Low fantasy... check. Warband management with advancement elements... check. Skirmish wargaming...check. Solo player focused...check.
Five Leagues from the Borderlands succeeds at all the above and even more. This is a choose your own miniatures skirmish wargame with careful balance and some innovative mechanics.
It's low fantasy. The implied setting is medieval western Europe, where magic and monsters are rare. Elves, dwarves, orcs, undead exist in the game at just the right dose to make it interesting. Don't expect wizards riding dragons, shooting fireballs against laser shooting smilodons. It's poverty and ignorance. This is the middle ages, spanning from dark ages to rennaiscance.
It has warband management and you advance each and every one of your members. Rags to riches. Gutter urchin to warlord. You chose their unique gear, armor, weapons. The campaign turn reminded me heavily of old school computer games. They have just enough stats to be interesting and varied without becoming cluttered. There is a clear Follower and Hero distinction and you really want your members to advance to Hero status. Though as the publisher states, you make the game your own.
The skirmish part is very well designed. The average battle plays with around 15 figures for both sides, touching the upper solo limit capacity for me. I had a couple of battles at around 18 figures, which started as cumbersome, until first blood. The game plays really fast, and I always managed to finish a combat session in one seating, 1-2 hours at most, but I also take photographs and notes while playing for my blog reports, which severely increase game time.
The melee exchanges system is just brilliant. It gives an ebb and flow to the combat, with many different results and interesting outcomes.
The solo aspect is what really sealed the deal. The initiative mechanic is so easy to implement that I never looked back. Of course it wouldn't be a solo game without tables. All solo rpg players seek them out, and Five Leagues has them plenty. Tables for encounters, tables for random events, tables for backgrounds. Wherever you need a table, there is one.
Resolutions happen on the spot. There is only minimal notes for future reference.
Five Leagues won't win any stars on artwork or layout. There is just enough pictures to make things distinct. The rules are clearly laid out, and any rules interpretation confusion is usually minor, and usually hunted down on the regular updates. Bookmarking is at the bare minimum. There is a table of contents, with hyperlinks, but that's all there is. I'd like to see some pdf navigation bookmarks and an index at the end. This is a game which wins at gameplay, not at presentation. Though I must admit I've seen improvements over previous versions.
Coming at the game updates. I've followed Five Leagues for the past year. The updates are regular, and there is slight rules tinkering and extra content. The rules changes are either an improvement, or an 'one or the other' case. I haven't found a rule change that got me disappointed.
This is a skirmish wargame with rpg elements, not the other way around, and it's excellent at it. Grab your fantasy miniatures, grab your dice set and go hunt some outlaws ravaging the farms around the village.
5/5 Highly recommended!