Evolution: Survival of the Fittest
In Evolution, every turn is a fight for survival!
Charles Darwin first introduced the theory of evolution when he published On The Origin of Species in 1859. He proposed that the vast diversity of life found on earth is the result of natural selection, a process that over time allowed the animals best suited to their environment to survive and become the dominant species.
Welcome to the world of Evolution, where every turn is a fight for survival—quite literally. In this colorful and competitive strategy game, each player takes control of one or more animal species. Every turn means survival or extinction as players compete to collect limited food resources. Through clever card play, players improve their animals with adaptive traits that transform their various species into powerful creatures. With a wide variety of traits and strategic options available, every round of play challenges the players to adapt and evolve. Looking for a game that hits its theme perfectly? You’ve just found it!
Give each player a Food Screen (where they will secretly stash the Food they collect) and a Species Board. The Species Board is where they track an animal’s Population, Body Size, and Traits.
Place the Watering Hole in the middle of the table and set the Food tokens aside to form the Food Bank. Then, shuffle the Trait Cards and place them aside to form the Draw Deck. Randomly choose a start player and give he or she the awesome green dinosaur (the First Player Marker). Let’s play! Each round is played over five phases.
First, deal three Trait Cards to each player, plus one for each Species Board they own.
Each player now selects one Trait Card from their hand and places it face down on the Watering Hole. These cards will be revealed during the Feeding Phase to determine how much Plant Food will be available for the round. This is determined by the number printed on every Trait Card, which can range from 0-9, along with a few negative numbers as well. This is one of my favorite mechanics in the game, where individual play style can really affect how each game progresses.
Players now play their Trait Cards on any one of their species. They place these cards face down and will reveal them once everyone is finished playing cards. Then, players may also discard a Trait Card to increase the Population or Body Size on any one of their species by one. Finally, they may discard a Trait Card to start a new species. Deciding exactly what to do with each precious Trait Card is a critical part of your strategy every round.
Turn over the facedown Trait Cards on the Watering Hole and add Food to the Hole—or take it away—as determined by the sum total on the cards.
Players now take turns collecting Food for their species. If the species is an herbivore, they’ll feed from the available Food in the Watering Hole. If they are a carnivore, they must attack the other species to feed. Once all species are satisfied, they stop eating. If a species goes hungry, it is forced to reduce its Population to the extent it was able to feed, or go extinct if it was unable to collect any Food that round. Tough luck, or just poor planning?
Play continues like this until the Draw Deck runs out, which signals the end of the game. Players now count up the size of their Population for each species, the number of Traits for each species, and the amount of Food they collected during the game. The player with the highest total is the winner!
First, I’m a big fan of medium-to-heavy strategy games and this one definitely punches the ticket for me. The cards and mechanics are very nicely balanced, and intended to force players to react to their environment. Is a carnivore preparing to attack you? It’s time to beef up on defensive Traits. No carnivores in play? Then stack your species with Traits that let you hoard Food and grow your Populations.
Dealing with a defenseless herbivore eating to their heart’s content? Get your carnivore on and start depleting their Population. There’s always something you can do to change, adapt, and exploit the other players’ weaknesses. Sensing the right moments for an “evolution” and anticipating others’ moves gives this game the kind of strategic tension I love.
But how about the kids?
I played this with two of my children, ages 8 and 10, who hung in pretty well. For this age range, the strategy is on the “heavier” side. You’ll definitely need to play it a couple times for them to see all the cards and grasp how the strategies intertwine.
Be warned, this game is competitive, almost harsh at times. My kids had the most defeated looks on their faces when their species began to die from lack of Food or a carnivore attack. Every kid will think their species is cute and amazing, so think twice before you go killing off their pet! It’s just how the game goes: at some point your creatures are going to suffer. If your kids are a bit sensitive to “the struggle”, you may want to wait until they’re older.
North Star Games suggests ages 12+, but I think you can start much younger if your kids can handle the competitive aspects. We like Evolution a lot more than Evolution: The Beginning, a stripped-down version designed for younger audiences.
Evolution clocks in around 60 minutes, and ranges from 2–6 players. The quickness of play and the number of players you can get to the table make it very versatile. It’s definitely worth checking out, I think you’ll find that you’ll put it on the table quite a lot. You can find a copy at your local FLGS or on Amazon for under $30,
- Art: Very creative and original watercolor artwork. A very high print production value with a custom tray and quality cardboard bits.
- Mechanics: Extremely well balanced. Many subtle mechanics are at play, all relate to one another, and force the players to constantly adapt their strategies. A+ for strategic tension!
- Family Fun: The kids had fun with it, but the ultra competitive aspect can be a bummer when the cuddly bunnies start dying.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Evolution from North Star Games for this review.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Playtime: 60 minutes
Number of Players: 2-6