Basic Ogre Strategy
by Steve Jackson
It's probably bad manners for me to admit this . . . but Ogre is still one of my favorite games. And I know it's bad manners for me to say this, even though it's true: I very rarely lose. Every so often I get to play a demonstration game at a convention and, much more often than not, I walk all over the other guy. Epecially if I get to play the Ogre.
I'd like to think this is raw talent coming to the fore, but a much likelier explanation is that I've played the game ten times as often as the other fellow. Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly helps – especially with the Ogre. Some of the best tactics for the killer robot aren't obvious.
The Ogre's obvious advantages, of course, are its tremendous firepower and its near-invulnerability. Its less-noticeable advantages (the ones that your opponent may not be ready for) are its ability to pick its entry point and to set the pace of the game. In spite of appearances, the Ogre needs all its advantages. Against a competent defender, the Ogre that simply bulls toward the command post, mindlessly shooting at everything in range, will lose.
Choice of Entry
This is your first decision. If your opponent is smart, he will have set up his command post as far back as possible. It'll probably be centrally located. Wherever it is, you should probably enter in a fairly central location. Exception: If the CP is set up in one corner, with a tight knot of defenders around it, you should enter in the far corner, maximizing the travel time to the CP, to tempt the defender to "unknot" and split his force.
Once you enter, you don't have to move in a straight line. The Ogre is powerful, but it shouldn't behave like a mindless juggernaut. Its mobility is better than many of its foes, and as good as all the rest except those pesky GEVs. By jinking back and forth a few times as it moves in, the Ogre can get an unskilled defender badly snarled up, and keep even a skilled defender from laying a trap. In some circumstances, you can lure your foes out toward the unobstructed end of the board, back up, and then charge right past them. If you are still moving at 3, they may never catch up!
A corollary of the "jinking" trick is the tactic of slipping toward the side of an enemy group. Faced with (for instance) a dozen heavy and missile tanks, the Ogre can do two things. It can charge into the middle of the group. If it has enough guns left, it may kill half the defenders; the other half will counterattack on their turn, and do serious damage. A likely result from six tanks attacking is two Ogre guns lost. This doesn't seem like much, but it adds up!
So . . . what does the smart Ogre do? Not retreat – just sideslip. Instead of moving toward the center of the enemy group, the Ogre goes toward (or past) the edge. It then attacks as many enemies as possible. Having fewer targets, it scores fewer kills – maybe only two or three. But few or none of the surviving enemy will be able to counterattack! True, not every defender will let you do this more than once. But even once in a game can give you an edge. And as long as your enemy is willing to feed you units a few at a time, you might as well take them. Your ammo is free, but you can't replace your guns. Which leads us to a very important principle:
Divide and Conquer
Whenever you can, you should seek to engage only part of the enemy's forces. He, in his turn, will seek to concentrate his force against you. Some cases:
- Faced with a defense built around the protective "umbrella" of two or three howitzers, hang back for the first few moves, jinking even more than necessary. Give those defending units time to come to you. If they do, you've split the force into "fast" and "slow." If you can deal with the faster units outside the howitzer umbrella, you'll avoid taking unnecessary hits.
- Another point when dealing with a howitzer umbrella: study it! lf the opponent has carelessly divided his own forces by leaving a gap in the coverage – a row of hexes covered by only one howitzer, or even a path around the edge of the umbrella – use it!
- If the opponent takes no howitzers at all, "divide and conquer" is still important. Hang back as before, and encourage his fast units to come out to meet you. A player that doesn't believe in howitzers will often choose a very large number of GEVs. You must deal with these while you still have both movement and guns; your first objective should be to wipe out GEVs, even it it means moving sideways or backwards to pinch off isolated units. As long as the enemy thinks you're more interested in the CP, he may put GEVs behind you; you can shock him badly by turning around and wiping them out.
- In the endgame, when your Ogre's speed is down, you no longer control the pace of the game. This is the time for the Charge of the Extremely Heavy Brigade – grinding toward the CP. But this doesn't mean you must ignore enemy units. Quite to the contrary – sometimes it's best to sacrifice a hard-won hex of distance if it lets you destroy an incautious enemy. The slower you're going, the more turns each enemy unit has to put further damage on you, and the more advantage you can get by destroying it early. The ultimate example: Faced with a howitzer some distance away from a CP, but covering that CP, the slow Ogre should probably aim for the howitzer first! Once it's destroyed, the Ogre can make its way to the CP in peace. If the CP is the first target, the howitzer may have enough time to destroy the Ogre totally. (Of course, if it looks like you may not last more than a few turns anyway, go for the CP first!)
Proper Use of MissilesThere is no "one best target" for your missiles. My only rule is – don't let the enemy destroy them! Some players believe in keeping a few missiles back as a threat. I don't think that's a good idea. Consider: It will probably take two or three shots to destroy a missile. But a properly-used missile will destroy its target every time – and that target will then fire no more shots. What do I mean by "properly-used?" Either fire it at a low-defense unit like a CP or HWZ, guaranteeing a kill, or hit a unit in the Ogre's line of march, so disabled units can be finished off next turn with gunfire or ramming.
Target choice must be ruled by tactical position. If several units are advancing from within a howitzer umbrella, you may want to salvo all your missiles at once and fry the closest half-dozen. (If your opponent argues that you can only fire two missiles per turn, he's right – according to the first-edition rules. The second and third editions dropped this limit.) If, on the other hand, the enemy units are coming a few at a time, you don't need to use your missiles as soon. And if all the enemy units are hanging back at the edge of the howitzer umbrella, you may want to go right up to the edge and dash in, firing at the howitzers themselves. Whatever you do, don't waste your missiles. The sooner you use them, the sooner you cut down on the enemy's numbers. The best targets, obviously, are CPs and HWZs, but any armor units except light tanks are worth hitting. (Caveat: If you're faced with a very large number of GEVs, your missiles may be the only way to get them all.)
Use of TerrainThis is simple but important. As the Ogre, you can't afford to ignore terrain. Rubble doesn't affect you, but it does affect your foes. In the endgame, you can pass beside a crater or rubble line and "scrape off" following foes.
Some players rely on the "edge of the map" strategy. I don't like this; you lose in predictability what you gain in safety. But the fact remains that a unit near the map edge may be fired on from fewer hexes than a unit in the middle of the board. This is why most defenders will put their CP in the middle, and why you should avoid central positions if there is a chance you may be surrounded and swamped.
To recapitulate: The Ogre should play aggressively, but carefully. Fire missiles and sideslip when necessary to avoid being attacked by large numbers of units at once. Study the enemy dispositions; take advantage of the Ogre's speed and firepower to isolate and destroy small enemy detachments. The "Charge for the CP" tactic is only to be used in desperation.
I've smashed a lot of command posts with these tactics; you can do the same. Good luck.