Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Five Parsecs - How does the combat system work?

I thought I'd discuss the core Five Parsecs mechanics a bit, now that it's become a bit of an institution.

All of the scifi games work on this basic framework, while the upcoming historical title will not use it exactly (but will be fairly similar).

This primer ONLY covers the battle field system.
The campaign mechanics will be covered in another post (and differ more between campaigns in any event)

What is the point of the rules?

The point of Five Parsecs is to be a solo game first and foremost.
To me, that means it needs to be a bit simpler than I might have written it otherwise, since a single player handling both the system and every figure is more work than playing with your friends.

It's not too hard to write a very simple game, but writing one that is still fun to play can be a challenge.
Since Five Parsecs is played as a campaign, we have an advantage: The player will know the characters and the combination of pretend-personalities and the random scenario generation will create a story.

If this story is interesting, then we can have a fairly simple mechanical system because the player is already hooked narratively.

At the same time, we can't just throw out all the options.
If there are no choices to be made, then the player is going to lose interest pretty quickly since every encounter will play out the same.

The turn sequence

With a few tweaks, the basic turn sequence works like this:

At the start of the turn, roll a handful of dice (D6)equal to the number of figures in the players force.
Ignore the bad guys.

The point of these dice is they are compared to the Reaction score of your characters.
If a character is assigned a die that is equal or below their Reactions (typically 1-3 for most characters) they will act BEFORE the bad guys.
If they are not assigned a die, they will act AFTER the bad guys.

So if I have 6 characters with Reactions 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3
And my dice roll 1, 2, 4, 4, 5, 6

I can immediately throw away the 4's, 5's and 6's.

The 1 can be given to any character I want to act quickly, while the 2 would have to be given to one of the characters with a 2 or 3 Reaction score.

Taking your actions

I opted to forego a normal "2 actions system".
Instead when a figure goes, they can move and then perform a combat action (either fighting hand to hand or firing a weapon).

Figures going before the enemies go can hang out and perform snap fire at moving enemies if needed, allowing you to set up a bit of a defensive situation.


Rolling to hit is a simple D6 roll plus your Combat Skill.
The target number is a 3+ if the target is in the open and within 6", 5+ if in the open otherwise and a 6+ if in cover at all.

This means that for starting characters, plinking at enemies behind walls isn't likely to be particularly worthwhile.

Some weapons get multiple shots per turn, but they are not super common.

If a shot hits, you roll to render them a casualty. If you don't, they become Stunned.

There's no "wounded" states though the Compendium introduces rules for such situations.

Hand to hand fighting is an opposed roll with occasional chances of both characters being hit (or a character being hit twice).


Characters surviving any hit become Stunned.
When a Stunned figure activates they are limited to performing only one action: Either moving OR fighting.

You remove one Stun marker each turn after acting and you can potentially stack up multiple.

Think of Stun as a combination of shock, confusion, physical discomfort and general worry about your personal well-being.

What does the bad guys do?

In Bug Hunt, its a bit easier because the bugs want to eat your face and will move towards you to do just that.

In the other games, enemies are assigned to different AI modes.
These are very simple but essentially give you information on how the enemy is expected to move and act.

They are not complex flow charts, but serve to give opponents some simple guidance on the table.

For example, in Gang Warfare, an Aggressive opponent acts the following way:

Aggressive enemies with opponents in sight will advance at least half a move towards them, attempting to remain in cover if possible.
Enemies that are unable to see any opposition or which are within 12” will advance as fast as possible towards the nearest opponent, attempting to enter into a Brawl.

Heavy weapon figures will not move if they have a line of sight to a target.

Notably, all AI rules are written directly into the relevant chapter of the rules.
So when you are reading the rules for shooting, you will also learn how to handle AI shooting at the same time.

What if I need more detail?

Luckily, I did a Compendium full of extra details, such as being pinned down by fire that doesn't hit, soldiers not responding to orders, panic, wounds and much more :)

You can check out Five Parsecs through the different campaigns (all stand-alone games)

Bug Hunt