Sunday, December 7, 2014

Board Game Glory: Ogre

By Al "Alface Killah" Brady

Yes, I am enjoying my time away from PC gaming!  It feels good to get involved with a fresh game genre again.  And I couldn't have picked a better time: board games and miniatures seem to be going through an veritable explosion of creativity, something that is, coincidentally, being fueled through Kickstarter and other crowd-sourced methods that are also popular with the PC gaming crowd (but I think with better results).

To be honest, I have begun to believe that not all of the problems that are plaguing PC gaming is due entirely to shoddy business practices.  Rather, I think video games have hit a brick wall of realistic possibility.  That is, while the technology to make a super-realistic, super-immersive games might now exist, the programming skills to take advantage of that possibility don't exist.  Or, perhaps more accurately, those skills do exist, but the task of programming such monstrously complex games requires more time and money than any game developer has available, hence why so many exciting games arrive incomplete with the promise of "fixing it" later.  Gamers are demanding the impossible, and in short order no less!  This is something that is just not humanly possible.  Sadly, game developers currently seem to prefer over-promising and under-delivering rather than have a frank conversation with their customers about just what is and isn't realistically possible in a given time frame when it comes to game development.

However, board game design, being free from the horrible complexities of modern software design, doesn't  need to contend with such impossible tasks since every board game depends on just one thing: the human brain!  Well, that and some cardboard or plastic.  Much simpler.  Point is: board game design, while still a challenging art and science, is naturally limited to more realistic expectations due to its very non-CPU dependent nature.  Even better, unlike a PC game where if a particular rule is broken or poorly implemented, the gamer will need to wait days/weeks/months for a dev to fix it, the board game can be "patched" by the user with just a little initiative and imagination on his part.

Yeah, I am really starting to appreciate the advantages of a board game in this time of shoddy video game development.

Oh, I just had another advantage pop into mind: board games are not dependent on hardware!  In other words, no need to ever worry about not being able to play your favorite game due to an OS complication, or a dated video card or what-have-you!  Board games and miniatures never need an emulator!  Case in point: Steve Jackson's Ogre.  Even though this game first arrived on the scene in 1977, the game still 'runs' as good as ever!  Hence, why it was bound to be one of the first games to be dusted off by me!

[NOTE: Because my gaming table is currently being used for my session of Tomorrow's War, I played this game out using VASSAL, a board game emulator for the PC.  And, yes, I realize the irony of that in light of what I just wrote above!  LOL!]

I decided to set up a basic scenario: an Ogre Mark III versus a standard deployment of Combine troops.  Using some dice, I randomly determined that the Ogre was going to make an attack on the less defended right flank.  Three of my fast moving GEVs, and one long range missile tank moved to engage.  The Ogre was NOT pleased.  It closed and engaged using its main battery, obliterating one GEV that ventured too close:

The small crater on right is all that remains of the destroyed GEV

The Combine missile tank would exact a price for that: it destroyed one of the Ogre's four secondary batteries.

The AI of the Ogre was...annoyed.  It would get its revenge by combining the firepower of all three of its remaining secondary batteries and obliterate the missile tank!  It's main battery then fired at the a GEV, disabling it in the process.

The remaining GEV in the area zoomed in for an attack on the Ogre's treads - it being too weak to do anything else alone - and then quickly retreated.  Sadly, its attack had no effect.

Two destroyed vehicles and one disabled...the Ogre is living up to its name!

In light of this growing threat, the Combine CO began to shift his forces eastward in a long scrimmage line:

Shift right!  Now!

I have to tell you: every time I play this game, the tension of having that beast bearing down on you is palpable.  Few strategy video games have ever come close to creating a similar sense of impending doom!

The Ogre rumbled on....

The next round of combat was more of the same: the Ogre continued its merciless rampage.  It first rammed and crushed the disabled GEV to its north, and then fired its three remaining secondary batteries and utterly destroyed the Combine's last GEV:


All the Combine commander could do in response was to continue to reposition his forces and await the final battle.

The Ogre slowly crossed the no man's land between the two forces.  With the exception of some weak and ineffectual fire from a lone missile tank, the Ogre was untouched.  Combine forces continued to reposition themselves.


The title fight was about to begin....

After pondering its options, the Ogre decided to break left, shying away from the congregation of heavies waiting for it on the right.  It moved into position and proceeded to blast everything in site.  First destroyed: the Combine's last missile tank.  It was taken out with a single blast from its formidable main gun!  Not sated yet, the Ogre then fired two of its secondary batteries at the infantry unit to the left of the big crater (above), in the process inflicting casualties and reducing its strength by a third.  It then trained its last secondary onto the infantry unit to the right of the same crater...and obliterated it with a single shot!


The casualties were stacking up.

Sadly, the Combine could not claim the same.  Two heavy tanks swung in from behind and made an attack on the Ogre's treads in a desperate attempt at slowing it down - it was now only nine hexes from the CP! - but both tanks missed their mark!  The only good news was a single Combine artillery battery successfully getting a hit on one of the Ogre's two long range missile launchers.  At least the Ogre's long range threat was neutered...a bit.

The following turn demonstrated that the Combine really needed to work on its gunnery skills.  The Ogre began the round by overrunning an infantry unit and firing two rounds of anti-personnel weaponry,  eliminating the unfortunate soldiers caught in the hex with it.  It then fired two shells from its secondary battery, eliminating yet another infantry unit!  Fortunately, the rest of its fire proven ineffective.

The Combine moved in to attack:


It was agreed that the Ogre's mobility would remain the prime target.  With that in mind, every infantry unit attempted to bring the Ogre's remorseless treads to a halt.  But all failed.  Then two heavy tanks attempted to do the same.  Both also failed to score a damaging hit!  The third heavy changed its mind and instead decided to focus on the Ogre's powerful main battery.  A hit!   The big, bored gun was destroyed!  Lastly, the Combine's immobile howitzers had the range and opened fire, one took the Ogre's last missile, the other its treads.  Both failed to score any damage.  Sheesh!  They might have just have sealed their own death warrants!

After crawling its way across the map, the Ogre was finally in striking distance of the enemy CP.  With a renewed purpose it trampled upon two squads of infantry, eliminating both in the process, and fired its last missile at the CP.  Doom screamed down from the heavens....

But the missile missed (Note: I am using an option rule whereby the CP is given a defense rating of 2.  The base surived a 3-1 CRT roll)!  For once in this battle the Combine forces had some luck!  Out of anger, the Ogre destroyed a heavy tank with its secondary batteries.

The Combine opened fire with both howitzers, this time chosing to focus on the Ogre's last ranged weapon systems, its secondary batteries.  They struck home, eliminating two of its three remaining batts!  The rest of the surviving combine units again focused on bring the beast to a halt by destroying its tread system.  And again all failed miserably!  The final(?) SITREP:




It was all over but the crunching.  The Ogre continued to advance, but yet again was unable to destroy the hardened CP with its last remaining secondary battery.  No matter, its AI calculated.  The next turn it would crunch it beneath its treads!

The Combine made the same realization and decided to focus all their firepower on its treads.  The CP was doomed no matter what, so might as well try to stop this thing from exiting the map in victory.  At least that would offer some compensation.  With that strategy in mind, every unit targeted the Ogre's treads again and, unlike previous rounds, actually hit!  Nine treads were knocked off.



But it was not enough.  In the final moments of the battle, the Ogre didn't even need to fire its weapons, it just ran over and crushed the CP (and, next, the howitzer to the north of the CP!):

Crunch!

Before it victoriously left the battlefield, the remaining howitzer knocked out the Ogre's last secondary battery.  Call it spite.

The Ogre was victorious!


Afterthoughts

Wow, the Combine could not get its act together.  The early moments of the battle were the decisive ones: the Combine just could not shoot straight, especially when it came to knocking off some treads to slow the beast down.  The Ogre, on the other hand, was deadly accurate.

I am eager to re-run this basic scenario to see if I can stop the beast in a return match.  Think I will try again real soon!

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