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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
- 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.