November 24, 2014 by crew
Full Disclaimer: I sell the Gruntz rulebook, Activation Cards and “Double-Dice” in my webshop at ClearHorizonMiniatures.com. I have been an avid player of Gruntz since it came out several years ago (before starting my own miniatures company) and also offer a free Quick Reference Sheet and data cards that I’ve put together that have helped me out while playing.
“Gruntz 15mm SCI-FI is a dedicated 15mm fast play wargame designed for skirmish level play using combined arms. You can use miniatures from any 15mm SCI-FI manufacturer and the rules are not restricted to a set genre or background setting. You can pick up, learn and play Gruntz quickly and add to the basic rules with the included optional rules with more advanced movement, turn sequence and activation.” – Gruntz description from WargameVault
I’ve been playing Gruntz since it came out with version 1 (it’s at version 1.1 right now) in 2011 and I’ve found it to be an easy-to-learn adaptable game that produces “realistic” results that make sense and include a robust points system to make it easy to use any model (from humans to monsters to super-heavy dropships!).
I’ve also found Gruntz to be incredibly scalable. I’ve had battles on 6’x4’ tables with VTOLs, tanks and platoons worth of soldiers and I’ve also had games on a 2’x2’ table where each side only had four SpecOps troopers with multiple damage points that operated independently.
Gruntz also includes a great background, the Heliopause setting, which gives a great backdrop to the battles you’re fighting. Of course, as it’s designed to be used with any miniatures you’d like, it also works great in any setting you’d like to fight your battles in. The rules easily handle “hard sci-fi” battles (as long as you limit the perkz and special abilities you give your troops) up to “space opera” settings with psionics and over-the-top weaponry. With the unit building system you can easily tailor your forces to fit exactly what you want them to represent.
Gruntz does not include a force organization requirement for building forces which can be a double-edged sword. It can be easy to “cheese” out an army and make it very powerful when building your units. Even though I’ve found the point system to be very robust, no system can be perfect. This is where scenarios come in to play. In a tournament setting additional “house rules” are also important to establish guidelines.
But, on this note, every unit has a counter. Even giant mechs can be rendered ineffective by a “neural net” attack from a single specialist. Just as in real warfare it’s important to be able to deal with all threats, or at least move fast enough to avoid them!
The basic mechanic behind Gruntz is the rolling of 2d6 and adding that to a stat (such as SHOOT) and comparing it to an opposing stat (such as GUARD). For instance, if you have a squad of eight soldiers you would roll eight 2d6 (keeping them together) and then adding each paired result to that soldiers SHOOT, which would then be compared to the enemies GUARD stat. Once hit an attacker follows the same procedure, but uses the weapons DAMAGE stat vs. the enemies SOAK stat. GUARD represents the unit’s physical quickness while SOAK represents armor the model is wearing.
All the rules are presented in an easy to follow format and even close-combat, which is handled a bit differently than shooting, gets an easy to follow flow-chart that after a few times becomes second nature.
Gruntz also does an excellent job of building up the rules. It presents the basic rules first, which can produce fun games on their own, and it also includes “advanced” rules that where Gruntz really shines.
The book includes several options for unit activations, UGO-IGO, alternating activation and card-method. I prefer the card-method. Robin has just released a set of cards that really enhance this as well. The procedure I like to use is that each side is dealt cards equal to how many units they have. The players than assign each card face-down with activation happening from highest to lowest. Once each side has assigned all their cards all units are activated, with the highest going first. I like the way you leave the cards face-down as it gives a fog-of-war effect and an air of uncertainty to the battlefield.
I find this pre-planning combined with randomness really makes battles an exercise in forward thinking and often produces “down to the wire” results!
Included in the book are a variety of unit builders that cover everything from your basic infantryman, to medics, commanders, all types of aircraft, tanks, monsters, artillery and more. They are also presented in an easy to follow format allowing you to build units right out of the book. There is also the Gruntz Barracks Program (a product of a successful Kickstarter) that makes creating good-looking unit cards incredibly easy. You can then export them as JPG files which allows for easy printing and sharing.
Gruntz also includes basic and advanced vehicle rules, depending on the level of detail you want in your games. I personally prefer VTOLs and Gruntz contains some really cool rules for using them in games, including dust-offs and deploying troops.
Like any ruleset there are going to be ambiguities from time to time, and sometimes you have to use common sense (or simply agreeing with your opponent) to figure out the best way to resolve a situation. This is no different from rulesets put out by giant corporations and I have never had a problem resolving issues in Gruntz. The author routinely clarifies questions on the Gruntz Forum and if he’s not around there are a bunch of helpful folks willing to put in their best guess. Robin Fitton also has a Youtube Channel with rules tutorials and other overviews in case you are having any issues with learning the game.
If you’re looking for a self-contained game that can be adapted to almost any sci-fi trope Gruntz is your game. It’s easy to learn but has the depth to keep it interesting.
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