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"Best Battle with an Unpredicted Outcome in History" Topic

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Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2023 8:37 a.m. PST

It could be the battle that the obviously weaker party somehow won, or the battle that caught the other side with its proverbial pants down, or just one with a surprising and unexpected outcome, whatever that was.

I admit to not being as well versed as most here, but my entries are:

Marathon, 490 BC
Salamis, 480 BC
Plataea, 479 BC
Leuctra 317 BC (Thebes v. Sparta; Thebes victorious)
Granicus River 334 BC
Issus 333 BC
Antioch (Crusaders drive off Seljuk siege of Antioch), 1098 AD
Arsuf (1191)
Stirling Bridge 1297
Bannockburn 1314
English Resistance to the Invincible Armada/ Battle of Gravelines 1588
Concord Bridge 1775
Bunker Hill (Breeds Hill) 1775
Capture of Fort Ticonderoga 1775
Trenton 1776
Saratoga 1777
Flamborough Head (USS Bon Homme Richard v. HMS Serapis) 1779
USS Constitution v. HMS Guerriere 1812
New Orleans 1815
San Jacinto 1836
First Manassas (aka First Battle of Bull Run) 1861

And there my knowledge dwindles a great deal, as we pass out of my areas of interest (and yes, I have no battle of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, as I know little about the nature of them, nor any battles in east Asia, India, Japan, Africa, and South or Central America— So please add these, those of you who are familiar with them!

Again, battles with potentially surprising or unexpected outcomes, at the times at the very least.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2023 9:24 a.m. PST

I'd add Coutras 1587
King's Mountain 1780 and
Cowpens 1781
to your list, and I think Cornwallis would agree with me.

Of the Napoleonic Wars, Arguably
Austerlitz 1805
Maida 1806
Vimiero 1808
Aspern-Essling 1809 and maybe
Jena-Auerstadt 1806. Certainly the campaign was a shocker.

Out of, roughly, "colonial" wars,
The Little Bighorn (1876)
Isandlwana (1879) and
Adwa (1896.)

More recently, possibly Bir el Gubi, 1941? (North Afrika, Italians beat British)

One problem is that most of these would not be surprises on a wargame table, even if they were successfully disguised, or the players historically ignorant. Mostly, surprise comes from either poor intelligence--these people can't fight a stand-up battle!--or sheer arrogance--they can't possibly be a threat to us! The winners are rarely surprised by the outcome. Coutras is, I think, and exception. And I think in the case of the Invincible Armada, while the British were, I think surprised, none of the senior Spanish had been hopeful. Military forces fall into habits--which we now call "procedure"--and this will eventually lead to defeat.

Hmmm. How did you miss the Teutoburger Wald 9 AD?

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2023 10:21 a.m. PST

How about Midway?

wpilon03 Aug 2023 10:59 a.m. PST

The Battle of France in 1940. The entire world (including the Germans!) was gobsmacked when the French collapsed.

lloydthegamer Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2023 11:32 a.m. PST

The battle off of Samar: Taffy 3, 6 escort carriers, 3DDs, and 3 DEs vs BBS, CAs, CLs, plus a flock of DDs. Should have been a walk over for the Japanese, but they were the ones running away at the end of the day.

lloydthegamer Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2023 11:33 a.m. PST

The battle off of Samar: Taffy 3 (6 escort carriers 3DDs and 3 DEs vs BBS, CAs, CLs, plus a flock of DDs. Should have been a walk over for the Japanese, but they were the ones running away at the end of the day.

Royston Papworth03 Aug 2023 11:43 a.m. PST

Operation Compass
Cambrai, the offensive and counter attack

mjkerner03 Aug 2023 11:50 a.m. PST

Rorkes Drift, 1879
Maiwand, 1880
Harmar's Defeat, 1790
St. Clair's Defeat 1791
Tippecanoe, 1811
Guadalcanal, 1942-43
Bastogne, 1944

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Aug 2023 12:04 p.m. PST

Decidedly more recently, how about Hostomel Airfield and the campaign to take Kyiv itself?


Steamingdave203 Aug 2023 1:01 p.m. PST

Mindenhas to be in the running.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2023 1:53 p.m. PST

A quibble, and I hate to disagree with Winston Churchill, but "battle" applied to the fall of France--or the Battle of Britain or even the Battle of the Bulge--isn't useful to a miniatures player. It's not something you can put on a table, and a "battle" consisting of multiple campaigns I think stretches the meaning past the breaking point.

I say that because I looked at it myself, and I agree with wpilon: "everyone was gobsmacked." It's just I can't think of an individual action which was all that surprising. Serious credit to the German high command for seeing the opportunity.

microgeorge03 Aug 2023 1:53 p.m. PST

+1 for the battle off Samar. It deserves its own movie. Is Ridley Scott or Spielberg listening?

Martin Rapier03 Aug 2023 11:53 p.m. PST

" It's just I can't think of an individual action which was all that surprising"

The Meuse crossing? Glider assault on Eban Emael?

Dexter Ward04 Aug 2023 1:37 a.m. PST

I'd add Manzikert. Should have been an easy Byzantine win if not for treachery in the Byzantine ranks

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2023 7:09 a.m. PST

Points for Eban Emael, Martin, but as a wargame, the decisions are baked in. As for the Meuse, again, a lot of the surprise was mutual ignorance. I suspect if you set it up as a game--veteran elite German units with plentiful air support vs French reservists the French high command has spent the entire winter not training--none of the game designers would be surprised by the historical outcome.

Could be my bias. I'm not much for river-crossing games--though they are better than "let's all converge on the bridge."

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Aug 2023 2:09 p.m. PST

1948 Arab-Isreali War?

Adrianople (Romans vs. Goths)

Chalons (Huns versus everyone)

Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP07 Aug 2023 7:52 p.m. PST

Long Tan 18 August 1966. A rifle company stumbles into an enemy battalion-plus force preparing to stage either an area ambush or else an attack on the base at Nui Dat. The company, supported by artillery and air assets, holds the enemy force until reinforcements arrive, when the VC and PAVN retire.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP09 Aug 2023 8:02 a.m. PST

Kapyong (Korea), especially the Canadians last ditch defense of Hill 677.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Aug 2023 1:46 p.m. PST

Puebla (1862) – The French were sure they would win. The Mexicans were pretty sure the French would win, too.

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