Subatomic is a deck building game based on chemistry and particle physics. Now, please don’t let that put you off. I had no clue what particle physics was about, and chemistry is not my thing. Nevertheless, I have maybe learned some things about it since playing - but that is to say, you really don’t need to know or learn anything about it to enjoy it. Subatomic was one of the first deck-building games I learned to play on my board gaming journey. It's a game for 2-4 people, age 10+ and takes between 40 and 60 minutes to play. Subatomic could be played by younger than 10 years, especially if they have an interest in science.
Subatomic was produced by Genius Games who produce games to make science fun. They have also made Virulence (an infectious card game), Ecosystem, Genotype, and Cytosis. Subatomic is about producing some of the smaller elements and getting points for them. The winner is the one with the most points. To produce these elements, you need to collect protons, neutrons, and electrons. You don’t need to know what they are called. I just call them red, blue, and yellow.
What's In The Box?
- An instruction book
- 24 Element cards
- 21 scientist cards
- 4 sets of starter decks
- 29 single subatomic cards
- 17 larger subatomic cards
- 40 goal markers
- 1 annihilation marker
- 1 first player marker
- 4 player mats
- 12 particle markers
- 32 energy tokens
- 7 bonus tiles
- 1 game board
Even as I list these it does sound very daunting. Honestly, though you may not know what the terminology actually is, they are basically cards, counters, boards, and markers. It also comes with a booklet explaining the science behind subatomic and is explained in an easy-to-understand format. The instruction book is 15 pages long. This consists of clear instructions and pictures. Additionally, the box is also fairly small so does not take up much room.
Subatomic does not take much time to set up. It is done in 9 steps which are clearly explained in the book. The steps are simple, such as placing all the energy tokens in a pile. When set up, Subatomic does not take up too much room. Although it does have little parts to it.
During a player's turn they can do one of 4 things:
- Build up your atoms (to be able to buy an Element card)
- Claim Element care (this will score you points)
- Buy deck building cards (this will strengthen your deck)
- Take an Energy token (this can be used on a later turn)
Each card has a value. You can use these cards to buy more cards, or use them to get element cards. This mechanism is similar to Century: Golem Edition, where you are building your hand to buy cards to gain points. Element cards will score you points at the end as well as allow you to place goal markers. These goal markers may also get you points at the end.
I particularly like the scientist cards. There are 7 different scientists and each one has 3 cards. These cards increase in price, so therefore they are cheaper if you buy them first. These cards give you special abilities when you lay them. Ernest Rutherford, for instance, allows you to draw 2 cards or draw 3 cards and all other players draw 1 card. It also gives you information about that scientist, telling us that Marie Curie was the first scientist who confirmed the existence of radioactivity. Be aware though that the scientist cards are not always clear, but they are fully explained in the instructions.
Also, a positive for me is the size of the writing on the cards. A lot of games I have to put on my reading glasses to see but with Subatomic I don’t need to.
Genius Games have put fun into Subatomic by making the neutrons, protons, and electrons into fun little characters. We first played this a few years ago with my partner and stepdaughter who was aged 11 at the time. She could play the game and got to understand a bit more about atom building. Following this, she told us that she had been studying at school all about protons, neutrons, and electrons and from the game already had some knowledge. My stepson, who has slight autism, played this at the age of 10. He didn’t score too well but was able to join in with us.
Although the theme would not be something I would choose, I still enjoy Subatomic. Overall, it is a fun way to learn about Protons, neutrons, and electrons. It is a fairly simple deck-building game, with a Quarky twist (that is one for the people who actually know about science).