Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Pulp Alley - Carmen, Jack, & Bugsy

One of the nice things about Pulp Alley is that it affords you the opportunity to use miniatures that are generally overlooked, unused, or generally out of place in larger, more organized miniatures games. All three of these minis I received as swag and have sat neglected in my bitz box for a long time. After some cleanup, slottatab removal and a nice white primer coat, they painted up relatively quickly.

Carmen is a world-traveling thief, known for always eluding local police and private eyes. Her criminal network reaches from poor slums to the seats of government power. Among her most trusted associates are....

Jack - Not much is known about the man who calls himself Jack besides his experiences in the last days of World War 2 and his disillusionment with government, especially the military. He carries multiple identification tags around his neck but it is unknown whether these were from fallen compatriots or his victims.

Bugsy - a young gangster from Chicago, Bugsy has an extensive criminal record despite his age. After a statewide manhunt, Bugsy was thrown into Joliet prison but managed to escape and find his way into the employ of Carmen. He has a passion for automatic weapons, fast cars, and jazz music.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Product Review: Pulp Alley version 2 Rulebook and Cards

While at Adepticon, I was finally able to play a large demo game of Pulp Alley after years of interest. Blown away by how much fun the system was, I went to order a copy and found out that the game designer, David Phipps, had a Kickstarter campaign for version 2. $50 and a few months later, I received my pledge - a PDF of the rulebook, an 8.5"x6" softcover rulebook, a small 6" ruler/rules reminder, two packs of Fortune cards, and a pack of Known Associates cards. 

You have to understand that this game is completely self-made by the creator, without any assistance from a larger game company, from (as far as I can tell) his own home. With that in mind, this game is as good (if not better) than many of the games put out by much larger game companies. The rulebook is well bound, in a nice handheld size with a glossy cover. The cards are all good quality, having the thickness of playing cards and a satin/semi-gloss finish. I would recommend putting these in some card protectors to extend their life and keep them looking brand new.

What is "Pulp"? Pulps were cheap, often lurid magazines popular in the early 20th century, usually before the widespread use of television, that entertained the masses with stories of brave explorers, cowboys, fighter pilots, and other heroes. Characters such as Tarzan, The Shadow, and Doc Savage were popular Pulp heroes and served as the template for other heroic characters that would be popularized in film long after the pulps had disappeared - Indiana Jones, The Rocketeer, Jack Burton. Pulp Alley focuses on these types of of heroic adventures however, the system is so open-ended that it could be used for a wide variety of miniature gaming from the Old West, early 20th century wars, and into Science Fiction.

Pulp Alley games are usually two or more players (though solo play is possible) who choose a warband or unit of between 3-6 characters (though larger size units, known as Mobs, are possible) who fight over control of themed objectives known as "Plot Points". Each character has a variety of stats and special abilities. Uniquely, Pulp Alley does not force your miniatures to be WYSIWYG (though it's still encouraged), as each character is defined by their statistics and abilities. Additionally, Pulp Alley uses a multiple dice system (from d6 to d12) to represent various levels of ability, difficulty, and damage with "successes" be consistently measured by rolling 4+ on any one dice.

In keeping with a cinematic feel, each turn, the initiative of play is dictated by "The Director" and this role can (and will!) switch between players every turn. The Director chooses which player may act and the chosen player activates one of their characters. Each activation the character can move and choose one action or attack. Once that character has completed its activation, The Director assigns play to the next player (or the same player), until all characters have activated.

And I hear the complaints now - "so I just have to sit around while other players act?". No, this is where the Fortune deck (and your hand of cards) comes into play. You may play Fortune cards to steal The Director's role, force other characters to activate, force characters to re-roll or re-do an action....if you can think of it, there is very likely a card that allows you to do it. This provides a feeling of suspense and dynamism as inactive players can change the fortunes of the active player and (in a group with more players) often will end up attempting to out-do each other with who can change the game quicker.

Character creation is very straightforward and user-friendly with a long list of special abilities, perks, and backgrounds. Want to have a debonaire secret agent with his secret agent buddies? You can do that. A world-traveling archeologist with a spunky female sidekick and his native guide? You can do that. Nefarious villain from the Far East with mystic henchmen? Lovecraftian cult leader with a gang of flunkies? Disguised aliens bent on world conquest? You can do all of it. Version 2 has also introduced an expanded weapons section, mounts and vehicles, as well as backgrounds and resources to give your warband a unique feel.

All in all, I've really enjoyed this game and have been surprised by just how easy it is to pick up and get hooked by. How this game doesn't have a much larger fan base is a mystery, as it would seem to attract the same crowd that have made other skirmish games like Frostgrave such massive hits. If you can, I would highly suggest picking up a copy and trying out a few games yourself.

  • Engaging, fast-paced game suitable for nearly any genre
  • Well laid out, concise rulebook
  • Lots of gameplay examples
  • Despite overall book/card size, clear and legible font is easy to read
  • Good quality cardstock
  • Known associates cards are double-sided (edit!)

  • Interior paper of rulebook is somewhat flimsy

Sunday, May 5, 2019

What A Tanker! Eastern Front Big Game

So, during a large event at Adepticon, a friend suggested I try Too Fat Lardies' game "What A Tanker!". Intrigued by his description, I tracked down a copy, read it, and then had the insane idea of "Hey, I should do a giant game with lots of friends for my 40th birthday!". If you know me for any amount of time, this is not surprising - I am slow to change habit and will often get stuck on one game/activity for months at a time; only to find something new and go all in. Think big! Fortune favors the bold! Well, here we are. So I assembled 7 other guys and their AFVs and we all learned What A Tanker!. In one afternoon. With 8 people and over a dozen tanks. Did I mention no one had ever played this game before?

Another thing to know about me is I have a good amount of terrain and tables...but they're all 4x6'. That's good for 2 players, tight for 4, unfeasible for 8. So I made my main table bigger by putting a small folding table on the short edge, propping my sawhorses on wood and bricks and running 8' studs on the long side with some OSB over that. Don't worry; I thought about wobble and I had a solution - duct tape it all together. It actually worked too - during takedown I noticed that one wood stack had been kicked out from under a sawhorse but it hadn't moved an inch.

Groundwork applied. I threw a lot of rolled up towels and doormats under the table to try and give some variation in height, ending with a long U-shaped ridge and some smaller undulating hills.

Terrain done. I used my 4x6' Eastern Front table as a basis, adding in some elements from my Frostgrave table as well. 8x6' is a lot of tablespace, not necessarily to fill, but to make look visually appealing and cohesive. I hope I achieved that here.

The initial setup - the Soviets attack from the right, while the Germans are setup on the left. Each player was allotted about 30pts each, choosing from tanks available during 1943/44. To try and speed things up, I used one suit from a playing card deck corresponding to the number of players to determine sequence of play in each turn. Each side was also given one full hand of Tanker Cards, with one card playable each turn for both sides. The lineup was as follows:

Soviets - 6x Lend-Lease Sherman 75mm, 2x T-34, 1x IS-2 mod 1944
Germans - Jagdpanther, Panzer IV G, 2x Panther G, Tiger I E, Panzer III J, Nashorn

My Pz III J and Nashorn deployed on the German right flank. Though I thought I had taken up a good firing position with the Nashorn (while keeping the J in reserve to assist as needed), it wouldn't destroy anything until moving forward late in the game.

Lend-Lease Shermans moving forward on the Soviet left flank. B & T played this group very aggressively, constantly moving forward and pressing the advantage. 

The mighty IS-2 on the Soviet right flank during Turn 1 (if you have a copy of the Fortress Budapest book for Bolt Action, you can find a better picture of this exact tank within). In true Soviet fashion, S used this as the Anvil to his T-34s Hammers - the Germans on this side of the table we constantly wary of being hit with its 10D6 worth of Strike Dice.

Turn 1 consisted of a lot of ineffective fire and this is the position of each AFV going into Turn 2...

By Turn 2, most LL Shermans had advanced past 1/3 of the table, with onejust about the halfway point. They are taking a lot of harassing fire from...

the Panthers which have moved up to take position just behind the low ridge in the center of the German area. These became an issue for the Soviets, who pounded the ridgeline yet struggled to dislodge them.

The IS-2 and T-34s moving aggressively on the German left flank. S took full advantage of the T-34 Fast rule - using that to constantly convert one Command Dice to drive, even if he already had other Drive dice (this becomes a BIG problem for the Jagdpanther in the final 2 turns...).

By the end of Turn 2, almost all of the LL Shermans had been targeted by the German AFVs, yet had suffered no losses. Things are looking rather grim for the Wehrmacht commanders...

Turn 3 from the Soviet side. Unfortunately, the Germans had 2 commanders drop out due to time constraints - the Panthers having to retreat from the field completely. In the spirit of fair play, the Soviet commanders pulled two undamaged Shermans from the field as well. Unfortunately, they had already left the Panzer IV G burning, leaving the Jagdpanther to defend the German left flank alone.

With 2 full turns of ineffectual firing, I decided to become more aggressive with my tanks. Unfortunately, the Command dice were not in my favor. During Turn 3 & 4, I would find that the Nashorn would get drive dice when it needed gunnery dice or vice versa. The J is now moving up to cover for it, finally popping one of the LL Shermans cowering behind a wood!

In an attempt to be more aggressive with everything, we forgot that the Jagdpanther was all alone and moved it forward, attempting to get it closer and clear its field of fire. However...

S took full advantage of this, moving both T-34s forward during Turn 3, 4 & 5, firing on the go and attempting to surround it, a la Fury. In the end, this is how it ended up, neither tank doing much of anything, although the threat posed by the Jagdpanther's deadly gun was completely neutralized.

Turn 4 - the Tiger has moved out of hiding to assist the J. However, B cleverly used the Hell Driving card to scoot around and BEHIND(!) the Tiger just before it fired. This fight became frantic, with both sides maneuvering and jockeying for position....except for that one in the upper right....

The Nashorn moves up to the ridgeline the Panthers had abandoned and finally gets a kill - one of the T-34s (visible just barely through the woods) on the German left flank. Unfortunately, it is subsequently damaged by that Sherman I mentioned above, losing 2 command dice. After attempting to fall back, it is KO'd in Turn 5.

Everyone gets it from behind! By Turn 5, the Shermans had moved into position, but so did the Panzer III. Yet...still another turn of largely ineffective firing.

Well, that's all folks! 5 hours in and this is where the group ended up - with two burning wrecks on each side and hangovers to nurse the next day. Going into this game completely blind, we all enjoyed it, learned from it, and would gladly lay it again over some of the other tank combat games currently on the market. We realized too late that we had been doing damage wrong (not really counting Temporary damage) and its difficult to tell if that would have made the game faster or slower in hindsight.

I wonder how this would work in North Africa.....

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Afrika Korps Schutzen

If I'm being honest, I only made these Schutzen for my Afrika Korps armoured platoon because I got two sprues of the new Warlord multi-part plastic kit for free and wanted to beef up the army to 1000pts. By combining them with an extra sprue of Warlord Blitzkrieg troops I had laying around, I was able to get 18 men for about $5 - a bargain if there ever was one. As such, I really didn't spend any time doing my normal detailed paintwork. These were all primed and basecoated with a rattlecan, the details were painted, and then they were washed and sealed - about a week's worth of work.

They are primed in Rustoleum Camouflage Khaki, drybrushed with Vallejo Light Sand, and then washed with some heavily-diluted (and ancient!) GW Chestnut ink. The green uniforms are Vallejo Light Olive washed with GW Camo Green. Safari hats (and some gas mask canisters) are straight Vallejo Light Sand and their kit is in Vallejo Red Leather, washed with GW Earthshade - not the most historically accurate, but (again) quick and easy. Gunmetal is Vallejo German Grey, highlighted with Pewter Grey, and washed with Secret Weapon Soft Body Black.

The skintones are the most complex, as I wanted a the look of pale European skin with a light sunburn. For this I basecoated with an old Ceramacoat shade called Gypsy Rose (think a deeper hue of pale pink), then mixing in successively higher concentrations of Vallejo Salmon Rose and Vallejo Basic Skintone into the highlights, finally washing with GW Fleshshade. To give the illusion of high zenithal sunlight, once that wash was dry, I went back with some diluted GW Earthshade and applied that to areas in shadow (under hat brims, around the eyes, around cuffs and collars, etc.). If you try this, be sure to have an extra clean brush and water to help "spread" the wash and eliminate tide marks.

Friday, April 26, 2019

SS Wiking Sdkfz 250 Neu

I happened to pick up one of Rubicon Models' 1/56 Sdkfz 250/1 Neu kits a few months ago on sale and I'm so happy I did. This was just an amazing model to assemble and paint. I was astounded by just how much detail went into this kit, considering it's made for wargaming. Assembly was a breeze - the pieces fit well, instructions were clear, and there was virtually no flash. The only small criticisms I have are that the fit between the upper and lower hull is every so slightly askew, leaving a very small gap between the pieces if you fit after painting the interior and that the MG shield has a rather large mold divet on the reverse which is tough to fix. Honestly though, these flaws are so tiny they're hard to notice and I didn't bother fixing them.

Painting the AFV itself was mostly straightforward. It is primed in Krylon Red Oxide with hairsray applied after for chipping effects. The interior is Vallejo Olive Green, chipped and with highlights of 50/50 Olive Green/White, then washed liberally with Vallejo European Dirt wash and some thinned GW Earthshade wash on the floor. The exterior basecoat is Tamiya Buff, with hard-edged camouflage of Tamiya Red Brown and Flat Green. I then added decals from Rubicon and Italeri, sealed, and did my normal oil rendering. Once that was complete, I added so dry pigments around the lower hull in the track and wheel wells.

A shot of the gorgeous interior detailing including a full instrument panel, seating, stowage bins, and weapons racks. This is not the historically correct interior color (exposed surfaces would have been Dunkelgelb) but I wanted the color to pop to emphasize the detailing.

A shot of just how tiny this AFV really is. Hard to believe you could fit more than 2-3 guys fully kitted out in here.