Kickstarter Tabletop Alert: ‘Evolution: Climate’

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Evolution: Climate

Well, the world of Evolution is heating up! Or perhaps cooling down. Either way, you need to keep an eye on the forecast, because the climate is going to have an effect on your species, and you need to be prepared.

At a glance: Evolution: Climate is a sequel to Evolution for 2 to 6 players, ages 12 and up, and takes about an hour to play. (There are two versions: a stand-alone game, and a conversion kit for those who already own the base game.) It is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter; the pledge levels are $15 for a print-and-play, $25 for the conversion kit, and $55 for the stand-alone game. (Note: be sure to check the shipping costs chart listed at the bottom of the Kickstarter page.) I’ve played the original game with kids as young as 8, and I think it’s manageable although younger kids may not get the deeper strategies immediately.

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Evolution: Climate Boxes

Components

These starting components lists may change based on stretch goals that are hit during the campaign, but the game should come with at least these listed components.

Evolution: Climate Stand-Alone:

  • 177 Trait Cards
  • 240 Food Tokens
  • 20 Species Boards
  • 40 Wooden Cubes
  • 6 Bags
  • 1 Climate Track
  • 1 Climate Marker
  • 1 Start Player Marker

Evolution: Climate Conversion Kit (if you already own the base game):

  • 86 Trait Cards
  • 1 Climate Track
  • 1 Climate Marker

The quality of the components in previous Evolution games has been excellent–you can see more photos of the finished base game in my “Reaping the Rewards” post about it. What’s new this time around are some added Trait cards and the Climate Track. Some of the cards are the same Traits as before, but with added text that applies to the Climate rules, while others (like “Heavy Fur” and “Cooling Plates”) are brand-new.

Evolution Climate Track
The Climate Track (prototype art, not final).

The Climate Track is a wide board, double-sided with slight differences based on the number of players. The Track goes from “Ice Age” to “Scorching,” and each space on the zone lists the effects of that temperature: every space except Temperate will affect the amount of plant food available for the round, and all but the three white spaces in the center will also cause certain species to lose population.

Some of the stretch goals will add new traits or improve the thickness of the Climate Track board. There are also stretch goals to add Climate Event cards, which I’ve seen in prototype form, and I’ll explain how those work later. The exact number of cards in the game will depend on the final funding amount.

The artwork is by Catherine Hamilton, who illustrated the rest of the series, and I just love her watercolor paintings.

Evolution Climate desert
Desertification is not good. No plant food and everyone starts dying from the heat. (Illustration by Catherine Hamilton)

How to Play

You can watch this How to Play video, or download the rules for the base game here.

Since I’ve explained the gameplay in my original review, I won’t get into too much detail here. The basic idea is to score the most points by the end of the game–you get points for food eaten during the game, and the population and Traits of all of your species surviving at the end of the game.

Throughout the game, you use Trait cards in several ways: you can add them to your species, discard them to increase your population or body size, or discard them to begin new species. Every round each player also must contribute one Trait card to the food supply (although some cards have negative numbers, so they actually decrease the amount added). After the evolution phase of the game, a feeding phase takes place, where you take turns feeding your species, either by eating plant food from the watering hole or attacking other species with your carnivores.

In Climate, there are a few changes to the game, though nothing too complicated.

First, each player starts with 2 species instead of 1, and that’s your minimum (so if your species go extinct, you’ll always have 2 at the start of the round). You also get one more card per player than in the base game. Each species may now have up to 4 Traits instead of 3.

Climate Events
The Climate track (with Climate Events). (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The big difference, of course, is the Climate Track. At the beginning of the game, the marker starts at “Temperate” in the center of the track. Many of the trait cards now have sun or snowflake icons near the food number. When the food supply cards are revealed, you first count up the suns and snowflakes. If there are more suns, the climate gets warmer; more snowflakes and it gets colder. If there are more than double of one than the other, then the climate marker moves 2 spaces; otherwise it only moves 1 space.

After the climate has been determined, you determine whether any species suffer population loss. When it gets hot, bigger animals start dying first; even hotter and smaller animals die, too. When it gets cold, small animals die off first, and so on. The number of population lost per affected species also increases when the temperatures get more extreme. This is where your Traits come in. Many of the Traits will protect your population from heat or cold by reducing the number that you must kill off.

After dealing with population loss, you count up the food on the cards, and then add or subtract the number shown on the current climate space. That tells you how much plant food to add to (or remove from) the watering hole. The colder it gets, the less food there is. When it gets warmer, you get more plant food… up to a point. When it’s “Sweltering” or “Scorching,” the food dries up pretty quickly.

The rest of the game proceeds as normal–players take turns feeding their species until everyone is full or the food runs out. Then, starving population is lost, the food is placed into the bags, and everyone gets new cards for the next round.

The game end is triggered when a certain number of cards has been used, indicating that it’s the last round. At the end, everyone gets 1 point per food, surviving population, and surviving Trait.

Evolution: Climate events
One of the stretch goals: Climate Events, which can introduce drastic effects. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Climate Events, which may be added as a stretch goal, introduce some additional effects that the climate may have. When setting up, you shuffle the two decks–hot and cold events. Reveal one of each. The cards indicate what climate spaces will trigger the event. So, for instance you might get a “Cold Snap” event if the climate reaches “Balmy” or “Tropical.” The cards are placed on the matching spaces.

If, after revealing the food cards and adjusting the climate tracker, it ends up on a space marked by a card, that event is immediately triggered. Then you resolve population loss for climate and the food supply. A new event will be drawn to replace it for the next round.

The Verdict

If you haven’t played the original Evolution yet, you’re really missing out on something great. It’s definitely a game that rewards repeated play, because as you become familiar with the various traits available in the game, you can build some very interesting creatures. I also love that it’s not a game that rewards one particular tactic every time–your success with any given combination of traits really depends on the entire ecosystem: how much plant food is there? Are there predators? If so, what traits do they have?

The Climate expansion introduces one more factor into the ecosystem, and I think it’s a nice upgrade that adds to the flavor and theme without throwing in too many new rules. Essentially, you know that in any round, the climate can change up to 2 spaces in either direction, getting warmer or colder. And since the climate moves according to the food supply cards, you do have some limited control over it. If you really don’t want the climate to get warmer, throw in that card with 3 snowflakes on it.

Evolution: Climate species
My large nocturnal climbers have cooling plates to deal with the heat. My other species hides in the mud from heat, hibernates from the cold, and can also use hibernate if it doesn’t get enough food. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The climate effects also make you think about how to use your Trait cards. For instance, if you think it’s likely that it’s going to get colder (where smaller animals lose population first), then you probably want to increase body size if you don’t have any cold protection. That’s a mistake several of us made the first time I played the game–we all put in snowflake cards, the temperature dropped, and all species with body size 1 lost population. Well, none of us had increased population or body size, so several species went extinct in the first round. We learned that particular lesson quickly.

Once your species have some protective Traits, though, you’ll have an idea of which way you want to move the climate. Carnivores, who often have larger body sizes anyway, are happy to move toward colder climates: not only do the smaller animals freeze to death, but there won’t be much plant food for the survivors, either. On the other hand, if you’re a tiny plant-eater, you’re happy to move the temperature up–maybe that nasty carnivore will die of heat stroke.

I will admit, though, that in the time I’ve gotten to try out the Climate prototype, we’re still just getting used to the traits and I think most of the players haven’t gotten to the point of manipulating the weather for their own benefit quite so much yet. I did try with the Climate Event cards also, and so far I’ve only seen two or three of them triggered. Desertification in particular was so terrifying that nobody wanted it to happen, and everyone cooperated in contributing snowflake cards to avoid it.

I could see that Climate could allow you to play Evolution much more aggressively, with a lot more extinction and potentially lower scores for everyone–but, again, that will take some time and experience so everyone is familiar with the types of traits available.

I like the mix of traits and the thematic effects. Migratory creatures get protection not only from the climate but can also find food elsewhere if the watering hole runs dry. Hibernation gives you protection from cold and starvation. Some of the climate-protection Traits, like Heavy Fur and Cooling Plates, also make you appear larger to predators, while Defensive Herding has been updated to provide protection from cold.

I did like the Flight expansion to Evolution but I felt it did make the game quite a bit harder. Many people tried to create flying species that then went extinct because they didn’t account for how much food they’d need to eat, and the learning curve was a bit harder. Climate seems to have an easier learning curve compared to Flight, because the weather affects everyone, and many of the traits that provide weather protection also have other effects as well. (Note: currently you can play with one expansion or the other; Flight is not compatible with Climate.) The Climate rules are easy enough that you can teach the game with Climate right from the start, though I like that you could also play “classic” Evolution with the stand-alone game if you want.

I can’t say enough how impressed I’ve been with the Evolution game series, and I highly recommend taking a look at Climate. If you’re already a fan of Evolution, you’ll definitely want to add this to your set. If you haven’t played yet, I would recommend trying out the Climate expansion first and saving Flight for later if you enjoy the game.

You can find out more and make your pledge at the Evolution: Climate Kickstarter page.

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