OmegaZone Review

OmegaZone is a game I picked up at GenCon last year. It sat on my shelf for a while, as we are currently awash in post-apocalyptic role-playing games: Gamma World, Mutant Year Zero and the related anthropomorphic animals and robots book, Tiny Wastelands, Apocalypse World, Mutant Chronicles, Degenesis, and Dystopia Rising currently on Kickstarter. OmegaZone consists of a setting guide and deck of cards. It is not so much a full game as a toolkit meant to be run using the Fate Accelerated System. This is not called out on the exterior of the book itself, but instead on a small box in the corner of the cards. The main component seems to be the deck of cards, with the text as supplement, which I found to be a curious design choice. Normally cards are the peripheral, a value add to the game play experience.

Character generation consists of drawing a couple character definition cards and one mutation card. You are then left to build off of what you drew to fill in the details of the character and their motivations. The options here are all fairly standard fare, and nothing too outrageous or game breaking. Once you have done this, you add a High Concept and Trouble aspect to the character and you are more or less done. The cards define your approaches, so depending on what you draw, you may be wildly capable in certain areas, and completely useless in others, or have a low spread across the board. This cedes a great deal of the player’s narrative control and agency to random chance, which I do not love, but I do not see another workable approach when you are using cards for this mechanism.

Digging into the game, the setting information contained is fairly constrained, which is likely a function of needing to fit the relevant information on to a standard sized playing card, along with art and design components. The cards themselves are well made and feel nice. They certainly did not go cheap on them, which is good, because this is a concept that relies heavily on the cards and is going to live or die by them. The art is fun and fanciful, which fits the wacky feel of the game. The settings, called Locations, on the cards consist of the Location name with a one sentence description, a couple sentences on a Group that can be found in the Location, and a sentence or two on the Leader for that group. The Locations are expounded upon in the book, by which I mean you get one or two additional paragraphs about that area and the leader character found within.

For example, one Location, The Reach, is described as: “The Reach is treacherous, but riches are there for the taking.” What does that mean? It is entirely up to the GM to expound up on that one nugget to make it meaningful. The book itself does not provide any additional information as to what the author envisioned for The Reach. Is it an old technology park? A military compound? An underground bunker? That is up to you to decide, at which point you have created everything yourself anyway.

If you are looking for an out of the box setting that is ready to go, I would recommend the Mutant Year Zero zone books instead. While there are some good story seeds and interesting ideas in OmegaZone, you are left to do the heavy lifting and world building. There is a section that discusses generating your own Locations, but only to the extent you get the same three item block of information. The Mutant Year zone books, conversely, are fully fleshed out and more or less ready to go without much work from the GM. I am a big fan of presenting me with more information and letting me carve away and shape the area to my tastes. There is more to work with that way.

My major criticism of OmegaZone is that there needs to be more of just about everything. Fitting all of the mutations, items, locations, and story seeds into a single 52 card deck means not much space could be given to anything, which really narrowed what was able to be presented. This book could easily have been twice as long and likely would have benefited from it. The settings and story seeds should have been their own deck, giving more room to breathe life into the world and give the characters more options.

With so many options for post-apocalyptic games at the moment, it is difficult to recommend OmegaZone over something like Mutant Year Zero, which is far more developed, or Gamma World, which clearly inspired OmegaZone. The decision is going to depend entirely on how you feel about the cards and using them as the primary driver for the game. It does benefit from being incredibly cheap compared to the other options, with the deck usually costing $12 if you find it at a convention. A pdf of the cards can be had on Drive Thru RPG for $8, and the Setting book PDF is $10. Personally I don’t know that I will get much use out of OmegaZone, as I tend to love and collect these type of settings, and already have plenty of material to work with.