Part evolution game, part racing game, part card management and a whole lot of fun, Inhabit the Earth is a great game with the perfect playing time that never outstay its welcome.
What is Inhabit the Earth Like?
Inhabit the Earth is an abstraction over the theme evolution. As a player you handle up to six species and try to make them do as well as possible on the continent they are on. Doing well means getting to the top of the evolution track on the continent. This is very much a race game. It is a very tight game and mistakes made early on can haunt you for the rest of the game. It is however also a very rewarding game. Seeing your creatures sprint ahead is incredibly rewarding, especially if you do so with a series of turns that leads into this power move.
A turn in the game consists of taking one of three different main actions, with a branching tree of sub-actions under each main action. You may take a turn where you either move your creature (it is a racing game), breed your creatures (the only way to get cards) or evolve your creatures (giving your creatures new abilities and better suited to move in the terrain ahead of them). With small exceptions every action require you to get rid of cards to take actions. This creates a clever system of managing your cards and you never feel like you have enough cards to do everything you want. The thing is, to draw cards you need to “breed” with one of your creatures. And the amount of cards you draw is determined by how far along the evolution – race – track your creature is and how big your heard of creatures is (how many upgrades and evolutions you have played on that creature). Once a creature has bred, it can only breed again after it has moved on the evolution track. So you always have to think ahead and have your card draw in the future in mind. This is what gives the game its tension and tightness. It is a very clever and intense experience and one I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who likes a bit of meat in their gaming.
Inhabit the Earth does a lot of things right. It is a game where cards have multiple purposes – I usually love that and I love it here. It is a strategic game with a heavy racing element – I usually hate that, but guess what, I love it here because you see the end of the game coming and can play according to it and usually have agency in when and how the game ends. It is a game with engine building and in a brilliant twist each of your creatures is a different engine that needs to be tweaked according to the continent it is inhabiting. This is a game that I at least for the foreseeable future will love to play whenever requested. If I should point to a downside it is that the amount of options with your cards can lead to a bit of analysis paralysis when you draw new cards. This is also why I prefer the game with four players, because that gives you some time to look through your cards while the other players have turns. In a two or three player game you will often get your turn before you have decided what to do on your turn.
As I began my review with calling this an abstraction over the theme evolution, you would think that this is a game with hardly any theme. But for me everything makes thematic sense (well sometimes your creatures become a bit silly but they still make sense). You should just know that the theme is abstracted to a very high level. You are not playing the details of how a creature evolves and fighting for survival, you are choosing what direction your creatures should evolve in, and imagining this happening over centuries.
While I loved the art in most other Richard Breese games (done by his sister Juliet) the art in Inhabit the Earth is quite different. I’m not one to judge a book or a game by its cover, and I do love the game, but the art in this game just strikes me as a bit off. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but I think it has to do with the way the eyes of the animals always seem to stare at you. It’s not a big deal for me, and it does give the game a very distinct look. It’s just one that many people I’ve played it with have mentioned in a negative way.
The manual is well written in a style that anyone familiar with Mr. Breese’s other games will recognise. The components are of sufficient quality. There are markers and cubes in the game to keep track of your turns in many ways, but once you get to know the game we play without any of them unless you are doing a very complicated movement turn.
This isn’t a rules heavy game, but the decision space is quite big.
- Players: 2 – 4
- Playing time: 60-90 minutes
- Suggested age: 14+
Would you like to know more?
Rhado made a video for the game that you can find right here