Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Safety First!


This is a cautionary tale - children, do not try this at home...

In the quiet yet disconcertingly dangerous town of Pifflebury, various Items of interest, curiosity, sentimental and maybe even actual value have somehow been lost. It is up to the children of the town to put things right. So, under the guiding hand of the Green Cross Man, Tony, Charley the Cat and the sensible children of the Tufty Club have set out to recover these valuables and bring them home to their rightful owners. Others have heard of this too, though. The troublemakers who call themselves the Apaches, neglected by Joe and Petunia and urged on by Billy Blunders (who actually prefers to be called Noddy), are being influenced by the Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water to thwart the do-gooders, put the valuables to much better use, and show everyone just how dangerous 70s suburban Britain really is.

This is the narrative of an episode of 7TV2 played using the Scarred for Life Programme Guide. The episode played is a home-made one I have called Lost and Found, which incorporates a few minor rules changes and additions, as well as rules for hazardous terrain types, bespoke Objective cards and new Gadget cards, all included for fun and playability. If you're interested, you can download a copy of the episode guide here.

THE CASTS

The opposing casts are both taken from the Scarred for Life Programme Guide.

The Tufty Club
The Tufty Club:
The Green Cross Man (Star, 10pts)
Tufty the Squirrel (Co-Star, 5pts)
Charley the Cat (Co-Star, 5pts)
Tony (Co-Star, 5pts)
Morph, Dougal, Roobarb, Paddington, Willy Weasel and The Pink Panther - 6 x sensible children (Extras, 2pts)

The Apaches
The Apaches:
The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water (Star, 10pts)
Joe (Co-Star, 4pts)
Petunia (Co-Star, 4pts)
Noddy - Billy Blunders (Co-Star, 5pts)
Mr Tickle, Horrid Henry, Barney, Pingu, Miffy and Peppa Pig - 6 x foolish children (Extras, 2pts)
Bonzo, a rabid dog (Extra, 2pts)

AND... ACTION!


Though the town of Pifflebury may look quiet and safe, danger lurks around every corner.


As the Green Cross Man watches traffic on the busy road, the Tufty club assemble beside the shops while Charley and Tony enter the farmer's field, keeping an eye out for livestock.


The Apaches deploy as a gang in some rough ground, the Spirit of Lonely Water at their side. Joe and Petunia have seen something interesting in the construction site across the road and are keen to investigate. Between these groups, Bonzo the rabid dog is considering his options.


The opposing casts advance on central Pifflebury.


The Apaches take the initiative and move forward. The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water sensibly ignores the open refrigerator that has been fly-tipped in the rough ground near him and advances in the general direction of the Park. Bonzo follows.  Noddy splits the Apaches into two groups, leading Henry, Pingu and Miffy into a nearby Mini and starting the engine. Mr Tickle and Barney take a longer but safer route across the busy roads toward the park, but Peppa is confused by the traffic and ends up stuck in the middle of the road.

Petunia leads the way across a road into the construction site, leaving Joe, who has temporarily forgotten his highway code, stuck crossing the road.


As the Tufty Club advance towards the park entrance near the zebra crossing, the Green Cross Man reaches the sweet shop quickly and recovers the first of the missing items - a Set of Car Keys. He immediately takes the controls of the red Morris Traveller parked by the shops. In the farmer's field Tony recovers a second item. This is the Box of Fireworks that everyone has been talking about. Tony likes fireworks, and is very excited, but watching from behind, Charley is meowing that he is a lot less comfortable with the situation.


The Spirit reaches the Lake and seeing something glinting back the light, leans in and recovers... a lost half crown. With a sigh of disappointment he pockets the coin in the depths of his black robe. Behind him, Bonzo is slow to keep up, hesitating dangerously while crossing the busy road.

Petunia has more luck in the Construction Site, where she finds a wallet containing a few notes, which she puts into her handbag with a smile. Just about enough for a nice new hat, she thinks.

Noddy swerves the car suddenly away from the kerb. Out of control, he speeds off down the road, just missing Joe who is forced back to the safety of the kerb he started from.

Tony is flattened by a rampaging herd of cattle
Unfortunately someone must have left a gate open, because as soon as he looks up from the colourful label on the box of fireworks Tony is unexpectedly trampled by a stampeding herd of cows. Charley meows in shock.


It's time to get out of the field. Charley leads Tony over the fence and safely across a pedestrian crossing as the Green Cross Man, at the wheel of the stationary Morris, waves them past. Willy Weasel heads off to the park on his own and Dougal towards the rubbish dump, where he has seen one of the other lost items. The rest of the Tufty Club, aware that their opponents are closing in on the last few uncontended objectives, head as quickly as they can in the direction of the railway line.


Now, it's a race against time to get to the items on the far side of the town, and for a change Noddy takes control of his vehicle properly, He drops everyone off near the electricity substation, leaving the objective on the railway line to Petunia. Unfortunately, Petunia turns out to have very little rail safety and gets much too close to a passing train. Oh dear! What a lot of blood!


Meanwhile, the Spirit decides to take direct action to delay the Tufty Club, closing in on them on an isolated section of pavement beside a zebra crossing. Behind, Mr Tickle jumps aboard a rubbish lorry carrying one of the missing items, leaving Barney, Bonzo and Peppa failing to cross busy roads in the distance.


Dougal enters the rubbish dump and recovers another missing item. Unfortunately, in doing so he attracts the unwanted attention of a wild rabid dog that starts to chase him. He beats a hasty retreat, scoffing all his jelly babies to give him a much needed energy boost and a bit more distance.


As Charley and Tony rush to his aid, Willy Weasel leaps onto the rubbish lorry and attacks Mr Tickle to take control of the item there. Below, the Tufty Club unwisely decide to gang up against the Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water. Two rather pathetic fights ensue.


Barney, flapping his tiny arms around and singing inanely to himself instead of concentrating on how to cross roads safely, is run over by a Mk2 Jaguar and has to take a trip to the hospital.


Meanwhile, outside the park, in the middle of the fight the Spirit spots a small and interesting bottle on the ground, and unwisely drinks its alcoholic contents. He falls over, weakened. Standing up immediately, he ignores the opportunistic attacks of his opponents, and focuses his attack on Tufty, who cannot escape his watery clutches. With the added boost of Lucozade (known to be an effective hangover cure), he smacks the squirrel hard and down he goes like roadkill.


Horrid Henry leaps over the fence into the electricity substation where he finds an abandoned catapult, while Noddy leads Miffy and Pingu up the railway embankment.


Just for a moment, things are looking marginally better for the Tufty Club, as the Spirit falls into a deep pool of water that somehow nobody noticed before, and is wounded and knocked down. But without Tufty, their morale is low and their attacks are too weak to keep up any momentum. 

But somehow things seemed bound to take a turn for the worse. Abruptly, Tony trips on the kerb edge and the box of fireworks he is holding explodes. Tony's hands and face are badly burned - but all that is left of poor Charley is the tip of his tail and a small cloud of slightly fishy-smelling smoke.


It's slippery on top of this rubbish lorry, thinks Willy Weasel, who suddenly falls over. The Spirit stands, attacking to no effect, and then Mr Tickle (who has got his timing completely wrong and should have acted first) uses his box of matches to set Willy Weasel on fire and then scatters marbles all over the place so that everyone in front of him falls over. Including the Spirit, who is starting to get fed up with all of this. Mr Tiocle completely fails to capitalise on this when attacking his prone, burning weasel opponent, but does at least take the opportunity to grab the item on the lorry, which (after all that effort) turns out to be nothing of any particular significance at all.


Noddy orders Miffy to get the item from the railway line, and she reluctantly obeys. She finds (and safely negotiates) a collection of old used needles, and then as the Apaches steal the scene, retires to safety along with Henry, Noddy and Pingu into a nearby commandeered rubbish lorry.


Too late, the Green Cross Man rushes to the aid of his pals, but despite their invulnerability the Spirit sees off the Pink Panther and Roobarb with little difficulty. Bonzo races to the aid of Mr Tickle, and Willy Weasel, who did at least manage to get the burning under control, is duly dispatched in turn. And to make matters even worse for the Tufty Club, Dougal (who completely forgot that he can automatically pass his first Mind test of the turn) is unexpectedly crushed to death beneath a tonne of falling bricks. As a token gesture, the Green Cross Man deals the final blow to the Spirit, who vanishes into oblivion.


Peppa Pig, who has failed to cross another road safely, is flattened under a rubbish lorry. But it is all too late, and The Tufty Club cast is axed.


In the last turn of the Apaches, Pingu is found to be carrying Foot and Mouth disease, and is taken away to be destroyed. In revenge, and as a final attempt to finish the do-gooders off, Noddy, Horrid Henry and Miffy gang up on the hapless Tony, as Mr Tickle sacrifices himself in the lake and the Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water rises from the water again.

The last dice roll of the game says it all, really...
Using all their remaining plot points, the Tufty Club attempt to resist the effects of the casting axe. But it seems that luck has abandoned them, and it is all too late anyway as the episode draws to a close to make way for the evening news. The forces of ill health and unsafety have demonstrated their case - 70s suburban Britain is a dangerous place indeed.

Be careful out there, children.


Sunday, 7 July 2019

Pulptastic!


Or

Captain Flash and Timmy the Dog's Misguided Polar Expedition to Belgium

The account below (which follows three perilous adventures during the above expedition, played out with much mayhem and laughter at Wargames Illustrated's 7TV Day IV: Pulptastic! Event, using the new 7TV2 Pulp rules) is taken directly from the journal of the leader of that expedition. No apology is made for any reference or use of language that may, in our more enlightened circumstances, seem inappropriate.

The Flash Expedition
The Cast:

Captain "Flash" Flashheart, (Intrepid Adventurer, Star), who due to a series of preposterous events, is now hopelessly lost somewhere on the way to Belgium via the south pole;
Timmy the Dog, (Lesser Animal Companion, Extra), loyal husky and Flash's best friend;
Allan Quartermain, (Big Game Hunter, Co-Star), who is hoping to find evidence of the existence of, and shoot, strange beasts such as abominable snowmen, dinosaurs, giant lobsters, or the mythical arctic apetopus of legend, or penguins;
Dr Dakanalis, a medical doctor (Extra);
An Officer of the SS Unsinkable II (Army Officer, Extra), leader of the shore party protecting the explorers; and
Three Marines (Army Privates, Extras) from the SS Unsinkable II, who are prepared for icy arctic temperatures, and therefore frequently extremely hot.

Chapter One: Darkest Africa

A great game against Mike Marshall's Mobius cast, made exceptional by the combination of the scenario objectives and the randomly selected Doomsday Device peril card.

From the Journal of Captain Flash

It is some weeks since the unanticipated disaster that befell the SS Unsinkable II and despite having now dried everything out, our polar expedition has been particularly challenging since we determined to continue on foot. Despite thorough planning we were not best prepared for making our way to the south pole, and Belgium beyond, via deepest Africa. As the jungles of the Belgian Congo became increasingly impenetrable we were soon forced to abandon the dog sleds and skis and continue with the barest essentials: basic supplies, a few cans of Timmy's favourite brand of pemmican, a bottle of sun cream, a small cocktail cabinet and, of course, the pianola that Quartermain so likes to play in the evenings. On the way, we came across some friendly natives who, despite not knowing the way to the real Belgium (which reminds me, I must have a word soon with Quartermain about his geography knowledge) advised us that some distance ahead there was a temple which contained something very valuable and evidently worth adventuring for, and apparently some foreign Johnny by the name of Doctor Mobius was already leading his own expedition there. So of course being British we couldn't let the Germans get there first and rapidly made haste in that direction. 

Advancing through the ruined city in the jungle
With faithful Timmy at my side, we fought our way through dense vegetation covering what appeared to be the remains of some ancient ruined city. There ahead of us was the temple. By Jove, I thought, we've beaten the Krauts to it! We could see various shiny glowing things lying around, and set out to take them as quickly as possible, despite the strange electrical humming emanating from each one of them. I picked one of them up without hesitation.

The Army advance, with Quartermain behind
On the right, Quartermain aimed for another such treasure and tried to work out how to pick it up, while the troops protected his flank.

Germans
Then, in the distance we saw the Germans. They were a strange-looking bunch. On one side, Doctor Mobius, unmistakable because of his evil mastermind looks and shock of white typical-mad-scientist hair, accompanied by a strange-looking and unfamiliar dog (German breed, no doubt) and a rather shabby-looking butler, who was totally ineffective, and we found out later was called Jarvis. Beside them, a rather butch German girl wearing an unusual armour/underwear combination, and a hunchback with bad teeth who went by the name of Igor and smelt of sauerkraut. Altogether rather terrifying. Out of shot, on the opposite side, a doctor and some sort of mechanical German were coming for us the long way round.

And sneaking about on the far right, in a rather fetching red body suit, a stunning young filly with particularly impressive equipment. Well, I thought, lucky for you, young lady, that I'm on the other side of the river, otherwise who knows what might have happened! Well, I do! Woof!

Woof!
Anyway. She let off a couple of shots at our brave boys and one of them dropped dead (no stamina, these young privates, you know). And then Maria (that was the name of the rather butch girl) was in hand to hand with the Army officer.

[deep voice] "Ja, mein name ist Maria"
We advanced, and Timmy, being a brave and rather clever dog, leapt up to the top of a wall where another of these glowing things was, and tried to make off with it. Tricky though that is for a dog (no hands to pick them up with, you understand). Well, in a jiffy the German dog (possibly some kind of dachshund, I think) popped up there too and there was a bit of a scrap, in which Timmy (despite being not particularly partial to bratwurst) took a big bite out of the hund.

"Woof!" ... "Vuff!"
The humming got suddenly louder and there was an almighty explosion of force from each of the glowing objects, which stunned many of those who were too close to them. The dogs fell over. The robot fell over. The red bombshell fell over. Quartermain fell over. Being used to enormous explosions, of course, I remained totally unaffected and approached the mad German scientist.

Confronting the master villain
"So, Doctor Mobius, we meet for the first time!" I announced, with some panache. And there was another explosion, which I of course ignored, as the robot fell over again. Timmy, this time, managed to stay on his feet, and leapt bravely at the defenceless stunned German dog which he unceremoniously dispatched.

Maria on the attack
Quartermain (who had by now put down the pianola) managed to stay standing too, and rushed to replace the captain (who had been beaten off by Maria's impressive right hook), while one of the privates (and the red bombshell) fell over again.

"Ich vant a hug!"
Not Quartermain's best decision, it turned out. Maria duly grabbed him and the private and gave them a big (typically German) hug. The kind of hug that crushes your ribs so much it makes you forget that you are allowed to make rolls to try and escape on subsequent turns.

The robot stands up
The robot stood up again and Doctor Mobius sneered at me. "Not sure I like what you've done to your hair," I quipped, cracking my whip for effect. And then, when I was distracted by the robot falling over again, he just ran away, grabbed one of the shiny things, and headed off home. No sport at all, these Germans!

Off the table we go
Timmy (lacking opposable thumbs, unable to pick up his own shiny thing) gave chase to the fleeing Doctor while the robot, who had got up again, followed. At this time my attention was on Igor (who had apparently already died but came back because nobody seemed to have noticed), who had come in range of my whip. One crack and he was tied up and far too close to me than any man should be. I assume that he was a man, anyway. The smell of sauerkraut was the biggest giveaway. Too slowly, the robot began to chase after Timmy, and I bravely retired with my own shiny thing and a smelly hunchback in tow to safety.

All was nearly over, now, but the enemy had one trick up their sleeve. In an attempt to deny us the satisfaction of having captured one of their number (in what has to be described as typically German spoilsport attitude) Igor activated one of his deadly exploding teeth, which fizzed a bit but had no appreciable effect. Probably gone off, maybe because of all that sauerkraut.

And so we held the enemy off, in a glorious British draw.

Chapter Two: At The Mountains of Madness

Another really fun game, this time on some exceptional terrain, an Antarctic base containing a dark Cthulhoid secret, constructed by Sam, who was seeking a polar-themed cast to face off against, hence the match-up. The single objective set for the scenario was to get three cast members, one of whom must be a star or co-star, into the control room. And... Action!

10/10 for attention to detail, Sam
From the Journal of Captain Flash

I don't know if anyone can truly appreciate how good it feels for a polar explorer to finally get out of deepest Africa and arrive in the Antarctic. Few can understand how much those oilskins chafe in the tropics. My privates know what I mean (and not just the three in the army!)

The Germans have arrived

A wider shot showing the whole table setup
Anyway, imagine my horror when we arrive in this underground polar bunker to find we're only just ahead of another bunch of Germans. Lord knows I can't help it if I'm attractive, but you'd think they would learn. So we find ourselves underground in some tunnels.

True to trope, the party decides to split up
Quartermain and the Army (who still haven't been able to tell me what they had to do to get away from the butch German woman) head off in one direction and do some exploring.

"Mr Quartermain, can you see anything down there?"
Timmy, the Doctor and I go off in the other direction, to find one of the Germans coming down the main stairs ahead of us. It's a woman with two pets: a large, very old and singularly indescribable Thing, and a horrific, small, non-Euclidean penguin. Terrifying.

"What's that, Timmy? You can smell Germans up ahead?"
She's got the jump on us and while she heads with her penguin towards the control room she leaves the Thing hiding in the shadows behind. And a few more Germans make their way down the stairs.

The Germans ignore us completely
Well, enough of this! I think, and take a pot shot at one of them, who duly falls over dead.

"That should get their attention!"
At about this time Quartermain does something useful for a change. Somehow he's found his way into the control room while nobody was looking, and he lurks there behind the door.

The cunning Mr Quartermain gets to the control room first
Timmy the dog bravely approaches the Thing, and then very quickly comes back towards me for a bit of rough and tumble. "What's up, old boy?" I ask, but I can tell by the strange red glow in his eyes and the saliva dripping from his jaws and the way he is trying to bite my head off that he has a bit of a problem.

Timmy, dominated by the Thing, attacks Flash, to no effect
Nothing a traditional British clout around the ears can't fix, though.

Confrontation in the control room
In the control room, Quartermain is approached by the German woman, who gives him the look. But Quartermain's not going to fall for her German charms. Partly because he's British, but mainly because in the evenings he just prefers playing the pianola. And then without any warning he is attacked by a small penguin with its devastating "peck/fall over" attack. And of course he falls over.

"I can tell you're a lady who likes it rough!"
I, in the meantime, with Timmy back on side, approach the Thing and whip it into submission. I've had plenty of practice at this sort of thing at Madame Frisky's in Paris and despite the size, age and general indescribability of the Thing I could tell she knew a good time too.

Quartermain fails to stand up.
Timmy ran past to give Quartermain a hand (a paw, at least). He'd tried to stand up again but the penguin had pecked him again and over he went, while back in the stair room I shot a couple of Germans to relieve the boredom.

"Let's see if you can knock over a real man!"
As Quartermain stood up and was pecked down again, and Timmy took up a defensive position in the control room, I calmly approached down the corridor, subdued Thing alongside, to face off this new German filly who was giving Quartermain such penguin trouble. I heard the Army officer bag another German behind me; didn't realise I'd missed one of them.

You know I probably ought to advise Quartermain that he might be better able to stand on the icy floor if he wasn't carrying that pianola.

Quartermain stood up and was again pecked down by the penguin as, swiftly deploying my weapon, I dispatched the girl without the least difficulty. Which left me one small step from entering the control room to claim victory....

Victory is but one small step away...
The screen goes black. After a short pause, some fateful letters in white capitals appear:

WE APOLOGISE FOR THE FAULT IN TRANSMISSION. NORMAL SERVICE WILL RESUME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. IN THE MEANTIME, HERE IS SOME RATHER INANE BUT IN OUR OPINION INOFFENSIVE MUSIC.

When the TV returns, the six-o'clock news has started. Apparently a German is doing very well in the tennis. There is no mention of how the TV show ended (but we all know it was because of that fateful Cliffhanger Card...)

Chapter Three: Belgium

After a long story of increasingly unlikely and unexplained events, Flash's expedition find themselves  approaching the Museum of Natural History in Brussels, Belgium, equipped with explosives with which to destroy a doomsday device under the protection of Matt Spooner's mob of Chicago gangsters. It all makes sense, honest.

From the Journal of Captain Flash

At last, we have arrived in Belgium, and I have revealed the secret mission behind all of our adventuring to the men. I admit it did surprise them a little, especially when I explained that the doomsday weapon is an oversized triceratops. I knew they wouldn't understand.

Le musee
Anyway, with British resolve, they all got on with their jobs as usual. This time, Quartermain was a lot better prepared after being convinced to leave the pianola in Antarctica. We'd learned from some local natives that the manholes in the cobbled street outside the building led to the underground chambers where the doomsday weapon had ben assembled, so managed to avoid all the trouble of using our appalling French to attempt to buy tickets to get into the museum.

With absolutely no idea where the tunnels beneath the manholes would lead us, the Army unit took the one on the right and Timmy, Quartermain, the Doctor and I took the one on the left.

In the chambers beneath the museum
The army appeared suddenly and duly opened fire on two surprised gangsters who were dispatched with unusual efficiency. 

Team Flash arrives, under enemy fire
We arrived in a more open area to find ourselves being shot at, and one of the cheeky blighters winged me. I backed off to one side so the Doctor could fix me up while Timmy shot off like a dog and dispatched the gangster while Quartermain, who hadn't fallen over yet, turned and shot the other one at point blank range with his elephant gun. They're going to need to redecorate.

With unexpected military precision, the Army chaps burst into the adjacent chamber where the mob boss and one of his men were sitting at a large and rather flimsy looking table. "What the? Whos are yous boys?" the mob boss spluttered between chews of his cigar, as the three privates each in turn rolled a grenade across the table toward their enemy (who, I must point out, for a pleasant change turned out not to be German). 

It is incredible how much protection a flimsy wooden table can provide in these situations. We had to steal the scene and (saving some money by using stock footage) chuck in another three grenades to dispatch both of them in the end.

A remarkably durable table
The action was so fast there wasn't time to take enough photographs. But the last four mobsters grouped themselves close together at the end of the corridor to stop our final advance towards the triceratops.

As the Army moved into the corridor, the gangsters realised that they had positioned three of their number close enough together to be hit by one grenade. Sometimes it is more satisfying to be wrong. One of the gangsters managed to get away as a single grenade exploded, leaving two defenders present.

A massive triceratops
With a clear path to the oversized dinosaur (and my goodness it was a big one) Timmy and I rushed through to place the charges. 

I'd just like at this point to note that it really is a wonder of American/Belgian ingenuity that they got the triceratops in this small room. It clearly does not fit through the door and unless there is a way to lift the museum off I doubt if you could get it in through the roof. it is a good job these rooms have such high ceilings. Which means that either (1) it was hatched here - which seems extremely unlikely as there's no way that much triceratops food could be brought into a museum without some Belgian detective or reporter suspecting something unusual was going on or (2) it's an animatronic triceratops built by someone who doesn't appreciate scale plans. This seems more believable, but I wonder at how effective such a doomsday weapon it would be, really. Being that it is stuck in a room under a museum in Belgium. 

Anyway, back to the adventure. 

"It's just you and me now, Floyd. And a giant triceratops."
We were very lucky - although the gangsters were axed, with a roll of a six the action continued into the Finale. Sprayed with machine-gun bullets (which all seemed to hit me rather than Timmy), we duly set our charges off and the room was filled with exploding dinosaur bits. Hurrah!

End Credits

Massive appreciation and thanks to Wayne for organising and to Wargames Foundry for hosting the day, which I understand was the largest 7TV event ever. Thanks also to the Edge Hill team who came along to watch, advise and enjoy the games, and of course Karl without whom this game would not exist at all; and of course also to all the players - quite honestly the friendliest and best bunch of gamers I have ever had the joy to be part of. So much fun.