Metagaming Microgame Nostalgia, Part 2

Metagaming Nostalgia, 2nd Installment

This installment features a solid seller and great design (about which much has been written) and a fairly obscure, tight little tactical SF combat design with a twist (about which almost nothing has been written).

3. WarpWar: Microgame #4


This was a science fiction “grand tactical” style game (if that scale can be applied to space warfare), designed by Howard Thompson himself, the president of Metagaming. This was one of the more succesful follow ups to the hugely succesful OGRE (again, terms are relative here when you are talking about a 2.95 price point.. “huge” sales aren’t exactly “Magic the Gathering money”). WarpWar was the FOURTH Microgame published by Metagaming, and the second hard SF game (if you count OGRE as hard SF).

Warpwar is a notable micro because it’s an early “diceless” style wargame. You customize your ships (minimally) by adjusting weapon energy levels. Ships are designated System (tactical) or Warp (interstellar). Warp ships carry System ships from system to system. The map is a point to point type, simulating warp points in interstellar space.

Combat is very straightforward. There’s a combat table that works on the differential between combat factors. Losses/Retreats etc. are automatic with certain combinations.

Warpwar is wonderfully “tinkerable” as a game system; many folks have taken a stab at creating variants and additions over the years. Here are a few good ones:

1) WarpWar Campaign Game (by Steve Jackson)
2) Warp War Fighter variant (by Shaun Travers)
3) WarpWar Variant Rules (by the “warpwar design group”)
4) WarpWar Player Aids
5) Counter Scans

Stylistically, the map and counters are a cut above previous efforts, with nicely done interior illustrations and well defined silhouette counters.

In summary, a great little game, very nicely conceived and executed by a designer that gets little notice these days. I haven’t played it in years (more than a decade has gone by since my last game, believe it or not), but I remember it being a fun, intelligent Space Opera kind of game. My gaming buds and I played this one quite a bit in days gone by, because we liked the customization element and the unique combat system. If you are interested, visit the WarpWar Yahoo Group to join the discussion and campaign games that are going on there. There is a Cyberboard gamebox out there, which probably needs a rework to catch up with CB’s new capabilities. Given the nature of the combat system, it should be an ideal candidate for play by email.

4. Olympica: Microgame #7


Where the WarpWar game got some press and did pretty well for Metagaming, Olympica was a midrange title that did okay business and got little notice. This is a pity, as Olympica (“oly” to fans) is a tight tactical simualtion simulating warfare on the surface of Mars between crazed cultists called “Webbies” (because their great invention, the Web Mind Generator, hypnotizes innocents and turns them into converts) and the United Nations (U.N.) raiding party.

It’s not entirely balanced (the Webbies have a hard go of it as the game is written), each side has a very unique approach towards victory. The U.N. force must find and destroy the Web Mind Generator (which is set up hidden and face down amongst dummy counters). Their approach is rather brute-force, as they have armor, a tunnel busting drill, and two kinds of infantry. The Webbies have tunnels (which can come as a very nasty surprise), hidden intial setup and strongpoints at the tunnel mouths.

The U.N. has a lot of firepower but can’t afford to squander it all chasing the wrong hidden movements. The Webbies have their ONE advantage and can’t afford to waste it. i have played this game many times, and though it may not be a famous as OGRE, MELEE or WARPWAR, it might be (in my not very humble opinion) the best game Metagaming ever published. It’s a great game to play via PBeM, and with Cyberboard now boasting hidden unit deployment, even better.

I wrote two variants for this game back in 1998, and built a Cyberboard gamebox (back in CB 1.0 days) for it that badly needs updating. Here’s a few links for you:

1) “Victims of the Webmind” (a scenario that posits that U.N. units might be converted to become Webbies)
2) “Jump Buggies and Sinkholes” (some new Webbie units to make the game a tad less lopsided)

Michael Friend, who had magazine called VINDICATOR back in the day (all about microgaming) shared my high opinion of Oly and we corresponded about it. He published a couple of great variants (and a new map!) in Vindicator years and years ago, but, alas, I do not have the capability to reproduce them without his express permission, and I don’t know where Michael has disappeared to.

Visually, Oly was a nice production, with the standard stripcut counters in contrasting blue and white colors (white for the UN, blue for Webbies). The map, however, that was atrocious– bright, BRIGHT orange colored paper, with big, thick ridge lines that look like they were drawn by a hobo with Saint Vitus’ Dance.

Kerry Anderson (of the late and lamented Microgame Designers’ Group) was planning to republish this game with much better artwork. It’s a real pity that never happened, because I think it would have taken off for him if he had.

Next installment: One of the best, and two of the worst.

Metagaming Nostalgia Project Posting Index

1 OGRE and Melee

2 WarpWar and Olympica

3 Starleader: Assault, Chitin:I and Dimension Demons

4 Rivets and Black Hole

5 G.E.V. and Holy War

6 Ice War, Annihilator/One World, and Hot Spot

7 Invasion of the Air Eaters and Artifact

8 Trailblazer, Helltank/Helltank Destroyer, and Lords of the Underearth

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Cool thread here….looking forward to see which ones you had that matched my old collection (sadly now whittled down to none, though my wife found a few at a garage sale a while back).

    My favorite was “Ice War”, which coincidentally, was the first I had bought. “Ogre/GEV” was second (heck, I recall doing a program for ‘playing’ it on the old Apple II (that’s right, no ‘+’, ‘e’, or the like) in HS Computer Math class.

    “Melee/Wizard” was the catalyst for our own wargaming club, as we used to play it in the Chemistry Lab room during lunch (piggybacking off the Chess Club), before branching out to the Home Ec room (complete with hot teacher), and games like Kingmaker, Diplomacy, Dune, and Circus Maximus.

    Ahh, the carefree days of youth…where did they go???

  2. Thanks, Mike, I’m glad someone is reading it. MELEE and OGRE had similar ‘building’ effects on gaming in general and wargaming in particular for me. I used to play OGRE at lunch in HS.

    It seemed a natural to start with those two. I’ve played almost (ALMOST) everything in the Metagaming line, so I will be talking about the crap games as well as the great ones..

Comments are closed.