Have you ever wondered what goes on in the cell of a plant? Cellulose, a cell biology game by Genius Games, invites players into a plant cell to find out! From Biology lessons at school, we all know that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell but who can remember what the stomata or xylem do? In this worker placement game, 2-5 players compete to gain the most health points while working together to build up the wall of the cell. (And there's a solitaire option too.)
Players have three workers to place at different organelles on the board to produce resources, pick up cell component cards, grow their roots and shoots or contribute to the central vacuole. There is a range of opportunities to gain health points across the board by contributing to the cell wall or the central vacuole, or a player may choose to focus on collecting and playing as many cards as they can, gaining additional abilities as well as points, the chance to make an enzyme chain reaction and locking in personal end-game scoring.
Cellulose is played over a number of rounds broken into three stages. At sunrise, players gain a number of resources dictated by their position on the roots and shoots board. During the daylight stage, players place their workers and play one card per turn to gather resources and grow their points. During the dusk stage, the board is cleared of player tokens, the player who contributed the most water to the central vacuole receives victory points and an extra worker for the next round, a carbohydrate is added to the cell wall and the board is reset ready for the next day. The game ends when the last block of the cell wall has been added, either by the player or the dusk stage, at which point players add any end-game score cards to their total as well as any lingering carbohydrates; the player with the most points wins.
Cellulose is a standalone sequel to Genius Games' human cell biology game Cytosis, which we reviewed five years ago on Board's Eye View. The cell biology theme may not appeal to all but Cellulose is a good worker placement game that encourages strategic thinking. The artwork from Tomasz Bogusz gives us excellent visual representation of a cell. With the assistance of a booklet to explain the underlying science, the game mechanics in the design from John Coveyou and Steve Schlepphorst are effective in teaching the workings of a plant cell. You’ll never forget what a ribosome does again! But the educational value and the science doesn't come at the expense of gameplay: the card mechanics add a layer of unpredictability, giving players the hidden potential to turn the tables at any moment, and the enzyme cards can give good synergy to turn one move into three. The standard wooden pieces are well made and visually dynamic but, if you have the choice, it's definitely worth getting the upgrade pack of deluxe metal components.
(Review by Claire Woodward)