Genotype – Mendelian Manipulations

Genotype game

I used to hear this all the time when I was a kid (my eyes are green now). Neither of my parents had blue eyes, but I did. If you know much about genetics, you probably know that blue eyes are a recessive trait, which means the answer was both of my parents.

Dominant and Recessive genes was always a curious thing to me, and I didn’t actually hate mucking with Punnett Squares in biology class. But did you know that Mendel started his research into this with pea plants?

Genotype game

Thus, you can imagine my interest when Genius Games announced Genotype: A Mendelian Genetics Game which explores this very thing! Genotype is a worker placement game for 1-5 players that lasts between one to two hours. The box says it’s for players age 14+, mostly because of the subject matter.

Setup

The rulebook opens with a two-page spread for the ten steps required to set this game up. Once you’re done the board will have four Punnett Squares with matching Offspring Dice, Gene Tiles, and a coin on each, an Abacus set up with initial costs for each of the Research upgrades, and cards in the Nursery and Tool Shed.

Genotype set up for 3 players
Set up for three players

Next to the board are the Assistant, Pea Plant, and Tool Card decks, with three assistants laid face-up.

Everyone gets a Player Mat, three Action Markers, and three Phenotype Research Markers.

Genotype player mat with plant cards, action markers, and a coin.
Starting equipment: player mat, action markers, phenotype markers, plants, a coin, and a tool card.

Gameplay

Rounds in Genotype have two phases: the Working Phase and the Plant Breeding Phase.

Working Phase

During the Working phase, players place their Action Markers on locations on the main board or their player mat. You’ll do this one-at-a-time round-robin until nobody has any Action Markers left.

Locations

  • Gardening (Player mat) – First draw a Pea Plant or Tool Card from the board. Then, harvest any completed Plots. Finally, plant as many Pea Plant cards as you can, provided you have an empty Garden Slot.
  • Temporary Dice Slot (Player mat) – Gain an extra Die during the Plant Breeding Phase this round.
  • Setting Parent Genes (one per Punnett Square, main board) – Place or remove (but don’t flip) a Gene Tile on a Punnett Square. This changes one axis to all dominant alleles, all recessive alleles, or a mix (if you remove the tile).
  • First Shift (one per Punnett Square, main board) – Take the coin if there is one. During Plant Breeding, draft an Offspring Die before anyone else in this Phenotype row.
  • Second Shift (main board) – During Plant Breeding, after the first shift workers, and before everyone else, draft a die from whatever Phenotype row you want.
  • Set a Phenotype Research Goal (main board) – Put a worker here and pay coins to claim a Research Goal for the rest of the game. These goals give extra points for every completed plant with those traits.
  • Treasury (main board) – Gain two coins.
  • University (main board) – Pay coin(s) and immediately validate a trait on a plant.
  • Nursery (main board) – Draw two face-up or face-down Pea plants, or one of each.
  • Tool Shed (main board) – Draw a face-up or face-down Tool. Tools are one-time use cards that you can play any time. Tools allow you special abilities like validating a trait for free, taking an additional Offspring Die, change a Die, and more.

Plant Breeding Phase

To begin the Plant Breeding Phase, roll the five Offspring Dice for each color. Then, sort them into the correct Dice Pool Area based on the Punnett Squares. Roll any dice with mutation faces a second time. If it still shows a mutation face, put it in the De Novo mutation area.

Then, draft dice and validate traits on your Pea Plants. Starting with the First Shift, then the Second Shift, players take one die per Action Marker they’ve placed. Once the shifts are done, continue drafting dice in turn order as long as you have a valid placement on a plant, until everyone has passed. You cannot draft a die without an available die slot and a matching unvalidated trait on a Pea plant.

You can draft *just* a mutation die to a die slot to take a coin, *or* you can draft a mutation die *and* any other die of the same color to validate any trait of that Phenotype.

Finally, players in reverse player order can purchase an upgrade.

  • New Plot – Purchase an additional Plot to plant more peas at the same time.
  • Dice Slot – Purchase an additional Die slot to draft more dice.
  • Action Marker – With an extra Action Marker you can place more workers per round.
  • Hire Assistant – Like Tools, Assistants provide you with special additional powers. Unlike Tools, these powers are permanent.

The abacus shows the cost for each upgrade. After purchasing an upgrade, increase its price by one.

Reset

Finally, perform reset steps before the next round, bringing out new cards, coins, and reducing upgrade prices on the abacus.

End Game

After five rounds, everyone Harvests one last time, and the game is over. Add points for leftover components, completed Pea plants, Research Goals, and Incomplete Research. Whoever has the most points wins!

Genotype scoreboard for purple player: 56 points

Impressions

Genotype did a great job incorporating many of the aspects of the science of Mendelian genetics. By modifying the Punnett squares you affect the available Phenotypes, which can help you validate your Pea Plants for points.

The tools available in the game simulated the kinds of tools Mendel used in his experiments, too. I also really liked the additional book explaining the science that informed the game. I especially appreciated the notes explaining where the game actually took liberties with the science for the sake of gameplay.

Genotype: The Science and The Game
This 12-page book explains the science, and how that effects choices in the game.

The art in Genotype is fantastic as well. The use of overwhelmingly green and brown tones made the game feel earthy and natural. The handwriting-inspired fonts made us feel like we were reading out of Mendel’s science notebooks.

Who is it For?

Genotype is probably the heaviest Genius Games title we’ve played. This does push it into the realm of high school students, for playing this game as an educational experience. You’ll learn a lot more from the companion book than you will from the game itself. That said, the way this game is constructed may spark interest from players.

There’s also a huge variety in strategies and gameplay, which make this game feel a lot bigger even if it isn’t necessarily “heavier”. This adds to replayability, too.

Genotype board. Most dice are on the De Novo mutation slots, with only a few on specific gene combinations.
Sometimes no one gets the gene combination(s) they want.

Genotype supports solo play, but I can’t imagine setting up a game this big for a solo experience. It’s quite a table hog with a central board and a player board for each player..

I don’t feel like Genotype rises to the level of truly evergreen worker placement games. But if the topic of Mendelian genetics is of interest to you, or you can align it with a gameschooling experience, it is certainly a fair implementation of the theme and mechanic.

Pick up your own copy of Genotype: A Mendelian Genetics Game directly from Genius Games, on Amazon, or at your friendly local game store.

Genotype plant cards

Genius Games provided The Family Gamers with a promotional copy of Genotype for this review.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

Genotype - Mendelian Manipulations
  • 10/10
    Art - 10/10
  • 8/10
    Mechanics - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Family Fun - 7.5/10
8.5/10

Summary

Age Range: 14+
Number of Players: 1-5
Playtime: 45-75 minutes