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How do you decide on the numbers for scale/food chain/terrain/move/flight attributes?

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What are the actual sizes which relate to each scale? E.g. is a size 4 creature between, say, 2cm and 10cm? (And does it include the tail or just head and body?)

Also, how is the food chain number worked out, specifically 3 or 4? In the UK, we have no food chain 4 cards in the current pack, yet I would think that a red fox or peregrine falcon were food chain 4- we don't really have any bigger predators.

I am also trying to work out the terrains - what would you classify moorland or mountains as? And how about arable or pasture? (This is a large percentage of the UK, and also why most of our biodiversity is small.)

And finally, what real statistic does the move/flight come from? Is it from the size of their territory or the distance the young travel to find a new territory or their distance of migration or their speed of moving...? Why are nearly all 2?

Thanks a lot, I'm having a lot of fun with this game!


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There's a glossary section that highlights the rough gradation of the sizes (it's rough in that there are some cards that could fit into two values) - If a number seems off, the best thing to do is leave a comment in the permalink for the card.

For the terrain, we had to simplify and sort of narrow down to 7 approximate types of landscape (out of the huge number of different terrains we could of listed). Again, there's a little bit of gray here. For example, moorlands and mountains tend to be somewhere between grassland and tundra type scenarios, where the difference would depend on the level of vegetation (or in the case of mountains, how high up you go). I'd say farmland best fits under the grassland category, although an orchard could be thought of more closely as a forest type.

Food chain value of 4 is pretty rare, and usually reserved for organisms that are clearly apex predators hunting large prey. i.e.For the UK, I'm not sure there really would be something comparable to, say, a lion or a polar bear. i.e. for a fox, it still works as a three because a 3 can eat a 3 if the scale works. Still, I see the issue (i.e. why can't a lion eat a massive #2?) Hmm... maybe we need to get rid of 4s or be more careful with them (i.e. I think the Polar bear still works, as well as something like a killer whale).

The move and flight numbers are pretty arbitrary (with the exception of creatures who are particularly noted for their speed or distance). 2 was a value chosen, because it work in the context of allowing players to "escape" from detrimental situations, without it being too easy to escape. It's one of those numbers that primarily came to be by play testing.

Hope this helps!

(Also, we just released a new starter deck and have slightly modified the rules a bit - go to and click on the links just after the START)

Game on!

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I think, rather than get rid of 4s if anything you could introduce 5's for these apex predators? This gradation is important - but it is location dependent. In the UK, the sequence is generally plant -> insect -> bird/small animal -> bird of prey/fox. We don't have 'top' predators, but to show the complexity of the food web, I think you need 4 levels in the food web at least. They talk about 4 levels when they teach them in school.

Some creatures quite obviously move less than others, the one that does have a move of 1 is a sloth - but it would it be interesting for there to be more variety in the move/flight options? Again, making the play more strategic. You'd be more careful in our siting of a 1 than a 2.

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Yeah, the food chain discussion is interesting. It would be cool to have higher levels, but I think the worry is that if it's too gradated, things can get complicated (i.e. the creature who can do a 5, but can also eat smaller things like 3's, versus creatures who are 5, but can only eat big things (say a 2 of certain scale and not 3's).

Leaving it 1, 2, 3 might work more simply, which tends to be a big bonus in game design.

It would be cool however, to have other games designed where these food web nuances can be further explored. Maybe with a board that details specific connections?

Anyway, nice to see the forum humming again. This is a good discussion to keep going!

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Hm. Seems like we've got a problem here which is not entirely unlike the question of "what is a species?". Biological critters do whatever the heck they want, and no matter how we humans try to divide them up (whether dividing 'em up into species, or dividing 'em up into places in the food-chain hierarchy, or dividing 'em up however), there just plain will be boundary cases that Just Don't Fit.
In other words, there's no way to assign food-chain numbers perfectly; there will always be critters which Just Don't Fit into whatever little boxes we try to put 'em in. So we may as well use a scheme which works for the game -- and make sure it's easy for players to find out about where the game-data doesn't quite match up to reality.

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Totally with you Cubist. In many ways, it exactly that sentiment (pretty much anything goes) which makes biodiversity so amazing!

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Suggestion: For a critter which genuinely is an 'edge case', or which genuinely can be considered to have different values for game-stats in different circumstances, why not have multiple versions of their Phylo card? Let's say you've got 2 different versions of Critter X in your hand; when you play Critter X, you put down both versions of the Critter X card, stacked on top of each other with one version visible and the other 'hidden' below, and you use the game-stats of the version that's on top. Later, in a subsequent turn. you can re-stack the Critter X cards to put the formerly-'hidden' version on top, and 'hide' the formerly-visible version. And if your hand acquires an alternate version of one of the cards you've already played, you can stack the newly-acquired version on the already-played card as a 'free action'.
If we do go the 'alternate versions' route, it might be appropriate to anoint one specific version of Card X as 'the one true Card X' for game purposes.
Yes? No?

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Interesting idea to have different versions of a card. This could show the different positions of a species in the food chain in different countries.

As I want to make a British set, it would be easiest for me to put the food chain number that fitted the UK on them and it would make my set work properly.

Looking more into British 'top predators', there is a difference between where they are in the food chain in Britain and in other places.

For example, red foxes, it seems, ( compete for food with wolves, grey foxes, coyotes, jackals and hyenas and are sometimes killed by them. They are eaten by leopards, caracals, lynxes, cougars, bobcats and large raptors. But none of these other animals exist in the UK, making a fox a top predator here. The 'true card' mentioned by Cubist would put a fox as not a top predator - as would have been the case when we still had wild places!

On the other hand, a level 5 for a top/apex predator would seem simpler in terms of playing the game:


Trophic levels can be represented by numbers, starting at level 1 with plants. Further trophic levels are numbered subsequently according to how far the organism is along the food chain.
Level 1: Plants and algae make their own food and are called primary producers.
Level 2: Herbivores eat plants and are called primary consumers.
Level 3: Carnivores which eat herbivores are called secondary consumers.
Level 4: Carnivores which eat other carnivores are called tertiary consumers.
Level 5: Apex predators which have no predators are at the top of the food chain.

But it's hard to know the affect this would have on the game.

By the way, I like the extended/optional rules in the new rules, where players can challenge each other if cards placed are not realistic.

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