The second edition of Evolution is two- to six-player game by Dominic Crapuchettes, Dmitry Knorre, and Sergey Machin, with art from Catherine Hamilton and John Ariosa. It plays in about an hour, regardless of the number of players.
It’s published by North Star Games with a suggest retail price of $54.99, but it can be found for about $38 online.
How it works:
In Evolution, players are developing species, increasing their body size and population, and giving them traits that will help them eat but not be eaten.
Each turn, players draw a certain number of cards (depending on how many species they have). They choose one to put in the watering hole, and the number on that card will determine how much plant food is available that round.
Food is important, since the food your species is eat will constitute most of your points at the end of the game.
Players then play cards from their hand, giving their species up to three specific traits. They can also discard cards to increase their population or body size or to gain a new species. Or they can keep the cards for later rounds or to use some species’ traits.
Then it’s time to reveal how much food is in the watering hole and eat. Players take turns taking food from the watering hole until all players have a food for each of their population or until the food runs out.
Species with a carnivore trait, however, eat the population of species that have a smaller body size (assuming they don’t have other traits that protect them).
All food is placed into a bag.
Play continues until the cards run out.
Why you might buy Evolution:
This game is a well executed simulation of species’ need to adapt to their environments and to protect themselves.
It’s got lots of interaction, with carnivores eating opponents’ species, and scavengers picking up the leftovers.
The watercolor art is very attractive, and the player aids give a description of each card so you can keep track of opponents’ abilities easily.
While the game is easy to teach, it offers lots of challenging choices.
It’s fun to build a species, and at the end of the game, you can even give it a Latin name.
Why you might not buy Evolution:
Evolution can be really mean. If you have the biggest, baddest carnivore, you can do lots of damage to other players.
New players are going to be at a distinct disadvantage; by the time they figure out what’s going on, it will be probably be too late for them to catch up.
There’s a lot of luck in the game. If you draw a powerful combination of cards and use them well, you can take the lead and make it difficult for other players to catch up.
You can also play your best and not win.
That makes the game a good simulation, but you’ll need people to play who don’t mind beating up on other players and who can handle it when someone does the same to them.
The theme might offend some people, although it is about adaptation and survival, not the origins of species.
If you’re a vegetarian, you need to know that the carnivorous species eat other species, and their food tokens have body parts on them. They’re not graphic, but they are there.
I think this is a fantastic simulation, and it’s quite educational. So educational, in fact, that my husband plans to use it with his middle school science students to teach them about adaptation of species.
I like the strategies and the way the cards work together. It’s fun to make a tough herbivore, for example.
That said, it’s a little mean for my taste. I’ve won most of the games I’ve played, but the wins don’t feel terribly satisfying. Making my opponents’ species go extinct so I can have some food seems wrong. I’m not sure I can get past that.
But that’s my problem, not the game’s. You’ll have to decide for yourself.
Full disclosure: I got a review copy of Evolution from North Star Games. I wasn’t required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.