Evolution Flight Box Left3DNorth Star Games today launches a Kickstarter project for an expansion to Evolution. The original is a title that I wrote about nearly a year ago and continue to feel is a fun, moderate-weight strategy game that presents challenging yet approachable decisions even for a beginner. However, having since had an opportunity to play it a few additional times—including with the practiced crew at North Star—I’ve also come to realize that there’s a fair amount of depth and complexity to the game, particularly in the way the trait cards balance and interact. An experienced Evolution player is going to have a significant advantage over a newbie.

Now the expansion, Flight, adds to that depth, providing fans with more options, more strategies, and more interactions to explore—though again, not in a way that precludes the casual player from understanding how it works. In fact, it’s quite simple. Instead of creating the usual new species (at the cost of one card), the expansion allows players to create a new species (at a cost of two cards) with flight as a starting trait. Flight is a defense against carnivores that don’t also have flight, allows a species to feed from a second location (the cliff), and provides certain bonuses when combined with other new traits such as nesting and brood parasite.

Another important aspect of flying species, though, is that they require additional food to survive—one more per body size (a lot of energy is required to power those wings). Of course, one can look at that as a challenge to maintaining flying species (the additional food doesn’t score) but it can also be an advantage. Carnivorous flying species are ravenous! A species without a defensive trait against meat-eating avians has a good chance of being eliminated.

The Evolution Flight expansion will come with 12 avian species boards (for tracking population, body size, and food), 12 special flight trait cards, 48 additional trait cards, and a cliff feeding board.

Evolution Second EditionAdditionally, as North Star is launching this expansion Kickstarter project, the company is also producing a second edition for the base game, making changes in two areas: art and card text. Both, though, are matters of refinement. In terms of the art, some card images have been improved, the watering hole graphics have been modified to better allow food tokens to stand out, and the box cover has been made more colorful. In terms of trait card text, the changes are slight but meant to improve balance and make for more interesting combinations. For example, the body size bonus of hard shell is being increased to +4 as an offset to the late game power of pack hunting, and foraging will now trigger any time a species eats plant food, for better synergy with several other traits.

For concerned owners of the first edition, all Kickstarted copies of the Flight expansion will ship to backers with a full set of second edition trait cards.

A complimentary copy of Evolution (second edition), as well as prototype Flight components, were provided for review by North Star Games.

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North Star GamesUp until now North Star Games has been known mostly for party titles. The company’s flagship product, Wits & Wagers, is a trivia game where players bet on which one of them has the best answer. Its two most recent releases are Clubs, a trick-taking card game in the same vein as Spades, and Happy Birthday, which has players giving each other strange and silly gifts.

Today, however, North Star is in the process of launching a strategy game division. For the first product of that division, North Star has turned to Kickstarter and chosen a game called Evolution.

I had the opportunity recently to spend an afternoon at North Star Games’ office speaking with company founder Dominic Crapuchettes about the new venture, as well as playtesting Evolution. Dominic shared with me some of the history behind North Star Games, talked about how he sees the company developing in the future, and addressed the role of Kickstarter in those plans. The game I enjoyed a lot. It’s smart, engaging and thought-provoking without being overwhelming. Read the rest of this entry »

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