#Wargame Wednesday or #RPGThursday? Alone just Five Parsecs from Home—Third Edition: Solo Adventure Wargaming (@Modiphius, 2021)

It seems I am always getting dragged into arguments discussions about “What is a wargame?” This should not be one of them. I mean, with Five Parsecs from Home—Third Edition: Solo Adventure Wargaming it can’t be any more obvious since “wargaming” is part of the title, right? In reality, I am torn whether to place my impressions in my #Wargame Wednesday or #RPGThursday or even a #TravellerTuesday column. That’s because Five Parsecs from Home is part wargame and part role-playing game with a healthy dose of Traveller RPG inspiration.

Here is how publisher Modiphius advertises Five Parsecs from Home:

Five Parsecs From Home is a solo adventure wargame where you assemble a ragtag crew of galactic trailblazers and head out to explore the stars, pick up jobs, and every now and then —  engage in some action-packed, sci-fi combat!

Battles are procedurally generated with huge combinations of enemies, weapons, battlefield circumstances and objectives whether fighting rivals or carrying out jobs.

With each encounter you earn experience and loot, progressing your crew and story as you send your crew to look for contacts, trade, explore the colony, recruit replacements or train up their skills.

The game is playable with any miniatures you have on hand and requires only a small number to get started, making it ideal for both experienced and new science fiction gamers. All you need is a few six-sided dice and a couple of ten-sided dice. 

Modiphius

“Adventure wargame.” That’s an interesting adjective for a wargame and certainly a thought worthy of consideration. Hang on to your thoughts as we will come back to that in a bit.

Wargame or RPG?

It’s Traveller

Five Parsecs from Home is Classic Traveller. No, I’m not talking about the Third Imperium setting for Traveller, I mean the original, near setting-less, GDW Little Black Books 1977 version of Traveller where the Imperium was a distant, nebulous entity. Here is part of the introduction to Five Parsecs from Home:

Here, in front of you, is the Fringe: a scattered array of worlds that defy generalization, anarchistic colonies of determined frontier settlers, crime-ridden concrete towns, corporate-controlled extraction bases, and battle-grounds for warlords and pirates.

Opportunities for credits are everywhere you care to look: mercenary work, doing dirty jobs for the corporations, helping solve the trouble of some colony. If you have a ship to your name and a crew you can trust, you can go far.

Sometimes it even pays well. Find allies when you can, because your enemies will certainly remember your face. Nobody makes it very far on their own.

Of course, you may not live to spend your ill-gotten gains. Maybe you end up face-down in the radioactive sand after a shoot-out. Maybe you’re collateral damage in a Galactic War invasion. Maybe you try to pet a Krorg.

Introduction

To me, that screams Classic Traveller (or maybe Serenity/Firefly Role-Playing Game…but you hopefully get my point).

It’s a Role-Playing Game

Five Parsecs from Home is a role-playing game (RPG). There are rules for character generation as well as encounters and narrative play to get one through an adventure (campaigns).

Characters

I would call character generation in Five Parsecs from Home as “just enough.” As in you create “just enough” to have a bit of some personality for your player characters (PCs). Of course, the focus is on combat so whatever attributes or skills the PC has in Five Parsecs from Home are combat-oriented. You also have “just enough” detail on your ship. There is no real role-playing—the adventure is driven by tables—but there are “just enough” story hooks that a bit of a narrative emerges as you progress.

Unlike Classic Traveller/Cepheus Engine where PCs bring their attributes and skills to the game, Five Parsecs from Home has two metagame currencies: Experience Points (XP) and Story Points. XP is used to grow a character, but Story Points are how the solo player gains a degree of leverage over the procedural development of the adventure narrative.

Campaigning

When I’m asked to describe adventures in Classic Traveller two terms come to mind: Patrons and Encounters. PCs seek Patrons to find a job and move from encounter to encounter as they adventure. Five Parsecs to Home leans hard into this approach

Five Parsecs from Home is built using campaign turns. After creating a crew of characters and kitting out both them and their ship you travel and explore. Every campaign turn there WILL be a battle to fight. Whereas in Traveller the narrative flow of the adventure is set by the Game Master (GM), in Five Parsecs to Home the Campaign Turn is defined for you. That’s because Five Parsecs from Home is designed for solo play—the campaign turn sequence replaces the GM. In many ways Five Parsecs from Home is a bit more of a “rigid” directed adventure than the solo play rules available for Traveller: more specifically the newer Cepheus Engine version as found in various Solo titles from Zozer Games.

It’s a Wargame

Five Parsecs from Home is a miniatures wargame. More exactly, it’s a set of combat rules for skirmish battles. Indeed, a campaign turn in Five Parsecs from Home is built around getting to, through, and then determining the aftermath of a battle.

(For those of you who are miniatures wargamers, the rules are figure-agnostic. The rules recommend using 15mm or 28mm figures and ranges/movement is in inches.)

In many ways Five Parsecs from Home is a battle scenario generation system. I appreciate that not all fights are straight-up murder hobo missions. Maybe you have to deliver an item, or search something, or maybe secure something. Some missions are for your patron while some are determined by a rival or maybe a quest.

The battle rules for Five Parsecs from Home are not very complex. As the combat system uses a grid square, it is a bit more complicated than the Range Band combat found Classic Traveller/Cepheus Engine but not by much. On the other hand, it is not as complex as that found in Classic Traveller combat games Snapshot or Azhanti High Lightning. The battle rules in Five Parsecs from Home are pretty much what I expect from a set of miniatures wargame rules; simple with just enough chrome to make it fit the theme but with a definite focus on playability.

Part of the reason the battle rules in Five Parsecs from Home work is the opposition “AI” in the rules. Rather than rigidly defining how an enemy force operates the game system give you a basic “doctrine” or “tactical tendencies” of how the opposition operates on the game board.

What is it?

So, if you ask me if Five Parsecs from Home is set in the Traveller RPG universe, I will probably answer, “Yes.” If you ask me if Five Parsecs from Home is a role-playing game I will also answer in the affirmative. Finally, if you ask me if Five Parsecs from Home is a wargame I will also answer in the positive. Which brings us back to the “adventure wargame” label…

Five Parsecs from Home is a solo skirmish wargame using role-playing game mechanisms to create your squad/crew. It is not unlike the Traveller Combat System in Classic Traveller nor unlike the related Snapshot or Azhanti High Lightning games where players are given more detailed combat rules for their characters. But Five Parsecs from Home goes a step beyod just being combat rules by adding solo “campaign” or “session” rules to help you build a story of how you got to the battle and what the aftermath is.

In many ways, I see a near-direct lineage between Behind Enemy Lines (FASA, 1980) and Five Parsecs from Home; both are a RPG to create characters that then move those characters through an adventure of encounters. Behind Enemy Lines was World War II in Europe; Five Parsecs from Home is a sci-fi future.

So, is Five Parsecs from Home a true “adventure wargame?” While I’m not necessarily going to categorize Five Parsecs from Home as a “wargame,” I’m certainly going to use it for some adventure gaming.


Feature image courtesy mentalfloss

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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