Friday, May 10, 2013

An introductory Gruntz review and a Gruntz AAR: Operation Blind Emu

Played a friendly game of Gruntz down at my amazing FLGS, Great Escape Games, last night. It was a small game of 150 points as it was my opponent's first time playing. I decided to write up a little background for the engagement after the fact and I think I'm going to use a lot of it for my game setting.

As it was my friend's first time playing we decided to keep it simple. We played the first scenario out of the Gruntz rulebook, deploy on the long edges and kill as much of the opponent's assets while preserving your own.

After the jump, the AAR and my first impressions review of Rottenlead's Gruntz.



Security Solutions PMC Ltd. is an off-world PMC frequently employed by the central board of Johnson & Wykom, to deal with tasks that the company would like deniability for. Their most recent assignment takes them to Guarajat, a planet fully leased from the Solar Republic by J&W, whose local branch has harbored serious concerns regarding the rapid growth and increased aggression of a formerly "cooperative" organized crime and militia group called the Guarajat Syndicate. Previously the Syndicate had been content controlling the camps occupied by the "industrial surplus" (read: unemployed), though lately they've made several raids on J&W facilities, including the complete destruction of a high value research site.


J&W satellites have spotted a Syndicate HVT and four of his lieutenants at a construction staging site over 30 kilometers from the nearest Syndicate controlled area. While J&W's board is interested in obtaining any intelligence regarding the Syndicate, the primary goal of the PMC on this mission is to ensure the elimination of the local leadership of the Syndicate and prevent any damage to the staging site.

Deployment: I lose the deployment roll, as well as losing the initiative roll, a sign of things to come?

Turns 1-2: Both of us are wary about rushing headlong into an engagement. My Security Solutions PMC troops edge up to the center of the construction staging grounds while my opponent does the same with his Guarajat Syndicate militia but decides to send his tank destroyers around to my right flank.

1st squad takes a defensive position making to ensure that the platoon doesn't get a nasty surprise on the right.

Pictured: A potential nasty surprise on the right...

Turn 3: The maneuvers are done and the shots start ringing out. I suffer the first casualty of the game as a tank destroyer sends a SABOT round directly through a member of 2nd squad while I manage to miss every shot I take... 1st squad avoids the same fate as 2nd squad, though apparently prone firing isn't in their repertoire, as all 8 men unleash hell... and manage to completely miss the Tank Destroyer.

Oh Private Jones, how we barely knew you...

1st squad's preparation pays off as they are glued to the ground in prone position, narrowly avoiding getting hit by an anti-tank shell.

Turn 4: Things have started to heat up now and the casualties on my side are beginning to mount as the Syndicate's power armored enforcers "introduce themselves" to the PMC's scout drones, with predictable results. The Syndicate scout drones unload on 2nd squad, taking down the SAW gunner whose weapon is picked up by another trooper. The drones don't get away unscathed though as the replacement SAW gunner manages to take one down with effective return fire.

14 SAW Medium Projectile FA shots later and my drones' numbers are significantly cut down.

Syndicate drones pop from around the corner to say hello to 2nd squad..

Turn 5 opens with both of us still engaged at distance as everybody continues to pass their mental checks and no one wants to risk getting cut down in the charge to an assault. PMC forces get a break and manage to cut down half of the enforcers and do serious damage to both tank destroyers. The remaining enforcers and enemy commander aren't going down easy though and manage to wax three members of 3rd squad.

3rd Squad's SAW gunner hugs the corner and lets loose, killing two of the enforcers with one salvo!

Turn 6: And things wrap up with a bang! Try as they might, and tough as they are, the Syndicate forces just don't have enough firepower to deal with the PMC's numbers. The remaining enforcers are mopped up by a determined 3rd squad, though the commander stays tough and manages to shrug off an anti-tank missile (in fact, this was one of only two missiles that hit all game!) as if it was a gnat on a hot summer's day. Both Syndicate tank destroyers end up in flames by the end of the turn as 1st squad's SAW gunner and the PMC's Gauss MG specialist let loose.

BOOM!: My Gauss MG gunner polishes off one of the Tank Destroyers. The MVP of the game, my Gauss MG gunner managed to do over 20 damage to the vehicles, kill a few drones, and survive (albeit with one wound left) to the end of the match, not bad for around 20 points!

And now a review:

First and foremost, this is just an intro review. I don't feel as if I've played enough of Rottenlead's Gruntz to give a full review going over every niche concept of the game. This review is meant to convey my sentiment towards the rules after about a half dozen games, none of which included many sections of the rules. If you're looking for an in-detailed review of the mechanics or a "how to play" then I highly recommend Rottenlead's tutorial video on youtube.

Let's get real for a second, if you're looking at 15mm sci-fi rulesets you're probably already aware of Gruntz as it is one of the biggest and most recent splashes in the relatively niche 15mm sci-fi pond, and with good reason, it's an outstanding game. The bottom line is simple, if you're interested in picking up a new ruleset for 15mm sci-fi gaming and especially if you are coming from Warhammer, Warmachine, or Flames of War, Gruntz should definitely be near the top of your short list. It's an absolutely solid game and plays like a breeze. The fact that a pdf copy from wargames vault is available for a mere $15, I've been playing using my Nexus 7 as my portable rulebook and it works wonderfully, means that even if you never play a game you owe it to yourself to at least check it out if you're in the least bit interested.

I'm still relatively new to Gruntz as this is only my 5th or 6th game and I'm definitely hooked. There are so many things that the game does right in my opinion; great unit construction mechanics that include a computer app (also available from wargames vault for a mere $5!) which makes building your forces a snap (more on this further down), 2d6 (and only d6, which is a solid bonus in my mind) for rolls, simple mechanics such as concentrate fire can yield complex gameplay and make for some great choices in the game, that the only qualms I have with it are comparatively nitpicky.

I think that the last word in that paragraph is important to keep in mind when reading these criticisms, I wouldn't let any of them dissuade you from giving this game a try:

First, the game could benefit from having some quick reference sheets. There is a lot going on in the game, and enough specific rules and modifiers that new players could use a quick reminder of that I'm somewhat surprised that these weren't included. I'm well aware that most people playing this game are veteran wargamers but still, as someone who spends a good amount of time trying to get more people into the hobby, handing them a 100+ page book and telling them to memorize it (and the location in all sections for reference) for their first game can make playing seem a bit daunting at first.

My second biggest qualm is with IGOUGO (for those unfamiliar with the term, it means one player moves, shoots, and assaults with ALL of their units in a turn before handing play off to the other player) though thankfully the rules include the optional "alternating activation" rules. Anybody who knows me in real life knows that I have a strong dislike for IGOUGO (a.k.a. I'm going to go get lunch and have a smoke during your turn, I'll be back) and Gruntz is poorer for having this as the standard mechanic. Most of the bigger games, e.g. GW's Warhammer and Battelfront's FoW, use an IGOUGO mechanic but maintain a "saving throw" rolled by the non-active player to keep them at least minimally involved during their opponent's turn. Gruntz lacks this feature, and while I don't mourn its absence in Gruntz it makes your opponent's turn even more of a detached affair when you are literally doing nothing but choosing which of your models gets waxed during your "off"-turn. As I mentioned before, the Gruntz rulebook includes rules for alternating activations, and the game runs quite smoothly with them. If you plan to play Gruntz I can not stress enough that you should give the alternating activations rule a go. Or if you're feeling like you need an even stronger break from IGOUGO, the optional "random activation" rules. Sorry that that turned into such a rant but I've always felt that the order that play proceeds is one of the most underdeveloped areas for mechanics in gaming, and I'm a bit saddened to see an otherwise tight, fun, and in many ways innovative, game such as Gruntz tread the traditional path.

Third, wanting to roll high for most things, but wanting to roll low for a big one, morale. I get it, GW uses 2d6 and scoring equal to or lower for morale purposes. It's a pain to want all of your stats to be high, save morale, which if you're "rolling high" for then you want to be low. But with Gruntz' unit building barracks app being what I would consider a mandatory purchase to play, it would have been safe and easy to have made this change. A truly minor quibble, I admit, but one that has always bothered me.

Fourth, lack of a campaign system to link your battles. I almost don't think it's fair to criticize Gruntz for this as none of the major wargames out there have an included (read: native to their rulebooks that is, both Flames of War and both Warhammer games have add on campaign sytems available for extra $) campaign system that allows your units to progress and develop, but it's still a bother. A game like Gruntz which allows almost unheard of customization of your army practically screams for this kind of system to be incorporated into the rules and I'm hoping that as the game further develops a system for this will be included. I know Gruntz is young and this is a comparatively unfair complaint, but this is a feature that at this point I think should be standard in most wargames.

Ok, I'm stepping down off of my soapbox and hanging up my "critic hat" now. All in all, these are terribly minor complaints when stacked up against the gestalt whole of Gruntz. It's an amazingly good game that plays well, and has up to this point shown itself to be very well balanced. I'd feel comfortable recommending it to anyone looking to break into 15mm sci-fi. 

Before I go though I'd like to take a moment to talk about the Gruntz barracks app. While superficially similar to other computerized army builders such as,'s FoW builder or Battlescribe, the barracks app truly takes it to another level. 

The Gruntz Barracks App in action, even Fallout's action boy approves.

The app works simply enough, the top tabs allow you to select which type of unit you'd like to build. Once type is selected, you choose stats, weapons, and perks from a series of drop down menus, all the while the app keeps tracks of the points cost of your unit and custom builds its unit card on the right. Once you're done building your unit you can drag and drop a picture of the models you'll be using onto the card, hit "export card", and voila, you have a .jpg file ready to print. 

An example of the finished product

This snazzy little app is a cinch to use and makes list building an absolute breeze. I'm glad the creator of Gruntz recognized just how handy something like this is and priced it so reasonably. In my opinion the barracks app is an absolutely mandatory purchase for those looking to give Gruntz a go. The only thing I'd like to see more of in the app is a feature that lets you construct actual lists similar to more traditional army builders instead of just individual units, but like my "complaint" about Gruntz lacking a campaign feature, that's hardly a fly ruining the ointment and should be thought of more as a wanted extra than an actual knock on an otherwise stellar product. 

I hope you've enjoyed reading this, and as I continue to play Gruntz I'll be sure to add a more in-depth review of the features I like! How has your experience with Gruntz been? Disagree with something I've said? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the game and whether you think I'm wrong about something in the comments!

UPDATE: Clear Horizon Proprietor Mr. Harold (If you haven't checked out his blog, you really should, he's got some great stuff over there) comes through again and delivers some perfect Quick Reference Sheets he made up for Gruntz. You can find the QRS here


  1. Great review and AAR. Thanks for posting.

    I agree with most of your points for sure.

    I have a QRS I made that works pretty well, I'll see if I can get it uploaded somewhere.

  2. That'd be great Mr. Harold, I'm still learning so I could definitely benefit from it, and it'd be super useful for a few guys I'm trying to get into the game!

    1. Hi Mike, check out:

    2. That it is amazing, thank you so much Mr. Harold, that's EXACTLY the kind of thing I've been looking for!

    3. Thanks! And also, I highly recommend the alternating activation, really the best way to play, in my experience.

  3. Great post, Mike! I have several sets of rules, but haven't tried Gruntz yet. Your review is really helpful, although as a solo wargamer, I tend to go with rules that allow me to 'play both sides'. I still would like to take a look at them, and this post was really helpful. I also enjoyed your AAR. Well done buddy!

    1. Thanks GR. Hmm, I don't know how well it would play as a solo game, though if you were to transfer the combat system and unit building over to different mechanics the unit builder could help ensure that you end up with well balanced forces. What are you playing solo right now? I've never tried a wargame solitaire, though I have been looking into it, any recommendations?

      Glad you liked the AAR and review!

    2. Well, I'm using SA5150, and the solo rules in that are pretty good. Like you, I'm not a big fan of IGOUGO, and the THW rules are an effective departure from that. Also, I have another set, as yet untried, from, called 'USEME', and these also have a workable engine for solo play. I can't give you much of a recommendation for these yet, but I may give them a go soon, and I'll let you know!

    3. I know this is an old post, but I'm just getting into Gruntz and 15mm, and after all the videos I watched, if you use the alternating activation method, it seems well-suited to solo play as Robin (the game's creator) plays solo in his videos and it works well!

      Also, I just stumbled upon a supplement from Wargamevault (or trader, can't remember) that offers solo play. It's called SpecOps...$3 or something like that. Haven't read it yet, but seems worth it and came highly regarded.

    4. Shoot, forgot to hit "notify me" so I could be notified if anyone replies ;)

  4. We play it as alternating unit activations instead of IGOUGO and it works fine.

  5. Great review! I've had GRUNTZ for quite awhile now, but like Gunrunner, I'm mainly a solo wargamer, so I haven't gotten around to playing it, but I'm rereading my copy now (thanks to your review)and I might be able to tweak the alternate card-based activation system to allow it to be used solo. I'll post what I come up with on the GRUNTZ Forum and on TMP.