Rules for Pulp Wargaming

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The second part of our series about Pulp is dedicated to rules for Pulp Wargaming. In the last post, I introduced the whole concept of Pulp Wargaming. But you need a ruleset before you could start playing. So let’s start with an overview of the best rules out there.

What I expect from Rules for Pulp Wargaming

The rules should be:

  • encouraging narrative aka story-driven gameplay
  • adoptable to various settings
  • easy to learn

1. Pulp Alley

Pulp Alley is my favorite ruleset for playing pulp adventures. The game mechanics are slick and the whole ruleset is easily adaptable to any genre or setting. Pulp Alley has several supplements, which are totally optional. But to make the most out of your gaming experience, I would recommend to buy them. These supplements add additional rules, skills, equipment and even whole campaign systems to the game. The downside is, that the rules are spread over numerous books. This can be a little bit inconvenience, especially for beginners. But the good news is, that Dave and Mia are working on the second edition. I hope, this new edition will tidy things up. But besides that, I can only recommend Pulp Alley. Read my review and give it a try for free!

2. .45 Adventure

Another popular ruleset is .45 adventure by Rattrap Productions. Once titled as Crimefighting in the Pulp Era, various supplements expanded the range of settings. Hence the second edition is now titled Thrilling Action in the Pulp Era. Like in Pulp Alley, you can find all the stuff you would expect in a Pulp game: heroes, villains, super science and crazy vehicles. Besides that, there are rules for the Occult. This can become handy if you plan to play in a Cthulhu-esque setting.

The game is played at a skirmish level and is narrative driven. Building a league is pretty simple. There are Archetypes, which can pick a specific number of skills from various categories. Characters are classified from grade 1 (thugs,…) to grade 3 (heroes). This is all pretty streamlined and you should be able to build a league pretty fast.

Before playing the scenario, you can spend equipment points to buy useful stuff. I like that because you can adopt the available equipment to the scenario, without messing with the skills itself. The characters have stats, like in any role-playing game. Brawn, for example, indicates the physical strength of a figure.  The game uses a D10 mechanic. So you will throw a D10, add stats and add or subtract D10s depending on the skills of the circumstances. Well, this is pretty common.

One not so common feature is the ability to hit certain body parts. After a figure is hit, you roll a D10 to determine the location of the hit (head, torso, arms, legs). Then you compare the weapons strength with the location’s defense rating. If the strength is higher, then the model suffers one or more wounds. Wounds will have a negative effect on the stats of the model. For example, if a character suffers a wound to the head, his Brain and Willpower stats are lowered. I like this mechanic because the result of a fight has serious consequences to the abilities of the character. But as a result, fights are getting more complex. If you want to give .45 Adventure a try, there are free demo rules available.

3. Chaos in Carpathia / Chaos in Cairo

The Chaos in… series is the third set of rules I want to mention here. Chaos in Carpathia is focused on Gothic Horror, so think of movies like van Helsing or Dracula. The sequel Chaos in Cairo, on the other hand, let you fight against mummies in the streets of 1920 Cairo. To continue the movie references, think of the Pulp classic The Mummy. I guess for most Pulp players, Chaos in Cairo is the proper fit. So I will take the sequel for further review.

There are four warbands in the rulebook. Besides humans and mummies, there is also a Beduine like faction and the Servants of Set. The latter is a more shady faction of humans, who teamed up with the evil side. A Warband typically consists of 5 – 10 miniatures. That is all pretty standard, but not in a negative way. Chaos in Cairo is based on the Goalsystem engine, which is also used in Goalsystem Fantasy and Supersystem. So you get what you would expect from a skirmisher in Egypt.

Verdict

.45 Adventure is a good ruleset for narrative gameplay. But personally, I prefer Pulp Alley. It is hard to tell why, but Pulp Alley seems just a little more polished to me. The mechanics are simple and easy to pick up even for new players. That’s why the game is also great for participation games at conventions. Chaos in Carpathia and Chaos in Cairo are great rulesets too. I guess they are not as popular as the other two, but for certain settings, they work nice. The biggest downside to me is the lack of free demo rules. In my opinion that is a missed chance to spread the word and make the first step easier for new players.

Now at the end of this post, there is only one more thing to say. Besides the covered rulesets, there is one more, which I want to mention here. Triumph & Tragedy is a great set of rules and perfectly usable for Pulp. I haven’t covered the game in detail, because T&T tends to be more of a traditional skirmish game. The forces are bigger and there is no specific mechanic for narrative gameplay, like the plot points in Pulp Alley for example.

I hope this could prove useful to some readers. Pulp is a great genre for wargaming. So go and grab one of the three rulesets covered in this post and have some fun with your gaming mates. What are your favorite rules for Pulp wargaming? Let me know in the comments. And as always, happy wargaming.

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