Game Length: 60 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 3-5 players who want a thoughtful game of adaptation
Evo is an area control and auction game where each player controls a species of dinosaur struggling to survive in the face of a constantly-changing climate, designed by Phillipe Keyaerts of Small World fame. Each turn, formerly hospitable regions may become lethal, and players will need to scramble for the limited temperate lands. However, they will also have the opportunity to enhance their species each turn in an auction, hopefully gaining the tools to survive in the harsh environment.
Evo, appropriately, is a game about adapting to the situation. The auction that occurs each turn will provide a range of improvements – such as fur to endure the colder temperatures, increased speed to take more movement actions per turn, claws to improve your attack power, and other, more unique upgrades. You’ll need to carefully watch what upgrades your opponents are claiming, or else you might find yourself in trouble. Each dinosaur alive at the end of a turn nets their controlling player a victory point, and you’ll be spending your earned victory points to purchase upgrades. A canny player will be able to push up the price of an upgrade someone else wants to get a better shot at winning the game at the final count.
Over the course of the game, each player’s species will develop in different ways. One player may develop their offensive power, so that they can take whichever lands they like, while another may focus on movement and breeding, so they can spread to wherever they like on the board and repopulate quickly.
Combat, when it occurs, is resolved by a dice roll – but the attacker must spend one of their crucial movement points to do this, and on a failure may find themselves back where they started, unable to leave a potentially lethal region. This tends to discourage combat except when absolutely necessary, or in the rare cases where movement points aren’t needed to save some extra dinosaurs from death. Players cannot be eliminated from the game – there will always be at least two dinosaurs on the board – so they always have a chance to grow back.
Evo can be a relatively slow game, with each species only seeing gradual changes turn by turn. There won’t be any real ‘power turns’, instead there will be a constant weighing up of options while manoeuvring around the board. For some, this may be a bit dull, but Evo does reward thoughtful play.
Evo was originally published in 2000 with cartoon-style art, but saw a re-release in 2011 with much more realistic art reminiscent of the Dinotopia books, and some tweaked rules. It scales well from 3 to 5 players, with custom boards for each player count, and the rules are straightforward and easy to teach. It is an excellent game for players wanting an area control style game with auction elements where they need to constantly size up the board to evaluate the best move.