I've been working on a concept for a board game for the past 2 months or so. It's called Population and is a game about being the best at evolution and survival. I'm still writing up some cards for it, but here, have some core rules to discuss!
The game of evolution
Items needed 3 population cards per player; 5 markers per player; ALL the cards; 32 intelligence markers.
Population card (all traits start at 3)
Populace (8 spots) - this represents the size of the population and should range from tens to hundreds to thousands
Sun (8 spots) - resistance to heat and drought, it ranges from not being able to leave the shade for fear of drying out to crossing deserts on a whim.
Snow (8 spots) - resistance to cold and harsh weather, ranges from a naked creature with no fat layer to a mountain of blubber and fur that can function as a winter lair for smaller creatures.
Food (8 spots) - ability to find and diversify food sources, determines whether your creatures can eat only 2 days old wild strawberries that grow to the west or defy the very concept of food by eating rocks and sunlight.
Claw (8 spots) - ability to evade or defeat predators, determines whether your creature tries to avoid being eaten by being too pathetic to eat or by destroying a species for having looked hungrily at them once.
The set of cards that come in 3 varieties.
1) Generation cards. These represent the ebb end flow of genetic drift, with mutations spreading throughout a population while new offspring are being born. These can have beneficial effects, adverse ones or both at the same time.
The format is
(1) +2 Sun, -1 Claw
(2) +1 Food
(3) +1 Sun, -2 Snow
These cards are played on a player’s species, who then must distribute the stated effects among their populations. If there’s one population, only the first effect applies. If there are two populations, then the first two must be applied. And if there are all three - then all effects are applied in any order the owner chooses, though always one per population.
Every time a generation card is played on a player’s species, all populations of that species gain +1 size.
Once a population reaches maximum population, at the end of their turn, the player may reduce its population to 4 and bring another population into play with population 3 and resistances identical to its parent population.
2) Selection cards. These represent the various environmental pressures that exist in the game world; they cull the weak and the unfit and leave the strong. The format is
4 SUN [3 FOOD]
These cards are played on and affect the entire board. The number indicates the amount of pressure the specified threat is exerting. If a population’s resistance is equal or greater, it ignores the selection. If its resistance is lower, then the population loses as many size points as is the difference between the threat and the resistance.
3) Intelligence cards. These represent memetic advances as opposed to genetic ones. They function as resistance points, but with an important difference. Since memes propagate significantly faster than genes and don’t depend on the creature’s physical traits, they are permanent in a population and are only removed when the population becomes extinct. So if a population has 2 intelligence points and one physical point in cold resistance, then a -2 selection will only bring it down to 2.
Decide the first player by any arbitrary means available to you. At the start of the game each player draws two cards. At the start of their turn, each player draws two cards and then plays one from their hand. If it’s a Mutation card, they must nominate a player who receives its effects, themself included. The receiving player then distributes the effects. If it’s a Selection card, they play it to the center of the board and all players resolve the effects. If it’s an intelligence card, they add an intellect token to a single population in the specified resistance. At the end of their turn the player discards one card to have only two remaining. Check for victory conditions and decide to split populations now.
The winner is either the last species left alive or the first species to have three full populations (probably too easy) or the first species to have a population with complete resistance to everything. If all species are wiped out in an extinction event, well… future archaeologists will probably inspire a movie where a scientist decides to clone your species from its remains to create an amusement park, but a power failure unleashes a rampaging horde of… you get the idea.