My first encounter with Evo was five years ago when it was known as the silly little dinosaur game. There was something enduring about the ongoing struggle of the dinosaurs trying to adapt and survive through genetics. Evolution is here my friends and there is no greater proof then their survival of these dinosaurs making it through grueling and difficult landscapes. Now with the second edition game play has grown up a little.
Back then, the game came with this goofy looking dino playing board where as you purchased actual traits, a leg, or a clump of hair, to add to the picture of your dinosaur drawing. It was kind of fun to have three legged behemoths with multiple furry patches, having strange limping motions, and extremely long tails.What was great here was that it gave you the illusion that you were building your dinosaurs.
- Frist edition Player board Photo by Jonathan Er
Now, what grabs your attention in the new game is the map and how it is broken into the different zones, where animals have to scurry from, and meet the ever changing climate demands to survive. In hot times the sandy regions cook in the heat of the ever steady rays of the sun. Colder times your dinosaurs meet their death in the mountains, sadly, you find your poor little dinosaurs frozen in solid heaps, as they tried their best to trudge their way through the snow to safety. Movement can be cut off by a competitor that was just a little bit faster (More legs means faster but don’t tell Mr. Centipede) or had early initiative. The game quickly becomes a race to escape the latest killing zones by buying traits in the auction that make your dinos better at adapting to the needs of their environment. You find evolution at its best in this game. Never mind the obvious that with such dramatic change there has to be a lot of jumping genes in this evolutionary mix.
The artwork has taken a realistic turn and proved to be in Evo’s favor. The new artwork with its realistic animals set in this strange tribal fantasy land. Each of the player boards has a picture of a different Dinosaur and their tribal master. Humans never really come into play in this game as people had feared from the early speculation from the drawings, but you must pretend they are the driving force behind the genetic adaptation that the dinosaurs are evolving through.
When you open the box you now find sturdy little wooden dinosaurs (instead of the old disks) although be it that there are now only 8 dinos pieces to the games original 10 dinosaurs. The most interest new part of the game is the new Climate wheel that looks like the Astrarium reproduced with the climates instead of the stars on its revolving faces.
Play starts when everyone picks a player board and matching clan marker. In this incarnation of the game dice are no longer needed to determine the climate change but instead there is this incredible mechanical climate wheel. The movement of the wheel is determined by the Climate tokens. One climate token is removed from the game and then the ending meteorite token (the game ending token) is shuffled with two other tokens and all three are placed at the bottom of the 12 token stack.
Players use victory points to bid on the different traits that will allow your dinosaurs to adapt. Horns for fighting, legs for walking, fur for cold climate, Thermoregulation layers for dealing with warmer temperatures, and eggs for more of those cute cuddly tiny dinos that will make up your score at the end of each round, and not least the Alchemical vial were humans it seems has tipped their influence and made buying future traits easier.
The number of dinosaurs that have managed to stay alive each round give you your victory points. Play continues until someone draws the meteorite token and then play ends immediately and all victory points are counted
” Alchemical vial were humans it seems has tipped their influence and made buying future traits easier.”
In the old Evo Climate change was determined by a dice roll which had unlimited ways of turning out here there is a little more certainty with a high percentage of move ahead tokens, with one drastic move ahead two token, a few no movement, and a smattering of move back one’s as well. The chance of a two Climate changes could wreak devastating havoc on your poor little dinosaurs who expect a gradually change of weather for their survival. The over whelming majority of the token are move ahead one. Although proportionate to the old game’s dice rolls it does take away the excitement of a game where the dice would roll unlikely numbers.
One of the major departures from the older game is the initiative. First edition you bought a longer tail trait to have first initiative (now it is only one special trait Adrenaline rush Which allows you to free choose where you want to be on the initiative track) otherwise it is determined on who bid for the card and early traits first, and then you change order with who has the least amount of dinosaurs moving to the front and most dinosaurs has to go back.
Also the Auction in the older game you would lay out an trait for everyone during the auction round, but now you short one trait and someone is forced to purchase a card (which can be powerful but a one shot deal) which unlike like traits you can use the rest of the game (in the old game a bought trait gave you a cards each round). Also, in the old game all players started with 3 of these cards and now you start with none.
Another factor is that this game has special traits. These are one of kind of effects that only one player can buy. You add 8 to the bag out of the total of 12 meaning some of the traits are never used. This can stretch out the game replay value by making different combination of unique traits that can be played during anyone game.
Battling in the first edition Evo if you attacked losers would have lost their dinosaur to the fight, and now an attacking Dinosaur doesn’t go away but just stays in the territory he started from. This also means that you can have multiple attacks from the same dinosaur if the first few attacks fails. This is another fairly large departure from the earlier game because it takes the risk out of attacking and motivates people to be more aggressive.
A lot of new players where intimidated by the climate wheel because they had a hard time understand how to read the different zones. With a little practice this is something that becomes fairly easy, but at first glance it can be confusing for some. Some people didn’t like the Climate tokens either and claimed that it was a little more gamey then the outdated method of dice rolling.
The games were pretty close, but there seemed to be less conflict with the bidding since there was always someone during my games that was happy to settle for the card with a low bid which was an unknown factor in future game play. To me a lot of excitement of the game was the auction, but buying an unknown took the heat off of bidding up other traits that didn’t show an immediate gain in our sessions. What I thought of initially as maybe a plus might end up being a minus. I am sure personal taste will ultimately decide if this is an improvement to the game.
There is still tension with battle for ground but less so since now your dinosaurs don’t die on a failed attacks, and almost seem bullet proofed, which encourages a more aggressive play with no risk. What is doubly bad is that we overlooked the rule that a clan with only two dinosaurs cannot be attacked and one of the early games my dinosaurs almost went extinct.
Evo second edition although different from its predecessor still has the same feel of the earlier game.
The quality of the components is phenomenal with the exception of the player board which is a little flimsy. The artwork is also exceptional and really puts you in the right mind set, feel, and theme of the game.
The edition of the new traits and a lot more parts offer greater range of possibilities in play. Some of the old cards have become new traits which offer additional excitement and flavor while hopefully spawning larger bidding wars. The edition of the special traits was by far the best improvement.
Climate tiles and the wheel add to the aesthetics of the game without bogging down play reducing the number of working parts and boards. All the newer piece were designed towards improving the game and adds a little extra replay value if you’re enjoying the variety and mixture of the new pieces.
Finally, I can have my copy of Evo; the problem is I am not sure it is quite the same game that I played those many years ago. I don’t understand such large rule rewrites and wonder really how different this game feels from those early experiences. I am interested to hear from long term Evo players and wait to hear their voice on this subject. I wonder if all the new rule changes were necessary and wonder how much the changed game feels from the original. I always have the sense that rule changes to games should be introduced as variants unless it is clear something needs fixing.
All in all it is a very enjoyable game experience. The game board and movement imparts a small world like experience but with the added enhanced mechanics of more intense and interesting auction element. Creatively dealing with the changes of aggression and climate on the board becomes a careful balancing act. This game defiantly hatches more pleasure with more players, and you have to be careful because some of the way the game plays out, some cards and genes can turn out to be useless towards the end, which leaves a dissatisfying taste as if you ate the wrong poisonous prehistoric plant.
Smaller games can tend to lead to people slowly pulling away with a large lead. Especially, if your purchases turn out poor ones according to the climate chart and or you learn the hard way that the right combo of legs and horns can be deadly. Team work to slow the leader might become necessary, and once in a great chance futile. So the game offers some of the highest and lowest levels of common gameplay. The good thing is with a well experienced group the game is short, and if things don’t go your way you can plan better during the next time.