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"Look of Swiss troops and Landsknecht in 1513, different?" Topic

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Field Marshal27 Sep 2010 9:53 p.m. PST

I know I am asking alot of questions here but I am a slow accumulator of knowledge. I have the relevant Ospreys apart from the campaign books so forgive me.
Did both of these troop types look much like the other around the turn of the 16th century?
If i was to build the starter army for Francis in the FoG rulebook would the only real difference be the flags? I realise that this is for 1525 and Pavia but was there alot of difference?



Keraunos27 Sep 2010 11:42 p.m. PST

I think the only real change came right near the end – @ the French Wars, after the italian wars – when they started wearing pluderhosen, rather than the leg showing sight and slashd stuff.

diferent companoies at differnt periods in italy, of course, but I think flags aer reasonable representations of that.

Rich will know, he has more landskechts figures than any other man alive

Whatisitgood4atwork28 Sep 2010 1:44 a.m. PST

When this subject has come up in the past, there's always mention of differing sword / dagger styles: the Swiss apparently using a long tapering triangular type, while the Germans preferring a blade with its sides parallel to each other until near the tip.

Wardlaw28 Sep 2010 1:57 a.m. PST

I wouldn't be convinced by that, Whatisitgood4atwork. Sounds to me like a contrived difference.

Dürer's depiction of 'bad war', with lansknecht and Swiss locked in deadly combat shows no difference in dress. There is a woodcut showing a Swiss, french and German soldier (it's in the Osprey book on Pavia) and they all look almost exactly the same.

Given that the assaulting party at Pavia were wearing their shirts over their armour ass a distinguishing mark, I would argue tht flags may have been the only significant difference.

Stuart MM28 Sep 2010 2:08 a.m. PST

Flags and also field signs; a simple red saltire for the imperialists and a scattering of peacock feathers instead of ostrich plumes.

As for the swiss, a simple white cross as per the current flag of Switzerland.


Whatisitgood4atwork28 Sep 2010 2:31 a.m. PST

I agree Wardlaw. I am a skeptical myself, but it is the point (no pun intended) I've seen raised in every discussion I've seen on the differences between Swiss and landsknechts.

Field Marshal28 Sep 2010 2:37 a.m. PST

Thank you gentlemen.



Sysiphus28 Sep 2010 4:25 a.m. PST

Wasn't there a difference in the way they held their pikes? This may have change through time and probably isn't visually significant in 15mm.

Condottiere28 Sep 2010 5:28 a.m. PST

They also sometimes cut symbols into their clothes: Swiss an "+" and Germans a "X". The Katzbalger was a typical Landsknecht short sword with "S" or "8" quillons. The Swiss also carried a short sword,but it looked a bit different (the "baselard" I think it's called)--no quillons as noted above. The Swiss also tended to carry a long or broad sword and a dagger.

Probably little else by way of distinctions.

khurasanminiatures28 Sep 2010 7:51 a.m. PST

Actually wardlaw the sidearm difference was very relevant to the mercenaries of that time, being one of two main differences between the Swiss and their hated Landsknecht rivals.

In fact, Swiss artists sometimes used the schweizerdolch as their symbol in their signature, as Urs Graf did.

The image from the 1520s you refer to probably shows a landsknecht of the "Black Band" which would explain the fleur de lis as they were renegades from imperial service. They fought to the death for the French at Pavia, knowing that, as turncoats, they would receive no mercy from the imperial landsknects.

When artists like Graf depicted Swiss troops with the katzbalger, those troops are usually being criticized for behavior not becoming of the Swiss reislaufer, unvaliant behavior the Swiss associated with the landsknecht. So the katzbalger is a mark of shame. When Swiss artists depict reislaufer other than when criticizing them, they invariably depict them with the schweizerdolch and/or hand and a half sword.

As John mentions, the other main difference was in the slashing of the uniforms, which was almost universally done. The Swiss used a cross, the landsknecht an X. They really detested each other and would not have been caught dead in the others' slashing!

Finally, swiss troops often wore ostrich feathers in their hat or costume, which landsknechts rarely did, and the Swiss quite liked a stylized turban, which they continued to wear along with the barrett. The landsknect also liked a stylized version on an arming cap as a hat, which the Swiss did not really wear.

In terms of colour, the Swiss wore red, white, and yellow predominantly, the landsknechts liking blue, green, and generally a wider variety of colours.

So those are I think the differences between the Swiss and their landsknecht foes on the battlefield at Novara, which I assume you are referring to when you mention 1513. For me they are very relevant differences distinguishing two bodies of mercenaries who otherwise wore very similar clothing. Hope this is of some help!

1stJaeger28 Sep 2010 9:17 a.m. PST

Basically agree with kurasan!

Cross against saltyre
Katzbalger for Landsknechts only, Schwizzer Dolch for Swiss only
Different plumes
More hats with the Landsknechts

..and death to anyone wearing the other side's symbols!

Oldenbarnevelt28 Sep 2010 9:46 a.m. PST

As a practical matter, with the figures available, the best way to differentiate the two is with flags. There is a tendency (not a rule) for landsknechts of the lower Rhine to use two-handed swords. Landsknechts from the upper Rhine (Swabia) tended to use the halberd, the Swiss also. Landsknechts fighting for the French tended to come from the lower Rhine. Therefore, use landsknecht figures supported by two-handed swords as your landsknechts. Use landsknechts supported by halberds as your Swiss.

And remember, you can never have enough landsknechts.

Cheriton28 Sep 2010 10:16 a.m. PST

>>And remember, you can never have enough landsknechts.<<

As a rule I enthusiastically agree with your comment. However…

A former wargaming cohort bought a ton of OG during a 40% off sale a few years ago. Two armies, about 350 figures apiece.

I got to command a "Hungarian" army which comprised 280 Landsknechts, about 18 "Gendarmes" with the remainder a scattering of crossbowmen, Balkan hand gunners and a (very) few horse archers.

His Ottoman host had the usual heavy cavalry and Jannisaries in great quantity with supporting clouds of skirmishers, foot and horse. About 90% of the army was bow-armed.

My Gendarmes always received a volley of arrows from the Spahis of the Porte prior to a clash, and the 280 Landsknechts gradually (and regularly) assumed the appearance of colorful pin cushions while valiantly attempting to close over the course of a game.

Riveting afternoon's wargaming, what? evil grin baloney

Field Marshal28 Sep 2010 1:58 p.m. PST

Thank you gentlemen especially Khurasan! Some great information.



EagleSixFive29 Sep 2010 8:27 a.m. PST

Is there any range or figures in 25/28 that show the differences?

Jezz Todd29 Sep 2010 10:20 a.m. PST

Think this is an interesting discussion, my 25mm Swiss and Lansknechts figures are from the same manufacturers, but I use flags to distinguish, plus an overall more conservative "red" look to the Swiss, with less garish slashes. I also have all the Swiss hat plumes coloured white, while for the landsknechts I use mixed colours.

I use these pike blocks for the whole of the 16 century period, but potentially would be interested in doing a plunderhosen skirmish shot unit for use in the second half of the century .. any figure recommendations?


Atheling11 Sep 2019 3:13 a.m. PST

Has anyone thought of any potential differences in attire for The Swabiian War, the Battle of Dornach in 1499?

Daniel S12 Sep 2019 2:20 p.m. PST

The best visual source is probably the more or less official artwork released by the Swiss after Dornach

Colourized section:


The entire woodcut in black and white:


One of the first things we see are the swiss and burgundian crosses worn by both sides as field signes to separate friend from foe. Many men have more than one field sign in diffrent sizes attached to their clothing. This may be artistic licence but we do know that in both armies considered a soldier blameless who killed a man from his own army who was not wearing the proper field sign.

The Swiss wear a variety of clothes, some very modern outfits, others would not have been out of place 50 years earlier. The landsknechts are almost all identified by their hats and the hose which had ben cut into a pair of shorts and two long stockings for want of better words to decribe the hose.

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