2021 Top 10 Solo Skirmish Games Countdown : #1!

#1 - 5 Parsecs From Home

For those who have been following this blog regularly, this choice will come as no surprise. I've raved about this game since I first played it earlier this year. It's not perfect (but then what game ever is?) but I can say this is the game I’ve been looking for all my gaming life.

I can’t believe I had the game in my hard drive for 2 years before playing it… mainly because I had to spend time to sit down, make up my crew and the initial world and sort out the game play rules… which ended up to be simple. Maybe a smidgin too simple (more on that later). 

This game really excels in generating random missions for your crew to move forward and level up. At first, your crew is a generic collection of stats with a pre-generated background and motivation.

Then the more you play, the more your crew comes alive. They become real player characters with motivations of their own. For example, I had one PC whose main motivation was “adventure”. Half way through my campaign, she ran off on her own because our ship was impounded due to unpaid fees and she didn’t want to be stuck on one planet for so long. Will she return? I have NO idea!

As you play, you also get “rumours” that you can parlay into a final quest showdown. Admittedly, in the game proper, these rumours just function as that. Rumour points that you collect for a generic payoff some time in the future.

What I did was get the free “Stars Without Number” rules and used some of the encounters there to generate real, actual rumours that my crew had to piece together. 

It really made me want to find out... what was going to happen next. And the unfolding narrative brought surprises to me as well, as it dove-tailed into the background of 'Doc', the leader of The Straight Arrow. 

So this RPG-lite is more focused on the RPG aspects where the more you put into it, the more it pays off (if you’re looking for that kind of thing). You don’t need to come up with missions or events… the game (plus Stars Without Number if you want to get a bit more into the RPG side of things) does it for you. All you need to provide is the imagination to put it all together in a coherent narrative. You can read how I did it here.

The reason why 5 Parsecs isn't quite me "perfect" game is... the skirmish rules can be a bit simplistic, especially if you're used to crunchier games like Star Breach or Horizon Wars Zero Dark. However, this was a conscious design decision by the game's designer, as he felt he didn't want to burden the solo gamer with too many or too difficult a rules set. I can see his point, and understand why he did it that way.

Still, that didn't stop me from hacking the THW Chain Reaction rules into my 5 Parsec games and I can say they worked surprisingly well. this did add quite a bit more time to game play though. I used to be able to complete a 5 Parsecs game in about 45 minutes or so. Adding the Chain Reaction rules turned them into about 90 minutes, primarily due to more reaction dice rolls for nearly every reaction you can think of.

The experience has made me re-evaluate both rules sets (especially since I've stopped playing for half a year now) and I can now see where I can streamline the Chain Reaction rules even more to reduce the number of tables and dice rolls I need to make.

The reason why I haven't continued with the adventures of the crew of The Straight Arrow is I'm current separated from my collection of 15mm minis... a situation I trust will be rectified early next year where I can then continue to chronicle their adventures until at least the end of their quest.

So if 5 Parsecs sounds like a game you would like to play, you can grab a copy here.

So that's all from me and see you next year where I'll post a very short postscript on some games that have gone conspicuously missing from 2020 and 2021.


And may you play more games next year than you have this year!