First Play: Holotype


Last week I got to play a game that has been sitting on the shelf since I picked it up at Gen Con: Holotype, the first release from Brexwerx Games. It's a worker-placement game about dinosaur science. I mean, they had me at the dinosaurs! The science is valid, and the illustrations are beautiful, too.

Each player starts with only two workers: a professor and a field worker. They can be placed in five different tasks on the board. If all spaces on a task are full, a worker may "bump" one of equal or lower seniority . . . so there's a reason to place the junior ones first. Soon, players gain a graduate student, who is able to do everything a professor can but ranks below professors for purposes of bumping other workers.

The object is to publish formal descriptions of new creatures and to advance the science in general. This requires you to collect fossils, hang out at the museum and library, and, of course, visit the office of the academic journal. If that doesn't sound like fun, you are not the dinosaur nut that I am.

It's definitely light as worker-placement games go, which is all to the good. Our five-player game took about 2.5 hours, including teaching time . . . and this was with all-new players, including one who was new to worker placement, in a highly distracting environment. I can easily imagine that a game could finish in half that time. Player turns in Holotype can go very quickly. You can be frustrated, but never very frustrated – there is always something useful to do.

The physical components are excellent, and the rules are attractive and clearer than most.

I had so much fun that a few nights later, when I couldn't sleep, I wrote up a set of "personalities" to make each professor different. Each one gets a small cheat and a small limitation. I'm not going to copy it here . . . unless I get enough comments asking for it, in which case, I will post it. That is the way we do social media now, right?

I think my one and only beef is that there are no avenues for formal cooperation or dealmaking. Some of that is made up with table talk and strategic "bumping." And there are a couple of good catch-up mechanics. Still, I would have liked to be able to say "Dr. Gold, I've got some new Triassic material I think you'd find interesting, if you have any marine reptile specimens you don't plan to study soon."

Anyway: First game from a new publisher. Encourage them! I recommend Holotype if you like dinosaur science; no reservations. And if you also like WP games, you might come back to this one over and over.

-- Steve Jackson