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16Nov/160

Is Evolution: Climate a Game Changer?

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Evolution has become a local staple. I've taught it to all kinds of players who love the mix of simplicity and strategy. But can Evolution: Climate create a more strategic "gamer's" experience without losing accessibility?

When you sit down to play, it's clear North Star Games has not strayed far from the original formula. Each player controls one or more species. Each species tries to eat as much as it can which scores victory points. The players get trait cards every round, which they use to grow their population, grow their species, and give their species special abilities. Most species are peaceful omnivores, while creatures with the Carnivorous trait can only eat their fellow species.

All this takes five minutes to teach in the original Evolution, and Evolution: Climate keeps this core. It also adds some nice usability touches, such as differentiating body size and population by color. It also adds one big change: a climate track at the top of the game's main board.

Every round, each player discards a card that helps determine the food supply (established) and whether the climate marker moves on the track (new). Different climates affect the food supply and the health of players' species. If the climate gets hotter, more food becomes available but bigger species overheat and lose population. If it gets colder, the food supply diminishes and smaller creatures freeze.

Evolution: Climate players about to find out what a cold snap does.

Evolution: Climate players about to find out
what a cold snap does.

Climate Change: Threat or Menace?

On the surface, the climate track doesn't change much. The marker moves, the food supply shifts. Climate extremes and a set of event cards threaten occasional disruptions, but the overall impact seems to be minor. It's one more thing to manage, not a condition that defines your strategy.

That's good news for accessibility. The game is still easy to teach. If it isn't a gateway game like Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride, it's pretty close. And while new players may get tripped up when a cold snap wipes out half their species, the game is forgiving enough that they can recover.

What I'm not so sure of is whether the climate track adds enough meat for skilled players. An experienced Evolution player will have no trouble mitigating the negative effects of climate, but I'm not sure she can do a lot to exploit it. Climate control is both indirect and slow. It's hard to imagine a hand of cards that lets you get the food you want and the climate you want AND the creature traits needed to make the most of them.

A table full of skilled players might be able to get more out of the game, especially if they're willing to cut some deals along the way. But it's hard to get that kind of a table together, at least in this neck of the woods. And while Evolution: Climate isn't any less fun than the other version, it's hard to see where it's more fun than the base game or the Flight expansion.

That makes Evolution: Climate a little hard to justify as a line extension. It's a worthy edition of a great game, but it doesn't stand out the way Ticket to Ride Europe stood out from Ticket to Ride. I'm looking forward to exploring this game further, but I don't know if the experience will ever be unique.

 

 

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Posted by Chris Aylott

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