Evolution: Climate—hereinafter referred to simply as Evolution-presents itself as a country game. I’m starting to create some cute new species with small body sizes and low populations. The climate is temperate, the food abundant, the predators rare. My furry little rascals are fed up with the plentiful food next to the watering hole. “Nature red in tooth in claw?” Not here.
But the abundance of food is fueling massive population growth — and not just among my species, but across the table. The vegetarian options available at the watering hole barely feed any creature. And then the climate changes; a cold snap puts pressure not only on the food supply, but on all species with small body dimensions.
Those populations that develop beneficial traits, such as “fat storage” or “digging,” have an advantage in this food-restricted, chilly world. Everyone else will struggle – and the population will shrink.
Populations will shrink even further when – to take a purely hypothetical example – Ars Managing Editor Eric Bangeman evolves a carnivorous species with a body large enough to attack your beloved burrowing rodents. Burrowers can only be attacked when hungry, as the need for food prompts them to forage above ground, so Eric’s carnivores feast on the blood and bones of my starving voles. The entire species is in danger of extinction if the population declines.
But if Jurassic Park taught us something (and I’m not sure if it did), it’s that ‘life finds a way’. My shrinking species eventually balances its population with the available food, and in this new carnivorous world I make sure to equip my other species with defensive qualities such as ‘horns’, ‘group hats’ and ‘climbing’. From my seat in the branches I look down on Eric’s carnivores, who are now taking turns starving themselves.
But the evolutionary race isn’t over yet, as the carnivores can increase the population to beat “group hats”, increase their body size to overcome “cooling fringe”, and add “climbing” to get after my lizards in the treetops. . In Evolutionno animal is ever permanently safe – not even the apparently ‘strong’.
Adapt or die
That Evolution accomplishing this kind of advanced ecological modeling with such a simple ruleset is one of the game’s main strengths. The game can be learned in a few minutes and consists largely of card game. In each round, players draw trait cards based on how many suits they have. One of these cards is discarded to the “water well” in the center of the game board, where it adds food tokens to that round’s harvest. The rest of the cards are used to create a new species, to increase the body size or population of a current species, or to add the listed trait to a current species.
After the cards are revealed, food cards are revealed, the climate is adjusted if necessary (more on that later), and all the hungry species take turns feeding. Herbivores – the species that are standard – can only eat from the vegetation available in the watering hole. Carnivores can only eat other species, and they should do this if the only species available to eat is another that belongs to the same player. When all food is gone, populations decline if that particular species cannot fully feed itself. All food tokens, which count as points when scoring the endgame, then go into each player’s bag and cards are drawn for the next round.
Clever use of the trait cards allows for creative combos designed to secure more of the limited food supply from your opponents. For example, when a species with “cooperation” eats, it will give an extra food token to the species to its right. “Foraging” allows a species to take two food tokens instead of one on each turn. Combine them and you can grab three food items in one turn.
Other traits offer protection through increased body size or fecundity for a larger population. “Mud Wallow” forces carnivores to discard one card to attack, while “scavenger” allows one species to forage for food when a carnivore attacks another species. “Heavy coat” and “hibernation” both protect against cold, while “cooling fringe” and “digging” can help with extreme heat.
Each trait feels well integrated with the game’s themes, and each game I played provided an illuminating look at how these traits can interact with food and climate to produce nature’s complex ecosystems. I almost felt like I was learning something – and have a lot of fun doing it.
I’m not the only one who felt this was playing Evolution, or. In 2015, the prestigious scientific journal Nature took a look at three evolution themed games and spoke Evolution “our favorite by far.”
Evolution has advanced biology. Traits can be combined in a dizzying array of combinations, so each game can be very different. The theme of evolution is not only touched upon: it stimulates the game. With a long neck, you get food that normally wouldn’t be available. Symbiosis means that you can only be eaten by a predator if it eats your host first. Horns won’t get you eaten, but they damage predators and act as a deterrent.
Evolution captures key aspects of the evolutionary process and would work as a learning aid for children ages 10 and up. It can also help older students tackle specific topics, such as evolutionary arms races.