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Subject: 10,000ft level overview rss

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Colin Taylor
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OK, so I sat reading the rules to Bios: Genesis this morning for about 90 minutes. And I got 8 pages in. It was that tough going. Now, I've learned Pax Porfiriana and Pax Pamir without too much trouble. I even created a solo variant for Pax Porf. after only playing it one time. But there is something about this game that is blocking me out. And I have a Masters in Biochemistry!

So, rather than spend more time slogging along slowly, I feel I just need to get a high level overview of what is happening. Once I have that, maybe the details will start to fall into place. So, has anyone written this sort of 10,000ft review? It would really help, as right now, honestly, I have no mental image of how the game flows.

Thanks,

Colin
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Peter Asimakis
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I'm not being silly here.
And I write this without having received my copy yet, so take it for what that's worth.
Perhaps your degree in Biochemistry is getting in the way?
It is a game, not life.
Perhaps you need to unlearn stuff for this to make sense?

PLB.
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Steve Carey
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I share your pain, Colin - this is the most challenging rulebook since High Frontier.

A seasoned member of my group had the same reaction as you upon trying to read the rules (he gave up).

My advice: just setup the game and play, picking up the rules as you go along for each phase.

I taught another friend the game last night, and other than a few nit errors, we really didn't have any problems (and had a great time).

It'll take extra effort, but (as trite as this may sound) it's well worth it.
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Colin Taylor
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Hi Steve,

You were the one playing it at the HistCon last week, right? If so, I wish I'd asked you to teach me. I got too busy teaching Colonial Twilight on Sat to find you.

Colin
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Chris in Kansai
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There's a video overview in the files section which I've found useful.

I almost wish there was just a basic mechanical description with the theme completely stripped away, as I have an inkling that underneath it all this game isn't that complicated.
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Colin Taylor
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Pierre Le Bear wrote:
I'm not being silly here.
And I write this without having received my copy yet, so take it for what that's worth.
Perhaps your degree in Biochemistry is getting in the way?
It is a game, not life.
Perhaps you need to unlearn stuff for this to make sense?

PLB.


I don't think so. I simply can't seem to get an image of what a turn looks like. What a decent move is. And without that, I'm struggling. With Pax Porifiana, there are a lot of rules, but it's pretty easy to grasp what the right move would be. Perhaps not the absolute best move, but at least I'd have some idea what is going on. With this one, it's like another language. To me, there is just no flow to the rules at all. It doesn't help when rules reference rules on later pages, so it's not building, but a lot of cross-referencing. I also got hung up looking for what the comet icon on Theia Big Whack was, and an explanation on what order to do the Event effects (rule book or card order), neither of which, it turns out, are in the printed rule book.

Colin
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Colin Taylor
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Chrysm wrote:
There's a video overview in the files section which I've found useful.

I almost wish there was just a basic mechanical description with the theme completely stripped away, as I have an inkling that underneath it all this game isn't that complicated.


Exactly. I'm sure it's not that tough, but the theme is getting in the way, for me, at least.

Colin
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Peter Asimakis
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ColintheFlea wrote:
Pierre Le Bear wrote:
I'm not being silly here.
And I write this without having received my copy yet, so take it for what that's worth.
Perhaps your degree in Biochemistry is getting in the way?
It is a game, not life.
Perhaps you need to unlearn stuff for this to make sense?

PLB.


I don't think so. I simply can't seem to get an image of what a turn looks like. What a decent move is. And without that, I'm struggling. With Pax Porifiana, there are a lot of rules, but it's pretty easy to grasp what the right move would be. Perhaps not the absolute best move, but at least I'd have some idea what is going on. With this one, it's like another language. To me, there is just no flow to the rules at all. It doesn't help when rules reference rules on later pages, so it's not building, but a lot of cross-referencing. I also got hung up looking for what the comet icon on Theia Big Whack was, and an explanation on what order to do the Event effects (rule book or card order), neither of which, it turns out, are in the printed rule book.

Colin


My post assumed that the usual impenetrable space rocket user's manual of writing style was present in this ruleset.
Glad to see none of us are disappointed.
soblue

PLB.

PS.
One would assume a space rocket would give one a 10000 ft overview, but apparently not!
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Ed T
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I'm echoing Steve here: just set the game up, follow the sequence of play, and play it. I struggled to "get" this game and Neanderthal initially by reading the rules without actually going through the motions and got nowhere fast.
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Rich James
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It's interesting to hear you have a biochemistry degree. My opinion has been that it is the vocabulary that makes this game challenging to learn. But that shouldn't be your issue.

Basically, you want to assign your bionts to Refugia, at first, just to generate catalysts. Then you will do this again, but also add in catalysts to enhance the chance for successful emergence of a microorganism. That organism will then have to survive evolutionary pressures (aka Darwin Rolls), attempt to gain beneficial mutations and hopefully evolve to a (marine) macroorganism. That, in turn, may then evolve into a terrestrial macroorganism, although that is pretty hard to achieve in this game, from my experience.

Mixed into all this is the potential for parasites from other players to attach to your organism, which will either slow or impede you organism's development progress, or result in being "absorbed" as an endosymbiont, which means your opponent will share in a portion of your success from that organism.

Your goal is to be more successful than your opponents at generating robust micro- and macroorganisms, with a premium on the latter.

Is that 10,000 feet? 50,000 feet?
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Colin Taylor
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supermaxv wrote:
I'm echoing Steve here: just set the game up, follow the sequence of play, and play it. I struggled to "get" this game and Neanderthal initially by reading the rules without actually going through the motions and got nowhere fast.


I just know that's not going to work for me. I'll just end up flicking through the rule book. I think I'll just wait for Ricky Royal to tackle it.

Colin
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Koinsky
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One thing that is extremely confusing when you learn the game by yourself (what I did) is that one specific component may have different names in the rules according to its function and its location on the player "board".
This makes it hard to get the overall view without moving the pieces while learning.

Steve gave you the best possible advice: playing while learning.

If you think it won't work for you, and before Ricky does a fantastic video, you can also read this excellent verbose teaching thread [http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1616382/verbose-teaching-ses...] very inspiring gameplay and strategy wise.
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High level overview.

1) Draw and resolve event, this may add new areas to the game.
2) For areas that are active, players can "bid" for them by placing one of their tokens (at the start only one token may be on these areas)
3) If a player was the only one to bid on an area they roll dice (2 for their token and 1 for each cube) - if they weren't the only one, determine who has control and they perform the roll
4) Depending on the climate of the event card they may move inactive (disorganized) cubes up to the active area (organized), or if the dice are listed on the death dice track they will have to make a cube inactive, or remove their token from the card. Players can spend currency (catalysts) to cover up the death dice track, however certain values can remove the currency they've spent
5) If the dice they rolled were doubles they can take the area by discarding all inactive cubes, then they take their active cubes, and token, flip the area over to the bacteria side and put their tokens in the color matching areas (each color has a unique function so you often want a good diversity of colors in order to have a bacteria that will survive)
6) After rolling dice for each area, you then roll dice for each bacteria (or other organism) and see what happens with them, red cubes and tokens on the bacteria allow you get specific currency for each 1 your roll. 5s and 6s are errors and unless you have enough blue cubes to prevent the error you lose a cube (or your token) from the bacteria, if you have yellow cubes you may reroll a number of dice equal to your yellow cubes.
7) After rolling dice players with organisms may purchase mutations, upgrade mutations, or evolve into a macroorganism if they have the right number of cubes (player tokens do not count)

Keep playing until all event cards are resolved or the world ends due to too many sun or snowflake symbols.
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Paul Kellett
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I agree that this is a hard game to learn. I had my first full game yesterday after 3 false starts. (It hasn't helped that I've been doing 50+ hours weeks for the last fortnight at work so my brain was already fried.)

The best way is to set it up and work though the book in sequence. You will find that you can skip quite a lot of it for the first half dozen rounds.

The essential turn is:

+ Draw an event card
+ Activate/deactivate refugia then take the top card from each mutation deck in an active row and place it on the bottom of it's deck (roiling)
+ Resolve the icons on the card from left to right.

+ Place a dome and/or one or more discs onto a a refugium you want to try to form life on.
+ Roll dice - 2 for each dome, 1 for each cube in the top row.
+ Move cubes from bottom row to top row using the dice results matching the current climate icon.
+ Remove cubes/discs as per the list in the middle row. If you move a cube back to the bottom row you gain a disc of that colour. If you have to remove your (or another player's) dome, you (they) get a disc of their colour.
+ If any of the dice rolled are doubles, you can claim the refugia as an organism, discarding any discs and any cubes still in the bottom row.
+ Flip the card and place the cubes/domes that were in the top row into the coloured spaces to act as chromosomes.

* The strategy here will be to wait until enough cubes are in the top row of a refugia before claiming it. Refugia with blue cubes are the most useful as they protect against bad dice rolls in the Darwin phase. Yellow cubes will let you re-roll 1 dice per cube while green will protect against oxygen spikes from events and red cubes will give you extra discs if you roll a 1.

This will be the first few rounds. Once you have claimed a bacteria you then have the option to:

+ Add discs to you bacteria to protect against oxygen spikes. This is done in the second phase before rolling the dice for the refugia.

+ Make a Darwin roll. Same rules as the refugia roll - 2 dice per dome, 1 for each cube. Rolling a 5 or 6 will make you discard a cube. Each blue cube on your card will block one bad dice.

+ Buy a mutation from either an active row or the row from which your bacteria came from. To buy a mutation, you must discard a disc of the matching colour to the soup.


After that, it gets trickier as this is when parasites can be played and I've not played enough to fully understand this part but the above will cover a good part of the game.


It is hard, but I've been finding myself wanting to reset and play again. I'm very slowly starting to understand strategies - you need to be getting discs, so having domes in a couple of refugia is good as you will gain a disc for each cube that gets moved back down. Also, waiting until a refugia has most or all of its cubes in the top row will give you a better chance as will picking a refugia with at least 2 blue cubes.
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M Garcia
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ColintheFlea wrote:

and an explanation on what order to do the Event effects (rule book or card order), neither of which, it turns out, are in the printed rule book.

Colin


It is in A1.1 SEQUENCE OF PLAY:
"Apply from left to right each of the card’s event icons to all players (D3​ to D10​)."
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Dom Rougier
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(I'm going to avoid hard rules as much as possible, and try to give a decent outline of what you're actually doing. This does mean that I'm skipping over or ignoring quite a bit of nuance, but I hope what's here is accurate)

If you're familiar with other Phil Eklund games, you'll have found that whilst the rules might be awkwardly written, in actual play they make a lot more sense.

Equally, there are tons of moving parts, and although you may have a grasp of the rules, seeing how they fit together into a strategy is something very different. Normally this takes at least one entire game for me to start to understand the "why?" of everything.

What's unusual about Genesis is that it's actually quite easy to teach as you play that learning game - initially there are very few options to deal with, and all of the information is open. More decisions open up gradually, and things start to make sense.

*****

The very-high level overview is that BIOS: Genesis is an engine building/tableau dice game, in which you are racing and competing with the other players.

(BIOS: Genesis is in some ways closer to Greenland or Neanderthal than the Pax games, but there are elements of several games in there)

Your "currency" are primarily your discs ("Catalysts", but in Genesis their name will change based on context), which are used to buy more permanent upgrades to your organisms in the form of cubes ("chromosomes" and "organs" mostly, again depending on context).

Cubes make up the bulk of your victory points. BIOS:Genesis is a dice game of turning plastic discs into wooden cubes.

The primary goal is to create complex life. The victory points earned by making a macroorganism far outstrip the others, so evolving your life from chemical process to an Earthworm or Seaweed or whatever is clearly the way to win.

You have three hemispherical tokens "bionts", and this limit strongly defines what you can do - every organism will end up with at least one of these, so the maximum possible score is quite simple to work out - it will be the three best macroorganisms you can make (with some caveats).

Bionts in most cases work like more powerful, but strictly limited cubes.

It's probably impossible to score a perfect game, and therefore is probably not the best strategy - each form of life has advantages as the game progresses.

The three forms of life (what you can do with your bionts), and what they're good for:

- Refugia -

Initially, you can place your bionts and catalysts (wooden tokens and discs) onto refugia. Bionts here will roll dice in a manner somewhat similar to a hunt roll in Greenland - producing cubes in the process. ("organising" disorganised "manna" - sliding the cubes from the bottom of the card to the top)

Bionts on refugia will produce cubes, but will also often lose cubes immediately thereafter. Dying is compensated by earning discs (catalysts).

Catalysts can be placed to make dying less likely for anyone trying to survive on the refugia.

The advantages of Refugia bionts is that you will create cubes and discs through this order-disorder process in a variety of colours - this is the easiest way to earn catalysts of any of the four colours, which will be important in a minute.

Death is a huge part of this process - so although catalysts spent here will make the process safer, it also makes it less productive, so there's a trade-off of risk/reward.

Doubles on the roll flips the card over, creating a microorganism in your tableau, populated with the cubes and bionts on the card. It's therefore possible to make stronger and weaker microorganisms, since you may have many or few cubes on there.

- Microorganisms -


After the rolls are made for refugia, you hit the Darwin phase, where the microorganisms take their turn. This has mechanics more like a conventional dice game (roll, reroll, ignore certain outcomes, etc.). Rolls are based on the number of cubes the microorganism has - and the purpose ultimately is to get more cubes, so there's (hopefully!) an exponential process here.

Microorganisms will suffer errors (losses) to their cubes, but will also produce catalysts on successes. You are twice as likely to roll errors as you are successes, so mitigating these (re-rolls, error correction, evolving DNA) is really important.

The cubes all do different things to the die pool - reds control how many catalysts you earn on successes, yellow gives you re-rolls, blue protects you from errors and green helps you with oxygen events, which are going to get more frequent as the game progresses, and will kill all your things if you're not careful. (Green has another benefit in the refugia stage that isn't important at this level of overview).

Microorganisms are catalyst factories. They can be extremely efficient at creating new discs... but the discs will all be of one colour (printed on the microorganism card). Two discs of any one colour can be traded 2 for 1 when they are spent (two red discs = 1 yellow,green or blue, etc.), but clearly there's a loss of efficiency.

Mutations are colour coded - a green catalyst is required for a mutation that gives you a green cube.

After rolling for catalyst gains and cube losses, catalysts can be spent on purchases. These are mostly mutation cards, which can give your organism abilities, but perhaps more importantly will give you more cubes. These mutations are double sided, and when they are flipped they gain another cube of a different colour.

When you have enough cubes to satisfy the prerequisites of one of the macroorganism cards, you can purchase one, and convert your microorganism to a macroorganism (which will start on the marine side).

- Macroorganisms -

There can be a maximum of 6 macroorganisms in the game total (3 marine and 3 terrestial), so you can fight for position.

Macroorganisms don't have to roll to survive each turn, but can still be hurt via events. They are also a lot worse at creating catalysts than microorganisms. This means that there may be value in having some combination of two or three of the above forms of life working together to form your engine.

Macroorganisms have pre-printed cubes on the card, but will want to gain more through purchasing. If you fill out your marine side, you can flip the card over to the terrestrial side, which will be worth more points.

The limit of six comes from trophic levels (carnivore-herbivore-plant), which are determined by the number and colours of your cubes.

Since Macroorganisms have cubes pre-printed on the card (actually, previously paid for), and also have a bonus for being a macroorganism, they are the best way to win. Top predator in each biome (marine and terrestrial) is worth even more points.

*****

- Other stuff -


- Events -


The game's clock is the event deck. This has three periods, the earliest period is harsh - the Earth is heavily volcanic and bombarded from space. The next period is more conducive to life - new refugia will be created, and therefore cubes will be unlocked. The final period represents the rise of poisonous oxygen, where the refugia will start losing their cubes (you'll want established organisms by then), and insufficiently adapted organisms will die off.

You'll die a lot, and the event deck will be the cause.

- Parasites -


Parasites are an alternative type of microorganism. Mostly, they exist on a microorganism in someone else's tableau, and they serve a few purposes. They will inherently weaken their host (you steal a couple of their cubes), and they may spend their hosts catalysts on their mutations - so their host player will have fewer catalysts available for their own purchases.

Parasites are really easy to make.

The trade-off here is that parasites can't become macroorganisms (directly), so they are likely to only score for the cubes they create. They are also not helping to build your own engine, so evaluating strategy with them is really interesting.

Parasites can be fought with immunology and Red Queen actions (bought with mutations), but again these are trading limited and valuable resources, so it's non-obvious.

Parasites can end up improving the organism as well, or drive it to extinction - this kills the bug.

It's possible to end up with other player's bionts on your organism, and these are conceptually pretty similar to parasites - they make purchases using your resources, and can help or hinder your progress.

It's probably wise to start without them entirely, but they're a fascinating part of the game when you understand how everything else works.

- Refugia competition -


In the earliest part of the process, you'll be putting bionts onto refugia. Space will be limited, and you'll be competing for the most valuable spots.

If these are contested, the person who dominates (catalysts + cubes in their colour) will make all the dice rolls and decisions, and ultimately claim the organism, but the competing players will earn the catalysts from the losses, so fighting for second place can be a real thing. It's possible for your biont to be "trapped" on an organism when it's created, which work mostly like the parasites above.

*****

There are more fine details. I would suggest paying attention to the available victory points, and how they promote co-operation with parasitical organisms/genes.

I would also strongly suggest setting up a two player game and playing through at least a few turns. It really does make a lot of sense when it's in action.
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Dom Rougier
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Chrysm wrote:
I almost wish there was just a basic mechanical description with the theme completely stripped away, as I have an inkling that underneath it all this game isn't that complicated.


It isn't really all that complicated underneath.

BIOS: Genesis is a game of getting cubes onto placards in your tableau, which give you points.

Discs are the way to get more cubes into your tableau, and you get this by surviving and thriving, through fairly standard dice game mechanics - roll a pool of dice, re-reroll some of them. You're looking for 1's and/or triples, and trying to avoid 5-6. You can lessen the worst of it by evolving DNA (5-6 becomes 6) or having blue cubes on your organism (each one cancels one failure).

Survive, get enough cubes and you can upgrade your placard with a macroorganism card, which is less of an engine, and more of an vessel for investing in victory points.

There are more nuances and interesting bits in the interactions, but the primary overview is:

(1) You are using tokens and discs to help generate cubes, which make it easier to move to the next stage.

(2) Microorganisms can generate discs (by rolling dice equal to the number of cubes you have), which are spent to buy more cubes and useful abilities.

(3) Enough cubes let you upgrade to a macroorganism, which is less useful in helping strengthen your tableau, but very useful at scoring points.

Each form of life has a role and a purpose. You probably will need to make at least one macroorganism to win the game, but how precisely you split your three biont tokens up is going to determine the shape of your dice throwing engine, and how you balance your risk/reward decisions.
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Adrian Hague
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1) Disorganised manna becomes organised.
2) Organised manna + biont(s) = bacteria.
3) Bacteria acquires mutations.
4) Enough mutations + bacteria = aquatic macroorganism
5) Enough organs + aquatic macroorganism = land-based macroorganism.

(I'll let someone else explain how parasites fit in to all of this!)
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Steve Carey
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ColintheFlea wrote:
You were the one playing it at the HistCon last week, right? If so, I wish I'd asked you to teach me.


Yes, that was me - perhaps we can meet (Game Empire in Pasadena?) and I'd be glad to walk you through a session.
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C&H Schmidt
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We learned Pax Porfiriana without problems, but my partner is currently reading the Bios: Genesis book and has already taken a while as well. He thinks his main difficulty is remembering the different biochemistry terms -- this is not his area of expertise.
I will try reading it later tonight and see how it goes.

Thanks Dom and Adrian for the very rough overviews! Not knowing much about the game yet at all, this gives me at least a rough idea.
 
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Lonny x
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I'm in the same boat as the OP. I don't have a masters in biochemistry though. I sat down for two hours yesterday with my wife and we were able to get the game setup. After the event phase we just couldn't figure out what to do. I think we are at the mercy of a walkthrough video.
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Colin Taylor
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afrikaner wrote:
ColintheFlea wrote:

and an explanation on what order to do the Event effects (rule book or card order), neither of which, it turns out, are in the printed rule book.

Colin


It is in A1.1 SEQUENCE OF PLAY:
"Apply from left to right each of the card’s event icons to all players (D3​ to D10​)."


You are quite right. If you print off the Living Rules. But my rule book says nothing of resolving effects, other than you should do so.

Thanks,

Colin
 
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Matt Watkins
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I learned by stepping through the gameplay runthrough in the rulebook.

Each round is in phases:

1) Draw and resolve an event card.
2) Place/move bionts
3) Autocatalysis roll - roll once for each refugia with one or more bionts on it. You're trying to organize manna and create life.
4) Darwin roll - roll once for each living organism. You're trying not to die.
5) Purchases - Buy mutations for your organisms, which give them special abilities and protections.

Rinse and repeat until the end.

Concepts:
- Catalysts (discs) are like money.
- Cubes are like ability or status markers.
- Bionts (domes) are player tokens
- Mutations are special abilities

Strategy:
- At the beginning of the game, the only move you can make is to put a biont into a refugium.
- Refugia can be judged by how fecund they are--a refugium that organizes manna on a 1,2,3, or 4 is more fecund than one that only does with a roll of 1. They can also be judged by how robust they are--manna death on a roll of 3, 4, 5, and 6 is worse than manna death on a roll of just 6. Usually you have to trade fecundity for robustness.
- Blue cubes protect against Darwin atrophies. Yellow gives you re-roll on the Darwin roll. Green protects against oxygen pollution. And red protects against temperature events.
- I tend to organize blue manna first, so that the resulting organism has some protection against the Darwin roll. Yellow re-rolls help too. I likewise prioritize these colors when buying mutations.
- When another player has an organism, glom onto it with a parasite if you can. Try not to kill your host.
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Dom Rougier
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Matt_W wrote:
Usually you have to trade fecundity for robustness.


The interesting thing there is how important death is - a cycle of creation and destruction produces catalysts, so although it's trivial to make, for example, the hydrothermal vents completely safe to dwell on, you're less likely to free up energy and thrive.
 
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Steve Carey
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One of the key decision-trees during play is how to spend your catalysts (money):

--Enzyme (betters the odds for organized manna cubes on refugia).
--Anti-oxidant/Vitamin (protects your bacteria).
--Purchase (mutations).
--Red Queen (attack to gain a cube).

There are sub-set rules and strategies for each of these, so tackle them individually as opportunities present themselves.
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