Spotlight on Games > Variants
True Mutation
Suggested Variant Rules for Ursuppe/Primordial Soup,
the 1997 board game published by Doris&Frank
later re-published as Primordial Soup

There is a version of this page called "Wahre Mutation" auf deutsch (in German translated by Godwin Solcher).

There is a version in Japanese at Table Games in the World by Takuya Ono.

Why Change An Already Fine Game

It seems the amoebas have too much intelligence in the way that they mutate. After all, they can decide in which direction they want to adapt and this, while perhaps good as a game, seems distinctly ahistorical. Instead, let's view mutation as an essentially random event which the creatures can take advantage of when it happens. Evolution takes time so let's stretch out the number of game-turns, make environmental spasms a little less frequent and then see what happens and which adaptations triumph. I like to think of it as more of a simulation and less of game. I also think it makes Ursuppe an acceptable game for just two players, which the current game is not.

All of which is not to say that Ursuppe is not an already very fine and fun game; it is! Moreover, it speaks well of its subsystems that it is so amenable to a major variant like this.

Setup Changes

  1. Shuffle together all the gene and environment cards (excepting the one placed on the board at start) to form a single deck.
  2. Each player starts with just one amoeba with no damage.
  3. Give each player 5 BP.
  4. Each player is also considered to be holding the Movement card.

Play Changes

Each turn now starts with the turning up of the bottom card from the deck. (Draw from the bottom to keep players from knowing what is coming; you might put a blank card on top of the deck to hide the top as well).

Movement order is decided at the start of the movement phase. The player with the fewest amoebae goes first. Ties are resolved first by Intelligence -- the player having Intelligence can decide when he wishes to go among all tied players -- and failing that, by die roll.

Each turn, each player may spawn one new amoeba completely free. Only additional amoebae cost BP, the usual cost.

Players who lose all their creatures must lose all their gene cards apart from movement. They may return in the next spawning phase.

A player buying a gene card need not play it immediately, but may hold it off to the side instead. A player may only hold to the side as many gene cards as he has amoebae.

Victory Changes

The game ends at the end of the turn on which the last card has been turned up. The winner is the player with the most amoebae on the map at the end of the game. If there is a tie, the winner is the one whose amoebae are furthest from total extinction.


It may be that all of the initial amoebae should have Streamlining as well.

If you try out the variant, your comments (in English or German) are most appreciated.

See also The Ursuppe Page which is maintained by the authors of the game and a page of all the Ursuppe links, The Primordial Information Soup by Jörg Zuther.

Tue Nov 19 11:47:04 PST 2002