Sunday, 25 September 2016

More Congo Tribesmen

Introduction

I've been busy trying to build enough figures to play a basic, 70pt game of Congo.  Here are the latest additions to my Forest Tribes force.  Mind you, even with these additions I think that I'm still slightly short of my goal, though I haven't stopped recently to add it all up.  Just one more unit should do it, I think...

Cannibals/Married Warriors


The Forest Tribes list for Congo has the potential to have 3 classes of warrior, all of whom are basically a man with a loincloth, spear and shield.  It may seem obvious  to others, but I struggled to think how I could make these categories visually distinct from each other.  I don't know about anybody else, but I don't enjoy games with units or models which have different capabilities but which look very similar to each other.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that I'd finish my Cannibals or Married Warriors (I doubt that I'd want to use both classes in the same game) with war paint.  These are the most experienced guys in the tribe; it seems reasonable that they would take the effort to do things properly!



The pattern I've used for my war paint is a simplified version of a scheme that originates in Papua New Guinea.  That's a long way from where my tribe is based, of course - but I figured that skeletal designs of paint are probably quite universal.  In any case, I found some excellent & very detailed photos of the Papuan tribe on the internet...

I remembered to add some war paint to the backs of these natives as well.  This is, again, for the benefit of the players: these models are distinctive from any viewing angle.


Young Warriors



In contrast, the Young Warriors have no markings or decorations, though a few have beads or bracelets.  They are either too brash and hasty to have applied war paint, or they can't afford the ingredients.  Or maybe it's just that they don't have a wife to apply it for them!  One way or the other, it doesn't really matter.



Conclusion

All of these figures are 28mm models from Foundry.  The natives are really quick to paint, so I expect to have my Forest Tribe ready for a game within a week or two.  Who knows?  I might even post a picture of the completed group at that time.  If nothing else, such a group photo would enable me to check whether I really do have the right number of figures after all!


Sunday, 18 September 2016

Pulp Alley: Tarzan and the Mysterious Statues (Finale)

<==  Part 1 is this way

Introduction


The last episode saw all 4 leagues starting to collect their first few plot points.  With most of the characters poised within reach of the overgrown statues, it's time for part 2!


The Mysterious Statues, Continued...


Nazi goons and Safari henchmen clashed near the lion's hiding place.  The Safari's guide was shot down, whilst brawny Kurt, not fancying his chances in a firefight against Quartermain, closed with the hunter and started to wallop him.  [Here we had some confusion: the rules state that only the closest opponent may be fired upon - but Johann wasn't allowed to shoot into a melee and therefore couldn't target Quartermain.  We decided that the rule must mean the closest eligible opponent and thus Johann shot the guide instead.  This interpretation would also work when an enemy is out of sight behind a wall; it would seem odd to insist that a shooter couldn't then aim at someone else who was technically further away]



Tarzan continued to do what he does best: thumping people!  Both Stahl Mask and Panzerbot 5 were floored, though neither was out for the count.



All was not well for the Jungle Alliance, though.  Koko gave out a mighty roar that caused a couple of cultists to panic and run, but their giant snake wasn't impressed [maybe it's deaf?].  The reptile slithered close without being seen and then attacked!  Once again, Koko came off worse in the fight [this is the 3rd game running where the snake has made a beeline for the gorilla and has savaged him.  It's becoming a bit tiresome, really - especially as the stats for the 2 models are relatively evenly-balanced].



Herr Stengel pushed his way through the jungle, very close to the fallen statues and ultimate victory.  Before he could reach his goal, though, he came face to face with 2 cultists (including their leader).  A third cultist (Saeed) also tried to join in, but was flattened just short when a rotten branch fell on him [Fate cards were being played with abandonment from about this point on; since the players had hoarded them up till now, they all had a good stock.  I forget exactly which Fate card this was, or who played it, but it knocked Saeed out for good].



Whilst the Nazi and the 2 cultists fought with each other, neither side managing to land a blow, the lion wandered down to the river for a drink.  All 3 combatants took a peril for this, but they were so engrossed in their melee that none of them even noticed the beast [i.e. all of them passed their tests].



The cultists now had an opportunity to "convert" one of the masked natives.  Firstly, Nadeem approached him, but the perils started to fly thick and fast.  Nadeem survived a rather nasty "3 successes/any skill" peril, but then failed to muster enough finesse to convince the native to join his cause.



Then, one of the cultist guardians had a go.  He also had a peril played on him, but he failed the test.  The native jabbed at the cultist with his spear and knocked him out before disappearing into the vegetation.

Judging by the number of cards played against them in such a short period, it seemed that none of the other players were in favour of the Snake Cult...



Whilst all this was going on, the giant snake continued its fight with Koko.  It tightened its grip until the gorilla passed out and then played a "Stay Down" card to ensure that he wouldn't be getting back up in a hurry.  Poor Koko...



Back in the west, all sorts of things were going on:
  • Kurt, the muscular Nazi brawler, continued to pummel Alain Quartermain.
  • One of the ascaris shot Johann.
  • In turn, Ernst blew up the ascari with a well-placed grenade.
  • Meanwhile [and pretty much unnoticed in the commotion], Sir Henry was hacking his way through the jungle to reach the fallen statue.


Before anyone could stop him, Sir Henry reached into a hidden crevice in the statue and withdrew a small, leather bag.  He tucked it into his shirt and prepared to retreat [+3 VP for the Safari, for a cumulative total of 5 VP.  Surely that's an unassailable lead!].



The brush war continued, with both the Nazis and the Safari taking losses.  I cannot remember who shot who, or who was thumped, but the end result was several more figures knocked out.  Interestingly, both of these sides were now making much more use of cover; very few of their characters continued to stand in the middle of the jungle clearings.

Note that Herr Stengel had managed to evade the grips of the 2 cultists he was last seen grappling and was looking for more plot points that he might yet score.



Seeing a Masked Devotee nearby, Herr Stengel approached the man.  He used all his cunning to persuade the native to come with him for a little camp-fire chat.  +1 VP to the Nazis, for a cumulative total of 2 VP!



The cultists vented their frustrations on anyone who was nearby.  Al Masudi shot down an ascari, even though the latter was hiding in cover...


...whilst their snake tried to corner the last of the simians.  Only a timely "Break Away" card saved Tarzan's ally...


...who promptly tripped up in his haste to flee!  [It was the last turn, so the players weren't holding back any cards that they still had in their hands].



In the dying moments of the game, Koko recovered enough to stand up.  He saw one of the masked natives within reach (on the other side of the river) and staggered towards him.  However, the gorilla was still suffering from concussion or something; he collapsed in a heap half-way across the ford and the native vanished back into the trees.  [What, another "Trip Up" card?  The cultists have been collecting those, it seems.  Not fair!]



Finally, the lion killed one of the cultists.  The beast had seemed somewhat disinterested throughout the game [almost always moving into areas without any people nearby], so maybe this cultist died of fear rather than being mauled?  At least it was one of the bad guys!


Conclusion


At the end of another thrilling match, this was the state of play:
  • Most of the leagues were reduced to 2 or 3 figures.  The one exception to this was the Snake Cult, who still had enough people to try to surround and capture a Masked Native (unsuccessfully) whilst also hunting down stray enemies at the same time.  1 VP for the Cultists.
  • Tarzan finally managed to knock out Stahl Mask and Panzerbot 5 for good.  It took him all game (they kept recovering and standing up again) and therefore prevented him from being usefully employed in hunting for plot points.  I can't figure out if this was a cunning Nazi plan or just an accident of circumstances.  1 VP for the Jungle Alliance.
  • Herr Stengel had been very successful in scoring plot points, whilst his goons kept the opposition away from him (mostly).  I think this is the first time that I've seen most of the Nazi league using their strengths so effectively.  2 VP for the Nazis.
  • Sir Henry was also very plot-driven and (unlike Herr Stengel) didn't have to fight his way through enemies (or run away from them) to reach these objectives.  His allies were very effective in countering the Nazi goons; the cult didn't really try to interfere with him either.  +5 VP for the Safari.  A very solid win!

Final thoughts:
  • Cover is good when the shooting starts.
  • Koko is tired of being beaten up by the giant snake.
  • Tarzan cannot be beaten in hand-to-hand combat, it seems.
  • The masked natives were very hard to pin down.  Their 2d6" random move often took them out of reach of even the most carefully-positioned character.
  • The lion was a bit dull in our game, though it had the potential to cause a lot of mayhem.
  • I really enjoyed this game of Pulp Alley.  I believe that the other players did so too.  It's a great set of rules!

Friday, 16 September 2016

Pulp Alley: Tarzan and the Mysterious Statues

Introduction

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

Nefariously:
  • 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

Secretively:
  • 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.

Objectives:

  • 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?

Hazards:

  • 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 ==>

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Frostgrave: A Diet of Worms!

Introduction

Once again, we had 4 players for a game of Frostgrave.  Steve and his boy came round last Saturday and we ventured into the frozen city once more.  We also played a game of Pulp Alley - more on that another time (i.e. "listen again next week for another exciting installment of...The Adventures of Tarzan, Man of the Jungle!")

Anyway, Frostgrave...

The Worm Hunts


One of the scenarios in the base Frostgrave rulebook is called "The Worm Hunts".  It's basically an excuse to get a giant worm model on the table, though (like many Frostgrave monsters, I think) this isn't quite as terrifying a prospect as it might be.

We were playing with 4 warbands rather than the 2 for which the scenario is designed, so we decided that there would be twice as many treasures as in the basic description - and twice as many worms as well!  Since I only have 1 giant worm model, the second worm would only appear after the first one was slain, if indeed that happened!

The Warbands

Mysterio the Soothsayer


My own warband is led by Mysterio, with assistance from Little Annie.  I'm mostly using my recently-finished "blue" set of Frostgrave miniatures for this group, though Crom (the huge barbarian) and Edric (the halberdier) are from Black Tree Design.  Watch out for Quirrel, the crossbowman.  None of us had used crossbows before, so nobody knew what to expect from him!

Peltar the Goblin


Peltar's group is run by Steve; the warband consists of large numbers of archers and thugs.  They rarely seem to do anything with just one goblin, preferring safety in numbers (or "ganging up", if you prefer).   Oh, they have a pet wolf as well...

Some of the models are mine, but Steve is making progress with his own goblins and wanted to use them for most of the followers.

Baryn the Timeless


Baryn is a chronomancer, run by Steve's son (AH).  His band are a fairly motley and diverse crew; they've recently hired a goblin treasure hunter to replace some previous loss.  He also raised a zombie (not shown here) - just for practice, I think!

The massed archers, the bearskin-wearing barbarian and the yellow knight are worth watching out for during the game.

Ellie's Elementalists


In our last game, my son's wizard ("Malcolm Firestorm") was slain.  Rather than create a new warband, AD chose to promote his apprentice "Ellie" to full wizard status, albeit at somewhat lower rank than the rest of us.  She duly hired an apprentice of her own, who bore a striking resemblance to the deceased wizard.  I wonder if she passed on some of the old master's clothing and effects?  Other than that, her band was somewhat smaller than everyone else's due to a lack of money.

The Game


In the first turn, all the players rushed for the nearest treasure markers and grabbed them.  This was hardly surprising, but it did give a big bonus to the die roll which would determine if a worm appeared.  One such monster duly burst through the frozen soil, just in front of Peltar's goblin warband.  Well, I wasn't too unhappy about that, I can tell you: let it wreak havoc with someone else's followers, not mine!



To counter this, Peltar ordered his wolf to attack the monster.  The faithful mutt did as it was instructed and charged at the worm, snapping and growling.  However, the pet was promptly swallowed (whole!) .  Oh, dear...



Baryn's archers took several long range shots at the worm and wounded it, but didn't manage to kill the beast [hmm, I think I would have just left it for the goblins to deal with, myself!  Maybe AH thought he could kill the beast and claim the experience himself, though].

The coup de grace was administered by Peltar's apprentice with a well-executed grenade spell.  An extravagantly lucky combat roll meant that the enchanted missile didn't just kill the worm, it blew it to pieces!  I hope everyone nearby kept their mouth and eyes closed!



In a small, long range grudge match in the south, Ellie's archers shot at Mysterio's crossbowman.  They all missed, but he didn't...



There were plenty more treasures to be collected, so over the next turn or two all the bands advanced.  Although there were a few squabbles around the edges, for the most part this was surprisingly peaceful.  I guess that no-one wanted to be the first one to stir up any serious trouble!



Baryn and his apprentice had been steadily casting his signature Fast Move spell on all his followers, thus allowing his barbarian to run for the treasure near the felled worm.  2 of Peltar's thugs tried to double-team him, but the unnaturally quick barbarian barely broke a sweat as he carved first one goblin and then the other into little chunks!



Mysterio clashed with the goblins over one of the chests in the forest.  He cast Combat Awareness on Crom the Barbarian and ordered him forward to retrieve the treasure.  When the goblins interfered (and slew the archer standing beside Mysterio), the soothsayer retaliated with several very successful Blinding Light spells.  This put Peltar himself out of the game; all he could do was stagger around and hope not to bump into anything for the rest of the scenario.

Ah, but even more goblins, led by their apprentice, were coming to their boss's aid...



Further off, Little Annie was also successful in blinding an opponent.  Ellie had planned to attack the presumptuous apprentice and assist her bowman, but was distracted by a wandering bear.  Indeed, it took several turns for her to finish off the annoying creature.



However, when Little Annie ran forward to claim her prize, the blinded bowman managed to stumble into her.  Annoyed, she tried to fight him off but was knocked out when he lashed out at the nearby movement [Aargh!  After setting everything up so nicely, to be cheated by fate at the last moment is cruel!]



Back in the centre, another worm erupted in full view of most of the parties.  Once more, Baryn's archers plinked away at it and inflicted some injuries.  Once more, they failed to kill the beast.  Instead, the 100XP for that feat went to Ellie's apprentice, who manoeuvred himself to a position where he could see the creature and then unleashed a ridiculously overpowered Elemental Bolt at it.  Once again, the target was blown to smithereens and everyone close to ground zero was showered in gobbets of worm goo!



Baryn seemed to take this all rather personally.  He charged towards Ellie's apprentice and started batting at him rather ineffectually with his staff.  It didn't take long before some of his followers noticed the fight and came running on Fleet Feet to help their boss.  The red apprentice disappeared beneath a scrum of muscular archers and wasn't seen again.



In the north, the remaining goblins were interrupted from their posturings towards Mysterio by the appearance of a wandering armoured skeleton.  In typical goblin fashion, they rushed it as a mob rather than risk individual combat.  The undead knight couldn't handle the massed attack; it was quickly reduced to small fragments of bone.



Elsewhere, Ellie's last 2 soldiers played "king of the hill" with Baryn's knight.  Even though the yellow knight was outnumbered 2:1, he slew first the enemy knight and then the other soldier.  Obviously, Baryn's followers had eaten a proper breakfast before taking the field, even if the wizard himself was a bit feeble!



In the dying moments of the game, just as we reached our self-imposed turn limit, most of the remaining warbands started to disengage.  The goblins in the north gathered around their still-blinded leader to escort him from the field, whilst most of the other warbands had already left (or were knocked out!).

The exception to this was a much more aggressive than usual Baryn.  His archers strode forward and took shots at Ellie and at Mysterio's barbarian (who was diligently hauling away the chest that he had won off the goblins earlier).  Even though the range was long and the shooters had moved, both targets were felled.  A bit petty, I think - but then I would say that, wouldn't I; it cost me a treasure!


Conclusion

I think that everyone was happy with the result of this game.  All the bands got away with at least some treasure and those who got less often made up for it by scoring more experience points for other things.  When the recovery rolls were made, none of the major characters (and not many of the followers) died.

In addition, each of the wizards was quite successful with their spell-casting:
  • Baryn gave pretty much all of his followers Fleet Feet; he also used Fog to cover himself from attack by fireballs.
  • Peltar and his apprentice are proving to be dangerously effective with Grenade.
  • Ellie's sidekick got off a very telling Elemental Bolt (and as importantly, didn't suffer a long string of backfires - unlike previous games!)
  • Mysterio & Little Annie had a very good run of Blinding Light spells, as well as realising how useful Combat Awareness can be.  Mind you, every time that Little Annie attempts to Leap, she fails and ends up face-planting!
One last thought: adapting 2-player scenarios for 4 sides is difficult!  Any neutral resources (treasures, monsters, specific terrain) need to be scaled up in some fashion, else the scenario will be unbalanced and not offer the experience that the author intended.  Hmm, perhaps we really should have had 2 worms appear at the same time?