In the Thirty Years´ War open battles occurred relatively seldom; they were always risky and the outcome was unpredictable. As a battle consisted of numerous encounters frequently even the commanders had no precise general idea of the events. After the units had been led into the fight, there was hardly any chance to change the disposition in a fundamental way.
At a time when large parts of the armies did not wear uniforms soldiers depended on marks like coloured armlets or twigs. Most important, however, to tell friend from foe were different passwords which were used as signs of recognition in the fracas of the battle.
Most battles ended without a clear winner. If neither side had left the battleground before dusk fighting was put off and in many cases leaders’ and soldiers’ nerves decided whether one of the sides would withdraw. As a rule the army which endured on the battleground was deemed winner.
In the course of the war an important innovation came to pass, concerning the order of the battle. Whereas at the beginning the armies fought in immovable square bands (Gevierthaufen), whose impact was mainly due to their mass, after Sweden’s entry into the war the less deeply echeloned “Swedish order of the battle” gained importance. However, its success depended heavily on the discipline and inner unity of the troops.