Supertanks for the memories: Steve Jackson’s Ogre out now (plus some brief impressions)

ogre-release-date

I’ve played Ogre [official site], the Steve Jackson tabletop wargame, exactly once before, but it was many years ago, I was drunk and all I remember is a) faint outrage that the most of the units were only cardboard counters rather than lovely, heavy, spiky miniatures and b) the other guy played the titular Ogre supertank and I played the clutch of smaller tanks staring anxiously at him, and naturally he destroyed them all almost immediately. I’m pretty sure this is the essential Ogre experience still, including in this new PC adaptation of a 40-year-old boardgame.

Having spent an hour with it, Auroch Digital’s take on Ogre looks to be pretty faithful, to the extent that its aesthetic is a whole lot more like a boardgame than it is an all-singing, all-dancing, frilly-knickered PC strategy game. The tanks look like plastic models, sparsely animated and dependent on engine noises for any true sensation of moving parts when they trundle across the map, while the tiles – supposedly comprising cities, roads, forests and oceans are resolutely flat.

I do like it when a board>videogame adaptation pursues a super-stylised method of celebrating its origins – some Settlers ports have done that, while Card Hunter (though not actually an adaptation) makes a positive virtue of cardboardiness. This comes off as neither one thing or the other, just a slightly dreary middleground, which doesn’t particularly sell the whole MASSIVE DEATHTANK concept. The UI feels a little bit placeholdery too.

Fortunately, my other doorstop concern about Ogre, that it’d be hilariously inaccessible due to a focus on an ancient and passionate fanbase, proved unfounded. The rules are clear and relatively straightforward, divided into discrete movement and combat phases, dice rolls to decide fights, and a system whereby you target specific parts of an Ogre to try and minimise how much damage it can deal to your army during the long war of attrition against it. It’s super-satisfying to take out its main battery then know you can get to work on all the other bits.

In this Ogre, it’s not always a handful of Davids vs one Goliath, but my sense is that’s the truest way to play. Does get a bit drawn out though, as one side makes one move and a half dozen attacks then the other has to laboriously move maybe a dozen different pieces, then individually fire each (presuming they’re in range, which they usually aren’t) – a lot of waiting, which had me turning on all the various ‘skip animation’ options in settings – thus making a slightly sterile game feel even more so.

Would I play more? Sure, I dig the concept well enough and it’s straightforward enough to sink into quickly, though I’d go with its turn-taking multiplayer – the true raison d’etre here – rather than singleplayer, as the stakes and motivation will be that much higher. I’m not sure Ogre’s done enough to break out of the olden fan ghetto and into the wider strategy world, but I’m pretty sure it’s a crowd-pleaser for the long-time faithful.

Released yesterday and thus out now, anyway. Steam only at the moment. It costs £18.99/€22.99/$24.99.

11 Comments

  1. Awesomeclaw says:

    There’s been a copy of Ogre (the board game) in one of my local board game shops for quite some time. I’ve always been vaguely intrigued (since it reminds me of a hex-based WW2-themed game I played about 20 years ago, no it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of) but 2-player games don’t get a lot of play. I might check out this version if I have time.

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      Phasma Felis says:

      Scenarios with more players do exist (for the board game, I mean, I dunno what the PC game supports). The simplest way is to give each side an Ogre and some conventional forces, with one player per side controlling Ogres and one commanding the supporting units. (For three players, you can have one big Ogre vs. a small Ogre plus support.) Do some Googling, there’s lot of official and fan-made material on the web.

    • YogSo says:

      @Awesomeclaw As you already said, not the game you were thinking of, but for me “hex-based wargame over twenty years or more old” always brings to mind Sinaí.

  2. GomezTheChimp says:

    I played the original version of this in the 70`s and loved it. That particular version was definitely cheap and cheerful, complete with a paper map and tiny, cardboard counters.
    The new one is massive in every respect: Huge box, more than one map, several ogres and dozens of other components.
    I can`t imagine playing it on a computer, particularly at nearly £20.

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      Phasma Felis says:

      They reprinted the original B&W cardboard microgame at the same time as the new big-box game–I think it was a stretch goal. They sold it at the original 1977 price of $2.95. :D

  3. Dervrak says:

    Now if we can just get a faithful adaptation of Steve Jackson’s Car Wars. (and no the 1980’s Origin game “Autoduel” doesn’t count)

  4. GMG_Stark says:

    Hey everyone, Olly from Green Man Gaming here, just wanted to point out that GMG has Ogre cheaper than Steam right now, and we’ve got an exclusive interview with the devs. Just a little FYI.

    (RPS feel free to delete this comment if it’s not allowed, just thought the good gamers would like to know that can save some cash.)

  5. wombat191 says:

    Anyone who has got it. how extensive is the single player content?

  6. emily riposte says:

    Oh, you missed out on the other essential Ogre experience, which is the new player blundering around uselessly with the awesome supertank, feeling like a fool while the experienced player systematically took them apart with puny regular tanks.

    It was a good game, but the asymmetry was really hard to deal with while learning the game.

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