The Last Visit to Tanganyka…A Pulp Alley Experiment

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The Hedwig von Wissmann

Last August I was disappointed with how the game went, and in fact, often have been.  The rules I was using just didn’t seem to work with these tiny vessels.  they were also really meant for the period just prior to my conflict.

Recently I have also been enjoying Pulp Alley as a bit of a diversion from my more serious wargaming.  Perhaps it might be a better fit?  So I decided to bring out the Mimi and Fifi one more time…

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the Hedwig and the Kingani

Pulp Alley isn’t really built for this sort of thing.     Rather than being a game of military simulation, it is really meant more for recreating the derring-do of intrepid adventures that filled the pulp pages in the thirties.  the game is amazingly flexible however so I thought it just might work.  To do this I relied upon the original rulebook of course, but also the Pulp Vehicle book and the new Pulp Leagues which gives some advice I using the rules in alternate Pulp periods and settings.

I decided to make each boat’s crew an individual league which are basically the teams or gangs that each player controls in a game.  I used four boats, two for each the German and British navies.

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Toutou Closes with the enemy

Guns are all pretty abstract in Pulp Alley.  This is true of the small arms usually used in the games as well as the larger pieces that arm vessels.  With no real guideline on how to apply the rules for light, medium or heavy guns, I decided instead to look at the ship’s Weapons  and figure out how to represent the differences between them.  I was basically only dealing with four different guns.  The Kingani had the largest, a six-pounder mounted on her foredeck.  The Hedwig was armed with a 3 pounder on her bow and a 37 mm Autocannon on the fantail.  The Mimi and the Toutou both on the other hand were armed with 3 pounders on the front and Vickers machine guns on the stern.

Due to how these weapons work in Pulp Alley I didn’t need to make a real differentiation between the Automatic weapons and the others.  What I did was to call the machine guns light, the 37mm autocannon and the 3pdrs medium and the 6 pdr heavy.  I also made the 3pdrs on the British ships advanced which reduces the number of crew needed to man them.  I did this mostly to keep the crews at the number they operated with.  In a somewhat reverse fashion I gave the Hedwig simple crew characters.  these are low lever characters which come with a gun with no cost.  This allowed me to increase the number of men available on that larger ship.

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The Hedwig 3pdr crew loses a man

Due to a lack of forethought I had no perilous area. This could have been easily resolved by designating shoal or reef areas, or possibly locations where other navigational hazards by be found (sunken vessels for instance). The problem was by the time I though of this it was too late to make anyway to mark these areas.   I did designate all of the water as an Extreme Peril for any sailors who might find themselves overboard.  I also decided to create a perilous area anywhere a vessel might sink, representing the sunken hulk .  I did already have markers for this wreckage but it didn’t matter as no ship was ever sunk.

I also decided to just forget about Plot Points.  These are the goals and objectives of the normal Pulp Alley game.  They represent the goals or clues for the adventures to find to drive the course of their adventure.  This really being just a historic combat game I gave them a miss.  This was to have dire effects on the game!

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A German Sailor is knocked Back right of the Kingani!

I left the ships unarmored except for the Kingani.  These were not fighting vessels but rather simple boats converted for their wartime use.  The only exception was the Kingani.  The gun of the Kingani was armored which in fact caused it to be taken in the historical battle.  A round lodged into its gun shield and then exploded killing most of its crew and its Captain.  I gave the Kingani one point of armor and a Glacis which added its armor by 1 to the front.

Oddly enough in the game, an incredibly lucky British shot did take out the gun and most of the Kingani’s crew, mush as happened historically.

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Kingani runs out of steam trying to ram the Toutou which by this point was dead in the water

The game turned out to be a British victory, which was partly because of a mistake with the fortune cards.  The British were incredibly lucky with their cards.  They kept getting very useful and powerful cards.  The Germans, on the other hand, found their cards mostly useless.  Some of that was because in this scenario they simply did not apply.  Many of theirs relied upon plot point challenges and we weren’t using plot points!  Or perilous areas that didn’t really exist.  We did notice that early on, And  I instructed the players that any card the received that seemed unplayable in this version of the game.  On was replaced but I think the offer was forgotten after that.  If I was to play this again I would either pull those cards from the deck or preferably include at least the perilous areas.  I don’t, however, intend to play this scenario again.  I might, however, rename the vessels and use them in a game more fitting to these rules.  Maybe a raid with items hidden in the bigger boat…..

Until next time…Cheers….

One thought on “The Last Visit to Tanganyka…A Pulp Alley Experiment

  1. One idea we have used for including “plot points” in scenarios like this are to shuffle 5 Blank Fortune cards into the deck. When a player draws one of these cards, they can have their Leader attempt a “tactical challenge” against the nearest enemy (ship) – with some suitable reward for passes. In this way, the plot points don’t represent a specific thing/spot. Instead, they represent what I call “moments that matter”.

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