Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Golden Skull: A Pulp Alley game report

In order to get more practice with the Pulp Alley rules, I played one of the proposed scenarios included in the rules, "The lost keys". Unfortunately I skimmed the deployment rules and terribly misunderstood them, which is unfortunate, because it’s the most fun part of the scenario, but still spent a very interesting time confronting two leagues trying to seize a mythical and fabulous artifact.

Our story begins in Mwali, a small island located in the Indian Ocean. Hide in the dense forest lies the ruins of an old settlement that belonged to the Sultanate of Shirazi who ruled in the mid-fifteenth century the archipelago now knows as Comores. An old legend says that within the ruins of the abandoned place is hidden a bizarre and valued gem, the skull of an ancient Vizier turned to gold and with two beautiful topaz set into the eyes sockets.

Coming from Malaysia there were Lady Guillermina Havelock, sidekick of Warlord Chen Tao, who rules as Mastermind of the Hai San secret society. Guillermina comes with her bodyguard, Hassan and two Moors “Juramentados”, Malik and Maluk. The remaining escort consists of several Baluchis, hired for the occasion as cannon fodder.

 In an attempt to avoid the sinister plans of the Hai San, the British governor of the Kenya Colony has called Calico Joe, a famous adventurer with the mission to foil the plans of Mrs. Havelock. Together with our hero we find Marion Crown, an erudite archaeologist; and Bubú, a French smuggler of Arab origin. The governor has given to Calico a small detachment of soldiers as escort.

 Both leagues deployed, (badly) on opposite edges of a board representing a dense jungle which the ruins in the centre.

 Guillermina Havelock and his allies took the initiative, and a pre-game event benefits Malik, one of the Juramentados, to start the adventure being hidden. The rest quickly moved toward the secondary plots points, needed to get clues that allow discovering the exact location of the skull, (major Plot point).

On the other side of the forest, Calico and Marion strives to cross through the swamp followed by Dudu and the soldiers escort.

Soon the wild and untamed swamp takes its first victim when one of the soldiers is killed by a Chelydra Serpentina ... (a Peril card played by the wily adversary).

 Meanwhile, the Baluchis led by the faithful Hassan headed quickly to guard the path by which their enemies will emerge...

One of the soldiers went through the thick bush to get close to one of the secondary plot point. A few feet away was the clue that could indicate the entrance to the ruins and nothing seemed to prevent the skull were soon held by Calico Joe.

 Unfortunately the plot point was guarded by a trap and the limited intellect of the soldier (Finesse) or his physical strength (Might) were unable to overcome the peril and a bag of poison gas ended his life in horrible rattle.  

Calico Joe tries to compensate the balance and shoot down one of the Baluchis.

 But the stalker Hassan spring his ambush and hit Calico,  injuring him.

Dudú fortunately repels the aggression.

However, the Hassan's attack had given a timeframe for his allies to find the clue that they need to find the ruins entrance, Soon Guillermina can penetrate through the ruins. She shuddered with the sight of the precious artefact. Yet had to overcome the dangers that awaited inside, (a 3 dice Peril card played against her!) and solved the puzzle who allows the release of the precious artefact. (a 3 dice Challege!) Havelock was triumphant of them all!


Marion urged Dudú to start the chase while she herself confront Maluk, the “Juramentado”.

Dudú attempt to shorten distance through the vegetation when a terrible Gabon Viper appeared before him. His dodge attempt (Might or Finesse) were failed and fell to the ground writhing in pain from the bite. (another Peril card...)

Maluk is a hard opponent and Marion called for help in the fight against the mighty Moro. But it was too late to prevent the escape of Guillermina Havelock.

All in all, a fun game with a ruleset that has captivated me for its originality and fun.
And remember..."The jungle is neutral"...or not?

Monday, May 13, 2013


Let speak a little about Pulp games, stories of heroes, villains, sidekicks, henchmen, exotic places and unparalleled adventures.

Pulp games can cover a wide range of scenarios, from a hidden war facing a sinister Chinese Tong commanded by the evil Fu-Manchu in the darkest alleys of the Victorian London to the adventures of a certain American football player transported to a strange planet populated by amazing spaceships, robots and especially lightly dressed princesses with hard character and better figure. Not to mention that there is always a nemesis to confront, the ubiquitous bad. A twisted personality villain with an unlimited need for dominates the world. This must be defeated to get “fortune and glory”.

Although these are games with few miniatures, some of them shine above the rest, the heroes. They are endowed with skills that surpass those of ordinary mortals. They are able to perform amazing feats in combat and overcome a legion of thugs still outnumbered in order to free an oppressed planet, clean a city of evil or reach a legendary treasure. 
It is also true that sometimes we saw our heroes succumbing to the challenges posed. Situations like "I embrace the carnivorous plant to steal the Padishah Emerald from her leaves" to end becoming as biological fertilizer for an overfed Dionaea Muscipula. Or the attempt to save our heroine from the clutches of a gray dwarf xenomorph to finish up over a surgeon table with a practical class of Rectosigmoidoscopy.

It’s this last aspect that I'd like to highlight in pulp games. The sense of humor, so absent often in general wargames. Indeed the final result does not matter much as find time to meet several friends and have fun transferring to the gaming table the arguments many times read in Sax Rohmer and Rider Haggard novels, Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers TV serials and movies like those of a hero wearing a Fedora hat and whose name is the same as the nineteenth state of the Union.

There are many good rules set in the market, GASLIGHT, Rugged Adventures, Larger than Life and .45 Adventures among the most representative. And now a newcomer: Pull Alley.

Pull Alley and his game engine has been inspired by the famous Ambush Alley. It's reflects very well the clash between characters endowed with widely disparate skills, (dissimilar combat) using the  classical rpg polyhedral dice, with the exception of d4 and d20, to provide to each character with six basic stats, Health, Brawl, Shoot, Dodge, Might, Finesse and Cunning

The freedom to create our adventurers is wide: We can choose the number of dice and its class from a pool suited for each character category; Hero, Sidekick, Ally or Follower, though respecting minimal limitations. Next, we can add abilities, most powerful and numerous for heroes and sidekicks characters than allies and followers, thus allowing a fine adjustment. 

The main advantage of this rule set is the freedom provided by the system to create any "league", whatever the period or the setting. It is very flexible and allows you to choose an elite but very small cast of adventurers, such as that formed by only four figures: 1 Hero, 2 Sidekicks and 1 Ally, or a horde that could reach up to 16 thugs with very low skills under the command of a hidden "boss" who never appears in the table.

The game incorporates the concept of "Perils", an abstract mechanism of challenges through a deck of cards to test the skills of each character and that comes into play when they perform risky activities or movements in hazardous areas as well as a challenge to overcome in order to solve the "Plots".

The Plots are the objectives that a league must collect in order to achieve the scenario victory conditions. But they also provide benefits for the current playing scenario and the future ones. The most immediate reward will be to win the turn initiative to your side. But will also provide bonus to the skills for the rest of the game, future resources or increase the experience to the league for the rest of the campaign, to name a few.

Something that may surprise you at first is the treatment of the fire and hand to hand weapons. In Pulp Alley there’s not a precise definition of them, only Shot and Brawl Skill. And while some people may miss him I assure you that the game engine and the intelligent use of the Perils cards compensate the lack of specific rules or characteristics for the weapons.

The combat; shooting or brawling it’s simultaneous, so both sides can suffer wounds but depending on the strategy, the players can opt for a defensive option rather than an offensive. As each of the characters suffers wounds, your skills levels will be reduced until fall to the ground unconscious.

You can find many more at, and the forum page,, both plenty of battle reports, examples of the gameplay mechanisms, great scenery advices and inspirational ideas.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


I'm a fan of games where you have ships, landing and boarding actions.
Today I present to you a new addition to my fleet.

A few months ago I purchased a box of the classic Pressman’s Weapons and Warriors, Pirate Battle game, a "must" item for any pirate or colonial’s games fan.

I had under my belt at least four pirate ships, two of them built using the blueprints of the legendary Gary Chalk and two made ​​from scratch, a caravel and a small cutter, both made ​​with plasticard. But as many other fans have done, I liked the idea of turning the W&W boats on a ship like the classic Red Sea Sambuk or the Mediterranean Xebec.

The changes consisted basically of removing the figure head and the bowsprit and suppress the stern lanterns. Obviously the most important modification was to remove the classic square rig and replace it with the lateen sail masts.

The new masts are made of balsa wood and ropes and the stays are made with black elastic sewing thread, so you can snap on and off easily. Masts thereby may be removed for transporting the boat in a simple and safe mode.

As you can see I built a simple supports for the culverins, up to two of them for each board. These, in addition of the smoothbore guns, makes it a powerful enemy.

Now we just need hoist the sails, lateen, of course, and steer to the Blue Nile at its confluence with Khartoum, sail the Rufiji Delta with smuggling supplies for the SMS Königsberg or fight Decatur in the Bay of Tripoli ...

Friday, May 3, 2013


I’m the proud owner of some 1:600 Skytrex "Fight for the Narrow Seas" miniatures. This manufacturer have a good collection of the small and not so small WWII ships belonging to the British, German, American, Italian and Japanese "mosquitoes fleets".
The quality of the miniatures is outstanding and I strong recommend you to take a look at their website,

The Skytrex scale, 1:600, it’s a little big for the size of my game table but I recently discovered a new range for the same subject but with a more affordable scale: 1:1250. This brand is Figurehead Coastal Forces, available via and it still maintaining a good quality of casting despite the smaller size of the ships.

The variety of models is a bit more scarce that the Skytrex catalogue but at least have the most representative ships of the war, the MTB, MGB and the E-boats and even ships with more tonnage but still very presents in the naval coastal warfare. This is the case of the ships of this battle report; the British “Isles class” armed Trawler and the German “Elbing class” torpedo boat (a boat of 1.755 Tons!)

Of course it’s an asymmetrical confrontation given the disparity in size, because the Isles is half the gross tonnage of the German Elbing but I was curious to see how long the trawler could hold the confrontation and how much punishment could inflict to the German torpedo boat.

About the rules, I’m a fan of David Manley’s “Schnell Rules for Schnell Boote”, simple but with a clever damage system, and very easy to learn, Mr. Manley have another and much more detailed rules for the same subject, “Action Stations” but my choice for this battle report goes to “Attack with torpedoes”.

“Attack with torpedoes” wrote by Dillon Browne occupy a middle place among the complexity of the previous ones. It has enough detail about the critical hits and the use of the damage control parties, in my opinion a vital part as a micro-manage management in naval wargames.

As a curiosity comment you that this is the rule commonly used by the Naval Historian Angus Konstam and the members of his club, Edinburgh Wargames.

So the two ships start the scenario sighting each other.

Both ships increase speed, the trawler to her maximum, 12 knots and the Elbing to 19 knots.
At long range only the 105mm and 4” guns are likely to reach their targets. The first salvo from the Elbing is a near miss.

But the 4” gun of the trawler zeroed at the first hit, if only causing superficial damage.

The commander of the Elbing try another tactic and launch a torpedo while increase the speed to 21 knots.
But the torpedo was launched at a great distance and misses the target by a wide margin.

Soon the German salvoes reach their target causing heavy damage, starting fires and reducing the speed to a merely 8 knots.

The damage control parties manage to put out some of the fires and fixed the damage caused to the fuel pipelines, restoring the speed and steering to the darkness horizon in order to escape but this cause that only the aft 20mm can fire back.

But the Elbing has closed distances and shoot at the British trawler with the bow and stern guns plus all the automatic weapons. A rain of high explosive falls on the unfortunate vessel, causing her more fires and a waterline leak. But the most serious blow was a direct impact on the engine room, which kills part of the damage control parties and cause the complete destruction of  machine room. Now she is a derelict floating inert on the water. The British were still returning the fire but causing no serious damage on her nemesis.

The stopped trawler is a sitting duck and a new torpedo hit the ships sealing the fate of the proud British vessel that begins it's long journey to the bottom of the Gulf of Biscay.