November Game of the Month – Evolution

The Game of the Month series highlights one of the many games in our library at Ravenwood Castle. We will briefly describe the game, how to play it, and why we like it.

Game: Evolution

Publisher: North Star Games

Earlier this year we received a call from North Star Games. They had heard about Hoop & Stick, and asked if we would be interested in demoing a prototype of their new game, Evolution. We of course were thrilled to agree, and our guests had a great time with the game.

North Star Games was kind enough to solicit our feedback, and sent us revised rules as they progressed through the development of the game – culminating in a final prototype for our guests to enjoy at Con in the Castle.

So when my Kickstarted version of the final game appeared on my doorstep a few weeks ago, I had already been playing Evolution for the better part of a year. You might think that would dim my enthusiasm for the game’s arrival, yet I still found myself eager to crack open the box. If nothing else I wanted to see the much touted artwork, provided by renowned nature artist Catherine Hamilton. North Star really delivered on their promises here, the final version of Evolution pairs the great game play that’s been there since the prototype with absolutely beautiful artwork and great production values.

In Evolution each player controls a mini-ecosystem, creating one or more species and adapting them throughout the game in order to survive and compete for a limited supply of food. Each turn the player has several choices. They have a limited number of cards which they can use to increase the population or physical size of an existing species, develop new traits for a species, or create an entirely new species.

All of these are interesting choices, but the real key to the game is in the traits that you assign to your species. Each species can have a maximum of three, and when selecting which to use you must balance between supporting the other species in your ecosystem, generating food, and defending yourself from becoming food.

The interplay between these traits, whether on a single species, two or more of your own species, or between your species and the other players’, is where Evolution really shines. Build a wonderful herbivorous commune – as one of our Hoop & Stick players did – but forget to evolve any defensive mechanisms, and you quickly become prey to another player’s hungry T-Rex. Bulk up on horns, shells and warning calls though, and you may find your extremely well protected creature safely starving to death.

Of course, you can always choose to perch your entire ecosystem in the safety of the trees – only to have that same T-Rex develop the climbing skill on the last round. The game is about evolution after all!

Jim Reed

Jim Reed is a lifelong gamer who started with the original red box Dungeons & Dragons. After spending 20 years in the corporate world, he decided it was high time that work be fun and struck out on his own. Jim now owns and operates Ravenwood Castle, and spends his days ensuring his guests have as much fun as he does.