Sunday, 3 January 2016

Battle Report: Tarzan and the Nasty Nazis of Doom

Introduction


I have been itching to try the Pulp Alley rules for quite some time, but this project finally reached critical mass just a few weeks ago as I painted some more of my pulp Nazis.  I now had enough to form a decent league; other figures could be pressed into service for other leagues as well.

As a boy, I can remember watching Tarzan films on the television on (I think) Saturday afternoons.  These were re-runs of old, Johnny Weissmuller movies and I can't remember a whole lot about them - except that I was enthralled!  They had lost civilisations of Amazons, dangerous wild animals, wild, dangerous scenery, nefarious white men & natives and (on one occasion, in a story from 1943) Nazi paratroopers.  It was inevitable that my first pulp game would involve at least some of these elements, if not all at once!

The opportunity to play a game arose during the Christmas holidays, when my friend Steve visited for the day.  Not only that, but he brought his son (AH); my own son (AD) wanted to join in too.  So, our first venture into Pulp Alley would be a 4-player game.

The Players

It's just as well that I had prepared 4 starting leagues!  So, we have the following (note that some leagues don't add up to 10 levels of characters; this is because such groups have perks instead):

Tarzan's Jungle Alliance (me)


Tarzan's group all have the animal trait, which means that they have no shooting ability at all.  On the other hand, that gives them extra powers in other skills (mostly, but not entirely, melee).

The Snake Cult of Hanash (Steve)


These guys have a charismatic leader with hypnotic powers, a monstrous, intelligent pet, a sharpshooter, a stealth specialist and a grunt.

The Reich's East Africa Exploratory Force (AH)


The Nazis are strong with ranged firepower, including machine guns and grenades.  They also have a brawling specialist and a cunning second-in-command.

Sir Henry Curtis' Safari (AD)


Sir Henry's Safari has 2 excellent shots, a couple of colourful supporting characters and several all-but-useless ascaris.

The Scenario


We decided to play the "Smash and Grab" scenario; nothing too fancy for our first game.  There would therefore be 5 plot points; a major plot point in the centre and 4 minor ones placed elsewhere.  It would have been much better to give these objectives full descriptions and (ideally) proper models or counters, but this was lost in the excitement of setting up our first game.  So, instead of plot points such as "the jade amulet of Horus" or "the lost explorer, David Vitalpebble", we just used small, brown, perspex ovals.  Sorry - we'll do better next time, I promise!  [Edit: and so we did: see here for some better plot point markers used in our next game]

The table was set up with the ruins of an ancient city buried deep in the jungle; certain areas were designated as "perilous" or "extremely perilous".

Starting initiative was determined randomly, then leagues were placed on the owner's preferred side in initiative order.

The Game


In the north-west, several enthusiastic ascaris (Safari) rushed forwards, only to be gunned down mercilessly by the Nazis.  Cover wasn't even considered and trying to solve plot points seemed to be secondary (remember that these 2 "shooty" leagues were both being controlled by 13 year old boys).


Elsewhere, low-level minions didn't fare very well either.  One of Tarzan's apes attempted to solve the plot point near the ruined baths, but couldn't pass the required Challenge and perished in the fetid water.


Another simian attempted to slow down the Cultists' advance southward, but the giant snake scared it to death without even pausing for breath....


...whilst on the other side of the baths, Tarzan wrestled with a cultist for possession of the major plot point.  It wasn't much of a fight, though: the jungle lord swiftly knocked out his level-1 opponent.


So, after 2 or 3 turns, this is how things stood:
  • The Nazis and the Safari were blazing away at each other; both had taken casualties (though the Safari suffered more losses).
  • Koko the gorilla (Tarzan) successfully claimed the plot point near the baths which had killed the smaller ape.
  • Tarzan and Caesar were working on the major plot point in the centre of the table.
  • Ernst (Nazi) and Nadeem (Cult) were having a private little war over the plot point in the top, right hand corner, pretty much out of sight of everyone else.

Koko the gorilla attempted to make a run for it with the solved plot point and was intercepted by the cultists' snake.  In a brutal melee, the gorilla was wounded, but I decided to use his Savage skill to continue the fight in the same round.  I thought that I would have the advantage by playing a Warmed Up card, but it turns out that the giant snake was just getting started too.  After a flurry of action cards, Koko went down and out of the game!  The snake grabbed the plot point and made off with it.


In revenge, Tarzan charged at Al Masudi, the cultist leader.  The dark priest's Dread Gaze and Intimidating skills meant nothing to the Englishman, who proceeded to pummel the enemy boss to the ground.  Honestly, normal men just shouldn't go mano a mano with Tarzan; he wrestles lions and crocodiles for fun!


In the other corner, the Nazis and the Safari kept shooting at each other.  Casualties were mounting, though the Safari's wounded tended to stay down and the Nazis often just got back up.  At least Sir Henry had recovered a plot point; now could he escape with it?


Ernst and Nadeem's private feud continued.  Neither could gain the upper hand, as each time their opponent was knocked down, he would just get up again.  This was still a stalemate at the end of the game.


Finally, at the end of turn 6, this is how things stood:
  • Caesar ran off with the major plot point; the Cult's sharpshooter was (just) unable to stop him.
  • Tarzan grabbed a minor plot point in the dying moments of the game.
  • Al Masudi, the Cult leader, crawled off the table, bruised and battered but still defiant and plotting revenge.
  • The Cult's snake made off with the plot point that it had taken from Koko the gorilla.
  • The remaining Nazis (apart from Ernst, who was still wrestling with Nadeem) piled into the last of the Safari.  By this time, Sir Henry was badly hurt and only had Lady Constance to support him, so things looked grim for them.  Technically, Sir Henry did have possession of a plot point at the end of the game, though.

Conclusion

Oh, wow - this was an exciting game!  I'm sure that we stumbled a bit over the rules and probably got some things a little wrong, but overall it worked very well.

There were a few private disappointments for me: nobody tried to go through any of the perilous terrain, though with 3 other players all poised to play challenges on them, perhaps that's not surprising.  Also, several interesting skills such as Koko's Shock roar or the Panzerbot's Burst Fire were never used.  But that just leaves me wanting more; we'll have to play this again!

Final Scores:

  • Tarzan: Gains: 1 major and 1 minor plot point.  Losses: Koko and 3 chimps KO.
  • The Snake Cult of Hanash: Gains: 1 minor plot point.  Losses: Al Masudi battered; Saeed KO.
  • Nazis: Gains: - .  Losses: Johann KO
  • Sir Henry's Safari:  Gains: 1 minor plot point.  Losses: Quartermain, Goode and 3 ascaris KO.  Sir Henry badly hurt.

36 comments:

  1. Phew, what a cracking game! I love the diversity of faction types :)

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    1. Thanks, dGG! If I'd had enough models then I might have added in the possibilities of a "Natives" and a "Lost Civilisation" faction as well - though with only 4 players we would still only have used 4 leagues in this game.

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  2. Looks like a fantastic game! I was surprised how nobody cooperated to get rid of another one in this game - or that just happens in games with 3 players? :P

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    1. Thanks, Mathyoo. If anything, I (as Tarzan) was trying to keep the other sides fighting with each other! I remember playing an "Out of ammo" card on the Nazi's Panzerbot to prevent it from machine-gunning all the Safari, but this was just because the Nazis seemed to be winning at the time...

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    1. Thanks, HW - it was a great game to play.

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  4. What fun, thanks for sharing. Great reading.

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    1. Thanks, Irqan. It was a fun game.

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  5. Tarzan proves why he is the "King of the Jungle!"

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    1. Yep, Tarzan is da boss! Shame about the gorilla, though - you'd think that it could have handled a mere snake...

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  6. That is superb, I need to have a closer look at these rules myself.

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    1. I've owned Pulp Alley for some time and read glowing tributes from other people, so I thought it was high time we gave it a go. My only regret is that we didn't play more of this sooner!

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  7. Brilliant! Looks really good and sounded fun! I keep meaning to have a read through these rules but haven't gotten around to it yet. Are there plans for more?

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    1. I'm certainly planning to do more pulp gaming, so the answer is yes! As well as my new Tarzan setting, I have a whole bunch of not-Star Trek figures waiting to be painted. I can't decide whether they'd work better with Pulp Alley or with 7TV2, though...

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  8. An excellent game.
    The action was resolved swiftly and the competing combat plus cards meant that nobody was left out of the action for long.
    All enhanced by excellent scenery, some imaginative leagues and the wonderfully painted figures.

    I enjoyed it to the extend of getting the Free starter copy of the rules (There's a free starter folks: at http://store.pulpalley.com/category-s/1823.htm) - Hmm are plugs allowed here?

    I've read through it - it looks as through neither of our interpretations for die cancelling were quite correct - though neither was far off the mark either.

    Pulp alley looks like a really good set of the rules for the "small party skirmish" genre.
    The characters are rather more rounded than a game like "Song of blades and heroes" and the fighting mechanisms are better suited to a world where guns are commonplace.
    The system also seems really good where more than 2 groups are involved.

    Finally - many thanks for a great day's entertainment.

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    1. Thanks, Steve. As for scenery, I have so many more things that I'd like to build. The chasm-with-rope-bridge is almost mandatory, and voodoo idols or sacred groves would also be good.

      I plan to re-read the rules again, much more carefully this time. In the light of our experience, I have no doubts that we will find minor deviations in the way we were playing, but as you say, nothing too substantial.

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  9. Good to see a write up... I have most of the Pulp Alley sets of rules... Just not got around to doing anything with them!

    Looks fun

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    1. Sounds a bit like me; sometimes it takes a while before I use the rules I've already bought. In this case, it's well worth the effort, I think.

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  10. That is the kind of game I long to play.

    Africa will not let Quartermain die! He is blessed by a witch dr. So I will settle for a KO, but not a deaed Alan Quartermain. I shall look forward to hi return.

    I would really like another AAR.

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    1. Ah, it's a pity that you live so far away, isn't it?

      Pulp Alley is very careful to use the term "knocked out" for characters in the game. There is a post-game wrap up section where the actual fate of the model can be determined; in the best traditions of Pulp a miraculous escape is pretty much inevitable!

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  11. Great report. I find that Pulp Alley is one of the most flexible systems I have ever played. My only complaint is the time it takes to build a league.
    Good to see other people getting fun games with it.
    Additionally, played on a great looking table.

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    1. There is a very useful Pulp Alley roster spreadsheet floating around, though the version I've got (v1.3) does have the occasional error. These are easily corrected and this is then an easy way to construct a league.

      Glad you enjoyed the write-up!

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    2. I can highly recommend the pre-made roster cards that they sell. Adds to the cost a bit, but we've found it invaluable when starting as nobody needs to even know the perks as the ones you have are printed on the cards.

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  12. I was looking at Pulp Alley for a future project, your AAR might just have pushed me over the edge, I have been using Songs of Blades and Heroes up uptil now.
    Thanks for posting.
    Cheers
    Stu

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    1. Pulp Alley is excellent for pulp actions, whether these be inspired by Fu Manchu, Indiana Jones, Flash Gordon or the like. It's not designed for large fights, but works best with perhaps 3 or 4 characters and a similar number of grunts per side.

      Song of Blades and Heroes is also an excellent set of rules; I use it for settings with less capable firearms (or none), such as witch-finding and Robin Hood. We sometimes use slightly larger forces, with 10 to 20 models per warband.

      Note also that Pulp Alley uses sets of different dice types (d6, d8 and d10) and a special deck of cards, whereas SoBH has simpler requirements.

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  13. It's a cracking set of rules that we've just started playing. It allows you to use all the "odd" bands of figures you couldn't resist buying..... mind you, it also gives you licence to buy the ones you managed to resist so far so can be dangerous! The official forums are also excellent and the creator of the game answers questions directly and quickly as we found a few oddities in our first few games.

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    1. Thanks, Jamie. I'd agree with all of that - from what I've seen so far, the only limits are ones imagination!

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  14. A great report and very easily followed I might add. I do love the Pulp Alley rules and games (with only a few minor quibbles).
    One day maybe I'll be able to get a game going.

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    1. Thanks, Joe - glad you enjoyed it. I'm interested to know what are your "minor quibbles", though :-) .

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    2. The major quibble I have is with the invunerablity of the main characters - I know it's pulp and It's meant to be that way and they do handle the after-effects pfbeing downed failry well - just personal preference and easily adjusted to taste. The "burst fire" rules being strange and the firing rules generally being fairly abstract. However overall the rules are clear and do what they say on the tin 9erm...cover)and they're still one of the most refreshingly new(ish) sets out there.

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  15. Great stuff! Really hoping to play these rules this year ☺

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    1. I've been putting off playing this game for far too long. It was great fun when we finally got round to it, though.

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  16. BTW, where are your 'blood splat' wound markers from?

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    1. The "splat" markers are home made, but really easy to do. Here's how I did mine: http://colgar6.blogspot.com/2013/03/splat.html

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  17. Reading the batrep above makes me wish I had the time to play a tabletop game. Sigh! I'll just live out my 'boardgame fantasies' through your batreps then. :)

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    1. Is it just time that prevents you from playing games? Or are there other factors as well?

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