Friday 16 September 2016

Pulp Alley: Tarzan and the Mysterious Statues


Last weekend, Steve and I and our 2 sons played a couple of games.  The first of these has already been documented (Frostgrave: a Diet of Worms) and I've hinted that the second was a game of Pulp Alley.  It's that which I will describe here.

Actually, there are a lot of similarities between our games of Frostgrave and of Pulp Alley.  We had the same 4 players, each with a small band of followers chasing a limited number of objective counters.  However, both games feel very different in every other respect...

Tarzan and the Mysterious Statues

The recovered journal from the Lost Expedition indicated that the missing archaeologists had an interest in an area known to the locals as "Marufuku".  This was a place of dread deep in the jungle, shunned by hunters and rumoured to be inhabited by evil spirits.  Pages in the journal hinted at strange sightings of partially-human creatures and tales of very bad juju.

Not without some trepidation, Tarzan and his followers set off for Marufuku.  Of course, spies brought word swiftly to his adversaries and they also headed in that direction.  All 4 groups arrived at the forbidden statues at pretty much the same time (oddly enough!)

The Leagues

Tarzan's Jungle Alliance

Consisting of:
  • Tarzan the mighty
  • Koko the fierce gorilla
  • Caesar the clever ape
  • 3 crafty, but not very tough, simians

Stahl Mask's Doom Squad

  • Stahl Mask the iron-willed
  • Herr Stengel the cunning
  • Panzerbot 5, an experimental mechanical soldier
  • Ernst, Kurt and Johann, grunts with respective specialities of bomber, muscle-man and none.

Sir Henry's Safari

If you can find them:
  • Sir Henry, rich and noble
  • Alain Quartermain, legendary shot
  • Lady Constance, plucky heroine
  • Captain Goode, all-round decent chap
  • 3 mighty ascaris
  • In addition, Sir Henry used his wealth to hire a rather shifty-looking trader as a local guide & scout.

The Snake Cult of Hanash

  • Al Masudi the intimidating & hypnotic prophet
  • Taguerjah, the giant snake
  • Jasham, the sniper
  • Nadeem the silent
  • Saeed the wrestler
  • Also, Al Masudi used his dominion to summon 2 tough guardians to swell his numbers.

The Scenario

This was to be a fairly standard game of Pulp Alley, though adapted for 4 players instead of 2.


  • The Statues: major plot point, worth 3VP to the first character to pass a challenge.
  • 4 Fetish Posts (or skulls on sticks, if you prefer).  These were posted around the jungle paths as warnings to the over-curious.  Each was a minor plot point, worth 1VP.  Study them, take them as souvenirs, smash them apart...
  • 4 Masked Devotees: curiously-dressed natives flitted in and out of the trees & bushes.  Each of these also counted as a minor plot point.  However, there was a twist: each native would move 2d6" in a random direction at the end of every turn.  Because they were plot points rather than combatants, they wouldn't be affected by perils and couldn't engage in combat.  Maybe it isn't even the same native who pops up as the one who just moved - in the dense jungle, who knows?


  • Snakes: 2 nests of snakes were perilous to anyone who ventured within 3".
  • River: the fast-flowing rivers are perilous to anyone entering them, other than at a ford or where the waters narrowed near the little island.
  • The Pit Beast is extremely perilous to anyone within 3" of its lair.
  • The Quicksand is extremely perilous.
  • The Hungry Lion is extremely perilous to anyone within 3".  Like the Masked Devotees, the lion moves 2d6" in a random direction at the end of every turn and cannot be affected by perils or combat itself.  Again, it's not necessarily the same lion all the time; perhaps one vanishes into the undergrowth and another one moves into the open somewhere else.  It doesn't really matter...

On to the Game!

Right at the beginning, just as all the leagues were preparing to race forwards and stake their claims to as many plot points as possible, the Safari player dropped a "Parlay" event card on us.  OK, all movement in turn 1 would be at walking pace only, then.  No shooting either...

Some people were close enough to an objective to attempt it, even walking.  Lady Constance reached for one of the fetishes, intending to examine it, but she pricked her finger on a hidden, poisoned thorn.

She went pale, swayed for a moment and then sat down abruptly.  "I'm not feeling too good" she called out to her colleagues.  "I think I'll just sit here for a while".  Lady Constance failed her recovery roll and was out of the game after just 1 turn.

Al Masudi was also close to a skull-on-a-stick.  He didn't trust any of his underlings to touch the item, so after a couple of his thugs had bypassed it, he strode forwards and smashed the blasphemous idol himself.  +1 VP to the Snake Cult!

Tarzan signed to 2 of his group to cross the river, hoping to catch up with one of the masked natives.  Koko, the gorilla, breasted the waters without any real problem (other than grumbling about getting wet).  Sadly, though, the little simian who followed the larger ape lost his footing and was swept away and lost.  Aw, heck!

So, at the end of turn 1, here's how things stood:
  • Sir Henry had spotted one of the masked natives, but hadn't quite managed to reach him.  Other members of the Safari huddled around the fallen Lady Constance or trailed along behind (and out of sight in the jungle), keeping away from the prowling lion.
  • The Snake Cult were massing in the undergrowth to the north, having decided that they didn't fancy their chances with the nest of serpents that lay between them and the Safari.
  • Tarzan's band had split into 2 groups.  Koko and Caesar had forded the river and were well placed to tackle a masked native and/or a fetish post on turn 2, whilst Tarzan himself and the remaining 2 simians approached the ford.
  • The Nazis also split into 2 groups.  One of them, lead by the vicious, machine-gun-toting robot, made a beeline for Tarzan, whilst Herr Stengel led the others towards the closest plot points.

Turn 2 started with the Nazi panzerbot raking the Jungle Alliance with machine gun fire.  Although Tarzan avoided the peril easily (he's very good at such things), one of his simians was gunned down.  Aw, Heck!

Extremely annoyed (and, with just a knife, not really able to take part in a firefight), Tarzan charged at the Nazi machine and grappled with it.  Only then did Ernst, the Nazi grenadier, start lobbing stick bombs at the pair of them.  Fortunately for both the combatants, the first salvo didn't cause any damage.  [Note however that in Pulp Alley, an extreme peril from a blast weapon stays in place and will affect anyone who activates on it or moves through it for the rest of the turn.  Since both the panzerbot and Tarzan had already taken their actions for the turn, that shouldn't be an issue, right?].

Elsewhere, Alain Quartermain examined the fetish post that had felled Lady Constance.  Although dislodging it from the post was challenging, the canny hunter was successful in recovering the item.  +1 VP to the Safari!

Caesar tried the same trick on the skulls to the east.  Even though these would have been much easier to collect, the little ape failed miserably and could only cower in fear.  Later, he failed his recovery roll and fled, terrified, screeching and hooting through the trees.  Aw, HECK!  That's the Jungle Alliance down to 3 models now...

Stahl Mask couldn't get a clear shot at Tarzan in the melee, so he decided to charge at him and settle the matter with fisticuffs.  Big mistake!  Ernst was keeping up his barrage of grenades and one of these hit his boss in the leg, injuring him and preventing him from running for the rest of the game [Stahl Mask had moved into an extremely perilous area and thus had to take a challenge - which he failed].

To add insult to injury (well, injury to injury, really), Tarzan then battered the Nazi a bit more in the ensuing melee.

At the end of turn 2, things had advanced a bit:
  • In the background, Sir Henry had managed to persuade one of the Masked Natives to talk to him (+1 VP for the Safari, for a total of 2 VP so far).  Elsewhere, the rest of his team advanced very cautiously, afraid of the lion that was now hiding in the undergrowth near the statues.
  • The Snake Cult were pouring out of the jungle in seemingly endless numbers, but didn't quite manage to reach the major plot point.
  • Koko smashed the skulls on the fetish post that had terrified Caesar with contemptuous ease, thus claiming +1 VP for Tarzan's Jungle Alliance.
  • Herr Stengel and some of his goons advanced on the final skull post.  The cunning fiend quickly saw the marker for the sham that it was and scored +1 VP for the Nazis.

And that's it ... for now!

In the best tradition of pulp serials, I'm going to leave it hanging there for a few days.  What happens next?  Who will stop the flood of cultists?  Will Koko ever overcome his fear of snakes?  What is the Nazis' real plan?  And will any of the Safari be eaten by the lion?  All will be revealed next time, so wait till then and read - if you dare - the concluding part of Tarzan and the Mysterious Statues!

Part 2 is this way ==>


  1. Great stuff! I recently bit the bullet and ordered the rules, together with a preorder for the new campaign book. I'm hoping that my Doctor Who and Congo figures will give me a good start on the game.

    1. I'm sure that you won't regret it! We've enjoyed every game of Pulp Alley tremendously.

  2. Great batrep so far.... looking forward to the next part.

  3. Cracking good batrep. A most enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to part 2.

  4. Enthralling stuff C6 and what a cracking Jungle set up!

    1. Thanks. I'm quite pleased with the way the jungle has turned out, though now I'm wondering how to introduce elevation (including that all important rope bridge/fallen tree across a chasm).

  5. Brilliant.

    I must say each faction is well thought out and I know I would have fun playing any of them.

    1. Pulp Alley is full of character; it's not hard to come up with interesting leagues :-) .

  6. Excellent! THANKS so much for playing and sharing Pulp Alley.

    Pulp Alley

    1. You're more than welcome, David. I'm delighted that you enjoyed it.

  7. Great stuff! Am planning to finally give these rules a go and try out the Solo Rules in the not-too-distant future!

    1. Well, I don't know how the solo rules work, but it they're half as atmospheric as the core rules then you're in for a treat!

  8. Tarzan is up against it a bit isn't he?
    Great aar, with action from the off, hee there and everywhere. The four player games must be a hoot to play- roll on part two!

    1. Yes, as the player running Tarzan'#s league, I did feel a bit short-handed after the first turn and a half :-) . There's plenty of action in a 4-player game and it adds a bit of a "bidding" metagame when an opportunity to play Peril cards comes up ("Hmm, I'd really like to stop the Nazis and I have first option. Do I use one of my precious cards, or do I pass and hope that one of the other players will do so instead?")