Last Thursday at the Helensburgh games club, my son and I introduced two new players to Pulp Alley in a thrilling 4-way adventure in the jungle. The scenario wasn't anything particularly exciting (just various random plot points scattered around the board), but everyone had a great time. Here's what happened...
So, we had 4 new leagues, all designed by myself and using my own models:
|Not the greatest of photos - and Professor Calculus has wandered off again!|
Tintin should need no introduction really! This is a league representing the young Belgian reporter and his closest associates. It's a League of Heroes, so it has fewer members than average, but they're generally higher level characters than is common:
- Tintin: the leader of this league is good at solving puzzles and following clues. He can shoot too, but isn't a specialist fighter.
- Snowy: Tintin's faithful companion is extremely smart for a dog. He's got Finesse and Cunning, though in a fight his best defence is his very high Dodge ability.
- Captain Haddock: Oddly, Tintin's best friend is an aging, alcoholic sailor. He's good in a fist fight, but isn't particularly subtle.
- Professor Calculus: Calculus is the epitome of the absent-minded academic. He's as likely to wander off to follow a rare butterfly as he is to invent a new form of ultrasonic weapon.
The M.I.T. Archaeological Society
This league is formed around an intrepid adventurer/archaeologist and his various hanger-ons. He's more at home chasing rogues, thieves, pirates and Nazis (or being chased by them) than he is digging and cataloguing artifacts carefully at a year-long site.
Perk: Network of Supporters [although we forgot to apply this at the start of the game]
Catchphrase: "It belongs in a museum!"
Perk: Network of Supporters [although we forgot to apply this at the start of the game]
Catchphrase: "It belongs in a museum!"
- Idaho Smith: A dashing, inspirational leader, though prone to letting his fists and/or Colt .45 do the thinking for him.
- Marion Allen: Idaho's on/off girlfriend, best described as feisty. And then some...
- Indiana: The family's bloodhound. Not particularly smart, and liable to wander off.
- Kerem: A Turkish policemen and excellent shot, totally devoted to Idaho after that incident in Smyrna some years ago.
- Mother: Idaho's mother often seems to get tangled up in his adventures. She's occasionally helpful, but more often needs rescuing...
|Note that one of the Zorgls suffered an accident just before the game started and lost both its arms. This didn't seem to affect its performance, however...|
I'm not sure if the good Doctor is an alien in disguise, or just your typical mad scientist with dreams of glory. Either way, he has a small army of creatures at his beck and call.
- Doctor Demento: the leader of this league is Clever and Impervious; he can also affect enemies' minds. Presumably his powers derive from scientifically-advanced artifacts rather than being supernatural in origin. His dress sense is a bit...megalomaniac!
- 4 Zorgls: It's not obvious whether these hairy monsters are biological experiments or an alien slave race. Either way, Zorgls are tough fighters - if none too bright.
Amenhotep was an ancient Egyptian priest some 3,000 years ago, but now he's a resurrected horror followed by totally loyal servants from the grave.
- Amenhotep: The mummy is tough, cunning and very dangerous. His Achilles' heel might be that he doesn't have any ranged weapons - unless issuing curses at people counts.
- 3 Tomb Guardians: These reanimated skeletons are slow, but very hard to damage.
- Scarab swarm: A swarm of voracious beetles; they're difficult to hit and perilous on contact.
We decided that the board would be defined thus:
- The major plot point was placed in the centre, at the top of the pyramid.
- 8 minor plot points (2 for each player) were placed around the board.
- Climbing up or down the pyramid's sides would be perilous, unless the staircase was used.
- The quicksand and the pit beast (and the areas around them) would be extremely perilous.
- A leopard started in the middle of the board. At the end of each turn, it would move 2d6 inches in a random direction. It would be extremely perilous to anyone who activated within 3" of the model. [Note: the peril isn't necessarily the same leopard each time; the jungle is full of such beasts and they come and go as they please]
- Moving through one of the large, dense patches of jungle would be perilous.
The Game: First Half
Professor Calculus was the first character to move in turn 1, but he didn't get very far before he tripped over a hidden root [another player was very quick to use a fate card - which caused the good professor to take a peril - which he failed]. Not wanting to roll for a 50% chance of recovery, I responded with an I'm Alright card of my own.
Tintin raced straight up the steps of the pyramid, but the other players weren't letting him off easily. A failed challenge injured the young man, though he did recover Pharaoh's Sword a turn later.
On the other side of the pyramid, a Zorgl climbed up to retrieve a tasty-looking giant snail. When Amenhotep attempted to intervene, other Zorgls intercepted him. This started an epic fight between the forces of Doctor Demento and the Mummy which lasted right to the end of the game.
Elsewhere, the scarab swarm attacked Kerem. Although he shot at it repeatedly (and no doubt killed a few individual bugs), the swarm was only driven off - temporarily - when Indiana (the bloodhound) joined in.
Captain Haddock attempted to talk to the native guide, but was immensely frustrated to find that the plot point challenge required a significant amount of Finesse or Cunning - neither of which were the good Captain's strongest abilities!
Meanwhile, Doctor Demento glided over the quicksand and grabbed the pouch of diamonds from the drowning man. Even the doctor, with all his powers, found the going tough here; it took him a couple of turns to exit the sticky mess.
About half-way through the game, this was the situation:
- Most of the Zorgls were engaged in a battle royale against Amenhotep and his Tomb Guardians to the east of the pyramid.
- In the north, the fourth Zorgl had picked up the journal plot point, but was being stalked by the leopard. It seemed as if this supposedly-random peril was dogging the Zorgl's footsteps, as it followed him everywhere. Indeed, in the turn after this, the leopard knocked out the Zorgl and then vanished into the undergrowth, not bothering anyone else for the rest of the game.
- To the south, Idaho Smith was wavering over whether he should enter the lair of the pit beast to retrieve the crate of rifles plot point. He did eventually shoot down a tomb guardian which threatened his followers instead.
- Kerem and Indiana had (temporarily) seen off the scarab swarm.
- Marion Allen was unchallenged in her attempt on the dynamite plot point, but Mother (who had been with her just moments before) vanished into the undergrowth [in other words, I know she's somewhere at that end of the board, but I cannot see the model in the picture and I can't remember exactly where she was!].
- In the west, Tintin's league were unmolested as they attempted multiple plot points. Professor Calculus dusted himself off after his earlier fall.
The Game: Second Half
Tintin had found the all-important Pharaoh's Sword, so he ran for the exit. At the same time, Snowy recovered a hat and whip, only to be confronted by a middle-aged woman. "Those are my son's things!" she exclaimed. "Come here, little dog, Drop them!" she commanded. But Snowy wasn't having any of that; he backed off, dodging and weaving when Mother tried to grab him. She didn't really stand a chance of catching the agile terrier!
Idaho Smith wasn't having a good time! He had run out of ammunition after shooting a Tomb Guardian to pieces and had decided to go for the crate of rifles after all. He fought his way into the pit beast's lair, not without some difficulty, only to discover that the crate of rifles wasn't real! The beast had misled him with some of the remains of a previous victim, laid out artfully to entice him in.
Back on the lower slopes of the pyramid, the Zorgl/Mummy slugfest continued. The hairy monsters didn't manage to put any hurt onto the hard-as-nails Amenhotep, but they made a stupendous number of recovery rolls to stay in the fight themselves.
The scarab swarm came forwards again; this time Kerem vanished beneath the seething mass of bugs and didn't reappear. Indiana, the dog, was fine though; the insects couldn't quite figure out whether he was an enemy or just a neutral bystander.
Finally, Captain Haddock thought he'd managed to communicate with the native guide. However, he was exasperated when the man simply nodded, turned and stalked off into the jungle. Shouting at him had been going so well up till then...
Idaho managed to extricate himself from the pit beast, though not without much difficulty. Indeed, I suspect that he had to leave his jacket and most of his shirt behind [Multiple players added Fate cards to the basic "extreme peril" in an attempt to make it easier or harder for him to escape. This all added up to a very tense and complicated climax to the struggle!].
In another part of the jungle, Professor Calculus stumbled across an old journal just lying in the middle of the path. "Hmm, this look interesting" he thought, as he picked it up [without any difficulty at all, thanks to a FREE PASS challenge]. He probably didn't notice the bloody streaks in the grass where the leopard had dragged away the Zorgl who had been the journal's previous owner...
In a fit of ungentlemanly pique, Captain Haddock ran at Mother in an attempt to remonstrate with her for persecuting Snowy. The woman was terrified into submission by the sudden appearance of the rough-looking, large man and his stream of invective. I'm sure he didn't actually hit her...
And still the battle between the Zorgls and the Mummy's forces continued, with neither side prepared to give an inch. One of the Tomb Guardians had been destroyed, but every time a Zorgl was knocked down, it would just get back up and stay in the fight!
In the last turn, Idaho turned his attention to the dinosaur footprint. He was shaken and injured from his encounter with the pit beast; this didn't help and he failed to grasp the significance of this plot point. Hearing his master's voice, Indiana joined in as well - but the bloodhound was less than impressed by the muddy footprint and took himself off into the undergrowth instead [in other words, Indiana failed a peril and was "knocked out" by it].
Amenhotep finally gave up wresting with the Zorgls. Calling his one remaining servant to his side, he charged the newly-approaching Doctor Demento instead. However, this boss fight was simply too late to achieve anything and the Doctor dodged away, still holding his pouch of diamonds.
In the last act of the game, Marion Allen was looking for Mother. She saw Captain Haddock shouting at the old lady and so she shot him in the back. This was just a scratch, though; the enraged captain saw red, charged Marion and flattened her with a swift pair of fists. He probably breathed on her as well; his whisky-charged breath could fell an ox...
So, at the end of turn 6 there weren't quite as many models on the board as there had been at the start of the game!
There was lots of derring-do and mayhem, but how did each league fare at the end:
- Tintin: Tintin's league made off with the Pharaoh's Sword (3VP), the hat and whip (1VP) and the journal (1VP) for a total of 5VP. No-one was knocked out, at least in part because they didn't really get into many fights.
- Doctor Demento: The Zorgls stood up to everything that the Mummy could throw at them and came out (mostly) standing - though without the giant snail which they had intended to collect. Demento himself had acquired the pouch of diamonds (1VP), which would no doubt help further his researches. Of course, one Zorgl was taken by a leopard, so they must have a hidden vulnerability...
- The Mummy: Amenhotep and his followers fought both most of Doctor Demento's league and a significant portion of the M.I.T. Archaeological Society. They held their own - they inflicted as many casualties as they took - but were unable to claim any plot points at all.
- M.I.T. Archaeological Society: Idaho Smith himself had a terrible time fighting the pit beast and barely escaping. Indeed, this league had rotten luck with plot points; they failed to solve the dinosaur footprint, they had the dynamite in their grasp until Marion Allen tangled with Captain Haddock and dropped it - and the crate of rifles proved to be a trap. Kerem vanished under a swarm of insects and both Mother and Indiana have vanished into the jungle and are lost!
So, technically Tintin won by a landslide, but that's not really fair on everyone else as several of the other players were raw beginners. Did we have an exciting game? Yes! Was there plenty of narrative, with each league having its own successes and setbacks? Yes! Did everyone go away happy? Yes, I believe so! From that point of view, it was a universal win. Pulp Alley delivers yet again!