Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Category Archives: Ogre

All Quiet on the Western Breakthrough

So you’ve played the G.EV. Breakthrough scenario and failed to get even a single G.E.V. off the map. Maybe you’ve tried more than once and you’re having second thoughts about playing a vintage Microgame™ like this. Maybe you’re tempted to go back to your euro games and your “nobody dies everybody levels” D&D. Don’t do it!

I’m going to explain to you the key to leveraging the power of the assault hovercraft of this scenario. I can do it with a single picture, too:

There it is.

The G.E.V.’s have offered up a couple of their own in order to bait out the defense forces. And there’s no way that this turns out well for them.

  • The defense can choose to fall way back, giving up ground to the enemy.
  • They can fall back some… and have those two lead G.E.V.’s snipe at them every step of the way.
  • They can rush the G.E.V.’s… and get utterly devastated in the process!

Here the defense has sent forward two light tanks to deal with these two forward units. This is an objectively bad move! Here’s why: the light tanks might destroy one or even two of the G.E.V.’s. But they will almost certainly die in return. At which point the G.E.V.’s can make the same sort of offer again.

What happens if the defense takes the bait two or even three times…? They’ve be so weakened, the G.E.V.’s will have no problem concentrating their fire somewhere and wiping them out. Exchanging armor units one-for-one in the opening favors the attackers by a fair margin.

Now, it is possible for the defense to fall back repeatedly and attempt to run up the clock. He could even retreat his units off the map at the last moment in order to deny the attacker the victory points he’d get for killing them. How does such an outcome play out with regard to the victory conditions…?

Assuming the G.E.V.’s keep all of their forces and kill nothing, they will score three points for each of their twelve units. That’s 36 points total, a marginal victory. If they can kill even three defending units while doing that, they will pull off a decisive victory.

So falling back and giving up ground is not going to do a whole lot for the defense. Their only hope is to position themselves as best they can and hope that the G.E.V.’s get too greedy and make a mistake… which certainly happens!

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Breakthrough at Twelve O’Clock High

I’ve seen a lot of people take the G.E.V.’s in Steve Jackson’s classic Breakthrough scenario for the Ogre game line. In their first couple of games, the generally die miserably because things in the game just don’t play out the way they think they will. The G.E.V.s seem to have awesome destructive capabilities, but they’re more fragile than people realize. Consequently, they take risks that they shouldn’t, thereby bringing many a tabletop gamer to grief.

This game session here…? This is one where the players find out just how powerful the G.E.V.’s really are.

The G.E.V.’s enter the board in the usual way here. The defense had one missile tank positioned pretty far forward, but the G.E.V.’s brashly move their stacks right up on it. Spillover fire that could potentially disable one or two G.E.V.’s in a stack in addition to the death or disablement of the target…? Who cares!

The G.E.V.’s have time on their side at this point and the missile tank will trade maybe killing a G.E.V. for certain death for itself.

The G.E.V.’s have exchanged a one of their units for the missile tank. And they realize… a couple of trades like this can give them an overwhelming advantage.

They send one group forward on the lake to threaten a beachhead by the swamps. This makes the group of seven on land into a tempting target for the two heavy tanks that are in range to harass them. The G.E.V. player knows that the defense doesn’t realize yet: even if the heavies take out two G.E.V.’s, the defense is toast if it loses two more armor units.

And two 2-to-1 attacks versus those heavies are danged good odds.

The defense took the bait yet again! At the cost of only one G.E.V., the defense has eliminated half of the armor units. Will they fall back and do their best to pick off another G.E.V. or two as they exit the board? Or will they try something insane…?

Insane it is!

The defense player goes for an overrun.

Now… this could have been pretty bad for the G.E.V.’s here. If the heavy succeeds in the overrun, he stands a decent chance of losing three units here. And making the attackers pay for their breakthrough with a total of four of their units would be a pretty good way to save some face here….

But it’s not to be. The G.E.V. rolls a six on the first round of the overrun combat, eliminating the heavy tank and setting the stage for a decisive victory.

And that, folks, is how a “fragile” group of G.E.V.’s can utterly mop the floor with a perfectly good set of defending units.

Son of Breaking Through with G.E.V.

The thing about G.E.V.’s break through scenario: the first few times you play it, you are just not that likely to break through. That harsh learning curve in the context of an otherwise simple system is going to be a real kick in the teeth for an entire class of gamer, too. I’ll tell you, though, the ones that stick around for a few more sessions…? They will experience some of the best gaming of their lives. No foolin’!

But before we take a look at that, let’s highlight the some more of that profound agony that goes with those first few humiliating defeats.

Having witnessed entire squadrons of G.E.V.s get eaten by a handful of infantry in the swamps on the northeastern section of the board, our intrepid Combine player decides to take a stab at blitzing up through the western side of the board. The Paneuropeans meanwhile has chosen four heavy tanks and two missile tanks for defense:

What could possibly go wrong? The only thing impeding the G.E.V.s’s escape is this river. How bad can it be?

The G.E.V.’s are in a hurry, so the risk crossing the river with five of their units, hoping to clear a way for the other seven.

Unfortunately for the Combine, they only succeed in disabling one heavy tank. They are now in a critically exposed position, set to be swarmed by angry defenders!

The defense kills a whopping six G.E.V.’s and disables two others. The Combine picks off one measly heavy tank in exchange. This is a disaster!

And once again, the G.E.V. player fails to move a single unit off the north side of the map.

There will be no breakthrough today! If anything, there will be a breakdown.

And then there are the inevitable recriminations: Who designed this game, anyway? This thing is completely imbalanced. The G.E.V.’s are too weak! I would have had a chance if I didn’t roll so many ones!!!!

It doesn’t have to be that way. Because maybe… just maybe… it’s not the scenario. Maybe it’s not the dice, either. Maybe it’s your tactics that are completely broken here. And the only way you’re going to find out is by picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and running yourself through yet another meat-grinder!

Breaking Through With G.E.V.

G.E.V. is easily among the best science fiction games ever designed. The rules can be learned in a few minutes. Your first game can be played in about an hour and a half. Mastering the games tactics to the point where you can play well…? That might take a few evenings.

To help speed that process along, here is a session recap that will show you one way to not get your BPC armored hovercraft across the map.

The G.E.V.’s make their way across the river, offering the defense a chance to take their best shot:

What should you do with that? Do you fall back or do you rush out to fight them? In our game, the defense rushed and managed to take out three of the attacking G.E.V.’s.:

From here, the G.E.V.’s throw themselves into the shooting match and collect some scalps of their own from this firing position:

But the G.E.V.’s end their turn strung out in a line, easy pickings for the defenders. The defenders move up, kill four more G.E.V.’s, and disable two more.

It’s a blowout:

The G.E.V.’s fail to get a single unit off the map….

Don’t let this happen to you!

Three 12-Year-Olds Play G.E.V.’s “Breakthrough” Scenario

The boys were really keen on playing Ogre, but I steered them towards this classic G.E.V. scenario instead. One of them was especially excited about playing the defense, so we let him. The other two split the twelve G.E.V.’s between them.

The defense chose three mobile howitzers to go along with his twenty points of infantry. We had one false start because I’d forgotten that the city hexes were all rubble in this one, but it wasn’t long until we got some nice violent action. (Pre-teen boys tend not to suffer from analysis paralysis near as much as their forty year old counterparts!)
My son took what I thought was a risky move and got right up on the defense. His teammate subsequently chose to hang back rather than jump into the fray. (Doh!) The defense easily picked off two of my son’s G.E.V.’s which were in the water, Things weren’t looking good for the attackers…!
But then my son ended up taking out both mobile howitzers, though. He even had a shot left over and got a “D” result on an infantry unit, knocking out one squad there.
His teammate then came up, concentrated his firepower, and took a 2-to-1 shot against each of the infantry units. This left a single squad, which he chose to overrun in his second movement phase. This cost him one of his G.E.V.’s! (Thanks to their doubled combat power in overruns, infantry make for fairly nasty speed bumps!)
Then… things got weird. My son chose to enter the forest. His teammate followed his lead. (I have no idea why they didn’t think to go around the forest and through the water to escape.) Several G.E.V.’s got disabled. Others got shot. A stack of three disabled G.E.V.’s got a very impressive demonstration of spillover fire, too. It was a massacre! The attacking G.E.V.’s were only able to move four of their units off the board.

So my son got 16 points for moving two G.E.V.’s off the map, 24 points for the two mobile howitzers, and 2 points for the infantry squad– a total 42 points.

His teammate got 16 points for moving two G.E.V.’s off the map… and 10 more for killing five infantry squads– a total of 26 points.

Finally, the defense player got 48 points for killing eight G.E.V.’s. With a 32 point lead, the attackers actually had a marginal victory.

Better yet, the game was short and violent enough, the kids were clamoring for another game.

You know… the kids thought they wanted to play their little group solitaire Firefly board game. They were wrong. As soon as the big Ogre box started coming out again, they didn’t want to do anything that didn’t include direct conflict and player humiliation. There is something primal about the war cries and gloating that a good game of G.E.V. entails. They can’t get enough.

Sure, they see the big box of units and overlays as a bunch of toys. But even at their age, they are capable of grasping the fact that Ogre is a much better game when played without the Ogres!