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.