Review: Time to Fly – Evolution Evolved
Last year, I reviewed a series of Russian games that included Evolution: the Origin of the Species. Now the first expansion is available for English speakers; Time to Fly includes several new upgrades for your animals, and a devious little Angler Fish that can really change up gameplay.
The Basics. Gameplay remains largely unchanged from the base. Instead, Time to Fly adds in several new traits for the players to add to their creatures. It comes with new tokens as well, as new abilities may give you more creatures that will need to eat. Other than the new traits, nothing else changes.
The new traits, though, are very interesting and add a lot new quirks to the strategy and tactics available. Some of them, like Flight and Intelligent, are reminiscent of base game traits. Flight can make it more difficult for a carnivore to eat the creature. Intelligent allows a carnivore to ignore one defensive trait from potential prey. Others are more unique. Shell allows a creature to retreat into its shell and avoid being eaten – though it will be unable to get food if it hasn’t already or doesn’t have stored fats.
Other traits are completely new. Specialization allows your creature to get access to more food if it is the only animal with that specialization. Even better, Vivaparous allows the player to create a new animal when the vivaparous animal is fed. So, suddenly, there are tons of new creatures out there that are potentially worth a lot of points – or a lot of food to carnivorous opponents.
The Feel. By just adding the new cards, the feel of the game is relatively unchanged from the base. With one very notable, and quite awesome exception: the Angler Fish. In real life, an angler fish is that creepy fish with a protrusion on its head that attracts other tasty fish to eat. It is a major change from the base game.
The Angler Fish is played face down like any other animal. And, as long as it doesn’t have any additional traits on it, it acts as a lure. Come over and eat me, he says. I’m nothing to worry about, little carnivore. If a carnivore attacks any of your traitless animals, the Angler Fish can strike. It actually eats the attacker and you can laugh a cruel victory laugh. This change means that carnivores are more likely to play cautiously and may even forgo defenseless animals for those with traits on them.
If you can combine that with the Viparaous trait, it can lead to some interesting actions. The players must decide whether to attack and kill the numerous creatures and risk losing a powerful carnivore, or just let another player build up. This also introduces an excellent bluffing aspect to the game that can be fun and tense. I’ve played down a regular, non-Angler card and then let it be known that it’s an Angler. It’s a fun tactic.
The only thing that keeps Time to Fly from being an insta-buy for fans is that it increases game length. The game is still played until the deck runs out of cards. With the base game, that lasted about 30-45 minutes. Now, it’s definitely a 45-60 minute game and that’s simply too long for what Evolution is. This is still a good 20-30 minute game, and Time to Fly adds some nice elements, but this is not a game that warrants an hour play time. What my group has done is to simply cut the deck in half. It’s not a perfect solution, but it keeps the playtime reasonable.
Components: 3.5 of 5. The cards are the same size and quality as the base game. They mesh nicely and retain the same grainy texture as the prior cards. The new food is a little strange, in that the square tokens have been replaced by round ones. This isn’t a big deal because there’s no mechanic that differentiates between square and round, but it a little odd.
Strategy/Luck Balance: 3.5 of 5. For the most part, the new traits do not tip the balance any further towards luck or strategy. Luck is still very present, though clever play does a good job mitigating it. It might be a hair more strategic just based on the inclusion of the angler fish.
Mechanics: 4 of 5. The best part of this expansion is how seamlessly it integrates into the base game. You don’t have to worry about new rules or new layers. Instead, you just throw the new cards in and you are good to go. While it does have the drawback of increasing play time, it otherwise flows very well. The one downside is that adding the new cards waters down the base deck which makes carnivores less dangerous. If you get the Camouflage card, for example, it’s rarer for the carnivores to get the right counter. The Intellect card helps, but also requires more food for the predator.
Replayability: 4 of 5. By increasing the variety of of traits, it also increases the replayability. There are a lot more interactions and there can be many new choices of play.
Spite: 4 of 5. The expansion keeps the spite flowing. Trematode is a parasite-like card linking two creatures together and causing them both to be less efficient.
Overall: 3 of 5. New abilities and traits? Great! Angler Fish? Inspired. Increased play time? Totally unwelcome. That’s the long and short of it. If you are a fan of Evolution, then Time to Fly is a great addition. Just beware the additional time commitment.
(A special thanks to Right Games for providing a review copy of Evolution: Time to Fly)