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Bios: Megafauna (second edition)» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Slugs vs Bugs: A Tooth and Claw Game rss

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Matt Watkins
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I'm using this thread to document a (currently) ongoing play-by-email game:
Adam Gastonguay
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Matt Watkins
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It's a 2-player Tooth and Claw game using the living rules from Nov, 2017. Notable differences from the printed rules are that cratons start adjoining and that there is no event phase in the first round. Adam is playing the arthropods--black with skeletal number 3, and I'm playing molluscs--orange with skeletal number 2.

I'll try to use this session report to give a feel for the game and how it flows, detailing rules as I go and my thought processes for decisions I make. I'm a new player, so my strategies may be terrible. And I hope that Adam will interject as well so that this can function as a teaching playthrough of sorts, similar to Adam's many wordy teaching games and my own lengthy session report for Bios: Genesis. I'll try to edit explanatory images into the session report after the fact.

Setup:
After randomly drawing player colors, we took the cratons with our starting locations on them--Siberia for black and Laurentia for orang--and randomly placed them adjoining as shown in the image below. We placed starting archetype creeples and dealt out the 8 cards that, with the faceup card in each mutation draw deck, comprise the 10 available mutations in the mutation market.



We each took our newborn and archetype cards and put the remaining 6 archetype creeples of our color on our card. Finally we dealt 5 cards from the ET Event deck onto the Era I pile and that completes setup. The Tooth & Claw game does not use the Reservoir Board, Latitude Strips, black/green/white disks, Biosphere Event Cards, Medea Card, or Monster Tokens.

On to the Ordovician round.
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Adam Gastonguay
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I'll happily talk about my mistakes.

I mean my winning.

Or whatever happens.

Maybe we'll just end up singing "The Circle of Life" together as the world's grossest creatures.
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Ordovician Round (Round 0)

In the printed rules, the first event card is used to determine player order in the first round. In the living rules, there is no event phase in the first round and player order is in order of skeletal number: highest to lowest. I, of course, misremembered this rule and went first even though my slugs have a skeletal number (2)that is lower than Adam's bugs (3). Oh well, if I win, Adam can claim that it was because I got a jump start on him in the mutation market. If I lose, it'll be because I didn't get the chance to respond to his actions in the opening round like I should have. With end-game excuses now wrapped up, we can begin to play.

I should note that, in general, the goal of the game is to have more pieces on the map than the other players. That's where the bulk of scoring comes from, and that goal helps to guide strategy.

Action phase
In the action phase each player, in player order, gets to take 2 actions from the list on the back of the Medea card (and, you know, in the rulebook.) I mistakenly went first.

The mutation market consists of 10 cards laid out in two rows. Red/yellow (metabolism) mutations in the top row and green/blue (Darwinian) mutations below. The cards are displayed with their unpromoted sides up. (You can tell because they only have one possible vertical orientation.) The color of a mutation tells you when color organ cube it will give you when you purchase it. Each organ confers a different advantage: red and yellow help to catch prey and avoid predators, green helps to eat plants, and blue helps to make and spread babies. At the beginning of the game, the bugs and slugs are evenly matched with no organs, so skeletal number will break any ties: lower numbers (my slugs) win herbivore contests and higher numbers (Adam's bugs) win predator contests. So my goal this early in the game is to spread my slugs into as many herbivore slots as I can and press my skeletal advantage while I have it. Spreading creeples takes blue organs, and so my first action will be to mutate my archetype species.

To buy a mutation on the market, choose a species (we each only have one at this point), count the number of unborn creeples on the genotype card for that species (we each have 6), and refer to the newborn card to determine which cards on the mutation market you can buy. (The first column costs 0, second column 2, etc) The total cost for mutations purchased in a round can't exceed the number of unborn creeples. Thematically, this means that it's harder for a new mutation to fix itself in a genepool when the species has a wide geographic distribution (i.e more creeples on the map, thus fewer unborn.)

I want blue, and there's a single blue card in the market: Windborn Seeds, which costs 2. No problem for me with my 6 unborn. So I remove the card from the mutation market and place it next to my archetype card to indicate that the mutation belongs to that species. Then I take a blue cube from the pool and place it on the blue plus icon on the mutation card. Now I have a blue organ on that species. You can now imagine slug larvae spreading themselves by blowing around in the wind.

And spread themselves they well. My next action is to populate my archetype. This action is pretty simple. I count the number of blue organs my species has and add 1. In my case 1 blue organ+1=2. Then I take that many unborn creeples and move them to the newborn card. They'll be dispersed to the map in the next phase of the round.

To complete my turn, I shift the mutation cards left to fill in the gap I left when I bought Windborne Seeds and reveal Small Intestine on top of the Darwinian mutation deck. At the end of my turn, my tableau looks like this:

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Ordovician Round (continued)

For Adam's turn, he decided to buy two mutations: Wrist and Claw, which gives him a yellow organ and lets him press his predator advantage, and Raptorial Claws, which lets him compete with my herbivores. These mutations also have good promotion potential, which I'll discuss more when one of us actually does it. Both cards cost 2 (Raptorial Claw had slid into the gap left by Windborne Seeds) for a total of 4, which is less than the 6 unborn he has. Two mutations is two actions, and that's it for Adam. He slides cards in both mutation rows left to reveal Olfactory Organ and Spinneret Silk Ballooning. Adam's tableau:



And the current state of the mutation market:



Mother/Dispersal phase

I have two newborns to place on the map. To do this, for each newborn I have to first choose a "mother", a creeple of the same species on the map to disperse my new creeples from. I only have one map creeple so the choice of mother for my first creeple is easy. Next I figure out how many Dispersal Points (DP) my species has, which is blue organs+1, just like the populate action. I have 2 DP. To disperse, I start on the mother's hex and move one hex at a time away from the mother, spending DP as I go. For non-swimmers, it costs 1 DP to move through weeds (green hexes) and swamps (brown hexes) and 2 DP to move through sea (blue) hexes. And I can't end up on a sea hex. Essentially, using 2 DP, I can place a new creeple within 2 land hexes of the mother. When placing a new creeple, I have to choose whether to place it has a herbivore (bottom half of a hex) or carnivore (top half.) To place as a carnivore, there must already be a herbivore on the hex for it to eat.

Each map hex has either a red or yellow colored cube on it, which indicates the "roadrunner" affinity of that hex. In short, this means that yellow cubes give advantage on weeds, and sea and red cubes give advantage on swamps. Since Adam's bugs have both claws (green cube=herbivore advantage) and wrists (yellow cube=weed advantage), and there are no yellow cards in the mutation market for me to buy next round, I'd like to both stick to swamps as much as possible and keep my creeples away from Adam's herbivore advantage, so I placed my first newborn creeple on the swamp hex next to my starting hex (1 DP cost), and placed my second on a weed hex also next to it (1 DP cost.) And that's the end of the dispersal phase. Here's what the map looks like now:



Burial phase
There are no endangered creeples, so nothing happens during the burial phase. On to Era I, Round 1
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Era I, Round 1

Event phase
We draw the top event card from the 5 in the event stack on the era card and flipped it over. It's Ring of Fire:



The top of the card shows the player order for this round: green, orange, white, then the color not shown, which is black. So I'm first again this round. The rest of the card shows a bunch of icons for different events that occur this round: a crater at the top right, then on the next row a drift icon, followed by climax, followed by a reservoir event. In the Tooth and Claw games, we ignore all events except mutagens, crowd disease and radiation events. So none of the icons on this card apply and the event phase is over.

Action phase
I have 4 unborn so can easily afford the Epithelium Mucous card in column 2 of the mutation market. I add it to my archetype species and put a green cube on it as you can see here:



Along the top of that mutation card, there's a row of icons. Those icons are a preview of what's on the back of the card. The left half shows one orientation--with a burrower silhouette and size die with a 2-spot--and the right half shows another--with a 6-spot, a green plus organ, and a green emotion tail. The dice spots are for size, which isn't used in the Tooth and Claw game, so those can be ignored. But I am interested in the burrower silhouette. A creeple shape on a promoted mutation indicates that I can create a new species with it, and I'm going to do that.

A speciation action is just a special case of the promotion action. For any promotion you first move any plus organ cubes on the mutation to the genotype card as a basal organ then flip the mutation card over and choose one of the orientations. I'm going to choose the orientation with the burrower shape (Cellulose Methanogen) in order to speciate my archetype to a burrower.

To complete the speciation:
1) I first move the mutation card to a new row in my tableau, and it will be the genotype card for a new species.
2) Then I copy all of the basal organ cubes on the parent species to the child species. In this case, there is the green basal organ I just placed on the archetype card.
3) Then I move all of the 7 matching creeple shapes onto the new genotype card as unborn creeples of that species.
4) Finally I replace one of the parent creeples on the map with one of the new unborn ones, returning the parent creeple to its unborn. I'm choosing one of the ones on weed. My final tableau and map look like this:



Note that one of my archetype creeples came back to unborn, so now there are 5, and there are 6 remaining unborn burrower creeples. My burrower is now mucousy, methane spewing, burrowing slug. And that's my two actions. Also notice that both of my species now have a green basal cube, which means they both have advantage as herbivores. The way that speciation copies the plus organ onto both species as basal organs can be used to your advantage.

On to Adam's turn.
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Era I, Round 1 (continued)

I forgot to mention that I refilled the mutation market, sliding the Darwin row to the left to fill the gap and uncovering Arboreal Tendrils.

Adam desperately needs to get some creeples on the map, so he's going to purchase the Spinnerets in column 4. Cost for those is 6 and he has 6 unborn archetype creeples, so perfect. That gives him a blue cube and the ability to populate two newborns, which he does. Then he shifts mutation cards left and uncovers Viviparous on top of the mutation deck.

Mother phase
Adam is the only player with newborns. His archetypes have 2 DP due to the new Spinneret mutation, so they disperse as you can see here:



And since there's no competition and no endangered creeples, again nothing happens in the burial phase. On to round 2.
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Phil Eklund
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That burrowing slug has "I am the extinctinator!" written all over it!
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"Extinctinator", huh? Is that a hapax legomenon in the making?
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Adam Gastonguay
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phileklund wrote:
That burrowing slug has "I am the extinctinator!" written all over it!


Yeah, it's been a worry, but I'm starting to work around it.
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phileklund wrote:
That burrowing slug has "I am the extinctinator!" written all over it!


Yep, and I'd like to explain a bit if you don't mind, in the spirit of this being a teaching runthrough:

Whenever a creeple is placed on a hex, in a trophic level (herbivore or carnivore) already occupied by a creeple, a contest occurs. The resolution of the contest is determined by the flowchart below. Note that contest resolution is entirely deterministic and you would never place your creeples on a space where they'd lose a contest. (Or at least, I can't think of a reason you would.)



For a herbivore contest with no predators present, the first thing that matters is humidity. In the Tooth and Claw game, the humidity is always green, so the species with the most green cubes will win. After that, biggest size wins (but every species remains size 1 in T&C) and then lowest skeletal number. Since all 3 species in the game have one green cube, either of my slug species will win against Adam's bugs because of their lower skeletal number. However, a contest loser can do a trophic shift; it can become a carnivore to escape culling, but it has to be able to prey on the winner. Generally, in order to prey on a creeple, the predator has to be the same shape (though anything can prey on an archetype.) So if I outcompete Adam's archetype on a hex using my archetype, he can just shift to being a predator on that hex. But if I use my burrowers, his archetype can't prey on them. They live underground where his bugs can't reach. His archetypes would lose the contest and be unable to do a trophic shift, thus would become endangered and then removed to unborn during the burial phase. With a couple of populate actions, I could use my burrowers to outcompete his archetypes on every hex, driving them extinct.

There are many ways Adam can prevent this outcome though. The 2-action-per-round limitation gives time for a player to respond to the board state before a situation becomes too dire.
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Era I, Round 2

Event phase
The event card for this round is Ultra-Plinion VEI 8 Eruption Winter which--trust me, since I'm not providing an image--has no icons relevant to the T&C game. Adam goes first this round (finally!)

Action phase
Adam needs a way to protect himself from my burrowers. One way (among) many is to make his species endothermic. Endotherms are species with white organs (cold resistance), which gives them two advantages: 1) when they lose a competition, they can move to any other unoccupied habitable trophic level on the map within DP range and 2) they increase their dark heart limit by 2, which provides protection against mutagen events. Adam has the Spinneret mutation, which when promoted will give him a white organ on that species. A second advantage is that it will create a blue basal organ on his archetype that any speciation will inherit. So that's his first action: promote Spinnerets to Cocoon, which moves the blue plus organ to the archetype card as a basal organ and adds a white plus organ to Cocoon.

Now he wants to speciate, to give himself some shape diversity and maybe establish his creeples as both predator and prey in some hexes. (Creeples can't be cannibals; they can't prey on shapes of matching color and shape, though they can prey on shapes of the same color but different shapes.) His Raptorial Claws mutation can promote to create a new armored species, and that's what he'll do. Promote to Durophagous Claws and make a new species. First the archetype gets a green basal cube from Raptorial Claws, then the new species inherits both green and blue basal cubes from the archetype. The new species gets 7 unborn armored creeples, and finally, he replaces his archetype on the swamp hex with one of his armored creeples: a new land crab. Here is the final result:



This was kind of a risky move. That new armored creeple is not capable of competing with my burrowers as a herbivore and also can't feed on them, so it has the same vulnerability in this way that his archetypes do. My burrowers have a DP range of 1, which isn't enough to reach his swamp, and there aren't any blue cards that I can afford in the mutation market, so he's safe from a one action populate. But, I could do two populate actions with my burrowers, which would let me daisy chain their dispersal to his swamps and drive his brand new land crabs extinct. I didn't do that (mostly because I didn't see the move at the time, and because I don't know enough strategy to know if it would be worth the cost in extra actions.) We'll see what I did do next.
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Adam Gastonguay
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Eh, that would have been practically giving up a turn to remove one of my creeples. I would have been able to beef up my archetypes and fight back the next turn if you had done that. With my white cube, I had no problem dumping cubes on the archetype to out compete you in every herbivore slot and speciated when I could get the right shape.

Maybe not a perfect plan (obviously), but I don't think a double populate action would have been ideal. You almost have to keep evolving in order to stay current.
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Phil Eklund
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CthulhuKid wrote:
Eh, that would have been practically giving up a turn to remove one of my creeples. I would have been able to beef up my archetypes and fight back the next turn if you had done that. With my white cube, I had no problem dumping cubes on the archetype to out compete you in every herbivore slot and speciated when I could get the right shape.

Maybe not a perfect plan (obviously), but I don't think a double populate action would have been ideal. You almost have to keep evolving in order to stay current.


I think a powerful move. In the game design, I wanted to make endothermic warm-blooded adaptations strong, but I wonder if I perhaps made them too strong.
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Adam Gastonguay
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You'll find out it wasn't strong enough.....cry
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I will get back to this. I'm just out of town this weekend and can't work on it until next week.
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Matt_W wrote:
I will get back to this. I'm just out of town this weekend and can't work on it until next week.


Please don't give up on this report.

It's very helpful for guys (...as myself) that have problems with rules and the game's logic and the procedures/strategies!

Thanks for your work and examples laugh
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OK, I'm back after a long weekend in Tampa, a day of recovery, and a couple days fighting off a stomach flu or something.

Era I, Round 2 (continued)

With my low skeletal number, I'm interested in being the dominant herbivore, so I want to grab more green cubes. I also am looking toward the future, and would like to get some emotions going if I can. I have enough unborns in my new burrowing species to buy the Muscular Tongue card in column 2, which has a green cube and the potential for purple emotion (curiosity) when promoted. So for my first action, I'll grab that card and add it to my burrower. And I'll also populate my archetype, because it has a blue cube so can populate 2 newborns.



At the end of my actions I shifted the Darwinian mutation row left to reveal Magnetic Sense on top of the deck.

Mother phase
I'm the only player with newborns, and I'm going to send my creeples west to the swamp. One of the swamp hexes is already occupied by Adam's land crab, but my skeletal number is lower than his so I win the contest. However, his armored is perfectly capable of feeding on my archetype, so he elected to perform a trophic shift and move his armored up to the carnivore triangle on that hex.



Burial phase
No endangered creeples, so no burial. On to round 3.
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Era I, Round 3

Event phase
This round, we get Great Solar Flare Forbush, which has a mutagen event on it. (It's that last icon on the second row that has a DNA strand yelling in pain.)



Mutagen events are the signature events of Megafauna. They're pretty simple: mutagens establish a maximum number of organ cubes a species can have, called the "dark heart limit" and cull everything over that number. Mutation cards which lose all of their cubes are atrophied (discarded). If any basal organ cubes are removed from a species genotype card, that species immediately goes extinct.

In the T&C game, you establish the dark heart limit by rolling dice. You roll one more die than the current era and take the highest die. Adam rolled 2 dice since this is the first era and got a 2 and a 4, so our heart limit is 4. Adam's archetype has more organ cubes than any other species in the game so far at 4, so we're all safe and the mutagen event has no effect...

...except that it should have cleared out the 8 cards leftmost cards in the mutation market and refreshed them with new cards from the decks. We forgot this rule this time, but remembered it in subsequent rounds.

Action phase
I'm the first player this round, and I'm just going to promote my burrowers' muscular tongues to give them the power of Speech, which adds a blue cube to my burrower. And with my newly gained blue cube, I use the populate action to make 2 burrower newborns.

So here's a mistake I discovered while writing this up. We played the game using Vassal, and I'm recreating the game in Tabletop Simulator to make the images for these posts. In the Vassal game, when Adam did the speciate action in round 2 to create his armored species, he should have copied both basal cubes (blue and green) from the archetype to the new species. This is what I did in the images above. However, in the Vassal game, he apparently forgot to copy the blue cube. That matters quite a bit, but nothing to be done now. I'll pretend that Adam took a free neoteny action to remove the blue cube prior to his actions this round.

So Adam is going to purchase the Viviparous card for his armored, which gives them a blue cube (should have been a total of 2), and then does the populate action to make 2 (should have been 3) armored newborns.



The mutation market is filled and Saliva shows up on top of the Darwin deck.

Mother phase
I disperse my burrowers west and outcompete Adam's archetype on the weedland. I've turned the archetype sideways in the image below to indicate that it is endangered. Adam continues preying on my archetype with his armored and disperses northeast.



Burial phase
You may notice I drew an arrow on the image above. In the burial phase, any endothermic species (a species with a white organ cube) can use its DP to move endangered creeples to any uninhabited, habitable trophic level. Adam's archetype is endothermic so will use its 2 DP to move the endangered archetype as shown above.
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Adam Gastonguay
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I missed a blue cube?!??!??!

*slaps forehead*

Well then, that's Darwinian evolution for you. Sometimes crap DNA keeps going generation by generation....simulated in this game by your humble player.
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Yeah, seems minor, but could possibly have changed the game's outcome.
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