Thursday, 21 January 2010

Team Building - The Pulp City Way

Players in Pulp City use 'teams' of miniatures of their own choosing, as long as those models (Supremes) are all Heroes or Villains, with each side representing one of those two factions in opposition.

Building a team can be a considered affair, and so here are a few thoughts on the subject. These are not hard and fast requirements, but things to maybe consider when putting together a team. Of course with the wealth of options in the game no discussion is exhaustive nor without caveats. And of course building a team can be just about picking the models that you like most, and there is nothing wrong with that either.

Putting aside the team assembled for aesthetics, and going for the considered approach, I feel there are four main areas to think about:

- Supreme Type
- Flexibility
- Allegiance and team synergies
- Origin

Supreme Type
'Type' here is shorthand for battlefield role. I can't claim to have conceived of these, instead they have developed amongst some of the Pulp City community and are reflected in the Minion creation rules. Type in this context is a label to think about how a model is used in games, but some models can cross over between types.
A way of thinking of types is as:
- Brawler: primarily melee combatants that need to close into base-to-base with enemies to be really effective; they will usually be characterised by decent STR and DEF, and STR trump trait or abilities designed around base-to-base engagement; with STR trump trait they can often throw scenery around as makeshift ranged attacks. Mobility becomes very important for these guys.
- Blaster: the ranged attackers, usually (but not always) less durable than Brawlers, they can range form sniper types to characters able to target many opponents with single actions.
- Support: their abilities are characterised by working to aid (sometimes healing) or boost/buff allies, or impede enemies to the benefit of team-mates.

Now, in thinking about these roles/types, there is no rigid or even 'best' way to incorporate these elements into a team, especially as some characters do well in more than one function (Guerilla makes a pretty effective Brawler/Blaster, and Solar perhaps more so; Iron Train is a Brawler with secondary Support capabilities; Sister Bedlam is a Blaster/Support and so on).

These labels come into play as a way of thinking about team composition. A fairly balanced mix of Brawlers and Blasters is a good starting point; too few ranged attacks against a mobile or ranged-heavy enemy team means potential tactical disadvantage. Too many Support Supremes and attack capability is greatly reduced in many ways, especially as some Supports (Trail for example) have no specific damaging actions. I'd favour a balance of Brawlers and Blasters, and more of each than Support as a starting point. In lower level games Support Supremes can be a costly investment, less so in larger (greater EL) games.

Synergy between the types is also something that comes into play: one example is using the Exclusive Actions of Trail to prep another model with held actions before transporting them using Blood Rose (usually best being a Brawler with good durability and some standalone capability like Six Feet Under) across the board to target enemy models.

Some models can fill multiple (usually binary) roles quite well, and so are very worthwhile utility inclusions in any team.

Following on from balance of Supreme types within a team is the issue of tactical and strategic flexibility. Pulp City can be played in a number of ways, either as straight up slugfest; games with agendas (objectives); or even as specific scenario encounters. Factor in that it is likely that precise formulation of the opposing team may not be known, and then a number of variables are in effect before play begins.

Strategic flexibility is about the meta-game - the decisions taken about team selection, Resource selection and any other such decisions. Tactical flexibility will involve the individual and synergistic actions of your team and Minions.

Flexibility may be seen in a number of ways. One is to have an adequate array of Supreme types as seen above. Another is to have a tactically flexible force, which can include Resource selection. In games where agendas are determined after deployment this becomes a vital factor.

Flexibility can be offered by choosing a good mix (adjusted to personal taste) of Supreme types. But it can be further enhanced by having variation within those types. Two models fulfilling similar roles (types) in similar ways offers a degree of redundancy. This can be useful if tactics are built around a specific model or models, but when teams only number a handful of Supremes usually, then it may be wasteful. Variation then is paramount - highly mobile Supremes can occupy objectives but may struggle to hold them, which is where durable Supremes are vital.

It may be worthwhile looking at having a mix of mobility and durability within each type (particularly Blasters and Brawlers, Supports are usually too varied and less in the thick of action to require this). Few models are both durable and mobile, and so having a balance is important.

Similarly models with ranged attacks may have potent short to medium range attacks or more limited (high AP cost or lower trait) longer range attacks. Too many high trait/potent attacks may allow an enemy to close more readily to your own models or to objectives. Too many limited attacks (Gentleman's Sniper Rifle shot taking an AP to reload is a good example due to his low AP allowance) is restrictive and therefore also inflexible, since while pot shots can be taken, they may be too infrequent or too costly to use as often as desired. Covering both options allows a greater range of responses to battlefield conditions (objectives) and enemy actions as well as in target selection - it is little good having long-range pea-shooters against highly durable targets or over killing weak enemies at high resource cost (this includes AP's).

Arguably the key with flexibility is having a mix of models able to withstand some damage where needed and other models able to move quickly to support allies or takes objectives (with agendas or scenarios), and a mix of attacks (good base-to-base; short-medium range high potency attacks; and longer range attacks), as well as adequate support to exploit the abilities you are fielding and keep you models in the game in terms of damage taken as well as actually contributing effectively.

The obvious answer to the above needs is to have models in a force that cover multiple types, or offer a degree of mobility and durability. However these models are usually not quite as capable or potent in their roles as more specialised alternatives and so are not necessarily the automatic answer.

Finally managing Resources is worth some thought - pick the best tools for the job. Think about how Minions are intended to be used and who you will use to Command them. Personal non-Minion Resources need to be allocated to the right Supreme. More often than not the exclusive Resources for most Supremes are pretty much must haves, which then may necessitate choices determined by play-style. However in picking the tools you may not know in advance what the 'job' (agendas selection) is. Therefore more defensive and recovery orientated Resources may be the way to go.

Allegiance and Team Synergies
Some models give bonuses to followers of a specific Allegiance (or indeed no Allegiance), so teams can be readily built around that factor. Models with the Merc/Mercenary skill are especially useful here since they are counted as being amongst the majority Allegiance.

At the present time Gentleman is the Supreme with this skill, but it means he can fill in a gap to gain a bonus such as that given by Dr. Mercury's Mercurial Matrix, as well as being able to fill-in the numbers to make a full EL 12 Heavy Metal team led by C.O.R.E.. The team exploits Gentleman to fill numbers (since there are not yet enough Heavy Metal models to field a full team), while Gentleman with his Sniper Rifle benefits through the game from Range 14 and potentially a single use of Deflect 1, making the Gentleman a hard to target fire base unit. Other options exist such as an unaligned villain team (at EL 12) built around Mysterious Man and employing Gentleman, but the synergies here are less obvious and relate more to resource management, which is nonetheless a key game-feature. Hopefully we will see more Mercs in the future to exploit this nifty skill.

Origin is also useful to think about for a couple of reasons. Some resources require certain origins to be employed. Some Agendas (in-game objectives) may focus on specific Origins, and some skills and abilities play to or against specific Origins also.

Another factor, which should not be over-valued, but nor discounted, is the resolution of tied opposed rolls. In this case the Origins triad is considered (Mystery beats Nature, Nature beats Science, Science beats Mystery). Given that so few Nature Supremes are in the range at present, they have a disproportionate value potentially, especially if used less numerously than Mystery or Science characters. This is because (assuming that fewer Nature Supremes are in play) Science is advantaged of Mystery base on proportionality of prevalence to a degree, yet not disadvantaged since there are fewer Nature Supremes. This is not a game-breaker, nor a game-winner, but it means Science Supremes can be favoured to a small degree, and both Nature and Science have a slight edge in value. But only very slight. However since such situations are comparatively infrequent, it is more of interest to understand the effect than to think too strategically about the matter.

In summary, a good team in terms of game-play should try to exploit the synergies between models (due to abilities), as well as complementing the array of abilities offered by individual Supremes. Some models are great in isolation, but a ‘weaker’ model (Gentleman is the classic example) can really benefit from synergy and allegiance boosts as well as offering good battle capability and enhancement elsewhere (his Minion buff), so raw individual power is not the only name of this (team-building) game


  1. Thank you for this insight into the Pulp City rules, as I find them quite interesting. I have to admit that I'm put off by the fact that I can't actually make my own Supremes, only henchmen through the BOOM rules. Any word on rules to create Supremes?

  2. I don't expect any at this stage. That said, there are guidleines available that are very loose to give a flavour of how Supremes are constructed, so I'd suggest using those as a starting point for freindly games, but they are far from official.

    Each year for the past couple of years Pulp Monsters has run a competition called Supreme Genesis where forum members submit their concepts (usually with stats/rules) for new Supremes. Father Oak and Acorn were the first winners, and plenty more of last years winners will be seen this year. I use the basic info when creating my own entries, but nothing official has appeared yet.

  3. Expanded discussion to include section on flexiblity.

  4. This link goes to a thread I started to collect the little publicly available info about Supreme creation:


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