Sure, SPI already updated their magazine game GRUNT when they published SEARCH AND DESTROY. The original game was a marvel, as Rodger MacGowan, John Hill, and John Prados recounted in "Panorama: Sympathy for the Devil, Viet Nam War 1965-1975" in Fire and Movement magazine, Issue No 18:

A typical game of Grunt! starts off with the landing of a stripped-down U.S. Airmobile company near the 'enemy village.' As the troops land by helicopter they may come under enemy fire or be met by an eerie silence. Their primary mission is to search the area for caches of food and equipment. They are faced by a host of inverted counters spread around the map by the NLF player...The task of confronting and dealing with these inverted counters is the heart of the game - it's a combination of cat and mouse, hide and seek, and Russian Roulette.


Grunt! does an excellent job of capturing the period 'feel' and flavor of the war in Vietnam in the mid-60's. For example, there are extensive rules covering interrogation. The U.S./ARVN player is allowed to uncover the location of enemy caches by interrogating local peasants and porters who are discovered in the search. The die is rolled for each attempt to interrogate the 'prisoner'. The results range from the intelligence gained to the peasant's death. In this same vein, there are rules covering U.S. air strikes, medevac evacuation by helicopter of U.S. casualties, 'body count' victory points, NLF ambushes and booby traps - in short, the bitter realities of this tragic conflict.



It's time to bring this game back to life in a new setting and possibly a new title, IMPERIAL GRUNTS (with a nod to Robert Kaplan's book of the same name). Only the game deals with counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. One can imagine a wide variety of missions than the basic ones the old SPI game had. You could have the conventional style fights such as those in Fallujah, Baghdad, Mosul, Marjah, and elsewhere. But there's also the "Roarke's Drift"-like defenses of isolated combat outposts like at Wanat and COP Keating. And, most of all, there are those patrol operations against a town which may or may not be hostile....which was the essence of the old SPI game.

I'd expect John Walker at Lock 'N Load to pick up the gauntlet for such an ambitious design using his "Heroes" tactical ground system. Modules could include the British in Basrah, Iraq, and in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, even the Soviet war in Afghanistan (and the game would showcase how the mujahidin use so many of the same tactics then as the insurgents do now).

Perhaps one may hope for too much, but such an effort would inspire--particularly in the Afghanistan case--to cause other game companies to explore tactical actions by the British in their Afghan Wars. While there have been some miniatures rules and the occasional boardgame done on the subject, perhaps its time to rekindle interest by wargamers into the continuities and contrasts between the contemporary conflicts and historical ones.

No doubt there will be those that shudder at the prospect of wargame companies making money from the heroics done by and the tragedies suffered by America's grunts in recent memory. But the lessons and insights that might be learned, the tribute and admiration that could be paid, may find yet another channel than just TV mini-series like GENERATION KILL and films like THE HURT LOCKER. As a Marine, I can only hope the interest of wargamers in this subject will find a voice that at least one game company will listen to--and act upon.

If you agree, leave a comment. And if you disagree, you owe us your comments as well, especially if you've got ethical issues with such an idea. I'd just ask we leave the business angle up to the wargame companies and confine our discussion as to whether the subject would be worth doing--and whether existing tactical systems could handle it or something new is needed. Plus any other design/topic-related issues. If games such as these existed, would you be inclined to purchase them? Or not? Why?






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Comment by Eric Walters on March 29, 2010 at 5:05pm
Brian, we have a dearth of COIN/Irregular Warfare "campaigning" games such as you describe below in both commercial and military applications, so I'm interested in GREEN BERET. Maybe you should bring it to Connections next year! Am also thinking of doing either an article for SMALL WARS JOURNAL and/or a blog posting on these games because I don't think they're getting any real exposure.
Comment by Brian Train on March 29, 2010 at 11:57am
The problem with tactical games is that below a certain level, the focus on and flavour of counterinsurgency slips and it becomes just a game of one infantry fighting another kind of infantry, out in the weeds somewhere (think of all those Advanced Squad Leader scenarios featuring partisans: they are shown in the game simply as less equipped and trained squaddies). GRUNT and Search and Destroy did have a few filips that made them notches above those ASL situations, but the game still rewarded the application of the same processes of infantry tactics - fire and movement, use of supporting arms, concentration, recce, etc.. This is fine, because that's what ought to be shown at a company-level game - the focus changes or ought to change at around the battalion or BCT level.

Would I buy such a game? I sure would, as I have always been interested in COIN/ guerrilla games and as you know have designed a few myself. As Jon said, we're working on an Afghan game, I've been working on a COIN game with Afghanistan and Venezuela versions myself as well, and yes, as Peter Perla said OSD did pick up my game on Algeria for a look a while back. I'd be glad to help with anythign that gets started.

One aspect I found interesting, and almost never gamed, of OOTW (does one still use that acronym?) was FID, or rather support of it. I designed a game years ago called GREEN BERET that looked at the situation in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, 1964-5. Both sides had to mibilize the civilian population, raise troops, and carry out missions. Pitched at the operational level, from A-Team to ARVN regiment. It was a card game, I did it that way because I wanted to do a card game at the time, but recently I develope a map-and-counter port of it that works well.
Comment by Jon Compton on March 15, 2010 at 9:13am
You might be interested to know that MCS Group is doing an Afghanistan game by Joe Miranda and Brian Train, loosely based upon the Bulge 20 system. The game is now in the development stage and should enter playtesting shortly. I expect MCSG will make an official announcement about it soon.
Comment by Mike O'Brien on March 12, 2010 at 10:33pm
I would buy a game based on the subject. I don't believe it shows a lack of respect any more that Vietnam games during Vietnam showed a lack of respect. It depends on how the game is put together. As long as there aren't points for committing atrocities or something similar then I don't see any issues.
Comment by Eric Walters on March 8, 2010 at 7:53pm
No reason why they couldn't, provided they don't name the game CLEAR, HOLD, AND BUILD (vice SEARCH AND DESTROY). I could also see GMT taking this on as a supplement to their FIELDS OF FIRE solitaire game (which is absolutely outstanding). Whatever we can do to gin up game company interest. If DG does it, I'd hope Joe Miranda is the designer. I don't know that I would trust anyone else with it! Not even Ty!
Comment by John Kranz on March 8, 2010 at 3:19pm
Maybe this is a natural fit for Decision Games as SPI copyright holder to update the game through Joe Miranda and/or Ty Bomba?

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