Teaching Evolution Through Board Games
On the Origin of Species
Playtime: 45-60 minutes
Teach time: 20 minutes
Game difficulty: Medium
Number of players: 2-4
Timespan: September - October 1835
Key educational concepts: the history of Darwin's voyage through the Galapagos
Favorite rules video: publisher video
On the Origin of Species takes you back 1835 on the eve of Charles Darwin’s voyage to the Galapagos. In this game, players compete to describe the prestigious species. Players ‘research’ various habitats throughout the Galapagos accruing ‘knowledge’ in three colors (yellow, green, and blue), which used to describe species. The Beagle tracks the game progress, and when it leaves the Galapagos, the game ends and the player with the most points (based on species descriptions and sets of cards collected from the ‘habitat knowledge’ decks).
Learning and teaching the game
On the Origin of Species is a bit difficult to learn, particularly given the game’s medium weight. However, once learned, the game is relatively easy to teach.
On the Origin of Species is an abstract title laying and set-collection game. Players take turns choosing between two actions: performing ‘research’ or ‘discovering’ new species. If conducting research, players place cubes on species tiles on the game board, gaining various types of knowledge. Alternatively, players can ‘discover’ a species paying its ‘habitat knowledge’ cost by removing their cubes from adjacent habitat tiles. Once understood, the gameplay is relatively easy. However, the game’s turn-to-turn tactics mixed with the spatial placement rules result in satisfying and relatively complex decisions.
One thing, I suggest to do to stream-line gameplay is to purchase four ten-sided dice in the following three colors: green, yellow, and blue. Each player will use one die of each color to track their corresponding habitat knowledge across the landscape. This dramatically reduced the constant counting of 'habitat knowledge' values and allows players to focus on filling in the knowledge gaps to describe the marine iguana (or, at least, that is what I always want to do--- take that Thomas Bell!).
On the Origin of Species would be a great compliment to a science history course or a field course that visits the Galapagos.
On the Origin of Species is a highly interactive game, full of tactile choices with one of my favorite themes, which was beatify portrayed. I broadly recommend this game, particularly to those that enjoy abstract strategy games or to Darwin fanatics!
Box cover (image credit: Mont Taber)
A few of the equipment and people cards available (image credit: Artipia Games)
A few of the species titles available (image credit: Artipia Games)
Game play overview (image credit: Artipia Games)