Friday, 15 May 2009

The Empty Battlefield - A Stargrunt 2 Report

We played Stargrunt 2 (SG2) last night. Last month's project was to complete a 15mm sci-fi force for this game and we were pleased to get around to playing the game at last. SG2 is available free as a download from Ground Zero Games. It is a small unit skirmish game using individual figures and is geared towards platoon level games really. I can imagine people fielding companies in the game, but I suspect you would need all day to play such a game through to completion.

The rules are fairly simple. Each player takes turns in activating a unit, which then gets two actions, such as move twice, move and fire, dig in and fire, etc. By alternating activation, both players are kept involved all the time. Your overall commander is important in this game, because he is the only one that can rally your troops, and he can also pass off actions to units so that they can activate more than once in a turn.

The system itself is based on opposed dice rolls for most combat actions and dice rolls versus a target number for other actions, such as morale tests and attempts to communicate by radio. Combat seemed to involve a lot of dice rolls. There was a dice roll to hit, a dice roll to convert a hit to a wound by beating the opponent's armour and a dice roll to determine who in the squad had been hit. This was fairly clunky, but it was not particularly slow, once we got to know our own forces and the rules better.

Instead of dice roll modifiers, SG2 uses different die types. Thus, if you suffer a penalty on an action, you use a worse die type, while a bonus gives you a better die type. The dice used range from 4-sided to 12-sided with a d8 being the average. Rolling high in this game is good.

So, enough about the system, and on with the game. We began by randomly drawing troop quality and leader markers to determine how good our troops were. I drew two good leaders and two average leaders, with one elite squad, two regular squads and one green squad. Not too shabby at all. Steve's leaders were all average, but he received one elite squad, one veteran squad, one average squad and one green squad. This was shaping up to be interesting.

The modern battlefield is an empty place

This photograph shows the situation at the end of turn 1. We played the Recon in Force scenario from the rulebook. Each side gets a platoon and is tasked with scouting out the enemy and driving them from the field. At the start of the game we deployed our troops using markers. Mine were red, while Steve's were white. The goal is to reveal all of your opponent's markers and then shoot them to bits. Before the game began we both rolled 1d8 to determine how many dummy markers each of us got. We then moved all of our markers onto the table on Turn 1, at which point, each of us was allowed to nominate three of our opponent's markers for removal. I chose three on my right flank, which cleared it of markers, leaving me free to advance. Steve chose a selection from across the table. We were not allowed to know which of our opponent's markers we had removed, so there was some serious uncertainty going on. All that time painting figures and we began using markers instead! As it turned out, Steve had managed to remove two dummy markers and my green squad, while I removed one dummy marker, his elite squad and his regular squad! Now that was good luck.

As we manoeuvred, it became easier in some cases to identify dummy markers, but neither of us was willing to drop cover so that we could start making observation rolls to spot the enemy. Well, not for a while anyway. Then Steve revealed a marker to try to spot some troops in a building. He failed, moved on and tried again successfully. He told me afterwards that he had genuinely thought it was a dummy!

First blood

He spotted my regular combat squad and his command squad was caught at point blank range out in the open. It was going to be an absolute massacre. How could I fail? Well, I did. I managed to suppress his command squad, who promptly recovered and shot back. I lost one trooper wounded and one killed despite being in hard cover. Aargh! Still, I got my own back fairly quickly as my troops kept their morale and kept shooting. We started to whittle his command squad down slowly. Then I revealed my own command squad in the fields behind his, who started up a crossfire that eventually annihilated his troops.

In the meantime, our other markers had been busily manoeuvring some more. I revealed my elite squad and spent ages trying to spot his markers with them. Obviously my elite troops were too busy posing to spot anything because it took them more than several goes at everything. I think these guys could not have spotted the broad side of a barn from the inside. In fact, they were not very effective at anything much in this game.

With his command squad dead, Steve revealed his green squad and came to do battle with my already battered regulars. We took out his SAW gunner, but were quickly reduced to a single stand, who understandably started running away. My command squad then started plinking away at his greenies and failed to hit anything. I swear that most of my troops were firing blanks in this game. On the other hand, his greenies had their eyes in and were shooting straight. I lost a man killed from the command squad and their morale went down a little. In the meantime, my elite troops had finally spotted and removed the last of Steve's markers. They turned around and started strolling back to the main fight.

The End

The game finished with my command squad plinking away at the remnants of Steve's green squad, who were holed up in a ruined building. There were bodies all around that area and it looked a bit like Rorke's Drift. There were four green troopers in the building doing a very good job of fighting off my own soldiers as we called time on the game. I think that weight of numbers must have told eventually, but given the way my dice were rolling, I am not actually convinced that would have happened. Hopefully my elites would have sorted out the greenies, but who knows?

Final Thoughts
The system worked well and actually flowed better than the rulebook reads. There were few rules questions or problems with interpreting them. The only problem we had was time. We had played for two and a half hours when we called it a night. That is really the time slot we have available for gaming and we had not reached a proper conclusion by that point. Still, the game was great fun and we both had a good laugh, so we shall try SG2 again some time. First, however, I need to introduce Steve to Imperial Commander and Beamstrike.


  1. This was a great post.

    There just isn't enough SG2 on the 'Net, IMO. :)

  2. Thank you. We don't get enough SG2 on the table either. :-)