Nordic Weasel Games

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Designer diaries: No End in Sight

After FiveCore and Five Men in Normandy garnered some degree of popularity on wargaming forums, there was a bit of pressure to prove to myself that I was not just "the FiveCore guy". The result would be No End in Sight (NEIS), a game of cold war infantry action.

The impetus for NEIS was partially affected by discussions I had with people online. In particular I had been musing on the fact that infantry combat typically is much less lethal than what our tabletop games suggest* and that it did not seem to me that modern warfare could be accurately represented without accounting for wounded soldiers and the need to provide aid to them.

This met a surprising amount of resistance along the lines that a game like that would not be fun to play and that there was no point in doing so, often from people who were otherwise obsessing over modelling the correct tank turret rotation speeds and so forth. I suspect in hindsight that I ran into a case of "we've always done it this way" syndrome. At the time, it just made me mad and I set out to establish that you could absolutely do both and have a great game.

I don't recall where the mechanics started but the whole game revolves around the idea that reaction fire is not a specific state: Instead it is perpetual and any movement is subject to it. This means that it can be viewed as a test of the moving unit as much, or more so, than it is a test of the firing unit. The way I did this in the mechanics is through requiring dice rolls to move across fireswept ground. If the roll is not enough to reach cover, you get pinned down in the open. 

Regular combat uses Shock and Kill dice like I did in FiveCore but they function a bit differently. Soldiers can be pinned down and hits can result in them being wounded or killed. 

The turn sequence works in a different way to most infantry games, though I have seen similar mechanics before: Units accumulate stress each time they activate which increases the chance of them failing to activate again. A single unit will often activate multiple times during a turn, but as the stress mounts (along with the unit usually taking fire and getting pinned down) it can be very difficult to get everything done that you need to.

When testing the game, we realised pretty much immediately that the game felt very "gritty". What starts as infantry platoons manoeuvring against each other ends up as a dirty brawl as you try to knock out their last APC, while 3 soldiers are holding down one flank with desperate fire. In short, it felt very cinematic for a Vietnam or modern warfare type of film. 

At the time I had the impression from the population of a particular, unnamed forum, that contemporary wargaming was primarily something to talk about, by war-horny weirdoes who fantasise about bombing places they can't pronounce and not something that people actually sat down and played games about. To ward that crowd off, I started each chapter of the book with anti-war quotes from artists, politicians and soldiers. I rather expected someone would get mad about that but nobody ever did. At least they did not tell me if they did. I did get a few positive comments from people who had served in the military and who enjoyed the game, which meant a lot to me. 

The original design suffered a little from close combat being a bit of an afterthought and some rules not being explained as well as they could have been. A 2nd edition update was made available to fans and I hope to do a 3rd edition to really nail it in the future.





* People always explain this by saying that a "kill" does not mean dead, but the figure is still permanently removed from the game.  

Q&A Round up 17

It has been a bit since we did a Q&A Round up so let's have another one.

If you are new this is where I answer questions regarding Nordic Weasel games:

Some questions may be repeats if they are frequently asked. 

I will try to give priority to any question asked directly on the blog, otherwise they are just questions I gather up from discord, facebook and my email inbox. 

Five Parsecs questions:

When I engage in a brawl, exactly when are Stun tokens removed?

They are removed as soon as you make contact. In effect they are traded for a hit bonus at that moment. This means that you cannot "stun out" the enemy if they had 2 markers and you hit them in the Brawl.

In Bug Hunt, do teams have to move together?

No. They receive a Reaction bonus if they move together but are not required to. 

What's the deal with gun sights and single shot weapons?

It's meant to mean "weapons that are single use" (no laser sights on hand grenades). My bad. 

Five Leagues questions:  

Are enemy Leaders melee or ranged troops?

They are always Melee troops.

Can I sell damaged items?

Yes for 1 mark. (yes, this means 1 mark items are often not worth repairing) 

Renegade Scout questions:

Does "Cool Down" count as a malfunction for the purpose of abilities that affect malfunctions?

No. 

Squad Hammer questions:

When exactly do units lose the Defend status?

When they move for any reason (including moving in response to a firefight) or they are given a new order. 

Parsecs Tactics: The Story campaign

As noted there are basically two campaign systems provided, which can be used on their own or in combination (and either can be used with or without progression systems).

The one I am going to take a look at today is the Campaign Story - This is basically a fairly open-ended and narrative campaign approach where we focus primarily on story beats. 

I am going to play through 4 "rounds" of this. A round can have any number of tabletop battles. This might be a single battle (if you want a campaign with lots of events) or every 2-4 battles if you want more tabletop time.

In this case, I am going to be working with a campaign pitting Unity troopers trying to take out a moon base held by notorious pirates. 

I will be taking the role of the Unity grunts and my campaign will follow a platoon or so of troops (say 4 squads and a walker for support). You dont have to follow a specific unit but thats the typical: Its more colourful if you do. 

The opening battle is probably a direct assault: The Unity grunts drop from their shuttles and have to fight through a thin defensive line of pirates. You can use an option from the book or just concoct your own. We are starting out easy, so I might be up against half my number of pirates so we don't end up gaming out the opening to Saving Private Ryan. 

After that I roll for the first story event and it is Side story. A secondary story takes place during the campaign. Having a think I decide that before the troopers storm in, there was actually a schism in the pirate ranks and a firefight had broken out. In that case my next scenario will be the two pirate factions slugging it out over who gets to be in charge. 

I could do multiple battles here but I decide to just do the one and then generate another event.

The second event then is Unconventional Operation. One side carries out a special operations mission of some sort. I could pick randomly (I like assigning a 1-2 / 3-6 chance to the two sides) but it seems obvious the grunts are going to be doing this. I come up with a quick scenario where they have to raid and blow up the pirates shuttles so they can't escape. 

I want a bit more table time this round, so I also play out a standard firefight where my platoon is getting stuck in with the pirates on the barricades. The special operation will be a new unit that I name but won't otherwise follow. 

Event 3 is a Critical Strike. This indicates an assault on a priority target of some sort. Seems similar to the prior event but the stakes here are higher. If my grunts won their mission, we are probably in position to knock out the defense networks of the base, allowing the rest of the army to show up. But I decide actually lets turn it around: The pirates are going to try to push through and recapture a big defense cannon to shoot our shuttles out of the sky.  That should make for a fun and tense scenario.

Luckily they fail and I think by now the pirates are probably on their last legs. I am going to interpret the last event with that in mind. I roll a New Character. This is what it sounds like: A new character is introduced to the story, typically in the players unit. I think this campaign is probably gonna come to a close here but lets leave a hook for later: A mysterious Unity field agent shows up and commandeers my platoon to secure a strange cargo crate, under strict instructions that they are not to be opened. 

I am now set for the final mission of the campaign and with a good hook to set up a new campaign.

*

I hope this helps show how the campaign story can unfold. Each result in this example was rolled randomly. The results in the book all come with both suggested player effects AND have a tie-in to the operational campaign rules if you use those but more on that in the future. 

Some Weasel Q&A

Instead of a rules Q&A, I wanted to do a round-up of various questions I get that are in a more general or personal sense:

How can I get a hold of you?

Email is always best: nordicweaselgames@icloud.com 

If you don't reply, do you hate me?

It is possible but odds are I just lost track. If it has been a couple of days just email me with a reminder. 

Can I ask you to look at my <insert game material here>?

I am happy to do so but I must warn that I don't have a ton of free time, so please be armed with patience. If you are looking for an in-depth paragraph by paragraph review of a rules text, I will ask to be compensated for my time. 

Can I ask you about something regarding game design or game publishing?

Yes absolutely. 

Can I show you my hack combining one of your games with another game?

Happy to see things like that, but I can't usually comment on them or help with them.

Will you ever make a hack of your rules to use another setting?

Probably not. I think that is something best left to fans. 

Can I recommend a book, band, show etc. that is like the ones you list as inspirations?

By all means!

Can I send you a copy of my game because I'd like you to have it?

That would be very kind. 

Will you come to this convention?

I'd like to do some convention stuff this or next year and am happy to do seminars or Q&As. 

Will you endorse my group/movement/hashtag?

Probably not. 


Five Parsecs Tactics: Combat changes

Post number 2 for Tactics, this time discussing how I changed the combat rules to account for larger scale actions.

I am going to just say Tactics when I mean Five Parsecs Tactics and From Home when I mean Five Parsecs From Home, so I don't have to type each title out a million times.


Now it is important to note that these changes are not "Five Parsecs 4e". They are used when playing battles using the Tactics rules. The idea is that when you play a scenario, you decide if it is a From Home or a Tactics scenario and use the relevant rules.

HOWEVER they are also generally modular so you can use Tactics as a grab bag for things you like. For example if you want to put a tank into a From Home scenario (quite the heist!) you can just use those rules. 

Make sense? Okay, lets proceed.

The concerns Tactics have to tackle is how to work well with more stuff on the table and how to work well with bigger stuff on the table.

A From Home battle typically has 6 characters against 8ish enemies. You can absolutely play Tactics at that scale too but if you want to play, say, a platoon of troops on each side, we are looking at 3-5 squads of infantry (each of which might have 5 figures) and probably a tank or robot or three. So things add up pretty quickly and of course we have to account both for players that want to play very small games and ones who want to play very LARGE games. 

The turn sequence

The first (and perhaps biggest) change is the turn sequence which functions a little differently. This works roughly as follows: The two sides alternate taking a phase. When you are taking your phase, one of your units activates normally then you roll 3D6 and can activate units with a reaction score equal or higher than one of the dice. So if you are lucky, you might activate 4 units in your phase and you might activate only 1. The players then alternate until every unit on the table has acted. 

When units act they carry out their actions such as moving, firing weapons and all the rest. There are some additional options available such as overwatch, sneaking around or scanning the terrain for hidden troops. 

Note that units here can either be a single character, a single vehicle or a squad of soldiers. 

Movement

Movement rules are not very exciting and there was not a lot of reason to change things up here. You should recognize most things just fine.

Shooting at people

A number of new things here such as some limitations on what you can shoot at, rules for height advantage (units on the ground generally shoot at the closest target, units up high can pick from the two closest) and such. The most interesting new feature is suppression!

Yes, From Home battles are pretty space opera affairs but on the battlefield things get a bit more gritty. When units get shot at they get suppression markers which hinder them when they try to fire. The effects are handled very simply: If a unit has 3 suppression markers f.x. 3 figures in that unit will hit only on natural 6s. The owning player gets to pick who so you can minimise the effects a bit.

In return, the stun rule is not used in Tactics battles as we really dont want to have to track both. This also makes damage a bit simpler: You have to roll over the Toughness or nothing happens to the guy. Many figures have multiple Kill Points which means it takes several hits to bring them down. Conversely some weapons also inflict multiple damage rolls now.

A section on Tactical Options brings up a number of options you can add to your game if you like. These include units being able to hide, sitting tight on overwatch to shoot at moving enemies and the option to fall back in order to relieve suppression.

Close combat

Doing individual opposed rolls for 6 sets of combats per unit would be a lot, so close combat is now handled in a way more similar to shooting, though the opponent gets to counter attack and you can potentially end up with a couple rounds of this. 

Morale

Infantry squads of course have to worry about morale as well. This is now unit based, with units testing morale if they took casualties during the turn. The new mechanic for this is fairly simple: You have a current morale score equal to unit size + any morale bonus of the unit. Roll 2D6 and if both dice are individually higher than your morale score, the unit breaks. This means that large (or brave) troops can avoid a few morale checks (because they cant fail them) while small units get quite fragile. 

For players who prefer a more tacti-cool experience, an option is included to retreat in place of testing at all.

Thats it for today

There are a ton of other things like off table support and of course vehicles, but that is going to be left for a later post. I wanted today to just focus on the infantry side of things and what things look and feel like on the larger firefights you will be able to do.

Of course a lot of these new rules still work just fine with a handful of figures on each side. I want to emphasise that you do not have to paint up 50 guys to play. 

Take a look at your current collection. You likely have a number of characters to pick from and several squads of various aliens and mercenaries. Grab some of those. Maybe paint up one more squad and find yourself a cool vehicle. Now you have a Tactics force or two. 

Five Parsecs Tactics: What to expect

What is Five Parsecs Tactics?

Tactics (so I can save on typing) is the next game in the Five Parsecs “universe”. It allows you to play out battles that are beyond the scope of the regular “From Home” experience. With the Tactics rules you can easily have a platoon or more of troops on the table along with vehicles and much more. 

 One of the thoughts behind all of this is that people have built up some very impressive figure collections playing the current campaigns. So it seemed to me that if you already have 10 or so pirates and a handful of soldiers and some K’Erin, then you are half way to a pretty good sized wargame scenario already.

So what can I do with Tactics?

You can play the game in a lot of different ways. 

You might play out military actions, boarding actions etc that happen in your existing campaign to add character and flavour. 

For example if your world is invaded you might play out a Tactics battle (or even a whole campaign) so you know what happened during that invasion. Or your crew had a job to find dirt on a space pirate gang so you decide to game out the Unity enforcers storming the pirate compound.


Of course since the two systems are compatible you can have your crew take part in a military mission or bring military elements into a special scenario. The vehicle rules in particular will probably appeal to a lot of people who want to do something along those lines.


Tactics also stands alone as a game and is playable on its own, in a number of ways.

If you want to play a pick up game, a points system is included to let you just that, along with scenario options.


If you prefer to play solo, well, we got you covered there too. The game is of course solo playable and can feature both pre-selected enemies as well as discovering the enemy forces during the battle. 


You also get two campaign systems, one using a map and one strictly centred around narrative progression. The two can even be combined and allow you to both fight over ground on the battlefield as well as experience narrative flair such as the perspective of the campaign changing or a third party entering the war.


Of course all of this is not restricted to military actions specifically. Tactics will do just fine for space pirates, colonists fending off Swarm infestations and just about anything else you can think of.
Since I am confident you can think of a lot, the book is also jammed full of advice on creating scenarios and running a game, as well as canned rules for everything from encountering neutral groups to concealed troops and characters being suspicious of things.


I haven’t neglected the military side either for combat nerds, with rules for infiltrating troops forward, calling in engineer support and more.

All of this hopefully adds up to a game that both offers a lot of campaign fun to solo gamers, acts as a “big brother” compendium of cool tricks for your existing campaigns and is a perfect tool for people who enjoy GM-led wargame scenarios (or would like to explore that).




Woof, thats a lot but I wanted to give you people a lot to chew on and think about.

Future posts will talk about adaptations to the core game rules as well as probably an example of how a narrative campaign might play out. 



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 https://www.modiphius.net/blogs/news/modiphius-entertainment-acquires-five-parsecs-from-home-five-leagues-from-the-borderlands?fbclid=IwAR33ML5nN3rYQmEe6is6IqPZfs46hM2ANouQ1VzqKsAA2P5hYEBb_qlmNio 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.