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217,453,883 years, seven months and 26 days before our time, the first dinosaurs left their home in the sea and climbed onto the land. The ever-changing climate was their first adversary, forcing them to remain constantly on the move. But weather was not their only problem--In order to survive and flourish, they had to evolve, and to do it quickly!
Goal of the Game
In EVO, you control the survival and evolution of a species of dinosaurs called "Dinos". You guide their migrations to temperate climates, you acquire the perfect genes to develop your Dinos and mutate them, and you push out other creatures that have yet to learn the meaning of the term "dominant species." At the end of the game, you and your Dinos will not be the winners unless you've evolved more quickly and successfully than everyone else.
Careful bidding, a sharply honed survival instinct and inspired foresight are the keys to winning EVO. With very few random elements, EVO combines diverse game mechanics to keep both a tactical edge and an unusual sense of whimsy. Varied enough to play over and over again, EVO is a game that the entire family will enjoy!
The specially designed game board can be re-arranged in several different configurations to provide different play areas.
Eurogames Descartes USA
Players: 3 - 5
Time: 60 - 120 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 1,268 grams
All-Time Sales Rank: #121
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
- 1 Large Game Board
- 50 Wooden Dinos
- 1 Information Board
- 1 Bidding Board
- 1 Wooden Meteor Marker
- 1 Wooden Climate Marker
- 5 Initiative Markers
- 5 Mutation Markers
- 5 Portrait Cards
- 62 Gene Counters
- 26 Event Cards
- 2 Player Aid Cards
- 1 Cloth Bag
- 1 Die
- 1 Rule Book
Average Rating: 4.2 in 22 reviews
The art makes it look kinda gimicky, but after a couple games, I have to say I'm hooked. Great player interaction on the movement board and during bidding for new genes. Lots of opportunity to try to persuade others for your own benefit (always my favorite aspect of any game). Cool variable climate system. The positions on the board change such that everyone has to jockey for position and try to edge others (through attacking if necessary--although not easy unless you've mutated your dinosaur to be a better attacker). Highly recommended.
I got this for Christmas from my husband, and it still sees more play even than any of our other excellent boardgames.
We had no trouble with the directions, or with figuring out that the column-shaped pieces are to mark turn order and gene bidding, while the small cubes are to put on the mutation points track.
We like the good-quality game board and components, and the whimsical quality of the cards and the dinosaurs. However, behind the whimsey is a very tricky game! To us, the luck factor lies far less with the climate than with the order in which genes appear for bidding. Sometimes, for instance, you can bid a lot on a horn gene, only to see two more show up in succeeding rounds, before you've even had a chance to really take advantage of what you have.
Some of the most interesting strategy involves trying to fit your mutations and your cards together effectively.
I don't get why people are saying that the rules are so easy to follow. My friends and I were so confused by this game! We had to go online, this website helped alot, very detailed. Problem is that the instructions start talking about things without defining what they are! I love this game but the instructions need some work.
This is one of my all time favorite games. I love the randomness, I love the bidding with mutation points (which can make or break a game), and I love the whole game. (Who doesn't like dinosaures?)
You are a spieces of dinosaures trying to survive until the meteor smashes into the earth. Do you go for extra fur to help you survive in cold zones or do you go for the horn to fight to the death? Well worth the money.
I've just started boardgames and EVO is my favourite so far. I'd bought the game after a night of gaming sessions with a group of friends. EVO wasn't in my agenda for the night but I'd decided to try the game out since it is the game of the year. Well, it turned out to be a classic. After one game, I was familiar with the rules and we ended up playing three games (5 player's game). However, I played EVO with another group of non-gaming friends and they preferred Puerto Rico, claiming that there's too many backstabbing elements in EVO. Well, I suppose that's because I had beaten them by a big margin with my horns and multiple legs ;)
I'm writing this review just days before I get hold of a copy of Puerto Rico, which I suspect may well become Spiel des Jahres 2002.
EVO has easily been my best acquisition for 2002.
It's greatest strength is that to win this game, you must excel in a wide variety of areas. For instance, you will need to constantly assess the true worth of each type of mutation gene, making sure that you get the best ones available at any given time.
Your powers of anticipation will also be tested to the full as you way up the likely climatic changes and migration movements of other players dinos. All these factors will determine how may 'survival' spaces will be available for your dinos. The dino movement phase rewards clever planning too. With the right moves, you can wall out other dinos from coming into your teritory meaning fewer survival spaces for them each turn. And with extra careful planning you can place yourself in the ideal spot for grabbing territory in the next round or two as well (providing all goes to plan).
There is a wide variety of ways to play this game. You can make your dinos strong enough to push others out of their territory or breed fast enough to make up for any deaths. Alternatively, you can make them smart enough to get the initiative on all moves or resiliant enough to survive all but the worst climatic conditions.
All these options result in being rewarded VP's for the number of surving dinos after each round.
The additional genes are also paid for with VP's. After hust a few tries of this game, it becomes surprisingly straight-forward to guesstimate just how may VP's each player is likely to gain as a result of every action.
In one recent 3 player game, we had players tying exactly for the first 6 rounds despite having a wide variety of strategies. In games like these, there is a real sense of achievement in having done that something extra to deserve the narrow win.
Don't expect the same strategy to win again though, the game is far too varied for that.
Evo is easily in my all-time top three.
I really enjoyed Evo. This I'm sure is partially due to the company of gamers that I play with, and the subsequent rapipd pace of the game (once you've played a couple of games, we found a 5 player one lasts about 50 minutes)
The game balence works well, with several stragies being quite potent, but none unstopable, the average predictability works nicely, the random and discrete elements work well together.
The only gripes I have is with the score counters, which are a little too spindly, and small, plus there is no rules on what happens if all a players Dino's are killed (we had a 5 player game in which 2 players died last night).
Well worth a try
I really enjoy this game. I find that it is a great game for getting non- or borderline gamers involved in something more strategic than Cranium. It has enough challenge to be interesting without so much detail as to be intimidating. Luck plays a role, but not as much, I feel, as other reviews have indicated.
The primary mechanic of the game is a simultaneous bidding phase for potential evolution "genes" that provide various advantages for survival. The fact that you use the same points for bidding as are used to determine the final victor keeps the bidding from getting out of hand. Using the optional rule that places one less gene up for bid than players in the game significantly increases the competitive element.
The components are of excellent quality except for the markers for tracking the "mutation" points. In the version of the game that I own, these are narrow cylinders the fall over easily. I understand that these were replaced with small cubes (a la old school Risk armies) in a later printing.
Games Magazine seems to have a hit-or-miss record when it comes to selecting their Game of the Year. Of course, such awards are always subject to personal opinion - but if I only picked the awards... (heh). But usually, a game that they pick for the Game of the Year is at least a good game (with the exception of Fossil), so I usually try to get a hold of a copy. Evo (Descartes Editeur Eurogames, 2001 - Phillipe Keyaerts) was the 2002 winner, and the magazine really gave Evo a rather rave review. The internet, however was another story - with many people trashing the game, talking about its unworthiness to be a winner, etc.
I, however, found that Games Magazine was, indeed, correct. Evo is a fun game, and really shines no matter how many players are playing (3-5). The components are absolutely incredible (with the exception of the annoying scoreboard), and the mechanics are a lot of fun. There is a degree of chaos in the game, reminiscent of Bruno Faidutti style games (I would compare it to Valley of the Mammoths), but for most people - this chaos adds to the fun. It is not what many people would term as a heavy game, but rather is light and theme-filled. And the theme is played out in such a ridiculous fashion that no matter what one thinks of evolution; they should enjoy the game.
A game board is set up in the middle - made up of two half boards (a different combo is used depending on how many players are playing.) On the board are a number of hexes that make up the island on which the players dinosaurs will live and evolve. The hexes are one of four different colors, each representing a different type of terrain (yellow = beaches, gray = mountains, brown = hills, and green = plains). Two small boards are placed near the main board. The first is the information board, and on it a meteor marker (turn marker) is placed on a turn track - starting position depending on number of players. Also, a black climate marker is placed on the yellow space on the climate chart. The second board is the Bidding board, which contains the score track. Each player places a marker of their color on the 10 space on this track. Each player is also given a pile of dinosaur tokens - with one of them placed in a starting space on the board (marked by a star). Each player gets an initiative marker in their color, and also a Dino Portrait Card (showing a picture of a dinosaur with one foot, one fur, one egg, and one parasol). A pile of event cards is shuffled, and each player is dealt three cards. A black cloth bag is filled with some gene tokens, and the game is ready to begin.
Each turn consists of six phases, beginning with initiative. In this phase, the player whose dino portrait sports the longest tail puts their initiative marker in the first spot on the initiative portion of the Information board, denoting that they go first. Ties are broken by whichever player has fewer dinosaurs, then by a die roll. After turn order has been decided, the first player rolls for climate change. One six-sided die is rolled, and the climate marker is moved on the chart accordingly. (A 1 moves the marker one space counter-clockwise, a 2 does nothing, and a 3 - 6 moves the marker one space clockwise.
The movement phase occurs next, with each player (in turn order) moving their dinosaur(s). Each player has a total movement equal to the amount of feet on their dino portrait. The same dino can use all the movement points, if a player wants. Dinos can move to any empty adjacent space - if they try to move to an occupied space, combat occurs. Each player counts the total horns on the dino portrait, and the attacker rolls a die. If the number of horns is the same, the attacker wins on a 1 or 2. If the attacker has +1 horns, then it wins on a 1 through 4 and with +2 on a 1 through 5. If the attacker has -1 horn, it only wins on a 1; and if worse, cannot attack at all! The losing dinosaur token is removed from the board. Immediately following the movement phase is the birth phase. Each player puts as many dinos on the board (adjacent to existing dinos) as they have eggs on their dino portrait.
The Survival phase follows - the one that all the other phases have been building towards. Whichever zone the climate marker is in is considered moderate, and all dinosaurs are safe there. Any zone that is cold, one zone to the right of the moderate zone - kills all dinosaurs in there - but one dinosaur can survive for each fur on the dino portrait. Any zone that is hot, one zone to the left of the moderate zone - kills all dinosaurs there - but one dinosaur can survive fore each parasol on the dino portrait. Any dinosaur in a deadly zone (two or three zones to the right or left of the moderate zone) die - no questions asked. After this, scoring occurs immediately with each player scoring one point for each dinosaur they still have on the board. The meteor marker is then moved one space, which could end the game.
The last phase of each round is the Evolution phase. Gene tiles equal to the number of players playing are placed on the bidding board. Players then place their initiative marker on a number following one of the gene markers. (can be zero) A player can place their marker on a higher number, after which the player they outbid must move their marker to a different space. When all players markers are in a different row, they each win the gene marker in that row and place it on their dino portrait (if its an egg, tail piece, horn, parasol, fur, or foot). Mutant genes are also placed on the dino portrait - they reduce the cost of future genes, and card genes are discarded, giving the player another event card. Each player loses points equal to their bids and moves their markers accordingly. Event cards state on them when they can be played and can really affect the game if played to their maximum benefit.
When the comet hits, which happens randomly on the last couple of spaces on the meteor track, the player with the most points is the winner! (Ties are broken by amount of dinos on the board.)
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: After Days of Wonder, Eurogames certainly have the best components. Evo is stunning when one opens the box, because of the myriad of excellent, top-notch components. The double-sided board is gorgeous, and I specially liked how the different types of terrain were not only different colors but also had different textures and graphics, aiding the color-blind. The wooden dino tokens, while not quite as cool as plastic dinosaurs, are quite functional, and its only my obsessive desire to have a perfect thematic game that drives me to wanting to buy little plastic dinosaurs to use instead. In fact, all the wooden bits in the game are impressively big and are quite easy to handle. The cards are easy to read and have humorous illustrations on them. But the best part of the game is the dino portraits. Its a brilliant component/mechanic how the mutant genes fit on them. It really adds to the flavor of the game, not to mention making it incredibly easy to explain the rules. The tiles are thick, and the cartoonish illustrations on them well match the funny-looking dinosaur on the portrait cards. And everyone gets a good laugh at how ridiculous looking some of the dinosaurs turn out to be. The information board is well done, as is the bidding board. EXCEPT, the scoring track, which is extremely poorly done. The spaces are very small, and the markers are tall, wooden cylinders, which fall over easily, and they barely fit on the spaces. All in all, a bad situation - but one that can be rectified with downloads off the internet. Aside from this small problem, the components exuded excellence.
2.) Rules: The rules sound fairly complicated, and there are many pages and illustrations to show exactly how they work. But the game is very intuitive, especially with how well the theme matches the mechanics. Players can pick up on how the game works quickly; and even with a few bad rounds (due to not understanding whats going on), a player can easily rebound, as the strategy is fun and easy.
3.) Cards: I found that the game can actually work fairly well, even without the cards (discovered this when teaching the game to kids). The cards have different degrees of power and could possibly alter game play extremely. For me, they add a fun bit of chaos to the game, but purists could leave them out and still be happy.
4.) Bidding: I really liked the friendly bidding aspect, if you really want to get a gene, you could get one for free. (Unless playing the official variant where there is one less gene auctioned than the number of players - nasty!) All the genes are extremely useful, and its a great deal of fun, by games end, to see the different assortment of dinosaurs that have been created.
5.) Strategy: The strategy for the game is certainly not deep; in fact, some might call the game one of light tactics. Ive seen that the game, especially when the cards are discussed, is not a big winner with those who prefer heavy designer games. Yet I found that the strategy, while benign, is certainly existent, and causes the game to be enjoyable. One can maximize the bidding, trying to create the perfect dinosaur. Or one can just take the genes they get, trying to use them for the utmost advantage. Attacking others is a fairly risky proposition, but can be a viable tactic to whittle down the dinosaurs of an opponent. Using cards at just the right time also helps. Everything is not defined either, because the end of the game is variable.
6.) Fun Factor: The theme really makes this game - because it matches the mechanics so well. I was just comparing this game to Wongar - a game where the theme really hurts it, giving evidence to the fact that a fun, good theme can really help make a game enjoyable to play. Watching dinosaurs get wiped out may have been a troubling fact in real life (although Im not sorry Raptors arent running around), but in this game its treated in a very cartoonish, humorous way. The dino portraits especially bring fun to the game, and kids especially like how their dinosaurs end up looking.
Evo is an excellent game for the whole family to play, with a fun theme, and easy to learn, simple mechanics. The nonsensical artwork, the humorous dino portraits, and the fun game play makes this an excellent game of choice. There is some conflict, but its not needed or really even that profitable, so people who delight in head-to-head confrontation may be disappointed. But I believe that this adds to the family value. If youre looking for a good gamers game to add to your collection, this may not be it. But if youre looking for an excellent family game with a fun, matching theme, then this is right up your alley!
I can see why this game would get 'Game of the Year'; I just can't give it five stars. My husband absolutely swears by this game, and seems to find infinite joy and amusement while playing it. I, however, see some problems to it.
I have to agree, there are lots of little details that make this game very cute and fun; changing your dinosaur by adding body parts is a lot of fun, and the cards are witty and add a lot of interest to the game (I love getting 'You are not my husband!' and stealing one of my husband's brand new babies! He he he). Betting on the genes is very cool, and the fact that whoever has the longest tail gets to begin each round seems oddly logical (Dunno why, it just does!) I also like the movement and climate changes; what a smart design and idea.
And about the rules book, they are the BEST I have ever seen. Honest. The only thing that it lacks is calling a couple of the pieces by name, but since they are pretty obvious (the little square ones go in the smaller square space, and the bigger round ones on the bigger round circles) we didn't despair for too long. It's the first time we play a game and we don't have to make up, research on Google or guess a rule; all your questions are answered in this rule book. Very long and detailed, it took us two days to dominate, but after that it has been all smooth sailings.
However, I would like to decide who gets to win some other way because I ALWAYS LOSE! My husband never overbids me, so I end up the game having 'Powersaurus' and he has these whimpy little things, and I still lose!!! I know I am supposed to save my mutation points, but it's so hard because I want my dinosaur to be really cool and and and and ... aww chucks. D-Oh. :(
I also wish they had made the meteor a little further away, because when the dinosaurs start getting all built up and dangerous-looking, the meteor hits and the game is over...
Ok, so my only problems with the game are that it's too short and that I always lose. Stop laughing, and go buy it! See if you laugh THEN! :P
My friends and I had a great time playing this one! It was my first time playing the game, as well as my friends' first time playing it, and we all had the hang of it after the first round. The rules are fairly well clear cut, so it makes learning a breeze. The fun theme of the game also makes it enjoyable.
A high amount of strategy is involved in the move phase, where you must make sure all of your dinosaurs survive, while leaving space for your upcoming babies to survive as well. You must also do this before your opponents get the prime real estate, or be forced to fight them for the spot, making turn order an important factor of the game.
My only criticism is that there is a very high luck factor when deciding the climate, but then again, the randomness of the climate change is part of the fun!
All in all, a very light and fun strategy game.
Anytime you get close to the end of a game and you think 'Almost over already?' and you're sad it's ending, you know you've got a great game. The only drawback (from my perspective) is that many games seem to end with most of the players bunched fairly close together in terms of final scoring, making me wonder just how much strategy is required. Regardless of the answer, the game makes you FEEL like your decisions count (and mostly I think they do), and it's enjoyable in the process.
Ok, i'm belgian, so it looks normal to support a 'made in belgium' product, isn't it ?
I've bought EVO a couple of weeks ago, and played the first time with my wife and two friends.
I admit that rules are not complicated, but the first round looks hard with all the phases and moments where you can or not play special cards.
When started, the game is finally quickly ended. A few tour, and then, the meteor and an unlucky dice end the game.
Sure that children will learn to play with that game quicker than me ...
Anyway, we had a good time, and i don't regret to have bought it !
So ... play belgian guys !!!
Call the kids, invite your friends, whip it out when the Parents are in town, do whatever you'd like - Evo wont let you down. It's a game that anyone can enjoy.
Not too much strategy, not too much luck, not too much negotiation. Evo is solid and well balanced fun for all comers. What makes this game so great is the individual dino boards where you mix and match genes like horns, legs, tails and eggs in an attempt to make your dino superior to the other player's dinos. Evo is very well thought out and the game play mechanic is smooth and easy to understand.
The board and all the game components are delightful - right down to the somewhat morbid action cards that are certain to get a chuckle out of everyone playing.
Evo is an award winner for a reason. If you don't have it - get it!
Once we got going, Evo was quick, lively, and fun. As all the reviewers have noted, Evo is a very good looking game, and seems to have solidly balanced game play.
However, the rules made getting started much trickier than it should have been. There are many unlabeled parts of the game boards which are referred to by name, and it was difficult to figure out what the rules were talking about without some hit-or-miss attempts. A simple marker to show what phase of the game we are currently playing would be very helpful as well.
Finally, we almost managed to kill off (via combat) all of one player's dinos. The rules didn't mention anything about this possibility--should that player stop playing? Or start again? And if start again, what if his starting space was taken by someone else?
Still, despite these grumblings, we'd recommend this game to others, provided someone walks them through the rules first.
Evo is a great improvement/inspired vamp of the classic [page scan/se=0130/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Ursuppe with great pieces and ample strategy. Evolve and improve your species while shoving out and eliminating your opponents' creature lines.
But the game does run a bit long, and it's a bit more work than the happy fun illustrations may lead you to expect.
Overall, it's a solid gamer's challenge, but I can't really see most parties playing it over and over again--as was the case with last year's truly fantastic Aladdin's Dragons.
Bidding for genes is where this game provides the most scope for strategy and skill. I highly recommend playing the rule variant where the number of genes available is one less than the number of players. The decision of how much to bid--and each point bid is equal to one surviving dinosaur--versus just not evolving, is excruciating. Using your herd to best maximize the genes you acquire requires patience and decision making, not a pre-set strategy.
The round scoring-markers that want to roll away are a tad annoying, particularly since scores will be close if players aren't too extravagant in their bidding. This is a cool game.
I love 'evolution' games, such as Quirks and [page scan/se=0130/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Ursuppe. Evo is more playable than Ursuppe and also has more play value than Quirks.
This game is a new option for sci-fi gamers who are thinking of buying an evolution game. If you hesitate to play a long game, Evo seems the most reasonable selection. Otherwise, I'd recommend Ursuppe.
I'm a little bit frustrated that Evo seems pretty slow-paced, since movement is severely restricted.
Our group played Evo for the first time tonight. It is similar to Ursuppe in that the theme revolves around evolution (of dinosaurs rather than amoebas in this game). The graphics are amusing and very cute and the quality of the components is good although the score markers would seem less precariously balanced if they were shorter.
The game involves 5 steps. The first is choosing the turn order. The dino with the longest tail genes goes first and shortest goes last. In ties, the player with fewer dinos goes first.
Next comes climate change based on die roll, although there are action cards which can affect the climate and your dino's ability to deal with the weather.
Next comes moving based on the number of feet genes your dino has obtained. Combat may occur during this phase decided by die and the number of horn genes.
Dinos have babies following movement based on the number of egg genes you have.
Then the climate affects your dinos and those in inhospitable climates die.
Finally you earn mutation points (used in determing the victor) from the number of dinos you have on the board at this stage. You then bid mutation points to buy more genes. You also move the meteor (turn counter) which can end the game a little prematurely.
All steps and your dinos' abilities may be affected by event cards, some of which add a good deal of humor (like 'you're not my husband' and 'tough babies').
Overall, a well-themed game with good mechanics. The rules are straightforward. I should mention I saw a translation correction mentioned on the RGB newsgroup on the Deluge card which should read 'dinos in a coastal space.' I'm sure we'll continue to enjoy it and look forward to trying it again!
I don't quite understand the hype over this one. I found it to be quite dull, as each turn feels like a puzzle to be solved (i.e., finding the perfect move without relevance to what your opponent is doing). The feel of guiding a species through the evolutionary process is practically nonexistant, and there is too much 'back-and-forth' on the board to give a player the feeling that anything is being accomplished. It got old very quickly and I doubt I will play it again. Nice components, though.
Last year's Game of the Year is so attractively presented that you could easily be distracted and forget just how challenging it is. Spend mutation points to buy auctioned genes, and add them to your cartoon dinosaur, which remains off the board. Genes permit beasts to move farther, fight stronger, survive inhospitable climates, and produce more young. Despite Darwin's theory, several genes provide auction discounts, or let you purchase Event Cards (discarded for advantages in specific phases). Dinosaurs are removed when they lose battles against enemies, or when they end a round in any region randomly determined to be fatal. Your survivors earn mutation points. Most points wins when a die roll brings the meteor crashing to earth. Evo, we predict, will never become extinct.
From the moment we opened the box, we felt sure we were looking at a strong contender for Game of the Year. Evo's closest competitors were Babel, Java, Lord of the Rings, and San Marco (all of which you'll find among our Category Winners and Runners-Up). But in the end, nothing could stop the meteoric rise of this invigorating plunge into the gene pool, where players customize their very own dinosaurs.
The island's four space colors represent different temperatures, determined each round by a die roll. You begin with 10 mutation points, and one of your 10 dinosaurs on the island. Your herd starts out with (a) one Parasol, allowing one dinosaur to survive on a space one zone warmer than the current hospitable climate; (b) a Fur collar, working similarly in cold zones; (c) one Egg, to give birth to one baby; and (d) one Foot, to move one dinosaur one space. Parasol, Fur, Egg, and Foot genes are bought at Auctions each round, and are used to enhance your powers. Horn genes give your herd advantages in combat. Mutant genes award Auction discounts. Tail genes establish the turn order; players with longer tails begin phases, with ties broken by herd-sizes or die rolls. A Card gene (what would Mr. Darwin have thought?!) buys an Event Card, playable in a specific phase. (Please note this correction to a translation error on the "Deluge" card: Roll a die for each Dino on a coastal space only.) In the Basic Game, you bid with mutation points for randomly drawn genes, equal to the number of players. In the Advanced Version, an even greater test of your fitness, one less gene is auctioned.
After rolling to establish temperatures, all players carry out each phase of the round in turn. (1) Move one or more dinosaurs, according to your number of Feet. Only one dinosaur can occupy a space, so you have to fight enemies on which you land, using the die. (2) Give birth to one offspring for each Egg, placing the offspring on a vacant space adjacent to its "parent" on the board. "Egg Laying Muscles," a typically amusing Event Card, lets concerned mothers eject their offspring up to three spaces away.
Dinosaurs that lose fights, or end up on excessively cold or hot spaces, die and leave the board. You earn one mutation point for each survivor. After points are awarded, the dreaded meteor moves a step closer to Earth. If it hits, the game ends and the player with the most mutation points wins. If not, the fun continues with another Auction.
We applaud the contribution of Cyril Saint Blancat's adorable artwork to Evo's accessibility and charm, but don't let it fool you into thinking that Evo is an easy game to master!
Evo is the very latest design from Philippe Keyaerts, the Belgian designer of last year's sensation, Vinci. The game, however, is a distinct departure from world conquering civilizations. Instead, Evo concentrates on the development, survival and sudden extinction of the dinosaurs. I had heard mixed reports, some near ecstatic and others only so-so, but I am a big fan of Vinci and so I had high hopes.
Others have described the game as "Ursuppe-lite", which is a very accurate description. The mechanics and overall 'feel' of the game are very, very similar to that utilized in Doris & Frank's game of evolving amoebas. Almost too similar. One gets the feeling of having done all this before. Ursuppe also has more options and gene combinations than you get in Evo.
That said, I've enjoyed my multiple playings of Evo. Of course, I am also a big fan of Ursuppe. The one big advantage Evo has over Ursuppe is that it is a bit shorter, playing to completion in about 60-90 minutes. Most of our Ursuppe games clock in at over 2 hours. So, if for no other reason than time, Evo just might make it to the table a bit more often than Ursuppe.
Another attractive feature of Evo is the board design. The mounted board is printed on both sides and can be arranged in various configurations to handle 3, 4 or 5 players. This stops there being too much territory in games with fewer players. Kinda neat.
Players each begin the game with one dinosaur and a dinosaur mat. The mat displays a caricature of a dinosaur, which appears to be some sort of distant ancestor of the Wiener dog. Every player initially begins the game with the same 'genes', including one egg (for giving birth), one leg (for movement), one parasol (for surviving warm weather) and one patch of fur (for surviving cool weather). These are printed directly on the dinosaur mat.
The basic idea of the game is to populate the board with your dinosaurs and survive the rapid changes in climate. To do this, you must 'evolve' your dinosaurs by acquiring additional genes so they can adapt to these climatic changes. New genes can increase the effectiveness of the initial four genes each player possesses and provide additional powers and features. For instance, if a player acquires a second 'leg' gene, he now has two movement points instead of one. Likewise, an additional 'egg' gene will mean the birth of two dinosaurs per turn as opposed to only one. A 'horn' gene, however, makes the player's dinosaurs more formidable in conflict situations. Get the picture? In a very creative and often humorous move, new genes are actually little chits which are placed directly onto the dinosaur caricature on each player's mat. Thus, an additional 'fur' gene is placed anywhere you wish on your dinosaur. It's quite humorous to see where players opt to place these additional genes and observe how each dinosaur mutates.
The game's duration is 9-13 turns, depending upon the number of players and the timing of the meteor impact. As fellow gamer George Michaels commented, "Why are we bothering playing? We're all going to die anyway!" Yep, the game ends when the meteor smashes into the earth, thereby killing all the evolving beasts. Still, the player with the most mutation points at that point is victorious. Kind of a Pyrrhic victory, if you ask me!
Each turn consists of six phases: initiative, climate adjustment, movement & combat, births, survival & mutation, and meteor movement & evolution. Initiative is determined in favor of the player who possesses the longest tail (don't ask me why!). Tail extensions are acquired during the Evolution phase when players bid for the right to acquire certain genes. If players tie for initiative, a die is rolled to break this tie.
Initiative can be critical, especially during later stages of the game when territory becomes scarce and the players rush to move their dinosaurs into areas where they can survive the changing climate. Unless an opponent has a big advantage in 'horns', the game system gives the edge in conflict situations to defense. So, getting to a terrain first often means survival versus death.
The climate change dictates the players' actions each turn. There are four possible temperature levels on the climate chart: warm, hot, cool and cold. Whichever space the climate marker is currently located is the 'safe' area. So, for instance, if the climate is on the 'green' space (warm), then dinosaurs located in the green spaces on the board (forest) can easily survive. However, one space removed from this 'warm' climate (either 'hot' or 'cool') things get tougher. Now survival is determined by the number of fur and parasol genes each player has. Using our same example, if the climate marker is on the green space, then initially each player can only have one dinosaur survive in the yellow (hot) spaces and one dinosaur survive in the brown (cool) spaces. However, if a player has two 'fur' genes, then two of his dinosaurs can survive in the brown terrain. Likewise, three 'parasols' mean that three of his dinosaurs survive in yellow.
So what if a player has dinosaurs in a terrain that is two removed from the current temperature? They die. No hope for the poor beasts. Further, since the climate chart is circular and 'wraps' at the extremes of hot and cold, there are only two types of territories safe when the temperature is either hot or cold. This severely reduces the number of territories on the board which can be safely occupied, resulting in a mad dash for these spaces and, usually, ferocious conflict.
During the climate phase, a die is rolled to see if the climate moves forward (3, 4, 5 or 6), remains stationary (2) or actually goes in reverse (1). The odds are that the season will progress normally, but this cannot be counted upon each and every turn. Unexpected climate changes can, and often do, cause chaos and wreak havoc upon dinosaur populations. In either case, as the board becomes more populated with baby dinos, there is never enough territory to safely accommodate all these reptiles. Conflicts and death will be the end result.
These climatic changes are why, in my opinion, mobility is so important. With the initial movement allowance of '1', it isn't long before dinos cannot reach the safety of hospitable terrain and begin dying. Additional 'leg' genes increase a player's movement allowance by one for each 'leg' gene acquired. Please note that this is a total movement allowance and not a 'per dino' allowance. These are slow and lumbering beasts! In several games I've played, I made a concerted effort to obtain extra 'leg' genes to improve my mobility. Interestingly enough, I won both of those games. On the other hand, I've seen this strategy fail, too. You see, you can run as fast as you want, but if your tail is short and you are low on the 'initiative' totem pole, others will still beat you to the choice terrain. Further, you also have to keep a wary eye on those aggressive 'horny' reptiles, as they are apt to simply barge right in and attempt to devour you. Rumor has it that the tasty dinosaur meat tastes similar to chicken!
After all players move their dinos, it is the birthing season. Each player places new dinos onto the board, depending upon the number of 'egg' genes they own. The more eggs, the more dinos. Lest you think promiscuity is a good thing, however, remember that these dinos need to survive. Too many dinos on the board means more competition for valuable terrain. Since each space can only hold one dino, death is inevitable if players have too many babies. It's a sad sight to see newborn dinos succumb to the climate. I've seen several players rush to acquire new 'egg' genes in the false belief that more is always better. It just isn't so!
Immediately following the births, the climatic changes begin to be felt. All dinosaurs in excess of those a player can protect (based on their genes) expire and are removed from the board. Survival of the fittest and most comfortable. Players then receive mutation points for their surviving dinosaurs. In a silly design decision, these mutation points are recorded using over-sized cylindrical pieces on the outer rim of the Bidding Board. The spaces on the mutation track are tiny and can only accommodate one piece each. However, it is quite common to have numerous players with the same score, so the excess pieces must be placed off board to identify the current score. Further, due to their size, these pieces are easily knocked over and proceed to roll away. Why the ever-popular wooden cubes weren't used is beyond me.
Next, the meteor moves forward one space on the meteor track. If it reaches one of the spaces marked with a die, a die is rolled to determine if life as they know it ends or continues. Once you have reached this spot, the chance of Armageddon increases over three turns until the meteor inevitably smashes into the earth on the fourth turn, ending the game -- and the world as the dinosaurs knew it.
If life does not end, players then begin bidding on new genes. A number of genes equal to the number of players (or one less if using the official variant) are drawn from a cloth bag and placed on the Bidding Board. The player with the initiative places his bid marker next to one of the genes he desires. He may place this bid on any number from 0-6 (or greater, but the chart only goes as high as '6'). This is the number of mutation points he is willing to surrender to acquire that gene. Then, in initiative order, every player does the same. If a player opts to bid on a gene which another player has already bid on, he must place his marker at least one number higher than that other player. The other player then immediately removes his bid marker and must bid again -- either on the same gene or a different one. This process continues until each gene has only one bid marker on it. Players then subtract the equivalent mutation points from their score and acquire their new gene.
This bidding system is simple yet extremely effective. I enjoy watching bids escalate as players fight over a particular gene. Many times, I drop out of the bidding early and settle for a less desirable gene if I can acquire it at little or no cost in mutation points. I've used this tactic many times and gained 2 or 3 points on most of my opponents since they had engaged in a bidding war over more desirable genes.
Once everyone has acquired their new gene, the turn ends and the entire process is repeated until the meteor smashes into the earth. When this occurs, the player with the most mutation points is victorious. Well, sort of. After all, he's dead, too.
Additional spice is added to the game by the inclusion of event cards. Each player initially possesses three such cards, and new ones can be acquired by winning a bid for a 'card' gene. These cards have a wide variety of effects, including altering the climate, giving birth away from an adjacent dinosaur, killing an opponent's dinosaur, etc. They can have a significant impact on the game and some of the genes appear a bit too powerful and unbalancing. Only further experience will reveal which, if any, genes are truly unbalancing and should be modified. Evo is quite fun to play and lasts just about the right length of time without overstaying its welcome. It is a simpler, lighter version than Ursuppe, which isn't all that difficult, either. I'm not sure if the limited gene combinations and processional nature of the game won't eventually make the game go the way of the dinosaurs, but, for now, it is entertaining and should hit the table several more times.