I am a big fan of the early SPI tactical games, particularly the three titles that comprise the “gunpowder” series: MUSKET & PIKE; GRENADIER; and RIFLE AND SABER. In addition, while it really wasn’t a “period” simulation like the others, I tend to also include SOLDIERS in this list. Unfortunately, attractive art work was not this series' strong suit. In fact, all four of these early SPI titles had very bland two-color maps. On the plus side, these games’ counters, rules, and other components were generally a lot better. The one notable exception being the first game in this series to actually see print, GRENADIER. The failure of the designer, Jim Dunnigan, to include “disruption” markers in this first effort, as well as SPI’s uninspired choice of colors for the game counters — this was the Napoleonic period, after all — sets this title apart as being the most primitive, awkward to play, and visually disappointing of the lot. Happily, the subsequent games published in this series included lots of additional information markers, and the unit counters got more colorful. That being said, all four of these games, including drab old GRENADIER, are interesting, challenging, and enjoyable to play.

One glaring shortcoming, however, of all of these SPI “gunpowder” tactical games was the failure of SPI to include any type of “play aide” that would specifically help players keep track of their various actions in the course of a game turn. This was no small issue. Each game turn, in every one of the titles in this tactical series, had multiple and asymmetrical player phases. Because the actions of each game turn were very interactive and almost simultaneous, it was very easy for players to lose track of which phase they were actually executing in the turn sequence.

After putting up with this irritating little problem for a few gaming sessions, I finally resorted to hand-drawing a makeshift “phase track” for each of the titles in this series; I and my opponents liked them so much that I persuaded my wife (she’s the expert) to republish all of the different game tracks with nicer computer graphics and jazzier colors. I have posted a copy of the improved, computer version of the GRENADIER “Turn Phase Track,” for any visitors who might find this play aide useful.

Double click for larger image.

Click here for .PDF version.

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GAME ANALYSIS: GRENADIER: Tactical Warfare 1680-1850


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