Back in high school, another nerd and I (was it A.C.? perhaps...) sat down over a spare period or lunch hour to play a game he had brought to the cafeteria in his pocket: Steve Jackson's Ogre.
At this point I think I would have been familiar with a few different SJ games: the conspiratorial and satirical Illuminati, the evocative yet plodding Car Wars, and Melee and Wizard, which combined to make up The Fantasy Trip. A quick wargame carried in a pocket box was new enough, bit it was also my introduction to asymmetric gaming.
In Ogre, one player has a veritable army, around a dozen units or more as I recall, ranging from static howitzers through scrappy infantry teams, and ground effect vehicles and tanks filling in the gaps. Their job is to defend their command post against a singular opponent: a massive, cybernetically controlled tracked vehicle bristling with lasers, missiles and anti-personnel mines. Even completely disarmed, the relentless Ogre can still achieve victory by overrunning your command posted and crushing it beneath its treads. It is a fair fight, and a skilled opponent can make defending or attacking equally difficult.
But a poster-paper map and thin counters that you cut out yourself (not even die-cut? pfft...) didn't provide a lot of visual compulsion to play, and attempts to make versions with miniatures over the years have met with fairly limited success.
This is probably why I was so thrilled to find the Ogre Designer's Edition on such a good deal a few years ago on Boxing Day, and snapped it up. Beautiful boards, tons of thick, die-cut counters and best of all, 3D cardstock counters for the eponymous Ogres themselves. Not quite miniatures, but still a step in the right direction.
It looked great, had clear, well-written rules and one of the best-organized storage systems I have ever encountered, but there was only one problem: years later, Ogre had still not been played.
I would love to blame the pandemic for this, but the bigger problem is that it is a two-player game. My gaming time is limited enough that it is rare that I play games with a singular opponent, which is a bit ironic because the wargaming hobby is really built around such games.
Not all, but quite a few of my multi-player games work well with two players (Arena, Battletech, X-Com, Pandemic) and if I need a two-player experience I will typically reach for Hive (if I want a quick, abstract game) or Space Hulk (if I want something a bit more textured, tactile, and sharing Ogre's asymmetric slant). Or call up Totty for a long-overdue game of Battle of Britain.
The biggest issue though was one of size. The Designer's Edition box is a staggering 24 x 20 x 6 inches in size and uncharitably described as being larger than a child's coffin. (Banana for scale.)
I don't think of myself as a hoarder, but I don't imagine most hoarders do, and this behemoth was taking up far too much space on my gaming shelves. With two other Kickstarted games inbound as well as a couple of batches of miniatures for D&D, something had to give, and this weekend I decided it was time to part ways with two and a half boxes of outdated and underplayed rulebooks and my Designer's Edition of Ogre. (Sigh.)
I listed it on Kijiji today for the same price I paid for it (half of SRP), but will probably take a little less if offered. And I hope it goes to someone else who has fond memories of bitterly fought conflicts between an inhuman mega-tank and a company of infantry, tanks and artillery on a cratered battlefield.
But if anyone comes over and wants a game between now and when it sells, I could certainly be talked into it, and we can roll off to see who gets the Ogre.