In another of our board game spotlights, Zatu Games swings its Hubble-sized lens towards Evolution, the 2014 game from designers Dominic Crapuchettes, Dmitry Knorre and Sergey Machin, and publisher North Star Games.
Demonstrating staggering nominative inaccuracy, Evolution is a game about evolution. Players must adapt their species to deal with shifting resources and, more importantly, their opponents’ creatures. A central board acts as the ‘watering hole’, an area of shared resources.
Players start with a single species board and a hand of three trait cards. These represent different evolutionary characteristics that may prove useful for survival, like ‘being able to burrow’ or ‘having a long neck’, both of which I do all the time.
Each turn, players draw three trait cards plus one for each species board they have. Trait cards have several purposes. They may be played by the watering hole to represent an amount of plant food; discarded to gain another species board; discarded to increase the body size or population of an existing species; or played on a species to mutate it.
The game comprises a number of rounds, each starting with players placing cards in the centre as food, followed by playing as many trait cards as they like. At the end of each round, the trait cards representing food in the centre are revealed, and players must take turns feeding their species from that shared pool.
The accumulated food a player collects across the whole game becomes a significant part of their score, alongside their surviving species population counts and the traits on those species.
Evolution is, like its namesake, adaptive. Species will emerge and die out throughout the game. They can feed on the central food pool or adapt into carnivores to attack and eat opposing creatures. This forces players to constantly adapt their species in response to the others on the board.
If you fear that your opponent’s fertile, fanged creature is going to use its fertility and fangs on you, you may opt for more defensive traits. Maybe you give yours a shell to negate its squishy back, a trait which serves to increase your species body size when attacked. Maybe you give it horns to stop it getting attacked right in the head, a trait which results in the death of one of your opponent’s carnivores whenever they attack. Equally, maybe you just want to eat everything.
It’s a simple game, good for inexperienced and experienced gamers alike. Also, the artwork looks as though Ken Kesey conceptually vomited his brain onto escaped zoo animals, which is far prettier than it sounds.
Founded in 2003, North Star Games pride themselves on bridging the gap between gamers and non-gamers by creating titles that are accessible and appealing to both.
Their 2006 title Wits & Wagers is the most award winning party game in history.
Dominic Crapuchettes originally studied to compose classical music. He is now a game designer and entrepreneur, and the founder of North Star Games.
Dmitry Knorre is a biologist and game designer. He uses game design as a way to popularise scientific principles. Sergey Machin is a board game developer who focuses on games that appeal to the whole family.