Pulp Alley doesn’t care whether you have an AK or an M4.
Pulp Alley doesn’t differentiate between kevlar-weave and ceramic plates, between a stone wall or wooden crates.
Pulp Alley doesn’t have hit points, hit locations, a bazillion modifiers, charts, tables, or addendum.
Pulp Alley is about Heroes, Sidekicks, Enemies and Allies. The long shot, the near miss, the last minute rescue, the unbelievable fumble…
A Pulp Alley game isn’t about the rules – it’s about the story.
*whew* Got that out of my system. Now on the review.
I picked up Pulp Alley on a tip over at LAF. Fellow gamer Malebolgia – in his madness – decided to adapt the character-driven rule set to a cyberpunk setting. It seemed to work. (Nothing exploded or caught fire) He even painted up a bunch of cool terrain. (See HERE)
Bad c-punk is cheesy but good c-punk is so damn cool.
I’ve mentioned previously that at this (advanced) stage of my hobby-life, I’m incredibly uninterested in slavish devotion to a single rule set/line of miniatures. I don’t have the time or the interest in complex, detailed mechanics or faction-specific army books with exceptions, tweaks, and patches. Neither do my gaming buddies. We’re looking for an excuse to hang out, eat, game with cool figs on cool terrain – not a realistic table top combat simulation. Nothing wrong if that’s your thing. It’s just not mine.
Now one game and a bunch of read-throughs don’t make me an expert, so salt the following to taste.
Pulp Alley is a small scale, character-driven skirmish game for 6-12 figs per side. The idea is to assemble a team of individuals (Allies and/or Followers) under a high level Leader and competent second, or Sidekick. Here’s where you can dust off all those cool but odd figs and put ’em together for a reason. The core mechanics are constructed around four distinct ideas: Polyhedral dice, Character Stats, Plot Points, and Fortune Cards.
Polyhedral Dice and Character Stats
Similar to Stargrunt 2, polyhedral dice are essential, generally d6, d8, d10 and occasionally d12. Any roll of 4+ = success, so better, higher level characters (Leaders and Sidekicks) use higher-sided die, and more of them. Low-level Allies and Followers, while vital in the game, use d6s.
What makes the characters distinct are the Abilities, Gear and Team Perks. Here’s where you tweak their Movement, Speed, Melee and such. The lists in the book obviously use Pulp-flavored terminology like ‘Rugged’ or ‘Hardboiled’ but there’s nothing to stop you from changing the term to suit your setting. It’s the stat bonus that matters. High level characters can have 2 or 3 Abilities while Plankton-standard Grunts get 1. Team Perks effect your entire crew while Gear is purchased and assigned individually.
It’s not as complex as it might sound, particularly with only a handful of figs. The end result means you’ve not only determined your troops’ basic proficiency but generated important distinctions. This way, you have a (hopefully) cohesive team of unique individuals.
Plot Points and Fortune Cards
Essentially Game Objectives, controlling Plot Points earns you in-game benefits, and – if applicable – campaign bonuses as well. (Read the book for more on that) Plot Points shape the scenario’s story and focus game play toward concrete goals rather than it devolving into another Slugfest in the middle won by ‘Special-Rule/Feat’ trump card bitch-slap.
Speaking of cards tho… Fortune Cards can be played by either player at various points during the game. (In a dangerous area or when trying to seize a Plot Point) They either give your character a much-needed boost or cause grief to your opponent. None of them are overpowering however, and seeing as both players have them, add an exciting variable to game play.
I could go on about the simultaneous combat, Run/Sneak, League Formation, etc, but this isn’t an exhaustive review. The two things I find most remarkable are the cinematic, character-driven game play, and the robust game mechanics. This game is FUN. All my quirky character figs have a home now and that’s pretty cool. Also, it’s my opinion Pulp Alley will easily accommodate any game setting with only minor adjustments. Dungeon Crawl, WW2, STALKER, Cyberpunk, you name it. I wager it can be done.
Like I said, Pulp Alley is cinematic and story-driven, not a tactical military simulation. So if that’s your thing, Pulp Alley isn’t for you.
There’s an expansion out, (Perilous Island, IIRC) and I hear they’re working on Vehicle rules. I’m sure these add depth and subtlety. What I like most is how Pulp Alley manages to be simple without being simplistic, remains versatile and solid without taking itself too seriously.
Because that’s exactly what I need right now. I see more Pulp Alley in my future.