Gut Check: The Microbiome Game

One of the many microbes in Gut Check

Note:  This page refers to a long out-of-date version of this game.   For information on the updated, free, print-at-home version see this website.  For information on the commercially available version see here.

“Gut Check: The Microbiome Game” is a game for 2-4 players that aims to strike a balance between learning some microbiology and having fun doing so!

Treat your friends with antibiotics then give them a fungal infection.   Got antibiotic-resistant pathogens in your gut?  Time for a fecal transplant!

The game is designed to be played in 20-60 minutes depending on number of players and experience with the game.

The game is very much still in “beta” development but if you’d like to print out the game and give it a shot here are the most recent files (as of 10-15-14).  We recommend printing onto cardstock if possible.  Please give us feedback!

Rules (PDF)

Cards (PDF)

Player Sheet and Board (PDF)

Gut Check: The Microbiome Game is produced by David Coil (@davidacoil) with the help and extensive playtesting of the Eisen Lab.  The card design is by Russell Neches (@ryneches) and more details can be found on our (out of date) GitHub page.

15 thoughts on “Gut Check: The Microbiome Game

  1. I played this game today with two people from my microbiome lab and one person from my new lab (renal pathology). I think the game flows nicely and there aren’t any hiccups. We all finished the game in a relatively similar situation, so the game was definitely well balanced. The comments my co-worker have are that there should be cards so that whenever a food card is played it affects everyone (I loved the lasagna – mmm, lasagna) so there is a bit more strategy (or is this how it’s supposed to be played? maybe we misinterpreted). She also recommends there be a more of a “thrill factor.”
    Anyway, I found out about your game because I am the social media coordinator for HiveBio in Seattle. I love your game! Nice work!
    ~Anna (


  2. Thanks for the comments! I’ve been trying to work on the “thrill factor”, though I’m trying to balance that against keeping true to the biology. It’s been suggested that I replace some of the more “boring” pathogens with STDs to get people’s attention.


  3. I played this at ASM2014 in Boston with some of your labmates–whose enthusiasm was contagious. It was enjoyable and didn’t take too long to learn. Perhaps a few more spontaneous event cards would be beneficial (a plague that hits everyone!). I agree that the more ‘social’ pathogens would catch people’s attention. The plasmids didn’t seem to make much of a difference in our game perhaps placing a larger emphasis/role for that aspect might be good. Of course, having only played once my experiences are limited. I enjoyed it though and hope the best for it!


  4. Thanks for the feedback Grant, glad to hear you enjoyed playing at ASM2014. I was bummed I couldn’t make it. Plasmids have been an interested part of the development… I feel like they’re essential for the pedagogy but not very exciting for the game itself.


  5. Hi, this looks like a fun game, and potentially a great teaching aid. I’d like to get decks printed by a professional printer, and they request that each card be on its own page. Any chance you could generate a version of the pdf this way?


      1. Hi David, Thanks for taking a look! I ended up using the latex package pdfpages to cut the cards. The script I used is below (save it as print.tex, then run pdflatex print.tex, and it’ll output print.pdf with each card as its own page). It seems to be exact to the half mm, which isn’t perfect, but is pretty close.

        —– print.tex —–

        \usepackage[height=90mm, width=55mm]{geometry}

        % trim: left bottom right top

        \includepdf [pages=1-15, angle=0, trim=11mm 196mm 136mm 9mm, fitpaper=true]{microbiomegamecardsv8.pdf} % top left
        \includepdf [pages=1-15, angle=0, trim=75mm 196mm 72mm 9mm, fitpaper=true]{microbiomegamecardsv8.pdf} % top center
        \includepdf [pages=1-15, angle=0, trim=139.5mm 196mm 7.5mm 9mm, fitpaper=true]{microbiomegamecardsv8.pdf} % top right

        \includepdf [pages=1-15, angle=0, trim=11mm 104.5mm 136mm 100.5mm, fitpaper=true]{microbiomegamecardsv8.pdf} % middle left
        \includepdf [pages=1-15, angle=0, trim=75mm 104.5mm 72mm 100.5mm, fitpaper=true]{microbiomegamecardsv8.pdf} % middle center
        \includepdf [pages=1-15, angle=0, trim=139.5mm 104.5mm 7.5mm 100.5mm, fitpaper=true]{microbiomegamecardsv8.pdf} % middle right

        \includepdf [pages=1-15, angle=0, trim=11mm 13mm 136mm 192mm, fitpaper=true]{microbiomegamecardsv8.pdf} % middle left
        \includepdf [pages=1-15, angle=0, trim=75mm 13mm 72mm 192mm, fitpaper=true]{microbiomegamecardsv8.pdf} % middle center
        \includepdf [pages=1-15, angle=0, trim=139.5mm 13mm 7.5mm 192mm, fitpaper=true]{microbiomegamecardsv8.pdf} % middle right


        —– EOF —–


  6. Posting a few Twitter discussion threads here


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