Oct 13, 2009:
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Dec 24, 2007:
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About Stargrunt II

Stargrunt II is a squad level science fiction miniatures combat game. It is published by Ground Zero Games.

Stargrunt II uses the Full Metal AnorakTM game system. Morale and leadership play an important part in the game. Each squad is rated for quality of the unit, quality of the leader, and level of morale. The unit's quality affects things like maximum range they can fire their small arms weapons, their combat ability, and the type of die they roll for morale. The leadership value is used by a unit whenever morale tests are made, or when a unit tries to communicate with another unit in the chain of command.

Combat is fairly easy. Typically, a unit would roll one die for its quality, one die for its small arms firepower, and one die for its support weapon. The opponent would roll one die for range, with adjustments for cover. If one of the attacker's dice is greater than the defender's die, the defender is suppressed. If two or more dice are greater than the defender's die, the defender is suppressed and can potentially take casualties. Any other result is a miss. The dice rolled can be 4-sided, 6-sided, 8-sided, 10-sided, or 12-sided. This is determined by the number of men in the squad and their quality, but it is altered by the defender's terrain.

If a hit is scored, the dice rolled are read a different way to determine the potential number of casualties. For each casualty, an Impact Die is rolled versus an Armour Die to determine if the figure is wounded, killed, or undamaged.

One of the game's interesting aspects is that a unit takes morale penalties if it leaves wounded comrades behind. There is also a chance that a wounded figure can be patched up and put back to work, thus giving a reason to have medics and medical evacuation units.

Vehicles are handled simplistically. The author deliberately under powers vehicles and heavy weapons in order to keep the focus on infantry. That having been said, the rules do allow the inclusion of tanks, APCs, trucks, etc. Also included are rules for artillery and aerial attacks.

Stargrunt II isn't without its problems. Small arms resolution is often too lengthy. First there's the opposed roll to hit. If there are potential casualties, one rule — admittedly an option — has the attacker rolling another die to see if fractional casualties are rounded up to real casualties. In other words, if there were 3 and 5/8 potential casualties, a D8 is rolled with a result of 1 to 5 meaning there are four potential casualties instead of three. Each potential casualty requires an armour versus impact roll. For each actual casualty there is another die roll to figure out which figure was hit. This is followed up with a Confidence Test and potentially a Panic Test. It's not that uncommon to require ten dice rolls to resolve combat, most of which are opposed rolls. Opposed rolls keep both players involved throughout a turn, but it also tends to slow down the game.

There are other issues with Stargrunt II. If you look at the errata and house rules section of this site, you'll see that there are a number of rules that need to be fixed or clarified. Unfortunately, the author is infamous for leaving players to sort out these issues themselves. The artillery rules contradict themselves. The EW rules are incomplete, and there are long running arguments over the interpretation of the vehicle loading/unloading rules. Multiple heavy weapons in a squad are implied by the sample organizations found at the back of the book, but there are no rules for them. Vehicles and artillery are hamstrung. This was deliberate on the part of the author in an attempt to make Stargrunt II an infantry focused game. Heavy machine guns aren't really modelled, and heavy weapons (particularly autocannons in the 20mm to 30mm range) have unrealistically short ranges. The result is that heavy weapons, vehicles, and artillery in this supposedly futuristic wargame are nowhere near as effective as their current, modern day equivalents. Many common science fiction elements and equipment are missing, lending the game a "Vietnam in space" feel. The rules are very much based on combat science fiction that came out in the late 70s and early 80s.

Stargrunt II is a generic game. This means that it isn't married to one particular set of miniatures or one game background universe. My own Plasma Ambush and Ork Hill scenarios use figures from other manufacturers (15mm Traveller and 28mm Games Workshop, respectively). There is, however, an "official" game universe that can be used.

Due to the generic nature of the game, players are free to create almost any force they want. There is no point system in Stargrunt II as it is really best played with scenarios that players make up (as opposed to the even point meeting engagements common to games like Warhammer 40,000. This makes the game a little harder for new players to pick up. A point system may be added in the upcoming supplement Bugs Don't Surf (assuming it ever sees the light of day).

Stargrunt II is weird as far as the size of game it can handle. The rules work best with about one platoon per side. This would require, on average, about 40 figures (three or four squads per platoon, between six and 10 figures per squad, plus a command squad and a specialist squad or two). Four or five units per side doesn't leave a lot of room for tactical complexity, though. You can make games more interesting by increasing them to about two platoons per side. This size of game can be completed in three to five hours. Unfortunately, the Confidence Test system starts to break down at this size (for various reasons I won't go into here). Two platoons per side is also a strange size for a scenario as it's larger than a platoon but smaller than a full company. There have been convention games of up to about a company in size (three or four platoons) per side, but these require a lot of space, 8+ hours to play, and it really stretches the game's Confidence Test system to the breaking point.

The time it takes to play a scenario depends more on the number of units than on the number of figures. 60 figures grouped into 12 man squads would result in a faster game than 40 figures grouped into four man squads.

The universe (which some of us have called the Tuffleyverse after Jon Tuffley, the game's developer) has a full range of 25mm miniatures and an expanding range of 15mm miniatures. This universe includes a combined United States/Canada/UK coalition (New Anglian Confederation), an expanded Germany (New Swabian League), a militant France (Fed Stats Europa), and a new Russian/Chinese superpower (Eurasion Solar Union). There are also a number of smaller powers (representing Africa, South East Asia, Japan, the Middle East, and a California-Texas union, among others) and the United Nations. There are no aliens in Stargrunt II as yet, but the upcoming book Bugs Don't Surf will include alien rules and more. Alien figures for the background universe (in particular, the Kra'Vak and Phalons) are available.

The "official" line of figures is extensive for each of the major forces, and includes a good mix of figures for the minor forces, in 25mm and 15mm scale. The company puts out a number of excellent 25mm vehicles in resin. This includes tanks, APCs, scout cars, trucks, and drop ships. So far, there is only one 15mm vehicle, and APC. 15mm vehicles would have to be kitbashed from plastic kits or purchased from other manufacturers.

The universe is shared with two other games: Full Thrust and Dirtside II. Full Thrust is the spaceship combat game, while Dirtside II is an excellent microarmour/1:285/epic scale ground combat game. Coming sometime in the future is a game known so far as FMA Skirmish, a skirmish game using similar mechanics to Stargrunt II. Like Stargrunt, all three of these other games are generic but they also adhere to the game universe.