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The Uncertainty Principle

Modifications in Ogre

by Brian McCue

All of the versions of Ogre are good games, but two of the suggested variations seem to beg for modification. These were the Duel scenario and the Solo Play.

Many games which advertise a solo version (e.g., AH's Jutland) merely set up a system for randomizing the strategies of the two sides, leaving the player with little to do. In Ogre, it is suggested that one predetermine the strategy for one side, and play the other side actively, as if against an opponent. But if one can be certain, for example, that the Ogre will charge straight on, one can set up a "turkey shoot" defense to bombard the thing as it goes by. There is then little feeling of playing a game or of fighting an intelligent machine.

My method of solo play is a combination of the two above; I randomize the Ogre's play, and defend against it. Here's how to set it up: make ten cards, five labeled "Advance," two each labeled "Go left" and "Go right," and one labeled "Attack rear." Shuffle these and remove one from the pile, setting it aside without seeing what it says. Now set up your defense as against a real opponent. Put your command post and the Ogre on the center line of the board.

To play, shuffle the Ogre's cards and draw one, follow the orders on it in a sensible manner, and conduct the defense as you see fit. You will have to make some choices for the Ogre, particularly how to apportion the weapons among the available targets, but such choices can be made consistently, if not automatically. You could even expand on the card-drawing system.

The purpose of that unused card is to prevent you from knowing the exact likelihoods of the various Ogre tactics. As the game progresses, you can begin to guess which card the Ogre is missing. (But beware that Attack Rear order, which often appears after you've ruled it out!)

You will probably find that you can beat the automatic Ogre too easily. I recommend the following remedies:

  1. Move your command post closer to the front.
  2. Limit yourself as to howitzers.
  3. Simply cut down on the strength of the defense.

Number two alone may not do it, and number three could lead to boring games. Number one can give you any level of excitement or challenge you want. Whenever you win a game, move the command post two hexes forward for the next game, and move it back whenever you lose. It will stabilize somewhere, giving you an even match against the Ogre. After all, the Ogre is supposed to be as smart as one person.

The Duel scenario, however dramatic, seemed to me to be lacking in strategic content. After re-reading one of Laumer's Bolo stories, I realized that one should not know exactly what damage the enemy Ogre has sustained, and that Duel in particular would be a better game with that feature. I set about drawing up a workable system which would prevent each player from knowing his opponent's losses, and yet keep both players honest.

Before the game, both players make a secret Combat Results Table. Each column must have the same entries as the standard table, but they may be arranged in any manner.

For example:

Scrambled Combat Results Table

Die             Combat Odds
Roll     1-2    1-1   2-1   3-1   4-1
1       NE     X     NE    X     X
2       NE     NE    X     NE    X
3       NE     X     NE    NE    X
4       NE     NE    X     X     X
5       X      NE    X     X     NE
6       NE     NE    NE    X     X

Note that the Ds have been changed to NEs because they are the same for purposes of hitting Ogres.

During the game, the players keep track of their die rolls. They record the roll, the odds, and the target on a turn-by-turn record sheet. Each player secretly manages his Ogre Record Sheet, using his secret CRT, and being sure to note when each hit was taken. At the end of the game, skeptical players (i.e., losers!) may compare the opponent's combat odds table, die roll record and Ogre records to their own die roll records to verify that sufficient strength was available to make each attack. Any player found to have erred in his bookkeeping is held to have lost. I advise using Mark III Ogres in order to keep the paperwork to a minimum.

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