Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Pulp Alley: Swamp of Terror! (Perilous Island, Game 7)

<== See here for the previous installment

Introduction

Pushing further into the interior of Perilous Island, Sir Henry's party struggled through a sticky, humid swamp.  The rank, coarse growth limited visibility to just a few yards and oversized insects buzzed around annoyingly.  Larger creatures moved in the undergrowth; the safari could hear them but not see them.  This was clearly the way that the lost Darrow expedition had travelled - but the natives at the last stop had claimed the area was cursed and inhabited by terrible "vizuu", whatever they might be...

The Leagues

As usual in our campaign, we had 3 leagues for our game:

1. The Snake Cult


The cult is led by Al Masudi and his giant snake pet (not pictured, as its entry was delayed for this game).  As usual, he's accompanied by his 3 faithful lieutenants and his favourite grenadier.  Also as usual, Al Masudi has used his dominion power to control some of the more exotic local wildlife; in this case a pair of large waspquitos.  You didn't know that he was a keen student of nature, did you?

2. Tarzan's Jungle Alliance


Tarzan is followed by Koko the gorilla and a band of simians led by Caesar.  On this occasion, there was an extra ape in the troupe, though I can't remember exactly which game effect permitted this.  Probably a random event?

3. Sir Henry's Safari


Sir Henry and his friends Alan Quartermain & Captain Goode are accompanied by his niece (Lady Constance) and several heavily armed ascaris.  There's a lot of firepower here...

The Scenario


The swamp is full of menace, sticky mud and buzzing insects.  There are several patches of raised ground covered with thicker vegetation; 3 of the largest are sacred places (2 ancient statues and one skull pile).  Each sacred place can be searched for clues, though each team can only find a maximum of one clue per location per turn.

As well as the normal perils which might be encountered due to hostile card play, perilium zombies will drag themselves out of their shallow graves at the start of each turn.  Roughly 1-3 new zombies will appear per player, per turn; each player can choose the spawn location for the creatures he/she generates.  [Note: my collection of generic, non-20th century urban zombies is limited in numbers.  On occasion we ran out of zombie models and used giant swamp rats instead.  These rat models had exactly the same game effect as the zombies.]

The Game

The first turn was pretty much as might be expected; all leagues advanced towards their nearest sacred place.  They were all too far away to attempt any plot points or to be able to shoot at each other [this game was played 2 months ago and I have only just got around to writing it up now.  My memory isn't perfect - maybe someone had rolled the "limited visibility" random event before play began?]



Then, something extraordinary happened, though it took a while for the full ramifications to sink in.  By turn 2, we had an unprecedented three "must play immediately" cards on the table [these are rare; many games would never see a single one occur].  Now the first 2 were nice enough, but the 3rd card - "Blood and Glory" - was the real game changer.

In case you cannot read the 3rd card, here's the kicker: every time a character won a fight, their league would gain +1 Reputation.  The table was generating zombies each turn.  Zombies are relatively easy to kill.  Suddenly, the previously-obvious tactic of placing the zombies to impede your opponents wasn't the only choice; placing them close to your own characters could let you gun them down and therefore be rewarded for winning more fights.  Hmm...


Koko opened the scoring for the Jungle Alliance by dispatching one zombie.

Tarzan also felled his opponent.

For the Safari, Sir Henry was attacked by one of the undead.  He destroyed it easily enough, though.

...but another 4 zombies (and rats) leaped on him.  Although Sir Henry destroyed a second zombie and knocked down a couple more, he didn't fancy becoming engaged in a prolonged brawl.  He played a cautious Break Away card to exit the melee before he was overwhelmed.

In contrast, Al Masoudi, the cult leader, was making heavy weather of his fight with several zombies.  One of his goons ran in to help the boss, but was promptly taken out by a zombie.

Finally, Taguerjah, the giant snake arrived to assist; the monster promptly tore apart 2 of the zombies.  The reptile had been delayed by a case of Perillium poisoning contracted during our previous game, I think.  However, it now seemed determined to make up for lost time and to cement its reputation as a killing machine.
In past games, the cult's fondness for a grenade-armed auxiliary had cost the Jungle Alliance many monkeys.  This time, Tarzan attempted to shut him down with a "Jammed" card (to turn his current grenade into a dud) and a "Last Shot" card, in an (unsuccessful) attempt to prevent him from throwing any more.  That guy really bugs me ๐Ÿ˜.

The Safari formed a firing line and advanced.  Zombies were gunned down almost as soon as they appeared, but the party made slow progress towards the tall grass that surrounded the nearest statue.

Tarzan was the first character to make it into one of the sacred areas and to then find one of the objectives.  This caused a flurry of zombies to be placed near him by the other players; even the jungle lord was hard pressed to fight them off!

By this time - about half way through the game - we had a staggering five "Play Immediately" cards on the table.  I've never seen anything like this before...

The Cult and the Safari were having some difficulty moving their main characters close to any of the sacred areas.  To try to capitalise on this, Koko and all of Tarzan's simians ran into the middle of the table.  From there, they could move in a future turn to attempt plot points in either of the unoccupied sacred areas.

Koko also saw an excellent opportunity to use his Roar! ['Shock'] ability.  He pounded his chest, jumped up and down and bawled out his challenge.  The carefully-calculated effect was to send the nearest zombies running in panic; one of them went straight into the Cult's briefly-unengaged giant snakeKoko was delighted [there's no love lost between the gorilla and the snake, I can tell you!].
Less useful: the zombie in the other direction didn't run headlong into Sir Henry.  Had it happened, that would have had the dual effect of impeding the safari and leaving the northern sacred area empty so that Caesar could search it.  Oh, well...

Retaliation was swift, as the Cult's grenadier finally found a bomb that wasn't a dud and used it to blow up a couple of monkeys.

Tarzan shook off the zombies that had almost surrounded him and completed another successful search.   However, he must have sustained an injury; from now on he would be impaired.

He was pursued by the one remaining zombie in the vicinity.  Tarzan easily fought off its attack, inflicting a lot of damage in return.  Imagine his dismay when the zombie saved all 4 hits, though!

Then, another 2 zombies appeared.  Suddenly, Tarzan was assailed from all sides and unable to continue his search.  Of course, these feeble creatures didn't pose any risk to such a mighty man...

A moment later, Tarzan was surrounded as more zombies emerged from the thick vegetation.

Some minor character action: the grenadier and one of the new pet waspquitos ganged up on poor Zaius.  The little simian didn't really stand a chance.

The waspquito then took off after the last of the monkeys, only to be intercepted by a bemused Koko.  He was initially curious about the insect's bright colours and unusual appearance, but then it attacked him [apparently, these bugs have quite a nasty sting.  It was a surprise to me too].  Enraged, the gorilla tore its wings off , then jumped up and down on the corpse until it was mashed into the soil!

In the penultimate turn, the situation was thus:
  • Tarzan was beset by zombies, though occasionally (and briefly!) he managed to dodge their grasp.  All of the simians he had sent into the other areas had been wiped out without achieving anything.
  • Al Masoudi had still not made it to the sacred ground.  Every time his way looked clear, another zombie would appear and engage him!  Still, the giant snake was searching for clues.
  • The Safari surrounded the northernmost statue with a ring of rifles whilst Sir Henry went in to investigate.  If anything so much as blinked in that area of vegetation, it was met with an unstoppable fusillade of bullets.
In the last turn of the game, Tarzan was almost overwhelmed.  I count 7 zombies in this picture, all trying to pin him down.  If nothing else, this removed any chance at all of Tarzan searching for any of the scenario objectives!

The cult's bomber threw one last grenade at the recovered Koko, but all this did was annoy the great ape.

The infuriated Koko then ran at the cultist, intending to find out how easy it would be to tie the man's arms into a reef knot - only to trip and land flat on his face some way short.  Embarrassing...

Conclusion

That was one of the oddest games of Pulp Alley that we've ever played!  In most games, the objectives are everything and much effort is spent trying to claim them.  However, in this game it was extremely difficult to even attempt an objective - either because your characters couldn't reach the sacred areas because they were blocked by zombies or because once they had reached these zones they were fully defensive against multiple zombies.

Mind you, I think we may have accidentally strengthened the zombies by giving them a health of "d6" rather than "d6*" as written in the scenario.  That meant they would sometimes return to their feet after being felled - it's more characterful, but not what the author intended.  Next time we must read the small print more carefully!

Tactics

  • The Jungle Alliance used Tarzan to search the nearest area, where he was quite successful until shut down by hostile zombies.  Lesser members of the league were sent to search other zones; they all died horribly without achieving anything.
  • The Safari advanced cautiously and gunned down all nearby threats (mostly zombies, but including Caesar the simian).  Their slow advance meant that they didn't interact much with the other leagues, but scored an impressive number of zombie kills.
  • The Cult of Hanesh spread out; their best characters were mostly stymied by zombie "speed bumps" and their lesser members didn't really seem to know what to do; they dithered around the edges.  At least most of them survived...

Results


I know that Tarzan scored 2 rewards, if only because I have the photographic evidence.  My memory is extremely hazy on this, but I think that both the Safari and the Cult scored at least one each - maybe two.  I'm pretty sure none of the leagues found 3 objectives.  But all sides increased their reputations considerably by killing numerous zombies ๐Ÿ˜.

So, another great game, but where next?  Further into the interior of Perilous Island, or back to the lagoon?  We'll find out in the next exciting installment!

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Claymore 2019: Hot Work!

Introduction

My #2 son and I have been attending the Claymore wargames show in Edinburgh for a number of years now.  It's always on in early August, so last weekend we took ourselves across the country for this event.  We had a good time, but perhaps not a great one, as you will find out if you read on.


Part of the atrium room.  Note the greenhouse-like ceiling: it has plenty of light, but is very hot on a  summer afternoon.
As always, we played some games, did some sightseeing and bought some stuff.

Game 1: Playmobil Gunslingers

We had seen this game at at least one other Scottish show earlier this year, but it always seemed to be booked up.  This time, we were early and played a quick, 2-player match.  I took the local sheriff, his 2 deputies and a couple of upstanding citizens who had volunteered to help.  Opposing me, my son had 5 bandits; these had a secret agenda and I was not aware of their plans.


The sheriff's posse are in front of the jail; the bandits are in the far distance

Both parties advanced to meet near the stagecoach.  For some reason, the bandit leader climbed onto the top of the coach.

After a short exchange of gunfire, 3 outlaws/bandits were down (including their leader, blown off the stagecoach by a blast from a double-barrelled shotgun).  None of the posse were hurt.
The remaining 2 bandits fled, leaving the sheriff and townsfolk unscathed.  A very one-sided affair...

This game was short and brutal.  In part, that was because of runs of good & bad dice by the respective sides (the sheriff's men were probably rolling above average and the bandits below par).  However, I couldn't help feeling that it would have been a much better experience if there had been more players.  At the very least, there wouldn't have been the same temptation to just march into the centre and open fire with everything ๐Ÿ˜ƒ.

Game 2: Rhodesian Scouts


Just before lunch, we stopped at a very nice-looking table and were invited to play a game on it.  This was a co-operative affair, with A. and I each taking a 4-man squad of elite Rhodesian light infantry to try to rescue and extract some scouts (these were hiding out in the large rock formation at the far end of the table).  Of, course, the area was swarming with ZAMLA (?) militia...

My squad, hiding out in some elephant grass.
The game mechanics involved movement from landmark to landmark.  Some of these landmarks provided soft cover, some were classed as hard cover and some gave no cover at all.

In the very first action of the game, one of A.'s troopers was shot dead whilst crossing open ground in an attempt to find cover.  This seemed like a very bad omen, but our 2 squads then managed to leapfrog most of the way up the table without taking anything worse than the occasional pin or suppression marker.  In return, we saw off large numbers of enemies.



At one point, we called in a gunship helicopter.  It proceeded around the edge of the table creating havoc amongst the ZAMLA troops, until it reached the far end...



...where it came across the one enemy squad that was armed with an RPG.  A lucky shot from this weapon saw our gunship crash and burn, much to our disgruntlement!



Finally, we reached the scouts and called in our evacuation helicopter.  I think the pilot was cursing us roundly for having chosen such an awkward landing spot, but he managed to put the aircraft down safely.

The 2 scouts and the 3 remaining members of A's squad embarked without too much difficulty, but ZAMLA troops were closing in.  Despite our use of smoke grenades to try to obscure our forces, the helicopter took several bullets and my squad leader was pinned down.



With everyone else on board (including the 2 scouts, on whose safety victory or defeat was solely determined) , the pilot took off without waiting for my last guy.  Plenty of militia shot at the helicopter as it left, but somehow it managed to stagger away, damaged.  We had won the game!

This was a very engaging game, with high levels of tension throughout.  The models were nicely done; the scenery was excellent and our hosts were friendly and enthusiastic.  Congratulations to them!

My only mild disappointment was that the wildlife was purely decorative; the cheetah, antelopes and girafe played no part in the game ๐Ÿ˜ƒ.  Also, I feel bad about abandoning my squad leader...

Sightseeing

Age of Sail

I don't normally take many photos of non-participation games, but this one stood out for me.



It was a very beautiful Napoleonic naval game put on by (I think) the "Border Reivers".  Models were 1:600 scale, so the larger ships were probably around 6" (15cm) long.



They had a rather nice coastline running along one end of the board, with a port and associated gun emplacements.  The scenic backdrop definitely helps to give the illusion of depth here!



For me, one of the most stunning parts of this display was to discover that the ship models were paper!  That's right; each design is a print-and-build PDF document with instructions on the gauge and lengths of wire to be used for the rigging.

I was told that they were quite simple to build, but I've done quite a bit of card modelling in my time and I'm impressed.  They may be straightforward to make (though I have my doubts ), but each ship must have taken a considerable amount of time to finish.

Of course, once the initial design has been bought, it can be reused as many times as desired.  I was shown some crippled and/or sinking models that had been made from the same kits, though these were not needed at the relatively early stage of the battle in my photos.


Sudan

For my own reference, I took some pictures of a large Omdurman-campaign Sudan game.  I was more interested in the scenery than the Mahdist vs British action (though the figures were very nice too).


Fortunately for me, they had a "cheat sheet" listing where all the components had been found.



Unfortunately, the Arab town is only listed as "eBay purchase", which doesn't really help me at all.  Oh, well.



On the other hand, the ruins are ex-PMC, now available from Caliver Books.  I would never have thought to look there for items like that, but I think it quite likely that I'll purchase these in due course now that I've seen them.


Shopping

I had quite a long list of items that I wished to find, although most of these were "might be nice" rather than "must have".  In the end, I found most of them, with one very big exception (more later on this).

Our purchases were enhanced by tombola wins from the SSAFA charity stall.  We were one of the first groups (if not the very first?) to buy tickets.  Out of 8 tickets each, I won 4 prizes and A. won 3; this is enormously above my expectations for such an event!  Indeed, we were so embarrassed by this that we immediately donated about half of our wins straight back, so that the charity could reuse them.  Mind you, this isn't altogether as altruistic as it sounds; these were items that we didn't have any use for; they would just have gathered dust and taken space had we kept them.



So, my loot pile is as follows:

  • MDF bases from Warbases.  Mostly round (of various sizes), but with some pill bases as well.
  • "Over the Hills" Napoleonic wargames rules (from the SSAFA tombola).
  • An "RAF" keyring torch/flashlight (also an SSAFA win), plus a wristband and pen given to us by the same place.
  • SAGA Age of Magic dice: "Order" and "Magic".
  • SAGA objectives.  Some beautifully-detailed resin pieces.
  • Norman infantry, for my under-construction SATA warband.
  • Green spray paint, for model bamboo.  I may talk about this more in another article...
  • Some Milky Bar sweets, won for participating in the Playmobil shootout.




A. had enough of a loot haul to warrant a separate picture:
  • Tau stealth suits, from the Bring-n-Buy hall.
  • 8th Army models (SSAFA tombola prize)
  • A large collection of Yugioh cards (Bring and Buy)
  • 2 pens and a wristband (SSAFA)
  • A. had already eaten his Milky Bar buttons by the time we took this picture, so they're not shown here.

Conclusion

Edinburgh is quite a long drive for me; it's very tiring.  On the trip homeward, I had to stop in Stirling just so I could find some coffee and take a break.

Good Points

  • We did get to play some games: one was fair and the other was very good.
  • I found most of what I wanted to buy.
  • A. scored some good stuff in the Bring-n-Buy.

Not so good

  • There were a number of "no shows" at Claymore 2019, through no fault of the organisers.  From memory this may have been as many as 4 games and 2 traders.  One of these traders was a company that I had particularly noted; I had intended to make a fairly sizeable purchase from them.
  • There didn't seem as many participation games as I would have liked.  Of course, there were several that we had seen earlier in the year at other shows; we tried to leave these available for other players who hadn't yet encountered them.  Even so, demonstration games outnumbered participation games by quite a wide margin.
So, this ends the show season in Scotland for 2019, at least as far as I'm concerned.  It's been a busy year, with 2 new events in Glasgow (one was a one-off; the other will be repeated next year) as well as my regular attendance at Carronade and Claymore.  Now that the shows are all over, I need to find time to paint some of the stuff I have accumulated!

Monday, 8 July 2019

The G3 (Glasgow Games Group) Show, 2019

Introduction

It's been a number of years (5?) since there was a wargames show in Glasgow.  This has always been something of a surprise to me as Glasgow is a big place.  I've always felt certain that the city must have a sufficient mass of wargamers to support such an event.

Well, a week ago, the Glasgow Games Group put on a tabletop games show (both figures and board games) and it was excellent!  I really hope that this is the start of a regular event.

The Glasgow Games Gathering

The event was held on Saturday, 29th June 2019 at the Bellahouston sports centre.  G3 filled one large sports hall, though there were clearly many other activities going on in the centre at the same time (cafe, swimming pool, aerobics/zumba...).

So, what did we see?  Well, there were plenty of miniatures games - both display and participation - and also a lot of board games.  There were a fair number of traders, including some big names such as Warlord Games, Warbases, Pendraken Miniatures and Sarissa Precision.

As an interesting touch the hosts provided "collector cards" for visitors to fill in.  Basically, all the traders and game hosts had labels that they could stick to your card.  If you collected 5 stickers through a mixture of playing games and/or spending money then you could enter your completed card in a prize draw.  We didn't win anything, but nevertheless I thought it was an imaginative way of encouraging participation.

Game 1: Pancho Villa's Gold

We played several games during our day out.  In the first, my friend Steve and my son took command of a bunch of Mexican revolutionaries who were trying to steal some gold.  I was in charge of the Federales who were holed up in a lonely monastery with the aforesaid gold.  Here's what happened:

The Revolutionaries/Bandits surround a small monastery, in which a small detachment of Government troops are stationed.  Note that the attackers had more troops (cavalry, infantry and artillery) which aren't visible in this picture; they outnumbered the defenders somewhat.

Sombreros were passed around and dutifully worn by the attacking players

The government artillery was shot to pieces by riflemen in rough ground to the north-east.  Under this cover, a bunch of Villistas gained access to the church and got their grubby paws on part of the government gold.  However, a spirited counterattack by the last of the Federal infantry drove them off and recaptured the loot.

With both sides running out of troops, the Villista commander himself jumped over an unguarded wall and captured the other stash of gold.  Although the defending C-in-C (El Capitano) personally charged this intruder, the subsequent fight was inconclusive and the revolutionary general rode off into the sunset with at least some of the gold.

So, the end result was that the defenders held onto half the gold, whilst the bandits/Villistas/revolutionaries fled with the rest.  I'd say that was pretty much a draw...

Game 2: G.I.Joe

We first saw this game at Carronade 2019; only a few slight changes had been made.  One of these was that the gamesmaster had decided to forbid the destruction of objectives (we blew one up in our previous game ๐Ÿ˜ƒ).

This time, Steve took the Joes and my son commanded the bad guys (Hydra?  Spectre?  Ah, no: Cobra).

For the GI Joes, Scarlett managed to find an excellent overwatch position, right beside a high-value objective.  This was spoiled somewhat when a couple of Cobra footsoldiers burst in through the door and she totally failed to kick their butts.  The three of them were still locked in combat at the end of the game.

The GIs thought they had one of their back objectives secured, but the man on top of the pipes wasn't who they thought it was.  He was revealed to be Zartan, Cobra master of disguise!

In a final, desperate act, a GI with a rocket launcher fired point blank at Stormshadow.  The white-clad ninja did have to hit the deck to avoid the blast, but was otherwise unaffected.  More damage was done to the nearby GI personnel carrier!
Final score (from memory): GI Joes: 1 point.  Cobra: 6 points.  This was then a crushing victory for the bad guys.

This game is clearly a labour of love for the gamesmaster and we were all impressed by his knowledge of the subject matter and by his enthusiasm.  I think that my only suggestion for improvement would be that maybe the board could be a bit smaller, with not quite so many objectives.  Most of the common troopers only moved once, or even not at all, before the turn limit ran out.

Game 3: Gladiatores


Our last participation was to play a recently-kickstarted card game called "Gladiatores, Blood for Roses".  This represented arena combat in the Roman Empire and had all the classes of combatant that one might expect.  However, the level of detail that has been put into the game is impressive!  For one example, the individual fighters are modelled after named historical gladiators - though with a certain amount of artistic license, I imagine!

There are several parts of the whole that we didn't see because our game was limited to just one bout in the arena.  4 of us took part: my son and I as well as another son & father combination.  I took a grizzled, armoured veteran whose main special ability seemed to be that he could downgrade solid hits against him into light blows.

The gameplay was interesting: each time it was my turn I would choose an opponent and play an attack card from my ever-diminishing hand.  Each card had a list of possible other cards that could be used as a response, so if (for example) I played a Strike then my opponent would have to play a Block or Parry, or suffer the consequences of the strike.  These defence cards had their own responses in turn, so it was possible to have a whole sequence of blows, defences and counter-attacks until someone either could not or chose not to respond.

In addition to that, some of the cards had immediate side-effects, such as cheers from the crowd or extra wounds.  The possibilities seemed enormous and the narrative we played out was quite intense.

How did our game go?  The Amazon (other dad) started by hitting me.  In doing so, she showed herself to have some very dangerous abilities, so the other 3 of us ganged up to take her down.  Then the second lad and I traded blows; I came off worse and tasted the arena floor.  My son then took out my attacker and became champion.

All of us had placed bets before the bout commenced.  I bet on myself to win (well, why wouldn't you ๐Ÿ˜ƒ?), so I lost my money.  All of the other three players had bet on my son; they all came away with winnings.  I suspect there was some match-fixing going on...

Overall, this was a very intriguing game, with interesting play mechanics and a strong theme.  If you're interested in gladiatorial combat then I suggest you give Gladiatores a look.

Loot


Finally, a loot picture (well, it's traditional, isn't it?).  So, we have:
  • A Kill Team box.  This will be for my son's next birthday.
  • 2 MDF retail units/stores from Sarissa Precision.
  • Norman Knights from Conquest Games.  I feel another SAGA warband coming on...
  • A rather nice sandworm or sea monster from Gydran Miniatures.  Not because I need it but just because I liked it.
  • Bases and dice for my son.
  • A pair of brushes for me.
  • 2 dice and some gold (well, foil-covered chocolate really) from our first game.  My son already ate his...
So, overall it was a good day out.  A bit hot and stuffy, but that's just the time of year and can't really be helped.  If Glasgow Games Group run this show again next year then I will certainly try to be there!