There are quite a few interesting hex and chit or card solo World War II wargames like DVGs Warfighter or Corsair Leader or John Butterfield D-Day series. However, when it comes to miniature gaming, we aren’t exactly spoiled for choice. There is literally a single wargame that provides comprehensive rules for solo or cooperative wargaming – and it’s “Nuts!” by Two Hour Wargames (not to be confused with Flames of War Battle of the Bulge supplement with the same name). See how it plays and discover if it provides fun way to play WWII battle solo or cooperatively, with few players on the same side against AI.
“December 22, 1944
To the German Commander,
N U T S !
The American Commander”
– Gen. McAuliffe’s reply to Germans encircling Bastogne
Nuts! is a sandbox ruleset based on Two Hour Wargames reaction system. Previous version was named “Final Edition”, but it didn’t prove to be that final and current edition wields number four. This is a typical Print and Play book (you can get paperback version too) where you will find all the rules needed to play and create your forces, battles and campaigns for solo, cooperative and head to head play.
What’s the scale and forces available?
You can play Nuts! with whatever you have at hand – 28 mm miniatures, 15 mm miniatures, 1/72, paper cutouts (there are some free paper soldiers available on the net). You only need to have consistent basing and pick length scale. At default, ranges are expressed in inches, and if you play 1/72 or 15 mm or just have small table, you can adjust it to centimeters or quarters of inches. Personally, I play 15 mm, measuring with cm.
All miniatures must be on single bases, however when it comes to WWII it’s not that big of a problem, because in 28 mm everyone bases soldier individually on square or round base. Base size doesn’t matter much. When it comes to 15 mm, Flames of War basing (typically 4 figures per base) won’t work, at least for infantry battles, as squads can be broken up and some soldiers can be pinned down or flee, while others not, in single squad. Squads can be grouped up as you wish on the battlefield.
Nuts! covers post 44’ force lists, so Late War British, Germans, Soviets and US on ETO only. There is however a Nuts! Compendium supplement that covers other theaters and additional rules like cavalry, airborne assaults, air strikes and more. If you want to field more exotic forces of the war, like Chinese PLA against Japanese, you can easily come up with your own stats – rules are not complicated.
Rules are supplemented with simple diagrams, and basic concepts are typical for WW II wargames, like squad cohesion.
Every soldier has its own Reputation, which act as his morale and fighting skills, and different weapon with various stats. Optionally, each soldier can have its own traits – there are 36 traits to generate for each soldier! If you play for the first time, I suggest not using these abilities yet, which makes the game faster and less bookkeeping is necessary.
Few sample traits
Additionaly, one or few of your soldiers can be designated as Stars – they’re heroes that can’t be easily kill and have more free will, so you won’t need to roll on reaction tables for them, unlike standard Grunts. All this forms basics of THW rules and works similarly in each of their other games.
How AI works?
It’s not really IGOUGO game like other typical ruleset, as your squads and enemy soldiers will be taking Reaction tests to see how they act. You won’t be parading before enemies, taking your time, but as soon as squads are in line of sight, you’ll roll on reaction test which may lead to one site taking initiative and shooting, ducking for cover or maybe both sides shooting and then retreating.
On AI initiative, you’ll be rolling on quite a few tables to check how it behaves. Ultimately, it’s up to you which exact path enemy soldiers will pick or which squad they’ll shoot (if opportunities are even), but the rules provide really straight pointers as to how the enemy will behave, so you won’t need to decide this by yourself.
Sample part of infantry behavior table
Also, enemy forces are generated through PEF points and if you play solo you never exactly know what awaits you around the corner. It might be enemy squad, machine gun emplacement or even tank – it’s all generated. PEFs also move around table and this fog of war ensures surprising and tense encounter on solo vs AI games.
Skirmish or company level?
You can play Nuts! however you wish. You can pit just half squad of 5-6 soldiers against each other (I suggest this for beginners), or you can field entire platoon of 40-50 soldiers in large skirmishes. The game should play well on these scales. There are also fast tank rules that I like and you can field AT guns too.
My 15 mm Canadians in Normandy – Tank battles are tense and hazardous here. You can easily play platoon against platoon of 5 tanks or even more, especially if you exclude some more complicated rules. When playing Tanks, I don’t differentiate crew REP and ability (for example, every crewman is REP 4 in entire platoon) and omit some unnecessary movement tests. There is Sherman, Canadian C15TA armored truck, 25pdr and gun tractor – and all these vehicles are covered in British list, so you can field your late war forces.
For larger engagements, pick Nuts! Big Battles (it’s another ruleset by THW), that allows playing with aforementioned Flames of War bases on company level, so dozen tanks and several infantry platoons.
Tournament play vs. scenarios
Nuts! isn’t suited for tournament play, as it doesn’t feature points. They’re not important in this kind of game though. It’s a sandbox where you will generate your and enemy forces, tweak it if you need, and play a mission or entire campaign or maybe create your scenario or base your battle on real engagement.
Because stats aren’t complicated that much, you can easily come up with your points values though. Besides, if you pitch forces that are about the same level, like US Paratroopers against Elite SS forces the game will offer a fair challenge for all sides, if you decide to play against other players.
“Chocolate and Cigarettes”
Last great thing is “Chocolate and Cigarettes” light RPG module. I haven’t played it yet, but it looks really good. You’ll be rolling on the tables to generate NPC encounters, speak with the locals, search for items, bartering, picking locks, interrogating prisoners, making Nuts! not only strictly wargame, but also RPG that takes place between battles.
Basic RPG attributes. As you can see, your soldier will be able to perform a variety of tasks when not shooting Germans! (or Russians, or maybe Brits)
If you decide to play “Chocolate and Cigarettes”, your soldiers will have a set of additional non-combat stats and abilities like charisma and successful completion of these quests will yield benefits on the following battles. Again, you can let the dice decide everything, and you can come up with your own scenarios, based on the rolls. Suits me very well, as I’ve been DMing various RPGs for ten years. It’s your game, so go ahead and have fun!
- The only ruleset for solo and cooperative WWII tabletop miniature wargaming
- Sandbox rules offering many possibilities
- Everything can be generated – just pick forces, and roll dice to generate your soldiers, terrain and enemies
- Playable at any scale, and even with paper counters
- Fast, dynamic gameplay that can be brutal sometimes (just like World War II)
- Very flexible and easy to expand, so you can come up with your scenarios, additional rules and campaigns
- RPG layer in a form of “Chocolate and Cigarettes”
- Not for tournament play – there are no point values!
- Strict basing requirement – all miniatures must be on single bases
- Quite a few tables – but they’re easy to memorize
- No tokens in a book and they’re necessary to play. You can download unofficial ones from the forum.
- Typical PnP supplement – it has almost no illustrations, besides few simple diagrams, but this makes the book clear and concise. It’s not D&D Monster Manual and it needs clear tables, not pretty pictures to work.
You’ll love this ruleset if you’re interested in playing sandbox game cooperatively and solo. It’s a chance to put your favorite toys on the table and play against unpredictable AI, when your gaming group isn’t available to you for any reasons.
While obviously not as popular as Bolt Action or FoW, or maybe even Chain of Command, it has some faithful followers – and I’ve been just converted too. There’s also a forum where creator will answer your every rule question.
Let’s just say that it’s 4th Edition and it’s in sale for more than 10 years, so it is successful and deserves more recognition. Two Hour Wargames also makes other solo rule sets based on the same Reaction system – 5150 SciFi series, All Things Zombie – zombie postapocalypse, FNG – Tour of Duty – Vietnam War and more. It’s tried and proven ruleset that should bring you basically endless fun, especially if you’re creative and can come up with your own scenarios, battle set-ups and campaign.
Available on THW website for $19.90 for PDF or on Amazon (link below), also in print. 107 pages long.
There are currently two supplements available: mentioned previously Nuts!Compendium, with more rules and additional army lists and Blood on The Risers, campaign covering US Airborne action in the West.
What are you waiting for, soldier. Pick it up and defend the Bastogne – or storm it!