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Wargame Spotlight: Stargrunt II

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A lot of games these days focus on big guns, big battles, and wreaking all kinds of fantastical havoc across imaginary landscapes. However, any veteran will inherently understand that real-life combat is far from the Rambo-esque antics often found in modern entertainment. "Stargrunt II" is a tabletop game produced by Ground Zero Games that sidesteps most Hollywood aspects of warfare and attempts to mirror what takes place in real firefights, albeit with a science fiction twist.

The game:

"Stargrunt II" has been lauded as one of the most realistic tabletop wargames for a number of reasons.

In "Stargrunt II," experience trumps equipment. Squads are composed of soldiers with different levels of experience, from untrained to veteran, and this defines everything from how accurate they are to how composed they remain during combat. No matter how advanced the weapon you give a green soldier, chances are he'll be less effective with it than a hardened vet. with a standard rifle.

Since "Stargrunt II" tries to be a realistic wargame while including elements of science fiction, there are a wealth of choices for players to build their forces. You can traipse about with power armor and walking tanks, slog through the fight with raggedy armor and shoddy rifles, call in air strikes, use sniper rifles to suppress enemy combatants, and a lot more.

During actual combat, soldiers tend to exchange fire from behind cover rather than stand out in the open and shuffle around à la most modern video games. To reflect what really happens, squads in "Stargrunt II" can become pinned due to withering hails of gunfire or other means such as a well-placed sniper round. Furthermore, statistics show that close combat usually leads to higher rates of casualties than firefights, and such is the case in Stargrunt. Although exchanging rounds with belligerent squads usually leads to a few deaths, the best way to ensure casualties is to get up close and nasty.

Unlike other tabletop games, Stargrunt doesn't include point values for units. Players are free to come up with whatever combination of troops and equipment they desire. If you want to play a dry, balanced game, it's simple enough to give both sides fairly equal troops and equipment. However, if you want to mix things up, it's completely possible to create interesting scenarios by giving experienced troops incompetent commanders or pitting dozens of inexperienced recruits against a handful of veterans. Part of the fun of Stargrunt II is tweaking the numerous options available in the rules to create as many unique situations as you'd like.

The story:

While many tabletop wargames come with a set-in-stone story for players to muck around with, "Stargrunt II" forgoes storytelling to let players come up with their own worlds, armies, and scenarios. While this might sound intimidating or annoying to the casual player, it really doesn't take much to set an engaging scene. The easiest method is to pull from entertainment you know and love -- pick your favorite book, movie, or video game and start copying names and situations.

Where to find it:

Although the game has been around since 1996, its developers have ceased publication. Fortunately this means the game can be legally downloaded for free as a PDF. Ground Zero Games produces a variety of miniatures for players to buy and use in their games of Stargrunt II, but because the game was developed independent of a story, all of its listings are generic enough to use any combination of miniatures you'd like -- an inexperienced soldier with poor weapons and armor is going to be an inexperienced soldier with poor weapons and armor no matter what they look like.

Images courtesy You and What Army

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