Those of you who have followed the start of the sci-fi project may wonder where the battle reports are. And you are right: After much fanfare about the background and initial enthusiasm, we haven’t played a game in a while. For some reasons, whenever we find time for gaming, sci-fi is at the bottom of our list – in the end, K. and I prefer to play Wars of the Roses or SAGA or Flashing Steel.
We began to wonder ourselves why this is the case. After all, I’ve finished painting the figures, built quite a lot of scenery and we fleshed out a nice little background story. So, what’s the problem?
When pondering the question we soon realised it was the rules. And by that, I don’t mean the convoluted way Tomorrow’s War is presented. True, this is a bit annoying, but it’s not the main reason that seems to put us off playing. Rather, it is the style of the game the rules deliver.
I already said that we’re both not into the whole dark-and-gritty thing. Tomorrow’s War is based on Ambush Alley (now Force on Force), a system originally intended for modern asymmetrical warfare. By nature, it gives gritty games that feel like scenes out of something like Black Hawk Down. This is, of course, great if you are into modern small units warfare. We both, however, noticed that we are not really interested in this kind of combat and don’t feel comfortable gaming contemporary or near contemporary conflicts on our tabletop. Not even in the disguise of science fiction. We both realised we wanted our sci-fi to feel like Star Wars or Firefly, not like Afghanistan. Obviously, that’s nothing against the rules, on the contrary: It proves that they do a good job depicting those kinds of conflicts. We just realised they are not for us.
So we decided to change the rules and see if our interest in sci-fi would be rekindled. There is one set that has caught my interest ever since I first came across an after action report on the Lead Adventure Forum: Pulp Alley. What immediately attracted me was the narrative way of playing and the imaginative use of scenario objectives as ‘plot points’. Also, there is a very lively and friendly community around the game and the rules themselves are well supported by the vivacious designers.
Pulp Alley is basically a warband-style system, so you create a small group of intrepid adventurers and pit them against each other. The really original thing is the way scenarios work, which feels a bit like an RGP insofar as it strongly encourages storytelling – a style of gaming that suits us very much. Pulp Alley is set in the ‘pulp era’, which for me mainly means Indiana Jones (which K. never liked, alas!). However, the designers themselves stated that it would be easily useable for other periods, so adapting it to a sci-fi background should pose no problems. And it uses a similar dice mechanic as Tomorrow’s War, so at least I didn’t buy all those poly dice for nothing! The rulebook and a set of cards have already arrived and I’m looking forward to having a first game. You’ll get a report and a more detailed description of what I think of it as soon as we have played our first adventure.