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

Davids vs Goliath

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.

Watch on YouTube

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.

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