Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Five Leagues Character Compendium

Available to patrons through that site and for everyone else here the Character Compendium is a compilation of the four existing character packs into one book.

As monthly support results in a lot of stuff being out there, several fans have asked if we could get some of them merged into a single book, which seemed eminently reasonable.

This combines the Sooth Sayer, Character pack 2 (extra heroes), 3 (animal companions) and 4 (hired helpers) into a single volume. 

Additionally, this seemed like a good time to revisit the rules based on feedback and additional play experience and tweak some things. Some hero skills were redone, but mostly it's fairly minor stuff to just make them work better.

In order to make it more exciting, I decided to add a bit of new content as well, so the package features 2 new hero types, 1 new animal companion and a new spell caster. This also means that the Sooth Sayer mechanics are basically the template for magician-type characters in the rules. Go forth and make many more.

If you just picked up all the original packs in the sale, you don't have to rush out and get this one. Get some mileage out of what you already have and then upgrade later. While we always try to make expansions support and work with each other, the rules will never rely on you owning a specific expansion pack. 

If you are a "core rules only" kinda guy, make sure you have downloaded the most up to date version, especially if you haven't in a while. Some pretty substantial additions took place last year, including much-improved Wounding rules, the new Contract system and much more. 

Monday, 4 January 2021

Two rules updates

 Renegade Scout

The combat rules have been clarified that when firing at a squad in varying degrees of cover, hits are allocated to the closest figure in the least cover. 

Example:

One K'Erin is standing in the open while the rest of his squad is behind a barricade. Even if he isn't the closest squad member to the shooter, he'll still get hit first.

Where Sten Guns Dare

After a thorough course in marksmanship, shooting at targets in cover now counts any die of 5+. Shooting at targets in the open now counts dice of 4+ AND if you are within 12" you get a bonus die.

Friday, 1 January 2021

2020 in hindsight. What we did, what we didn't, what we wanted and what we couldn't

 

2020 is past us and it's time to be a bit introspective right?

So with a cup of coffee going, let's have a look at what Nordic Weasel did this year, what we did not do and so forth.

What didn't end up happening?

Quite a few projects did not work out as initially anticipated or are delayed. This is always something that happens for any number of reasons, but I have concluded it is better to be open about them.

These are:

From Shako to Coalscuttle v2, Squad Hammer content and Laserstorm v2

These were farmed out to volunteers and had to be delayed or cancelled through no fault of the volunteer.  This is a risk no matter if I do something myself or someone else does. Sometimes you just get mired in a project or life strikes and you have to move on and I don't blame the volunteers one bit. 

The army builder work for Squad Hammer has taken far longer, as I keep being unhappy with the result. Stay tuned. 

FiveCore 3.x

Under development but turned out to be much more time-consuming than expected. This is a game I absolutely want to have be as cool and creative as possible, so a lot of things get tried and rejected. Soon. 

The real challenge is that I want it to scale up to platoon level, without sacrificing the skirmish elements. I thought I had it nailed but the more I test it, the more I suspect not. It's possible I may say BEEP it and stick to squad level as it was intended though, which would certainly simplify things.

Wow, that's a lot of stuff!

Yeah, it is. Then again, it's not. There's at least 2 more stand-alone games I started working on behind the scenes and abandoned when I realized they weren't going to have what it took. 

I just thought you might like a bit of a peek into the shots that miss.

So what did happen this year?

Well, quite a lot really. 

I've kept a pretty solid release schedule for both Five Parsecs and Five Leagues, with monthly content, as well as several expansion packs for Renegade Scout and Five Klicks

We released five games, all of which have been very well received:

Chrome Hammer by the phenomenal Jason

Knyghte Pyke and Sworde

Five Klicks From the Zone

The 2nd edition of Renegade Scout

Ballad of the Longbow

On top of that, Five Leagues received some major updates to make the game the best it's ever been, KPS received a huge visual overhaul as well, countless smaller updates happened to fix vague rules or to improve things here and there.

That's a pretty solid record for the year I should think. I think KPS and RS2 are some of the best games I've ever done personally, though of course everyone has their own favorites and opinions. 

Bigger picture stuff

More importantly, 2020 felt like Nordic Weasel is becoming a household name. I've seen more and more references to our games as recommendations, things people say they are playing etc. in online discussions. I've seen my games suggested alongside "big brand" titles like Flames of War or Rangers of Shadow Deep and how wild is that? 

I also scored a gig consulting for a big-name project for a big-name publisher, though that's still hush-hush as far as the details.

And of course, we got featured in the Bundle of Holding! That was both a huge boon to us financially, helped score a bunch of money for a worthy charity and helped expose literally thousands of people to my games. An absolutely incredible experience and one I am incredibly grateful for.

In many ways, Nordic Weasel is a single person project, but of course all of this has also relied on fans, friends and volunteers to help spread the word, catch bugs and generally support things. So you can all take pride in what we've achieved in spite of being (or maybe because of being) the scrappy underdog (Underweasel?)

In short, it feels like NWG is on the precipice of something pretty cool and the next steps are open to be taken. I often get emails asking if I am planning on doing this or that thing to get bigger and the answer is always "Yes, eventually". 

I tend to be fairly risk-averse, which has stood me well so far, but of course it's also easy to pass an opportunity by.

Things I probably won't do again


Personal things

All things considered, we came through 2020 okay. We avoided getting the virus and we did not lose work or anything else. I can obviously work from home, while my wife was sent to work from home by her office. So we were comfortable enough, though being at home so much has been a bit of a mental stress, with family medical issues dogging us but as we're starting the new year, we all feel pretty well prepared and resolved to move on. 

We've also finally reached a point where we are not exactly floating in money but a lot of the financial stress is behind us, and we can focus on better things, as well as eliminating the last debts.

We had a great sorrow as Mittens passed away, while the new cat Lancelot is a bundle of joy and love. Scruffy still hangs in there, doing his best to become a fat old cat. We're all thankful that after a bit of a health worry with eating, he is rebounding good and seems to be in good shape for his age. 

One man band means only two hands

One thing that has become abundantly clear this year is that I am starting to push up against the limitations of what one person can reasonably achieve.

I've released some absolutely killer games this year, as well as a rash of fun expansion packs on a pretty regular schedule. I think you'll agree that while we're not doing big glossy books, Renegade Scout 2 and KPS (after the update) are both some of the best-looking games I've done. 

However, it has also been a pretty strenuous schedule and the lack of time to do everything I'd like to do i becoming abundantly clear. Things like scenario books, doing a "weasel-zine", supporting more fan material, updating old games to new and improved standards, expand smaller games to big lovely books, help people get published and so on and so on, while maintaining the current schedule of providing improvements to existing titles, new expansion packs and a few new games in the new year as well.

I just can't do all of that on my own. There's been talk of branching into a proper family business, but there's a gap between what I earn currently and what we'd need to earn to remain above water, relying purely on this job. 

Taking on freelancers has happened in the past and will in the future, but comes with its own drawbacks. Often, this can be as much work as writing it yourself, though it does save time in general and more importantly gets fresh ideas into the mix. Additionally of course it adds another failure point: If either person gets mired or has something happen in life, the project halts.

Still, I am excited to work with people I admire and respect to create new, cool gaming ideas and there are still a number of projects happening behind the scenes (some held up by my own schedule unfortunately).

I suppose the obvious answer is to expand with a co-writer but that's something thats a bit easier said than done. The qualities required is a person who can write well, understand game design, meshes with the "Weasel ideology" of gaming, understands the system in question, can take directions well AND work independently and most importantly has the time and commitment needed. Not exactly a small task!

Still, these are solvable problems, they just require a careful look at things and finding out how to proceed. 

I think 2021 is poised to be an incredibly exciting year for Nordic Weasel Games and I am super excited for all of you to share in that with me. I want to make clear that the problems I describe are GOOD problems to have. It means people pay attention and people want to see more cool games. That's a good place to be. 

It means we carved out a corner of the gaming universe and you folks all helped make it a reality.


Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Five Parsecs and KPS updates

 The quest for better games always goes on. 

First of all, we have Five Parsecs 1.17:

This has a few typos fixed, but the main update is that the steps in the campaign turn sequence are now numbered and it should be much easier to see which steps you can skip and which are mandatory.

It is also evident at a glance now whether a step takes place before or after fighting your battle. 

Secondly (and in conjunction with that) the download now includes an intro campaign, which will take you by the hand and guide you through starting a Five Parsecs campaign. You get a couple of easy fights to get you started, and the different campaign steps are introduced a few at a time to help you learn the game.

Third, Knyghte Pyke and Sworde is updated to 1.06.

This raises the cost of buying up Fighting Skill for characters and has a few clarifications added to the rules in areas that were not clear.

All you have to do is download your files again. Change log is, as always, in the back of the book.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

FiveCore delayed a bit

 Despite my best efforts, it seems that the updated FiveCore will be delayed until January probably. A lot of things have been piling up and I am trying to work through them without any of it being half-assed.


Monday, 14 December 2020

Understanding the "5 X from Y" series. Part 2.

 Continued from yesterday, now that we are all on the same page and have answered the various questions, let us talk about the assumptions of the games then.

Not all of these are equally important, but hopefully they will help you understand where the design comes from. Of course, that does not imply they are the BEST way of doing a game (or even doing a war band game) but if you are looking to play the game I wrote, it's probably useful to know why I wrote it the way I did. 

That way, you can hack it up and add your own house rules :)

1 - Miniatures game - Not role playing game

I've spoken before about how I don't think miniatures games and RPG's are as distinct as we make them out to be, however there are fundamental differences.

One of these is that the game assumes we are here to have a miniatures battle. There are usually ways around this. Not all turns in Five Leagues has a battle and there's often ways to avoid it if it does come up, but ultimately, we assume that we are sitting down to move little figures around and go pew pew (or chop chop). 

This may seem obvious to the reader of course, so I apologize :)

2 - Emergent narrative

This probably cannot be stated strongly enough. The goal of the game more than anything else is to create an emergent narrative. In other words, a story that is created from the events on the gaming table, rather than a pre-determined outcome.

This means that the game generally avoids over-arching stories and predetermined scenarios (though I have done them on occasion). Instead, it relies on linking together the randomly generated outcomes as and when they line up just so. 

This ties into:

3 - Player driven narrative

This is something I should probably have made much more explicit, but it was always intended that the player helps drive the narrative that is created. Sometimes this just means adding a bit of story to link the pieces together ("Oh, this must be why we were having a hard time in town this turn"). 

Other times it means changing an encounter to fit the story or even adding a custom scenario to finish out a story arc that has happened. The Story Point mechanic is here to help with this, though it can of course simply be done on the fly as you want.

An example is that you meet a character on the road, then fight an odd combination of bad guys and personality leading them. You decide that ought to be something significant and create a custom scenario where you fight the same personality again but with a boost, leading a different type of enemies (maybe something more nefarious). 

Once this "side story" has concluded, you return to the normal campaign because:

4 - The game is meant to be episodic

This is especially clear in Five Parsecs with inspirations drawn from shows like Trigun and Cowboy Bebop but the games are meant to function less like a 100 part epic story, and more like a tv show where you tune in to watch familiar heroes deal with the "problem of the week". Occasionally a story arc bridges a few episodes in a row, but eventually we go back to something new.

This is why the encounter tables, other than broad themes, don't try to generate "consistent" enemy types, because that's not how a Star Trek episode (f.x.) works. 

Since a lot of people find time to game about once or twice a week, this works particularly well in my opinion.

5 - Varied encounters are desirable

As a result of the episodic nature, as well as the origin in miniatures games, the rules prioritize encounter variation over story consistency. From a miniatures battle perspective, having more variety in the types of encounters is a plus, since it means more types of challenge, a chance to paint up new bad guys etc.

However, sometimes that can lead to a chaotic feel, where you are fighting skeletons one battle and bank robbers the next. Some players enjoy the variety (or embrace the episodic feel in point 4), others prefer a more consistent feel to the story (as suggested in point 3). 

6 - Simpler mechanics

The turn, combat and morale mechanics are simpler than what you might find in other miniatures games, since they are aimed at the solo player. While almost any game CAN be solo'ed (I occasionally play ASL solo, after all) as a writer, I propose that a solo-oriented game should be a little simpler than a two player game, since a single person has to keep track of all of it. Few things discourage me as much as playing a few turns of a game and then realizing I completely screwed it up.

Of course simple vs boring is always a conflict. If the game is too simplistic, it is easy to lose interest. 

7 - Solo front and center

As suggested above, this is first and foremost a solo game series. While there are ways to play with a friend, the assumption of the rules is that you are sitting at your table and playing out your adventure.

This means that every game mechanic is written with this in mind, and the solo functions are built into the game. Additionally, the games try to avoid die rolls to determine enemy actions and activities, preferring to rely on guidelines for the "AI", to prevent long series of dice rolls (we're rolling enough dice in the campaign sequence as it is!)

8 - do, fight, find out

While the campaigns are structured differently between each game, they all follow a general gameplay loop that I'd call "Do, fight, find out". You prepare for the battle ahead by carrying out actions, then you fight a table top encounter and finally you determine the outcomes of that, whether it means new items, experience improvements or dead comrades.

This loop is a big part of what sets a war band game apart, but I think the addition of the "Do" step is a big part of what makes this series stand out from others of its kind. 

9 - Campaign length

While Five Klicks and Five Leagues do have "victory" points that can be reached, in the end the campaign length is always assumed to be up to you. A campaign of 4 turns is short, sure, but if you had fun and felt you got what you came for, it's a good campaign. Others will prefer to keep going for 20, 30 or a hundred battles. 

As the designer, my assumption is that you will eventually reach a point where your war band cannot be meaningfully challenged by the encounters you are facing. At that stage, you have effectively won the game and it's time to think about retiring the crew and starting over.

In the end however, whatever makes you happy is what you ought to be doing :)

10 - Difficulty

A common question is whether there is a balancing mechanic for the power of your war band vs a given enemy. There is not, and it is intentional that there is not. My intent is that some encounters should always feel easy, while others should be quite scary for the player. Remember, you always have the option of making a fight of it and then retreating before you get over-run.

This is more purely a reflection of how I personally enjoy playing the game. It is not impossible that I will change my mind on this in the future. 

Of course, the games DO include difficulty toggles, whether it is the actual difficulty setting of the campaign, story points, the "stars of the story" options or similar choices. But at least currently, once you take the field, you are at the mercy of what the dice brought up.


* * * * *

And that is that. I hope these 10 points help you understand the game better or even entice you into getting started. Let me know if you have questions.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Understanding the "5X from Y" series - Part 1

 The past year has seen a big explosion of people coming into the "Nordic Weasel" fold, especially through the "Five X" series (Five Parsecs and Five Leagues especially). More importantly, it is people that don't just buy the book and move on. I see the games regularly recommended on forums, I see photos pop up, I see talk.

That's all good! What is more awe-inspiring to me is that I am beginning to hear from people who are taking their first steps into miniatures gaming, and have chosen my games as the place to start. We all remember our first game and the idea that something I wrote could be that for someone is truly humbling.

But more eyes also means people with a wider range of experiences, particularly for people entering either from other "war band" hobby games or from role playing games. Five Parsecs and Five Leagues are games of many influences and I have never fully believed in the hard separation between miniatures games and RPG's that people tend to enforce, however, it is unavoidable that some of the expectations vary some.

As such I thought I would take a moment to write a post that is well overdue, laying out a little bit of common philosophy, as well as answering some questions that come up semi-frequently. 

This part 1 will answer assorted common questions:

What is the link between FiveCore and Five Parsecs? The names are confusing!

It turns out I am bad at naming things. The story goes something like this:

First there was Five Men in Normandy, a game of solo-friendly skirmish actions in ww2. 

Then came FiveCore which started as just the core mechanics of Normany in a stand-alone package, but developed into its own full-fledged game over time.

The original Five Parsecs was an expansion for FiveCore. This is the one with the blue cover. 

When the time came to update it and turn it into a stand-alone game, I felt that a new game engine aimed specifically at solo players would be the best option. As such, Five Parsecs 2nd edition became a thing.

When I adapted the rules to fantasy, keeping the naming convention seemed to make the most sense, but in hindsight of course, I don't blame anyone for getting confused!

I've heard the original version of Five Parsecs was way better?

The mechanics were more in-depth but also had far more special cases and exceptions, as they were intended primarily for games with another player, where they can help remember all the stuff.

The original switch-over slimmed down the game a lot and as a result a lot of fluff-text and flavor was cut, which was a mistake in hindsight. As the game has developed, a ton of additional detail, new things to do and more involved "universe" aspects have been added to the game. If you checked it out when 2nd edition first came out, it's almost an entirely new beast now.

What happened to Bug Hunt, Salvage Crew and Gang Warfare?

These were spin-off games that used the same mechanics. I realized fairly quickly that trying to keep four versions of the same game up-to-date and compatible was basically impossible to do for one person, along with developing new games. As such they are "legacy": Fully playable games on their own, but not receiving future updates. Bug Hunt in particular remains rather popular and you can easily port in encounters from the main Five Parsecs rulebook. 

Salvage Crew has been reworked into a supplement for Five Parsecs.

Are Five Parsecs, Leagues and Klicks the same game?

No, they use similar concepts but the game engine and campaign structure is reworked for each. So it's easy enough to move from one to the next, but they are never just "ported over" without making sure it works. Five Leagues has much more involved hand to hand combat rules for example, while Five Klicks has base-building aspects.

Are the games stand-alone? 

Yes, all of them are stand-alone except the original blue-cover Five Parsecs book, which requires a copy of the FiveCore rulebook to play.

Are all the Nordic Weasel games like these?

Not at all. All NWG titles share my views on game design of course, but some are specifically "competitive" games, some are historical battle games, some are multi-purpose, some are even RPGs!

Are these games retro-clones?

No, the only retro-clone is Renegade Scout and I think it has developed so extensively that it barely qualifies as a clone any longer.