Ecosystems rock! They really do, and to be honest, we sometimes think the word “ecosystem” is kind of bland and just doesn’t do justice to the concept. That’s why we hope in this game, the inherent awesomeness of this ecological term will soon become pretty clear. Here, two players will have the opportunity to play with cards (from a potential card set of over 1.9 million!), and build an ecosystem that is complete with many different species interconnected by terrain, climate and habitat. However, players also get to compete against each other by tallying up and seeing who has the most points at the end of the game. These points basically reveal who did the better job at creating the strongest, richest, and most diverse elements of the ecosystem. Why do you want strong, rich and diverse? Because the environment can be nasty sometimes – and biodiversity, especially lots of it, is really really good at safe-guarding against such things.
FIRST A WORD ABOUT COMPATIBILITY...
Let’s start by saying that the word “compatibility” comes up an awful lot in this game. But what it’s referring to is pretty straightforward. On all of the cards, there are details that tell you what kind of conditions it needs – for example, this might be the kind of terrain or climate involved, the food it likes, or maybe the card you’re holding is very very picky and needs something very very specific. In any event, we hope you’ll pick things up pretty quick. It’s amazing how a statement like “herbivores eat plants” translates to a mouthful when describing it in card keywords and numbers, but mark our words, we’ve tried our best to make everything largely intuitive.
THERE ARE A FEW CATEGORY OF CARDS...
A player’s species cards are always played adjacent to at least one compatible card under that same player’s control.
These are the cards that represent the various organisms on our planet Earth. In essence, all values and attributes on the card aim to describe the creature as in real life (i.e. the cards are more or less like fact holders). Attributes on the cards include #SCALE (how big is it), #FOODCHAIN, DIET (these two provide information on what the species needs for sustenance), as well as habitat information (various combinations of TERRAIN and CLIMATE). These cards will also have other pieces of info, such as words that describe their evolutionary position, as well as text that may explain some special ability or interesting trivia. Note that each species is also worth a certain number of points, which have been calculated based on the ease to include them in the ecosystem. i.e. creatures with wide habitat options, lower food chain expectations, and/or have properties that make them easier to play will score lower.
Event cards can be played on any species card.
These cards define some sort of environmental situation, and are played on top of species cards. This will often result in a change of some sort that may have a domino effect on neighbouring cards. The number on the top of these cards signify duration (number of turns the event is played). A strategic element of this game will largely depend on building ecosystems that can adapt to such events or are minimally affected.
Starter cards are played only at the beginning of the game.
Starter cards are typically HOME cards. The game starts with each player having a HOME card played on the table separated only by a single space. You can play any SPECIES next to a starter card regardless of TERRAIN and CLIMATE requirements.
Habitat cards can be played anywhere as long as it is placed adjacent to a single card with at least one TERRAIN and one CLIMATE match.
These cards define a habitat (with TERRAIN and CLIMATE information). You can play these cards just like species cards and connect to existing "compatible" networks. Habitat cards are worth very little points, but compensate by being immune to EVENTS (i.e. they are permanent). Played strategically, they can help anchor certain TERRAIN and CLIMATE conditions, as well as allow players to begin species networks in areas not under their control. Note that you can also start a game with a habitat card (instead of a starter card) – this way of starting is more restrictive given the terrain and climate limitations, but you get to score a few extra points.
O.K. WHAT TO DO AT THE BEGINNING...
Two players will sit facing each other, each with a deck of 30 cards. Decks can be thematic (i.e. only locale specific cards), or hand chosen by the player from the Phylo website. Whenever a card is played, it is always facing the player – this way, ownership of cards is clear throughout the game. Each player will also place a STARTER (or preselected HABITAT) card on the table, such that the two such cards are adjacent to each other. Each player will then randomly draw 5 cards from their deck. To decide who goes first, each player reveals a species card from their hand. Whoever reveals the species with the highest #SCALE goes first (flip a coin if tied).
HOW TO BUILD ECOSYSTEMS (DID WE MENTION HOW AWESOME THEY ARE?) PLUS, WE ATTEMPT TO DEFINE “COMPATIBILITY.”
This is the essence of the game and is primarily done by creating networks of SPECIES and HABITAT cards. Here, cards are placed against each other such that at least one compatible link is present. Compatibility is based on several things, which all must be met by at least one single card. These are:
1. That there is space on the table to place the card. There are some exceptions to this rule, where cards can be played on top or below existing cards - these often involve SPECIES with special keywords, such as being INVASIVE as an example (see 4). Note that SPECIES cards can only be played next to other cards under the same player’s control. HABITAT cards can be played next to either player’s cards.
2. That at least one TERRAIN and one CLIMATE match. Note that many species can exist in more that one TERRAIN and/or CLIMATE. These cards, therefore, tend to be easier to build networks around.
3. That at least one acceptable food chain link is available. This is hopefully fairly intuitive, as the game uses basic food chain principles. However, from a card perspective, this would involve the following rules.
- Species with a #FOODCHAIN value of “1” can be played adjacent to any other card as long as there is TERRAIN and CLIMATE compatibility. This simply means that things like plants and microbes do not rely on other SPECIES for food. i.e. they get sustenance from the sun or the chemistry around them.
- Generally, for #FOODCHAIN of 2 or higher, the card is placed next to one with a #FOODCHAIN value that is equivalent or one below. However, exceptions to this include omnivores, which (regardless of #FOODCHAIN rank) can always have the option being played next to a plantae species (who have a #FOODCHAIN value of 1).
- Whenever the play implies a carnivorous linkage, the played card must have a higher #SCALE value unless text on the card provides an exemption. This simply means that, generally speaking, animals will tend to feed off of smaller animals. This, of course, does not apply to herbivorous interactions (i.e. an animal can still feed from a plant even though the plant may be bigger).
4. Some species have special keywords that allow them to be placed directly on top or below other SPECIES card. Here, compatibility is always described on the card itself, as well as needing to meet the usual ecosystem building rules. Note that there can never be more than 2 SPECIES cards in the same card space (no card towers of 3 or higher), unless special text on the card exempts this. Below are some of the more commonly seen keywords:
- INVASIVE: Any compatible card is flipped over, when an INVASIVE species is played on top. This means that the INVASIVE card now provides TERRAIN and CLIMATE information for that space. This also means that the player now has the option to build from the INVASIVE card (as it is under his/her control). Note that the card below may be released should the INVASIVE card be removed due to linkage or EVENT CARD issues.
- PARASITIC: These cards are placed below the compatible “host” SPECIES card. Here, they do not play a role in determining ecosystem details (i.e. TERRAIN, CLIMATE, etc) for that card space, but they can be used for scoring at the end of the game. Note that although many PARASITIC species cards require a host, there are also many that can be played like a normal SPECIES card.
CHANGING THE ECOSYSTEM (A.K.A. ENVIRONMENTAL EVENTS!)
Much like the natural world, ecosystems are susceptible to all sorts of change. Sometimes, this might be small (it’s windy), whereas other times, it may be quite profound (climate change). In this game, there are a number of ways to modify the networks that you and your opponent have created. These offer ways for you to stress, adapt, or strengthen existing card links, be it your own or your opponents. Remember that because the ecosystem is built on compatible linkage, sometimes a single card change or loss can result in a domino effect with far reaching consequences!
Ways to change the ecosystem include:
1. A species card is affected by placement of another species card on top or below. Examples include the aforementioned INVASIVE and PARASITIC keywords.
2. You “move” a card. Most species are mobile. This mobility can change compatibility links, as well as provide a way to escape harmful effects. This can be represented by keywords such as:
MOVE (the number of spots a species card can move – straight line, up, down, sideways movement only);
FLIGHT (the number of spots a species can fly – same as MOVE but can also include diagonal movement); and
SPREAD (similar to the MOVE keyword, in that it allows organisms such as plants to MOVE. The principle differences are that (1) often this ability requires something additional (like the presence of a POLLINATOR or a WIND Event card), and (2) instead of moving the species, you place cards upside down and adjacent to the spreading species card denote the spread. Here, it might be good idea to place a token on these upside down cards so that you can keep track of what is yours (note that seeds make good tokens)!
3. You play an EVENT card. These cards are played on compatible species cards, whereby the described effect comes into play. This often involves things like changes in the TERRAIN, CLIMATE, loss of the species card, etc.
In all cases, the other player will always have an opportunity to react to the change, before examining whether species cards need to be discarded because of loss of compatible linkage.
At the start, there will always be two “starter” cards. Whenever cards are played, they are played facing the active player to distinguish possession. During each turn, a player does the following in this order:
1. Draw two cards from the deck.
2. Take three actions from the following choices (it’s o.k. to do two or three actions that are the same):
• Discard 1 card into discard pile to draw 3 cards.
• Play a habitat card (next to any compatible card).
• Play a species card (next to a compatible card under your control).
• Play an Event card.
• MOVE a species card to new compatible spot (new position need not be next to a card under your control).
• Pass and do nothing.
3. After your actions, remove cards under your control that are no longer have compatible connections. These go into your discard pile. Your opponent will probably help you out here! (NOTE that this step is done after your three actions so that you have an opportunity to react to ecosystem changes introduced by the other player)
4. Alternate turns. When a player has taken their last card from their deck, the game ends at the conclusion of the other player’s turn.
5. Tally up all the points that are in your possession and still face up (even those under cards) and still on the table. Winner is the player with the most number of points.
EXAMPLE OF PLAY I'll put this up on the website when all is ready.
Last edited by davehwng on Thu Jun 24, 2010 8:08 pm; edited 2 times in total