Pulp Wargaming – a quick overview

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This is the first post of a series of posts about Pulp Wargaming. My goal is to introduce new players to the genre and to help them start their own adventure. But even if you are an experienced pulp gamer, you can benefit from reading this series too. Because there will be plenty of inspiration to boost your wargaming experience.

In the upcoming posts, I will cover the following topics:

  • finding inspiration for Pulp Wargaming
  • finding proper miniatures for your adventure
  • finding suitable rules for Pulp Wargaming

What is Pulp?

Pulp Wargaming Doc SavageA definition of Pulp is pretty hard. Of course, Pulp can be defined as a specific kind of literature in a specific timeframe. Mostly the popular Pulp novels in the 1920s – 1950s. But you may argue, that Pulp is more some kind of attitude or style. I would agree with that. While Pulp is mostly set in a semi-historical setting, I think the time frame doesn’t matter. Pulp is all about adventure and mystery. For example, Indiana Jones is a Pulp classic. But to me, a game like Uncharted is Pulp too. While the time frame is questionable, the cast and the whole setting surely fits into Pulp.

Another great Pulp character is James Bond. Think of the movie classic Goldfinger for example. There we have our criminal mastermind, trying to rob Fort Knox. And there is our hero, supported by fast cars and great gadgets. And sometimes distracted by hot women. This example shows, that you are not restricted to the adventurer kind of character and setting. Pulp is a much broader genre.

To me Pulp contains a variety of the following key elements:

  • Heroes
  • Villains (a wide variety of Nazis, mobsters or evil cultists)
  • the Supernatural (monsters, superpowers and stuff like that)
  • Super science (gadgets, vehicles and stuff like that. And well, the mad scientist of course)

What is Pulp Wargaming?

Typically Pulp games are character-driven adventure games. The character (player) or mostly a groupPulp Wargaming of characters (players) must accomplish various plot points to drive the story forward. While doing this, the characters must also oppose some kind of antagonist. Some Pulp games are semi-scripted and rely heavily on plot points.

While it is perfectly fine to play solo, a game master can be a nice addition. He navigates the players through the game and the story, using the mentioned plot points. He also plays the role of various non-player-characters. To make the most out of your gaming experience it is critical to understand that the game master doesn’t act as an antagonist of the players. Instead, a game master should always try to create the best gaming experience for the players. To make this happen, gamemaster and players should work together.

Why do we like Pulp Wargaming?

I like Pulp Wargaming because the possibilities are endless. No matter how crazy your story, your miniatures or your gaming table will be, there are no limits. You don’t have to consider historical accuracy or stuff like that. It is all about having fun. That’s why you should choose your gaming buddies wisely. In my experience, Pulp Wargaming works best, if you and your mates have some sense of humor and the same attitude towards gaming.  Playing tournaments is fine, but Pulp Wargaming is not the right place for power gaming. It is all about enjoying the story together.

How to start Pulp Wargaming?

Pulp Wargaming ScifiIf you are new to Pulp wargaming, the whole subject can be pretty intimidating. But don’t panic. There is no right or wrong. Pulp wargaming is all about having fun. In the following posts, we will discuss everything you need to start into the world of Pulp wargaming. So stay tuned and as always, any comments are appreciated.

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8 thoughts on “Pulp Wargaming – a quick overview

  1. Punk has attitude and style as displayed by its followers but Pulp? Pulp has followers but they appear no different to anyone else.
    Indiana Jones was Pulp, as was Pulp Fiction, but both were conscious decisions to emulate a past writing format with film formats. I don’t think that James Bond fits the bill except in the terms that you use. It certainly wasn’t written as Pulp fiction they were spy novels. The Modesty Blaise novels fit the same niche as James Bond and were coincident with Bond novel 13 onwards. Are they Pulp although classified as spy novels?
    I am looking forward to reading the posts about miniatures and rules to follow on this.

    • Thanks for your comment dexey. To me, Punk is more of a lifestyle while Pulp is only entertainment. James Bond surely wasn’t written as Pulp, but on the gaming table, I would consider it as Pulp. I guess players of Pulp games like Pulp Alley need a specific attitude towards gaming and the narrative. I can’t imagine playing such a game with a power gamer, who tries to win at all costs. Pulp gaming, to me, seems more of a special experience, created by the players cooperatively.

  2. I’m a bit new to Pulp wargaming, and really wargaming in general, having only done a bit of the old 40k back in high school some 20 years ago. What rulebooks would you recommend for someone interested in the genre? I hear Pulp Alley is good. What about Adventure! or Astounding Tales? What are your thoughts on the Savage Worlds stuff?

    • Thanks for your comment, Evans. If you are new to wargaming I would recommend Pulp Alley. Easy to learn and suitable for almost everything. Besides that, there are great supplements for campaigns and stuff like that (Tomb of the Serpent for example).
      But it somehow depends on the setting you want to play. For swashbuckling for example, there is also a rule set called Gloire. Which is based on .45 Adventure. And if you are more into Dino Hunting, there are specific rules as well.
      I know Savage World only by name. I read some reviews about the system a while ago, but if I remember correctly, the focus seems to be more on the roleplaying part and less on wargaming. But due to a lack of personal experience, I can’t judge the system. In fact, nowadays there are a lot of rules out there (including Astounding Tales, Adventure!) and I can’t even say, how much I own. But I would still recommend Pulp Alley. In my opinion, it’s just more polished. I never had a single player who doesn’t like the game. Are you playing solo or do you have a gaming group already? Honestly, finding the right gaming mates is way more important than choosing the best rules. Especially for pulp.
      Hope this helps, otherwise feel free to contact me again. And welcome back to the most amazing hobby out there!

  3. I think the article’s 4 points provide a good definition for Pulp.
    It fills a gap between Historical and Fantasy (Physics usually works, but with exceptions: Lite magic or Infernal contraptions), is usually a skirmish.
    Actual settings are remarkably flexible. Interwar is most popular, but adventures can occur in mythical worlds, space, past or future.

    I’d include Bond (The Films certainly being more pulp than the books), Superheroes, a good deal of Darkest Africa.

    • Thanks for your comment, Stephen. I totally agree.

      The whole Spy-fi setting adds amazing possibilities. Crooked-dice has some amazing miniatures. Maybe someday, I have the time to build and play a Bond campaign.

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