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Subject: A Review a Week #14: It may be a family game, but the ogre ain't Shrek rss

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Lance
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Welcome to "Review a Week", where I am barely squeaking in my review on time. If you are just joining us, this is my attempt at rating and reviewing every game in my collection, a task I don't see myself finishing anytime soon. As always, each and every game was purchased by me or was a gift from a family member or friend. Today is a little different however. Recently, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Ogre Castle in the "GeekGold for Games" lottery geeklist. OK, to be honest, I have been luckier than most, but I have given out quite a few things myself and spent over 2000gg to get what I did, but anyway, I just got back from watching Paranormal Activity with the girlfriend and decided to type up this review because it is better than going to bed and letting the demons eat me.

Overview and Components

Ogre Castle is a 4 player game (and only 4 players) that can be finished off in about 45 minutes to an hour. The first thing that will stand out for you is the unconventional packaging. It comes in a plastic cylinder instead of a box. The artwork on the outside is colorful and interesting, as it is in a "1st person" point of view of watching a big green ogre trying to carve up a knight with a giant battle axe. Cracking the game open, you find a simple but nice looking cloth map, a deck of spell cards (the creator who offered up this up sent me the "booster spell deck" along with the base game which I thought was nice) and a small dice bag. Inside the bag, you find some dice, some small poker chips that will represent "armor", small glass beads representing gems, and the tokens for the three knights and the troll. All of these components are of average or above average quality, and if you think they are a bit drab, it would be easy enough to pimp them up on your own. Regardless, they work perfectly well for the game, and do not cause any problem with game play whatsoever.



How do you play?

Decide who is going to be the Ogre. You can roll randomly if more than one person wants to play the big green guy but the three knights are indistinguishable from each other. Each knight gets 2 armor chits to start out with, the ogre gets none, and each player gets three cards to start the game. The ogre now takes the gems and places them within his castle either randomly or, if you like, as they choose. Everything is now set up and you can start playing the game.

The ogre player goes first and play continues clockwise around the board. You roll one die for movement and you MUST move that many spaces within the castle unless something prevents you from moving. There are several stipulations that may prevent movement, such as the fact that an ogre cannot enter a room with a gem in it or a knight cannot enter another room with another knight present. If you end up in an empty space, you get to draw a spell card. If you are a knight and you end up in a space with a gem of your color, you get to take it. If you are an ogre and you end up in a spot with a knight, you get to try and bash his head in!

Combat occurs whenever a knight and an ogre meet. Normally, the knight gets to roll 2 dice, and the ogre 3, but certain cards will let people roll more or less. Also, if you have "armor" chits, you can use those to add to your roll at a cost of 1 to 1. In case of a tie, you reroll. Whoever has the higher total wins the combat and gets to take a gem from the loser, if they have any.

Play continues like this until the ogre manages to get 6 gems of any color and return to his starting spot, or a knight manages to collect 4 gems of his color and return to his starting spot.

As you can see, it is a pretty easy game to teach and learn. In fact, the creator stated that it was designed for a family to play.

My opinion

Ogre Castle is a very fun game, but it won't be for everyone. Since the vast majority of the game is luck based via die rolls and card draws, a more serious gamer is going to have issues since strategy is at a minimum. However, I have found that even the most die hard strategical genius can still cut loose with a little random chaos and enjoy themselves.

If there is one issue, there is a huge "gang up on the leader" problem with the end game, but I got the impression from the designer and the game itself that this is by design. As soon as one player gets close to winning, say a knight gets his 4 gems and is making their way back to their starting gate house, everyone will be playing as many cards as they possible can to screw them over, or help the ogre land on them and take a gem away. While this is funny the first 10 or 15 times it happens, if the game drags on too long, people will get a little exhausted by the situation and just want to move on to something else.

Regardless to this however, I still give this game a strong recommendation. For one, if you don't like a certain mechanic, the game is highly modifiable and open to variants. For two, it is one of the best "turn your brain off" games I have played in a long time. I do wish that there was some way to play it with less than 4 people however. Three works alright but I haven't even bothered trying to play it with two since that seems like it would be just be 30-45 minutes of bashing each other over the head with clubs.

So, if you are looking for a light game with dice and randomness, and you have three other people looking to screw each other over any chance they get, Ogre Castle will fill that niche'. Plus, you will be helping out a small game publishing company, and I don't think that would ever feel wrong.
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Lance...Thanks for the review. Very fair, I think! :D

There is a three-player variant that I'm mentioned in a couple of the other review threads. Give the two nights two additional armor chips and reduce the ogre's victory conditions to 4 gems. Also, whenever the battle originator moves away from the combat have them draw a new magic scroll card. These changes will make the knights a little tougher to chew up and getting the extra scroll cards into circulation will help compensate for the missing knight.

Congrats again on winning the October GFGG lottery. There's another copy of Ogre Castle in the November lottery at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/47353/item/1076123#ite... if anyone want to put their GG in for a chance to win.

David
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Mike Malley
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After the one game ran a bit long - though admittedly, i've since learned that he's AP-prone - i thought about adding a hand limit, though even then we had fun. I love the board. I've replaced the characters with pieces from Cave Troll, added guys from Eagle's Civilization for the armor chips, and see in the bag that i have ten small dice and one bigger one. I don't remember the reason for the bigger one any longer. (smirk) Guess that means i need to move this one up the list.
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