Maximillians Imperial Army 1487-1527AD

By Dan Johnson

This list represents Imperial armies of the late fifteenth century and early Italian Wars.  Emperor Maximillian I ordered the first lanskneckts to be raised in 1487 in imitation of- and answer to- the Swiss who had become the dominant force on European battlefields.  Originally loyal to the imperial crown, landskneckts soon became a generic term for any Germanic mercenaries fighting with various levels of enthusiasm for any-one with sufficient cash to pay for their services.

When payment was not forthcoming, whole armies could mutiny as happened in 1527 when over 30,000 unpaid Imperial troops including some 14,000 landskneckts mutinied and forced their captains to lead them against the richest prize in Italy: Rome.  The fall of the city on 6th May was followed by a general sack including the capture and "sale" of the Pope; the whole shambles effectively marked the end of the Papacy as a military power and the Italian Wars entered a new, more savage phase.

Imperial armies were relatively weak in heavy cavalry compared to some contemporaries, notably the French, but made up for this deficit with large numbers of well trained and disciplined (at least on the battlefield) infantry.  The core of the infantry are armed with pikes in imitation of the Swiss and supported by halberdiers (often armed with the famous two handed swords) and missile troops.

In the days before many units wore uniforms, the Lanskneckts soon created a distinct style of their own. Outrageous "plunderhosen" trousers, slashed doublets and broad feathered hats were the order of the day, so that in addition to their abilities on the table Imperial Armies offer a wargamer the opportunity of fielding what is probably the brightest and most colourful formations of any era.

Following the death of Maximillian the Imperial throne passed to his grandson who, as Charles V, united four of the major European dynasties (Hapsburgs of Austria, Valois of Burgundy, Trastamara of Castile and the house of Aragon) into a single Empire spanning not just Europe but much of the recently discovered New World.  Imperial armies after 1519 may include Spanish troops and there is an option to upgrade up to half of the foot to the more heavily armoured type favoured by the Spanish and increase then number of Light Cavalry available to the army.