Recently picked up the third edition of the Modiphius rules set 'Five Leagues from the Borderlands' solo/co-op skirmish game.
Ordered on pre-release and arriving a couple of weeks ago the rules are now out on general release, and available at all your usual outlets (and from the publisher obviously).
Hadn't picked up on the previous versions of the fantasy rule set, which have been about for a number of years, though I believe these were reasonably well received but possibly lacking in various departments so, 'building on years of fan feedback' Modiphius have developed the latest version and upgraded to include full colour art, expanded options and cupdated the basic game system premise. I suspect new eyes and development team involvement with a new outlook on the development and writing of the rule set.
This 3rd Ed obviously addresses and expands on a lot of the previous editions and has been developed from their SciFi rules-engine and FLftB3's sister game 'Five Parsecs from Home' which the intro describes as having many shared concepts and mechanics.
The basic premise of the rule set is that is provides a framework to plat tabletop miniature based games on a principally solo basis (though easily adding in co-op play to the narrative) with the player developing and playing a warband in the classic skirmish game style and playing through a campaign, of a length decided by the player to suit their needs. Basically linked series of table top skirmish games with a narrative framework attached to give weight to the individual game outcomes.
The overall look of the 233 page rule book is very nice, clear and reasonably well laid out. The general fell of the layout is very reminiscant of the Osprey wargaming rule sets with similar if not identical typeface and the tables are much the same as say the Frostgrave rule sets and supplements.
The rules are split into the following sections;
Part 1; Setting Out
* Game Rules
Part 2; The Campaign
* The Enemy
The Introduction section is self explanatory and explains the Rules background and basic methodology and basic premise of the rule set and a blurb on The World of Five Leagues (read Anyworld) and inspirations fueling the idea's behind the rules and the writers sources and even has a play list for background music for mood while playing the game.
Each Warband created generally follows the same set-up; A starting number number of Hero's (4) one of which is the Avatar (ie the player) and Followers (2) with the number in the warband increased or decreased to ease or make the campaign more or less difficult and the warband can and will be added to and have losses and things progress.
Basically the rules take you through the steps to create a minor fantasy campaign which can be as simple or extended as desired but the creation of a map is a necessity for the system to work but this can be pretty basic and almost blank to start with as the map will be populated and details of the locale develop as the campaign plays through. The rules suggest a couple of ways to do this and personnally I like this as I enjoy doing maps anyway, both on paper and on computer with various software packages like Inkarnate or Wonderdraft
Once you have a starting map and created your Warband your ready to rock and the system runs on a random generated story. Each campaign turn starts with the warband in town, settlement or camp and this starts a narative depending on start point and there are random events which many add colour but can be scenario hooks but this can be ignored for Quick Play. Indeed many steps here are optional if you just want to generate a tabletop encounter and get to the meat, or you can go whole hog and flesh things out to create a full story to events.
This step is followed the finacial step which covers recovery, financial costs, healing recruitment and so on and the mundane stuff. You can also carryout campaign activities including gambling foraging hunting and so on, all of which are fun if your into the RPG element of the game. There is research, and then the roll to see if locations or settlements are discovered and finally deciding on the adventure.
This is fairly varied too with options for how to spend the turn based on exploring a location, battling an enemy threat, riding a patrol, carrying out a contract, just resting or carrying out a quest. Once decided upon you can oufit your group for the coming adventure. All the options, ecept the resting one have many threads and forks and lots of potential variety.
There can be encounters along the way both malign and friendly a a narrative can be woven through each campaign turn and the events leading up to the final tabletop barney through the use of linked tables so nothing silly is likely to occur though running through a few trials on this did produce some surprises, there's nothing there that a bit of intuition can't put a slant on to fit your story.
The number of Scenario's available is pretty varied to with a number of scenario types (Meeting Engagement/Defensive Battles/Camp Raid/Hideout Raid/Site BattleMonster Lair) all of which have sub-types, descisions and variable objectves not including the variety of enemy threats, encounters and the warband itself to keep things interesting.
The rules include stats for a reasonably large number of foes and generally each has a sliding/escalating scale for encounters so the warband can easily wage war with a particular enemy culminating after a season of encounters in finally facing down the Big Bad of the clan of Darklings, Undead Horde, Bandits & Deserters, or just the local Baron and his steadfast militia. There are plenty of your standard monster types too and all the usual types are included here.
On completion of your encounter for good or ill, there follows the resolution stage which anf gamer of Necromunda or Mordheim will recognise the premise and this is where you find out casualties, rewards, injuries and payments and any finds that will help the party in their next adventure and the all good loot table.
You also tally out the warband experience and skill up your characters here and the band develops and changes with each adventure.
A nice touch at the end here is the inclusion of a table for 'Enemy Plans' which may scupper the players options/plans which is a nice
As said above, the rule set does create anything new here with all the systems being drawn together from various sources but there is an addition of pulling lots of disparate elements that do sit together well and the rules provide the player/s with a good mechanic to dress with your own take on and adventure. The rules can even be used to umpire a standard pvp table top game where there are NPC forces to be directed without any bias. Indeed, non-of the rules need to be used for a fully fantasy setting and could easyily be adopted for a more historical setting and substituting the fantasy elements for more mundane results.
The Appendices cover the aspects of collecting miniatures and terrain etc for the tabletop games, aimed at new converts to tabletop gaming, and there is a section for converting characters from previous version of the game to new edition or vice versa along with game adjustments. The final app is the Designer notes which give a bit of insight into the thought process of the whole thing.
Generally, I am quite taken with the rule set and though haven't had time to properly explore here,I most certainly will run a solo campaign to see where it takes me and I've already generated a basic map to explore.
Obviously, this rule set is not for everybody, but there's probably something of use to all players within it's pages who are likely to playing campaigns of any kind be it skirmish or standard large scale tabletop.
Having gone through the rules and tried a few bits and bobs, I am quite tempted to check out the sister rule set from Modiphius, 'Five Parsec from home to see what this offers in the way of Sci-Fi skirmish possibilities.
Five Leagues from the Borderlands 3rd Edition gets an initial score of 8 out of 10 for content and potential. I will update this score once proper play tests have concluded and see if my thoughts improve or reduce my opinion here.