Marcus reports (virtually) over a recent (virtual) game.
I have probably played Pulp Alley more than any other game in the last couple of years. Narrative, fun, good for solo games or multiple players, it is a skirmish game with a figure count per player typically ranging between around 4 and 12. A scenario can be completed in around two to three hours depending significantly on the number of players involved.
Did I say skirmish? Well, more or less. There is plenty of scope for pulp action fisticuffs and spraying bullets around. What is less typical of skirmish type games is the influence of fortune cards, which players can use to challenge their opponents with perils, or indeed, perils will also occur as players try to resolve a series of plot points on the table. A game can sometimes focus a little less on combat and more on the plot. Scenarios are can veer very much toward mystery or crime investigation and even social situations. Imagine James Bond trying to provoke a villain, gather clues and be generally charming in a Casino and you will have the idea, only you have a group of characters working together to accomplish this. The characters have various skills set at a combination of levels. The required characteristics and skills are: Health, Brawl, Shoot, Dodge, Might, Finesse and Cunning. Depending on the quality of the character these skills will have dice numbering from one to four and dice types ranging between D4 and D12. A roll of 4 or more is a success, but sometimes multiple successes are required, including difficult tasks.
The initiative changes over the course of the game. The last person to win a plot point or a combat steals the initiative from the previous holder. This keeps the game constantly interactive.
What can you play with Pulp Alley and what miniatures do you use? Well, almost anything you can imagine! The rules are remarkably adaptable. If it forms part of the pulp genre; 30’s archaeologists versus Nazi’s, fantasy, science fiction, westerns or lost worlds, anything in between and more. The list just goes on…Figures are widely available and in particular I like Copplestone Castings and Pulp Miniatures, Hydra Miniatures and Sally 4th, the UK home of Pulp Alley.
Fellow club member Alan set up this game over Zoom. While a degree of social interaction is lost over Zoom, it certainly played smoothly. I would have no hesitation in recommending Zoom as a tool for playing games like this. Perhaps the more limited social interaction actually sped up the game.
Alan set up two scenarios set in the late 30’s in the arctic. He deployed a team of Nazi’s (“I hate these guy’s…”) under Dr. Stalhelm, a dastardly figure in uniform and a fully enclosed face mask. I fielded a team of “stiff upper lip” Brits from the Long Range Arctic Survey Group (LRASG). This group had the perk of specialists 3 of the leaders skills were reduced by a die level to improve the other members of the party in one skill by one dice type. I had a couple of unusually tough academics, the Leader, Professor MacInnes accompanied by Dr. Kennedy with two military types and a couple of Inuit guides.
The Crash Site
Some unusual rumours of strange lights in the sky have been emanating from sources in the arctic circle. The LRASG have been dispatched to investigate. Aided by two local guides, Kallik and Allatok, the team approach a site of possible significance…
The table is difficult going, meaning that characters cannot move more than six inches without taking a challenge. There are four separate groups of wreckage distributed around the centre of the table. Due to some seismic activity, the wreckage is perilous and requires an automatic challenge. During the first couple of turns, the figures approach the wreckage from opposite directions in the swirling snow which limits visibility. MacInnes reaches one wreckage site but Alan plays a challenge card and MacInnes cannot manage the 3 Cunning or Finesse required and tumbles into a crevasse. However, he passed the resulting health check, so no damage done. Meanwhile the first Nazi minions reach some wreckage, but can’t seem to explore without experiencing serious hazards which prevent the search.
On turn three, MacInnes successfully negotiates the wreckage and locates a plot point a short distance away. The Inuit’s move toward the Nazi’s while the rest of the LRASG spread out between the two closest wreckage sites. The Nazi’s continue a very unsuccessful search and Stalhelm has to jump away from a peril. The Inuit’s move in on them. One of the Nazi’s, Weber exchanges fire with Allatok.
MacInnes keeps working on the plot point on turn four. He successfully negotiates the treacherous ground and shifting visibility. With one success in recovering some clue from the snows. He is loosening it from the ice… At another site, Dr. Kennedy gets a bit disorientated in the swirling snow. Nearby while the Nazi’s continue with a frustrating search, Allatok and Webber exchange fire again and both are hit. They fail health checks and are out of the scenario injured. Another Nazi, Schneider, opens fire on one of the LRASG’s military types, Lt. Baylis.
Turn 5 and MacInnes keeps working to free the clue from the ice. Suddenly, he takes a hit from Nazi gunfire and is stunned. Baylis fires back to no effect. Meanwhile Dr. Kennedy finds his way back to the wreckage, makes a search and finds a perilous area: the ice shifts under the wreckage which is in danger of falling through into a lake below. However, Lt. Booth, (the Brits other military type) successfully locates a plot point himself. Muller shoots Kallik who fires back, but he goes down too. Baylis shoots Schneider, but he dodges.
On turn 6 MacInnes gets the final successes and frees the clue from the ice. A cache of “Top Secret” documents! Schmidt now attempts a plot point and successfully discovers an injured crewman. With that first success, Alan becomes Director (initiative), deciding the turn order. Booth and Fischer exchange fire. Baylis brings down Schneider who is out of the game, after failing a recovery roll, while MacInnes and Stahlhelm exchange fire. Elsewhere, Kennedy successfully deals with the plot point and discovers: an experimental bomb sight. Booth closes with Muller and gets into a punch up, but Booth gets knocked out cold (quite literally).
At this point the two sides disengage as the wreckage shifts and slips below the icy surface of a frozen lake. A success for the Brits who recover two plot points to the Nazi’s one. They collect two Gear points as a result: Some smoke grenades which Dr. Kennedy carries and Gadget X, carried by Mac Innes, which automatically allows passing one plot point instead of rolling.
A Secret Nazi Base…Where Else?
Scenario 2 saw the LRASG tasked with recovering the aircraft’s inventor and destroying the Nazi base. Approaching from some woods the Brits use the trees to mask their approach and their smoke grenades in turn two to reach the gate, despatching the sentry. The base remains oblivious. However, it all kicks off in turn three when MacInnes is forced to shoot a guard dog which attacks them and Baylis shoots his sentry/handler. They move toward a group of huts while Booth and Dr. Kennedy move along the fence to discover a plot point. The alerted Nazi’s get out of a truck and move toward the huts in turn 4.
Kennedy and Booth successfully locate a plot point and pass it: a wire cut hole in the perimeter fence. Someone else has already broken in! both teams converge on a stack of supply crates. Fischer and Muller push toward a plane on the airfield while Schmidt and Booth exchange fire in the location of the huts and crates. Both shrug off hits.
MacInnes discovers explosives already on the crates and lighting the fuse, sprints away. A new plot point appears in a hut near the gate. Stalhelm. Fischer attempts to deal with a bomb on the fuel drums near the plane, but fails.
Fischer suffers a peril on turn 7, possibly electrocuted as he tries, inexpertly, to deal with the booby-trapped explosives on the plane. Fischer goes down! Meanwhile MacInnes and the Nazi scum exchange furious fire, but the Nazi’s pass 3 hits! Muller is trying to disarm another bomb in the corner of the far corner of the airfield, at a fuel dump. About to attempt it he suffers misfortune as Marcus plays a fortune card and Muller falls, failing his health check.
Fischer recovers in turn 8 to disarm the bomb on the plane, but unfortunately for the Nazi’s Muller again fails a peril and a health check. Fischer however gets up and removes the explosives from the plane. MacInnes blazes away at Schmidt, who goes down and joins Bush and Kennedy in cover close to the gate. Kennedy moves to the plot point near the gate and passes it; the inventor! Dr. Stalhelm lurks in the proximity…but Booth engages him in fisticuffs.
In the final turn, Booth manages to land a blow on Dr. Stalhelm and rushes to the gate. Both MacInnes and Dr. Kennedy both open-up on Dr. Stalhelm and also escape. While the Nazi’s try to deal with the explosives, they detonate, destroying most of the Nazi’s secret lair.
So, as the credits roll the Brits return from a successful mission, with the Nazi’s vanquished again; which is how it should be. Inevitably since Alan rolled some appalling dice and Lt. Booth passed more recovery checks than he had any right to. An enjoyable mini campaign all organized by Alan with some great scenery and miniatures, all played very entertainingly via this new-fangled thingy; Zoom…Bang! Bang!