Editor’s note: the designers of this game have released a v. 1.5 of these rules, which we recommend. You can read the latest review here. In addition, the designers have chosen to make the current rule set available as a free download! You can download those rules here.
Guns ‘n Grenades is a downloadable, tactical rule set for wargaming with 54mm plastic army men, retailing for $1 U.S. The rules are simple – only 11 pages in length, including numerous illustrations – but they make for a quick and cheap game.
The mechanics are easy enough; roll one six-sided die, add your attack or defense modifier (depending on what your troops are doing), and compare it with your opponent’s score. If the attack roll is higher than the defense roll, a hit is scored.
Soldiers each have four stages of life in this game: healthy, wounded, bloodied, and dead. When a soldier is hit, he usually loses one stage. The authors recommend using slips of paper to identify wounded or bloodied targets.
Plastic soldiers are divided into types, based upon the way they are sculpted. For example, a figure holding an assault rifle is a common rifleman, while any figure aiming down the sights of his weapon is considered a sniper. The authors even found a use for that officer-style pose with the pointing arm – they are scouts. There is a total of nine soldier types.
An army list, for wargaming at least, is exactly what the term implies: a list of troop types and numbers that make up one side of a wargame battle.
For players who are trying to re-enact specific historical conflicts, these lists are complied via thorough research and best represented in whatever manner the rules for the game allow. For example, an American Civil War (ACW) game re-enacting the Battle of Gettysburg would probably need to represent the storied 20th Maine Regiment. Some operational-level rules might have the 20th represented by a single stand of infantry; others may provide some sort of morale bonus to the unit due to the presence of its commander, Joshua Chamberlain. A set of tactical rules might choose to re-enact only the part of the battle connected to the 20th Maine: the battle for a hill called Little Round Top, and figures may represent individual soldiers.
But how do you compile a list for fictitious scenarios? Instead of re-enacting a known battle, what if the players just want to put some Roman Legionnaires against a horde of Visigoths? What if you are playing with Army Men and just want a showdown between green and tan troops?
In those situations – especially if you can choose whatever troop types you want to include – it may prove useful to start with a strategic theme, instead of just grabbing a handful of miniatures and deploying them on the table.
There are dozens of wargaming rule sets that could make use of army men as miniatures, and Budget Battle is a fine example. The rules, drafted by Phil West (free download here), are a mere six pages in length. They were prepared for use with any of the numerous play sets available in 54mm/2-inch “army men” scale, containing two separate forces – forces which don’t always include army men. As examples, the author cites sets labeled Army Men vs. Cavemen, or Pirates vs. Ninjas.
Enough 54mm figures to form two sides, a handful of six-sided dice, a tape measure or ruler
No rules are provided for army building; there are no point values or limitations on how many of a certain type of figure may be present in a squad or on the battlefield. Since the rules clearly state that they are designed for use with a specific type of play set that includes two separate forces, the implication seems to be that the players will empty the canister of troops and start the battle with whatever is inside.
One of the best aspects of wargaming with army men is that players aren’t tied to a specific set of rules or line of miniature figures. There are literally dozens of rule sets suitable for army men battles available, all of which are inexpensive and most of which are free.
The One Brain Cell Toy Soldier Rules by Pete Kautz is a fine example of such a rule set (free download here). The entire document, including advanced rules, is only four pages long. Admittedly, it is a very simple system for a tabletop wargame, but that is this system’s greatest strength.
All you need to play are some army men, and a couple of six-sided dice. A tape measure is useful, but not strictly necessary, as are items that could serve as cover or terrain.
A very simple point system is used to help ensure fairness (or unfairness, in the case of unequal forces). A few simple guidelines – like having a maximum of two special weapons in a single squad – helps keep units from becoming unrealistically overpowered.