The Meeple’s Eye View is an in depth review of one of the many games in our board game library.
Survival of the fittest. It’s not just the law of nature, it’s the path to victory in Evolution, by North Star Games.
Theme: Nature, Evolution
Number of Players: 2-6
Game Time: 60 minutes
Age Appropriateness: 8 and up
Game Type: Hand Management
Game Play: In Evolution each player controls a mini-ecosystem, creating one or more species and adapting them throughout the game in order to survive and compete for a limited supply of food.
Species are represented by a species board with three tracks to record population size, body size of individual animals in the species, and food collected. A deck of trait cards represent abilities and characteristics which can be assigned to species.
Each turn the player begins with three trait cards, plus one for every species they control. In addition to listing traits and characteristics, each card has a food value – either positive or negative. At the beginning of the round each player must contribute one of their cards face down to the “Watering Hole”. The sum of the food values on these cards will determine how much food is available later in the round.
The player now has several choices as to how to use their remaining trait cards. They may discard them to achieve a variety of effects, including increasing the population or physical size of an existing species, or creating an entirely new species. They may assign traits to individual species, granting that species the represented ability or characteristic. The player may also hold cards to be used in future rounds.
Perhaps most important of these decisions is that of “evolving” your species by assigning traits. Each species can have a maximum of three traits, and when selecting which to use the player must balance between generating food, supporting the other species in their ecosystem, and defending themselves from becoming food for someone else.
After all trait cards have been assigned, discarded or held, the food in the Watering Hole is revealed. Players now take turns feeding their species. On each turn the player may take one or more food from the watering hole depending on abilities. If they’ve assigned the Carnivore trait to one of their species, they may also feed by attacking other species. The cycle continues until everyone who can feed, has. Species which don’t obtain enough food shrink in population, potentially even dying out. The round ends with players removing all collected food from their species card and placing it into their bag.
The game continues until the deck of trait cards has been depleted. Players determine their score by counting all food collected, the number of surviving species, and the number of active traits.
Component Quality: Evolution’s trait cards, cardboard species boards and food chits are all of good quality, and will stand up to repeated plays – as will the wooden dinosaur first player token. The best part of Evolution’s components though is the wonderful artwork, provided by renowned nature artist Catherine Hamilton.
It should be noted that the Kickstarter version of the game, if you can get your hands on it, has some great component upgrades. Of particular note are the dinosaur shaped species boards, and the detailed plastic dinosaur first player piece.
My Take: Evolution is a great game, and has been one of my family’s favorites since we first encountered it in prototype form in early 2014. The interplay between the various traits and characteristics, whether on a single species, two or more of your own species, or between your species and the other players’, is where Evolution really shines.
Build a wonderful herbivorous commune but forget to evolve any defensive mechanisms, and you quickly become prey to another player’s hungry T-Rex. Bulk up on horns, shells and warning calls though, and you may find your extremely well protected creature safely starving to death. Of course, you can always choose to perch your entire ecosystem in the safety of the trees – only to have that same T-Rex develop the climbing skill on the last round.
The game is about evolution after all!
Expansions and Replay-ability: North Star Games just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for the first expansion to Evolution – Flight, which is in production now and should be available later this year.
Although I’m eagerly awaiting Flight, even without expansions Evolution has significant replayability. It is probably the game my family has played the most in the last 18 months, and is still one that hits the table quite frequently.
Jim Reed is a lifelong gamer who started with the original red box Dungeons & Dragons. After spending 20 years in the corporate world, he decided it was high time that work be fun and struck out on his own. Jim now owns and operates Ravenwood Castle and The Malted Meeple, and spends his days ensuring his guests have as much fun as he does.