Ursuppe Expansion: Frisch Abgeschmeckt (Primordial Soup: Freshly Spiced)

A board game expansion from Doris & Frank, Germany
This review copyright 1998 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated November 21, 1998

Ursuppe is a very fine, very fun game. The expansion, amazingly enough, makes it more than twice as fun! If you have Ursuppe, you must get this expansion. If you don't have Ursuppe, then you need to buy both the basic game and this expansion. What are you waiting for?

Freshly Spiced contains a fair bit of material for such a small box: two new colors of amoebas to play 5 or 6 players, the necessary foodstuffs and scoring stones for those amoebas, some Biological points in denominations of "2", more damage markers, two new sets of cards (!), and rules and enough players' aid sheets for six people. As with the original game, the rules, players' aid sheets, and backs of the cards are in English, ready to play.

The new cards: I said two new sets, and that's sort of accurate. Actually, what you have are one set of 26 new genes, one card of each. These can be used with anywhere from three to six players. The other set contains 39 gene cards, representing the same genes found in the original game, but in different quantities, and occasionally different costs and effects. These are strictly for use with five or six players - use the old gene cards if playing with three or four players. But do add the new genes, even if using the old set - they're a lot of fun!

At this point, I must put in a disclaimer. Some of the new genes are credited to me. On a gene testing grounds web page, I collected new gene ideas from various folk, including myself. Frank Nestel, the game designer, took some from my page, and some from other sources, and, getting permission from contributors, added them to the expansion. So if my enthusiasm sounds partisan, it is. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't see for yourself!

First, how does the game play with five or six? Surprisingly well. The board hasn't changed, except you start out to number six on the scoring track, of course. Otherwise, you are just fitting more amoebas in the existing board. This makes for a very populous board - but fortunately, there are two new colors of foodstuffs to eat. An amoeba only needs to eat four different colored cubes to survive, so with six players, that gives you some leeway.

Nonetheless, food becomes a problem before too long, and amoebas must learn to cope with it. Fortunately, the new genes give you some new strategies to try. Fast Food, for example, allows you to break the normal "move, then eat" pattern, if you desire: you can eat before you move. Suction lets you eat one cube from an adjacent space, while Suction II (an Advanced gene), allows you to choose two. Energy Conservation allows you to gain Biological Points if you just drift - those can be used to move other amoebas to food supplies, if necessary. And Camouflage I and Camouflage II allow amoebas with Struggle for Survival to eat other amoebas with Escape or Defense. Heh, heh, heh.

Other entertaining new genes include the Social Gene: if you're in last place, those six or more spaces ahead of you must pay you build points. Or PhD, which is an advanced version of Intelligence: still worthless, except to give you two genes' worth of advancement!

Migration Sensing allows you to peek ahead at the Environment card; Hard Crust means it costs predators twice as many BP to eat you; More than a Mouthful means you don't die when eaten, just take damage; Highly Adaptable allows you to swap genes; Flexible means new genes cost less; Toxic Excretions means you become a dropper, basically; Go Out with a Bang allows you to kill other amoebas in your space when you die; Healing allows you to, well, heal damage; and Healing 2 makes you into a vampire amoeba: not only do you heal damage, you stick onto other amoebas! Oh, and the Doris & Frank gene means you get to decide the next game to play if you end the game with it. Better grab that one early!

All in all, the new genes make the game a lot more fun. Basic Ursuppe is an excellent game, don't get me wrong. It's just that sometimes it was a bit frustrating when you started in last place and everyone else grabbed all the best genes before your turn. With the old game, being in last place was usually a distinct disadvantage that was hard to recover from. Now, however, there are so many choices that it doesn't matter that five people have chosen genes before you - there are still fun and potent genes to choose from! Not only that, you can take the Social Gene and make them pay for the privelege of starting ahead of you ...

So get this game - you owe it to yourself to go out with a bang, if nothing else.

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