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Evolution looks great, plays great

By Carl Swanson, editor of Classic Toy Trains
Published: October 14, 2015
MOD-PS1115_evolution

Product: Evolution, Second Edition by North Star Games has all the hallmarks of a board gaming classic—appealing and well-made components, elegantly simple rules and endless replayability.

Evolution is for two to six players and is recommended for ages 12 and up. As its name implies, the game is based on the theory of evolution. Charles Darwin thought cutthroat competition among species meant only the fittest would survive, and that’s how Evolution plays out.

Gameplay: The object of the game is to start with a basic species and play trait cards to improve its ability to feed or defend itself. You can apply as many as three traits to each species (two traits in the two-player version). You can have multiple species in play.

Players are dealt three trait cards at the beginning of each round, plus one additional card for each species they have. There are 129 trait cards in the base game, which combine to form more than 12,000 possible species.

Players may hold over cards from one round to the next. The regular resupply of powerful cards is guaranteed to keep things interesting.

Each trait card has a food value printed at the bottom corner. At the beginning of each round, players select a card from their hand and play it face down in the watering hole. The cards are revealed, and tokens equal to total food value are added to the watering hole. Barring specialized feeding traits, these tokens are the entire food supply for all of the plant-eating animals.

Taking turns, players remove a food token from the watering hole and place it on one of their plant-eating species’ boards. The feeding continues until every plant-eater has consumed its fill. For example, a species with a population of two needs two food tokens to avoid starvation.

All species start out as plant-eaters. As-suming you have drawn the needed trait card, you can turn any of your beasts into a carnivore and start hunting down and eating other player’s animals. A carnivore can only make a successful attack if its body size is bigger than the size of the target creature and can overcome the target animal’s defensive traits, if any.

Carnivores must eat if they possibly can—even if the only species on the table weak enough to attack is one of your own! Care to guess how I found this out?

If one of your creatures didn’t get enough food to equal its population, you must reduce that species’ population marker to match the food you did gather.

When feeding is complete, players take turns applying trait cards to their species and discarding trait cards from their hand to buy a new species, add population (worth victory points at game’s end) or increase the body size of an existing species (to make it less vulnerable to attack).

Making the most of the many choices is an ongoing challenge. Success depends on monitoring other players and accurately predicting the available food supply. A big part of the fun is assembling a powerful card combo that makes your creature the terror of the watering hole.

At the end of the game, players score points for each food token collected, plus bonuses equal to the population size of each of their species and each trait in play. The player with the most points wins.

The rules are simple, but the variety of options and the ever-changing dynamics around the watering hole will keep players engaged from start to finish.

Marketing: Edgy and even a little nasty, this game is a great choice for those with a taste for competitive play. Of course, that’s not everyone’s ideal gaming experience. Evolution may not the best choice for family game night with younger players at the table. But for a group whose style is more Darwinian, Evolution is an absolute blast.

North Star built its reputation on best-selling party games like Wits & Wagers and Say Anything. Evolution, its first strategy game, is another home run.

VITAL STATS

Product: Evolution, Second Edition

Maker: North Star Games

Stock number: NSG-500

MSRP: $54.99

Availability: Various game ­distributors

 

BOTTOM LINE

• Great new artwork

• Plenty of ways to win

• Highly competitive


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