We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
First game for all of us: me, Mary, and David. We had all played some other evolution games (including Evo, Ursuppe, Wildlife and/or Trias) with mixed levels of enthusiasm. But I recently traded for this game, and M and I have been wanting to try it for quite some time.
I had read the rules ahead of time, and they are pretty straightforward - it didn't take us long to go through them (although it remained confusing for some - M - of us right up until the end!). Briefly: after setup (which we did wrong, by placing 1 extra ichto on the board), 1 player secretly chooses an area to score, from a choice of 3 tiles. The next player sits out. Player 3 takes 3 actions (breeding, moving dinos from water to land, from water to water, or from board to reserve - which no one ever did). Then, you score the chosen region: whoever has fewest dinos in land area loses them all (back to reserve); highest number gets 3 pts, other players get 2. If all tied, all get 2. Then, roles rotate - former Dummy draws a 3rd tile and choses a new region, former active player is now Dummy, and former tile chooser now takes actions. Continue until someone gets to 30 points (leapfrog scoring). Interspersed are 3 auction rounds, where 2 people get to buy genes - cost paid by removing dinos from the board. At end, final scoring: 3 pts for most dinos on board, 2 for most on land (split pts if tied). High score wins.
I was first, M second, D third – which meant I started at 1pt, D at 2, M at 3. We stayed clumped close to each other the first few rounds. In the first auction, I bought Eggs, hoping to breed my way to victory (gotta love that breeding). D bought Assimilation (just like it sounds – convert 2 other dinos to 1 of your own). M was ahead, and I chose to score a region giving her 3 pts (she was the only one there). Why? Well, I had poor choices, and I wanted to force a gene auction round. Unfortunately, I didn’t bid high enough – D took Teeth (kill another dino) and M took Legs (get from ocean to land faster). M made great use of her sexy Legs, and managed to expand her lead by getting a whole bunch of creepy crawlies to make their way out of the ocean and onto lands that were going to be scored soon. When the first epoch ended, D managed to play it so that M scored some more pts (I think he did, too), but both M and I lost a whole lot of dinos to the fiery hell of the 2 volcano eruptions.
In the second (and last) Epoch, M continued to proliferate faster than the rest of us. Well, I bred a lot, but M managed to control the areas that would actually be scored! We soon had another gene auction, triggered again by M. Again, I lost – D continued to evolve an overly aggressive species of dino by making them warm-blooded (extra action per turn); he would use that to assimilate or kill my peace-loving sex-happy species. M gave her dinos Wings (fly from one area to another), although I don’t know how they could do it with those long sexy legs. D continued to assimilate and eat, but he primarily targeted my dinos instead of M’s, hoping to take control of regions and score more points for himself. Unfortunately, that also resulted in letting M keep her lead. She rushed to the 30 point mark, triggering final scoring before the end of the 2nd epoch. I had the most ictos on the board, giving me 3 more pts. D had the most on land, giving him 2. All for naught – M crushed us!
Having played those other evolution-type games (esp Ursuppe, also from the same designers), we’d all gone into this one expecting a long game. It was surprisingly fast – probably even faster once everyone knows the rules. It takes a little effort getting used to the role rotation mechanic – when you choose a tile to score, the person who is taking actions has seen 2 of your 3 choices, and can move dinos (ichtos) around and mess up your plans. There’s a good bit of second-guessing going on. This was an interesting game, but did not grab hold of any of us. However, it was so fast that I’d much rather try this again, than repeat a long drawn-out game of Ursuppe. But I do think that it would play better with 4 or 5 players. For now, after one play, it’s a 6/10.