There are no shortage of new games on Kickstarter these days and miniatures games are among the most frequent among them. A recent launch that caught my eye is Omicron Protocol, which is a team based skirmish game that takes place on a hex board set somewhere in the near future.
You can find the Kickstarter for Omicron Protocol here.
We’ve been sent a preview copy and have managed to get three or four games under our belts, but please be aware that all images in this preview are from a pre-production version. Whilst the board (which is vinyl), cards and all tokens are of a good quality already, I expect that they will only improve in the finished game.
The miniatures that we received are made from metal to an excellent standard, and our two teams have been painted by our regular painter Chris Barrick, whose work you can find in our other reviews for Lord of the Rings: Battle of the Pelennor Fields and Infinity: Operation Coldfront. The Omicron Protocol Kickstarter features two teams (The Survivalists and The Peacekeepers) in the base box and two more teams (The Animals and the Red Dragons) will be available as an expansion that is also available as part of the Kickstarter.
Omicron Protocol differentiates itself from many of the other miniatures games out there by introducing a neutral army of Cyber-Memetic Sociopaths or CyMS. These cybernetically enhanced enemies will attack players from either side depending on factors in the game world — such as who made the most noise last turn.
Defeating CyMS, completing objectives and knocking out players on the other team all contribute to winning or losing the game, which is broadly based on victory points. There are various ways to play — either as a free for all or with one or more of these objectives in play Based on what I’ve seen so far, the system is highly adaptable and expandable.
The game itself seems simple enough to play, which I hope will mean that it may appeal to fans of mainstream board games as well as strict miniatures games. Hex based movement and a simple, unusual way of resolving combat (which I’ll get into in a moment) ensure that Omicron Protocol is a fast paced, exciting experience.
At the beginning of each turn, the players will be allocated a number of AP or action points. They may spend up to four AP on their turn, all of which will be allocated to the same character. Some abilities can only be used once (like running) whilst others (such as attacking) can usually be used multiple times in one turn.
What makes all of this interesting is the different kinds of characters in play and especially the abilities that differentiate them. The Survivalists, for example, have an interesting mix of characters that can engage in melee combat, forage for items and perform outdoorsmen skills like placing traps and sniping with a bow.
The Peacekeepers, on the other hand, are made up of various members of law enforcement who largely come heavily armed with weapons and technology. Area of effect weapons like a shotgun and special skills like the use of a drone can swing the battle in their favour. The expansion that I mentioned earlier actually includes a team made up entirely of sentient animals — including an elephant and a bear!
Once the game begins, the players will assign their AP to move their characters turn by turn, charging enemies and CyMS and either defeating them in melee or shooting them with ranged weapons. Some attacks confer either bonuses or other effects depending upon the circumstances. As an example, charging usually reduces the chance to hit (but it combines movement and attack into a single AP) but some characters can negate that issue.
Once a character acts, the player will calculate how much noise they have made. Shooting, running and some melee attacks make noise, as do abilities like using grenades or Molotov cocktails. Once this is done, the opposing player will move any CyMS that are within the radius calculated as a result of the noise.
In general, this mechanic means that it is beneficial to both players to have some CyMS on the board that they can use to attack the other player. At the same time, CyMS provide experience when killed, and they also pose a threat to the noisier team, so it can be in your own interest to defeat them quickly. Each turn has several ways of manipulating the CyMS, which I imagine will become a big part of gameplay.
Combat is also interesting to resolve, although some unusual terminology is used in the early version of the manual that I have. Simply put, when a character spends an AP to attack, they will roll a number of dice as indicated. Some weapons hit automatically but in many cases, the player will be looking for success (four or higher, for example.)
The unusual bit is that these hits are then spent on abilities and attacks as listed on the character card of the attacking player. The character might use three of their hits to do two damage (which is not an unusual return) and then spend their remaining success on something else, like an evasive dodge that allows them to move one space into cover.
This mechanic is another feature that is quite unusual in miniatures games and as far as I can recall, I don’t think I’ve seen it implemented in this way elsewhere. It felt fast, fluid and almost always logical to me, but it does limit the potential attack power of some of the characters based on how many successes they must spend on wounds to have a meaningful impact.
Based on the preview components that I have, Omicron Protocol is shaping up to be pretty interesting. The hex board is a really important factor for me, since it instantly makes the game simpler to set up and play — relative to rivals that require use of a measuring tape and the various rules that come with distance based movement.
The system that Omicron Protocol is based on is equally impressive, and it favours simple mechanics based on spending AP and success dice in the way that suits the given situation. The addition of the CyMS is also very interesting and I am looking forward to seeing some of the fancier components that might come with the finished product.
Miniatures gamers should seriously consider looking into Omicron Protocol as the next addition to their collection. Even now, it’s a solid experience that feels like it has been designed from the ground up to address common problems in miniatures gaming, and it does so with sensible, simple rules and systems that provide a fast, fun and streamlined experience.
A preview copy of Omicron Protocol was provided to create this content. You can find out more about Omicron Protocol via this Kickstarter link.