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Evolution» Forums » General

Subject: New trait ideas - Parasites! rss

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Matt Parker
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Saint Charles
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After first mentioning this idea is the Climate forums, I thought I'd formally ask about it here. Parasitism is very common in biology. Some scientists estimate that half of all species on Earth are parasites in one way or another at some point in their life cycles. And, while often omitted from described food webs, parasites generally enjoy the top spot. So, I feel it's a natural thing to add to Evolution. Made some revisions since last talking about it a month ago. Would love to hear your thoughts.


Parasite: This species can't eat Meat or Plant Food. During a feeding turn, this species may remove and eat food from another species' board if that species is larger in body size.

I like that, thematically, parasites have evolved to feed off of other species only. Added the body size caveat to better balance this trait and because parasites are almost always smaller than their hosts. It also means that parasite species would tend to remain small, which makes them a target for carnivores.

This trait could be quite powerful, so of course other species could evolve a number of strategies to deal with parasites (aside from staying as small or smaller than the parasite):

Social Grooming: A species with the Parasite trait can not raid food from this species.

Mutualism: Add the body size of the species to the left to this species' body size when determining if it can be attacked by a carnivore. The species to the left can not be raided by a parasite.

Basically, this species is keeping its neighbor free of parasites in exchange for added protection against predators.

Immune Defense: A species with the Parasite trait must discard a card in order to raid food from this species.


Thoughts?
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Evan G
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Interesting idea, but would need some more balance I think.

Problem being that Plant eating animals must fight other plant eating animals for food, which provides balance. For instance stacking defensive traits on a plant eater means it still has to compete for food from the watering hole, and now at a disadvantage because it doesnt have feeding traits.

If I were to stack two defensive traits on a parasite, couldnt I pretty much eat without competition?

Plus you are now putting plant eaters at even more of a disadvantage because they have to protect themselves from parasites and from carnivores now.
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Matt Parker
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Fair points. Though keep in mind that carnivores can have parasites too.

Maybe the parasite has to pay a card in order to raid another species?

And yeah, a parasite with two defensive traits would be in good shape. But if it's targets started developing traits to thwart the parasite, they could starve it to death. I intentionally didn't offer traits that could make a parasite stronger because they'd overrun the ecosystem. A carnivore can become a stronger carnivore. An herbivore can evolve to be a better herbivore. But a parasite is just a parasite. It can defend itself, but it won't become any better at eating. And since parasites need to remain small, even defending itself could be tricky.

Another thing to keep in mind is that parasites are in a precarious position. Just as in nature, they rely on their hosts for survival. If they only have one or two valid hosts in the game, their parasitism could drive those species into extinction and that would mean the parasite would have to go extinct (or discard Parasite) the next round. Going Parasite could be risky for that reason.
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Chet C.
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Introducing parasites would probably degrade from the visual and thematic charm, even if ecological accuracy is increased.

The mechanism you described has a few problems in my mind. First, it sounds so incredibly strong that every player will almost be obligated to have a parasite. Since they do not decrease the population of the host, it could even be a very strong strategy to rely on parasites feeding from your own species. Suddenly half of the game is homogenous parasites, which is less interesting.

The second issue is that you should never have climbing pack hunting parasites or anything as complicated as that. If "parasite" is simply a trait, its combos will break the game. There may be ways around this, however (similar to Flight's mechanic, where species with Flight had a different species board and different rules.)

I can't think of any examples in nature of a carnivore preying on a parasite, probably because parasites are so small or because they are not very accessible.

Lastly, the most successful parasites do not greatly jeopardize the fitness of their hosts. I wonder if there could be mechanics that focused on the achieving parasitic balance or on spreading to new species?

But ultimately, I think any introduction of parasites would introduce such drastic changes to game play that it would not fit with Evolution. Evolution Climate is such a great game because the Climate aspect fits seamlessly without adding much complexity.

I suggest you create a new game about parasites with similar mechanics revolving around creating and evolving species, but with a distinct identity from the Evolution series to allow for different goals and gameplay.
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Matt Parker
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Fair points. A few clarifications:

An example of a carnivore eating a parasite would be the various bird species that live on the backs of zebras/wildebeests/etc. and eat parasites such as ticks that use the herbivores for their hosts.

Pack Hunting would be as useless of a trait on a Parasite species as it is on a Non-Carnivore. I understand your point regarding Climbing and other traits. And I can easily see how Parasite is very powerful as I've laid it out.

So, here's a revision:

Parasite:This species can not eat Meat or Plant Food. This species can not have any other traits besides Parasite. During a Feeding Turn, this species may steal one food from the species board of a species that is larger in body size.

So, now the parasite is nerfed in several ways: First, they can't have access to the Watering Hole, the Cliff, the Food Bank or even meat food (through Cooperation, Scavenger, etc.). Second, parasites are limited to the Parasite trait only. Living off of other species' makes them small and vulnerable so no defensive traits will help them, and food based traits are useless for them. Third, they can only ever take one food at a time. And finally, they have to remain smaller than their hosts, which makes them that much more vulnerable to predation.

With the assorted anti-parasite traits I mentioned above, I have a hard time seeing parasites overrunning the game.
 
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