Evolution Review

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Evolution is a game by Dominic Crapuchettes, Dmitry Knorre and Sergey Machin, published by North Star Games. It is for 2-6 players. In this game, players will create new species, giving them traits to help them survive in a constantly changing ecosystem. Of course they’ll have to be on the lookout for carnivores that may very well want to eat their new species. The player that can best feed, populate and provide traits to help their species survive will be declared the winner.

To begin, the Watering Hole board should be placed in the center of the table. The food tokens should be placed where they can be easily reached. Each player is given a Food Token Bag. The wooden markers and species boards should be placed where they can be easily reached as well. The Trait Cards are shuffled and placed face down on the table. Each player receives a Species Board and 2 wooden markers that are placed on the “1” spaces for population and body size. The first player is chosen and is given the First Player Marker. Play now begins.

The game is played over a series of rounds. Each round is divided into 4 phases; deal cards, select food, play cards and feeding. The first phase is to deal the cards. Players are given a species board if they don’t have one in front of them. Each player is then dealt 3 cards, plus 1 for each species they have. If the deck has to be reshuffled during this phase, it is the last round of the game.

The second phase is to select food. In this phase, players will secretly select a trait card from their hand and place it facedown on the Watering Hole board. Each card has a number in the bottom right corner that tells how much food it’s worth. Sometimes this is a positive number and sometimes it’s negative.

The next phase is to play cards. In this phase, players are able to play as many trait cards as they’d like beginning with the first player. They are able to do 3 different things with each trait card; play a trait, create a new species and increase body size or population. To play a trait, the player places a trait card facedown above one of their species. There are only 2 exceptions. A species can’t have duplicates of the same trait card and they may not have more than 3 traits per species. Players are also able to discard 1 or more trait cards from any of their species at this time, making room for new traits. To create a new species, the player simply discards a trait card to the discard pile and is then able to take a new species board, placing it either to the left or right of one of their already existing species. Wooden markers are placed in the “1” spots for body size and population. To increase body size or population, the player must discard a trait card to move either their body size or population marker for one of their species up one space, up to a maximum of 6 for either. Once all players have played all the cards they would like to play, face down trait cards are flipped face up and attached to their respective species.

The final phase is the feeding phase. This phase has 3 steps that must be followed; reveal the food cards, feeding species and end of feeding. The first step is to reveal the food cards. This is done by the first player who flips over all the trait cards that have been placed on the Watering Hole board. The numbers on the cards are added up and that many food tokens are added to or taken away from the board. The trait cards are then placed on the discard pile. Any green bordered trait cards on a player’s species activate their effects at this time. The next step is feeding species. This is done by each player taking turns feeding one of their hungry species. To feed a species, the player takes one of the food tokens from the Watering Hole and places it on the space above the population track on the species board, starting from the “1” space. Once the number of food tokens matches the population of a species, no more can be taken from the Watering Hole for that particular species.

Carnivores are a bit different, as they don’t take plant food from the the Watering Hole. They require meat which is taken by attacking other species. A player is able to attack any species including their own, even if there is no food at the Watering Hole. There are only a couple of rules that must be followed. The carnivore’s body size must be larger than the body size of the species it’s attacking and it must have the right traits to overcome any defensive traits that the species it’s attacking has. When a species is successfully attacked, the player reduces the population of the attacked species by 1. If the population is reduced below the amount of food already eaten, the excess food tokens are placed in the attacking player’s food token bag. If a species is ever reduced to 0 population, it goes extinct. This means that the trait cards and species board are discarded. A number of new trait cards are drawn equal to the number of cards discarded. Any gaps between species are closed and any food tokens that were on the species board when it died are placed in the carnivore player’s food token bag. One last thing of note, meat food tokens are taken from the food bank equal to the attacked species’ body size and placed on the attacking carnivore’s species board.

The last step of the feeding phase is the end of feeding. Once all species have food equal to their population or when any hungry species are no longer able to eat, the feeding phase ends. A few things should be noted. If a species didn’t eat enough food equal to it’s population, it’s population is reduced to the amount of food that was eaten. If no food was eaten by a species, it goes extinct. The player then takes all the food tokens that were eaten by their species and places them inside their food token bag. Any remaining food tokens remain on the Watering Hole for the next round and the Start Player Marker is passed to the next player. A new round then begins.

All of this continues until the trait card deck has to be shuffled during the deal cards phase. When that happens the end of game scoring starts at the end of that round. If the deck was shuffled any other time, one more full round is played before the end of game scoring. Points are scored based on food tokens in a player’s bag, population of each species and trait cards on each surviving species. The points are added up and the player with the most points is the winner. In case of a tie, the player with the most trait card points is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
This game has some very beautiful looking pieces. The Watering Hole board is thick cardboard and has a really nice lined finish to it. The food tokens are also thick cardboard with a linen finish. The artwork on these pieces is really nice and gives a real sense of the theme. The food token bags are really nice and silky with some awesome looking artwork on them. The designs are taken from the card art and each one is really beautiful. Speaking of the cards, these are truly works of art. I absolutely love the look and design of each one. The are really amazing looking. I’d have to say that it’s some of the best artwork in a game that I’ve ever seen. There are also some wooden markers that are quite sturdy. These fit nicely inside the species boards. The species boards are thick cardboard and while there isn’t really any artwork to them, they are still quite nice. I like that they are double sided with one sided used horizontally and the other side vertically, to save on table space. There are also several player aids that are really nice and explain each of the different cards and steps of gameplay, but I’ll get into them in the next section. The final piece of this game is the first player marker which is a fairly large green wooden brontosaurus. I love this thing. It just puts the icing on the cake for me. All in all, I’m really amazed at the quality and design of each item. Absolutely gorgeous.
10 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game, much like the components, is also beautiful. There are lots of pictures and examples throughout the book. On many of the different pages are some lovely pencil drawings of different creatures. Everything is laid out really well and is very easy to read and understand. It is truly a beauty of design and functionality. Also in the rulebook are a few variants including 2 player, 6 player and a quick play variant. There are also several pages reserved for card references. Each card is thoroughly explained and includes a picture for reference. It is a bit big but still fits nicely inside the box. I love the look and design of it and find it to be really helpful. Earlier I also mentioned the player aids. These appear to be laminated paper and are really sturdy. These are very nice and reference each step of the game. On the inside, there are pictures of the different cards along with a quick explanation of what each one does along with a card picture. The back of the player aid has a fun section for giving your different species a scientific name by using the two most important traits. A prefix and suffix for each of the different traits is provided so you can have a bit of fun naming your creatures. I think it was a nice little addition that adds even more fun to the game. Overall, the rulebook and player aids are beautiful and superbly designed.
10 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a very enjoyable game. It’s really quite simple and easy to learn. I love that even if you get cards that you don’t feel will work with what you’re trying to do, you can simply discard them to add either a new species or increase your population or body size for one of your other species. Nothing is wasted. For me that tells me that every aspect of the game was thought out. I always hate discarding cards that I can’t use, but this makes it where even a discard turns out to be helpful. I enjoy creating new species through the many different species traits that can be combined. Even though the game is simple to learn, it’s got a ton of strategy to it. Every decision that you make will influence both you and your opponent’s later decisions. Do you turn a species carnivorous and start decreasing the amount of food at the watering hole or do you go for a trait like long neck to make sure that your species are able to feed before everyone else does. Every action that you influence every action in the game. I love that. The game can become very tense if there’s not enough food or players start going the carnivore route. It’s really enjoyable. For me, it’s a hard game to categorize as there’s just so much going on. I guess you could call it hand management with some special abilities thrown in for flavor. It’s not an overly long game to play. Most sessions last around an hour. For me, the game looks and feels great. The theme is amazing and I have a lot of fun with this one.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Evolution is a light weight game of creating new species and survival. The game has an average play time with most sessions lasting around an hour. The artwork is rich and beautiful with a great theme intertwined into every piece and component of the game. The only thing that could make the game more thematic would have been if the species boards were more like the species you were trying to create, which I understand were a part of the Kickstarter stretch goals. Apart from that, the game is gorgeous in every way. The cards are amazing and every piece of the game is dripping with quality. The gameplay itself is really fun and has lots of player interaction. It’s quite simple to learn and play but still has a lot of strategy involved in it. Every decision made influences everything. Every aspect of the game was thoroughly thought out. Fans of hand management games or even the Jurassic Park movies should enjoy this game. The game is very rich and detailed and is one that I have greatly enjoyed. I highly recommend it. Here’s hoping that this game continues to evolve with lots of new expansions.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out North Star Games, LLC. at their site.

http://www.northstargames.com/

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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