Sunday, 23 April 2017

Congo: The Mossouko Ritual

Introduction

Yesterday, my friend Steve visited and we played several games.  In the afternoon, my sons joined in for a long-overdue game of All Things Zombie; more on that another time.  However, before the zombie game, Steve and I went through our 3rd game of Congo and it was just as exciting and engaging as the previous two!

The Moussouko Ritual


From the Congo rulebook, we chose to play scenario #7: The Moussouko Ritual.

A tribe that lives in the village of Moussouko is intimidating its neighbours with its extreme practices of black magic.  Eventually it all becomes too much for the other villages and a punitive expedition is organised to root out this nest of devil worshippers by destroying their sacred places & fetishes.  Without these, Oagasou, the evil witch doctor, would lose his power and his supporters would drift away.

I've got a Forest Tribes force, including a witch doctor, so there's no problem in supplying the defenders.  As the scenario is written, the attackers come from the African Kingdoms list, but I don't have such a force.  Instead, we'll use my fledgling Zanzibari Slavers column.  I see no reason why the Zanzibaris shouldn't be just as incensed by extreme paganism as any other group.  Anyway, having such a defiant village around is probably bad for business...

Note that the fetish numbers (in orange) were hidden until after deployment choices had been made.  My Zanzibaris had decided to enter on the left hand side before knowing which fetish was which.

This scenario is quite a complicated one, but here's a summary:
  • There are 6 fetishes scattered around the table,  Each has a randomly-assigned number (from 1-6) and the fetish can only be destroyed on that specific turn.  If it is destroyed then it scores the attackers that many points.  For example, fetish number 5 can only be destroyed on turn 5; this would score 5 points for the Zanzibaris.  Obviously, the higher numbers are worth more, but both sides have more turns to prepare forces to attack or defend them.
  • The fetishists score points by panicking and/or defeating the attacker's units.
  • There's a lot of superstition and uncertainty in the air: every turn has at least one special rule which can make it subtly different from any other.  Examples are Confusion, Paralysis, Consternation, Madness...  As you will see, these can have dramatic and unforeseen results!

The Plan

Zanzibaris waiting to enter the table on turn 1 at the blue arrow.

This is, of course, told from my point of view!  My Slaver column consisted of:
  • 5 Zanzibari musket men, plus an Emir.
  • 2 x 5 Ruga Ruga (mercenaries.  Tough, but superstitious)
  • 5 Baluchis (Indian/Arabian mercenaries with shields and swords), plus a Brute.
I didn't think it realistic to attempt every fetish, so I decided early on to enter on one side and ignore the furthest two targets.  Bearing this in mind and looking at the now-revealed numbers, this is how I planned the game:
  • Fetish #1 will be quite a stretch as it is barely in reach even if some of my units move at full speed for all three phases of turn one.  I'll make an attempt on it, but fully expect that Steve's warriors & witch doctor will block me from reaching this fetish in time.
  • Fetish #4 should be reasonably easy to achieve; my entry point is close enough to cover the area with my people.
  • The interesting ones will be the central fetishes (#3 and #6).  Obviously these will be contested; I'll aim for both but I'll be happy if I can claim either one of them.  There should be enough time to make this possible.
  • Fetishes #2 and #5 are just too far away to be worth bothering about; I'll ignore them completely.

The Game

Did my plan work?  Let's find out...


Despite the Confusion special rule on turn 1, my forces advanced with all speed.  As predicted, Steve's witch doctor & warriors sat on fetish #1 and thus blocked my access to it.  From that position, a nasty combination of sorcery and psychological (terror) attacks left one detachment of Ruga Ruga "a bit wobbly" (or terrified for their lives, if you prefer!).



Turn two saw the witch doctor and his cronies charge at the Zanzibaris.  They were seen off after a volley of musket fire and a brief spell of hand-to-hand fighting.  After this repulse, they slunk back out of range - but they had done their job already: it was already too late for me to destroy fetish #1.

In the middle of the field, the Baluchis advanced rapidly and camped on top of fetish #3.  This put them in the right place, but they'd have to hold the position until the end of turn three before I could destroy the item and claim the points...


Turn 3



It wasn't to be: hordes of enthusiastic young warriors, egged on by their Champion, threw themselves at the Baluchis.  My Brute won his first duel, but fell in the second fight and the Baluchis were driven back off the objective in a rapid series of clashes [incidentally, the tribesmen scored several victory points for these fights].



The final group of young warriors then attacked my central Ruga Ruga.  The latter were sent scurrying backwards, leaving a couple of comrades where they fell.  There was no chance whatsoever of the Slavers reaching fetish #3 now.

To add insult to injury, a fierce gorilla had been awakened by the sounds of fighting.  He peered out of the jungle just behind the remaining Ruga Ruga.



I did get some revenge, at least.  The other Ruga Ruga, freshly rallied, moved round the jungle trees and caught the still-celebrating young warriors in the back with a stupendous volley of musket fire.  No fewer than 5 his were achieved and only 1 save was made; the target group was therefore reduced to a single, shocked warrior.



Finally, the gorilla charged, but this "Kong" was just a wannabe: the damaged Ruga Ruga slaughtered the beast effortlessly and then efficiently stripped the carcass of the valuable bits.


Turn 4


OK, so far I had failed to take fetish #1, hadn't tried for fetish #2 and had been driven away from fetish #3.  It was now turn four and fetish #4 should be easily achievable.  Having seen off the witch doctor, all my Zanzibaris had to do was move a short way and sit on top of the fetish until the end of the turn.  There were no enemies anywhere nearby who could have interfered, or at least not with any realistic chance.  It's in the bag, right?

Here's what happened: the special rule for turn four in this scenario is Consternation and reads as follows: "During the 4th turn, if a Panic Stress token is drawn, the turn ends immediately".  I had read this, but wasn't worried as I should have at least one move before any stress tokens were drawn for fighting, right?



Wrong!  At the start of turn four, we rolled for the effect of Black Magic (this is a very sacred grove, after all).  We rolled a '3'.



One of Steve's groups of young warriors was parked on top of fetish #3 (which I had completely failed to break in turn three).  He therefore drew a stress token for them to show the effects of the black magic - and it was a Panic marker.

It took a few moments for this to sink in: turn four had ended almost immediately after it had begun and before anyone could move, shoot or undertake any other actions!

The wails of the natives on realising that they had trespassed on their witch doctor's sacred fetish so unsettled the Arabs that all they could do was to cower down and hold their hands over their ears.  When the unearthly screaming finally subsided, the Zanzibari emir realised with consternation that the optimum moment to destroy the nearby fetish had passed.  He knew that it was just a skull on a stick, but the superstitious tribesmen would only accept the desecration of their holy items if it was done in a particular sequence...


Turns 5 and 6


Turn five saw me march the intact group of Ruga Ruga on top of fetish #6.  The Zanzibaris followed as best they could, to stave off any attempt by the natives to interfere with this.  So far I had totally failed to break any fetishes at all.  #5 was too far away to be practical, but I was not going to let anyone stop me from breaking #6!



Instead of challenging my fresh troops, Steve's damaged units in the centre concentrated on hunting down the remnants of my Baluchis and first group of Ruga Ruga.  Both of these were ultimately destroyed, earning even more victory points for the tribesmen in the process.  They even stole my looted gorilla parts!


Victory

Zanzibaris

  • At the end of turn six, I destroyed fetish #6 and thus earned the Zanzibaris the heady amount of 6 VP.

Fetishists

  • The forest tribe racked up 2 VP for a panic token that I had drawn early on (it had no lasting effect beyond this and doesn't appear in the narrative above).
  • They also scored 8 VP for combats that they initiated and won.
  • Finally, the young warriors captured 1 VP of looted gorilla bits.
Grand total: 11 VP to the defenders, 6 VP to the attackers.  Therefore it's a very solid win for the fetishists.  Their evil witch doctor will continue to dominate and harass neighbouring tribes and passing caravans for years to come!


Conclusion

In hindsight, I did some things wrong and had some bad luck.  To be fair, Steve did everything he needed to and would certainly have won anyway, even if I had managed to claim 4VP for fetish #4.  His victory might not have been by such a huge margin, though!

What I did wrong:
  • The Emir was all but useless where he was and wasn't worth the cost.  I should have either chosen a different character or placed his unit near the Baluchis so that his morale effect could have been used to assist these morale-sensitive troops.
  • In hindsight, one unit was enough to see off the witch doctor; the second unit on the left flank would have been much better employed in the centre where my 2 groups were horribly outnumbered.  Of course, had the witch doctor's warriors been a bit more effective, they might have beaten a lone Zanzibari unit...
My bad luck:
  • I don't normally rail against fortune on the grounds that (a) it all evens out in the end and (b) it's not good manners.  However, the sequence of events that cancelled turn four just as I was poised to score an easy 4VP really threw a spanner in the works and I knew immediately after this that the game was unwinnable for me.  Still, it was fun and I don't mind losing as long as it's with style!  

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter: Aberdeenshire 2017

Introduction

I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front for a couple of weeks.  That's because we were away on holiday for the first week of our children's Easter holiday and then I've been catching up with work &c for the second week.  For what it's worth, we spent our vacation in southern Aberdeenshire.  The weather was glorious: we spent 7 hours or more walking each day, becoming very tired and a bit sunburnt in the process and found over 100 geocaches.  But you probably don't want to hear about that.

I imagine that my audience are primarily wargamers, military modellers and the like.  What can I tell you about our travels that might interest you?  Let's see...

Saint Palladius Church


This architectural marvel was situated just a few minutes away from where we were staying in Glensaugh.  It's near Drumtochty Castle and is a very unusual shape for a Scottish church.  The next time you're tempted to make a model of a rectangular or cruciform church, remember that you can have curves, towers and turrets as well!


Bridge of Dye Pillboxes



In the small hamlet of Bridge of Dye there are 2 pillboxes of World War II vintage, one on either side of the road.  They're ideally placed to guard the nearby bridge, which is one of the few places in the area where the local river might be crossed.  So far, so good - but there are some things which puzzle me here:

  • These pillboxes are made from stone blocks, rather than the more common reinforced concrete.  Would that provide the same level of protection?  I don't know.
  • These defences are very well situated to protect against attacks from the west.  However, given that Bridge of Dye is extremely rural and that there isn't really much to the west except mountains, against whom were they expecting to defend?
I suppose that it's possible the stone blocks would help with camouflage by making the pillboxes appear to be part of a garden wall.  Or maybe concrete was in short supply in wartime and was reserved for more strategically important locations?  Perhaps these were used for training (where the east/west facing and choice of construction material wouldn't matter), rather than being serious preparations against a foreign invasion?  Maybe they were even a misplaced folly built by an over-enthusiastic local commander or landowner?  I just don't know...

Crathes Castle



Some 25 minutes journey to the north of our apartment, near the picturesque town of Banchory, is Crathes Castle.  The core of this is a fairly typical, large 16th century tower house, though much extended at later dates.  It's owned by the National Trust for Scotland and has extensive grounds including a walled garden and lots of woodland.

Dunnottar Castle


On the Aberdeenshire coast, just south of the town of Stonehaven, we visited Dunnottar Castle.  As you can see from my picture, this is now a ruin, but in its day it was a strong fortress in a very imposing location on a near inaccessible promontory.  Probably it's most famous achievement was to protect the Honours of Scotland (crown, sword and sceptre) from Cromwell's army.  The castle only fell after a siege of 7 months, but before then the honours had been smuggled out and were hidden in a nearby kirk (church).

Inverbervie Pillbox


Finally, we found another pillbox.  This time it was located on the coast at Inverbervie, over looking a river mouth and beach.  There are also a number of tank or landing craft traps stretching away from the pillbox and on the other side of the river; these were surprisingly large (maybe 1 metre in each dimension?) and still in very good condition.  Sadly, the pillbox itself had a lot of litter in and near to it: discarded drink cans, broken glass and the like.

Conclusion

If castles are your thing then Aberdeenshire is something of a paradise!  There are many, many such buildings, including medieval ruins, stately homes and everything in between.  If you can get the right weather then I would highly recommend this area for a holiday.  It's also good for walking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits.

For what it's worth, we stopped briefly at Doune Castle (famous for the filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, amongst other things) in Stirlingshire on our return journey.  However, we didn't go inside as this was just a quick break to walk the dogs - you'll have to wait for another time to hear about this one!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Showcase: 28mm Barbarian Cavalry

Introduction


I've been working on a Barbarian army for the Hordes of the Things rules for quite some time now.  Here's the timeline so far:
This is all very well, but I had always intended that I would expand the barbarian army to 48AP or 72AP (i.e. 2 or even 3 Hordes of the Things armies) so that they could be used in really big battles.  I will need many more bases, of course - but a larger force gives scope for something beyond the basic heroes/warband/shooters mix that I have right now.  I'll start with some cavalry! 


The Barbarian Cavalry


As mentioned above, I had acquired 10 giant panther riding animals as part of a Mantic "crazy box" some years ago.  These seemed like a reasonable starting point for my cavalry; I could make 5 elements from these if I followed my usual HotT convention of 2 mounts per base.  But I would need to find riders from somewhere...



Eventually, after much dithering, in December 2016 I asked for advice on The Miniatures Page.  There were a number of ideas as to where 28mm barbarian cavalry could be obtained, but the most useful one was a suggestion that Gary Tate of Forlorn Hope Games might be prepared to sell separate riders (i.e. without the horses, which I didn't need and which would add to the cost).



After several exchanges of emails between Gary and myself, I had my 10 figures.  I'm not entirely sure of the provenance of these models, but they have the look of one of the old Grenadier ranges to me.  It doesn't really matter too much anyway; the main point is that these are nicely sculpted, appropriately detailed and well cast figures.

I think there were 7 distinct poses in this set, but I cannot remember for certain.  Many of the figures came in 2 parts with legs and body separate.  This allowed some of the identical casts to be positioned differently, so hopefully the repetition isn't too obvious.



The riders were all I had hoped they might be.  However, the panthers are a little bit of a disappointment, to be honest.  They have only 2 poses, one of which has a much longer body than the other.  In addition, they're cast in Mantic's "restic" material, which may be cheap but is both soft in detail and hard to clean up when the pieces have flash on them.

I did need to carve away some of the mounts' harness to allow the riders to sit on their mounts, but apart from that they seem to fit quite well.  I didn't bother trying to create saddles for them; it would have been a lot of work and would probably only be noticed by the purists.  Anyway, who says that giant pumas need a saddle to be ridden in comfort?  Or maybe the barbarians are so tough and inured to pain that it's not an issue for them...


Conclusion

I haven't quite finished these models. Firstly, they're not sealed yet.  Secondly, those of you with particularly sharp eyes or good memories will have noticed that I like to label my HotT elements so that we can tell at a glance to which army they belong and which type of element they represent.  The former is easy (they're Barbarians), but the latter has me wondering: should they be Riders or Knights?  Here are the rulebook definitions:
  • Knights: "all heavily armoured or magically protected warriors on...riding animals...who charge at first instance without regard for...death"
  • Riders: "...all riders depending on their own weapons mounted on other swift ground creatures..."
[Yes, I know that technically they could also be classed as Beasts, but that doesn't really fit my idea for this army.  For now, I'd prefer to discount that idea.]

My barbarian cavalry don't appear to have the armour that is normal for a knight, though a frenzied, berserk attack with a disregard for injury could possibly be classed as "magical" protection.  On the other hand, assuming that the panthers join in the attack then they don't quite fit the definition of Riders either ("depending on their own weapons").  So, what should it be?  Any opinions?

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Kong! Kong! Kong!

Introduction


Scenario 2 for the Congo wargames rules involves a giant ape who lives near a sacred tree and is protected and venerated by the local native tribe.  But an expedition led by adventurous white men is determined to investigate and, if possible, capture the creature to take back to "civilisation".  After a long time hacking through the jungle, the tired and dishevelled explorers come across a jungle clearing containing a shrine - and some very large footprints.

Here's how it went when we played the game...

The Forces

White Men Expedition

100 points of figures, split into 2 columns which would enter from diametrically-opposite corners of the table:
  • In the top, right corner: Major Savage (retired officer), 1 x 4 trained askaris and 1 x 4 [Sikh] soldiers.
  • Bottom, left: George Keylies [journalist, writing for the "Paris Monitor"], 2 x 4 trained ascaris and 1 x 5 Ruga Ruga [flamboyant, drug-taking, boastful mercenaries].
The expedition started the game exhausted and as luck would have it, straight away [before the first turn] the Sikhs lost a man and the Ruga Ruga gained a terror token.

The Forest Worshippers


70 points of figures, again split into 2 groups who would enter from opposite corners:
  • Top left of the board: a champion plus 3 x 5 young warriors
  • Bottom right: the chieftain plus 2 x 5 warriors.
Note that the champion has the special ability that he can move up to 3 units of young warriors as a single action, thus making his group potentially very fast and flexible.

The tribesmen look to be outpointed quite badly [70 points to 100 points], but remember that they also control Kong!

Victory Conditions

Sudden death:
  • The white men win immediately if Kong is reduced to 0 hits in melee [he's captured and dragged away].
  • The natives win immediately if Kong is reduced to 0 hits by shooting [he's dead and cannot be studied, exhibited or otherwise give value to the expedition]
Otherwise, after a random turn limit:
  • The white men expedition scores 1VP per hit inflicted on Kong.  If the journalist survives then he adds 1VP by writing stories per 3VP scored otherwise.
  • The natives score 3VP per expedition unit that is destroyed.  Note that the natives do not suffer any victory point penalties for losing their own men.  Presumably they are fanatics and don't care?

The Game


As predicted, all the young warriors raced enthusiastically towards Kong's sacred grove.  In desperation, the journalist's ascaris alone met them [the Ruga Ruga were left behind after a successful terror attack left them with a bad case of the screaming heebie-jeebies] and fired a volley.

The ascaris' shooting only caused one casualty; this didn't look as if it would slow down the natives at all - until we rolled for "character" casualties.  Predictably, their champion took the bullet; the young warriors were left leaderless!



The tribesmen pressed their attack, but it was all a bit disjointed now and they started to take casualties from rifle fire.  After another successful terror attack, some of the ascaris fled as the jungle noises and war cries proved too much for them.  To balance this, the Ruga Ruga finally pulled themselves together and started to catch up with the rest of the party.



Before the Ruga Ruga could reach them, Monsieur Keylies and his remaining [but dwindling] band of ascaris fought off wave after wave of young warriors.  The trained gunmen felled large numbers of their attackers, but there always seemed to be more.

Just as the last attack petered out and it looked as if they were safe, one of the retreating natives flung an assegai.  The missile caught the journalist in the middle of the chest and he went down, dying.


In the North


On the opposite side of the clearing, Major Strange's ascaris advanced and fired a devastating volley at the great ape.  This scored 3 hits, so Kong would only be able to take 5 more before falling.

Nearby, the flank-guard Sikhs were having a hard time of it.  They were rushed by tribal warriors before they could fire a shot and suffered more casualties.



While the great ape looked on, the warriors swept over the Sikhs and slaughtered them.  Then, they pressed on towards Major Savage's ascaris.  The warriors must have been tiring or something, as these continued clashes didn't achieve much other than to chase the intruders around the glade.



Finally, the major rallied his retreating troops enough to fire a crashing volley at the persistent warriors.  When the smoke cleared, all of the natives were laid low!


In the Centre


The remaining bands of natives [and their chieftain, who was just arriving] now scattered to try to protect Kong.  More rifle fire took its toll, but it was now getting late in the game and the expedition hadn't even stepped inside the sacred grove yet, let alone captured the great ape.



The Major's ascaris in the north were held up by small groups of natives, so it looked as if it was all up to the unbloodied and intact Ruga Ruga to take on Kong.  They advanced into the grove...



...and overran the native chieftain and his last remaining bodyguard [they didn't want to fire and unload their muskets, not just yet anyway].



...but Kong didn't take kindly to the intruders.  His charge killed one of the Ruga Ruga and drove the rest away - for now.



It looked as if Kong would have to be softened up with rifle fire a bit more before the expedition attempted again to capture him.  The creature was still too tough to take on in melee with any real hope of winning!

Time was really running out now.  Cleverly, another pair of natives ran in front of the giant ape to protect him.  If the ascaris could just shoot them both then the Ruga Ruga would have a chance to shoot Kong - but it wasn't to be.  The ascaris only killed one of the natives and the Ruga Ruga had to use their muskets to kill the other.  They probably wouldn't have time to reload before the game ended.


Overtime


We were into overtime now, but the dice called for another round.  Kong charged again, dealing out more death and destruction.  The ascaris weren't finished off, but were weakened even further.



The Ruga Ruga had another go, but again they lost one of their number and had to retreat from the enraged ape...



...who continued to pursue and slaughter the Ruga Ruga.  However, Major Savage and his ascaris now entered the grove from the north - but would there be time for them to do anything?



The dice was rolled again to see if this was the end of the game, but still it came up negative - play on!  So, the Major's group charge Kong and clubbed, stabbed and shot the monster at point blank range.  Roaring with pain, the animal retreated.  [He had now taken 5 hits out of a possible 8 and, while weakened, was not yet completely helpless].



By now, it was absolutely, definitely the last act of the game.  Only the remaining 2 ascaris were able to do anything, so should they attack Kong or not?  Even though they had no chance whatsoever of capturing the monster, each wound they did would be worth 1VP, so I [controlling the Expedition] decided to "have a go".

Of course, the great ape simply killed both the men, thus scoring another 3VP for the defenders.  Bad decision!


Conclusion

Nobody scored a "sudden death" win, so victory points were as follows:
  • Expedition: 5VP for wounds to Kong
  • Natives: 6VP for destroying 2 enemy units [the Sikh soldiers and the ascaris in the very last combat].
So, it's a narrow win for the Forest Tribe defenders!

The tribesmen played a very canny game of getting in the way of the expedition and blocking their access to the great ape.  What they didn't manage to do was to destroy many enemy units.  Apart from the early overrun of the weakened Sikhs, it took a bad decision by the White Men expedition [i.e. me] in assaulting Kong with a 2-man unit to score the natives more victory points.

To show how close this game was, here are a few points where it could have gone differently:
  • If the dice hadn't allowed us to go into overtime, it would have been 3VP each [Sikh unit destroyed, but 3 wounds to Kong] and thus a draw.
  • If I hadn't been caught up in the moment and hadn't made that final charge: 5VP to the Expedition for wounds to Kong, 3VP to the natives, for an Expedition win.
  • If the journalist had survived the assegai then the expedition would have scored another 1VP for his articles in the newspaper and therefore it would have ended as a 6VP draw.
Major Savage told his story of the tribe who worshipped a great ape in many bars across the Empire.  But there was no-one to back him up and he was regarded as a harmless, old fool who had a bit too much to drink.  However much he would protest the truth of his tale, there was no hard evidence and so "Kong" passed into history as just another tall tale...


Monday, 20 March 2017

28mm Space Fighters: Finished

Introduction

Remember this?


A while ago, I mentioned that I had found a couple of starfighter kits very cheap and that these were perfectly-sized for 28mm miniature figures.  I wrote a work-in-progress article, though at the time I didn't have any firm plans as to how the models should be finished.  Well, the pair are now complete; here they are!


Klingon Attack Shuttles


As you can see from the picture above, I've painted these craft in Klingon livery.  They've come out slightly dusty-looking; that's my varnish not working as well as I'd like.  I'll just have to claim that they have frost forming on them due to the cold atmosphere of the planet on which they have landed.



The first model I built had the canopy glued in place, but I did something different for the second kit.  The canopy on this model has a tab attached to the back of it; it can be slotted into position either open (see above) or closed (see below).



It took me quite a long time to paint the first fighter.  This was not because they are in any way difficult, but rather because I dithered over the colour schemes; I took weeks to decide.  Eventually I settled for a very dark green, with dusty green and red oxide details.  Of course, the second model was much simpler as I didn't have to go through this again!



So, how will I use these shuttles?  I've no idea, really.  They could be static, ground decoration in pretty much any science fiction game, but they could also be suspended above a game table and used for ground support.  I'm sure there are many other ways they could be employed as well...

Monday, 13 March 2017

Perilous Island 2: Final Flight

Introduction

After one of the longest set of intro articles I've ever created for a scenario, we finally played the second game in our Pulp Alley campaign!

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, or who wish to remind themselves of the details, here are the earlier posts:
If you're not interested in reading all this background, then here's the short version: we're playing the Perilous Island campaign for the Pulp Alley wargames rules.  4 leagues are involved [Tarzan's jungle alliance, Stahl Helm's Nazi doom squad, Sir Henry's safari and the Snake Cult of Al Masudi].

Game 2 in the campaign is designed for two leagues, so we picked Sir Henry and the Snake Cult [mainly because the players were both available].  When we get around to playing game 3, which is also designed for two leagues, we'll use the other two groups instead.

Final Flight

A quick description of the scenario: Lumbasa airport is mobbed with crowds; there are rumours of a revolution and many people are trying to get on board the last scheduled flight out of the country.  Sir Henry is trying to find Lady Elaine, the campaign's central character and help her onto the aircraft ("Old family friends.  Knew her cousin at Harrow, don't you know").  On the other hand, the Snake Cult is attempting to prevent her and the plane from leaving altogether.

Setup


The scenario description dictates that each league follows a trail of clues, ending with the passenger aircraft.  Each clue/plot point will only be placed on the board when the previous one has been achieved.  These go as follows:
  • Sir Henry: retrieve the tickets and other travel papers from a local "fixer" => locate Lady Elaine in the crowd => board the aeroplane.
  • Al Masudi's Snake Cult: search for a smuggled bomb that is hidden in the baggage => find a previously-bribed, corrupt mechanic => sabotage the aircraft.
Normally, a game of Pulp Alley would have a number of perilous areas to make things difficult for the players.  In this game, we decided to have the following:
  • The area around each of the spinning propellers of the larger plane were extremely perilous.  Should be pretty obvious, really...
  • A large number of bystanders were set up in groups around the airfield.  Most of these were unarmed, but each player was permitted to place 4 neutral models who were wielding guns.  Anywhere within 2" of one of these models would be perilous, as the gunman/woman might attempt to interfere with either player's figures.  Why?  It might be self-defence, an attempted robbery, a tragic mistake or some other reason.  Tempers are frayed, everyone is on edge...
Note 1: it's not always easy to spot a gun-armed figure in a crowd.  I wonder if either of the players will fail to notice one and run accidentally into some unwanted bother?
Note 2: the perilous bystanders are an entirely different concept from the line of soldiers on either end of the table.  The latter are merely decoration, present to mark the edge of the playing area and to remind the players that a hostile act may result in a character being hunted down and arrested.

The Leagues

Sir Henry's Safari

Consisting of:
  • Sir Henry: Strong, rich, handsome, dashing.  A thoroughly decent sort of chap.  He's brought along his old school tie, hoping that this symbol will allow him to get on the plane without any questions.  If the pilot or steward is an Old Harrovian, it should count for something, right?  "Old boys' club" and all that...  [In game terms, Sir Henry used some of his wealth to purchase a "gadget X" piece of equipment]
  • Alan Quartermain: legendary crack shot, hunter and guide.
  • Captain Goode: retired naval officer and best friend, though not especially competent.  A bit of a duffer really.
  • Lady Constance:  Minor character, a young lady.  I'm not really sure where she fits in.  Perhaps she is Sir Henry's ward, a family friend, a pushy reporter or something else?
  • As well as his normal; 3 ascaris, Sir Henry used some local contacts to bring along a couple of extra shooters.  With 5 riflemen to back him up, it's obvious he's expecting trouble...

Al Masudi's Snake Cult

As follows:
  • Al Masudi: Crafty, strong-willed, intimidating.  Your standard wannabe evil overlord, really.
  • Taguerjah, the serpent: An enormous and strong snake.  Very dangerous.
  • Jasham, Nadeem and Saeed: sidekicks/lieutenants.  One specialises in sharpshooting, one in stealth and one in wrestling, though I can never remember who does which.
  • As well as the usual crew, the cult leader used his dominion to attract 3 local dacoits/bandits.  It looks as if Al Masudi is expecting trouble as well...

The Game

The leagues entered the table from opposite corners, so for the initial couple of turns they just stormed forwards without much else happening.  The first real excitement happened when Sir Henry approached the fixer who had the tickets:


A dapper gentleman in an evening suit took offence and started to draw a pistol, but he subsided quickly and backed off when Sir Henry stared him down [yup, the Cultist player had placed a perilous bystander right beside the fixer].
"Have you got my documents?" asked the Englishman.
"What documents?  What are you talking about?" came the startled reply.
"The travel warrant for the lady and I"
"Listen, buddy: I don't know no ladies and I haven't got anything for you.  Get lost, willya?"

The cultist player (and I, as the umpire) laughed a lot as poor Sir Henry drew a "red herring" card - he had questioned the wrong man.  The real fixer was 6" away.  I suppose that it's an easy mistake to make in a crowd.



Elsewhere, Al Masudi was rummaging through the baggage that lay on the airfield, looking for the dynamite.  He was discovered by an armed guard [another perilous bystander] who tried to stop him.  However, the cult leader was strong; he managed to overcome his assailant without attracting any more unwanted attention.


The smile was wiped from his face when he discovered that the package over which he had fought so hard didn't contain dynamite after all.  Instead, it was a consignment of cosmetics and ladies perfume.

Turn 3


Finally, Sir Henry spotted the correct agent in the crowd.  Flanked by many of his squad, he stormed forwards and had no difficulty at all in securing the travel documents for himself and Lady Elaine.  Now he just needed to find her and ensure that they were on the aircraft before it left.  But where was she?



Not wanting to be left behind, Al Masudi looked around for the explosives.  His minions discovered it lying in the middle of the runway, where someone had obviously dropped it carelessly.  With a grunt of satisfaction, the cult leader strode over and collected the dynamite.



And here's where it all kicked off!  One of Sir Henry's ascaris caught a glimpse of a cultist through a gap in the crowd.  Without hesitating, he raised his rifle, drew a bead on the enemy and shot him down.  [Note: from this point on, we used the "bullet" markers to indicate that a model had engaged in combat and was therefore wanted by the authorities, as per a special scenario rule].



In response, one of that group of cultists drew his sword and ran forwards, trying to hide behind a group of nearby bystanders.  The young man with the orange hair took fright at the stranger who was apparently charging him whilst waving a machete, so he pulled out a pistol and shot the cultist dead.  [Oh, dear!  Remember those civilians who have weapons?  The cultist didn't spot this one and ran straight into a peril].



Both leagues now collected their second plot points without difficulty, though both had to backtrack somewhat to find what they needed.  For the cult, Taguerjah (the snake) discovered the crooked mechanic and subdued him with hypnotic eyes and swaying body.  Elsewhere, Alan Quartermain spotted Lady Elaine and rushed to her side.

For the followers, it was a very different story.  The cult minions scattered and sought cover as the ascaris opened fire at every opportunity.  Interestingly, the cult seemed to want to stay on the right side of the law (they didn't shoot back), whilst Sir Henry's followers didn't care a whit and blasted away.



Egged on by their leader, several cultists then made a determined run for the aeroplane, but the enthusiastic ascaris just shot them down.  Where were the colonial police?!  Why didn't they intervene?  [The ascaris were unusually lucky in passing their "wanted" tests and the cultists' health checks were below average in success.  Also, by this time Sir Henry's followers outnumbered the remaining cultists by about 2 to 1.  Oh, well...].



Eventually, a couple of the ascaris were arrested and hauled off by the authorities.  However, there seemed to be plenty more who were willing to join in the brawl!
  • Captain Goode ran into the wingtip of the aircraft and knocked himself down.
  • Sir Henry spotted the cult leader, Al Masudi himself.  Being afraid of no man, he charged at the evil fanatic and delivered a swift upper cut.
  • In the background, Alan Quartermain led Lady Elaine towards the plane.  It looked as if nothing could stop her from boarding and making her escape!


Quartermain's first attempt to board the plane ended in dismal failure.  He evaded the earnest young man with the pistol easily enough, but the gendarme at the door was quite firm: "did he and the young lady have the correct papers?"  "Well, no - Sir Henry has the tickets; he's just over there..." .  Quartermain attempted to push past the official, but he must have tripped and fallen over the steps; he ended up dazed and lying on the ground.  [As might be imagined at this potentially game-winning moment, the cult player used every possibly opportunity to play peril cards].



Meanwhile, Sir Henry continued to pummel Al Masudi.  His fists sent the cult leader reeling, unable to respond.



...then the snake approached, with the mesmerised mechanic tagging along behind it.  Bravely, Captain Goode stepped up to engage it.  Now, in previous games the giant snake has proved to be a match for anyone and the death of many lesser foes.  However on this occasion it must have been distracted because Goode fought it to a standstill.  Both he and the snake were still just about upright at the end, though both of them were significantly battered and bruised.


Turn 7


In the final turn of the game, Alan Quartermain made another attempt to board the plane with Lady Elaine.  This time, the foreign youth knocked him down, claiming that the last 2 seats on the aircraft were reserved for him and his sea captain friend.  Aargh - so close, yet falling at the last hurdle...



"Look out - he's got a bomb!"  As a last act of defiance, just before he blacked out, Al Masudi threw his dynamite towards Lady Elaine.  This didn't have any material effect on the game since all of the Safari had already taken their final turn and couldn't get her onto the plane, but it just felt right...



With that, the pilot took fright, opened the plane's throttles and set off down the runway, leaving the remnants of the squabbling leagues to be picked up by the authorities.


Conclusion

This was a slightly odd scenario for 2 reasons:
  1. The terrain/crowd setup is really a bit dense for an airfield (most of which are noted for their vast expanses of empty space, after all).  I didn't have enough figures for a real crowd, though even if I had, it would have been difficult to find the players' figures amongst them.
    I had considered using card "standees", perhaps in strips or rings, instead of models for the crowd, but my early experiments at making such an element were disappointing.  Perhaps there's mileage in this idea for all that?
  2. The "wanted" special rule is in play, whereby any model which shoots or brawls becomes liable to be spirited off for questioning by the authorities.  The cult player tried very hard to avoid this, whereas the safari gleefully attacked his enemies on sight.  As it turned out, the cult had seriously overestimated the consequences of becoming "wanted"; by the time he started to fight back it was too late.
So, who won?  Each side retrieved 2 minor plot points with relative ease, though the double red herring basically set each of them back a turn.  Neither managed to achieve the major plot point (the aircraft), although the safari came close.  Perhaps if Sir Henry had thrown his old school tie to Alan Quartermain near the end then this might have allowed the latter to get onto the plane more easily?  Ah, well - we'll never know...

By the numbers, it's a draw: 2-2!