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Bios: Genesis

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

This may not be the most complex game published last year but it probably takes the cake as the game with the theme and content that’s the hardest to get to grips with. It’s the first game I’ve opened up where I immediately felt I needed a science qualification to be able to play.

Designer Phil Eklund has built a reputation for developing games with a layer of difficulty that can sometimes be an initial bar to entry. Put it this way, none of his designs are what you might describe as ‘gateway’ games aimed ay easing new players in gently. That said, most of his games have earned a very appreciative following. Bios: Genesis follows in that same tradition. In terms of theme, it precedes them all…

Published by Sierra Madre, in Bio: Genesis players each take the role of organic compounds, each of which form part of all life on Earth. The aim of the game is to replicate the two periods of evolution of living organisms: Autocatalytic Life and Darwinian Life. The game can be played co-operatively or competitively, though, befitting the theme, the rules warn that “this is a brutal game of survival”.

Players who have a reputation for taking a long time to decide what to do on their turn (Analysis Paralysis) may be relieved to learn that a turn in Bios: Genesis represents a period of 200 million years. That would allow for a record-breaking amount of AP!

This is a game that has a novel charm and appeal once you get going. Players have to battle extremities and crises that represent extinction events. The biggest barrier to play, however, is the apparent complexity of the nomenclature on all the cards. Few of us know our cytochromes from our nitrogenase. Such terms are the routine currency of a game where players will, for example, have to distinguish their transfer ribonucleic acid from their ribosomal RNA.

If you have a PhD in Biochemistry, the terms thrown about in this game will trip easily off your tongue and you will very quickly grasp the mechanics. For the rest of us, Bios: Genesis will be challenging and seem a lot tougher to access than less ambitious evolution-themed games (North Star’s Evolution, for example). Like Phil Eklund’s other games, though, Bios: Genesis greatly rewards those who stick with it. And if you don’t have that Biochemistry qualification, this is a game where, win or lose, you are almost certain to leave the table knowing a lot more than when you sat down.

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