Monday, 23 December 2019

The Battle of Santa's Farm!

Introduction

Even if I haven't done so in any of the previous 12 months, this is the time of year when I host a large-scale battle using the Hordes of the Things rules.  What's the occasion?  Why Christmas, of course - when I retrieve my Santa-themed army and put it on the table with various allies and enemies.  Let the best man/saint/troll/goblin/snowman win!

Last year, Santa routed the opposition.  Can he repeat that success this year?  Read on...

Setup


We had 6 armies facing each other across the table in this game.

For the good side (top to bottom):

  • Tilean mercenaries:  Solid spearmen, some heavy cavalry, some crossbowmen, a cannon, a birdman/flying machine and a base of duelists/assassins (sneakers).
  • Santa: ice bears, elves with sten guns (and mince pies), a toy cannon and hordes of snowmen.
  • Kung Fu: heroes, a buddhist priest, swordsmen and hordes of peasants.

Evil (or at least, naughty, selfish and greedy):

  • Goblins: wolf riders, trolls, green hordes.
  • Barbarians (centre): rhino rider, archers, warbands.
  • Barbarians (right wing): heroes, panther riders, warbands

In the Beginning


As one might expect, the evil side advanced across the board.  If they could just capture Santa's house then it would be "game over", so they had every incentive to play aggressively.

In the far north, the Tilean general rode forwards, perhaps a bit recklessly not waiting for the rest of his troops.  He was swiftly surrounded and cut off by goblins and trolls.

Santa flew his sleigh right over the enemy lines and circled behind them.  He was waiting for an opportunity to pounce on any unsuspecting element.



His first chance arrived almost immediately, as the (centre) barbarians ignored him in favour of continuing their advance.  Santa's sleigh swept down on their back ranks and destroyed one element before taking off again!



To the north, the Tilean general was cut down; this shook and demoralised the remainder of the mercenary force.  Many of them immediately turned and fled, though the spearmen and crossbows held their ground.  Demoralised enemy forces: Good (0), Naughty (1).

Interestingly, the Tilean duelists were engaged with massed goblins in the forest; the sneakers couldn't really be hurt by the hordes (or vice versa) - but they couldn't/wouldn't break off either.  The goblin hordes spent much of the game tied up in this useless fashion - hunting for assassins that they just couldn't pin down!



Near the fountain in the centre, the snowmen started to tear apart the advancing barbarian warbands in front of them.  The elf shooters, having disposed of their barbarian counterparts, joined in as well.  Before long (and completely against the odds), the barbarian (centre) force was decimated and demoralised, with only a few stray elements dispiritedly holding their ground.  Demoralised enemy forces: Good (1), Naughty (1).



At the other end of the battlefield, the Kung Fu swordsmen held off the barbarian cavalry and heroes.  Mostly...

After many turns in which the combat swayed too and fro, the barbarians (right wing) stepped up a gear and chewed through much of the Kung Fu army in just a single turn, whilst only taking a few losses.  Demoralised enemy forces: Good (1), Naughty (2).



In the middle of the game, Santa struck again!  This time he landed in a swamp in order to attack a troll that was involved in a complex fight involving the goblin general and some of his ice bears.  Let's just say that it didn't go very well for either element in the middle of this fight!



The loss of the Tileans had uncovered Santa's flank and the goblin general thought he saw an opportunity.  He led his wolf riders into a charge against Santa's toy cannon, which was then also attacked in the rear by a couple of barbarian heroes from the other flank.

This didn't look good at all.  However, I am reliably informed that the cannon was loaded with Christmas trees this time - not like earlier in the game, when we figured it must have been firing marshmallows, for all the damage it was doing.  The goblin general was well-and-truly skewered and with his demise the remaining goblins decided they wanted no further part in the fight.  Demoralised enemy forces: Good (2), Naughty (2).



So, it looked as if it was coming down the the wire now.  There remained just Santa's army (somewhat damaged) and the barely-touched barbarians (right wing).  The swift barbarian chieftain made an attempt to break into Santa's house, but was chased off by Mrs. Claus (I imagine a rolling pin was involved, possibly also with the threat of ... soap.  Or mistletoe).



Not fancying his army's chances - they were slightly outnumbered and somewhat scattered & out of position - Santa decided to finish this in single combat with the enemy general, "mano e mano".  Whoever lost this fight would probably lose the game, as the remainder of their army would almost certainly be demoralised and withdraw from the battle.  Santa charged his sleigh straight at the barbarian prince...



.who sidestepped nimbly at the last moment and overturned the man-in-red into the snow.  Thus ends the tale; Christmas is no more; victory to the barbarians!


Conclusion

This was a special game, especially as I managed to persuade several club members to play their first game of Hordes of the Things because of the occasion.  I believe that it was much enjoyed by the participants and I hope that the tale will be appreciated by all my other readers too!

Highlights:

  • I loved seeing the goblin hordes playing hide-and-seek with the Tilean assassins in the forest.  The sneakers had something of a combat advantage, though this was swiftly reduced by outflanking and demoralisation to something like parity with the goblins.  However, these Tileans just couldn't roll low for almost all the game.
  • Santa's cannon, elves and angry snowmen saw off pretty much all comers!  At least, until faced with overwhelming odds...
  • One troll from the goblin force engaged a Kung Fu hero late in the game.  Even though both were demoralised, the troll just didn't know to give up and kept chasing the hero across the board [I don't think that Hordes of the Things elements cease to be impetuous once they are demoralised?].
  • The barbarian leader's brazen attack on Santa's cottage could have ended the game immediately; it was a 50:50 chance.  However, he was chased off by the stronghold's defences.

Low Points:

  • The Tilean flying machine ran away without engaging - again!  I don't think I've ever seen it do anything useful in any game...
  • Santa's defeat at the hands of a barbarian has to be a depressing thought - but I'm sure he'll be back!

Monday, 9 December 2019

Pulp Alley: Blood Sacrifice! (Perilous Island, Game 9)

<==  Back to the previous episode

Introduction


It's been a while since we played our last game of Pulp Alley (see here for Swamp of Terror!), but we finally managed to gather all the players in the same place yesterday.

According to the rules for the Perilous Island campaign, we should progress to Act III once one league had collected 4 pages from the journal of the missing explorer, Lord Darrow.  We had decided early on that while this would be fine for a 2-player campaign, it might lead to an interminable number of games for our 3 player setup.  Instead, we ruled that we would progress once any single league had collected 3 journal pages.

Well, it's been a while and I failed to notice that Tarzan's league already had collected 3 pages.  By rights we should have moved on to the next set of scenarios.  However, we still hadn't played once of the Act II scenarios ("Blood Sacrifice") and so we decided to do that anyway.  We'll move on to the final stage of the campaign from our next game onwards.

The Leagues

All of our leagues had by now acquired 25 or more reputation, thus entitling them to an extra roster slot.  The Safari and Tarzan each took another follower, whilst the Cult of Hanesh decided to upgrade a (level-1) follower into a (level-2) ally instead.

Similarly, each league had acquired a number of experience points and now seemed like a good time to spend some of them on permanent upgrades:
  • The cultist leader, Al Masoudi, spent 4 of his 5 experience points to purchase the Commander skill, thus adding 4 more slots to his roster.  These were filled with a level-2 rifleman and a level-2 animal (Steve wanted a cheetah, but for now I only had a leopard model.  I'll get a cheetah in due course).
  • Tarzan decided to spend 4 of his 5 XP on the Summon skill, intending to surround himself with hordes of monkeys, jungle birds or the like.  However, I completely forgot to use this during our game!  I think it will take some time to get used to it...
  • Sir Henry (Safari) chose to save his 2 XP for later.

Tarzan's Jungle Alliance


As usual, Tarzan led a collection of animals: Koko the gorilla, Caesar the clever simian and 4 lesser simians.  This also seemed like a good time to spend 3 backup points on a level-3 lion, just for this game.

Sir Henry's Safari


Sir Henry's league is as it was before, but with the addition of another (level-1) ascari.  He did, however, spend some of his great wealth on a rocket pack.

Personally I think this piece of equipment must be something that Sir Henry had taken from Stahlhelm's Nazis (the 4th league that we had in early games during this campaign, until that player dropped out).  The members of that group still pop up in our games from time to time, usually as perils or other non-player characters.  Since the Nazis have a robot soldier, it isn't stretching things too far to assume that they also had an experimental rocket pack - which Sir Henry either bought or had stolen...


The Snake Cult of Hanesh


As mentioned above, Al Masoudi (the cult's leader) has acquired more level-2 allies.  He now has quite a large, disreputable crew.

The Game Setup


As required by the scenario, we rolled to see who would be sacrificed by the local witch doctor - and to what.  The dice spoke and came up with Duncan (from Lord Darrow's expedition) would be sacrificed to the Great Gonga.  Since I have a nice model of a damsel-in-distress that I had been wanting to use for some time, this was adjusted to Miss Duncan instead.

Plot Points

  • Miss Duncan, tied between 2 stakes in the centre of the table (major plot point)
  • The witch doctor (minor PP).  Note that he is surrounded by a number of acolytes/bodyguards, thus making it perilous to approach within 6" of him.
  • Glowing green crystals (possible perilium deposit, minor PP).
  • Pile of skulls (possible mysterious remains, minor PP).
  • Strange statue (minor PP, guarded by a mystical force field).
  • Expedition radio (minor PP)
  • Enormous footprint (minor PP)
These last two plot points were added because we had 3 players; they're not in the scenario as written.  However, we've found that multi-player games need proportionally more plot points than 2-player games - otherwise it alters the balance between solving clues and fighting other leagues too much for our taste.

Perils

  • The quicksand in the north of the table is perilous (well, duh!)
  • The witch doctor's bodyguards make it perilous to be within 6" of him
  • 4 Nazis provide some mobile perils.  At the end of every action phase they will move 6" towards the nearest enemy.  If they have a clear line of sight and are within 6" then that enemy takes a peril.  Should a model move within 6" of a Nazi during its own activation then it also takes a peril.
    If the peril is passed then the Nazi is defeated and removed from the table.  On a d6 roll of 4+, the player who faced the peril may replace the Nazi anywhere on the table, as long as the new location is more than 6" from all enemies.
  • A grumpy buffalo is perilous when in contact with a player's model.
    Since that would be too easy to simply avoid, it also has the following rule: every time any model moves within 10" of it, the buffalo will move d10" towards that model.  That gives the possibility of someone running screaming through an enemy camp, followed by an enraged bull!
    Note that in our game this made the buffalo extremely active - it knocked out at least 3 characters.  If anyone wants to reuse this idea then I would suggest that either you make the distance much shorter (such as 6" and d6"), or else use a dice roll to trigger the buffalo's movement.  Perhaps it should move d12" if anyone comes within 12", but only on a d6 roll of 4+?  Or something like that...

Blood Sacrifice!


Sir Henry moved first in our game.  Without any hesitation, the intrepid explorer used his rocket pack to fly over the jungle, past Nazis and other perils.  He landed in the central clearing, just a few steps from where Miss Duncan was tied between the posts.

Of course, the buffalo then spoiled this piece of derring do a bit by charging out of the jungle straight at the gentleman.  I imagine it was startled and enraged by the noise and/or smoke from the Englishman's strange device.

Sir Henry was too old a hand to be bothered by this; he nimbly sidestepped the beast's charge.  However, the buffalo was now in the middle of the table and would react to pretty much any movement apart from around the fringes.



Most of the other players advanced cautiously, approaching their nearest minor plot points to try to gain an early lead.  Sir Henry continued his heroic dash by befuddling the buffalo with a Secret Path card (am I the only person who thought about the similar incident from Crocodile Dundee when this happened?).

He then blew it completely by failing to untie the damsel in distress.  The challenge to undo the knots required 3 successes and Sir Henry only achieved one.  By this time, half of the Snake Cult was closing in on him...



To add to the Safari's woes, Alan Quartermain investigated the glowing crystals - only to find out that they weren't real.  The light filtering through the jungle canopy shone on a rock in such a way as to make it shine, but it was just a very ordinary rock when seen close up.



Meanwhile in the north, the cultist's grenadier was up to his favourite tricks: throwing bombs at monkeys!  2 of Tarzan's simians thought they were safely hidden in the foliage, but the grenade still injured Caesar.



In a hooting, screeching fit of revenge, a couple of the remaining apes charged at the cultist.  He dodged out of their grasp - straight into the quicksand!



The central clearing was now filled with animals racing all over!  Tarzan's lion ran one way, whilst the cult's snake and leopard went the other, all in attempts to distract the buffalo.  In the end, the maddened bull decided to chase down the leopard and gore it to death.



At the half-way point of the game, here is how things stood:
  1. Tarzan had collected a minor plot point, but had made heavy weather of it and wasn't well positioned to intervene in the central struggle.
  2. The cult's brawling specialist ignored his friend who had fallen in the quicksand and dispatched both of the simians with brutal efficiency.
  3. Sir Henry finally freed Miss Duncan from the sacrificial posts, only to be attacked by Tarzan's lion.  Astonishingly (to me, at least), the lion had the worst of the exchange.  There were words that, if not exactly swearing, were strong expressions of disbelief...
  4. Al Masoudi and Captain Goode both vied for the witch doctor's attention, whilst the latter's bodyguards attempted to stab them both.  Goode went down several times, but just wouldn't give up and kept returning to the fight (and, importantly, thus prevented the cult leader from solving this plot point).
  5. The buffalo continued its rampage, knocking out Lady Constance (safari) and a simian (Tarzan).


Saeed, the cultist knifeman, killed off the two simians.  While he was thus occupied, the cult's grenadier reached for the radio but couldn't manage this and stay afloat at the same time.  He vanished into the quicksand with a soft, sucking sound.

As this happened, there was a crashing sound.  Birds flew up from the bushes, calling wildly.  The Great Gonga had arrived!  He was the most enormous, black gorilla that anyone had ever seen - easily bigger than any other land creature anyone had seen.



Oblivious to the rapid approach of Gonga, Sir Henry and the miraculously-recovered lion tussled for possession of Miss Duncan...


...whilst Al Masoudi and Goode continued to fight the witch doctor's bodyguards and each other just to survive.



Gonga was obviously infuriated by the puny beings who had stolen his sacrifice.  He tore into the melee and gave the lion an almighty buffet.  Sir Henry managed to duck and step backwards with Miss Duncan...



...but it was only a temporary reprieve.  The gigantic monster tossed the lion aside and continued his relentless pursuit of the humans.  To his credit, Sir Henry managed to wound the beast - but this just maddened Gonga even more!



As Sir Henry and Gonga fought, the lion recovered and stood up.  The cult's snake immediately struck at it, though neither creature could gain the upper hand.

Then, Alan Quartermain decided to fire into this melee on the grounds that anything he hit was good.  His shots missed the lion but struck the reptile, which then collapsed into the dirt.  [I think this might be the very first game where the cult's snake has failed to terrorise its enemies and has instead been knocked out!]



As we entered the last turn, the situation was thus:

  • Gonga and Sir Henry were fighting for possession of Miss Duncan in the central clearing.  If Sir Henry could just survive until the end of the round then the game would end and he would escape with his prize!
  • Al Masoudi and Goode still wrestled [inconclusively] with each other and with the witch doctor's bodyguards.
  • The buffalo was annoyed enough to be chasing a couple of ascaris through the jungle.
  • Remnants of all 3 leagues hung about the fringes, not particularly wanting to get involved in any further fighting.


Pretty much the only minor action in turn 6 was this: Tarzan's lion ventured into the quicksand.  The clever animal grabbed the sinking radio [minor plot point] and dragged it to the side.

A couple of cultist minions stood nearby and even took a shot at the lion, but this was ineffectual.



Everyone held their breath as the main event came round: could Sir Henry survive another round against the monstrous ape?

Gonga pummelled the man mercilessly, reducing him to a d6 health [i.e. the lowest one can be and still stand up in Pulp Alley].  Then, with the last attack of the game, Gonga landed a final, single blow.

Sir Henry needed to roll a 4+ on one d6 to survive.  If he could do this then his league would have 3 victory points and would win the game, not to mention the enormous kudos he would acquire.  It was a 50:50 chance, but sadly he rolled low and fell to the ground.

Gonga sniffed contemptuously at the stricken man, grabbed Miss Duncan in a huge clasp and strode off into the jungle with the screaming damsel...


Final Results

  • Sir Henry's Safari nearly pulled off a considerable coup, but ended up unlucky and empty-handed after the shining crystals proved to be an illusion.  0 victory points.
  • The Cult of Hanesh made an early gain when their leader effortlessly grabbed the strange statue.  However, they then seemed to get bogged down in indecision and pointless fights.  1 victory point.
  • The Jungle Alliance concentrated on minor objectives and managed to claim several of them (Tarzan scored the large footprint, the lion rescued the radio and Koko grabbed the mysterious remains - though this was something of a poison chalice as Koko contracted Fungus Lung for his trouble).  3 victory points and the winner!

Conclusion

The Blood and Glory card was only drawn on the last turn, when there was barely any fighting!
Well, that was another fun game!  Mind you, I think it was notable for dithering all round.  Once many of the minor objectives had been claimed in turn 2 or 3, all three leagues had models that bickered and skirmished around the jungle fringes rather than pile into the central, sacrificial glade.

The Nazis were fairly ineffectual as perils, being dispatched with surprising ease and (mostly) not returning to the table.  After maybe a couple of turns, they had all vanished without being a significant hindrance to anyone.

On the other hand, the buffalo was a holy terror, chasing down pretty much anything that moved!  For certain it dispatched 3 characters - the tally may have been greater than this but my memory isn't good enough.  Eventually it was lured away into the south west, where it played tag with Tarzan and a couple of ascaris for the second half of the game.

Sir Henry's gamble very nearly came off.  Perhaps if his ascaris had been more central then they might have softened Gonga up with rifle fire and permitted the great white hunter to triumph?  Or maybe not.  Either way, he's acquiring quite a reputation as a man who enjoys wrestling with the most fearsome monsters!

Tarzan and Koko were disappointing; they gained minor plot points easily enough but against little or no opposition.  The temporarily-allied lion was much more impressive, fighting Sir Henry, the giant snake and Gonga (though without actually winning any of those fights) before grabbing a final objective.  On a more personal level, I was thoroughly delighted when the simians pushed the pesky cult grenadier into the quicksand 😁.

As for the cult, once again their leader carried the show pretty much alone; he was let down by incompetent underlings.  Al Masoudi must be getting so tired of this, but that is the lot of a would-be evil overlord.  So it is written!

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Zomtober 2019, Week 4

<==  Week 3 is this way

Introduction

I'm full of cold and not feeling very good today, so if there's anything in this post that is rambling or incoherent then it's because I'm very tired and have a bad headache.

So, it's week 4 of Zomtober 2019; the final part of the event (whew!).  As always, I'm going to show a zombie miniature and a survivor, presented as a "duel".  This time there's a slight twist: the survivor comes in two variants and it will be your job to determine which one is more likely.  Read on...

Mick/Mickey vs Stripper Zombie

Here we have a young man facing off against a zombie stripper.

On the left is one version of this week's human.  He's well armed with a machete & club and is wearing a facemask and padded jacket which should give at least some protection against zombie bites.  This is clearly how Mick wishes to see himself: capable and in control of the situation.

On the right the other version of our "hero".  He's the same guy, really - but instead of weapons he is waving a bottle of beer.  I suspect that this isn't the first drink he's had recently either.  Perhaps "Mickey" is a more likely representation of this person?


From another angle, it's fairly obvious that the zombie stripper is charging at the human.  Mick looks as if he's prepared to fight, though Mickey seems to be swaying a bit as if drunk.  Or is that just my imagination?


The "Mick" and "Mickey" models are from Offensive Miniatures.  I had thought that all of the figures in their packs were quite unique; it was quite a surprise to find that these two were so similar.  Hower, rather than being put off by that, it gave me the inspiration to paint them as 2 different versions of the same person.

The stripper zombie is from Studio Miniatures, specifically from the "Zombie Characters VI" pack.

Both/all these models were relatively easy to paint.  The stripper zombie in particular is mostly just flesh; there's little in the way of clothing or equipment that needs detailing!



The bases are press moulded in green stuff from a Basius II pad.  For Mick/Mickey, I was careful to try to use exactly the same area of the pad, so as to create the same result.

As an extra, the poster under Mick/Mickey's feet is an advert for some low-budget zombie film, printed on paper and then stuck to the base.  It's just about possible to read the film title when I have the models in front of me, though I don't think any of the photos are clear enough for it to be understood.



Last shot; the detail on Mickeys's bottle can be seen more clearly here.


Conclusion



So who will win - the zombie or the human?  I think it hinges very much on who the person is: Mick the survivor or Mickey the civilian?  If he's feeling like "Mick" today then a blow from the machete will fell the zombie.  But if our lad is really "Mickey" then I think he's in big trouble.

As always, your thoughts are much appreciated...


Sunday, 20 October 2019

Zomtober 2019, Week 3

<==  Follow me for the previous week's tale

Introduction

It's now the third week of Zomtober 2019 and (as always) I'll be presenting a "duel" between a survivor and a zombie.  This time there will be a slight twist, however: I'll give alternate versions of the encounter and let you decide which is more likely!

Lou vs. Old Woman Zombie (OWZ), Version 1


Lou was an exterminator by profession.  His usual work was pest control: trapping, poisoning or shooting rodents, pigeons, seagulls and the like.

His last job had been for the council, at the local community centre.  After disposing of a nasty wasps nest, he had gone to take a shower in the attached fitness centre.  On leaving this, he discovered that some hoodlum had taken all his clothes.  All he could find to wear was his black vest and a discarded costume from a recent children's ballet class.



The centre seemed strangely deserted; Lou made his way out to his van without spotting another person.  As he opened the vehicle up, he saw an old woman in a nightdress and gown approaching him, moaning and dribbling.  Was the whole world going crazy?  What else could go wrong today?

Quickly, he retrieved his shotgun from the back of the van and turned to face the crone.

Lou vs. Old Woman Zombie (OWZ), Version 2


Lou was a bitter, twisted and sadistic little psychopath.  On hearing over the radio that law and order was breaking down, he decided that he was going to get even with his hated landlady, Mrs Doyle.



Since there was no-one to tell him what to do any more, he thought he'd dress for the occasion.  He had a pink tutu that he'd been saving for a special occasion after taking it from a little girl years before.



The costume didn't seem as pleasant as he had thought it would; the tights were far too small and the colour seemed to have faded during the years he had kept it under his musty bed.  Still, the decision was made and he wasn't going to go back on it now.



As he stepped into the street, he saw Mrs Doyle approaching.  She looked even more grey and shuffling than usual, but there was no pity in Lou's heart as he prepared himself to shoot her.  This was going to be the highlight of his year...


Conclusion

Well, which is it?  Is Lou an innocent workman caught up in an unlikely sequence of events, or is he just plain nuts?  Will he kill OWZ, or will he hesitate and be eaten by the zombie?  Does anyone even care what happens to him?

The zombie model comes from Studio Miniatures (specifically, she's part of Zombie Mob 2), whilst Lou is from Hasslefree (in the Legends of Golgo range).

I'm quite happy with the painting of OWZ, but there's something about Lou that just isn't right to my eyes.  Both models, as well as much of my other recent output, have a bit of "milkiness" causes by my current varnish.  I'm not at all happy about that and will need to obtain a replacement can as soon as I am able!