I'm enjoying my regular Dropzone Commander fix, but it was suggested we give Gruntz 15mm Sci Fi a try. Gruntz is a generic set of fairly "hard" sci fi rules written with 15mm figures in mind. There are no "official" figures, you just use what you want, and you build your units based on any background you fancy, paying points for each trait or factor. I say they are "hard" sci fi because they are more grounded in "realistic" combat with ranged weapons than hitting each other with chainswords and the like (like DZC). That having been said, if you want to do that they will allow you to - though you may need some method of crossing the fire soaked intervening ground between you and your target.
Grunts are aimed at a tactical level down from DZC, so each figure represents a single soldier , who operates as part of a squad. They're based individually, but some specialists and support weapons are based in pairs or teams.
I've had a copy for a year or so but never got to play properly - partly because after DZC arrived it eat up my sci fi gaming time allowance, but I did manage to paint up a nice little platoon sized unit of about 30 figures. And therein lies the first plus point of Gruntz. You can play with a platoon of 30 15mm figures. Total cost of a reinforced infantry platoon is less than £20, and the figures paint up quickly and easily. I have a platoon of 15mm "Crusties" from Ground Zero Games, who bear a passing resemblance to the aliens from the film District 9, so I pointed them up and headed for the club, where Paul, my opponent for the night, had agreed to bring some opposition. There was another first tonight - we both had the rules on our tablets, which was a new step for us old fashioned folks, but seemed to work. I used the tablet to take the accompanying pics, which goes to prove it doesnt matter how good the technology is if the operator is a idiot!
So without further ado "Meet the Crusties!"
I went for 3 squads of six laser rifle armed Crusties, with each squad having two plasma gunners attached, plus a Medium Laser, a Commander, and finally a pack of Prawns (just out of shot) - vicious if stupid close combat creatures. The Prawns usually come with a herder, but I couldn't afford the extra points needed for him :-(, I also had a tripod mounted medium laser to give me some heavy weapon fire.
Paul had chosen a similar platoon organisation, however in addition to his three rifle squads and Commander, he had a medic, and what I'm sure my Commander would call, a "Fooking Tank". Each of his rifle squads had an anti tank launcher and a squad automatic weapon in support, all conventional projectile weapons, but his tank had a rather big laser.
The table was set out and we got started
The game played fast and was fun. Paul made the mistake of pushing his tank forward ahead of his infantry support, which resulted in it being deluged by plasma gun fire from the three Crustie squads plus the rather more dangerous support laser. The tank took repeated hits from plasma weapons, and although none of them were serious or caused a lot of damage the tank was being gradually shot to bits. This was made clear when a lucky laser hit caused a critical hit on the tanks targeting systems, making hitting anything at other than point blank range difficult. Paul tried to pull the tank back but a sequence of rather lucky plasma hits immobilised it and then the laser got in a killing shot - first blood to the Crusties. Also centre in the pic is the Prawn Pack heading enthusiastically for the ramp leading to the landing pad and what they thought would be a tasty snack of Humans!
The Prawns charged forward, straight into a withering burst of automatic weapons fire which decimated them and sent the sole survivor scuttling for cover. This was all part of the Crustie Commander's "Cunning Plan" in that it allowed a Crusty infantry squad to climb up a steep slope to try and attack a human squad. The humans were waiting however and opened fire as the Crusties cleared the top, causing 3 casualties, but the Crusties passed a rather difficult morale test and won the initiative to put down a withering hail of laser and plasma fire on the humans.
At about the same time on the other flank a human flanking move came up short when the squad took some heavy casualties and fell back to cover.
In the centre the last remaining human squad took a "lucky" hit from the Crusty support laser, but the casualty was saved by the quick intervention of the Medic team. It was clear however that he Crusties were going to win, so Paul called his men back and left the Crusties in control.
It was a really fun and quick game, and we both enjoyed it. I think we learned different lessons - certainly pushing the tank up unsupported was a mistake, and Paul was impressed by the Crustie Plasma Guns, whereas I have developed a healthy respect for his squad assault weapons, which were rather nasty. There is going to be some furious painting and reviewing of stats too - the Crusties are going to get a drop in morale value in an effort to make them cheaper as at 29 points a squad compared to the Humans at 21 points they're way too expensive.
Judging from this game, I suspect we will be seeing some more Gruntz on table.
If you are interested the rules are available as a download from Wargames Vault for under $10, great value, as is the squad builder which makes building your squads much easier. There is also the authors dedicated blog here Gruntz which has loads of useful stuff.