Evo

Evo

Publisher: EuroGames

Author: Philippe Keyvaerts

Game tested: German Edition, 2001

Tester: Moritz Eggert

Scenario: 6 million years B.C. (take or give some): A huge (or small, depending on the number of players) island with various landscape types. An ever-changing climate that makes some of these areas inhabitable, some of them barely inhabitable, some of them deadly for everybody. A comet threatening to extinguish everybody (=ending the game). And before we forget it: Some weird pelted one-legged dinosaurs with umbrellas (really!) that are going to kick each others butts - and no Raquel Welch in sight...

The Game: Every player starts with one dinosaur, trying to survive and multiply as effectively as possible, as at the end of each round surviving dinosaurs give victory points. The climate changes through a directional random table, so all dinosaurs are forced to constantly change their position on the board to survive (the problem being they can initially only move ONE space). Sometimes this makes for interesting tactical decisions (what move will give me the best options next turn?) and of course may also result in bloody confrontations with other dinosaurs (that are resolved through a simple dice roll).

Of course nobody has a chance surviving this ordeal without....genes (with a tip of the hat to God, and Doris & Frank, the designers of Ursuppe). Every round a number of genes equal to the number of players is drawn. Each player, in an ingenious and interesting victory point - bidding system that forces players to bid non-sequentially, can acquire one gene per round, that will give all of his dinosaurs special abilities, like more movement (feet), more biting power (horns), quickness (tail), more reproduction (eggs) and the like. As a little side note one should mention that one gene is very funny in play, as the German word for "tail" (Schwanz) can also mean....ehm....the male reproductive organ. And as the length of this very trait decides who will be first in a given round the game table booms with discussions who has the longest....whatever. Of course this detail might be lost in other translations.... The only really chaotic gene is the event card gene, that enables one to draw additional cards from a deck that messes with play considerably, especially with the weather. This is actually the biggest luck element in the game, as some cards are much more useful than others (for example giving surprise victory points at the end of the game). Knowing these cards is part of the skill in repeated playing - for example there is one card (flood) that kills most of the dinosaurs on a shore hex - you'll not stay on the shore if you experience this card once (otherwise there is no real reason to wander landwards). But the first time playing this card will greatly annoy you, I tell you!

Most of the time dinosaurs will evade each other quite peacefully, battles only occur at the end of the game, or if a dinosaur has no chance of surviving at all if not attacking a certain area. The game has a preset basic length, depending on the number of players. After that the chance that the comet ends the game increases every round (depending on a d6 roll), but you won't be able to calculate it exactly. The dinosaur...eh..player with the most victory points wins.

Playing Time: Explaining the rules probably not longer than 15 minutes. Playing the game should take 1 hours, maximum 2. Different from other Euro-Game-editions this time the rules are clear and crisp. I should mention one possible confusion, though. A German game magazine correctly noted in it's review that about 50% of players won't grasp the climate changing system, although it is not complex at all. Or is it?

This is how it works: There are four zones, from left to right: Yellow (desert), green (plains), hills (brown) and mountains (grey).The climate pawn, which moves randomly, shows which coloured region will be mild (ideal), the directly adjacent regions are either cold (if to the right) or warm (if to the left). A region that is 2 or 3 spaces away from the climate pawn is either too cold or too warm to live in. But the left direction of the board is always the "warm" direction (as the right is always the "cold" one)- the board is not a circle! Some people intuitively perceive the board as a kind of mobius strip, which gets them all confused in the head, you see... This is how it really works: If the pawn rests on the grey/mountain space (the far right) for example, there will be no "colder" space, as grey is already the "coldest" possible space. And the hills will be "warm", whereas the plains and desert will be too hot. If the pawn sits on "plains" (2nd from the left), the desert (yellow) will be warm, and the hills/brown will be cold. The mountains will be too cold now. Easy, huh? Now that I try to explain it it sounds very confusing, albeit it is very simple. Well - it's in the genes to "get it", I guess...

Similar Games: Ursuppe, La vallée des mammouths

Westpark Gamer's Opinion: Although this is only the second game he published in Germany, a certain style of Philippe Keyvaerts is already transpiring: taking a good idea (like "History of the world" for his excellent "Vinci"), streamlining and simplifying it, bringing in a pinch of really good new ideas, and making it interesting for the casual or die-hard gamer alike. So "Evo" is much simpler than it's "foremother", the also highly enjoyable "Ursuppe", but in a way more elegant and accessible in it's mechanics. Having said this I found that the games we played tended to be similar in development, much more than "Vinci" with it's countless variations of cultures. The dinosaur genes are pretty straightforward, and there are less interesting possibilities to explore than in Ursuppe (where players strove to find the "ideal" combination of genes). But then ,"Evo" is much shorter than Ursuppe, and in a way more tactical as movement is even more limited than in "Ursuppe". And it is never boring one minute (although it CAN be frustrating, like "Vinci"). A good game, not a classic, but very good indeed.

The victory point table (called the "Kramer-Leiste" in Germany out of affection for the game designer who first used it prominently) is WAY to small, though (the markers are 3 times as big as the positions you put them on). Bummer, we thought Euro Games had good it right this time! But Keyvaerts is a guy to watch, that's for sure.

Moritz' Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Westpark Gesamtbewertung: 7.5

Links to further informationen: Bruno Faidutti's opinion about Evo.
A list of Dinosaur and Evolution Games.