A game for 2 players by Otto Coffelt, published 2001 by Laughing Gravy Games
These comments copyright 2002 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated February 12, 2002

Lunch Time!

Lunch time? What on earth do I mean by that? This game purports to be a wargame, though doesn't quite fit in that niche, as we'll see. But the niche it's practically perfect for is a lunch time game! It's small, playable in 45 minutes, has about a one-minute set-up time, and the components are even impervious to spilled drinks. And, if you can accept certain peculiarities in the theme, it's a pretty good game.

BattleGrid comes in a video-sized box. It contains 10 terrain cards, 48 unit cards, 4 dice, some game-turn record sheets, and a rulebook. The cards are laminated, really laminated - you can spill coffee on them without too much worry. Each unit card is 1.5" by 2.75" (4x7 cm) and has a color illustration of unit type on it, and a somewhat bizarre tapering at one end so you can tell which way is front. (It's bizarre because it looks as if you should be able to tell whose pieces are whose at a glance, but it's not so: when you take a hit, you rotate the unit 180 degrees, so it looks as if it's retreating!)

There is no board: as in such games as Dixie or The Last Crusade, the table is mentally divided into different sectors which act as spaces.

The game purports to be a simulation of conflict between third-world countries during and since the Viet Nam era. The two sides are Imperial Sibolia and the United Federation of Provinces. Each side has identical starting forces: 5 infantry units, 5 jeep units, 4 armor units, 4 helicopter units, 3 artillery units, and 2 anti-aircraft units. Each side also has an "Extra Shot" piece which only appears on the table in battles. There are three each of Field and Forest terrain cards, and two each of Hill and Marsh terrain cards. Eight of these terrain cards, chosen randomly, are used each game.

The Basics

To start the game, shuffle the terrain cards and lay out eight of them in two columns of four. Allow enough space between the columns for two "sectors" per terrain card, and outside each column for one sector. So you have 16 sectors in the game, which look roughly like (where T = terrain card, and there is really nothing else on the table at this point):

     |        |        |        |        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        T        |        T        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        T        |        T        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        T        |        T        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        T        |        T        |
     |        |        |        |        |
     |        |        |        |        |

The terrain applies to the sectors adjacent to it on both sides, so each of the 16 spaces is clearly of one terrain type. Each terrain card has printed on it bonuses to certain unit types.

Each player sets aside his Extra shot card, shuffles the remaining 23 unit cards (keeping separate piles for each player), and draws five cards as his starting hand. Determine the first player and give the other player the time record sheet.

On your turn you may take two actions or make one attack. An action consists of one of:

  • Placing a unit from your hand into a sector (unoccupied by enemy units) in your base row;
  • Moving a unit from one sector to an adjacent sector (exception: jeeps may move two sectors);
  • Drawing a card from your draw pile.
You may repeat an action twice, if desired, to make up your two actions. Each side may have up to four units in a sector (so eight units total could be in one sector if someone attacks). You may move diagonally only from one center sector to another center sector. That is, there is no diagonal movement over terrain cards, though you can move orthogonally over terrain cards.

Units are kept facedown until an attack occurs, by the way. Helicopters are never placed on the board via an action - they only appear in an attack.

To attack, you must first discard any card from your hand, to represent supplies to fuel the attack. You then move as many units from one sector as you wish to an enemy-occupied sector they can legally move to. You then proceed step at a time through the attack phases:

  1. Reveal all units involved in the attack and defense;
  2. Attacker declares Support Artillery - any artillery units one space away, even diagonal over terrain. Defender then does the same;
  3. Attacker commits one helicopter from his hand or passes. Defender does the same. Repeat until both have passed - once you've passed, you can't play another helicopter to the battle;
  4. Each player adds their Extra shot;
  5. Anti-Aircraft units fire at any helicopters, with a 50% chance to hit. Destroyed helicopters are removed from the game permanently.
  6. Other units and "Mr. Extra Shot" now fire in any order the players wish. Take turns firing one unit at a time, attacker first. An attack is 2d6 +terrain bonus (from 0 to +4). Once he sees the result of the attack, defender picks one unit to counterattack: 2d6 +terrain bonus. Low roller takes a hit on any unit, rotate it 180 degrees. Each unit attacks once per combat. Supporting artillery may each be used once: the supported unit rolls 3d6 instead of 2d6.
  7. Aftermath: defender may retreat. If not, attacker may attack again, only with the same units, and only by discarding another card from his hand. If not, and there are surviving defenders, attacker must retreat.
Each unit can take one hit and still function. On the second hit, it's put into your discard pile, to be reshuffled when your draw pile runs out. Surviving helicopters are discarded (not removed from the game) after each battle.

A few of the cards have a number printed on them: 6, 7, or 8. You may use this number instead of rolling 2d6.

Each time the second player finishes his turn, he checks off a box on the time-record sheet. On the 33rd turn (marked on the sheet), the attacker rolls 2d6 before taking his turn: if he rolls a 12 the game is over. On the 34th turn, if he rolls 11 or 12, the game is over - and so on. The longest it can possibly go is 42 turns, and that would be a very rare event!


When the game is over, players tally victory points. Only an occupied sector gives you victory points:

  • One VP for each sector in your base row you occupy;
  • Two VP for each sector in the next row you occupy;
  • Five VP for the next row;
  • Eight VP for each sector in your opponent's base row you occupy.
Unoccupied sectors count for no one, and occupied sectors don't need to be "in supply."

Problems and Solutions - Not What You Think!

Before discussing the good points in the game, I really need to address the problems. This is because it took us about six games before we liked this game - the problems appear to be glaring and huge. Fortunately there is an astonishingly easy fix for them.

In fact, though it seems like there are many problems, it took us five games or so to realize there is only one real problem: the game has serious target-audience schizophrenia. It purports to be a wargame. Now I happen to like wargames and I happen to like non-wargames, but I know many gamers who don't cross that line so easily. Hard-core wargamers are wargamers first. And many Euro-gamers wouldn't touch a wargame - the theme turns them off.

So here's a wargame: looks like one, sounds like one, pretends to be one. Audience: clearly wargamers. Problem, big problem: it's incredibly unbelievable as a wargame.

Here you have two third-world countries with identical armies. Yeah, right. Well, there have been wargames done this way before, but not many. Still, there are precedents, so it's not a huge problem. But it sets the wrong tone for wargamers right off the bat.

An even bigger problem, however, arises when you look at the movement and terrain bonus rules. First, jeeps move two spaces but tanks only move one - and these are modern tanks, mind you, in the last thirty years or so. This just isn't realistic, and unrealistic rules like this make wargamers cringe.

Next, look at the terrain bonuses: in a Field, artillery and jeeps are at +1, tanks at +2, helicopters at +4 - nothing else gets a bonus. That one doesn't sound too bad, to be honest. But let's look at a Marsh: tanks at +2, infantry at +2. No mention of anything else. Er, no bonus for helicopters? Um, tanks in a marsh, and expected to come out? What were they thinking!

Then there are the supply rules and coordinated attack rules (attacking from two sectors at once, easy in the last thirty years due to superb communications). Oh wait, there aren't any. Wargamers cringe yet again ...

So after the first game playing by the rules (very unsatisfactory), we made about six or seven house rules to bring the game closer to realism: gave tanks greater movement, changed a lot of the terrain modifiers, introduced terrain movement modifiers, required supply lines in order to get victory points, allowed coordinated attacks from different sectors, etc.

It didn't work. We tried it for about three-four games, tweaking a little each game, but it just didn't work. It turns out our more realistic rules made the game fairly unplayable. The countermix wasn't set up for it, nor was the terrain mix. Balance was thrown out the window - it turns out the designer did weird things with Marsh bonuses in order to make the game playable. We were about to give up on the game, when I made a discovery: the game didn't need rules tweaking, it needed a theme change - that was the only problem. It's not a post-Viet Nam era game about capturing battlefield sectors - it's a science fiction game about capturing planetary systems!

Armed with this discovery, we tried it again with the original rules with none of our house rules - it was vastly improved! We didn't need to change a thing in the game, just our attitudes. I don't know why, but it's much easier to think of a planet as being so largely one terrain type that armor would have an advantage there but flyers would be at a disadvantage due to high winds laden with fine sand. Other planets favor helicopters (which we now think of as X-Wing type fighters), others infantry, etc. This is patently absurd, of course: what type of units does Earth favor? But it doesn't matter: we've been conditioned by a lifetime of science fiction to accept such sweeping generalities - and the game works so much better this way!

So now we play it with space marines and planetary fighters, while artillery represents bombarding space ships based in adjacent sectors. Of course you don't need exact supply lines in 3D space - you can fly around his sector to supply your forces. Yes, it makes sense that you have to occupy a planetery system, you can't just leave it vacant in your rear. Coordinated attacks? Are you kidding - do you know how hard it is to get a task force from Aldebaran and one from Sirius to meet at exactly the same time ?!? And so on. Lovely, and all it took was a mental shift!

So With That in Mind...

It's a pretty good lunch-time game. Still not a very deep or serious game, but an enjoyable short, light game you can set-up in no time and play in a lunch hour with a friend while eating. The rules are straightforward and simple - no list of exceptions to remember, no charts or tables to look up. The units are facedown until combat, so there's a pleasant element of bluffing. The sudden-death ending is a nice touch.

There's some risk in attacking, but not enough to prevent you from trying it. That is, the defender's advantage is present but not overpowering:

  • the attacker has to discard a card to fuel the attack, and you don't;
  • it's easier to have supporting artillery for defense - it's hard not to outrun your artillery support moving forward;
  • the defender gets to see the results of the attacker's roll before allocating which unit is responding. If the attacker rolls so well you don't have much chance, use up your weakest unit's roll against that roll, saving the stronger units for later in the battle when they have a better chance of winning.
There are some interesting choices involved: do you move units into a given sector with defense in mind (with bonuses for that terrain type), or with offense in mind (with bonuses for the next terrain type ahead)? What corridor do you attack in, which do you try to hold? Do you shift sideways once you've made a bulge in his line, or go for his base sectors and maximum VP? How can you space your artillery to provide maximum support? What card do you discard to fuel a battle, and do you risk using a second one to press the attack? When the game is drawing to a close, do you simply try to occupy unoccupied sectors, or try to smash his forwardmost sector, hoping to reduce his VP total?

And so on. Not earth-shattering stuff, no, but pleasant enough for lunch hour.

Why Wouldn't You Like This Game?

Hard-core wargamers will hate the absurdities if they can't make a mental shift. Euro-gamers may dislike the theme.

It's not a very deep game and it's pretty simple - if you take it too seriously, it'll fall flat. There's a fair bit of luck in the die rolling, and there's not much "spice" in the game. (Ah, but see below!)

The pieces look very similar, with both sides "pointing" in both directions, sometimes backing into combat. There is a little symbol on each card, but you have to look carefully to see it clearly.

The time-record sheet is a pain - turns are pretty quick, especially in the first third of the game, and you seem to be checking off a box constantly.

Summing Up

A light, fun game to be played at lunch. Make a mental shift, enjoy it. Besides, how can you not have at least one game from a company named after a Laurel and Hardy movie?

House Rules! Player-aid Sheets! New Cards!

Well, after all my talk of not needing to change a thing except your perception of the setting, here are my house rules. Of course - I just gotta be me. But ... I didn't change the rules at all. I just added some!

So here is a link to an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file which contains:

  • Two player-aid sheets with the rules as written. Makes it easier to play.
  • 24 action cards - a new addition to the game to spice it up a bit!
  • Rules and printing instructions for the action cards.

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