About Me

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My name is Gavin McClements. I am a wargamer and family man, living in Los Gatos, which is a suburb of San Jose, CA. Building terrain is one of my favorite aspects of the wargaming hobby - in fact, lately I've become more interested in making my battlefields "pop" than in actually playing.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gruntz in 15mm gets its first trial run

Tonight, Aron and I put aside Tomorrow's War after two play tests of the rules and gave Gruntz a shot. As I reviewed for the game, I felt much more at ease with the mechanics of the game, although the writing and organization of the rules left a little to be desired. Still, I know Robin of Gruntz is working his tail off on a revision, so I had no qualms with putting together what I knew of the rules and giving it a shot.

Gruntz is a Company-sized game, and focuses on Build-your-Own units with a mechanic very similar to Warmachine or Hordes: each squad that activates gets two actions (unless buffed by the Commander of your forces, or penalized by being Suppressed by enemy fire, ie taking casualties), which are used to move and fire, more or less, in different combinations.

I had already drawn up what I wanted my forces to look like when I bought the game months ago, but instead of using my own creations, I borrowed from Comstar on the Gruntz forums and used his FSE and NSL forces from GZG.

I ended up taking the NSL and had 5 8-man squads (each with 2 Squad Attachments) and 1 "Halftrack" and a Commander. My opponent fielded 2 APCs, 2 squads of 6 troopers, and a 6-man team of Powered Armor, plus his Commander. Our points came out to 150 per side, and we played a Meet-and-Greet on a 3'x3' board.  It should be noted that we played with Alternating Activations, not the Rules-as-Written IGOUGO format.

I set up my forces after winning Initiative, keeping 2 squads in my APC and the rest in a long line.

Instead of taking copious notes, I decided to journal the event through pictures at the end of each turn, and make comments and whatnot at the end.

In Turn 1 we discovered the true nature of Gruntz: Range Matters. With most of our squad weapons statted out for 8" range, with 16" being Long Range (and a -4 to hit), almost nothing was done the opening turn. His vehicles were sporting Mortars, and his Powered Armor troops had moved to a position where they could see one of my units. The scatter roll deviated the shots onto a nearby unit, and 2 of my boyz fell. His Commander then ordered his PA units back into cover. My own APC raced forward and delivered its passengers into a nearby ruined farmhouse.

Turn 2 was a little more bloody, as guns started to find their range. My APC, cargo delivered, came around from cover, its plasma cannon firing wildly, killing a FSE trooper and suppressing its unit, but return fire was vicious and the APC was completely eliminated. More shots were traded between the Power Armor unit and my Gruntz on my right, with soldiers in both units falling. My team in the farm yard advanced into firing positions from the house, and their supporting teams dashed ahead, threatening the enemy APC on our left.

Turn 3 would be the final round, as the contestants were growing weary from long work days, but it turns out that the game was naturally headed that way on its own.

His Commander, piloting one of the FSE APCs, had the gumption to charge my Commander (who, while doling out Command points to remove Suppression from his own troopers, hadnt had the movement to QUITE reach cover). My Fearless Leader dove out of the way quite easily (he needed a 5+ on 2d6) much to the chagrin of Aron. We figured this should have been some sort of opposed roll...

My most advance unit on my left swung around the house they had taken refuge behind and popped the backline APC with a few well-placed shots from the Plasma SAW and LAW rocket. Combined fire from my two teams on my right finished off the Power Armor, and one of his central Gruntz units was in Condition Brown and backing away from a nasty round of fire from the farm yard-entrenched NSL soldiers.

We decided that his units would have fled in as orderly a fashion as was reasonable, and called it a night.

Tomorrow's War had some really great things going for it, once we figured it out, but I must admit, I was really enjoying Gruntz. It felt semi-40k-ish to me, in 15mm. Range was likely too big of a factor (-4 on 2d6 is a gigantic modifier), and we never really just picked up gobs of d6's and rolled them (I had successfully located 8 pairs of matched 12mm d6's), but for me, this wasnt a problem.

Aron wasnt so happy with the "Firing is compared to Defense, but nearly every soldier in the unit had a different modifier because of weapon or range, and then weapon damage is compared to armor", but it didnt really bother me much at all. I knew it was similar to Warmachine, but it just worked for me.

It definitely was a swing away from the TW "brain fry" crunch, and a refreshing change at that, and I am really looking forward to drawing my own units up and seeing how Aron runs his. I will play this again in a heartbeat, and will likely start dabbling with more options in-game, and actually run a published scenario or two. A larger 4'x4' board might have been better, but with our time crunch (and the fact that my craft room is so full of junk that its a miracle the 3'x3' board was accessible!) it worked out well.

Other rule sets in the queue? Alien Squad Leader, Stargrunt II, maybe OP4S in 15mm...and I just bought the whole kit and kaboodle of Strike Legion for 6mm off Wargame Vault (www.wargamevault.com) so that will have to come out soon too.  Man, wish I wasnt moving in a few months. My gaming stuff is so hard to reach! :)


  1. Thanks for the write up. Looks like you had a good game. There are a few things I thought I would answer in terms of rules and style.

    You mention I-GO-You-Go and suggested that you did not use the rules as-written. The rules actually have I-Go U-go, Alternative activation and Card based turn sequence all detailed as options. I actually always play the card based activation for the most interactive feel but it really is up to personal taste.

    The ranges for infantry weapon fire were deliberately on the lower end and 28mm gamers usually suffer a bit of shock initially. I had played in 15mm and 28mm extensively and wanted to avoid a turkey-shoot out situation where players stay put and just fire at each other on alternate actions. This is why I forced the long range modifier, however after lots of playtesting and feedback is is now a -3 rather than -4 and some of the ranges have bumped up an inch or three.

    "It felt semi-40k-ish to me". I never play 40K (well not since Rogue Trader days), so I am surprised you found it 40k-ish. My actual influences are Savage Worlds, Two Hour Wargames, Killzone, Warmachine, Battletech and various GZG games like Full Thrust. Several design elements like the multi-damage track on vehicles were built to provide a non-40K feel and avoid the "Vehicles are just bolt-on and much like bigger heavier troops" situation where the 40K game design could feel a little to focused troops and forgets to integrate vehicles.

    "but nearly every soldier in the unit had a different modifier because of weapon or range" - The idea with a Gruntz squad was to keep them all with the same weapon (apart from attachments with heavier weapons). If you keep them all running with the same kit in a single set of kit issued to the squad you avoid having to re-think ranges and modifiers etc. At least thats the plan in the rules. Also combined fire only works if they all use the same weapon type when massing fire.

    Thanks for putting this together, hopefully I can continue to support any questions or suggestions you have for improvements. I will drop a link on my blog to your article. Cheers!

    1. Robin, thanks for replying! I did use the Alternate Activation out of the Options in the back of the rules...apologies for not suggesting that it was in the book but as an Option.

      As for the 40k quip, believe it or not, I actually meant that as a compliment. It felt integrated with combined arms, squads with weapons, leaders, etc, and while Im not a huge 40k fan, this is actually what I wanted in 15mm!

      Ranges werent bad, but the -4 was indeed huge. I can see the -3, and will try that next time. All in all, I was pleased. Im sure we made the dice rolling more complicated than we needed to, and wound allocation slowed us down a splash, but this is a solid 4 of 5 stars for me, and the only huge detractor was the organization of runs in the rulebook. Looking forward to v1.1!

  2. Sorry I did not want to sound totally off about 40K - there are thousands of fans for the GW games because it is a fun solid system. I will keep you posted with progress on 1.1. Cheers

  3. I was actually just noticing that you are from san jose which is fairly close to where i live in morgan hill and i myself am just getting into 15 mm and looking for people to play with and try out rule sets.

  4. I lover trying out new rulesets. I'm more of a 6mm guy, but I can do 15mm with you! Send me an email at kealios@gmail.com