Tuesday 31 October 2023

Conceptualising Irregular Wars: Devilry Afoot

’Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on.… 
William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 3, Scene 2

From The history of witches and wizards: giving a true account of all their tryals in England, Scotland, Swedeland, France, and New England; with their confession and condemnation / Collected from Bishop Hall, Bishop Morton, Sir Matthew Hale, etc, by W.P., (1720). Source: Wellcome Collection.

Recently I have been pondering a new writing project: a 17th century skirmish game of monster hunting - pitching a handful of foolhardy hunters against a small number of 'monsters'. Designed for co-operative and solo play, the hunters will be controlled by the player/s, while NPC 'innocents' and the antagonististic 'monsters' will be controlled by the game.

I see it as an opportunity to take the learning from Palaeo Diet: Eat or Be Eaten, but adapt some of those core concepts to make a grittier and darker game (in more ways than one). I see light sources and darkness being key components, with a randomised activation system and d10-based system using target numbers. 

Players will create their characters from a number of core archetypes: scholars, religious, veterans, gallants etc, customising them with a trait or two and some useful trappings before taking to the darkness. 'Monsters' would be themed around period appropriate fears such as witches, werewolves, ghouls and revenants. 

It is still early in the design process, and not every idea develops into a fully-fledged game, but what is down on paper so far feels pretty sound, so watch this space... 🐺

Monday 30 October 2023

A little seasonal vampirism with Fantastic Battles

Getting into the spooky season, I took my Night Stalkers (vampires and their ilk) out for a feed against Jim's human Byzernian Empire. The countess summoned her minions, the emperor rallied men to his standards and the stage was set.

The table was laid out as rough moorland to the north of Byzernia - a central hill dominated the battlefield, with large areas of boggy ground, a couple of wooded copses and some fields off to one side where the ground was obviously more forgiving. 

The Byzernians (top, from l. to r.) fielded a two-company unit of skirmishing kern, a three-company unit of mixed shieldwall, spears and bows, a two-company unit of cataphract heavy cavalry, an archangel, three companies in a unit of fierce gallowglass,  a three-company unit of spearmen, two cart-mounted flame-throwers and a unit of three companies of well-equipped skirmishing horsemen hidden in ambush in the woods to the top right.

The Night Stalkers consisted of (bottom, from l. to r.) two companies of dire wolves grouped in a single unit, the same number of werewolves, vampiric knights, and giant vampire bats, followed by a three-company unit of succubi, a four-company unit of ghouls, and the terrifying death coach in the far right.

For objectives, the Byzernians were feeling iconoclastic, and set out to topple three totems - two near enough to their lines, and one way off to the left of the Night Stalkers' lines. The Night Stalkers were tasked with stealing a relic from a troll hoard which was within their own deployment zone. Something they chose to ignore as the 33% chance of losing one of their few characters was considered too big a risk.

The ghouls impulsively ran forwards, causing the Byzernian command some consternation. The Byzernians' own lines were obstructed by the totems which they needed to destroy in order to move forward. That, or change formation and risk getting caught in column.

The death coach moved off to the right, just as the Byzernian light horse emerged from the woods. Despite how it looks, the death coach's terrifying trait, together with the cavalry being skirmishers caught in the open, meant that the attack dice were even. The cavalry, however, did have a lot more resolve, so in the war of attrition, there was only one way it could end.

In the centre, the vampiric flying division advanced more cautiously, as the Byzernian gallowglass made their way up the hill to topple a totem.

Something they achieved in short order, thus freeing up their full frontage for a winged onslaught.

The gallowglasses were obviously distracted when the succubi hit them as the mortal men caused little damage, and what they did was restored immediately as they broke and fled, leaving the succubi to feast on the fallen after only one round of melee.

Back on the right, the ghouls rushed in (could write a song about that... Wise man says, only ghouls rush in... never mind). It was a foolish move, but not something that could be heled given their impulsive nature. The flame-throwers evaded, while the Byzernian angel flew down to assist the spearmen.

Meanwhile, on the left the impetuous Byzernian kern had thrown themselves forward into the dire wolves, and the mixed spear and bow unit charged and caught the werewolves. Not wanting to be caught against spearmen in shieldwall, the vampire knights changed formation into a column to start making their way around them.

Overall, the battle was still very much on a knife edge. The small vampiric army was more or less pinned in place, except in the centre where the succubi had scattered the gallowglasses. Both the ghouls and the death coach were in difficult situations, but the left flank was looking stronger.

The Byzernian cataphracts moved forward in such a way that they could not be hit in the flank this turn, only for them to be hit in the flank. The succubi changed formation into column, and then with the assistance of a haste spell, made contact with the cataphracts. The column of vampire knights also charged, thus pinning the Byzernians in place.

The werewolves conformed to better fight the spearmen to their front, as the dire wolves scattered the kern, feasting on the dead to restore lost resolve.

At the same moment, the death coach was overwhelmed, and the ghouls then broke and fled. The entire right flank of the vampiric army was gone. The Byzernian army had lost five companies against its break point of ten. The Night Stalkers had also lost five companies, but had a lower breakpoint of just nine.

It was now a race against time as the Night Stalkers on the left prepared to fully envelope their victims.

The Byzernian left flank units closed in, moving slowly but unhindered across the open ground, as the vampires, wolves and succubi closed on the Byzernian right.

The attacks from front and flank proved too much for the cataphracts who scattered before they could be relieved.

On the far left of the Night Stalker line, the Byzernian emperor fought a galliant last stand with his spearmen, surrounded as they were on three sides. However, no level of heroics could save him under the circumstances and his spearmen too scattered, taking the emperor with them and bringing the Byzernians to their breaking point.

This was a very enjoyable, fast and fierce fight. The Night Stalkers as I run them are proverbial glass cannons, brutal but brittle. If they can win melees, they can restore enough resolve to fight the next, but if they come off second best in a melee, they crumble like a vampire on a sunny day. Both Jim and I forgot things that would have been to our own advantages - my night march strategy, his magic-user's ability to cast magic... The risk of  gaming after a long week I suppose!

Sunday 29 October 2023

ProjectSeleukid - Nellephants!

 

While my thureophoroi sit waiting for a space for me to get them painted, Andrew has had a super productive October with yet more units for Project Seleukid. I'm not sure now whether he is way ahead, or I'm way behind. Perhaps both can be true!

Saturday 28 October 2023

Song of Shadows and Dust: Business as usual at Pattayavium

Mark put on a small Song of Shadows and Dust game recently - small by his usual standards anyway. Here’s what you might want to know before we jump into it.

It’s a normal day at one of the markets in Pattayavium.** This market happens to be near one of the red-light districts***. Here are a couple of kite eye **** views of the stage. Looking N (red light district at L) -

** Pattayavium: my imaginary Graeco-Roman trading settlement on the eastern shores of the Gulf of Siam, perhaps some time in the later 1st century AD. 

*** Premises welcoming patrons include: the Dolphin, the Bacchic Revel, the Eros, and the Dryad. Not that you asked.

 **** Kite: probably Haliastur indus. There are a lot of them around here. It’s the fish offal down at the beach.


And E. The thatched roofed buildings at L belong to natives (Tai people) who are settling here is large numbers these days - 


The plots, such as they are, comprising today’s episode concern two groups of players. 

In the next photo, the figures to the L are Kymmes and his henchmen Luke and Solon. They are freelance thief-takers who have staked out this market to make money by collecting the standing rewards for apprehending thieves and known criminals. The team to the R is Sulpicious and three of his pickpocket gang, Thark Balyan and Mahalia. They havn’t worked this area for several months so hopefully the shoppers will have relaxed their watchfulness.


The next photo shows Aulus Spiculus, a wealthy money-lender, who is taking a stroll, with his bodyguard Evander. On the R is Haroun Al-Rashid, a professional assassin. He has a contract to rub out Spiculus, but won’t say who is paying him, or what the motive is for the hit (not that he cares).


There is a third group of players, who are everyone else on stage. Stallholders, shoppers, sideshow artists, brothel spruikers, porters, flaneurs. Tourists, even. A representative sample is in the next photo. They might, depending on circumstances, intervene in the game by (for example) helping or hindering the players, or as terrain pieces who change locations, not always predictably. Or as robbery marks or suspects.


Kymmes and his henchmen decide to split up and patrol the market individually, looking for any signs of nefarious activity. They’re particularly keen to catch pickpockets and cutpurses, not only because of the good rewards on offer but also because they can pocket any loot the thief might have already made before handing him in to the guards.

Sulpicious and his pickpockets likewise work the area individually. Thark (in his usual disguise as a street sweeping slave) and Mahlia will hand-off any loot to Balyan, who in turn will act as a cut-out for Sulpicious. It’s their standard operating procedure.

As the game begins the members of each team are unaware of the identities of members of the other team. But keen observation, not to mention any overt action (eg causing a disturbance) will come into play as time passes.

Aulus Spiculus (and Evander) will take a leisurely stroll around the market before Spiculus goes into the Bacchic Revel for his special therapy. Once inside, Haroun al-Rashid cannot get at him. Al-Rashid is a pro, he’s not on a suicide mission, so he must strike when and where he can maximise his chances to complete the mission and successfully get away.

*************

The next photo shows the position after 1 turn, with the dramatis personae highlighted by coloured markers. Kymmes and his boys have blue. Sulpicious and his crew have yellow. Spiculus & his bodyguard (& nemesis) have red.


One of Kymmes’s henchmen (Luke) is within M of Sulpicious who is on a list of criminal suspects, but he’s too high status to simply arrest, so Luke cannot just grab him. But he can keep an eye on him. Or at least try to, as Sulpicious is a master of fading into a crowd (has “Grey” special ability, as do all his crew members). 

After 3 turns the game is off to only a slow start with no contingent triggers - for example any of the thief-takers activating on a double (2+ dice the same) will betray their identity by mis-identifying a cutpurse and causing a stir in the crowd. The thieves havn’t yet tried any robberies. Haroun Al-Rashid is discreetly shadowing Sulpicious but hasn’t yet made a move.


On turn 4 Solon, the thief-taker henchman, thought he recognised a known cutpurse and moved in to apprehend her. A few nearby civilians intervened (folks who could vouch for the victim) and it seemed argy-bargy would develop. Thark (one of the real thieves) joined in. Solon was forced to relinquish his target and back off in the face of this adamant opposition. And he has blown his cover.


Thark then successfully lifted the purse of one of the civilians, and moved off (faded to grey). 

Elsewhere, Mahlia also lifted a purse. But her usual sense of timing, and luck, momentarily deserted her as she was spotted by Kymmes, and a hue and cry was taken up by another civilian who was quick on the uptake. But she recovered well, fading into the crowd and handing off the purse to Balyan who was posing as an innocent bystander not too far away. 


A couple of turns later, Aulus Spiculus stopped at the carpet shop to admire the wares and place an order for a conspicuously expensive rug for his villa (contingent event). His bodyguard Evander remained a short distance away but was showing signs of boredom and inattention (contingent event).

This was what al-Rashid had been waiting for. Not only was the target stationary and distracted, but there was a good getaway route available. As a lone wolf assassin he is Q2 (highly motivated and excellent situational awareness). He activated with a triple success, and made his move. 1. Move skulkily yet innocently into contact, as if he is just another customer. 2. Plunge his long dagger into Spiculus’s lower back. Using an ambush bonus he succeeds, though Spiculus was a harder target than expected, maybe wearing some king of armour under his clothes (al-Rashid made the success score but only just). 3. Run for it. The escape distance (off the table edge into the Shambles) is less than 1L. Evander totally failed his chance to spot the imminent danger and intervene, only giving chase when it was far too late.


The rug shop owner is wringing his hands at the lost sale. But naturally the commotion attracted a large crowd, as news that Spiculus had been murdered in broad daylight spread quickly. 

At this point I telescoped a few turns to speed up the action. Most of the folks in the market have converged on the scene of the crime. Either from morbid interest or to rejoice at the death of the hated money-lender.

Naturally the thieves and thief-takers are among the gathering crowd. Kymmes was quite close by, but he realises what an opportunity this could be to spot thievery, and hangs back on the fringe of the crowd, in surveillance mode. His henchmen (Luke and Solon) were at the far end of the market but are coming up as fast as they can. Balyan is also on the fringe of the crowd, but Suspicious hangs back. Tharg and Mahlia both spring into action: Tharg robs the Indian Rope Trick collection box, Mahlia picks a pocket quite close to Kymmes and gets away without being spotted. 


Whistles blowing in the distance indicate a Guard patrol is on the way. The crowd begins to disperse. No-one wants to be nearby when the guards arrive, for risk of being arrested for “looking suspicious” or whatever. 

So far Kymmes and his henchmen havn’t identified, let alone caught, any thieves. It’s looking like a waste of a morning’s work. But then, right under his nose, Mahlia picks another pocket, and he spots her doing it. He gives chase, as does the mark. Mahlia runs for cover, but the men are too close behind and nab her.


*************

At this point the morning’s business comes to an end. Kymmes’s henchmen will be along soon and Mahlia will be marched off to the basilica for (presumably) interrogation and summary judgement. It doesn’t look good for her. Only 1 reward for the morning, but it’s better than nothing, and there is the loot from her two earlier successes, which she hadn’t yet handed off, as a bonus.

Sulpicious and the other crew members will make their way back to their safe house, pick up their stuff, and relocate before Mahlia is forced to talk. Later they can count their earnings for the morning, which also aren’t much as some was still on Mahlia when she was caught. 

There is general rejoicing at the fate of Aulus Spiculus. Those of the hoi polloi who owe him money will be hoping the debts are forgotten, which seems possible as he has no obvious heir. Those who pass as high society in Pattayavium won’t miss his boorish presence at the baths and symposia. Evander the bodyguard wasn’t seen again, unsurprisingly.

Cheers from Pattayavium!

Sunday 22 October 2023

Mark VI Érineach Preservers

The first and last time I painted GW space marines was in 1993 - 30 years ago. They were 1992 mark VI 'beaky' marines - the first sci-fi miniatures I ever painted. So when JB showed me his 2022 Horus Heresy army recently, I mumbled something about all the nostalgic feels. JB then generously pushed a spare sprue into my hands. He's like that!

So two weeks later, here is my second ever attempt at painting the nostalgic beaky bastards. I'm rather pleased with the result. I've no intention of painting a 30/40K army, but these gents will be used for something sometime. Most likely as a preservers warband for This is Not a Test.

Nicknamed the Ã‰rineach Preservers, they have an Irish bent and carry letter identifiers rather than having names panted on bases like my other TNT crews. In TNT, the barter script for a starter warband of elites all wearing power armour would only allow for three models. Powerful I'm sure, but unlikely to win many scenarios!

The taoiseach with power sword and rocking attitude.


Good craic, giving the universal sign for "pew pew", he carries a brace of pistols but we can imagineer an weapon into thos hands!



Saturday 21 October 2023

Paleao Diet: Return of the Herds

The tribe stared with tired eyes, their muscles tight through lack recent hunts. After what seemed like many moons, the herds had started to return to the parched landscape that used to be so fruitful.

Six hunters, three spears, an axe, a bow, and a fire-starter (and one hound), split up to surround the beasts. They hoped to bring down enough game feed their struggling people - both mammoths, or just three of the goats would be enough. But they were not the only hunters in the area. A lone wolf watched warily from one of the thickets, waiting to steal away a feed when the opportunity arose.

As the fire-starter drove the goats towards the other hunters, one of the caprids was killed, drawing out the predatory wolf. A fierce struggle between man and monster followed in which, the wolf was slain but not without much spillage of man-blood. Thankfully, the axe-armed hunter had acquired a reputation as a healer and patched his wounded colleague before the wound went septic.

With the predator removed, the other hunters then swiftly fell upon all the remaining goats, culling the entire herd. Both the hound and a another hunter suffered wounds being caught up in stampedes. One of the spear-armed hunters tried his luck against a mammoth but, after getting roughed up, decided that a full belly of goat was better than being spitted on a mammoth tusk, and the hunt was called off.

This was a very enjoyable return to Palaeo Diet: Eat or Be Eaten for me, a refresher for Jim, and an introduction for Andrew. The different core mechanics were demonstrated, dice were rolled, the world was put to rights, and meat came back on the menu! What better way to while away a wild and wet evening?

Wednesday 18 October 2023

The Butterfly Effect: Palaeo Diet Pulp with the Chronographic Society (3/3)

The adventure concludes … (if you missed part 1, click HERE, or part 2, click HERE)

Some months later … the information provided by the Mayan inscription (as photographed and drawn by expedition members in the Amazon) has been instrumental in defeating the plans of some bad actors, using Dr Muller’s research, to control the weather. Details need not concern us now. But professor Logarithm continued to puzzle over the rest of the inscription, especially some rows of glyphs at the bottom.

Then late last month he addressed a meeting of the Society to announce his findings. 
The bottom of the inscription although incomplete describes the journey of the Heavenly Twins (Mayan semi-divine humans, a bit like Hercules or Maui) into the abode of the Gods, where they performed valorous deeds but eventually were killed by the jealous deities.

So far it’s normal ethnological stuff. A lot of cultures have legends like this. But then, the inscription seems to state that the gateway or portal they used - which was created by the goddess Itzpapalotl (“Obsidian Butterfly”) atop the Great Pyramid of Nongprue - closed after them but will re-open on [complex Mayan date calculation]. At which time the Gods would  … [remainder of the inscription missing].

The reaction from the audience at first was underwhelming. Very interesting. Adds greatly to our understanding of MesoAmerican psychology. Etc etc. Then a hand went up and old Admiral Fisher spoke. “That date falls about six weeks from now, if I’m not mistaken. Winston and I think a precautionary response would be appropriate.”

And the rest is history, although until now found only in the annals of the Chronographic Society.

*************

The Heavenly Twins
The adventuring party travelled to the ruined Mayan city of Nongprue, in San Theodoros, “just to see”. After delays caused by a local coup d’etat (General Alcazar has once again been ousted by General Tapioca), they arrived at Nongprue, deep in the jungle, a few days after the estimated date in the inscription.

Here’s a high level view of the ruined city, with the relatively intact Great Pyramid in the centre. All seems quiet. In fact very quiet. No birds singing for example. And their local guides and porters will not stay, though the small military escort insisted on by the San Theodoran government is made of sterner stuff.


The adventurers confer. They’ll split into teams of two and explore, looking for signs of unusual activity. Tintin, Haddock & Snowy get the job of climbing the pyramid so they can survey the area from above, and examine the stela on top, which presumably is the portal. Chang and the professor will go clockwise around the site, and Castafiore & Irma anticlockwise, meeting up on the far side. The soldiers (commanded by Lt Diego Rivera) will guard the camp.

Each time an adventurer (not counting Snowy as he’s not human) or a soldier outside the camp fails an activation dice, a beast* (vengeful demon sent by the old gods) may appear 1L from the human who failed. This is additional to any “normal” beast reaction caused by the activation fail. * Roll 1D6 for each beast appearance. On ‘1,2,3’ no beast apoears. On ‘4 it’s a Swarm. On ‘5 it’s a Lesser Mummy. On ‘6’ it’s a Greater Mummy but there may be only 1 Greater Mummy in play at a time.

To stop the arrival of demons the stela portal atop the Great Pyramid must be destroyed. This can only be done by an adventurer climbing up (at skulking pace, taking 2 actions), and once at the top declaring an attack and then activating with at least 13 PIPs across 3 activation dice. Any activation fail in this task means the adventurer is wounded and returned to the bottom of the pyramid. Piece of cake. But at first the adventurers don’t join the dots. First they’ll have to receive some exposure to the power of the portal.

Turn 1
The reconnaissance teams set off. Castafiore immediately encountered a swarm (all today’s swarms are army ants). She and Irma closed to just within 1M for a closer look. Chang encountered a Mummy (all are Lesser unless stated otherwise) . He shot at it but missed and the mummy summoned another swarm. Then Tintin triple-failed his activation, and two mummies appeared including a Greater Mummy. Today’s Mummies are zombified Mayan warriors. So things are looking weird and dangerous already.


Turn 2
Castafiore shoots at the swarm facing her and Irma, and disperses it. Chang’s swarm moves into contact with him, hindering his activations, but he manages to evade it by falling back towards the camp. Logarithm prudently also ducks back. Haddock fails an activation and the nearest Mummy reacts by moving away. Haddock then skulks towards the Greater Mummy. Tintin and Sniwy both get triple-success activations. Tintin skulks forward and shoots at the Greater Mummy, but misses. The G Mummy roars (threat display presumably) but Tintin survives his morale roll and stands his ground. Snowy runs ahead and attacks the G Mummy, causing it 2 wounds, one of which turned out to be “well-placed”, so the Greater Mummy is destroyed.

Turn 3
Castafiore & Irma finally get to move out, with no further interruptions. Chang takes an aimed shot at the swarm annoying him and disperses it. The remaining mummies are too far away to react. Logarithm skulks forwards. Tintin gets a double activation failure and 2 more swarms appear. Haddock OTOH gets a triple success and dog-legs to the R, past his friend’s train wreck, and is at the foot of the Pyramid on the E side, ready to begin his ascent.


The photo above shows the end of turn 3. At lower L Lt. Rivera, in the camp, watches the slow progress of the adventurers and wonders if they will need military assistance. Also on the L, the airburst shows the swarm Chang has dispersed, with Logarithm skulking next to it. Beyond the ex-swarm is a Mummy. In the C Snowy is still growling at the fallen Great Mummy, and Tintin is nearby. Another mummy, and 2 swarms, are at the foot of the pyramid in front of Tintin. Over on the R Castafiore & Irma are making their way around the E face of the pyramid. Haddock is out of sight behind the vegetation clump with yellow berries.

Turn 4
Irma manages to call another Mummy into action. Castafiore deals with it by moving within range and unleashing her special weapon. She sings a few bars of her signature tune (the “Jewel Song” from the opera “Faust”, by Gounod). The Mummy fails three rolls against its resilience and moves away 3S. It ended up outside the perimeter wall, and was not seen again. Meanwhile Tintin finds he is just within M of the closest Mummy. He shoots at it and misses. The Mummy lunges towards him, and both nearby swarms also close in. Snowy is then attacked by the Mummy, each receives a wound from the other. Haddock reaches the top of the pyramid. Castafiore & Irma continue to explore.

Turn 5.
Chang takes an aimed shot at the Mummy in front of him. It’s a well-placed hit and the  Mummy is dropped. Logarithm then moves forward to reach the W edge of the pyramid.  Tintin fails all activation dice, because of the annoying effect of the swarms. The Mummy attacking Snowy roars, and Tintin skulks 2S away. Snowy takes this in stride and renews his fight with the Mummy, and shreds it.

Castafiore & Irma have seen Haddock atop the pyramid, and can see Chang and the professor with only a non-functioning Mummy visible. So they decide to climb the pyramid too, and both succeed.


In the above photo, Haddock Castafiore & Irma are on top of the pyramid admiring the views. Chang is at bottom L, looking at the Mummy he just shot. Logarithm is at the bottom L corner of the Pyramid. In the C Snowy is sniffing the Mummy he has just deactivated, and the nearby two swarms are just hanging about. Tintin is cowering at lower R in the shelter of the perimeter wall.

Turn 6
It’s time to see if the adventurers can destroy the portal, by pushing the stela over the edge of the pyramid. It’s pretty clearly the source of the Mummies (tho the Swarms could just be local army ants), and who knows what it could generate in the future if not closed down. 

Haddock tries first, but cannot move it. There is a flash of blue light, and he takes a sound and is instantly transported to the foot of the pyramid. Irma and Castafiore decide to work together (contingent plot point) so jointly roll 3 activation dice and add +2 to their score. They roll enough (3D6 = 12 + 2 = 13 minimum) and manage to push the stela over the edge. 

As it hits the ground and breaks into pieces, the Mummies (tho all on the table are already OOA) and Swarms (very much alive and annoying) all instantly vanish. Haddock and Snowy stay wounded though. But I’m sure Chang will be able to patch them up.

Here’s a final photo (which I forgot to number) as everyone gathers around to look at the fallen stela. Maybe it will be possible to take some chunks back to the San Theodoros Muséum in Los Dopicos?


*************

Cheers from Pattaya
Mark

Tuesday 17 October 2023

The Butterfly Effect: Palaeo Diet Pulp with the Chronographic Society (2/3)


The adventure continues … (if you missed part 1, click HERE)

Safely back at Marlinspike Hall, Professor Logarithm reveals that Dr Muller is working on advanced chaos theory that would enable him to control the weather. Fortunately he hasn’t yet been able to capture a chaos butterfly (L. inaestimabile), the wingbeat patterns of which are critical to success. The species is incredibly rare and apparently lives only in the most remote part of the Amazon basin. But if Logarithm can get one first, he’s sure he can create a counter-weapon that would negate Muller’s plans.

A month later our adventurers disembark at Manaus, a thousand miles inland on the Amazon, and take canoes deeper into the interior, to where the only known example of the chaos butterfly (in the Natural History Museum, and unfortunately long deceased) was collected by the legendary Alfred Russell Wallace (a founding member of the Chronographic Society) over eighty years ago.

*************

Pursuing the Chaos butterfly
Here we see the expedition ready to depart upriver just after sunrise, with the addition of some native bearers and guides. Their destination is the territory of the fierce head-hunting Rumbaba Indians, not traversed by outsiders (at least, not any that have returned) since Wallace’s time.


Some time later, and the expedition has arrived at what seems to be the place where Wallace acquired his butterfly specimen. The professor has been studying Wallace’s original field notes, but Wallace as usual had malaria and jungle fever so who knows. The next photo shows the adventurers disembarking along the riverbank. The Indian village in the centre shows signs of life but shortly will be deserted. The ancient ruins at top R look intriguing, but that’s not why the Chronographics are here.


The native bearers and guides will be left behind to look after the canoes and supplies. Each expedition member will carry a small load in their rucksack (food and water, quinine, compass, butterfly trapping equipment, and trinkets to give any Indians they might encounter). They’ll work in teams of two people. Each terrain piece must be searched, which takes 4 person/actions regardless of size. If 3/4 of those rolls are 6, they have found and trapped a butterfly. The professor gets +1 for his special expertise. After 4 rolls and no luck, the terrain piece does not contain a butterfly, it’s no use to keep looking. The first failed activation in any terrain piece summons a creature (wait and see) or some Rumbaba Indians. If it’s Indians, and their first reaction roll is non-threatening, they have accepted the trinkets and are removed from play. Clear?  OK let’s make a start.

Turn 1
Tintin & Haddock(& Snowy) formed one team, and moved into the left jungle patch of the three nearest the landing site. They didn’t see any butterflies, but a Giant Ground Sloth (Giant Grazer) turned out to be peacefully minding its own business in the patch.

Logarithm & Chang formed the next team and took the central patch of jungle. Again no butterfly, but a Terror Bird (Pack Predator) is in there.

Castafiore & Irma took the right-most patch. Again no butterfly, but they have encountered two Rumbaba Indians. 

Selective deforestation has been employed to make the positions easier to see. The yellow dice next to the terrain items indicate they do not contain a butterfly.


Turn 2
Tintin & Haddock kept moving, out of their first patch and towards the next, tiptoeing around the placid sloth. But Snowy got lost and started to howl. The sloth ignored this and continued its siesta, but the Terror bird,  just within 1L, got alarmed and moved away. 

The Professor also kept moving forward, to the deserted Indian village, helped by the Terror bird having moved away. But Chang spooked the Indians in the next patch, who were, by a whisker, the closest ‘beasts’. They are Outfolk Hunters for this game.  One of them shot an arrow at Castafiore (pelted) and the other attacked Irma, but both reactions failed to cause any wounds.

The ladies then got to activate. Irma provoked another attack, but the Rumbaba rolled a ‘1’ so suffered a wound himself as Irma shot him with her pistol. The noise of the shot provoked the Indian to run away (alarmed) but the other Indian attacked Castafiore, and failed to wound her. Terrible dice rollers these Rumbabas. Castafiore then successfully double-activated so gave the Indian attacking her both barrels, blowing him to pieces. This gunshot (it counts as only one) caused the first wounded Indian to return to the attack, this time he wounded Irma.


Turn 3
A much less eventful turn. Tintin Haddock & Snowy moved up to the next patch ready to search it next time. An activation failure on the way caused the Giant Sloth to move away. Chang and the Professor reached the village and found it contained no butterflies. Irma disposed of the Indian attacking her, and she and Castafiore reached the swamp, ready to search it next time.

Turn 4
Tintin and his companions moved into the new patch but failed to search it as they encountered two Indians who uttered chilling war cries (howled)  momentarily unnerving our adventurers. Tintin & Haddock stood their ground but Snowy ran away 1M.

The professor and Chang moved through the village to the patch beyond, though Chang was delayed because he spotted some medicinal plants and paused to collect them. He failed an activation and the nearest beast, the Terror bird, spotted that Irma was wounded and began to stalk her (predate reaction).

Castafiore & Irma searched the swamp, no butterflies. But they disturbed a Caiman (pack predator which cannot leave the swamp) which attacked Castafiore but failed to wound her.

Turn 5
Tintin and Haddock activated with one failure, and one of the Indians shot at them without success. The adventurers shot back, downing one of the Indians and wounding the other, who fled at the death of his companion. 

Chang and the professor moved into their new jungle patch but an activation failure saw another pair of Indians appear. Because these appeared within 1S of the adventurers, they reacted right away, one moving away and the other fleeing, both off the table.

Castafiore failed an activation too, and the Caiman attacked her again, but failed again. Castafiore used her two successes to step back out of the swamp and shoot (only 1 barrel) at the Terror bird, wounding it. It moved off, alarmed. Irma then failed an activation, and was attacked by the Caiman, which somehow again failed. 

Turn 6
Tintin and Haddock are now at the ancient ruins, ready to search them for the elusive butterfly. Snowy is off chasing the Terror bird after a couple of double failures. The wounded Indian flees off table as the adventurers get close. Chang and the professor search their jungle patch, another disappointment. Irma and Castafiore move to their next patch. Irma rolls 2/3 fails, but the nearest beast is the Caiman which cannot leave the swamp, so all good.


The photo above is a high level view of the position at the end of turn 6. Yellow dice mark terrain that has been searched without success. The red dice mark the positions of search parties : L-R Tintin & Haddock; Chang & Logarithm; Castafiore & Irma. Snowy is by the white ‘5’ dice.

Turn 7
Tintin and Haddock search the ancient ruins. They seem to be Mayan, which these two adventurers know a lot about since their previous adventure in South America (see Prisoners of the Sun, Feb 2022). A  plot point intrudes here: following some contingency rolls it emerges that Tintin might be able to discover a Mayan inscription in the ruins, that explains the  Chaos Theory principle that the butterfly was supposed to solve. But to do so he and Haddock have the usual 4 activation between them, to roll at least 3 x 5+

Here is the moment when Tintin recognises the inscription.


He fires three shots into the air, the pre-arranged signal of success (allowed as a free action). 

Chang and the professor lope over to join Tintin & Haddock, and Snowy comes running too. Way across the field, Castafiore and Irma have the wounded Terror bird between them and the others. Castafiore brings it down, and the gunshot has no effect as only the  Caiman can hear it. The ladies decide to start back for the canoes and meet the chaps there.

*************

I think that’s long enough for this part of the adventure. The only beast in play who can possibly interfere with the successful re-embarkation is the Giant Sloth, the first to be revealed, who is still hanging around near the canoes. So one of the native Guides guarding the canoes shot at it, and it moved away (off table) in alarm. End of problem.

If the adventurers stick to the open spaces between the jungle patches they’ll be OK as no more beasts or Indians will appear. Then the expedition can paddle back down river to Manaus.