. 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
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?