Game Overview:  As a lab assistant, you are trying to culture a highly volatile microorganism, BIOTIX.  Trying to impress the lead scientist, you are adding BIOTIX to your petri dish to create a flourishing culture.  At the same time, you are adding BIOTIX to other player’s petri dishes which bring them to the edge of disaster or worse yet, catastrophic explosions.  Over three days (rounds), you want to impress the lead scientist more than your opponents to win the game.

Box Contents:  This is a small game that won’t take up a lot of space with the box measuring just 5.5 inches by 5.5 inches.  Included in the box are 48 BIOTIX wooden meeples, draw string bag, sticker sheet, player cards which include your petri dish, and a BIOTIX containment box.

It did take some time placing 48 stickers onto the wooden meeples.  While this is not required for the game play, it helps immerse you in the world of BIOTIX with the different faces.

The draw string specimen bag is better quality than a lot of games out there that use them and has a nylon feel to it instead of felt, which is very common.  It has the game name on it, which was a plus, instead of using a generic draw string bag.  The bag may be just a little small for people with larger hands.  I have seen much worse though, where I can’t even get my hand in half way.  Here, I can put my entire hand into the bag, but it is a tight fit. 

The containment box is just folded cardboard that is placed into either the top or bottom box to hold the BIOTIX meeples when they are removed from the game.  This was folded inside out for us and took a little messing around with it to understand the purpose of it.  However, the rules say that when you trash a BIOTIX you are to place it hidden into the containment box.  I am at a loss on how that would even be accomplished.

Clarity of Rules: The rules manual is ten pages long (5 double sided sides) and folds out into the different pages.  It does an excellent job in explaining the game by breaking the rules down into the different steps for each round.  There aren’t too many pictures or examples, but the rules are easy enough to understand without them.

Game Play:  Each player takes a player board, which is double sided and represents the petri dish they are working frOm.  One side is for 2-4 players and the other is for a five-player game.  On each player board there is a countdown track.  The first player takes the lone white meeple and places it on the left most spot of the tracker.  Each turn the draw bag is handed to the player, the time tracker moves one spot.  Once it moves off of the board, it will be placed into the specimen bag.

Each turn, players will draw 2 BIOTIX from the specimen bag.  You get to choose which petri dish they go into.  It could be yours or it could be an opponent.  Within each petri dish, there are colored boxes which represent the five normal BIOTIX colors (red x2, blue x3, purple x2, green x3, and yellow x1-for 2 to 4 player game).  Any time the BIOTIX go beyond the allowed number in a petri dish, reactions occur.

· Red (Attractive)- Trash your red BIOTIX and take any 2 BIOTIX from the other players.

·  Blue (Migratory)- Give one blue BIOTIX in your dish to each player and trash the remainder.

·  Green (Repulsive)- Trash your green BIOTIX and one more of your own BIOTIX of any color.

·  Purple (Magentic)- Trash the purple BIOTIX in every player’s dish.

·  Yellow (Explosive)- Trash your yellow BIOTIX and give away 3 of your own BIOTIX.

The thing to keep in mind is that you do want BIOTIX to remain in your petri dish as they are each worth points.

·         Blue (Migratory)=2 points each

·         Red (Attractive)=3 points each 

·         Green (Repulsive)=5 points each

·         Purple (Magentic)=10 points each

·         Yellow (Explosive)=15 points each

Players continue taking turns and after the white timer has been added to the bag, players will know that the current round can end at any time.  When the white timer is drawn, it represents the end of the day and everyone scores the points they have.

The player that drew the white timer token is the first player for the next day/round.  At the start of a new day, each player chooses two BIOTIX that currently reside in their petri dish and must trash them.  All trashed BIOTIX are placed back into the storage bag.  In total, you will do three rounds to determine who is the top lab assistant by combining the points scored over all three days.

An optional rule that we feel should always be played with which can make the game even meaner, adds in the black aggressive BIOTIX to the storage bag.  When these are drawn and you assign them to another player, they get to pick which currently placed BIOTIX it will replace.  If they don’t have any BIOTIX, they can place it on any empty colored space.  These will act in the same way as the colored location they are on, if a reacation occurs.  However, if they remain on the board when scoring is done, they will give you -2 points.  If a player only has the black BIOTIX, they are worth 5 points each instead.

Replay Ability: This is a quick game that plays in approximately 30 minutes and will be different each time as the meeples being draw and where they are being placed will make each game unique, adding to the replay ability.

Appropriate Audience: The game suggests 14+ and someone much younger can easily play this game.  You could probably play this with someone around 6 or 7 years old.  As with any Smirk & Dagger game though, there can be some mean actions that can be taken.  Younger kids may not be as good at dealing with this when you are destroying things in their petri dishes, so make sure the younger kids can handle that.

What We Liked/Didn't Like: With setting up the game, I generally don’t like having to spend a good 20-30 minutes adding stickers to game pieces.  This was no exception and I found it to be difficult to match up the sticker with the odd shapes of the meeples.  Granted, this is just a one-time thing.

We really enjoy the fact that when things go bad with reactions, they are not necessarily impacting just that person as they may be forced to give away BIOTIX to other players which then set off additional chain reactions.  For games that can be mean at times, I think this is the way to go instead of having everyone gang up on one person they have to consider what may be coming back their way from that same player.

The game is definitely more unpredictable as you add more players to it.  The thing I didn’t expect is that at a two-player level, this becomes a very strategic battle between both players.  In fact, this may be our preferred way to play the game.

There is a catch-up rule called the Eureka Paradox that occurs after the 2nd day of research.  If any player is 20 or more points behind the leader then they can conduct side research.  They simply write down a BIOTIX species and a number from 1-3, which represents the number of meeples they will have.  At the end of the 3rd day, if they have matched what they wrote down then they get a 30 point bonus.  It is interesting as everyone starts watching those players to try and figure out what they may have written down based on what they are placing on their petri dish.  However, this is a rule that I can see some people not liking

Although a minor thing, I am not a fan of having to grab paper to write down scores.  A small scoring pad would have been nice.  However, this game has a very low price point and I understand why they went this route.  .

Add-ons/Other Releases:  A mini expansion that is currently (at the time of the review) available at gaming conventions attended by Smirk & Dagger, adds in two new BIOTIX- Adaptive (Gold) and Hyper Reactive (Gray).  Adaptive is treated as a wild.  The Hyper Reactive must be given to another player who has at least one BIOTIX of any color.  They then trash both the Hyper Reactive and the other selected BIOTIX.

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.

          **A review copy was provided to us.