imperialist cavalry are riding to surround it.

Move 20 (12:20)

Pappenheims men ride to the left flank as it is clear that is where the Swedes are massing for a counter attack.

Close to the artillery near the Flossgraben, the Swedish blue regiment has successfully repulsed the squadron of Imperialist cavalry attacking them, which in turn routs away disorganised.

On the right flank, the successful Swedish squadron is quickly scattered by the surrounding Imperialist cavalry. The survivors from this melee make their way towards a gap in the line of infantry advancing towards the Imperialists.

Move 21 (12:25)

Redeployments govern the battlefield as troops reorganise into new battle lines.

The Imperialists now have an arc of troops from one side of the battlefield to the other, infantry in the centre, cavalry on both flanks. This is the norm and Minerva, the Goddess of strategy approves.

The Swedes have denuded their right flank of cavalry and drawn everything towards the left where squadrons still ride to complete their redeployment. This is a bold strategy, born of desperation at the death of their king. Its success will surely live on the whims of Fortuna Belli once the action has started.

The infantry lines in the centre make their way towards each other, drums beating and flags flying. Both sides have tested each other’s mettle this morning, and more will be tested this afternoon.

Move 22 (12:30)

The Swedish blue regiment marches forwards to engage the imperialist artillery on the extreme of their left flank.  They immediately come under attack from a squadron of Imperialist cavalry and artillery fire which tests their resolve. The Swedes nerves hold, as their defensive hedgehog fights off the cavalry.

Auster the God of fog breathes his mists once more over the plains of Lützen.

On the Swedish left flank, the second line of cavalry sweeps round as all are still in motion. The Imperialists cannot see this movement but can hear something sizeable is happening.

Neither the Swedish or Imperialist infantry in the centre push further forward, each waiting for the other to make the move.

Move 23 (12:35)

Auster’s mists still cover the battlefield, masking the redeployment of the second line of Swedish cavalry.

The Swedish blue regiment successfully fights off the Imperialist cavalry squadron which retires disorganised. They have served their nation and their faith well today.

Move 24 (12:40)

With an impetuousity born of success, and perhaps guided by Mars, the Swedish blue regiment marches forwards directly towards the Imperialist artillery tormenting them.  Their good order breaks down in the process and the men become disorganised. An Imperialist infantry regiment advances to add flanking fire onto the Swedes. How long can they last?

Move 25 (12:45)

The arid bliss self belief provokes addled the Swedish blue regiment. Their charge has ended in failure and they break before the triple torment of infantry, cavalry and artillery fire.

The mist lifts and Pappenheim can see that the Swedish cavalry are forming one long line. This threatens to outflank his men. They must punch through their centre when the attack comes.

On the other flank, the remaining Swedish cavalry begin riding toward the centre.

Move 26 (12:50)

The Swedish blue regiment regain their nerve as they draw level with the main battle line.

The Swedish cavalry have now formed their long battle line.

Move 27 (12:55)

Artillery exchange fire, but elsewher a terrible calm descends on the battlefield. No side will test the others resolve.

Move 28 (13:00)

The Swedish cavalry begin to advance. Pappenheims men, veterans all, will them closer so battle can begin.

Move 29 (13:05)

The Swedes begin shortening their cavalry line by forming a traditional double line. Pappenheim sees this leaves a gap between them and their infantry centre. If he can scatter the cavalry facing him, he could roll up the exposed flank of the Swedish infantry. If…

Move 30 (13:10)

The Swedes continue their redeployments. The Imperialists wait.

Move 31 (13:15)

Auster’s mists roll over the battlefield once more, masking the redeployment of the Swedish cavalry.

Move 32 (13:20)

The Swedes on the right wing have finished their movement.

Move 33 (13:25)

Framåt! Gud vara med oss!

In the mists  Pappenheim and his men hear the Swedish cavalry advance, and glimpse them emerge through the fog.

Move 34 (13:30)

Auster’s breath increases and the fog plunges the visibility to 100m.  Only at the left flank of the Swedish advance can the two protagonists see each other, as both sides ready for the deadly embrace.

Move 35 (13:35)

In thick fog the first honours go to the Swedes, with their interspersed cavalry and infantry scattering the end of Imperialist cavalry. The fog masks the gap opened between Pappenheim and his men and the artillery at the end of the Imperialist infantry line.

Move 36 (13:40)

The Swedish cavalry wave continues on through the mists, Pappenheim  supporting his men.

Move 37 (13:45)

The mists lift a little and battle is joined along the length of the Imperialists right flank. The Swedes have crossed the Flossgraben, threatening the flank of the Imperialist infantry. A cavalry squadron rides forward to intercept.

Move 38 (13:50)

Fortuna Belli smiles on the Swedes, as they progress against the Imperialist cavalry which shatters under the assault. Wallenstein cannot tell which way the battle is going on his flank but senses with trepidation that the sound of battle is moving towards him, indicating his men aren’t holding their ground.

Move 39 (13:55)

The situation on the left flank of the Imperialists line worsens as a Swedish squadron captures the Imperialist artillery. This threatens their entire infantry line with flanking fire. The regiment at the end of the line falls back, fearful of their position. With Pappenheim busy rallying his men, a cavalry counter charge must fall to Wallenstein who senses the danger his army is in. He moves to the nearest cavalry and urges them to follow him.

Move 40 (14:00)

The battle rages between the Swedish cavalry and the Imperialists on their left flank, with the Imperialists holding their own. Wallenstein and the cavalry ride towards the captured artillery battery, now in Swedish hands, who fire on the approaching men.

Move 41 (14:05)

The Swedes are driven back to the Flossgraben river, and a fierce cavalry mêlée breaks out around the captured artillery unit. The battle is in the balance again.

Move 42 (14:10)

Wallenstein and his men overwhelm the Swedish cavalry defending the captured artillery unit whose fate once again hangs in the balance. If the Imperialists can resecure this vital components to their line, the battle may swing back to them yet.

Regardless of this event,  the long line of Swedish and Protestant infantry begins the approach towards the Imperialists to settle the matter once and for all by the push of pike.

Move 43 (14:15)

The artillery piece becomes a central target in the struggle, as the Swedes counter-attack, preventing the imperialists from remanning the guns and using them.

The advance of the Swedish and Protestant infantry is slow down on the extreme right by a headlong charge of Imperialist cavalry, forcing the end regiments into a defensive hedgehog. The Swedish infantry falters, becoming disorganised.

Move 44 (14:20)

The Swedish cavalry once again forces off the imperialists trying to recapture the artillery. The guns belong to the Swedes again, who will shortly begin pummelling the Imperialists when the opportunity presents itself.

On the left flank of the Imperialists a major cavalry battle has broken out as the Swedes try their luck one more time. Both sides in the chaos and confusion of the fighting and the fog become disorganised. The Swedes still have a line of reserves to fall back on, but should the Imperialists lose the whole position of their army is exposed. Sensing this, the Imperialist infantry begins slowly withdrawing seeking to delay the moment of truth with their opposite number.

Things go better for the Imperialists on their right flank, as one of the cavalry squadrons breaks through Swedish Green regiment, putting the men to the sword as they drive on.

Move 45 (14:25)

The judgment of Fortuna Belli comes down on the Swedish side. Their cavalry have scattered Pappenheim and his men, exposing the entire army’s flank. The disorganised remnants of the Imperialist cavalry ride towards the edge of the battlefield, seeking safety in the fog through speed and distance from their tormentors.

The Imperialist infantry begins retreat in earnest, sensing that the battle can no longer be won. The Swedish infantry, with a hole punched through its left flank seems none too keen to advance, as thetheir Green regiments suffers grievously at the hands of the victorious Imperialist squadron pursuing them. Help may be on its way as a small Swedish cavalry squadron rides to intercept them.

Move 46 (14:30)

A majority of the Imperialist cavalry has fled the battlefield. Their infantry pulls back steadfastly seeking the same safety. Even the artillery on the hill above the town of Lützen makes its own way off the battlefield.

The Imperialist cavalry squadron pursuing the Swedish Green regiment is scattered by the countercharge of the Swedish cavalry. They ride headlong for the gap that means safety for them, leaving the survivors of the Swedish Green regiment to run headlong away from the conflict until they regain their nerves.

Move 47 (14:35)

The Swedes advance again en masse, as they seek to close down on the remaining Imperialist units. Equally these men seek their safety but retreat in good order.

Move 48 (14:40)

On go the Swedes, back go the Imperialists. A mass of Swedish cavalry is gathering for the final assault, for they can close the distance long before their infantry can cause any further harm.

Move 49 (14:45)

“Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered:
let them also that hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away:
as wax melteth before the fire,
so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.”

With the words of the 68th Psalm, beloved of the Calvinists in their ears, the Swedish cavalry close in upon one poor unfortunate Imperialist infantry regiment. Surrounded, it will be made to pay for the sins of the rest of their army, as quarter will neither be given or asked.

The rest of the Imperialist army shall escape to fight another day, in another place.

Victoria  awards the day to the Swedes and the German Protestants. Despite the loss of their dead king, they have clinched the battle, and although this victory is melancholic due to the passing of their monarch, they have succeeded in avenging his loss and securing Protestant Germany.

Northern Europe will mourn the fallen Lion King. Farewell faithful servant; the star that burns twice as bright lasts half as long.

From afar,  Mars and Pax know this battle’s outcome can only seek to prolong the war, as the death of Gustavus Adolphus gives the Imperialists enough hope to continue the struggle.

Wallenstein  and his defeated men retire into the fog and the approaching gloom.  Wallenstein  does not know yet of the fall of Gustavus Adolphus, but will seek to make this the principal outcome of the battle to the Emperor when he is summoned to explain his army’s defeat.

A little more resource your Majesty, more money and men, and I can overwhelm these Northmen yet for your honour and the greater glory of the Church.

The Emperor will see through these words, but accept the premise.

The entire battle sequence is available as an animated gif, best viewed in Windows picture viewer.

The Generals fighting this battle were

Gustavus Adolphus