Stargrunt

I want to talk a bit about Stargrunt, which has been my preferred minis game for the past 3 years or so. This is not a new game – in fact, it’s 13 years old, having been published by Ground Zero Games in 1996. Actually the proper name of the game is Stargrunt II, the original having been a smaller set of self published rules.

Stargrunt is designed for 25mm minis but works just as well with 15mm or 28mm minis, and the design philosophy is basically “bring whatever you want to the table”. That’s an attitude I like and it allows you to exercise your creativity when making up your forces and the fluff to go with them. Ground Zero Games has their fluff and background but by no means requires you to use it.

With the very small group of players I managed to cultivate, we’ve had a great time designing a setting in which to set our battles. Check out this thread on the Endgame forums to see what we’ve done, and this thread for a battle report.

So what’s to like about this game? Like any game, it is designed to deliver on a certain set of demands and expectations. Now, I’ve played quite a few minis games, including 40K (admittedly, 20 years ago, but anyway) and most of them at the 28mm scale focus on the individual trooper. Sure, they’re usually part of a unit but generally the rules treat each figure on the table separately.

That’s fine, but it’s important to realize that makes most games like this are skirmish games. I find that with a lot of skirmish style games, the sort of fire and movement tactics I’d like to employ are hard to use or not really effective. Skirmish games also often have a strong focus on individual hero figures who do most of the ass kicking, or suck up a lot of points and just get killed. Again, I don’t mind this in a skirmish game, but I like playing games at a slightly higher level of focus – platoon or company level tactics.

And that’s what Stargrunt does. Units act as whole units, firing, checking morale and performing other actions as a unit. When you open fire for example, you don’t roll a die for each figure in the unit, you roll one die for the unit’s overall firepower, and its training (plus a die for any integral support weapons).

I really like this, particularly the idea of the unit’s troop quality level determining the effectiveness of its fire. Green units for example, engage targets at a much shorter range and effectiveness than an elite unit, which only makes sense. The game streamlines this by matching the basic range band unit to their quality and linking that to the type of die they roll. A Green unit for example, has a basic range band of 6″ and rolls a d6. This makes it fairly easy to remember what to roll.

And generally everything is an opposed roll so you’re always involved. The turn sequence also keeps your eyes on the table since players alternate moving their units. So rather than waiting for other other guy to move all his units, you move a squad, he moves a squad, and so on.

You really feel Stargrunt’s focus on troop quality and morale in play. High quality troops truly can do more with less. Since pinning units with suppressing fire is a valid and viable tactic in this game, having good troops can make a big difference. In one game I witnessed, the attacking player had Veteran troops and the defender had Green troops. The Veteran troops kept taking Suppression markers but were able to shrug them off and keep going fairly easily. The Green troops on the other hand, tended to get Suppressed and stay that way.

In Stargrunt your commanders actually command as opposed to playing Rambo. The big benefit of having a platoon or company commander on the field is their ability to reactivate units that have already had their actions, thus giving them another turn essentially. Seeing this particular feature in play is really quite interesting. Skillful use of this ability can really widen your tactical options.

So, Stargrunt has a very “realistic” feel to it, if you want to employ squad level tactics that simulate their real-world application. The textbook way of taking out an enemy position is to suppress it with one fire team, flank it with another, and then close on it and destroy it. You can do this in Stargrunt. Charging headlong in the open against an enemy that is not suppressed results in what you would expect, your broken and routing squad.

The game is not perfect. The layout is not user friendly, with the order of the chapters not flowing intuitively from one to the other. There has only ever been one edition, and if there were to be a second, I would ask for a complete reorganization of the rules, and an index. The writing is not always clear and needs to be tightened up, and there are a lot of little omissions and things that aren’t exactly clearly stated. Plus there is a bit of a learning curve compared to many other minis games. It’s not difficult, it’s just that there are a lot of things to soak up. Despite this, once you get the game going and start to realize just what it can do, it’s a lot of fun. Stargrunt has more depth than you might think.

Stargrunt is out of print, but not unavailable. Print copies can be had (complete with a set of the game’s counters) for just 5 bucks! You can also download a copy of the rules absolutely free from Ground Zero Games as well!

There aren’t too many Stargrunt websites, but one of the best that leads to most of the others is Stargrunt.ca and HyperBear is another excellent Stargrunt site.

The Pig Iron minis I’ve painted recently were all done for games of Stargrunt, and the focus of my collecting and painting right now is building platoons for Stargrunt.

I’m always up for a game of Stargrunt! Drop me a line if you want to give it a try!

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