Evolution from North Star Games brings together the engaging fun for which the company has long been known and the world of serious big-box games. North Star, which has made great strides in party gaming through its word-twisting Say Anything and trivia-betting Wits & Wagers, has always kept up a sense of fun about itself, more lighthearted than some tabletop games that encourage deep calculation and rigorous strategy. Yet with Evolution, North Star proves it can bring a lot of fun to the world of strategizing.
Evolution has players create species of creatures with different survival traits as they vie to have the dominant creatures of the ecosystem. Each player receives a Species Board that determines Body Size and Population. As in other strategy games, each round consists of several phases. Play in Evolution moves through phases of getting Trait Cards, discarding some to build a pool of Food Points, playing kept cards to create or modify species, and revealing the hidden Food Points.
As in a true ecosystem, all of the food is shared, and it is first-come, first-served. Players take turns drawing from the Food Points in the pool for herbivores, while players with carnivorous species feed off other players’ species of smaller body size. The object of the game is to avoid Extinction by starvation or predator attack. Play continues until the deck runs out, and the final score is determined by the points of food eaten.
The wild diversity in Evolution makes the game shine. With 17 different Traits that may be mixed and matched, up to three for each species, there are thousands of combinations to make potential species. Players will develop favored strategies, such as building up Defensive Herds of creatures with Fat Tissue and Foraging to avoid starvation. Others might go on the offensive, using Pack Hunting and Intelligence to overwhelm opponents while fostering a herd for points. Still others might try to link their collection of species, using Symbiosis to protect themselves and Cooperation to gather maximum food. There is no one right way to play, which makes Evolution a game players will return to again and again with fresh strategies or just to see what kind of fun animals they can make.
Evolution is a strategy board game for two to six players aged 12 and up. Many big-box strategy games with more complexity are designed for older players. Evolution is a good game for groups who want to include younger players or those who want more creativity than straight, chess-like logic.
The engaging watercolor art by Catherine Hamilton brilliantly shows creatures that are familiar and yet mystical, encouraging players to dream while they create and evolve their species.
Games last about an hour, depending on how many players are involved and how fast they act. Quick rules speed up the game by having players all lay cards at once rather than playing off one another’s strategies, which may be more embraced by those who are in the game for fun. Just as in the biomes of Earth, the diversity ensures that no two games will be just alike.
To go even further, North Star has launched an expansion, Flight, along with the base game on Kickstarter with a whole new set of traits to explore.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00NP7EWNG]