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Warren, Jim Gould Left This In My Mailbox

by Jim Gould, with commentary by Steve Jackson

"What is it?"

"It's a bunch of new units he worked up for Ogre/GEV using Henry Cobb's construction algorithm in Space Gamer 69."

"This is printed on his Macintosh, isn't it? Looks like he used a spreadsheet program... What are these – oh, he starts out with the game stats for the existing units, then goes on to add new ones. 'HGEV' – 'Heavy GEV,' right? What's 'LR HVY'?"

"'Long Range Heavy Tank'?"

"Oh. Right. 'VLMHWZ' – 'Very Light Mobile Howitzer,' I guess."

"Look at this! 'Short Range Light Mobile Howitzer.' Wow!"

"Oh, we gotta print this. But how do we turn it into an article?"

"I don't know. We'd have to explain what the abbreviations mean, and that these Victory Point values have to be rounded off to the nearest whole point. What about 'terrain modifier'? Will anyone care?"

"Just refer them back to the SG 69 algorithm. Remember? Heavy tracked vehicles use 0.5, GEVs use 0.3, everything else is zero. All that says is which column of the Terrain Effects Chart to use."

"We'll have to show this to Steve."

Move Phase 1323401
Move Phase 2000300
Terrain mod0.5000.300
VP Value6.72727276.18181823.27272736.145454511.63636412
Move Phase 143334
Move Phase 232020
Terrain mod0.
VP Value3.07272734.090909112.1818180.83636360
Move Phase 1334457
Move Phase 2223000
Terrain mod0.
VP Value6.01818186.272727312.1818186.272727366.1818182
LR HVYVLTTurtleTurtle IITurtle III
Move Phase 133331
Move Phase 000000
Terrain mod0.500.50.50.5
VP Value6.18181821.636363611.09090912.45454512.181818
Move Phase 1133021
Move Phase 2030000
Terrain mod00.30000
VP Value6.18181826.1636364663.09090916
PowerhouseFast GEVFast GEV IIFast GEV IIIFast GEV IVFast GEV V
Move Phase 1256655
Move Phase 2046444
Terrain mod0.
VP Value12.5454556.27272736.03636366.09090916.14545453.0727273

We showed it to Steve Jackson, and Steve had some comments:

Steve's Comments

I don't know whether to treat Jim Gould's list of Ogre units as a serious suggestion or an intellectual joke. Actually, I guess it's a bit of both. If you look at the units presented, some of them (like the "LR Heavy") make perfect sense. Others (like the "Turtle" series) are harder to believe. And some (like the "GEV-VLHWZ") are just plain silly.

What's the difference? It has to do with limits. The Cobb algorithm, on which Jim's spreadsheet was based, was designed to operate on vehicles having "reasonable" ranges of characteristics. It does not take into account that some numbers are flatly impossible; that some possible numbers would still be much more expensive than the algorithm allows; and that some combinations are unlikely or impossible. The Cobb algorithm is like an equation with an imaginary root. It predicts a number of solutions – but common sense keeps you from trying to use the impossible ones. And – as Jim is not-so-subtly pointing out – we have never defined "impossible."

In this particular case, "common sense" represents the design limitations of the Ogre world's technology. And, while I've published any number of hints, I have never really defined those limitations. So this is an excellent time to do so. Keep in mind that I am talking about single units here, and not buildings or Ogre weapons.

Attack Strength

Anything less than 1 would represent a single infantryman, or a popgun on a truck. (A strength of 0, of course, represents a noncombat unit.) The highest single-unit strength seen so far, except for Ogres, is 6 (SHVY and MHWZ). Greater strengths are possible, of course, by adding more guns... but unless they are independent targets, as they are on an Ogre, you reach a point of diminishing returns because one hit knocks out all that firepower! I would guess that 6 is the practical limit for single-unit attack strength, with 8 the absolute top.

Defense Strength

Remember that, because of the way the CRT works, a defense of 3 (for instance) is far better than a 2, and a 2 is far better than a 1. We might be looking at a doubled armor thickness each time. (And defense strength also has to do with mobility. A HWZ really has more armor than a MHWZ... but the HWZ is a sitting duck, and its defense strength reflects that.) I suspect that the defense strength of 4 (SHVY) is close to the maximum practical for any single unit. I might believe a 5. I won't believe a 6 until they come up with a better grade of BPC.


The limiting factor on ranges in Ogre is not ballistics. It's targeting. To make the game more interesting, one of my basic game-world assumptions was that "spoofing" technology will advance faster than targeting. An Ogre's guns could throw a projectile for many miles – but could not hit anything smaller than a city at that range, and then only with the benefit of inertial tracking. The Cruise Missile, Ogre missiles, and HWZ projectiles are large enough to be "smart," and that is what gives them some extra range. So... at these prices, I don't want to accept any range longer than 10 for anything fired from an individual unit. And to qualify for a range longer than 4, it has to be a heavy projectile – minimum of 5 attack strength, an probably more. (If the Heavy Tank, with attack strength 4, could fire a smart weapon, it would.)


Here's where we get some silly ones. Cross-country speeds of 4 (4/3 for GEV units) are the highest seen in the game. These are intended to represent good old military over-specifications. Speed is vital. If they could make things go any faster at a reasonable cost (or even an unreasonable cost) they would. The only way they're going to get anything faster is to strip all the weapons and armor off, or build a road for it. So much for the "Fast GEV" series. And speed would be much more expensive with a heavy load. The "Super GEV" would be possible – but it would be state-of-the-art engineering, and would have to cost a lot more than the algorithm might lead you to believe. (The "HGEV," on the other hand, would probably work in the real Ogre world, and it looks nasty.)

So – armed with these guidelines, you can go out and create your own units, secure in the knowledge that no Ogre-world engineer would laugh you out of the room. Good hunting.

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