January 23, 2012

[Review] Gray Ranks

Gray Ranks is an indie tabletop RPG by Jason Morningstar, the same guy who brought you Fiasco

What are you buying?
Grey Ranks is a role-playing game that sees you play a group of pre-teens rebels in the Warsaw ghetto uprising of 1944.
Each game is divided into 10 chapters, to be played approximately in 3 sessions, that ferries the group of players through 3 distinct phases: Resistance, Rebellion and Disaster. In fact there is no happy ending in these stories: the revolt fails  October 3 and our players, if they survived, will be left to lick their wounds and mourn their lost innocence.
The loss of innocence is one of the central themes of history and of the same system that assigns a "thing-more-beloved" to each character and allows him to "expose" it (make it known to everyone, nazi included), in exchange for a numerical advantage, allowing others to threaten and eventually destroy it. The psychological reactions of the characters, subjected to horrors, is managed by a grid that shows how and when they are close to extreme reactions ranging from suicidal depression to martyrdom.

What's new?
A lot of things where new when this game was published the first time. Today almost everything feels a little worn out. 

The Good
  • ORIGINAL Not so many RPGs gives you the chance to be a pre-teen during a war.
  • GRUESOME There is no limit on what you can do with young boys against nazis. If you want this can quickly become really shocking.
  • QUICK PLAY RULES If you wanna play in just one or two sessions, there are rules to make shorter games. That's nice.
The Bad
  • TOO MUCH SETTING 63 days of rebellion is what you can play with this book. After a couple of 10 chapter games you will get bored and you will move on to other games. 
  • NOT FIASCO Same author, light years between them.

The Verdict
Grey Ranks is an indie game born when these games had just been conceived and sometimes shows its weaknesses. While presenting a solid and convincing architecture, I often had the impression of being faced with an experiment in psychological exploration, rather than a real game. The stiffness of the setting itself is a big problem: how many times you want to play young teens captured by the Nazis?

Gray Ranks is available from:

Grey Ranks
Grey Ranks
Grey Ranks
NOTE: If you buy from here I will get a little income, with no extra cost for you. Just to be straight.


  1. Not gettho upsring (1943) but warsaw upsring (1944) There is drfference...