Monday, December 2, 2013

Dakota Smith's Oriental Adventure, Part 2 - Missing at the Mission

Western Archeologist Briefing
Near the Ta-bo Mountains, French Indochina
November 30, 1930

    Despite the failure to get your hands on Brother Virigi’s journal, you came away from the Portuguese monastery on Macau with solid information. The monk had left a few weeks ago for the monastery’s mission on the mainland in French Indochina. The brother monks had set up an outpost in the foothills of the Ta-bo Mountains to preach to the primitive tribes living there. Villagers you speak to along the way there always spit when saying the name of the mountains, so you suspect an evil story lurks in this area’s history.
    It takes about a week to trek through jungle and cultivated plain before you begin to climb into the foothills. Once or twice, you see signs that the other archeological teams you encountered at the monastery may be on the same trail. Villages and hamlets are becoming more and more scarce, though. What’s more, in your last several days of travel, all the villages you pass through are deserted. Chickens and goats wander untended, making you suspect the villagers left in a hurry. There is a smell of smoke in the air as you finally come to the mission station. A grayish haze hangs over the area, as if a fire has been smoldering for days...

The second scenario saw Dakota Smith and his rivals discovering Brother Virigi's mission station on the mainland raided, smoking, and with no signs of life...

So, after our first game of Pulp Alley, I was trying some changes to adapt the game to the large number of players. Once again, we had five players and myself for our Sunday evening game. This time, though, each player had only 3 characters under his control -- a leader, sidekick, and ally. That is, except for the Order of the Fire Coral, who had sidekicks for all three characters. I shrank the board to 4'x4', and placed the 4 minor plot points 12" from each edge. The major plot point was in the center of the table. The major plot point was a badly-wounded survivor of the raid that had apparently wiped out Brother Virigi's mission station. The minor ones were clues to the the identity of the attackers, including inscriptions on the walls of a ruined temple, the boxes of supplies looted by the attackers, a muddy patch with lots of footprints, and Brother Virigi's new journal.

A map showing the board as I initially planned it -- some changes were made when I set it up
This game saw a new archeological faction take the field. Mike S had created his own Irish archeological team, and switched over to playing them. Allen, who'd been absent our first game, took over capably in playing Dakota Smith. The French player was absent, so they were obviously held up by bureaucratic duties, while the other Europeans skirted those. Each team made a beeline for the plot point nearest where they'd set up. Dakota Smith, accompanied by Dolly Flanders and Harold Fortwine, hoofed it up the hill to the ruined temple to examine it. Harold stumbled a couple times in the perilous footing -- with vegetation concealing pits and crumbling floors. His arch-nemesis, Von Jaeger, came in on the opposite side of the board and headed for the muddy patch of ground that promised to show good footprints of (and possibly identify) the attackers. The Irish came in not far from them, and advanced cautiously towards the looted supplies, hoping to gain a clue as to who the attackers were by what they took and what they left behind. Harris McLeod and the British hurried towards the swampy patch of ground where the raid's lone survivor lay hidden. And finally, Opay, Tat-Ko, and Jaz Minh infiltrated through the mission huts. Tat-ko searched the monk's quarters, while the other two stealthily closed in on the Europeans.

Dakota Smith passes up on checking out the village to instead examine the temple ruins at the top of the scrubby hill, hoping to get some clues about the history of the area

The steely-eyed Von Jaeger notices something odd left by the footprints in the mud
The mystery of the raided mission station distracts Lady Shannon -- always ready for adventure -- from her hunt for a Buddhist tomb
The British come upon a grisly discovery in the marshy patch in the center of the table. They are stunned to find the horribly stabbed Chinese man still alive, but even more astonished by the stunted, misshapen body of what wounded him...!
Once again, the mission of Opay and other members of the Order of the Fire Coral is to frustrate that of the westerners, and keep hidden the mystery that Brother Virigi must have stumbled upon...
All leagues except the Fire Coral ran afoul of an occasional perilous area, but no lasting damage was done to any. This time, I put markers on the table for the perilous areas -- venomous snakes in the jungle patches, crocodiles in the river, feral chickens near the huts (just kidding, but there were some angry, neglected water buffalo that the adventurers gave a wide berth to...!). To be honest, this is probably an area all the players need to improve upon. We still need to learn how how to best play Fortune cards to the maximum effect against their opponents -- especially when characters enter perilous areas. Last game, Tom was particularly effective doing this. However, everyone struggled this game to make much offensive use of them against their rival leagues.

The perilous areas on the board slowed down the occasional character, and even temporarily downed Fraulein Blucher (German ally). However, she recovered quickly. All hands were available at the bullets began to fly, shortly...
By turn three, all five plot points were in the hands of the characters. There was a humorous moment when the players turned to me and asked, "Is the scenario over?" Once I explained that you could take away plot points from other characters, and that they were worth more experience, they quickly caught on that their next objective was each other!

Dakota was a bit miffed that Dolly sauntered in and finished off his deciphering of the minor plot point. This didn't prevent him from taking a quick pencil and paper rubbing of the temple inscriptions...
Now, the bullets began to fly (there had actually been a "Parley" card played on Turn 3). Predictably, the bloodthirsty Von Jaeger and his Nazi thugs started it. Otto Tulmann wounded Harris McLeod, who managed to dodge the follow up gunfire of Von Jaeger himself. The next turn, Otto poured more fire into Harris, wounding him further. Steve played a "Stay Down" card to keep Harris from recovering. The portly hunter quickly shuffled away, leaving Major Speke-Eastman and his niece Clara to deal with the vicious Nazis.
Guns blazing, the Germans chase after the British and the major plot point
Lady Shannon's Irish also showed a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. Her sidekick Ryan and her cowboy ally, Tex, whooped as they blazed away at Jaz Minh and Opay. Meanwhile, inside the hut, Tat-Ko located Brother Virigi's new journal and hid it inside his robe.

Ryan O'Shea and Tex open fire on the Order of the Fire Coral
Inside the jungle huts which composed the Portuguese mission (and newly-constructed for this scenario), Tat-Ko discovers the missing Brother Virigi's new journal and swipes it
Drawn by the desire to capture the wounded Chinese survivor of the raid, all the teams except the Irish closed in on the center. Fraulein Blucher boldly charged up the hill, fists flying, at an astonished Dakota Smith, who had seized the opportunity to open fire at the hated Nazis. Harold Fortwine, an ex-boxer in his undergrad days, waded in and belted the stout, gray-haired matron to the ground, though. Harris McLeod recovered his nerve enough to turn and let loose a fusilade at Von Jaeger, who returned fire. Both were wounded. Major Speke-Eastman also fired off a flurry of shots, further wounding the German. Jaz Minh and Opay avoided crocodiles to dash across the river. As the Irish continued to take pot shots at the martial artists, Jaz Minh skipped back across the river and kicked Ryan O'Shea's gun from his hand.

The melee in the center is furious, and the Germans are in the thick of it. All teams are eventually drawn into the brawl, though.
A couple of the players had the foresight to send their plot points off towards the board edge, in the hands of one of their characters, though. Dakota handed the temple wall rubbing off to Dolly. The socialite needed little encouragement to dash off down the hill and away from the gunfire. Tat-Ko sprinted for the edge of the board, but his movement drew the attention of Tex. As his companion Ryan knocked down Jaz Minh, Tex drew a bead on the fleeing martial artist. His shot rang true and Tat-Ko fell to the ground, the journal flung free of his robes.

Bullets and fists fly as the characters all compete to drag off the howling, wounded survivor of the raid. They know he had key information on how to track down the attackers, and hopefully, rescue Brother Virigi.
The sixth turn drew to a close with the major plot point having been wrested from the British, but under no one's control. The grisly tug-of-war with the horribly wounded survivor saw Clara McLeod dig her heels into the ground and prevent Von Jaeger from carrying the man off. It ended the game under no one's control. The Fire Coral also lost possession of the journal to a long-range shot which put Tat-Ko down and out. The Americans, Germans, and Irish all retained possession of one minor plot point, so came out on top.

As the leagues retreated from the bloody fray to bandage their wounds and take stock of the situation, they knew they all had one piece of information. The monks of the Portuguese mission station had been kidnapped by a tribe of savage pygmies known as the Ta-bo. The wounded survivor's words still echoed in their ears, "Save the brothers, please, masters! The Ta-bo are cannibals...!" If they were ever going to find the location of the lost city from Brother Virigi, they'd first have to rescue him from pygmy cannibals of the South Seas...!

Everyone seemed to enjoy the game, and got into the fact that they were bitter rivals eventually. Pulp Alley is still a new rules set for our group, so we are still learning tactics and strategy. I am still learning at how to incorporate the perilous areas into the game, and keep the storyline of them coherent, pulpy, and well, as believable as a rousing pulpy yarn should be...! I'm sure I'll get better at the storytelling aspect of the game as we play more. The guys are helping out, though, and suggesting reasons for outcomes that make good "B movie" sense. It'll probably be January before I run Scenario 3 (The Search for Skull Cave), as our Sunday night schedule is filling up. That's fine, though, as I have lots of jungle pieces to create. Plus, I have a hankering to make a rope bridge, and what can be more "Indiana Jones"-like than that...?

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