Do you recall the once popular microgames? Not to be confused with mini-games (video games within a video game), or mini-clips, the web based games that so many kids (including mine) play these days, the microgame was a tiny box of fun that could fit in your back pocket. Open it up and there was a fold out paper map, numerous game pieces (that scattered every which way as soon as the box opened), a couple small dice, and a tiny rulebook.
Ogre is the microgame I remember best, where one player controlled an army of tanks, howitzers, hovercraft called ground effect vehicles or GEV’s, and infantry. Their mission? Protect the command post from the most fearsome weapon found on the future battlefield, the Ogre. The Ogre was an autonomous monstrosity of a vehicle, bristling with a variety of heavy guns, anti-personnel weapons, and the ability to squash units simply by running over them. Steve Jackson Games is halfway through a Kickstarter effort to republish this timeless classic, but the new set is oh so slightly larger than the pocket box of 1977. Steve Jackson himself was kind enough to answer a few questions about this project.
GeekDad: I’m struck with the contrast of taking a game that once fit in my back pocket when I was 10 and turning it into a 14-pound behemoth of a box set with 15 square feet of chipboard and large 3D counters What made you want to take on this project?
Steve Jackson: From almost the very beginning, there have been miniatures for Ogre, and I have always loved to play with 3-D Ogres on big boards. So this has been my vision for more years that I can count.
Oh, and at the moment, that’s at least 15 pounds, with around 20 square feet each of maps and counter/overlay sheets.
GD: Is there anything different about the Mark II and Mark V Ogre for this edition?
SJ: Nope; the stats are exactly the same. In fact, all the Ogre stats are the same for the Mk I through VI, III-D, Fencer, Fencer-B and Doppelsoldner, which are the only ones in the set.
GD: You’ve reached funding goals to develop more scenarios. Given the strong response to this Kickstarter are you considering doing expansion sets in the future?
SJ: Yes. Considering very hard. We ran a survey a few days ago to see what kind of follow-on the fans preferred. Expansion sets had strong positives and the lowest negatives. They were beaten out for the $300k stretch goal by digital games, which had fairly strong negatives but frothing happy dancing positives.
GD: I recall playing the first edition, where my friends and I came to the conclusion that the non-Ogre side did best when they loaded up on GEV’s, almost to the exclusion of all other units. Looking at the Ogre Wikipedia entry it looks like the second edition slowed down GEV’s, and sped up the other units. Are there any game balance changes we can expect to see in this edition?
SJ: The first edition of the game was indeed overbalanced toward speed. No, this edition has only one rules change: it covers an edge case that apparently for 35 years didn’t happen enough for people to ask us about, that came up during our own playtesting. What happens when an Ogre moves on top of infantry to attack it and then fails to kill it off? Answer: the infantry can stay there on its own move and fire at the Ogre.
We also moved one bit of road by one hex to make the geomorphing nicer. It doesn’t seem to affect scenarios at all.
GD: You’re very close to the funding goal for developing a computer game version of Ogre. What can you tell us about that?
SJ: We’re there. But, in the first place, that $300k does not fund the computer project. It says to us “There is so much interest in Ogre that we have to do it on the computer.” Now we have to decide What and How. Do we become a studio? Do we job it to an outside studio where they grew up playing Ogre and come back in six months? Can we finance it from cash flow or do we need to come back to Kickstarter?
GD: You’re halfway through the Kickstarter campaign and you’ve hit almost every goal. What new goals are you thinking about for the last half of your campaign?
SJ: Honestly? Right now? Getting to do my laundry.
This game has consumed my every waking hour and danced through a lot of the sleeping ones, and I have had Tom Smith’s Ogre theme music stuck in my head for the past day and a half. I am intensely involved and having a great time.
The next goal we announce will almost certainly be more counters or overlays.
Other possible goals include (1) a promise of at least one scenario package in 2013 (2) some kind of minis, or (3) something a lot of fans have requested: a pocket-sized version of the game. If we do it, we’d ship one-to-a-customer to everyone supporting at the $150 level or higher, with the original Winch Chung cover, the original bare-bones map I drew myself, and almost original counters (they will be on thicker chipboard and we’ll fix the screening problem from the original very inexpensive print job). Supporters will get it with their support packages, one to a customer (no extras). Other copies will not be sold until summer of 2013.
We have done so well with hitting goals that we’re inclined to think about new extras too. I think we are about to announce an imprinted canvas bag that is big and strong enough to carry this box!
GD: I know it’s on your Kickstarter FAQ but it was a hot topic with the GeekDad writers – when can we see something similar with Car Wars, or Illuminati?
SJ: Car Wars is probably our #1 possibility for a Kickstarter treatment, but it won’t happen this year. However, Phil [Steve Jackson Games Chief Operating Officer] was a Car Wars fan growing up, and is wildly enthusiastic. It’s possible that when I come back from my summer vacation I’ll find out that he has run one already.