For the historically interested, the sources of the
Thirty Years' War
are endless. Here I will focus on how the board game relates to the real war.
Bellum se ipsum alet
The phrase Bellum se ipsum ales (”War feeds itself”) was coined by the Ancient Roman statesman Cato
the Elder but is primarily associated with the Thirty Years' War 1618–1648.
Prior to the war, contributions or war taxes could be levied by, or with the consent of, the estates
to assist the financing of an army in the realm. This was a lawful tax collected by an orderly procedure.
However, as the war proceeded the contributions were replaced by brandschatzung or payments extorted
under the threat of force. In return, the army agreed to abstain from looting and burning.
Nevertheless, the armies were often more populous than the cities and could not be sustained on what
the cities could offer. Instead, the armies acquired supplies from the surrounding countryside. Although
the threat of force was used here as well, such measures could cause the rural population to flee and
endanger the supply base of the army. Thus, the illegally raised money from the burghers was often used
to legally purchase food and resources from the farmer.
This created an absurd economy where surplus accumulated in the cities was returned to the countryside
by the roaming armies. When the supplies were depleted, the army moved on to feed itself elsewhere. Once
the realm had recovered again, a new hungry army was bound to arrive.
The leaders in the game are all authentic historical characters:
Gustavus II Adolphus: King of Sweden and known for his military skills and use of combined arms, won
the Protestants' first major victory at the battle of Breitenfeld 1631 but fell in the battle of Lützen
Johan Banér: Swedish Field Marshal, participated at the victories at Breitenfeld 1631, Wittstock 1636
and Chemnitz 1639
Cardinal Richelieu: Chief minister of King Louis XIII of France, although not one of the Thirty
Years' War's commanders, he did lead the French army against the Huguenotts in Rochelle 1627-1628 (and is
a too known character not to include in the game)
Louis de Bourbon: French general and le Grand Condé, participated at the victories at Rocroi 1643,
Freiburg 1644 and Nördlingen 1645
Albrecht von Wallenstein: Supreme commander of the Imperial army, won the battle of White Mountain
1620, Dessau 1626, Wolgast 1628, Alte Veste 1632 and Steinau 1633 but was charged with high treason and
Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly: Commander of the Catholic League, his victories caused Bohemia to
surrender 1623 and forced Denmark out of the war 1629 but his sack of Magdeburg 1621 left 25 000 dead. He
died from wounds received at Donauwörth 1632, in spite of his enemy Gustavus Adolphus sending him his
own personal physician.
Ambrosio Spinola: Spanish general and Grandee of Spain, campaigned in the Lower Palatinate 1620-1622
and captured Breda 1625 in spite of the efforts of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange.
Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand: Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, participated at the victory at
Nördlingen 1634 and captured several Dutch cities 1635-1636
The major powers
The Holy Roman Empire, dominated by Austria, wanted to restore Catholicism in Europe
Spain held territories in the Spanish Netherlands and Italy, connected by the Spanish road through
France was surrounded by the two Habsburg states and wanted to exert power against the weaker German
Sweden wanted to control the Northern Germans states bordering the Baltic Sea
Vienna and Paris are the Austrian and French capitals. Bruxelles was capital in the then Spanish
Netherlands while Stralsund was an important bridgehead for Sweden and became Swedish after the treaty of
Prague was the capital of Bohemia, fighting on the Protestant side 1618-1620 and the Catholic side
Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, which took on the Protestant cause to defend its interests in
Germany but was defeated by Wallenstein, withdrew in 1629 and was invaded by Sweden in 1644.
The Union of Utrecht 1588 is regarded as the foundation of the Netherlands, although not recognized
by Spain until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648
Dresden was the capital of Saxony, fighting on the Protestant side
Heidelberg was the capital of the Palatinate, fighting on the Protestant side until 1623
Berlin was the capital of Brandenburg-Prussia, fighting on the Protestant side
Brunswick-Lüneberg was fighting on the Protestant side
Munich was the capital of Bavaria, member of the Catholic League
Cologne was a member of the Catholic League
Breslau supported the Bohemian revolt that initiated the war and was occupied by Swedish and Saxon
The rich port of Danzig was a prime target of Gustavus II Adolphus but the city fended off the
attackers and was spared the casualties of the war.