Menu

Bios Megafauna

Reviewed by Chris Kovac

(Sierra Madre Games, 1-4 players, ages 12 and up, 180+ minutes; $72)

 

biosmegaBios Megafauna is a fairly complex gamer’s game with a strong theme of evolution designed by Phil Eklund. This is an updated and streamlined version of Mr. Eklund’s earlier game called American Megafauna with better pieces and faster game play. The object of the game is to have the most dinosaurs/mammal pieces (two players play mammals and two dinosaurs) on the board at the end of an age in order to win tiles which count as victory points at the end of the game. (Due to the complexity of the game I am going to try and summarize the game without necessarily going into all the nuances of the rules.)
You start the game with four sets of unique animal meeples. You have one primary species and three other species which can be spun off during the game, some white gene counters and some tiles to indicate genes which can be transferred to spun off species. The board, which depicts the original super continent, is seeded with twenty two biome tiles. Biome tiles are randomly shuffled face down then turned over one at a time. A biome tile can either show an immigrant animal (which at the start of the game is put directly in the tar pit but does come into play later) or a biome environment tile (which is put on a set slot on the board depending upon which environment symbols are shown on the card). Each of the five latitudes has five tile slots numbered from one to five and you fill those slots in order. If all the slots on a particular latitude are filled, then any new tiles appearing at this latitude are compared with the lowest numbered biome. If greater, then the new tile replaces the old tile and the discarded tile is placed in the tar pit. If smaller than all the current biome tiles, the new tile is discarded to the tar pit. Tar pit tiles are victory points which are awarded at the end of an era.

The four eras in the game are composed of a different number of face down gene cards for each era. All four eras make the era deck. (One way the game ends is when the last era card from the last era deck is turned over.) Next, you turn over two rows of five gene cards face up. One row from the era deck and one from the general deck of cards not in the era deck. Finally you put down your home biome tile on the board (matches your meeple color). If a tile already exists in your marked spot on the board replace it with your tile and put the discarded tiles into the tar pit.
Starting with the player who has the animal with the fewest teeth (best carnivore) and proceeding to the player with the most teeth (best herbivore), each player gets to do one action. As mentioned, during the course of the game you are trying to keep your species alive as the board’s biomes change and, all the while, the other players are trying to do the same.

In order to expand, you have to meet the biome requirements listed on a biome tile. For example “M” means your animal has to have a marine gene. The tile also lists a tie breaker in case you have competing animal species on a tile. You get genes by taking gene cards. You can take the leftmost card of a row for free but for any other card in a row you have to leave behind a white gene counter for each card you “skip” to get to the gene card you need. If there are any gene counters left by previous players on the card, you get them as well. Some gene cards show an actual animal species with a certain number of genes. You have to match as least half the genes listed and have an animal of the shown type available. You can then spin off one of your other animals as you expand to other tiles to represent this new species or you can expand by simply having the right genes as mentioned and still have a meeple left to expand with. If you wish to spin-off an animal without a specific animal card, you can simply replace one of your existing animal meeples with a new one and give the new species a certain number of genes. When you move to a new biome you can live as a herbivore on the tile or below the tile in some cases (nut eaters) or if your animal is within one size of your prey and matches its special genes (roadrunner genes like speed or armour) you can put your animal above the tile as a predator. How far you can expand depends on your size which you can adjust up or down during the game as an action. For example a size three animal can expand to any biome within three spaces. Marine abilities and bird abilities have some special restrictions to movement.

biosmega2Events occur when you draw a gene card from the bottom row of gene cards (cards on the top row are replaced by new gene cards without causing events). Events are listed on the bottom of a gene card and usually result in drawing new biome tiles through disasters; greenhouse gas level change events can also occur.

If you draw new tiles, you place/replace the appropriate biome tiles in the appropriate row. If the new tile is a migrant animal, it competes with any animals (including you and your fellow players) on the lowest numbered biome tile of the appropriate latitude and win if it wins tie breakers. Otherwise, if it cannot live on any of the biomes at that latitude, it goes into the tar pit for points. Major disasters cause players’ animals to go extinct if they have above a certain number of genes (another reason to split off animals). Also, the first major disaster isolates the four hexes of North and South America from the rest of the board due to the creation of the Atlantic Ocean and the second major disaster changes the biome draw pile.

Green house events do two things. First, they either increase or decrease the carbon dioxide level (a chart on the bottom left of the game board) by one. This results in tiles being moved up the board when levels increase and down the board when decreasing. (This is the second game-ending condition for if the carbon dioxide token moves either to the very top or bottom of the chart, the game is over as the world either freezes or boils.) A tile which tries to move into an already occupied space is compared with the tile already in the space. Whichever is the lower tile is removed to the tar pit. Any animals which can no longer live on the new biome are removed back to the player or, if a tile, moved to the tar pit. Secondly, some tiles can be turned over and empty spaces become either wet (only marine animals can move in them) or dry (all non-marine animals can move in them) and certain tiles with stars may become inactive. Drawing a gene card from the bottom row of cards also brings the game closer to a scoring round. When the last card of an era is drawn, the tiles in the tar pit are awarded to the players who have animals left on the board. The player with the most animals (ties broken by number of teeth) is given half the number of tiles, the next player half of the remaining tiles until all tiles possible are awarded (single tiles are left in the tar pit). Each tile counts as one point at the end of the game. When the final era is scored, you count up all tiles in your score pile plus any genes on gene cards you have which show an animal. Each gene on an animal cards counts as one point. The winner is the one with the most points. Ties are broken by the fewer number of teeth an animal species has.

You can see much of the game is trying to get the best combination of genes to live in the most number of biomes while trying to be flexible enough through species expansion to survive biome shifts and disasters as well as other player actions. Opposing players compete with you in the various biomes and if you are a predator eating them they can use genes like speed or armour to make them inedible to you in which case your animal meeple is removed back to stock. People who tend to win the most first era tiles tend to win more often so the game might have a bit of a kingmaker problem. The game is somewhat chaotic making long term planning difficult. In terms of tactics it really comes down to balancing your specialization with the number of different species you have. If you over specialize, a major disaster can wipe out your species but on the other hand you can live in more biomes. If you do not specialize enough, you often are wiped out when your biome changes on you due to climate shift. Trying to find this balance all they while trying to out compete your fellow species is all part of the fun of the game.

I found the game pieces really well made especially the meeples and the biome tiles. The rule book, though long and complex, is pretty well written and Phil does have a living rule book so any changes or errata are incorporated quickly into the rules. Although this is very much a gamer’s game, casual gamers could most probably pick up the game fairly easy if a person who has played the game before is a good teacher. Like many of Phil Eklund’s designs, this is more of an experience game where much of the fun is playing the rich theme of the game more than who actually wins.
I liked this game quite a bit and recommend it to those who like a lot of theme, can handle the game’s chaos and are willing to take a little longer to learn the rules. I give it a strong eight out of ten.

 


Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.


Spring 2012 GA Report Articles

 

[In this issue we welcome Kevin Whitmore, a long time gamer from New Mexico. Kevin has hosted a game night that meets every week since 1999. Kevin plays many different styles of games, including wargames, card games, word games, abstracts, Euros and train games. Kevin admits he isn't the sharpest 18xx player in his local games community, but this just keeps him coming back for ...
Read More
Reviewed by Andrea "Liga" Ligabue (Z-Man Games, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 47-120 minutes; $54.95) Sci-fi is one of the great gold veins where designers and publishers dig out endless games. In the last years I was impressed by many good titles. Eclipse, Race for the Galaxy, Battlestar Galactica, Earth Reborn, Claustrophobia, Galaxy Trucker, Alien Frontiers are all in the BGG top 100 joined ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Tasty Minstrel Games, 2-5 players, ages 13 to adult, 90-120 minutes; $59.95) It seems that even fantasy lands have to deal with the bungling of bureaucracies. In this particular kingdom, it turns out there has been an "error" by the powers that be in doling out the job of constructing the castle of Belfort, the veritable jewel in the crown of ...
Read More
Reviewed by Chris Kovac (Sierra Madre Games, 1-4 players, ages 12 and up, 180+ minutes; $72) Bios Megafauna is a fairly complex gamer's game with a strong theme of evolution designed by Phil Eklund. This is an updated and streamlined version of Mr. Eklund’s earlier game called American Megafauna with better pieces and faster game play. The object of the game is to have the ...
Read More
Right Jobs Steve Jobs, the guy who put the "i" in genius and then applied it to us (in the form of such well received items as the iPhone, iPad, iPod, iTouch etc.) said: "People don't know what they want until you show it to them." That was his job and he did it well, getting those ideas from the mind onto the drawing board ...
Read More
Reviewed by Jeff Feuer (Tasty Minstrel Games, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 45-60 minutes; $39.95) Eminent Domain is a deck-building card game by designer Seth Jaffee but, while a deck-building game like Dominion (Winter 2009 Gamers Alliance Report) which pioneered the genre, it has little in common with it. You do start with a set of 10 cards, which are shuffled and then you ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Indie Boards & Cards, 2-6 players, ages 10 and up, 45 minutes; $39.99) Even as a child, I always had respect for those among us who had the incredible courage to not only face danger but put themselves in harm's way to save others. Firefighters are part of that select group. Instead of running from a burning building, they run towards ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Minion Games, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 60-90 minutes; $49.99) In the annals of Biblical history, King Solomon occupies a special place. As a king fabled for his wisdom, he ruled over the land known as Israel and presided over a time of peace and prosperity. Players, as governors serving the king, compete to increase that prosperity by constructing buildings, ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Educational Insights, 2 players, ages 8 to adult, 10 minutes; $19.99) There are a lot of games out there competing for your attention and leisure spending dollars so it helps if you can make your game stand out. Nowhere to Go, a Hank Atkins design, certainly achieves that goal with its eye-catching hexagonal box and its striking orange and black motif ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Mayfair Games/FunFair, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 30-60 minutes; $15) Pick up and deliver games are a well received genre in gaming. Basically, they are what they sound like. You pick up a cargo in one place (whatever it may be from wherever it may be) and deliver it someplace else. Usually, the idea is to get the stuff to ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Columbia Games, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 2 to 3 hours; $59.99) With the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War upon us, it is no surprise that there has been an uptick in the number of games exploring this already popular subject. Shenandoah: Jackson's Valley Campaign is one of these with the game centering on the campaign waged between ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (dlp Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes minutes; $70) When Cole Porter was writing the score for Silk Stockings, the musical that centered on a beautiful Russian commissar (played by the stunning Cyd Charisse in the film) being wooed by a charismatic Westerner (none other than the incomparable Fred Astaire in the movie) who seduces her to the ...
Read More
Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser (Pearl Games/Z-Man Games, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 60-90 minutes; $44.99) In baseball terms, designer Xavier Georges is batting around five hundred for me. In baseball, that is a terrific average that has never been obtained over the course of a career, let alone a season. As a game designer, that average is, well, average. His first breakout design ...
Read More
Reviewed by Joe Huber (Ammonit Spiele, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 90-120 minutes; about $70) Over the past few years, Stefan Feld has firmly established his reputation as a designer of gamer's games and, as the most published designer in Alea's noteworthy catalog. His string of successes - from Notre Dame to In the Year of the Dragon (featured in the Spring 2008 Gamers ...
Read More
Reviewed by Pevans (Giochix, 2-4 players, ages 13 and up, 120+ minutes; $49.95) I was intrigued by Upon a Salty Ocean when I first saw it at Spiel ’11. The initial attraction was the good-looking artwork depicting the principal buildings of the French city of Rouen, on the banks of the river Seine, in the 16th century. When I was told it was about developing ...
Read More

If you enjoy games, then Gamers Alliance is right for you!