Posts Tagged Evolution

Game Review: Evolution

evolution_box_rt_2nd_edition_1024x1024Evolution (2nd Edition), by North Star Games (, 2015 [ages 12+, 30-minute play time, 2-6 players] $54.99.

In the game of life, survival is key. And that’s not so different in the board game Evolution, the breakthrough Kickstarter success story in its second edition by North Star Games whose very DNA mimics our dog-eat-dog world.

As the game begins, each player takes charge of a new “species.” During each player’s turn, the species in their hand can be enhanced by playing or trading trait cards. Trading in a card to level up a species’ body size or population size makes them harder to be attacked or driven to extinction, but doing so comes with the added burden of needing additional food to sustain them. Playing a trait card confers that species with unique abilities that help them collect extra food (e.g. “scavenger,” “long neck,” and “fat tissue”), fend off attacks (e.g. “climbing,” “hard shell,” and “warning call”),  or attack other species (e.g. “ambush,” “pack hunting,” or “carnivore”). Each species is limited to three unique traits, but these cards can be swapped throughout the game to “evolve” in response to the competition as new species come and go.

In lieu of leveling-up the prehensile proto-llama or feathered faux-ferret you’ve created, each player also has the option of instead adding a new species to their hand to create various amalgams. And with every new species spawned (and their numbers grow), the food begins to dwindle as the watering hole gets that much more crowded. Because Evolution‘s game mechanics allow enough plasticity to repeatedly reboot or rebrand any number of species combos, the game play continues to change as different species thrive or fade to extinction. With a swap of one trait card you can transmorgify your seed-gathering arboreal pocket mouse into a blood-thirsty carnivorous arboreal pocket mouse who, because strength lies in numbers, may be the downfall of an opponent’s saber-toothed salamander.

Especially for those with a science background, it’s hard not to try and imagine real life examples of the pseudo-species you’ve created in the petri dish that is your “hand” of species. Whatever hand you’re dealt, you had better hope it has teeth because when the food runs out, no one is safe.  As players fight to evolve or eliminate the competition, they may have to cannibalize their own creations to become the last pygmy manatee standing in a playing field truly red in tooth and claw (or, if you play your cards right, hoof and trunk).

Evolution’s game play is so carefully crafted and expertly executed, it appears to have been lifted straight from the pages of Biology 101. Inhabiting a unique niche among board games as both tool and toy, Evolution has no equal. Imagine a lesson plan so addictive and so illustrative, the act of learning – a journey of enlightenment about species interactions, competition, and survival – unfolds unconsciously. One can only imagine the trajectory scientific progress might have taken if the Beagle’s own Charles Darwin and Captain FitzRoy had sat down to tinker with this board game in the captain’s parlor during their long voyage at sea instead of frolicking after a few fickle finches.


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Darwin Day – Remembering the Man (and the Fish)

In celebration of Darwin Day, I thought it would be fun to revisit a story I originally wrote for Inkling Magazine in 2007 about Darwin fish, “Evolution’s Bumper Sticker War Against Intelligent Design“:

“In a modern world where religion often finds itself at odds with science, it’s worth keeping in mind that Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, was God’s man.  After he returned from his five year voyage aboard the HMS Beagle, the Anglican naturalist struggled to reconcile his faith with his theory of evolution by natural selection. As can be expected in a world where the fittest survive, evolution won out over creationism. Today we remember Darwin’s legacy by way of a small plastic fish. A fish with legs…” [Continue Reading]

This feature article was quick to inspire Inkling Magazine‘s Your Chance to Be an Intelligent Designer contest, where readers submitted ideas for a new fish to join the pantheon of pisces that adorn dusty bumpers around the world. Overseeing the competition were judges Prophet Bobby Henderson of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Nona Williams, co-owner of Ring of Fire Enterprises, and science blogger PZ Myers.

My own contribution to the contest was The Steve Fish, inspired by the National Center for Science Education’s Project Steve, “a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of “scientists who doubt evolution” or “scientists who dissent from Darwinism.”

But hands down, the best entry in my esteem was the Teapot Fish contributed by Patrick Quigley, in honor of the late Bertrand Russell and his famous Celestial Teapot metaphor.

I can’t recall who actually won, but in honor of the late Charles Darwin (February 12, 1809 to April 19, 1882), let’s raise a cup of tea to remember the champion of science and reason.

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