Small Herbsthausen – A Tilly’s Very Bad Day Scenario

This scenario represents the Battle of Herbsthausen (5 May 1645; also called Battle of Mergentheim) using Tilly’s Very Bad Day. For the third time in a row Mercy’s Bavarian army smashed the French (this time under Turenne). Given the number of troops involved in the real battle, this is a small game on a small table with small armies (in numbers of units).

Historical Situation

Setting: Near Mergentheim, Franconia, 5 May 1645 (Gregorian Calendar)

Mercy, commander of the Bavarians, was ordered to support the Imperialists and detached 5-8,000 men. These fought at Jankau (6 Mar 1645). With the Swedish victory at Jankau, Cardinal Mazarin ordered Turenne to try to knock Bavaria out of the war. Turenne crossed the Speyer on 26 March 1645 with 11,000 men, pushed up the Neckar and then into Franconia. The Bavarians were to the south. Mercy feigned defeatism, avoided contact, and built up his forces. By April Turenne was struggling to supply his small army and billeted his army around Mergentheim.

60 km away, at Feuchtwangen, Mercy was ready to strike. 1,500 Bavarian horse had returned from Jankau and Werth arrived with more men giving Mercy 9,650 men and 9 guns. He force marched to challenge the French at Mergentheim. A French patrol spotted the Bavarians approaching at 0200 hours and alerted Turenne. Mercy camped about 2 km from the French positions giving Turenne some hours to assemble what troops he could – 3,000 horse and 3,000 foot. Rosen took the foot and formed a defensive line south-west of Herbsthausen in a small wood. Turenne then deployed the cavalry to Rosen’s left. Another 3,000 Frenchmen were still on their way when the Bavarians attacked at dawn.


Map is based on one found at Weapons and Warfare: The Battles of Herbsthausen and Allerheim. The square map area is 2.8 km by 2.8 km; this shrinks to 2.8 km by 1.9 km for the shallow option.

Table - Herbsthausen - Tillys Very Bad Day
Table – Herbsthausen – Tillys Very Bad Day

Key features are:

  • A small table of 30 TUM x 30 TUM (this is 4′ x 4′ with my 80 wide bases)
  • Shallow small table lines for those who want a more smaller battlefield – these are the thin green dotted lines – use as the base edges
  • Flank lines – these are the grey dotted lines – used for deployment
  • Two woods: Large (8 x 6 TUM) and Small (4 TUM; part of the Kummer Forest)
  • Medium hill (6 x 4 TUM)
  • Road

Pre-game preparation

Normal rules for deployment, and bombardment.

Only the Bavarians can bombard. The French cannon deployed limbered so cannot participate in bombardment.

There are no Light Horse or Dragoons so ignore the scouting rules.

Defending Player (Defending)


Forces Available

Turenne had 3,000 horse and 3,000 foot at the battle.

French Order of Battle

  • Right Wing (5 Units; 20 Coins)
    • 1 x Commander (Rosen)
    • 3 x Pike+Shot and/or Shot1
    • 1 x Horse
  • Left Wing (6 Units; 24 Coins )
    • 1 x Commander (Vicomte de Turenne)
    • 5 x Horse
  • Initial Force: 11 Units; 44 Coins; 4 break point
  • With French Artillery reinforcements: 12 Units; 46 Coins; 4 break point
  • With French Cavalry reinforcements: 14 Units; 54 Coins; 5 break point
  • With French Infantry reinforcements: 16 Units; 62 Coins; 6 break point

(1) The French foot would have been Pike+Shot. I have given an option of Shot as they deployed in the woods. The French can have three Pike+Shot or three Shot or a combination. [Thanks to Roger C for this suggestion.]


All units deploy behind the blue dotted line.

Normal deployment rules apply e.g. all Pike+Shot units must deploy in the centre (between the grey dotted flank lines).


Historically, the French artillery (6 guns) did not arrive in time to participate in battle but was on the road. Turenne also had 3,000 men billeted in nearby villages. These did not make it to the battle, however, three squadrons of horse met Turenne as he was fleeing the field. The rest were infantry. I assume that if the French had held out longer these reinforcements would have arrived.

All reinforcements arrive on the French base edge in the centre zone.

The Game Turn arrival is for a Small table. On a Shallow Small table the arrival times are one Game Turn later.

Billeted French Reinforcements

  • French Artillery (1 Unit; arrive Game Turn 1)
    • 1 x Limbered Cannons
  • French Cavalry (2 Units; arrive Game Turn 4)
    • 2 x Horse
  • French Infantry (2 Units; arrive Game Turn 8)
    • 2 x Pike+Shot

Bavarian Player (Attacking)

Begins scenario with initiative.


The Bavarian force is attacking. If there is no result within 10 Turns, they lose the battle.

Forces Available

Mercy had 9,650 men and 9 guns.

Bavarian Order of Battle

  • Right Wing (5 Units; 20 Coins)
    • 1 x Commander (Kolb)
    • 4 x Horse
  • Centre (7 Units; 26 Coins)
    • 1 x Commander (Mercy)
    • 5 x Pike+Shot
    • 1 x Horse
    • 1 x Unlimbered Cannon
  • Left Wing (5 Units; 20 Coins )
    • 1 x Commander (Werth)
    • 4 x Horse
  • 17 Units; 66 Coins; 6 break point


Deploys behind the red dotted line.

Normal deployment rules apply e.g. all Pike+Shot units must deploy in the centre (between the grey dotted flank lines).

Cannon deploy unlimbered.



Victory Conditions

Normal victory conditions apply. A side loses when, in the Army Morale step, they have reached their army break point (lost at least ⅓ of the original Units). If there is not a result within 10 Game Turns then the attacker loses.

Scenario Special Rules



Nominal unit size: 1000 for Pike+Shot; 500 for Horse; 6-9 guns for Cannon.

The French foot was relatively inexperienced. So you could, if you wanted to make it tougher for the French, make them Inferior. But I suspect that is unnecessary as it is already a pretty tough job for the French. You might want to go the other way and make it easier for the French, in which case give them Horse Superior.

Where to get Tilly’s Very Bad Day

Tilly’s Very Bad Day is available for Download (PDF).


Guthrie, W. P. (2002). The Later Thirty Years War: From the Battle of Wittstock to the Treaty of Westphalia. Greenwood Press.

Herbsthausen is covered on pp. 214-217 and Appendix C: Battle of Mergentheim/Marienthal, pp. 227-228.

Weapons and Warfare: The Battles of Herbsthausen and Allerheim

Wilson, P. H. (2010). Europe’s Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War. Penguin.

Wikipedia: Battle of Herbsthausen

5 thoughts on “Small Herbsthausen – A Tilly’s Very Bad Day Scenario”

  1. As it stands, I agree this is a tough scenario for the French, particularly if you make their infantry inexperienced. I’ve been thinking about possible changes to give them a slightly better chance.

    I wonder what would happen if the wood was a normal one, and the French troops in it were shot, rather than pike+shot? If we assume they were deployed in the wood deliberately, then there is a (weak) argument that their formation would be adapted to those conditions.

    From the Weapons and Warfare map (which seems the one used by Wilson as well), should the top left corner be another wood, which would stop or at least slow Kolb’s cavalry from swinging round the rear of the French army? That wood isn’t shown on the Wikipedia map, but I have my doubts about that, as it would put the battle about 5km from Herbsthausen, which seems a bit far, particularly when Wikipedia also says Mercy was 2km from Herbsthausen when contact was made.


    • Roger

      it is very tough for the French. I was thinking about giving the French horse a morale bonus (Superior), not because it historical but because it would even up the game.

      I found several mutually contradictory maps. I initially followed the map in Wikipedia but found it didn’t correspond to the accounts of the battle.

      Following the map on Weapons and Warfare, you are right that the Kummer wood should encroach slightly into the top left corner of the map. I’ll add this as part of a v3.

      I like your idea about shot. Perhaps as an option e.g. 3 x Pike+Shot and/or Shot.

      I don’t like special rules if I can avoid them. I think a normal wood would be simpler. Particularly if the French can deploy as Shot.

      • I have made these tweaks: Added Kummer Forest; option of French Shot; normal Large Wood.

        Worth another play test.

  2. I’ve now tried this scenario twice, solo, using the advanced ‘command morale’ rules, and shot not pike+shot in the wood. The French lost both times, but the games had some differences, and were decided by the foot.

    In the first game, Kolb’s horse beat Turenne’s, but then pursued off the table when Turenne’s command broke. Werth made short work of Rosen’s single horse unit but didn’t want to face the shot in the wood. It was down to Mercy’s infantry to attack the wood and eventually defeat the shot. The French artillery and horse reinforcements arrived but were too few to have sufficient effect. They were held at bay by Mercy’s horse unit and one of the pike+shot.

    In the second game, Turenne beat Kolb and remarkably didn’t pursue. However, Turenne’s command was so weakened that Mercy’s horse and one of the pike+shot were able to finish them off, Mercy’s horse pursuing them from the field. Again, it was down to Mercy’s infantry to beat the shot in the wood before the French reinforcing cavalry could have effect.

    In order to use ‘command morale’, the French reinforcements had to have a command assignment. I put the artillery with Rosen, but made the horse a separate command, with an additional French commander. I would have used the same commander for the French reinforcing foot, if they had arrived.

    I made one small rule modification, putting heroics before commander loss and morale erosion. Otherwise, I’d twice have had units reach 0 resolve, and be eliminated, before they could benefit from the heroics resolve uplift. I thought the routing of the unit in front of them would be more immediate than the loss of adjacent friends, and keeping units on the table is important in a very small game.


    • thanks for sharing Roger. They sound good games with some interesting twists and turns.

      I’ll think about your rule tweak. I understand the rationale.


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