Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Carronade 2019 - Everyone's a winner!

Introduction

It's the start of the show season, at least for me!  In early May the Carronade show occurs, run by the Falkirk and District Wargames Club (FWDC).

This year, as last year (see here for 2018), it was a fine spring day.  My son A. and I caught an early train from Helensburgh to Falkirk and walked from the destination station to the high school where the show is held.  There we met up with my friend Steve and waited outside with many others until the doors were opened at about 10:00.

As always with my show reports, this article is not an attempt to document everything that was happening, but rather it is a personal account of what we did on the day.  I'll leave it for others to provide a full photo dump.

Here's the bottom line: it's a large show which was very busy in the morning and rather quieter in the afternoon.  We were there from the first opening until packing up time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  So, what did we do?  We played some games, did some (well, quite a lot of) shopping and marvelled at some boards, all mixed up throughout the day.

The Huge Diorama

Pretty much the first thing that we encountered was a gigantic fantasy pirate setup.  From memory, the table was 18 feet by 6 feet (!) and it was an incredible display.  There were many, many little details; we kept coming back to see how many more we could spot.  For example, my son noticed a woman taking a bath in the upstairs of one of the buildings; he told me not to look.

It would be impossible to remember everything about this display, but here are some of the things I remember:
  • a native fleet of outrigger canoes
  • sea monsters
  • a volcano
  • a colonial fort
  • cursed pirate ships
  • poison jungle frogs
  • dinosaurs
  • a torture room
  • a flying ship (!)
  • the ruins of lost cities
  • ...

Here are a few of the better pictures I took of this display:






Game 1:

After our encounter with the pirate table, we found ourselves playing a quick-n-simple Monty Python and the Holy Grail game using the range of figures from Studio Miniatures.  There was relatively little to this game - just a series of branching paths which led to different encounters - and the only player choice was to go forwards (in a random direction) or to retreat to a previous junction, but it was fun!  Anyone who knows and loves the film will instantly recognise all of the events.


I chose to play the brave Sir Robin, while A. played Sir Lancelot and Steve (who joined in slightly later, having been caught up in a discussion at another table) took Sir Bors (?).  Each of us progressed through various encounters, usually moving forwards but occasionally having to go back to the start.





Eventually, Sir Robin met the white rabbit - but this was OK as the monks had previously given me the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and I defeated the little bugger.  Following this, Sir Robin drove off the taunting guards and was the first knight to reach the castle...



...where he found the Holy Grail (which I got to keep and take home.  It's very nice).  So, I won my very first game of the day!

The Factory Ruins

Another display caught my attention; this was a 28mm rendition of Stalingrad or some similar WWII battle.  My interest here was in the model-making, as I've been looking for inspiration on how to complete my own ruins (for Frostgrave, mind).  Well, this table certainly did have ruins!  Here are a couple of pictures, for reference:




Game 2: Pod Racing

A little while later, we came across a group who were hosting a pod-racing game.  This used the Gaslands rules (from Osprey).  As I understood it, there were no special adaptations for the Star Wars setting, other than the natives who would occasionally shoot at passing racers.



There were 5 players; the three of us and a couple of strangers.  Our hosts explained that the race was a (fairly) simple figure-of-eight, passing through 4 gates to mark our passage.  Oh - we were all armed and could shoot at each other as soon as we had passed the initial gate...



So, we all set off and quickly got the hang of the very nicely-made perspex movement templates.  Some of us chose to go one way around the central rock formation towards gate 2, whilst others chose a different route.



Shooting was generally savagely effective.  By the time the leader (Steve) reached Gate 2, two of us (me and another guy) had succumbed to gunfire.  I did at least reach the second gate, if only just!



Shortly after that, Steve was wiped out, leaving just the other stranger and A.  Even that didn't last long, as A. managed to swerve through gate 2 and shoot the remaining opponent out of the sky.  Our hosts gave us each a die to take away.  As victor A. got 2 dice and a small packet of Haribo sweets.

Weapons fire in Gaslands does seem enormously powerful; even the best of us barely made it around 1/3 of the track.  We were told that in Gaslands terms, the weapons being used in this particular scenario were actually quite middling in power.  Hmm...

Game 3: G.I. Joe


After lunch, we entered our 3rd game of the day.  This was a skirmish with the forces of Cobra versus G.I.Joe and friends, using the Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes rules.

My son and I took the bad guys, at least in part because I wanted to control the tank and the Cobra commander (who, in cloak and helmet, bore a passing resemblance to Darth Vader).  We had 2 vehicles, a few characters and many minions; opposing us were about half a dozen goody-goody heroes and a jeep/dune buggy.



Early on, A.'s white-clad ninja type scaled the walls of an office or warehouse to look for a minor objective (the red die).



Meanwhile, I sent my forces surging forwards, partly to attempt a major objective (the orange dice) and partly to try to pin down the Joes with my tank and my squad's firepower.  Unfortunately for me, my minions failed repeatedly to climb onto the gantry which held the nearest orange die - and my commander was lurking too far in the rear to be of much assistance.



For several turns, I had been needling the enemy dune buggy with rockets from my squad's missile launcher.  Suddenly it surged forward and ran down almost all of my troopers - not very sporting, I thought!  Considerably annoyed, I spent a couple of turns shooting it with my tank, finally finishing off the vehicle by ramming it.

Meanwhile, the sole trooper from my doomed squad who had managed to get near the orange die/objective was pinned down by fire from the heroes.



Here's a fun thing: one of the Cobra characters was an infiltrator whose disguises were so good that he could replace any enemy figure.  We chose the moment when 2 of the G.I.s were attempting to claim a major objective in one of the further buildings.  My man revealed himself to be one of the pair and caused consternation to the remaining enemy.  For several turns, they (and another G.I. who joined in from nearby) squabbled and fought until, sadly, my character was defeated.  However, he had delayed the opposition considerably in their pursuit of objectives.



We weren't prepared to let the good guys take the objective easily, though.  When they finished off our spy, A. opened fire on the building with his Stinger rocket truck.  He blew off the entire top floor, thoroughly destroying the objective in the process.  Sadly (for us), the 2 G.I. heroes in the building managed to leap clear at the last moment.

Despite our best efforts, the G.I. Joes managed to claim the last of the 3 minor objectives near their start line in the next turn, thus winning the game.  We (Cobra) had only claimed 1 minor objective, though it was almost certain that we would have scored the 2 remaining majors within one or two more turns.  Ah, well - it was a fun game, even if we lost (and I did kill that irritating Striker buggy).

Game 4: The Hunt for the White Stag


For our final game of the afternoon, we decided to go hunting.  The setting is somewhere in the British Isles, the time is around 800 AD, so it's the "Dark Ages".  Each hunting party (there were 5 players) consists of the main guy (or gal) plus an archer and either a spearman or a dog handler:
  • The spearman gives an extra attack in melee
  • The archer enables the group to make a ranged attack
  • The dog gives a bonus when searching a rough area to flush out prey.


It's amazing how the hunters just vanished into the landscape after a turn or two!



Various wildlife was discovered; some of it was quite aggressive, though everyone other than myself did manage to kill at least something.  Even the bears and wild boars (which should have been quite dangerous) seemed tame; they all rolled really poorly and no hunters were injured.



This stag looked genuinely shocked when it was attacked by most of the hunters all at the same time.



I thought I'd found the motherlode when I came across this many deer - but they all escaped my attempts to slaughter them.  My guys really couldn't hit anything in this game!



Finally, I stumbled across a family of wild boar and managed to kill one of them.  This seemed to enrage the other adult; it gored two of my men in quick succession.  These were the only casualties suffered by any of the hunting parties, despite the other players encountering far more wildlife than I did!



Finally, the whole point of the game - the white stag - appeared.  Our host spent several minutes telling us that the player to kill this animal would win the game, or we would all lose if it escaped.  He also made a point of explaining how it was harder to kill than the other creatures, and more dangerous too.

On the turn that it appeared, Steve was the only player with any hunters in range.  His archer shot at the white stag and immediately threw the double-six required to slay it.  It was a very abrupt end, but none of us begrudged Steve his win; we'd all enjoyed both the premise and the mechanics of this game.

Loot


Finally, it's common to show pictures of loot acquired at a show - and who am I to go against this custom?  I went a bit overboard this time, I think.  Here's as much of it as I can remember:
  • Perry Muslims (for my SAGA Saracens): mounted commanders and some Greek-fire-throwers.
  • Muslim SAGA dice.
  • The SAGA Age of Magic supplement.  I'm not necessarily planning a big venture in this direction, but the rules are full of interesting ideas.
  • Some more Azanti warriors for my growing "African Kingdoms" column (for Congo).
  • 3 undead/zombie cheerleaders
  • A few more Nightfolk, from Northumbrian Tin Soldier.
  • Some bargain-price Dice Masters; both a new starter set and an assortment of boosters.
  • A couple of resin swamp/march pieces.  Nothing I couldn't make myself from MDF and filler, but they were relatively cheap and it will save me the time and effort.
  • The Games Workshop Tau skimmers are for my son, A.
  • Forbidden Sky.  I've enjoyed the earlier games in this series; we'll see if this one lives up to expectations.
  • Spray varnish.  I always buy this at shows if I can; courier fees for home delivery are outrageous (and the regular postal service won't deliver aerosol cans any more).
  • Our winnings from games: 3 dice from pod racing (2 for A. and 1 for me), plus my Holy Grail.
Too much?

Finally

Last thoughts?  This was a good show, with enough choice of public participation games (we didn't run out of things to try during the day) and some nice displays.  We were there from before opening time until the dying moments when exhibitors started to pack up.  Possibly I spent too much money, though I doubt that the traders at the show would agree with me!

The return journey on the train was straightforward and fairly quick, though we were hot from the walk to the station and this was less than ideal (not the train company's fault, of course).  I'm pretty sure I slept for at least some of the ride...

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Pulp Alley: Jungle Trails (Perilous Island, Game 6)

Introduction

In our last adventureLady Constance (Sir Henry's niece) saved a native fisherman from a terrible misunderstanding.  Now, the tribal elders were giving a feast in honour of the entire Safari, with Sir Henry and Lady Constance as guests of honour.  There was lots of food: spit-roast sucking pig, jungle fruits & boiled starchy roots.  As the night wore on, the village's youths danced and capered wildly, whilst those who fancied their chances competed at wrestling or took turns to beat out rhythms on the big village drums.  Bowls of fermented juice were passed around the audience and many drank deeply.

Just as the senses could take no more, the tribal shaman stood up and waved his arms for silence.  He said a few words in the local tongue that none of the visitors could understand, then approached Sir Henry.  The shaman was holding a deep bowl made of red clay and decorated with white markings; this he offered to the giant, blond European whilst motioning him to drink.  Sir Henry took a cautious sip so as not to offend his host and then his eyes widened with excitement.  "I can see...everything!" he exclaimed, before staggering sideways in a half faint as he dropped the bowl.  It rolled through the crowd, forgotten for the moment as everyone present cheered.

With that, the party broke up and the participants started to move off towards their huts.  Within a few moments, the centre of the village was empty of life.  Well, almost empty.

A large tree grew just outside the settlement's palisade.  One of its branches stretched over the wall and over the village and from here Tarzan had observed everything.  Sir Henry and his safari were rivals rather than mortal enemies, but still the jungle lord had known he wouldn't be welcome at the party.

Now that the villagers had dispersed, he let himself down from the tree noiselessly and crept like a shadow towards the still-glowing embers of the central fire.  He found the red bowl where his sharp eyes had seen it come to rest and sniffed at it once.  Curiously, he dipped his finger into the remaining contents and licked it experimentally.  A look of astonishment crossed Tarzan's face.  Clutching the bowl, he retreated back the way he had come.  Once in the safety of the jungle and some distance away from the village, he wedged himself in a forked branch and scraped out the remainder of the bowl's contents, before falling into a deep, dream-laden sleep.

The Scenario


For the 6th game in our Perilous Island campaign, I chose the "Jungle Trails" scenario.  We were newly arrived on the island itself and now our leagues would push through the jungle towards the larger settlements in the interior.  The only trouble is that the jungle is full of troublesome natives...

As usual, we had 3 leagues:

Tarzan's Jungle Alliance


  • Tarzan spent resource points on the "Ritual of the Dreamers" before this game [i.e. he tasted the concoction from the red clay bowl].  He would gain an extra card every time that Al Masoudi [the cult's leader] was activated.
  • He was also delayed by a random event and would only enter the table on turn 2 [i.e. he was sleeping off the exertions of the night before].
  • One of Tarzan's simians [Kobo] has a nasty case of Fungus Lung, contracted during the last scenario.  He cannot run during this game and thus acquired the somewhat cruel nickname of "wheezy" from the other players.  Just wait and see, though!

Sir Henry's Safari


  • Sir Henry also spent resource points on the "Ritual of the Dreamers".  He would draw an extra card each time that Tarzan activated.
  • The Safari acquired the services of a brawler for this game.  One of the youthful wrestlers from the village was dared by his fellows to accompany the strange newcomers.

The Snake Cult of Al Masoudi

  • Al Masoudi had not spent the previous night partying, but instead had used his time to plot.  As a consequence he was well prepared and would draw an extra card on turn 1.
  • He also used his Dominion to summon another fanatic with a satchel full of grenades.
  • In a somewhat experimental mood, the cult leader also acquired a large flying reptile as a pet [he seems to be able to capture and tame/dominate pretty much anything without even spending a lot of time on it].  As it turned out later, I suspect that this critter was a nectar feeder: its performance was not at all what one might expect from its fierce appearance.

The Opposition

There are several native youths flitting about the jungle.  They are there as part of some manhood ceremony and so are not particularly aggressive.  However, they will gain a lot of standing amongst their peers if they can taunt the strangers and not get caught.  The leagues have to try to quiz these natives and thereby discover clues as to the whereabouts of the missing Darrow expedition.


Our Game


Almost immediately, someone drew [and had to play] a "Can't See a Thing" card.  Thick clouds rolled overhead, casting the already-shadowy jungle into deep gloom.  It would be quite a feat to even find the native youths - or the other leagues - let alone achieve any objectives.

Another "play immediately" card increased the number of cards that everyone drew each turn.  With this and the other enhancements, there were a very large number of cards in play for the entire game.



As the players had plenty of cards, they didn't hold back on using them!  One of Al Masoudi's cultists fell to an unseen jungle hazard...


...whilst Sir Henry's native brawler tried to catch one of the youths and failed miserably.



After a couple of turns with 6" visibility and thick clumps of jungle, nobody had even seen anyone else, let alone started any fights.



One of the natives popped up behind Tarzan.  This was easily within striking distance and Tarzan generally solves objectives easily; it seemed too good to be true...


...and it was!  Out of the darkness Sir Henry's friend, the wrestler, leaped on Tarzan.  The jungle lord threw his assailant aside contemptuously, but even in those few seconds the native [objective] was gone.



Koko [the gorilla] ran to the crossroads in the centre of the table and roared!  It was very gratifying to see several of the lesser members of the Safari scatter and run away, but the beast soon regretted his impetuous action as both Sir Henry and Alan Quartermain then shot him, many times.  Koko decided to lie down in the dust and wait for tomorrow - perhaps it would be a better day than this one had been?



The Cult had the next opportunity to challenge one of the natives.  They had surrounded the youth and he had no way to escape, or so they thought.  But when Al Masoudi stepped forward to challenge him, the lad was lifted up into the treetops with the help of a rope lowered by his friends.  The natives uttered a few mocking calls before vanishing along a well-prepared escape route.



Elsewhere in the jungle, the cult's fanatic saw Lady Constance trying to talk to one of the native youths.  Seeing an excellent target, the cultist ran forward and reached for the grenade which should have been hanging from his belt - but it wasn't there.  He must have dropped it somewhere along the trail...



...or else it had been stolen by a monkey.  Kobo couldn't move very fast because of the wheezing from his fungus lung infection, but he did have a grenade.  He tossed the bomb towards the Safari; one ascari was knocked out, though Sir Henry narrowly avoided being hurt by jumping aside at the last minute.



Do you remember that Captain Goode ran away from Koko's [the gorilla's] intense roar at the crossroads?  In his panic, he crashed through a dense thicket and came face-to-face with the cult's giant snake, Taguerjah.  Captain Goode had little chance against the monster and was promptly flattened, though the serpent was prevented from devouring him by the sudden appearance of Alan Quartermain.

The cult thought that they had the renowned hunter outnumbered when their other beastie flew in swiftly, but Alan immediately shot this second critter dead.  One-against-one, then...



Elsewhere, one of the other objectives/natives wandered close to Tarzan.  He grabbed for the lad, but even the jungle lord wasn't quick enough as the boy slipped through his grasp and vanished into the gloomy undergrowth.



This wasn't as bad as what happened to Al Masoudi, though.  The frustrated cult leader thrashed his way through some of the densest jungle ever seen, hot on the trail of one of the natives, only to discover that he was thoroughly entangled in thorny branches and held fast.  This was most undignified [though the other players did laugh quite a lot at his predicament, I confess].



Kobo/"wheezy" had much better luck.  One of the young natives wandered right up to him and obviously felt sorry for the sick simian.  The lad's curiosity was his undoing though, as even when ill the ape had a grip like iron.  Kobo grasped the boy's outstretched hand and wouldn't let go [so that's 1 objective claimed for the Jungle Alliance].



Next it was Tarzan's turn to get lucky.  Another of the natives moved very close to where he was lying in wait.  Tarzan struck!  He ambushed the native and subdued him with ease.  Even the vine that caught at his foot [courtesy of an event card played by Sir Henry] didn't slow him down; Tarzan broke through the offending vegetation with ease [so that's now 2 victory points/objectives held by the Jungle Alliance and none by anyone else].



Towards the end of the game, the situation was this:

  • Sir Henry's Safari hadn't achieved much and had lost most of their people.  Alan Quartermain and Captain Goode had been knocked out by the cult's giant snake, though Lady Constance was still shooting it out with the cult's fanatic/grenadier.  I'm sure that Sir Henry himself was still going, though I cannot see him in the picture above.
  • The Cult had not lost many followers, but had miserable luck when trying to claim objectives; every attempt had been a disastrous failure!
  • Tarzan's league was reduced to just himself and Kobo/"wheezy", but at least each of them had control of one native/objective.



In the dying moments of the game, Taguerjah the snake glided along the path and surprised one of the natives.  The poor man didn't stand a chance; he was quickly subdued and taken away to be interrogated to the cult leader and his hypnotic powers [finally, 1 objective claimed by the Cult].



Last of all, yet another native came close to where Tarzan lay in wait [it's almost as if Tarzan had worked out the natives' code of bird calls and had positioned himself to intercept the young man.  The natives/objectives just kept approaching without him having to move from his position].  This time however, Tarzan failed to claim another prize.  An event card played by Sir Henry caused the jungle lord to trip up as he sprang his ambush; by the time he had recovered his poise the native was nowhere to be seen.


Conclusion

In terms of claiming objectives, this game was a disaster!  Tarzan scored 2 points, the Cult scored 1 and poor Sir Henry had 0.  Given that the jungle was dense, incredibly dark and that there were a lot of hostile event cards flying about, it's hardly surprising, I suppose.

But that's perhaps missing the point.  It was an incredibly exciting and characterful game, right from the start where Sir Henry and Al Masoudi mocked Kobo the fungus-lung infected simian by calling him "wheezy".  Well, who's laughing now; Kobo used a grenade to blow up one of the Safari's ascaris and then claimed an objective all on his own, thus winning the game [or at least, contributing to Tarzan's win]!

Biggest disappointment: either the Cult's flying creature or Koko the gorilla: both met ignominious ends without achieving much [though at least Koko did scare some enemies].

Most successful: I'd say either Taguerjah, the Cult's unstoppable snake [who felled Captain Goode & Alan Quartermain and then claimed an objective] or Kobo the simian [who performed well above the level expected by a mere level-1 Follower character].

All in all, it was another exciting and thrilling game of Pulp Alley.  I can hardly wait for the next episode!