Sunday, 26 March 2017

Kong! Kong! Kong!

Introduction


Scenario 2 for the Congo wargames rules involves a giant ape who lives near a sacred tree and is protected and venerated by the local native tribe.  But an expedition led by adventurous white men is determined to investigate and, if possible, capture the creature to take back to "civilisation".  After a long time hacking through the jungle, the tired and dishevelled explorers come across a jungle clearing containing a shrine - and some very large footprints.

Here's how it went when we played the game...

The Forces

White Men Expedition

100 points of figures, split into 2 columns which would enter from diametrically-opposite corners of the table:
  • In the top, right corner: Major Savage (retired officer), 1 x 4 trained askaris and 1 x 4 [Sikh] soldiers.
  • Bottom, left: George Keylies [journalist, writing for the "Paris Monitor"], 2 x 4 trained ascaris and 1 x 5 Ruga Ruga [flamboyant, drug-taking, boastful mercenaries].
The expedition started the game exhausted and as luck would have it, straight away [before the first turn] the Sikhs lost a man and the Ruga Ruga gained a terror token.

The Forest Worshippers


70 points of figures, again split into 2 groups who would enter from opposite corners:
  • Top left of the board: a champion plus 3 x 5 young warriors
  • Bottom right: the chieftain plus 2 x 5 warriors.
Note that the champion has the special ability that he can move up to 3 units of young warriors as a single action, thus making his group potentially very fast and flexible.

The tribesmen look to be outpointed quite badly [70 points to 100 points], but remember that they also control Kong!

Victory Conditions

Sudden death:
  • The white men win immediately if Kong is reduced to 0 hits in melee [he's captured and dragged away].
  • The natives win immediately if Kong is reduced to 0 hits by shooting [he's dead and cannot be studied, exhibited or otherwise give value to the expedition]
Otherwise, after a random turn limit:
  • The white men expedition scores 1VP per hit inflicted on Kong.  If the journalist survives then he adds 1VP by writing stories per 3VP scored otherwise.
  • The natives score 3VP per expedition unit that is destroyed.  Note that the natives do not suffer any victory point penalties for losing their own men.  Presumably they are fanatics and don't care?

The Game


As predicted, all the young warriors raced enthusiastically towards Kong's sacred grove.  In desperation, the journalist's ascaris alone met them [the Ruga Ruga were left behind after a successful terror attack left them with a bad case of the screaming heebie-jeebies] and fired a volley.

The ascaris' shooting only caused one casualty; this didn't look as if it would slow down the natives at all - until we rolled for "character" casualties.  Predictably, their champion took the bullet; the young warriors were left leaderless!



The tribesmen pressed their attack, but it was all a bit disjointed now and they started to take casualties from rifle fire.  After another successful terror attack, some of the ascaris fled as the jungle noises and war cries proved too much for them.  To balance this, the Ruga Ruga finally pulled themselves together and started to catch up with the rest of the party.



Before the Ruga Ruga could reach them, Monsieur Keylies and his remaining [but dwindling] band of ascaris fought off wave after wave of young warriors.  The trained gunmen felled large numbers of their attackers, but there always seemed to be more.

Just as the last attack petered out and it looked as if they were safe, one of the retreating natives flung an assegai.  The missile caught the journalist in the middle of the chest and he went down, dying.


In the North


On the opposite side of the clearing, Major Strange's ascaris advanced and fired a devastating volley at the great ape.  This scored 3 hits, so Kong would only be able to take 5 more before falling.

Nearby, the flank-guard Sikhs were having a hard time of it.  They were rushed by tribal warriors before they could fire a shot and suffered more casualties.



While the great ape looked on, the warriors swept over the Sikhs and slaughtered them.  Then, they pressed on towards Major Savage's ascaris.  The warriors must have been tiring or something, as these continued clashes didn't achieve much other than to chase the intruders around the glade.



Finally, the major rallied his retreating troops enough to fire a crashing volley at the persistent warriors.  When the smoke cleared, all of the natives were laid low!


In the Centre


The remaining bands of natives [and their chieftain, who was just arriving] now scattered to try to protect Kong.  More rifle fire took its toll, but it was now getting late in the game and the expedition hadn't even stepped inside the sacred grove yet, let alone captured the great ape.



The Major's ascaris in the north were held up by small groups of natives, so it looked as if it was all up to the unbloodied and intact Ruga Ruga to take on Kong.  They advanced into the grove...



...and overran the native chieftain and his last remaining bodyguard [they didn't want to fire and unload their muskets, not just yet anyway].



...but Kong didn't take kindly to the intruders.  His charge killed one of the Ruga Ruga and drove the rest away - for now.



It looked as if Kong would have to be softened up with rifle fire a bit more before the expedition attempted again to capture him.  The creature was still too tough to take on in melee with any real hope of winning!

Time was really running out now.  Cleverly, another pair of natives ran in front of the giant ape to protect him.  If the ascaris could just shoot them both then the Ruga Ruga would have a chance to shoot Kong - but it wasn't to be.  The ascaris only killed one of the natives and the Ruga Ruga had to use their muskets to kill the other.  They probably wouldn't have time to reload before the game ended.


Overtime


We were into overtime now, but the dice called for another round.  Kong charged again, dealing out more death and destruction.  The ascaris weren't finished off, but were weakened even further.



The Ruga Ruga had another go, but again they lost one of their number and had to retreat from the enraged ape...



...who continued to pursue and slaughter the Ruga Ruga.  However, Major Savage and his ascaris now entered the grove from the north - but would there be time for them to do anything?



The dice was rolled again to see if this was the end of the game, but still it came up negative - play on!  So, the Major's group charge Kong and clubbed, stabbed and shot the monster at point blank range.  Roaring with pain, the animal retreated.  [He had now taken 5 hits out of a possible 8 and, while weakened, was not yet completely helpless].



By now, it was absolutely, definitely the last act of the game.  Only the remaining 2 ascaris were able to do anything, so should they attack Kong or not?  Even though they had no chance whatsoever of capturing the monster, each wound they did would be worth 1VP, so I [controlling the Expedition] decided to "have a go".

Of course, the great ape simply killed both the men, thus scoring another 3VP for the defenders.  Bad decision!


Conclusion

Nobody scored a "sudden death" win, so victory points were as follows:
  • Expedition: 5VP for wounds to Kong
  • Natives: 6VP for destroying 2 enemy units [the Sikh soldiers and the ascaris in the very last combat].
So, it's a narrow win for the Forest Tribe defenders!

The tribesmen played a very canny game of getting in the way of the expedition and blocking their access to the great ape.  What they didn't manage to do was to destroy many enemy units.  Apart from the early overrun of the weakened Sikhs, it took a bad decision by the White Men expedition [i.e. me] in assaulting Kong with a 2-man unit to score the natives more victory points.

To show how close this game was, here are a few points where it could have gone differently:
  • If the dice hadn't allowed us to go into overtime, it would have been 3VP each [Sikh unit destroyed, but 3 wounds to Kong] and thus a draw.
  • If I hadn't been caught up in the moment and hadn't made that final charge: 5VP to the Expedition for wounds to Kong, 3VP to the natives, for an Expedition win.
  • If the journalist had survived the assegai then the expedition would have scored another 1VP for his articles in the newspaper and therefore it would have ended as a 6VP draw.
Major Savage told his story of the tribe who worshipped a great ape in many bars across the Empire.  But there was no-one to back him up and he was regarded as a harmless, old fool who had a bit too much to drink.  However much he would protest the truth of his tale, there was no hard evidence and so "Kong" passed into history as just another tall tale...


Monday, 20 March 2017

28mm Space Fighters: Finished

Introduction

Remember this?


A while ago, I mentioned that I had found a couple of starfighter kits very cheap and that these were perfectly-sized for 28mm miniature figures.  I wrote a work-in-progress article, though at the time I didn't have any firm plans as to how the models should be finished.  Well, the pair are now complete; here they are!


Klingon Attack Shuttles


As you can see from the picture above, I've painted these craft in Klingon livery.  They've come out slightly dusty-looking; that's my varnish not working as well as I'd like.  I'll just have to claim that they have frost forming on them due to the cold atmosphere of the planet on which they have landed.



The first model I built had the canopy glued in place, but I did something different for the second kit.  The canopy on this model has a tab attached to the back of it; it can be slotted into position either open (see above) or closed (see below).



It took me quite a long time to paint the first fighter.  This was not because they are in any way difficult, but rather because I dithered over the colour schemes; I took weeks to decide.  Eventually I settled for a very dark green, with dusty green and red oxide details.  Of course, the second model was much simpler as I didn't have to go through this again!



So, how will I use these shuttles?  I've no idea, really.  They could be static, ground decoration in pretty much any science fiction game, but they could also be suspended above a game table and used for ground support.  I'm sure there are many other ways they could be employed as well...

Monday, 13 March 2017

Perilous Island 2: Final Flight

Introduction

After one of the longest set of intro articles I've ever created for a scenario, we finally played the second game in our Pulp Alley campaign!

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, or who wish to remind themselves of the details, here are the earlier posts:
If you're not interested in reading all this background, then here's the short version: we're playing the Perilous Island campaign for the Pulp Alley wargames rules.  4 leagues are involved [Tarzan's jungle alliance, Stahl Helm's Nazi doom squad, Sir Henry's safari and the Snake Cult of Al Masudi].

Game 2 in the campaign is designed for two leagues, so we picked Sir Henry and the Snake Cult [mainly because the players were both available].  When we get around to playing game 3, which is also designed for two leagues, we'll use the other two groups instead.

Final Flight

A quick description of the scenario: Lumbasa airport is mobbed with crowds; there are rumours of a revolution and many people are trying to get on board the last scheduled flight out of the country.  Sir Henry is trying to find Lady Elaine, the campaign's central character and help her onto the aircraft ("Old family friends.  Knew her cousin at Harrow, don't you know").  On the other hand, the Snake Cult is attempting to prevent her and the plane from leaving altogether.

Setup


The scenario description dictates that each league follows a trail of clues, ending with the passenger aircraft.  Each clue/plot point will only be placed on the board when the previous one has been achieved.  These go as follows:
  • Sir Henry: retrieve the tickets and other travel papers from a local "fixer" => locate Lady Elaine in the crowd => board the aeroplane.
  • Al Masudi's Snake Cult: search for a smuggled bomb that is hidden in the baggage => find a previously-bribed, corrupt mechanic => sabotage the aircraft.
Normally, a game of Pulp Alley would have a number of perilous areas to make things difficult for the players.  In this game, we decided to have the following:
  • The area around each of the spinning propellers of the larger plane were extremely perilous.  Should be pretty obvious, really...
  • A large number of bystanders were set up in groups around the airfield.  Most of these were unarmed, but each player was permitted to place 4 neutral models who were wielding guns.  Anywhere within 2" of one of these models would be perilous, as the gunman/woman might attempt to interfere with either player's figures.  Why?  It might be self-defence, an attempted robbery, a tragic mistake or some other reason.  Tempers are frayed, everyone is on edge...
Note 1: it's not always easy to spot a gun-armed figure in a crowd.  I wonder if either of the players will fail to notice one and run accidentally into some unwanted bother?
Note 2: the perilous bystanders are an entirely different concept from the line of soldiers on either end of the table.  The latter are merely decoration, present to mark the edge of the playing area and to remind the players that a hostile act may result in a character being hunted down and arrested.

The Leagues

Sir Henry's Safari

Consisting of:
  • Sir Henry: Strong, rich, handsome, dashing.  A thoroughly decent sort of chap.  He's brought along his old school tie, hoping that this symbol will allow him to get on the plane without any questions.  If the pilot or steward is an Old Harrovian, it should count for something, right?  "Old boys' club" and all that...  [In game terms, Sir Henry used some of his wealth to purchase a "gadget X" piece of equipment]
  • Alan Quartermain: legendary crack shot, hunter and guide.
  • Captain Goode: retired naval officer and best friend, though not especially competent.  A bit of a duffer really.
  • Lady Constance:  Minor character, a young lady.  I'm not really sure where she fits in.  Perhaps she is Sir Henry's ward, a family friend, a pushy reporter or something else?
  • As well as his normal; 3 ascaris, Sir Henry used some local contacts to bring along a couple of extra shooters.  With 5 riflemen to back him up, it's obvious he's expecting trouble...

Al Masudi's Snake Cult

As follows:
  • Al Masudi: Crafty, strong-willed, intimidating.  Your standard wannabe evil overlord, really.
  • Taguerjah, the serpent: An enormous and strong snake.  Very dangerous.
  • Jasham, Nadeem and Saeed: sidekicks/lieutenants.  One specialises in sharpshooting, one in stealth and one in wrestling, though I can never remember who does which.
  • As well as the usual crew, the cult leader used his dominion to attract 3 local dacoits/bandits.  It looks as if Al Masudi is expecting trouble as well...

The Game

The leagues entered the table from opposite corners, so for the initial couple of turns they just stormed forwards without much else happening.  The first real excitement happened when Sir Henry approached the fixer who had the tickets:


A dapper gentleman in an evening suit took offence and started to draw a pistol, but he subsided quickly and backed off when Sir Henry stared him down [yup, the Cultist player had placed a perilous bystander right beside the fixer].
"Have you got my documents?" asked the Englishman.
"What documents?  What are you talking about?" came the startled reply.
"The travel warrant for the lady and I"
"Listen, buddy: I don't know no ladies and I haven't got anything for you.  Get lost, willya?"

The cultist player (and I, as the umpire) laughed a lot as poor Sir Henry drew a "red herring" card - he had questioned the wrong man.  The real fixer was 6" away.  I suppose that it's an easy mistake to make in a crowd.



Elsewhere, Al Masudi was rummaging through the baggage that lay on the airfield, looking for the dynamite.  He was discovered by an armed guard [another perilous bystander] who tried to stop him.  However, the cult leader was strong; he managed to overcome his assailant without attracting any more unwanted attention.


The smile was wiped from his face when he discovered that the package over which he had fought so hard didn't contain dynamite after all.  Instead, it was a consignment of cosmetics and ladies perfume.

Turn 3


Finally, Sir Henry spotted the correct agent in the crowd.  Flanked by many of his squad, he stormed forwards and had no difficulty at all in securing the travel documents for himself and Lady Elaine.  Now he just needed to find her and ensure that they were on the aircraft before it left.  But where was she?



Not wanting to be left behind, Al Masudi looked around for the explosives.  His minions discovered it lying in the middle of the runway, where someone had obviously dropped it carelessly.  With a grunt of satisfaction, the cult leader strode over and collected the dynamite.



And here's where it all kicked off!  One of Sir Henry's ascaris caught a glimpse of a cultist through a gap in the crowd.  Without hesitating, he raised his rifle, drew a bead on the enemy and shot him down.  [Note: from this point on, we used the "bullet" markers to indicate that a model had engaged in combat and was therefore wanted by the authorities, as per a special scenario rule].



In response, one of that group of cultists drew his sword and ran forwards, trying to hide behind a group of nearby bystanders.  The young man with the orange hair took fright at the stranger who was apparently charging him whilst waving a machete, so he pulled out a pistol and shot the cultist dead.  [Oh, dear!  Remember those civilians who have weapons?  The cultist didn't spot this one and ran straight into a peril].



Both leagues now collected their second plot points without difficulty, though both had to backtrack somewhat to find what they needed.  For the cult, Taguerjah (the snake) discovered the crooked mechanic and subdued him with hypnotic eyes and swaying body.  Elsewhere, Alan Quartermain spotted Lady Elaine and rushed to her side.

For the followers, it was a very different story.  The cult minions scattered and sought cover as the ascaris opened fire at every opportunity.  Interestingly, the cult seemed to want to stay on the right side of the law (they didn't shoot back), whilst Sir Henry's followers didn't care a whit and blasted away.



Egged on by their leader, several cultists then made a determined run for the aeroplane, but the enthusiastic ascaris just shot them down.  Where were the colonial police?!  Why didn't they intervene?  [The ascaris were unusually lucky in passing their "wanted" tests and the cultists' health checks were below average in success.  Also, by this time Sir Henry's followers outnumbered the remaining cultists by about 2 to 1.  Oh, well...].



Eventually, a couple of the ascaris were arrested and hauled off by the authorities.  However, there seemed to be plenty more who were willing to join in the brawl!
  • Captain Goode ran into the wingtip of the aircraft and knocked himself down.
  • Sir Henry spotted the cult leader, Al Masudi himself.  Being afraid of no man, he charged at the evil fanatic and delivered a swift upper cut.
  • In the background, Alan Quartermain led Lady Elaine towards the plane.  It looked as if nothing could stop her from boarding and making her escape!


Quartermain's first attempt to board the plane ended in dismal failure.  He evaded the earnest young man with the pistol easily enough, but the gendarme at the door was quite firm: "did he and the young lady have the correct papers?"  "Well, no - Sir Henry has the tickets; he's just over there..." .  Quartermain attempted to push past the official, but he must have tripped and fallen over the steps; he ended up dazed and lying on the ground.  [As might be imagined at this potentially game-winning moment, the cult player used every possibly opportunity to play peril cards].



Meanwhile, Sir Henry continued to pummel Al Masudi.  His fists sent the cult leader reeling, unable to respond.



...then the snake approached, with the mesmerised mechanic tagging along behind it.  Bravely, Captain Goode stepped up to engage it.  Now, in previous games the giant snake has proved to be a match for anyone and the death of many lesser foes.  However on this occasion it must have been distracted because Goode fought it to a standstill.  Both he and the snake were still just about upright at the end, though both of them were significantly battered and bruised.


Turn 7


In the final turn of the game, Alan Quartermain made another attempt to board the plane with Lady Elaine.  This time, the foreign youth knocked him down, claiming that the last 2 seats on the aircraft were reserved for him and his sea captain friend.  Aargh - so close, yet falling at the last hurdle...



"Look out - he's got a bomb!"  As a last act of defiance, just before he blacked out, Al Masudi threw his dynamite towards Lady Elaine.  This didn't have any material effect on the game since all of the Safari had already taken their final turn and couldn't get her onto the plane, but it just felt right...



With that, the pilot took fright, opened the plane's throttles and set off down the runway, leaving the remnants of the squabbling leagues to be picked up by the authorities.


Conclusion

This was a slightly odd scenario for 2 reasons:
  1. The terrain/crowd setup is really a bit dense for an airfield (most of which are noted for their vast expanses of empty space, after all).  I didn't have enough figures for a real crowd, though even if I had, it would have been difficult to find the players' figures amongst them.
    I had considered using card "standees", perhaps in strips or rings, instead of models for the crowd, but my early experiments at making such an element were disappointing.  Perhaps there's mileage in this idea for all that?
  2. The "wanted" special rule is in play, whereby any model which shoots or brawls becomes liable to be spirited off for questioning by the authorities.  The cult player tried very hard to avoid this, whereas the safari gleefully attacked his enemies on sight.  As it turned out, the cult had seriously overestimated the consequences of becoming "wanted"; by the time he started to fight back it was too late.
So, who won?  Each side retrieved 2 minor plot points with relative ease, though the double red herring basically set each of them back a turn.  Neither managed to achieve the major plot point (the aircraft), although the safari came close.  Perhaps if Sir Henry had thrown his old school tie to Alan Quartermain near the end then this might have allowed the latter to get onto the plane more easily?  Ah, well - we'll never know...

By the numbers, it's a draw: 2-2!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Zanzibari Slavers: the Characters

Introduction

One of the four columns (i.e. "Army Lists") in the Congo rule book is for a trading group from the Sultanate of Zanzibar.  Long before Europeans became interested in the interior of Africa, expeditions from Zanzibar had been travelling there in search of riches.  Often, this involved slave trading; it seems that the Zanzibaris weren't particularly interested in increasing the wider world's scientific or geographical knowledge.

Of course, not all Zanzibaris were greedy traders in human misery, just as not all white men were morally pure.  But this lot are...



The Boss


The leader of my Zanzibari slavers is a cunning, ruthless, old fox.  Yussuf al-Omani is not a nice person: he's sly and devious and you'd have to be very sharp indeed to get the better of him.  He runs his band with ruthless efficiency, but he's feeling his age now and has considered retiring when (if!) he deems his succession is secure.

The Son


Abdulrahman ibn Yussuf is the boss's son and heir apparent.  He still clings to sheds of his youthful idealism and has a lot to learn about the realities of the family business.  However, he is fiercely loyal to his father and won't tolerate any criticism of him.

The Executioner


Othman al-Tammar does what he's told, which often involves cutting the heads off those who have failed the boss.  He has no imagination or feelings about this; it's just a job...

The Slaver


Omar ibn Khaldun is the expedition's slave master.  He is very good at cowing spirits; he can recognise incipient rebellion from a person's body language - often before the slave realises that they about to fight back him/herself.  Omar is a brutal sadist who takes out his anger on all "the goods" for the scar that was once given to him by a Bantu farmer.

The Brute


Mussa al-Rasheed is the expedition's enforcer, responsible for discipline.  He ensures personally that the boss's orders are followed and that there is no trace of dissent.  His beard is stained red with henna, though it seems unlikely that he has indeed been on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

The monkey is evil too...


Conclusion

This group forms the core of my Zanzibari column for Congo.  They're a rough bunch of really nasty people.  I've probably depicted them as rather cliched stereotypes, but this doesn't worry me much.  I'll look forward to seeing them thrashed in a game - unless I'm playing the Zanzibaris, of course!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

USS Matakishi: Away Team

Introduction

Many of my recent posts have been about "classic" Pulp miniatures: 1930s aircraft, archaeologists, Nazi agents and the like.  However, I've always had a hankering to do some space opera as well.  In this genre, Star Trek is probably my favoured setting (although Flash Gordon, Retro Raygun or similar has considerable appeal as well).

For quite some time, I've been quietly collecting miniatures that are suitable to represent a ship's crew or an away team.  My Klingons come from Space Vixens from Mars; it's not a huge range, but still very useful.  Other aliens are harder to come by, but I'll keep trying...


Of course, for a human-centric story, it is necessary to have Federation figures as well.  I'm aware of just a few current sources of these (excluding legacy stuff from FASA and the not-yet-released Star Trek Adventures game from Modiphius):
  • Victory Force Miniatures has a large range of "Spacefarers".  I have a number of these still in their original packaging.  One day, I'll get round to painting them...
  • Matakishi's Tea House has a small collection of what are essentially 25mm crew figures, but with a more recent 28mm Captain/Admiral sculpt.
  • There are small numbers of pre-painted, "Heroclix" crewmen available.  Board games such as Star Trek Expeditions include these, though I understand they can be obtained separately as well.
I just finished painting up my Matakishi models, so here they are.

Science


To represent the science division, we have Lieutenant Gupta and Doctor Forester.  The former is using a tricorder to look up something, whilst the latter is talking urgently into his communicator whilst wielding a phaser.  Evidently his Hippocratic Oath doesn't prevent him from at least threatening to use force on someone or something!

Command


In the second picture are Captain Hunter and his faithful assistant, Yeoman Brookings.  The captain clearly has his arms open in the universal gesture of welcome.  He hasn't put down either his communicator or his weapon, though - so he's not completely trusting ("We come in peace.  Shoot to kill"?).

Unusually, Hunter is an older gentleman with a grey beard and a bit of a protruding belly.  It's not obvious whether he is wearing a visor for medial reasons or whether he just has some funky sunglasses as a style thing...

The relatively-small yeoman is dressed in the traditional mini-skirt & thigh-length boots and has an appropriate regulation beehive hairdo.

Security


Not much point in giving these guys names, really.  Life expectancy for a security guard on an away mission is negligible...


Conclusion

The Matakishi miniatures are good figures, but somewhat dated and not really up to the standards of today's best sculptors.  But hey - all my models are just playing pieces, right?  They're perfectly acceptable as that, especially given the rarity of "not Star Trek" figures.

This is a small (but significant) start to my Star Trek collection.  In due course, I'll build and paint the Victory Force miniatures I own; that will give me the opportunity to add some alien crew members.  Not all Federation members are human, after all, so I can play with lumps and bumps on the heads as well as different skin & hair colours.

But there's still the problem of where to find suitable enemies...