Teaching Evolution Through Board Games
Playtime: 60 minutes
Teach time: 25 minutes
Game difficulty: Medium
Timespan: not stated, analogous conditions to Pleistocene
Key educational concepts: evolutionary arms race, adaptation, interspecies interactions, climate-species interactions, evolutionary physiology
Associated curriculum materials: paper: ‘What really is Evolution?’, paper: 'Simulating evolution: how close do computer models come to reality?', paper: “Human Evolution Out of Africa: The Role of Refugia and Climate Change”
Create your own cards template: FILE
In Evolution: Climate, players evolve their species to outsmart other player’s species competing for the same limited food. To get an edge, players can adapt their species to carnivores (which now eat other species), increase foraging efficiency, or boost reproductive rate. Avoid other predators by evolving a hard shell, flying, or burrowing. Evolution: Climate changes Evolution: The Beginning (and other games in the Evolution series) from a two-dimensional game, where players deal with the threats of starvation and predation, into a three-dimensional game by adding the effects of changing climates. Avoid extinction from changing climates by evolving heavy fur, cooling frills, or by migrating. Points are scored for eating, and for the species you have left at the end of the game. The player with the most points wins.
Evolution: Climate is a card-driven game where every card has multiple uses, potentially contributing to accessible food for herbivores, contributing to warming or cooling the climate, representing a new species, replicating an existing species, or can be used as a special trait on a species (for example: horns, flight, increased fertility, or a long neck, to name a few). The goal is to survive until the next round and maximize all your species food intake (which occurs at the end of your turn). Each turn, players draw 4 cards plus 1 card for each species they have. Then all players must simultaneously select one card in their hand to secretly add to the "watering hole." Each card features a range of food values and some possess climate symbols ('suns' or 'snowflakes'). The sum of all players’ food values determines the amount of plant food available during the feeding phase that round. The climate can become warmer or colder if there are more ‘suns’ or ‘snowflakes’ among all the cards played to the watering hole. Warmer climates add additional food to the watering hole, but negatively affect larger animals. Conversely, cooler climates reduce food and negatively affect smaller animals.
After everyone plays a card to the watering hole, additional cards can be played to represent a new species, an increase in body size, a replicate of an existing species (increasing its population), or for use as a special trait on a species. After cards are played, players take turns feeding their species until all food in the watering hole is consumed and all carnivores have eaten. Any unfed species goes extinct.
This, and other games in the Evolution series possess the most amazing artwork. The imaginative and bright watercolor art perfectly weaves the elegance of gameplay with its evolutionary theme.
Learning and teaching the game
Evolution: Climate is a fairly easy game to learn and teach. If you are teaching this game to players that have never played one of games in the Evolution series, I highly recommend that you follow the publisher's recommendation, and in the first game, do not use the climate track.
Evolution: Climate is our top-rated evolution themed strategy board game for use as an educational resource. The added complexity and interplay between the climate (compared to its distilled little brother Evolution: The Beginning) dramatically expand the potential uses for educational purposes. Even with added complexity, the gameplay remains fairly easy to understand (and for me to teach). We think this game is a great hands-on activity to complement curriculum on evolutionary arms races, geologic mass extinction events, climate change (both future and past), ecological and evolutionary physiology, and interspecific interactions.
Evolution: Climate is a phenomenal game full of rich strategic and tactical decisions. I highly recommend this for most high-school and college students. However, given its complexity, be prepared for a few students to be a bit overwhelmed.*
*If this happens don’t hesitant to simplify some aspect of the game that doesn’t compromise your learning objectives (e.g. remove carnivores or remove some of the more complicated traits).
Box cover (Image credit: Dominic Crapuchettes)
A few of the traits cards that mitigate climate change (image credit: Steph Hodge - punkin312)
Each species has a player board. The green cubes are it's population size and brown cubes are it's body size, and it's traits are on top (image credit: Steph Hodge - punkin312)
The climate track (at top) and watering hole (bottom) (image credit: kalchio)
The ecosystem at the end of a game (image credit: kalchio)
23 unique trait cards in Evolution: Climate (image credit: kalchio)