Lessons in Evolutionary Biology

Evolution Game

Evolution Game

Instructions for playing the game:

(printable pdf)


  • Game board
  • die
  • population markers (each player needs a bunch of stackable bricks, like LEGOs, preferably the 2x2 size, and all the same color)
  • stack of “Advance” cards
  • stack of “Chance” cards

Each player is a population of organisms. To begin, each player should place a stack of six of his bricks at “THE ORIGIN” on the board. Players take turns to roll the die to determine who starts. High roll begins and play proceeds clockwise around the board.

Players must first answer an “Advance” card question at the start of each turn, read to them by the player to their right. If a player gets the answer right, he rolls the die and proceeds along the board. If he does not answer the question correctly, he loses that turn. The game may be played without the Advance Cards as well; simply eliminate that step in each turn, rolling the die and following the instructions on any squares or chance cards as described below (younger players in particular may prefer this option).

Divergence Events along the Evolutionary Pathway: If a player’s population piece lands on a divergence event (flood, fire, earthquake, etc.), the player must follow the instructions associated with that square. If he does not land exactly on the square, he proceeds in the direction of the green arrow and ignores the divergent pathways.

Competition: If a player’s population lands on a square that is already occupied, competition results. Both players roll the die once. The high roll is the superior competitor; the low roll must move backwards one square. If he lands on a chance square as a result, he should draw a chance card and follow its instructions (see below).

Multiple populations: Sometimes a player’s population will split and each part of the population proceed along a separate evolutionary pathway. If a player has multiple populations on the board, he must choose which population he is going to move at each turn. He cannot split the value of a roll between different populations.

Chance cards: If a player’s population piece lands on a chance square he must draw a chance card and follow its instructions. If an instruction says to remove half the bricks and there is an odd number in the stack, round down; e.g., if there are five bricks, remove only two.

Extinction: If a player lands on a square marked “extinction”, then that population goes extinct. There are other extinction events in the chance cards, as well. If a player’s population goes extinct, and he has other populations on the board, he does not start over with a new population, but plays on with his remaining population(s). If a player’s population goes extinct and he has no other populations on the board, then on his next turn he starts over with a stack of six bricks.

When any player reaches any “ACHIEVE ADAPTIVE SUCCESS” with any one of his populations, the game ends. However, first to achieve adaptive success is not necessarily the winner. All players now count the total number of bricks they have on the board. The player with the highest number of bricks, in all his populations combined, is the most successful. He wins!

Instructions for printing the game:

The game board is available in two formats: a large file, suitable for printing on a piece of posterboard approximately 20.5 x 24.5 inches; and a set of four smaller figures, which may be printed on four 8 ½ x 11 sheets of paper and then taped together to make the board. The larger file can be copied to a storage device and taken to someplace like Kinko’s to be printed on a large format printer.

The advance cards and chance cards can be printed on cardstock or construction paper and cut apart. It may be helpful to print them on different colors so you can keep from mixing them up. Place each stack of cards on the marked space on the game board.

School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, PO Box 644236, Pullman WA 99164-4236, 509-335-3553, Contact Us
The SBS main office is located in 312 Abelson Hall on the Pullman campus.