22 May 2023
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Originally published in 1977 as the first of Metagaming Concepts’ Microgames, Ogre went on to be republished until 1990 under the game’s designer, own company – Steve Jackson Games. It has since appeared in various editions, as a miniatures game and a computer game from Origin Systems (now long gone). In 2012, SJG funded the “Deluxe” edition in what became Kickstarter’s most successful campaign at the time, netting almost US one million in pledges.
The original Ogre – it was pretty minimalist!
Since its first publishing, it’s been awarded numerous times and received continued critical acclaim. For something that started as a $2.95, fairly flimsy ‘pocket game’, Ogre has become one of the gaming world’s great games…
This is the Ogre I came to love. This is a recreated copy of the original made from pdf files available from SJG and scan of the original a map I found online.
Already familiar with pocket games (which came in little ziploc bags and cost around $7 a pop at the time,) having started gaming through titles like Starfire and ‘Robots’, I discovered Ogre in ’84, about the same time a friend had bought Car Wars, another of SJG’s legendary games. By the time I came to Ogre, the base game had been tarted up with a fancy new coloured map, been packaged in a nifty pocket sized plastic box (‘Pocket Box’) and had already expanded into GEV and Battlesuit. Plus there was a raft of articles in magazines such as Space Gamer (also owned by Steve Jackson) offering new scenarios and additional rules.
The brilliance of the Ogre system was not only its simplicity (which makes it very easy for anyone to pick up) but also the ability to play it in a solo mode – having been designed as an ‘asymetric’ game, i.e. one intentionally designed to have very different opposing sides. Playing the side of the ‘Ogre’ – a big, manic AI tank, is easy as it has singular goal and will not stop until it achieves it! So it was solo mode that I really got into Ogre, allowing me to explore the game when friends were unavailable, something very hard to do with most other games at the time. In short, Ogre fascinated me.
But like all my games, and books for that matter, they all went to, well I don’t know where when I was living in the US. My old man, through a fit of infinite wisdom, decided to ditch everything I left ‘in storage’. Shits me to tears considering how valuable and now rare much of what he threw out is today! So while I always remembered the game very well, I had no way to play it – it’d been out of print since the early 90’s and copies on ebay were (and still are) fetching silly money – read, more money than I was, and am, willing to pay.
The Sixth Edition… this will not fit in your pocket
It was with a little more than a skip and jump recently that I hopped on the Ogre resurgence band wagon through Kickstarter. While I missed out on SJG’s original 2012 campaign for the ‘Designer’s Edition’ re-release of Ogre, something I am not entirely bummed about considering the sheer immensity of the physical game they produced (I’d have nowhere to set it up!!), I quite happily backed the first production run of the miniatures for the Designer’s Edition, especially since a more paired back version of the Designer’s Edition, the Sixth Edition, is now on offer. It seems that while SJG did not totally expect the success of their first, then second Ogre Kickstarter campaigns, a whole new life has been given to the game and it’s now making a surprising resurgence, 30 years after it first appeared on the gaming scene. Perhaps the greatest news to any fan of the original is SJG now making available all of the original material once again, in PDF form via their website.
With the pdf files available from SJGs, you can recreate the original games.
But after all that, just what is Ogre? The original, ‘pure’, Ogre was fairly simple in its basic premise – on an atomic wasteland in the 21st Century, the AI controlled mega tank, athe ‘Ogre’, has a simple mission of destroying the enemy, or command post, or both! The other side has the job of trying to stop it before it fulfils its objective. Yes, it sounds simple, maybe even a little one tracked (no pun intended), but it’s amazingly deceptive to master the tactics needed to stop the Ogre.
The GEV expansion (which could also be played as a stand alone game), took the fight to the ‘countryside’ – read a non nuclear wasteland map. Elements such as buildings, trains, tac-nukes and MORE ‘stuff’ expanded the game, adding in new levels of complexity and tactics. And while over time the supplements and expansions added new rules, the actual mechanics of the game remained dead simple, keeping the original appeal of the game.
So what makes this game so appealing?
The best example I can give is that within half an hour, the lad was playing his first game and was already working through the tactics needed to defeat the beast that is the Ogre. Yes, we were paying the most base rules but really, 2 dice, a simple table* and knowing what the numbers on the counters mean is all you need. Such simplicity makes the game quick to play as you are not bogged down in record keeping, or working through complex rules and modifiers to come to a result, hence a fairly fast paced momentum develops. This unique combination of simple game play together with complex tactics makes Ogre perfect to keep the new, especially the younger, player interested enough to want to come back. And perhaps it’s this winning combination that made Ogre such a success to begin with.
The ‘War Room’ app makes not only OGRE record keeping super simple, but also replaces dice and the need to use the calculation table – in all, a great integration of digital into an otherwise analogue game.
After 30 years, Ogre is back on my shelf. Using the ‘reprints’ available on the SJG website, I have managed to recreated the game as I knew it when I was 14 – a pretty cool thing to share with the Lad, especially as it still looks fresh. The new miniatures and boxed set will just add a new dimension to an already brilliant game.
* An iPad/iPhone app – ‘War Room’ is available to make the whole experience even more streamlined.
In the works, a brand new digital version of Ogre.
The new Ogre miniatures will add a 3rd dimension to the Designer’s/Sixth Edition of the game.
Ben Williams’ blog on painting the new Ogre miniatures (it’s his work is above): Too Mini
Copyright 2023 Gerard Thomas. All rights reserved.