Grunt was published by Simulations Publications, Inc. in 1971, as a magazine game in Issue 26 of Strategy & Tactics. Issue 26 was the first to include mounted, die-cut counters. Back issues of the magazine were later sold without the game included, which was available in boxed form for separate sale instead. Grunt was included in two different box formats in addition to the magazine release; the initial white box and the more common black box which followed it.

The game itself was remarkable for a variety of reasons; it was firstly a simulation of combat operations in Vietnam published during the war itself, a daring move in itself. It was also the first commercial board wargame to depict combat at the company-level, using squad-sized units. SPI's first concerted advertising campaign used Grunt as its focus. It also became one of SPI's first titles to be redone:

Grunt was not a bad game, for 1971. But as the state of the art improved, especially in regard to tactical games, Grunt's popularity fell. In 1974, SPI decided to drop those games that had become obsolete and replace them with improved versions taking advantage of new design techniques. Grunt was high on the list. [After preparing eight games for alteration and publishing three, it was decided that the money would be better spent in developing all-new games.] 1

Components & Game Play

Grunt features a monochromatic map that was "rather ugly - the thatch huts look more like overturned oil barrels, and the patches of forest resemble sickly amoebas."2 The map is integrated with charts necessary for play - including a Combat Results Table (CRT) which is really no different than the standard wargames CRT used from the beginning of commercial board wargaming, using odd-calculations to give results. Later squad-based games would revolve around firepower calculations and on-map depictions of support weapons.

The rules are presented in a large foldout - "one of those confusing annoying ones...Most (not all) of the rules are in there someplace, but in such disorder that it can take half an hour to dig them out."3

Counters are in high contrast colours, with brown for the US and ARVN forces and black for the NLF. Counter depictions are standard NATO map symbols for the US and military units of the NLF, with silhouettes depicting peasants, porters, farmers, arms and rice caches, and ammunition drops. The focus of the game is on patrolling and counter-insurgency, and there are rules for interrogation of civilians, helicopter drops, artillery support, and casualty evacuation. The game is firmly infantry focused with no vehicles in play.

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.

With the passage of a few years and the improvements made in the state of the art of game designing, SPI decided to rethink Grunt! The late John Young got the job, and Search and Destroy was the result...4



Nr. 9 Jun-Jul 1973 ►Errata
Nr. 23 Oct-Nov 1975 ►"From Grunt to Search & Destroy" by Phil Kosnett (Review)

Strategy & Tactics

No. 26 Mar-Apr 1971 ►"Cohesion and Disintegration: American Forces in Vietnam" by John Kramer (Historical)

Fire & Movement

No. 18 Jul-Aug 1979 ►"Panorama: Sympathy for the Devil, Viet Nam War 1965-1975" by Rodger MacGowan, John Hill and John Prados (Review)


No. 11   "Grunt" by Joe Scoleri III (Capsule Review)

International Wargamer

Vol. 4 No. 8   "Grunt" by Jay Richardson (Review)

A review was also published in Strategy & Tactics Guide to Conflict Simulation Games, Periodicals, and Publications in Print Issue 2.

The title of the game refers to the Vietnam-era slang term that American foot-soldiers applied to themselves.


  1. Kosnett, Phil "From Grunt to Search & Destroy" (Moves, Nr. 23)

  2. Ibid

  3. Ibid

  4. MacGowan, Rodger, John Hill and John Prado "Panorama: Sympathy for the Devil, Viet Nam War 1965-1975" (Fire & Movement No. 18)




Grunt: The Game of Tactical Combat in Viet Nam

Developer: John Kramer
Publisher: Simulations Publications, Inc.
Date of Release: 1971
Scale: Squad
Players: 1 or 2
Campaign Type: None
Components: ► 1 22" x 27" map
► rules sheet
► 1 die-cut sheet of 1/2" counters
Replaced by: Search & Destroy

All photos from the webmaster's collection except where noted

This image of the "black box" appeared on ebay. 2008-present    email: The Tactical Wargamer