Friday, 3 March 2017

The Battle of Dorking 1871 - A Boody Big Battles AAR

Slightly later than planned, Dave and I met up to have a bash at the fictional 'Battle of Dorking', the pre-cursor to the 'Last Stand at Surbiton'. We decided to fight the whole battle, rather than break it down into left flank etc, which resulted in somewhat smaller units than normal, which can be seen below:

Orders of Battle

Brit 5th Div 
2nd Guards Bde [3] Vet, LB,rather well turned out and very smart.
11th Bde [4] Raw, MLR, .. nervous militia and volunteers
Lifeguard Cav [1] Vet ... Natural air of superiority exists, they can choose to charge if they deem it worthy of them.
17th Lancers [1] Trnd ... Balaclava still a bad memory for them, will choose to charge if in range.
Art [1] Trnd ... rifled muzzle loaders
Art [1] Trnd ... rifled muzzle loaders 
Brit 6th Div 
9th Bde [3] Trnd, S, LB,  ... sturdy line troops
12th Bde [3] Raw, MLR ... nervous militia and volunteers
Surrey Yeomanry [1] Raw ... excitable chinny types, must charge if in range.
Art [1] ... rifled muzzle loaders
Brit 8th Div 
16th Bde [4] Raw, MLR ... nervous militia and volunteers
City of London Yeomanry [1] ... excitable chinny types, must charge if in range.
Art [1] ... rifled muzzle loaders

German 6th Div

11th Bde
20th Inf [4] Vet, S, NG ... Elite troops of the division with the jagers added.
35th Inf [3] Trnd ... NG
16th Inf [3] Trnd ... NG
Art [1] Trnd ... Krupps
12th Bde 

24th Inf [3] Trnd ... NG
64th Inf [3] Trnd ... NG
Art [1] Trnd ... Krupps
Div Res
6th Kuirassiers [2] Vet ... Studnitz rides again
Art [1] Trnd ... Krupps 
Art [1] Trnd ... Krupps 
Corps Res 
Hussars [2] Trnd

Having set up the terrain the night before, I thought that this might be a tough ask for the Prussians. The British have a naturally strong defensive position of a long range of wooded hills, broken up by a narrow valley which would tend to funnel the Prussian troops into a natural bottleneck.. The river had very few crossing points, which would most likely limit the movement of the Prussian right flank. 

With all of this in mind, I deployed my troops as follows:
  • The 5th Division along the ridge of Ranmore Common.
  • The 6th Division in depth on Box Hill.
  • The 8th Division in West Humble.   
My plan was to hold onto Box Hill and Ranmore Common for as long as possible, only falling back if either position started to become untenable. Whether the plan would work remained to be seen, but at least it was a plan...

With the British deployed as previously mentioned, the Prussians more or less lined up either side of Dorking. Their objective being to sieze Dorking and push on through to West Humble to secure a route of march on London.
The British in depth on Box Hill and line abreast on Ranmore Common.
From the Prussian viewpoint the line of hills can just be made out. We classed these as gentle slopes.
The Prussians made a steady advance, with one unit refusing to move off.
The British broadly held firm.
The Prussians seize Dorking and form a strong central line, with their Krupp artillery deployed and firing on the British.
Both sides artillery was not very effective, but a British unit is Disrupted and a Prussian battery silenced.
The Prussians are delayed in moving through Dorking, but their centre pushed forward to attack towards Ranmore Common.
The British left flank loses its battery of guns to Krupp artillery fire, whilst the 11th Brigade moves in from the right flank to reinforce the 2nd Guards Brigade on Ranmore Common.
The British fire manages to Disrupt some of the Prussian units, but causes no casualties due to some shocking die rolling.
The Prussian right flank struggles to cross the river, whilst the action hots up at Ranmore Common.
The 2nd Guards Brigade have been pushed back off the hill, leaving the 11th Brigade to face the might of the Prussian army.
The British 6th Brigade have withdrawn from Box Hill to avoid coming under sustained fire from the Prussian artillery, who now have no targets due to the lie of the land.
Furious assaults go in on Ranmore Common, whilst the 6th Brigades withdrawl to West Humble gives them a very strong defensive position.
The view from the Prussian right flank, showing how their troops are being forced into a narrow position at the bottom of the valley.
The British 11th Brigade, formed of militia and volunteers, have done sterling work in holding off repeated Prussian assaults and in fact pushing them back off Ranmore Common with out losing a single unit. The 2nd Guards Brigade in 'support' may have to gloss over this ignomy in their offical battle report.
Despite repeated attempts, the Prussians have been unable to advance any further forward.
Stuck at the bottom of the valley and with no immediate prospect of a breakthrough, we decided that the Prussians would withdraw back towards the salubrious delights of Dorking, whilst the British celebrated stopping the Prussian advance in its tracks.

Post Game Thoughts
Well despite it being a great game as always, it was a suprsingly bloodless affair. The British lost a battery of guns and the Surrey Yeomanry cavalry, whilst the Prussians lost a unit of Hussars and Jagers. And all of this despite around 3 assaults in the space of as many, if not fewer, Turns. Still it was a fun game which is what matters at the end of the day. So as always a few thoughts and musings on the game:

  • Despite this being only our second game in quite some time, we hardly had recourse to the rulebook, with the excellent QRS sufficing. This speaks volumes of the rules which, IMHO, are superb and allow you to focus on your tactics rather than the rules. I can't recommend them highly enough.
  • For once the Prussian artillery was not its usual devastating self (the British artillery was very poor as well). The terrain hampered their ability to bring their guns to bear in any meaningful way, whilst the woods offered the British excellent cover from their fire.
  • Overall both off us had a poor day with our die rolling. We simply did not cause any real casualties, just Disruption for nearly all of the game. 
  • Despite repeated Close Assaults, neither side could gain a decisive advantage, unlike the previous 'Last Stand at Surbiton' where the Prussians were able to roll up the British line in a series of assaults.
  • The terrain definitely made it hard for the Prussians, whilst favouring the British. Post game, we chatted about this and thought that a concerted push between Dorking and Westcott towards Ranmore Common 'may' have been a better option. But given the poor die rolling on the night, this may have made little difference.  
For our next game, it will most likely be another outing for Bloody Big Battles, but whether it will be 'historical' or a 'what if?' remains to be seen.


  1. Great looking game! I've played BBB once and enjoyed it. Was a bit slow picking up the rules at first, but had a decent handle by the end of the game.

    1. Thanks Rod. When we started off, we had the advantage that Dave had played them at Reading in a demo game, so was able to explain a few things to me as we went along.

  2. Not been to Box Hill? Nobody would describe it as having a gentle hill!

    1. Dave has and I've seen pics. For simplicity we left it as gentle, given that the terrain proved to be hard enough for the Prussians as it was.

  3. Enjoyed - thank you. I have never heard a bad word said of these rules, which is a great testimony. Seeing a battle of that scope on a 'normal table' is quite something.

    1. You're welcome Norm. These rules have become our default set for 19thC games, although I do like the look of Neil Thomas' 19thC set, which I really must give a run out at some point.

      I think all of our games have been on a 4'x4' table, which has, at times, required a bit of bathtubbing to fit everything on. This has not been a problem in our experience as all of the games have been enjoyable.

  4. Bravo! This is a game I'd like to copy some time.

  5. Steve a great scenario to playout, Green eyes over here. I am tempted to unbox the Prussians I ahve been hanging on to.

  6. Hi i have shared your work on my 10mm Wargaming page and 10mm Wargaming group

    Take care