Wargame Wednesday: Liechtenstein

Wednesday , 5, December 2018 1 Comment

Excerpt of photo taken in 1896 of veterans from the Liechtenstein military contingent, with medals for the 1866 campaign. © Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum

During a visit to the National Museum of Liechtenstein I saw an exhibition on Liechtenstein’s involvement in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the subsequent end of compulsory military service and disbandment of the army in 1868.  While looking at the exhibition’s center piece group photo of the 1866 veterans I admit to having feelings of conceit but it didn’t take long to see through my conceit and realize how lucky a people were to avoid the ideological wars of the 20th Century and how lucky those veterans were to serve in a campaign that consisted of a hike, guard duty and a trek home in which a company of 85 returned with 86. What does all that have to do with war games?  It doesn’t and I’m 100% certain there isn’t a war game featuring this country, let alone filling a hex on a board game map. Despite that, let’s discover what we can about Liechtenstein’s military history and potential war game material.  The principality’s geography provides fertile ground for historical and semi-historical scenarios from ancient times up to fictional scenarios such as the opening stages of Operation Tannenbaum. As for fiction, let’s just say my imagination was in overdrive during my visit. Search online for info on Liechtenstein military history and you’ll find three main themes:
  • 85 soldiers went to Italy and came back with one Italian (some references say 80 returning with an Austrian liaison officer)
  • a Swiss unit on night exercises inadvertently found itself 1km inside Liechtenstein before realizing their mistake
  • the Ottoman Turks razing Valdez Castle on two occasions.  De veras?
I think Wargame Wednesday at Castaliahouse can do better than that. This post will have tourism related info, links to pictures, one showing a fortified post just across the border in Switzerland and a couple others just to show how beautiful the country is. I’ll start the military history section with the Swabian War and follow on posts will discuss the Principality’s role in the wars with revolutionary France. By the time we are done we’ll be journeymen historians of Liechtenstein’s military history. Update 12/15/2018:  I found another caption for the same photo of the veterans pictured above in an online article: “141 men belonged to the Liechtenstein Military Veterans Association, which was founded in 1893 on the occasion of the funeral of Captain Peter Rheinberger. (Office of Culture, State Archives)”.


If you decide to visit the best way is by car. When renting a car be aware that both Switzerland and Austria require road tax stickers to drive on their expressways.   Tourists can buy 10 day vignettes in Austria and also need them in Switzerland. If you rent your car in Switzerland (and maybe in Austria) then the vignette is already included. If you rent a car in a third country then they are available at any petrol station. Reminder that the vignettes are only needed to use the expressways. Hotels in Liechtenstein are pricier than those across the Rhine in Switzerland or over the Austrian border in Feldkirch. Don’t make the mistake of not looking up holidays before your visit. I arrived on a Sunday, the next day was a national holiday and Tuesday was a religious holiday.  I was all primed for my first meal in Liechtenstein but all I could find open on either side of the Rhine was a kebab shop or McDonalds…. Next day I found a better option but research in advance will pay dividends before visiting on a Sunday or holiday. One last note in this tourism section. There are quite a few references online to the Ottomans laying siege to Vaduz castle in 1529 and 1683. The confusion is with Liechtenstein Castle, located near Vienna. This can serve as a litmus test if the author you are reading is cutting and pasting for content. I won’t speculate on which tribes held and fought over this territory prior to the Romans establishing the province of Raetia but start about 200 years prior to the territory becoming a principality within the Holy Roman Empire.  I’ll provide a link to each period of conflict and conduct a search for any relevant wargames.

Swabian War 1499-1500

Click on the map for larger image at Infogalactic.

Swabia refers to a linguistic and cultural region of southern Germany.  The Swabian War, also known as the Swiss War was fought between the Habsburgs and the Swabian League against the Swiss Confederation. The end result was a Swiss victory and de-facto independce from the Holy Roman Empire, which would finally be acknowledge in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. As can be seen from the map excerpt to the right, the territory of the future principality was a battlefield with the Battles of Triesen and Frastanz in 1499.  I can’t find much information on the Battle of Triesen but found an excerpt from Wilhelm Oechsli’s History of Switzerland 1499-1914: “The treaties of 1497-98 signified the cutting off of the Grisons from the Austrian sphere of influence and its adhesion to Switzerland. The immediate consequence was the outbreak of the “Swabian War”. In…..1499, the Austrian rulers at Innsbruck sent troops into the Munsterthal…and called upon the Swabian League for help..” Oechsli then describes the opening campaign: “In a moment the Swiss and the Swabians took up arms against one another and along the whole line of the Rhine….they measured their strength in a number of battles and skirmishes. The forces of Austria and South Germany…came off badly everywhere against the hardy Swiss, who gained victory after victory. In February, 1499 they routed a Swabian army at Triesen in the Vorarlberg, and annihilated a second army at Hard near the Lake of Constance”. Notice the diagonal lines indicating the zone of looting on the map and it won’t be the last time this territory will experience it. As for wargames I couldn’t find anything at Boardgamegeek when searching for the Swabian and Swiss Wars.  Military miniatures are the best bet to game this war.  I found this box set of 13th Century Swabians under Frederick II. More next week.
One Comment
  • Blume says:

    Geography Now, had a great episode on Liechtenstein.

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