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The time is 250 million years ago, the place is the super-continent Pangaea. A devastated Earth has just undergone its greatest extinction and now Pangaea itself is splitting up. But this is not the end, it is a new beginning. As time passes the continents take shape. Forest, savannah, mountains and wetlands appear. Animals evolve, and strong species compete for their territories. As life battles life, the question "Who will rule the earth?" remains unanswered.
In Genesis you play the part of great reptiles, dangerous dinosaurs, powerful mammals or cunning man establishing yourself in the new ecosystems on the barren earth as you strive for world dominance.
Considering that Dr. Reiner Knizia is probably one of the most famous and prolific game designers in the world, it may come as a surprise that he's never been one of my favorite game designers. Part of the problem has been that many of his games are for 3 or more players and I usually only play 2 player games. In addition, with so many of his games to choose from, only a few seemed like really great games, with most being fair and several that I thought were down right terrible. Lastly, a Knizia game so often seems to have a dry and mechanical feel to them.that just lacks the spark so often found in a Leo Colovini or Wolfgang Kramer game. Genesis, published by Face2Face Games, is a game that seemed different in some way. It's more like one of the wonderful Kris Burm games, (Dvonn, Gipf, Punct, Yinsh or Zertz) but with much more color and theme thrown in.
A sturdy quad folding game board with nice graphics. Nice sized Mammal, reptile, dinosaur and man tiles, 16 in each of four colors or landscapes if you will. Four very attractive large round wooden pieces with a mammal, reptile, dinosaur or man symbol on top which are placed on the scoring track, each representing a player in the game. A pair of dice, with landscape colors on each side as well as a side with all four landscapes represented, which is Wild.
HOW TO PLAY:
At it's heart, Genesis is a simple tile laying game for 2-4 players. Each player controls a supply of tiles that come in 4 different colors, which are represented by 4 different landscapes. Each player is either a Mammal, reptile, dinosaur or a man and each of the tiles you start with, have a picture of who you represent on them. On a turn, you roll two dice, which have the different types of landscape colors on them, including a side which is wild, which lets you pick the landscape of your choice. Based on your roll, you place 2 tiles on any two empty squares on the board.. In addition, you can choose to ignore the dice roll all together and just place 1 tile of your choice on the board. Several of the squares on the board have either volcanoes or tar pits on them and cannot to played on.
Each player is trying to end up with the biggest heard of their type (mammal, reptile, dinosaur or man) in each of the territories created. A territory being any group of 3 or more tiles of the same landscape and a herd being any 3 or more connected species. Each species must be adjacent vertically or horizontally connected to be part of the same herd.
When 3 or fewer connected empty spaces remain on the board the game is over and is ready to be scored. As in several other Knizia games, the way the game is scored adds an interesting twist that will affect how the game is played through out. It's possible to score, single, double or triple points for your herds as follows:
The largest territory on the board scores triple for the largest herd within it for 12 points and 6 for the second largest with ties being split between the players. The largest of each of the remaining three territory types score double, or 8 points for the largest herd and 4 points for the second largest. Any other remaining territories score 4 and 2 points respectively. Winning the game just requires scoring the most points at the end.
THOUGHTS ON THE GAME:
There are probably plenty of people that won't like the idea that you roll dice each turn to place your tiles. The fact is, with only four landscapes and 2 Wild sides on each die, it's really much less random than you might think. Ironically, it's the dice rolls, that keep this game from being overly dry and uninteresting. Plus deciding when and if you should ignore a particular roll and just place 1 tile instead of 2, adds to the enjoyment of the game. Add in the fact that you can place tiles on ANY empty squares on the board, makes for some interesting choices. Are you better off starting a New Herd, as opposed to increasing the size of an old one. Should you connect a herd of your own or cutoff the herd of an opponent. Should you stop increasing the size of a particular territory, so as not to let your opponent get triple point value for their herd. Should you settle for a 2nd place herd in one area to focus on getting a bigger herd in an even bigger territory. It's all these questions and more that makes Genesis so much greater than the sum of it's parts.
The bottom line with any game, is that it should be fun to play. Genesis certainly fits the bill in the fun department. In addition, with simple rules and game play, it should appeal to a wide range of ages and tastes. Personally I love looking over the board each turn and trying to figure out the best place for my tiles. It's that constant search to try and get a little edge here or there that makes Genesis work for me. But if you judge a game by how often it comes off the shelf on game night, then with Genesis, you just can't lose.