Metagaming Microgame Nostalgia, Part 5

From the Stellar to the Obscure

11. GEV: Microgame #8

G.E.V. (ground effects vehicle if you were interested) has been associated with the more ground-breaking OGRE for so long that we lose sight of the fact that it was its own game at one point before Steve Jackson republished it as OGRE/GEV. Not that I’m complaining, but I think that the game is so far superior to the original OGRE that it really deserves an independent look. That’s right, I think GEV is better than OGRE. I said it.

For one thing, GEV is more well-rounded, serious small tactics game with more variegated terrain and much more replayability than OGRE. It also has more and different units– introducing LGEVs, LTNKs, and Mobile Howitzers. And an armored train! The mechanics (the simple CRT, the attack/defense/movement factors, etc) really didn’t change at all from OGRE to GEV, but in GEV you have new terrain challenges (something other than a blasted wasteland with craters), and the new “light” units add a flexibility due to the fact that the cost half as much for half the attack and defense factors of the larger units. I would always prefer buying TWO lights for ONE heavier unit and just combine the attacks– even if I would lose tons of light units, if I have something left, I can still go on the offensive!!

There’s a lot of gameplay wrapped up in the small package that is GEV, and if anyone out there thinks they are man or woman enough to try me out in a PBeM game, I’m usually up for it.

Graphically, the second version of GEV is the better one, with nice bright blue stripcut counters and a sturdy map, packaged in the classic “Metagaming crush box” format (a flat book sized gamebox of very thin cardboard). I greatly prefer the Steve Jackson version, because of the better maps, but Metagaming still did a great job on this game.

If you are intrigued by GEV, check out all the stuff Steve Jackson has made for the system over the years, by visiting the OGRE/GEV PAGE at Steve Jackon Games. There’s a lot more stuff that has been developed for GEV over the years, including new maps, the Shockwave expansion, DELUXE GEV (with miniatures!), and variations of OGRE/GEV. These are all great fun to play with, but they were produced under Steve Jackson’s license, and that is truly a column for a different day.

12. Holy War: Microgame #13

Lynn Willis was a big talent that Metagaming was lucky to have. In addition to the fantastic OLYMPICA (one of my unabashed favorites in this line), Lynn also came up with ARKHAM HORROR, BLOODTREE REBELLION, and GODSFIRE, a game similar to this entry.

Holy War, one of the most obscure designs ever attempted by Metagaming, is also one of the most innovative. I personally only know of two people who have ever played it (myself and the guy I played against), although there is some decent feedback for it on boardgamegeek, along with some justified criticism.

The basic premise of Holy War is a great galaxy spanning religious war pitting two micro sized armies (The Holy Banders versus the Sun Divers). The action takes place in a “pocket 3D universe of 6 levels” with planets located on different levels. The protagonists are all supposed to be created by two warring deities and are all pocket-sized– although the conflict is deadly serious to THEM…

There are good things and bad things about Holy War.. the basic scenario (the only one with the game) is fairly unbalanced against one side (I forget which), and I recall the rules as being somewhat muddy in places. It could have done with a very serious development effort, because once you work through the rough spots, the game is great fun to play.

On the plus side, the “3D” map was one of the coolest, simplest depictions of three dimensional space I’ve ever seen. Lynn Willis also used this map style in the larger scale GODSFIRE, which is considered by some to be Holy War’s Sibling game (and predecessor). Since it wasn’t published in the microgame format, it falls outside the Metagaming Nostalgia series, but Godsfire is also worth a look– far more detailed than HW, with a greater emphasis on politics, combat, production and exploration.

Holy War is fairly unusual for a micro in that it had tons of different unit types (spaceships, mostly). Most micros introduce a few basic unit types because of counter restraints. Not so Holy War! The countermix made for unusual strategies.

Holy War was a very intelligent attempt at creating a micro with a backstory and some depth, and can best be summed up as a great concept mired in poor development, which can be said about many microgames.

If you are interested in a PBeM game of Holy War, check out the cyberboard gamebox.

Next time: One Giant, Two Pygmies…

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

One comment

  1. Walter! Great series of commentary on various Metagaming Microgames! Are you going to do them all? I am working on writing reviews of those Microgames that haven’t yet been reviewed in John Kula’s zine Simulacrum, for that zine.

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