Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
This week saw the Bromsgrove Board Gamers go a bit prehistoric. No! Not the gamers, the game itself: Evolution. This brand new 2014 follow-up to Evolution: Origin of Species landed on Jon’s doorstep at precisely 8:30 AM. By 7:45 PM the game was underway. It caters for an excellent 2-6 players but is one of those rare specimens that doesn’t vastly increase in playing time the more people play. In my book, that’s really impressive and a full game can be played in around 60 minutes. This week we welcomed Chris and his partner Jess who joined old faithfuls Jon, Neil and me and the five of us learnt and played this game in not much more than an hour.
Having already gained an average rating of 7.46 on Board Game Geek, this lovely dinosaur evolution-themed game is on the up. Each player starts with a brand new species and can choose up to 3 “traits” for their unique species to have such as horns (to repel carnivorous would-be attackers) or the ability to scavenge for food any time a carnivore attacks. And here’s the nub of the matter: the ultimate goal of this game is for your herd of dinosaurs to eat more food than anyone else’s. In order to eat, you need population. Increase it at the right time and you’ll be scoffing your face full of plants to the envy of your competitors; get it wrong, fail to slake the appetite of your dinosaur(s) and you’ll find your population starving to death and losing numbers.
Having played this once, I can only be impressed with the balance of the game. The final scores ranged from 39 to 44 but unbelievably, we had a three way tie for 1st place. Jon, Jess and myself all managed to scoff 44 pieces of food, Neil consumed 42 and Chris was a distant (!) last place with 39. This also suggests that the designers have come up with a game that can be won with different strategies. Jess prepped her carnivores for hunting and was able to feed herself by killing off others’ population; Jon concentrated on building an impressive herd of 5 dinosaurs with differing abilities; this little author largely chose to focus on only 2 species but increasing population rapidly and protecting against predators. I look forward to further plays of this as the replayability also feels decent.
The second half of the evening was spent wheeling and dealing in the Japanese world of Machi Koro, a beautiful and simple card game where each player is trying to be the first to build a train station, shopping centre, radio tower and amusement park. To succeed you need coins; to get coins, you need other buildings that will reward you when certain numbers are thrown. The only complexity in this game is working out the strategy that you think will lead you to victory. There are 4 different colours of cards: green, gain coins from the bank on your throw, blue, gain coins from the bank whenever anybody throws, red, take coins from the person who threw and purple, take coins from everybody on your throw. There are also 2 dice available, although each player can choose to only throw one; it will depend on what numbers that player most wants to throw, and which numbers they’d rather avoid. This poor mug lost out by 1 coin in the end as Jon successfully threw an 11 at the first time of asking to earn 8 coins and win the game. Fantastic fun.
Maybe I’ll win a game (outright) next week …