Afterwork Session: Evo

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Yesterday we had another gaming session at La Table Food & Games in Brussels ! A great night, not too busy, just the right amount of people to have a cozy gaming atmosphere but still enough place to book a big table to place all the game elements from Evo (BGG link) designed by Philippe Keyaerts. We played the 2nd edition from 2011.

Here’s the description from BGG capturing the essence of the game:

In Evo, you play a nomadic people in symbiosis with a primitive reptilian species. You travel the wild open spaces of Kumgath with your mounts, you will use your knowledge of biology to help them adapt and succeed against both the hostile and changing climate and other competing species. Players will earn mutation points during the course of the game. The player with the most at the end of the game is the winner.

Philippe Keyaerts is a prolific Belgian game designer, with a few hits under his belt, Small World published with Days Of Wonder is certainly known amongst the readers. In Small World, you’re not tied down to one race/power combination for the duration of the game, so there’s an encouragement to be ruthless and get as much as you can as quickly as you can out of your Active Race, because you’re fighting for territory victory points. It’s about territory expansion where you cut your losses and move on to the next battle and/or next race to choose.

In Evo, it’s a bit different as  everyone has 2 dinosaurs on the board and a blank slate with all your powers. In this way, everyone starts off the same. Each turn, you can move one or two dinosaurs (2 movements at the start for every player) and give birth to an additional dinosaur during the “birth phase”.  With a smart auction for new “genes” that are drawn from a bag, you start bidding for genes that will give your dinosaur species new powers such as the ability to move more often, the ability to move into other dinosaur spaces (and drive them off), to survive dangerous weather, to place more dinosaurs on the board each turn, etc.

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Over time, you are individualizing your dinosaurs, expanding your population and trying to survive with as many as possible dinosaurs on the board. The more dinosaurs you keep alive each round, the more victory points you will get each round.

 

The fighting in Evo is much less than in Small World because of the movement-cost and low-probability reasons . That said combat is the only way to remove enemy dinosaurs from the game and, thus, reduce their overall stock. Spending the precious movement points might prove to be worth it if it means your opponent(s) will be able to field fewer overall dinosaurs.

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The basic strategy applies to every game: Get to the safe territories every time the climate changes! It’s how you’re able to do that (and how well you’re able to do it) that really matters and changes with every game, and those safe territories will be different nearly every turn.

With the scientific/mutation phase; the mutation genes that each player acquires will have a good chance of being different each time you play the game, so there’s a good amount of re-playability in that; especially when you consider the Event Cards that can be acquired instead of genes. One mistake we made is on the “special” unique genes: there is only 1 slot and you have no possibility to accumulate them – compared to the regular normal genes you can acquire – which is something to remember for next game. .

We had a blast at the table, the 4 of us left with a smile, really enjoyed the session. The game is not complex with a clear 6 phases per round structure, so it took me about 10-15 minutes of explanation before we started actually playing. This is really the key point here, interaction is present everywhere in this game:

  • When you do the genes selection (bidding system)
  • When you do movements on the island with your dinosaurs
  • When you play an event card and you’re constantly looking also at the climate wheel that will influence the game-play each round for every player.

You have something to think about during the entire game, you don’t stay still because of this climate wheel which increase the re-playability (in a fun way). You will also leave a few tokens are left aside every game – helping also for the re-playability aspect.

 

This game is clearly staying in my collection. We’ll put it back on the table as it’s easy to explain, fun & interactive and not too long (count 1 to 1,5 hours with 4 players).

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Note: Changes in the edition of 2011 compared to the 2001 version (extract from BGG):

  • Initiative is based on bidding position for the mutation/adaptation genes, and tails have been done away.
  • Climate change is based on a token draw instead of a die roll.
  • The combat die is no longer a regular D6 but has symbols which serves approximately the same odds as before.
  • There is a 1-in-6 chance for a stalemate otherwise, depending on the difference in horns, the defender will have a dinosaur removed from the board
  • The attackers dinosaur can never die.
  • Evolution occurs after climate change instead of later in the turn.
  • There are 12 climate tokens, delineating strictly 9 to 11 turns, with the game-ending meteor event occurring in one of the last three climate tokens.
  • Players only have a maximum 8 dinosaurs, while the older game had a maximum of 10.
  • There are 12 new “special” genes, 8 of which are mixed in with the regular genes.
  • Each have a unique power/ability such as flying, amphibious movement, chameleon capability for defense, or the ability to predict the future climate.
  • One event card is available each turn during bidding with the number of players minus one genes pulled out of the bag.
  • Winning the event card will give the player first initiative and is only modified by number of dinosaurs on the board.

 

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