Kickstarter Tabletop Alert: ‘A.D.A.P.T.’

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There’s always another fish in the sea–and you need to grow big and tough so you can eat them before they eat you.

At a glance: A.D.A.P.T. is quick and complex game of instant evolution where you pick and choose new body parts to become the biggest and strongest (or most stealthy) fish in the sea. Made for 2 or 3 players (up to six if you mix two decks), ages 13 and up, A.D.A.P.T. takes around 30 minutes to play once you get into the flow of it.

Designed by John Wrot! and Gate Keeper Games, A.D.A.P.T. has met its funding goals on Kickstarter, but is looking to unlock some sweet stretch goals to add more content and upgrade the materials. A minimum pledge of $29 will get you a copy of the game and any stretch goals with free shipping in the US and “friendly” shipping rates to Canada, Australia, and the EU. A $1 pledge will get you access to a graphic-light print-and-play version; $9 for the full-color version.

Green Guppy from ADAPT
You start small…

The game has no objectionable material, but some of the combinations are complicated and there’s a lot to remember so it might be tough for young kids to play along. My daughter had no troubles at 12 and even reminded me of rules when I forgot.

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  • 60+ Cards
  • 3 sets of “halfsies” dice in a full D&D-style polyhedral set
  • 3 player mats
  • Rules and player reminder cards
Shark from ADAPT
…but can get bigger and scarier…

I played with a prototype of the game, with early artwork and no dice (which was fine as I have… a lot of dice). Even the prototype art is beautiful, so I’m really looking forward to seeing the final version. They’ve already identified ways to improve and enhance the cards, including aids to aid those with color-blindness.

The playmats are good and clear to use and each card has a colored mark to tell you which slot it fits in–way easier than trying to find each card’s spot by referring to a list.

The cards have:

  • The level number of the body or part. You can upgrade to any body that is no more than one level higher than your current body’s level (two levels if you’re still a guppy). You can upgrade to any individual part no more than two levels higher than your body’s level.
  • The experience point cost to buy the part or body.
  • Health: The total of all health on all of your cards adds up to the total amount of damage you can take before you die.
  • Survival: These total up to the target amount someone has to reach when they try to attack.
  • Ferocity: This total adds to your die roll when you attack.
  • Lethality: These add up to give extra damage on a successful hit.
  • Some cards have a Bonus which give extra powers, like a change to poison when you attack, or the opportunity to hide between turns. There’s a huge list of Bonus powers.
  • Bodies have an Attack Die picture on it. This is the die you will roll when attacking.
Sawtooth Shark Horn from ADAPT
…and more dangerous.

How to play

Each player starts with a guppy, a zero level fish with no power to attack and pretty darn vulnerable. Between the players is the “Gene Stream” with the currently available upgrade options, which change throughout the game.

After an initial “Random Selection” round where everyone gets a free upgrade or bonus starting experience, the person with the highest die roll goes first.

In your turn you:

  1. Add three points of experience to your total (kept track of on a d20).
  2. Take any one of these actions:
    1. Buy a part from the Gene Stream and subtract that cost from your current experience. If you are able, you can adapt it right away, or you can save it in your “Personal Gene Pool” (PGP) to adapt later when you’re tougher.
    2. Adapt to any part or body in your PGP that you can now use.
    3. Use one of your special Bonus powers.
    4. Put all cards in the Gene Stream into the discard pile and deal out three new ones. This gets you 3 free experience points.
    5. Attack!
  3. Cycle the Gene Stream. If the Gene Stream wasn’t changed at all during your turn, the oldest card gets discarded and a new one dealt to replace it.
  4. Attacking seems complicated at first but once you’ve done it a couple times it becomes clear.
One of the dice sets in ADAPT.
If nothing else, I want to get this for the pretty, pretty dice.

You roll the die shown on your current body and add the total of all Ferocity on your cards. You compare this total to the total of all Survivability numbers on your chosen opponent’s cards.

If your number is higher than your opponent you do an amount of damage equal to the difference between your total and theirs, plus your Lethality total. Apply any Bonus powers that activate on a successful attack here.

If your numbers are equal you do 1 damage to your opponent plus your Lethality, and get 2 experience points. Any relevant bonus powers also apply here.

If your opponent’s number is higher than yours you don’t do any damage but get bonus experience equal to the difference between the numbers. So it’s worth it to attack even when you have no chance of success.

The winner is the final survivor, once the others have damage equal to or higher than their current Body totals.


My favorite thing about this game is that it is very balanced. A lot of care has gone into this game to keep it from getting one-sided.

  • Rules are in place to prevent opponents from wiping the Gene Stream if there’s a body there someone of lower level can use.
  • If someone just can’t catch a break to evolve their body at all, once they save up 20 experience, they will auto-adapt to the first suitable body.
  • Attacking a superior foe still garners experience to be used to hide or upgrade your fish to be a real threat.
Blue Fish dice from ADAPT
…so pretty…

I’ve played several two-player games now and not once did one person simply stomp all over the other, a real blessing for two-player play.

You can get some absurd combinations, and that’s part of the fun. At one point I was playing a barracuda with a lionfish fin, clownfish skin, orca mouth, and a horn. Ugly, but awesome.

Remembering all the bonus powers does slow things down, and it’s not easy to have the right counter for your opponent’s attacks. But none of the powers seem to be deal-breakers, just wear you down faster.

We’ll keep playing the prototype until I can get my hands on a final version. Given it’s so tough to find good two-player games, this will be a staple in our game closet.

Disclosure: I received a prototype of this game for review purposes.

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