Gruntz Trailer

With the game not far off release there’s now a rather sexy trailer of the upcoming and thoroughly awesome Gruntz game penned by community veteran Robin Fitton.

Shell Case Shorts 9

This month’s Shell Case Shorts is extra special for me as the prize is a signed copy of the utterly awesome Gruntz 15mm written by Robin Fitton, an honoured member or the wargaming community and all round top bloke.

I had the pleasure of reviewing Gruntz v1 a while back and loved it and I’m really excited that it’s coming out in print. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning is the following:

Rules are as follows:

Entrants have two writing options.

1, Write a single short story of between 2,000 & 3,000 words set in any established wargaming IP.

Or

2. Write a pair of short stories of 1500 words the second following on from the first set in any established wargaming IP.

Your work is your own but intellectual property rests squarely with the companies in question and is only used under fair use. I reserve the right to publish any submissions in a strictly non-profit capacity. All published writers will be credited accordingly.

Submissions should attempt to evoke the IP the story is based on.

All entries must be received by midnight UK time Sunday 30th September 2012 after which a single winner will be chosen. Submissions received after this will not be considered.

1 submission per person.

Work believed to be plagiarised will be disqualified.

All submissions must be sent as a Word document attached to an email to theshellcase@hotmail.co.uk

[Any spam from entrants will result in disqualification]

Submissions must include the entrants name, a contact email address, Twitter name if applicable and the title of the story.

1 winner will be chosen and notified by email.

The winning entry will be published initially on The Shell Case blog and later in a free to download anthology.

No discussion will be entered into, my decision is final.

The prize may not be exchanged for its cash value or an alternative. However, I reserve the right to substitute the prize if necessary.

Good luck and have fun!

Critical Mass Games Review

My furry friend @DocBungle has been hard at work cocking about with toys in the name of journalism…not that I’m one to talk.

This time Critical Mass Games takes their turn. Which has a rather nice symmetry to it as their models are used for the rather awesome Gruntz 15mm game which I reviewed at the beginning of the month and can be found here.

Gruntz – The Review

Gruntz 15mm is a game written by Robin Fitton. A veteran gamer who decided, one day, to put his money where his mouth was and write his own wargame. This is something I can identify with as I’ve been writing Project Awesome on and off for over a decade, every couple of years getting re-written as my knowledge and skills improve.

The first thing that is immediately apparent about Gruntz is that it is a real labour of love. From one wargame writer to another I can see that Robin put everything into Gruntz.

Also, one of my favourite things about Gruntz is that you can actually use any models from any period in time you like. The rules are flexible enough to let you do that. Which is brilliant. This was a shrewd move on Robin’s part to get around the problem he had with no dedicated Gruntz models existing when he first put fingers to keyboard.

And as the rules also include how to create your own units, it allows gamers to not only write campaigns but entire armies and then source the toys you like to go with it. Which is awesome.

Now, I’ve never played a 15mm game before so the difference in scale was a little weird for me but that’s my issue and I’m trying to work through it. The game itself is remarkably easy to pick up. I was playing against on of The Chaps last night and he hadn’t even seen the rules let alone read them and I was able to instruct him on how the basics were performed and we rattled through the game with relative ease. It did however turn into an absolute blood bath with only the commander on each side left alive.

Which brings me on to the biggest difference between Gruntz and a  lot of tabletop wargames. Everything matters. Because the game mechanic is straight forward it’s easy to make war with those you don’t like. This means folk die. This means you have to be very clever with how you use your combined forces and as initiative passes backwards and forwards between sides it is doubly so. And although some units are far more resilient than others, it’s hardly a case of a squad of Space Marines marching inexorably towards a unit of cultists confident in the knowledge that much squishing will ensue.

And that’s another thing that Gruntz emphasises more than any other game I’ve played. Cover matters. I mean a lot. And that’s great. Because infantry can get waxed relatively easily keeping them alive becomes a pre-occupation. Damaged units get suppressed. Suppressed units become less combat effective and vulnerable to assault. It’s the first game I’ve ever played where the environment in which you fight is as important as the models moving around within it.

Sure every game has scenery. And games like 40k have a variety of exciting kits available that, in game terms, come with various cover saves and the like but the difference between 40k & Gruntz is that 40k is almost ambivalent to the pain and suffering of those on the ground. Gruntz accepts that armies are populated with burstable infantry and so encourages you to spend their lives wisely. Which is, I think, quite rare. Especially in a sci-fi game. Of course you don’t have to but thanks to a very sensible combat mechanism you’ll quickly learn the error of your ways.

Gruntz also emphasises the importance of a flexible, multi-role, force. Tanks, Mechas (mechs), aircraft and artillery all make an appearance and all have varying levels of tech including hover tanks. The variants within the variety make it all the more enjoyable both from a gaming and collecting perspective. And, again, as there are no dedicated Gruntz miniatures, yet, you can have a huge amount of fun finding the vehicles that suit your interpretation of the background.
And if that weren’t enough, the game is filled with thoroughly sensible rules that could put other games to shame. Aside from suppression that limits actions from 2 a turn to just 1 rather than being able to do fuck all like in Warpath, if a unit of Gruntz has a support weapon in it and the crew are killed, the squad picks up the weapon and continues to use it at their stats rather than the crews. It make such an abundance of sense. Not just the whole ‘let’s pick up the large useful gun that someone just dropped because they have no face’ but the fact that the weapon is used at the Gruntz base stats.

It really feels like Robin has gone to great lengths to inject a sense of authenticity into Gruntz with basic terminology. A Grunt isn’t killed he’s waxed. If you lose your never its condition brown. There’s a special rule called Light ‘Em Up. It gives the game charm which gives it longevity.

Now no game is perfect and I think one of the biggest problems with Gruntz is one of its best features; you need a proper gaming board to get the most out of the game. Because Robin has worked so hard to take everything into account, you’ll quickly find yourself having to invest as much in your terrain as your forces. Now, this wouldn’t bother me because I think playing on boards with nice scenery, but I can see it bothering others. Especially if you’re new to that scale of gaming and therefore have nothing more than a few hills at your disposal.

Another little gripe on my part of that everything works off 2D6 which would be fine if combat didn’t you require to roll separate sets for each bloke in your unit. So you effectively need 8 pairs of different colour D6 to be able to fire a single unit (with support weapon) in one go. If you don’t have such a thing I could see big games becoming l0000ng games. Given the choice I’d either half the values or knock a point or two off and use a D10 instead. I just think it’d make it a bit smoother to play.

Overall Gruntz is a game with bags of personality and offers gamers the sort of thing many have been struggling to find from games like 40k, as in lots of toys on the board including lots of tanks and other big scary things but not wanting to have to play on 12 ft boards or spend a small mortgage on your army.
It’s got straight forward, well thought out, rules that force you to think tactically and it’ll punish your mercilessly if you don’t. And it’s ace.