Saturday 13 December 2014

5 Parsecs from Home Review (Supplement to 5Core Skirmish Gaming System)

This can be seen as a continuation of my 5Core skirmish rules review.  My two main concerns about 5Core were the absence of troop quality and the somewhat bare bones nature of the rules. Weighing in at 91 pages this “supplement” is actually 4x bulkier than the parent system, so fleshing things out shouldn't be an issue.  

The setting has a bit of a “Firefly” vibe (a good thing, for me, anyway) with most campaigns occurring in outlaw "fringe" space away from the all-powerful Unity government.

5 Parasecs did make me contemplate painting some 15mm sci fi minis. Which is always a good sign for a rules set.

Crew/Unit Creation
You start with a few heroes and a handful of goons – about 5-6 minis and no more than 8 to start.  Character creation is very RPG-y.  There are d100 tables where you can randomly create the planet of origin, motivations, class and special skills of characters – most of which are “background” and have no impact on actual gameplay.  There are about 40+ “talents” or special skills, 20+ flaws, and 20+ of alien traits.  At the end of my 5Core review I somewhat wryly said there would doubtless be "80 special skills and abilities to make up for the lack of stats" - amusingly it looks like I hit the nail right on the head!

There is also a range of ~20 psychic powers.  Heck, you can even randomly generate the spaceship you fly around in, friendships and rivalries and how you met your creew  - if that isn't Firefly I don't know what is.   There is no "points system" and this campaign system is definitely not even remotely designed for the competitive club scene - its more for playing with casual mates/RPGers than the local 40K rules lawyers.

"You can't take the sky from me..."  ... bounty hunters doing dirty jobs, staying one step ahead of the law...   5 Parasecs borrows heavily from Firefly/Cowboy Bebop

You can see clearly how 5 Parsecs is aimed at the zone between skirmish wargames and RPGs (an area dominated by Two Hour Wargame titles in recent years).  It is not a good competitive system and could be easily abused.   The campaign, like the unit creation, is very much about making a story.  

You can roll on tables to find a patron and get a job.  Your crew can trade and acquire items and see the sights. You can track down enemies and random campaign events or random character events can complicate matters . Your characters can gain new skills and traits and you can recruit new crewmembers.    Finishing missions gets you rolls on the loot table.  There are tables for generating encounters, and opponents, and even their weapons.  If the mission involves destroying or capturing a target, you can even have a table for what sort of target it was.   

Basically, this is a RPG, with more tables (20 pages worth?) than you can shake a stick at - without getting a sore arm, anyway. It has more tables and stuff to do than Mordhiem, but it's not aimed at the same niche - 5 Parsecs is about generating a story. There are even tables to tell what tables to roll on (OK, I made that up).  Suffice to say, there is a lot you can do on a campaign, though none of it would be "balanced" for competitive gameplay in the slightest. There are even some Gamemaster tools for travel and player actions, and reactions by NPCs.  You'll like it if you like RPGs like Savage Worlds, THW: 5150 or Song of Blades campaigns (< though SoBH has a much sketchier campaign system) - but it is not the new Necromunda* (*On a side note, the person who does make the "new Necromunda" is going to make a mint.)

Scenario Rules
These are extra rules to add onto the base 5Core system for scenarios such as hacking, bluffing/persuading, doing field repairs, NPC reactions, climbing, falling and blasting open doors.  

Weapons & Gear
The weapons section gives more detail on a good range of weapons - blasters and slug throwers, electric guns, flamers - that covers most sci fi situations.  There's flak, combat and power armour, and a range of melee weapons. Sentry guns, portable shields and teleporters, jump belts.  In short, a goodly selection allowing you to cover most sci-fi situations.  Like the base  5Core system, it does a solid job of giving a range of weapons using rather limited rules and modifiers.

GZG's 15mm "Free Trader"pack reminds me of a certain crew....

Five Parsecs from Home is a RPG lite - a campaign allowing you to take a bunch of minis on adventures.  Firefly-style adventures at that.  It does not fill the Necromunda void of warband v warband combat, but is more like a friendly version of the old Rogue Trader where wargaming and RPGs get hazy.  Two Hour Wargames has already filled this niche with its 5150 sci fi series but Five Parsecs gives it some much-needed competition.  Like 5150, 5 Parsecs focusses more on what is happening before and after the game, rather than the game itself.  I'd say 5 Parasecs is superior as a campaign-story-generator, as it has more campaign options and "tools" and provides faster, more accessible gameplay once you get minis on the table.

Recommended? Yes.  If you're after a story-based skirmish campaign with a RPG feel but simple combat rules, 5 Parsecs delivers.  Whilst it does have the 80+ special rules I predicted, it fleshes out the 5Core system and gives you a good toolbox for making space adventures with whatever cool sci fi minis you've got laying around.  Personally,  I think it should have the 5Core rules included within the 5Parsecs supplement, but  there is a discounted "bundle" you can buy on the Wargames Vault. 


  1. Appreciate the nice words. As you say Firefly and Cowboy Bebop were big influences, as well the Traveller RPG and Trigun (for some of the slightly silly atmosphere).

    There's two big things I think scifi gaming has forgotten a little from Rogue Trader, one is the pseudo-RPG skirmish game which I think I've captured pretty good.

    The second is the "stat up any odd model and bring them to play" with some simple campaign rules and a lot of heart. Gruntz is almost there.

  2. I think GW has a lot to answer for in leeching a lot of creativity out of the hobby. It has prescriptive paint schemes (when is the last time you saw a "custom" paint job?), rigid TO&E (which you referred to in another post), and its success fostered a rush of imitators both in the style of rules, and the habit to re-use (or not change) the engine. 40K ceased to be a skirmish/RPG lite a long time ago (3rd ed?) but the core mechanics are the same for mass battle ruleset we have now, where 100s of models and a half dozen tanks take to the table.

    Whilst it is a good game, I never warmed to Gruntz as I felt it was a reskinned Wamachine. Actually, it IS Warmachine, stripped of the focus and caster references and replacing fantasy with sci fi terms. It felt like the equivalent of replacing the hubcaps and body kit on a Ford car, repainting it and calling it a Volvo.

  3. Ah very interesting. Believe it or not, I never actually played Warmachine (mostly steam/magic "punk" doesn't interest me and the fan base can be a little zealous) so I wasn't aware of that connection.

    I can definitely see why it became a bit of a sensation. No doubt helps that it aimed squarely at 15mm scifi which was exploding at the time too. I mean, the basic unit size is the same as most 15mm infantry pack sizes :)

    GW breaks my heart. I still play Rogue Trader once in a while and while I'll guarantee not a single person plays it for the rules, there's a certain magic. We found it retroactively (I started with 2nd edition) so it's not even nostalgia. Someone is going to recapture that magic and it'll be a big deal.

    5150 got kind of close. Gruntz got kind of close. I'm not sure if anyone really did.

    1. Gruntz to Warmachine is pretty much what would happen if I took say 5Cores base mechanisms, added special rules for fantasy and sold it as an original game.

      The "familiarity" factor is probably why it took off. (I.e. many successful games use methods similar to the GW system to make it easier to transition - Bolt Action and FoW being prime examples - both of whom have attracted a lot of GW refugees. Warlord Games are the new Warhammer Historical)

      Ironically, Gruntz is a better balanced game, as Warmachine is designed specifically for rules lawyers who like to make uber-mega combos of special moves (it reminds me of a CCG), and Gruntz removed many of the more uber combos by taking out the caster and his magic points.

      There's money in making a new Mordhiem/Necromunda. It still has an enthusiastic following and an updated version with more modern mechanisms but enough familiarity to veterans would sell a bucketload.

      5Core dips into the THW, TFL, SoBH market that caters to a certain mindset of gamers. Bolt Action, FoW and Mantic are trying to get to the unwashed masses, where the real money is :-)

  4. That sort of echoes something I've been thinking about for a while.

    The games that become defining in their genres tend to be games that are pretty plain, but with one or two clever ideas.
    You could rename it as "like Warhammer but.." if you wanted a name for the trope I guess :)

    1. That would make an interesting blog article. Offhand, I'd use a d10 - simply to make it easier to balance and give more graduations in stats. I'd reduce the stats to maybe 4-5 - melee, missile, defence, will, strength. Allow different moves (none of this "everyone moves 6" nonsense).

      The "cool" difference? The activation. IGOUGO lacks dynamism. Add reaction moves, and maybe an order pool (a la Infinity) or a combat dice pool (Bushido). You'd also need a solid army builder so people can "stat up" random models, as well as having "recommended" armies so the veterans could feel secure in 40K-style "lists".

  5. Yeah, like I said, it doesn't have to be /very/ clever, it just has to be a little clever.

    If you mess around with the activation system or introduce a little randomness, you're doing pretty good.
    Snazz up the morale rules to be a little better and make sure that units with different gear play out differently in the game, and it's a good 'un.


  6. EvilleMonkeigh & Ivan - I appreciate your comments in regards to 5Core/5Parsecs and the comparison to other rules (5150, SoBH). I've been intrigued by the 5Core line, but haven't pulled the trigger yet. I have quite a few THW titles and like them, particularly for solo gaming. However, I'm always looking for new rules to read and maybe even play one day. :-)

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

    1. All welcome. Let me know if you have any questions.

    2. If you like 2HW stuff and SoBH, then I'd definitely recommend 5Core. I think it appeals to a similar type of gamer.

  7. I know this post is oldish, but can 5Core be played solo?

    1. Cheers. Yes, it can. Solo options are included.

      It's not a full "AI" system like in 5150/Nuts but more like a collection of tools for decision making.