Initially released in 1977 as the first of Metagaming's micro-games, Ogre followed its creator, Steve Jackson, when he founded his own game company in the early 80s. The cover to the left is therefore not the original one but that of the 1982 SJG edition, which first introduced me to this fun, fast little wargame of high-tech armored warfare. The game takes place in the late 21st century when super-states such as the North American Combine and the Pan-European Federation vie for world supremacy through the use of gigantic, artificially intelligent tanks nicknamed "ogres" and powerful enough to take on many other "ordinary" units and emerge victorious.
Ogre is a fairly simple game in principle, with short, straightforward rules. Its simplicity is deceiving, though, and clever players will find plenty of opportunities to demonstrate their tactical creativity. In most battles, one side is composed of a single ogre -- they really are that powerful -- and the other side is composed of a mix of conventional vehicles, artillery, and troops, each of which has strengths and weaknesses compared to other units. The player with multiple units has, in my experience anyway, the more difficult job, as he has to determine the right mix to take down the ogre. And there's no perfect mix of units, since a number of factors, some specific to individual scenarios and others specific to individual players, alter the complexion of the game. The result is a game that has a lot of replay value, especially if you have a good pool of players to square off against.
Like Car Wars, Ogre was a favorite of my friends and myself. A single game can be played in a short period of time (around 30 minutes or so, though some scenarios could last longer), which made it perfect for those times when we were waiting for someone to arrive before one of our RPG sessions. It was fun to watch too and everyone had their own opinions regarding the "best" tactics to use. I think that's what made the game so much fun: there was no sure-fire way to win, but that didn't stop everyone I've ever known declaring that they'd figured out the "secret" to Ogre. For example, I know several gamers who claim that there's no way the ogre player can win, while several others claim just the opposite. I'm no great tactician myself, so I can't say with certainty whose claims are right and whose are wrong. I can only say that Ogre is one of those rare games that really is different every time you play it, depending on the scenario and the person against whom you play.
I still have a copy of the game somewhere, along with a couple of its supplements. Though I liked the supplements at the time, I found, like a lot of supplements to games, that they had the tendency to undermine certain aspects of the original game's elegance. That's why, if I were ever to play Ogre again, I'd play it using only the initial pocket box and forget the supplements. The original game remains a classic in my opinion and it's well worth playing, if you ever get the chance to do so. There are rumors of a new edition in the works at Steve Jackson Games and I hope that's true. Assuming it's not produced as a ridiculously overpriced "deluxe" edition, I know I'll be grabbing a copy.