The REAL Games of Life: Bioscience-Themed Tabletop Games

Tabletop gaming is currently undergoing something of a renaissance. New board games and card games are being produced at an incredible rate, with new titles exploring all possible themes. An increasingly popular theme in modern board gaming is science and nature, which is great for getting people of all ages interested in the world of science. As an avid member of the board gaming community and current member of the Eco Sapien biodiversity education team, I thought I’d share a little of my dual passions with some relevant recommendations. So, if you find yourself wanting to explore the bioscience world with some friends, here’s a handful of games to get you started!

Kirby G
Nature Fluxx – Kirby G / BBG.com

 

Biodiversity & Ecology: Nature Fluxx, Birds of a Feather and Hive

Nature Fluxx was my first foray into modern board gaming, purchased during my time on a biodiversity and conservation MSc course. There are many variations of Fluxx, but I can recommend Nature Fluxx for anyone that has an interest in ecology. The rules are simple at the start of the game, but many of the cards you play will change the rules in some way, keeping the game in a state of flux! The cards all feature plants, animals and important aspects of the environment, and the aim is to collect certain cards that fit together in an ecological pattern. For instance, some goals require you to gather plants and the sun to complete the photosynthesis goal. These goals are also constantly changing, so just like mother nature herself, the game is a constant struggle to adapt your cards for a chance at winning. It’s frustratingly great fun, and certainly one of the best educational games around.

Birds of a Feather is a fast and easy to learn card game for any avid birdwatchers. The premise is that all players are engaging in a bird-watching “big year” and the aim is for players to see as many species as you can. You do this by playing bird species cards and visiting different habitats which allows you to see other player’s birds if they share that habitat. It’s a great, fun way to celebrate the diversity of birds to be found in North America.

Hive is a minibeast-themed tile-placing game for two players, which plays like an abstract version of chess. The aim is to surround the opponent’s queen tile, represented by a bee, by playing tiles that feature beetles, spiders and other minibeasts. These tiles all move in different ways, making players rely on strategy to conquer their opponent. Plus, it doesn’t require a board and can be played on any surface, making it a great game for when you’re on-the-go!

Shane Balloun
Hive – Shane Balloun / BGG.com

Evolution: Bios Megafauna and Evolution

These next two games are a bit heavier than the previous ones, but perfect for anyone that wants to experience millions of years of evolution in just one evening!

In Bios Megafauna, players start out with proto-dinosaurs and proto-mammals and have to adapt their species in order to compete with the other players. If one player chooses to pursue predatory traits, the other players can either choose to join the predatory lifestyle, or choose more defensive adaptations such as hard shells and spikes to fend off the other players to avoid ending up in the tar pits!

Evolution has a similar premise, where players start with simple creatures and add physical and behavioural traits that allow them to survive in a harsh world. This game is less complex than Bios Megafauna, and features stunning artwork for all the potential adaptations you can give your species. A recent expansion included adaptations that allow your species to take to the skies, so if you’re a fellow flight fanatic, it sounds like a winner!

Pongracz Zsolt
Evolution – Pongracz  Zsolt / BGG.com

Epidemiology: Pandemic

Pandemic is one of the most popular modern co-operative board games.Players form a team of researchers and medical specialists tasked with ridding the world of a number of diseases. The game is a race against the clock to slow the spread of disease, develop cures and distribute them around the globe before the world succumbs to catastrophic outbreaks. Below is an episode of the popular Tabletop YouTube series, where Wil Wheaton and his geeky associates attempt to prevent deadly diseases from engulfing mankind, enjoy!

Genetics & Microbiology: Linkage and Peptide

Both of these next games, created by “Genius Games”, are drafting-style card games that aim to replicate (DNA pun!) the experience of intracellular processes on a molecular scale, perfect for making molecular bioscience easier to swallow.

The aim of Peptide is to recreate peptide chain formation during RNA translation by developing the required cellular organelles. Points are rewarded to players for the different amino acids synthesised in their peptide chains. If you’re looking for a fun way to revise for those genetics exams, this could be the key.

Following on from Peptide, Linkage is a card game about DNA transcription and requires players to build successful  RNA copies of a DNA template strand. Players can interrupt each other by creating mutations in the RNA and DNA strands, whilst gaining points for matching base pairs. Again, this is a perfect game for revising the processes of DNA replication.

John Coveyou
Linkage – Jonh Coveyou / BGG.com

Paleontology: The Great Dinosaur Rush

Finally, a recent addition to the games market is The Great Dinosaur Rush. Any budding paleontologist can become the world’s greatest fossil hunter in this competitive resource-acquisition game. Players compete to unearth fossils and recreate dinosaurs for their museum, but can also steal bones and sabotage other player’s dig sites, making it more of a challenge for everyone to get their dinosaurs completed first. The variety of dinosaurs you can create is fantastic and makes for a fun paleontological adventure.

Kevin Brusky
The Great Dinosaur Rush – Kevin Brusky / BGG.com

And there we have it! Of course, these are just a few of the available games out there, and if you’re also into other science topics such as chemistry and physics, tabletop gaming has those well covered too! If any of these games sound appealing, check around for your nearest local board gaming store (they’re more common than you’d think!) and give them a try.


Featured Image: Pandemic – Chris Norwood / BGG.com


12 thoughts on “The REAL Games of Life: Bioscience-Themed Tabletop Games

    1. They’re good fun! Evolution is definitely easier to get into and arguably more fun, but Bios Megafauna includes a whole load of environmental and climate factors to make for a super-immersive game!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Honestly, it’s great to see the revival of tabletop gaming. I tend to be more “traditional” myself, meaning that it takes me longer to warm up to new games, but I do enjoy them once I get into them.

    Liked by 1 person

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