Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Huzzah Day 2- Pulp Alley

I've been fascinated by pulp or adventure style miniatures games for some time now. The theme is always alluring enough- play a minis game as Dr. Who, a member of Danger 5, or a Cthulhu investigator. At the same time I always wonder if the experience is really going to be close to the ideal, or if it's better just to role play.

On Saturday afternoon I got a chance to play a pirate themed game using the Pulp Alley rules. These had been favorably reviewed on Meeples and Miniatures and I was excited to give them a try. In a sense it would also be interesting to compare the game to the Muskets and Tomahawks game, which was skirmish wargaming but with a good taste of adventure gaming as well.

Marines Face a Scary Hill
The game was called St. Pomme de Terre- the Governor's Daughter. My faction represented royal troops trying to retrieve the governor's daughter from a band of pirates. We were to approach the pirate lair in a ship and a longboat and then travel through a swamp or along the docks and eventually defeat the pirates. Along the way we could earn victory points for capturing treasure, defeating enemies, and hopefully rescuing the kidnapped woman.

On a positive side the game was well thought out and a lot of fun. There were swamp creatures, colliding ships, cannon fire, people falling off of masts, sword fights, gun fights, and foggy graveyards. The royals got off to a miserably slow start and barely made their way across half of the terrain due to falling down hills, getting trapped in swamps, and probably being too cautious. Eventually we ended up in a mammoth brawl on the outskirts of town but the sun was at that point setting and our mission a  bit of a failure. Still, both pirates and royals had a good time.

Hill 1, Marines 0
That being said, I can't say I'm sold on the rules. There is ten times as much detail regarding the figures as there is in Muskets and Tomahawks. That translates into a game that's about ten times slower to play. Each figure may have several unique abilities and you have to remember them, as well as watch for your opponent's secret traits. Plus you can play cards that inconvenience or sabotage your opponent's play. The result is, again, a slowish game.

It's also noteworthy that I felt like Muskets had as much or more of a narrative through the game. My vaguely defined Indian party had a wild adventure without detailed special rules and characteristics. The narrative flowed from the game play itself. In the Pulp Alley game I spent quite a lot of energy trying to remember which figure was good in a fistfight, which was a sharpshooter, and which was hard to hit. In the end keeping track of all that was more of a distraction than a game enhancement.

In the end, though, my critique is with the rules, not the game and the people who ran it. I'd certainly play it again and they did a bang-up job setting up the adventure. But I didn't walk away wanting to buy the rules.

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