Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pulp High Adventure in Sumatra

The table with ruined temples, Skull Cave, a Pygmy Cannibal village (with cookpot) and more!
In honor of Halloween, I thought I would bring out the 28mm Pulp miniatures for Sunday night gaming. Cannibals, Skull Cave, ruined temples, and animal abominations that walk upright like men would haunt the table. More importantly, it would give me a chance to playtest my rules for convention Pulp games. Although I enjoy playing Pulp Alley (see Dakota Smith's Oriental Adventures), I am not sold on its use for a large, multiplayer convention game. I want something that is easy to learn, fast-moving, and gives me a chance to run a game for up to 8 players.
Von Jaeger's German archeological team, with German sailor muscle, moves to investigate a temple
Enter "War-Drums," a variant of Song of Drums and Tomahawks I'd written and ran at last year's March Through Time at the Ohio History Center. I tweaked the rules a bit to take it out of the American Frontier and into the "High Adventure" genre. I cooked up a scenario that would have my players control European adventuring teams with a squad of sailors or soldiers as backup. They were investigating strange occurrences on the island of Sumatra. Here was the U.S. player's briefing (all players received similar ones):
Their arch-rivals, Dakota Smith and his American archeologists, close in on the same temple
“…Hair-raising reports have been coming out of the Sumatran jungle for the last year or so. It seems cannibals have been raiding settlements and carrying off screaming captives for their fiendish feats. But even worse things have been spoken of, in whispers. Animals of the forests have begun to walk upright and forge weapons. They, too, have stalked settlements, stealing away with captives to devour (or worse).
    These dark forces seem to emanate from the area of the fabled lost city of Yothai. Untold riches are rumored to be buried there, along with arcane objects of immense power. Has someone uncovered one of these and is behind all this? You suspect the Nazis, whose lust for objects of power seems unquenchable. You have assembled a small force of men you can trust, and the government has given you a detachment of U.S. sailors to safeguard you. Your mission is to investigate Yothai, find what is behind all of this devilry, and see if you can put a stop it…”

The French party had to cross a series of bridges across a swamp to arrive
I set up a huge board with a hill in the center, surmounted by Skull Cave. At the midpoint of each board edge was a ruined temple. The cannibal village was on one side of the board, and the players started out spaced out around the board edge. When they came within a certain distance of one of the temples, it would spring enemies to appear (the player in question rolling 1d6 each turn to see how many). My Pygmy Cannibals, along with my Splintered Light Frogs and rats were the enemies.
When the French were partway across, a band of Frog-men rose up out of the swamp and attacked
I think the activation and combat system worked well enough. The scenario design was likely flawed, though. With each player having to run not only their own troops but a force of enemies attacking their neighbor it took way too long between player turns. Mike S's troops did not really get a chance to do much as they rolled very low for their enemy numbers. Meanwhile, Allen and Joel had their hands full with the Frogs and Pygmy Cannibals. Keith and Mike W also faced off with the cannibals, but between them were able to keep losses to a minimum.
Pygmy Cannibals swarmed out of the jungle and attacked the British archeologists, as well as the U.S and Germans
The game was not the most rousing success, but I learned some things for future scenarios. I think it would work best with an A/B movement systems with players in two informal alliances. That would pretty much cut out the long waits between turns and make it more fun, I think. Also, large numbers of non-player enemies will slow it down, too. The players suggested fewer, but bigger and tougher (tigers? crocs?) fauna.
Mike S's force of Diggers, unscathed by the intermittent attacks of Ratmen, investigate a temple
Still, it was fun to see it all out on the table again.

1 comment:

  1. Looks great! I'm interested to see how the rules develop.