Evolution : The Beginning | The Tabletop Letters

Dear Readers,

Have I complained about gray, barren winter lately? Have I? If I have, those complaints are half-hearted.

Box cover of Evolution: The Beginning showing a Brontosaurus 🦕

Sometimes in wonder I stare out my window to the diamond shavings clinging to the gray veins against the somber sky. I find the rain drops glimmering in the faint sunlight captivating. While any smattering of snow we receive is so fleeting I am still excited about it, the winter rains have an understated beauty. (To be fair, I must have a fascination with any sort of rain because I wrote a poem about autumn rain.)

Here’s a quote about winter that haunts me (I posted about it three years ago):

Let us therefore praise winter, rich in beauty, challenge and pregnant negativities. — Greta Crosby

I do miss a bit of greenery despite my fascination with sterile, quiet winter. There’s a book my daughter has showing a tiny squirrel bundled up against the winter cold.

Watering hole game piece with leafy food tokens.

Evolution: The Beginning is full of verdant life. It’s life upon life with modifications and very intriguing. It’s The Land Before Time meets Redshirts.

Here’s the breakdown:

Players: 2-5

Play time: 30 minutes

Age: 8+

By: Northstar Games

Here we go- I’ll rank it on Accessibility, Mechanics, and Engagement.

Game cards showing a Long Neck trait over a species card, and a Scavenger trait over a species card.

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Everyone begins the game on an even playing field. You have species to which you may assign characteristics that you draw – like being fast or nocturnal. These characteristics help you survive and sometimes avoid predators. The concepts are simple. The luck of the draw is very prominent in this game, though there is some strategy.

A food token pouch with a brontosaurus 🦕 on it.

The premise of evolution is one I’d hope most are familiar with. This game follows different species controlled by a player gaining traits, losing traits, struggling for food, while preying or being preyed upon.

They are written on medium sized plain text – reading glasses might be in order. The text is fairly legible. The colors are vibrant, but EnChroma glasses probably wouldn’t make a huge difference.

There are small pieces to pick up, and placing cards on the table is a definite factor to consider if fine motor skills are a concern.

The age of 8+ feels appropriate.

Mechanics ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑

Each turn begins with two pieces of food being added to the watering hole. A new species card is played. Cards are drawn. Next a player may turn those cards into traits, add to the population of a species, and keep the card(s) in hand. Traits may be removed. The species must then eat or die. If a species is carnivorous, they will attack other specimens (whether they are another player’s or the owner’s). Scavenger species feed off the deaths of others regardless of turn. If they are herbivores then they will feed out of the watering hole (with a few exceptions). Eaten food is moved to a food bag.

The Defensive Horns trait over a species with a population of three.

I’m knocking off one star because there were a couple of times where we disagreed about mechanics despite consulting the rule book and watching a how-to video about playing. In particular there were a couple of times where it seemed like there was more food in the watering hole than was appropriate or that carnivores perhaps gained more food than they should have.

Also, there was possibly poor shuffling in play combined with a lack of knowledge as to how common traits were. There were times where I used certain cards for their species/population aspect instead of as a trait not realizing how rare the traits were since I had already encountered several of that rare trait.

One player’s assortment of three different species with varying traits.

When the resources are exhausted the game ends after ensuring each player has an even number of turns. The player with the most points (surviving species, eaten food, uneaten food, etc.) wins. It’s survival of the fittest with cards. At first I don’t think we realized that wasting resources so others wouldn’t be able to use them is a good way to hasten the game and possibly help oneself. We don’t usually play that aggressively, so it was an intriguing dynamic for us – much like backstabbing in Redshirts and Munchkin.

Engagement ⭐️⭐️⭐️🌑🌑

Waiting for your turn can be boring in any game. With games where there are player vs. player combat aspects, sometimes it can be protracted (cough, cough … Redshirts… couch, cough Munchkin), this was more straightforward than that.

A carnivore card over a species card with the traits of defensive horns and speed.

Since you may be attacked by other players, and you may have the opportunity to feed as a scavenger, it could every engaging. When neither of those aspects were in play, waiting for other people’s turns was, well, a drag.

In Conclusion

This is a fun version of the Evolution game. I think a certain biology professor I had would have allowed it to be played in class toward the end of the semester when there wasn’t much to do.

A picture of the guide card showing each of the trait types.

It’s a fast game with straightforward concepts easily understandable by small children, but complex enough to be challenging and entertaining for adults.

This post is #notsponsored. Evolution: The Beginning is available at Walmart.com. Amazon has it available only through third-party sellers and at a higher rate as of this publication.

If you need some greenery in your life to beat the winter blues, then Evolution: The Beginning might be just the thing to help you adapt. 😉

This cracked me up, so I had to end with it.

Happy Gaming! Play On!

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