Tag Archives: Origins

The OGRE Video/PC game: not a rumor any more


Remember when the Kickstarter for OGRE Deluxe came out and Steve Jackson Games suddenly had a couple of millions of bucks in pledges over what he required and was thinking fast about what to do with all that boodle?  He gave away the original version of OGRE (the 2.95 pocket game), he promised he’d re-do CAR WARS, he promised he would reinvigorate the OGRE Miniatures line (and he’s coming through on that), and one of the niftier ideas being kicked around was “Hey, if there’s enough interest, we’ll get that OGRE video game done again”.  That .. what?

If you’re blessed with an imperfect memory and enough years, you might remember the old, very old, personal computer game of the basic OGRE III/V scenario.  This was an authorized SJG product produced under license by Origin Systems.  I remember this: I owned a copy.  Back in 1986.  I think it came out for Atari, Commodore 64 and IBM PC.  I have to say, you may be wincing at the graphics but it delivered surprisingly decent game play back in the day:

I think there was an illegal shareware version on early Macintosh computers but SJG lowered the boom on that one.

Not sure of the sales figures here but I’m guessing they were modest. The program never had an GEV material and it was never revisited in all those long years since. Until recently. According to hints here and there and some outright enthusiastic statements on the OGRE boards at SJG, a revisit of the OGRE PC/Video game is most definitely in the works. The production company is AUROCH DIGITAL and they just recently released some very early production visuals.

As SJG is quick to point out, don’t think this is even close to final, so there’s no telling what the final renders will actually look like, but I’m finding this encouraging. The original youtube put out earlier in the year pointed at an OGRE-only scenario:

The stills tell a different story– clearly, GEV and SHOCKWAVE units will be included in the mix. I’m very glad of that– I do like the basic OGRE game and played the living hell out of it in college, but it gets kind of predictable once you perfect what you call the perfect OGRE strategy. I find GEV much more challenging.

I’m not sure of deadlines or what not, but if this gets to kickstarter level, I’m sure the old fanboy in me will probably respond.

What the heck, who am I kidding, they can just shut up and take my money, I know my limitations.

Farewell to a stalwart: the passing of Jay Hadley


Jay Hadley

Jay (center) doing one thing he loved to do, working a flea market table, talking to people.  Circa 2006, Photograph from the author’s collection

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be writing about another notable hobby passing quite so soon after John Hill.   We’re living in an age where the stalwarts of a hobby are starting to pass at an alarming rate.  Far too alarming.

Quite by accident, I discovered Mr. Jay Hadley passed from the cares of the mortal world on the 11th of this month, almost at the same time John Hill did.  The cause of death appears to be lung cancer (according to one source)  but might have been lymphoid leukemia Stage IV (according to another).  If you have a moment, you might say a prayer for his family.

There’s so much that can be said about Jay.  He was a figure with a profound impact on the miniatures wargaming hobby, going back a very long way, to the early 70s at least or even earlier, with his involvement with the Military Figure Collectors of America (MFCA). which had threw one of the first miniatures wargames events on the East Coast (The”Wargame Convention”).   He was very active in the Toy Soldiers Collector Societies (and their spinoff groups) before there was such a thing as “organized hobby wargaming” conventions (or HMGS for that matter).   Jay was one of the early adopters of HMGS, although not a “Wally’s Basement” member.   Jay worked hard to develop SOPs and procedures and was responsible for the foundation of much of how we operate conventions today– especially as a nonprofit.  His early work with ORIGINS (1980) and ATLANTICON is a subject I’m not remotely equipped to comment on– I went to a few of them but I certainly didn’t know who did what and when.. I’ve asked Pat Condray to fill in the details for me.  Jay was a past president of HMGS (elected, 1998)  and was an early promoter of the concept that some day, we would outgrow the Host facility and require a bigger site to run a convention in.

Jay’s passion for historical subjects often coincided with his professional success as a fund raiser and marketing wallah for many institutions, primarily in the field of health care.  He was active with the United Way, Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Cooper University Hospital, The Battleship New Jersey alliance and the National World War II memorial committee.   There are many other professional highlights and organizations he served on or chaired, if you want that level of detail, I suggest visiting his LinkedIn page.

Indeed, it was in those areas– fundraising, building relationships, and deal making, that Jay best showed his phenomenal strength and skill in handling people.  Jay was always comfortable in politicking– negotiating and understanding the little nuances of what made people tick.  Jay possessed considerable charm– when I was a Cold Wars director in the Mid-00s, he was invaluable as a source of advice or a way of dealing with a stumbling block.  “Who do I talk to at the hotel to get “X”?  “Easy, that’s ____, remember to ask how her daughter is doing at school”.  It’s the little things, he would say.  And he was right, for the most part.    I think Jay Hadley was born after his time– I have always pictured him in some turn of the century saloon, his straw hat pushed back on his head and thumbs in his vest pockets, cheerfully buying drinks for a pack of galoots, trying to get the vote out for his candidate.  He had that kind of energy about him.

For all of the “I’m just a goombah from New Jersey” brio he consciously projected (in booming voice), he did work tirelessly for the hobby, driving hours on his own time and his own dime to check if the site was making upgrades, or to talk to the Table vendors, or whatever.  Jay deeply cared about HMGS and miniatures gaming, and he put in many a long hour towards making the convention program a success.

With all that said, Jay could be caustic and he could be polarizing.  There is much that could be mentioned about the politics within Society in the 90s and 00s, many of us were there and many of us have strong opinions, some of them not charitable.  Jay jumped in with both feet and was an enthusiastic participant in the issues of moment back then, and he had his hands in almost everything.  I’m not going to comment beyond that, because I choose to remember the good things– and in point of fact, the “bad things” seem pretty trivial with the passage of time.

Jay was a dedicated hobbyist, tireless promoter, shameless gossip and excellent negotiator.  He was also a bit of a rascal.  Yet he helped make HMGS what it is today– and despite anyone’s axe to grind, that fact cannot be denied.  As for me, I liked him immensely and counted him a good friend.  If I wanted to hear the backstory on something, I inevitably talked to Jay.  The last time I saw him was 2 or maybe 3 conventions ago.  He was still a game bird for a long, rambling discussion but the fire had gone out of him a little bit– he didn’t mention it but the sickness must have already taken hold.  He was tired– the scandal of the moment (whatever it was) was of little interest to him any more.

So, Farewell, Jay Hadley.  Thanks for all you did.   For in the end, what can we do, but cherish the living, and honor the dead?

Aequa lege necessitas sortitur insignes et imos…

Games in Sacred Texts


An editorial by Geoff Englestein on the Dice Tower podcast reminded me of the view the Gautama Buddha took towards frivolous activities, namely gaming, and how they could be a roadblock to achieving true enlightenment.   That got me to thinking of Games mentioned in sacred texts, particularly boardgames as Miniature Wargaming, RPGs and Videogames are all relatively modern developments.

First, back to Buddhism as well as a shallow dive into some Hindu texts.

The Gautama weighs in:

His list of “best practices” for one seeking enlightenment is contained in the he Brahmajala Sutta, one of the first of 34 suttas (collections of aphorisms) of the Digha Nikaya (the Long Discourses of the Buddha).   Games are especially enumerated in the 17th precept of the Majjhima Sila, which lists 16 of what were interpreted as “games” back in ancient times.  It’s an illuminating list but much of it entails condemning playing with toys.  The boardgame specific ones are as follows:

1. “Games on board with 8 or 10 rows”.  This probably references Ashtapada specifically, which is a pre-chess game played on an unmarked, checkers-like gridded board with no colors.  The game was essentially a race between both sides to thread through a preset pattern of “castles” on the board.   Chaturanga is played on an identical board, but is more chess like.

Truly ancient examples of Ashtapada and Chaturaga style game boards.

2. “The same games played on imaginary boards.” (Akasam Astapadam was a variant of Astapada which was played without a board, mentally, and means “Astapada in the sky”).  It was either a fun mental exercise or perhaps people were too poor to afford game components.

3. “Marking diagrams on the floor such that the player can only walk on certain places”  may sound a little clumsy, but parse it out and you have a precursor to our modern game of hop scotch.   Not exactly a boardgame but it’s amusing to see it on the list.  The reference is probably to a game called Parihâra-patham, which played similarly to hop scotch but with a very different path on the ground.

4. Either remove pieces from a pile, or adding pieces to it, with the loser being the one who causes the heap to “shake”.   This sounds like Jenga to me, but it could also be Pickup Sticks.  Not much else is written about it.

5. “Throwing Dice”  There are any number of dice games originating in India, but this probably specifically references gambling games similar to craps.

6. “Dipping the hand with the fingers stretched out in lac, or red dye, or flour-water, and striking the wet hand on the ground or on a wall, calling out ‘What shall it be?’ and showing the form required–elephants, horses, &c”  That sounds somewhat confusing but after you parse it for a bit it starts to sound a lot like modern Pictionary, doesn’t it?

7.  Ball Games.  Could mean anything really, but probably something like Kick Ball.

(8-14 reference playing with toys, but 15 is interesting)

15. Guessing another person’s thoughts.  This could be just wild guessing but I suspect it’s a game with directed questions similar to 20 questions.

So there you have it, The Buddha wasn’t a game guy like you or me.  I’m not a scholar of Buddhism but I have read a little here and there, and I suspect the Buddha wasn’t condemning leisure pastimes with any degree of vitriol, he was simply listing the activities to be avoiding as being harmful to spiritual discipline along the path to enlightenment.

The Buddha’s list is relatively well known, and an interesting window into the past, especially about boardgames.  I could see playing variants of some of these today, and actually I have (Chaturanga, for certain, is a fairly famous variant of Chess).   I wondered if there was any other religion that even mentions diversions of the mind with such precision as the Guatama Buddha did.

A ritual dice game is mentioned in the Yajur Veda, to be played at coronations (and it is mentioned in passing that the King was allowed to win).    Other than that I can’t find much in the Upanishads or the Rig Veda.

Islam

Well, the Prophet Mohammed did not appear to enjoy games any more than the Buddha did. In the Koran, specifically this citation, the Prophet appears to equate the playing a game of chance to the consumption of alcohol, which he had strong reservations against:

YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan’s handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.
PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! Strong drink and games of chance and idols and divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan’s handiwork. Leave it aside in order that ye may succeed.
SHAKIR: O you who believe! intoxicants and games of chance and (sacrificing to) stones set up and (dividing by) arrows are only an uncleanness, the Shaitan’s work; shun it therefore that you may be successful.

To clarify, later on, Mohammed did state that “He who played chess is like one who dyed his hand with the flesh and blood of swine” which appears to lump in boardgaming with other enticements of the flesh. Reference here.

I’m not going to find a lot of material about ancient Islamic games, I think.

Judaism and by extension, Christianity

There’s not a lot written about ancient Jewish kids’ games, although there is some:
Zec 8:5: “And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof”; and Gen 21:9 margin, where we read of Ishmael “playing” (metscheq).

Perhaps this “playing” reference could be read as “Mocking” as well, the translation is open to question.  Of specific games however.. there’s almost nothing at all in the Old Testament.

Playing with ball is alluded to in Isa 22:18: “He will …. toss thee like a ball into a large country,” possibly this indicates some form of organized sport or recreational outdoor game.. The question of Yahweh to Job (41:5): “Wilt thou play with him (the crocodile) as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?” suggests that tame birds were some form of amusement for Hebrew children.

The New Testament has one reference to children’s play, namely, the half-parable about the children in the market-place who would neither dance to the flute as if at a marriage feast nor wail as if at a funeral (Mt 11:16 f parallel Lk 7:32).

Dice games: dice were known to the ancient Egyptians, and Assyrian dice have been found, made of bronze with points of gold, but there is no trace of them in the Old Testament. The New Testament’s most famous game of chance, the use of dice by the Syrian soldiers who cast lots for the raiment of Jesus at the cross (Mt 27:35 parallel Mk 15:24; Lk 23:34; Jn 19:24) may have been dice (as we know them, six sided cubes) or some other primitive chance mechanism.

Kugelach Stones

This is not to say that the Ancient Hebrews and early Christians were a dour lot; they amused themselves in a myriad of ways– dancing, mimicry, storytelling, running and archery contests.  Even though there aren’t references to them in holy scripture, ancient games did exist in Jewish (and by extension, Christian) culture.   Hebrew children had a tradition of a game called Kugelach, which is very similar to Jacks.   The Ancient Hebrews also seemed to be fond of variants of the grid-based games that were similar to ancient Roman style games (reminiscent of 9 Man’s Morris) as well as Indian ones like Ashdibada– though who invented what first is uncertain here.    What is fairly certain is that Jewish culture inherited many games from external sources- primarily Roman and Egyptian.  There is some evidence of Mancala style games being imported from African sources, as well as a game similar to Fox and Geese called Dogs and Jackals.

Dogs and Jackals game tablet found at Tel Megiddo archeological dig

Conclusions

What’s to make of all this?  Mostly that the tradition of boardgames and similar amusements– meaning a physical map to move pieces on with some chance element (probably a six sided dice) would appear to be primarily an Asian development that an amusement-starved world would adopt whole-heartedly as  cultures came into contact with each other and cross-pollinated.

And that perhaps Buddha needed to lighten up a little about games. 😀

Front Desk Madness, or the non-existent “I just want to look around” badge


Front Desk Madness

For illustration purposes only.. most people are perfectly nice.

“I just want to go shopping”…

“I’m not here to game.. I just want to hit the flea market and vendors”

“I don’t need a badge, I’m just here to…”

Having just come back from probably one of the cheapest gaming conventions of any size in the United States of America (HISTORICON 2011), and having worked the desk there, it still amazes me to read the caustic criticism conventions get online for not letting people in for free just to (quote) “just look around”.  On the Miniatures Page, the be-all and end-all for miniature wargaming arguments, there was an after-action thread on HISTORICON which actually took HMGS (who puts on the show) to task for not letting a thread poster in for free, because, presumably, it costs HMGS nothing to let him shop, and the vendors benefit by his free shopping presence.  And by extension, our economy gets stronger, increasing the tax base, more people are back at work and America’s position as a leader of the free world is assured well into the current millennium.  Perhaps I’m drawing the analogy out too far there, but you see the main point of the poster’s argument: I should get in free, because  I won’t cost you anything and  I’ll spend my money and make your vendors and flea market guys happy.

Yes, we had a few of those.  I witnessed one encounter.  One gentleman (whom I thought bore a passing resemblance to the late Satanist Anton Lavey, no sinister connection intended by the comparison), burst into a loud invective when the Front Desk staff attempted to charge him a 25 dollar day pass.

“Twenty Five Dollars.. to walk around and Shop?? REALLY?? TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS!!  I don’t believe this!  We’ll I’m here.  You got me.  But I won’t be back next year! This is my laaaaaast HISTORICON!!”

“I’m sorry, sir, I’ve been working this front desk for fifteen years and we’ve never had a free walk around and shop pass at HISTORICON.  I apologize for the inconvenience”

(snarls and tosses money) “Just… give it to me” (stomps off)

I know this seems improbable, but I’ve experienced far worse.

Let’s examine the notion that a person who walks in and just “shops, doesn’t game, visits the flea market, maybe” actually costs nothing to the people running shows.  The answer is, for anyone who looks at a balance sheet, is usually no.  Every person attending a convention represents a potential cost.  IF the people running the convention are paying a facility cost (the price for renting the physical space and services) then each person attending a show is presumably being charged an entrance fee– a portion of which is intended to contribute toward convention expenses and  facility costs involved.

There are some exceptions– a facility might cost an organization nothing (e.g., donated space).  A facility may be cheap enough so that free admission is seen as an act of good will and good public relations (and easy to write off).  A guest may be in a special category (special guest/targeted PR market/minors/spouses).  Exhibitors might be bearing all the costs of the convention with their fees (this type of event is usually called a trade show, not a convention, and even though many of those charge entrance fees).  And so on. I don’t doubt that free admission convention badges exist, but that does not change the essential calculus.

Someone, somewhere, has to pay for that badge.

In truth, I have never walked into a convention involved in a non-technical, non-professional niche hobby (such as model railroading, stamp collecting, miniature wargaming, comics, movie memorabilia, etc. etc.) for free, just to walk around.  Not ever.  It’s quite possible there are smaller events that are more “clubby” than “general admission” in nature and they might allow people in for free (example, a game event from a gaming club that has already charged dues that covers the gate), but such an event couldn’t be very large.  We all get back to the basic math of someone having to pay for the place.

 HMGS, the organization that I belong to that was running HISTORICON, is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to the teaching of military history through the mixed medium of miniature gaming and educational seminars.   Note that Non-profit does not equate to “losing money”.  It is perfectly acceptable for a non-profit to charge for an event to cover the expenses of putting on the event itself.  And it’s not even considered ruthless profiteering if there is a surplus left over after the show to help continue the organization’s loftier goals, as long as the organization continues to pass its financial audits and obeys the law.

Most gaming conventions are established to meet the needs of the community and most gaming conventions are commercial endeavors.  If I were to walk up to the gates of, say, ORIGINS GAME FAIR and ask “I just want to walk around and buy things.. I don’t need a badge” , I fear the laughter would be loud and long, right before they called for security to escort me out.  And their published information testifies to this.. there’s not a “walk around badge” in site.

Doing a quick survey, here’s a few other conventions that would give you a craggy look if you asked them to just let you in to walk around and shop:

Most of these webpages underline or highlight or bold the text covering the basic notions I have been talking about.  You need a badge to get in, and badges cost someone money.  This is not an unrealistic assumption to make, as no business is in the business of losing money, at least at a notional level.  Even a non-profit business.  If one can’t afford the fee, than perhaps it’s time to reassess the cost of being in a hobby.

And yet, this “letting me in for free just to look around pass” perception persists, year after year.  And year after year, it’s the same old arguments.. “Why not a special five dollar I just want to shop badge, then?” And so on.  As far as HMGS is concerned, most people who attend over a day are usually there for a mixture of reasons, and shopping is only one of them.  Walk-ins, first timers, day shoppers and the like are charged something because the costs are spread out over ALL attendees, including vendors, full up weekend attendees and day trippers.  There are many ways of structuring fees and this is perhaps the least onerous of them.  Don’t believe me?  Go get a one day ticket to WBC in a few weeks.

If I were king of the world, maybe there would be a way to let everyone in for free, and to have vendors and exhibitors and flea markets and special guests and such.  Of course, being king of the world makes it easy to ruthlessly intimidate hotels and convention halls to do my bidding, because, you know, I’m King of the World. For the rest of us poor schlubs, we’ll just have to economize the best we can.  And let’s try to understand the bigger picture before we complain next time, eh?  Good gaming!d

Mike Reed kickin’ some butt at Origins


bullet rocket

Way to go!

Online bud Mike Reed got a chance to participate in Battleground: Fantasy Warfare tournament sponsored by YOUMOVE games at ORIGINS recently.


(Andrew Goss (left) versus Mike Reed (right))

Mike Skyped in a battle report:

[2:09:24 PM] Mike Reed says: hey – I played in the ‘Battleground-Fantasy Warfare’ tourney at Origins
[2:07:25 PM] Walt O’Hara says: You likee?
[2:09:24 PM] Mike Reed says: finished in second with my all-goblin army (5 crazed, 2 bomb-chuckers, 1 wolfrider, 3 spearmen, 2 bowmen)
[2:09:41 PM] Walt O’Hara says: I like the Gobbos
[2:09:46 PM] Walt O’Hara says: better than the Undead
[2:09:55 PM] Walt O’Hara says: I’m not crazy about the Elves
[2:09:56 PM] Mike Reed says: won a dagger, got my pics on the battlegroundhq.net site
[2:10:06 PM] Walt O’Hara says: but the Hoomans are all around great
[2:10:12 PM] Walt O’Hara says: I’ll visit there!
[2:10:24 PM] Mike Reed says: traded in the dagger on new product (now have all the armies, they’ll be sending me the dwarves early!)
[2:10:32 PM] Mike Reed says: agree about the gobbos – my fave
[2:11:02 PM] Mike Reed says: humans seem ok – was taken down (barely) by the undead dude (frickin giant catapults!), the elves seem like pansies
[2:11:42 PM] Walt O’Hara says: Humans have staying power, and the longest range on teh board
[2:12:50 PM] Mike Reed says: tried a quick game against my son last night
[2:13:10 PM] Walt O’Hara says: Not many of their troops are spectacular but they have many low cost units
[2:13:15 PM] Mike Reed says: he had an undead force of 4 skeleton hordes, 4 skelly bowmen, 2 skelly trolls, and 6! command cards.
[2:13:41 PM] Mike Reed says: I had 2 bowmen, 2 wolfkin, 2 wolf packs, 2 centaurs, 1 brownies, 1 command card…
[2:13:41 PM] Walt O’Hara says: He cleaned your clock?
[2:13:44 PM] Mike Reed says: you bet
[2:13:52 PM] Mike Reed says: big ol’ pincusion
[2:14:10 PM] Mike Reed says: I think that missile fire is a bit deadly in this game
[2:14:24 PM] Walt O’Hara says: agreed
[2:14:50 PM] Mike Reed says: I’m sending an email to the guys suggesting that at the very least, there should be a +1 to courage if you’re not currently engaged. Too many units rout from missile fire alone
[2:15:37 PM] Walt O’Hara says: That’s the saving grace of the human army
[2:15:43 PM] Mike Reed says: also, I got a bit screwed on the finals scoring. I had completely turned his right flank, and was in his setup area there.
[2:16:24 PM] Walt O’Hara says: Ha, I see you now
[2:16:24 PM] Mike Reed says: problem was, I only got credit for his table quarter, the one _behind my lines_ that I had left to turn his flank, and had never been occupied by him, I didn’t get!
[2:16:51 PM] Walt O’Hara says: He pulled of a first place?
[2:17:15 PM] Mike Reed says: yeah, my dice sucked in the end. bomb-chucker had 3 doubles…only needed a couple
[2:17:48 PM] Walt O’Hara says: This was versus Andrew Gross?
[2:18:13 PM] Mike Reed says: hits…my misfire put my chucker into yellow (-25% pts), and couldn’t put his catapult into the red (another -25% swing)…
[2:18:20 PM] Mike Reed says: then I failed a pansy morale check.
[2:18:41 PM] Mike Reed says: yes – you can see the situation. Had I had even dice, it would have been a slaughter, imo.
[2:18:52 PM] Mike Reed says: from reading his game report, you’d think otherwise..
[2:19:03 PM] Mike Reed says: going to have to put in my own ‘rebuttal’ 😉
[2:19:07 PM] Walt O’Hara says: Where’s that?
[2:19:19 PM] Mike Reed says: on the bgfw yahoo group
[2:20:28 PM] Mike Reed says: I had beat my son in an earlier round. His army was 4 militia, 4 hvy swordsmen, 2 or 3 bowmen, command card

All hail the conquering heros..

Well done, Mike! Wish I could have been there to take a stab at it!