Evolution: The Beginning is a Target exclusive here in the United States for 1 year. After the first year, it will be made available elsewhere as well. It’s a more streamlined, simplistic version of Evolution, which lowers the recommended starting age from 12+ down to 8+.
Setup and gameplay are pretty straightforward. Place the watering hole where everyone can reach it, choose a cloth food pouch to hold your food tokens, and place the traits cards in a pile where everyone can reach. On your turn, place 2 food tokens on the watering hole, draw 1 card as a new species/population, then draw 3 additional cards that you may use as a new species, add to the population of an existing species, or use as traits to enhance a species.
Once you have finished playing the cards that you want, you have to feed each population card of every species. If they’re herbivores, this is as easy as taking the food tokens from the watering hole. However, if they have a carnivore trait applied to them, they must attack another species to eat. This will gain you 2 food tokens, but also reduce another species population down by one. If there was only one of that species prior to being eaten, it goes extinct.
If a species goes extinct, the owner gets to draw new cards equal to the amount of traits that species had. For example, if my species with Flight and Burrowing were eaten and forced into extinction, I would discard all of those cards, and draw two new cards since I had two traits applied to it. Once everyone is fed on your turn, you place your food tokens in your drawstring bag.
The purpose of adding the trait cards to your species is to make them more difficult for carnivores to consume. For instance, if my species has the traits of Burrowing, Flight, and Nocturnal, a carnivore would also need those traits in order to attack it. However, you can only have up to three traits on any given species, one of which is Carnivore, so my species would be safe as it would require a carnivore with four traits to eat it.
North Star Games has also included a few trait cards that can be used with the Evolution base game. If Evolution: The Beginning is your first introduction to the series and you’re interested in getting the base game, you’ll get some exclusive cards as an added bonus.
Overall, Evolution: The Beginning plays very well and it’s not complicated to play. The components are nice and the drawstring bags are well-made. My only complaint is that the game can drag on just a tad too long in a two player game. The game doesn’t end until the deck is gone, and with 88 cards, it’s is meant to play up to five players. With only two players, it goes on just slightly too long. Other than that, it’s an excellent game.