In Ecosystem, players are drafting cards to create their own flourishing ecosystem. It’s a delicate balance to build an ecosystem that keeps the predators at bay and out performs your opponents. So how did this card-drafting game from Genius Games go over with our family? Let’s find out!
Building the Animal Kingdom
Ecosystem plays 2 to 6 players and can be played in under 30 minutes. Each player is given a hand of 10 cards to start the game. Players simultaneously choose a card to add to their individual ecosystem. Once everyone reveals their card, they pass the remainder of their had to the player to their left. Anyone who has played Sushi Go or 7 Wonders will immediately understand this mechanic.
New cards that are added to a players ecosystem must be added adjacent to other cards. Turns continue in this way until all the cards are gone. 10 new cards are dealt to players and a second round takes place with players passing cards to their right in this round. At the end of the game, each player will have an ecosystem made up of 20 cards that sit in a 4 by 5 grid.
A Balanced Ecosystem
The gameplay of Ecosystem is very straight forward and quick to teach. The strategy in the game comes down to the placement of the different animals, insects and habitats. Each of the 9 creatures and 2 habits have different scoring criteria. For instance, the bear scores points when adjacent to bees and trout. But be careful, because the fox cannot score points when within 2 spaces of a bear or wolves.
In the 11 cards that make up Ecosystem, there is a fair diversity of scoring options. Streams will score for continuous adjacent cards and meadows score by the number of Meadows that are grouped together. Each of the cards seem to make sense with the biology of what is represented on the card. Collecting packs of wolves and placing dragonflies by the stream all fit the theme really well.
Genius Games is known for each of their games having an educational angle and Ecosystem is no different. This card-drafting filler game could easily lead to discussions on nature and biological ecosystems. The game even awards bonus points for creating a diverse ecosystem. The more cards you score with during the game, the higher your bonus. Players who create a very homogeneous ecosystem will actually be penalized with negative points.
Ecosystem is a filler game that hits the sweet spot of being accessible and having enough strategy to keep it coming back to the table. It was a big hit with my youngest daughter who asked to play it 3 times the first day we had the game. She said that she preferred it to Sushi Go and I tend to agree. Scoring criteria doesn’t solely rely on collecting sets and I feel like there’s more strategy than we initially thought.
Ecosystem is a solid filler game with the right amount of strategy for families to enjoy with kids. The game supports up to 5 players and like many drafting games of this type, a dummy player is added when playing with only 2 players. While I’m not a fan of this, it worked fine the one time it was just two of us playing.
Nothing in this small box is world changing. Ecosystem is just a solid filler game that connects well with its theme. I was happy to see my daughter connect with the game so quickly because it means I’ll be gaming more often with one of my favorite little humans.
Genius Games provided us with a retail copy of Ecosystem for this review. This in no way influenced our opinion of the game.
- Scoring matches the theme really well
- Player aids are excellent at explaining scoring
- Supports up to 5 players and plays in around 20 minutes
- Small cards are terrible for people with big hands
- Really plays best with 3+