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BIOTIX is a Zach Huff game for 2-5 players old enough to understand a little about microbiology; it takes about 30 minutes to play with a full compliment of 14 year olds and upwards.
Each player is a Lab Assistant with their own petri dish in which they mix and match unstable, volatile biotic Meeples (aka Biotix). Of course when you get unsavoury Biotix it is usually a good idea to pass it along to a rival by placing it in their petri dish in order to sabotage their experiments, let's face it they would (and will) do it to you first chance they get.
To play, you will need a pencil and paper or other means of tallying the score throughout and at the end of the game. The Scientist's (ie the players) petri dishes are printed on top quality glossy card and contain coloured squares that equate to the colours of the Biotix pieces held in the Specimen Bag, with the exception of the Black ones. Each Biotix has an intrinsic value depending on its Bio-Reaction. Migratory (Blue) value 2. Attractive (Red) value 3. Repulsive (Green) value 5. Magnetic (Purple) value 10 and Explosive (Gold) value 15. Black are Agressive and have negative values. The Biotix are all represented by similarly shaped small wooden pieces in the associated colours, given characteristics by the stickers you need to place on them before the beginning of the first game. One of the Biotix tokens is White, just one of them, and it it on this that you stick the Clock face turning it into the Timer Marker.
This White marker - the Clock Timer - is placed on the petri dish card on either the "3" or the "2" of the countdown track on the top of the card; (on which it depends on the number of players). The Start Player now takes the Specimen Bag and draws exactly two Biotix from it. On inspection they may place them one at a time, their choice of which to place first (this can be very important after the game has had a Round or two), or they can place them, again one at a time, in the petri dish or dishes of other players. Wherever they choose they must be placed in the dish on the correct coloured square, remembering that there is a limit for the placement of Biotix - the number of coloured squares there are, plus one - the plus one being the straw that broke the camel's back or more politically correct, the Biotix that started the Reaction. If for instance you have three Migratory Biotix in your petri dish that is fine, but adding a fourth would trigger a reaction. Biotix Reactions generally mean that some Biotix get trashed which means they are placed into the Bio-Containment Box - a very nice touch here, using the base of the game box with a folded covering. Depending on that reaction (explained on the Player's reference card) another or more reactions may occur - a chain reaction in fact. All reactions must be resolved immediately they occur until they have all been triggered and concluded. Once done the Specimen Bag is passed to the player on the left and play begins again. Biotix involved in a Reaction are removed into the Bio-Containment area and are only brought back into the game at the beginning of the next day. The Aggressive Black Bionix bring a new dimension to play. If you are stuck with any in your petri dish they score you minus 2 but if you somehow manage to have only Black Biotix in your petri dish at the end of the day they are valued at positive 5 points
Once the Specimen Bag returns to the Start Player the Timer Marker is moved one space down the Time Track. When it is to be moved off the #1 space it is instead placed in the Specimen Bag where it stays until drawn out, which signals the End of the Day; the game lasts Three Days! In regular play the Black Biotrix are not included, they only come into play if you are playing the Advanced Rules, which most experienced players will probably head straight to, by-passing the basic play. From playing BIOTIX for review purposes my viewpoint is that the basic game works well and is good but the real fun begins once the Aggressive Black Biotix are involved. There is also a 2-player variant which basically means one type of each Biotix is removed from the game at the beginning, other than that the game is played as normal. The Specimen Bag (very forboding looking, Black with Orange Warning text) and the Stickers (for the Meeples) are supplied but as I said earlier you will need paper and pencil for scoring.
On each player's petri dish card there is a black arrow in the top left corner. This is where Black Biotix are placed when drawn or received as gifts (thanks friends!). Before ending your turn if you have any Biotix in this arrow they must be placed in your petri dish, each taking the place of one of your already placed Biotix (exception they cannot replace other Black Biotix). If you have no other Biotix they can be placed in any empty square; remember that they take the place of the Biotix they are replacing and thus count towards the completion of the research, ie if you have 2 Repulsive (Green) Biotix and a Black Biotix another Green Biotix will start a reaction whereas replacing a Green with a Black will not. There are some very clever plays to be found in this game and many of them (make that most of them) are not particularly in the open. Finding out new strategies and tactics each time you play is part of this intriguing game.
There aren't a lot of mechanics in the game, basically you are drawing two Meeples from a bag and placing them on similar coloured spaces on either your own or an opponent's petri dish card; the real gameplay is how and where you place them. I am sure we have had games similar to the playtesters because there have been times when one player has been dumped on by the others or just been plain unlucky and is a long way behind the other players as far as the points are concerned.To edge this out the designer, possibly after the playtesters reports, has included the **Eureka Paradox** in which a player who is 20 or more points behind at the end of the second day may conduct special research that could gain them a massive 30 point boost. This is not a free gift as such, for you have to write down 1, 2 or 3 on a piece of paper and place this, unseen by others, under your petri dish. At the end of the game, after the third day has ended, if you have in your petri dish the exact number of Biotix that you wrote on the piece of paper then the points are yours. Of course we decided to make this more difficult for ourselves by writing down not just the number but the colour or colours as well. To count on this Bonus, whichever way you play for it, you have to ensure that you have scored well in the first two days whilst managing to stay 20 points adrift - this isn't easily done, especially as other players can sabotage your plans. It is a legitimate tactic and it also does make it a heck of a harder and exciting challenge though. Other Strategies: Going for Explosive Gold (15 points) is advantageous but not easy to contain. Holding Purple Magnetics (10 points each) can also be a game winner.
BIOTIX handles its unusual theme in an amusing manner that allows for some friendly fun and back-stabbing play. The game play flows freely and all the while you are learning absolutely nothing about microbiology in apleasantly humourous way. Kids like playing it with adults, especially parents, as they get to pick on them when choosing who to pass their exploding Biotix onto. Biotix isn't going to become a classic but there's no reason it shouldn't be amongst your collection for occasional gaming with friends and family.
When putting the game away the Meeples can be safely contained in the Specimen Bag, the rest of the components fit neatly under and around the bag and the box lid is solid and firm, the pieces are unlikely to fall out and be lost in transit. The box is bright and colourfully appealing but is of a size a little too large for the usual coat pocket.
You should be able to find BIOTIX in your local game store at a price around the £20.00 plus mark. A quick look online informed me that Amazon Prime carry it for £19.68 and amongst other stockists -
Spirit Games £18.99 + £3.00 postage
Games Lore £15.99 + £4.02 shipping
Thirsty Meeples £16.50 + £4.00 shipping
From the publisher: BIOTIX: Mini Expansion
This mini expansion introduces two new types of BIOTIX microbes, Adaptive (Gold) and Hyper-reactive (Grey), with new abilities to enhance your game. The Incubator cards and rules add a new mechanic to the game, allowing players to pass a BIOTIX at a time of their choosing. Finally, Eureka cards replace the pen and paper notations of the end game rules with a more elegant set of materials. Everything is included in a miniature bag.
In addition, you will have access to the BIOTIX incubator. This allows you to hold onto one of the drawn BIOTIX that you don't want to place onto your petri dish. Before a turn, you can then assign this to another player. At the scoring stage, if you have a BIOTIX in your incubator it gives you negative points equal to its normal point value.
Finally, cards will be available to track the Eureka Paradox instead of having to write it down.