In 2012, Travelling Companion and I visited Russia. I looked for Russian games and bought two: Смута (Time of troubles), a good game whose review will need to wait till I reach the early seventeenth century AD, and this one, Evolution.
Each player has a hand of cards. You can play a card face down (the coming into being of a new species) or face up (giving a species a characteristic, such as scavenging or burrowing). After everyone has played the cards they want, a random amount of food appears. Players take turns taking food counters – normally one at a time – to feed their species (some, with certain characteristics, need more than others). Species die out if there isn’t enough food for them. Then each player gets new cards – more if you have more species – and the next turn begins.
When the pack of cards is exhausted the player with the most species and characteristics wins.
I played a three-player game, solo. The first turn was bland. I decided that more aggressive play was needed. Due to the luck of the cards, one player then took the lead in creating carnivores. Rather than eating normal food, these eat other species. There are defences against them (large size, sacrificeable tail) – but the carnivores nevertheless found enough to eat and by the fourth turn the other two players were virtually wiped out. One player actually started again with a full hand of cards – but before they could build a defensible position their species got eaten up all over again.
This corresponds with what I have read in reviews on Boardgamegeek, that the game suffers from a runaway leader problem. In a game with this problem, once a player takes the lead, the game makes that player stronger. Even if the others combine, it is hard for them to catch the leader.
This picture shows the point when I stopped the game. It illustrates the runaway leader problem. Player I has no species left alive. Player II has one. Player III has four, of which three have the red Carnivore characteristic.
Visually, the game is nothing special. Historically:
- Is it clear who the player is representing? – obviously not
- Does what happens feel like a representation of what might have happened? – no. The game feels too slight to depict the ebbs and flows of species development and the slow timescale of what I imagine to be ‘real’ evolution.
There are some tactical choices in the feeding phase – which animal should I make eat? what shall I do with my carnivores? But these choices are “chessy”. They are pure calculations: there is no hidden information or chance involved. That takes you further still from the theme.
Only 1 point out of 10, I’m afraid.
Playing time: setting up 5 minutes, playing 45 minutes (up to the point when I gave up, with 40% of the pack played)
|Эволюцияи||Evolution (animals)||Dmitri Knorre||History games 2||1|
|Primordial Soup||Evolution (amoebas)||Doris and Frank||History games 1||3|