Reviews

Review – Everdell (Starling Games)

Everdell
Everdell

A Beautiful Board Game of Cards and Critters

Everdell, by Starling Games, is a streamlined worker placement game that features a detailed world realized through stunning artwork. Utilizing a tableau-building mechanic, players will work to build a city of Critters and Constructions.

Everdell Set Up
Everdell Set Up

Your Critters are the workers that are necessary for the expansion and success of your city. You will be deploying them to various locations in Everdell in order to gather resources, draw more cards, host Events, and embark on journeys. The resources you collect will build new Critters and Constructions that form your city. If you build certain Constructions, the corresponding Critter may be added to your city for free. So, there is a balance in finding the synergy to build our city as quickly and efficiently as possible, all while trying to beat your opponent to complete special events for additional points. But be careful – your city can only hold 15 Critters and Constructions. So you don’t want to run out of space before building the best city and maximizing points.

Everdell is easy to learn, yet offers satisfying strategic depth and endless replayability.

The Story

Everdell Seasons
Everdell Seasons

Within the charming valley of Everdell, beneath the boughs of towering trees, among meandering streams and mossy hollows, a civilization of forest critters is thriving and expanding. Ever since famed adventurer Corrin Evertail discovered the hidden realm long ago, the citizens have prospered under the shelter of the enduring Ever Tree.

From Everfrost to Bellsong, many a year have come and gone, but the time has come for new territories to be settled and new cities established. You will be the leader of a group of critters intent on just such a task. There are buildings to construct, lively characters to meet, events to host—it will be a busy year!

Will the sun shine brightest on your city before the winter moon rises? Prepare to be enchanted by the wondrous world of Everdell. Once you are here, you might never, ever, want to leave.

Gameplay

Ever Tree
Ever Tree

Everdell is a dynamic tableau building and worker placement game. In tableau building games, each player has a visible personal array or tableau of components (cards, tiles, player boards, etc.) which they build or manipulate throughout the game by spending actions and/or resources. These choices determine the quality, quantity, and/or variety of actions accessible throughout the game.

The array is not merely a place to store resources, plan actions, store a puzzle that must be manipulated, or something that impacts VP’s. It impacts the quality, quantity, and/or variety of actions which are accessible to a player.

Turn Order

Everdell Meadow
Everdell Meadow

On their turn, a player can take one of three actions:

  1. Place a Worker: Each player has a collection of Worker pieces to place on board locations, events, and on Destination cards. Workers perform various actions to further the development of a player’s tableau: gathering resources, drawing cards, and taking other special actions.
  2. Play a Card: Each player is building and populating a city; a tableau of up to 15 Construction and Critter cards. There are five types of cards: Travelers, Production, Destination, Governance, and Prosperity. Cards generate resources (twigs, resin, pebbles, and berries), grant abilities, and ultimately score points. The interactions of the cards reveal numerous strategies and a near-infinite variety of working cities.
  3. Prepare for the next Season: Return workers to supply and add the new workers from the upper branches of the Ever Tree. Activate the next season’s bonus listed on the Ever Tree.

Game Flow

Everdell Components
Everdell Components

Thematically the game begins in late winter and ends as the next winter approaches. Each season is played until a player cannot perform any more actions (and there will be a point where this will happen) or until they choose to move to the next season. However, the Prepare for Season action may only be performed after a player has placed all of their current worker population.

When a player cannot perform any more actions in Autumn (or they do not wish to), they must pass. Gameplay continues until all players have passed. Add up points from the base value of each card, point tokens, purple Prosperity card bonuses, Journey points, and Events. In the end, the player with the city with the most points wins.

The Good…

Everdell City
Everdell City

Everdell is a game that was on my radar for a while. I accidentally left Gen Con without purchasing it, and that was a huge regret of mine. I had to wait several months for it to come to retail. And even then, the first round of stock sold out instantly. Thankfully, I signed up for a restock alert, and I was able to snag a copy once it was restocked again. Point being… this game is HOT. And rightfully so. I LOVE it.

The gameplay is right up my alley. The mechanics are what I love in a game—resource management, worker placement, card drafting, hand management, set collecting, and tableau building.

The theme of this game was another attractive element to me. Woodland creature games were popular last year, with games like Root and Woodlands. The theming was integrated perfectly with the Critters and Constructions elements of the gameplay, and the resource collection gameplay mechanics.  

Everdell Special Events
Everdell Special Events

The components of the game are incredible. I’m a sucker for cool meeples. I loved seeing the turtles, mice, hedgehogs, and squirrels. These are an unexpected yet pleasant selection of creatures to play. The twigs, pebbles, resin, and squishy silicone berries are lifelike and fun to fondle. The cards are on a nice cardstock. The gameboard is attractive, with an interesting shape and nice quality. The other game components are on a very thick board. Everything should hold up to many gameplays. The rulebook is also top notch. It is beautifully illustrated, and tells a story alongside the gameplay. Also, the rules are laid out and easy to understand. There is also an index with in-depth descriptions for each of the Constructions and Critters for further clarification.

Everdell Cards
Everdell Cards

The artwork by Andrew Bosley is stunning. His previous work in Citadels and Lightning & Bolt is equally as impressive. I’m very excited to see the new additions in the upcoming Pearlbrook expansion.

Speaking of the expansion, Pearlbrook will add a 5th player to the game! A successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, the expansion will add a new world under the river for players to discover. It introduces a new side board, the river board, where you’ll send your frog ambassador to gather a new resource: pearls. You’ll also encounter new aquatic critters and constructions. Collect enough pearls to construct your city.

I found this game to be very fun to play. It is very attractive, so it is not difficult to get to the table with many different gaming groups. The mechanics are easy enough to teach, so I don’t ever feel it is too complex for anyone. And everyone has a good time playing it. There is enough player interaction to keep the game flowing.

There is not too much “take that” to make it seem unfriendly. Everyone’s actions are carefully planned, so the game is strategic without being overly difficult or reliant on much luck. There is an element that does rely on particular cards to appear in the lineup. But the stack of cards is pretty deep. Fortunately, there are multiple copies of all of the cards, but some occur more often than others. The card you may need or are banking on may never show up in the game. So be sure to plan accordingly.

Everdell Special Events
Everdell Special Events

The scalability is good. I found it fun to play with a full group of 4, or just on my own with the solo variant. In the solo variant, you play against Rugwart. a cantankerous old rodent and his pack of rowdy, rambunctious, rat ruffians. While Rugwort doesn’t build a city as you normally do, he does remove cards from play, and steal events that you don’t complete. He also gives you negative points for any special events that you do not complete by the end of the game.

The replayability is definitely there for me, personally. I’ve played this game several times with friends and solo. I still want to play it more. When the Pearlbrook expansion is released, I’m sure it will go back to the top of the pile of my most frequently played games once again.

The Not As Good…

Ever Tree
Ever Tree

While the components for this game are great, the berries and the twigs tend to roll around the table, which can be pretty annoying. I guess a lot of people complained about the twigs because the Pearlbrook expansion offers an add on item that is a redesigned twig for $6. There are also a couple errors in the original rulebook. For that reason, a second printing of the rulebook is another add-on for $5. But it is also available as a free downloadable PDF over on Board Game Geek.

And let’s talk about the Ever Tree. The large cardboard tree is the centerpiece of the gameplay area. It holds the meeples waiting to be added in future seasons. The special event cards are spread on its branches and the deck of cards is housed in the tree trunk during gameplay. It is a beautiful tree, but is it necessary? I wonder if this essentially decorative tree added $5 to the price of the game? (I think it did, since a replacement tree is a $5 add-on on the Pearlbrook expansion.)

I’ve been considering modifications to the tree, or not using it at all, because it is so cumbersome. I don’t take it with me when I am playing somewhere other than my game room at my home. I’m afraid to break it down because I don’t want to damage it or wear it out. So what’s the point of even having it? Because it’s pretty?

Final Thoughts

Everdell was a game that I was attracted to as soon as I saw it. I can’t really explain why… maybe it was the attractive artwork, or the woodland animal theming. It was one of those cute guys I saw across the room and thought, “I’d really like to date him.” I wanted to date Everdell. He played hard to get at first, but once we had our first rendezvous, it was love!

Everdell Solo Mode
Everdell Solo Mode

I’m looking forward to many more great gameplay sessions with this game, because that’s all I’ve had so far. Furthermore, I am excited for the upcoming expansion, Pearlbrook, and the new and exciting additions it will bring to this already great game.

Game Statistics

  • Release Date: 2018
  • MSRP: $60.00
  • Playing Time: 60 minutes
  • Age Range: 13+
  • Player Count: 2-4

 


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About the author

Shanon Connelly

(a.k.a. “Super Muffin Girl”) is an avid board gamer, cosplayer, and all around nerd girl. She has been cosplaying for over 10 years, attending several conventions every year. She recently started a YouTube gaming channel, "Time to Play!", which previews and reviews board games. Follow Shanon on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (@supermuffingirl).

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