- For ages 6 and up (publisher suggests 8+)
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 30 minutes to complete
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Visuospatial Skills
- Cooperative & Team Play
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Outwit and outplay your opponents before they do the same to you!
- Gamer Geek accepted!
- Parent Geek accepted!
- Child Geek accepted!
When the scientists created life, they marveled at their accomplishment. Ten years later, the very life they created now threatens the entire universe. You have been chosen to battle the Metacell, a complex organic life form that will consume all that exists. To help you prepare for the battle ahead, a simulation has been created that will test your strategy and tactics. Look for opportunities and never back down! The universe is depending on you!
Metacell Genesiss, designed by John Posey III and published by Products for Robots via the Game Crafter, is comprised of 1 game board, 36 red chips, 36 blue chips, 36 green chips, 36 purple chips, 18 black chips, 18 white chips, and 1 cloth bag. The game board is made of solid cardboard and the chips are plastic. The artwork is very impressive, but kept at the periphery at all times. There is, apparently, a rich story behind the personality introduced in the game, but there is nothing in the game or overall storyline that the players will be exploring. Still, it makes for an interesting read.
Game Set Up
To set up the game, first unfold the game board and place it in the middle of the playing area.
Second, have each player sit next to one of the four corners of the game board. The game board is segmented into four 6×6 grids. Each grid is a different color that corresponds to one of the colored chips. Each grid is also associated with a character. Each character has a brief introduction (no impact to game play) and describes their special power, which will explained in greater detail below.
Third, place all the chips into the bag and mix them up.
That’s it for game set up. Time to play!
Depending on the number of players, there are several different ways to play, referred to as “game modes”. Each game mode is summarized here.
- Duel: This game mode is reserved for 2 players. Each player is competing against each other.
- Mexican Standoff: This game mode is for 3 players. Each player is competing against each other, but are welcome to make alliances during the game playing session. However, only 1 player can win the game.
- Teams: This game mode is reserved for 4 players who want to play as a 2-person team. When playing as teams, team members share their grid spaces, creating a 6×12 grid area to use. As such, team members should sit next to each other. Team members can trigger each other’s character powers, allowing character powers to be used out of turn.
- Free-For-All: This game mode is reserved for 4 players. Like the Mexican Standoff game mode, players are welcome to form alliances, but only 1 player can win the game.
Rules of Engagement
Metacell Genesis is played in rounds with no set number of rounds per game. During a round, each player will take a single turn. On a player’s turn, they will blindly draw 1 chip from the bag at random.
When a player places their first chip, they are welcome to place it anywhere on their grid. All subsequent chips must be placed adjacent to any other chip previously placed on their grid. Players must also place their chips within the defined boundaries of their grid, with a few exceptions.
The goal is to create a diagonal, horizontal, or vertical row of 3 or more chips of the same color. If a player can create more than 1 row of matches in a single turn, it’s referred to as a link. When a player creates a match or a link, they remove the chips and place them in one of their opponent’s grid. Chips must be placed adjacent to all existing opponent’s chips in the grid and remain in the opponent’s grid space. Any matches created are ignored, as matches are only triggered on a player’s turn.
The blue, red, green, and purple chips all represent a specific character’s power. A character’s power is triggered when the player makes a match using chips that match their character’s color. Each character power is summarized here.
- Dominic More (red): Dominic is a paladin and can summon the power of the human spirit to aid him. In game terms, this allows the player to take another turn when they make a match of 3 or more red chips.
- Chef (green): Chef is a humanoid Dracorith (giant lizard) with a natural infinity to the culinary arts and bursts of uncontrollable rage. In game terms, this allows the player to draw another chip from the bag to be placed on an opponent’s grid when they make a match of 3 or more green chips. If a green chip is drawn, the player gets to draw a new chip. This power can be used no more than 3 times during a single turn.
- R0-B3RT (blue): R0-B3RT is a synthetic Cyber-Priest who blends science and religion into single belief which allows him, in part, to manipulate technology through nanites. In game terms, this allows the player to remove 1 chip from their grid and place it back in the bag when they make a match of 3 or more blue chips.
- Courtesan Mirra Quintessence (purple): Mirra is Spirit-Born technophile who can merge with technology using her mind. In game terms, this allows the player to move 1 chip on their grid to any other location on their grid when they make a match of 3 or more purple chips.
The white and black chips are drawn at random, but are used differently than the other colored chips. White chips are wild and can be used to match red, blue, green, and purple chips. When a match is created, the colored chips are placed on an opponent’s grid as normal, but the white chips are placed back in the bag. Black chips are immediately placed on any opponent’s open grid space. The space need not be adjacent to any previously placed chip. Black chips represent “dead” cells in the grid and cannot be, moved, removed, or used to create matches for the duration of the game. A player does not get to take another turn when they draw a black chip.
The game continues with each player drawing 1 chip at a time, making matches, and filling up their opponent’s grids when they do. If a player is unable to place a chip on their turn (all the spaces on their grid are full), they are out of the game. When only 1 player is left, they are declared the winner.
If you think that Metacell Genesis sounds more like a video game than a board game, you’re not far off. There is a video game with the same name, but the game play is very different. The entire time I was reading the rules, I couldn’t’ decide if Metacell Genesis was more like Blokus or Puzzle Quest. Truthfully, I think the game is somewhere in the middle. I’ve even heard some describe it as Go, which I don’t agree with.
Regardless, what we have here is an easy to teach game that is both intuitive, colorful, and fast. The character abilities are an excellent touch and drive the player to take risks and reward them with fun ways to stump their opponents. What could have been nothing more than a simple puzzle race has been transformed into a combative Abstract Strategy game with a subtle Puzzle game right below its surface. A very interesting combo!
After reading the rules and looking the game over, I think we’ve got ourselves a winner here. While I cannot be certain in my predictions, I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of our groups approved Metacell Genesis after only 1 play of the game. My only area of concern is the player elimination. If players are knocked out late in the game, I don’t think it will be a problem, as the downtime should be short. However, if a player is kicked out of the game early, they will have much more downtime and downtime gives players time to think negatively about games. Especially those that their friends get to play, but they do not.
Teaching Metacell Genesis is very simple. I suggest you demonstrate a match, a link, and detail each character power. Metacell Genesis is a game where you can go over the basics before play and talk about specifics during game play without upsetting the game’s energy level. Since there is nothing to read, younger Child Geeks can participate at the table, too, either as a team member or playing in their own grid. Just make sure they understand which color triggers their character’s power. Sadly, any player who is color blind will not be able to play this game. There is nothing on the chips to help differentiate their colors.
After teaching Metacell Genesis to my family, I asked them their thoughts on the game so far.
“A really neat idea. I like how you build on your own grid, but get to attack other players.” ~ My Mom
“It’s colorful, makes you think, and sounds easy to play. So far, so good.” ~ My Wife
“I want to be the guy who looks like Iron Man!” ~ Liam (age 9)
“I want to be the guy who looks like a giant dragon!” ~ Nyhus (age 6)
Let’s get to it and see if we find a new table top game we all love or we have a new donation to Goodwill.
The Child Geeks immediately understood how to play Metacell Genesis and started talking excitedly about how much it was like the video games they played. According to one Child Geek, “This game reminds me a lot of the games I play on the computer, but this one is more fun!” Child Geeks as young as 4 could play the game, but I didn’t observe meaningful game play in Child Geeks any younger than 6-year-old. The youngest of our Child Geeks (age 4) just drew and added chips to their grid, but without much in the way of thoughtful placement. They were still able to match colors, however, and cause havoc to their opponents. The game’s length ultimately caused them to call it quits. Thus, I can only recommend the game to Child Geeks who are 6-years-old and older. Regardless of age, all the Child Geeks voted to approve the game and eagerly wanted to play it again.
The Parent Geeks also very much enjoyed Metacell Genesis. More so than their Child Geeks, in fact. Even the non-gamer Parent Geeks were singing the game’s praise! According to one Parent Geek, “This game has it all right from the start: fast game play, puzzle solving, and player attacking!” But not all the Parent Geeks liked the player attacking portion of the game. According to on Parent Geek, “Games that force me to do bad things to a player are not my first choice of games to play. I enjoyed this game, though, and would play it again.” When the votes were in, all the Parent Geeks voted to approve Metacell Genesis.
The Gamer Geeks fell in love with the game right from the start. According to one Gamer Geek, “I now have my new pre and post game night game!” According to another Gamer Geek, “This is a perfect example of a game that can be taught to anyone, played by anyone, and is STILL a game a Gamer Geek would love playing.” High praise, indeed! The only aspect of the game that the Gamer Geek didn’t like were the lack of more character powers. In the words of one Gamer Geek, “What this game needs is more of what it already has. I can create additional character powers without too much trouble, but it would have been nice if they could have been handed out on cards or randomly distributed. That would be very cool, actually.” I agree. More character powers would make the game more interesting, but I don’t think the game play hurts due to its absence. In fact, all the Gamer Geeks agreed with me (which is a rare thing) and voted to approve Metacell Genesis.
Metacell Genesis has been very well received by all our groups, but by far the most excited player was my wife. She loves games like this and destroys EVERYONE who is foolish enough to compete against her in games like Blokus, Exago, and City Square Off. Of course, Metacell Genesis was right up her alley and she dived into the game like a pro. The look on her eyes when she lost was one that I have a hard time describing. It was a mix of horror, disbelief, and being really pissed off. My wife is not one who likes to lose, especially when she sees no reason why she shouldn’t be able to win. As a result, I’ve played a lot – and I mean A LOT – of Metacell Genesis as of late. It has kicked Blokus to the side and all the other games she enjoys. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that she’s obsessed, but that’s only because she reads this website and I’d rather not get on her bad side.
Years of marriage have taught me much…
For everyone else, I would highly recommend Metacell Genesis, especially if you enjoy the challenge of an abstract puzzle that rewards you with the ability to stick it to your opponents. It’s an excellent mix of fun, problem solving, and wicked revenge. Do check out Metacell Genesis when you have a chance.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.