I was playing Evacuation a few days ago with three other people. One of those people had played the game with me one-on-one about six months ago. I skimmed the rule book and tried to explain just enough so we could start taking turns. I did that because this game is, or has, rule salad.

Agricola “Point Salad” Score Sheet

Many board games have long been discussed as having “Point Salad” when those games let players score points in many different, sometimes unrelated ways. Chess has one thing that is scored during a game if you can even count being the last player standing as points. Sure, chess players can count how many pieces they have captured, but this is not used to calculate a winner; a player with more captures can also be the loser in the game. So there are no points, per se, in chess. Wingspan has six ways to score points: points on birds, personal goals achieved, end-of-round goals, tucked cards, cached food, and eggs. The score from Wingspan determines the winner, and the player with the highest score wins. There are far “worse” board games from Wingspan that I won’t list here – just realize that some games have ten or more ways to score points, with many of the points achieved in vastly different ways. Just keep in mind that “point salad” comes from the idea that salad can have a lot of ingredients, especially if the salad comes from a salad bar or buffet where more ingredients are available to suit an array of tastes than are typically used in any one salad. In fact, a “point buffet” might also have been a good term for games where you can pick how you want to score points from a large set of possibilities.

Evacuation (www.riograndegames.com)

Evacuation, the game we played a few days ago, has the theme of a dying planet and four years to evacuate everything and everyone from your continent on that planet, moving them to a new world. Each player has their own continent to evacuate, and players compete for space on the new planet, or “new world,” as they call it in the game. This is not a game about climate change; these planets are not Earth or Mars. But it’s fine to interpret the game that way if you prefer. Just note that there is no terraforming, and this game is about moving people and buildings. But Evacuation has more going on than just moving people and buildings to a new world. It has many minor rules that constitute a “rule salad,” in my opinion.

Evacuation has two different ways to play, and one of them uses a typical point-scoring system where when the game ends, points are added up. It also has a “race” style where the game ends when one player reaches a set of simple goals. Scoring for the race mode is weird, but it essentially comes down to each player scoring points based on their lowest resource production among the three resources: steel, feed, and energy. Some penalties will lower this score based on what the player failed to achieve during the game. Fortunately, this game does not have a point salad when played in the “race” mode that uses this scoring. And yes, having two different ways to score the game adds more rules to the salad.

The very basic rules are not too complex but are certainly not simple; a player has four spaces below their player board where they can place a card to indicate they are taking one of up to three (or was it four) actions using that card space. An action might be to take a resource cube and then gain a technology. There are other actions, such as settling people and building factories on the new planet, cloning people, prebuilding factories, buying ships, buying stadiums, building infrastructure, etc. The game is already a bit complicated at this point with the large number of actions available. That will change for the worse. After everyone takes actions until they run out of energy cubes to pay for actions (and flying ships), the players load their ships as best they can based on the ship’s cargo capacities and then fly them to the new world. The ships were purchased with an action during the action phase of the game, and each ship is different! Ships may or may not be able to carry people and factories from certain locations on the old world. They also have limits for carrying prefabricated factories or stadiums (stadiums are an important factor in how this game plays). Ships are unloaded, but not to the new world; each player has a player board with resources, factories, and people all stored on the new or old world side of their board. This is in addition to settlements on both worlds, which work differently depending on which world they are on. I’ll explain that later, maybe.

None of this is beyond a reasonably competent board game player. This is not Uno but so far, it’s not unreasonable.

Each player has two satellites that orbit the old world. As the game progresses, these are sent to the new world along a track on the main game board. The distance you can move on a turn is controlled by those cards that mark which actions were taken. Each of the four positions under the player board is numbered 1 to 4, and that number is applied to each card and added up, giving a power value used to move satellites. The spaces on the track, or rather two tracks side-by-side, are mutually exclusive, so only one player marker can be used in any space. Those spaces sometimes have icons that give the player something immediately or for the entire next game year (there are four years played in the game, and each year consists of an action phase, transport phase, etc.). This track is not too hard to manage as long as players remember that the position of their satellites also determines where they must get their energy cubes to pay for their actions. There are also large “transition” spaces on this track that alter their overall resource production on each planet. In addition to that rule is the rule that your two satellites can never have two or more transition spaces between them – they must be in adjacent regions on the satellite track. Now the rules are starting to be added up.

Back on the player boards, there is a track where players track their actions. Each time you take an action, you move a cube one space on the action tracking track. Those spaces indicate how much energy you must spend to take your action. The number on the card spaces are unrelated; the power of your actions determining how far your satellites move is not the energy needed to take any individual action. There is also a penalty of one energy cube to be paid for any action taken after the third in a card slot. There is a little “4x = 1energy” icon on the player board as a reminder.

You can see where this is going. There are rules upon rules that make the game overwhelming. I’ll continue.

On each player board are nine technology tiles that are semi-randomly placed in a grid. There is an action that allows unlocking of one of these technologies. Some of the technologies require two “unlocks” before they become active. There is also a rule that says that the lower-level technology of a column must be unlocked before a higher level can be unlocked. On its own, this is quite simple. Yet it is another rule of Evacuation to add to the salad.

Ships in the game have space to store resources, people, factories, and stadiums. One area of each ship can only hold people and factories taken from a space on the old world that matches a color indication on the ship tile. Another area can only hold zero or more factories and stadiums. There is a final area that can only hold resources. Each ship is different, so the color markers, building counts, and resource counts can all differ. Picking ships is tricky since once every space on the old world with a specific color mark is evacuated, the area on ships with that color mark is useless. Fortunately, a technology available to one player allows them to treat one color-marked space on their ships like a wild color.

The game has year-end goals that are quite peculiar. The goal card shows two numbers with some benefits, be it resources, technologies, etc., that can be gained if that amount of power was used during the year. I can’t, for the life of me, devise a thematic way to justify this. If the numbers are 7 and 11, then using 10 power gains nothing – the goals are lost. Then again, I also can’t figure out a thematic justification for the satellite tracks having spaces along the way that allow settling on certain specific spaces on the new world. Sure, the part of that track that determines the type of area on the new world, such as tundra or forest, might somehow make a little sense (which it doesn’t), but how would the position of a satellite not allow settling on a specific type of space before and after the satellite is at the correct position but then allow it when it is at that correct position? Okay, the theme is not part of the discussion here. However, it is important because a more thematic rule is easier to remember and feels more comfortable to follow during a game. Rules that don’t match the theme are like salad ingredients you see at the salad bar but you don’t really feel like having on your salad. Tough, you are stuck with the off-theme rules, like them or not.

I’m trying to remember the rules without getting a copy of the rule book. I’ve played this game twice and read the rules each time, so I should remember most of them by now.

I know; I’ll talk about the production phase of the game. At the beginning of each year, players produce resources based on the tiles on the old world and on the factories and people markers on the new world. The old world has people and factories, but they are marked with round tiles and if there are two people on a site, the tile just shows two people. The tiles on the old world are placed in very specific locations that are the same for every game. When a site is evacuated form the old world, the site tile is flipped over and factory tiles and people markers, small colored plastic discs that look like candies, are placed on the ships that are evacuating them. Those tiles can be settled on the new world by placing those candy markers and factories on sites on the new world. Keeping track of the people and factories is a bit weird because of the tile/marker change from the old world to the new world. In fact, since the candy-looking people markers cover their spaces on the new world, making the color hidden, resource production on the new world is tracked using counters on the player board. Resource production on the old world is tracked by just looking at the tile on the main game board. This is another rule that must be memorized and dealt with during a game! Ah, and resource production on the new world is how points are scored at the end of the game so this track is also an indication of how you are doing as the game goes on.

There are also stadiums that need to be built and maybe moved if they are not built on the new world. There are also infrastructure cards that can be gained, bought, and then achieved (meeting the requirements of the card) that can increase new world production, also making it impossible to track new world production just using tiles on the game board.

Pax Pamir (wehrlegig.com)

I might be going on a bit long with this post. It’s clear to me now that Evacuation is one of the most obvious “rule salad” games I own. I do play games that are harder and have harder rules to follow. But, those other games are harder to follow due to the game’s difficulty. In a game like Pax Pamir, it can be hard to remember that you can tax other players only if they have a card played for a region that you control. Controlling a region is hard to achieve, and other players having cards for that region after you control it is not common since they must pay a bribe when they want to play a card for that region. So it’s uncommon and, therefore, hard to remember taxation details. In Evacuation, some of the rules are shown with icons around the board, and many rules are rules of procedure where the game is just unplayable if a player doesn’t try to match up colors on ship carbo bays or fails to move their action marker to the next space to see how much they pay for an action.


Evacuation is an interesting and challenging game. Many of the good features of the game, such as balancing old and new world production so resources are where they are needed when they are needed, make it a fun game. But the game suffers from rule and feature bloat, which makes it annoying to play. It seems as if the designer had a lot of good ideas and had to fit them all into the game. Either that, or they designed a great game that was just a little too easy to play, and rules were added to give overly simplistic features a little more drama. I want to play this again, so that’s a good thing. On the other hand, I would not play a game of Yokahama if someone offered it – it’s a game with a point salad I just don’t have a taste for. Sometimes, salad is just not on the menu, be it a wedge, Caprese, points, or rules.