Retro: The Olympica Project revisited

When I was younger, I had a real thing for ancient microgames. This was a short lived genre of games that was popular in the early 80s. Small format, paperback sized, small countermix.. low price, big fun. The pioneer of the concept was a company called Metagaming from Austin, Texas.  You may have heard of a few of their early products like OGRE, GEV, MELEE and WIZARD.  Around the same time they were publishing those, they published a small, almost forgotten game called OLYMPICA.  Olympica wasn’t a best seller for Metagaming, but I’ve always liked it.  The scenario is interesting.. there’s a cult of brainwashed bad guys on Mars building a big weapon that could brainwash everyone on Earth.  They are the Webbies, because they are building the “WebMind Generator”.   They are opposed by a landing force from the United Nations, who has numbers, laser tanks, and a giant drilling machine.  Why?  Because the Webbies hang out in tunnels and can emerge in several places.  They have hidden movement and placement, strong points, and some artillery to oppose the UN.  The UN force arrives in waves, so it is imperative to engage and find the WebMind Generator fast and destroy it.  The problem is it’s not on the map and has to be found by moving close to it.. BUT The webmind has the ability to cloud the UN soldiers’ mind too..  It’s a tough scenario and more balanced than it may seem.

The cover to Olympica
The Countermix for Olympica

This may seem simplistic, but there are a ton of elements here that I always thought made for a fun and uncertain tactical challenge. For one thing the terrain… steep hills and flat plains. Dust storms that inhibit fire combat. Tunnels that could literally be anywhere. I wanted to recreate this game as a quick playing miniatures game. The scale would be tiny, as I don’t think larger scales replicate the tactical situation well, it’s too crowded on the map. That means either 6mm or 15mm figures. OR.. I could reuse Battletech Clickable miniatures. Which I did. They aren’t a really consistent scale but sort of come in around 8mm to 10mm-ish. At the time I was making this thing, you could find singles figures for a dollar or less online, and in large numbers and varieties. I found suitable figures for UN Heavy Infantry, Light Infantry, and Webbie Light Infantry. Laser tanks were easy, so were Lifters, but I had to Kit-Bash the BOAR Drill from a maintenance vehicle.

The BOAR, along with some supporting UN HI. I used the same color of blue for all UN troops

Mechanically, I knew that converting the board game to miniatures was not going to work, exactly. The game relies heavily on elements I had to fudge… like tunnels, hidden placement and how to handle the web of uncertainty. For movement, combat resolution and the “chrome” elements (such as the web mind effects), I borrowed a “dice pools” idea that worked out (but probably needs to be tinkered with if I ever run this again). You can get a copy of the EPUB if you are interested. I’d fix the sequencing if I were to do this again.

I ran it several times a the gaming camp I ran for 12 years, and a couple of times at conventions. The kids loved it. The Adult Gamers loved the idea but had problems with the turn sequencing I came up with, and I had to admit they were right.

I’ve posted on this before a few times, but I was storing my photos of past attempts on Photobucket, and as they are starting to restrict free accounts I’m pulling old photos off and rehosting elsewhere. Here’s a giant post on IMGUR of all the Olympica Project. Just click on the link below for the visuals.

Olympica: ancient SF microgame as a miniatures game.  In 1979, Metagaming published cheap microgames.  One of my favorites was Olympica.  I knew it had to become three dimensional, so I made this. 


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