Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Evo - my kind of evolution game

Apart from Fürstenfeld, last Friday we also played Evo. And while I was pleased but underwhelmed by the former, I was very pleased and impressed with the latter. Evo combines some sound mechanics with ample interaction and conflict.

The box art tells the story of the game: life is a war of all against all

Every player in the game leads a species of dinosaurs on its way to the ultimate crash down of the comet that will only leave one species standing. If you have gained the most evolution points by then, you survive (=win).

As in all evolution games (eg Ursuppe/Primordial Soup, Evolution, Dominant Species), you acquire new traits over the course of the game that will help your species to prosper, either by adapting to your natural environment, increased speed, higher birth rate or superior combat skills than your competitors, either offensive or defensive.

In Evo, there's a couple of main traits and a load of special ones. The most important are extra legs (you start with two) for movement, heat or cold resistance and horns for combat. And there's a trait that will keep the costs of other traits down (a genetical talent for adaptation). These will turn up randomly at the start of the turn, so you can't count on them being available all the time.

My player board after the first round, in which I acquired an extra (3rd) leg 
The turn starts with the survival roundel which indicates which areas on the board are safe, conditionally safe or outright dangerous. This is determined randomly with the general direction being clockwise, but there's also the odd counterclockwise movement or double step movement. This may suddenly leave your species bound for destruction at the end of the turn.

But the action really takes off with the bidding contest for the new traits that become available. This also helps to establish the turn order. The starting player puts his pawn on the evolution board, normally picking the trait of his preference, with the lowest bid of 0. Bidding is done with evolution points (=victory points), so you must try to keep your bid as low as possible.

The bidding board on the left and the survival roundel on the right
Other players then also place their pawns, but if one of them also wants the trait one of the previous players has chosen, he can overbid. That releases the pawn of the player being overbidden who then place his pawn somewhere else.

You can imagine that this triggers a round of replacements as players move to their second best option, freeing up other pawns. You can also imagine that some players will place their pawn strategically to force other players to bid higher and to move to another place (and point in the player order) they actually prefer.

The action then moves to the map board, where you can move around (based on the number of legs (=movement points) you have and attack others.  The special combat dice determines the outcome. Your chances of destroying your opponent are improved by having more (or bigger) horns.

The map, late in the game when players had scattered.
My pinko'saurs waiting to make their move
After movement and combat, your species procreate into free, adjacent areas. But the game ends with all animals in the wrong place dying. Having heat or cold resistance gives you more options, although the number of animals that you can save this way are limited. It all remains a balancing act.

At this point you score new evolution points based on your population.

Rob won the game by increasing his population quickly and adapting to cold and heat. He also got the trait allowing him to flee his enemies, so we could not go after him to cull his numbers. He ended up with 36 point IIRC. Jeroen was close behind by skillful bidding (I think 31 points).

My board at the end of the game: 4 legs, 3 horns and some cold resistance at last

My strategy of mobility and aggression did work to some extent, because I kept most others at a safe distance, but it invited some retaliation as well.  As I rarely managed to keep more than four of my dinos alive, you can imagine that betting power at the start of the game was limited, especially by the end of the game when new traits were less worthwhile than early on. I sucked at bidding however, and got my traits only late in the game, settling for event cards which in the end proved of little value. Still 25 points or so.

Everybody was so scared of Gerard's killer babies that he received some preemptive attacks. And because he didn't have horns, he lost most of them. Andries got himself stuck in a corner despite having useful traits, especially the adaptation bonus (ie discount on new traits).

But this is a good, fun game. Lots of meaningful and bloody interaction, tough choices and mechanics that work within the theme. Go fetch!


  1. I have this game, though mine is first edition and far more cartoon in style. Got to admit it's not one of my favourites but that could be because I've not played it as much as others. Ursuppe whilst a longer game is for me a better game, besides it's got lots more wooden bits LOL


    1. There's now some talk about being a leader of a dino tribe, but apart from adding a few scantily clad lads and lasses to the artwork it doesn't seem to change the game. I guess the mechanics may have been streamlined to produce a tighter game, but I honestly don't know about the differences.

      Well, wooden bits... that's a topic you can talk about long and short

    2. But I like Ursuppe too. It is a bit more abstracted than Evo


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