PAX Unplugged may be behind us now, but that only means we are getting started with all our exciting coverage! And that begins with a quick news flash from one of our favorite publishers, North Star Games.
Evolution and Oceans have been longstanding favorites at our local game nights for years, various copies of these games and their expansions shared across several of our shelves. Imagine our delight when we heard that their newest title, Nature, aims to be what the designer states they always wanted Evolution to—well—evolve into. That certainly got our attention.
The opening offerings are a base deck, four extra module decks to combine, and a 5th module that offers random events. Artwork and components featured in this photo are not final, though Catherine Hamilton is working on the art of this project as she did with Evolution.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Players are dealt a hand of cards that they refill every turn. They use these cards to add traits to species and also to add food to a communal pile of points to be gobbled up. A familiar formula. What differs this time around is that a base deck of cards has between zero and two additional themed decks used alongside it, creating a fresh feel with every new combo. Themed decks all tweak the rules slightly, making every combination spicy without ever over-cluttering the streamlined grace of the core experience. A dinosaur themed deck doubles species size, for example, making a game of titanic creatures battling for supremacy. The tundra deck makes food much more scarce. A rainforest deck does the reverse, making food abundant but also allowing for face-down card ambushes in a predatory and hostile environment.
We’ve been assured that, thematically, the ways you can combine these decks won’t conflict with one another. For example, with the previously aforementioned rainforest and tundra decks, you’re allowed one “biome” in addition to another deck if you wish it. Each deck adds about 20 minutes of playtime and is lovingly (and painstakingly) tested for balance when combined with every other deck. No small feat considering there are plans to support this game for many years to come. New expansions are already being considered for release down the road, compatible and clean with everything already releasing. Normally I’m wary of early expansion development, but in this case planning ahead just makes sense. And in terms of support for a game you love, you love to see it.
If you'd like to join the Nature Discord, you can use the link at the end of this article or zap this QR code and follow the links there into their community.
Nature aims to sit in a very special place on many shelves: a single game that can hook new board gamers as well as entertain vets. With just its core deck, it presents an easily digestible bite, simple to teach and fast to play. Mix in the expansions when your players are ready, or mix two in for some serious strategy. Any game that pulls double duty like that is must for any gamer’s library, in my opinion.
Want a taste of this new game now? You can find it on Tabletop Simulator, and you can join the discord for help in playtesting and giving feedback! Additionally, the designer has said in no uncertain terms that anyone who regularly helps playtest can be considered for a more in-depth playtester position as this game and its expansions continue development. If that sounds like you, North Star could use your help! Don’t be shy!
You can bet we’ll be keeping our eyes on this game as it develops. And if you need even more Evolution-style gameplay in your life, why not check out our review of the also-great Oceans? You can browse it while catching up with posts on the Nature Discord. And hey, say hi to us if you see us in chat there.