I've very briefly mentioned this game before, not long after it came out, in my post about Privateer Press's Plastic Warjacks quite a while back.
Since then I purchased a copy at the Triple Helix Wargames Grand Opening ... in fact the first game of Grind I played was at the Triple Helix Wargames Grand Opening, Me and Robert the Damned got it out of the box just after I bought it and attempted to play it there and then in front of a gaming hall full of people and a digital camcorder (yes there's a video we will edit and post to YouTube in future).
I've heard Grind Described in a number of ways “The Warmachine Version of Blood Bowl”, “5-a-side football with Warjacks” and “Ice-hockey meets Warmachine”. None of these really nail it down though. Because it's another 'Death Sport' miniature game it's bound to draw comparisons with BB, but that's where the similarities end. Yea there's a ball (albeit a 10ft diameter spiked iron ball) and you get 5 'Steamjacks on each side, but it's not much like 5-a-side football either. The ice-hockey reference I don't get at all ... there's not even any ice in the game (in fact it seems to be set in a very hot environment above a pool of lava or molten metal).
So what is grind about? Well it's definitely a sport game, it's got Steamjacks in it and the aim is to get the ball in the opposing teams goal-pit.
I guess it's some how connected to the Iron Kingdoms background, but I'm not really sure how, the Grind rule book mentions very little background aside from that the sport is played in an arena called the 'Destructodome' and the teams are named Steel Fury and Iron Storm. Steel Fury (the red team) appear to be Khador, while Iron Storm (the blue team) appear to be Cygnar but nether factions names are mentioned. I'd be interested to see if in future Privateer Press release expansions to cover teams based on Cryx, Menoth and the other factions, which would give players the scope to run leagues/tournaments (maybe they could call it 'Beyond Destructodome'?).
++Author's Note ++
Since I began writing this review I discovered Privateer Press have in fact made 2 expansions for Grind which you can download as PDF's from: http://privateerpress.com/grind XGL allows you to play Grind in a league like Blood Bowl and Mosh Pit allows you to play an extreme 4-way game version of Grind
Maybe I'm just being picky, but with a background as rich as the Iron Kingdoms at their disposal you'd think Privateer Press could include a little bit more flavour text in Grind rather than the 2 short paragraphs on the first page of the rulebook.
I must admit that I originally purchased Grind for it's components ...
^ Red Crusher Steamjack (AHQ henchman for scale)
^ Red Runner Steamjack
^ Blue Crusher Steamjack
^ Blue Runner Steamjack
^ a Pillar and the Grinder (ball)
The Grinder (ball) I had in mind for a trap in my dungeon games and where else can you get 10 Warjacks for so cheap? The pillars are very nice too and would look very nice mounted on the front of a 40k Ork Battle wagon as a deathroller.
In fact I could recommend the game on the components alone, with a little conversion work you've got enough Warjacks for 2 decent sized Battlegroups (well you'd need to buy the Warcasters still). The larger blue Steamjacks could easily be converted into Cyclone, Defender or Ironclad Heavy Warjacks for your Cygnar Battlegroup while the smaller Steamjacks could be converted into Charger or Sentinel Light Warjacks. Like wise the larger red steam jacks are dead ringers for the Decimator, Juggernaut and Destroyer Khador Warjacks. However since Khador don't have Light Warjacks you can't do the same with the smaller red Steamjacks, but they could be used for Light Mercenary Warjacks.
Something else I should mention about the Steamjack miniatures is that are clip-together miniatures but they don't fit that well and could benefit from some cleaning up with a modelling knife to help the parts slot together more easily (even if your not planning to paint them). When we first opened the box we had a little trouble getting the parts of the Steamjacks to fit and/or stay together (as you'll see in the video if and when we post it)
While the plastic the Steamjacks are made of is a little soft the ball and Pillars are made of a much harder grey plastic. Also I think it's worth nothing at this point that I have read elsewhere that the plastic Steamjacks are made from doesn't take paint to well, but sure it's nothing a good primer wouldn't sort out (I'll update you on this when/if I get round to painting my 'Jacks).
Anyway enough about the miniatures for now lets get onto the mechanics, Grind is based around it’s own specially marked D6’s of which there are 3 kinds, marked with different numbers of explosions (Strikes), double explosions (Super Strikes) and blanks (Misses) on each. The white dice (referred to as Action Dice in the rules) have 3 ‘Misses’, 2 ‘Strikes’ and 1 ‘Super Strike’. The blue dice (Boost Dice) have 2 ‘Misses’, 3 ‘Strikes’ and 1 ‘Super Strike’. Finally the red dice (Power Dice) have 1 ‘Miss’ 4 ‘Strikes’ and 1 ‘Super Strike’.
^ the 3 Dice types - Red Power Dice, White Action Dice and Blue Boost Dice
Each kind of dice comes into play in a different way and has it’s own place on the board and function, which makes for some interesting (if rather odd) inter-linked mechanics. The 10 white dice for instance are passed back and forth between the players Dice Pools each turn and each dice may only be rolled once per a turn, this effectively acts somewhat like Action Points do in games like SpaceHulk and an Inquisitor; limiting the number of things you can do each turn. While both players start off with 5 red dice on their ‘Game Clock’ and transferred to the players ‘Dice Well’ one per a turn, not only allowing the players to roll more each turn, but also acting as a turn counter. All 3 kinds of dice are then put toward the various actions the Steamjacks can perform, such as Movement, Attacking or attempting to control the ball.
^ Steamjack Arms
Exactly what kinds of actions and how many dice you can put toward them for the most part depend on what kind of arms your Steamjacks are equipped with, there are Fist arms for making grappling type attacks and throwing the ball (or even other Steamjacks). ‘Interceptors’ which are kind of like baseball-gloves, designed for controlling the ball. Melee weapons like the ‘Pulveriser’ and ‘Wreck-o-matic’. A cannon arm called a ‘Gyro-Shot’, a retracing harpoon-like ‘Grappler’ arm, a ‘Magno-Grip’ arm for controlling the ball magnetically and even a ‘Scrambler’ arm which stuns other Steamjacks so they can’t move or perform any actions for a turn. The rules for how each of these different weapons work are not particularly clearly worded and could probably do with some simplification. The ball (or to give it it’s correct name the Grinder) also has it’s own set of rules for how it rolls around and can even gain Momentum as it is tossed and kicked around the arena by the Steamjack’s different weapons. There are also rules for ‘Calling Plays’ which act somewhat like the Special Ability Cards you might have in many other games.
^ The Board, set up for play
The game is played on a 7x13 arena of 2” squares with a Goal Pit at each end a space for a pillar near the middle of each end, this is surrounded by an extra row of gutter squares and divided into 2 Goal Zones and the Neutral Zone in the middle (there also Steam Vents in some of the squares but they don’t seem to have any effect on play as far as I can tell). At the beginning of each half (the game is played in 2 halves of 5 turns each) the ball/Grinder is dropped into the centre of the arena (I guess by one of those cranes you see at scrap-yards judging by the box art) and the teams attempt to get the ball into the opposing team’s Goal Pit.
All in all Grind is quite a fun game to play if a little hard to understand the rules for at first, but once you’ve got the hang of it play does speed up.
I would like to add something here, having watched the game being played out in Triple Helix. From a spectator point of view it seemed that the game would benefit from an extra set of white dice - the ones that get passed back and forth between the players. Each player having their own set would, I think, make the game play smoother.
And on a more sexist note - neither the Lost nor the Damned could find certain rules within the rule book which were plainly obvious. So my advice to future players is to take a female along - we seem to understand the logistics of the rulebooks even if we don't understand much else!!