Nordic Weasel Games

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Designer Diaries: FiveCore 1e

When we last left off the designer diaries, we had talked about Five Men in Normandy. 

As the game was getting out there, raising questions and spawning discussions, a number of people began asking for a version that would not be specifically set in the Second World War. I decided to take a hatchet to the rules, cut out most of the chrome and detail and release it as a smaller, stand-alone game.The idea was that it would be roughly intended for post WW2 gaming and that you could buy two packs of miniatures and get them to the table quickly. If you wanted to f.x. get started on doing Cold War gaming you might buy a pack of West Germans and a pack of Soviets and instead of having to do up a whole army, you could just paint up 8 or so guys each and have a go at it.

The game had to be called something and since it was the core of the Five Men system, FiveCore came to mind as both fitting the topic and sounding pretty dashing to boot. As a side note, while people often refer to it as 5Core the proper title was always spelled out, though 5C is fine as an abbreviation. 

FiveCore saw a rash of small expansions adding various things such as optional rules, some monsters and other such things. These were fairly popular and I was encouraged by positive emails I received from people. It became clear that something bigger and more comprehensive would be required in the future. 

I suppose it is fitting that the second game released under the Nordic Weasel Games branding was also the first spin off, as I have often found it fun to create new games out of the same game engine. It was also the dawn of NWG as a company that offers a lot of optional rules: With a game like this there was so many different ways that if you keep thinking about it, you will keep coming up with more things. Likewise some ideas were not suitable to the main book but deserved some time in the light of day. As such a collection of small expansions started appearing. 

It soon became clear that this really needed to be a much bigger book and thus, the need for a second edition arose. *Ominous music*

FAQ on Nordic Weasel Games and Modiphius.

 As you have no doubt seen by now, Modiphius has acquired the rights to several NWG titles. 

If you have NOT seen it, swing over here and have a look.

Assorted questions that have come up yesterday in no particular order.

To save on typing, I am going to use NWG to mean Nordic Weasel Games (my company) and MP to mean Modiphius Publishing (affectionately “the overlords”). 

What titles are now owned by Modiphius?

MP has purchased the rights to Five Parsecs From Home, Five Leagues From the Borderlands, Weaseltech and the “Fivecore” series of games including Five men in Normandy and Five Men at Kursk.

Titles that remain with NWG are basically whats not mentioned above, including the Squad Hammer series, Clash on the Fringe, Starport Scum, Renegade Scout, Shoot people in Space, Knyghte Pyke Sworde and a whole bunch more stuff. 

Are there new games already planned?

As per the announcement two full, stand-alone Five Parsecs games are coming: Tactics and Planetfall which will help expand Parsecs into a whole crazy universe.

We have discussed a range of other books too but it is a little early to discuss those just yet though everything listed in the announcement is being discussed. 

I will have further Q&A’s about Tactics and Parsecs coming soon.

Will we still get a compilation of Parsecs expansions?

Yes. Once expansion 3 is done with editing, all 3 plus an updated version of Bug Hunt will be available in hardcover. 

Will you still be the writer for these game lines?

Yes. I remain the head designer and writer. I am not sure if I can go into details about legalities but we have an agreement in place that covers all of that. 

One of my hopes is that down the line this will mean more writers so we can have more scenarios and the likes. 

Are you now a Modiphius employee?

No. I will be working with them very closely and have helped with select projects in the past, but I will not be part of the company as such.

Will there be a community content program?

We have talked about this. Stay tuned.

What happens to Nordic Weasel Games now?

The company still remains for remaining titles as well as new products of which I have multiple planned. 

Will more games follow suit beyond those named?

That could happen.

What are the benefits to me as a player?

For one glossy new editions of a number of games. Secondly it allows MP to create various merchandise, play aids and trinkets. Thirdly it means I will basically be busy at work creating and supporting a whole bunch of cool games.

What are the benefits to you as a writer?

It allows me to really just focus on writing and creating, while having access to the resources, artists and editors that MP brings to the table. 

What will happen to your Patreon?

No change. Patreons will still receive previews, playtest versions, experimental rules, scenarios and so forth. I have explicit agreements for this. 

Will this change anything regarding your involvement with the community?

Not at all. In fact part of my duties is explicitly to support the game lines. 

Will this change anything for the Facebook communities?

Not at all. They were fan created and while the moderators take my views into account on the rare occasion I have asked about something, they run these communities without any involvement from me. This will continue to be the case as per our new agreement.

The Weasel and online availability

I realised a while ago that I had garnered a bit of a mysterious reputation, when a few people told me that it was hard to find any information about me online. I never really set out to be intentionally evasive though in recent years I have taken things like privacy a lot more seriously, given the prevalence of hackers, online fraud, scam artists and weirdoes.

In the last year or so, I have begun thinking a lot about how I spend my time and whether activities that I do are benefiting my general well being or not. Increasingly online interaction is falling into the group of "not". 

As such I have slowly removed myself from most of the services I used online that were forums or social media.

I do maintain a Facebook account so I can answer questions from the fan groups on there, as well as post news and updates. I do not otherwise use that account to communicate any more so please do not spend time trying to message me or follow me there.

As of today the only forum I use is the Wargames Website and fairly sparingly at that. While I have had accounts on other boards, I no longer intend to check those.

The best way of contacting me has always been email and that remains the case. I am trying my best to reply to things the same or the next day but regrettably sometimes an email slips past and if it does, its easy to get lost in the inbox. If you have contacted me and did not hear back, please don't hesitate to write me again. 

If you wish, I am also active on the NWG discord server and I welcome messages on there, provided you are patient with a reply. 

I do not generally check messages on Patreon so please email me instead of asking there. 

Why I don't comment on current events

Once in a while I get a question about this or that current industry thing, whether its a big thing like the OGL debacle, drama, allegations or even something as simple as a new game release.

My policy has always been to not comment on stuff like that. This stems from a couple of reasons.

First in a lot of cases it really doesn't matter. If two game designers or web site owners or whatever are having a spat, that's not anything I need to get involved in. It often feels like people are just contributing because their BRAND (tm) needs to have this or that opinion.

Second I don't really have the energy to sift through things and try to find out all the details. When WOTC wanted to change the OGL the internet exploded, but trying to find out what the actual changes would actually mean and what real lawyers thought of it was a lot of work. If it is a topic that is less relevant to what I do than that, I would rather just read a book to be honest. 

Third once you opine on things like that, you are now permanently assigned to a box by people who had an emotional stake in that particular issue, regardless of what the current situation is. 

Last I have been trying to maybe talk less and listen more in life and I don't think that's such a bad idea on the internet in general. Here, do this exercise:

Go to a social media site and click on a post from some famous person or company. Look at the replies. How many of them are just shouting into the void, often barely related to the topic at all? How many of them are actually sitting down to understand the issue? I wager very few. I can't change the world but there's no reason for me to contribute more to the muddle.

Please note that this should not be confused with me supporting the argument that "politics don't belong in gaming" or any such stance. I think people should create whatever they want and will not give support to any such position. 

When it comes to game releases, I do comment on occasion but I only do so if I find a game to be fun or interesting. I am not in a position where I feel like I can comment on a game feature I dislike, due to the impressions it could cause. I am also generally inclined to just not spend a lot of time thinking about games I did not enjoy, after all that time could be spent on a game I did enjoy. 

Q&A Round up 16


Leagues questions:

Do I have to win the encounters to meet the Aid the Community contract goal?

It was intended yes, however by a strict reading of the text I'd say you don't have to. Returning and letting the town militia know you engaged some ruffians and giving them the location is fine. You can do it either way depending on how challenging you want the game to be.

Does the origin bonus and skill bonus stack?

Yes. For example a Duskling with Traveling skill receives a total bonus of +3.

Note that some items specifically do not stack. This will be clearly stated. 

Parsecs questions:

What is meant by gunsights not being usable on single shot weapons?

It's an unfortunate word choice on my end and is supposed to say "single use" weapons. The confusion gave rise to a joke about hand grenades with laser sights on discord. 

Is there a limit to what I can carry in Bug Hunt?

Not specifically. Unity Grunts are famous for packing as much as they can lug around. 

Expansion 1: What happens if I roll the Sniper! Escalation Option but I am fighting enemies that do not use weapons?

I am not sure if there any enemies this can happen to, but just in case apply the event as written. It happens to be a modified/mutant enemy with an acid spit/psionic death ray/laser eye beams.  

Parsecs and Leagues:

What happens to Seize the Initiative modifiers if a scenario does not allow a roll?

The scenario takes precedent and no roll is made. If the modifier applies to a specific campaign turn (for example meeting the Elfin Scouts in Leagues) the benefit is lost. 

What happens if multiple "end of battle round" events occur at the same time?

Until I can clarify this, resolve them in whatever way is most beneficial to you. If you prefer more of a challenge do it in reverse!

Squad Hammer questions:

Do units given a Defend order get the Defend marker if they move as part of the order?

Yes. The wording is a bit awkward but you move and then receive the status. You then keep it until the unit moves again or is given a new order (which of course could be to Defend again). 


Parsecs lore:

Are there corporate run planets?

Yes many colonies are founded by corporations given a charter to do so, typically for resource extraction purposes. In Unified Space they are still under Unity law but are given pretty broad jurisdiction to manage things as they see fit.

Such installations are expected to manage their own defences though they can appeal to Unity for aid in the event of an attack. Unity rules dictate that permanent populations over a certain amount requires the colony revert to Unity administration. As such, corporate colonies are generally fairly specialised. In some cases this can result in "dual rule" where some colonies on a world are corporate and others are not. 

Designer Diaries: Five Men in Normandy

While it was not the first game that I published commercially, Five Men in Normandy was essentially the birth of Nordic Weasel Games as an entity and so I would like to talk about it a little bit today.

The genesis of the game was the experiences we had playing an awful lot of Nuts by Two Hour Wargames. The campaign structure had left a big impact on me and I really wanted to create something similar but with my own spin on things, particularly in regards to characters. 

A lot of the basic mechanical ideas came out of experiments I had been doing on paper. I was curious if you could make a combat mechanic that did not rely on dice modifiers and if you could compress all of the effects of fire combat into a single roll of the dice. Thus was born the Shock and Kill dice mechanic where attacks have a certain amount of each type of die. This allowed for 4 "effective" outcomes (two morale related and two damage related) and since multiple results will "spill over" to nearby units it also produced some very cool effects like a shot knocking down one enemy and sending another scrambling for cover.

The mechanic had (and still has) a few quirks but it is very fast and efficient and was something that stood out in playtesting as being cool enough to build a game around. The general focus of the Fivecore mechanics of having things happen only on 1's and 6's also came from here. Hand to hand combat still used a conventional opposed roll which I think was mostly due to my preferring that sort of resolution. The idea of using the Shock and Kill dice for melee combat did get brought up by playtesters (and was used by Tom when writing Chevauchee) but I am not sure it ever occurred to me during the initial design process for some reason.

I do not remember where the turn sequence idea came from. It may have been one of those things that was tried on a whim and it ended up being liked well enough. Over the years this was the sort of mechanic that really divided people. Some thought it was fantastic and others really could not wrap their heads around it. In short you roll a die when it is your turn: A 1 indicates you will "Scurry" which allows all of your troops to move. On a 6 you are in a "Firefight" which allows no movement but everyone can fire. Any other roll allows activating a fixed number of figures (originally 2) to move and fire. 

With time, a similar system would show up in Five Men in Kursk  where it works as a pool of dice you assign to specific figures or groups, which tends to work better but there is a fast paced charm to the original mechanic. Turns blaze by and give the game an odd sort of "real time" feel.

The key to the Five Men experience (which would live on into current games like Five Parsecs) was the campaign sequence. Each turn you would play out a mission and then you would have random events happen which could affect your characters in different ways. The idea of receiving both a campaign and a character event should seem awfully familiar. Of course being a military game you don't have a lot of opportunities to do other things so there is no campaign action system as such, though an early version of the Player Action mechanic did show up, allowing players to kind of justify whatever they felt was fair if they could make a roll.

The rules also has the first example of character creation with motivations and backgrounds, most of which have game effects tied to them (if occasionally rather minor). This sort of thing is quite rare in WW2 games: Platoon Forward has something pretty similar but I had not read it at the time.  

One of the final decisions was to keep the scope extremely tight. That incidentally is why the game is called Five Men in Normandy. To make it clear up front that you were only meant to play with a handful of figures on each side and prevent people from cramming the table full of stuff. I deliberately left out tank rules for the same reason and any supporting stuff is usually limited to a single platoon mortar or the likes. 

Was the game a success? Yeah, it's hard to say it was not. After all it is basically the reason for everything else that followed though that is a story for a future post. For a while, I was pretty much known in indie circles as the FAD and Five Men guy.

The original PDF sold 332 copies in its time. That seems small in hindsight but is obviously huge for an independent author with absolutely no name recognition at the time, beyond some old FAD die-hards The updated "30 cal edition" sold another 1045 copies for just shy of 1400 sold. 

Q&A round up 15

As a note it is getting increasingly hard to check every prior Q&A post for repeat questions. However, some questions do occur frequently so please bear with the occasional repeat in the future.

Five Leagues questions

Does the Lair scenario always feature an aberration?


When the rules say I encounter aberrations, how many do I encounter?

Thankfully only 1 unless the rules explicitly say otherwise. 

What do I do if the only activity I have in the campaign turn is travelling to a city?

You just end the turn but you may opt to Trade (using the normal pre-battle trade rules) during the turn in which you arrive. 

Five Parsecs questions

Can I ever have a turn where no battles happen?

Not as written: You would always fight an Opportunity mission if nothing else has come up. After further thinking though, I think it is fine if you want to lay low for a turn and recover from injuries. Just roll for events and pay upkeep.

Do I have to take an offered Patron job?

No, you can turn it down. This does not affect a known Patron either (they usually offer the job to multiple freelancers).

Do I have to progress a Quest?

No. You always make the "Determine Quest Progress" roll after playing a Quest mission but you can choose not to progress until you are ready if you need to recover or have other tasks to pursue first. If you prefer a bit of time pressure, roll 1D3: You must pursue the Quest within that number of campaign turns or it fails. 

Lore questions

5P: How much does Unity defend and garrison its colonies?

Colonies have to be able to defend themselves at least somewhat, so every colony will maintain some sort of militia. This can range from a bunch of weekend warriors to pretty regular looking military forces often led by veteran NCO's from the Unity armed forces. Corporate run colonies will have either corporate troops or well paid security forces. 

If a world is particularly value, at a critical location or near enemy controlled space, it is likely to also have regular troops stationed there. Depending on the colony this can range from a single platoon of bored troopers to a full mechanised assault battalion.

5P: Are the Enforcer unit supposed to be Unity law enforcement?

Unity employs Enforcer troops to deal with pirates, well armed criminal syndicates and Converted infiltration. They function as both a sort of galactic law enforcement, support to local governments and a first line of defence against raids.

The "Enforcer" enemy encounter will tend to represent local security forces which can range from upholders of law and order to militant thugs extorting the locals for protection money. 

5L: Can you talk about the "old gods" and the "new gods"?

Both are pantheons that are (or were) worshipped throughout the lands. The New Gods have generally supplanted the Old as their worshippers are more organised: Church building and organised religion is a New Gods phenomenon while the Old Gods tend to worshipped in more individualistic manners. Tension can exist and some communities discourage or forbid the worship of one or the other, though open hostility is rare. 

Doctrinally, the Old Gods are said to be capricious and erratic and are said to favour the bold and the fool hardy, while the New Gods are said to be exacting and demanding. They are said to favour the determined and the committed. 

Upgrade your design: Who are you writing for?

The dark priesthood of the marketing cult will talk a lot about target audiences for a product: Who is intended as the buyer of the widget you are trying to sell? Obviously a commercial product needs to have some sort of audience that is willing to exchange money for goods and services.

With tabletop gaming the broadest possible audience is "tabletop gamers". In theory every person that plays a tabletop game is a possible buyers. (people who don't play tabletop games are also possible buyers but that is a lot less likely in the indie publishing sphere). 

Of course many tabletop gamers are not inherently going to be interested without some persuasion, personal interest or temptation. The RPG folks are not typically into hardcore naval warfare simulations and the euro board gamers probably don't want to make too many morale checks. Even within the miniatures gaming community your choice of theme or setting will narrow the field more. A WW2 game will obviously appeal primarily to people who are interested in that conflict (though converts can be had if you are clever or have nice presentation). 

Within that specialisation, things continue to break down in smaller groups: A game intended for beginners may appeal to a veteran that would like a more casual experience at times and will do better at drawing in interested, but inexperienced, gamers. A game that aims at experienced players will appeal more widely to people with extensive gaming experience in the period, but may find it more difficult to gain crossover appeal and converts (though not entirely: Some people know they want a hardcore experience from day 1). 

The rules themselves will also affect who might be interested. A lot of successful rules fall into what I call "one clever thing": The game rules are mostly very conventional but have one or two clever bits to make them stand out. Chain of Command fits this bill by having very conventional combat mechanics (roll to hit, roll for effect) but having a very clever turn sequence and patrol phase. 

Some games rely on strictly conventional mechanics throughout and while they will often not appear very exciting, they offer a solid experience that is easy to get into. Rapid Fire might serve as an example here which has remained a popular game at conventions for a lot of years. They also benefit from making it easier to adapt scenarios.

On the other end of the scale we have very "clever" games with unique mechanics such as Crossfire or my own Five men at Kursk. These games tend to attract very loyal audiences but because they are very radical in their assumptions they can also deter players looking for a more conventional approach.

Some settings lend themselves to a fair bit of tech nerd content (detailed tank lists, stats for 200 different variations of French line infantry etc.) which will appeal to certain gamers but overwhelm others. 

Even something as seemingly minute as the writing style might affect who gravitates towards your game. A more casual style may seem more welcoming but could also seem less professional. An abbreviated style appeals to those who prefer simplicity but may deter players who want thorough explanations. A "British" approach where things are left somewhat open to interpretation can act as both a selling point and a criticism depending on the audience.

These are all just examples and you can no doubt think of a dozen more. My point with today's ramble is that almost every choice you make during your design will influence how particular audiences and groups will respond to your game. That makes it worth sitting down and thinking about before and during the process. You might even write out on an index card (or on page 1 of your word processor file) who you are expecting to purchase it so you can refer back to it. 

Q&A Round up 14

Five Leagues questions

Are the restrictions during character creation permanent for the whole game?

The restriction on the number of heroes and followers is only at creation. Once you play the game, you may end up with all followers, all heroes or anything in between.

The restriction on missile weapons is likewise only at creation (though some players stick to it as a house rule).

The warband maximum size you select IS a campaign restriction but only to the number of characters you can bring into a battle. If your warband size is 6, you can still have 9 people in the warband but only 6 of them can accompany you into a battle. 

Five Parsecs questions

What does "reroll a natural 1 once" mean for the Krag special ability (Freelancers handbook)

If the new roll is a 1 as well, it cannot be rerolled again. 

What happens when a Skulker rolls 2D6 Credits at character creation? (Freelancers handbook)

As written, they still receive the full payout (Some Skulkers do get fabulously wealthy, they are just not good with money in general). 

What happens if a world is double invaded? 

Through a series of pretty unfortunate events, it is possible for a world to get invaded twice in the same game turn. While I am tempted to say that the place just disintegrates into chaos as everyone fights everyone, randomly pick which enemy if you have to fight. For Unity to regain control of the world, roll on the galactic war progress table twice treating each enemy separately. If EITHER roll indicates the world is lost to Unity, human forces withdraw completely.

Do Savvy tests succeed on a 6 automatically?

No. If the target number is 7+ a character without a bonus can't succeed at all. 

Can I spend multiple Salvage units on ship repairs etc. in one turn?  (Freelancers handbook)


Lore questions

5P: In the "Creature" Salvage event, Swift get a bonus to tame the animal. Why is this?

They have a latent psionic field that makes them seem slightly less threatening. 

5L: Do the Threats cooperate against us or do they fight?

They may ally temporarily, though they are as likely to oppose each other and probably skirmish with each other when you are not looking. Many of them have mutually opposing goals or would ally only for convenience.

5L:  What "traditional" fantasy peoples exist in the world of 5 Leagues?

Goblins (part of the fey realms), Halflings (we already know this), Dwarfs (will be the focus of expansion 2) for sure. 

Orcs don't exist. Lizard people are covered by the Oldest Kin. Elves (related to but distinct from the Fey) do exist somewhere. 

Designer diaries: Fast and Dirty

The first "real" game I published online was Fast and Dirty (FAD). Originating as a scrappy PDF exported directly from libreoffice, it nevertheless found a small following online in the days of Yahoogroups. The game happened to more or less coincide with the boom in 15mm science fiction which meant there was an audience looking for something that let them use any figures they could buy. 

The inspiration for FAD was very much Stargrunt 2 (SG2), though some aspects were things that I had been mulling over in various games me and my friends had experimented with but which had never been published. I wanted to take a lot of the same elements Stargrunt had (particularly suppression and dealing with casualties) but make them a bit smoother and faster to handle. The end result was a game that didn't really have any specific rules element in common but which clearly pays homage to the concepts of SG2.

One of the key features of FAD is the "Under Fire" mechanic. At the time I was intrigued by suppression mechanics in games but I didn't like how in most games it was an all or nothing affair. The Under Fire rule was one of the first things I wrote down on my notebook and it would remain mostly unchanged in function through 5 editions of the game: A unit that is shot at is always marked Under Fire and is then limited in its ability to move and fire. 

This gave me the result I wanted: Units cannot be shot at without reacting in some manner, but they are never completely immobilised or prevented from acting.

Everything else kind of fell into place around that basic idea. Some elements such as dealing with wounded soldiers, armor rolls being an opposed roll and troop quality affecting weapon range came from SG2, others such as quality determining which units you can shoot at were my own creation. The idea of using 2D6 and picking the highest for combat came from playing the 1916 and 1943 wargame rules (by the War Times Journal) and liking the idea of a single roll determining the amount of damage, but disliking that it was so random.

A few people have asked if the morale check mechanic (rolling 3 dice and counting successes) was borrowed from Chain Reaction (which hit the scene at the same time) but I didn't play Chain Reaction until a few years later. The inspiration for the morale checks came from my experience with the White Wolf role playing games instead. In hindsight morale could probably have been reworked to just use a simpler approach but the idea of unified dice mechanics was not something I was invested in at the time.

One innovation that I was proud of at the time but probably would not have done today is how traits were handled. I got the idea that a particular ability, such as moving through terrain with no penalty, would be more valuable to a strong unit than a weak unit and so all traits were given a cost multiplier. This worked pretty well, but was a bear to manage for army building ("okay so this unit is 37 points times 1.2 times 1.4 times..) and caused weird problems when one player took a lot of traits and the other didn't. 

The game succeeded in carving out a small but surprisingly loyal audience and I still receive an email or two from people every year saying they remember the game or just started playing it again after years of break. Considering how rough those early versions looked, that is pretty amazing. I suspect that the game leaning into the "hard military" vibe which has always been a bit of an underserved niche in sci-fi miniatures probably helped.

In total there were 5 editions of the game. The first is unfortunately lost to time but did feature a fair bit of original artwork by a gentleman who offered to draw up a whole bunch of illustrations for me as a favour. 

The second was a revision of that, featuring a lot of additional rules but unfortunately lacking artwork except the cover picture of the soldier with the katana. 

Third edition saw the help of Steve Green who was a fantastic help in both revising the rules and giving the game a proper layout. this is the "army edition" which featured photos of modern military troops, with photoshop filters over them, since we did not have any proper artwork available. This was also a pretty big overhaul of the game rules.

Fourth edition is the last that was available online and featured a number of additions and changes, as well a host of original new artwork provided by the folks on the Yahoogroup. This is the "power armor" cover.

A fifth edition was released on the Yahoogroup but was not available otherwise. It featured my planned additions to the game, particularly regarding vehicles. 

In the final years of FAD, I struggled with what to do with the game. In particular, I had pondered putting it under an open license but the process seemed rather difficult and I had a hard time justifying spending a lot of time on the game, compared to writing material that I would be able to sell. As I left the rules alone, they mostly fell by the wayside and Yahoogroups would eventually fall to the cold hand of internet decay. Eventually a gentleman reached out and offered to buy the rules from me, which I agreed to.

In a lot of ways, FAD is the game that lays at the foundation of everything else. Without that game and the boost of confidence it brought, it is perhaps doubtful if any of the subsequent games would have ever been created.