Darwin's Choice Kickstarter Review

Darwin's Choice Kickstarter Review

My wildebeest-frog has adapted well to its environment, it doesn't require much food, is happy on both land and sea and, being the only herbivore around, it currently has no competition for food. It may not be the flashiest of creatures but it's a survivor and if I can just get the species to thrive for the rest of the game it should rack up some points.

But planet Earth is a fickle mother and environmental changes mean that the lush coastline that was its habitat is now a desert of ice. There's no plants to eat and the other neighbouring environments are just as inhospitable, and because none of the cards in my hand offer any kind of frost resistance, the humble wildebeest-frog is now a footnote in a palaeontologist’s textbook.

And so, plays Darwin's Choice, a game of creating and adapting species to their environment by cobbling together bits of other animals like a disturbed taxidermist. Over several rounds you will build new species, move them to better environments and evolve them in the hopes that they both survive and become the top of the food chain.

Darwin’s Choice is played by combining various animal body parts, each one with its own characteristics that help it survive and its own connection points that allow you to add more parts to your weird and wonderful creations. At the end of each round every creature is evaluated against its environment, food is divvied out and points are awarded for the creatures that survive, are best adapted to their environment and are just plain awesome.

Each round you can take only one of three actions for each creature you have; create, evolve or migrate. The available actions are very limiting and rightly so as they represent the glacial pace of evolution. It's these limits that make Darwin’s Choice a much deeper strategy game than it first appears. Creating the right creature is a careful balance of meeting the requirements of its environment, making sure it's going to get enough food, and attempting to make the best creature it can be. Of course, you are balancing these needs against your opponents, but you are also hedging your bets that the environment doesn't change drastically or that you can jump ship to a new environment or change your creature (evolve) if things go south.

Evolving can be tricky, as not only do you need the right cards in your hand but it can also be difficult to make the required changes. Thankfully Darwin’s Choice gives you the option of a double-evolution but it will cost your some of those hard-earned victory points.

darwins choice evolution board game review.

Getting the cards you need, however, can be an absolute pain in the arse, and Darwin’s Choice' biggest weakness as it currently stands. At the end of an age environments can change drastically and if you don't have the cards you need to adapt, or somewhere else to slink off to, then your creatures are going to die. The intention seems to be that the most versatile of species is the one that will garner the most points, but how adaptive of a species you can create is left entirely down to the cards in your hand.

It means that the game can quite literally come to an evolutionary dead end if no-one can adapt. In one game, most of the environments needed wings, but no one had any wing cards in their hands and even after every player refreshed their hands we were all on the path of a mass extinction event because none of our critters could fly.

darwin's choice habitat

There is a trading system in the game, but I felt like with many other trading mechanics that it just didn't work, mainly because we were all after the same thing; wings. There is a more strategic trading variant, which I much prefer, that allows you to swap cards from a central pool, but without the cards you need in the pool you are again looking at your beloved creature becoming a fossil.

It's a shame, because this frustration knocks the sheen off an otherwise very enjoyable game. Unfortunately, as the design currently stands luck of the draw can dictate the outcome of the game. However, if this aspect can be tweaked before the game gets into Kickstarter backer's hands, I'm pretty sure that there is a rewarding and strategic game to be had.

As a final note I must say that my wife really enjoyed this game, so much so that I am under strict orders to keep hold of the prototype copy. A ringing endorsement if ever I saw one!

Darwin's Choice is on Kickstarter now.

This Kickstarter preview is based on a prototype version of the game provided by the publisher; the final product may look, play or smell different to that used in this preview.
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