Wednesday 21 September 2022

All at Sea - Sercey off Sumatra, Clotted Lard 2022

Last weekend I was taking part in Clotted Lard and was running Sercey off Sumatra, one of the fifty historical scenarios that I have pulled together specifically for use with Kiss Me Hardy, with the two games run at the meeting adding to the two previous play tests run as warm-ups in preparation and featured here on the blog.

With players familiar with Kiss Me Hardy but less so with the material I have pulled together, this was a great opportunity to see what other KMH fans thought of the scenario and the materials I have created around it as well as seeing how two different groups of players would respond to the situation it creates based on the historical one faced by Rear Admiral Sercey and Commodore Lucas.

I have pulled together a detailed AAR of the game I ran with the second game in the afternoon overseen by my co-host and fellow gamemeister, Charley Walker, who kindly stepped in while I did my usual coverage of the other games at the show. If you would like to see more of the show as a whole then you can follow the link below for a post on the Devon Wargames Group Blog detailing Clotted Lard 2022.

Devon Wargames Group - Clotted Lard 2022

The table all set up ready to go in the Meeting Room at our new venue for Clotted Lard, Lympstone Village Hall

With the table all set up and ready to go, I briefed the first three players for the game, and we rolled dice to sort out the commands, with two players running the French, Chris, who ran Sercey and the first three frigates in the sailing order and Simon who brought up the rearward three, leaving Neil to to assume the role of Commodore Lucas aboard the Arrogant.
I now have a standard kit for running my KMH games that includes my gunnery templates, turning circles, wind compass, laser pen, range sticks, dice towers, activation chits, game specific markers and red and blue dice (d6s and a d10). Here all set up ready to go.

As detailed to the players, the scenario sees Sercey's frigate line off the Sumatran coast protecting a captured British Indiaman prize, (off table), and with the line slightly staggered to allow the second group of three rearward frigates to potentially double the approaching British third rates.

As in the previous play throughs the French detached into their two groups of three and also similarly, the two British third rates looked to sail close to the wind and bear down on the French rear, hoping to deal with them before the French van could come around in support, requiring them to tack back to do so if they did.

Sercey leads the first three frigates into the attack with the second group in close support, as the British attempt to close on the rear most group of Frenchman.

I guess you could call this a ranging shot as both sides were keen to check the likely closing distance prior to opening fire

The action commenced on turn four as the Arrogant 74-guns opens fire on the Régénérée 40-guns leading the nearest group of frigates

The French commander has to be wary of his force being attacked and beaten in detail and it looked as if they might be as the Arrogant opened fire first on the the French rear, causing hits on the more fragile French hulls, soon joined by Victorious adding to the hurt.

The Victorious 74-guns lends her fire in support of the flagship as the Cybèle 40-guns lends her support to the Régénérée ahead of her.

Battle well and truly on as the lead frigate in the French van, Vertu (nearest camera) unleashes a devastatingly accurate extreme range broadside aimed at Victorious' rigging (extreme right), bringing down the third rate's main-mast and causing the first strike test of the game, easily passed by the British ship as, with a cheer, the fallen mast and rigging was cleared.

As if sensing a potential problem about to start, Sercey had his van come across the rear of the Victorious at extreme range to start to deliver fire at the British rigging, an historic tactic that KMH encourages the French to do, giving them extra dice with their firing, even though they have to hit on a '6'.

Rather surprisingly the lead frigate, Vertu managed to cause several hits on the British third rate and also managed to include a low score on the D10 that signified a potential critical hit on the rigging of Victorious.

The subsequent die roll revealed a damaging strike on the British ship's mainmast, bringing it down, immediately knocking off several speed boxes and requiring the the third-rate to take a strike test, made slightly more problematic, with the inclusion of 'High Officer Casualties', thus increasing the chances of failure.

The Arrogant starts to pull away from her consort as she looks to close on the French rearmost group before Sercey can come up in support

The strike test on Victorious was duly taken and passed with a rousing cheer from the British crew, but seeing the gap between the two British ships widen as with her damaged rigging Victorious was unable to keep up with the now sleek Arrogant knifing through the water like a predatory shark; intent on dealing a death blow to the weakest French frigate in the rear most group, the 32-gun Prudente, now badly damaged by successive broadsides from the advancing third-rate.

The range is now down to long and both sides are focussing their fire, with the French aiming at British rigging

HMS Arrogant bears down on the 32-gun Prudente, and with the range decreasing, starts to work over the small French frigate as the trailing Victorious bears the brunt of support fire from the French. 

The Arrogant was irresistible as she got the drop on the French rear, being able to move and fire simultaneously, whilst passing in close to the stern galleries of the Prudente to enable a grapple as a punishing stern rake finished off the target, not requiring the Royal Marines to storm onto the French deck, but rather to help lower boats to pick up survivors from the sinking frigate.

The moment of decision as the Arrogant passes close on the Prudente's stern galleries and grapples whilst pouring in a point-blank stern rake.

With the Victorious now badly damaged aloft and under heavy fire from Sercey's remaining frigates, the Arrogant dispatches Prudente to the bottom with a second point-blank stern rake, to allow her to break contact and come to the support of her consort.

Victorious top left is under heavy fire as Sercey brings up his van to support his rear. Meanwhile Arrogant has dispatched the Prudente and is picking up survivors as she prepares to come up in support

Meanwhile the Victorious bravely battled away against the fire of four Frenchman, as the Arrogant sought to come to her aide and reduce the number of enemies, by turning in towards the next frigate in line, the  Cybèle, who now found herself with the third-rate bearing down on her starboard bow, with likely aggressive intent.

The action is now a general fight as formation struggles to be maintained and the firing is close 

Again the British flagship was able to conjure up a combination of move, fire and grapple, with a bow rake being the preferred modus-operandi on this occasion, and with the grapples in place seeing a strike test marker laid ready to test at the appropriate time.

As if on cue, the Strike Test chit appeared almost immediately after, and was failed, seeing the Frenchman haul down his colours, before any British boarders had climbed over their own bulwarks.

The Arrogant has closed in on a second French frigate, the Cybèle, second from left and crossed her bows whilst delivering a point-blank rake and successfully grappling her. A strike test marker is against a starboard stern gallery to remind us to test when the chit is drawn. Meanwhile the Victorious continues her heroic struggle with three other Frenchman as she comes up in support, but taking heavy damage aloft as she does.

With our morning session fast approaching lunch time, having played through about sixteen turns of play, and now with 33% of the French squadron out of action and plenty of fight still left in the British force, we called the game in favour of Commodore Lucas.

The following ship records tell their own story, with the Arrogant barely having a scratch on her paintwork, but with the Victorious having borne the brunt of French aggression badly damaged in her rigging, but only lightly damaged on her hull, leaving her still in a formidable state as a fighting gun platform.

Commodore (Captain) Richard Lucas - Arrogant (flagship)

As far as Sercey's command, the cards reveal the frustrating morning endured by the French (Simon, we all felt your pain!), only relieved by the administering of the extreme range dismasting of the Victorious but leaving all the surviving French frigates except the Vertu carrying light damage, likely to cause the French commander to seek repairs rather than persist with his campaign into the Indian Ocean.

Rear-Admiral de Sercey -  Forte (flagship)

Thank you to all the players and to our several guests who joined us to watch what proved to be a highly entertaining fight and underlined what an interesting and challenging little action this is for both sides.


  1. Fantastic write up - my dice rolling really was poor! Thanks again for running such a fun, narrative game of KMH. - Simon

    1. Hi Simon,
      Thank you, much appreciated.
      You were certainly having one of those days, but I'm glad you enjoyed the game.

      All the best