Look what I stumbled on at the local community center: it’s Evolution, the board game, from North Star Games. I have not played it, but I will say it’s cute, quite pretty actually, and seems durably and intelligently constructed.
From the manufacturer’s description:
Stunning new artwork, trait card text refinements — leads to better game synergies and balance.
In Evolution, players create and adapt their own species in a dynamic ecosystem with hungry predators and limited resources. Traits like Hard Shell and Horns will protect you from Carnivores, while a Long Neck will help you get food that others cannot reach.
With over 12,000 different species to create, every game becomes a different adventure. So gather your friends around the table and see who will best adapt their species to eat, multiply and thrive!
The players are a nerdy group. When one asks the leader, as if hesitating about it, “Would you, uh, consider teaching us Evolution,” they all loudly crack up. I have not watched it all the way through, since this example runs to an hour and 43 minutes.
You can download the rules here. From the Amazon reviews, it sounds fun and challenging, with plenty of strategy and choices available to players. Make the smart decisions, adapt your animal and equip it with all the right traits, such as Cooperation, a Long Neck, or Intelligence, and your species will thrive. Players may also spawn or create new species, following the same procedures. There is a special expansion, Flight, that allows a range of new options, available separately.
Wait a minute… choices, decision, strategy, options… Adding features like Intelligence or a Long Neck, you “create” your species and “adapt” it… In Darwinian evolution, species may “adapt” (an intransitive verb) but an outside agent does not “adapt” (transitive sense) much less “create” them through deliberate choices. These are not my words, but those of North Star Games. Does all this sort of make you think of anything? And what’s this, Flight as a very special expansion? Our friends at Illustra Media have an excellent documentary on that. For some discussion by Wells and Dembski of the evolutionary challenge of the giraffe’s Long Neck as an adaptational package, see here. As for Intelligence among animals, Denyse O’Leary wrote a whole series on it for us.
A reviewer on Amazon, Tung Yin, took the words out of my mouth.
Yes, this game is actually more like intelligent design than evolution. I played one time with my kids where we couldn’t pick what traits we wanted to assign; everything was random. Boy, did we get some hilariously bad creatures! It was interesting to try that way once…. [Emphasis added.]
Well, well. I bet it was interesting, but it sounds like the reviewer wouldn’t want to try the Darwinian way again.
Evolution the board game, when played with something more like the actual rules of Darwin’s theory, fails “hilariously.” When played as an exercise in intelligent design, it succeeds.
Another reviewer, who says she teaches seventh-grade science, urges, “GET THIS FOR YOUR CLASSROOM!!!” since the game “truly teaches the actual principles of evolution.” Does it, now?
Ha. What else can I say? Ha.