Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pulp Ninjas

My most recent wargaming purchase is a copy of the .45 Adventure pulp skirmish rules.

I’ve long fancied doing some miniatures gaming in the Fu Manchu, Indiana Jones, Doc Savage sort of genre and these rules had the advantage of requiring relatively low numbers of figures and of being available from Wargames Emporium.

The rules take a sort of RPG-Lite approach but are well focussed on table-top resolution of the action.  The basic resolution mechanisms are unexceptional, revolving around opposed (d10) die rolls to which relevant attributes are added.  Situations where one side has a tactical advantage are handled by giving them more dice to roll and allowing them to keep the single best score.  

The key mechanic that takes the rules into pulp story-telling territory is that the playing area (typically two feet square) is scattered with Encounter Markers.   When a miniature moves into contact with an Encounter Marker it is revealed as a plot element.  It may be a trap (Indiana Jones’s rolling boulder for example), a vital clue or item of treasure, or perhaps an event such as the arrival of local law enforcement types.

Unlike most conventional RPGs (my interest in the genre was first prompted by the old FGU game Daredevils)  .45 Adventure is designed to have both heroes and villains run by players.  An umpire is desirable but not essential.

In addition, there are also rules for 1930s super science (unreliable and hard to use) and the occult (distinctly Lovecraftian in tone).

I had a little play with the rules today using a few figures I had handy and some terrain that happened to be n the right scale.  Pulp adventures can take us to the backstreets of Cairo or the jungles of Central America but on this occasion I brought Ninjas to the quiet lanes of rural England.

A quiet lane of rural England (before arrival of Ninjas) 

The hastily cobbled-together plot had the Honorable Miranda Carlyle and dashing French pilot Pierre Baudouin having just landed their biplane near the house of Professor Rosencrantz whom they seek for reasons to obscure to go into.  Meanwhile their unknown adversary has sent a team of four Ninjas to search Rosencrantz’s estate for clues as to his whereabouts.

The round markers are randomly positioned Encounter Markers the first two of which turned out to be poachers’ traps one of which caught Miranda and would leave her immobilised for the rest of the game.

I’ve not yet got the hang of balancing .45 Adventure scenarios.  On this occasion I gave the Ninjas four Level 2 (sidekick-level) characters whilst their opposition had two Level 3s (heroes) and the possibility of PC Warburton (a Level 1 “extra”) appearing as a result of an Encounter Marker.  I think this might have been a little too much in the Ninjas’ favour particularly as PC Warburton never arrived - his Encounter Marker being the only one not visited during the game.

Sacre bleu! Zis ditch is full of Ninjas!

The game degenerated into a rather one-dimensional affair with the two of the Ninjas keeping Miranda and Pierre busy in close combat whist the others checked out the Encounter Markers.  

Having found “clue to Prof Rosencrantz’s whereabouts” and “mysterious jade idol”, the Ninjas then proceeded to successfully withdraw under pistol fire from the heroes.

The rules seem to be OK and worth pursuing.  I’ll have to consider running a campaign to make use of my growing collection of Mexican types - maybe an expedition of the jungles of the Yucatan?

My only disappointment so far is with the physical quality of the rule book.  It’s a perfect-bound softcover and a couple of pages were almost loose by the time I got it home! 


Dex McHenry said...

They sound interesting. I may have to invest especially given the 2foot board! Would using 15mm figures make much difference?

Counterpane said...

Hi Dex!

15mm would work fine with these rules - the only problem I could envisage would be finding the right figures.