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Personal logo Endless Grubs Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2009 1:29 p.m. PST

I've read a few sample pages at the Vault and I see they've been out since at least 2004. What's your opinion of them in terms of playability, realism, and (dare I say it) fun?

Thanks in advance!

Qurchi Bashi03 Aug 2009 1:52 p.m. PST

I just got the new version today. It's not the same as the original version published on the web in 2004. The new version is optimized for 28mm figures, with figure removal of casualties and such – whereas the older version treated a unit as single entity. Not that it wouldn't work with other scales…

The mechanics are a little different than any other game I've seen, but they seem like they work. Sort of a variation on opposed dice rolls for combat. They look to be pretty simple and should pick up quickly once you get the idea. They are not very complicated but give a lot of scope for variability and results so I imagine they could be very playable.

There has been some discussion about realism, but it seems fine to me based on my reading. There was a lot of changes in tactics during the period, but he seems to give lots of options for different formations and tactics of different troops. The period supplements have army lists for different periods of the war so you can adjust the units to model the change in tactics.

Fun, I haven't played them yet, so I can't say. But the army tokens (event cards) look like they could add a lot of fun and variation to a fairly simple basic system.

Daniel S03 Aug 2009 2:20 p.m. PST

The realism is poor in many parts, the perofmance, tactics and equipment of the armies are often portrayed in a manner which has little or no fundation in historical fact. A result of the author of the rules having used only English sources, mainly Guthrie's flawed works. Indeed not even Guthrie supports the way in which some units are portrayed.

For example the Catholic Leauge army led by Tilly is portrayed as using "tercios" with more pikes than shot. In reality there was no such thing as a tercio formation and the Leuagist regiments were recruited with more shot than pike. (Quite a bit more in some cases as several regiments were recuited with a ratio of 200 shot to 90 pike/halberd. The most pike heavy Leaugist regiment still had 60% shot on paper and in the field the Leaugist army suffered from the same shortage of pikemen as all other armies of the period.

The description of Gustavus army states "Most cavalry will count as having no armour, the Swedish king preferred greater mobility over protection." A statement which would have surprised the King given the considerable sums he expended in order to have his cavalry properly equiped with armour. In 1630-1631 alone more than 8000 sets of cavalry armour were issued by the Crown and that is not counting the armour issued previously, armour supplied by the troopers themselves or armour captured in Germany.

There there is the lumbering 25-40 deep 'tercios', caracoling cuirassiers and galloping Finns all of whom have no place on a TYW battlefield.

Jovian103 Aug 2009 2:31 p.m. PST

What sources are you referencing Daniel? I've read Guthrie – which was a fun read – but I've not heard many detractors. So could you point me to some additional reading materials. I've read many of the old sources on the Thirty Year War (book of same name, forget author's name at the moment), and some others, but have yet to really delve into this period. Thanks!

Dan Cyr03 Aug 2009 5:49 p.m. PST

The rules work well, are fun and there is a large support group on Yahoo.


Phillius Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Aug 2009 10:21 p.m. PST

It would be nice if someone who had access to non English texts on the TYW, and had the ability to translate them, actually did so…..

Mind you, it is easier to sit in the wings and through grenades I suppose.

I enjoyed Guthrie and will happily game using rules based on interpretations from them, in lieu of anything else being available.

nsolomon9904 Aug 2009 4:11 a.m. PST

Another period I'm interested in but have been waiting for an inspiring set of Rules.

So, Daniel S, what Rules do you use?

vtsaogames04 Aug 2009 7:22 p.m. PST

So there was no such thing as a tercio. Perhaps you can tell us what they were called and how many ranks deep they were.

Old Warrior04 Aug 2009 8:05 p.m. PST

You gents are echoing my thoughts on the issue of Guthrie. What were the real formations and their compositions? With out further detailed elaborations in this regards I'll stick with Guthie until these mythical answers are explained in the kind of details we want and need.

Condottiere05 Aug 2009 12:14 p.m. PST

So there was no such thing as a tercio.

I don't think that's what Daniel S meant. My take on his statement is that TYW tercios were not 25-45 ranks deep, but were shallow (at least by mid 16th century standards). That is my understanding as well, but I'm not an expert on the period.

This site shows Spanish tercios from the 17th century deployed in 10 ranks (scroll down mid page):


Phillius Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Aug 2009 12:20 p.m. PST

You have to be careful when you start talking about Tercios. The term applies to a lot of formations, and a long stretch of history.

The traditional picture, the schematic with sleeves of shot at each corner, is the one we most usually think of. Whether or not that was ever used on the battlefield is a prickly issue. I for one don't believe so, but there are plenty who do.

However, given the TYW period was a development in just about everything else, it is reasonable to assume the Tercio developed as well. But those details are usually assumed to be locked away in the German and Swedish languages of the seventeenth century.

Certainly at the end of the TYW, I believe, formations that were called Tercios, were probably not a lot different from those units that we think of as the more developed formations that went on to become the battalions of later in the century.

Daniel S05 Aug 2009 2:16 p.m. PST

Let's start with the 'tercios', a tercio is a administrative unit used by the Spanish army in the 16th & 17th Centuries, not a combat unit or a formation.
The actual combat unit was the Escaudron (squadron), in a similar way the Swedish infantry was organised into regiments but fought as squadrons and brigades.

The squadron did not have single fixed formation or depth for much of the period.
Instead the squadron would be formed up as needed in one of several diffrent formations (Cuadro de Terreno, El Gente, El prolongado, El pronglado de gran frente and so on)depending on which formation fit the battlefield best. The depth of the formation depended on the formation chosen and the number of troops available. The number of troops present also had an impact on how many 'mangas' (the 'blocks' of shot customarily shown at the corners) were deployed. The tradiotonal number was 4 but at DReux 1562 the Spanish commanders chose to deploy a single strong 'manga' of arquebusiers rather than 4 weak ones.

The Spanish had always known of the value of wider formations, hence the formation known as "El pronglado de gran frente" Indeed Valdes, a highly experienced Spanish soldier, recomended the use of that shallow and wide form of the Escaudron to make the best use of the increased number of musketeers & other shot. ("Espeyo y Disciplina Militar" published in 1589, written as an instruction for the office of Sargento Mayor at the request of the Duke of Alba. Translated into English as "The Sergean Maior" in 1590)

There is an excellent description of Spanish tactics and formations at link Together with the chapter on battles link
it shows that the huge lumbering 45-25 deep 'tercios' found in Guthrie and Father Tilly simply did not exist on the TYW battlefield. (Note that Guthrie and Father Tilly both claim that the Spanish used 25 deep tercios as late as Rocroi)

They also show that far from being a waste of shot the 'manags' were part of of a highly flexible tactical formation and far from being fixed at a corner they could and would move into the postion which allowed the most effective use of their firepower.

So there were indeed no combat formation called a 'tercio' in the TYW. The Spanish army fought in 'squadrons', 'Spanish squadrons' is good name to keep the separate from the ordinary cavalry squadron or the 'Swedish squadron' of Gustavus. And if we can call the Swedish battlefield units 'brigades' then it is surely no problem to use the proper name for the Spanish combations units.

Furthermore the Spanish squadron was not used by the Imperial or Leaugist Armies. As the German states relied heavily on temporary units raised for a particular campaign or war German units tended to lack the training and cohesion needed to make the best possible use of the Spanish squadron. A simpler formation was needed
Around 1600 they relied on a massive regimental formation in which the 10 companies of a regiment formed up in huge square 30 ranks deep.

However Protestant and Catholic commanders alike were dissatisfied with this rather clumsy formation and set out to reform it. Drawing upon his experience from the reforms he had helped develop for the Dutch army Johann von Nassau-Siegen (A cousin of Maurice) divided the huge regiment into 3 battalions, each 1000 men strong, formed up 10 ranks deep. picture
The 1000 man battalion formed up 10 ranks deep became the prefered fighting formation for most German troops influenced bý the Dutch. Even if the size of the battalion varied the 10 rank depth was standard until it was replaced by Swedish style formations formed 6 ranks deep in the 1630's

Giogio Basta link
chose a slightly diffrent road when suggesting reforms to his fellow Imperial/Catholic commanders. He also prefered a 1000 man battalion but used a 12 rank deep formation.
However as German regiments were just about always understrenght the 'Catholic' officers often deployed a regiment as a single overstrenght battalion rather than as 3 understrenght battalions.

The impact of the reforms seen on both sides is shown by the French army's deployment at Julich in 1610
Most of the French army has adopted the 10 rank formation, including the mercenaries from Catholic Lorraine. Only the Swiss use a truly old fashioned formation with their 25 ranks deep "square".

If further evidence is needed that the deep formations described by Guthrie did not exist one has only to read the accounts of the battles left behind by the actual men who fought in them. Take Breitenfeld. Neither Gustavus, Horn, Baner or Monro mention huge 'tercios' formed up 20 or more ranks deep or any advantages the Swedes had from fighting much deeper formations with their 'new' efficient 6 rank deep formations.

Daniel S05 Aug 2009 2:37 p.m. PST

I've discussed the serious problems with Guthrie's work in detail in other threads. Most recently in this one TMP link

I'm amazed at this notion that as long as you write in English about the TYW the ordinary standards of historical research does not apply.
Is it actually ok to write fictional descriptions of battle events, armies and commanders? Does it not bother you in the least that the books you have 'enjoyed' contain large parts with no support whatsoever in the sources?

Imagine the reaction I would get in the Napoleonics section if I published a set of rules which described the Duke of Wellingtons army as fighting only in column had little or no abiltiy to use skirmishers during the Penninsular war.
All based on a single set of books by a Swedish author.

Or the reaction on the ACW board if I wrote a book which described Robert E Lee as an at best average commander who was both rash and quarrelsome. And that he had started life as an orphaned urching on the streets of New York.

Yet because the subject is the TYW were most of the sources is in 'difficult' languages and the authors write in English that kind of errors is ok and should not be criticised unless one translates the available sources into English….

Phillius Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Aug 2009 4:25 p.m. PST

Daniel, thanks for the post, you have certainly cleared up some of the comments.

However, I think you misunderstand people's use of/reliance upon Guthrie. You indeed have pointed out the failings of his books on several occaisions, both here and on at least one Yahoo Group I am aware of.
The problem that I and others on this posting have, are that we don't have access to the non-English texts that confirm the contrary view to Guthrie. This means, that if we want to add detail or depth to our TYW gaming, or our understanding of the period, we have to use what is available, and that is Guthrie.

If you are aware of any English texts that disprove Guthrie and can fill the "void" that I and others share, then please do so.
If, however as I suspect, your references are all non-English, then you have an advantage over us.

I realise, like most of us, you are probably a very busy person. We all have real lives after all. But if you have the information available and the skill set to interpret it into English, perhaps you could combine those for the benefit of your fellow wargamers…….

The 17th century was after all the age of the "pamphlet". Perhaps you would consider publishing similar documents on your translations of the non-English texts that you have available? I'm sure there are plenty of Yahoo Groups that would be only too greatful for you to make such a pamphlet available.

Condottiere05 Aug 2009 7:14 p.m. PST

Review of Guthrie:


My conclusion was that Guthrie--an independent scholar--had provided students of the Thirty Years' War, and of European military history in the age of the "military revolution," with a reference work that was at once both invaluable and highly flawed. Guthrie's successor volume, The Later Thirty Years War: From the Battle of Wittstock to the Treaty of Westphalia, continues in the same tradition set by its predecessor and only serves to reinforce my earlier conclusion.

. . .

In these regards, Guthrie has made a major contribution to the English-language literature on the Thirty Years' War. That contribution, however, is significantly compromised by errors of fact, omission, and above all structure. Although the bibliography reveals that the author has assembled an impressive array of sources, including most (but by no means all) of the relevant German- and English-language literature, Guthrie is notably weaker in his utilization of French, Dutch, Spanish, Swedish, and Danish histories.

Daniel S08 Aug 2009 11:55 a.m. PST

When I have the time for a more 'serious' game I use one of two home made sets "Going to the Warres/Off to the Warres" which a wargaming friend sent me a long time ago.

I've also used "Renaissance Warfare" from Saga Publishing and for less 'serious' games when time and space is in short supply I've used "Warfare in the Age of Discovery" suitably modified with house rules to provide the proper period 'flavour'.

For large skirmishes and minor actions I testing my own modified verion of Spanish Fury Actions(a work ery much in progress)

Major William Martin RM08 Aug 2009 2:06 p.m. PST


Not wanting to completely hijack this thread, I first played Father Tilly about 3 years ago, joined the Yahoo Group (which I still belong to), and have not downloaded the "new" rules yet. I very much enjoy Stephen Danes' writing style and found the original rules to be a quick, fun set of rules, but not terribly true to the period, too many compromises in accuracy for the sake of playability. But that decision, like most we make, is a personal choice on my part. Heck, I still play Gush and am working on some mods for it and am very happy with that choice.

But, to some of the points made above regarding the accuracy of source material, opinions of same, access to translations, and the "responsibility" of those with this access to "pass it along", I do have some thoughts.

As Dan can personally attest, I am barely coherant at times in my native English, let alone fluent in other languages. However, I frequently attempt to post material on orders of battle, commanders and specific units on the blog as Sir William the Aged.

What I lack in language skills I try to make up for with tenacity and endless searches, Babel translations, foreign archives (like the Marburg Digital Archive or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam), foreign web sites like "Vae Victus" and Jean Vial's "Nec Pluribus Impar", cross-referencing respected English authors like Dalton, Childs or Lynn using their bibliographies and then searching for the foreign texts, where I sometimes have to do page-by-page translations. I have found many sources on Google Books including Louis Susane's "Histoire de l'ancienne infanterie française", both the text version and the "atlas" version with color plates, as well as several period battle reports, maps and other documents in the foreign archives.

Then, when all else fails and I am still stumped by contradictory information or bad translations, I e-mail Dan or Curt Johnson, both of whom are Gentlemen of the Old School, and who have been patient enough with me to point me to additional foreign sources or translations of sources that they have access to. But, and this is important, I don't ask questions like, "Tell me everything about the Thirty Years War", or, "Tell me everything you know about the Battle of Whatever". I find as much information as I can first and then, when blanks appear or contradictions become apparent, I ask them for specific help on a specific question.

I have also used the internet to cultivate acquaintences with people like Stéphane Thion, the author of "French Armies of the Thirty Years War" by LBT, and Dr. Pierre Picouet, the host and author of the excellent "Tercio" web site that Dan pointed out on Spanish tactics and formations, and with some of the foreign posters on the various Yahoo Groups. By the way, Dr. Picouet also explores French and Dutch tactics and formations on the same site in great detail. The information is there, but you have to be willing to do a little digging and then still ask "qualified questions" for help when you hit the wall.

I suppose in a perfect wargaming world, someone with Dan or Curt's language skills and knowledge would win the lottery or a huge Federal Grant and spend their time digging out these sources and translating them for us and then distributing them for free, or at the least in an inexpensive pamphlet with excellent color plates as well! Since I don't expect that to happen any time soon, I work with what I can get, accumulate what knowledge I can, ask for help and show my appreciation when I receive it, and I do publish what I consider relevant information on the blog. When I'm "caught" in a mistake, which I have been, if the "catcher" can provide suitable sources to contradict me and my sources, then I correct what I've previously written and provide readers with an update. In a few cases, where we have equally valid but conflicting sources, I will provide readers with both alternatives and let them decide which they will accept or model. The blog's owner, Ralphus, is a veteran reenactor and an excellent author and we often serve as "foils" for each other, one of us doing an initial post and then the other following up with new information or details.

Sir William the Aged

Daniel S08 Aug 2009 4:36 p.m. PST

Thank you for taking the time to explain your position.
Now I can understand the problems caused by the language barrier, my native Swedish is after all a very minor language. But German, Spanish & French are major languages and should not be nearly so difficult to handle, particularly in the age of constantly improving internet based translators. Add a good wordbook and you have all you need to translate a lot of texts, certainly enough to handle order of battles and the like.

Getting the sources is the true problem, a lot of these works are hard to find unless you have access to a major research library. But even there the situation is improving, and google books have online several very usefull sources like Reitzenstein's work on the 1622 campaign, Mankell's & Klinkowström's huge collection of Swedish military documents from the time of Gustavus Adolphus, Mankell's work on the strenght and location of the Swedish army from the 1590's to the 19thC, Konze's work on Wallensteins army in 1632-1633 Villermont's biography of Tilly and so on.
Sources you had either read at a library or spend a lot of $$ to purchase just a few years ago.
Even modern works like Pavel H's fine "Spanier auf dem Albuch" can be purchased as e-books, in this case for less than 5 Euros.

Dr. Pierre Picouet's excellent website is available in english and have been active for years, his information on Spanish tactics and the battles of Fleurus, Nördlingen and Rocroishould more than fill the void left by discarding Guthrie's erronous descriptions of those parts.

"This means, that if we want to add detail or depth to our TYW gaming, or our understanding of the period, we have to use what is available, and that is Guthrie."
I do get that the material found in the order of battles provide ample if at times flawed detail to a wargame. But since key parts of the information found in Guthrie is erronous and thus misleading how can it improve your understanding of the period?
I simply do not understand how that is possible, to me erronous information is useless even if it is all I have on a subject.

I'm actually working on several "wargamer's guides" to the period. Subjects so far include the Danish war, Breitenfeld and Jankow.
They will be published at an affordable price, either as e-books or in a printed version. The main problem is to find the time in which to write & research.

Btw, I notice that you would like me to support my claims with other texts or to provide translations of the sources themselves. Have you noticed that Guthrie does not do much of that yet you still give him the benefit of the doubt.

WKeyser10 Aug 2009 11:09 p.m. PST

Daniel, where in Sweden are you?

Daniel S11 Aug 2009 12:55 p.m. PST

I'm mostly found in Göteborg on the west coast.

WKeyser12 Aug 2009 2:12 a.m. PST

Intresting I am in Malmo, just to let you know and extend an invitation.

The wargames club in Copenhagen are having a two day historical convention this october 24-25 at the Tojhusmuseet in downtown copenhagen.

One of our memembers runs a Thirty years war yahoo group and has written the rules Musketeer. He will be running a game in 28mm.

We would love to have you visti.

William Keyser
wkeyser at aol dot com

jtipp6808 Oct 2013 12:45 p.m. PST

This will be a massive thread bump, and no one may ever even read this…but I apologize to DanielS. In retrospect, I think that our (my) defense of Guthrie may have come from spending $120 USD on a history book. In my mind the price made it a serious reference book. Daniel has time and time again proven to be a first rate authority on anything that has to do with this era and is an invaluable resource to TMP.

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