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Primordial Soup
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Store:  Strategy Games
Edition:  Ursuppe/Primordial Soup
Series:  Ursuppe
Theme:  Evolution
Format:  Board Games

Primordial Soup

English language edition of Ursuppe

List Price: $49.99
Your Price: $39.99
(20% savings!)
(Worth 3,999 Funagain Points!)

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
12+ 120 minutes 3-4

Designer(s): Doris Matthaus, Frank Nestel

Manufacturer(s): Z-Man Games, Doris and Frank

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Product Description

You control a tribe of amoebas living in Earth's past trying to survive in the Primordial Soup. At first, your amoebas drift along, eating the nutrients that are available, but soon you'll have to figure out how to get to the rapidly depleting supply of nutrients before your opponent's amoebas beat you to it. You will purchase rule-breaking Gene cards to give your amoeba capabilities to be the top dog in the Soup. Some of these capabilities include more coordinated movement, longevity, aggression, etc. The player who keeps his amoebas alive and balances the use of his or her Gene cards will reign in the Soup.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Best Family Strategy Game, 2006
Deutscher Spiele Preis
2nd place, 1998

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Doris Matthaus, Frank Nestel

  • Manufacturer(s): Z-Man Games, Doris and Frank

  • Artist(s): Doris Matthaus

  • Year: 2005

  • Players: 3 - 4

  • Time: 120 minutes

  • Ages: 12 and up

  • Est. time to learn: 20-30 minutes

  • Weight: 1,368 grams

  • Language Requirements: Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item.


  • 220 wooden Foodstuff cubes
  • 28 wooden amoebas in different shapes
  • 37 wooden Biological Points
  • 4 wooden Score markers
  • 25 wooden damage beads
  • 44 cards(Gene and Environment cards)
  • 1 Game Board
  • 1 color rule booklet
  • 4 reference booklets
  • 2 dice

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 3.6 in 7 reviews

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Soup is good brain food!
September 25, 2008

I brought this game about a year ago and I finally got a chance to play it. Well, it was worth the wait! In "Primordial Soup", you control amoebas, acquire genes so your amoebas can survive attacks, starvation and other amoebas who may have an appetite for something other than food (meaning you!). The rulebook explains the game very well, but you'll want to keep it close by. Some rules are a bit vague and could use further explanation, but it didn't ruin the game. When this happened, we checked out and were able to answer any questions we had. The game is a nice combination of luck and strategy. Even a casual gamer will be able to learn this game.

Primordial. Savage. One-celled.
February 02, 1999

This is one of my favorites of the 1998 game crop.

The premise is simple. You represent a tribe of amoeba in the primordial soup. Your objectives: Eat. Divide. Evolve.

You must cope with currents, changes in the ozone layer, food shortages and predator/prey relationships. In general, the way to do this is to develop mutations, of which there are many. The mutations include such things as Speed (allowing you to move twice in a turn), Struggle For Survival (allows you to eat other amoeba if food is insufficient), and Armor (an advanced mutation that protects you against being eaten).

Be careful, though, because every mutation you develop makes you that much more susceptible to changes in the ozone... which could cost you, either in terms of your mutations or in terms of BPs (Biological Points, or Beeps for short), the currency you use to evolve, move and divide.

This is a great game. Gameplay is straightforward enough that a young person can understand it, and yet there are sufficient choices and the game is complex enough that it will appeal to many hardcore gamers. Highly recommended.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
PRIME(ordial) Soup for dinner! Ahhh... a fresh game theme.
December 04, 1999

The great thing (or bad thing depending on which side of the fence you stand) about German games are their many various themes (some abstract) wrapped around a game. In the game of Ursuppe, the theme is less abstract. Cultivate amoebas and win by getting to the top of the soup. OK, so that's my interpretation. Really you score points by two mechanisms. The first is based on the number of amoebas you have on the board. The second is based on the number of Gene cards you have which alter the charactoristics of your ameobas and help them survive.

The game is a blast to play. Each turn is divided into six phases in which everyone performs actions in turn. This helps minimize the downtime between players. These turns are basically as follows:

  1. Move your ameobas, feed and poop. If you can't feed, you starve and take a damage point.
  2. Change the ozone layer. This is a mechanism that serves two purposes. It determines the movement direction of the 'soup' for the next turn, and shows the ozone thickness. The second item will affect the number of gene cards a person may hold at any one time.
  3. Buy new gene cards.
  4. Collect BP's from the bank (the game's money) to buy new amoebas.
  5. Remove dead amoebas (those with two damage points or more).
  6. Scoring round.

First player to reach the dark area of the scoring track wins.

OK. So some of this is a rehash of the big review provided below. What makes it fun is trying to figure out what combination of genes will help your amoebas to survive. In our last game, the person who was last ended up winning by getting a good combination of genes at the right time. This makes for a game where you're not out of it just because you're in last place. The luck factor in the game is minimal for the theme (after all, how advanced are amoebas). The first game we played with four players clocked in at 2 and 1/2 hours, with about 1/2 hour of that going to covering the rules and playing a sample round. This leaves about two hours for the game which is about right. It may be a little long for some folks, but there is an optional mechanism that allows the game to end after playing through the ozone layer cards once and the person furthest ahead is winner. When played this way with four experienced players, you can get done in about 1 and 1/2 hours. All the usual raves about the bits apply. Good board, good pieces (I pushed the dowels in by hand Urrrahh!), rules in English and German on both the cards and rules sheet, etc. There's a great web site at Doris and Frank that has a FAQ, strategies and variations.

Overall, this game gets and 85db on the Mulder Meter. It's got plenty of shelf life before adding the expansion which makes the game more interesting.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Primitive Civilization
August 11, 1999

I suppose you could compare Ursuppe to Avalon Hill's classic Civilization in a lot of ways. You start out with a bare-bones population and you gradually add all sorts of bells and whistles to your population until it is undeniably the best in the land. Or in the case of Ursuppe, the best in the primordial soup.

This game is extremely fun, although it's hard to say exactly why. You get such a feeling of pleasure watching your amoebas evolve from simple eat-and-poop machines to something fancy that can move where it wants or defend itself against attacks or proliferate at great rates.

The playing board is monochromatic and could be construed as rather dull, but once all the pieces are on it everything looks fine (indeed I am glad that the board is not garish as it would make the playing pieces hard to see). The cards and wooden amoeba playing pieces are of fine quality. As an added touch, the gene cards have English written on the back so that the linguistically challenged of us can play with little more knowledge of German than the fact that the word for 'East' starts with an O.

The game can have a tendency to drag if players concentrate too much on every little thing, especially in the buying of the gene cards, of which there is quite a variety. The game picks up quickly, though, and is usually over too soon.

Ursuppe is a very fun game, and definitely gives you a new appreciation for how tough life must be for microorganisms. Although it is often temporarily out of print (Doris and Frank is a small company and must do short print runs), Ursuppe is definitely worth the trouble it can take to get a copy.

For those who enjoy Ursuppe there is an expansion, Frisch Abgeschmeckt ('freshly spiced') which allows more players and more genetic variety.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
An unusual but fun game
September 07, 2001

A most unusual game that manages to keep you entertained. This game promises many hours of fun and laughter. Whether you are playing with friends or family, you'll love it. It is a must-buy for those who think your average games, like Monopoly or [page scan/se=0050/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Scrabble, are boring. Although the rules may seem a little complicated, once understood, it is an easy game

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Kos
Primo soup is in fact a lot of dry bricks
July 04, 2001

There are a lot of blocks in each square of the game. It is messy and takes up much time to prepare; it is not spectacular. In fact, it is a simulation of amoebas in the soup, not a real game.

It has great ideas in it, just not the right 'genetic' games ingredient mix.

You like it once, twice, and after that you have a dead box.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Game of Primeval Soup is not my Cup of Tea...
October 22, 1999

At first glance, this game has a cute premise... groups of amoebas floating around in primordial muck, striving to find enough food to ensure their survival. Each turn, you get an amount of Biological Points (BP's) to place new amoebas and buy Gene cards. The cards allow your little guys to adopt skills, including defense, attack, and efficiency traits. Using a varying Ozone layer to keep a lid on players getting too many Gene cards, and a shifting turn order depending on who is winning/losing at the time, URSUPPE seems to have a lot going for it.

The bits are OK, and I really didn't mind the minor assembly (hammering poles into the center of your amoebas) required. The Gene set of cards is color on the German side, but only b&w on the English side.

I know that lots of gamers have raved about this title, but after a few tries, I quickly lost interest in URSUPPE. The Gene card combos became stale (certain strategies were readily apparent), and the whole silly theme wore thin fast. Gamers in my group just could not muster much enthusiasm for this one. There is an expansion available, which may help, but we never gathered enough zip to obtain it.

I think URSUPPE has the potential to be a good game for my kids when they get older. In fact, the most enjoyment I got from this game was when my 6 and 8 year old sons laughed uncontrollably upon watching our well-fed amoebas 'excrete' two food cubes each turn!

I'm not saying this is a bad game; on the contrary, one can readily see that a lot of thought went into the design. It's just that there are a ton of other games out there that I'd rather spend my time with.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.

Other Resources for Primordial Soup:

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