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Think of the Peas! Genotype: A Mendalian Game Review

Updated: May 27

Genotype A Mendalian Game (referred to as Genotype from here onwards) from Genuis Games is the last in the review collection I was sent to review and I think it might be my least favourite of the lot. Note back: I've played and reviewed Ecosystem: Savanna, First in Flight, Cellulose to date.

Genotype is a game all about being a geneticist, you'll need to grab a towel and breed pea plants in this worker placement, dice drafting game. You'll need to manage the genetic traits of the plants from; seed shape, flower color, stem color, and plant height. Over the course of five rounds, you'll need to take on the role of a researcher trying to understand genetics through the crossbreeding of plants to ensure that pea plants have the correct traits in the aim of course of victory points! You'll score points for completed peas, left over coins, and more.

The game is broken into five rounds, each of which is broken down into a number of phases, which is essentially worker placement (working phase), dice drafting (plant breeding phase) and then upgrades (research upgrades) and end of round clean up. The worker placement and dice drafting is where the bulk of the game of Genotype sits, with dice drafting really being that core of the game that will make or break your point scoring opportunities.

During the worker placement phase players take it in turns to place workers, of which you'll start with three (and have the option to buy more during the upgrade phase). There are 10 different actions a player can take during the workerplacement phase which are;

Gardening; which is where you draw a new pea or toll card, harvest any pea plants that has all its traits, and then plant new peas.

1st shift: take the coin on the space and then during the dice placement phase, you get 1st pick of the relevant coloured dice .

2nd shift: you'll get 2nd pick of the offspring dice of any colour.

Set the parent genes: adjust the genes on the dice drafting board

Temporary dice slot: this allows you to draft an extra dice during the dice drafting phase

Set Phenotype goals: effectively enable end game scoring for yourself on a specific trait e.g. for each round seed gain 2 points

Treasure: take 2 coins

University: pay the cost shown to immediately validate a trait on a pea plant on your board

Nursery/ tool shed: take cards from the relevant section. Plant cards are only placed during the gardening action, so require another action to be used. Whilst tools can be played at any point, although some have conditions e.g. the grant tool is played during the upgrade phase to discount the cost by 2 coins.

With only three workers and five rounds, and 10 potential actions, you'll need to plan carefully as it's just not possible to do everything. Although in my first game, I went researcher heavy and upgraded to buy new workers, however, the issue was then that there weren't enough action spaces during a four player game to place them all, well there was, just not on the actions I wanted to do. So it's a game about prioritising actions, but with so few it's almost a burden.

After the workerplacement phase, you'll then roll and place all the offspring dice on their relevant punette spaces, with those who placed their dice on the 1st shift spaces getting to pick first from each colour. And then those on the 2nd shift spaces getting a choice of any of the remaining die. You'll then continue in player order taking dice, until everyone has passed. In addition to the normal trait dice, there are also De Nova Mutations which can be taken for a coin or in combination with another dice of that colour to make any trait of that colour, meaning there is some get out to poor dice roles as you can potentially mitigate dice through De Nova Mutations or tool cards (assuming you have them). Importantly, you are limited to the number of dice you can take by the number of dice slots on your board, meaning you may only draft 3 a round, meaning that it can take multiple rounds for peas to be completed.

After all players have passed in the dice phase, players will then take turns to buy upgrades, which can be additional action markers, additional dice slots, new plots for pea plants or assistants. There's a flucating market here, that feels a little bit Clans of Caledonian like as it fluctuates throughout the game, so any popular upgrades will increase in price, thus almost forcing players later in the turn order to pursue different strategies if they haven't accounted for this buy taking additional coin gathering actions during the worker placement phase. The end of round then follows, which is essentially a clean up step, adjusting prices for upgrades, clearing the card displays and refilling coin spaces. At the end of 5th round, there is a harvest phase which allows players to harvest any final pea plants before end game scoring.

Genotype has a whole lot packed into it, and honestly, it feels a bit too tight in terms of what you're trying to achieve. At 2 players the board feels way too open, in that it feels like a completely different game to the 4 player game which is so incredibly tight for spaces, you'll be lucky to achieve half of what you set out to. Two player feels like a game where you'll always have an option even if you invest in multiple new workers, whilst at higher player counts it doesn't feel like the purchase of an additional worker can be justified. And that makes me wonder whether the game needed to be just that extra round or two, or whether further spaces were needed for additional players, as it feels like there is too much to do and not enough actions and/or spaces. And this for me stretches into the dice selection, again at two player you're very likely to get the trait dice you need whilst at four player you're forced to consider the first and second shift actions more than you would at two, as its probably fairly unlikely the dice you want will be taken if you wait.

You could argue this is actually a challenge of the game working out when you need to mid game pivot as the actions you want aren't available so you have to try another route. But unlike say A Feast for Odin when you've got do many alternative actions, there's always a good alternative, Genotype struggles to make that same offering with 10 different often already taken actions. We found the 2nd Shift space was often the only viable action left in later rounds, as drawing new cards that required a second action to then plant and seek to complete in a final round of dice drafting felt ultimately very unlikely.

As you know, I rate games on a

- Buy or play

- Wait for sale or play if you like game XYZ

- Avoid

Genotype for me could almost have two ratings, that's how different it feels at different player counts. However, overall this is a Wait for Sale and a play if you are somewhat interested in genealogy, as the thematic intertwining throughout is so strong for an educational game, held together by great art work and components, however, for me there's a sense of too much to do not enough time that feels daunting. And honestly the first time we sat down to play this my brain felt completely overwhelmed by the whole trait dice bit that it created what felt like an additional personal barrier I had to overcome. And if you were to ask me would I play Genotype again , I'd say yes but not at four players and possibly not even three. And with that concludes my reviews of the bundle of Genuis Games I was sent, my favourite Ecosystem: Savanna and my least favourite is Genotype.

Disclaimer: I was sent a Copy of Genotype to review by Genuis Games, I was not paid for this review and all thoughts remain my own.

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