TGN Budget Gaming – OGRE Pocket Edition Review
Looking for great deals in tabletop gaming? TGN’s Enrico Nardini highlights the products that won’t break your budget.
For the first installment of Budget Gaming, Enrico has his sights set on OGRE Pocket Edition from Steve Jackson Games.
I used to have the set that fit in what looked like a VHS case.
Enrico: Steve Jackson’s OGRE has a long and storied history that I will only briefly touch on here. Created in 1977 by Metagaming Concepts as a part of their Microgame line, OGRE pits the titular giant, semi-sentient, nigh-unstoppable, battle tanks against a force comprised of varied units (infantry, tanks, artillery, and more) defending a command center. Jackson would go on to found his own company, Steve Jackson Games (SJG), taking the OGRE and Car Wars properties with him.
OGRE has been republished numerous times and was recently re-released again in a giant premium edition (reviewed in Ravage US issue 13) thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. The OGRE Designer’s Edition campaign concluded in May of 2012 and helped usher in the era of the tabletop gaming Kickstarter runaway success. Starting with a modest goal of $20,000, SJG ended up raising almost $1,000,000, a testament to OGRE’s lasting popularity and appeal.
OGRE Designer’s Edition had issues with delayed fulfillment, but when it finally arrived, it was impressive. So how do you follow-up a titanic game about titanic tanks? You re-release the original pocket edition at the original price!
OGRE Pocket Edition is a teeny-tiny version of OGRE that you can play almost anywhere. It consists of a booklet, a set of pre-cut card counters, and a paper hex-grid map. A re-sealable bag is included to hold all the components.
This is a “no frills” version of OGRE. There are no bells-and-whistles here. The rule booklet is black and white (with a splash of red on the cover), staple bound, and printed on stiff paper. The counters are thin cardboard, and the map is printed on a sheet of folded paper. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. It is just important to understand that this product will likely not wow you visually. For example: The radiation craters on the map are just hexes filled in black.
Additionally, the booklet has a real “block-o-text” layout. It is sparsely illustrated, and the text is crammed together. It’s completely understandable at the incredibly low price point but worth noting.
OGRE pre-dates me, so I am not familiar with the original OGRE Microgame. My friends who gamed through that era tell me that this is almost identical to the game they remember. One change I was informed of was an upgrade to pre-cut card components. Apparently you had to carefully cut each of the counters out in the original. I was also informed that you had to walk to school in the snow… uphill… both ways! It was a difficult time to be a gamer indeed.
OGRE Pocket Edition is designed to visually invoke the original printing of the game, but the rules are actually derived from its 6th edition. These are somewhat modified, to reflect the use of the original map, but, as Jackson notes in the intro, it wouldn’t make sense for the company to ignore, “decades of play experience.”
OGRE has many of the sensibilities of a traditional hex-based war game. It tends towards the abstract; most units are represented with four statistics. Every unit has stats for movement, defense, weapon range, and weapon strength. Units can become disabled, temporarily diminishing their combat effectiveness. You simply flip the counter over and use the lesser profile. Disabled units are destroyed if they are disabled a second time.
The OGREs’ rules are more detailed, requiring a small record sheet. But if you are playing the basic scenarios, you will only be running one OGRE and nothing else. The added detail allows for a more nuanced approach to tracking damage, and you can really feel your OGRE’s abilities dwindle as the opposing forces pummel you. At the same time, even the weakest OGRE is a juggernaut in terms of its ability to soak damage. It’s quite intimidating to assault an OGRE with Heavy Tanks, only to watch those precious resources be vaporized in the subsequent turn.
Attacks are resolved using a Combat Results Table (CRT) and are based on the relationship between the attack’s strength and the defense number of the defender. They range from 1-2 through 4–1, with the likelihood of the targets destruction increasing as you move towards 4–1 (in favor of the attacker) on the chart. Attacks with odds worse than 1-2 have no effect and attacks at 5–1 or better automatically destroy the target.
It’s classic I-go-you-go game play. A player moves and attacks with all of their units, their turn ends, and then their opponent does the same. Repeat these steps until someone has won. Victory is determined by scenario objectives, and these have degrees of success depending on the final outcome of the conflict.
I found the game very easy to pick up. The rules are simple, but the choices are difficult. What systems do I focus on to cripple the OGRE’s effectiveness? How do I coordinate all these units and their disparate abilities? What units are the biggest threats to my OGRE? Should I play it cagey, or do I drive headlong towards the command post? There are tons of additional resources and scenarios available online. Couple this with the ability to create your own missions, and it’s easy to see why this game has stood the test of time.
OGRE Pocket Edition packs in a lot of game for the price. It retails for $2.95 and is hard to pass up at that price point. I am often hesitant to recommend trying any game unconditionally (everyone’s taste in games varies), but at this price point, I can’t see many reasons to not give OGRE Pocket Edition a try. It’s a fantastic value purchase.