Five Parsecs From Home 2nd Edition
My first reaction to the email telling me about the new Five Parsecs game was excitement. Yes! A new Weasel title and an update that I'd been eagerly awaiting! I jumped straight on wargamevault.com to download the update but curiously it seemed to want me to pay full price for it, I was confused as updates to other games have been included in the original purchase price. I was also slightly annoyed because Five Parsecs went to Pay What You Want a day or two after I'd bought it and the thought of paying for it again was unpleasant. I emailed Ivan and he very kindly offered me a copy in exchange for an honest review, this it it.
What I can say now having read the new edition is that having to pay for the game is fully justified. This is a brand new system! I know it says so in the product description but this really is a whole new system that bears little resemblance to the original FiveCore-based rules. What follows are my initial impressions from a few complete read-throughs.
Let's start with the “Not So Good” stuff. I use the term loosely as most things are probably either errors or oversights and of course my own personal opinions.
Firstly, there are some spelling and grammar errors. Not the end of the world, I know, but I'm a stickler for these things and I feel they can really bring down the professional feel of an otherwise awesome document. Unfortunately, this is something I continually notice with independently produced games.
Ivan makes no bones about the fact that the page count had been heavily cut and for good reason, but I am left wondering if there is now something missing. At 43 pages, it's definitely lean and mean but there a few things I'd have liked to see left in. The fluff at the beginning of the first edition document was fun, well-written and linked the game into the Unity universe. Also, the Enemy Missions from first edition were a lot of fun and very thematic. Personally, although in general I very much approve of the massive page cut, I think 50 pages would've been fine.
There are a few errors and contradictions within the rules. They are being weeded out and dealt with though with Ivan's usual responsiveness to emails. The Non-Lethal Hit has a conflict regarding whether one has to equal or exceed toughness to score a casualty, the Campaign Reference sheet at the end of The Campaign Turn chapter is still missing multiple steps (Playing an Encounter, Campaign Event and Character Event) and the Find a Patron section of that sheet could have used an extra line to remind us of the +1 for each known patron rule. Such oversights are easily fixed and I'm sure they will be in the future.
Finally, something that is more a personal nitpicking. The Friends and Rivals mechanic has been pruned back, it used to be a really cool, and easy to track, roleplay mechanic with in-game effects. Although it would have had to have been tweaked to work with the new system I was sad to see it largely dropped.
Right. I wanted to get that done so the review could finish on the “Good” stuff. Now, where to start?
I think the best aspect of 2nd edition is the character creation and advancement system. I feel that it's a much more realised system than in 1st edition and it really lets you invest in your characters. Speaking of investing, the new economic system is something that I personally have been hoping for. For me it just adds so much more realism to my campaign than just the “It is assumed you have have the odds and ends you need to trade” of 1st edition. I actually tried to use the Fistful of Credits system from Starport Scum in my Five Parsecs games but this tailored mechanic is much better suited.
The new tabletop mechanics sound the business too. The Turn Phases with the integrated Snap Fire option are easy to get a handle on and add a level of randomness to the battlefield. The Difficult Terrain rules are simple and a good example of pruning superfluity. The Aim option is a welcome addition too, especially as you can't shoot then move, sacrificing your move for a better chance at a kill is a good trade-off in my opinion.
I was impressed to see that Difficulty Settings actually had several different options instead of the standard Easier or Harder modes. Including the Standard setting there are 6(!) levels of difficulty to play, guaranteeing the right level of challenge for almost everyone. I wouldn't mind seeing a future supplement that applied higher and lower difficulty settings for the rest of the campaign turn too.
One of my gripes with 1st edition was that I didn't really understand how one went about resolving rumours. 2nd edition has fixed this completely. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the Oddball Characters, although I missed who the crystalline life form was referring too. My own gaming universe contains aliens and it seems like I can slot most of them in to the different oddball slots.
One of the questions I had during my first read-through was “Is it compatible with Every Star An Opportunity?” In my opinion, yes! I've re-read Every Star and as it's mainly about expanding your playing world with little in-game (ie. actual tabletop encounter) effect, I still think that players who want to add a bit more depth to their characters' universe will benefit from the expansion. My favourite part of Every Star is the Starship Events chart and I think it'll lend itself well to 2nd edition with a few tweaks. Which reminds me, I'm glad to be shot of the Unreliable mechanic. If you rolled like I do, you'd understand!
So to wrap up, Five Parsecs From Home 2nd edition is an awesome game. I'm a big fan of everything sci-fi in Ivan's lineup and this is definitely no exception. It's a brand new system that will undoubtedly need a few updates over the course of its life, as most of them do, and it's a damn fine resource for solo gamers! I'll be playing a few games over the weekend and writing up an AAR, so watch this space for that.