Post-session report - Evolution:Climate and Oceans

Gameplay

On Sunday, I invited some friends over to play my most recent arrival, #Oceans, and I thought it would also be fun to play a game of my current favorite game, #Evolution: Climate, beforehand. In case you aren't aware, Oceans is the follow-up game to Evolution from North Star Games.

So that is what we did! We started with Evolution: Climate. As stated above, this is my current favorite game. We played at 5 players (1 first-timer), and it was an extremely close game. The winning score was 63, I had 61, and I think the lowest anyone had was 55. Great game!

Next, I taught everyone Oceans. After setup was complete, teaching probably took about 15 minutes, and I'd say it was fairly easy to teach. I actually had 2 more friends show up before this game started, so I let them both play, and I sat out and ran the game and answered questions and they came up. For anyone not counting, this is a full game (6 players).

With the Kickstarter, I received the 5-6 player expansion. The rules for this warn that Oceans was designed for 2-4 players, and adding more makes for a lot of downtime. This was true in our case. While you're still partially engaged on other people's turns, I can see how playing at 6 is maybe a little too much downtime. I expect the downtime to decrease with future plays, however.

Comparing Evolution and Oceans:

These games share a lot of the same DNA (science joke, heh), but are definitely distinct games.

Turns
One major difference is the way turns are played. Evolution is played in rounds with phases, with some phases having round-the-table turns within them. Oceans is completely played in discrete turns. This is the main reason the downtime could be a slight problem for larger groups.

Feeding and Scoring
So in Evolution, you score after every round, and you score the amount of food tokens your species were able to eat in that round. Whatever populations go unfed are lost and must be paid for again if you wish to regain them during the next round. If you aren't able to geed a given species at all, that species goes extinct. You can eat plant food from the watering hole, if available, or, if your species is a carnivore, you can eat the populations of other species, which can also cause them to go extinct.
In Oceans, it doesn't matter how much your species eat during a round. Scoring is achieved through the process of "aging", which is simply moving a certain number of population from your species board to your score pile. If you are not able to age the correct amount, that species goes extinct. This is the only way you can go extinct. You cannot be driven to extinction by an attacker.

Cards
Evolution has a set of trait cards (maybe 20 different traits or so) from which you can build tons of different species, and these traits are duplicated many times over throughout the deck. You may not duplicate them on a given species, however.
Oceans, on the other hand, has 2 separate decks: the Surface deck, and the Deep deck. The Surface deck is very similar to the deck in Evolution, in that the (12) traits within it are duplicated many times over, are well-represented within nature, and can be used to build all kinds of cool species, and really cool combos and engines. The main difference here is that you can duplicate these on a species if you want, and the benefits stack.
Then there is the Deep deck. This really changes the game. There is a sort of midpoint in the game when these cards can come into play, and then things get crazy. The cards in this deck are 100% unique - there is only one of each. They are more powerful than the surface cards, and in many cases, not at all rooted in science. This is a lot of fun, and makes for some WHOOOAAAA moments.

Feel and Strategy
Oceans feels a bit more forgiving than Evolution. It is hard to kill off someone else's species, where in Evolution, it's extremely plausible. To me, Evolution has a bit more tension, and feels a bit more like survival. Because of this difference, in my observation so far, it seems less advantageous to have an unassailable beast of a creature in Oceans vs. Evolution. I can be wrong, of course, but it seems to me that you're better off trying to get more species out onto the table (while being able to sustain them), and trying to tie up your opponents resources (cards) to prevent them from getting successful species onto the table. Those are just thoughts after a few plays, keep in mind.
Oceans definitely has the edge in "WOW factor", because of the Deep cards. Because of these cards, there are always going to be creatures that no one else at the table can create, and that makes for a fun time. Also contributing to this wow factor, in my opinion, is the art. The art in Evolution is fantastic, and they stepped it up even further on Oceans. The game is beautiful - very vibrant and colorful.

Conclusion
I don't have a conclusion - this was always the hardest part of essays in school for me, lol. I love Evolution. Playing Oceans makes me appreciate certain things about Evolution more. I love Oceans. Playing Evolution makes me appreciate certain things about Oceans more. These are great games you should play if you get the chance.

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Supporter10 months ago

I've heard a lot of good things about this game! Definitely one that I'd like to try and not necessarily own

10 months ago

Haha, yeah neither of these games are in "impulse buy" territory, price-wise, so if you're not sure, it's wisest not to buy.

Supporter9 months ago

For sure!

Supporter10 months ago

I've always been curious about this one because of the art. There's just something about watercolor illustrations that make them so inviting. I also tend to love games that are both fun and "educational". What's been your favorite player count?

10 months ago

For Evolution it's probably 4, maybe 5. 6 is definitely still fun but a bit unwieldy, if you ask me. So far I've only played Oceans at 2 and 6, but I'm guessing I'll feel the same way as I do for Evolution.

10 months ago

Glad to see you were able to play/review these! Thanks!!

Supporter10 months ago

Great review! Thanks for sharing. Theme wise this isn’t one that I identify with very strongly, but I love the concepts of engine building and the prospect of creating creatures sounds really intriguing. 

10 months ago

Thanks! They're really fun games, and in my view the Evolution line is unique in it's merging of scientific realism (people actually use the game to teach), fun, visual appeal, and strategic gameplay.

Supporter10 months ago

this is completely subjective, but, I think that the art in oceans is cooler.

10 months ago

I agree, though it's not a big gap. I love the Evolution art as well.

Linked Games
Evolution: Climate
Oceans
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