Five parsecs from home is a solo rpg wargame with a sci fi flavour. You create a crew of approximately six figures and head off in your ship to take on jobs as you make a name and a profit for yourself while battling pirates, aliens, and a multitude of other threats. As you brave new missions and survive you will level up your crew members, manage their downtime and accumulate a small arsenal of weapons/tech to help you in your missions.
Gather Your Crew
Five Parsecs is a game of two halves. There is a rpg downtime section and an active mission. This is broken down into turns. Each turn consisting of the downtime and then a played-out skirmish mission. But first you will need a crew. It is recommended you start with six. But you are not playing just anyone. Every crew member has a background, a childhood, and a motivation. They may even be non-human races which gives them even more variation/abilities. This is all done via a wealth of tables. Which sounds a bit monotonous but in practice is a very engaging process as you get to see your crew take form and the backstories get created around these characters. For example, you could roll a genetically engineered hulk who grew up a military brat then joined a street gang before setting out in search of wealth. The stories almost write themselves and this is where the rpg element starts to shine through. There are even tables to determine how your crew met and how they are viewed by the universe at large. Are they starport scum or heartless mercenaries.
Once you have your crew you then undertake jobs. These can be anything from transporting goods, to protecting a vip, holding out against an invasion or being ambushed by an enemy you previously wronged to name a few. These are played out as skirmish games on a board that can range from two to three feet squared.
The skirmish gameplay is solid. It has strategic options and some interesting concepts in regards to enemy AI. Each enemy type comes pre-loaded with a behavior that dictates how they act. So aggressive enemies will always charge and sometimes give up cover in favour of a melee charge while tactical enemies will stick together in small groups and only move if they can comfortably reach nearby cover. It does take a measure of common sense but that is to be expected for all solo wargames. You have a wide array of weapons that you can use in combat as well as many different gadgets and tech pieces that can give you some fun options. E.g. you can upgrade your ship to have drop pods. This allows you to deploy two of your crew via them during the game. It is also satisfying to accumulate various pieces and employ tactics as suitable against the varied enemy types.
The combat is easy to digest and plays well. It also plays relatively quickly with most games clocking in between 20 and 40 mins. Due to the randomness however, some will be difficult while others will be cakewalks. You might end up bringing your six heavily armoured crew members and only confronting two badly equipped mercenaries or on the other hand you could run into a full ten-man team of heavily armoured and armed tech cultists with very dangerous support weapons and an additional adversary type. This is the payoff of randomness. The adversaries also bring a fun element to the game. Each enemy group has the chance of being joined by a unique character. So, you may end up also facing a deadly assassin or a hulking berserker among their ranks. This adds a sort of boss character who will throw a spanner in your plans. It is also something that builds up the narrative as you now have to come up with a reason why this random group of space pirates has a secret agent on their side…There is also a chance that every defeated enemy group will become a rival and start actively hampering your plans. This leads to recurring villains and exciting plots.
As mentioned before this game has some fantastic roleplaying potential and by leaning into that element (which is strongly advised) you gain a lot more from the game. You become very attached to your crew and will try to protect them. The combat can be very deadly at times. Especially at the start where armour is a rarity. This is aided by an amount of story points. This essentially gives you a sort of cheat power to remake dice rolls and fudge events to your favour. You are playing the heroes after all. This is however a limited currency and only gets created through special events such as those in the downtime phase.
The downtime between missions is where you can assign your crewmembers different activities. You can repair gear, trade for new items, find jobs to give a few examples. This generally results in more event tables which can have some chaotic and varied results. You might lose a crew member to a night of drinking as they miss the next mission, find alien technology, or even suffer a mutiny against your current captain. There are also quests that you can progress, rumours to find, rivals to hunt down and more. It is tricky to explain the full extent of what you can get up to but it fits into most every sci fi setting and the game itself recommends that you use the rules as a toolkit and make it your own experience which I would heartily support as you do need to lean into some of the improvised elements.
So five parsecs is a great example of how to do a solo rpg wargame. In saying that you do need to commit to the idea and tweak it to suit your needs. For example, if you roll a very easy encounter then you may want to add a second group of enemies and ramp up the difficulty or roll an in-game event every turn instead of every other. There are definite modular options on how to make the game easier or more difficult and you do need to play against yourself to an extent to gain the full gaming experience. Five parsecs however does most of the heavy lifting and allows you to play the fun bits more often. There is a bit of a slog getting through all the tables and I would recommend getting sticky tabs or page holders so you can quick reference to the needed sections. There are also some expansions in the works that are currently available as pdf’s which enhance and expand on certain parts of the games. The final thing worth mentioning is that there is an absolute glut of player made content available that can be cherry picked to your own taste.
This game is also a great excuse to use any existing figures or kitbash and create new ones based on your rolled up crew. You will need approximately thirty figures to get going and I would recommend ten crew member types, ten military types, and ten alien types. Which should give you enough to cover most of the groups that you will come up against. It is the ideal long running campaign to keep on the table and an ideal Sunday afternoon game.