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FiveCore Brigade Commander
Publisher: Nordic Weasel Games
by Rn W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2019 11:16:26

SUMMARY (based on one full test-game): A very nice ruleset. Arguably an ideal introduction to this scale of wargaming, and likely also a safe bet for more experienced large-scale gamers who want a faster, more streamlined experience. The game has some but not too much book-keeping (though see my caveat below). Play is fluid, tactics are important, reaction fire and suppression are important and consequential. You can play a brigade-level engagement in an hour or two.

SOME POSITIVE IMPRESSIONS:

  • the game is just abstract enough to keep play fast. It focuses on your perspective as the Brigade Commander, NOT the sum of all command perspectives from the platoon level up. Because of this, you have a fairly abstract classification of units - for the most part, for example, “infantry is infantry.” Yet a clever “unit attachments” element in the rules also allows you more granularity to distinguish units with different capabilities. The attachment system is quite flexible; I used it to good effect for the sci-fi elements in our (Warhammer 40k-themed) test battle. Space Marines actually felt like Space Marines, without being overpowered...
  • on that note, the game is quite playable as written, but also quite open to tweaking, hacking, and flexibility - without breaking the game.
  • fluidity of play: units advance - but sometimes get halted or pushed back by fire. Tactics, reaction fire, suppression, all felt very important. This is not a game for units to slowly add up their mounting casualties while they roll inexorably across the battlefield. This is a game where tactics and planning matter, but ‘no plan will survive contact with the enemy’ - probably - and you may find yourself scrambling to stop, or to exploit, a sudden hole in the lines or enemy breakthrough...

A FEW CRITIQUES, AND A FEW TWEAKS:

  • there are some occasional typos and ambiguities in the rules. These never presented a major problem. Becoming more familiar with the rules may take care of much of this ambiguity for me. Second, the author is highly active online and helpfully responsive to emails with rules questions, etc.
  • the Quick Reference Sheets for the game are included but they do not provide quite enough detail, at least not for a first time playing the game. I printed off some extra content (the more detailed description of firing results) and I may create my own, more detailed QRS for future games.
  • for our first game, at least, I felt that the possible unit statuses inflicted by Shock dice were one too many (rolling a 1 on a Shock die will inflict a different Status based on whether the target was in covering terrain or not). Long-term, familiarity with the game may let me exploit the nuanced added by the full option, but for now, I just treated all Shock dice “1s” the same. Not surprisingly, this did nothing to ruin my enjoyment of the game, kept things even faster, and worked fine.

IF YOU ALREADY PLAY GAMES IN 2-10MM SCALES: …then I’d suggest this if you want a more streamlined, faster way to play large battles.

IF YOU ARE NEW TO THIS SCALE OF GAMING: …then you should know that it isn’t a difficult level to break into. Armies generally can be acquired more cheaply than at other scales. For our test-battle, I just made up my own top-down unit stands on the computer and printed them off onto foam core bases. Worked fine. The rules offer a really nice introduction and a way to play battles with, say, 15 companies to a side.

IF YOU PLAY SCI-FI WARGAMES: …these rules are written for modern, ‘real-world’ wargaming, but they are not difficult to modify for sci-fi play (as noted above, my test-battle used a 40k setting). The attachments system offers a great way to add unit differentiation. 5Core is a set of rules that run from the skirmish up to brigade level; the 5Core Company Commander level rules have an inexpensive expansion called “5Core Company Commander in Spaaace…” which is not essential but has some ideas that can be modified and carried up to brigade level.

OVERALL: a fun fast game where tactics still matter. I look forward to playing again.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
FiveCore Brigade Commander
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No Stars in Sight. Hard scifi platoon action
Publisher: Nordic Weasel Games
by Rn W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/27/2019 15:43:03

I’m very pleased with this purchase. No Stars in Sight (NSIS) offers tactical, fun squad-to-platoon level gameplay that isn’t likely to fry your brain (with some simple tweaks it could work for somewhat abstract company level engagements too). These comments are based on my experiences after buying the .pdf, skimming the rules for a few days, and playing one test game with my kids. The game was great fun, tactical, and interesting, but not brain-frying.

Much has been made of the “bank robbery shootout” scene in the movie Heist, a scene that features outnumbered gunmen using brute force, automatic fire, judicious use of cover, and coordinated movement to great effect. Honestly, compared to most of the skirmish/squad-level rulesets I’ve played before, NSIS offers gameplay that feels a bit like that movie scene! Cover is really important; reaction fire and suppression matter a lot but are handled in a very elegant, easy way by the rules; coordination between squads, or at least between members of the same squad, is really critical for making headway across the battlefield. Casualties tend to accumulate more slowly than many war gamers will be accustomed to - yet something interesting is always happening. Go back and watch that Heat shootout scene again, or others like it; note the enormous amounts of lead tossed around in between every actual casualty. In the same way, NSIS portrays sci-fi gunfights where huge amounts of fire are being tossed back and forth, but usually this leads to suppression, pinning, or delayed movement. Yet the game doesn’t feel static.

I’m currently using this with 40k sci-fi minis for our gaming. I found that the simple, minimal-fuss rules worked really well. In our test-battle, a squad of elite security troopers (Imperial Guard, but running as ‘Professionals’ in NSIS terms) were supported by two small fire-teams of Space Marines (also professionals, but we further gave them an automatic cover save in addition to their assault armor even when they weren’t in cover). They faced off against 3 squads of Trained criminals and cultists blocking their exit from a raided compound. The engagement developed into separate firefights for control of key alleyways; eventually, coordination of supporting fire between units, and some calculated risks that got key troops around corners into flanking positions, allowed the 'good guys' to pin the bad guys and then clean their clocks in short-range assaults. Random dice rolls mattered, of course, but it really felt like common-sense squad tactics, use of cover, and leveraging troop quality over multiple turns really paid off. In the end, the bad guys got pushed back into a crossfire and then outflanked, and that was it. I was really pleased with how the fight went. Professionals really felt like better troops than Trained adversaries; and our proxy marines felt quite powerful, but still just vulnerable enough that they couldn’t take enemy action too lightly. Long-term, I intend to use fairly simple rules for Space Marines, and reserve the game’s Powered Armor advanced rules for Terminators and Dreadnoughts. Just the simple core rules already feel pretty effective for my “vanilla 40k” tastes.

I do have two critiques to offer, but they are pretty minor. First, the core rules are very simple and easy to ‘get.’ But the many special rules and exceptions for more advanced unit types will probably stack up quickly in a large game or a game with quite diverse troop-types. The rules recognize this and encourage players to start small and simple, which is quite reasonable advice. I’m pleased to say that our test battle didn’t involve particularly diverse elements, but it still felt challenging and interesting. The rules summary ‘cheat sheet’ at the back of the back is quite helpful, but I also found it useful to print off my own ‘cheat-sheet’ showing each squad’s basic information (including Firepower level) and any special rules that applied to them. Second, I found the morale rules to be the most complex part of the game. Mind you, they aren’t actually terribly complex, this is just to say that I found them more complex than other parts of the game. Most of the game involves hardly any math (one of the reasons I reached for NSIS over the Squad Hammer rules, which appear to rely more on adding up to-hit bonuses). But when a squad takes enemy fire, you are supposed to count up quickly how many pins they received, how many casualties are also weighing down the squad too, and then roll under the combined total or fall back a certain distance away from the enemy fire. Not that complicated, to be sure, but you have to do this so often (when a squad takes fire) that the very small amount of math involved does translate into small-but-frequent math. As time goes on, I think I might tweak this very simply into a more streamlined way to test and apply morale/fall-back procedures, but I don’t think doing so is likely to change the feel of the game very much. At any rate, with more experience under my belt, even the morale rules as written might feel more comfortable.

All in all I highly recommend NSIS if you are looking for a sci-fi squad to platoon-level game that emphasizes real-life tactics over clunky rules. I hear one can also use the same mechanics for a slightly larger (small company) level engagement by making each “figure” a fire team or squad in a platoon. If the ruleset sounds appealing but you aren’t looking for sci-fi, then look at No End in Sight, the historical version. Finally, if you do get this ruleset, also pick up the 2015 Nordic Weasel Grab-Bag .pdf (Pay What You Want, I believe) which has a few extra special rules options and ideas (I may try using some of those rules to further test out Space Marine options). Two thumbs up!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
No Stars in Sight. Hard scifi platoon action
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Creator Reply:
I am so glad you had a great time! Yeah, as written the rules can get a little fiddly with special bits and exceptions for the unit types. It does get easier with time, but it's something I do want to address down the road. Morale isn't explained quite as well as it could have been. If you have No End in Sight, it has an updated take on the same morale system, which I think flows a little easier though it also changes the nature of the game a little bit.
Tome of Adventure Design
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Rn W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/13/2018 16:40:18

Like many, I was pretty skeptical about dropping this much cash on a .pdf. Since I have seen various random tables for OSR use before, I was also skeptical about just how useful this would be. But I watched the Questing Beast video review, which praised this product very highly, and showed some intriguing glimpses into the book; and I noted the nearly-universal high praise across the internet for this product. Finally, I took the plunge. The book is great; although I game on a fairly tight budget, and could have purchased multiple old-school adventures for the price of this guide, I DON'T REGRET MY PURCHASE AT ALL.

This 'tome' is really awesome. Within one hour of downloading my file, I was already nursing brand-new dungeon design ideas that I had generated via the Tome's random procedures, but which also very clearly felt like they flowed from my own personal creative input. This book's tables are surprisingly rich and detailed, but they work together in such a way that they preserve plenty of room for your own personal touches. As others have noted, you can probably use this book to generate content on the fly during play, but its intended and probably best use is for advance prep, when you can combine rolling on tables with time spent deciding just what those cool/crazy results will mean at your table.

Here, I'll give you an example. The book offers tables for not one but multiple ways to inspire an adventure design. Suppose we go with a location-based design. It takes about ten seconds on the appropriate tables to roll up an adventure location called "Sub-Pits of the Hollow Tribe." Wow, that sounds weird. Ok, but what is it? The book offers additional resources if I want to further define the villain, her/his nefarious plans, what the dungeon contains, etc. But it also encourages me to take some time to marinate on this idea...and before long I decide that the "hollow tribe" involves, quite literally, humans who have been hollowed out, to eggshell thickness, as their life-force has gone to support some Big Bad who lives below their settlement. And now I'm mentally writing up a new monster: hordes of "hollow" 1-hp minions who shatter into pieces at the slightest hit...but don't let them touch you...or they will start draining away YOUR life-force, too. Again, all this stems from ten seconds of dice rolling followed by time letting the weird image it provided stew in my head. Over and over and over again, this book provides incredible depth with probably hundreds of thousands or even millions of possible combinations of adventure ideas.

Let's try something else: designing a dungeon. The book offers very useful, very detailed guidance for selecting interesting features in a dungeon. What I'm about to show in no way exhausts the book's dungeon-building procedure; this is just the tip of the iceberg. With a few rolls, I come up with a dungeon split into multiple levels/areas, with (for example), the following names: The Burial Wells. The Sinking Catacombs. The Fragmented Memory-Chambers. Then I start rolling for interesting features. The Sinking Catacombs contains a "throne of the frog." Hmmmmmm. Now I'm mulling over ideas...and before long in my mind I have a dungeon adventure: people for ages have come to bury corpses by dropping them down into the ancient wells in the cave on the edge of town. There's a sleepy guard there but when he's not looking you could climb down into the wells. The level below is flooded (and probably ghoul-haunted, right?) and one end of the tunnels below is COMPLETELY flooded but leads to the next level. But there's a room down there with 3 thrones with frog-heads...sitting in the throne for a minute makes you grow gills, which will remain for 1 hour...allowing you to swim down the tunnel to the 'memory-chambers" beyond...which I decide were an archive for an ancient order of sages, who inscribed messages to each other on the walls as a kind of ancient bulletin-board service. And if you copy any of these ancient texts, they immediately vanish from the walls, but you can probably sell that ancient lore for a LOT of money. And...

And off I go. Again, just a few dice rolls plus time to marinate, and I end up with a passable framework for a weird dungeon that fits in with the campaign I'm just starting up. Of course, the same dice-rolls at YOUR table would lead to a completely different dungeon, despite the common point of inspiration. This, in general, is how the book works; it sounds simple, but it's flexible and very inspirational, offering freshness without replacing your own creative input. I highly recommend this book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Adventure Design
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