Publisher: AVStudioGames- LudioBooster (Alban Viard Studio Games)
Designer and Artist: Todd Sanders
Plays: 1-2 players (It’s a solo game with a optional 2 player variant)
Play time: 20-30 min Age: 14+
Print and play files were provided by the publisher for this preview. All of the components and artwork you see are in prototype form and do not represent the final product. I would like to thank Alban Viard and Todd Sanders for allowing to be a part of this project.
Pulp Detective is a solitaire/cooperative investigation card game. You play as detectives trying to solve a case by talking to informants, following leads, and surviving cliffhangers. If you’re able to find 4 clues and confront the criminal before your time or stamina run out, you win. Pulp Detective is set in a Detective Comics world during the 1920/1930’s. The game is a smart and simple on the surface, but the complexity lies in your card placement, roll of the dice, and your willingness to risk it all to solve your case before time runs out. More than meets the eye.
Preparing the Investigation
To start the game, you choose a case card and detective. There are a total of 8 detectives available and each have special abilities that give you rerolls, stamina recovery, and specific advantages on resolving cards. The Case card has a 24 hr time tracker. Based on your choice of difficulty, the amount of time you have less. Case cards are like round markers that can be sped up when you fail Investigation cards or confront the criminal. You can’t solve a crime without a criminal. The double sided Criminal card has 4 suspects. It’s treated just like an Investigation card, except you will not know which of the suspects turns into your final Investigation.
It’s in the cards
Stamina/Clue Card and Item Card
The stamina/clue card shows how many dice you can roll and the effects that you gain or lose. You can lose or gain stamina by completing or failing to solve Investigation cards. You get bonuses as you move higher up the stamina track and you lose more time as you get close to the bottom. The items are gained by completing your current storyline card. Items are vital to your success in this game, so take a break from chasing Informant for clues to chase some items.
There are three types of cards that will create the storylines for your case. The front side of each card has 3 task lines. Depending on the time mark on the Case card, you will roll dice to fulfill the current task. You receive rewards for matching icons for the current task line or a penalty for missing the mark. The three types of cards are as follows:
Cliffhanger cards give you the best chance of gaining stamina
Informants cards give you the best chance to finding clues
Follow a Lead cards give you the best chance of receiving items
The dice are the driving force behind solving Investigation cards and leading you closer to solving your case. The 4 yellow dice you start with each have different sets of results based on the dice number. Each die has 4 possible results and 2 sets of doubles. Since the dice are numbered 1 to 4, you can choose which order you want to roll.
There are four tokens types. You gain tokens by failing to meet the conditions of a current Investigation card. You may choose a token from one of the die result from your failed roll results. I like this mechanic, because you can use them on future turns and it gave a me the impression that dice rolls won’t always rule the game. I know how some people feel about dice based games.
Taking it to the Streets
In a round of play, you’re adding Investigation cards to you main storyline or subplot lines. Rows are aligned based on the placement on you very first card. The first row sets your main storyline and no row can be ahead of the main story. There are three phases to each round.
Phase 1: Storyline
You deal three face down Investigation cards. You choose one, discard one, and return one card to the deck wherever you want. At the beginning of the game, there’s an opportunity to set up a main storyline that is cohesive and sets up rerolls as the game progresses. Every card, excluding some Informant cards, have icons on all four edges. The term If possible, you want to line them up to give extra rerolls during the Investigation Phase
Phase 2: Investigate
In this phase, you roll dice to complete your current storyline card. Depending on the current time on your case card, you this will gauge which line is your current task. Instead of looking at the game as a straight “dice chucker” take all of the actions you can do to complete a task:
- Roll each of the yellow dice in a specific order to match icons up
- Use items such as the Paperboy and Otherworld dice or Reporter to gain extra rolls
- Use Twist tokens to fulfill the matching conditions
- Spend 1 or 2 time from you Case card for rerolls
- Use a 5th die roll IF you are at the top of the stamina track
- Gain one to two rerolls based on having a cohesive storyline between cards. If icons of the edges match with cards adjacent to your current task you can gain extra rolls
- Use your detective’s special action
Success: If you match the icon requirements, you gain whatever icon is shown in the white column. If it’s an item icon, the die number in the top of the card will tell what to look for on your Item card. You can increase stamina to work towards gaining more dice or saving your hide from losing dice. You want to gain 4 clue icons (?) to reach the final confrontation.
Failure: Failing is not as bad as it seems. You lose whatever icon is on the rightmost column. Failing is not the worst thing in the world in Pulp Detective. Let’s say you are going to lose an item or stamina. If you rolled three matching icons of the item or stamina icons while rolling your yellow dice, you don’t lose the item or stamina. Even better, you gain a Twist token that matches one of your failed yellow dice icons. You can bank 1 or 2 twist tokens for or lose up to 3 hours of time to keep a 3rd and 4th token. The worst failure penalty is losing time. Time in Pulp Detective moves rather quickly, but hopefully you understand there are just enough options to press on and solve the case.
Phase 3: Time Passes on or Confront the Criminal
Time moves on by 1 hour every round. If you runs out…..dun dun DUUUUUUUUN. You lose. After gathering 4 clues you can attempt to solve the crime by confronting the criminal. The criminal is revealed by taking the card off the Investigation deck and checking the die icon. Match it up with the same icon on the Criminal card. You treat the criminal just like an Investigation card, except you cannot use items, special abilities, and twist token. You have the option of spending 2 additional hours to reroll until you run out of time. If you match the icons up, you cracked the case and winner winner chicken dinner. If you run out of time, the criminal gets away.
Why Should I Back This?
- Tons of replayability in the base box. Eight detectives and multiple difficulty levels will keep you busy for awhile. Based on how the criminal is revealed, you have the opportunity to catch four different criminals.
- The gameplay in Pulp Detective is smart and presents more challenge beyond dice rolling and hoping for the best.
- The expansion adds more difficulty with Masterminds and shorter windows for success
- Who doesn’t like a old school detective themed game that’s take seriously and doesn’t feel tacked on?
- A game that’s quick to setup, pack up, and a candidate for a good travel game.
- Works as a dedicated solo experience and a cooperative experience if you choose. I did not get a chance to play 2 player so I cannot comment on the gameplay.
My Final Thoughts
Pulp Detective seems like a solid pick up for a solo gamers. I personally keep my eyes peeled for games I can take with me wherever I go, with minimal setup time and table presence. When I play a solitaire game, I want to feel like I’m making juuuuuust enough head scratching decisions to keep me engaged for at least 30 minutes. Pulp Detective gives you so many choices on card placement and dare I say dice management that you get a fulfilling game experience. If I put this on the table at home, I could see myself playing Pulp Detective back to back like I did for this preview. I would love to share more info about the expansion, but that would be another 500 words. The amount of replayability with adding more cases, detectives, sidekicks, and mastermind criminals are all huge bonuses to the gameplay. If you can’t tell, I highly recommend Pulp Detective and I look forward to seeing more unlocked content during this campaign.
Are you going to back the Pulp Detective? Have any specific questions about the base game or expansion? Please share any comments or questions below. Thank you for your time and please like, share, follow. I can also be reached on Twitter @jambapg
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