Steve Jackson’s “Ogre” Rumbles Through Kickstarter

Some records were made to be broken, and with the raging success of Kickstarter.com, crowdfunding high water marks have become an endangered species. Steve Jackson Games is the latest company to top the charts, and their reprint of the classic 1970’s tactical combat game Ogre is the culprit.

Prior to Ogre hitting the crowdfunding scene, the most funded board game project had been D-Day Dice with $171,805 raised. To put Ogre’s success into perspective, take a look at the current funding total: $289,144. The $20,000 initial goal was crushed in mere hours, leaving fans to wonder not whether the project would be funded, but just how far it would go.

But what exactly is Ogre, and why are gamers shoveling cash into it? Originally released 35 years ago, Ogre was the first game ever published by Steve Jackson. This Kickstarter project actually represents the sixth edition of Ogre, but game has not seen a new release in over a decade.

 

Ogre is a hex-based wargame that uses asymmetric forces, meaning that players will have very different armies. And they couldn’t be more different. One players controls the Ogre, a large hulking tank, while the other controls a headquarters with smaller defense forces. It’s the typical one-versus-many battle scenario, and it’s definitely got a hook.

The appeal of Ogre is that it has fast-playing, lightweight rules that lower the barrier of entry for wargaming. Sure, you can beef up the complexity in any number of ways once you’ve got the hang of the game, but Ogre shines right out of the box. When you ask gamers that came of age in the late 70’s and 80’s where they got their start, there’s a reason why Ogre often tops the list.

Let’s be clear about one thing, though. This sixth edition of Ogre is a love letter from Steve Jackson. Over a year ago, I discussed Ogre with him at length during PAX East 2011. During that interview, Steve made it clear that he was designing this game for himself. Many fans urged him to simply reprint the original, but he has insisted on making the improvements he’s always wanted. To quote the man himself: “explicitly one of the things that’s happening here is this was my first game, and we’re going to get me a beautiful edition of it.”

Of course, now that his company has a cash cow product in Munchkin, Steve Jackson Games can afford such a venture. Still, the company doesn’t expect to make much money on this Ogre release. Even with the influx of Kickstarter cash, the game remains an offering of good will, and a thanks to the fans that have stuck by Steve Jackson for 35 years.

Last month, I wrote about how Kickstarter projects should not be limited to just the indie publishers. The crux of my argument was that a reliable pre-order system would allow established publishers to more accurately gauage demand, and modify the product accordingly. Steve Jackson Games has been following that recipe, using the extra Ogre cash to improve the game in numerous ways.

The working prototype for Ogre 6th Edition is massive. The box measures 18.25″ tall, 21.5″ wide, and 4″ deep. But where is all the money going? Steve Jackson wants to go deeper. All of that extra cash is boosting the quality of components (dice have been upgraded from 16mm urea to 19mm acrylic, double-sided boards are now all separate boards) while also expanding the game itself (new scenarios, counters, custom Ogres, and targets).

We’re going to need a bigger box

There is even a true “early adopter” benefit in that enough Kickstarter copies have now been pre-ordered that they can fill an entire shipping container. This means that the first run of copies can be sent over from China ahead of the full print run, and Kickstarter backers will receive the game a month early.

The campaign is still running for a full two weeks, and just a few stretch goals remain. It’s a near certainty that the project will hit $300,000, where a computer game version of Ogre is promised. There is only one goal remaining beyond that, but it is a secret that can only be revealed once international orders are opened.

A lack of international orders has been an early criticism for the Ogre project, but Steve Jackson Games has been quite clear they are working on the issue and intend to open up the option. From a recent update, the company stated “we made further progress on the shipping issues today (Tuesday the 24th), and only tore our hair out a little bit.” It would seem that shipping a 14 pound (and growing) giant box overseas at a reasonable price is not the easiest task in the world.

One thing is for sure though: once the international crowd is allowed to throw their wallets at Ogre, its funding total will resume the already impressive climb. I wonder what Steve Jackson Games has planned for fans in the $400,000 range? We’ll just have to wait and find out.

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