I tend to focus on the Thirty Years War in western and central Europe. Tilly’s Very Bad Day is written with this same focus. But there was a lot going on in the East. Russia, Poland and the Ottoman Empire were all big players. Even closer to home there was also the Hungarians and Transylvanians – sandwiched between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottomans – and they could field large armies in their own right. So how can we / should we represent these armies in Tilly’s Very Bad Day? I don’t know the answer so figured we should do some “spitballing” on the topic.
The discussion so far
Scattered through the comments of the posts on Tilly’s Very Bad Day, you’ll find mention of the eastern armies. Here are all the ones I found.
What about Lancers
Some armies featured lancers. In the Spanish and Imperial service the guard companies retained lance throughout the war. I see no need to simulate these in a game focussed on brigades.
More eastern armies, e.g. Polish, continued to rely on the lance. But I think the generic rules for horse cater for these without modification. It might be that Polish Winged Hussars have a preference for charging. That is up to the player.
samacw (24 Aug 2019) commented:
I’m not sure I’d agree about the winged hussars counting simply as horse, but it’s a matter of interpretation.
The other cavalry issue with any eastern European conflict is the presence of what is essentially medieval light cavalry – be they cossacks, Tatars, Turks, pancerni, or others. Would you just roll them into the arquebusier class?
It’s an intersting question if you try to make rules that can deal with eastern and western armies in the same place – battles between Sweden and Poland, Sweden and Russia or Austria and Turkey are always fascinating
Steven (28 Aug 2019) commented:
Sam, I realised after I wrote this post, that I neglected to mention that Tilly’s Very Bad Day has a second category of cavalry called “Light Horse”. That covers all the eastern European cavalry types and specifically Croats, Polish Cossacks, and Hungarian Hussars (the ones that appeared in Catholic armies of the Thirty Years War).
This post is about the western European horse. The (more-or-less) heavies.
John Rohde (22 Oct 2019) commented:
I struggle to think of a battle of the period where light horse had much influence. They were cheap and could be a nuisance to the enemy off the battlefield but they seem to have been mainly used in the war of outposts, much like Cossacks.
Steven (22 Oct 2019) commented:
In this period, Light Horse could literally be Cossacks.
They were certainly not battle winners. Their main value was at the campaign level, hence my ideas about scouting.
But they were deployed on the battlefield. Usually on the flanks.
I think the tweaks I’m suggesting will leave them on the flanks, because they can’t stand up to horse in a face to face confrontation. But they will be more valuable.
Chris Harrod (23 Oct 2019) commented:
I think the unspoken assumption here is that all troop types should have their own use on the battlefield. Surely battles are fought in a historical context, and historically you didn’t get to choose all the troops you had to hand. If light horse was wonderful (or very useful) why would people spend a fortune on armouring it and training them to fight in close order? Presumably “skirmishing with pistol while mounted, harassing the enemy flanks, and joining in the pursuit” is just a description of some rubbish irreguars you drafted in to your army to make up the numbers?
Steven (24 Oct 2019) commented:
> I think the unspoken assumption here is that all troop types should have their own use on the battlefield.
> Surely battles are fought in a historical context, and historically you didn’t get to choose all the troops you had to hand.
That is true. But doesn’t change the argument.
> If light horse was wonderful (or very useful) why would people spend a fortune on armouring it and training them to fight in close order?
They hired different guys to fight as horse, whether armoured or not, and whether charging or shooting.
Whereas Light Horse, whether Croats, Huzars, and Cossacks, had a different approach to war. Different but valuable.
> Presumably “skirmishing with pistol while mounted, harassing the enemy flanks, and joining in the pursuit” is just a description of some rubbish irreguars you drafted in to your army to make up the numbers?
Nope. At least the “rubbish irregulars” bit.
The Hapsburgs valued their light horse. Raised many regiments of them during the course of the war, and had a peak of least 5 regiments of them at one point.
“skirmishing with pistol while mounted, harassing the enemy flanks, and joining in the pursuit” was their battlefield role. Which is not too inspiring, just a reflection of their shock capabilities.
The real value of light horse was in between battles. Hence the scouting suggestion above.
It was experience of the Hapsburg’s light horse during the TYW that encouraged western European nations to hire / raise their own Hussar units. They filled a niche that other horse did not.
I got that wrong. The Imperialists peaked at 10 regiments of Croats. Plus more recruited on an irregular basis.
Some quotes on the Croats from Brnardic on the Imperialist army … “Exceptionally useful light cavalry. Tough and experienced, they were led by daring commanders who were capable of rapid assessment of a developing situation, and decisive judgement. Each man was a skilled horseman and close quarter fighter”.
“As their numbers grew the name ‘Croat’ became synonymous across Europe with skilled, mobile light troops.”
So “rubbish irregulars”? … no.
John Mumby (25 Oct 2019) commented:
Just as an observation, I believe the light raw horse at White Mountain were Transylvanians and fled the battle very early on. I guess they were truly “rubbish irregulars.”
Steven (25 Oct 2019) commented:
That is why I have unit quality separate from unit type.
J. Streetman (28 May 2020) commented:
Hey, thanks for doing all this. I was wondering if at some point you would add rules for eastern armies(Russia, Poland, Ottomans, etc.) in the time period. Or at least suggest some values for the advantages/disadvantages I see common to them.
Excellent steppe cavalry: Advantage to scouting? Disadvantage to damage due to archery?
Fanatical and devastating charges: Infantry Advantage to charging, maybe full flanking bonus to front-flank? Disadvantage to getting charged by Cav due to shorter weapons. (swords, bardiches, etc.)?
Higher percentage of and reliance on cavalry: Maybe extra cav resolve traded for lower infantry resolve?
Idk just spitballing. Some suggestions or an official addendum would be neat. Really like your work. Thanks for listening if you do.
Steven (28 May 2020) commented:
Hi J, thanks for the suggestion. I would love to add the eastern armies. I admit that is unfamiliar ground for me. I might start with a post about it. See who else is interested.
Questions for you
My assumption that a combination of these troop types would be enough to field eastern armies:
- Horse for close formation mounted shooters/chargers
- Light Horse for skirmishing masses
- Shot for firepower based infantry
- Rabble for the great unwashed
As I told J. Streetman, I’m not very familiar with the eastern armies. So I need your help to shine a light on what needs to be fixed. Here are some questions to get you going …
What am I missing?
What were the unique troop types, only found in the east?
What new weapon systems need to explicitly factored into the rules?
Where would using current troop types bend reality too far?
And what sources are best for the eastern armies?