To celebrate All Hallows Eve, we had a great time with the first play-test of my Pulp Serial Game (TPSG). TPSG is the 20th Century variant of The Movie Cowboy Game. In case you don’t know what I am talking about click on the this link: https://sfdfsfd.wordpress.com/tag/movie-cowboy-game/
These games use standard playing cards to control the game flow and resolve all actions. I.e., the game is completely diceless and the game tempo is set by how fast the dealer flips cards. Each player controls a gang that is worth 10 cards and could have from 2 to 10 gang members. Each gang member is worth 1 to 5 cards for a total of 10 cards.
Example gang – Big Bill McDew is worth 4 cards and his two side-kicks, Lars and Sven, are both worth 3 cards each.
Characters can take 1 action per card in a game round, receive 1 character trait per card, and are incapacitated after taking total wounds equal to their initial card value. So Big Bill gets four traits, will collapse after 4 wounds, and can nominally do 4 actions per round.
Each round, the players are dealt cards for each character equal to their current card value (wounds temporarily reduce a characters value by one card per wound). The players then activate their characters one card at a time based on the strength of each characters poker hand. The action interweaves.
As an example, character A has 3 cards (3♡, 3♧, 7♧) and character B with 2 cards (9♧, 5♢). The pair would execute their actions in this order: Character A performs 2 actions and discards the 3♡ and 3♧, the Character B takes an action and discards the 9♧, then Character A acts and discards 7♧, and last Character B acts again and discards the 5♢. If either was wounded in the process, that character immediately losses his high card and receives one less card in each following round.
A round lasts 5 seconds and an action is anything a normal person could do in 5 seconds.
Example actions: aim, fire, punch, kick, jump, walk 40 feet, run 80 feet, activate and fire a bolt or lever action gun, load an arrow, load one round in a shotgun or falling block gun, light a fuse, open a door, etc. A very capable character could take multiple actions in 5 seconds, but a normal civilian can only take one action per turn.
Combat resolution is accomplished by flipping playing cards (nominally one card per shot). Aces are super critical fails, deuces are critical fails, Kings are super critical successes, Queens are critical successes, 10s and Jacks always hit, 8s and 9s hit if the target does not have cover, and 3s to 7s always miss. Also included in the results are hit location. For my games, I use a combat resolution deck that was printed with the combat results on each card (for gunfights and brawls), witty prose describing the result for quick action, and random traits for quick character generation.
A typical gunfight lasts two rounds (10 seconds), a long firefight lasts three or four rounds (10 to 20 seconds), and a super long games lasts six to eight rounds (30 to 40 seconds). The ground and figure scale are matched and to hit probabilities reflect typical effect weapon ranges and account for battle chaos. Provisions are made to treat the wound, but usually the game is over before much can be accomplished in those terms.
The test scenario pitted Captain America and his Commandos against various Nazi forces including Red Skull with Hydra, Wolfentroopen, and the SS Vamphyr.
Allied intelligence has learned that Red Skull has captured British Agent, Captain Peggy Carter, and is travelling to an abandoned town in eastern Romania that is believed to be the focal point for Nazi Occult weapon development. In the meantime a loose alliance of Nazi occult researchers have learned that one of their agents, Reichsritter Orloff, a member of the SS Vamphyr has discovered the Spear of Destiny buried in the crypt of an abandoned church in Romania.
Our story opens in late 1944 in the abandoned ruins as night falls and wind whipped fog scutters through the mournful stones. The vampire lord, Reichsritter Hans Orloff, and his paramour Gräfin Mina Harker have arisen from their chapel crypt with the sunset for a planned parley with Red Skull. Red Skull and his Hydra minions approach the gates in their Staff Car.
Just outside the ruined walls, Sturmbannführer Helga Grauler and her Wolfentroopen arrive on BMW motorcycles. She heads into the local pub to negotiate her entry into the ruins with the local SS Officer, Hauptsturmführer Hans Himmler. In the meantime Himmler has cordoned off the ruins under orders from the Reichsführer with clearly visible Machine Guns in the two corner towers. All glance up into the cloud laden skies as the buzz of a laboring C-47 drones through the night.
Cards were dealt in TPSG fashion, and as bad luck would have it, Captain Steve Rogers leads the way with a parachute landing despite the strong winds on top of a ruined tower near the NE corner. Remembering that he is not a real tactically trained Officer, but instead a well dressed Chorus girl, Captain America selects a landing spot where he is the line of sight of both MG42 Machine Gun teams in the diagonal corners of the ruined walls and immediately above a sentry on the ground. Off course they do not spot him yet due to the darkness. In turn he does not spot the MGs, but can see the sentry on the ground so he fires and kills the sentry. Unfortunately the muzzle flash and gunshot alerts his position to the nearer machine gun.
An eruption of tracers pins down the Man with the Plan and he expends all of his remaining actions fending off bullets with his Vibranium shield, but still takes two wounds. (In fact if not for the darkness and distance he would have taken many more wounds – do not land in the path of Hitler’s buzz saw). Out of actions, wounded, in the open, and pinned down the Captain is in trouble.
You may not want to keep reading now if you fancy yourself an American Patriot.
But not to get ahead of myself, Steve’s allies begin to slowly arrive with Paratroopers landing across the drop zone. My team, lead by Private Gabe Jones lands around the Chapel, Dum Dum Dugan lands near the gates, and Bucky lands right next to Steve but takes cover from the chattering MGs. Bucky gets his juju going and waxes the closer MG team and a couple sentries on the near walls, but Steve keeps sucking up tracers from the other MG and sentries.
The Nazis kick into overdrive at this point. Sturmbannführer Helga Grauler saunters to the cemetery and raises 8 Nazi zombies from their foul graves – can you say Zombie Queen? Her escort politely asks the sentries to raise the checkpoint gate while one steps out of the sidecar and transforms into a werewolf after injecting himself. The gate is raised and the motorcycle flies throw followed by Red Skull limo.
Second round – cards are dealt and this time poor Captain America only receives two cards, but most everyone else is unwounded (or dead) and receives their full ration.
The remaining commandos land (all taking care not to land on top of the Nazi occult folks and out of the line of sight of sentries and Machine Guns).
The limo screeches to a halt next to the Chapel and three Hydra Uber Soldats get out of the car. Private Jones plugs the first one from the top of the Chapel.
Not liking the noise, the two vampires step from the crypt and a foolish Hydra Soldat tries to disintegrate fair Mina but misses. She tackles him and sucks the lifeblood from his neck. Fearing the other Hydra Soldats she shifts into a mist cloud and is unexpectantly blown from the action by the high winds.
The first werewolf vaults the wall, eats a Sentry, and jumps on one of Dum Dum’s boys ripping him into shreds. A nearby Paratrooper blasts the werewolf, but he quickly regenerates and jumps Dum Dum. Dum Dum manages to crush the werewolf with his own titanic strength.
A couple of Paratroopers blast the limo but do not hurt Red Skull; however, their raking fire hammers the car boot and we can tell by the dying screams their recon by fire has located the Allied objective, Steve’s Lady Love, the late Captain Peggy Carter.
Scratch one broad, but Steve is beyond caring as a merciful grenade falls next to him blowing him into the next episode.
Red Skull gracefully exits the car and kills both Paratroopers without wrinkling his clothes. In turn, the last Hydra soldier evaporates Private Jones.
Round three – even fewer cards are dealt. Realizing that the objective and game are now beyond their control, Bucky, Dum Dum, and the remaining commandos execute retrograde advances off the board.
A very fun game and great play-test. Post game I fine tuned both Red Skull and Captain America for our next encounter and have adjusted the way MG activate, but all in all the game mechanics worked well and lead to a very satisfying conclusion.
It was a dark and stormy night….
The automatic spotting range was 16″ due to darkness. If you exposed yourself with gunfire (or were exposed by tracers hitting your location), then your opponent could attempt to spot you from any distance if you were in line of sight by drawing a heart card.
The wind direction and speed was randomly determined each turn. The wind pushed the fog around and the fog blocks line of sight.
The paratroopers started the game by each identifying an intended landing location. Then we draw a card for wind and direction. When the paratrooper activated, if they drew a heart card, they could land at their desired impact point otherwise they were displaced by the wind that fixed distance and direction. They could then land at that location automatically or wait until the next round to see if the wind would improve and blow them back on course. With the second round, the paratroopers could choose to land at their last location by drawing a heart card or let the wind carry them to their final landing spot and automatically land. During the game, the wind held steady blowing to the south and paratrooper that did not land by themselves ended up being displaced 18 inches total. While landing each paratrooper risked a brawl wound, but all landed safely if a bit scattered.
Order of Battle
In TPSG terms, each team was worth 10 Cards (exception was the German MPs that were worth 12 cards, but were widely dispersed).
- Captain Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) and 2 Commando
- Sergeant James “Bucky” Barnes and 3 Commandos
- Corporal Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan and 3 Commando
- Private Gabe Jones and 3 Commandos
- Hydra – Oberst Johan Schmidt (aka Red Skull) and 3 Hydra Uber Soldats
- Castle Security Forces – Hauptsturmführer Hans Himmler and 9 Soldat Military Police
- Wolfentroopen – Sturmbannführer Grauler (aka Zombie Queen) and 2 Wolfentroopen, Otto and Johan Wulff
- SS Vamphyr – Reichsritter Hans Orloff and Gräfin Mina Harker
I used repurposed Heroclix for the Allies Super Heroes and Hydra. These are more like 32mm, but work okay since they are Super Heros.
The various Nazi Occult minis (Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies, and Specters) are from Warlord Games, Brigade Games, & Reaper
The WWII Germans and Americans are mostly from Warlord Games, Crusader Miniatures, and Black Tree Designs.
The Motorcycles were from Black Tree Designs.
The Staff Car was from Classic Armor
- Town walls – Ziterdes
- Checkpoint and Ruined buildings – Warlord Games
- Ruined Chapel – Hovel
- Blacksmithery – Conflix
- Barn and Windmill – Warlord Games
- Town buildings outside the gate – PMC
- Round tower – custom Hirst Arts build
- Church and Graveyard – custom builds by me
- Game Mat – GW