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Subject: Biggest selling point and largest potential drawback rss

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Eric Clason
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Introduction:

This post does not use a typical format for reviews. It gives a short description of play and then the majority of the review is spent discussing what I believe to be the biggest selling point for Primordial Soup (PS) and the largest potential drawback. Hopefully this discussion will give you a good idea about whether you might like PS or not.

Short description of play:

In Primordial Soup (PS), each player controls a species (color) of amoeba. The amoebas live on a game board that is approximately 5 spaces by 4 spaces (with a few irregularities). In addition to amoebas, there are food/poop cubes (which come in the same colors amoebas do) on the game board spaces. Each round there is a drift direction (East, West, North, South, or Calm). Each amoeba may drift one space in the drift direction or pay 1 Biological Point (BP), the money of PS, to move instead. Moving involves rolling a die and moving the direction it indicates. On a 6, the player gets to choose the direction to move. After drifting/moving, if there are 3 cubes of the other colors in its space, the amoeba eats them and poops 2 cubes of its own color into the space. If there are not enough cubes, the amoeba takes 1 Damage Point (DP) instead. After it takes 2 DP, an amoeba dies and 2 cubes of each color are placed in the space it died. Each round a player receiveds10 BP. Amoebas can reproduce, at a cost of 6 BP. Finally players may buy genes, each of which costs from 2 to 6 BP. Genes give a player’s amoebas additional abilities. Some of them are:
- Eat fewer cubes.
- Take 3 DP to die
- Cost only 4 BP to reproduce
- Choice of 2 dice to determine movement direction
- Eat other amoebas instead of cubes.
There are 20 different genes in all. By the end of the game a player will probably have accumulated 3 to 6 of them. There are 1 or 2 copies of each gene, so it sometimes happens that a player can’t buy a particular gene because all the copies have already been bought by other players. Also if a player has too many too powerful genes, there is a chance radiation will cause him to lose gene(s) if he doesn’t pay BP to prevent their loss.
The more amoebas (up to 7) and genes a player has, the further he advances up the scoring ladder at the end of each round. The game lasts until the round when at least 1 player advances onto the game ending zone of the scoring ladder, usually the 8th or 9th round. The winner is the player that advanced furthest on the scoring ladder.

Biggest selling point for Primordial Soup:

What makes PS a fun game, is the genes. Each gene choice is a strategic decision. It reminds me a little of picking advancements in Civilization. It’s fun building a gene combination and seeing if they have the synergies you predicted.

As you play multiple games of PS, you need to try different gene combinations. PS is not about perfecting a winning formula to be used every time you play the game. First, I doubt there is one. But more importantly, if you play a similar gene combo in every game, you will miss out on a lot of the fun of seeing how different gene combos perform. There are 20 different genes in PS and another 26 in the Extra Spice expansion, so there are a huge number of different combos to try.

Largest potential drawback with Primordial Soup:

The largest potential drawback with PS is the game length in general and in particular the fact that the majority of the time is spent in the drifting/moving and eating phase of each round. The argument goes: the best part of the game is choosing genes, but only a small amount of the total game time is spent doing that.

There is advice on how to speed up the drifting/moving and eating phase, and it should be used. However even with the advice, games are still going to take around 2 hours and the majority of the time is still going to be spent in the drifting/moving and eating phase.

If you consider the drifting/moving and eating phase to be the equivalent of rolling dice and cross indexing them with your genes on a Combat Results Table to get a result, PS is going to drag for you. I look at the drifting/moving and eating phase as an experiment where I can see how my amoebas with my gene selection perform.

To use another game analogy, the drifting/moving and eating phase of PS is like the part of Galaxy Trucker where you pilot the space ship you’ve constructed. If you don’t enjoy seeing how well built, or not, your space ship is by piloting it through various scenarios to see if it falls apart, you’re not going to enjoy Galaxy Trucker. In the same way, if you don’t enjoy seeing how well you picked your genes by observing (and making some tactical decisions) how your amoebas perform during the drifting/moving and eating phase, you’re not going to enjoy PS.

Conclusion:

As you can probably tell, PS is one of my favorite games. But no game is fun for every gamer and PS is no exception. After reading this post, some gamers may decide that PS is probably not for them. Hopefully others will think that PS might be fun and give it a try.
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Ian McCarthy
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Nice review!

I just ordered the expansion, finally, after owning this game for a while. I had been reticent about adding anything to the game since Tom Vasel said the game didn't really need the expansion and this game hits the table only rarely.

You have done an excellent job explaining the reasons for several types of gamers to poo poo ninja this game. I particularly think the comparison of the move/eat phase to Galaxy Trucker's truckin' phase is apt, with the added drawback for the soup that the theme is so much less Kaboom!, if you know what I mean.

The poop jokes can only go so far and the wooden cubes don't help. That being said, you can play this game with a shorter score track. I highly recommend starting at no more than two-thirds of the track for newbies, unless you're sure they're really into a two hour game about amoebas.
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dustin boggs
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My biggest issue was the scoring. I did not like how you seemed to be stuck in the similar position finding it very difficult to move up.
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Gary Libby
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ejclason wrote:
What makes PS a fun game, is the genes. Each gene choice is a strategic decision.


I personally find the drifting and eating to be the most fun. The selection of many of the genes helps to facilitate dishing out damage to and preventing damage from your opponents. It may take a while to get back to your turn, but if you are into the game's theme then watching everyone's amoebas in action as they eat, kill, and shit their way around the board is a real hoot. I just love dragging cubes away from people or eating their amoeba's! goo
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Eric Clason
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ramkitty wrote:
My biggest issue was the scoring. I did not like how you seemed to be stuck in the similar position finding it very difficult to move up.

I have seen one other mention of a 'runaway leader' problem. It has not been my experience. Yes, I've been in some games where a player has taken an early lead and held on for the win. But I have been in at least as many games where the lead has changed in the last few rounds. In one, I was in 3rd place with (what turned out to be) 3 rounds left and I was able to pull off a win.

If you are behind, since you buy your genes last, one tactic I like is to buy Struggle for Survival. That way the players in the lead will not be able to buy a defensive gene that round and you will have at least one round of happy hunting.
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Eric Clason
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KenToad wrote:
...
That being said, you can play this game with a shorter score track. I highly recommend starting at no more than two-thirds of the track for newbies, unless you're sure they're really into a two hour game about amoebas.

I have never tried shortening the scoring track. Does play start normally, or do you allow players to buy initial gene(s)?
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michael dorazio
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Yep, the length of the game just edges it out of competition for any game night. You just spend too much time doing mundane things. Cool idea, and not a bad game, but two hours is too long for what you get. I want to like it more, and we do play occasionally ... but there are way better games that can be played in two hours with the same level of complexity. A light game shouldn't take so long.
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Ian McCarthy
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ejclason wrote:
KenToad wrote:
...
That being said, you can play this game with a shorter score track. I highly recommend starting at no more than two-thirds of the track for newbies, unless you're sure they're really into a two hour game about amoebas.

I have never tried shortening the scoring track. Does play start normally, or do you allow players to buy initial gene(s)?


We just start normally. I think the main issue is that the game is very well play tested to develop and mature over the full length of score track, so this method spoils the endgame a bit. Still, it gives new players a chance to try the game without a full blown 2 hour investment.
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Mark Paul
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In the end there are other games which are a better balance of skill and luck and are much more fun. After a game or two, nobody really wanted to see this hit the table again. I traded it a few weeks ago and haven't really thought about it.

Very good review, This is a good game, but I don't miss it from my library.
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Eric Clason
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crazyyog wrote:
...
I just love dragging cubes away from people ... goo

Yes, Tentacles is another good gene to buy when you are behind. Since you move first, you know where other amoebas are going to drift and can often take the cubes right out of their mouths causing them to starve.
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Clay Berry
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Overall I have to agree with all the comments here (how is that even possible?!)

It’s fun, light, interesting, good theme
Picking the genes is strategic, yet a small physical part
Moving, eating, pooping is good and more strategic/interesting than some think
Each turn takes a bit longer than you would like (lots of bits)
The game overall is just a little bit longer than you would like for a light game

3 player games are just about the right spot for time, but seem to suffer a broken Streamline + Movement I (plus Escape) combo issue.

Even if you’re in the camp that thinks the moving is mechanical, at least you’re doing something (sometimes even making decisions) vs just putting a worker down somewhere.

Others have discussed shortening the game by having pts track shortened. I wonder if limiting max amoebas from 7 to 6 would help?
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