Producer– North Star Games
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 1 hour (2-6 players)
TL; DR-It feels like it evolves during play. 97.5%
Basics- Time for survival of the fittest! In Evolution, players take the roles of different species trying to survive the best they can over time. At the start of each turn, a player is dealt three cards plus one for each species they control. If a player doesn’t control any species, that player automatically is given one species with the lowest possible statistics as a catch up mechanism. Each card a player receives has a name, picture, a power, and a number on a leaf in the bottom corner. The leaf number indicates how much food will be found in the watering hole, a cardboard place holder in the middle of the table, that round. With their remaining cards, players can power up their species. Each species has a population marker and a body size marker. Population is the maximum food that that species can take each turn, and body size is used in defense. The cards a player has can be played on a species to permanently provide that power, or the card can be discard to increase the body or population by one of a species species or create a new species with a body and size of one.
After each all players have played cards, then the real fun begins. The first player reveals the cards in the watering hole, and places more food based on the leaf numbers of all the cards. Then, starting with the first player, each player takes one food from the watering hole. Powers may affect the amount of food takes as some powers take more for the one species or cause another species to take foods as well. However, one power that a creature can have is carnivore. Carnivores do not eat plants but other species! A carnivore attacks another species, yours or another players, and gains food equal to the attacked species’ body size all the while reducing that species’ population by one. Carnivores can’t eat creatures that are bigger than themselves, and some powers will protect creatures in play as well. But, the main advantage of carnivores is they do not need food from the watering hole as they food comes from the bank itself. Play continues until every species around the table has food equal to its population or there is no more food in the watering hole. If your species didn’t get enough food, you have to reduce your population to the amount of food it did get! All food you did collect is placed into little bags for end game scoring. Then, the first player marker passes to the next player.
The game continues until, when dealing cards, you have to shuffle the discard pile to have enough cards to hand to all the players. When that happens, it is the last round. After finishing the round, you score points for each evolution trait card on a species, the species population, and all the food tokens you collected during the game. The player with the most points wins and is the king of the jungle!
Mechanics-I love how quick and easy this game is. It’s fast, fun, and easy to pick up. Nothing is overly complicated, but the game isn’t a puff piece either as the diversity here makes every decision important. When giving up a card to increase your body size, you really have to consider if that card would be better providing its trait to your species, or do you need to increase your population to gain food. That’s just enough brain burning fun to keep you engaged, but not too much to make you not have a fun, quick game. My only major complaint is that there is a runaway victor problem. If a player gets too many species with the right traits, that player might run away with the number of card he or she gets ruling the game from the start and be almost unbeatable. It’s not self correcting problem as other players will have to fix it. 4.75/5
Theme-This game feels like it evolves. I start a carnivore, then the rest of the table evolves to fight carnivores, and a few crazy people find ways to eat as well by playing cards like “scavenger” to eat when a creature dies. Don’t play a carnivore? Then the tables moves to find ways to eat quicker and get the food before you get a piece. It’s an arms race in both the biology and card playing, and I love it. 5/5
Instructions-The rules are not bad by a long shot, but I felt like I missed a few small, key details when I read and then played the game. How carnivores eat and where some food tokens come from are a little vague, but it’s not crucial fault in having fun or understanding how to play the game. As you saw above, the rules are not complicated. Once you have them down, you’ll be in good hands. Getting there isn’t hard, but possibly give the rules a second reading to make sure you have the finer points. The rules do have a larger description of all the trait cards, and I really liked that addition as well.4.75/5
Execution-What’s in the box is awesome. I love the cards, the art, the wood dino that is the first player token, and even the bags to contain your food/points. I’ll even let the Lisa Frank inspired art pass as it looks cool on the the creatures. If you want to see all the pieces of the game, check out my unboxing here https://youtu.be/QJe0e113Ljs. 5/5
Summary-The best way to summarize this game is to repeat what my brother said after his play “Can we do that again?” This is an awesome game that plays quick, makes you think fast, and is a pure pleasure to play. I felt like I was several creatures trying to survive while dealing with cruel fate for food. I never felt like I couldn’t win or my choices didn’t matter. If you love evolutionary science or hobby gaming, this is a great game that connects the two in an amazing way. Can’t wait to play this one again, and I think I will soon as it teaches quickly as well. 97.5%