Hey, gang! Since I’ve been gaming more and more with what I would consider “non-gamers,” I’ve been playing a lot of lighter games recently. This is a good thing. Typically, when I have some extra cash burning a hole in my wallet, I go for big complex games with lots of fiddly rules and bits. I’m just naturally attracted to big shiny things. So being able to really enjoy a game that’s simple (but not without some strategy) is a real blessing.

One such game that I picked up awhile ago and just cracked open is Evolution The Beginning by North Star Games. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s part of a fairly new game series that got a lot of press because of its fantastic watercolor artwork by Catherine Hamilton.

Evolution the Beginning is for 3-5 players, and moves very quickly. You’re not waiting around long for your turn because the game follows a fairly simple flow. You replenish the “watering hole” where everyones’ species eat, you draw cards, you put your cards down, and you feed your species – either by eating at the watering hole or, if they’re carnivores, by eating other species. You score points for each piece of food your species eat. That’s really it! It’s simple enough for six or seven year-old gamers to learn, so it makes a great family game.

Getting more into the specific gameplay, Evolution The Beginning is all about arming your species with the best defensive evolutionary traits (cards) and maximizing the amount of food they can eat without decimating the food supply and causing them to starve. It’s essential to be sharp about playing the cards you draw: do you use that “Carnivore” card to turn one of your species into a killing machine, or do you use it to grow one of your species to a larger population – thus, increasing its eating potential? Defensive traits are critical for keeping your species safe from the other players’ carnivores – but playing too many of them might slow down the growth of your population too much, because the cards you use to evolve your species are the same cards you use to grow their population.

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I also can’t speak highly enough about the artwork and components for this game. It’s all top-notch, and likely a reason for the big box retailers picking up this game (and the other Evolution games). The paintings are–in a word–lovely, and something you don’t see too often in tabletop games. The game also includes cloth bags for players to put their food tokens into, which is a nice touch because it ensures a degree of secrecy about who’s in the lead (although an attentive player could count tokens and keep score in their head throughout the game).

I have yet to play Evolution Climate, the other spin-off game to Evolution that has been getting a lot of buzz in the community. It’s sold out at a lot of retailers, so I may have to make a trade with someone who’s willing to part with their copy. Such is the nature of the hobby. 🙂

Until next time, gang. Keep it plucky,

Nick

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