Friday, July 01, 2016

Evolve or Die

Over the years, I've come across a lot of board games about evolving dinosaurs. Amazingly, it was only a couple of years ago that one finally called itself Evolution.

As with most of the "evolution games," Evolution lets you graft new abilities onto existing creatures you control, as you try to guide them to the food they need to survive and protect them from predators. The specific mechanics here are different than the rest, in some ways resembling a trading card game. Card advantage drives you to play with as many species as you can, but it grows increasingly difficult to protect more than a couple creatures at a time. Card combos emerge not just by the abilities you pair together on a single creature, but in the ways each of your creatures can interact with the others.

There are some satisfying ways to use herbivores to interact indirectly with your opponents. If you've got your feeding needs under control, you can take steps to try to deliberately starve enemy creatures. If your opponents evolve a particular means of attacking you, you can evolve abilities that work as direct counters to them. There's a nice relationship between everything, and the game lasts long enough that you can really enjoy the way it ebbs and flows.

I'm just unsure how good it works as a multiplayer game. The game's system for carnivores uses direct attacking, and you can't protect yourself from everyone. I mean that literally; if everyone decides to gang up on you (for legitimate reasons like your perceived lead in the game, or more questionable reasons that might have nothing to do with the game), there's really nothing you can do. And if you've fallen behind in scoring (because of your bad choices, or because your opponents collectively put you there), the game doesn't seem to offer much help in catching up.

So while I had fun playing the game, and would play it again at least a few times more to further explore the interactions between the creature abilities, I'm not sure than the game has legs for me in the long term. I'd call it a B-, or maybe a B, overall. I was definitely intrigued in some ways, but with some reservations.

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