Monday 25 September 2023

The Sebangka fight: a small G&G action

Our man in the East Indies has sent another of his dispatches on the ongong Galleys & Galleons pirate activities in that area:

A pirate flotilla has been terrorising the northern coast of Sumatra for several months. The Sultan of Songkhla, hearing of this, despatched a squadron to hunt down down and destroy them.

The Songkhla squadron soon located the pirates off the island of Sebangka (in the SE approaches to the Strait of Malacca). Unusually the pirates didn’t flee. It turned out they had their base on the island, including most of their accumulated loot.

The pirate flotilla (276 pts), commanded by wako legend Chen Zuyi, comprised -

1 x Large junk “Hakka Merchant” (76). Q3 C3: Derring-do, Intimidating, Flagship, Lateen-rigged, Reinforced hull.

4 x Small junks “Bamboo Shoot” “Bean Sprout” “Bitter Melon” and “Bok Choy” (50). Q2 C2: Derring-do, Intimidating, Lateen-rigged, Reinforced hull, Yare.

The Songkhla squadron (246 pts) commanded by Abdul the Pious, comprised - 

4 x Galleys “Ayhutthaya” “Borobudur” “Songkhka*” and Srivijaya” (54) (84*). Q3 C3: Drilled soldiers, Flagship*, Galley, Shallow draft, Swashbucklers, Yare.

Both commanders were rated Dashing (a dice coincidence, not anything I planned).


Here’s the starting lineup, looking N. The pirates are anchored off the village of Temiah, (upper L corner) which is their base of operations. The galley patrol approaches from the SE (lower R corner). The wind is from the SW, blowing diagonally from bottom L to upper R. Areas of shallow water are shown by brown felt. The low scrubby areas in the water are mangroves.

Abdul and his galley squadron have initiative, so activate first each turn.

After 3 turns both squadrons are in sight of each other and shaping up for a fight. The pirates fluffed their first turn but have recovered well. The leading junks have shortened sail to allow the laggards to catch up. The galleys are more strung out, with Srivijaya leading and Borobudur in the rear. So far the wind is holding steady.

During turn 6 both sides started long range artillery fire, but no shots hit. Also both commanders made tactical decisions based on contingent dice rolls. Chen Zuyi decided on a daring plan to send some of his ships through narrow channels around the Songkhla left flank to attack them from behind. Abdul the Pious lined up his galleys in traditional formation, but has left gaps on both ends of the line. He did not act to correct this, eg by falling back 1-2 ships lengths.

Then on turn 7 Abdul signalled a general attack, as the pirates had strayed within 2M of his ships. Borobudur contacted and grappled Bean Sprout, but lacked the AP to start a boarding action. Ayhutthaya contacted Bitter Melon but couldn't grapple. Songkhka similarly contacted Bok Choy without grappling.

The Bean Sprout crew poured onto the deck of Borobudur, inflicting 2 damage. The Bitter Melon, which was blocked from moving forwards, grappled Ayutthaya, and two rounds of boarding ensued resulting in each side taking a damage as the galley’s drilled soldiers fought back strongly. The Bok Choy didn’t grapple the Songkhla, but fired into the galley at point blank range. It couldn't fire a full broadside as it needed the AP to alter course. The shooting was off and caused no damage. 

Yellow markers are for Grappled. Red markers for Damage. The wind has now shifted 2 points westerly, and is blowing along the length of the table, from L to R in the above photo.

Turn 8 started badly for the galleys as Songkhla was almost overwhelmed by the Bean Sprout boarders, and seems close to striking. Ayutthaya and Bitter Melon are fighting each other to a standstill, each gaining a second damage. The other galleys, Srivijaya and Songkhka, both closed on Hakka Merchant and fired, causing 1 damage.

In the Pirate bound the Bean Sprout, seemingly on the edge of victory, took 3 damages from 3 rounds of the ongoing boarding fight as the crew of Borobudur came back with a vengeance. If anything the Bitter Melon fared even worse. Also launching 3 x boarding fights, it first took Ayutthaya to 3 damage, them lost both the other fights to end up on 4 damage: captured by the galley. The Hakka Merchant fired a full broadside into Srivijaya at point blank range, but its gunnery was truly  awful and all shots missed. The two pirate junks tasked with outflanking the galleys were committed now, as it’s too difficult to turn and sail back out out of the channel they are in. So they keep going. Luckily their point of sailing is Running, so their movement is only 1S per turn, making forward navigation in the narrow channel easy enough.

There is a new marker, Pink for Captured. The wind, from the West, is blowing up the table from bottom to top in this shot.

Turn 9. Borobudur completed one of the great escapes of recent naval history by surviving an All at Sea roll and overcoming Bean Sprout, which was captured. It used its other actions to leave a prize crew and cut grapples. Ayutthaya left a prize crew aboard Bitter Melon, cut the grapples, and turned to port.  The two captured pirate junks drifted 1/2S downwind while the prize crews are getting them back under control. The galleys Srivijaya and Songkhka both fired into the Hakka Merchant, taking it to 3 damage points. The pirate flagship returned fire, but totally missed both shots. The remaining pirates kept moving, but they are now thinking mainly of escape.

The wind has shifted again, to WSW.

The Songkhka took the Hakka Merchant into “excess damage” territory and sank it at the beginning of turn 10. This leaves the Pirates with only the two small junks which are cautiously navigating a narrow waterway back to the main channel. The Songkhla squadron has two intact galleys including the flagship, two other crippled galleys*, and two pirate prizes which are also crippled*. 

* the damage to all these vessels has resulted from boarding actions, not artillery, so is likely to be repairable fairly easily, especially in sheltered waters like this. 

Looking at this balance sheet the surviving pirate ships decided (contingency roll) to stay where they were until dusk then slip away into the night. Abdul isn’t going to go in after them, even though it’s ideal galley work, because of the risk to his own ships. Once the pirates have fled he can begin repairing his damaged galleys, and the prizes, and send a landing party ashore at Temiah to get hold of the pirates’ loot stash.

So the battle ended as a solid win for the Songkhla galley squadron, and a defeat for the pirates. No-one knows if Chen Zuyi the pirate warlord survived, but it’s quite possible as there was plenty of debris to cling to. And land not far away. It’s the bull sharks you have to worry about in these murky waters.


Cheers from Pattaya


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