This is a new version of Эволюция (History games 2). It has the same designer, Dmitri Knorre, plus two others. It was the only Russian game I could quickly find when I passed through Moscow last summer during the world cup. It looks better than its predecessor, plays better and feels a bit more historical.
As in the first version, each player has cards that can be played to generate new species or to give them characteristics. Examples are tree climbing and fertility. Here, cards can also be played to increase species’ body size or population.
Each turn, each player contributes a card to the food pool. These cards’ “food numbers” are added up to give the amount of food counters added to the pool.
The decisive part of the turn is the feeding phase. Species needs to obtain a food counter for each unit of their population. For herbivores, players take turns taking a single counter. Carnivores, which have to be bigger than their target, can take a counter for each unit of their target’s body size, while the target loses a unit of population.
To win, the most important thing is to obtain as many food counters as possible over the course of the game. So it is a good plan to invest scarce resources (cards) in population growth when prospects look good. But if there is scarcity and a species obtains less food than it needs, its population falls in proportion, perhaps to extinction.
I played out, solo, a three-player game. More than in Primordial Soup or Эволюция, the two previous evolution games that I’ve played, each player ended up following a firm strategy.
Player I brought into being many species of herbivores. The player invested in characteristics that protect against predators: horns, burrowing, tree climbing. They expanded population as much as they could. Food availability went through boom and bust times, and this player suffered in the busts. But in the end they were the winners.
Player II’s plan was to be the biggest predator, and to use the characteristic of intellect to outwit herbivore’s defensives. Trouble is, being big uses resources; using intelligence uses resources; as a result, the player couldn’t invest much in population growth. Player II’s predation reduced other players’ population a little, but not enough to make up the difference. Player II came last by a long way.
Early on, Player III’s first species acquired fatty tissue. This meant it could store food in boom times. This characteristic is particularly useful for carnivores, and the species soon became one. Instead of trying to eat other players’ species, like Player II, this player created some weak, fat herbivores. Player III’s dominant carnivore protected these against Player II using the “danger signal” characteristic, and snacked off them itself when other victims weren’t available.
Player III would have won if all that mattered were food counters consumed. But the bonus that Player I received for having more characteristics and population at the end of the game made the difference.
I think this version doesn’t have the “runaway leader” problem of its predecessor. Being ahead in this game gives less of a card-draw advantage; anti-predator defences are more effective (at the end of the game, shown above, 2 carnivores and 5 herbivore species survived – when I played the previous version it was 3 carnivores and 2 herbivores); and anyway the state of affairs, who is in the lead, is kept secret (the food counters you obtain are hidden in a red bag).
So it’s a decent game, simple and clean to play, with more opportunities to attack other players than in most Eurogames (which is probably what it is). As well as the strategies my three players followed, there must be others available, and I’d play it again. The who-am-I question, though, has no better answer than in the previous evolution games. From the point of view of historicity the sustained differentiation of strategies is what you want to see; the characteristics (except “danger signal”, with which a species protects not itself but others) make sense; but still it feels like ‘an’ evolution is taking place rather a depiction of the particular evolution that lies in ‘our’ past. So, 5 points.
Set-up: 5 minutes
Playing time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Next: Phil Eklund’s American Megafauna. Another kettle of the primary product of a maritime biome, I can tell you.
||Dominic Crapuchettes, Dmitri Knorre and Sergei Machin
||History games 3
||History games 2
||Doris and Frank
||History games 1