Tag Archives: Steve Jackson Games

New OGRE Video Game Trailer for Steam Release


Oh yes, it will be mine.

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?

The Hong Kong Rules (Illuminati)


There was a time when I considered ILLUMINATI, by Steve Jackson Games, my favorite game ever.    There was something about that uncomplicated little card game about secret societies that really tickled me back then– not the least of it being the tongue in cheek humor with which it was presented.  That was so in 1998, but not so in 2014.  I don’t think the game has aged very well.  It takes forever to play with six players and is a little vague in spots, which leads to vigorous interpretation of the rules on occasion.   Back in 1998 I put a variant we used to play with called “THE HONG KONG RULES” on Tripod.  I am steadily trying to shut down these cringe-worthy old websites and pulling off any material that might be useful before I do.

Here, therefore, are the Hong Kong Rules.

A VARIANT FOR ILLUMINATI DELUXE

A New Zealander expatriate living in Hong Kong (whose name, alas, I have long since forgotten) once mentioned to me that he liked to play the suggested “Illuminati cards face down” variant mentioned in the Illuminati Deluxe game in the “Advanced Play” section, only he liked to add in a 5MB reward for guessing the hidden Illuminati correctly. I’ve called this style of play THE HONG KONG RULES ever since. The Hidden rules and reward stuff evolved from his suggestion; the betting procedure grew out of extensive play of THE HONG KONG RULES. I haven’t tried this with INDO. I suppose it might work, give it a try.

Enjoy!

THE HONG KONG RULES

A Rules variant optimized for 3 or more players.

1) All Illuminati (pink faced) cards are dealt face Down. All Group (white faced) cards are played as in the Basic game.  The basic victory conditions for controlling groups (see the rules summary) are halved for speed of play.  Free Actions are limited to two (2) per turn.

2) Courtesy rules are enforced: i.e., a player may not attack another player until that player controls 3 groups or 3 game turns have passed.

3) Players may guess the identity of another player’s Illuminati under the following conditions:

3A)- The guess counts as a Free Action.

3B)- The guess must be made after regular actions (i.e., attacks, etc.) are made.

3C)- The guess must be announced loudly, clearly, and dramatically (Suggested Format: standing and saying “YOU, sir, are the… BAVARIAN ILLUMINATI!!)

3D)- The player being “accused” thusly must respond truthfully, loudly, clearly, and dramatically.

3E)- Courtesy rules extend to guessing (not until after turn 3).

4) If a player guesses an Illuminati identify correctly, he is given a reward. 5MB for 3 or less players, 3MB for 4 or more players. OR 1 privileged attack for the next turn only.

5) Betting is possible in Hong Kong Rules. The following rules cover the concept of betting.

5A)- A Bet is defined as a contract between two players, wagering a sum of MB in their possession, that an event will take place. In game turns, a bet is a Free Action. All funds expended or wagered for a bet MUST come from the Illuminati’s treasury (the Megabucks on the pink card), not from groups the Illuminati controls.

5B)- The condition of the bet must be game-related; i.e., a bet that states: “I wager Larry the Gun-toting Psycho will lose his next attempt at Attacking to Control” is acceptable, a bet that states: “I bet Elmo picks his nose and eats it next turn…” is not.

5C)- Bets can be Instant or Deadlined

5C1)- Instant bets are announced, out loud, at any point during a player’s turn. The conditions of the bet must be accepted by the player the wager is being made with by stating, out loud, either “Accepted” or “Rejected”. If not the Free Action is wasted. The minimumwager for an Instant bet is one half of the Illuminati’s personal treasury.

5C2)- Deadlined bets are written down on a piece of scrap paper, which is folded over so that there is an outside that the other players can see, and an inside that only the two participants in the bet can see. Square post-it notes are excellent for this purpose. On the inside of the bet, the player initiating the wager writes down the Condition of the bet (defined as “what he is betting on”– often the secret identity of a hidden Illuminati in this variant, but not always) and the Amount of the wager. On the outside, the player initiating the wager writes Initiator (the player initiating the bets’ real name) –> (an arrow to) Recipient (the player the Initiator is betting with), and a Deadline. The Deadline is the number of turns the Initiator is betting the Recipient for the Condition to come to pass. The maximum number of turns for a Deadlined bet condition is three (3).

5B2.1)- If a Condition of a deadlined bet comes to pass (either positive or negative) before the agreed upon deadline is expired, the loser of the wager immediately places the agreed upon sum upon the Illuminati card of the other player. If he does not have the amount agreed upon, he can wait the number of turns in the Deadline to pay off his debt. If he loses the bet’s Condition and still does not have the money to pay up, he is a Welcher, and the winner of the event is The Aggrieved Party.

5C)- Welchers are individuals who cannot pay off their bets, for whatever reason. If a players welches, the player who won the bet must remove a group from the player’s power structure. The group must be taken from the farthest position out from the parent Illuminati. Exception: The Aggrieved Party may not remove the last card from a Welcher’s power structure. Instead, He may garnish the next turn’s income from the Welcher’s Illuminati. After the debt is paid, the Welcher loses his “Welcher status.”

Steve Jackson Games Illuminati Webpage (contains Variants, Errata, Design article, new groups and a bunch of other Illuminati related stuff)

Copyright 1998 Walter O’Hara

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.

OGRE SIX and transferring publishing risk onto consumers: the other side of Kickstarter


I recently backed my first two projects in Kickstarter, both of which made their modest funding goals with ease. One was a return of a RPG from my younger days in a new media format of tablet and PC computing, another was a tablet based wargame by a very well known designer. As you might have picked up on if you’ve read this blog at all, I’m bullish on the idea of supporting wargames on the IoS platform.. or really any tablet. I donated ten bucks for both, I believe, and for that, I’ll be getting a copy of the games when they are available for the Ipad. You’ll note that ten bucks is a price point I would deem “pretty high” for getting an Ipad game. It is, by the standards of the marketplace. The highest price I’ve paid for an Ipad game was, I think 6.99 at first (since risen to 9.99).

Screen slice from upcoming Bulge game of interest

One could make a case that I’m paying for the opportunity of getting games produced that otherwise would never see the light of day. In essence, I’ve assumed a large portion of the producer’s financial risk by donating my funds instead of the producer’s. In the old days, producers took all the risks– in the case of games, the creator would approach them with a design, they would make a judgement call that it is or isn’t marketable, and they would decide whether to produce product. Traditionally, the publisher rolled the dice, funded the project himself and dealt with the myriad problems of distribution, inventory and sales himself. If a product tanked, he took a bath. If a product took off, he immediately started working on how to maximize his success. From start to finish, the producer was the entity involved in the management of risk.  In an nutshell, that’s free market capitalism for you.

Things started to change (as far as game publishing goes) with the advent of the P500 system, started by GMT games back in the 1990s, when they were facing extinction from taking too much risk, and were drowning in excess inventory from unsold games that got produced as a result of guessing wrong.  Sigh, how well I remember the great old GMT fire sales of those days!  Suddenly, consumers had a direct say in what they would or would not support financially– you could sign up to pay for product x, y and z but not a, b and c… and if enough people voted for x, y and z and provided a credit card number, x, y and z (or some variation of x, y, z, a, b and c) would get made. You’d buy what you want, productions runs are lower, costs are contained somewhat, no giant inventories languishing in warehouses, costing the producer money.  P500 works, more or less, as a gauge of what the customers in a niche group willing to pay for wargames will fund for publication. It is a flat fee arrangement, e.g., “this game is described thusly and will cost fifty bucks. Interested? We’ll charge you fifty bucks when it’s ready and ship it to you”.. there, I’ve just encapsulated the GMT method in one sentence. P500 has proven to be a good model, and many publishers of games have adopted it;  it’s solid, and it is directly related to crowd-sourced funding.

Crowd-sourced funding are projects that get made with small donations, usually handled with paypal and credit cards, as a financial guarantor that a project will proceed after a certain threshold is met. This is the genesis of the Kickstarter idea.  The basic threshold level is (reputedly) the amount of money to make the thing itself; to get it done. That would mean a copy of the thing, itself, one would think, but nooo…. There are levels of donations, and sometimes, you are encouraged to donate even if you’re not going to get the thing. You know, the publication being funded? Often, you can just donate because an idea is cool and you want someone to get ahead in this world, or maybe, be listed as a “friend” of the project… Wow, a block game of the War of the Triple Alliance? I’ll never play it, but dang it, here’s a buck! I’ll never understand the motivation behind that kind of donation– this is capitalism, folks, not charity. Don’t think that your donation means much more to a publisher than “a bundle of free money”.  I respect people who are willing to donate a minimal amount of money just to be listed as a “friend” somewhere, I really do, but that and a dollar will buy you a cup of coffee at McDonald’s.. oh, that’s right, you won’t have your dollar, you just gave it to Kickstarter.

Kickstarter has proven to be a very decent entre into publishing for extremely small companies with great designs but no avenues for publishing them.  2010’s Alien Frontiers was the great Kickstarter success story, bringing a fantastic worker placement game with a hip retro look and feel to the market, and it was snapped up so fast it has gone through a major reprint already (or was it two reprints?).   There have been many boardgame proposals in the Kickstarter process since then, but none of them have repeated the success of Alien Frontiers.  Still, it was an example that opened the floodgates for many people with big ideas and very little money to push their pet projects.  Some are good, some are bad, and some just downright silly, but wow, I’d like to see it in print…  Around 2011, we started to see a new trend with the Kickstarter approach.  Now, larger, more established companies like Lock and Load Games and Collins Epic Wargames (and others) were transfering financial risk to Kickstarter and moving away from the P500 idea.  For a niche hobby like boardgames, and especially for the narrower niche of board wargaming, this has proved to be a pretty good idea, by and large.  Small projects get funded, at at least the minimal level needed to get product out on the street.

OGRE DESIGNER'S EDITION

C’mon Distributors! Won’t you bite on my coffee table game?

About a year ago, Steve Jackson Games put out a feeler to distributors about their giant megalith sized version of OGRE that they had in the planning stages. The initial wording of the press announcement was definitely worded as a message from Steve Jackson to the principle hobby distributors (left). It’s going to be large, he said. It will be expensive. I’m not going to print many of them. Are you interested? And not much of this project was heard from for about a year, until recently. So I guess the distributors weren’t much interested in a boardgame that came in a box the size of a small coffee table, being essentially a reprint of a 2.95 ziploc from 1978 with giant cardboard constructable pieces. Don’t get me wrong. Then, as now, I’m very impressed with the graphic redesign of OGRE VERSION SIX. It’s huge, it’s impressive, it shows a real artistic touch. And it’s a hundred dollars. I’ve already made the decision about this. I won’t be pre-ordering it, because, frankly, it’s not at all different mechanically from that 6 dollar purchase of OGRE and GEV ziplocs I made all those years ago– it’s not going to play one whit differently. If I’m not going to get giant plastic OGRES, what the hell do I want to spend a hundred bucks on? A game that won’t fit anywhere on my bookshelf? No thanks. I’d love to see this one played, though. Wow, it’s just beautiful eye candy. As I said then, and results have verified (as we are about to discuss) the idea that there are plenty of people who will buy this thing, just not me. Really, this post isn’t about what I will or won’t buy, anyway. It’s about Kickstarter, and risk avoidance.

In the interregnum between last year’s announcement and now, Steve Jackson must have decided that he wouldn’t wait on hobby distributors (such as there are, any more) to make up his mind for him. He took his case for a giant sized OGRE SIX directly to the people, and made a Kickstarter pitch. And did it pay off for him in spades!  The initial funding level to make the thing happen was respectable. Steve Jackson Games announced that it would be accepting Kickstarter donations on 11 April. The initial funding level, you know, to actually make the big thing become physical reality? That happened in a few hours. Literally. So, suddenly Steve Jackson now has a very finite idea that a sizable chunk of the public wants a coffee table sized game of OGRE, are willing to pony up 100 bucks for it, and are generally wanting more, more, MORE! That’s where things get a little hinky. What do you do when you so clearly exceed your modest first day’s funding level? You kick yourself for not asking for more!

Now if you don’t know how donation tiers work on Kickstarter, but it’s not hard to figure out. You pay a certain something, you get a certain something. Here’s the kicker, though– with a game that is $100, you have all these tiers under a hundred bucks that entitle to you to, well, no game at all but an assortment of sincere thank you’s that will be posted on websites, lapel pins, PDFs of the OGRE BOOK and OGRE MINIATURES (these already exist btw), t-shirts and other paraphernalia. All the way up to a donation of 75 dollars. Now why would anyone donate 75 dollars for a stinkin’ t-shirt and not donate 100 dollars and get the game? And yet, people have! You can even donate a dollar and get your name listed on a website. Those are the “kickbacks”. The other issue you need to look at are “funding levels”. This is what happens when the funds come in– what the publisher will do with them. For the most part, these are modest, as in my two examples above. However, when your project faces runaway enthusiasm.. suddenly you have tons of donations, far exceeding the initial (modest) goals… and that is exactly what happened with OGRE SIX, or OGRE DESIGNER’S EDITION, as it is now called. Suddenly, this thing wasn’t looking like a limited print run.

What exactly do you do when you wanted a measly 20K and you get above 600K? You start making decisions about your company’s future, because suddenly, you’re going to be due a giant wad of cash in tiny paypal increments, and there’s no plan on what to spend it on. For Steve Jackson Games, part of that extra cash would be spent on making an already high quality production even higher quality (and, by the by, MUCH heavier). Additional counter sheets were discussed. Adding cool new units were also discussed. After a point however, the infusion starts to bleed over into other projects:

$550,000 – GOAL ACHIEVED! – We will start interviewing for a full-time Ogre line editor in the Austin office, because it looks like this game is back for the long haul.

$575,000 – GOAL ACHIEVED! – We will put Ogre Miniatures, 2nd Edition on the schedule for late 2013, as both hardcopy and PDF. It will incorporate the material in the “update” PDF now available, as well as whatever gets developed as we work on Ogre over the next year. There will be new photos and new graphics. Good thing we will have a Line Editor!

They are even discussing an OGRE computer game, something SJG has resisted for years.  I’d buy that, for IoS at least.

Later, on the same page:

$700,000 – Drive Offensively! We will launch a Kickstarter project for Car Wars! We *think* this will turn out to be a refinement of Car Wars Compendium 2.5, but you’ll tell us. Our supporters at the [new] $23 level and higher will be invited to join an exclusive Car Wars forum, where we’ll build the new edition from the ground up – issues like “which classic cover do we use?,” “10 phase, 5 phase, or 3 phase movement?,” and “do we include boats?” Once the project launches, surveys will be open to the public, but only supporters of the current project will get in on the preliminary planning. And we’ll take everything we have learned from our Ogre Kickstarter project to make the Car Wars project even better.

So, pretty much, the risk of creating a resurgence of the Car Wars line is now in the hands of kickstarter donations– and it won’t happen unless the Ogre project goes over 700K, which it just might do. Notice a trend? SJG is hiring a new employee, because of Kickstarter donations. Essentially the risk and gamble isn’t Steve Jackson’s any more, it’s ours. As in the consumers. Is this a good or bad trend? It certainly is democratic– and in the case of OGRE, probably justified. Maybe Steve Jackson didn’t know how much we oldsters (and some youngsters too) love that dusty old design of his. I’m sure he knew his target audience had some disposable income, but would they spend it on a 100 dollar OGRE? Turns out we would, who knew? Now, for the million dollar question: how many will be printed? After the initial rush and chest thumping and fist stabbing are done, will people play this thing? And I mean constantly, because I might feel inclined to do that with a 100 dollar wargame. My guess is, no. I think nostalgia is driving the demand for this thing and within the year we’re going to have a lot of aggravated people trying to find space for their OGRE coffee tables somewhere in their house. We’ll see. I can only hope it will spark a resurgence in OGRE/GEV, as well as popularizing wargames.

If the aforementioned blather sounds critical, I really am not. I doubt you will find many more enthusiastic OGRE players than your humble correspondent.  I want Steve Jackson to succeed, at the end of the day.  It’s a brave new world of fundraising Steve Jackson Games has entered into here, and I sincerely wish him well.

FNORD

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Update: SJG’s BATTLESUIT in 15mm


Progress Report: follow up to BATTLESUIT in 15mm

I now have a sizable force of the Red Attack Force in 15mm, based, painted and just about good to go.  I was going to go with a straight interpretation of the counter set but as I started discovering some of the excellent options available in 15mm SF, well, it became easy to acquire more troops of a varied nature.  So that means what I end up with will not be an exact interpretation of Battlesuit in miniature, but something more generic with Battlesuit trappings.

Red Force, wide shot

Here’s where there will be some differences.

There are three basic suit types in the printed game, as described by this text:

3.01 Infantry. Ten different kinds of infantry units are supplied.
Four represent different models of armor, four represent
armor that has suffered various degrees of damage, and two
represent infantrymen without powered armor.
The front of each armored infantry counter shows that man
in “normal” status; the back of the counter shows the same
man in a state of shock (see Section 6.042).
3.011 Standard suit. This is the basic type of powered
armor. It has an attack value of 8, an ECM (electronic countermeasure)
value of 2, and a move of 5.
3.012 Assault suit. This is an improved model suit, more
effective but more costly. It has an attack value of 10, an ECM
value of 3, and a move of 6.
3.013 Command suit. This type is identical to the assault
suit except in its increased communications ability (not directly
shown in the game) and better ECM value. It has a combat
value of 10, an ECM value of 4, and a move of 6. Infantry
officers at and above platoon level use these suits.
3.014 Ranger suit. Another costly improvement on the
standard suit, the ranger has improved myoelectric “muscles”
and better jets, as well as extra “stealth” electronics; it is
designed for raiding and reconnaissance. It has a combat value
of 8, an ECM value of 5, and a move of 7.

Those suit types are here in this miniature version too, but I am also adding Specialist and Crew. Specialists are specialty drone and robot operators that operate equipment that either recons the extends the commander’s command space or attacks the op-for side. Crew man static support weapons

I was seriously contemplating printing stats for each soldier in BattleSuit format, see below:

Battlesuit counters from original game

This would entail using the stats: Attack strength / ECM / movement, printed on labels on the stand. Since I started working on this project I’ve gotten away from that view and will go with a more generic approach of three colors that could mean almost anything I want to plug in and a rank insignia. Thus I can swap out stats for the three boxes if I find a rules set I like better than Battlesuit in the future.

Major Rico's Stat line for his base.

I’m adding drones, just like the original BATTLESUIT game. These will come in a variety of sizes and are roughly in three types: recon, bomb and gun drones. My thought is to add one per base but I might turn it into a swarm of drones. I think there should be a handler or operator in the battlespace, so I’ve added Specialist figures.

I’ve also added a few robots, because, well, it’s science-fictional to do so. I found some nice ground based recon robots from GZG in 15mm, as well as a couple of autonomous gunbots on treads I’m classifying as “Boundry Security Droids”, whose job is to provide picket duty for a Company’s flanks. Just because I had one in inventory, I added a cool retro robot figure scaled to 28mm which looks good as a giant walking robot figure in 15mm.

So with that said, where are we?

There will be two forces of about company size in a science fictional universe. One will be predominately red and the other black. The red company will be more agile and mobile, the black will have higher numbers and hard hitting power.

Red is just about done, as you can see:

"Regular Suits".. mostly. Support weapons to the left.

More "Regular Suit" troop types, with heavy weapons team in front.

The Silver helmets I envision as elite Assault troop types.

I have a small squad of "Ranger Suits" that can perform rocket assisted jumps.

Command element up front, Rangers on the right, Assault in the Middle.

Recon bots (rear, upainted), Killabot Prime, Perimeter Security droids, heavy weapons, and regular grunts.

There are support weapons in battlesuit that look more like a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) than a larger bore sighted piece of bona fide artillery. So I picked up some more mortars and a field piece.

So far? I’m pretty enthused about the project. Terrain will remain a challenge, but I have some ideas about how to make that happen when I get round to it. I’m loving this project so far.

LEGO(tm) OGRE and GEV units


A recent pingback on this blog led me to a page where the author was heavily invested in the concept of building OGRE (the Steve Jackson boardgame) and GEV (the sequel to same) out of somewhat common LEGO blocks. I must have blogged about this at some point in the distant past when someone posted their work on boardgamegeek, or I wouldn’t have a hit on it.  It turns out Dan Efran is doing some lovely work designing and building smaller scale OGRE and GEV vehicles using common Lego bricks.  See:

OGRE III, copyright Dan Efran

And very innovative small fry units, to boot:

Light Tank, Heavy Tank, Superheavy Tank. Copyright Dan Efran

Howitzer. copyright Dan Efran

Mobile Howitzer copyright Efran

GEVs copyright Efran

All very clever, but I’m not AS crazy about the GEV vehicles.  They don’t evoke the visuals of the earlier game nearly as well as the other units do.

Infantry units are simplicty in themselves:

Infantry: 3, 2, and 1 squad tokens. Copyright Efran

For more visual reference, visit Mr. Efran’s page.  He has made a version of everything in the OGRE/GEV/SHOCKWAVE line.  Most of which look like what they are supposed to look like.

I’d like to create an OGRE/GEV game using some of this stuff.  It would be a fun Kid’s Gaming Camp game this year.  I know Gar’s Lego collection probably has all of this stuff several times over but I really don’t want to put in the effort to sort it out.  If there’s a place out there that sells individual LEGO items from a catalog, drop me a line.


Disclaimer:
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group of companies (creators of LEGO building toys). OGRE® and G.E.V. are trademarks of Steve Jackson Games, Inc. (publishers of the OGRE series of games).  This web page is not in any way affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by either entity.

BATTLESUIT in 15mm Scale


Battlesuit

Battlesuit, the original

I’ve always had a hankering to try to recreate a few of the great game experiences of my youth in miniatures.  I mean, beyond something already purposely designed for that objective, like OGRE MINIATURES.  To expound on that idea, I used to play a game called BATTLESUIT by Steve Jackson Games…  Remember that one?  It was an orphan in the Ogreverse, the man-to-man combat game of the sad-sack infantry guys who had to survive on the hell that was the OGRE battlefield.  The game that came out in 1983 had a very distinctive set of mechanics that set it far apart from its larger scaled OGRE and GEV brothers.  For one thing, the scale was man to man.  For another, it featured activation and movement rules that were fundamentally different from the previous  OGRE and GEV games.  The turn sequence in Battlesuit is highly interactive, a player may move but also will have to deal with his opponent firing back with opportunity fire at any time during his movement phase.   Battlesuit

map

The Map

had no hexes– instead it had a point to point movement map where the counters moved from dot to dot on a map that was topographic with a dot sequence (roughly equivalent to hexagons) overlaid on top of the map.  The game also has a decidedly interesting three dimensional feel to it– topography plays into this game, as a result of the scale of the conflict, I think.  Height is important.  The soldiers can jump a distance in this universe, and they can be shot at in the air.   Cover, concealment, line of sight– all much more important concepts in this game than in parent OGRE/GEV games, who come off as pretty conventional in comparison.  The other element of interest

Counters

Counters

was the status of the soldier represented by the counter in this game.  Battlesuits are complex things– they can get damaged.  When a man in a battlesuit takes fire, he can panic very easily, and the results are interesting– BATTLESUIT soldiers can be shaken, can Panic or even go Berserk.  All of this is simulated in the boardgame with counters.  I like Denis Loubet’s funky early 80s retro artwork.

Now if you’ve been keeping up, you’re probably thinking about how much this game seems like a standard modern skirmish game, with the same concepts I’ve played in many a miniatures combat game– movement, cover, reaction, command, morale, fire and counterfire..  So why not bring it to a miniatures venue?  I don’t want to create a giant big thing with 28mm, I’d rather have a game that could be easily contained on  a small map and terrain set, probably one that recreates the original game map in some fashion.  I already have a crosshatched small terrain map from

Sample

Sample counters, took me 5 minutes.

MKP that would be perfect for the point to point movement.  Hills would be easy enough, and I would just paint the crosshatches on top of the flocking. The game counters are pretty easy to recreate in Open Office with FUTURE font, as you can see.  So really the big decision will be what to use for the scale and the figures.  15mm seems right to me.  Individually based figures, probably on hex bases just to help with facing.  I could make an entire game happen on a 3 x 3 square, then.  The figure selection is going to be important, though.  I want something that will evoke Loubet’s goofy retro art to some extent.  I also have several soldier types I needed to model– Assault Suits, Regular Suits, Ranger Suits and Command Suits.  The original game had different counters for different damage levels but I think I can solve that with counters.   I made my preliminary purchases online last night.

FOR REGULAR BATTLESUIT TROOPERS:

The Federal Army Riflemen set from Khurasan Miniatures.

Federal Riflemen

Federal Riflemen, Khurasan Minis

I chose these because they weren’t overly bulky yet retained that all over military body armor look. They are painted somewhat realistically for their environment on the Khursan page, but I would probably stick with the predominant red and black theme set by Battlesuit’s counter-mix.

FOR ASSAULT TROOPERS:

Probably the same as above, painted uniquely to give them a look and feel.

FOR RANGERS:

Mad Robot Figures Jump Infantry Squad.

Mad Robot Jump Troopers

Mad Robot Jump Troopers

Yes, they are a different manufacturer but they seem to match the mid-tech armor of the Khurasan bunch nicely, so I’m going with it. I like the dynamism of these figures very much. Just wondering what I’ll do for flight stands.

HEAVY WEAPONS:

Khurasan Miniatures, Heavy Weapons team

Khurasan Heavy Weapons set

Khurasan Heavy Weapons set

These aren’t what I had in mind considering the counter mix indicates I’m looking for the SF equivalent of the Squaddie toting the M60 machine gun. Still, they convey the idea of heavy weapons nicely, and I’ll just have to constrict the OOB from the original a bit.

COMMAND SUITS

Again we go back to Khurasan miniatures:

Command Set

Command Set. The dog is puzzling.

Most “command units” are a regular guy with his arm posted in a “Follow me” pose. I like that these command units actually look like they are on a future battlefield, commanding something.

DRONES:

The original BATTLESUIT game also has many drones in the counter-mix, which they describe as being Recon, Missile or Gun drones, and possessing the intelligence of a dog. I like this idea a lot and wanted to bring it into the game I was building. Fortunately, Khurasan has a great drone operator figure:

Drone and Mortar

Drone Operator and Mortar Team

GZG miniatures also make many different autonomous killing machines, so I bought a mix of their Drones from their 15mm Star Grunt line:

Drones

Drones from GZG

More Drones

More GZG Drones

Even More Drones

Even MORE GZG Drones

I also picked up a few tracked and hover bots from GZG, with the idea that if this works and is fun, I can add killer robots in future games. Maybe do RIVETS on a larger scale…

So that’s where I am with the Battlesuit project.  I think it will make a fun four person game, maybe. It will be easy to paint these up and the rules already exist, though they will have to be heavily modified. I won’t have the same luxury of a large counter mix, and I may have to make counter versions of some things that are missing from the base game. I do think I have captured most of the basic game to give this project a start.

Follow up: UPDATE POST

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Return of Sick and Twisted Variants for Illuminati


I was looking up Illuminati, the conspiracy game by Steve Jackson Games, and came across a link to a series of variants I submitted to some amateur publication or another years and years ago.  Alas, the link was dead, but that can be overcome with the use of the Internet Wayback machine.  These weren’t very serious– consider them one-shots at best. Still, they shouldn’t be lost to the world, I think. So in order to feed the nostalgia beast, I’m posting them here for your dubious pleasure.

Various Sick and Twisted Variants for Illuminati

One of my favorite card games, bar none, is Steve Jackson Games’ ILLUMINATI.

Deluxe Illuminati

Deluxe Illuminati

As you now know, Illuminati’s great appeal is the absurdity of the power structures you create and the interplay between the players as they try to achieve wildly different victory conditions. That’s the goal, naturally, but the mechanics of getting there involve money (megabucks), power, influence, and interaction between players. I’ve played a ton of Illuminati games over the years, ever since that first black plastic box purchase, oh so long ago. I’ve always enjoyed throwing in just a slightly different flavor of running an Illuminati game– nothing that messes with the mechanics or play balance, but something that might make the original premise of the game just a tad more harder (or easier) to achieve. Some tinkerings have worked, most have not. Here is a list of simple, one-shot variants you can try for a little added fun. Most of these variants have been tried with my local gaming club as a joke or one-shot item. I don’t advocate playing Illuminati this way all the time (I think the original game is just fine, thanks), but every once in a while a slice of variety can be a hoot. Sobriety is an option.

1) Illuminati Roulette: This requires a red dice and black dice, both six-sided… and I mean red and black, no other colors will do. Once per turn, as a Regular Action, you may pick a number between 11 and 66 and a color, either red or black. Then place a sum of MB of either 5, 10 , 15 or 20 MB in front of you and roll the two dice.  If the higher die roll is the red die, then this is a RED result.  If the higher die roll is the black die, then this is a BLACK result. If you hit the number/color combination EXACTLY, you receive 10 x the Megabucks you put down.

2) The Hidden Illuminati Sweepstakes: This is similar, in some respects, to The Hong Kong Rules.  When playing, keep your Illuminati face down. Let the other guy sweat it out for a while as he figures out who the unseen puppet masters opposing him are. Once per turn, as a Free Action, the player may attempt to guess opposing Illuminati. If he guesses correctly, he wins 5MB. If he guesses incorrectly, he pays 5MB into the bank. HIGHER STAKES VARIANT: As in Regular Hidden Power Illuminati, but a Regular Action is used to make a guess. If the player wins, he gets 12 MB. If he loses, he pays 10 MB. Cannot be played when only one hidden Illuminati remains. (Hidden Powers really are effective in a game of four or more… not recommended for small games).

3) The Hideous Chop Poker Variant: Ever play Chop Poker? Of course you haven’t. That’s the poker variant where the players wager various digits and payment is due immediately (using a handy cleaver). My friend ‘Lefty’ Dowd taught me this one, but I’ve never played it. Once per game a player may try a chop poker challenge on another player. This counts as a Regular Action. The challenger declares a chop poker challenge and has to target a power structure emanating from the major Illuminati. The power structure MUST have at least three cards to be considered a worthy “digit” for a chop poker challenge. The challenging player then slowly deals the top four cards in a row side by side. Count the power (only, not transitory power) on the four cards. If the power total is a sum greater than the targeted player’s power total (including Illuminati), then the structure is “chopped”. The challenging player pockets any MB that was on the power structure, but not on the Illuminati itself. This can be a very hairy variant…  (see Tales from the Crypt episode “Cutting Cards!” parts 1, 2, and 3 for inspiration)

4) There’s a Bomb in the Building variant: We used to call this “the Terrorist” but we’ve had to many real life reminders of terrorism lately, so now we call it bomb threat. Each player looks through the groups deck in advance of the game. Secretly, they select a group, and write down the name of that group on a piece of scrap paper. The piece of paper is stuffed in the player’s pocket or other holding area if you are playing the “Nude Illuminati” variant. At any point in the game, the player may pay 5MB to the bank, and pull the paper out of his or her pocket and announce the name of that group to the players. The group on the paper is then destroyed.

5) Everything Gives you Cancer variant: This one is kind of quirky, and horribly unbalanced. I present it as a variant for groups that enjoy teaming up on a player they don’t like much. You will need glass beads or some other marker to mark cancer cells. In a regular game of Illuminati, declare one player the Cancer Player. The Cancer Player’s victory conditions change from whatever is in the rules to the following.

  • Cancer players grow power structures by destroying groups (organisms).
  • The Cancer Player receives CANCER CELLS (glass beads) in the amount of the POWER rating of the Organism it destroys. A Cancer Cell is a 1/1 power, 2 defense, 1 MB income group for all game purposes.
  • The Cancer Cell is attached to the main Illuminati a the four out arrows off of the main card. A Cancer Cell is assumed to have 3 out arrows and one In arrow for Power structure purposes.
  • The Goal of the Cancer Player is to get 45 Cancer Cells. This can happen very quickly if other players don’t interfere, so tinker with this victory condition to suit your own purposes.

6) Boy am I Clueless variant: this is essentially the Hidden Illuminati Sweepstakes, in reverse. Instead of being in the dark about OTHER player’s Illuminati, you have no idea what your OWN Illuminati is. This is accomplished by playing with the cards taped or rubber banded to your forehead (facing outward), without peeking at the cards first. Therefore, you will know what the other players have but not yourself (obviously, not recommended for a 5 or 6 player game). You have the same Victory Conditions as before, but you have to act according to your best hunch of what Illuminati you are running. You may be wrong! This can be a very silly variant.

So here are a few of the twisted concepts we’ve come up with over the years. I hope you have some fun with them. We did!

The New OGRE from SJG


The sixth edition of Steve Jackson’s breakthrough micro-game OGRE will be released shortly, and two things are clear already:

  1. It won’t be micro sized
  2. 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.

OGRE cover

OGRE 6 Cover: to give you a sense of scale, One LETTER on the box of this game is as big as the original SJG flat box version.

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.

OGRE Flatbox

OGRE Flatbox Ed., SJG

Later combined "VHS box" version, SJG

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.

New Counter mix

New Counter Mix and "contructable" ogres and laser towers in OGRE 6.

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?)

Ogre Miniatures at Cold Wars 2010


Event: T-393 – Steve Jackson’s Ogre
Thurs. 5:00 PM, 3 hrs, 4 players
GM: John Rentovich with Tim Kaufman
SciFi 1/285 micro, Rules: Steve Jackson’s Ogre

Ogre and its sequel, G.E.V., are tactical ground combat games set in the late 21st century. In 2085 A.D., armored warfare is faster and deadlier than ever. Hovercraft, tanks and infantry slug it out with tactical nukes. But the most feared weapon of all needs no human guidance. It’s the giant cybernetic tank called the Ogre.

OGRE MINIATURES!!! Talk about a trip down memory lane! I met my buddy Bill Alderman walking into the Distelfink ballroom and he sat in on this game with me. Bill took the left wing of the Vatican Guard (Mark 1 and 2 OGRES, smaller units), I took the Lutheran Armored Brigade right wing (Mk III OGRE “Martin Luther”, small units). It was marginal victory for the Vatican. We took out the Doppelsoldner and killed the Holy Father, which you don’t see every day of the week.  In turn, the Ogre Mark V that was our left flank was savaged by the Dopplesoldner (their right flank), being down to some treads at the end of the game.  My Mark III was in sad shape but could still fight, and I still had a small force of heavies and a few surviving GEVs at my disposal.

OGRE!

The Right Flank of the Vatican battle. My Mark III and supporting units.

Bill moved out smartly, doing all the right things, dispersing his troops to avoid being targets and moving forward.  I responded with a blocking force of GEVs doing the standard “Dash in/Dash out” attack favored by the GEVs.  I did some damage but got smoked by superheavy tanks.  The rest of my force, I moved to the left to take on the Doppelsoldner with the Mark V on my flank, using the III and the Heavy force.  Bill wasn’t prepared for me to dash out of his way like that.

The Five crashed into the Doppelsoldner and nearly ruined it, as the heavies took on the Doppel’s main guns and secondaries.  The Five moved on after smashing up in the city and ended up pushing into the Vatican rear flank.  I brought up the Three to the flank of the Doppel who was tangling with a company of my heavies.   It had lost so many treads it was almost a pillbox at this point, and the heavies got the last treads as the Three moved out of the city to take on the Superheavies and missile tanks, which were the only heavy armor Bill had left other than the old Ogre I and II.

Slideshow:

Direct Link to slideshow (facebook users)

We called it for time, and graciously gave the other side the marginal victory because, technically, they had more units in play. This game was a blast to play and I really enjoyed it. I haven’t played OGRE miniatures in years. Thank you, GM John Rentovich, for putting this one on.

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Ogre Miniatures on SJG