Mi-Clos Studio’s Sigma Theory first release on Steam in 2019. Now, thanks to Plug in Digital, the turn-based strategy game is available on iOS and Android. It sees you recruiting a team of special agents before sending them into the field to take over the world. We handed the game over to our App Army to test their espionage skills.

Here’s how they got on:

Eduard Pandele

I’m a big board games fan, and this looked like a mash-up of Pandemic and Diplomacy. Unfortunately, it’s really far away from both. First problem: the tutorial is really well hidden (a greyed-out toggle in the header of the main menu) and it’s extremely talkative without actually explaining the choices you need to make. Second problem: even after a couple of hours of messing around with the game, I still wasn’t able to predict with any kind of accuracy the outcomes of my actions.

That makes planning virtually impossible. Third, and worst of all: it got boring rather soon, despite so many actions available, because of the second problem mentioned above. In theory, this should be endlessly replayable. In practice, I won’t touch this ever again. Sorry, but this game really annoyed me – probably because my expectations were so high to start with.

Dries Pretorius

I’ve been excited to play this game since Mi-Clos announced the project. I was expecting to have issues on the smaller screen, but I managed quite comfortably on my iPhone 11.

The game is essentially a management sim, with an interface that reminds me of Pandemic and Twilight Struggle, and also reminds me of the management layer of X-Com 2.

It can be a little overwhelming at first, to understand what to do, even with the tutorial enabled. The game has a strong sense for “Intelligence Operations”, in the bio of each of the many agents you can interview for positions is a clue on which approach will result in successful recruitment. If you are looking to secure scientists, or to woo diplomats, the same principles apply, you need to gather enough information on a mark to formulate an approach. One mark may be seduced by an agent with the right attributes, another may be impossible to even bribe, that’s when you have to bundle them into a van while they take that jog they have every morning at 7:15 AM.

As the game progresses, some nations will drop out of the race, while others accelerate and employ the technologies they discover in the field, you need need to respond appropriately to these circumstances, or you will get burnt.

Diplomacy is a big part of the game, this extends to interactions you have with your spouse, who represents their own interests, even the way you handle your anniversary celebration can affect your standing with your employers. Every choice is a sacrifice on one front, for an advantage on another.

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In my current run, I have just lost one of my best agents in an attempt to exfiltrate my star agent from a Russian prison, the reason I lost both agents is that the alert level of the country is too high, I should have ceased global operations for a day or two and focussed my entire department on the “Russia Situation” hacking systems and meeting with diplomats to extend bribes. It was a hard lesson.

The exfiltration system is the game’s most hands-on aspect. It involves your character moving along a trajectory drawn through an aerial view of the city, depending on the alert level of the country, the game will roll encounters for you, if your character has offensive traits, you would use those and fight your way through, if they have more defensive traits then you would take evasive action. A botched operation can be a diplomatic disaster.

The role you play in these operations is to make executive decisions for your agents, should they steal a vehicle or stay on foot. When they are surrounded: respond with lethal force, non-lethal force, run, or surrender? Make a decision, roll for an outcome, and roll for the next encounter.

While this is not bad, I think the game would have really benefitted from a stealth SRPG layer the likes of Invisible INC. (My high expectations)

There is a vast array of Sigma Technologies, and each discovery affects your strategy, this means that each playthrough is going to require different strategies to make the most of your advantages.

I’m really enjoying the game so far, if you enjoyed any of the titles I mentioned, or if you enjoyed Rebel Inc. or Holy Potatoes! A Spy Story!? Then you’ll find much to love here.

Mark Abukoff

I started playing this on my iPhone 13 Pro Max but found the text too small for my ageing eyes. It’s much better on the iPad. I’ve actually wanted, for a long time, a game that would let me take part play at diplomacy and espionage and military ops on a global scale, and I’ve tried my hand at a few that didn’t quite deliver the experience I was hoping for. This one comes closest so far. I liked that you couldn’t just automatically add agents to your team- that you had to recruit and convince them to join.

That process was a good preview of the sort of thing you have to do later on. That is, asking the right questions and giving answers that will get you what you want. As for success rates, they started out low for me, but as your tech improves, so will your success rate. All the while keeping an eye on the Doomsday Clock. I’m really enjoying this so far, not so much for the futuristic angle (which is fine but just seems a bit generic to me), but for the overall global ops exercise. It’s a game that I’ve found myself checking on at least once a day for a few turns. Happily recommend it for the Cold War intrigue aspect.

Robert Maines

Sigma Theory is a well-presented turn-based strategy game. To win you must acquire a new civilisation-changing technology for your country by sending in agents to countries all over the world to collect information. You also get access to drones for information collection and to destroy targets. This all plays out on a world map.

The only problem is I found no tutorial so you are dumped into the deep end and this rather spoils the game as there is so much you can do to achieve your goal. This makes the game frustrating to play and I cannot recommend it.

Owen Buck

The premise of this game is that you’re working for a country, with a bunch of ‘agents’ in a race to discover ‘sigma technologies’ – before other countries get ahead and get an advantage. I really wanted to like this game as the idea is great. I stumbled through several times, not really knowing what I was doing. Each play-through made me more intrigued as to what I ‘should’ be doing..! And then I noticed the tutorial tick box.

After that it made a lot more sense – and I’m really starting to like it. Plenty of depth and strategy to get involved with. Kind of like a more in-depth ‘Plague Inc’. With the race to discover the technologies, ability to poach (and abduct!) scientists, blackmail leaders and a whole load more, I recommend this game – and stick with it as the more you understand what you’e supposed to be doing, the better it gets..!

Sangeet Shukla

ST is a turn-based strategy played on a real-world map with 12 countries where the winner is the one who discovers all 15 sigma technologies and stops the doomsday clock turn before it hits zero. You can approach offensively, defensively or a mixture of both. The game has 100 NPCs with various traits. When all those things combine & create random scenarios it makes the game more interesting, giving you the feeling that you are doing it in real life. Thumbs up for the poly and neon graphics style. Unfortunately, the tutorial is bugged.

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Keyword: App Army Assemble: Sigma Theory - "Should this turn-based espionage sim be on your radar?"

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