In my last post, I described the plot markers that I had made for a game of Pulp Alley. I also mentioned that we had already played the scenario. Well, here's the description of the game: Tarzan and the Lost Expedition.
Deep in the jungle, an archaeological expedition has made its camp. But all of the archaeologists, their guides and porters have vanished. What can have happened to them? 4 leagues race to find out; each has their own separate reasons for interfering!
After our previous, introductory game (here), we all felt that we understood Pulp Alley a bit better. One consequence of this is that we realised our previous game had very few perilous areas. These are something of a cornerstone for the rules, so we created rather more for this scenario. Too many? Perhaps; you be the judge:
- The river is perilous except at the fords; crocodiles, don't you know. Although I couldn't find my crocodile model, so on the day we used a lion patrolling the water's edge to remind us of the danger.
- The expedition leader's tent is perilous; a large snake has taken up residence in it.
- The untended campfire is perilous; sparks could fly out and injure someone.
- The quicksand (middle right) is extremely perilous. Enter at your own risk!
- The lair of the pit beast (centre top) is extremely perilous. I shouldn't have to explain this one...
The 5 plot points were placed, several of them in perilous or extremely perilous areas and the 4 leagues chose their starting positions.
|Major plot point: the expedition leader's journal, in a perilous, snake-infested tent.|
|The luggage was placed in the extremely perilous quicksand|
|I've no idea why the plot point native was placed in the middle of the river's shallows. Perhaps he was fishing?|
|The dagger was guarded by the pit beast, who may have eaten its previous owner. Could be tricky retrieving this...|
|The radio was just lying about in the open; nothing dangerous about this. Or was there...?|
As Tarzan, my plan was simple: charge straight towards the major plot point in the centre (i.e. the journal) and fight off all rivals. My main concern was that the cultists might interfere - I really hate their giant pet snake - so Koko the gorilla would be tasked with delaying them if they came towards me rather than taking the other safe route across the river and towards the camp. Judging on past form, the Nazis and the Safari would probably spend most of their efforts shooting each other. They had certainly set up fairly close together!
These were the same forces as we had used in our previous game (see here). Before the game, Sir Henry (the Safari leader) used his Wealth to buy a tip for the game and Al Masudi (Cultist) used his Dominion to summon a couple of level-2 extras. The cult of Hanash wasn't short of cannon fodder this time!
As expected, the Nazis and the Safari fought like cats and dogs right from the start. An ascari managed to shoot a Nazi mook, but then the Fascists opened up with machine guns and grenades. Although the Safari characters were (mostly) unhurt to start with, the resulting blast markers impeded their movement; all they could do was cower behind the bushes and wait for the barrage to cease.
In the north, the cult leader callously ordered one of his henchmen to retrieve the jewelled dagger. The poor man nearly succeeded; he managed to creep close to the artifact without disturbing the creature. However, when he grabbed for the knife, the savage beast must have sensed the movement; it lashed out, caught him and dragged the screaming victim into its gaping maw!
One of Tarzan's simians thought that he might do better. He approached from a different direction without attracting the pit beast's attention, but just as the ape was reaching carefully for the dagger, the cultist leader, Al Masudi, approached and shot him in the back. Rather unsporting, I thought...
Al Masudi's eyes lit up when he saw the ancient artifact. He may have been evil and heartless, but there was nothing wrong with the man's courage. The determined cult leader strode towards the pit beast and, with pistol and knife, he fought it for possession of the dagger. It took a while, but eventually he triumphed and backed out from the danger zone clutching his prize. At least this meant that for most of the game he wasn't applying his nefarious talents to thwart anyone else's plans!
Nearby, Tarzan and Caesar tried to cross the ford on their route towards the campsite. The native who was standing in the shallows indicated that none should pass unless they would wrestle him first (i.e. the random challenge for solving this plot point was 2 or 3 successes - I forget which - against might). Tarzan was grinning from ear to ear as he accepted the test. In the blink of an eye, he had the native in a headlock and begging for mercy: plot point solved. No-one is mightier than Tarzan!
Meanwhile, Sir Henry, Lady Constance and an ascari had recovered the radio that had been left in the open. This plot point was beginning to look like a trap, though; the Nazis poured machine gun and grenade fire onto the hapless Safari characters. All they could do is cower in the dirt and try to crawl towards cover.
Koko, the gorilla, had been left behind to delay the seemingly endless numbers of cultists. He managed to scare a few with his mighty roar and then felled the first man to approach him. However, the cult leader's pet snake was a tougher proposition.
The ape did his best and managed to injure the enemy animal, but when another cultist joined the combat it was all too much. Poor Koko sank to the ground, beaten and the cultists streamed past him. But were they too late?
By this time it was getting late in the game, so the leagues started to congregate around the central, major plot point - the journal in the snake-infested tent. Apart from the Nazis, that is. They were having far too much fun machine-gunning poor Sir Henry for them to take part in anything so mundane as gaining victory points.
Things started to hot up now and several characters fell. Sir Henry finally succumbed to his wounds, whilst Lady Constance caught the wrong end of a grenade. Tarzan battered the only cultist to have made it anywhere near the tents and one of his simians ran into the middle of the Nazis to attack. This last was intended to act as a distraction, since the little creature had virtually no chance of beating all the bad guys on his own.
For almost the first time in the game, the Safari now had a piece of good fortune. Quartermain recovered enough from his concussion to stand up again. Even as his comrades defeated the first monkey that had been sent to keep them busy, the sinister Herr Stengel drew his pistol and stepped forwards to finish the safari hunter once and for all.
This Nazi would have done better to stay where he was, since his shoe lace caught on a twig. The villain stumbled and hurt himself, before trying to shoot at Quartermain. Even injured, Quartermain was still one of the best shots in Africa; Herr Stengel was not. The German fell to the ground and although he stirred once or twice more, he didn't play any further part in the game.
Buoyed up with this success, Quartermain rushed towards the plot point in the tent, only to discover that Tarzan was already there. The jungle man threw the perilous snake aside contemptuously, grabbed the journal and backed out again. Quartermain was far too wise to think that he could win the book off Tarzan, especially when he was injured himself, so he shrugged and let his rival go.
Finally, in the last turn of the game, there was another burst of activity:
- Tarzan ran off into the jungle with his loot, hotly pursued by the cultist's giant snake and (not quite so hotly) by the remaining cultist mooks.
- In turn, the cultists were chased by a rather groggy Koko, who had pulled himself back on to his feet and was gamely staggering after them.
- Quartermain and Caesar (the alpha simian) were in an uneven, but not completely one-sided fight with the Nazis, thus capturing their attention fully.
- Meanwhile, the Safari's last ascari (who had been hiding near the river for much of the game) snuck out, grabbed the radio and made off with it!
Actually, this turned out not to be the last turn since unknown to anyone else the Safari had gained a reward card which allowed them to extend the game. We dutifully played another round, but it didn't alter possession of any plot points. Various Nazis and their opponents were knocked down or recovered (Quartermain was now on form: he beat Stahl Mask's draw and shot him too), Tarzan was caught by the snake but neither side inflicted any damage and Koko caught up with the 2 cultists and flattened one of them.
So, final standings are as follows:
- Tarzan. Losses: all the simians KO, Koko and Caesar injured. Gains: the native and the journal (4 victory points)
- Cultists. Losses: most, but not all, of their mooks. Gains: the jewelled dagger (1 victory point)
- Safari. Losses: Sir Henry, Lady Constance, Goode, 2 ascaris KO, Quartermain injured. Gains: the radio (1 victory point)
- Nazis. Losses: Herr Stengel and a follower KO. Stahl Helm injured. Gains: nothing.
If you remember from the description at the beginning, there was a 5th plot point: the luggage in the quicksand. This was close to the Nazis, but they weren't interested in attempting to retrieve it. Why bother when they could just shoot at things instead?
This was another fantastic game, enjoyed enormously (I believe) by all the players. I'm beginning to think that there's little point in going for the minor plot points in a 4-player game, since no one side is likely to collect 3 or more of these. That being so, victory will always rest with the holder of the (more valuable) major plot point! Of course, different scenarios would alter this calculation, as would a smaller number of players...