Tuesday, February 16, 2010

So where is this generation's "Grunt?"

Back in 1971, while combat operations still raged in Vietnam, Strategy & tactics magazine published a groundbreaking design called Grunt. This game included a number of firsts. It was the first commercial squad-level wargame. It was S&T's first game with die-cut counters. It was one of the very first simulation games published about a conflict during that conflict.

Interestingly enough, there seems to be little interest in designing such a game dealing with today's conflicts. I can understand a certain reluctance to try designing a game dealing with the strategy or politics of the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq -- everybody seems to be having a hard time wrapping their minds around what forces are really at work.

But at the tactical level it's not so complicated. One would think there's be some interest in depicting a G.I.-level view of the fighting, but there's little there and nothing yet in any of the wargame magazines, so far as I know. Why not? Is it the controversial subject? Hard to see that it cold be, after all, Vietnam was surely even more controversial when Grunt was published.


  1. There IS a tactical game depicting the modern combat of Iraq, Afganistan, Somalia, etal. It's is more miniature than board, but check out Ambush Alley. It has an interesting system for simulating these small unit conflict in the current times.

  2. There are any number of squad level tactical games, both board and miniature, which can handle the forces involved WHEN fighting actually occurs, but how does a designer model the random mixture of IEDs, mortar attacks, sniping, and occasional car bombs which make up the majority of the "combat" Western patrols and bases experience?

    I could see a very stylized solitaire game in which a player handles a squad for entire deployment trying to minimize his own and civilian casualties, but something like ASL:Iraq or Grunts:Helmand? The "mudge" aren't fighting like that most of the time.

  3. That would seem like a promising approach to a design.

  4. As an OIF veteran (of the stabilization side of things between 2005-2007), it does bother a tad that war games have focused more on WWII and ignored anything newer except for a few select games.

    I also strongly suspect a large aspect has to do with the direction of the war games industry as opposed to political points of view. Games have moved more towards computer/console games instead of board games. When "Grunt" was released, despite an un-popular war going on, board wargaming was in its hey day and golden era. With the advent of computer wargaming, I suspect its ripped the opportunity from boardgames to do games about Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Sadly, even in the computer gaming world, you'd be hard pressed to find too many accurate games about the current GWOT without too much artistic license.

    I've seen some great miniature battle reports on a few blogs doing some platoon sized battles with the Stryker miniatures from GHQ, but other than that, I'm feeling a tad left out... Looks like I should try to get off my rusty dusty and design something! I'm no pro... But you know the old saying "If you want something done right, do it yourself."

  5. Seth - I recieved my copy of Decision Games' "Dispatches" in the mail today and there's an Iraq game listed on the pledge/production queue.

    It's brigade level for the Coalition side. It also uses cards and other mechanisms to handle to social and political issues.

    I'm Anonymous #2 by the way.