Science Fiction

While I am a fan of science fiction and fantasy (though admittedly a very particular one), I'm not really a scifi or fantasy gamer.

The scope and breadth of Earth's real history of conflict is so huge, I could spend my entire life refighting actual battles and almost-battles without a regret. I feel no attraction to playing games based on fantasies woven from whole cloth out of others' imaginations. Most scifi games have completely passed me by, and the few I've tried have been unsatisfying. Each time I've been conscripted into a game of Warhammer 40k I've ended up feeling somehow violated, the rules are so bad. I sometimes encounter really neat rules concepts in scifi games, but rarely anything fun enough to make a scifi game a good use of my time.

Part of my fascination with gaming is to help me imagine actually being there and seeing what my imagined counterpart would see. This is easy enough to do with historical miniatures operating in historical-looking miniature terrain, in periods I know well enough for my imagination to fill in the gaps (like birdsong and wind and sun and clouds and stuff). Putting myself into the simulation gets much harder when playing periods I don't know very well, becomes really hard for future periods which can't effectively be brought to life, and downright impossible if the imagined landscape or socio-technological context is all in someone else's head. Basically, if I can't get a good "feel" for it, I can't connect to it emotionally, and I don't engage well with the game.

This helps explain why I don't like "space fighter" combat much - I knew enough science when I was 12 years old to reject the basic Star Wars premise of little ships somehow being faster and more nimble than big ones (let alone carrying enough ordnance and fuel to fight effectively... but I digress). It also explains why I don't like most spaceship combat games modeled on WWII naval combat - it doesn't make internal sense, and in any case I'd rather just play actual WWII naval battles, which are much easier to imagine, with all the facts to research and first-hand accounts to read and places to visit. Admittedly, decades of TV and movies have given me enough of a feel for the Star Trek universe to make me enthusiastic for simulations of that milieu, but unfortunately I have yet to find a game system worth playing.

Similarly, I just have no interest in most fake-future ground combat. Most of it is based on what's "cool", not what's plausible. Battletech, Dirtside, Stargrunt, and nearly everything else along similar lines all fall into this camp. Future fantasy tropes like Warhammer 40k are off my radar completely.

Then there's Steve Jackson's Ogre universe.

Along Came An Ogre

The Ogre and GEV games made a deep impression on my psyche in my youth. My natural fascination with big machines (esp. big war machines like tanks and battleships) and a steady diet of Berserker, Bolo and scifi battlefield fiction through my teen years prepared the ground for imagining near-future battlefields. There have never been any Ogre universe films, but since the 70s Hollywood has cranked out vast amounts of scifi with combat styled on modern infantry and tank combat, and the short stories included in the Ogre and GEV rules and later in The Ogre Book helped bring the period to life in my imagination. On top of all this, Steve Jackson conceived a near future world war with enough relatable anchor elements (and enough left unspecified) to make suspension of disbelief easy. The technologies that define the Ogre era are all things we see in the world around us, just re-imagined as they might be several decades from now: AI, sophisticated sensors and ECM, smart missiles, high-V guns, machine-enhanced body armor, and nukes. Okay, nuke-resistant armor is a bit of a stretch... but my adult life has seen many revolutions in material technologies, so it's less of a stretch every decade. We might yet get there.

After 2000, as I was looking for ways to play with WWII microarmor, I discovered that SJ Games had restarted production of miniatures for Ogre, and I could buy them online in Warehouse 23. If only for nostalgia, I really wanted to own the Ogre models, so I convinced myself that the simple rules mechanics of Ogre/GEV games would make the rules system an excellent test bed for WWII command/control concepts. I also theorized that the painting would be a lot easier, because there is no way to do it "wrong" - literally anything out of my fevered imagination would be good enough. Even better, if done right, the terrain could be reusable for WWII or other genres. Armed with all these excuses, I began collecting the Ogres.

Ironically, my favorite part of the Ogre universe has always been the "little" units - tanks, GEVs, howitzers, infantry, etc. I like tactical games and formation maneuvers. Unfortunately, the official SJG models were both ugly and expensive, so I was never going to justify buying them. I began a long process of shopping the generic scifi 6mm market, which turned out to be a lot of fun. I adapted tanks and GEVs from the Ground Zero Games and Scotia/Grendel collections, with bigger vehicles drawn from other scifi genres like Battletech and Babylon 5 made to 10mm scale.

Bugs, Mr. Rico! Zillions of 'em!

I admit I also have a weakness for Starship Troopers, as originally described by Heinlein. The eponymous Avalon Hill game was one of my first, and thought I've only played it a couple times, I always liked some of its concepts and i loved its future history and historiography.

I was excited when the Hollywood movie was announced, disappointed by the resulting film, and crestfallen that the Hollywood caricature of Mobile Infantry combat became the basis for the gaming milieu. The Hollywood version

Subpages (1): Ogre