Ursuppe (which was translated as 'Primordial Soup') is a good PC version of a fun board game of the same name. One of the most intriguing games based on "life theory" ever made, Ursuppe puts you in charge of a tribe of amoebas that are struggling to survive on primordial Earth. You earn points for keeping your amoebas alive, while introducing mutations strategically every once in a while to increase their chances of survival. |
The startup is simple: each player is allotted four Biological Points – the "currency" – and then take turns to place one of their amoebas on the board. The actual game is ten turns long, but quite often finishes before then if someone reaches the dark zone on the scoring track (which begins at about forty points). Each turn consists of several phases, which are summarized quite well in Brian Bankler's review of the board game:
"Players take turns moving and eating. The player in last place moves first, which is an advantage. Ameobas first drift one space in the direction of the tide, or a player can spend a biological point to fight the drift. The player then rolls a die that determines further movement. After moving, an ameoba needs to eat one cube of every other color. If the ameoba has eaten, it excretes two cubes of its own color. If the ameoba starves, the poor little fellow gets a damage bead. Thus you can see why moving first is an advantage, since all ameobas compete for diminishing cubes.
After this phase, the next environment card is flipped. There are a dozen or so environment cards. These tell you what direction the prevailing tide will be next turn, as well as determine the ameobas' genetic mutation limit. All genes (special powers) have a cost in mutation points. Any ameoba over the limit must pay the difference in biological points or give up genes (or both, in some combination).
After this is done, players buy new genes. This (and every other part of the turn) is done in player order; the player with the most victory points gets first dibs. A player can buy any available gene if he has the biological points and the gene is available. However, there are only a few copies of each gene. Some genes are also considered "Advanced" which means that they have a pre-requisite basic gene that you have to give up in order to purchase the advanced gene. For example, the Movement 1 gene lets you roll two dice whenever you move, and pick which one to use. The Movement 2 gene requires the player to give up the Movement 1 gene, but does allow the player to choose which way to move, instead of rolling the dice at all!
After everyone has agonized over genes, players can buy new ameobas. Each player gets their allowance of ten BP. New ameobas cost six, and most will be placed adjacent to an existing ameoba. After birth comes death. All ameobas with two damage beads die, and all dead ameobas are replaced with two food cubes of each color.
Finally comes scoring. It's a simple chart that tells you how many points you get for the number of amoebas you have, and the number of genes you have (Advanced genes count double). You move along the scoring track. Since VP order determines movement, there are no ties. Players jump over occupied spaces on the track, not counting them. If one player has gotten to the victory section of the track, the game is over (after all players score). Additionally, the game can end when the environment deck runs out."
This PC version of Ursuppe translates a solid game quite well to the computer screen, although the interface is spartan and there are no bells or whistles to speak of. You can play against up to five computer opponents, and the AI is a bit on the easy side but thankfully the randomness of the game makes it worthwhile. The ability to use various genetic advantages to break the rules of life make Ursuppe interesting and a lot of fun. For instance, instead of going hungry, your amoeba could learn to attack other amoebas for food. Or perhaps your amoeba could be taught to need less food to survive. Either way, you will have a lot of fun breeding and choosing amoebas in this underdog. Recommended!
Reviewed by: Underdogs