Steve Jackson, the designer of Ogre, buckles under the weight and mass of one of the biggest board game boxes ever produced.
Fans of classic hobby games, rejoice! Steve Jackson Games, one of the oldest and most successful companies in the business, recently shipped the Ogre Designer’s Edition to retail shops shortly after those who supported the game in its million-dollar Kickstarter campaign received theirs.
If you happen to go looking for one, good luck. I watched 15 surplus copies vanish from an online retailer in less than 15 minutes after it was put into inventory. I preordered a copy months ago because it was announced that the game would be an extremely limited, one-time-only printing. I paid $65, and not a week after its general release, I could already more than double my money if I flipped it.
But flipping this thing would be a massive undertaking because it is by far the biggest board game I have ever seen in my life. It’s almost 30 pounds and the box is big enough to use as a dog bed for a medium-sized breed. There are more than a thousand counters, including several cardboard clip-together models of the game’s iconic Ogre tanks. Steve Jackson has stated that under normal development, manufacturing, distribution and retail conditions this ultra-deluxe edition of Ogre would cost $300. In sum, this thing has “massively collectible” written all over it.
Ogre was originally released in 1977—ironically, it was a tiny little game that came in a Ziploc bag with just a handful of counters that you had to cut out yourself, a paper map, and a two page rulebook. It was a simple game with a surprisingly evocative narrative that really kind of bucked the trend at the time toward historical wargames. The story is essentially that a massive, cybernetic and A.I.-controlled tank called an Ogre trundles across a post-nuclear wasteland while opposition forces consisting of infantry and much, much lighter armor attempt to stop the robotic monstrosity from obliterating a command post at the far end of the map. It isn’t hard to trace a lineage from classic science fiction novels about bleak futures where machines run amuck to this game to James Cameron’s vision of the future in Terminator.
Components from the new edition of Ogre in action, including the cool new cardboard tanks.
The game was hugely successful and over the years it appeared in numerous editions, with the new Designer’s Edition representing the sixth. There have been Deluxe boxed editions with mounted boards and versions that came packed in VHS cassette boxes. There have been multiple expansions, most notably G.E.V., which turns the game into a larger and much more customizable wargaming experience without straying too far from the extremely simple rules. There have even been modified rules that allow for more free-form miniatures play as opposed to the classic hex-and-counter style. There were also many articles, add-ons and even stories about the game published in gaming magazines in the late 1970s and ’80s.
But strangely, Ogre kind of fell out of the public eye despite it being one of the seminal hobby games and definitely one of the most memorable to come out of the 1970s. The game wasn’t much of a priority at Steve Jackson over the past couple of decades, largely because the company had hit on a cash-cow called Munchkin. This light, role-playing game parody card game has been a consistent sales success for years with seemingly endless versions hitting the shelves every year. The thinking at the company was that they could release a new Munchkin set and make a million bucks, or release a new version of Ogre to a big fat sales question mark. And for years, Mr. Jackson continually stated that he wanted to do something special for the theoretical sixth edition—not just another small-scale release. Thus a Kickstarter campaign was drawn up, and it was the most successful one for a board game to date. Obviously, the demand was there as evidenced by more than 5,000 backers, including big-dollar pledges from retailers, websites and moneyed individuals who apparently really, really love Ogre.
This is truly a supreme edition of a classic game, including much of the expansion content and labeled trays to store all of the components. Frankly, I think it’s almost unbelievable that the Kickstarter price was $100 for the full game (but anywhere from 20- to 35-percent off at retail). The amount of materials in the game eclipses just about any other game retailing for $100, despite not containing any miniatures or plastic components.
The first, second and third editions of Ogre. Originally packaged in a Ziploc baggie, eventually it graduated to a plastic clamshell case. The one on the far right was the one I bought at a mall toy store in the early 1980s, having no idea that three decades later I would have an edition the size of a coffee table.
As far as collectability goes, this game has nowhere to go but up in value, given its made-to-order nature and the virtual impossibility that it will be produced at this scale again. Kickstarter supporters actually received even more content than was supplied with the copies shipped to retail, and I’m already seeing the Kickstarter bonuses selling for $50 and up. Additionally, there are a number of “supporter” exclusives that were available to retailers, distributors and other entities at the upper end of the pledge scale. For example, there are two exclusive countersheets for Boardgamegeek that feature unique units and other game pieces. Right now, most of these exclusive counter sets are selling for less than $20. But these are limited as well, with 1,000-2,000 pieces made of each, so once supply dries up, these could be ridiculously expensive for completists who just aren’t satisfied with a game that supplies enough pieces to play several simultaneous games.
I would expect to see the Ogre Designer’s Edition selling at auction or through other second-hand sources for $300 to $500, if not more, within six months—provided that the aftermarket is not suddenly flooded with prospecting sellers. But I would also expect that classic editions of the game will likely hold steady in their values, with the now-obsolete Deluxe Edition from the early 1980s being the most desirable, usually available for less than $50. The old Ziploc and VHS editions were never really worth all that much to begin with, but add-ons like The Ogre Book and Scenario Book could see a sharp spike in value since there is material there that is not included in the Designer’s Edition.
A panoramic view of everything that comes in the Ogre Designer’s Edition box. ’Nuff said!
I’m more than happy with my retail copy, although finding somewhere to store it is a challenge. It’s seriously in the way no matter where I turn in my house. But it’s the definitive edition of one of the best hobby games ever made, and it’s ironic that the smallest game I own has suddenly become the biggest. For those without a garage to store this beast in, Steve Jackson is planning on re-releasing the original Ogre in its original baggie format with all of the classic Ogre artwork by illustrator Winchell Chung. Look for it in the summer of 2014. It will retail for $2.95—the same price it was in 1977.
Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.
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