PAX East 2017: North Star Games’ Digital Adaptation of ‘Evolution’ Will Be My Next iPad Board Gaming Addiction

PAX East 2017: North Star Games’ Digital Adaptation of ‘Evolution’ Will Be My Next iPad Board Gaming Addiction

One of the things I love about PAX East is that with such a strong tabletop presence, there is bound to be a digital board game or two at the show.

Originally released by North Star Games (Evolution, Wits & Wagers and Happy Salmon) in 2014, Evolution was well-received, earning several Golden Geek nominations and spawned several expansions.

Soon the game will be evolving again as it graces iPad screens in a brilliantly crafted digital adaptation.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Evolution (the game, not the concept) it is an entertaining card game in which (over the course of 7 rounds) players are attempting to feed, multiply, adapt and evolve their species in an ever-changing ecosystem. Food is always in limited supply and there is always the lurking danger of a larger predator feeding on your smaller species.

The goal of the game is to collect the most points by feeding your species, increasing their population and evolving them in ways that will best ensure their survival. At the end of the 7 rounds, players are awarded points for the food their species have eaten during the game, the population of any surviving species and the trait cards applied to the surviving species.

Rounds are played in a series of four different phases. First cards are dealt to all players then each contributes food to a common pool by secretly selecting one card from their hand, when revealed later, these will make up the common pool of food that will be used to feed ALL of the species.

Next it is time to actually play cards; in turn order players play one or more Trait Cards which give their species special abilities like a Long Neck (can get food that others cannot reach) or a hard shell (helps protect them from carnivores) etc. They may also create new species to the left or right of their existing one(s) and/or discard Trait cards to increase either the population of or the physical size of (necessary for carnivores to be able to eat other species) a species.

Finally comes feeding. This is where it will be decided if a species is going to live or die, for anytime the population of any species is reduced to 0, it goes extinct. Players take turns feeding their species by taking food from the common pool in the center and place it on a species which has less food than its total population. There are cool strategies that you’ll quickly discover as you play, like food chains which allow you to take more than one food item at a time (hopefully shutting out your opponent(s) and killing off some of their species). Sometimes it may even be necessary to have your carnivores feed off of your own species in order to survive.

At PAX I dove right into the demo version of the digital release, having only heard of, but never having played the tabletop game. It was super easy to pick up and I had no issues understanding the game. There was a brilliant tutorial that taught the basics and it was easy to see that while there was still a good deal more to the game, I’d have no issues playing it on my own.

Unfortunately I don’t have any screenshots I can show you of the digital implementation’s UI, but it is solid and super-intuitive. All pertinent information is well-presented and the user need only tap and/or drag to play cards, collect food and perform any other actions. Despite the high levels of polish in the demo, the game is still in development. Details are still being worked out on how online play will work, but it sounds like they are putting a lot of thought into this aspect in particular to make sure they get it right and offer the best possible experience to their players. The game should be ready sometime later this year. It will be coming to Steam and there will be a Kickstarter campaign to help support the development for iOS.

I have no doubt that upon release, Evolution will quickly become one of my go-to digital board games as there are some great strategical elements to it, which encourage a lot of replayability.

But wait there’s more…

Before I end this post, I just wanted to mention that North Star Games also helped to sponsor a really fun charity Game Show version of their award-winning party game Wits & Wagers. Hosted by The Dice Tower’s Tom Vasel and board game designer JR Honeycutt with North Star Games’ own Bruce Voge (The Party Game Cast) acting as the irreverent croupier, a job he did quite well at on the show floor as well. It was an entertaining panel in which teams of 2 to 4 people competed in this fun numbers-based trivia challenge to raise money for the charity of their choice. One team was made of of three lucky audience members with the rest of the teams from Jackbox Games, Tim Fowers Games, Cards Against Humanity, Secret Hitler and I was honored to be asked to join “the Media” team with Dice Hate Me’s Chris Kirkman, The D6 Generation’s Russ Wakelin and Ars Technica’s Aaron Zimmerman.

If you are interested, you can check out the full Game Show archived on twitch at: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/127943259.