For my first game, I used 5 Parsecs: Bug Hunt straigt out of the box. It worked well, but I wasn’t completely happy. I also purchased 5 Parsecs from Home, which contains a good campaign system, and I unearthed Guy Bower’s Black Ops, which I bought last year.
The more I read the rules and thought about it, the more it became clear what I want out of my sci-fi gaming – or at least, what I want at the moment. I don’t want the classic Starship Troopers-style Vietnam-in-space, were your poor grunts die like flies. However, I still wanted to keep the military focus, as I have already cool figures and vehicles, so no Firefly-like band of rogues, either. Back in the day, I read a lot of BattleTech novels and I like the idea of mercenary companies as developed there, so this will be the focus of my games.
Having settled this, what rules would be best to portray heroic mercenaries? There were several things I liked about 5 Parsecs, among them the simple combat rules, the contact markers (akin to the blips of Space Hulk) and the campaign system. There are also several things I like about Black Ops, especially the stealth phase and the card activation. So I started to combine those two. However, I did make some prety extensive changes. First of all, I found that, for my taste, my characters die too easily in 5 Parsecs – after all, I want to replicate the heroic feeling of an RPG. So I replaced the D6 with the D8 to resolve combat and other actions. This allows for a wider range of modifiers and makes it possible to skew the whole thing in favour of my crew, giving them better combat abilities and armor. Secondly, I showed my true nature as a child of Lard and introduced a turn end card and random events. Actually, there are two turn end cards and only when the second one is drawn the turn ends, so it’s not as radial as Sharp Practice. In my opinion, every game is better with random events and especially solo games profit from unpredictability (a point my mate Sigur made in his latest rules review).
Finally, I also introduced home-made rules for cyberwarfare, as sci-fi combat without hacking seems anachronistic to me. Basically, hacking works like magic would in a fantasy setting – there are a number of cyberwarfare actions available and the hacker has to roll a target number to achieve success. Like magic spells, some of them are a bit overpowered, but a natural 1 always means that the terminal crashes and the hacker will be unable to make any further cyberwarfare actions – so it is important to prioritise and stay focused on the mission objective.
So far, the rules seem to work well, but I haven’t tried out all the options in all their combinations yet. The next mission will be against alien critters, so I will see how the blip rules work within the framework of my modifications. I’ll keep you posted.