Category Archives: Microgames

OGRE Miniatures, Wave 2 spotted

As you may or may NOT know, I’ve been an enthusiastic backer of the OGRE miniatures project by Steve Jackson Games in the last year. The Kickstarter project funded almost immediately and when they made Backerkit offers, I increased the number of miniatures and bought two more basic sets above and beyond the two sets I started with (one all red, the other all blue, the backerkits green).

A bit of background. OGRE Miniatures have been around for a while in different forms. If I’m remembering things rightly, the defunct MARTIAN METALS may have made some original OGRE Miniatures. I remember seeing a few blisters here and there in shops, and adds for more, but these may have vanished from mortal ken now– even the lost miniatures wiki doesn’t have pictures of them. Well, if you’re an old guy like me you know Martian Metals went defunct long ago and that was a sadness– I liked their attitude, their sculpting was at least, ahem, enthusiastic, and they were very tied in with microgame publishers like Metagaming, which was unique. Sigh. All gone now!

OGRE miniatures didn’t come around for a second chance until the actual OGRE Miniatures game and accompanying (metal) miniatures in 1992. This was the old OGRE scenario without the hex map, and along with the rules, SJG themselves licensed out the production of many packs of OGRE miniatures, both Paneuropean and Combine, over the next ten years. You can still find these here and there on the Internet. They started at 19.95 new but now are going for a princely sum. SJG muddied the waters a little by releasing DELUXE OGRE and DELUXE GEV, sometime in the late 90s, which were essentially magnum sized versions of the old microgames, done with the same metal miniatures from OGRE Miniatures. I own the DELUXE OGRE set myself, but actually (ahem) never painted it. Now I wish I had!

Demand is a fickle mistress and all good miniatures lines have their day in the sun, then they kind of fade away. So it was for OGRE miniatures. SJG ceased production of the line back in the oughts, and that, we thought, was that. Until the Kickstarter for giant-ass OGRE showed up, that is. Suddenly, Steve Jackson Games was flooded with cash as hundreds of people pledged to pay 100 dollars for what was once a 2.95 microgame! Tier after tier after tier was reached and just what the heck extra could you give these people? Who KNEW there this many OGRE fans left alive? So Steve started looking back at this ancient chestnut (designed in 1977) and started coming up with ideas about how to ride that OGRE wave again. OGRE miniatures was obvious (along with a modernization of the ancient PC game, see last week’s post), but who wants to have a warehouse full of metal? SJG had tried that in the past. It didn’t work out. Instead, why not try plastics? Thus the OGRE Miniatures Set 1 kickstarter (mentioned above) was born, funded and over-funded. Interest with modern customers seems as intense now as it was back in the 90s. There is one problem, though. Set One is comprised of only all the units from the original OGRE game– Infantry, GEVs, Missile Tanks, Howitzers, Heavy Tanks and an OGRE MK III. There were several new units introduced in GEV, and further expansions in SHOCKWAVE. So there’s plenty of demand to fuel this train yet.

Today, the Kickstarter update posted a series of tantalizing pictures that indicate that work on SET 2 is already commenced and the first rough prototypes have been produced (in many colors, don’t pay attention to that quite yet).

Wide shot. As you can see, there’s a GEV PC, what looks to be an OGRE III, a light tank, a SuperHeavy tank, a light GEV and a mobile howitzer pictured here.

I’m not sure what will be included in Wave 2 yet, but it looks like it will emulate the units in GEV, on a guess. That works for me. GEV increases the tactical choices in OGRE exponentially, and gives us new terrain to play in.

GEV PC empty…

GEV PC with INF stands in it.

Light GEV. A bargain, you could get two for the price of one and it moves like a GEV.

Fencer variant OGRE; one main gun turret option.

Fencer, Second variant main gun turret.

Superheavy Tank. If memory serves this is a SHOCKWAVE unit, so perhaps there will be a mix of unit releases going forward?

Mobile Howitzer. I remember them looking a little different…

Light tank, introduced in the GEV game. This looks pretty close to the original sculpt.

So that is what has been released in today’s press release.  Keep in mind this is an early look and not remotely production model quality– production figures won’t be released in pastel and neon colored plastics, either.  There are some odd compromises here and there– I don’t care for the infantry figures quite yet, the light GEV has very little detail, and the Mobile Howitzer just looks, i don’t know, odd.  With that said, I’m encouraged because they’re putting out a FENCER for sure, and maybe even another variant OGRE other than the III and V.  Who knows?

Ogre Miniatures Set 1 Kickstarter

Color me on board!  At long last, Steve Jackson Games is backing a project that brings back the long out of print OGRE MINIATURES LINE (out of print, incredibly expensive in after market) back as plastic miniatures.  The miniatures are designed based on the originals, match the originals in scale and look, and have been cleaned up and retooled for plastic molding process.  The only models currently in kickstarter are the basic OGRE set– it appears that you will be able to recreate the original OGRE scenario (with an Ogre III and an Ogre V to use).  The models are cast in a solid color, blue for the little guys and red for the OGRES.

As you can see they are doing a great job with the sculpts. The molds apparently have been purchased and the deal with China has been made.

You can even buy a reverse set in the primary plastic colors, courtesy of another funding resource


Reverse colored

I’m pretty excited about this one– and I backed it! I may add on a reverse set, as well. The mere fact that SJG is calling this SET ONE means they will likely expand the rest of the OGRE universe.. exciting times!



Ram Speed, now available as an Epub

One of my favorite old Metagaming Microhistory games by far is RAM SPEED. Ram Speed was a dirt-simple galley warfare board game designed to play with galley counters on a hex grid.  With not much work or brain power expended, the game mechanics of Ram Speed converted easily to miniatures game play.

I’ve run games of Ram Speed with multiple NAVWAR 1:1200 galleys in play and it worked just fine.  Of course, it would be optimal on a hexmap, if you have one, but converting hexes to inches always worked for me.

Conversion notes:

I scanned and OCR’d the best of my copies of the original, but this is a game that is over 30 years old now so I had to work at fixing the many typos that cropped up from OCRing old, faded and wrinkled paper rules.  If you find something I missed, be kind and let me know.  The original text wasn’t exactly one of Metagaming’s best efforts, having been typset on an IBM Selectra typewriter.   I also created a new cover for the EPUB version.  The one that is on the historical pocket cardboard box that was the final product has messed up color separation and has always been challenging to read.  My version is in the spirit of the original and is perhaps a tad more easy to read.  Finally, I added a consolidated combat chart from a fan entry on BGG.  I’m also providing links to a re-creating of the game charts from BGG as well, they are much clearer and attractive than the originals.

Downloading the Epub

You can find the Ram Speed Epub (only) on the Digital Rules page. download link is fixed.

BoardgameGeek User Submitted Content (highly recommended):

(you will need a BGG account to view these)

  1. Play Summary  1 (Word)
  2. Play Summary 2 (Word) – Combat Tables
  3. Cutout Semi-3D minis, White   and Black Minis, too.  Instructions for both
  4.  Printable Ship Record Sheets (better than the original by far)

Ogre Pocket Edition– the 1977 game at a 1977 price!

Back in the day, we played the living hell out of OGRE, the first great microgame from Metagaming (then Steve Jackson Games).   If you’re familiar with OGRE, you already know the scenario– giant cybernetic tank “Goliath” against a small horde of ground unit “Davids”.    As I’ve reported on here (and has been mentioned elsewhere repeatedly), SJG accomplished its famous Kickstarter campaign to produce a giant 100 dollar deluxe version of OGRE.   It’s a beauty, no doubt about it.. but I started my long experience with OGRE playing the old microgame, so I didn’t buy one.  Not sure if I’ll regret that, either…

The POCKET edition.. the old microgame in everything but name!

Anyway, Steve Jackson is now servicing the other end of the market bell curve, e.g., cheapskates like me.  The “Pocket Edition” of OGRE, meaning, the paper version, with counters and map and all, is now available through WAREHOUSE 23 (or at local stores) for.. guess what?  2.95.  That’s 2.95, the SAME PRICE IT SOLD FOR IN 1977.

SJG Product description:

Now Ogre Pocket Edition takes the game back to its roots. A small rulebook, 140 counters, and the same bare-bones map Steve drew himself for the very first printing. And the price is the same as it was in 1977: $2.95. ($2.95 in 1977 dollars translates to be over $10 today when adjusted for inflation; this is Steve’s way of saying ‘thank you’ for your support for Ogre over the last three decades.)

Despite its “pocket” size, Ogre Pocket Edition will have more than enough counters to play all five of the “Ogre vs. Command Post” scenarios. It includes two different conventional forces (a Black force and a White force), with a whopping eight White Howitzers! That’s a whole lot of gameplay for $2.95.

For once, Marketing hyperbole is accurate.  That IS a whole lot of gameplay for 2.95.  Me? I own about 3 versions of OGRE, all of them over 15 years old at least.  But if you’ve never played it and want to introduce them to a great game that could easily tuck into a paperback book as a bookmark, this is the game to purchase.  Link below.

Warehouse 23 – Ogre Pocket Edition.

Olympica added to the Digital Rules Library

Long term readers know that I’m a bit of a fan of old Metagaming Microgames from the early 1980s, and particularly the seventh microgame, OLYMPICA, a tense and fun game of combat on the Martian surface.   I’ve certainly posted on the topic before and I have tried converting this game to miniatures.  In general, I liked the result, though  I admit I’m still not satisfied with that conversion, so you might be seeing more posts about that subject in the future.

Olympica Cover. CLICK the picture to visit the DIgital Rules section, under “Commercial, Out of Print”

Since I had an involuntary snow day Monday (along with a lot of other people on the East Coast), I decided to port Olympica to the Ipad as an Epub file.  I like EPUB as a format for low-complexity games over PDF as the footprint is much smaller and it works on a wide range of devices.

I don’t plan on doing many more Metagaming conversions to epub (see previous posts on WarpWar, Melee, and Wizard..) because there aren’t many more I want to make an effort over (possibly, I might do ICE WAR at some point), and I don’t just want to concentrate on formerly commercial products– it would be too easy to trample someone’s property that way.  Still, Oly is a favorite of mine, so I had to do at least one more!

It took a little effort.  My PDF scan of the old rulebook was as good as I could make it– meaning the 1982 era typeface, being a bit faded, smudged and wrinkled in places, didn’t always scan well.  When I ran OCR using Adobe Pro, I created dozens of “styles” from the bad images. Also, tons of badly OCR’d words. I tried to convert ALL of the style sheet references by hand, and that did exactly nothing to the look and feel of the document.  Oh well, more to learn.  I ended up pasting sections into notepad in Windows, pasting it back into SIGIL and fixing the inevitable OCR errors one by one, section by section.  It wasn’t hideously tedious, but it took some time. THEN I went and killed the  confusing stylesheet and replaced it with a “plain vanilla” one I have used for an earlier conversion. That worked fine! So the final product (as of last night, 3/17) looks pretty good, font-wise, but might have one or two misspelled words that I missed here and there. So it goes– it’s a pretty good conversion for all of that.

In sum, If you want to read Olympica on your tablet, Kindle or Nook, here it is as an EPUB file (or click on the Olympica Cover above).  It’s on the Digital Rules Page, as usual.

If you want to peek in on the Olympica Miniatures Game Project, look at these two posts:

Melee, WarpWar, *AND Wizard!* added to Digital Rules page


Steve Jackson’s old, old design published by Metagaming. Found in the “Commercial, out of print” category (click the picture to visit Digital Rules)

Here’s an old favorite of many, including myself, combining my love of microgames and fixation on tablet computers and digital readers. Namely, MELEE, the game that kind of put Steve Jackson on the map.  Melee was an early, simplistic and elegant RPG/skirmish game published by Metagaming Concepts back in 1977.  My friends and I played this one quite a bit, though not as much as D&D.  Not sure why.  Looking at it now, I love the simplicity and cleanliness of the original Melee.  Yes, there is a follow up named WIZARD, and yes, I might be inclined to do a conversion on it as well.

As the file’s contents seems to be out there in many places, as either a PDF or Wiki page, I hardly think it’s daring of me to post this.. still, if Howard Thompson emerges from obscurity with a C&D in his hands, I’ll be happy to take it down.  I won’t mention the other websites but they are findable via simple google search.

You’ll find Melee in EPUB format on The Digital Rules Page, in the “Commercial, Out of Print” category.  I’m rather pleased with this conversion– not the best I’ve ever done, but maybe second best.  I’m getting better at this.

Okay, I couldn’t do MELEE without doing WIZARD as well.  Not a bad conversion, really.

Metagaming’s WIZARD Microgame is also available on the Digital Rules page under “Commercial, out of print”. Click the cover to visit the DR Page.

Also, you might want to check out WarpWar, one of Metagaming’s first microgames.

WarpWar epub file originally posted to Yahoogroup. I posted a local copy as not everyone subscribes to the WarpWar group. (click the picture to visit Digital Rules)

I can’t take credit for doing this epub conversion of WarpWar.  It’s been available on the WarpWar yahoo group for at least two years and maybe more, as I reported a couple years ago on here.  This is a great conversion, done by “electronicdad99” on that group (whomever he is).  I think this is one of the nicest EPUB conversions I’ve ever seen.  I thought I’d add it to this update because it fits the Metagaming theme nicely.  Have fun with these!

Apr 13 Metagaming Microgames Word Search Puzzle

Way back in 2004, Stephen Beale, Tom Higgins, Gottardo Zancani and myself published a tiny zine effort called COUNTERMOVES. Countermoves was open source, laid back, and free. We lasted two volumes and about 8 issues all told. We tried to support at least one game an issue. I often added puzzle elements to an issue, as an extra, and recently I discovered an oldie but a goodie.

Metagaming Word Search Puzzle

Metagaming Word Search Puzzle

This is a standard Word Search puzzle much like ones you have seen before. The Answers are all game titles from metagaming concepts, an old microgame publisher that thrived from ’79 to ’82 in the late 20th century. You may want to check out the MICROGAMES tab on this blog for hints and direction… I reviewed each and every one of the metagame micros at some point in the distant past. You also might want to check out the BGG Listing for Metagames.

Access the puzzle HERE.

I know this is going to the extreme far end of the rack, but there was a time when this stuff was important to me. Enjoy!!!

Olympica Test at FALL IN! 2012

I have been working on an OLYMPICA game since the Summer, off and on, mostly off because of FALL IN! Prep work. See the previous Fall IN! post about the game I ran on Friday night at the convention. I had a team of about 6 players run through the basic Nix Olympica scenario, which entails hidden Web units (and Web Generator), customizable defense and a strong mechanized U.N. attack.

Your intrepid GM has a (Diet) Coke and a smile.

The rules, for reference, are here. I designed this on the fly for a gaming camp last Summer so it’s not a profound work of genius, but it does have some interesting notions that I like, such as dice pools, which allow an attacker and a defender to choose different dice that do different things to resolve an attack. In essence, red=attack, blue=defense, green=leadership, white=maneuver, yellow=”special”, e.g. Psychic Attack. Each player selects FIVE dice in the basic mechanic, and they can add in any combination of red,blue,white,green,yellow. They both roll at once and then you see what happens. I have made a chart (seen here, but this version has been modified, I just haven’t posted it yet).

Screen “Story” on Photobucket (Fall IN 2012 Playtest):
Olympica Playtest, FALL IN! 2012

Other elements that I like:

The webbies have hidden tunnel movement. Before the game begins, I give them a small white board and they draw the tunnel complex, then put tunnel mouths on the board (numbered) in a layout that matches the whiteboard. The BOAR drill can collapse a single tunnel in the complex, killing everyone inside it. That part worked.

Web Players building Tunnel Complex, Fall IN! 2012

The U.N. has air drop rules and in an attempt to emulate the original OLYMPICA rules, can crash if they fly too close to the Web Generator during a drop. Great idea, though nobody has managed to try it yet.

U.N. Lifters lining up an air drop, Summer Camp Playtest, 2012

The U.N. can fire by platoon, illustrating their superior equipment and training. That means they get the basic five dice and 2 more from each extra squad, making 9 dice total. The Webbies fire by squad, which puts them at a disadvantage in a fire fight. The Web players did not like that.

1 Webbie SQUAD vs. 1 Light Infantry PLATOON, Summer Playtest, 2012

The Webbies have STRONG POINTS (bunkers) that have various forms of SF-y style artillery– rail guns that fire in a long ranged arc, but require an observer, Gauss Guns, which fire in a flat arc, AAMs, which are designed only to take out Landers, Tac Missiles, which can hit air and ground units, and Direct Firing artillery. In the game I ran, I had three DF artillery up close in the Strong points, a Rail gun and a TAC missile. This provided overlapping defense all over the battlefield. The actual firepower wasn’t as deadly as I would have liked.

Combined Arms attack on Webbie Strongpoint with supporting Webbie Infantry Squads. Fall In 2012 game

The Webbies have hidden placement (using orange “?” markers). Everything except their strong points is hidden at first. Worked very well for the Webbies but the U.N. didn’t like it much.

here’s the sequence of events:

Pre-Game: Webbies make tunnel map, put down tunnel mouths to match map, put ? markers on terrain to hide troops. SOME of those are dummies. U.N. allocates troops to drop ships, and prepares ground forces for advance to the Nix Olympica crater, where the Web Generator is reported to be.

I had the players roll for activation each turn, but I blew that off.. I just roll once and that’s the number for the rest of the game.

PRE-GAME DROP: the players may attempt to start the game with a drop on the map, and the Lifter above the unit.

1. ACTION SEGMENTS — in Activation sequence, players conduct actions — Move, Move 1/2 and Fire, or just FIRE with a bonus. Combat happens. Once a unit has activated, I put a marker on it and it can’t activate again (unless defending in combat) until all markers are pulled off.

Where fire hits (on the ground), a dust cloud happens. You can’t see or fire through one of these.

2. MORALE EFFECTS — if the UN unit has taken a hit, one rolls versus MOR rating to retreat. If it fails, they move back 10″ and keep checking every turn. If the unit is a Gold Stripe (leader unit) or is in a platoon with a Gold Stripe, it roles against LEADERSHIP (green dice).

3. WEB PULSE — The Web Generator fires a web pulse withing 15″ of its’ location. If there is a Lander in the radius of the pulse, it is likely to crash. U.N. infantry are subject to conversion for three turns.


REPEAT, until all units have “I’ve moved” markers on them. Then pull markers and start all over again.

BIG pileup in the center, mid-game. The U.N. got stalled here, and it cost them the game.


This was a great chance to get feedback from players that are a bit more critical than then the kids at game camp. The results of (more or less) the rules you see above, slightly modified to make the U.N. more speedy and lethal, ended in a game that was a massive stalemate in the center of the board, and the Webbies easily achieved their victory conditions of keeping the U.N. from reaching Nix Olympica (and securing or destroying the web generator).

I’ve noticed this in all games run so far. The U.N. player is not NEARLY lethal enough. The Webbie player loses people, a lot of them, but usually wins– that is not how the boardgame played! I’ve increased the stats on the U.N. recently and that is what we played with at FALL IN. What happened was the U.N. got bogged down in the center, held back by guns that could only face forward, when they should have advanced into the crater. There’s also a big problem with sequencing, I think. SEVERAL U.N. units can pile on to a webbie infantry unit and he can continue to roll a fresh defense every time he is fire upon, and can, under the current rules, fire back. I had players complain about this giving the Webbie almost continuous fire, and they have a point. I may have to come up with something to address that.

Also, the Webbies didn’t like not being able to fire by platoon, like the UN can. My observation is that this leads to a very powerful Webbie tactical firepower.. which isn’t in the spirit of their attack and defense. I might allow it with some thematic mechanic, like they can fire by platoon if there’s a special web pulse that allows the generator to be visual. Or something. I’m working on it.

In any event, I’m still dissatisfied, it’s not quite right yet. Any suggestions are welcome. Can’t guarantee I’ll act on them, but I’ll read them, that’s for sure.

Microgames as Epubs

I belong to a Yahoogroup about the game Warpwar (among other things).  That game is having a 35th anniversary coming up.  What’s Warpwar?  Well, check out the Microgames Nostalgia page.    In short, it’s a cool diceless combat space game, the first big Micro format space game, and many regard it as an enduring classic.  There’s been a big push to recreate the game in a more portable format, with better artwork, for the 35th anniversary.  As a result of that effort, the group published the first (so far as I know) Microgame in the portable epub format.

WARP WAR showing up in my IBooks Bookcase view (click to enlarge). Whoever formatted this one did a great job.

Creating Epub rulesets wasn’t exactly the prime focus of the 35th Anniversary group, but it made me think.. isn’t this a great format for smaller games without a ton of pictures?

So you’re saying to yourself, “Self, why make a big deal about this?  I can purchase Wargame rules as PDF files already, what’s the big deal?”   This is a handy concept for a few reasons.  As EPUB is a fairly widespread format, it is accessible on most commercial reader tablets, and works on Ipads, Nooks and Kindles. It is designed to be read using a device and not printed out– though that’s possible as well if you use a web browser with a plugin (see the Epub Reader plugin for Firefox, for example, or Adobe Digital editions). As such, it might be a very interesting choice for deploying games.  Yes, commercial games are already sold (and also available for free download) as PDF files, which also work on tablets, Nooks, and Kindles. The big problem with the PDF format is the space requirements for the physical file, as it relies heavily on Postscript to define graphics, and that can lead to file size bloatage. Epub is a lot leaner, but the downside is that it is a lot clumsier to format and doesn’t handle graphics as easily as PDF will. Still, as you can see from the pictures above, it’s a format with some promise. Smaller games don’t have nearly the graphics requirements as some 50 to 90 dollar behemoth with color pages, and could really benefit from the epub distribution. I could easily see a set of epubs supporting a game, 1 being the text of the rules and 1 or 2 epubs being cheat sheets for easy reference, so you could actually play a game using a tablet computer. Now that might not appeal to a lot of the older generation of gamers that either love the feel of a paper book, or  kind of set in their ways.  That’s understandable.  The fact is, I rarely reference a full rule set during the course of a game.  I use some cheat sheets which I print out many copies of (which tend to clutter up the table and make it less than pretty).  If there were a few tablets around with access to the cheat sheet, you might not need to print ANY paper out eventually.   Yes, I know, it’s not going to happen overnight, or at least until tablets become a more eponymous feature of the gaming landscape.  Still, Epub is an interesting alternative to PDF distribution.

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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

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

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Metagaming Microgame Nostalgia, Part 1

Metagaming, a fond look backward

I found a big old box of the old Metagaming Micros in a box downstairs on Friday, and that got the old nostalgic notions going about these games. Metagaming essentially created the concept of the “microgame“, a proletarian niche that I always liked (see also: Microgame FAQ). They were published between 76 and 82. They were cheap, usually boasting a folded 11 x 17 map with strip-cut, incredibly cheap counters, sometimes crude artwork, and rules that were usually typeset with an IBM selectric typewriter. The basic concept behind the microgame line was minimal components, almost disposable price, and low complexity game rules. The subjects of the games covered the waterfront, from fantasy to science fiction to history. There’s something about that Small is Beautiful concept that I still love, these many years later.

So I thought I’d do a “look backward” at some of these, and try to recollect what was good and what was absolute crap, in a small series of posts. I won’t be presenting these pieces in any discernible order, mind you, just as they come to me.

Preamble: Metagaming was a small game company from Austin, Texas that started up in the “boom time” of gaming, back in the late 70s. The head of the company, Howard Thompson, published his first game, Stellar Crusade, in big box format, then hit upon the idea of small, low-cost (usually 2.95 back then) ziploc games in the format described above. The first game published was a doozy, a little tank game named OGRE. The format proved to be popular for a while, until increasing competition from RPGs and other market forces caused the company to hit upon hard times in the early 80s. Metagaming folded its tent in 1982, and Howard Thompson dropped out of the gaming scene permanently. Howard seems to have been quite a character; there are many stories floating around about his behavior and feelings about the industry. At this date, the issue of the Metagaming copyrights seems to be unclear at best, as this correspondent reports. I know that Steve Jackson, at least, has made the wise decision to retain his intellectual property (Ogre and GEV, thought he did not retain rights for Melee). I couldn’t begin to guess about the other games.

It seems fitting to start with the two best sellers in the line-up before we get to the obscure stuff.

1. OGRE: Metagame #1

(later published by Steve Jackson Games, and copyright is still held by that company). For assistance with figuring out what version you have, check the OGRE LUDOGRAPHY published on that site, it’s very helpful.

The first and probably most succesful of the designs of Metagaming was OGRE, a science fiction David and Goliath situation where a giant cybernetic tank (based on the BOLO series by Keith Laumer, among other sources) is attacking a futuristic command post, with a host of smaller units, customizable by the defending player on a point purchase basis.

The giant tank is an amalgamation of a bunch of systems, from tracks to weapons to missiles, etc., each of which has to be overcome by attacks by the defenders, or the Command Post is toast. Playing the Ogre can be very linear and is oftimes uninteresting (to me at least), but it does make for a very good solitaire game, as long as you play against the Ogre (even an Ogre that doesn’t try to dodge around and avoid long range howitzers will be an impressive opponent just by ploughing straight ahead toward the objective). Obviously the more fun side to play is the defender, who has to determine what forces to buy and where to place them on the map. The defender KNOWS he will lose units (in droves) so he has to know where on the board to place them so that his little “speed bumps” will be the most effective. A great little game, somewhat unbalanced in favor of the defender (believe it or not!).

Variations exist– many versions of OGRE (and the ground warfare sequel, GEV, which will be the subject of a follow-on post) were printed, but the basic rules stayed the same throughout most of the game’s existence. The game OGRE MINIATURES is played somewhat differently than the games DELUXE OGRE and DELUXE GEV, even though the latter games involved miniatures as gaming pieces vice counters.

Note: I even wrote a variant for OGRE, myself! It’s a what if situation involving OGRE on the moon, called OGRELUNA. This was later copied (with my blessing) as OGRE on MARS.

See Also: Command Post Gamma, Datapulse, and the OGRE Mailing List.

You CAN play OGRE/GEV pbem via Cyberboard, with Steve Jackon’s blessing.

Addition: OGRE has its very own WIKIPEDIA entry, and it is very well done!

2. Melee: Metagame #3 and Wizard: Metagaming #6

The first of a series of a roleplaying series of modules that eventually became known as THE FANTASY TRIP. Later, another modules named Wizard was added that brought magic into the game. Melee only dealt with very basic man to man (and man to monster) combat. It was a funky, easy RPG– easy to learn, easy to teach, without D&D’s excessive rules bloat. I always liked TFT. There’s only three stats to learn, and maybe one sheet of charts to carry around. The hex map basis of the game made it more of a miniatures skirmish rules set than a D&D rule set. We played the heck out of Melee over the years, and I bought several sets.

I’m adding Wizard to this article becaue I’ve always considered the two games to be inseperable. The first module introduces basic stats of STR (Strength) and DEX (Dexterity) and the two of those make MA (Movement Allowance). Wizard added IN (Intelligence), the prima statistic for casting spells with. The counter sheet in Wizard was a bit funkier than the one in Melee… there were far more multihex or giant class monsters to kill in Wizard, many of which made it to the cut sheet. Melee, by contrast, focused on basic hand to hand combat so its countersheet was all fighters and weapons. The map in both games was very similar, with Wizard’s being slightly larger.

Melee/Wizard went on to morph into Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, and Into the Labyrinth, all full-sized expansions to the RPG series (that I probably won’t touch upon in this series, as they weren’t micro sized or micro priced) however, if you have any interest, check here. TFT, in turn, morphed into GURPS when Steve Jackson broke off his relationship with Metagaming and started his own company. The first GURPS module, GURPS Man to Man, reminds me strongly of Advanced Melee.

The artwork for Melee/Wizard was ten times funkier (by TSR D&D standards) and far more generic in terms of setting and theme, but the “bang you got for your buck” was very commendable.

See Also: TFT Mailing List HQ, “The Fantasy Trip” fansite (really just a shameless front end for “Dark City Games“), Ty Beard’s TFT page. David Miller just did a new Melee/Wizard Tribute site, although not much is on it at the moment. Shore is purty, though.

You CAN play Melee (and Wizard) PBeM style, via Cyberboard.

Addition: TOURNAMENT MELEE (Dan Becker website)

Fantasy Trip Entry in Wikipedia

(Next time: Warp War and Olympica, two great SF games at a bargain basement price.)

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


Game Day- Battleground

First Look: Battleground by Your Move Games

BG Logo from YT Games
Note Bene: this is the second time I’ve typed this out, so I’m fit to be tied. Thanks a hell of a lot,!

Garrett and I had to head south to do an emergency overnight, so on the way we stopped at the Woodbridge GAME PARLOR to pick up some base flocking and a new card game called BATTLE GROUND. Just to keep dad preoccupied, he’s so easily distractible.

The product text states:

Battleground: Fantasy Warfare is a point-based miniatures game – but without the miniatures. Battleground uses cards rather than painted models to represent your forces. This means a much lower price as well as easier transportation and setup, but don’t be fooled – this is not a “light” war game or a CCG. Battleground is a serious war game that will challenge you at every step, from army design and deployment to tactical maneuvers and command decisions until battle’s end.

Basically, each card deck represents a faction (the ones published so far are described HERE), and they are standard fantasy army stuff so far. Each deck either has or will have an expansion deck that will add more or different units.

A deck has both Troop Cards done in a top down perspective on one side, with a statistics line and a line for “hits” (green/yellow/red):


And Command Cards (not pictured), which basically are one-shots that can modify elements of a combat (attacking/defending/morale and etc.).

You are expected to track the hits on the card itself, so I strongly recommend DECK PROTECTORS for this game if you want to play it more than a few times, even if you use dry erase or wax crayons.

The game is point-based, like a lot of generic fantasy games are, and the starter rules (linked, PDF) give a few configurations of the basic card decks to make different kinds of armies that are within each other’s point value. The starter rules can be played without Command Cards (which we did) and the Advanced Rules (linked, PDF) add a great deal to the game– adding command control, facing, flanking, and refining movement and combat quite a bit.

I picked up the basic bad guy and the basic good guy:

You pick out a good starter force (Garrett and I decided upon the basic 1290 pt. starter armies listed in the rules) and deploy them within 7″ of the table edge, one card at a time, alternating.


Here G. and I bring our armies (me: human G: Undead) onto the field a troop at a time.

Careful measurement, there, G.!

The Badies have more guys than I do… so my line will have to stretch farther.

Dad’s comments about formation building fall upon deaf ears

The Human Line. Shallower, with some heavy infantry in the center and some spearmen and hoardes on the edges. My bowmen are to the left of the line. a slight miscalculation!

The Bad guy’s line steps out. He has some giant skeletons and zombie trolls that are worrisome, but I’m not too worried about his melee troops otherwise, and he can’t shoot as far as me.


Gar gives his army of undead an all out advance order, and they shuffle forward. He learns a leasson in grouping slow and fast troops together.

The bowmen of Hawskmoor prove their worth, having a 21″ range vice a 14 for the skeletal archers. I reach and touch someone (namely his skeletal giants) who are the fastest unit in his army.

I scramble to redeploy my line, as it is not square on to the skeleton line. The skelton unit with the four sided dice has taken lots of archery hits and is now in the “Red Zone” (see card graphic above) which means it will fight far worse than it could at start.

Garrett’s line moves closer, taking bow shots as the come on. The skeltal archers are still outside of 14″ range for most units.

Here they come, crunching into my line on the left….
(giant skeletons)

… and on the right


We did a few turns of melee and I managed to inflict heavy losses (actually eliminating two skeltal hordes). Garrett, being seven years old, was good for only a few more turns before his patience fled, so I gathered up our things and we went on our merry way.


Battleground is a great little system that is loads of fun to play with a fellow miniaturist, especially somebody with a background in fantasy mass combat games like Warhammer or Ares. The system is simple enough, somewhat like Ancients done with cards– but it is NOT something I would recommend to a dad playing with a child with a low attention span or easily distractable. There are many miniatures-like niggly bits about facing, flanking and such that make the game the closest thing to playign with minis I’ve seen in a card format. This is a very commendable first offering and I’m enthused. However, I feel that the game is missing some essential fantasy elements– big monsters, heros, wizards, any kind of magic system, etc. The game (as published) could easily be a historical set with funny pictures– get cracking on a magick system, YOUR MOVE! I hope to see more fantasy bits in followup expansion sets. In sum, a pretty good offering that can be great with a little more expansion sets.

Additional Comments

Matt Foster:

Battleground babble

OK, now that Walt’s thoughts on Battleground are out of the closet, I can rip them to shreds.

Or not.

I picked up Battleground back in mid-September, right before our first little jaunt down to Guatemala. I’d read about it in some or another con report, and I’m a sucker for clever game gimmicks – especially inexpensive clever game gimmicks. It’s easy portability also appealed to me, since I was about to hit the road for a while.

I got the Human and Orc starter decks, plus their expansion decks. I also appreciate that the thing isn’t one of those danged ‘collectible’ games, because I’m horrible when I get hooked on one of those.

I’m impressed by the ingenuity of the whole thing. I haven’t really played it enough to get an idea of play balance or any of that other game-guru esoterica, but I have managed to have a lot of fun fiddling with it. It’s nothing spectacular as minis systems go – pretty basic stuff. Any competent Warhammer player will be chugging along inside of ten minutes, I imagine.

The artwork is solid, if not spectacular. The card play has some impact on the game, but isn’t too intrusive. The command rules are straightforward and impose just enough limitation on the players that they make you think. And did I mention that it isn’t collectible?

Like Walt, I think the game could use just a little more fantasy ‘fluff’. The tactic cards (or whatever you call them) add a little bit of the necessary chrome, but anybody expecting mighty heroes and other powerful characters a la Warhammer will come away disappointed. This game is about troops and how you direct them.

Since I’m not a devotee of high-fantasy battling with fireballs and lightning bolts flying around, none of that particularly bothers me. It’s a pretty good little straight-up wargame, especially if you toss in the Advanced Rules for battlefield terrain and a few other items.

As Walt says, definitely spend $3 or so to pick up some deck protector sleeves. No sense screwing up your cards out of laziness. Also, the expansion decks add some handy (nay, critical) troops types to every army. What fun is a human army, after all, if you can’t have at least one unit of mounted knights charging around?

Extra: Chad Ellis (Yourplay) interviewed by Tom Vasel

15mm Miniature Wargaming.TAM | 15mm模型戰棋世界: [Import] Battleground: Fantasy Warfare — Japanese — Polish— Lone Star Historical Miniatures

Deathmaze PBeM: House Rule about regaining HPs

Since there doesn’t seem to be anything in the rules (short of potions and spells) for regaining HPs for Wizards (and only said potions and spells for non-wizards; a wizard can’t heal himself), it is my opinion that there’s something missing in Deathmaze. Not to worry; I have confered with another DM fan and we have created this house rule:

The Paolo Rule

A player character gains 1 HP for every 3 hours of rest. In game turns, the player takes a turn to rest (do nothing). For every turn taken resting, the player(s) must check once on the Wandering Monster table. If a WM appears, the monster’s Combat Round precedes the player’s Combat Round UNLESS a player is “Posted Guard”. Guarding Player Characters do not receive the HP benefit of Resting.”

I particularly like the guarding bit.

I will have another turn ready for posting tommorrow night; I’m in class all weekend.

ONWARD! To Turn 4 Transcript