Wednesday, July 6, 2022

War of the Imperial Succession - A Prologue...

The army of Altmark-Uberheim about to cross
the Schweinenbach stream and try conclusions
with Hessen-Rohr.
In the Year of Our Lord 1740, the long reign of the Emperor Violoncello VI came to an end. Without male issue, and for decades already knowing there was no prospect of any, the Emperor had had recourse to threats and blackmail on top of other blandishments to have the Electorate confirm his elder daughter, Archduchess Harmonica as head of the Imperium of Trockenbeeren-Auslese. Just how much trust he really could place in that august school of electors was perhaps exposed in the sequel: not such as he had hoped. However theoretical, the Lex Salica proved a more difficult hurdle to leap than even he had supposed.  His 'Prudential Sanction' did not suffice.
A rough political map of central Europeia

The Elector with the most clout happened to be the soi-disant King of Altmark-Uberheim, Draco II, of the House Spitzensparken, notorious for acquisitive ambition and covetous eyes cast upon the Imperial diadem. His marriage overtures to the Archduchess Harmonica rebuffed, he plotted to acquire by other means that much desired ornamentation to his brow. His honeyed communications with the Emperor whilst the latter was alive hid the more sinister machinations with the other electors, ecclesiastic and secular, that were to secure at least half the vote. The one he most relied upon, but failed to gain, was that of the Bishop Cornelius of Ulrichstein, the most prestigious of the ecclesiastic princes. This bishop had good reason for gratitude towards the Emperor, which the Archduchess inherited (for the narrative explaining this, see Ulrichstein Campaign).
The armies arrayed as for battle.

The matter remaining unresolved to Draco's satisfaction - a tied election was no use to him with the Archduchess already installed - he steeled himself to obtain by force what he could by no alternative means. Suasion, blackmail, threats - none had availed. However, he did have at least one, possibly two, other potentates, not themselves Electors, who had reasons of their own to harbour malice aforethought against the Empire. The chief of these was the choleric Grand Duke Constantine of M'yasma, who made up in bellicosity what he lacked in patient diplomacy. There were certain lands he desired that would make a fine addition to his realm - why, he might even aspire to a kingdom!  
Prinz von Uberheim (18th) and Ramin (25th) 
Infantry facing Histerglau village.
To realise that ambition, however, he had to secure the neutrality of Ursaminor, known to have strong ties with the Empire. The Emperor's avuncular regard for the young Princess might merely have been due to a distant blood relationship, but it also stemmed from the many wolfish eyes cast upon the Unstroll river valley that made up most of the Principality. Violoncello had informally taken the role of guarantor of Ursaminor, and Harmonica made her business to confirm - even to formalise - that stance by treaty. Of course, the Principality's arch-rival for the sea-going trade at that end of the Saltic Sea, The Landgravate of Jotun-Erbsten, had certain claims upon the lands of Ursaminor that very shortly before had led to a brief war (see here: War of Imperial Succession - Prologue). The post-battle negotiations were still ongoing as King Draco himself let slip the dogs of war.
The Garde (15th) and 1st Cuirassiers ...
Before making any such declaration against the Imperium itself, Draco sought first to secure his northwestern flank. Perhaps with less candour, and more tactful circumlocution in respect of his intentions he might have neutralised the border with Hessen-Rohr. His diplomatic overtures foundered upon the Markgraf George-Frederick's friendship with the Empire, his having some romantic notions of his own concerning its as yet unmarried head of state, and his apprehension that a state of war throughout this part of Europeia would impact upon his trade. He had, after all, his maritime rival, the Herzogtum von Rechburg to worry about. That Dukedom was much better placed to profit from the interruptions to trade to the east.
Garde and guns...
After a week of dulcet wrangling in Eggsburg, Draco instructed his ambassador by messenger to cut short the talks, issue an ultimatum, and, an answer not forthcoming, to declare to his interlocutors that a state of war existed between Altmark-Uberheim and Hessen-Rohr. 
Massed cavalry behind 2nd (von Kanitz) Infantry,
with its distinctive black flag.

Both sides hastened their military preparations. Not one to pin his hopes upon one hound, the King had already begun preparations, and therefore rather a lead, but had at the same time, more to accomplish. Nevertheless, he had a considerable army assembled under his younger brother, Prinz Rupprecht, and across the border just as George-Frederick's Marshal, Graf Schwerin und Cussin was still gathering his power. Some miles beyond the border, advancing down the right bank of the Elbow River, the invading army encountered the forces of Hessen-Rohr, arrayed along a shallow creek, Schweinenbach, at the villages of Blenderheim and Histerglau. 
2nd, 10th and 4th Infantry, in columns supported by
artillery, about to storm Blenderheim. The order chits 
drawn by the 2nd and 10th were coincidental...

Clearly the Marshal intended to make a fight of it. The position was a strong one, a species of defile between the major waterway of the Elbow, and some awkward bosky country north beyond the Histerglau village. Confident in his superior numbers, the Prince drew up his army along the Schweinbach Stream. His plan: to mask or storm the villages in strength, to unhinge the Hessian flanks, whilst placing heavy pressure upon the lines between.  
Blenderheim garrison - Zeitgeist Infantry.

The Count placed in both villages a regiment of line infantry, together with their battalion guns. Between them, he drew up his three remaining infantry regiments. Two, together with the two and a half artillery batteries formed a line between them, with the footguards and the cavalry in support. The Markgrave's Army comprised:

Army of Hessen-Rohr

Command: Marshal-General Graf Albrecht von Schwerin und Cussin and his ADC 
Leibgarde Regiment - 38 figures plus battalion gun
Erbprinz Grenadiers - 38  figures plus battalion gun
Ewige-Blumenkraft Infantry - 38 figures plus battalion gun
Zeitgeist Infantry - 38 figures plus battalion gun
Weltschmerz Infantry - 38 figures plus battalion gun
Reichswacht zu Pferde - 19 figures
Uhlans Schadenfreude - 19 figures
Battery A/ 1st Artillery Regiment - 9 figures, 2 field guns
Battery B/ 1st Artillery Regiment  - 9 figures, 2 field guns
Howitzer Section/ 1st Artillery Regiment - 4 figures, 1 field howitzer.

Total: 250 figures (190 foot {including battalion gunners}, 38 horse, 22 artillerymen, 10 cannon (light and field).

The infantry regiments comprise 1x8-figure company of grenadiers, 3x8-figure companies of line infantry, 2 gunners with a light battalion gun, and a 4-figure command element (Colonel, subaltern, drummer and colour bearer).

The cavalry comprise 2x8-figure squadrons, plus a 3-figure command (Colonel, guidon and bugler)
A gun battery comprised 2 sections of 1 gun apiece with 4 crew, the whole battery commanded by a single officer. 
At one figure representing 20 men, this all represents an army of 5000 men, with perhaps 30 cannon, field and light. 

Erbprinz Grenadiers and artillery.  The Reichswacht 
cavalry in support.
The invaders were in much greater numbers, as might be expected:

Army of Altmark-Uberheim

Command: Prince Rupprecht von Spitzensparken plus ADC
1st (Winterfeldt) Infantry - 36 figures
2nd (von Kanitz) Infantry - 36 figures
4th (von Kalnein) Infantry - 36 figures
10th (Knoblach) Infantry - 36 figures
15th (Garde) Infantry - 44 figures
18th (Prinz von Uberheim) Infantry - 36 figures
25th (Ramin) Infantry - 36 figures
1st Cuirassiers - 19 figures
2nd (von Prittwitz) Cuirassiers - 19 figures
4th (Kalkreuth) Dragoons - 19 figures
5th (von Ruesch 'Black') Hussars - 19 figures
3 Companies, Altmark Artillery - 27 figures, 6 field cannon.

Totals: 363 figures (260 foot, 76 horse, 27 artillery), 6 cannon

All arms are organised in the same manner as the Hessian, minus the battalion guns.  The 'Garde' Infantry comprise 4 musketeer companies of 10 figures each, with no grenadiers.

At one figure representing 20 men, this army amounts to 7260 officers and men, with 24 field cannon.
Ewige-Blumenkraft Infantry, with a section of
howitzers in support.   

Garrison of Histerglau: Weltschmerz Infantry

The battle begins - Assault upon Blenderheim.

 A note on the figures.

These are all plastics, from a variety of manufacturers. The Hessian infantry are all Airfix, from the Washington's Army and British Grenadier boxes. The cavalry are Italieri (I think, cuirassiers), and ESCI (Uhlans). The gunners are Airfix Royal horse artillery, the field pieces ESCI, and the battalion guns Airfix Napoleonic French.

The infantry of Altmark-Uberheim are all from the Revell 7YW Prussian set. These fellows actually painted up very nicely. Just to show how inconsistent I can be, the cavalry are all Airfix, the heavies with modified headgear from the less useful figures from the Washington's Army box. One unit is simply cuirassiers painted up without armour, as dragoons. The gunners are Revell, I think, and the cannon Airfix Napoleonic British.  

To be continued: the Battle of Blenderheim.


  1. Hello there Archduke,

    That looks magnificent old chap! Great seeing the plastics out in force and I very much enjoyed the ‘story so far’ - very Charge! I could work out the majority of the figures used and was very taken by the Airfix Hussars - always a favourite set of mine.

    Top work old chap - a throughly enjoyable read and seeing all those plastics manfully going about their business is wonderfully nostalgic!

    Looking forward to the next instalment for sure!

    All the best,


    1. Cheers, David -
      It turned out to be quite some battle - un combat acharné, withal.

  2. Great read, enjoyed the history and back story and a cracking looking table and figures, always nice to see some 1/72 stuff on show. Well done sir!!

    1. Thank you, Donnie. I hope you find the narrative to come equally entertaining!

  3. Absolutely superb stuff the Ion. Using Airifx figures takes me back so many years and to countless conversion articles in the Airfix magazine:).

    1. I remember some of those articles, Steve. Though I never went as far as some of those creations. The infantry I have put together for Hessen-Rohr were originally intended for the Elector-King, but then a whole bunch of Revell Prussians came my way...

  4. Great stuff Archduke! Looking forward to reading more. All those old plastic figures are fantastic by the way.

    1. Hi Maudlin Jack -
      I know Airfix in particular are considered pretty crude by the standards of other manufacturers these days (I have a special fondness for Zvezda and Strelets-R) but they do paint up very well, and make up for their deficiencies with a lot of character. The Washington's Army and British Grenadiers were two of my favorites.
      Best wishes,

    2. Affection for the Airfix figures is of course more to do with nostalgia than how they look in comparison with more recent sculpting - I really liked/like those two sets too

  5. Wonderful to see all those 1/72 plastic figures spread out on the tabletop.

    1. Hi Peter -
      Although I am a recent 'convert' to grid-based war gaming, this sort of spread is one of the advantages of the ungridded table. Of course, space considerations will ensure that the grid-based actions will occur the more frequently.

  6. Your plastic figures look great Ion. Very “old school”.
    I remember the days when you could easily obtain Airfix figures in high street toy & hobby shops (remember them?) whilst lead/metal figures were only available via mail order. If you ordered your metal toys from abroad, well, it could be months and months before they finally arrived on your doorstep.
    Things really have changed. With 3D printing now, almost as soon as you’ve thought about it, it’s possible to build (print) your army and you’re ready to go.

    The good thing about imagi-nations armies is that no-one else can tell you you’re “wrong” (yes, but the epaulettes were only green until April 1753 - in May they changed to light green). No, this is a hobby we’re meant to enjoy so let’s enjoy it.đŸ˜€

    I look forward to reading your report of the upcoming battle. Are you playing it solo, or with a live opponent? Either way, good luck.



    1. Geoff -
      I recall the first Airfix figures I bought, back in 1974. A whole army: 4 boxes of Confederates infantry, 2 boxes of 7th cavalry (painted as CSA), 2 boxes of CSA artillery. and 2 boxes of Wagon train. Ten bucks (actually $9.88) the lot. (In today's money, that's about $127 - still not bad for an army of some 200 foot, 20 horse and 4 cannon.

      These days we are spoilt for choice, that's for sure. On Monday there arrived from Caliver books a small order of Minifigs Napoleonics - some Austrian horse and foot, and a Marshal Blucher figure for my plastic Prussians. Took maybe three weeks. Tops.

  7. I recognise some Schreiber card buildings in the photos.
    Some splendid nostalgia.

    1. Neil -
      The origins of my buildings are quite varied. There are the Scbreiber (? - actually I'm not sure about those), and those thick card model railway building - Superquick, I think they were. A few are home made, from sheets of embossed card stock (for masonry), one made entirely from a cereal packet, and a couple from a download and assemble source. I don't worry myself overmuch about varieties in scale, but general prefer buildings under-scale compared with the figures. One can not have too many buildings. I used none of my Usborne or plastic buildings.

      Though I do admire those laser cut buildings you can gert these days, I doubt that any will be entering my inventory any time soon...

  8. As always your armies look brilliant - I particularly like the conversions you have made from the Airfix French Cuirassiers!

    1. Hi Brian -
      Thanks for the compliment! The cuirassiers have grown upon me somewhat. They paint up pretty well, even in their original form. I've noticed lately you have been doing some interesting army building of your own with Airfix figures.