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Subject: Need to Evolve to Survive rss

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Diz Hooper
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Evolution: The Origin of Species is a card game produced by RightGames, a Russian publisher of board games and card games. While their games are widely published in the Russian market, they have yet to enter the English language board game market. . . until now. An English language version of the game has been produced this year for release in the English language market. This is a review of the English language edition of Evolution.


Photo by Lanadove

Initial Impression

Evolution comes in a corrugated cardboard box that is wrapped in a thin card stock sleeve. The cardboard is pretty sturdy and will hold up to a beating. It's pretty easy to open the box and the components are reasonably secure. There's a bit of sliding room, but the cards are held pretty securely on two sides and are pre-packed in a ziplock bag, so they stay well-organized. The depth of the box is perfect for the deck of cards. Overall, the organization of the components is well done, so there is no need to package or ziplock components on opening the game for the first time.

Components

The components for the game have a sleek and simple look to them. The game comes with a deck of cards, plastic chips to represent food, and two dice. The cards are of fair quality, but you may want to sleeve them since they will get shuffled a lot. However, if you sleeve them, they may have trouble fitting back in the box, or would be a really tight fit depending on how tight your sleeves are. I really like the simple graphic design of the art on the cards. It gives the cards a very clean and modern feel.

The plastic chips used to represent food come in three colors: red, blue and beige. The chips are quite small, so if you knock them off the table, they may be difficult to find. They look very nice though. It comes with two D6s, and these are a bit on the small side as well. You may want to replace them with larger dice.


Photo by Gamesgrunt

Rules

At the start of the game, each player draws 6 cards (2-4 players). Then beginning with the starting player, each player takes turns playing a single card. Cards can be played in two ways. A player can play a card face down to represent a new creature. By playing more cards like this, a player can increase the number of creature in front of them. The other way to play a card is to put it under a existing creature. The card placed under a creature will be played face up with the title of the card revealed. You can play any number of traits to a single creature, but you cannot play any duplicate traits other than fat tissue, which can be played to a single creature multiple times. These cards will add traits to the creature it is placed under. These traits could give the creature special abilities such as swimming, camouflage or turn it into a savage carnivore. These traits will give creatures a better chance of surviving. However, there is one card, parasite, which you can play on other players creatures. Playing the parasite on a creature is death sentence since it greatly increases the food requirements for that creature.

Once all of the players have either played all of their cards or passed (players may keep cards for the next round if they like). The feeding phase begins. All creatures must be fed. Each creature requires one food chip to survive. However, some traits will increase a creature's food requirements. If you made a creature a carnivore, it requires an extra food. Carnivores can target other creatures to eat which provides two food, so as long as they have a legal target to eat, they are OK. High Body Weight also increase food requirements by one. If you were unlucky to get the parasite, then it increases the food requirement for that creature by two!

Now here's where it gets really tricky, the amount of food available is determined by a dice roll. For example, in a three player game, it is determined by rolling two D6s. That means in a worst case scenario, there will be only two food available! Beginning with the starting player, a player can take one food token or do a trait based action, such as sending a carnivore to eat another creature. The continues until there are no more food tokens or actions to be taken. In a typical round in the games I played, each player generally had two or three creatures. Any creatures who do not meet their food requirement at the end of the feeding phase will become extinct. There are ways to mitigate the lack of food, but you can expect that the majority of the creatures you create during the game will die.

Once the feeding round is complete, then each player draws new cards equal to the number of surviving creatures plus one or if all of their creatures are dead, they can draw six cards. This repeats until the deck is gone. This will signal the final round. There are 84 cards in the deck, so if players are only drawing two or three cards each per round (very likely), there will be a lot of rounds.

Once the game is over, scoring takes place. Players get one point for each surviving creature, one point for each trait card on those creatures, and if they have any cards that increase the food requirement, they get points equal to the increased food requirement. So, a parasite played in the last round could become a good source of extra points if you manage to survive the last feeding. The player with the most points wins.

Final Thoughts

With the rules the way they are now, my impression is that the only rounds of the game which really mean anything are the final two rounds. Any creatures created before those rounds has a very large chance of dying due to situations outside of the players' control such as a food shortage or getting a parasite played onto them. So, in a sense, all of the work that you put into nurturing your creatures for the first 80% of the game feels a bit meaningless.

In essence, this is a very tactical game. To make it feel more rewarding, the game needs to have scoring opportunities throughout the game. This would reward those small tactical victories that are happening each round. To create a more tactical and rewarding game experience, I recommend trying one of the two following variants:

High Scoring Game Variant

In the high scoring variant, do a scoring round after every feeding round. Keep track of the scores with pen and paper, poker chips or any other kind of token. At the end of the game, total the scores.

Low Scoring Game Variant

Divide the deck into either halves or quarters. Draw from one of the decks, and when that deck runs out of cards that round will be considered a scoring round. After the scoring round, move to the next deck. Repeat until all of the decks have been played and total the scores at the end of the game.

Rating

With the rules as they are out of the box: 5/10

With the high scoring game variant: 7/10

I really recommend playing this with the high scoring variant. It adds a lot of excitement to the game and it will increase the competition among the players. If you'd like to try this game with the high scoring variant, check the publisher's web page for the release details of the English language edition. The publisher will also be at Essen this year at HALL №7, booth 7-05, so check Evolution out there if you'd like to make your own judgment of the games merits.


A review copy of this game was provided to JIGG Kansai by the publisher of this game.
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Daniël Muilwijk
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Thank you very much for this review. It makes my buying decision easier. (I still haven't decided though...)
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Robert
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Great review!
I played only once but here's my take. It's an entertaining and well-thought out game with a major flaw -- the first player is static. There are certain advantages to certain player positions so I think that the first person to start should change every round. I don't see why that common mechanic wasn't added to the game.
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Dmitry
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lobato wrote:
Great review!
I played only once but here's my take. It's an entertaining and well-thought out game with a major flaw -- the first player is static. There are certain advantages to certain player positions so I think that the first person to start should change every round. I don't see why that common mechanic wasn't added to the game.


Indeed, the first player is not static.
The rules states:
"After the cards are dealt the turn is over. All food tokens except the fat tokens are removed from the cards and put away on the table. The new turn starts again with the development phase; the first player is now the next player clockwise from the first player of the previous turn."

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Yannis
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thdizzy wrote:

Final Thoughts

With the rules the way they are now, my impression is that the only rounds of the game which really mean anything are the final two rounds. Any creatures created before those rounds has a very large chance of dying due to situations outside of the players' control such as a food shortage or getting a parasite played onto them. So, in a sense, all of the work that you put into nurturing your creatures for the first 80% of the game feels a bit meaningless.

In essence, this is a very tactical game. To make it feel more rewarding, the game needs to have scoring opportunities throughout the game. This would reward those small tactical victories that are happening each round. To create a more tactical and rewarding game experience, I recommend trying one of the two following variants:

High Scoring Game Variant

In the high scoring variant, do a scoring round after every feeding round. Keep track of the scores with pen and paper, poker chips or any other kind of token. At the end of the game, total the scores.

Low Scoring Game Variant

Divide the deck into either halves or quarters. Draw from one of the decks, and when that deck runs out of cards that round will be considered a scoring round. After the scoring round, move to the next deck. Repeat until all of the decks have been played and total the scores at the end of the game.



After having played more than 20 games, I must say this is not quite the case. There are huge benefits for the player(s) that manage to create a sustainable long chain of more than 3 animals from the beginning of the game. Long chains of animals burn through the full card deck faster than you could do with small groups of animals that go extinct every other turn, even if you reduce the deck to half. Now what you need to focus and work on is a strategy about how to create chains of animals that can survive throughout the game. People add parasites on them? The more scoring points for you in the end if you get them survive.

A tip: Be extremely careful about what you build in the center of the chain. whistle
 
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Yannis
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yeh_sx wrote:
lobato wrote:
Great review!
I played only once but here's my take. It's an entertaining and well-thought out game with a major flaw -- the first player is static. There are certain advantages to certain player positions so I think that the first person to start should change every round. I don't see why that common mechanic wasn't added to the game.


Indeed, the first player is not static.
The rules states:
"After the cards are dealt the turn is over. All food tokens except the fat tokens are removed from the cards and put away on the table. The new turn starts again with the development phase; the first player is now the next player clockwise from the first player of the previous turn."



Thanks for clarifying this to us Dmitry!
That totally makes more sense!
 
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Dwayne Hendrickson
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Another advantage to having animals survive throughout the game is that you draw cards based on how many animals survive (surviving animals + 1). BUT, if you have no surviing animals, you get to draw six cards, so keeping your opponent at 1 animal limits him to 2 cards, where if you kill that last one and he has no cards, he gets six cards.

Having only two cards and one animal appears to be a hard place to come back from and you may have to pass a turn or two.
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Ian B
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tsondaboy wrote:
[q="thdizzy"]
After having played more than 20 games, I must say this is not quite the case. There are huge benefits for the player(s) that manage to create a sustainable long chain of more than 3 animals from the beginning of the game. Long chains of animals burn through the full card deck faster than you could do with small groups of animals that go extinct every other turn, even if you reduce the deck to half. Now what you need to focus and work on is a strategy about how to create chains of animals that can survive throughout the game. People add parasites on them? The more scoring points for you in the end if you get them survive.

A tip: Be extremely careful about what you build in the center of the chain. whistle


I've played this 3 times now and I know what you are saying but I think it is really quite difficult to do this. I am not sure what you mean by 'chain' but if you mean like this:

Creature A
Cooperation
Creature B
Symbiont
Creature C

Then it is an advantage but won't always stop you starving when the dice roll low.

I agree with the reviewer that the game is frustrating when all your efforts can be for naught if you have bad luck on the last round. I will have to try the variants.
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Dominic Crapuchettes
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North Star Games designs party games that don't suck! Play them with your non-gamer friends over the holidays.
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For those of you who have not yet heard, North Star Games has the rights to this game, and has released an updated version that solves most of the problems that people have discussed. And the new art is fantastic!



It is currently on Kickstarter, but the campaign ends tonight at midnight.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1923120194/evolution-0?...

The campaign has $117,000 of pledges, which means that all of the great stretch goals have been unlocked. You should check it out to see if you are interested. Cheers!


Stretch Goals Unlocked:

- 5 limited edition high quality coasters with Evolution art ($10 value)



- 1 trait (7 cards) that will be released in a future expansion. This trait is fully compatible with the base set and features exclusive limited edition art by John Ariosa (Mice & Mystics, Summoner Wars, etc). So when this card is released in a future expansion, it will have different art.



- A huge limited edition 3.5 inch x 5 inch miniature of the Long Neck creature to be used as an alternative start player token.



- 6 limited edition Species Boards by John Ariosa which can be used as the starting species in a 6-player game.





- A PDF of the PnP files.[/b]
 
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