Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Halloween: Horrors Stalk the Night!

Introduction

It's Halloween and once again I've arranged a seasonal battle to mark the occasion.  Like last year (see here), this will be a battle between the Witches and the Puritans (Witch Hunters).  This time, each of these forces will be supported by some rather uneasy allies, respectively the Rat Plague and the Five Musketeers.

[On a side note, I believe that this will be the 500th article on my blog.  I had no idea the number had grown so large until I was looking for the links to insert in the previous paragraph...]


The Scenario


Very simple: witches, ghouls and other beasties intend to raid the village of Middle Dorking and carry off at least some of the locals (for use as sacrifices, slaves, playthings, food...  Use your imagination!).  The local authorities would like to stop them.

3 villagers have been placed along the table's centreline.  Each of these can be moved, at a reduced rate, by anyone who has a model in base contact at the start of an action.  Whoever holds the most at the end of the game wins!  Note that in order to foster some unhealthy competition, each side (i.e. good or evil) wins or loses according to the number of objectives they have caught/saved.  Within each side, the force with the larger number of villagers will be declared the major victor and the other force will only be allowed a minor victory.

For example, if the Puritans rescue 2 villagers and the Musketeers none then the Puritans win a major victory and the Musketeers must be content with a minor win.  Even if the Witches have caught the third villager, the evil side still loses completely.  Clear?


The Game


The rat monster is an exceptionally dangerous foe; as well as its very high normal combat score it gains another +2 for its berserk attribute.  It loses this attribute as soon as it throws 3 failures in a single activation roll.  In this game, that happened in its very first turn - so the creature was no longer berserk.  Sighs of relief could be heard from the Puritans and Musketeers; this seemed like a very good omen for them!



Initially, the witches and rat swarms on the right surged forwards, though their bigger monsters on the left were sluggish and didn't make much progress.  For the good side, pretty much the same pattern occurred: the musketeers advanced rapidly on their right, whilst the Puritans on their left were slow to move.



Athos grabbed the nearest villager and tried to drag him to safety - but the shocked young man wasn't easy to pull along and the rat monster was overhauling the pair rapidly!



In the centre, near the unlit pyre, D'Artagnan and Leroux bravely tried to stop the rat priest from taking away the blacksmith.  They did look to be heavily outnumbered, but perhaps French élan would be enough to carry the day?



Nearer the wood, Aramis stomped on a seemingly endless swarm of rats and killed many of them, whilst Porthos faced off three huge, but distinctly reluctant, hell hounds.



At the other end of the village, Major Fairfax and his soldiers saw a ghoul trying to drag off a small boy.  Whilst one of the troopers led the rescued child away, the rest of them set upon the evil ghoul and butchered it!



So far, the few casualties had all been on the evil side, but that couldn't last forever.  Even as help approached, the beleaguered D'Artagnan was felled by the rat priest and his minions.



Another tragedy occurred when Black Agnes zoomed in and commanded her hell hounds to attack Porthos.  The musketeer could not resist the combined attack of such fierce opponents and he too fell in a bloody mess.



As he came into the open, John Sterne (the witch hunter) bellowed a challenge to Meg (the witch).  He fired both his pistols at her - but missed (despite having a reasonably good chance of killing the crone with a single shot).

Sword drawn, Sergeant Stone then charged forwards - but he was intercepted by a ghoul and thus couldn't prevent the rat priest from dragging away the kicking and screaming blacksmith.  He was promptly struck and transfixed by Meg's baleful glare.



When the ghoul tore apart the disabled Sergeant Stone, Leroux ran for his life.  Meg then cast another evil spell, this time at the witch hunter himself.  With an epic lack of situational awareness, John Sterne didn't see the attack coming and was bound and made helpless by witchcraft!



A long way from the action in the centre, a lone ghoul attempted to recapture the child from the village.  Major Fairfax and his lads fell upon the creature and butchered it; the child will probably have nightmares about the scene for the rest of his life!  [Normally in Song of Blades and Heroes, doubling an enemy's combat result kills it, whilst tripling it results in a gruesome kill.  Combined, these Puritans scored seven times the ghoul's defence.  Result: dead ghoul, though probably not recognisable as such any more...]



The rat monster chased down and finished off Athos, but rather than attempting to capture the nearby villager it turned and ran up the village street towards the Puritans.  Some of them shot at it as it came, but this merely seemed to annoy the creature...

In the open area, the rat priest continued to plod along with his prisoner, the blacksmith.  Aramis fought for his life against two huge hell hounds, but surely it could only be a matter of time before he made a fatal mistake?



The rat monster may not have been berserk any more, but it was still huge and fierce.  It charged down the main street of the village, tossing aside any soldiers who stood in its way.  One corporal attempted to shepherd the village boy away to safety, but he was really moving too slowly.

Eventually, most of the remaining troopers broke and fled, leaving the rat monster free to recapture the boy [and if you think he would have had nightmares about being taken by a ghoul then feel pity for him now!].

This tore the heart out of the good side and left them with very little in the way of forces.  Most of the Musketeers were dead; now the Puritans were also dead or dispersed.



For a brief moment, it looked as if Aramis might salvage the situation all on his own.  He slew one of the hell hounds, shook off the other and charged at Black Agnes.  The witch felt the Frenchman's steel as his rapier passed right through her body and with an unearthly shriek she fell, dead!



It was heroic, but it wasn't enough.  Meg used her black magic once more, paralysing the last Musketeer and making him easy prey for the nearby hell hound.

We did play on for a little while after this, but the outcome was already pretty much decided.  Major Fairfax rallied a couple of soldiers and chased after the slow-moving rat priest.  They nearly stopped it before it left the table - but couldn't quite do so.  After that, these last remnants of the human side chased after Meg - until the hell hound intervened and killed the major.  At that point, we called it...


Conclusion

That was a bitterly-fought game, for certain!  Initially it looked as if the Musketeers would triumph over everything in their path - but there just weren't enough of them and in the end they were outnumbered and overwhelmed.

The rats and the witches concentrated a lot of their force in the centre.  This gave them numbers against some of their enemies, but conceded some easy, early kills to the Puritans.  However, these Puritans seemed hard to motivate; their advance was very slow and a little bit fragmented.  In the end, the charge of the rat monster scattered the bulk of them past recall.

Man/Woman/Creature of the Match: A tough choice:
  • On the one hand, Aramis cut his way through most of the rat swarm, one hell hound and the witches' leader (Black Agnes).
  • On the other hand, Meg was instrumental in killing Sergeant Stone, the witch hunter (John Sterne) and Aramis.
I think I'd probably give it to the witch, because she survived and was on the winning team.  Her actions made a difference!


Biggest disappointment: I think it's a toss up between:
  • The giant rat ceasing to be berserk on turn one
  • The witch hunter failing to kill Meg with his pistols.
Take your pick!


Victory goes to the evil side, very obviously.  The rats held all three villagers at the end of the game, so they are declared the clear winners, with the witches taking the consolation prize.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Zomtober 2018, Week 4

<== Week 3's duel is this way

Introduction

Whew!  It's the last weekend in Zomtober 2018 and I've finished my models!  Well, OK - that's not entirely correct.  The figures you'll see below have had all the painting done, but they haven't yet been varnished.

Sealing these models would only take a moment, but I want to hold off for a while because the wash I've used on the bases is still slightly wet in some of the deeper recesses.  I know from bitter experience that if I spray sealer over paint/wash which isn't completely dry then the models will go "milky", at least in the damper parts.  It's better if I wait for a few days before varnishing.  Anyway, all the rest is done...

Cora vs Green-haired Zombie


Today's duel is between a couple of young women.  The lucky one (the survivor) is "Cora".  She's young, slim, pretty and armed with an assault rifle and a revolver.  Presumably the satchel slung over her shoulder holds spare ammunition, food, medicines or other useful survival equipment.  I've experimented with colours by giving her pink hair; not something I usually do.



The unlucky one is also young, slim and was probably pretty when still alive.  However, she's now a zombie.  She has half the scalp on one side of her head torn off, as well as gashes and cuts on one leg.  I'll call her "Green-haired Zombie" ("GHZ" hereafter) because she also has been used to practice my painting techniques.  In this case, I've given her green hair and a striped, multi-coloured skirt and top.



Cora is a Hasslefree model.  Indeed, I believe that she's just another version of the survivor I presented last week, though the model is still an excellent one.



GHZ comes from one of the "zombie mobs" produced by Studio Miniatures.  Personally I think that the sculpting is a little weak on this figure; she has slightly overlong arms and legs and an implausibly narrow waist.  The model is still good, just not great.

I'd give the GHZ model maybe 3.5 out of 5, whereas Cora is a solid 5 out of 5.



As always (at least, until I run out of them), both of these figures are mounted on Escenorama resin bases.  Cora's base is fairly plain, but GHZ is standing in a gutter near a crushed Irn Bru can (look it up if you're not Scottish) and a torn takeaway menu.


Conclusion

It looks to me as if Cora has this all day long.  She has a good weapon which she seems to know how to use (no firing from the hip!) and she seems fit enough to be able to fire it.  The zombie isn't particularly special in any way, but there are just a couple of doubts in my mind about this duel even so:
  1. I wonder why Cora has decided to straddle a sunken - and probably dangerous - manhole cover.  If she loses her balance or shifts her position even slightly then she could suddenly find herself in a lot of trouble.  Falling down a hole in the road, or even just stumbling at the wrong moment, could be fatal during the apocalypse!
  2. GHZ is really skinny.  If Cora doesn't aim carefully, she might miss this very narrow target, especially if she hasn't done this sort of thing before.  Killing zombies casually, without having any doubts or worries, is probably an acquired skill.
So, as always: what do you think will happen next?  Comments below, please 😃.




Friday, 26 October 2018

Pulp Alley: Lagoon of Terror! (Perilous Island, game 5)

Introduction

Our Pulp Alley "Perilous Island" campaign is gathering momentum!  It's taken quite a long time to play the first four episodes, but now we're about to reach Perilous Island itself.  I'm really excited about this (and it was another good game, as you'll see below).

For anyone who wishes to remind themselves of previous events, or who is new to this and would like to start from the beginning, here's a list of the earlier scenarios:
Now let me present to you another thrilling installment: "Lagoon of Terror!"


The Scenario


Now that the location of the mysterious Perilous Island is known, the three remaining leagues (Tarzan's jungle alliance, Sir Henry's safari and the Snake Cult of Hanash) have been racing each other to reach it first.  After a wild storm, they are all shipwrecked in the same location, or nearly so.  Those who are near the water's edge, or still in the sea, notice debris from a previous vessel.  Perhaps this was from Lord Darrow's craft?  There may be clues to his whereabouts in amongst the flotsam.

Because we had 3 players, we added a couple of extra minor plot points, neither of which had any special rules, but which gave the leagues a little bit more for which to aim.  This meant that the full set of objectives was as follows:
  • Journal pages (major, in the wreckage)
  • Local fisherman (minor, on the beach)
  • Woman carrying a pot of Papanga Goo (minor, on the other beach)
  • Perilium deposit (minor, on the riverbank)
  • Mysterious remains (minor, on the other bank of the river)
  • Rare orchid (minor, in the jungle)
  • Dinosaur footprint (minor, in the other jungle!)

Alan Quartermain, Captain Goode and Lady Constance debate whether to enter the jungle or to remain on the shore and look for Sir Henry (their leader)

For perils, we had the following:
  • All of the water was perilous (crocodiles, piranhas, sharks, undercurrents...).
  • The jungle had 2 perilous lions in it, one on each side of the river.  These would move d8 inches in a random direction at the end of each turn, but wouldn't cross any water.
  • There was also a swarm of perilous tropical bees.  The swarm moved d6 inches at the end of each turn and could move across water.
  • The rope bridge was perfectly safe, unless someone spent an action to cause damage whilst either on it or at either end.  Thereafter it would be extremely perilous.

The leagues were much as before, though it's worth mentioning a couple of pre-game acquisitions:
  • Sir Henry used his great wealth to purchase a diving suit.  Sadly I don't have a model of a figure wearing a diving suit, but I will superimpose the picture of a helmet on Sir Henry in all relevant pictures to remind us of this item.
  • The cult leader used his dominion to summon a grenade-armed cultist and a reanimated corpse to his side.  I suppose he was feeling experimental, since we've not seen him raise the dead before...

The Jungle, part 1


Deep in the jungle, Caesar and another simian were looking for the rest of the Jungle Alliance.  They were taken completely unawares when a mango-sized metal object flew through the trees and landed between them, hissing softly.  Caesar was deeply suspicious; he jumped aside just before the grenade exploded - but the other little ape wasn't so lucky and was knocked out.  First blood to the Cultists!



Seeing the Cult's giant snake approaching from the other direction to pick up the Perilium crystals - and remembering how badly it had gone when he encountered that monster previously - Caesar attempted to escape by swimming across the river towards his allies.  However, the water was faster and deeper than he had imagined; the little ape was swept away and never seen again (at least, not in this episode!).



For a while, it looked as if the Cult would have the entire eastern jungle to themselves.  However, as their leader was congratulating his grenadier minion and preparing to pick a rare purple orchid, a lion strolled into the clearing.  It didn't seem especially hungry, though; initially the animal just ignored both men.



However, the beast just wouldn't go away; it wandered back and forth across the clearing, seeming to track the cultists' movements.  Eventually it turned on the minion and killed him whilst the cult leader escaped with his specimen.



Nearer the beach, two other cultists encountered a native woman carrying a pot of papanga goo.  The Cult's wrestler spoke to her first, but in return he was smacked so hard that he was knocked out!  Who knows what he said?

The sharpshooter then approached and he was far more to the woman's taste [he drew a Free Pass for the plot challenge].

With this, the cultists on the eastern shore had acquired three plot points: the leader held the orchid, the snake had the Perilium crystals and the sharpshooter had the papanga goo [plus a female admirer, or so it seemed!].  Rather than risk their booty by seeking out fights with other leagues, they disappeared off the table and further into the jungle.


The Jungle, Part 2


If the eastern jungle was owned by the cultists then the western part was dominated by Koko, the gorilla!



The cult's stealth expert crept up on the great ape, whilst their shambling undead approached with rather less subtlety.  The first that Koko knew of their presence was when he was hit by a bullet from close range!



Fortunately for the gorilla, he soon recovered from this flesh wound.  Incensed and angry, Koko retreated to a more central part of the jungle [in an attempt to include more enemies in his radius of effect] and then let out a terrible, loud growl!  He jumped up and down, beat his chest and in all ways became as scary as he could [Koko has a shock attribute which can scare lower level characters].



On this occasion, the results were especially gratifying.  Not only did all the cultists who heard the ape's fury retreat, but in its haste to escape the reanimated creature fell down the riverbank and disappeared into the dark, swirling waters!



Pausing only to collect the mysterious remains plot point, Koko charged the remaining cultist and ripped his arms off.



The only fly in this ointment was the sad fate of Koko's companion - one of the only two remaining simians.  He had successfully recovered the dinosaur footprint plot point and was hopping up and down with excitement at the thought of showing this discovery to the boss.  It wasn't to be, though; a lion jumped out of the undergrowth and took him - too late in the game for anyone else to reach the plot point and attempt it again.


The Beach


Deciding that they didn't like the look of the jungle [or maybe it was the strange sounds coming from it?], Alan Quartermain, Captain Goode and Lady Constance all descended upon the native fisherman.  The two gentlemen only had limited success in negotiating with him, but Lady Constance managed to put things right and therefore is now recognised as a friend of the Nghai tribe.



This team (or at least, Captain Goode and an ascari) then took out their remaining frustrations by beating up the last of Tarzan's poor, little simians - who had the misfortune to be nearby and alone.


The Water


The major plot point [the journal pages in the ship's wreckage] was only contested by the Safari and the Jungle Alliance.  From the start, Tarzan was determined to claim this prize, so he used a card to swim like an Olympian, right through the debris and in between the floundering ascaris.  He had no difficulty at all in finding the papers - but could he keep hold of them?



One of the ascaris tried to interfere, but Tarzan wasn't to be defeated by a mere minion like that!  He left the Safari's follower floating in the water, barely conscious, and struck out for the shore.



The other ascari gasped in horror and swam for the shore with all his might - not because he had seen his fellow defeated, but rather because of the awful thing which now arose from the depths of the lagoon.  A horrible monster, obviously disturbed by the humans' activity, breached the surface.  It reached for Sir Henry and wrapped the end of a tentacle around his diving suit!



Tarzan left the water as quickly as possible, only pausing to wrestle the nearby ascari into submission.  The Safari's man hadn't been content to escape the behemoth, but had turned and taken shots at Tarzan - none of which injured him even though some of them were quite close.



Meanwhile, what of Sir Henry?  The adventurer had little option other than to trade blows with the sea monster, but he rolled well and it rolled below average; both were injured.



Further poor rolls by the behemoth and excellent recovery rolls by Sir Henry turned the tables strongly in his favour [he also burned through a number of cards to give him every advantage he could muster].  Even so, it looked as if this titanic battle wouldn't be resolved by the end of the game.

As no plot points were at stake, there was small value in playing out the fight at this point - apart from the kudos.  With the last exchange resolved, the monster had been reduced to just a single health point and it looked as if the battle would be inconclusive.  Then Sir Henry played an "Ain't Over Yet" card to force another round of combat.



With a gasp of triumph, Sir Henry buried his harpoon deep into the creature's vitals.  The water turned red as the creature thrashed around briefly, before it stilled and sank out of sight into the murky depths.  Sir Henry was victorious, though his suit was damaged and he had taken a nasty cut to the leg as the monster died!


Conclusion

This was yet another thrilling game; Pulp Alley never disappoints!  Officially, the scores were as follows:
  • Tarzan's Jungle Alliance: 4 victory points (the major journal pages plus the minor mysterious remains)
  • The Snake Cult of Hanash: 3 victory points (minor items: the papanga goo, the rare orchid and the perilium deposit).
  • Sir Henry's Safari: 1 victory point (minor: the native fisherman).
Against this, Sir Henry deserves to be awarded a whole boatload of "cool" points for deciding to purchase a diving suit, then having the machismo to face the lagoon terror and kill it!  I really wish I'd had a model of a man in a diving suit; that would have made it look so much better.


The end of the game.  Where did everybody go?

Strange, new tactics were employed in this game - especially by the Cult, though they weren't alone in this.  As soon as someone (even a leader) had acquired a plot point they would leave the table as fast as possible.  This certainly preserved their gains since no-one could take the objective from them (wellobviously), but it also meant that these characters were then unavailable for the remainder of the game.

Partly as a result of such tactics and partly because of the thick terrain, there weren't as many fights between characters as there might have been.  Instead, most of the casualties were the result of perils - though even these were relatively light compared with our last "extremely perilous" game!

So, onward into the interior of ... Perilous Island!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Zomtober 2018, Week 3

<== Week 2 is this way

Introduction

Well, we're into the third week of Zomtober 2018.  I've presented a zombie/survivor duel on each such occasion since 2013 and I'm not going to let you down this time.  Hope you enjoy this week's offering!

Sarah vs Parking Meter Zombie (PMZ)


This week, I have painted a couple of oddments from my lead pile.  The survivor is a young woman made by Hasslefree Miniatures; I've called her "Sarah".  She is reasonably well dressed and has a (camouflaged) hunting crossbow slung on her back.  Oddly, she doesn't seem to have any bolts for the bow.




Instead, Sarah is clutching what looks like a wooden stake or tent peg (are wooden tent pegs even a thing these days?).  It's not the improvised weapon I would chose to deal with post-apocalyptic monsters!  Something with a long handle and sharp bits at the far end - perhaps a type of gardening tool - might work better...



Sarah is about to attack Parking Meter Zombie (PMZ).  This zombie appears to be heavily damaged - he's missing half a leg and his belly has been ripped open.  However, he hasn't quite given up yet; he's using a parking meter that has been ripped out of the ground as a support.

PMZ is from one of Studio Miniatures's "zombie mobs".  I've mounted both figures on resin bases from Escenorama.



There seems little doubt in my mind that a fit young woman with a weapon - even a poor one - should be more than a match for a single, crippled zombie.  The real question must be why is she about to attack PMZ, though?



Here are some possibilities:

  • She's shot her last crossbow bolt deep into PMZ without killing the creature and intends to retrieve the arrow, come what may?
  • It's an act of revenge for something PMZ has done, either in his previous life or in his continuing zombie existence?
  • Sarah is using the weak zombie as an opportunity to practice her hand-to-hand combat skills?
  • The woman has a desperate need for any coins that are in the meter, perhaps to operate a vending machine that cannot be prised open?
  • The zombie and his parking meter are blocking her path?
  • She's cleaning up the street, making it safer for some companions who aren't as capable as her (possibly children or elderly)?
  • Maybe Sarah isn't about to attack, but instead was caught off guard by a low moan from behind and has spun around to see what might be threatening her?
None of these possible reasons seem especially convincing to me.  Can you come up with anything better?

For Week 4's duel, follow me ==>