by Philip Rennert
The escape of Ogre and G.E.V. from the quagmire of litigation has gladdened the hearts of all of us long-time Ogre/G.E.V. fans. On this occasion, I would like to pass on some hints for better play acquired through experience in various tournaments. I hope you find them useful.
Nearly every Ogre/G.E.V. tournament I've played in has used the Ceasefire Collapse scenario, since it is clearly balanced. (I think this is a pity, since my favorite scenario is Raid; it's a lot of fun to knock down pidges, tear up tracks, murder civilians, and generally devastate everything in sight. Might I suggest to some tournament director out there a Raid tournament, balanced by having the players bid victory points for the privilege of playing their favorite sides?) Everything I say here should be taken to refer to Ceasefire Collapse, unless another scenario is indicated.
First, I'd like to mention two general principles which should govern strategy.
1. The business of war is the destruction of enemy troops.
In other words, forget about those CPs with the high point values and those civilians you're sworn to defend and go after enemy units. You can pick up his CPs and towns faster as a prize of victory – if you've first destroyed his forces. In fact, you might even leave your CPs very lightly protected in order to tempt him to detach a force to attack them; this leaves you free to fall on his remaining units with your whole force. Also, don't waste shots on CPs and towns when there are enemy units within range.
2. Strive to concentrate your whole force against a portion of the enemy's.
This has been a maxim of military strategy for thousands of years, and it should be the basis of your maneuvering. Along these lines, there's a trick which can gain you a significant advantage before the first shot is fired. Ask to set up secretly and simultaneously, then start your whole force in a clump as far forward as possible along the east-west road (i.e., from 1412 to 0513 on the old edition map, from 1408 to 0404 on the new). If you're lucky, your opponent will spread his units out along his whole side of the board. You can then make a fast attack along the road (try to get the first move, if possible), and his units starting at the other end of the board will be out of the action. This may be enough of an edge to win the game. A skilled opponent may be able to withdraw his attacked wing with little loss and concentrate on his center; if he does this, your surprise attack has failed, but you still have an even battle.
These principles may be well and good, you say, but they don't help in a tactical situation. Therefore, I'd like to discuss the tactics for each kind of unit. To get a rough measure of the relative values of various kinds of units, I've drawn up the following chart. This chart gives the victory probabilities for a one-on-one duel between the indicated units in open terrain. It takes D results into account, and assumes an exchange of shots until one unit is destroyed. The numbers given are the percent chance of victory, with the favored unit indicated (e.g., if a HVY fires first in a duel with a GEV, the odds are 94% to 6% in favor of the HVY). If the units have the same attack and defense strength, the advantage lies with the first to fire, as noted on the chart.
|Firing First||GEV, LT||69-31 first||69-31 GEV||73-27 HVY||56-44 GEV||83-17 GEV|
|MSL||69-31 MSL||69-31 first||69-31 first||56-44 MSL||100-0 MSL|
|HVY||94-6 HVY||86-14 HVY||69-31 first||82-18 HVY||100-0 HVY|
|MHWZ||100-0 MHWZ||100-0 MHWZ||82-18 MHWZ||100-0 first||100-0 MHWZ|
|HWTZR||100-0 HWZ||100-0 HWZ||78-22 HWZ||100-0 HWZ||100-0 first|
Various things can be seen from this chart. Most evident is the advantage that comes from getting off the first shot. In general, do not rush an equal force unless most of your force is close enough to be able to get off the first shot after movement. This is the main objective of the tactical maneuvering that goes on after the two sides meet in the middle of the board.
Another interesting point is the lack of pecking order among the armor units. If a MSL fires first at a HVY (and it usually will, since the attack range – movement plus range – of a MSL is 6, and that of a HVY is 5), the MSL will win 62% of the time. If a HVY duels a GEV, even if the GEV fires first, the HVY will win 73% of the time. A GEV-MSL duel is even, with advantage to whoever fires first. Therefore, there is no unit which dominates the others; this is a mark of good game design.
Now I'd like to consider the units one at a time, describing their good and bad points, making some unit choice recommendations, and giving some tactical suggestions about how to use and oppose them.
Good points: attack, defense strength, mobility
Bad points: range
Recommendation: Choose lots of them. A HVY's 4 attack factor gives you the best possible bang for the buck, and its high defense strength and ability to ignore woods and streams while moving 3 are also strong recommendation. I believe the best force is one made up mostly of HVYs.
What to do with yours: Put them in the forefront of your armor line (but behind your Ogre). If you have many HVYs, try to fight the decisive battle in the northern, forested part of the board, where their mobility is greater than other units'. Let them lead the armor attack.
What to do about the other guy's: There's not too much you can do, other than concentrate superior numbers and firepower (like an Ogre). Try to pick them off from outside their range, with an infantry-screened MSL or HWTZR. The only problem is that you might not be able to stay outside their range for long.
Good points: speed, double move
Bad points: attack, defense, range, sensitivity to terrain
Recommendations: GEVs are great raiders, but they're not suited for the kind of stand-up fights that occur in Ceasefire Collapse. Don't choose many GEVs.
What to do with yours: GEVs should stay around the edge of things, darting in to put in their two factors' worth and then running. A GEV raider coming up and retreating along the east-west road is another possibility. GEVs are the best units for mixing in on the duel of Ogres that usually precedes the armor battle, and living to tell about it. IF you do take a lot of GEVs, try to keep them together. (In the Raid scenario, the offense should take mostly GEVs. I like to think of GEVs as killer bees: They're best in swarms.) A swarm of GEVs is good for rear area raids on MSLs and HWTZRs (as I said above, don't go after CPs).
What to do about the other guy's: Fighting the battle in the northern woods is a big help. Otherwise, HVYs are good medicine for GEVs – they can afford to give away the first shot and still usually win. Infantry is good for delaying GEVs, especially in a town or forest. I mentioned above the possibility of exposing CPs to distract enemy GEVs.
Good points: range, attack strength
Bad points: speed, defense strength, sensitivity to terrain
Recommendation: MSLs are good things to have backing up your HVYs in a battle, but their low speed and sensitivity to terrain make it difficult to get them there in time. Choose one or two, maybe, intending to keep them on the road to offset their speed disadvantage.
What to do with yours: They should be your second line. Try to keep them four hexes away from their targets, with a line of HVYs or infantry in between. The basic job of a MSL is to shoot at enemy units from outside their range, since MSLs don't last long when shot at. They're also good for finishing off a wounded Ogre, if the Ogre is hurt too badly to catch them. (In a game of Ogre, my favorite defense is about half and half HVYs and MSLs.)
What to do about the other guy's: Try to get close enough to kill them, basically. If he has a line of MSLs behind his main line, a well-placed overrun may knock a hole through which your units can get within killing range of the MSLs. Since they're slow, you may be able to maneuver the fighting away from them, or to where they have to come closer to get shots off.
Good points: cost, speed
Bad points: defense strength, range, sensitivity to terrain
Recommendation: LTs share with HVYs the distinction of having the best attack strength for their cost, and a pair of LTs takes two hits to kill, as opposed to one for a single HVY. Choose a pair or two.
What to do with yours: Keep them on the edges of the battle. You don't want them in the center, since you want more firepower than 2 factors/hex, and stacking in the center can be bad news, but you want them in there shooting. They're your flankers. They can be used for rear end defense against GEVs, but make sure they outnumber the GEVs in this case; a well-handled swarm of GEVs can out-maneuver and destroy an equal number of LTs.
What to do about the other guy's: The same as for HVYs. Try to hit them from outside their range. They're easier to kill than HVYs; it's just that there are more of them. A swarm of GEVs can whittle them away, but it takes awhile.
Good points: attack strength, range
Bad points: cost, immobility, defense strength
Recommendation: The trouble with any fixed defense is that all the enemy has to do is walk around it. Tying yourself to HWTZRs limits your flexibility too much; I don't recommend choosing any.
What to do with yours: Pick a good place to put them, and then keep them well screened with infantry. Moreover, keep your mobile forces close by; there's no point in choosing a HWTZR and then going out to fight the big battle outside its umpella. If one of your HWTZRs is being attacked, put your infantry in the hexes the attackers would like to shoot from (e.g., two hexes away, for a GEV attack), forcing them to overrun or delay while they mop up the infantry.
What to do about the other guy's: Just walk around them; stay outside their range when possible. When you do attack, there is no better target for an Ogre missile than a HWTZR. Go get 'em. In Ogre, a good four-howitzer defense has been published for the basic game (Ogre Mk III with two missiles), but this idea does not work for the advanced game (Ogre Mk V with six missiles); the defense can't shoot away the Ogre's missiles quickly enough to avoid getting its HWTZRs missiled. A concerted rush by GEVs or other units will also destroy a HWTZR. Remember this: Never rush a HWTZR half-heartedly. Expect to take some losses on the way in; then get a unit into killing range of the HWTZR as quickly as possible and it's all over.
Good points: attack strength, range
Bad points: cost, speed, defense
Recommendation: A MHWZ has the same attack strength as a HWTZR, enough range to fire unreturnable shots fairly often, and the mobility to go (slowly) where you want it, plus an extra point of defense strength. Choose at least one, maybe two.
What to do with yours: Keep them far enough back to shoot without getting shot at, and screen them with infantry as you would a HWTZR. Keep them on the road to increase their speed; a road junction like 1412 or 0513 in the old edition, or 1408 and 0404 in the new, is a good place for them, since it gives you an attack range of 8 in many directions. Unfortunately, they make good targets for Ogre missiles, so you must keep them well back (and maybe in a town) while there are missile-firing Ogres active. They are good for resolving stalemates in your favor; if two lines of HVYs are facing off six hexes apart, a MHWZ in your line means he must either rush or withdraw. And if you prefer a mostly-HVY force, as I do, they provide insurance that your opponent won't try to hole up on the island, blow the pidge, and laugh at you.
What to do about the other guy's: Ogre missiles are a good way to get rid of them. Otherwise, you can rush them; they're easier to get close to without getting hit than HWTZRs. They are very slow; it may be possible to maneuver the battle away from them.
Good points: cost (Free), overrun strength, terrain defense benefits
Bad points: range, speed
Recommendation: You get them for free, and they have a number of uses. Basically, they're expendable cannon fodder, but they shouldn't be wasted. Losing your infantry probably won't lose you the battle, but using them well could win it.
What to do with yours: Towns, forests, and swamps are good places for infantry. As mentioned above, there should be an infantry screen around each HWTZR or MHWZ. There should also be some infantry guarding your towns and CPs (if they won't stop GEV raiders, they'll at least delay them, which is what you want). Most of them, however, should be at the battle, trying to get close enough to overrun something. Many players, thinking in World War II terms, don't realize how deadly a powered infantry overrun can be, but their double strength plus the fact that they're multiple targets makes them odds-on to kill anything but an Ogre in an overrun. Keep an eye out for an enemy unit ending his move within two hexes of your infantry; if you see one, get him. Infantry overruns, and the threat of them, can be the deciding factor peaking a deadlock in the battle. It is often a good idea to have a line of infantry in front of your first line of armor – they can advance, threatening overruns, and force the enemy to either withdraw or attack the infantry and open himself to a counterattack by your armor.
What to do about the other guy's: Infantry are easy to shoot from outside their range; a HWTZR, MHWZ, MSL, or GEV can do this. Alternatively, you can ping an Ogre adjacent and let its AP guns munch them. Do not overrun infantry if you can help it, and watch out for their overruns. Unsupported infantry can be whittled away without loss by long-range fire or GEV raiders, but it takes time, which you may not have. To counter an advancing infantry line, put out an infantry line of your own and let the infantry overrun each other, which usually results in an even exchange.
Saving the best for last, we come to what the game's all about. Ogre/G.E.V. tournaments usually consist of battles between one Ogre and some number of armor units on each side, but there are sometimes two Ogres. I will assume that the power plant explosion rule is not being used. (I agree with this, since the rule with equal Ogres on each side usually just leads to a big bang and a game of G.E.V. without Ogres.) However, I'd like to mention an interesting tactical situation that came up with the power plant rule in effect at Origins '80. One side had a Mk III and eight armor units, and the other a Mk IV and four. The Mk III could win by kamikaze-ing the Mk IV and fighting eight against four if it could reach the Mk IV's hex, but the superior speed of the Mk IV prevented this. A duel ensued, with the Mk IV standing off and firing missiles and the Mk III closing in and firing guns; it ended, as the odds would indicate, with the Mk IV's missile racks gone and the Mk III having one or two guns left. The Mk III was now free to chase enemy armor and CPs, but only at the risk of having the Mk IV run around behind it and go after its armor and CPs. A tricky situation; I won't tell you how it came out, but I recommend playing it, as per the Ceasefire Collapse rules, as a tactical challenge. I'd be interested to hear who you think has the advantage.
Good points: everything
Bad points: I don't know. Cost, I guess.
Recommendation: As the rulebook says, the Ceasefire Collapse exchange rates for Ogres (8 armor units for a Mk III, 12 for a Mk IV or V) undervalue them. Choose the biggest Ogre you can; choose two, if they'll let you, even if it means having no armor. In my opinion, the Mk V is much superior to the Mk IV, and you should always choose a Mk V; this difference may be enough to win the game. The reason is that the Mk IV is too vulnerable to having its missile racks shot off, and then it doesn't have much offensive power left.
What to do with yours: Put it in front; let it lead the attack. If you have two, stack them – they're immune to spillover fire, and it's a great concentration of firepower. It's usually a good idea to concentrate your fire on the enemy Ogre, since that represents his greatest concentration of firepower, but against this is the fact that D results only affect armor. Shooting at armor can be more effective if you're in a position to take advantage of Ds. It might be worth saving your missiles if he has a HWTZR or MHWZ; otherwise, volley them as soon as possible. If you can gain a 2-1 gun superiority on the enemy Ogre, overrun it. The overrun rules are hard on Ogres, which lose their guns in an overrun; you'll be surprised at how fast they turn to junk. Try to avoid overrunning other enemy units unless you have a reason; it's generally too expensive, except maybe when overrunning single GEVs and LTs. Putting your Ogre in a town makes it really resistant to damage. Your opponent will probably fall back to draw it out.
What to do about the other guy's: It's not easy to stop an Ogre. Shoot at it with everything you can get, concentrating on guns first (missile racks, for a Mk IV). If you cripple it, finish it off quickly. Even without guns, it can still crunch your units undertread. The hard part, though, is getting that far. Your troops have good reason to wish they were somewhere else...
To summarize the strategy presented here, I envision a force starting in a clump near 1412 or 0513 (old edition; 1408 or 0404 new). It would then advance along the east-west road with an Ogre Mk V in the lead, followed closely by a line of HVYs (if speed is of the essence) or a line of infantry followed by a line of HVYs (if it isn't). This line would be backed up at the appropriate distance by a MHWZ and maybe some MSLs. On the flanks of the line, in the less wooded areas, would be LTs and possibly GEVs. Tactics, of course, will depend on what and where the opposing force is, the basic idea is to get the enemy Ogre first, and then the armor. The outcome of the battle will probably depend on the close-in maneuvers for position, and who succeeds in getting off the first shot with the majority of his force.
I would be interested in hearing your comments.