[Review] Bulldogs! Sci-fi that Kicks Ass

Posted: August 3, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Reviews, Roleplaying Games

Bulldogs! is one of the RPGs that came out of Kickstarter that I never had a chance to pledge for. That said, the premise seemed interesting, and the tagline certainly piqued my interest, so when I jumped at the chance to review a copy.

Bulldogs! is a high action space adventure rpg powered by the popular FATE system. From what I’ve seen, Bulldogs! is a game that wholeheartedly revels in rubber science for the sake of nonstop action.

The setup is familiar but certainly workable, and the author’s writing style has a lot of personality without being annoying. It’s a good sort of color for the book, that comes across as informal without being condescending, or laden with in-world jargon.

The setting tends to cleave towards some very familiar hallmarks of space opera gaming, two galactic empires waged a war that nearly devastated both sides, resulting in a truce where both sides withdrew, leaving a large neutral area of the known galaxy called the Frontier Zone, where most of the game takes place.

The Frontier Zone is a bizzare mix of various autonomous planets or star systems, each with their own jurisdiction over one chunk of space, making it easy for outlaws and pirates to skip the law by jumping to the nearest other jurisdiction. Add the background complication of having both of the galactic empires secretly working to undermine the other with spies and espionage, and it’s a perfect place for high action games.

I was surprised that Bulldogs! featured a large array of aliens to choose from, featuring no less than ten races including the human-like Arsubarans, the slug-like Tetsuashans and the Urseminites, a murderous race of criminals that look disturbingly like teddy bears.

As an added bonus, Bulldogs! also has rules for creating your own alien species, if ten isn’t enough for you. It’s a fairly robust system that allows you to mix and match traits to form your own alien.

Bulldogs! assumes that all the players are part of the same crew for the same TransGalaxy-owned Class D Frieght ship and, working for the same Captain. The first step in Campaign creation is a group effort, involving the nature of their crew, as they decide details as to what Ship they’re aboard and what their Captain is like. The last detail that the players have to agree on a power level for the campaign.

Character Creation on the other hand is a solo affair, where the player’s make various decisions on key points of the character’s life until their employment, picking up Aspects along the way.

Skill are up next, and I appreciate how Bulldogs! takes an approach of giving skill packages that distribute the skill points along various configurations like “Well-Rounded” and “Dual Focus” beginners to the system like I am can easily just pick one and get on with it, focusing on the skill choices rather than wrangling points.

Aspects come up again after this, and a large and thorough coverage of how they work in terms of Invoking and Compelling them. Again I’m glad that the writing here is solid enough to get the message across. The book spends a lot of time on this, but it’s understandable as this is one of FATE’s most difficult (and brilliant) concepts that takes time for a gaming group to actually understand and internalize.

Skills and Stunts come up next, and both are riddled with a lot of examples to show how they work, as well as to cut down on time as players can simply choose the stunts that they want rather than negotiating with the GM all the time.

No Sci-fi game is complete without a discussion of money, gear and space ships, and Bulldogs! is no exception. The lifestyle rules and debt rules are particularly interesting, and I’m glad that the gear rules provide a large variety of weapons, personal armor and other devices while also detailing rules for improving items. Likewise ship creation rules, and maintenance are always nice to have, to represent the various costs of living related to the job of being a troubleshooter in the Frontier Zone.

The final Chapter details GM advice, relating to how to keep the action flowing freely. Bulldogs! is a Space Opera game at heart, full of the pulp sensibilities that melodrama, high-action and contant pacing is at it’s core as opposed to slow, plodding mystery.

Bulldogs! is exactly what it says on the tin. The FATE system powers this sci-fi game to a streamlined and cinematic level of play, and there’s a refreshing lack of gravitas that accompanies the setting.  The action is fast and furious and free of any complications of any gray areas. There’s you and there’s them, and when the smoke clears, there had better be only you standing.

There’s plenty of things to do in the Bulldogs! setting, the author does a fantastic job at painting the broad strokes right, leaving plenty of inspiration along the way for GMs to pick up and run their own high action campaigns with.

Bulldogs! features great writing, clean layout and great artwork.  Definitely a great buy.

Bulldogs! Sci-fi that kicks ass is available from DrivethruRPG for $10.00 or roughly PhP 410.00

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Comments
  1. Thanks for the review. I’m glad you like it!

  2. […] [Review] Bulldogs! Sci-fi that Kicks Ass from Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer (philgamer.wordpress.com) […]

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