Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Category Archives: Ogre

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.

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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!

Thanksgiving is now… Ogrepocalypse!

Now that everything is punched out and assembled, it’s time to play this thing without any more distractions. Here is a run down of the half dozen complete games and the couple odd partial games that we ran this past week:

  1. I was hankering something different, so I set up a Raid scenario for my son on the G.E.V. map. I had the idea of using the overlays as camouflage, but that didn’t work out that well– he could spot the dummies with no problem. We played a few turns and brought on reinforcements, but I failed to reveal all my units after the first invader turn like I was supposed to. I think we got far enough on this one that we can get it mostly right the next time around.
  2. Once Thanksgiving dinner was consumed I herded the boys back to the living room. I put a twelve-year-old guest in an Ogre Mark III up against my son’s defense. My son’s tanks were soon demolished, but he was trying something I’d never seen before: he was only firing at the Ogre’s treads! (Seemed like an unusual tactic to me….) Our guest quickly had his first command post kill under his belt and we were setting up a rematch without missing a beat. (Session photo is here.)
  3. My son took a turn in the Ogre while our guest tried his hand at the defense– he kept looking longingly at the gigantic box of 3D units, though. He likewise targeted just my son’s treads while my son slaughtered his units wholesale. The boys were tied and were demanding a rematch. (Session photo is here.)
  4. Our twelve year old guest had had it with these plain vanilla games. He drug out several map sections, rifled through the overlays, and got out the Ogre Mark VI’s. I suggested they play a duel and read up on the terrain rules while they figured out how they wanted to set up. Our guest waited in a city hex and my son roared over to the other side to take out his opponent’s command post with a early on. Launching all his missiles did next to nothing thanks to the doubled defense of the citified Ogre. They pounded on each other until my son went for a ram. Then our guest opponent got frightened and left the protective confines of the city terrain for the road in hopes of escaping my ram-happy son. My son whittled away at his opponents treads as he lost weapon after weapon and got in one last good ram anyway. It got really close in the last few turns– our guest had a single main battery and my son had a single secondary. After a good number of misses, my son finally took out that main battery to close down the game.
  5. I was ready for some pumpkin pie at this point and withdrew from the field. The boys went through everything in the box hoping to craft the ultimate Ogre scenario. I would check on them occasionally and would overhear our twelve year old guest muttering, “I love this game!” or “this is so awesome!” They started their game as I was finishing up my second piece of pie and I heard someone yell, “fifteen missiles!” I went back and tried to help keep up with who fired what while calling out odds. A couple of Ogres on either flank ended up taking a real beating, but this one had to get called off when bedtime rolled around.
  6. The next day there was more turkey to eat more Ogre to play. We had an eleven year old guest this time, and I undertook his training and introduction to the game myself. He was somewhat precocious so I forced him to reduce the fractions on his own from the very beginning. (Kids are sort of a captive audience anyway, so you don’t really have to keep the kid-gloves on like you have to do with adult gamers!) I  let him have an Ogre Mark III and I gave him a solid defense to plow through. He made some questionable moves and died well before the fold, but he was undaunted and asked for a rematch in spite of my “tough love” approach. (Session photo is here.)
  7. Our eleven-year-old guest again took an Ogre Mark III against my usual defense of four heavies, four missile tanks, and four G.E.V.’s. This time he surprised me by jinking and sparring, and picking off my units at very little cost to himself. Then he leveraged his superior mobility and went around my forces. I don’t think I’d ever really seen anyone take out a CP while still at move three like this. Of course, he didn’t make it off the board alive given the large number of angry defense units he’d left behind. But he did make it across the map fold which is better than what most people can do. I was impressed. This was the first kid to ever knock down my command post in a fair fight!
  8. My son had showed up at this point was was kibitzing about our moves for the last few turns. There was enough smack talk going around that I insisted on a face-off between the two boys and they agreed. My son chose an all-G.E.V. force and got right in the Ogre’s face from the very beginning. I was surprised again to see him target only treads as the Ogre ground down the fragile force with barrage after barrage of weapon fire. Nevertheless, the Ogre gradually slowed down and the infantry got into position to put in their licks. Incredibly, the Ogre came to a stop even before it got to the half-way mark.¹

I thought at first that this game was silly and overwrought with more components than could ever reasonably be expected to be used. Seeing this through the eyes of the 10-12 year old set… I see that we need MOAR! More counters! More Ogres! More overlays! More stuff! Yes! But we haven’t even scratched the surface of this game. There’s the Advanced Ogre scenario that we haven’t even touched… the Super CP… and the half dozen G.E.V. scenarios… and G.E.V. scenarios with Ogres… and then everything with cruise missiles. Since it appears that Ogre has temporarily fired every other game in the house, we stand a good chance of getting into them.

For a second there, I was really worried that the kids would never pick up on the finer points of the game. In reality, it didn’t take long for my son to work up an Ogre-killing strategy. He quickly realized that super-heavy tanks were a bad investment… and chose to target treads only. After seeing his heavy tanks get mauled time in those circumstances, he cranked up the proportion of G.E.V.’s in the force until he got a winning combination. He’s pretty happy with this accomplishment, but admits that he doesn’t really have a strategy for the Ogre other than to use the missiles early– the other kids save them back for some reason and we can’t figure out why…!

There’s a lot of good times waiting to bust out of this box.

¹ I’m told that the all-G.E.V. defense is illegal due to its munchkin-like effectiveness. I thought that was something that got fixed in the later editions when the G.E.V.’s were bumped down to a three for their second move. It doesn’t seem like Ogre tournaments would really work if there were a “perfect” defense in existence. Do people routinely outlaw this sort of thing or otherwise require a mix of units…?