Designer: Brendan Kendrick, Bernie Lin
Artist: Viktor Kolodiazhnvi
Publisher: Dead Alive Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1–4
Playing Time: 45–90 minutes
Main mechanic / Theme: Miniatures with action points / Intra-apocalypse, zombies
It is one thing to read about a post-apocalyptic society, it’s another to be living at ground zero when it starts.
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com / Kickstarter (You can also find the expansion on Kickstarter)
Omicron Protocol is a miniatures strategy game. Players are part of a faction working to survive an infestation in an intra-apocalypse city (you are playing during the events of the crisis rising). It is designed to play solo, competitive, and cooperative. I was given a copy of Omicron Protocol by the designers/publishers for review purposes originally in 2019 when the game was first created. After our world’s own pandemic and economic challenges Dead Alive Games has released Omicron Protocol to market and have a second expansion, Critical Conditions, already funded on Kickstarter.
I played a prototype of Omicron Protocol with its first expansion, Up to No Good, during the original Kickstarter campaign. That was before the omicron variant and even before the start of the Corona 2019 pandemic started.
The name, Omicron Protocol, raised questions of what happened in our future world to require quarantining a city and leaving the residents to fend for themselves. Omicron is the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet. A protocol is an official response of procedure with how to deal with a situation. Usually this refers to a diplomatic response from a government, but also used in business dealings. Not only is Omicron the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, in mathematics it is used as the symbol for growth rates, and in other instances it is tied with Omega, the end. This leads my imagination to believe we are far beyond “Plan A” containment.
We played a three-person game of Omicron Protocol. Two of us controlled one faction against the other player’s faction. The offset didn’t put the game out of balance. It is also hard to say if the two-headed team was better than the one. There was an advantage for the two players being able to talk over their strategy. At the same time, the individual player was able to coordinate their actions easier.
Starter scenarios for learning movement and abilities are included. The system is straight forward, and we found it easy to understand. The number of options available and deciding which was the best path forward to complete the objective was where the difficulty was. That was where the individual had some advantage by handling the entire team instead of just part of it. The multi-player team was able to focus on the character abilities more, which required more conversation and bartering between the players on how to use the action points.
Omicron Protocol contains multiple levels of strategy. It started in the pre-game setup when each faction chose the characters to go on the mission. The introductory scenarios have preselected characters; however, in the full game scenarios the player(s) have control. Individual character abilities and how they can interact are important considerations along with how those abilities pair up with the faction’s special abilities.
While racing the other faction to achieve the goal you also need to deal with the Cyber-Memetic Sociopaths (CyMS). CyMS (pronounced “sims”) are zombies attracted by sound. Any time characters take actions causing noise, there is a chance the CyMS in the area will come to feed. Noise, therefor, is also part of the strategy employed when dealing with the opposing faction.
Gameplay and Mechanisms:
The main goal is to complete the objective. Omicron Protocol is not an arena combat (but you could create such a scenario). The backstory is one where people are working to survive the situation, they have found themselves in and working to get out of the quarantined city.
In the base version there are two factions: the Survivalists and the Peacemakers. You choose which faction you are going to play. Each one has their own special faction abilities. The first expansion includes additional factions. The latest expansion is new characters.
Decide on the scenario. Each scenario has specific rules for that game session. They define the objective and the starting layout of the scene.
Players now decide which characters from their faction are going on the mission. The characters are revealed and added to the game board in the scenario designated starting areas.
As the scenario progresses more CyMS enter the playing field. This increases in pressure on completing the objective and the risks players must contend with.
Turns alternate between the factions, as they take turns with a character. The CyMS act after each character turn when specified conditions are met.
A faction starts their turn with a set number of action points. Those points are divided by the player(s) for all the characters they have in play—the player needs to balance the use of their action points to utilize all their characters. This led to some interesting conversations with the team of two players controlling one faction.
Combat uses a dice pool. Dice are rolled and those equal to or above the target score hit. The hits are used for several different actions by the character. They can deal damage, trigger abilities, or if the dice are not spent (including those that don’t score) they can be used for improving future rolls.
Theme, Artwork, Design, and Layout
Viktor Kolodiazhnvi created the art for Omicron Protocol and the expansions. It works well to improve the feel of the setting and builds the story. You can get the game with standups and with miniatures; both options work for playing and it is more of a matter of personal choice and taste of how you want the game to present at the table.
The variation of the zombie theme provides both a touch of the zombie flavor with the twist of cyber enhancements that are available in this future setting. The developers, and the artist did a great job of using the setting to base their stories without the setting overpowering the plot of events.
Inclusivity and Accessibility:
There are several dexterity related functions to playing Omicron Protocol. This might limit some players ability to maneuver their pieces, dice, etc. With an understanding group, the issues can be easily addressed at the table for everyone to be able to join in.
The game and the developers represent a wide range of ethnicities and socio-economic statuses. Players can probably find a character within the settings to relate to.
We enjoyed Omicron Protocol.
Omicron Protocol has a strong backstory. The backstory along with the additional information in the rulebook allowed us to immerse ourselves into the game. Links to additional stories set in Omicron Protocol were also given.
There are scenarios given with the game and with the different factions and characters, there is good replay-ability. You can also develop scenarios.
I recommend Omicron Protocol to gamers who like strategy and/or miniature games that are strongly based in scenarios.
You can find the expansion for Omicron Protocol on Kickstarter until Thursday, July 14th, HERE.
About the Author
Daniel Yocom does geeky things at night because his day job wouldn't let him. This dates back to the 1960s through games, books, movies, and stranger things better shared in small groups. He's written hundreds of articles about these topics for his own blog, other websites, and magazines after extensive research along with short stories. His research includes attending conventions, sharing on panels and presentations, and road-tripping with his wife. Join him at guildmastergaming.com.