Poll of a Billion Monkeys

Friday, September 28, 2007

BOLO, the Ogre, Science, and Memories of the Boy

Humours of Idleness - BOLO, the Ogre, Science, and Memories of the Boy

Back when I was in high school I took a lot of advanced science classes. Just about every one that the school offered. Between 8th and 9th grade, I think it was, I was also nominated in my state to go take an advanced science class held at a local high school but which was given by a college professor and most of the students attending were in college studying stuff like biochemistry, physics, chemistry, (hard sciences) etc. I passed the class, but barely as the math was way over my head at the time because it was much more advanced than any thing I had ever been previously exposed to, and I especially had trouble with working out the problems concerning chemical formulations and some of the math for some of the more advanced physics problems.

But to me the best thing about it was that all summer I got to hang out with college and university kids and do what they did for entertainment. We'd work at early versions of the university internet, I learned to vad (this was before either nerds or geeks, just brainiacs, and brainiacs tended to be quite exploratory and even liked to engage in petty vandalism, such as breaking and entering computer labs to get at MUDS and making explosive chemical mixtures to blow up miniature rockets or create tennis ball can bazookas and so forth - it was a different and much better time - you can't be a real boy anymore because if you try it then somebody thinks you're a terrorist, thanks a lot for the help again and go straight to hell Osama), we'd read, talk egghead stuff, design and invent things, stuff like that. We'd also often take field trips, such as geological expeditions or jaunts to observatories and so forth and at those times I'd play chess and other games with the guys (there was only one girl in the whole shebang, and I felt sorry for her in one way because she had more trouble with the math than me, but all the boys did pretty much whatever she asked when she batted her eyes and so I guess it worked out pretty good in the end for her). Well we played a number of interesting games when bored, or when we couldn't do anything else, such as en route from one place to another in the van.

I remembered at that time seeing a couple of the guys playing a game, which I never at that time played, but watched with real interest. It was based, or so I was told, on a book called BOLO, which one of the guys gave to me to read and which I later got my own copy of for my personal library. At that time I read a lot of fiction, especially science fiction, and it became one of my favorite books of the entire genre.

Later on, in the 10th grade I believe, my buddies and I would often skip our lunch and stay in whatever class we had just finished before lunch (unless we went outside to play Rocker, a version of soccer we played using a rock - not because we lacked soccer balls, most all of us either played soccer, ran track, played football, or all of those things - we played with a rock because we wanted to see who was toughest and could take the most pain - so we played rocker and also played "contact soccer, which was like ghetto black-court basketball with elbows to the head and knees to the groin, only soccer), which was usually advanced biology, or some such class, and play chess or other games. Most of my buddies brought bag lunches because we couldn't stand to eat that crap they dished out at the school cafeteria. Instead we would throw that food and our left over bagged lunches on the outer walls of the school to create "food art." Well, the school administrators didn't like that mostly, except the vice principal, who was really cool and would often laugh at our designs, or give us advice on what condiment to sling next to make it look better.

Well, one day a buddy of mine brings in a new game at lunchtime (we did that from time to time to playtest new stuff - it was sort of a competition to see who could find or invent the bets new game) and we start playing. He explains it and we barely start to play when I suddenly realize the game must have been based upon BOLO. It was called Ogre. It was a great deal of fun, probably the most fun I remember of any of the lunch time wargames we ever played. I later bought my own copy of the game, then lent it to somebody and they lost it. My buddies and I went on to start playing Star Fleet Battles, the original SFB wargame with the plum lines for firing arcs, and the little figures, and so forth, and I forgot about Ogre.

I had always wanted to take that game (Orge) and improve on it though, to make a modified and personal version of the game that was more like the book, and the real BOLO. To turn it into not only a tactical wargame but a role playing game as well (like I did with SFB) with the BOLO being the character you role play. (For those of you who don't know the BOLO was an Artificially Intelligent Supertank, a stand-alone, heavily armored and fiercely armed weapons and war platform. Later models operated independently because it was completely self-sufficient and artificially intelligent.) So a few months back I run into something on the internet which reminds me of BOLO, and that leads to an old memory of playing Ogre. So I get on the internet and start looking for references to Ogre (not expecting much luck since this was so long ago, I thought the game would have long ago been oblivion) and what do I find but a link to Steve Jackson Games, the guy who invented the game. (I used to play some other Steve Jackson games but over time had forgotten about that, and had even forgotten that Steve Jackson had invented the game Ogre.) So I discover the game still exists. And I've ordered a copy and when I get it I'm gonna alter it with the modifications which I already have in mind to create a role playing wargame for me and my nephews and buddies to play. I'm looking forward to it.

It's strange where your memory can lead with an examination and exploration of memories you really haven't considered for some period of time. But my memories led me back in time to one of the absolutely most outright fun periods of my life (my middle and high school career). This is one of the few things the public internet is actually good for, but I gotta say, I'm glad it is good for this kinda thing.


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