Wednesday, 26 June 2019


Most of my efforts seem to be put into RPG's at the moment so I have spent precious little time working on anything remotely 'tabletop wargames' - hence I have rarely posted on this blog recently.

Of course, like any other self-respecting gamer I have still been adding to the lead pile and buying terrain, scenery and rules, including a recent purchase of around twenty or so Old Glory 'Chicago' buildings. I also picked up a large 6x4 urban streets printed cloth tablemat. More on that in another post (if I get around to it...)

As I have been trying to concentrate on 1920's/1930's Gangsters and the Pulp genre I decided that picking up the above would give me a great 'city' setting for these games - it will be a lot of work painting them up though as I have also a fair amount of Sarissa City Block buildings to make too!

I have a large amount of painted figures now for Pulp genre games, such as those shown in previous posts, so it is now just a case of creating a few appropriate settings for them to adventure in.

I won't get into a detailed explanation of the various definitions of 'Pulp', as it seems to be a broad as it is long but I tend to subscribe to the classic 1930's style of Pulp, or 'Hero Pulp' along the lines of action/adventure/detective/horror/weird menace etc.

Wikipedia defines 'Pulps' as follows -

Pulp magazines (often referred to as "the pulps") were inexpensive fiction magazines that were published from 1896 to the 1950s. The term pulp derives from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. In contrast, magazines printed on higher-quality paper were called "glossies" or "slicks". The typical pulp magazine had 128 pages; it was 7 inches (18 cm) wide by 10 inches (25 cm) high, and 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) thick, with ragged, untrimmed edges.

The pulps gave rise to the term pulp fiction in reference to run-of-the-mill, low-quality literature. Pulps were the successors to the penny-dreadfuls, dime novels, and short-fiction magazines of the 19th century. Although many respected writers wrote for pulps, the magazines were best known for their lurid, exploitative, and sensational subject matter. Modern superhero comic books are sometimes considered descendants of "hero pulps"; pulp magazines often featured illustrated novel-length stories of heroic characters, such as Flash Gordon, The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Phantom Detective.

The other consideration for tabletop Pulp games is of course the choice of rules. For a while it hadn't been in fashion so there wasn't a huge interest in the Pulp genre. Of course it is always fairly easy to adapt a chosen set of rules to the genre but but these mentioned below specifically captured the right 'feel' of such games. It's not a definitive list by any means but it outlines a few of the main ones...

The classic GASLIGHT probably leans more towards the 'Victorian Sci-Fi' side of things but certainly sets the right tone. The rules are small unit based with detailed leader or main characters. Command and control is accomplished through a card-based turn system with rules for movement, combat and morale.

Astounding Tales are a very rules-lite but deeply themed set that try to give players a lot of freedom to follow a story rather than worry about annoying details like rules. They also gave rise to the excellent Mad Dogs With Guns, my choice of rules for gangster games.

The Next batch were in the late 2000's with .45 Adventure and Where Heroes Dare! Both have a lot of meat to them.

Where Heroes Dare has 'schticks' that give abilities and flavour and uses 'Dare' as a main attribute used to solve plots and perform feats. Figures can be a handful to upwards of thirty.

.45 Adventure allows you to use archetypes to create graded characters (Grade 3 being the heroes and leaders, Grade 2 are the sidekicks and Grade 1 are the rank and file mooks) and uses a Hero Points system to give characters an edge. It has slightly more crunchy rules around combat side of things.

Probably one of the most popular set of Pulp rules arrived with the excellent Pulp Alley. This really approached the genre in a different way, with very story led, scenario driven games. They have simple rules from creating a 'League' of heroes, with a Leader (the out of the ordinary Hero of the group like Indiana Jones), Sidekicks (Marion Ravenwood or Henry Jones Snr.), Allies (Short Round or Sallah) and Followers (the general minions such as Soldiers etc). Characters are defined by their basic stats and descriptive abilities that give characters specific edges and are easy to customise to what you want your heroes to be. Scenarios are set up by the use of Plot Points placed across the table and card driven Perils that have to be dealt with by the characters. Most of the action is resolved by dice based on your stats. The Second Edition has just been released.

A fairly recent addition to the roster is Fistful of Lead by Wiley Games. These have evolved over the years from a home-brewed set of Wild West rules to a published full blown genre-spanning set. They have card driven mechanics and the potential for multi-player games with several figures per side.

Most recently is the just released Crooked Dice foray into the world of Pulp, named of course as '7TV Pulp'. This was co-written by Karl and The Edge Hill University Press. The basic 7TV2 rules remain pretty much the same but this injects more flavour via new character types and abilities.

Although 7TV still tends to be my 'goto' set of rules for a lot of games I think that Pulp Alley is hard to beat insofar as how it captures the flavour of the Pulp genre via the character creation rules and drives it's story based scenarios through the plot points system.

Decisions, decisions...but I still have to build and paint over thirty buildings first...


Ant Master said...

Playing in an rpg game is not concentrating all your efforts,

You have had those buildings weeks and I demand that you paint them by end of the month!

Yours diabolically

Ant Master, quake in fear of my name

Simon Quinton said...

Awesome post. I am new to gaming the Pulp Genre so it I am unsure where to go with it really. I picked up both the Pulp set for 7TV and the Pulp minis and plan to start here. Though I do hear quite good things about the Pulp Alley game as well.

wardy-la said...

Cheers Simon! The easiest way to explain the traditional 1920's/30's 'hero pulp' setting is to think Indiana Jones or the Mummy movies.
After that, stuff like The Phantom, The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Rocketeer and the Fu-Manchu movies are purist pulp but maybe a bit on the cheesy side. Films like The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon or anything 'noir' add a different more grounded element to the genre. From a broader perspective, Tin Tin, Tarzan, King Solomons Mines or any of those old lost world type movies have a pulp background to them as does Flash Gordon, Sky Captain or even Buck Rogers (the original tv serial) at the more sci-fi end. You could even argue Star Wars has a pulp element to it!
Ultimately, the definition can be pretty broad and doesn't specifically have to be in a set historical period, I just personally prefer the more traditional version.
Basically just think big, over the top heroes (but not super-humans), evil masterminds, exotic locations, two-fisted punch ups or two-gun fights and reckless car chases! I think that's why 7TV should lend itself well to the genre.