The sixth edition of Steve Jackson’s breakthrough micro-game OGRE will be released shortly, and two things are clear already:
- It won’t be micro sized
- It won’t be micro priced
For those of you hiding under a rock, OGRE was a mini game originally published by a small Texas game company, Metagaming Concepts, back in 1977. It was part of a series of small scale “pocket” or Microgames that were cheaply made and sold at an incredibly reasonable price– 2.95 in the case of OGRE, about the same as a paperback book at the time. Way back in 2005, I wrote a series on Metagaming games which you can see a link to in the top menu under “microgames.” This is the link to the posting about OGRE. Additional information can be found on the OGRE wikipedia page.
If you want to do the research, there’s been plenty of versions of OGRE that have come out since then. My particular favorite was the version that was first published by Steve Jackson after he managed to wrestle the rights to his design away from a seemingly vengeful Howard Thompson as a going away present when he left Metagaming to start his own company, Steve Jackson Games.
That version of OGRE came in a nice, flat paperback sized plastic box that was durable and attractive (I still have one). The follow up to OGRE, GEV (which focuses on the OTHER stuff on an OGRE battlefield, the smaller units) also was published in a flat black box. The price was slightly higher but still in the paperback book range, and the maps were color and the artwork generally more spiffy (featuring the work of Dennis Loubet, who would illustrate most OGRE projects in the ensuing decades). These were the OGRE/GEV games of my youth and college years; I literally played them into extinction at least twice. Fueled almost entirely by nostalgia, I have purchased at least one later edition of OGRE and GEV, this one in a box somewhat similar to the original SJG black plastic one, but more like the size of a plastic tape VHS box with the spindles removed (in fact, that is what they were).
No longer was OGRE the cost of a paperback, but it was still very affordable and now incorporated an expansion called SHOCKWAVE which adds much to the game (new units, new defensive installations, new rules).
The current (sixth) edition of OGRE about to hit this Spring will abandon much of the elements that made the first (several) editions so charming and elegant. To quote Steve Jackson, in a public letter to distributors posted on PYRAMID on March 12:
“Later this year, we’ll release Ogre 6th Edition. It will be a very, very deluxe boardgame, with all the rules and units from Ogre, G.E.V., and Shockwave, as well as things that have only appeared in magazines and miniature releases.
Why? Because I want to. Ogre was my first design, and the boardgame version hasn’t been available for years. And people keep asking me for it. So some of our Munchkin money is going back to support the people who bought my very first game, by bringing them an edition with the best possible components.
It won’t be “Euro” style. No meeples, no plastic. This will be the kind of hex wargame that we dreamed about 30 years ago, back when our heroes were SPI and Avalon Hill. HUGE double-sided map boards. HUGE full-color counters with HUGE type. A HUGE box to hold them in. And giant constructible Ogres!
So why am I writing this letter? Not to say “Hey, distributors, we’ll do this if you like the idea.” I’m going to release this game, no matter what. If we don’t get enough distributor interest, we’ll release it for direct sales only, with (probably) a lower print run, and (certainly) a lower price, since we won’t have to build in the distributor and retailer margin.
Here’s why you may not want this game: It’s going to retail for $100, and it isn’t full of plastic toys. It’s a classic hex wargame, and those aren’t in fashion. Here’s why I hope you DO want it:
- It’s a humongous, heavy box that will have a huge shelf presence. How big is it? Over twice the size of Munchkin Quest. It takes three copies of the original edition of Ogre to cover up the word “OGRE” on this box.
- It’s got three huge mapboards with 1.5” hexes, and big full-color counters. The Ogre and building counters are 3-D constructible miniatures!
- I don’t expect to keep this in print. Realistically, I expect to print it once and let people spend the next 30 years fighting over the remaining copies. The people who get it are going to show it off at parties and conventions.
- It’s a pretty good game, if I say so myself. A lot of people remember it. (More than 25 years after its original release, Ogre won a spot in Hobby Games: The 100 Best.) Some of them would love to drop $100 for a beautiful version of the game they played 20 or 30 years ago, whether it was in high school, or in Germany or Kuwait or some classified spot in the middle of the Pacific.”
What to make of this? It would seem to me that SJG is betting heavily on the nostalgia factor that plays in to a lot of their older games– some of which haven’t’ been released in years and are still quite popular, like OGRE. Steve Jackson is wisely putting it all into one box with big, expensive production values. He’s rather straightforward about the demand and reasons for publishing it– it will be a limited run, it will be a collector’s item, and (practically), it just might infuse the coffers of SJG with lots of cash. Somehow, I tend to agree with Jackson’s first statement– it’s his first wargame and he wants to see the ultimate version of the game created. SJG isn’t in business to make a loss, but the Munchkin cardgame series appear to be a cash cow they are continuing to milk for the foreseeable future, and if SJG wanted to take the safe and predictable course, they could continue publishing Munchkin supplements until the end of days, and rake in the dollars. So it isn’t solely a profit motive that brings us this new version of OGRE.
Frankly, when I got a look at the components and box design, my eyes popped open. Sixth edition is a huge departure from previous editions, which have essentially reprinted the old 1977 “Strip-Style” counters, only with better production values. OGRE Six will feature “constructibles”, e.g., Standup 3D OGRES and Laser Towers made out of durable chipboard, and thick chipboard counters cut to fit snugly into a hex. Frankly, this is fantastic component design– I’m awestruck. A terrific job and deserving of its impending “collectibility”.
However, I can’t shake that nagging sense that SJG is NOT going back to its roots with this release.. Instead, I feel like Jackson is trying to go head to head with Fantasy Flight Games with a component design that is exponentially better than many of his game products. At a Fantasy Flight Games price, too.
Will people buy this thing, even without snazzy plastic pieces, which seem like such an anathema to the Steve Jackson Games company? Of course they will. There are plenty of oldsters like me that would get in line to get a copy. But will retailers be especially thrilled with it? That I doubt. “Large shelf presence” generally equates to “Great, another pain in the butt to shelve”. I suspect we’ll see one or two hit hobby stores in my area (near Washington DC), they’ll be quickly snatched up by people with disposable income to spare, and then we’ll never see it again.
With all that said, I’m not sure I’ll buy it. Honestly, the game doesn’t play one whit different than the old ziploc does. My old OGRE/GEV/SHOCKWAVE edition I bought as a combo way back in the early 2000s will play just as well as this game. So it comes down to– will I pay 100 bones to play a game with great components that I already have in a more portable format (and by the way, can play on Cyberboard too)? I just might give this a pass– but don’t be discouraged, Steve, we all know this OGRE Six will sell out in six months. Good luck!
(PS: Wouldn’t OGRE make a smashing Ipad game, sir?)