Two new science-fiction board games offer players the chance to dominate their opponents. Ogre: Designer's Edition, from Steve Jackson Games, is a re-release of a classic war game, while Minion Games' Hegemonic is a grand strategic contest for control of a new galaxy.
Ogre: Designer's Edition
Originally published in 1977, Ogre is an intense two-player game of futuristic tank warfare. Thematically, Ogre presents a future where battlefields are dominated by gigantic, robotic tanks that carry a variety of different weapons and abilities. The new edition presents new maps, tiles, counters and, of course, the Ogres themselves.
There are several different scenarios in Ogre, usually where one of the Ogres attempts to destroy an enemy objective such as a command post or a train. Playing defense, a player is armed with several smaller units. The Ogre cannot be destroyed in one or two attacks. Rather, the player on defense must constantly hit the gigantic beast relentlessly if he hopes to bring it down. Players must target the Ogre's different weapons systems, as well as its tread points. A disarmed Ogre that remains mobile is still a deadly weapon, as it can ram and run over smaller units.
Each unit, and the Ogre's various weapons, have attack, range and defensive values. When targeting another unit, total attack and defense values are compared, then added to a dice roll. Then, the totals are reduced to smaller fractions, rounding in the combat defender's favor, before a chart is consulted. Units may be disabled or destroyed, and the Ogre is knocked out of play only when all of its weapons and tread points are destroyed.
The first thing that needs to be said is that Ogre is physically a big game, possibly one of the biggest board games ever produced. The massive box contains a mind-blowing number of components. In addition to 10 hard-stock map boards, the game comes with dozens of unit chits, terrain types and supplemental counters. The game also includes handy trays to hold the Ogres and other assembled components.
The real attraction to this game is the Ogres themselves. The game comes with dozens of Ogres from good cardboard stock that require some assembly. They are just beautiful and a lot of fun to play with, and the whole package just feels like a giant, adult-sized toy box.
Game play itself is fun and engaging, though not terribly imaginative beyond the basic thematic presentation. Essentially, it is a dice rolling war game with terrain, movement points, attack values and many other staples of the war-game genre. Rounding the attack and defense values to fractions seems a bit simple, and one would have hoped for a little more depth from the combat system to match the game's grand theme.
Still, there is no denying that Ogre: Designer's Edition is a lot of fun. If you enjoy the tactile thrill of executing a well-planned attack upon your enemies in a world made of cardboard, you will undoubtedly have a field day with Ogre: Designer's Edition.
Ogre: Designer's Edition is recommended for ages 14 years and up and takes anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours to play, depending on scenario.
The distant future is the setting for Hegemonic, a new game of intergalactic conflict. The Post-Human Assembly has decided to branch out from the Milky Way into an entirely new galaxy, forsaking thousands of years of peace in the process. Now, two to six factions will stop at nothing to dominate the new galaxy.
After constructing a modular board around a central galactic core tile, players place home systems in the different sectors. They also draw and place another tile near their home. Each turn, players collect income, then draw and place new tiles on the board before drawing new technology cards to enhance their faction's abilities. Then, over the course of three action rounds, players will expand their military, political, and industrial power throughout the new galaxy.
During each action round, a player must play an action card, detailing which unit he plans to build, if he is going to further explore the galaxy, or if he is going to launch at attack on one of his foes. Martial outposts are represented by pyramids, industrial complexes by cubes, and political embassies by domes. Players may only place these buildings on tiles that have the appropriate shapes. Players may also construct wormholes that connect distant tiles.
When attacking a neighbor, players add up the power of their relative buildings, which can vary with distance. In some cases, players may call upon other players to lend them political support, supplementing their power. Also, players may construct mobile agents or fleets to boost their power. Tech cards also contain numbers, which are played and added to the total, and the player with the highest total wins. No dice are used in combat.
At the end of each turn, a scoring round occurs where control of sectors gives players victory points. The game ends on the turn where either the tiles or space on the board runs out. Whoever holds the most victory points after the final scoring round is the victor.
On the surface, with its modular board and space theme, Hegemonic appears to be very similar to games like Eclipse and Twilight Imperium. This is not the case, however. Through its unique combat system and game mechanics, Hegemonic creates something really new. The way players attack and defend tiles is innovative and engaging, like how political embassies draw upon the color, while some military outposts require multiple pyramids to make them effective.
The game often plays out like a much deeper and more complex version of Rock, Paper, Scissors. A player must constantly watch tile placement as an opponent may well steal a march on his plans with a well-placed unit. Additionally, optional rules allow for house leader cards to ramp up the theme into what often feels like a large-scale abstract game.
Like a multi-person chess match, Hegemonic will keep players on their toes throughout and constantly trying to plan several moves ahead. If you love strategy, unusual combat mechanics and a space opera theme, you just might want to check out Hegemonic.
Hegemonic is recommended for ages 12 and up and plays in about two to three hours.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at SLCC. He has also appeared on many local stages, including Hale Centre Theatre and Off Broadway Theatre. Email: [email protected]