Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Five Men at Kursk...

Looking very good indeed!

I have commented here before about my interest in the FiveCore family of games from Nordic Weasel, otherwise known as Ivan Sorensen. The latest game in development is Five Men at Kursk. This is, effectively, a second edition of their very first game which was Five Men in Normandy, the precursor of FiveCore Skirmish. Ivan has very kindly let me have a copy of the emerging draft of this game. I have to say that I am quite excited by this so I thought it would be nice to do a brief overview of the rules and include some pictures of the rules in action from Just Jack's very excellent blogs (BlackhawkHet and Cuba Libre!).

Just Jack's latest FiveCore game from his blog Cuba Libre!
Although I didn't get the original Five Men in Normandy, I have invested quite widely in the system:

FiveCore Skirmish Gaming Evolved: A good 20th century skirmish game for 5-10 soldiers a side on a small table (2 foot square). I'm mainly interested in this for modern skirmish games, I have my eye on the Oddzial Osmy 15mm Russian Green Men. I suppose the other rule set that comes close to this is Black Ops, which I have also got. There is an expanded second edition which is also worth getting as it includes vehicle rules etc. It comes with campaign rules and rules for character skills.

FiveCore Company Command: The next one up from the skirmish game with section/squad bases and vehicles covering 1939 and onwards. 5-12 units a side on a 2 to 3 foot square table. I'm looking at using these adapted for hexes for my modern Africa gaming.

FiveCore Brigade Commander: The big one. While the skirmish and company level games can be played easily with 15 or 20mm troops, this one needs 10mm or less. Same foot print (2 or 3 foot square table) and around 10-12 units a side. Not quite a brigade but certainly a battalion a side. I'm as excited about the prospects for using this rule set as I am about Lion Rampant, and that's saying something!

There is a whole lot of other stuff available (and pretty cheap too) and you can easily find out about it from the Nordic Weasel page on Wargames Vault.

FiveCore is based on some core principles (five of them actually!):

  • The true mark of a superior force is command and control.
  • Soldiers will react to things in their field of vision without being instructed to do so.
  • A commander is never able to do everything they want.
  • Conversely, the commander can always do something.
  • If in doubt, roll a D6 and look for a 1 or a 6.

These all ring true to me. The rules are also almost interchangeable between game levels, skirmish, company, brigade. You can add or subtract as you feel necessary. The various optional and add on rules make this a really modular gaming enterprise.

The other thing is that the games all have a common engine. One d6 is rolled at the start of a players turn:
  • 1. Scurry turn: Al your troops can move
  • 2-5. Standard turn: A limited number of units/troops can move or fire
  • 3. Firefight turn: All your units/troops can fire.
In combat, units/troops roll kill dice which cause casualties and/or shock dice which cause a morale impact. The number and mix depend on unit type and target. These two very simple approaches (which remind me of the Ganesha "Songs of...." rules) are very effective. 

Another photo from Cuba Libre!
The common game engine makes it hang together really well and allows you to scale up or down using the same troops. Play a squad game one day and then zoom out to cover a platoon or company game.

In some recent optional FiveCore rules, Ivan indicated that he was looking to change and further develop the core mechanisms. This is in response to feedback about the all or nothing nature of the basic engine, as well as the general lack of differentiation of troop types (a soldier is a soldier as Ivan says).

In Five Men at Kursk Ivan is implementing a major change. A number of dice are thrown at the start of a turn based on the side's cohesion (command and control). In a similar way to the previous engine, 1s mean scurry, 6s mean fire and 2-5s mean engage (fire/move). The player allocates dice to individual figures which then act accordingly. In addition, we have some clear differentiation of leaders and grunts and also characteristics (skills) for individual soldiers. 

There will also be campaign rules, nation specific rules, solo rules and a whole lot more. The downside is that the rule book is 37 pages at this stage and is likely to end up being very chunky. This is not one of my top features in a set of rules. Having said that, you don't have to use it all. I think this is going very much in the right direction and I will certainly be investing in the final version.   

Another Just Jack visualisation!
You can see from the pictures from the Just Jack blogs above how one man has interpreted and implemented the FiveCore system. His games are very rich and move from continent to continent and skirmish to brigade within a cohesive story. If Carlsberg made a gaming system (and I could interpret it like Jack can) then it would be FiveCore. Nuff said.

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