BIOTIX Review – Smirk & Dagger – Review

Theme and What is it?

You are a microbiologist working for the evil Doctor Lillian Johannae, who has recently discovered a new breed of microorganism dubbed BIOTIX: extremely unstable and highly volatile.  In BIOTIX, two to five players are vying for the most points, earned through acquiring and maintaining various colors of BIOTIX in their petri dishes.  The winner attaches their name to Dr Johannae’s paper regarding the newfound BIOTIX and thus sees their status in the scientific community skyrocket to super stardom.

Gameplay Mechanics

BIOTIX features set collection with specific limits, exploding chain reactions, and a healthy dose of hosing over your fellow players.  The course of the game simulates three days of scientific research.  Each day consists of a minimum of three rounds.  At the beginning of the game, each player will take a player card displaying a petri dish featuring both color-coded spaces for the BIOTIX you will receive over the course of play, as well as a handy list of the point values for each BIOTIX remaining in your dish at the end of each day.  The draw bag is filled with eight each of five different colors of BIOTIX.  There is a single white BIOTIX that serves to mark the rounds on the starting player’s petri dish.  On the first player’s third turn, the white BIOTIX goes into the draw bag.  When it is drawn, that game day immediately ends.  This adds a nice bit of uncertainty as to just how long each of the three days will be.

On a player’s turn, they will draw two BIOTIX out of the bag.  They can choose to either keep or give away one or both BIOTIX.  Each color BIOTIX must be placed in a matching space in the petri dish and there are limits for each color which the players must observe.  Should a player keep or receive a BIOTIX that exceeds the limit, a reaction happens.  This usually involves losing BIOTIX, perhaps merely discarded to the bio-containment box, or even drawing some back from other players in the case of one of the colors.  Three of the five colors force players to give BIOTIX to other players when triggered and can thus cause further chain reactions of their own.  This is the meat of the gameplay in BIOTIX, choosing when to cascade reactions and thus ruining everyone’s petri dishes, and when to spread them around to avoid reactions.

The game features a catch-up mechanic of sorts in the Eureka Paradox: anyone who is more than 20 points behind the leader at the end of day two may make a secret prediction, writing down how many of one color they think they will have at the end of the third day and, if successful, they gain 30 points.  This gives them a real chance for victory and keeps them invested in the game.  Additionally, the game features an advanced option of adding eight black BIOTIX into the bag.  These BIOTIX mimic the behavior of the color into which they are placed, but also function as a kind of shoot-the-moon mechanism in that a few are bad, but if one manages to fill their board with black BIOTIX they are worth five points a piece.

Initial Impressions

When first looking at BIOTIX, I saw zany scientists, petri dishes, and ornery looking little meeples.  I was mildly hesitant though because I usually do not enjoy direct confrontation, take-that, messing-with-your-neighbors style of gameplay.  However, the box said it was 20-30 minutes, so not too long, and I was very intrigued by the concept of the chain reactions as they drove player interaction rather than relying solely on direct player impetus.

Quality of Components and Insert

The box includes five petri dish player cards, three reference cards, 48 BIOTIX meeples with sticker sheet, one timer token shaped like a BIOTIX meeple, and one specimen bag.  The player and reference cards are thin and feel similar to poster board, but are sturdy and I would expect them to hold up well.  The BIOTIX meeples are wooden meeples of the quality most gamers are coming to expect.  The cloth specimen bag has a draw string and features the BIOTIX logo.  There is a box insert of sorts but it functions primarily as an alternate lid to the box during gameplay, transforming it into the “bio-containment box” and is a really nice touch thematically. 

A small complaint: I found the accompanying stickers were ever so slightly larger than the meeples making it tricky to get the “perfect fit” when applying them before our first game.  I must stress though that this was purely cosmetic and no one noticed it as an issue during the course of gameplay.

Artistic Direction

The art features cartoony scientists and, of course, the dastardly, highly volatile BIOTIX.  It all works very well to join the theme and the mechanisms and to subtly cue the player as to the style of the gameplay within.  Functionally, the petri dishes are large enough to fit the BIOTIX comfortably and clearly indicate the color limits.  As mentioned the player card also features the list of BIOTIX and their point values.  This information is repeated on the reference cards, which also include the reactions associated to each color, but it is nice to have it on your player board as the player will quickly memorize which colors trigger which reactions.

Fun Factor

In play, BIOTIX elicits the excitement and suspense of a blind draw with the tension of hoping that your well-planned petri dish does not see destruction and ruin from those pesky chain reactions.  There are also plenty of smiles and grimaces as you see the BIOTIX working either for or against your designs: the joy of handing off an explosive BIOTIX to a friend and the accompanying fist shaking as their dish is decimated.

Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion

The box indicates ages 14 and up, though I think younger children can certainly grasp the mechanisms of the basic game and likely even the advanced variant, so long as they can cope with seeing their plans torn asunder at the hands of other players.  The game also features a lot of direct confrontation as players hand off BIOTIX, triggering reactions and sending others’ BIOTIX flying.

Players will also need to be able to keep at least a loose mental count of which BIOTIX meeples have been discarded to the bio-containment box and which remain inside the bag in order to properly time their dishes for the end of each game day for maximum points.  This can lead to a little bit of analysis paralysis in key moments of the game, but largely it is a straight forward decision of whether to keep or give away your drawn BIOTIX. 

Conclusions

I enjoyed BIOTIX much more than I thought I would.  I really liked the flow of each game day.  There is definitely a shift in your thinking as each day progresses, timing when to switch from cautious play to specifically acquiring BIOTIX for those end of day points and knowing the relative safety of those decisions based on what you have seen discarded previously in the round gives each game day good rhythm and excitement.  Overall, the components are great and the inclusion of the “bio-containment box” insert is appreciated and adds a nice thematic touch to gameplay.  I also really appreciated that there is a good split of male and female scientists on the player cards and that the players’ boss in the game world is a woman.  Representation in games is important.

I am not sure what it was specifically, but between the sometimes cascading reactions of the BIOTIX and the fact that those reactions are what drive some or most of the player interaction depending on your group, coupled with a play time that facilitates one or two quick games at game night and/or the rotating in of new players between games, I found myself really enjoying BIOTIX and, surprisingly for a take-that style of game, looking to play again immediately.

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Originally posted 2017-07-14 18:30:40.