Publisher: North Stars Digital Studios
Developer: North Stars Digital Studios
Release: December 10th, 2020
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC, Android, iOS
If you are like me, you enjoy getting together with family and friends to play board games. And what a better time than the winter months, where it gets dark early and it’s too dang cold to go out and do anything anyway.
Unfortunately 2020 has other plans, and, due to Covid-19, getting together to play board games isn’t something that is easily done. Thank goodness for Evolution, the board game that has made its...well, digital evolution, and is now available on the Nintendo Switch.
If you don’t know the game Evolution, it’s a card/board strategy game in which you try to evolve your creature, eat as much food (or other creatures) as possible, and the winner is the one that collected the most points at the end of the game. It’s fairly easy to learn but challenging to master.
There are six rounds to a game of Evolution. Each round starts off with each player getting dealt a hand of cards. The cards will have different attributes to them. You’ll first notice a green number in the upper corner of the card. This is a food value and each round starts with you and your opponents playing a card to add to the food pile in the middle of the board. The available food points are a shared resource amongst all players and the goal is to get as much food as you can to starve off your opponents.
After the food cards have been dealt, each player will play their cards. There is quite a bit of strategy involved with playing the cards. You add another creature by playing a card, increasing the number of creatures you have will increase the amount of food you can consume. Each card has a trait detailed in the description on the card. You can play the card on your creature as a trait and that will give the creature special abilities. For instance, you could play a card that allows you to share food resources to other creatures you own, or another card may give your creature added protection from predators (we’ll get to predators in just a minute). You can place up to three different traits on your creature. You also have the ability to add a trait even if you have three traits on a creature, but you will have to negate one of the existing traits to do so.
You can also play the cards to increase your creature population. Each creature will start with a population of one. As you add to the population of the creature, you will need to have enough food to support that population, otherwise it will die. For example, let’s say you have a creature that has a population of four. Each player will take turns gathering food for their creature(s). If on the fourth round of collecting food, the food stockpile from the middle is empty, you lose one from your population. If the population reaches zero, that creature becomes extinct. Planning your traits and deciding how much resources you want to add to the center stockpile plays an important role in the overall strategy.
The other thing you can do with cards is increase their size. The bigger the creature is, the harder it is for a predator to eat them. This brings us to the final aspect of the cards, evolving into a predator. Some cards will be predator cards and adding them as a trait to one of your creatures evolves the creature into a predator. Predators don’t eat plants from the middle stockpile, they eat other creatures that are in play (including your own cards, if you need to). The size of the predator matters, so if the predator is a larger size than a creature card, it can eat the creature, lowering their population by one each time it eats the creature. Predators also have population size, so your predator will need to eat as many other creatures as possible to maintain the population. If there are no creatures on the board that are smaller than the predator, that predator population decreases by one. If you reach zero, that predator dies. Animal size isn’t the only way you can protect your creature from predators, as a lot of trait cards also provide protection, but body size is probably the easiest way to ensure the survival of your creature.
At the end of the six rounds of play, the score is tallied by adding all the food you collected each round, your population size, and the number of traits cards still on a creature. Whoever has the most points wins the game.
That’s a lot to take in, and thankfully, the game has a decent tutorial that will walk you through the basics of the game. The real meat of the game is in the 21 game single player campaign mode, which will take about 6-8 hours to complete, depending on how fast you can finish each game in the campaign. While the tutorial does a nice job laying the groundwork for the game, it’s in the campaign where I found myself understanding strategies.
Besides the campaign mode, Evolution also offers an online mode. You can either compete with random people around your skill level or you can play with friends. This is probably one of my favorite aspects of the game, for reasons I mentioned above. The game also has weekly challenges, which add stipulations around how to win the game. If you do want to play locally, you can do so via the pass and play game option. Finally, there is the ability to play against the AI to hone your skills. While reviewing the game, I also noticed that there is a online store, but there isn’t anything available in the store at the time of this review.
Final Grade: A
Fans of board games will enjoy Evolution. It’s easy to learn but the challenge comes with strategy. Just like any other card game, there is an element of chance in the game, but I never felt cheated due to the luck of the draw. Adding the ability to play online enhances the game’s value tremendously, especially during the pandemic.
Review copy provided by Stride PR