The Game of Evolution and Natural Selection

Evolution is not something tacked on – the co-evolutionary competition drives play, making the dynamics and theme neatly integrated

 

The cover art of Evolution: Climate.

Evolution: Climate is a stand-alone game in the Evolution product line by Northstar Games. The idea of the game is to create species and make them adapt to a dynamically evolving climate.  As the common food supply is limited, there is a constant scramble for food if your species is herbivore. Players may also turn into carnivores, so if you have not evolved your defences, other players will eat your species for breakfast, lunch and dinner if they feel like it. In this way, players try to outsurvive each other like species do in natural selection as part of evolution with the main threats being starvation, carnivores and climate. This turns into a fun and even educational game of evolution and natural selection.

In the game, large animals survive a cool climate better than smaller creatures, but these roles are reversed when the climate becomes warmer. Occasionally, sudden weather events may be triggered. This changes the climate instantly, causing the temperature to drop or rise in a drastic way. If a species fails to adapt to its environment, it is doomed to die out. This may feel like the end of the world for the emotionally invested player who has painstakingly created a species with an idiosyncratic combination of traits. However, there are up to 200 000 different combinations of traits, so there is plenty of space for player creativity in managing evolutionarily successful species.

The gameboard used to track changes in climate.

As there is a constant risk of a species dying out due to starvation, carnivores or climate, the player still, however, continues gathering points that count towards the end goal by creating a new species when another dies out. Points are scored for eating and for the species you have left at the end of the game. The player with the highest score wins. As a player who loves story-driven games I get attached to characters, so the conditions for victory was obviously no consolation for me. I mourned the loss of Kappa, a long-necked mammal with supreme capacity to store fat on the expense of other players. Unfortunately, Kappa faced a series of too many harsh winters and was doomed to die out. On a positive note, however, I learned from my strategic mistakes and had Kappa2 grow heavy fur.

 

My first playthrough with six players new to the game lasted approximately 1,5 hours.

In Evolution: Climate, evolution and natural selection is made to look like a game. In evolution, species face the same threats that players deal with in this game. So, in summary: evolution is not only something that is tacked on – the co-evolutionary competition of species drives the play, and makes population genetics a fun kind of edutainment where dynamics and theme are interweaved. The original and expressive artwork, the gratuitous wooden dinosaur as turn marker as well as the satiny bags that store food work as nice additions.

 

Fat tissue and heavy fur, my favourite evolutionary features for surviving harsh winters.

 

Publisher: Northstar Games

Year published: 2016

Genre: Strategy

Players: 2-6

Age: 12+

Playing time: 60 min

Language: English