Critical Play: Is this game balanced?

This week I played Evolution: The Beginning, a card game created by North Star Games. It is a relatively simple game appropriate for players of most ages but recommended for those ages 8+.

Evolution: The Beginning is a multilateral competition game for 2-5 players, and the objective is to consume the most amount of food with species that you create and evolve. Each turn, a player completes four steps:

  1. “Gather” by adding 2 food tokens to the communal watering hole in the center, creating 1 new species, and drawing 3 more cards from the deck.
  2. “Adapt” by using the cards in your hand to make new species, add to the population of an existing species, and add/remove traits.
  3. “Eat” by feeding from the watering hole (if the species is an herbivore) or attacking other players (if it is a carnivore).
  4. “Score” by collecting the food you earned and putting it in your token bag.


The main types of fun in Evolution: The Beginning are fantasy and fellowship. The game introduces fictional animals (not dinosaurs! ­čŽľ) with beautiful artwork, and as mentioned previously, is a simple game that is suitable to play in casual social settings. Online, some people have complained that the game gets very repetitive, or is just too easy. However, I find Evolution: The Beginning to be very well-balanced. The first time I played it, we did not read the instructions thoroughly, so we broke one of the most important rules: players are not allowed to attach more than 3 traits to 1 species. Without this rule, whoever gets lucky with cards can easily become an over-powered carnivore with traits that prevent any other player from attacking them — a clear path to victory. The game also has systems in place to help newer players stay afloat. For example, with the watering hole system, even if you do not have special traits or the ability to attack other players, you can simply feed from the watering hole and gather some easy points.

I have played this game around 3 or 4 times now, and if there is anything I would change, I would probably add more traits. Currently, there are 11 different kinds, but adding more would extend the gameplay (which is currently around 30-40 minutes) and make things slightly more complex, especially if certain traits were less common. For these, of course, it would be important that drawing a rare card would not guarantee victory or over-power a player. 

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