Introduce, adapt and evolve different animals, so they can roam the planet and race to the end of the continents in this very clever and fun racing game from Richard Breese.
Inhabit the Earth is a racing game. You introduce, multiply, evolve or adapt species on six continents and you try to advance these animals on the different continent tracks.
You do all this by playing cards. A card represents a type of animal and has four characteristics. It belongs to a class, inhabits a certain continent, it shows the type of terrain it inhabits and it shows the ability it has. For instance, this cheetah is a predator, it lives in Asia and it inhabits the desert.
The board consists of six continent boards (four in the introductory game). Each board is divided into three regions and a track is snaking through the continent with on it spots depicting different terrain types, like the desert type and spots with one or two bonus tokens. These bonus tokens have a terrain type or continent depicted on them, with or without points, and you can use them throughout the game after you acquired them.
The game is played over several turns and it ends when two creature tokens, introduced by the players, reach the end of one of the tracks. Players then add up their points from unused tokens, the region number their creature tokens are in and the points from end-game scoring conditions described on some creature cards. The player with the most points is the winner.
In your turn you have to choose one of three actions. You can execute a menagerie action, a breed action or a movement action.
A menagerie action may consist of several sub-actions. You pay one card for every sub-action you pick. When you perform the Introduce sub-action, you place a card in front of you and place the corresponding counter on the continent it inhabits. A player can only introduce six times, because there are only six counters in every colour, one for every class in the game. When you Multiply, you place a card from the same class underneath an existing creature in front of you, the icons must be visible. When you Evolve you place a card from the same class on top of one of your existing creatures, thereby giving it a new ability, because only the ability of the card on top is active. Lastly, when you Adapt, you give a creature the continent and terrain type features of a card with another class icon. You have to rotate the card and place it underneath. You may notice that when you rotate the cheetah card, only the Asia and Desert icon on the left are visible, the Predator icon is gone.
You start the game with six cards in your hand, but because you play cards to perform Menagerie actions and to move, more on that later, you need some way to acquire more cards. That’s what breeding is for. You then flip a creature token that’s on the board to its black side and then you draw cards equal to the number of that type of creature you have in your menagerie plus the region number it is in. So, if you have a bird class token in region two and you have three bird cards in your menagerie, you may draw five cards from any of the three decks. However, the region with the same number must be inhabited by any player.
There are three decks. You start with cards from deck one, which have abilities that can help you throughout the game. The cards in deck two can also have end-game scoring conditions, like 1 point for each creature in your menagerie with an Asia icon. Deck number three only has cards with end-game scoring condition, but these might have scoring condition that may not activate, like you get four points if you have more reptiles than any other player.
The last action you can do, and must do, because it’s a racing game, is Movement. To move you have to play a card from your hand. You then look at the icons on that card and place a cube in your colour on all your creatures that have one or more of those three icons. Like when you play the Cheetah as a movement card, you mark your Predator and the creatures that have an Asia and/ or a Desert icon. Then you check, from your first introduced creature to your last one, if the activated creature moves or not.
You do that by checking if the creature’s cards have the same icon as the next icon on the track where the creature’s token is on. Lets look at the cheetah again. He located in Asia (below), so we look at the first icon on the track in front of the blue Predator token. It’s a rainforest icon and the cheetah has two of them. You then place a black cube on one rainforest card icon and move the blue Predator token onto the rainforest icon. OK, does the cheetah have a grassland icon? No, he doesn’t. Luckily the icons that match the continent the creature is on are considered a wild-card, so the cheetah can move onto the grassland icon. He then checks if he has a desert icon, the yellow Herbivore covers another icon up, so you don’t have to look at that. Yes, he has a desert icon, so he moves onto the desert. As you can see the cheetah can move along the track until he moves onto the mountain icon. He cannot move into the deciduous forest because he neither has a matching icon or a wild-card any more. He is however the first one to move over the blue token, so he can take that token and use it later on, or keep it for some points, one in this case, at the end of the game.
After you’ve moved a creature token you must flip it to its white side, so you can use that creature again for breeding. There’s one other rule when moving your creature and that is that at the beginning or at the end of your movement a creature can migrate from one continent to another if it has the target continent’s icon. He then moves to the first available spot of the same region he was in on the continent he came from.
When two creatures reach the end of a track, the game ends and the player with the most points wins the game.
I like games where you can use cards for multiple actions. This is such a game and, again, I like it. You can use cards for one of the four menagerie actions, but you also have to discard another card to do so. However, many deck one cards do have abilities that make you evolve, multiply, adapt or introduce for free once a turn. So, choosing the right special abilities is important too, you can’t just blindly introduce all classes as quickly as possible. You really have to think about which creature you are going to introduce, because its ability may be critical for your success.
Later in the game, when you start drawing from deck two or three, you also have to think about your end-game scoring conditions. They will help you win the game, but they will also cover up handy in-game abilities from the creatures in your menagerie. Luckily some abilities will be less important later in the game, because you, for instance, already introduced all six classes and now you don’t need the ‘introduce for free’ ability anymore.
You want to build-up, multiply, your creature for two things. You will get more cards if you use that creature for breeding and you’ll be able to move farther along the continent. If you’ve done it right of course.
And that’s something to get used to. The movement mechanism is pretty clever, but during your first game you, probably, have a very short-term strategy. These icons come up, so I’ll need these icons for my creature. Later in the game, when you’ve seen one or two creatures move, you’ll get a better idea how to do it. You basically need a test game to see how it all works and see what is possible.
You may decide that every creature you have must have one or two common icons, so you can activate them all at once. Or you start thinking about migrating, because the terrain in region three doesn’t match the features of your creature. You start realizing that the amount of creatures you have of the same class is limited to six, so you can’t place a card underneath that will only help you once. Well, you can, but after it has done its job it sits there being useless. You can’t replace it for another card.
Near the end, the game becomes really tense. Then you can see that you might have only three turns to go and you have to almost calculate if moving your animals is better for you or giving some of your animals a nice end-game scoring condition is better or improving your animals so your existing end-game scoring condition will give you even more points.
As for the illustrations and the components, I like the first and I’m not a fan of the second. Stickers on wooden tokens? Flimsy transparent chips to place on you creatures continent icon? Thin cardboard scoring tokens? Nope, it’s all a bit flimsy. I do like the art. I get that people find the box-art, the eyes in particular, a bit creepy, I do think so too, but the art on the cards, although it’s very similar to the box-art, looks cute instead of creepy.
The box-art is an homage to Wildlife Adventure by the way, which is a very nice family game for those who are interested.
Back to Inhabit the Earth. It’s a very fun, Euro style, racing game. It’s not a light game. It’s a very thinky game, where you’ll have to get used to the way your creatures move, the idea of making your animals better and the fact that cards are used for actions and as a currency. Like I said in the beginning, this game has that mechanism I really like, multi-purpose cards, and it’s done in a very fun way.
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