Friday 18 March 2022

Prisoners of the Sun: PDEE Pulp with the Chronographic Society (part 1)

Another dispatch from Mark in Thailand:

This year happens to be the 60th anniversary of my discovery of the Adventures of Tintin (by George Rémi, aka Hergé). And I can still recall being at a friend’s house reading the latest Tintin book available in NZ, in November 1963, when news of the Kennedy assassination came through. Chris’s father was an American, and took it very hard. The book we were poring over was Prisoners of the Sun.

Perhaps the best way to start this campaign is by citing this extract from the Pattaya Evening News (undated, probably mid January 1922) which I recently discovered in the City Archives. The interpolations […] I have added based on what we know now.

"The Chronographic Society expedition will shortly embark for Callao, Peru. It will then trek into the Andes through the Valley of the Rumbaba [Amerindians, Army ants, Flying monkeys] and the Hidden Plateau [Dinosaurs] to the City of Gold [Mayas], to rescue Professor Logarithm and return the mysterious crystal of Rascar Capac that alone can break the curse of the Sun God on the Sanders-Hardiman archaeologists for profaning the temple of Wat Alotabaloney.

"The photo shows the expedition members as they prepare for their epic adventure. L-R: Mr Tintin (the famous reporter, with his hound Snowy); Capt. Archibald Haddock (Merchant mariner, Tintin’s longtime companion); Señor Ramon Zarate (expert knife thrower, chess master, some-time dictator of San Theodoros); Messrs. Piotr Skut (the well-known Estonian mercenary); Roberto Rastapopoulos (international playboy and criminal genius); and Chang Chon-Chen (the mountaineer who discovered the Yeti)"

It seems likely the photo was taken at the mental hospital where the unfortunate members of the Sanders-Hardiman expedition were held after they were struck down, one by one after their return from Peru, by daily violent seizures. 


Valley of the Rumbabas
The Chronographic Society expedition arrived at Callao on the steamer Pachacamac, and spent a week or so hiring guides, buying supplies, and so forth. Then they set out. 

During the voyage expedition members had had the opportunity to size each other up as to character traits.  It emerged that Tintin is an Explorer; Captain Haddock is an Engineer (carrying bombs); Ramon Zarate is a Big Game Hunter; Skut has no special trait; Rastapopoulos is Unfit; and Chang Chon-Chen is a Naturalist (he starts with a medicine chest that can heal 2 wounds).

The party passed out of the settled area, and the immense jungle of the Andes cordillera closed around them. The guides would go no further. Ahead lay the first big challenge: a foothills valley inhabited by the fierce Rumbaba Indians, with their poisoned spears and hostility to all intruders …

Here’s the Valley. ⬇️ There is a track through the jungle, which the expedition can use. They must cross the river, and exit the far side on or near the track exit point. While on the track expeditioners may move at full speed, but off the track they are limited to max moves of M in open ground and S in jungle or swamp.

All seems peaceful. But of course, it’s not ! The expedition will start at Dawn, and must be out of the Valley by Nighfall (ie they have 12 Turns). To be still in the Valley in darkness doesn’t bear thinking about. 

Tintin leads the party along the track at a trot, trusting to luck that they won’t be ambushed in the big patch of jungle. In the event luck favours the expedition, or more likely potential opponents are caught by surprise and need time to react. At any event, after 2 Turns the expedition has reached the log bridge across the big swamp and pauses to regroup. Snowy has gotten a bit lost (failed last activation) and is howling. ⬇️

⬆️ Possibly it’s the howling that finally got the Rumbaba warriors moving. There they are to port, and they don’t seem to have liquor-filled pastries on their minds! These opponents are classed as Outfolk Hunters.

During Turn 3 the expedition started to cross the log bridge. Tintin, in the lead, fired at the closest warriors using his shotgun, wounding 2 and causing the whole party to charge him. They couldn’t make contact because the swamp slowed them down. ⬇️ Haddock, Chang and Skut followed.

⬆️ Zarate and Rastapopoulos, in the rear, found themselves trapped on the track when the other Rumbaba warriors attacked (provoked by gunfire). Zarate killed one as they came in, but was himself wounded by another. Rastapopoulos defended desperately and wounded the warrior that attacked him. One Rumbaba stayed back in the jungle.

Turn 4 saw the expedition members in close combat with the Rumbaba warriors. By the time it was all over ⬇️ 4 warriors were dead, and the others were in flight. But 1 expedition member had been killed and 3 more were wounded.

⬆️ Moving R>L along the track: Rastapopoulos killed the warrior who attacked him. Zarate was beaten again and killed by his attacker, who then went on to attack Skut, and wounded him but was killed in return. Chang activated but didn't move this Turn. Unfortunately he didn’t find any medicinal plants either. Tintin was attacked and wounded by a warrior. Haddock luckily rolled a successful triple activation and came to the rescue, jumping off the bridge into the swamp, wading along to a flank position, and killing Tintins attacker.

All Warriors not shown in the photo are fleeing, pursued by Snowy. It’s unlikely they will return.

Admin note: with so many figures (Expeditioners & Warriors) in such a confined space I didn’t apply the rule about all “beasts” within L reacting to each shot fired, as it would have quickly degenerated into total confusion. Possibly realistic, but difficult and slow to adjudicate.

Skipping forward to the end of Turn 6. ⬇️ The expedition has set up a temporary camp to rest, and sort themselves out, after the fight. Chang Chon-Chen has used his medical kit to cure the wounds to Tintin and Captain Haddock. He doesn’t have enough to fix Skut too, unless he finds some medicinal plants. Zarate has been buried, in an unmarked grave in case the Rumbaba come back and perform unspeakable atrocities.

⬆️ The expedition members haven’t yet noticed the small commotion on top of the hill at top L. Their attention is instead turning to the swarm of Army Ants that has just broken cover across the river. The river the expedition must now try to cross.

It was a stroke of luck that the Army Ants were spotted at this moment. The protection of the river (which the ants won’t cross) gives a chance to disperse them before pressing on. 

In Turns 7 & 8 the adventurers tried their luck shooting at the Ants to see if this would do the trick. Haddock went first with a thrown explosive charge, but this failed to go off. Eventually Tintin scored a hit with his shotgun and the remnants of the Swarm dispersed back into the jungle. Meanwhile Chang successfully found and recovered a medicinal plant, so he’s halfway to having enough to repair Skut. It’s time to press on.

On Turn 9 Tintin led the adventurers across the river. He failed 2/3 activations, and a flock of Flying Monkeys dashed forwards x2 from their hilltop. The Flying Monkeys are Raptors that can fly. Chang discovered another medicinal plant and stayed back on the other side of the river to collect it. ⬇️

The expedition has no time to admire these fabled Monkeys, though in other circumstances bringing one back to “civilisation” (alive or dead) would cause a sensation. Tintin and Co. plan to blast them out of the way as fast as possible.

On Turn 10 Tintin fired his shotgun at the approaching flock, but missed. Nevertheless the Monkeys turned and fled, nearly to the table edge. Just then a second flock appeared on top of the hill, where it stayed for the whole Turn.⬇️

Turn 11 and dusk is beginning to fall. The expedition can lose no more time if it is to reach safety before night falls. Tintin leads by example with a triple activation. He skulks forward, shoots and brings down a Monkey, and the rest flee (off the table). The other flock reacts by swooping down from their hilltop to feast on the carcass of the dead Monkey. Tintin keeps moving forward, and they switch focus and Dash to him, mobbing him. All their attacks fail however. Snowy, activating next after his master, attacks the nearest Monkey but it flaps up out of reach (Snowy’s attack fails) and wounds the hound with a spear poke.

Haddock comes up next, the Flying Monkeys ignore him and return to eating the carcass. In accordance with the plan he bypasses Tintin and the Monkeys and makes it off table. Then Rastapopoulos moves up (only 1L because he is Unfit), the Mokeys ignore him too. Lastly, Skut and Chang hold their positions while Chang use his medicinal plants to patch up Skut.

Here is the end of Turn situation. ⬇️

Turn 12, the last turn before nightfall. All expedition members (still alive) must make it off the table this turn or suffer unspecified dreadful consequences. Can they do it?

Tintin started the Turn by firing two shotgun blasts at the Monkeys. The first blast killed 1 of them, and the second blast killed 2 (a 6 followed by a 4, which mods to a 5 because a shottie). This Captain’s Innings completely cleared away all opposition, and the remaining adventurers made it safely to the table edge. 

⬇️ Except for Skut, who rolled a triple activation fail, leaving him stranded on the track, short of safety, as darkness descended. What will become of him? All will be revealed in the next exciting episode …

To be continued at The Hidden Plateau.


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