By David Kuijt
Note: all images are thumbnails, and are clickable to see the larger original.
The DBA options:
The enemies of the Hussites include the Later Hungarian (#166), Later Imperialists (#167), and (after the death of their founder, Jan Ziska, in 1424) they split into several factions that fought against each other as well, so a Hussite army could also be opposed by another Hussite (#176) army.
From reading history of the period it is clear that an error was made with the dates and enemies list of the Hussites. Note that the Later Imperialist army is used from 1450 on, and the Hussite army runs from 1419-1434. Mistake! They cannot be historical enemies as listed.
Luckily, things are easily fixed. From examining the Hussite army in DBM army book 4, it seems that the Hussites were active in two periods, the first being from 1419-1434, and the second from 1464-1471. To fix these small errors, I suggest the following minor corrections:
First, expand the Hussite period to be 1419-1434 and 1464-1471 as it is listed in the DBM army book 4. This allows the Hussites to fight the Later Imperialists as actually occurred. Second, add the Early Imperialist army (#136) to the enemies list for the Hussites, so they can fight their most common opponent from their earlier activity period, their titular overlords.
When Jan Ziska took over the task of defending the burgeoning Hussite rebellion from their putative overlords, he had a terrible problem. The area of Bohemia that supported the Hussites had very few of the well-equipped and mounted feudal noblemen and their men-at-arms that made up most armies of the time. So when the Hussites went into rebellion they found themselves well-equipped with enthusiasm, and lacking in almost everything else. Most especially trained cavalry.
Two solutions to the problem of infantry fighting cavalry were known when Ziska tackled his dilemma: pikes and longbows. Pikes had been used with some success by the Flemish and Scots, and with great success by the Swiss. Longbows had created several crushing victories of the English against the French in their ongoing Hundred Year's War. But both of these required years of training to use effectively, and disciplined troops. Ziska had undisciplined peasants with no training.
So Ziska drew upon his experience fighting with Hungary and created an entirely new army based upon war wagons bristling with crossbows, various firearms, and light artillery, and heavy foot defending the spaces between the wagons. Although there were serious limitations to this new army, it won a series of stunning victories against better-equipped and more numerous enemies.
The core of the Hussite army is their war wagons. These are wagons outfitted with defensive reinforcements, manned by a variety of Bohemian peasants with handgonnes, crossbows, and small artillery pieces.
In the first couple of years Jan Ziska was unable to find much in the way of cavalry; the choice of a Light Horse and two extra Blades represents that time period. The Light Horse represents peasant crossbowmen mounted on a variety of spare horses not used for pulling the wagons. Later on he gained more support from Bohemian noblemen and managed to outfit his cavalry with more captured weapons and armour, represented by the option of a Knight and two Cavalry instead.
The Hussites are an anvil. Very slow to maneuver and awkward, but if they can force your enemy to attack them, they can break most enemies. Armies with more than one War Wagon element do not need a Camp, so the Hussites don't need to worry about a more mobile enemy making an end-run around them.
The key to successful defense with the Hussites is the war wagons. War wagons are very hard to kill because they do not recoil when beaten. Even overlapped by heavy foot, they will survive many attacks before succumbing. Their missile combat factors are such that they are essentially immune to Psiloi, Bow, and all mounted save Elephants.
On the other hand, successful offense with the Hussites is problematic. Six Hussite elements (four war wagons and two artillery) cannot be moved into contact with the enemy. Offense often consists of advancing far enough to give the artillery play and trying to pound the opponent into disrepair with the artillery. But the same artillery elements that give the Hussites most of their offensive punch are their defensive achilles heel -- the easiest way to make holes in a Hussite line is to get into contact with the artillery.
Most armies with war-wagons are very concerned to keep them away from their two great vulnerabilities: elephants and artillery. Of all the war-wagon armies, the Hussites are the least concerned with these two foes. Any elephant armies must live in fear of Hussite artillery -- with two artillery elements, the Hussites are very likely to get a couple of shots at an oncoming elephant long before it comes into contact with the vulnerable war wagons. And those same two artillery elements give the Hussites excellent counter-battery fire against enemy artillery (only two other armies have more than a single artillery element).
Strangely for a slow foot army, the Hussites prefer an open battlefield. Their flanks are hard to turn if they place a war wagon at each corner of their main line, and half their units cannot enter bad going except on a road. When forced to contest a piece of bad going the Hussites do not fare too poorly, as their blades do well enough in the rough.
For a longer essay on tactics and the advantages and disadvantages of War Wagons, click here. For a similar essay on proper use of Artillery, click here.
For an account of a battle between the Hussites and the Later Imperials, click here.
Most all figures shown, and all of the war wagons, are by Irregular. I was very pleased with Irregular's war wagons, although less so with the infantry -- the billmen have very fragile polearms, and the pavisiers have fragile spears and fat faces. Still, they were inexpensive and painted up nicely, and the war wagons were the best I could find and at the cheapest price. I only made one modification to the war wagons, adding a pair of modified toothpicks to each one to add a beam missing from the original design and raise the sides of the wagons.
The crossbowman in the sallet (beside "Army Notes") is Essex; the three peasant figures in the lowest picture (beside "Notes on Tactics") are Metal Magic. The pavisier in the same picture is a modified Essex figure. The Light Horse are Essex; in the long run I'm going to try to find some appropriate "peasant on a cart horse" mounted crossbow figures. The Metal Magic figures, incidently, are very finely crafted. They fit well with Essex or Irregular, size-wise. Sadly, most of their range appears to be 1100-1300 AD, which isn't the armies I'm interested in.
Last Updated: December 5, 1998. Some additional text in the tactics section; two new pictures; and a link to the tactics page on artiller.
Previous update: July 16, 1998.
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