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Exercise K

A 12-Player Scenario for Ogre

by Steve Jackson – updated March 26, 1997

This scenario was originally written for the Kadokawa "Table Talk" conventions held in Tokyo and Osaka in 1992. It appeared in print in the second issue of Last Province Magazine.

Description

This is a convention scenario designed for 12 players (!!) and a referee. It does not represent a real battle, but a computer simulation designed to test the skills of the Ogres and of the computer programmers who create their strategies. The Ogres are divided into four teams and fight until only one side is left. They are fighting, not only to protect themselves, but to defend their Command Posts and radar installations.

It is written for use with the original (hex-based) rules, but is intended for use with a large board and metal miniatures. It would be quite possible to play on a regular gameboard with cardboard counters, but – in addition to the difficulty of getting a dozen people around a small board – it loses a lot of its drama on the small scale. It would also be quite possible to play using the miniatures version of the rules, on a square gameboard with any sort of terrain.

Setup

Referee

A referee is desirable, not so much to mediate rules as to keep the large number of players organized and keep score when units are destroyed. A score sheet should be made up in advance. It will also be necessary to keep track of round numbers, because of the bonus point system (see below).

It is very useful, if the game is being played as a convention display, to make up poster-sized versions of the scoresheet and post the Ogre record sheets where everybody can see them.

Map and Setup

Use two Ogre maps placed side by side, one right-side-up and one upside-down, so the crater end of one map is beside the open end of the other. Units can move freely between maps. When two Ogre maps are placed exactly side by side, this will create a new central line of hexes between the maps (shown in brown on the diagram below). These count as normal hexes.

Remember that Ogres cannot enter crater hexes. They can enter all other hexes on the board. Only complete hexes count, not the partial hexes at the edges of the board.

Map

Units

There are four teams, each of 3 Ogres each. Either Mark IIIs or Mark Vs may be used – or teams may have a Mark V leader and two Mark III units.

Teams should be designated by color: Red, Blue, Green and Gold. (This is a good scenario for miniatures. If miniatures are used on standard 1.5" hexes, remember that the Ogre is considered to be in the map-hex occupied by its front, and the direction in which the Ogre faces does not matter to the game.)

The units on each team are designated as 1, 2 and 3. Unit 1 of each team is the leader. So Red 1 is the leader of the Red team, and so on.

Each team also has a Command Post (defense strength 0) and two radars (defense strength 2) which it must defend. The Command Post is destroyed by any attack, but the radars are destroyed only by an X result or by being rammed by an Ogre.

Each team starts in one corner of the board. The Command Post is placed in the corner, shown by "CP" above, and all Ogres must start out within 7 hexes of their own CP. The antennas are placed 5 hexes from the CP, and 4 hexes apart, as shown by the "X" marks above.

Phasing

Choose randomly which team will go first. The members of a team do not move together! The leader of one team goes first; then the leader of the next team, moving clockwise; and so on around the board. When all the leaders have moved, Unit 2 of each team moves, then Unit 3.

Allied units may NOT combine fire. Thus, each unit takes its own fire phase immediately after its movement phase. (In variants where one player controls several units, the units controlled by a single player may combine fire.)

After all 12 players have moved and fired, a round is over and the next round begins.

Special Rules

  • Diplomacy is legal, but there is no penalty for breaking an agreement.
  • Use Ogre ramming rules, not G.E.V. overrun rules.
  • Miniatures representing destroyed Ogres are removed from the board.
  • Ogres which lose all their treads are marked with cotton smoke.
  • None of the optional rules from Ogre Section 8 are to be used.

Objectives

The game is over when only one team survives; units may not move off the board. However, with 12 players, this may take four hours or more. If the game is played with a time limit, play to the end of a complete round, so players have the same number of moves, and end the game.

The winning team is the one that has scored the most points – this will not necessarily be the survivor, though there is a point bonus for survival!

Points

Each unit scores points individually. A team's score is the total of the score for its three units. The winning team is the team with the highest total score.

  • For unit destruction: standard points, as per G.E.V. (see below). No points may be scored for attacking friendly units!
  • Destroying an enemy Main Battery: 8 points.
  • Destroying an enemy Secondary Battery: 4 points.
  • Destroying an enemy Missile: 1 point.
  • Destroying an enemy AP Battery: 1 point.
  • Destroying an enemy Tread Unit: 1 point.
  • For destroying an enemy CP: 60 points.
  • For destroying an enemy radar: 20 points.
  • If your own team's CP is lost: -20 points for each of the players on the team.
  • For firing the shot that finishes the destruction of an enemy Ogre: 20 points.
  • For surviving at the end of the game, when all enemy Ogres are destroyed: 20 points.
  • For each unused missile at the end of the game: 1 point.

Bonus Points

  • All points scored within the first 10 rounds count double.
  • All points scored within the following 5 rounds count 50% extra.
  • Penalties for losing your own command post are not multiplied if the CP is lost within the first 15 rounds.

Elaborations

The game can be played with fewer than 12. With only two players, let each control one team of Ogres, facing each other across the crater-strewn diagonal. With six players, use the same setup, but let each player control an individual Ogre. With four players, use the scenario as described, but each player controls a 3-Ogre team. With eight players, use four teams; each player controls one Ogre, while the third cybertank on each team is controlled by consensus of the two "live" players (and is, no doubt, the first to be nobly sacrificed).

At the cost of making the game longer, regular armor units can be added. Each team can be given an armor and/or infantry force to support the Ogres. This may be handled several ways:

  • Put a fourth player on each team, controlling a small-unit force of 60 points. (This can make the game really long.)
  • Give each player 20 armor points to control, in addition to his Ogre. (With unskilled players, this can take almost as long.)
  • Let each team consist of three players – two Ogres and a force of 100 armor points.

A variation tried for the first time at Contraption this past September: Add a Laser Tower in the middle of the board. The first Ogre to come adjacent to the tower controls it for the rest of the game. It fires on the owning player's turn; its range covers the entire board but it cannot fire on structures. It automatically destroys any Ogre missile fired at it; this is not a standard rule, but is fun in the scenario. For this scenario, the tower should be very tough – at least 60 structure points. (It might be better to give it a range that falls just short of the structures, making the corners of the board "safe zones" for Ogres, but we've never tried that.) The Laser Tower is worth 40 points if destroyed, with no bonus for the round – so one strategy is not to take over the tower, but to kill it for the points.

Another Laser Tower variation, suggested after the Contraption game and not yet played: Substitute a Laser Tower for each Command Post; it's controlled by the team leader. Keep its point value that of the CP, but make it much harder to kill. Limit its range so that the closest enemy structure is just out of range – the exact distance will depend on whether the board's "margin" hexes are being used.

Score Sheet for Exercise K

  RED BLUE GREEN GOLD
  123 123 123 123
ROUND 1            
ROUND 2            
ROUND 3            
ROUND 4            
ROUND 5            
ROUND 6            
ROUND 7            
ROUND 8            
ROUND 9            
ROUND 10            
ROUND 11            
ROUND 12            
ROUND 13            
ROUND 14            
ROUND 15            
ROUND 16            
ROUND 17            
ROUND 18            
ROUND 19            
ROUND 20            
ROUND 21            
ROUND 22            
ROUND 23            
ROUND 24            
ROUND 25            

Background Notes

"Exercise K" started off as an attempt to do the ridiculous: create a balanced and symmetrical scenario for twelve players in Ogre. Multi-player convention games are a lot of fun, but the traditional way to do a multi-player wargame involves two sides and a hierarchy, or lots of independent players. I wanted a compromise – thus, four teams of three.

This in itself is not ridiculous – as a game. But justifying it in real life . . . now, that IS ridiculous. Wars don't happen that way. One obvious explanation was "ritual battle" or perhaps "entertainment for the masses." That would work in some backgrounds, but it didn't make any sense in the context of Ogre. The world of Ogre is one where superpowers fight a worldwide battle to grind each other down. Even the giant fighting machines are pawns. But they're not pawns to be thrown away in arena games; they're pawns to be sent against the enemy. There's no way that a dozen Ogres – machines as expensive as warships – would be wasted in entertainment.

But that led me to the key idea. Ogres would be too expensive to waste in any situation at all – even testing. Yet military equipment has to be tested, and an artificial intelligence designed to control a supertank would have to be tested most rigorously. But – it wouldn't have to be tested "live!"

So all of Exercise K is really taking place in a few second's time in the electronic mind of a Combine supercomputer. Each of the 12 Ogres is controlled by a different artificial intelligence – a candidate, if you will. Those programs that do best will graduate into the real world, to be duplicated and installed in real cybertanks. Those that fail will be modified or discarded.

With a sufficiently flexible AI program, in fact, battles like Exercise K might not be merely evaluations. They could represent actual training, giving the machine the chance to learn on its own even more than its programmers conceived of. Writing this scenario, and watching it played, helped clarify the Ogre world in my mind. This is the sort of deadly serious "game" that will have to be played by both the robots and their creators, a million times a day, in the vast arenas of cyberspace.

But, back here in 1992, the game is played not by robot intelligences, but by flesh and blood. How does it go? Usually, pretty well; I've found it as much fun to watch as it is to play.

Ogre Tourney

Ogres move out to do battle, watched by their controllers, at the Kadokawa convention in 1992.

Interactions between opponents are fascinating. A typical one-on-one encounter is a violent charge, with missiles fired at long range, guns blazing as the distance shortens, and then a series of destructive rams until one Ogre can no longer move. But the obvious tactic isn't always the best, especially when Ogres start out equal. In particular, passing up a chance to ram can sometimes throw the foe totally off balance, and it's often better to hit and run than to stay around for mutual annihilation. It depends on the strategic situation. Tactically, mutual annihilation is worth a lot of points to both players!

The dynamics of team play are also interesting. It's a truism that cooperation is better than separate effort. But there's always one team that forgets that until too late, and is defeated in detail. On the other hand, a team that tries to cooperate simply by sticking together will be unable to protect its rear areas unless it just parks on them – in which case it will score no points. And the scenario can reward self-sacrifice. There will be times when an Ogre faces two or three opponents. It will go down. But if played well, it can not only delay the enemy, but it can score a lot of points before it dies – possibly more than its teammates who survive.

Inter-team dynamics are just as complex. Negotiating an alliance can be a good thing. But you score no points unless you fight, and you score more points if you fight quickly. The optimum solution will involve controlling the site of the inevitable battle – keeping it far from your vulnerable rear areas – and, if possible, limping home afterward to protect your base from other survivors.

All in all, I think the scenario has even more possibilities than we've explored so far. I plan to keep running it at conventions, and I'll welcome correspondence from referees or players who try new variations or make interesting discoveries.

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