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Subject: Checkpoint Omega: Combat Racing Game rss

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John "Omega" Williams
United States
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Checkpoint Omega.
Review and commentary by Omega

As some of you likely already know from my reviews elsewhere. I do not do reviews so much as, well, dissections. Today on the operating table we have a venerable micro-game from the early 1980s.

The book is softbound, 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches, 16 pages total plus 1 single sided die-cut cardboard counter sheet with 108 counters. Each counter is 1/2 inch square and represent 6 teams with 18 counters each coloured respectively orange, purple, yellow, red, green and blue. The counters for each team are the following - the Racer, a Tri-Carrier, an Energy Blaster, a Machine Gun, 3 Pistols, 2 Mine markers, 2 Smoke markers, 3 Crew marked Driver/Gunner/Runner, a Large and a Small Wreck, the Fly Pack, and finally a Grenade Launcher. Also included is one single sided 21x16 1/2 inch map depicting the race arena. The map is hex based with each hex being 10/16ths of an inch wide. All hexes are numbered and total 36 hexes wide and 24 tall. The play field is flat wasteland broken up by several Hills that usually surround a Mountain, various stretches of Water, a few Forests, several strategically located Crevice walls and Canyon Passes that restrict easy ground entry into some areas of the zone. Lastly the map is dotted with a total of 16 checkpoints in addition to the starting ALPHA-OMEGA checkpoint cluster located slightly east of the maps center point. And as an added touch, the pack comes with its own plastic ziplock bag to store your counters in. The front cover reads:



The colour cover depicts two riders on a motor-trike (the Tri-Carrier,) racing across a desert landsacpe while lobbing a mortar at a vehicle that looks like a cross between a semi-rig and a tank (the Racer,) who is returning fire with a machine gun barrage. The back cover has a black-and-white image of the battle-rig and reads as follows:


Your team has survived to the final round. Now your fortunes and lives
depend on your skill and cunning - not just in winning the race to the
final checkpoint, but also in dodging the weapons of your opponents.
The tension builds as you wait incide your Racer, armed and ready
to begin.

CHECKPOINT OMEGA is a fast-playing race and combat game for two
to six players. Each player outfits his team and vehicles with weapons
and capabilities before the race begins. A player can win by out-racing
his opponents, or failing that, he can obliterate them.

The game includes rules and 108 die-cut counters in addition to a
playing map.

* For Two to Six Players
* Complexity Level -Introductory
* Playing Time - About One Hour
* Designer - Larry Sims


Aside from the Front and Back covers, the book has no illustrations at all. The booklet is divided into 16 sections while the last three pages comprise terrain and combat tables. The rules are laid out as follows.
This is a short story telling of a racer in the game and giving some bacground into the history of the setting. It is the year 2000, some time after a global nuclear war. To stem the tide of international violence a deadly New Olympics has been intriduced. And prominent is the Open Terrain Vehicular Race. Dubbed the "Death Race". It takes up most of the first page.
A quick description of the setting followed by (2.01) which explains the rules layout and reffrencing rules. (2.02) Gives a brief explanation of the procedures that will be performed in the set up and play.
This is followed by (2.1) GAME LENGTH: Each turn represents 16 minutes of time elapsed. The game continues until either someone hits all the chakpoints and makes it back to Omega. Or all combatants have been eliminated or otherwise neutralized. And covers (2.2) GAME SCALE: Each hex on the map represents a quarter mile across while each counter represents a single unit or item.
(3.1) THE GAME MAPSHEET starts off with a quick explanation of the map and hexes. (3.2) THE PLAYING PIECES describes the diffrent types of counters the game uses and what the designations mean. Vehicles have a numerical mark designating Movement Allowance while weapons have a Range mark. This is followed by (3.21) which comprises a quick reffrence table of the abbreviations used. (3.3) DEFINITION OF TERMS ecplains that Racer is your core vehicle, Auxilliary is a smaller craft carried on board, Movement Allowance represents how far you can move in a turn, while Range is how far you may fire. This finishes with a quick rundown of the three crew types. Driver, Gunner, and Runner. (3.4) GAME CHARTS AND TABLES provides a quick explanation of the charts used later. (3.5) gives a repeat rundown of the game contents and notes the need for a six-sided dice and some notation materials.
(4.1) THE GAME TURN starts off with a overview of Turns and Phases. (4.2) OUTLINE OF THE SEQUENCE OF PLAY: First Phase - Smoke counters from 2 turns earlier are removed. Second Phase - Player turn order is determined. Third Phase - Movement is performed and Overruns are attempted. Fourth Phase - Weapons fire is executed.
(4.3) GAME SET UP covers the procedure for selecting a team colour, counters, then placement in the appropriately coloured ALPHA-OMEGA hex on the map.
Starts off with explaining the three attributes of the three crew members.
(5.1) MOVEMENT ALLOWANCE for crew on foot is a base 4. (5.2) HIT POINTS start at 6. (5.3) WEIGHT ALLOWANCE is 8 and determins how much each crew can carry. (5.4) notes that all crew are interchangable. A Driver can act as a Gunner, A Runner can be a Driver, etc. The designations are merely for keeping track of who is who.
(6.0) VEHICLE CONSTRUCTION consists of each player spending a limited allotment of 15 Design Points on five areas. This is followed by a table detailing the point costs of the enhancements to the Racer. The craft must have at least 1 point spent each in Endurance, Armor and Plant. Systems have limiters on how much can be spent in an area. For example A 6 move power plant costs 1 point while a 10 move plant costs 3, or a rocket launcher costs 1 point each and a total of 6 may be spent while a clip of 4 rockets for the launchers costs 1 per pack with a maximum of 4 packs total.
(6.11) ENDURANCE is how much punishment the Racer can take before being destroyed. (6.12) ARMOR THICKNESS reduces damage taken. (6.13) POWER PLANT determines how fast a craft can move in a turn. WEAPONS are what systems are either built into or carried aboard the vehicle. Additionally, once purchased, 1 Rocket may be traded for 2 Smoke bombs. (6.15) OPTIONS covers Auxilliary craft and the Fly Booster.
Section (6.2) explains the two Auxilliary craft, the Fly Pack and the Tri-Carrier. Both are equiped with a Rocket Launcher and 1 rocket while the Tri-Carrier sports an additional Exploder MG. Both have an Armor of 1. The Fly Pack has a mere 4 HP while the Tri-Carrier has 6. Interestingly enough. The Fly Pack counts as a vehicle and thus a crew in one is essentially immune to small arms gun fire.
Each player has 9 points total to outfit and distribute amongst his or her crew. They may carry a number of items up to their Weight Allowance. (7.1) CREW EQUIPMENT CHART details the cost, max allowable, weight and ranges of crew weaponry. Examples: A Pistol costs 1 point, 3 may be purchased, each weighing 1 point and having a range of 3 hexes. An Energy Blaster on the other hand costs 4 points, only one can be purchased, weighs 6 points and has a range of 4. But only good for 2 shots.
Each turn the players see who goes first. In this case the currently fastest Racer has first go. Rolling to break ties. Followed by the next slower rig on down. A fast player can opt to allow others to move first by stating they will allow XYZ number of players to go before them.
On their turn a player may move as many of their units as desired, up to as many hexes as speed allows. (9.1) explains terrain costs on movement rates. There is no cost for turning. A unit can literally do a 180 with no penalty. (9.2) covers the types of units and how they move. (9.21) details the RACER and describes the use of the Fly Booster to leap 2 hexes per booster without incurring terrain penalties to the movement cost. (9.22) describes the TRI-Carrier, a 3 wheeled single passenger motorcycle with a movement of 8. (9.23) is the FLY PACK, a jet pack allowing a crew member to fly over terrain at a movement of 8. Flight and walking cannot be combined in a turn though and the pack costs 2 weight on the crew member equipped if they land and walk. Additionally a Fly Pack must land at the end of its movement each turn. (9.3) explains that at the start of a movement turn crew may leave the vehicle and move as desired. To board the vehicle, both crew and craft must start the turn in the same hex. (9.31) Crew on foot may pick up dropped equipment and even pilot abandoned Fly Packs or Tri Carriers they come across. Abandoned Racers unfortunately cannot be commandeered. The next turn after a successfull boarding the craft may start movement as allowed. (9.4) MOVEMENT RESTRICTIONS explains that a unit may not move into a hex if it does not have enough points left to do so. Section (9.5) TERRAIN AND MOVEMENT explains the types of map terrain that will be encountered. Mountains cannot be passed by land or air, Water can be flown over but not landed in, only flying units may cross a Crevice, Canyons may only be entered buy air or by an entrance Pass, and finally only crew on foot may enter Forest hexes. Flying units may not land in a forest hex. Additionally any unit entering the Omega Checkpoint before hitting all the others us eleminated from the game. (9.6) OVERRUN ATTACKS can be performed by a vehicle only if it is larger than the target. The target as it is rolled over gets one chance to fire at the attacker before they are hit. A d6 roll is added to the range modifier to simulate panic firing.
Explains that any number of friendly units can occupy a hex since it is a quarter mile across. (10.1) STACKING AND MOVEMENT explains that crew inside a craft cannot be fired on. But that crew may use a movement phase to get on top of the vehicle or climb back inside. Also it is explained that the Tri-Carrier can have an extra cremember positioned on top/outside. Crew on a vehicle are exposed and may be fired upon. (10.14) describes the effects of a Wreck. When a craft is wrecked you roll 1d6 for each crew inside. On a roll of 1-3 the crew member rolled for is killed in the wreckage.
(11.0) COMBAT
Combat is considered simultaneous and no damage is applied until the end of the Combat Phase. (11.1) explains that no weapon may be fired more than once per turn. A weapon fired in an Overrun attempt cannot now be fired in the Compat Phase. (11.2) FIRE COMBAT covers ranged attacks and what is allowed and not. A single crew may fire off all a Racers weapons systems, a Fly Pack user can fire either the launcher or a personal weapon, while the Tri-Carrier driver can only fire the built-in systems. On foot crew and those riding the outside of a vehicle can fire a single weapon. Section (11.3) HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT covers the complexities of melee between crew. First the crew closes to the same hex, then both take pot-shots at each other and mark damage. Then they slug it out. Each rolls a 1d6 vs the opponents current HP or less. Success deals 1 point of damage. In section (11.4) COMBAT DIE ROLL ADJUSTMENTS, the effects on range are detailed. Hill, Forest and Wrecks incur a +1 range penalty. Additionally small wrecks can only conceal 1 crew, while large wrecks can hide virtually everyone. Vehicles cannot use wreckage to so hide. Hiding in smoke incurs a +1 penalty firing in or out. Effects are cumulative and terrain modifiers will apply to range attacks even if both are in the same hex. (11.5) COMBAT RESOLUTION is determined by finding the range after adding modifiers, checking the table and rolling the target number or less on a d6. If the target is a vehicle then the table is reffrenced to see what the modified damage result is. Damage will be done to a crafts Endurance and Propulsion as indicated or a crew's health depending on the target.
Mines are placed secretly on a hex and the other players are only informed if they pass into the hex. Mines do not effect friendly units and only 2 can be placed. Smoke Grenades need no roll to use and will persist for 2 turns before dissipating. Section (12.1) OTHER WEAPONS explains that crew weapons normally cannot effect a vehicle. Only the Blaster and Grenade may do so.
Hill, Mountain, Forest, Smoke, and Checkpoints all obscure line of sight. You may fire into and out of such a location. But cannot fire through one to a hex beyond. Also one cannot fire into a Canyon unless at the rim or inside with the target.
Here is shown a sample team sheet and some general starting procedures. Players may not fire weapons, disembark crew or auxiliaries, nor drop mines on the first turn.
(15.1) GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT adds the option of running several races and points are scored on coming in 1st, 2nd, 3rd. And points deducted for crew and vehicle loss.
(15.2) HIT POINTS AND EXPERIENCE BONUS is used in tandem with Grand Prix and adds the option of giving any surviving crew +1 HP per race, and +1 per race won.
(16.0) CREDITS
Game design........ Larry Ray Sims
Game Development... R. Vance Buck
Rules Editing...... R. Vance Buck
Alan D. Eldridge
Graphics........... R. Vance Buck
Production......... Alan D. Eldridge
Cover Painting..... Alvin Belflower
Playtesting........ Mark Moody, Kenneth Hart,
Richard Kerr, Dwain Walker,
David Crump, R. Vance Buck,
Alan D. Eldridge
(c) 1983 by TASK FORCE GAMES.
Printed by Standard Printing Co. of Amarillo Texas.

The last three pages comprise a Terrain table for movement modifiers. A Weapons vs Crew table to determine the to-hit number and damage. A range modifier table. And finally a weapons table for firing at vehicles. You basically find the to-hit target nimber based on modified range, then subtract the listed damage, based on targets armor rating, from the endurance and movement stats. Crew pistols and hand machine guns cannot damage vehicular armor.

My thoughts on it all? The game has some needlessly redundant reppetition, explaining things often twice. But as an introductory game its very well set up and walks the reader through the whole thing nice and easy. The rules are both simple in their basics and complex enough in execution that a total novice can pick it up and get into the swing with only a few trips to look up some rule or another. After a few play throughs everyone should know the basics as well as the higher rules enough that reffrencing should be vastly reduced. Aside from the repeating of some rules, and a slight scattering of a few rules bits, the game is quite well set up and allows for various play styles from the total agressive to the high speed defensive. Vehicle and crew customizability sets Checkpoint Omega well ahead of some of the other games of this sort.
A minor quibble is that the vehicles could have been named a little more creatively. Another observation is that the canyon passes are not, at a casual glance, obvious that there are defined entry points at each end due to the dark red colour used. Additionally several terrain types make it very hard to discern the numbers for notating mine placement. But it is relatively simple to figure out what it is by reading any adjacent hex numbers. Water, forest and Mountain hexes are near impossible to read. But a Racer cannot normally get into one to drop mines so it is not really important that they cannot be read. But... after several readings of the rules I see no prohibiting of dropping mines while using the Fly Booster. Also the nature of the Fly Booster seems slightly ambiguous. Do you get one single use per race? Or one use per booster upgrade you added to the rig? I lean to the one per upgrade interpetation. Otherwise the thing is too limited in my opinion to be viable in such long contests as Checkpoint Omega entails. About 2-4 more smoke and mine counters would have been usefull too. Lastly I see no mention yes-or-no as to wether or not one must tag each checkpoint in sequence. The fact that you can split the team into three seems to strongly indicate that its a total free-for-all with combatants allowed to hit the markers in whatever order they deem or even several at once!
Gameplay is neat and simple. Most of the set-up time may be taken up by players trying to min-max point spending, or just simply having a hard time deciding what all to purchase. Especially if they are new to the game. Definitly set aside some pre-game time for Team Construction. Once set up the and on the field the game proceeds at a brisk pace. The limiting of each player to at best 3 units each on the field at a time goes a long way to restrict turn stalling. The lack of need to factor turning corners also reduces the turnaround time each player takes. Even the combat system is boiled down to single dice rolls. Very neat and elegantly thought out.
Depending on your players though the start of the game can turn into an absolute free-for-all! Get 6 agressive players out the gate and the area around ALPHA-OMEGA can turn into a bloodbath. Woe to anyone caught in a crossfire right off. A few critical rolls on the battle table and you are pretty much done-for unless your opponents wipe eachother out. But get a mixed group of agressives, defensives, speed demons, balance seekers, and hoard tactics and the game truely becomes a mad dash! Great fun!

All-in-all I rather like it quite a bit. Neat, simple, elegant. Perfect for introducing novices to "wargame" style play. With a little work the game can also be played solo. As a final note. The game was apparently originally called Omega Race 10 as it is printed on the countersheet and markered out, and the introductory story mentions Omega Race.
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Tony Rowe
United States
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I believe that Task Force Games had to change the name from Omega Race 10 to Checkpoint Omega in order to avoid confusion with Midway's Omega Race video arcade game, released a few years earlier.

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John "Omega" Williams
United States
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Seems dubious on that since they are rather unrelated in play, format and theme. And simmilar names hasn't stopped anyone from forging ahead sometimes. More likely someone else was also working on a wargame of simmilar title. Omega War springs to mind on that front. And there are no less than 3 wargames with that title. aheh...
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