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Subject: Verbose teaching session report for Bios: Genesis rss

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Matt Watkins
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Inspired by Adam Gastonguay's awesome session report for the as-yet-unreleased High Frontier 3rd Edition, and my high interest in Bios: Genesis. I thought I’d do the same sort of episodic session report for a solo playthrough of B:G using the publication version of the living rules (version C3.) I pulled resources from Samuel Williams’s Vassal module for Bios: Genesis (version 1.3.1 C3-0 3-22-16, linked to from the living rules) to put together a private Tabletop Simulator setup for the game. (I will not share this setup/mod without the developer’s permission.) I thought using the TTS setup with images embedded in the session report might give a better sense of how the game plays than even the excellent example playthrough in the rulebook.



I’ve only played the game a couple of times, so my strategy may be bad, and I may make errors. I was not a playtester for the game, so experienced playtesters please feel free to chime in with suggestions and/or corrections. I’ll make some attempt to explain my reasoning as I go along, but I’m decidedly not an AP player, so I may sometimes choose just based on where I’m leaning.

I’m going to play with the following clarifications and additions to the AI rules outlined in section C1 of the rules.
- The AI parasites will purchase the following during the purchase phase in this precedence as they are able:
1. A mutation promotion
2. A new mutation
3. A mutation cube from its host using a red queen attack
4. A self promotion and attempt to reattach, but only if it has no mutations and would end up with more diseased cubes
- The AIs will always refuse red queen attacks if they can.
- They will not attach to a parasite as a hyperparasite, but will attempt to supplant an existing parasite if it would earn them the most diseased cubes to do so.
- They will only and always use specificity re-rolls to re-roll errors, starting with 6’s.
- They will use fission to purchase two mutations if possible.
- They will use sex to roil a mutation deck that they can't buy the top card from.
- An AI parasite assimilated as a foreign gene into one of the player’s microorganisms via red queen attack can be used by the host to make purchases during the AI’s purchase turn.
- I will determine which side of the AI parasite will attempt to attach at the beginning of its assignment turn using a die roll.
- Any time the AI has more than one equal choice, I will roll a die to resolve the decision.

I’ll note other rules clarifications as needed and decided here as I play (marked with an “EDIT <date>”), beginning with the following:
- If the diseased cube for a promoted mutation’s unpromoted side is atrophied from a parasite, the mutation is lost and any mutation cubes on it return to the soup.


-------------------------------------
Without further ado, let’s begin.

“In the beginning…”

I’ll set up the game using the setup directions at the beginning of section C of the rulebook, including discarding one of the refugia placards from each of the landform rows. (The example playthrough neglects this rule.) I shuffle the four parasite cards and draw the green (entropic) and red (metabolic) colors for me to play cooperatively; thus the yellow and blue colors will be parasites with one biont each.

Turn 1 (4.6-4.4Gya) - Event: Bolide Water Delivery

Asteroids deliver water to form Earth’s oceans and in so doing set up the first pre-conditions for life’s possible emergence in two refugia: underwater clay mounds and hydrothermal vents.



We begin with the event phase. Since this is the first turn, I’ll go over the event sequence in detail. We follow the event card from left to right. On the far left side, the ocean icon is highlighted and the other three landform icons are dim. This indicates that the ocean is the only active row for this 200 million year epoch. I’ve turned the ocean landform card to the active side to indicate this. I also roil the mutation deck in that row (move the top card to the bottom), which reveals the Oxygen Respiration mutation.

Continuing to the left, there are two icons that look like Earth being impacted by a blue meteor. These are +heaven icons, which means we take two refugia placards (one for each icon) from the top of decks in active rows and put them in play. Since the ocean is the only active row, I’ve taken both of the placards from that deck (one was removed during setup) and put them in play to the right: Clay Mound and Hydrothermal Vent. When a refugia is put in play, it starts with a collection of dead manna, that is life precursors that haven’t been catalyzed to any useful purpose. These are shown as a sequence of squares in the lower left corner of the refugia card. (Ignore the dots for now.) I’ve placed cubes from the pool matching the squares in the lower part of each refugia; these are the disorganized manna.



The next icon is the Extremophile Crisis icon (looks like an X with red and blue arrows). This event only applies to organisms, so can be ignored. The last icon is a blue snowflake, which indicates a Global Cooling animation is in effect for this epoch, which will potentially make biosynthesis more difficult. If we get 4 event cards in a row with Global Cooling, the game ends in armegeddon with a snowball earth. (Likewise 4 Global Warming icons--red suns--in a row ends the game with a runaway greenhouse armegeddon.) And that’s the end of the event phase. In future turns, I’ll use much less detail.

The assignment phase is next. Each color can assign bionts and/or move them around. The total number of bionts you can assign or move is the number of green chromosomes in your greenest organism plus one. Since I have no organisms for either color, I can assign one biont each. I can also assign any or all of my catalysts--I start with one of each player color. (Likewise the parasite AIs can assign their single biont, but since parasites can only attach to other organisms, and there are no organisms, they’ll do nothing this turn.)

Strategy: The goal of the solo game is to have bionts of both player colors in one or more marine or terrestrial macroorganisms at the end of the game. For my money, it’s easiest to do this by having both bionts in a single organism, which can be done through microorganism parasitism, through horizontal gene transfer, or--way at the beginning of the game--by having both bionts try to catalyze the same refugium and thus end up in the same bacterium. Thus I’m going to send both bionts to the same refugium. The clay mound is more fecund, but the vents are very safe and stable, so I’m going to go there for this first epoch.

Player order for each phase is determined by looking at the icons at the top right of the event card (for this event, blue, then green, then red, then the missing color: yellow.) Blue can’t do anything. I’ll put green’s biont in the organized section of the vent refugium. I’m also going to assign my one green catalyst to this refugium as an enzyme. This will help protect the refugium from manna death. I put the green catalyst on the left-most empty circle icon in the middle of the placard (the one that has a 6 spot die face and a couple of icons below it.) I’m going to do exactly the same action with red’s biont and catalyst. And the yellow parasite, like blue, can’t do anything. The vent refugium now looks like this:



The next phase in the turn is the autocatalysis roll. In player order, I will perform a roll for each refugium with one or more bionts in it. Here there are two bionts in the vent refugium of different colors. This is known as a contested refugium, and we have to determine which player--called the progenote--is in control of the activity there. First we count the total number of organized manna (bionts and cubes in the top segment of the placard) + enzymes of each color. Each player has one biont and one enzyme of their color for a total of two, so that’s a tie. To break the tie we examine the sequence of cubes in the manna structure field at the lower left corner of the card (here yellow, red, blue, green, green.) Whichever player color is furthest left (red here) is the progenote. Since this is the only refugium with bionts, red will make the single autocatalytic roll for this turn. We get one chance at life for this epoch, and it’s going to depend most heavily on metabolic processes.

To make the autocatalytic roll, roll two dice for each biont and one for each cube in the organized segment of the refugium placard. Here there are two bionts, so I roll four dice: 3, 4, 4, 6. Note that there are dice icons in the middle of the placard next to a red sun and a blue snowflake. Recall that the event card shows that we’re in a Global Cooling animation. This means we use icons next to the blue snowflake. (They’re the same on this card, but generally Global Warming produces more organized manna.) The only icon on the vent is a 1 spot, which means for each 1 I roll, I can move a manna cube from the bottom (disorganized) field to the top (organized) field on the placard. I rolled none, so can’t move anything. The 6 I rolled would have had negative(ish) consequences due to manna death, but I covered the two 6 spots in the middle of the card with enzymes, so there’s no effect. That’s it for the autocatalysis roll: 200 million years and nothing happened.

The fourth phase of a turn is the Darwin roll, which only applies to microorganisms and parasites, so will be skipped this turn.

And finally, I can make purchases in the fifth phase, but this only applies to organisms, so that’s it for turn 1 of up to 20. I expect turn 2 to be far less verbose.

“And the evening and the morning were the first day…”
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Adam Gastonguay
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Wooo! Thanks for this. And awesome looking Virtual Tabletop. This makes me want to get one of those fancy shamancy programs!

Tough going with the Vents as your first choice, you may have your bionts stuck there a while. The Clay Mound could get you some more (especially if the world warms up), and gaining more catalysts early on isn't a bad thing. Also, getting more blue cubes is always nice to prevent wandering DNA later on.

Flawless strategy? Of course not, just an opinion. Your move is just as valid because you can just sit and wait for those 1's to show up.

I just want more pictures of that table. Soooo pretttyyy....
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Manuel Drews
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I'd like to have that DNA-Helix as a playmat for BIOS Genesis.

Anyone knows where to get that cool picture?
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Jorik
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manueld wrote:
I'd like to have that DNA-Helix as a playmat for BIOS Genesis.

Anyone knows where to get that cool picture?

it may be among this selection
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Matt Watkins
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I forgot to mention above that my autocatalysis (hereafter AC) roll included a double 4. When you roll doubles for your AC roll, you may flip the placard over to create bacteria. But, you lose all enzymes and disorganized manna; I would have had just my two bionts left. Since this refugium is safe, I'd rather wait to see if I can organize some manna, which can help the new bacteria population survive, before catalyzing it into life.

CthulhuKid wrote:
Tough going with the Vents as your first choice, you may have your bionts stuck there a while. The Clay Mound could get you some more (especially if the world warms up), and gaining more catalysts early on isn't a bad thing. Also, getting more blue cubes is always nice to prevent wandering DNA later on.


Yeah, we'll see how that works. I can assign to other refugia to earn catalysts and just let the vents bubble for awhile. I'd like to have at least a blue before I flip it to bacteria, and probably a yellow too. But it's totally safe from manna death (and from smite!) so I can wait.

manueld wrote:
Anyone knows where to get that cool picture?


I got it from here on Pixabay. You can do google image searches for pictures with liberal usage rights. This one is free for all uses, no attribution required.
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Adam Gastonguay
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Matt_W wrote:

Yeah, we'll see how that works. I can assign to other refugia to earn catalysts and just let the vents bubble for awhile. I'd like to have at least a blue before I flip it to bacteria, and probably a yellow too. But it's totally safe from manna death (and from smite!) so I can wait.


Well you can't assign to other refugia since you can only have one biont on a refugia until you get organisms with green in them (Entropy limit E2), you could move one off to grab some catalysts, or just hope to grab a red cube and metabolize the catalysts you need.

Already showing all the decision points and we've only played for 200 million years!
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CthulhuKid wrote:
Well you can't assign to other refugia since you can only have one biont on a refugia until you get organisms with green in them (Entropy limit E2), you could move one off to grab some catalysts, or just hope to grab a red cube and metabolize the catalysts you need.


Right! And I probably... I'm, uh, sure... would not have made that mistake. Thanks for pointing it out.
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Turn 2 (4.4-4.2Gya) - Event: Meteoritic Accretion

Meteorites impact the earth, possibly delivering organics from space and roiling the nascent oceans.



The icons at the left of the card indicate that the cosmic and ocean landform rows are active this turn. I flipped the cosmic landform card to the active side and roiled the mutation decks for both rows, bringing out the Hyphae and Rhodopsin Eyespot mutations. The first icon on the card (looks like a green and yellow sun) signifies a radiation smite against all of the existing refugia.

Smites can be catastrophic, essentially sterilizing the refugia and making it impossible to catalyze life there. For each smite icon an enzyme is removed from every refugia, starting at the right. If there are no enzymes, manna is removed from the placard in manna structure order. The clay mound has no enzymes, so it loses a red manna, since that’s the first manna in its structure order. The vents do have enzymes and normally I’d have to remove the rightmost one, but there’s a special icon on the vent placard that looks like a shield with double circle inside it. This indicates that this refugia is immune to smite. (There are only 3 such refugia in the game.) The vents are deep enough underwater that they’re shielded from the radiation.

Next on the card are two +heaven icons. The cosmic row is now the top-most active row, so I’ll bring out the two refugia in that row: Deep Hot Biosphere (DHB) and Interplanetary Dust (IPD). (Note that these are the other two smite immune refugia.) These refugia come out after the smite event, so aren’t affected by it (and wouldn’t be anyway because they’re shielded.) And we’re in Global Warming for this turn. I’ve placed this event card offset from the previous one so that the succession of warming/cooling icons is visible. The board now looks like this.



Assignment: As pointed out by CthulhuKid a few posts ago (and detailed in my OP), my entropy limit (number of bionts I can assign to refugia) is currently one. So I can’t assign any of my unassigned bionts to refugia. But I can move a biont as long as it comes from an active row. (Bionts in inactive rows are stuck there.) I can move it to any other active row or any home row for any of my organisms. I’m going to leave red on the vents because, again, they’re safe from manna death and from smite. But I’ll move green to another, more productive refugia. I can’t move to the DHB because the icon at the top of that placard indicates that I have to spend a catalyst to assign there, and I already spent my single one to shield the vents from manna death. The IPD could produce more catalysts, particularly in cooling animations, but I prefer (for reasons that will eventually become clear) to organize blue manna and it doesn’t have any. So I’ll move green’s biont to the Clay Mound. Red would move next, but isn’t doing anything, and the AI’s are still stuck without any organisms to glom onto.

AC Roll: There are two refugia with one biont each, so there will be two AC rolls with two dice each. Green goes first for the Clay Mound and rolls a 1 and 2. We’re in a Warming animation, which means that 1, 2 and 3 organize manna, so I can organize two manna. I’ll move a blue and a yellow to the top of the card, leaving one blue manna disorganized. (Recall that the red manna was destroyed by smite.) The lowest die roll for manna death in the middle of the placard is 4, so the newly organized manna are safe this turn. I would autocatalyze this placard to a bacteria population at this point if I could, but I didn’t roll doubles. Red goes next for the vents and rolls a 3 and a 5. That’s a big nothing. And that’s it for the AC roll. Here’s how the refugia look now.



Again, there’s no life, so no Darwin roll or purchasing this turn. And thus passes another 200 million years.

“Who really knows, and who can swear,
How creation came, when or where!
Even gods came after creation’s day,
Who really knows, who can truly say
When and how did creation start?
Did He do it? Or did He not?
Only He, up there, knows, maybe;
Or perhaps, not even He.”
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And I just noticed that the mutation decks are on the wrong (promoted) side. It hasn't mattered yet. I'll flip and reshuffle those before I post the next turn.
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Turn 3 (4.2-4.0Gya) - Event: Bolide Water Delivery

More asteroids deliver more oceans.



This is a different event card than the one from the first turn. Its icons are the same, but flavor text and turn order are different. So the cosmic row is again inactive. I’ve roiled the ocean row mutation deck (which now has the correct side showing) to reveal the Bacteriorhodopsin mutation. The only active row is the ocean row and all of its placards are already in play, so the +heaven icons have no effect. And again, no organisms, so no extremophile effect. We’re in a Cooling animation again.

Assignment: I’m not going to move either biont; I still think the vents are a good long-term bet. So nothing will happen here, and we move right along.

AC Roll: Yellow is first in the turn order and can do nothing. Red is next and rolls two dice for the red biont on the vent refugium: 2 and 3. So close to 1, but no cigar. Now it’s green’s turn. Green has a biont (which gives 2 AC dice) and 2 organized manna (1 die each) at the top of the Clay Mound placard, so can roll 4 AC dice: 2, 5, 5, 5. In a cooling animation, the 2 lets me organize the final blue manna.



And now the three 5’s. In the center of the card, several of the circles have a die face and one of two icons below it. One of the icons--under the rightmost 6 on the clay mound card, for instance--shows a circle with a red X. This means that for every 6 I roll, I must remove the rightmost enzyme from the placard and return it to the soup. The other icon--such as below the 3, 5 and other 6--shows a cube with a red down arrow and a circle with a plus sign. This means that for every die rolling that number, I must disorganize one organized manna (including my biont, if I choose or it’s the last remaining one), but the process of disorganizing the manna biosynthesizes a catalyst of the matching color to my tableau. I rolled three 5’s so I must disorganize all three manna (move them back down to the bottom of the placard), but I biosynthesize two blues and a yellow catalyst in the process. I can use these later as enzymes to shield refugia against manna death, to buy mutations, as antioxidants to shield my organisms against oxygen spikes, etc. Catalysts are kind of like the money of biogenesis.

Now this could get interesting. I rolled doubles, so I can create life. The cautious route would be to wait until I can do this with some organized manna, but there are good reasons to try living now instead, so I'm going to go for it. When you autocatalyze life you flip the placard over to the bacterium side and discard all disorganized manna and enzymes that were on the card. Organized manna (including bionts) stay with the bacterium. FYI: as far as I can tell, all bacteria placards are identical except for their names and the color of catalyst they produce. Here is my new GNA Lipid World bacterium.



My biont is the only thing remaining from the refugium, and it has become a green chromosome. This confers protection against oxygen spikes and permits me to place an extra biont (up to two now) in refugia (assuming it survives until next turn's assignment phase.) Now comes the moment of truth.

Darwin roll: I have to make a Darwin roll for every living organism (with one or more bionts in it.) This is very similar to the AC roll, except that only 1's can produce catalysts. And 5's and 6's cause atrophy through error catastrophe. These are marked on the placard. As with the AC roll, I roll two dice for each biont and one for each cube (called chromosomes when in a microorganism) on the placard. So, I cross my fingers, hold my breath and roll two dice... a 3 and a 3. Whew! Either a 5 or a 6 would have killed the bacteria before it got a chance to live.

I should note that a 1 would not have earned me any catalysts: each 1 earns a number of catalysts equal to the number of red chromosomes on the bacterium. I have 0 red chromosomes, so 0 catalysts for each 1. It's still possible to earn catalysts by rolling triples (one catalyst for each triple), but not if I'm only rolling two dice!

So, my nascent lifeform survived Darwinian culling this epoch. And in 200 million years, it seems likely that it could undergo a beneficial mutation...

Purchase phase: I can now purchase a mutation for my new bacterium. I can make one purchase for each biont in an organism. You can only buy the top mutation card from decks in active rows, which means only the ocean row for this turn. And the top card in the ocean row is the aforementioned Bacteriorhodopsin mutation.



The cost of a mutation is a catalyst that is the same color as the card. Bacteriorhodopsin is a green card and I don't have a green catalyst, but you can always spend two same color catalysts to purchase any mutation; I'll spend my two blues. I return the two blue catalysts to the soup, then place the newly purchased mutation card to the right of my bacterium placard. (This uncovers Nitrogenase in the ocean mutation deck.) There is a green square with a plus in the upper right corner of the card. I must take a matching color cube (in this case, green) from the pool and place it on the card. This is called the mutation cube and counts as a chromosome for the bacterium, which means it gives me an extra die for the Darwin roll and--since this cube is green--gives me additional oxygen shield and increases my entropy limit to 3.

The mutation card also has two icons in circles in the middle of the card. These are the abilities conferred by the mutation. Bacteriorhodopsin gives horizontal gene transfer (HGT - the yellow DNA icon), which allows me to move bionts from one microorganism to another, and sporing (the black circle with squiggles) which allows me to assign bionts to and buy mutations from any landform row, including inactive ones. I can't use these abilities until the next turn though.

One last thing with the mutation card. It has a blue stripe with "O2 SPIKE" written on it. This means it's a polluter; when gaining the mutation the organism makes an oxygen spike attack against every other organism (including parasites) in its home row. (The organism's home row is the one its refugium came from; it's shown on the upper left corner of the placard.) The severity (or extremity, as the rules put it) of the spike is the number of green chromosomes in the organism. In this case, that would be a severity 2 spike, but since there are no other organisms in the game yet, this does nothing.

And that's it for purchases. Green's tableau now looks like this. (The Cyanobacteria is green's parasite card, which isn't in play.) Next stop, the Archaen eon.



"'Hateful day when I received life!' I exclaimed in agony. 'Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemlance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.'"
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Will my little GNA lipid bacteria population survive the events of the next 200 million years?...

Turn 4 (4.0-3.6Gya) - Event: Late Heavy Bombardment (Aftershock) & Tropical Waterworld



...Well the answer will unfortunately be no The first event card is LHB, which has a globe icon on the left edge instead of the landform icons. This means that it’s an aftershock event, meaning we have to draw another event card and combine all of the event icons of the two. The second card is Tropical Waterworld, which is one of the two special cards in the deck.

On an aftershock, the aftershock card is dealt with first. The first two icons are extremophile events: every lifeform suffers an atrophy for each event they can’t shield against. Red chromosomes provide heat shields and my GNA lipid colony has none, so it will suffer two atrophies. An atrophy generally means that chromosomes are removed from the microorganism in a particular order. (See the glossary of the rules or my newly posted cheat sheet for details.) But, since I have only 2 chromosomes (my biont and the mutation cube), I’ll lose both of them, and the bacteria colony dies out (when the last biont is removed) because it can’t handle the extreme temperatures of the bombardment. The next icon is a UV surge event. It has a number 1 in the middle: any organism without a UV shield loses all but one of their attached mutations. There are no more organisms, so no effect. And we’re in a Global Waming animation.

When my bateria colony died, I removed its mutation cube to the soup and the mutation card to the bottom of the deck for its home row (the ocean.) The biont on the placard gets returned to green’s tableau and green gets compensation for the biont’s death in the form of catalyst of the same color (green.) I’ll move the bacteria’s placard to the side of the table as a trophy.

Now we deal with the Tropical Waterworld card. It gives us a turn order (blue, green, yellow, red) and activates the ocean and coastal refugia. I’ve roiled the ocean and coastal mutation decks, bringin out Reverse Citric Acid Cycle and Chaperone Proteins. It also makes the continents inactive and lowers the armegeddon criteron for Runaway Greenhouse to 3 consecutive warming turns instead of 4, until we get another aftershock. I’ll put in on top of the continent landform card as a reminder. Note that no new refugia are brought out this turn.

Assignment: Nothing living to parasitize, so yellow and blue are out of luck after salivating for that GNA Lipid colony. There’s only one refugia in any active row: the Hydrothermal Vents, so green will go there and red will stay there.

AC roll: Red rolls 4 dice for the vents: 1, 2, 5, 5. Hmmm. The 1 allows me to organize the blue cube, and the double 5’s could let me create life again…. I’m going to do it. Blue, red, and green chromosomes should make for a reasonably robust new bacterium. Remember the enzymes and disorganized manna get tossed and here’s my new Metal-Glycolysis (MG) bacteria colony. Note that red was the progenote, so the new lifeform is in red’s tableau.



Darwin roll: MG has 2 bionts and a cube, so red will roll 5 Darwin dice. 3, 4, 4, 4, 6. The triple 4 produces one green catalyst through biosynthesis. The 6 is an error, which could give me an atrophy, but my heredity (blue) chromosome protects me against one error, so the bacteria escapes unscathed.

Purchases: Both green and red have bionts in the MG bacterium, so both can make a purchase for it. But they both have to use red’s tableau pool of catalysts to make the purchases. (Any purchases for any organism always use the tableau pool that the biont resides in, not the tableau pool of their player color.) Red’s pool has a single green catalyst in it and the available mutations are red and yellow, so I can’t purchase anything with either biont.



“It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are present, which could ever have been present. But if (and Oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc., present, that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed.”
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Turn 5 (3.6-3.4Gya) - Event: Valbara Breakup

How nice to have a fairly benign event for my little colony.



The breakup of the Valbara supercontinent activates the cosmic (cosmic includes the deep underground) and coastal landforms and makes the oceans inaccessible. Roiling the mutation decks reveals Quorum Sensing in the cosmic row and RNA Ribosome in the coastal row. Theres a +earth and +heaven icon, but the coastal row is the only active one with refugia in its deck so we bring out two from it: Zeolite Lagoon and Pumice Raft. The UV Radiation event doesn’t affect my unmutated bacteria, and we’re in a Cooling animation. (Thankfully! The Tropical Waterworld event from the last epoch is still active, making Warming animations a little worrisome.)

Assignment: Green goes first. Green still can only assign one biont to refugia. I’m going to assign green to Interplanetary Dust. It’s remarkably productive, especially in a Cooling animation, and I like that. Also, I can assign red’s biont to help out and green will still be the progenote. I’m not going to assign any enymes because I want to use the refugium to generate catalysts through biosynthesis, and enzymes block that process.

Blue goes next and would dearly love to parasitize that MG bacteria colony but the colony’s genepool is currently too simple. It needs a few mutations to make it worth glomming on to. So blue will do nothing.

Now it’s red’s turn. Red has a green chromosome in the MG bacteria (green’s biont), so can assign two bionts to refugia. One will go to IPD to help out green. I’d like to start colonizing the coastal landform because I suspect the cosmic one will get less active during this eon. The Zeolite Lagoon is more productive, so red goes there. And yellow, like blue, has no mutations to disease. Here’s the shape of the earth now:



AC Roll: Green goes first and rolls 4 dice for the IPD: 2, 3, 4, 6. The first three (2, 3, 4) organize all 3 manna. The last 3 (3, 4, 6) disorganize them again, but produce 3 catalysts (green, yellow, yellow) in the process for red. (There’s a sort of odd, unintuitive rule in the Refugia Competition section of the rulebook that says that the progenote has to give catalysts earned due to manna death to the other contestants.) 4 and 6 also cause enzyme death, but there are no enzymes on the refugia, so no effect. No doubles here, so no chance to catalyze life.

Red rolls two dice for the Zeolite Lagoon: 4 and 5. That’s manna death times two. The only manna is red’s biont, which gets returned to the tableau and red receives one red catalyst as compensation. Red now has five catalysts: a red, two greens, and two yellows. Perfect for buying helpful mutations. Now let’s see if the bacteria can survive natural selection.

Darwin Roll: Two bionts and one cube means red rolls 5 dice for the MG. 1, 2, 5, 5, 4. The 1 causes biosynthesis: one green catalyst for each red chromosome. Red’s biont is the only red chromosome to one more green catalyst gets added to the tableau. Two 5’s will cause two gene transcription errors. Our blue chromosome protects against one of them but the other will cause an atrophy. Atrophy order is chromosome cubes before bionts, so the blue chromosome goes back to the soup.

Purchase phase: Here are the two mutations available for purchase in the active rows:



Those are both nice mutations, but I’m going to prefer the blue one. We just lost our blue chromosome and I’d like to get a replacement. Remember that each biont in an organism can make purchases for it, using the catalyst pool from the organism’s tableu. So green’s biont in the MG allows green to purchase the RNA Ribosome card for 2 green catalysts. (Two catalysts of the same color can buy any color mutation.) Endospore is now the top mutation card in the coastal row.



Now red can also make a purchase. I could promote the RNA Ribosome mutation here, but I don’t know what abilities that will confer (and the rules say it’s bad form to look.) And the red queen ability (red crown icon) on the Quorum Sensing card could come in handy when dealing with the AI parasites, so red will buy that card for one yellow catalyst.



The bacteria now has one chromosome of each color, an extra heat shield ability, the ability to move bionts around with HGT, a red queen ability to compete with parasites, and fusion (the icon that looks like a green cell dividing), which allows me to buy two mutations with each biont instead of one. The bacteria colony isn’t out of the woods yet, but it’s well on its way.

"Before there was earth or sea or the sky that covers everything, Nature appeared the same throughout the whole world: what we call chaos: a raw confused mass, nothing but inert matter, badly combined discordant atoms of things, confused in the one place. There was no Titan yet, shining his light on the world, or waxing Phoebe renewing her white horns, or the earth hovering in surrounding air balanced by her own weight, or watery Amphitrite stretching out her arms along the vast shores of the world. Though there was land and sea and air, it was unstable land, unswimmable water, air needing light. Nothing retained its shape, one thing obstructed another, because in the one body, cold fought with heat, moist with dry, soft with hard, and weight with weightless things."
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Quorum Sensing was always my go-to mutation. Those three powers along with a reroll die was always mega-useful.

As for the "unintuitive" rule about awarding other competitors, I agree, it's a bit odd, but I think it's to promote yet another difficult decision point. If you kick out someone else's biont first, then all the other biosynthesis catalysts will go to you. Sure, you won't get the benefit of a endosymbiont when you make a bacteria later, but sometimes you want stuff RIGHT NOW. I could see a lot of negotiating amongst players "No keep me in there (and give me all the catalysts) and I'll buy you that Quorum Sensing, otherwise I'm not buying you crap."

Then again, I've only ever played one multiplayer game (2 player) and I did so poorly, I don't know if I made any good strategic decisions, so take what I say with a grain of salt.


(PS, I'm logging on during the weekend only to follow along with these posts)
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CthulhuKid wrote:
(PS, I'm logging on during the weekend only to follow along with these posts)


I'm glad you're liking them. It's some work I keep expecting them to get shorter, but there are new concepts every turn. There should be some nifty parasite action here.

Turn 6 (3.4-3.2Gya) - Event: Hydrocarbon Fog



This event activates the ocean and continent rows, but plate tectonics is still shut down due to Tropical Waterworld, so the continent row will remain inactive. I roil the ocean mutation deck to bring out tRNA. No refugia will come out because there aren’t any left in the ocean row. The extremophile event hits my MG colony, but it has a red chromosome and an extra heat shield due to the RNA Ribosome mutation, so is fine. And it only has 2 mutations, so all can survive the UV(2) event as well. Cooling animation.

Assignment: Yellow goes first, which is finally important. (If green had gone first, I probably would have tried to have it pre-emptively parasitize the MG colony, but it’s going to get beaten to the punch.) Here comes the parasite. (Refer to the rule clarifications for the AI I laid out in the OP.) Yellow’s parasite card has two sides: Proteobacteria and Malaria. I’ll roll a die to select which side to use and it comes up Malaria.

The Malaria card has two squares marked “Host’s Diseased Cubes” on it of color blue and green. The parasite will try to steal mutation cubes of those colors from available hosts, choosing the one that gives it both as a preference. MG is the only available host and has blue and yellow mutation cubes. Malaria will happily take that blue chromosome for its own purposes. I put the parasite card to the left of the MG placard, place the yellow biont on it (up to two bionts can be placed on a parasite, but the AI only has one for each color), and move the blue chromosome cube from the RNA Ribosome mutation card to the blue diseased cube spot on the parasite.



There are two important things to note here:
1) The blue chromosome has been co-opted (diseased) to serve the purposes of the parasite instead of the host, so the MG colony, in effect, no longer has a blue chromosome. But, the mutation is still in effect with all of its abilities and still depends on that chromosome being in its collective host/parasite genepool. If the parasite dies with the diseased cube still on it, the host will lose the mutation.
2) The parasite is a separate organism. It rolls separate Darwin dice and makes separate purchases of mutations for itself (using the host’s catalyst pool.)

Blue goes next and will attempt to supplant yellow’s parasite. The only way it can do this is if it would steal more mutation cubes (including diseased cubes on the supplanted parasite) than Malaria by filling both of its diseased slots instead of only the one that yellow did. The two sides of blue’s parasite card are Virus (red/yellow) and Viroid (red/green). Since the two mutation cubes available are blue and yellow, supplanting would not succeed and blue will do nothing.

Red goes next. Red has an available biont, only one biont in refugia, and an entropy limit of 2, so could place a biont in a refugium. But red can only place in active rows (ocean) or the home rows of red’s organisms (ocean), and there aren’t any refugia there. Red could try to supplant yellow’s parasite with red’s own, and indeed has a perfect candidate in Protein X, which has yellow/blue diseased cubes. But you can’t parasitize organisms in your own tableau. So red will do nothing.

And green already is at the entropy limit (1 biont) and cannot supplant yellow with either side of green’s parasite card, so can do nothing.

AC Roll: Green will roll four dice again for IPD: 4, 4, 6, 6. The two 4’s organize two manna (I choose green and yellow), but all four dice cause manna death, so both manna cubes get disorganized and both bionts are returned to the player tableaus with compensation. Red gets a green, a yellow, and red catalyst; green gets a green one.

Darwin Roll: There are two organisms now, so two Darwin rolls. Yellow goes first with 3 dice (for its biont and diseased cube): 1, 6, 6. The blue chromosome will protect against one of those errors, but not the other. However, the yellow chromosome provided by the biont allows me to re-roll one die. (You can always re-roll one die per yellow chromosome in your microorganisms.) It will re-roll one of the 6’s… and gets a 2. So the final roll is 1, 2, 6. The blue chromosome corrects the remaining error, and the 1 produces a yellow catalyst for red’s tableau. (Parasites produce catalysts in their own color and always send them to the host’s tableau.)

Now it’s red’s turn to roll 5 dice (2 bionts, one yellow mutation cube) without the benefit of its error shield: 2, 2, 5, 6, 6. Ugh. The yellow chromosome does allow me to re-roll one of those errors and turn a 6 into a 4, but I’m still left with 2 atrophies. Atrophy order requires removing mutation cubes first, then chromosome cubes, then bionts. So I’ll remove the yellow mutation cube--which returns the Quorum Sensing mutation to the bottom of the mutation deck--and the green biont, which gives green a catalyst in compensation. My RNA Ribosome mutation is sort of protected by the parasite’s hardiness to selection pressure. This error catastrophe is why I kept trying to organize blue manna cubes early on.

Purchases: Yellow purchases first. There’s only one available mutation card (tRNA) and yellow buys it for two yellow catalysts from red’s pool and places the card to its left. (The mutation belongs to the parasite, not the host.) Now it’s even more robust. The top card in the ocean now is Calvin Cycle, which is a green card with, oxygen shield, red queen and sporing abilities.

Some strategy musings: I have to make a decision. I could buy Calvin Cycle. I’d like to have its abilities, but it’s unlikely to survive atrophy, particularly since I don’t have any blue or yellow chromosomes anymore. I could get green to supplant the Malaria parasite (its Salmonella parasite would be perfect for this) and try to protect the mutation the same way that Malaria protected RNA Ribosome, but then the red biont stands alone against the tyranny of natural selection, and a 2d6 roll will produce a 5 or 6 more than half of the time, which would kill the bacteria. So maybe my best bet is to take a chance at promoting that Ribosome mutation and hope for some protective abilities to emerge.

To promote, pay the cost of the mutation card again and flip it to the other side. If the mutation cube is still on the card, move it to the other side and place an additional mutation cube on the plus symbol next to it of that color. (The color it will be is marked on the unpromoted side of the card.) I don’t have any blue catalysts, so I’ll spend two greens and grab a red cube… and we get the Homeobox mutation, which is about as good as it could be! It has red queen, HGT, an error shield, extra heat shield, and a nucleus, which allows us to spend any color catalyst for anything that requires a catalyst color. Note that if I lose the red cube to atrophy, the mutation will unpromote. If the blue diseased cube in the parasite dies however, the whole mutation gets removed to the mutation deck, so it’s important that the parasite survive for now.

It’s been a rough 200 million years. Here’s where the MG colony stands.



"When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body. Shamash the glorious sun endowed him with beauty, Adad the god of the storm endowed him with courage, the great gods made his beauty perfect, surpassing all others, terrifying like a great wild bull. Two thirds they made him god and one third man."
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A couple of notes before I draw the next event card. 1) My Salmonella strategy would have been a big failure. Salmonella pollutes its environment, which would have caused an O2 attack against the defenseless MG colony and killed off everything. On a related note: 2) Here’s where my inexperience with the game comes into effect. I certainly should have placed anti-oxydant catalysts on the MG last turn to protect against O2 attacks. I may come to regret this oversight…

Turn 7 (3.2-3.0Gya) - Event: Huronian Snowball



Yep, I’m regretting it already. The cosmic row is activated and roiled to bring out the Chloroplast Symbiont mutation (which is a polluter, duh.) The continents are still stuck in a waterworld, so the two +earth icons don’t bring out anything new. The O2 spike, however... sigh. Yellow is first in the turn order and has no O2 shielding, so loses the tRNA mutation. Now my poor, battered MG suffers an atrophy and has to unpromote that Hox gene. (One little antioxydant would have saved it, just one.) It’s nearly defenseless against Darwinian competition again. C’est la vie, or--more probably in this case--le décès. We’re in a cooling animation again, and you can see that this is the third one in a row. One more and we get a snowball earth armageddon. This must be the answer to Fermi’s paradox.

Assignment: Yellow goes first and is happy where it is. Red will send a biont back to IPD and will put its yellow catalyst on MG as an antioxydant. Antioxydants can be expended to mitigate one extremity (severity level) of an O2 attack. Green catalysts placed this way are called vitamins and provide an O2 shield, in addition to being able to be expended like an antioxydant.

Green will also go to IPD and will spend a green catalyst to place an enzyme on the 3 spot there. MG only has one mutation now, so blue can’t supplant yellow’s parasite. It will remain off the stage.

AC Roll: Four dice for IPD: 2, 3, 4, 6. So all 3 manna get organized due to 2, 3, 4, but only two get disorganized again. (The enzyme I placed protected one of them against the 3.) I’ll keep a yellow up top and give the yellow and green biosynthesis catalysts to red. The 4 (or 6) also knocks out the enzyme.



Darwin Roll: Yellow rolls 3 dice for Malaria: 2, 4, 5. It will re-roll the error even though it’s protected against it (see the rule clarifications I made in the OP), and rolls a 1, which is ineffective because Malaria has no red chromosomes.

Red rolls two dice now for MG: 4, 6. MG has runaway transcription errors and the whole population crashes, bringing its malaria parasite down with it. Red gets a red catalyst as compensation for the biont death. Everything else goes back to the soup. Metal-Glycolysis joins the GNA Lipid World on the trophy wall. Back to the drawing board.

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
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Turn 8 (3.0-2.8Gya) - Event: The Clathrate Gun

The currently lifeless earth escaped Armageddon.



Ocean and coastal rows are active and roiling brings out our old friend Bacteriorhodopsin in the ocean row and tmRNA in the coastal row. (Want!) Smite blows a yellow manna off of Zeolite lagoon and a red manna off of Pumice Raft. (The cosmic refugia are immune.) +earth brings out Alkaline Seep in the coastal row, the O2 spike has no effect on our non-life, and we’re in a warming animation again.



Assignment: Red and green are both trapped in IPD and I can’t assign catalysts there because it’s not active. Blue and yellow are waiting to prey on the living.

AC Roll: Five dice for IPD: 3, 4, 4, 5, 6. In a warming animation I only get organized manna from 3 and pull a yellow to the top. Then 4, 4, 5, 6 causes manna death to everything in the refugium. Red gets two yellow catalysts from biosynthesis and one red for biont compensation. Green gets a green catalyst for compensation.

Well this turn was boring.

“We are glorious accidents of an unpredictable process with no drive to complexity, not the expected results of evolutionary principles that yearn to produce a creature capable of understanding the mode of its own necessary construction.”
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Turn 9 (2.8-2.6Gya) - Event: Supercontinent Ur

This is the last epoch of the Archaen eon. From here on out, expect O2 to play a larger role in things. (Though how we get O2 shocks without living things is a mystery.)



Nitrogenase and RNA Polymerase appear when the ocean and coastal mutation decks are roiled. And the +earths bring out the UV Irradiated Ocean for potential bacteria to play in. The UV shock doesn’t hurt us, and we’re still in a warming animation from the previous event.

Assignment: All in on the UV ocean. Green will place there first and put a green and yellow enzyme on it. Red will follow with a yellow, red and green, leaving only the 6-spot enzyme death spot open. This is expensive, but we need to get this party started.



AC Roll: Four dice: 2, 5, 5, 6. The two lets me organize a blue manna, and the double 5’s catalyze the refugium into TNA bacteria. I wish I’d gotten a better roll and organized a couple more manna, and I could wait another turn to try to get more, but I could get a cooling animation and I don’t want to spend more catalysts to shield against death. Green was the progenote, so the bacterium goes to green’s tableau.

Darwin roll: Five dice: a miracle, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4. (Chance of rolling zero 5’s or 6’s on 5d6 is about 13%.) And the triple 3’s even earn us a blue catalyst.

Purchases: Yes, please. The Nitrogenase gives a red queen ability and much needed O2 shield, so I’ll have green buy that for 2 greens, uncovering Reverse Citric Acid Cycle. Green’s tableau only has a blue catalyst left and red can buy neither available mutation, nor a promotion for Nitrogenase. That’s it.



“Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.”
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Turn 10 (2.6-2.4Gya) - Event: Gaia Ozone Layer

There’s enough oxygen on the planet to produce a protective ozone layer! We have to assume that someone is photosynthesizing somewhere.



This is one of the special event cards; it simply activates all rows (except the stubbornly inert continents) and negates UV events for the rest of the game. (Unless a stray meteor should happen along to punch a hole in the ozone layer…) I’ve roiled the 3 active mutation decks to show mRNA, Quorum Sensing and Chaperone Proteins.

Assignment: I should mention here a rule I’ve neglected so far. It might have made a difference a few turns ago, but oh well. Player order can be pre-empted by wantonness. Wantonness is the total number of HGT icons present in all of a player’s microorganism’s mutations and in all microorganisms the player’s bionts reside in as foreign genes. A player with the most wantonness (not tied) can declare themselves the first player for any phase. Here, green and red are tied (they both can count the HGT icon on the Nitrogenase mutation), so there’s no watonness bonus.

Yellow is first and I’ve determined randomly that the Proteobacteria parasite is the active side of its card. This parasite can only disease green and red mutations, so TNA’s yellow Nitrogenase is safe. Blue is next and rolling a die makes Virus its active side. Virus can steal the yellow mutation cube, so it will do so. Red will go to the Alkaline Seep (hoping to earn some catalysts.) Red will also assign one red catalyst as an enzyme there.

Red is now going to do something clever. (At least I hope so.) It is going to assign Protein X as a parasite on Virus. It will be a hyperparasite: a parasite of a parasite. To do this, I’ll place its parasite card below and offset from Virus and take its diseased cube as my own. Why do this? Simply this: a parasite can donate catalysts to the tableau of its host at any time. Protein X’s host is Virus, but Virus resides in the tableau of its host, which is TNA. Hyperparasitism allows me to give red’s catalysts to green. (Red has a bunch of catalysts; green currently only has one blue one.) There are disadvantages, specifically that TNA probably won’t be able to get that mutation cube back, but it might be worth it.

Green is going to send its two unassigned bionts to the Seep (its entropy limit is now two.)

AC Roll: Six dice for the Seep: 1, 2, 4, 4, 6, 6. Blue and green manna get organized and immediately disorganized again and the resulting blue and green catalysts go to red’s tableau. (Green is the progenote.) Red gives all of its catalysts to green now (in case it doesn’t survive natural selection.)

Darwin rolls: Blue rolls 2 dice first for Virus: 6, 4. Its blue biont protects against the error. Now Red rolls three dice for Protein X: 2, 4, 6. The yellow diseased cube permits a re-roll of the error: 2. And finally green rolls five dice for TNA: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6. The 1 biosynthesizes one blue catalyst. The blue chromosome protects against one of the errors, but then is lost to the other.

Purchases: Blue buys first and rolling a die determines that it will purchase Chaperone Proteins (uncovers Quorum Sensing) spending a red catalyst from green’s pool. Red is next and can potentially make two purchases: one for Protein X and one for TNA. It will decline to buy anything for Protein X and will buy mRNA (uncovers Chemiosmosis Respiration) for TNA with one blue catalyst. And finally green is going to promote mRNA for one blue catalyst.



Fertilization is a polluting mutation, so causes an O2 spike affecting the two parasites. Virus atrophies its mutation cube and the Chaperone Proteins mutation. Protein X loses its yellow diseased cube.

“The distinction between a ‘living planet’ – one that is geologically active – and a living cell is only a matter of definition. There is no hard and fast dividing line. Geochemistry gives rise seamlessly to biochemistry. From this point of view, the fact that we can’t distinguish between geology and biology in these old rocks is fitting. Here is a living planet giving rise to life, and the two can’t be separated without splitting a continuum.”
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Oh! Something I forgot to mention before. Parasites purchase immediately after its host does. I believe you've been doing it before.

That was a mistake I was making for a long time, too, and it can make a HUGE difference if you are catalyst poor.
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CthulhuKid wrote:
Oh! Something I forgot to mention before. Parasites purchase immediately after its host does. I believe you've been doing it before.

That was a mistake I was making for a long time, too, and it can make a HUGE difference if you are catalyst poor.


Ah, I had taken that to read that purchases proceeded in player order but parasites could move up to purchase after their hosts. But I now see that you're right; parasites always purchase after their host even if they'd normally play before.

I'm not sure it would have made a difference in this last turn, but it does raise a question:

If green had purchased first in the last turn and used red queen to grab the blue biont, could blue have made purchases that turn?

And I see I've been playing player order wrong all along anyway. The event card only determines the first player in each phase. (Or the second player if there's a wanton preemption.) After that play proceeds clockwise.
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Matt_W wrote:

If green had purchased first in the last turn and used red queen to grab the blue biont, could blue have made purchases that turn?


Yes and no. Yes in that a biont can make a purchase for an organism its in. It's whether you decide that the AI would continue to "survive" by existing in your biont and wanting it to survive to macro status. I've tried multiple ways from easiest to hardest.

Easy - You survived the attack, your reward is an extra purchase per turn, darnit.
Medium - Naw, enjoy the extra biont, your real reward will be the endosymbiont in the macroorganism, but it won't actively help.
Hard - It will get HGT as quickly as possible, and then leave your organism as soon as it can, becoming a new parasite later.

I ended up enjoying Medium more than anything else. Hard was just really freaking annoying, and Easy turned a bit too easy, IMO.
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CthulhuKid wrote:
Easy - You survived the attack, your reward is an extra purchase per turn, darnit.
Medium - Naw, enjoy the extra biont, your real reward will be the endosymbiont in the macroorganism, but it won't actively help.
Hard - It will get HGT as quickly as possible, and then leave your organism as soon as it can, becoming a new parasite later.

I ended up enjoying Medium more than anything else. Hard was just really freaking annoying, and Easy turned a bit too easy, IMO.


I kind of lean toward Hard since the parasite is supposed to be hostile until it's an endosymbiont (and there are real examples of genetic parasites "living" inside host genomes.) It makes sense that a genetic parasite would like to harness HGT to spread itself outside the host's cellular environment, though I have no idea if that's something that actually happens. Maybe it's not as likely though after a few hundred million years of red queen co-evolution with its host.
 
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Turn 11 (2.4-2.0Gya) - Event: Comet Impactor (Aftershock) & Nitrogen Famine

Bye bye ozone (for a couple hundred million years)



That’s a lot of smites! First things first: the aftershock finally releases the continents from their 1.6 billion year waterworld torpor. Oceans and coastal are active, mutation decks roiled to bring out tRNA and tmRNA. We get 4 smites. DHB and IPD are immune, but Zeolite Lagoon and Pumice Raft are completely sterilized and removed from the game. Alkaline Seep loses its catalyst and three manna cubes, leaving one green cube. Cancer (the red crab icon) only affects macroorganisms. Now 3 extremophiles. Ouch. Green is player 1 and has one heat shield, so will lose two cubes, which would be the two on its Fertilization mutation. That goes back to the deck. Going clockwise around the table, blue loses 3 of its 1 bionts on Virus killing off Virus, which also kills off its Protein X hyperparasite. Bionts are returned and red gets compensation. At this point, TNA has become so simple that the level 3 UV shock hardly registers, and green’s biont provides shield against the O2 event. That was pretty catastrophic; not a good epoch for life on planet earth.

Assignment: There’s only one refugium available--the Alkaline Seep--and red and green are already maxed out there, but I think I’m going to have green remove both of its biomes back to its tableau. I want to save them for other possible refugia next turn and leave red the possibility of catalyzing the seep. I’ve learned my lesson though; I’m also going to place a green catalyst on TNA as a vitamin.

With no mutations anywhere, yellow and blue are out of luck, and red is going to stay in the seep.

AC Roll: Two dice for the Seep: 4, 5. Red gets sent packing with a catalyst for compensation.

Darwin Roll: Four dice for TNA: 2, 2, 3, 5. I have no more error protection, so again red gets sent home with compensation. TNA is just barely holding on.

Purchases: Green buys tmRNA for one blue, which gives TNA a heat shield and error shield. Its biont shrugs off the O2 pollution.


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Nitrogen Famine is the harshest card in the game (and for good reason). Getting that on top of a comet is devastating. The fact that you still have a living organism is pretty amazing.

Sadly it looks to me that this game will end in a loss. Maybe with a stable bacterium, but little else. This was just a tough Earth. Plate Tectonics stalling for as long as they did...just not good.

Of course, this is your chance to prove me wrong!
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CthulhuKid wrote:
Sadly it looks to me that this game will end in a loss. Maybe with a stable bacterium, but little else. This was just a tough Earth. Plate Tectonics stalling for as long as they did...just not good.


You might be right, but we'll see. I'll play it out. I really need to have more than one biont (of my colors) in an organism so that I can make multiple purchases in a turn. Otherwise I don't think I have enough time to become multicellular. And if I'd only used a single antioxidant way back in turn 6, I might be doing fine now, well on my way to landfall.
 
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