Steve Jackson Games has posted the Ogre Designer’s Edition (also known as ‘Ogre Deluxe’ or ‘Ogre 6th Edition’) as a Kickstarter project. In only its second day, it has passed the $100,000 funding mark. This already makes it one of the top board games on Kickstarter and it still has 28 more days to go.
Ogre has been on our Top Picks since the start and we have been reporting on the upcoming release for a few years now. It is the third or fourth wargame we ever bought and one we’ve probably played more than another other game. That is quite a mark. It is great to finally see this classic game get the treatment it deserves and heartening to see the obvious swell of community support.
Those who have never played Ogre (and its follow on titles G.E.V. and Shockwave) may wonder what all the hubbub is about. Ogre was originally published in 1977 as a ‘microgame’ or in other words as a small 8 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ ziplock bag game with cardstock counters you had to cut out. Like any great game it transcended its poor components with great gameplay. Various versions were released over the next few decades including the pocket box version, miniatures version, and deluxe version (not to be confused with the Designer’s Edition). There were also scenario and map expansion packs as well as an Ogre Book.
What has made Ogre such a classic game is certainly a combination of its great gameplay and its fictional setting. Ogre was certainly heavily influenced by Keith Laumer’s Bolo: Annals of the Dinochrome Brigade book that was published in 1976 as well as the Cold War itself. Similar to a Bolo, an Ogre is a massive cybernetic tank with advanced armor that runs on massive track groups and fires tactical nuclear shells. In the world of Ogre tactical battlefield separation is mandatory because of the nukes and lasers make aircraft useless (oddly missiles still have a function). Ground Effect Vehicles (G.E.V.’s) are the new cavalry. It is future warfare that is not only plausible but, for the most part, not outdated by the 30+ years of technological and warfare advances since its introduction. Perhaps best of all, it is a future treadheads dream about: The tank ascendant once again.
The original Ogre game pits one player in control of a single unit, the Ogre, versus his opponent in charge of roughly a battalion of tanks, G.E.V.’s, artillery and troops on a nuke cratered battlefield. This odd matchup is certainly a large part of the appeal of the game. It was not only unique for the time (and somewhat even to this day) but also great for solitaire play as well as an easy way to introduce new gamers to the hobby. Watching a single unit charge forward to its ultimate goal of destroying the Command Post as a horde of smaller units try to stop it is simply fun, and challenging. The game is quick and multiple games can be played in a couple of hours allowing for gamers to try different strategies or for players to swap sides.
Of course players wanted more and G.E.V. brought a more conventional battlefield that featured all of the more traditional units pitted against each other on a non-nuke cratered battlefield. Shockwave introduced huge cruise missile launchers and other new units as well as a new map. And of course one could still throw an Ogre into the mix! All of this was with low production-value components, even for its day, but high art style. The units, especially the Ogre, had great designs and the map was colorful and holds up as great art to this day. But again, the simple idea of a G.E.V. able to skim over a water obstacle that stops a tank dead gives Ogre/G.E.V. that crunchy real-world feel that is often missing in historical games let alone sci-fi titles.
Best of all it all works! The game is balanced, challenging, replayable and, especially with the expansions, offers huge variety. It uses a points system that allows players to field custom forces and constantly challenges players to not only try different tactics but different force mixes. In many ways it what gamers always wished Warhammer 40,000 could be.
So now we are to see perhaps the ultimate version of Ogre released. Many will quibble with the choices Steve Jackson Games have made. We personally wish they went in a different design direction for the game and wish they perhaps offered a new modernized version of the rules along with the classic rules. But the fact is us old timers and a new generation of gamers will be able to enjoy Ogre once again. Tired eyes as well as tiny hands will have huge components to gaze upon and grasp. It is an occasion to be enjoyed for what it is, not for what it could have been — One also not to be missed.
Now we just need to get Steve Jackson to produce an iPad version!
Also see Ogre — A Look Back.