From: Mindstorm Labs
Reviewed by: Bill Perman
Alpha Omega is a new RPG from Mindstorm Labs.
In the future, humanity is recovering from a period of violent natural disasters. There is no global order anymore. Humanity for the most part is huddled together in massive city fortresses. Some have begun to evolve (or devolve as the case may be) into hybrid and unique races. And all the while two alien races are about to descend upon the Earth in their own personal millennia’s old war.
From the back cover:
It is 2280. The world has been reclaimed by primal forces, savage and deadly. Humanity is evolving, its ingenuity unchained. It fights to reach out from beyond the protection of its great cities and reestablish global order. However, ancient war returns – fought by legendary enemies of incredible power threatening all that has been rebuilt.
Alpha Omega is a world of imagination and limitless possibility. It is home to endless adventures, epic heroes, vile villains, horrific monsters and unknown dangers. It is a world ready for you and your imagination.
If I could sum up the review on Alpha Omega in a single word, it would be “wow!” Before I even get into the game mechanics or theme of the game, I want to share what impressed me first; the overall quality of this book.
This publication contains cover-to-cover, full-color printing and artwork that rivals the high priced illustrations found in WotC and World of Darkness products. Without proven and profitable titles like Star Wars or Dungeons and Dragons, the folks at Mindstorm Labs put a lot of faith (and funds) into this body of work. Not only is the art breathtaking, it does the job of what art is supposed to do in games like these, give the viewer a vibrant illustration of the look, feel, and emotion of the world the writers are creating.
While on the surface this game looks like a Shadowrun knock-off, believe me that is the furthest thing from the truth. True, Shadowrun is a game set in Earths future and involves multiple races, but where Shadowrun relies on standard fantasy races like trolls, elves and the like, Alpha Omega introduces unique races custom to the setting that they created. As a sci-fi fan myself, I couldn’t help but see elements of a variety of sci-fi from The Matrix to I Am Legend, Thundaar the Barbarian to Bladerunner and pretty much everything in between. But rather than a hodge-podge Frankenstein’s Monster of various sci-fi variety, this book seamlessly blends its elements of magic and cybernotics, aliens and angels, humans and mutants into a fully realized and vibrant world where players can immerse themselves and become truly epic heroes.
The game uses a mechanic called the 6/6 system. Simply put, you get six dice in your pool for any skill or action that a roll is required. The type of dice depends on your level in that skill or quality. This is represented by the amount of dice and the die type. For example, say your target number to shoot a tin can is a 20. Someone with a low skill might have a die pool of 4/d4, 2/d6. That means he can roll 6 dice, 4 dice that are d4’s, and 2 that are d6’s. Someone with a very high skill would have a die pool of 3/d6 and 3/d10. Both players still only roll 6 dice, but their proficiency in the same skill is reflected by the die type that they get to roll.
Die pool is also important as every combat round is broken into six phases. Characters can only act in certain phases and some can act in multiple phases per round. So if someone were to say shoot twice, his die pool is a 4/d6 and a 2/d8, he can decide how to split his die pool. The good news is that the higher value is always represented. For instance he can choose to roll five dice for the first action, 2d8 and 3d6. That only leaves one die for the following action. However, even though he used both d8’s in the first action, his last die value will still be a d8.
Below is a sampling of one of the many playable races in the game:
Oblivious the shards of the Dresden Meteor that littered the area surrounding their underground metropolis, the Necrosi were unknowingly exposed to gene-altering radiation. Their skin became pale, their eyes became sensitive to light, and their genetics altered enough so that they could no longer be considered human.
The Necrosi developed super-human levels of hearing and low-light vision, enabling them to operate in near darkness and almost complete silence with a frightening proficiency. However in the well-lit environments or higher volume, the Necrosi are extremely uncomfortable, prompting them to develop implants to remedy these handicaps. Their language is an intricate blend of subtle intonation and shortened English words and is spoken so quietly that it is barely audible to anyone but the Necrosi. To most others, species, the Necrosi language sounds like a whisper.
The Necrosi are pale, gothi apparitions – they are usually clad in black clothing or armor and are usually covered in tattoos, piercings, or various forms of self-mutilation.
Unfortunately, even the most precious diamonds do have flaws, and so too does this book. First, and most aggravating is the sense of pretentiousness on part of either the writers or publisher. In fact, I would love to give a page count for this book, but that is difficult since there are no numbered pages. Instead, the pages are coded by chapter and verse. For instance, if you want to look up how to increase skills with experience (or what they call in the game additional CDP), the index refers you to 8.2.5. There are markers on each page letting you know what chapter and verse your in, but many times a chapter and verse can be on multiple pages, while other times a single page could contain a variety of verses.
The books layout also concerns me. Unlike most books, this opens in a landscape format. While it saves on shelf space, I worry as to the long-term durability of the binding as the weight of the pages will put more stress on it as it is passed around the gaming table.
I also don’t care for a character sheet that seems to be 4-6 pages long, and in spots a black on gray background and small type making reading a bit more difficult than it has to be.
Finally, for me, being spoiled on games that take a more freeform approach to gaming, this book contains a variety of charts, tables and references that will stunt play for beginners or those not used to the hard and not fast rules of this type of gaming. So much so I would deem a GM’s screen as much a necessity as dice.
Despite a few flaws, Alpha Omega has something for everyone. Sci-fi fans looking to get into a truly original experience that draws on familiar themes but written in a unique way will love this game.
For more details on Mindstorm Labs and their new RPG “Alpha Omega” check them out at their website http://www.mindstormlabs.com, and at all of your local game stores.
From: Mindstorm Labs
Type of Game: RPG
Designed by: David Carter and Earl Fischl
Lead Illustrator: Matt Bradbury
Interior Artists: Matt Bradbury, Aaron Panagos and Jonathan Standing
Cover Art by: Sam Royama
Retail Price: $ 54.99 (US)
Reviewed by: Bill Perman
Added: May 10th 2008
Reviewer: Bill Perman
Related Link: Mindstorm Labs