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Reviewed by Jamie "Trotsky" Revell ©2002

Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion


Just in time for the sixtieth anniversary of the US' entry into the Second World War, comes this GURPS supplement about roleplaying the conflict. In fact, GURPS WWII can be used as a self-contained game since it includes a complete version of the slimmed down 'GURPS Lite' rules. Existing GURPS GMs will also find the Basic Set and Compendium II useful, although neither is essential. As is usual with GURPS supplements, those wishing to use the setting with other systems will likely find enough information here to do so, so long as the system in question can cope tolerably well with 20th century technology and skills. However, if you don't use GURPS, and already have a good collection of serious WWII books, you're probably better off adapting your system yourself. If you don't have such a collection, or are happy gaming with GURPS, then read on...

The book opens with a history of the war and the events leading up to it. This chapter serves as an effective summary, although a serious GM should consider buying one of the many history books available on the period, which will inevitably contain more information than could be fitted into a gaming book. GURPS WWII takes a neutral view of the war's events, leaving the cheers and expressions of horror as an exercise for the reader. The subject of the War is one that tends to arouse passions and strong partisan feelings in many gamers and amateur historians, so realistically this is the only way to go. Even so, it is unavoidable that a reader with strong opinions will find something to disagree with somewhere in the book. For the rest of us, it serves as a useful introduction into a vast and often controversial topic. 

The second chapter describes typical military structures and resources of the time, and outlines the military forces of five major participating nations: the US, the UK, Germany, Russia and Japan. Since the choice of PC nationality is likely one of the first a GM will have to make in this setting, this background information is very welcome. 

From there, we move to the main character generation chapter. Only the five nations mentioned above are covered, but even so this is a substantial section. Minimum requirements for military service are addressed, and the description of Tactics and Strategy from the GURPS Basic Set is expanded, with the inclusion of two new 'optional' skills. On the whole, these new skills don't appear very useful, but there are doubtless some that will appreciate the extra detail. 

Each nation has a selection of Advantages and Disadvantages reflecting its respective clichés, but these seem mainly intended for cinematic games, and it's debatable how useful they would be in a more realistic one. Character generation is accomplished through the template system; the relatively uniform training of given types of soldiers makes this method ideal. A good range of detailed templates is included, from typical riflemen and commandos to combat engineers and fighter pilots. Rules are also provided to modify these for troop quality – differentiating between relatively elite units and, for example, the largely untrained recruits defending Germany in the final months of the War. Some rules are included for medics, but otherwise the emphasis is firmly on combat-oriented characters of one kind or another. This is, after all, a military game setting. 

The equipment chapter is impressive. Over a hundred different small arms are described, and there are four pages of other equipment, something which one doesn't commonly see in GURPS supplements. The chapter concludes with statistics for some commonly encountered vehicles, but the lengthy descriptions required mean that this list is much less complete – the omission of the Spitfire was perhaps the most surprising. To make up for this, the next section of the book provides a detailed vehicle design system, simplified from that in GURPS Vehicles. Unless you happen to be running an alternative history game, however, you will likely find this section overly long, since for the most part you will simply want to calculate the GURPS stats (armour, hit points, SR and so on) for an existing vehicle of known size and performance. The advice on doing so occupies only half a page, so some of the rest seems a little redundant. But if you do want to devise your own fictional tanks, you will find it much easier with this than with the full GURPS vehicle rules. There is even a small section on designing anime-style mecha with WWII-era technology! 

The book rounds off (before the GURPS Lite rules) with a campaign chapter. This includes some good advice on WWII gaming, ranging from the cinematic (such as Where Eagles Dare) to the very gritty (such as Band of Brothers). Nor are the dramatic possibilities of Resistance or Espionage based campaigns forgotten. Some suggestions for variant WWII campaigns, such as those involving superheroes, horrific monsters or alien invasions are also included, although the GM will have to do much of the work developing such a setting himself. 

All in all, this is a good book, whose few shortcomings seem largely due to the restrictions of space when discussing what is, after all, a very large subject. It is in no sense a wargame, and concentrates solely on the individual roleplaying possibilities of its setting. I suspect many gamers will want to add the spice of superheroes or other typical gaming tropes rather than simply recapitulating Saving Private Ryan, but so long as the changes are not too bizarre, this book is likely to prove very useful. 

As a final note, this is intended as the first book in a series. A total of eight full-sized supplements are planned, one for each of the five major nations plus naval and air operations and an equipment guide. A similar number of 32-page booklets will cover specific battles or other narrow topics, as well as nations such as France and Italy. Which at least means that much of the material omitted from the main book will presumably be turning up sooner or later! On the down side, you would have to be fairly dedicated to splash out the large amount of money required for the complete set...


Editor's Note: GURPS WWII is published by Steve Jackson Games who can be

                     reached at


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