Today something entirely different. After Warhammer, Malifaux or Infinity time for some refreshing change, some new and fresh content.
Have you ever heard about miniature skirmish game ‘Pulp City‘? If no, time to get familiar with the game.
Following text is the interview I made with Maciej Żylewicz, creator ad designer of ‘Pulp City’. From interview you will get insight what ‘Pulp City’ is actually about, where to start, how to play and where it’s going.
I spoke with Maciej in September 2015 . It has been some time, I know, but I left Poland in October 2015 and I was away from home for few months. We were supposed to make demonstration game right after the interview, but some things just messed up a little, and we couldn’t sync our calendars. Right now, we finally made it and I also finally played ‘Pulp City’ (which was awesome!) and I can give you my thoughts and impressions of actual gameplay. …but this will be in next post. Now, the interview. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Few things in the interview(those about future plans and new Kickstarter campaign) got out of date. Time passed by and Pulp City moved forward. Beside that, though, all matters we talked about are actual, and they hopefully will give you the better idea of ‘Pulp City’.
Some of the photos I took myself during the demo game, and some are property of Pulp Monsters Company, producer of Pulp City.
Game of Travel: Can you give us some insights about origins of Pulp City? How you came up with the idea of mixing up of so many various ideas from comic books or movies?
Maciej Żylewicz: I was big fan of comic books for my entire life. Not only those super heroes ones, but all comic books in general, with all thousands of shades. The stories about, for instance, psychedelic Doctor Strange travelling between astral landscapes and fighting daemons, and on the other hand stories about band of big brave guys protecting city from the destruction. This idea seemed to be so deep, and at the same it had no representation on miniatures games market, so I thought: I can feel and I understand this kind of aesthetics and I have the means to make cool game using this conception. I felt, that everybody should like it. It’s like, people will look at the miniature, or just game concept and start to think – I wonder, where the inspiration came from? Some of them are obvious, some a little bit less. Many of them are just tributes for stories and characters I and my partners adore and by that, we would like to make a play with wargamers. When they will see our ideas – they will know exactly what we were read or watched recently.
And the idea for Pulp City is to take all of our inspirations and put into one place. Imagine the city where absolutely everything can happen. There are alien invaders from outer space (or from other dimensions), mad scientist who design huge Kaiju monsters and let them attack the city. All of these, is possible in Pulp City. For a long time we were trying to make good description for the game. We didn’t want to describe it as super heroes game, because it’s not. We have many stereotypes from movies and books, not only heroes. This is true American pulp! We have our version of Indiana Jones, our Super Man, and his undead version as well.
Solar. Pulp City defender.
The idea is wide, and I think, many gamers were little bit tired of old usual SF or Fantasy concept and would like to see and play more open game like Pulp City.
Game of Travel: Can you tell us few words about origin story of Pulp City?
Maciej: First concept, and believe me, this is not a legend developed as our company marketing policy, was born in 2007, when this idea was somewhere in my head. We had this tradition, with my friends, that every year, December 26th (right after all family meetings were done), we have been doing house party. In 2007, right after that party, when I awoke in the morning, and while I was walking trough the sleeping people lying around on couches and beds, all of the sudden all the game appeared in my head. Sometimes it is like that, when you think about something with high intensity, the moment of clarity come to you in such strange situations.
At that time I was not self-employed. I had little bit of spare time, and decent income, so I decided to risk and invest into this project. It all happened long before all crowdfunding sites, so I couldn’t expect that someone will give me the money for the game. Therefore, slowly I was moving on with the project. I was making the rules, and despite at that moment it was one-man enterprise, I already knew that I want to offer only top quality products. I met very talented illustrator Marek Oleksicki, who works for American publishers and drew things like “Walking Dead” and other amazing comic books. He also works for Polish magazines and international advertising campaigns. He has incredible style. When I met him – I knew he is the guy I want for designing concept art for Pulp City. Marek undertook tough job of drawing the very first character – Guerilla (big gorilla with mini gun). The moment I looked at drawn Guerilla, I loved it and also I knew that I will have high quality art for my project.
Game of Travel: So, the concept was art for the Guerilla character first, or rules to it? And were these rules the exit point for the way how exactly miniature will look like?
Maciej: That’s a good question. Right now, when Pulp City is fully developed game, we do most of the time like that – we have a meeting and try to decide which faction need to be reinforced with new member. We think about the idea, general concept, about some character – how he/she going to look and we share this idea with our graphic designer. When designer is going back with prepared art, sometimes it’s 100% the same what we had in our minds, or sometimes it’s just 10%, but it always looks amazing – it is totally different than we expected, but it’s still awesome and we want to use it. Speaking of Guerilla and other early characters, we were thinking primarily about visual aspect – how character will look, and later we worked on the special rules. It is work with inspiration, concept art, trying to transform it into the miniature. Now it’s rather not like that we have rules ready and we order miniature. It is almost parallel process. For example – we have several concepts stored in our data base, and even until this day we tried to find good usage for them, but so far we haven’t found anything suitable. So, they will have to wait until we will find something good.
Game of Travel: Cool. Let’s get back to origin story…
Maciej: When we started to work with Marek, few concepts were born. I found few awesome sculptors and slowly we began production. At some point of course I needed to show what we achieved. The biggest challenge was the manufacturing process. In Poland there was nobody who could casted miniatures at the level I expected.
Game of Travel: Are miniatures metal, plastic, resin?
Maciej: They are metal. It was hard to find proper caster. We tried in many places, with many people, but we were not satisfied, so there was no other option than to look abroad. Finally we found the best quality casters in England and later when I had first miniatures in my possession- the time has come to promote. I was active on many miniature games convents. It is great community of friendly and likeable people. So, I had this painted Guerilla mini and I was travelling with it from one convention to another and show it to the people. And there were lots of questions. What is it? What game exactly? And these were the times (2007) when new minis weren’t released so often. Skirmish games weren’t popular (yet), so this whole interest was quite a surprise for me. It was a boost I needed to start Pulp City for real. I prepared two starter boxes (5 miniatures each – Villains and Heroes) and along with Q Workshop (Polish company producing dice) I travelled to Gencon. It was difficult, tiresome 4 days, filled with ongoing demonstration games. Fortunately, Americans are grateful customers. When they see good game, your devotion to it, they simply buy it. It was the very first days of Pulp City, and during that Gencon it all started it for real.
Game, with every next release, was getting better and better. Unfortunately I had many lags in production. Back then, I learned how complicated and painful production process can be. First – y0u need concept art, then you need to convert it into metal miniature, which is needed to be painted. In the same time, you need to prepare master casts. Casts need to be delivered to caster and painter. And imagine, if one of the elements of this process is off – everything crash down. And furthermore, if you think about processes like printing or casting, which is better if you do it in bulk, lags sometimes become a nightmare. Miniatures were not manufactured so often as I wanted to, but even though we managed to release several dozens of miniatures. And when it comes to the rules – I always believed that free rules are the perfect solution. If players can download rules free of charge, that way they can try it ans see if they like it. If so, they buy miniatures and printed version of rulebook.
Game of Travel: So, I understand, that free set of rules is available for download to this day?
Maciej: Yes. You can still download the rules, but it was pretty obvious for me that I needed printed version as well. Publishing the rulebook was the biggest turning point for our company. The rulebook was so cool, and we learned a lot what we did wrong and right during publishing process.
Game of Travel: What year was it?
Maciej: If I remember it correctly, it was 2010. This printed rulebook was great experience for us, we was able to ‘live’ the rules. We could wait for feedback from the fans – they are the best critics.
Game of Travel: So, I understand, there was ongoing revision of the rules?
Maciej: Yes, printed version of rulebook went in direction pointed by our fans. They were telling us what we suppose to change. Of course, we had to stick to foundations, because every character had printed cards and these had to be compatible with the rulebook. So, we tried not to mess too much, but I knew we could made the rules better despite that. Game system was nice, but it worked better if players were prepared to the gameplay. Pulp City is not chess, where you need to get to know the rules, you play and only your intelligence, strategic skills and experience are decisive if you win or not. In Pulp City it’s better to know any particular rules and skills of any characters you are about to play. This is major advantage.
We were developing first edition for couple of years. In 2012 I was overworked in my day job, so Pulp City project slowly started to die out. I had less and less energy and commitment to work with the game, so I needed to find some solution. I made a decision to invite to collaboration incredible folks – people who helped me for years as fans, and now they got the opportunity to become the part of Pulp City. Now, every weekend we have Skype meeting and for 2-3 hours we discuss ideas, problems, and all current affairs. And now we have this Polish (me and Karol, my co-worker)- British (Leon, expert on rules)- American (devin, community menager)- Dutch (Melvin, graphic designer) connection, and that gave Pulp City new life. We decided to use popularity of crowdfunding, and we started Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter gave us great boost, and I don’t mean only money (many people claim that crowdfunding is for big companies doing pre-order system). Of course it’s one of the goals of Kickastrater, but if led properly, you are able for example to revise 120 characters, fund 30 new ones and print new rulebook. With this ‘kick’ we could proceed.
Game of Travel: So you have 150 playable characters?!
Maciej: Oh yes, more or less 150. When you assume that most of the characters can interact with each other, so when you build a team, you have around 120 characters at player’s disposal.
Game of Travel: I have this feeling that Pulp City is kind of niche game. I stumbled upon your game totally by accident, but later after some research I realised the game is quite popular. Where is the largest players community?
Maciej: There are few places where Pulp City grew strong over the years. There is large community in UK and United States. Next – France and Germany.
Game of Travel: OK. And what about the city itself? Can you tell me something more about it?
Maciej: Pulp City is kind of like Metropolis of Superman. We know where it is (East Coast, most probably in New York area, but we don’t have a clue where exactly). Pulp City is located on West Coast, somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This is the city where many influential forces clash. On the one side, there is life like in Miami in 1980s, and on the other hand there is plenty of big corporations fighting for power. Of course, in this simplified black-white world, these corporations are run by evil chairmen and their goals are also as evil as the bosses. And also there are million other disasters that occurs in the city – it was founded on the ancient ruins of Indian civilisation. Big bloody massacre of native population happened here and because of that the reality is fractured, and therefore this place is more vulnerable, for instance, on invasion from alternative universe called Necroplane, where everything is the same, but undead. Beside that, few miles from the coast, there is Kodo Island, where mad scientist creates new life forms by combining DNA of dinosaurs with other creatures. If you think about all this mess, you realise that in Pulp City all the time something is going on.
Game of Travel: Are in Pulp City typical faction system?
Maciej: When I was working on Pulp City, my goal was to create such system that gives players not so much restrictions during team creation. It was quite a challenge, if you think about dozens of possible interactions between characters. Of course, you can try to build invincible combo, but if you have 120 playable models at your disposal, it might be not so easy task. The only thing important to remember while recruiting characters, is that some of them are heroes and some are villains (and few are both:), and this is the only factor that your crewmen should have. Beside that – no further restrictions. Of course, system rewards player who decide to build the teams within certain allegiance. Models could work as freelancers, but they can be part of some organisations. And for example, if you decided to choose only apes that are part of Ape Revolution Committee (ARC), you will get certain bonuses.
Game of Travel: Oh, wow. Ape faction? For real? How many apes and monkeys you have in the offer?
Maciej: 12 or 13.
Game of Travel: Monkeys and apes miniatures are my little fetish. There is no other option I have to buy ARC models:)
Maciej: I think we were one of the first companies offering apes miniatures. By the way, Ape Revolution Committee have nice background story as one of the first factions in the city (they are result of some failed Soviet experiment). Time passes by in Pulp City and we also go on – we started from 60s – Cold War times, and moved on – right now we are in late 1980s.
Game of Travel: So, if I understand correctly – history is written as we speak. So, is it no like that some of older models will become obsolete, because they fit more to previous decade? Or maybe players can arrange the game in other time periods? Or travel in time?
Maciej: Everything is possible, even time travel. For intense, right now we will be realising two new factions that are pulled out to present time in Pulp City from deep Cold War era. Two typical crews from 1950s/60s: American super heroes group (mixture of Avengers, Defenders and maybe Invaders and on the other side – Soviet villains that also contain typical archetypes. And now they are appear in the city. So, the story evolves but leaps in time are possible.
Game of Travel: Is this story and generally whole fluff is available in the book or web page?
Maciej: The story is properly described in the books. Fluff in first edition is different than in second, as the story simply continues. We plan that every next book will present another chapter of the background story. Beside that, every character has his/her own story that is presented on webpage, so if you buy some miniatures you can read about them and choose your favourites and decide if they fit to the story you are about to create.
Game of Travel: So, you say the story is moved forward. So, am I understand it correctly – we have only the background with modern times of 2. edition book? No previous years?
Maciej: Right, we sell only 2. edition rulebook with most recent fluff inside, but first edition is available for download as PDF on our webpage.
Game of Travel: Ok. We know something about the fluff. And what can you tell me about the rules? What was the process of creating them?
Maciej: Before we move to mathematics of the game, let’s think for the moment, why gamers become fans of your game and what exactly drove them in. We, for example know about our fans, that they love that in Pulp City there are plenty of possibilities of doing things that are not allowed in other games, like picking up and throwing cars. Actually, this is the thing that attract most interest on our demonstration games. Let’s face it – in Warhammer, no matter how strong Space Marine could be, he can’t throw a car at anybody. And in Pulp City, such interaction with pieces of terrain are one of the things people love.
As for game mechanics, players like Pulp City, because we offer rules with no unnecessary calculations. We know for a fact, that many gamers prefer to roll many dice. We made our second edition that players want to roll many dice and it would be beneficial. We created game mechanics to give players advantages of using as many dice as possible.
We also noticed, and I think many game systems go in this direction, rules should be easy to apprehend. Rulebook should be read one or two times and put on the shelf. Maybe go back to it from time to time, but all the rules should be written and explained on one reference sheet. This sheet available on our page for download (there are also small booklets in every starter box). The other thing is character cards. All the specific rules and skills for the character are on his/her cards. In first edition characters had lots of different skills, and those skills were described in the rulebook. It’s little bit frustrating when you need to drag rulebook for every game you about to play, so now – everything is described on character’s card. First page – all is necessary to recruit the character, and other page – all characteristics, special rules and skills. All explained. That was my ultimate goal – players do not have to use rulebook to play.
Game of Travel: …and what about the scenery? Do you have some terrains in offer? Buildings? Or cars to pick up and throw? How Pulp City exactly looks like?
Maciej: To be honest, today, to have nice looking tabletop filled with pieces of terrain, is not a challenge any more. We will invest in that and hopefully it’s going to be seen in our battle reports. We started to cooperate with Polish company called Multiverse Gaming, producer of amazing scenery pieces. This, always fascinated me – how it’s possible to cut put so many shapes from big piece of wood and all connecting areas are not even visible. And Multiverse Gaming offers pieces so complex, like buildings with ornaments and gargoyles statues. At the moment we are in the middle of preparation of gaming table with full scenery set to play Pulp City.
Game of Travel: And what exactly type of terrain players need to play Pulp City?
Maciej: Pulp City is actually very open in that matter. You can play in ancient Maya ruins site. Or under the sea in the old city of Atlantis. Or maybe jungle of Kodo Island. It is all just the matter of player’s imagination.
Game of Travel: Wow, that’s so cool. And the last question. Your plans for the future?
Maciej: Ok. Once the game was in development, and later when we started with Pulp City – we know that it will not be huge thing, with large tournaments and conventions. We won’t travel the world with our miniatures to promote. This will remain mostly just our hobby and therefore we will to focus on our small internet communities and continue the usage of crowdfunding. So far, we launched one successful Kickstarter campaign (we gathered around 11 times more than it was necessary), but implementation took us twice the time than planned. So, for our further campaigns, we plan to made them at smaller scale, more topic narrowed, but on the other hand based on fandom ideas. So if the idea is good, our fans will support the campaign, and Pulp City will move on. Next campaign will be launched in October 2015 and it’s going to be about typical Cold War factions. First – Supreme Aliance are our version of American superheroes straight from 1950s/60s, and on the other side, their foes – Red Republik, Soviet villains. Also so stereotypical – they wear warm old furs, use old quite crude (but effective) technology. They represent true character of old Soviet Russia.
The campaign will be run in specific way. We use two hashtags – #teambreaker (for support of Spybreaker, leader of Supreme Alliance) and #teamhammer (for support of Professor Hammer, leader of Red Rebuplik), and we encourage people to use these to show what they like the most. Which team they prefer. And by funding this campaign, your pledge could include only one of the factions or both. It’s up to you. That will occupy us in next few months.
Game of Travel: Maciej, thank you very much for the interview. It was really pleasure to talk to you and I wish you all the best.. I really hope we will have opportunity to play the game soon, so you could show me Pulp City in action.
In a week or two, I’m about to post my first ‘Pulp City‘ gameplay impressions. I’ tell you that – it was great. Those super heroes beating each in the docks. That was something, you don’t get very often in skirmish games. proper super heroes action. I tell you that!
Until next time!