The premise of Doomlings is that players are adding traits to a species as it evolves, tracing that species through successive epochs from the first sparks of life to the catastrophic end of the world. Thematically, it may sounds a little like Evolution (North Star) but this card game from Mccoy & Meyer is certainly no Evolution clone!
While Evolution represents a literally down-to-Earth analogue of the process of natural selection, Doomlings is altogether more whimsical fare. It's a card game played over a series of rounds, designated as Ages, and each with its own special effect or rule tweak. And, as the title suggests, the species we are following is not destined to survive: the game ends in the age when the third seeded Catastrophe Age card comes up, which could be any time between round 9 and round 13...
What Eric McCoy, Justus Meyer, Andrew Meyer and Chris Svehla have designed in Doomlings is an enticing hand management set collection game for 2-6 players. Each turn you'll play a 'Trait' card from your hand to the tableau representing your Doomlings. Cards will have a score value but most also have text effects that will affect scoring or game play. Many will give bonuses when used in combination with other cards; some will permit 'take that' actions against opponents; for example, stealing a card from their tableau. The game comes with over 150 unique cards, so you'll find there's a huge amount of variety from one play to the next. Players end their turn by drawing up (or discarding) so that their hand size matches the size of their gene pool. This starts at 5 but varies through the game due the effects of Age and Trait cards. And you can't thin your hand by discarding unwanted cards below your gene pool number unless an Age instruction expressly permits this or you play a Trait that gives you that ability.
This all makes for a highly entertaining game that you can expect to play in around 20-30 minutes, depending on the number of players. It's quick to teach and it's a game that will certainly have you coming back for more. Moreover, Doomlings hits that highly desirable sweet spot as a game that appeals as a family game and one that can be equally enjoyed by seasoned gamers.
Justus Meyer has done a great job with the lighthearted artwork. Our only gripe was that the text on the cards means they can be hard to read when you try to hold them fanned in your hand. This isn't a big deal because you're likely only to have four or five cards to hold in your hand for most of the game, and if it bothers you then it's easily sorted by using a card rack.