Ursuppe is a very fine, fun game for three or four
players from the game design company/team of Doris & Frank. The
setting is the primordial soup in which the first one-celled creatures
came to life so long ago. Each player strives to win points by having
the most amoebas, or the most advanced amoebas in the game.
Ursuppe has the usual fine components one expects from
German games: wooden pieces, nicely illustrated cards, and a handsome
board. (Actually, the board is a bit weak for a German game, but still
not bad.) It also has what one does not expect from a German game, but
what I'm delighted to find: rules, cards, and gamers' reference sheets
in English! This is a move I wish more German game companies would
adopt - I'd love to see more German games being played in the U.S.A.,
and this should help Ursuppe sell here. The game
certainly deserves big sales, as it's one of the most fun games I
Each player has seven amoebas of the same color - there are four
different colored sets. There are numerous food particles (small cubes
of wood), painted in the same identical colors. Each turn, your
amoebas must each eat three food particles: one of each of the colors
that you are not. So a red amoeba needs to eat one blue, one green,
and one yellow food particle - or starve that turn. Starvation is
shown by placing a bead on the peg each amoeba comes with. When you
have two beads, you starve to death: remove the amoeba and place two
cubes of each color food particles in the space.
Each turn, you also excrete two food particles in your own color, which
other amoebas can then eat.
You can also mutate to improve your chances of success. There are
thirty gene cards (representing twenty different genes) which you can
buy with Biological Points (BP) - you automatically get 10 BP per turn, to
represent all that nutrition you're consuming. BP are used to produce
new amoebas as well as buy genes.
The genes are the most entertaining part of the game. There are genes
to help you move, help you eat more efficiently, reproduce in better
ways, attack other amoebas for their food value, defend yourself, and
so on. Each gene has a cost in BP and a "mutation value." Each turn,
you have to check the ozone layer to see if you lose genes - the
average ozone level is 10, which means if you have genes with mutation
values totalling more than 10, you have to lose either BP or genes to
balance the difference. The ozone level ranges from 6 to 14; mutation
values range from 2 to 6.
Each turn you:
There are only ten turns in the game, which takes about two hours to
play. The play is very interesting, as you try to get genes which go
together well. But each type of gene is in short supply, so you're in
competition with your neighbors for not only food, but also genes.
Some of your neighbors can take genes which turn them into predators,
so you have to watch that - either take defensive genes, or good
movement genes to keep away from them, or offensive genes yourself to
get the drop on them. But the ozone level can drop, burning off some
of your mutations, which make them available to the other players to
snatch in the next phase of the turn - it's not easy being an amoeba!
- Move (or drift with the current) and feed;
- Change the ozone level and drift direction card, and balance
mutations with the ozone level;
- Purchase new genes with any leftover BP;
- Receive 10 BP, and you may add new amoebas at a cost of 6 BP each;
- Remove any amoeba with 2 damage points (beads);
- Score points on the scoring track for having more than two amoebas
and/or more than two genes.
Given the interesting combinations of the genes, the random movement
elements, the short number of turns, and the funny art, the game is
good - very good. I especially appreciate the English components, and
recommend the game highly to all gamers interested in a fun game with a
very high replay value.
An Answer from Frank
I had two rules questions which I asked Frank about, and he told me to
post his answer here if I wished. Thanks, Frank!
- The gene SPEED states that the direction of the second
segment of movement may be chosen by the player (emphasis
mine). I asked him to clarify "chosen", and he said that if you
had no other movement genes, you had to roll for a random direction
as normal, but if you had any other movement gene, you could use
it for determining direction.
- If you lose all your amoebas, do you lose all your genes?
Frank replied that logically you would, but in the game it is
already hard enough on a player to lose all your amoebas. So if
you lose all your amoebas, keep your genes, and even buy more if
you wish before building new amoebas.
In a separate file
are some proposed new genes, from myself and others. In case you
think this is heresy, you should know that the game comes with
three blank gene cards for you to fill in!
As of October, 1998, there is an expansion set for Ursuppe:
You can read my full review by following that link, or simply read the
short version here:
Buy it, you'll love it!
I tried the following variant one day when we wanted to play
Ursuppe but there were only two of us. We were surprised
at how good a game it is - try it!
That's basically it. What makes it such a good game is not only the
combination of genes for an individual color, but now you have one
color amoebas protecting your front runner - you get combination of
combinations! Great fun - try it sometime.
- Each player takes two colors - initial set-up is positions 1 & 4
versus 2 & 3.
- Follow all regular rules - there are no differences in rules, but
quite a few in play.
- The winner is the player with the single color who finishes first
- your second color counts for nothing.
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