Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Last Stand at Surbiton - a Bloody Big Battles AAR.

Last year Dave and I got to talking about gaming the The Battle of Dorking, for no other reason that it would be a good chance to have the British and Prussians fighting each other. As with many ideas it fell by the wayside as our minds were tempted by other periods. However last week Dave resurrected the plan with a view to putting on a demo/participation game at the Legionary Show this Spring. He suggested using Bloody Big Battles as the ruleset, which we both enjoy and which is a nice fit for this period. 

Rather than gaming the better known 'Battle of Dorking', we decided to go with the 'Last Stand at Surbiton' as it is a smaller battle and would allow us to try out the army lists to see how they worked. This was perfect for me as I lived in Surbiton and Thames Ditton whilst at Uni and then when working in London. This local knowledge allowed to me tweak a few things, mainly the railway track being on a embankment and thereby blocking line-of-sight. The actual area of the 'battle' is very small, so we dropped the default unit size down to Battalion level. In fact you could say it became a 'Bloody Small Battle'.

Orders of Battle
Dave drew up some OOB which can be found below and very much formed a starting point for our trial game. As things progressed we talked about whether to change a few things here and there, but broadly speaking the units remained as written.

10th Bde 7th Division:
Composite Volunteers [4] Raw, MLR
1st Berks Militia [4] Raw, RBL
1st Derby Militia [4] Raw, RBL

13th Bde 7th Division:
2nd Hants Volunteers [4] Raw, MLR
2nd Surrey Volunteers [4] Raw, MLR
Composite Militia [4] Raw, RBL

7th Bde 8th Division:
Composite Infantry [4] Trained, RBL

A Battery [1] Trained, RML
B Battery [1] Trained, RML

* Volunteers are poorly armed hence only have Rifled muskets, not yet converted to Martini-Henry.
** Militia have the Martini-Henry, use the Chassepot ranges in BBB.
*** British artillery are still Rifle Muzzle loaders ☹
**** This force may just be a speed bump due to the Raw status of the majority; there may be a touch of the Warmington-on-Sea Home Guard in these guys.


9th Bde, 5th Division:
1/8th Grenadiers [6] Trained, Dreyse Needle Gun
2/8th Grenadiers [6] Trained, Dreyse Needle Gun
3/8th Grenadiers [6] Trained, Dreyse Needle Gun
1/48th Infantry [6] Trained, Dreyse Needle Gun
2/48th Infantry [6] Trained, Dreyse Needle Gun
3/48th Infantry [6] Trained, Dreyse Needle Gun

Reserves, 5th Division:
1st Uhlans [2] Trained
1st Battery [1] Krupp, Trained
2nd Battery [1] Krupp, Trained
3rd Battery [1] Krupp, Trained

* A typically efficient German force, well equipped and ready to push aside opposition.

After some discussion we allowed both sides to choose their deployment based around three broad objectives. Initially these were pretty much in and around Surbiton, thus forcing the Prussian player into a full on frontal assault, with time being against them. This was tweaked later on, more of which at the end of the report. 

Due to the nature of the play testing, no notes were taken, as things naturally developed as we played. However I took quite a few photos, so with some annotations, hopefully this will give a flavour of the proceedings.

The British are deployed on the right, mainly in Surbiton, with the Prussians near Thames Ditton and Long Ditton.
One British Brigade is deployed in depth along the hill, to try and slow down the Prussian advance. The British reserve can be seen in line of march, ready to move out quickly to where they are most needed. On the right flank can be seen the other British Brigade, mainly in Surbiton but with a Battalion in Seething Wells (top right hand corner).
The Prussian push forward all across their front, with their artillery deploying and then bombarding the British in the woods.
The British 'forlorn hope' comes under Krupp artillery fire.
The British second line moves out to protect the left flank from any attempt by the Prussians to turn the flank.
The Prussians swiftly close to try and get ready to assault the woods.
The British resolutely hold on despite facing the might of the Prussian army. Both sides continue to become Disrupted as a result of the weight of fire faced.
With the Prussians pressing the centre, the British move out of Seething Wells and the environs of Surbiton to threaten the Prussian left flank, screened by the railway embankment.
The British, despite the Prussian pressure, are in a good position.
The British go low on ammo as they pour fire into the Prussians.
Suddenly the battle takes a dramatic turn, as finally the Prussian pressure makes its mark as the British centre starts to collapse.
As the Prussians assault where possible...
...there trail of destruction is evident as another unit collapses...
...leading to a unit of Militia to face most of the Prussian force...
...which unsuprisingly is forced to retreat.
Even though they have cleared the British off the hill, the Prussians are facing an unexpected flank attack from across the railway line.
The Prussian centre looks exposed, but the British do not have enough quality units to evict them from the hill.
The British line the railway and fire, ineffectively, at the Prussians whilst Surbiton is re-inforced.
As the battle rages along the railway embankment, some British cavalry arrive and the Prussian Uhlans are re-inforced.
Their job done in delaying the Prussian advance, the British are happy to await further Prussian attacks whilst safely esconced in Surbiton and along the railway embankment.

Post Game Thoughts
Well for a first runout of the scenario, it all worked pretty well. We tweaked a few things as we went along, which was only to be expected. Once again Bloody Big Battles provided us with a fun and challenging game where we could focus on our tactics rather than the rules. Not bad considering we hadn't played for some time. 

For those that are interested, a few things that we changed and tweaked can be found below:
  • We increased the number of German commands so that they had a greater chance of activating. The plan is for anyone wanting to have a go is for them to take on the part of the Prussians. If they spend some of the game not doing much isn't going to be enjoyable for them, now is it?
  • The Prussian force is now going to be 3-4 Brigades, to allow for more than one player to take part at anytime.  
  • The British forces will be pre-deployed, whilst the Prussian players(s) can chose how and where to deploy their troops.
  • We increased the Prussian cavalry unit to make them a bit stronger and added a cavalry unit to the British. This allows for some possible flank manouevres and the chance to threaten the flanks if one side decisively wins the cavalry battle.
  • A unit of Prussian Jaegers was added, again to give some flanking action if required.
  • A unit on each side received one base of skirmishers to reflect their elite ability.
  • Depending upon how the battles unfolds, there may be some re-inforcements arriving for either side. I don't want to reveal more in case anyone reading this has a go on the day!
  • The objectives will be more spread across the board to help broaden out the battle and to give the Prussian player(s)  some decisions to make in terms of how best to use their forces. Again we have a few ideas of how to make this more interesting, but can't say anymore.
If all goes to plan we hope to have a stab at the Battle of Dorking when we next meet up, most likely in a couple of weeks time. If anyone is planning on attending the Legionary Show, please pop by to say 'Hello' and maybe even have a go at the game. It would be great to see you.