32-bit Card Action

I feel like every 90s kid should know about Omega Virus in some fashion.  A staple in the genre of cyber-punk, WarGames-style gaming: Omega Virus had players collecting weapons and keys to stop an AI Computer virus from taking over the space station that the players are stationed in.  Players will race to reach the center to defeat the Omega Virus, but only one player can win, or all can lose.  Just don’t hit the wrong button:

(credit: Funhaus)

But the Omega Virus franchise has laid dormant for almost 30 years, only leaving behind a documented memory of what was in a bulky, well-tailored board game experience.  Emerging from the depths of the darkest corners of the ship in which it came comes a new beginning for Michael Gray’s electronic vision.  Omega Virus: Prologue is tight, fast, 2-player card-based action for those looking for a bite-sized piece of nostalgic fun.

Two players battle by building rooms with cards displaying random quadrants of three different colors.  Cards are held face down and flipped from the top of your deck to reveal their colors.  They can be placed adjacent to other cards so long as they connect with a similar color, and they can also overlap cards while following the same rule.  Cards can be covered ¼, ½, or fully depending on what is needed.  Your purpose of these rooms is to create a particularly crafted room of a single color to collect that color’s key card.  These key cards are given random combinations that resemble awkward looking Tetris pieces but can be difficult to complete in a pinch.  Once you have that key card, color cards that have been denied access are now available (these cards are sent to the bottom of your deck if you don’t have the key card to use them).  Once all key cards are unlocked, three pieces of critical equipment (split amongst 6 cards) must be combined together in your floor plan to escape and win the round.

Games span three rounds, and winning the round grants you Speed Bonus Points (+1, +2, +3 respectively per round) as well as side objective points for doing specific actions (three +1 bonuses given each round).  Side objectives and key card activation blocks are shuffled and reset every round to provide a fresh challenge each time.  The player with the most points after three rounds is the winner.

This sounds like a lot to juggle, and it can be at the start!  OV: Prologue manages all this mayhem with only 18 cards per player.  To help with re-coordinating floor plans, players can pick up used cards but only if they are not under other cards and removing the card doesn’t split the floor plan in two.  These cards roll back into the bottom of your deck but you can pick up as many cards as you see fit.  You’re ultimately trying to link your three pieces of critical equipment while also trying to win as many side objectives as possible: ranging from biggest room, widest room, most rooms of a specific color, fewest rooms, etc.

The gathering of points in this matter provides options on how to manage your floor plan.  Do you go for the ever-growing Speed Bonus points by being the first to finish, or do you plan for the extra bonus points?  Do you counter with blistering speed to stop your opponent from coordinating their plan, or fumble with the fact this is all happening in real time and your opponent is probably thinking the exact same thing?

I decided to take on ReviewBot™ (Patent Pending) for a few rounds.  Each round was a tense endeavor as your rooms of random colors must quickly pattern to unlock the rest of your hand while strategically setting your foundations for possible bonus points.  A few rounds stumbled and fumbled to one of us winning the round since we found our critical equipment absolutely buried in our rooms with half our floor plan needing to be picked up to regain win-ability.  Even rounds where I got fleeced in I managed bonus points since ReviewBot™ was so enamored in finishing their critical equipment and paid no mind to the bonus point objectives.

The duality of this is that how the first two rounds start can completely change how the late game is managed.  If a player dominates the first two rounds, even with a lead of 3 going in, the late game for that player becomes “Kiss my ass I’m making equipment” and the gargantuan task of winning the Speed Bonus while simultaneously hitting all side objectives is nearly impossible.  With all the side objectives only being +1, it hurts the late game as comebacks are few and far between.  But in the same breath total beatdowns are hard to get as well, so you earn the ability to ruin the end of the game for both players and I kind of respect that.

Coordinating speed and skill with multiple objectives, dealing with a human-version of the game Perfection working against you over three rounds, and it all happening in 2-4 minute chunks is a pretty impressive feat.  While the Omega Virus flavor and influence are at La Croix levels, this lean card game is a blast to play with its ability to provide variety in each round and nail-biting tension circumvented only by how fast and well you plan your moves before time eventually runs out.

A copy of this game was independently purchased for review.