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Saturday 6 April 2024

Getting the Bird

In 2024, just off Wilshire Boulevard, in Los Angeles you can visit the La Bria tar pits. The tar pits trapped many prehistoric animals whose remains have been carefully examined over the last hundred years or so. To the north west of the tar pits is the San Fernando Valley, currently home to a sub species of Homo Sapiens called the Valley Girls, at least according to Frank Zapa. Nine thousand or so, years ago, it was home to the Valley Tribe. They were a long limbed, handsome tribe, clean in their habits, tanned from the long hours of hunting and gathering, a fine looking people, but they were troubled.

The world was changing for the Valley Tribe, of course they only had the stories and chanted songs of the tribal Shaman to inform them of their history. Similarly he predicted wild prophesies of a bleak future if they didn’t succumb to his teachings, but it did seem as if the large animals were less plentiful now and their world was getting warmer.

It was a time, thousands of years after the height or should that be the depth of the last ice age and global warming was in full swing. The changing climate meant that a large body mass wasn’t as attractive an evolutionary proposition as it had once been. Consequently there was more competition from other tribes chasing the dwindling numbers of these big meals on four legs as they became harder to find.

Their main competition was from the Ulrug Clan, who were based in what would become down town Los Angeles, colloquially known as Skid Row. They were moving into the Valley Tribes territory and this infringement into their hunting grounds couldn’t be allowed.

The Ulrug’s they were a low, mean looking, bunch of thieves, squat, unwashed and primordial. Not the sort of people you would invite round on a Friday night to share Mammoth steak and your finest fermented berries.

Yes, I know they didn’t have dinner parties 9,000 years ago but you know what I mean, they would slurp their wine, spill food on your best carpet and leer at your daughter.

Before the formation of banks and financial institutions, to take someone’s land, you had to persuade them to leave, or dispossess them by force and bury them in the ground. The Ulrug clan planned to do the later, although sometimes they had been known to gnaw on an enemies bones first, and so burial might be their last resort. To be honest, cannibalism was the simpler choice and the Ulrug’s were simple people and here we can see them moving forward through the open countryside that the Valley People call their home.

Although on reflection, the Valley Tribe might not yet, have developed the concept of home, but I guess we’ll never know.

The Valley tribe are not going to give up their hunting grounds without a fight and here you can see them adopting what would, thousands of years later, become the typical Zulu Impi’s formation, head, horns and loins.

Yes I know it’s hard to tell. The cave art depicting the scene was only recently discovered in 1990, so you’re just going to have to trust my interpretation of the painting.

This second illustration shows it a little clearer, apparently some teenager painted it on the same cave wall in 1995, his interpretation is the same as mine. You can see the Valley tribe coming down from the top of the painting. The tokens on the ground seem to have some significance, because both tribes appear to be heading for them. Off to the west the Ulrug left Horn is close to a red dot that marks the spot, but they are about to be assaulted by the hard men, and women of the Valley Tribes allies. These allies that are not quite human, but they have left us with a lot of their DNA.

In the centre, the tribal chieftain Akoba is boldly leading the Valley people forward. Off on the right the Valley tribe seem to be unopposed, and are closing in on another of the sacred red marker’s.

By the way, can someone explain to me why the Valley Tribe’s cave wall painting is behind glass, visitors have to pay a fee and can’t get any closer than 10 ft to it, but the teenager, whose painting in 1995 is in the same cave has had a team of cleaners trying to remove it from the wall and the teenager is doing community service as a punishment for their crime? One is heritage and one is graffiti? How does that work.

A close up of the Valley Tribes allies.

This is the first time they have been in a life or death struggle on the table and my God, do they look up for it.

The fight in the centre is initiated by the low squat intruders. They charge forwards screaming their war cry, followed by a lot of whimpering.

As they are wiped out to a man.

Then their Chieftain, Ulrug attacks Akoba the Valley Tribe Chieftain, or it could have been the other way around, I’m afraid I can’t remember which.

The fight is reasonably inconclusive but Akoba falls back, and so which ever way I spin it, it looks like he lost.

The Valley Tribe centre is now led by Ayha, strong women aren’t a recent invention, but she’s also a subtle tactician.

Sending the rest of the centre forward against the Ulrug hard men, she watches how they perform and shouts encouragement, fully prepared to back them up or run away, whichever is most appropriate. Her troops perform adequately, as do the Neanderthal allies on the left and the other chaps on the right.

The Ulrug’s have now all been slain by the valiant Valley people, only a couple of their demi hero’s remain alive, and they slink away, heading back to skid row.

You might be thinking that this is a just result, the interlopers have been taught a lesson they won’t forget and the Valley Tribe are victorious, but I’m afraid you’d be wrong.

You didn’t take into account the games master, the devious man who concocted this scenario. The man who should remain nameless, at least that’s what the Mad Lord Snapcase said should happen.

No sooner had my clean cut tribe disposed of the last of the mean, squat, ugly, Ulrug tribe, than the un-named games master – Snapcase, announced “you’ve discovered a Terror Bird nest, complete with an egg”

“Ok” I thought, “that’s not too bad, at least we get scrambled egg for breakfast”.

Then he announced “and the Terror Bird isn’t too happy about it, she’s coming your way.”

“I should have known better”.

The Terror Bird did what the Ulrug tribe hadn’t been able to do and killed off quite a few of my chaps and chapesses.

But they are a bold and brave lot and so attack again.

And more of them died.

Akoba the tribal chief seeing his warriors die, strode bravely but foolishly into the fight, he died as well.

Finally it was left to the two heroines of the tribe to meet out revenge for the rest of the dead tribesmen. They finally killed the Terror Bird but casualties had been heavy.

By this time the tribe was so reduced in numbers that the remaining members were only able to feast on the legs of the bird with the scrambled eggs making a nice accompaniment. They left the rest of the carcase to rot in the Baja sun along with the Ulrug dead……unburied and uneaten.


  1. That was a fun prehistoric romp John, and proves the old saying, "careful what you hunt" ! LOL
    Great looking game and models, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    1. Thanks Dave, we used some new rules for the first time, Tribal and Primeval. I don't know if you've come across them but movement and activation is by using a deck of playing cards, combat is like a game of Whist. There's some skill involved in the card playing and I played whist a lot with my Gran, so that helped my tribe win.

  2. Talk about giving someone the bird! What a terror!

    1. 🤣🤣 It was terribly disconcerting.

  3. I have to say that I had a lot of fun with this game, in particular the Phorusrhacid, at the end. I was actually sojourning at Vagabond Manor and had a thoroughly enjoyable time, gaming and drinking together!

    1. Cheers Martin, I think even Doug enjoyed the game, although not as much as I did. ;)

  4. Good to see a new report. What a twist to the ending! I've been trying the Tribal 2nd edition as it allows me to attempt some solo play - mostly with Vikings.
    I enjoyed your setting and all the fine figures and terrain.
    I enjoyed your comment about art and grafitti. At one of the schools I attended [The Paston School] there was a brick from the school wall on display in a glass case because Horatio Nelson had his name carved in it - if any of us put our name on a brick we would be caned [thrashed with a stick] by the headmaster. Couldn't he predict who among us would be equally famous? My clain to illustrious fame of course is that I'm one of your readers.

    1. I can understand your more recent claim to fame but I wouldn't use that as a defence against a charge of graffiti;) Of course if you are called Banksey then it's OK to put paint onto someone else's property, and obviously Nelson qualifies as well.
      There's lots of places with old graffiti that is revered, Portchester Castle housed French prisoners in the Napoleonic wars, their graffiti is behind glass, I wonder what happens to inmates at Pentonville Prison if they daub their initials on the walls, counselling probably. :)

      I'm curious how you are using Tribal for solo games, I can't remember if we are 1st or 2nd edition rules but the combat was resolved with playing a hand of cards against your opponent, not sure how you would work that solo?

      Anyway thanks for popping by, I have a backlog of games to write but we're going away for 2 or 3 months and the internet I thought I was going to get from my phone company might not transpire after all, so it might be very quiet round here.

  5. Sorry for the slow reply.

    When I first got Tribal I thought it looked really good but unsuitable for solo play because of the card play system. Second edition has two pages on Solo play.
    Ulf is the name of the AI player.
    Ulf never has the initiative.
    He activates in sequence beginning with the nearest unit to the player's force.
    Activations/movement are decided by cards - it includes rules for units with 2 or less figures.
    In Combat Ulf does not have a Combat hand. Instead Ulf draws two cards [ 3 in first round if would have a hand of more than 5 cards] and plays the highest taking into account weapons and skills.
    There are rules on what happens when winning with a Feint card.
    Ulf plays as many rounds at he would have had cards for and then uses the Panic rules.

    Simple but effective to get a game.

    all the best,


    1. Thanks for this, I'll have a look at it closer when I get home. Currently it's pissing down here which is good and bad news. Good because I have free internet :) and it's forecast to stop raining later :)