Review: S-Evolution – its all about being civilized
Uhuh … huhuhu …
God of lightning destroyed our crops!
Eppur Si Muove!
You got fired, production is now fully automated.
I should give him a Like for this.
That’s only few of eras, you will be able to live with your civilization in this simple card game, spiced with the management of your population. You need to fulfill all their needs, starting with hunger and ending with desire for knowledge. For experienced poker or uno players, it will be interesting turn on the classic kind of card games. On the other hand, it may even get quite unpleasant.
This whole creation comes from Jean-Michel Maman together with illustrator Vivien Grose. It was published by Spiel-ou-face company, which has three games until now, including recently reviewed Oss. And this new one is highly questionable piece, which on one hand seizes player with its nice ideas and on the other hand sickens by some lacking mechanisms, which do not fit very well in all your gaming. However, we will get there a little bit later.
First, what we need to care about, is how the whole game looks. Box cover illustrated with evolution of man immediately tells us, what this game will be about. And when we open it, we get some basic components. First, we will look at four player boards (one for each player), where players note their population status and three resources states (tools, food, and science) needed to feed their people. On the right side of this board, available buildings for raising can be seen.
Furthermore, you will be pleased to see also the main board of approximately the same size as boards for players. Eras will flow on this plate, showing players, where they are in time at the moment and its also used for the most imporant thing, when it comes to end of the game: points.
We also need some pawns, so we can operate all these informations, hence the small tokens in four colors. These are probably the biggest disappointment in otherwise neutral graphics of the game. These are just an ordinary pawns, we know, love or hate.
What tricktaking game would it be without cards, right? There are 120 cards together, thirtyone of one color reverse for each contestant. Cards are then further divided into three other colors, as is the case with conventional cards and have a numerical value, together with symbols of some of three available resources. Some cards are special and have a function, that can harm both you and opponents. Finally, each of players have 6 era cards in their deck and these have a completely different function.
Game preparation is very simple: First, each of players takes his deck of thirty cards and finds six era cards among them. He sorts them according to numbers from one to six and places those side by side face down. Remaining cards are shuffled thoroughly and places them to other side, than era cards, also face down. Everybody draws four cards from his deck and eventually takes era number one card.
Each player also put his first pawn on first age and counter to 0 points. At the end of setup, player mark their boards to see current status of their population (1) and their three resources (starting at 0). Others wooden pawns are kept outside of the game for now.
Game surprises you already with first impression, and its quite nice first rule. Because you are only prehistoric people, you are not allowed to look at your cards. This idea works very nicely, because as you will learn from the manual, rules for players will vary during the game, according to era they are currently located in. This sounds great, does it not? But there has to be some catch. In this case, its catch so big, that it will pull down ship loaded with supplies of all printings of this game down to the abyss of the sea. To understand our seamingly strong words, we must return together to the beginning of the game itself and explain, how it actually plays.
As mentioned, this is a tricktaking game, so it hold to the same principle. First player plays one card, then others do likewise and the one, who played highest card according to some rules should take all cards lying on the table. In this case, however, there is first pleasant change. Winning player takes only one card: the one he likes the most. Its usually card with greatest benefit to his resources. Then second player takes another card and so it goes on. Additionally, trick winner starts last in the next round. And this continues until the time, that each player has only one card in his hand. Now all players look at resource symbols on their gained cards, sum their values up and can add them to their own gaming board.
Finally comes the time to see, if the players managed to satisfy needs of their people. It’s simple, according to era, in which players are, they must pay a predetermined amount of resources for every soul of their population. So, for example, in the first era, one meal is needed. And if the player succeed in gratifying needs of all people, they do not only get victory points, but also can move one space forwards in time.
Player can then raise his population by paying appropriate amount of food or move one era further by paying three symbols of science. He may also send his men to work in one of many buildings and, for example, get one resource for free each round or change his resources.
Now, in second phase, differences in scoring arise between players, because the more population you have, the greater chance ther is to gain more points. At the same time, however, you find yourself at risk, because if you fail to satisfy any desire, your civilization moves one step back in era table. And you might give up at that time.
Right now, we come to main concept of the game: eras. This is the biggest enticements of the game, but paradoxically also the biggest problem. As we have written above, each era carries some advantages and disadvantages with it. During the first one, primitive folk do not see cards. They can look at them already in second round, but they are colorblind, so colors have no role. Then comes color and later even ability to select trumps over everything else. Sounds great, but just until that moment, when you see it all play.
First round is actually just about pure luck, because you do not see your cards, so any player might win during the first round. Lucky player can go even directly to third era, while others remain in first or sneach into second one. This means, that player in third period wins all tricks in the next round, because color must be honored, and because barbarians (era 2) and primitives (era 1) still do not know color, they are unable to trump him. That means, that this one player gets first also to other times and completely crushes his opposition.
And this is only one of many similar scenarios of unbalanced game. You almost never experience a game, in which you have can congratulate yourself and enjoy a win. There are huge holes in mechanisms of this game.
All ideas are actually good, for example era cards, but the whole game acts as a machine full of impossibly tiny cogs (read good ideas). But someone forgot to logically put them together, so the whole gear grinds.
S-Evolution is truly unbalanced, unfinished and overall really bad. Very bad game. And that’s all probably just due to excessive pursuit of innovation to a genre, that does not actually need any. In any case, there is at least one positive: game can be played in two, three and even four players similarly well.
Review: S-Evolution – its all about being civilized
S-Evolution plays out very strangely. In one minute, you infinitely enjoy game and you think that it is really good, having fun from smart ideas, strategizing to achieve the victory ... and suddenly everything goes wrong and first error sets in, destroying experience of the rest of the game. After the first illogicality, there appear more and more, until you actually realize, that this game is nearly not finished work and looks good only on paper. Somebody forgot to playtest it before publishing. What a pity, because the potential was really there. Shame on you, S-Evolution, shame on you..