7TV by Crooked Dice is one of my absolute favourite systems. With the classic “7TV Inch High Spy-Fi” you can experience lots of agent adventures, “7TV Pulp” now expands the field with great new heroes and adventures. What this starter box is for, why it needs a new genre and what to expect, I explain in this review of 7TV Pulp.
The game 7TV is about re-enacting television episodes or even films. On the surface, you play a classic conflict between two parties in a tabletop game. In fact, however, the games represent the filming of a television episode, which is why specific terms are used. The whole thing is very nerdy and meta, but you don’t have to play it that way. I, for one, find it very entertaining and, as a film fan, it is simply the perfect game for me. The player whose turn it is is “on screen”, the game pieces are called “Star, Co-Star, Extra,…”, the point values of the pieces are compared with “ratings”. You come across little details like this at all corners and ends, which altogether create a very atmospheric game.
What is nice is that 7TV merely provides a rules corset with completely generic game characters. One star is an agent, the other an adventurer, the villain a mad scientist. You can then fill this with as much life as you like. Of course, it makes sense for the agent to be James Bond. The adventurer could be Indiana Jones. For the antagonist, you appropriately take Bond’s nemesis Blofeld or a Nazi henchman who fights Indiana Jones for the Ark of the Covenant. The possibilities and flexibility are almost unlimited.
Why does it need 7TV Pulp?
Three starter boxes have been released so far: “Inch High Spy-Fi”, “Pulp” and “Apocalypse”. A fantasy box has been announced and the anticipation is already huge. Each of these starter boxes contains the basic rules, which are basically always the same, with some additional rules depending on the genre. With the Spy-Fi box, you can actually cover most things in modern settings. I have presented it here.
I don’t own Apocalypse yet. It has rules and mechanisms for games between Mad Max-like scenarios and the fight against zombies and mutated creatures. I also find it exciting, but so far I have hardly any figures for it and don’t see a high priority here yet.
Pulp, on the other hand, is a matter of the heart. Whether masked avengers like The Shadow, Green Hornet or The Phantom, adventurers like Indiana Jones or Brendan Fraser’s character in The Mummy (what was his name?), occult secret societies worshipping Satan, Cthulhu or anyone else, the list goes on. This is the stuff that fun Hollywood films are made of. Why not my tabletop games?
7TV Pulp captures this in a lovingly designed box with its very own take on the genre. Let’s take a closer look:
The basic rules are always the same, currently the 2nd edition of 7TV is played and this will most likely remain so for a long time. The boxes are all similar in terms of content and each one picks up on the respective genre in terms of design and layout. The boxes only provide the game material, no miniatures and no terrain are included. If you have to start from scratch, you would also have to get two matching groups of miniatures – at least you can mix and match anything that fits the theme and looks reasonable, regardless of the manufacturer. A measuring instrument in inches would still have to be brought along.
Specifically included in the box are the Directors Guide (rulebook), the Producers Guide (sourcebook for designing the games) and the Casting Guide (sourcebook for recruiting the cast). The back of the Directors Guide this time contains a clear Quick Reference Sheet so that you have the most important terms and values right at a glance, which I find an improvement over the Spy Fi box.
All kinds of playing cards such as unit cards with the profiles of the miniatures, gadget cards for equipment, maguffin cards and peril cards for a special knuff of the game are included as well as dice, a template, markers and tokens and a small maguffin made of pewter. Everything makes a high-quality impression and is appropriately designed.
The Producers Guide – Action!
The Producers Guide deserves a special mention. It was not yet available with the Spy-Fi box and here you can clearly see that Crooked Dice was supported in the creation of this box by students from Edge Hill University for Creative Writing. The Producers Guide provides one with ideas for game design and concrete scenarios. Most of the book is fluffy in nature and is not strictly required. In the game, it is assumed that there is the fictional film studio Pinnacle Pacific Pictures, founded by the go-getting producer Spenser Packard – he is also known as the “King of Cliffhangers” in keeping with the nature of old pulp fiction magazines.
After an outline of the history of the film studio, the Producers Guide now presents three different films by the studio, which should provide an idea of the possible games, name recommended characters in each case and convey the character of the different genres: “Trials of the Lizardmen” is a film in which adventurers venture through unexplored jungles and encounter lizardmen, who of course immediately kidnap one of them. Consequently, many game scenarios present themselves: First contact/fight, rescue, escape,… You probably already have a film running in your head.
The next film is Rhodes to the Stars, a space adventure film that could be somewhere between Star Wars and Flash Gordon. I’m not so keen on it at the moment, but I’m sure it will be completely different in a few months.
The third film is “G-Men vs the Shadow Ring” and deals with the investigation and fight of a government organisation against a sinister cult. Even without further words, one should quickly find oneself in the corresponding scenarios. The ideas are so simple and generic, but with the right mechanisms you will immediately find yourself in the story. It’s about space adventures, archaeological missions that awaken the evil old one, dark stories of cosmic horror of Lovecraftian nature – the possibilities are endless.
How does 7TV Pulp work?
The rules are, as I said, the same as for 7TV Inch High Spy-Fi, which is why I unabashedly refer to my article on it. There I explained roughly how the game mechanisms work and what the special features are. This time only the setting is different, but otherwise the game has remained the same and could be played entirely with the other rulebook with the necessary cards. The only exceptions are:
Maguffins and Perils – for a special pulp feeling
If you want, you can go on the hunt for a maguffin in the 7TV Pulp games. It’s the one random object that is always used in films to advance the plot, but which itself doesn’t actually have any major significance. In the hunt for some treasure or arcane item with supernatural power, our heroes and the minions of a sinister adversary keep getting in each other’s way. What we experience are the adventures surrounding the hunt, the object itself is really only a plot device. Some films get by completely without any function of the maguffin, in the Indiana Jones films at least something happens to the Ark of the Covenant. The suitcase in Pulp Fiction is one, even the ring in Lord of the Rings can be seen that way.
In the game, this item can be used completely optionally and adds an extra dynamic to the game. The side that picks up the maguffin owns it as a team and drops it as soon as a model is eliminated. The opponent can then pick it up again. In the end, the maguffin provides valuable victory points. It is easy to imagine how the Maguffin changes sides again and again during a good scuffle or a wild chase. Some scenarios even recommend the use of a Maguffin to increase the cinematic feeling. There are 20 Maguffin cards in the box.
Another optional gimmick are the Peril Cards. They bring an unknown additional danger into the games that can threaten both sides. Of course, adventure films contain crocodiles, giant beasts or spiders, aliens, monsters, wild beasts and more. To bring this chaotic momentum into play, you can play with Peril Cards.
The threats are sorted by genre, so you can choose appropriate threats. Then you either shuffle the deck and draw randomly or just pick something that particularly appeals to you beforehand. One card per game should be enough. The threat is then moved randomly by each player during his turn after a dice roll and can attack his own or the opponent’s miniatures – this makes for plenty of chaos and is reminiscent of Jurassic Park and the like when an angry T-Rex suddenly bursts into the confrontation between two groups.
I really like the 7TV Pulp Box. I like the game anyway, but I think the adaptation to the pulp genre has worked wonderfully. There are only a few mechanics that are added, but they already provide the crucial factor for the appropriate feeling. Profile cards, gadgets and perils bring in many elements that make the game immediately an experienced film. Just listen to the genres the characters belong to: Amazing Tales, Crime Busters, Gangland Stories, Mystery Theatre, Thrilling Adventures, Weird Menace. It’s all clear there, isn’t it?
As with the Inch High Spy-Fi box, it remains to be said that everything is lovingly designed and made of high-quality, sturdy materials. However, since there are no game figures and it is therefore only a starter box to a limited extent, I find the somewhat higher price of 60€ quite proud. In my eyes, however, 7TV is such a beautiful, entertaining game that offers great added value, especially for film fans, that it should be worth the investment. Unfortunately, a stable knowledge of English is still required.
I’m really looking forward to the first pulp games. Definitely Indiana Jones is coming up and, as a big Lovecraft fan, there will definitely be some investigators in a strange fishing village somewhere in New England.
Click here for the Crooked Dice website and shop: Crooked Dice Game Design Studio – Wargaming in the world of cult TV (crooked-dice.co.uk)