Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pulp Alley - Foiling the Mi Goh

I ran into a local gamer I know at a sale, and inquired what he's been playing lately. Most fortuitously, Thomas (LINK), noted he's been playing Pulp Alley, a game that's caught my eye. A meeting was arranged for a try out game. Thomas was able to provide rules, table setup, and both forces.

I must say that I quite enjoyed the system. It plays with about a half dozen figs per side, on a 3x3 board. Turns are capped at 6 and you have to hurry to acheive results. There is a card dynamic that creates challenges for your teams to overcome, as well as induce troubles for your opponent. I believe, door to door (my arrival to leaving) was 3 hours, including socializing and setup. Needless to say if you know the game you'd probably be able to crack out a full session in 90 minutes or less. Fantastic stuff.

Objectives. Freeze ray & boxed items
The rules provide a random table to generate objectives. These included a box of xenon, a blood spattered series of letters, a freeze ray, something I forget, and most importantly, a blood stained oil painting of the professor. My crew of explorers was desperately trying to foil the Mi Goh and their robot henchmen from retrieving these works. No doubt their ancient technology was revealed by these items and they strove to retreive them from human hands.

One of the beauties of the system is that one player has initiative which allows him to choose which player moves next. This decision is made model by model. You dice off for starting initiative, and barring strange events, it is only regained by claiming an objective or winning a fight.

My gang of erstwhile (and potentially evil/mercenary) explorers.

 Bottom of turn 1. The explorers moved on from the bottom edge, the Mi Goh the top. Explorers shooting saw 2 robots knocked down in the top left. They would recover effortlessly. Green tokens note moved models, the yellow is a reduction in firepower (do to shooting and/or running), red is a wound.

Ghosts and graveyards in the centre create zones of perilous movement, which means your opponent can accost you with his cards to create headaches for you. The objectives are scattered in a rough X across the board.Top right a Mi Goh is well placed to seize a box. Bottom right my ginger fella, 'red', is ready to bound over some barrels to seize an objective himself. My leader in the red trenchcoat on the bottom left is close to the freeze ray.

 The Mi Goh used a bunch of 'gadget' points, and one received a jet pack type device. This critter (in the bottom right) would cause me a lot of heartache all game long, as he was quite resistant to gunfire and a bit of combat monster (literally and figuratively).

 Alternative view of turn 1.

Turn 2 starts with the combat monster charging towards one of my men. My first card play held him up, sitting in the middle of an open area. Thomas thought this sufficiently clever and potentially game changing to take a picture. The yellow 'arrow' shows the charge path.

 While others (fruitlessly) blaze away at the Mi Goh, red rushes over to seize an objective.

Meanwhile on the other flank, my leader (whose name escapes me) seizes the freeze ray handily and lurks behind some boxes. The robots clank forward at a walking pace (their max) hoping to get in range to use their flamer template death beams.

 Bottom of 2. You can see the ghosts have moved a bit. One of my figs is in the centre tree stand, getting ready to take the major objective (the blood spattered oil painting).

Turn 3 kicks off with a Mi Goh attempting to eat Red. A handy card play enables him to dodge away from the monster automatically, and he vaults over the barrels carrying his treasure.

Follow up gunfire finally puts the hurt on this guy (red token).

My man, Bob in the centre is working on "The long test" trying to figure out how to get the objective (carrying an oil paintin ain't easy guv'ner). The robots have been downed with a peril card, as well as some crack shooting from my leader (who is devastating at short range). The Mi Goh have seized an objective, and seem to be working on killing red, and shooting my other fellows near the centre.

An interesting thing to note about cards is that each player gets one at the beginning of a turn. One of the objectives will give you another per turn. On of my followers was able to burn his action to gain another card....this ended up being VERY useful. The cards are entirely responsible for me doing well this game. 
The game started to speed up as I learned the ropes, the model count dropped (both robots failed to recover), and I needed to agonize less about who to allow to go next. Bottom of 4. My leader in the bottom centre has gotten next to another objective.

Red, at 3 oclock, is being pursued by the Mi Goh, hungry for his......blood? treasure? At this point I realized the Mi Goh with the jet pack would always be able to charge Red, his lucky escapes were bound to end sooner or later.

 Dan is chasing after the Mi-Goh (in the background) trying to shoot him Ded.

The villain in question, armed with a fork and an apron (appropriately embroidered with a human shape).

Nick, my 2nd in command is standing by the centre tree, exchanging gunfire with the other Mi Goh. He is also blocking a charge at Bob, who is furiously puzzling out how to get that darned major objective. .

 Turn 5 sees the Mi Goh activate a teleport device, passing into an alternative dimension. Next turn (the last!) he will be able to appear anywhere within 12 inches, and then activate. Could easily assasinate Bob, now (finally) carrying the major objective. Bob will run for cover in the buildings nearby in turn 6.

Bottom of turn 5. Bottom screen, the Mi Goh continues to attempt to eat Red. My troops hold the centre, threatened by the other (leader) Mi Goh.

Turn 6 ended swiftly. The Mi Goh attempting to eat Red is downed in a hail of crack gunfire from my leader (despite being encumbered by both the freeze ray AND a box of xenon). 

The teleporting Mi Goh rematerializes near Bob (covering in the portico of a building). The fates strike as the Mi Goh pulls a card indicating the teleportation has gone awry. He takes a hit and loses his activation, thereby losing his chance to toss a fizzing grenade (or alient analog [yet another card]) at Bob.

The same card that caused the problem induces the ghosts to move, and creepily (and randomly) they end up clustered around Bob and the Mi Goh. There must be something about the blood spattered oil painting! (*creepy music*).

Thoughts on the game:
Amazing! It helps that Thomas has a nice setup of fully painted, good looking terrain and models. The rules themselves are fast to pick up, and fast to play. The ability to control who activates by the iniative player is a great feature that makes for some hard decisions, and keeps each player constantly invested.

Combat is opposing dice rolls, and the cards are super fun. It feels a bit like GMT games such as Twilight Struggle or Unhappy Prince Charles where your card hand is always a tough decision about whether to use a card to help yourself or to hassle your opponent.

I'm hoping to get some more chances to play, and intend on grabbing the rules myself in the not too distant future.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Quar! - Song of our ancestors. "The folly of prohibition"

A bit late posting this up. At the beginning of August I managed to make it to the regular club game night, trumpeter. I ended up gaming with Cameron (of Cameron's Tiny Men), Grace and Dan (whom I played my Gruntz game with). Cameron is a great painter, and routinely collects both sides of a fight and terrain so he can host games; a marvelous set of traits.

The Quar are from zombie smith and are strange anteater like humanoids engaged in some sort of WW1 era type war. The history is present in the rules/sourcebook 'Song of our ancestors'. The basic rules are a 'Song of....' clone (Ganesha games) which has been successful enough to reskin to many eras and settings. It seems to work quite nicely.

You choose how many dice you want to roll (1-3) to activate a model (or group sometimes). You attempt to hit their competence rating (i.e. 2+, 3+, 4+,...) and successes give you actions. 2 fails, however, and you turn over to your opponent. Thus, with good rolling, you can activate and move most/all of your force before your opponent. Not all is lost, as you will eventually get to move everything (that doesn't double fail their rolls) before the turn ends and the insanity begins again.This mechanic works well to keep all the players invested in the action, as the active player can switch at any time.

Dan and I arrived a bit late, but got handed commands with no problem. The story is that a fairly green unit of Quar soldiers is traversing a rough area of backlands controlled by some moon shiners. The shiners think the soldiers are there to destroy their still, and lash out violently. The soldiers leaders, a green lieutenant and a veteran NCO disagree over fighting for glory (the former) and getting the hell out of the ambush (the latter). A dice roll decides to skedaddle, but if the NCO is killed, the objective reverts to fight. Each objective has entirely different VP scoring, so the Quar soldiers have some difficulty if they take the wrong casualty.

 As we arrived, the shiners were ambushing the column from 2 sides.

Already the poor government troopers had taken a drubbing with heavily wounded figs bleeding out. The government forces had a figure (cookie) who could 'heal' heavily wounded folks, but he has killed very VERY early on. 

The shiners even included a mounted trooper (who had some good stats), and a scary partisan tank; a machine gun mounted inside a wooden cask.

Luckily the crack government sniper was able to eventually knock it out, but not before it reaped many of the troopers. 

Cookie is bleeding to death on the left. He even had some pigs (ambulatory food supply) in attendance with him, which (in theory) would reduce his chances of getting hit (random hit allocation). Unfortunately only one pig copped a shot instead of him, and he went down suddenly.

The other group is an automatic shotgun. This was an expensive item, but had to be emplaced, and had a poor activating team. It didn't contribute much to the flight...fight. No wait, it was flight. 
 One of the rear guard troopers takes up position to help cover the retreat. Overwatch is interesting in this system, as you drop a marker on the table representing the area you are covering. If anyone (friend or enemy) enters a certain range of the marker, you take a shot.
 The government column is splitting up. The front rushing forward to safety, the rear dropping away. Shiners can be seen closing in from the sides at 4 oclock and 10 oclock.

The rear guard are fortunate to have a lot of cover. I run up the figs to the wood edge to try and suppress the rabble moving along the edge of the board. By rabble I mean 'better quality than me insurgent moon shiners'.

This would eventually be a mistake, as the victory conditions needed me to evacuate my troops, and they would be caught in some stray gunfire and help tip the scales.

Here we see the partisan cask tank blow up. Other partisans/shiners take cover behind it, as they continue to punish the forward half of the government column. Most of the government column went down shaken.

Standing up from being shaken takes 2 actions, so you risk turning over activation, AND you probably can't do anything. Also, another shaken result while you are done equals a kill. 

Some action location, but looking the other way. You can see there are 2 government troops still on their feet, and a swarm of shiners. Not seen are the second group of shiners approaching the other side (back left). 

Here we see the shiners vs the rear of the column. They are moving to kill the forward half of the column, which has almost escaped/been completely destroyed.

As soon as they turn to face the government troops at the back, the game hangs in the balance (i.e. can the government evacuate enough survivors to not be in fiasco territory). 

The shiners moving up to finish off the survivors at the front of the column.

Meanwhile, I'm now facing problems with command ranges through the woods. I am just managing to pull back my over extended troops, when a young shiner lad puts on a surprising turn of speed and demonstrates his faculty with a chefs knife.

The model in question is armed with a knife and sprint, and races forward to knife down one more trooper. It is now impossible for the government troops to win, and morale checks are probably over due. We call it a strong win for the shiners.

So demonstrates the folly of prohibition. 
How many gamers does it take to funnel the sandmix back into the plastic container?