If it's a Dell you're looking for, or Adele, we're going to disappoint you. Today I'm talking about Everdell, one of the latest releases from Starling Games.
Rich in backstory and flavor text, Everdell is a game of worker-placement tableau/city-building where you play one of four types of critters building your little slice of heaven in the shade of the Evertree.
Everdell is for 1-4 players and plays in about 40-80 minutes. So does Everdell a blissful haven for those who partake? Or does the Evertree clobber us like a Whomping Willow? Let's find out!
There's quite a bit going on here. Also I should point out that I was sent the Collector's Edition, so the images you'll see here are from that.
The Game Board - A somewhat circular board.
The Evertree - You'll have to construct it every time you play, but it isn't difficult, and it's well worth it!
Resources - There are 4 resources: Berries, Pebbles, Resin, and Sticks. These are some of the most notably improved components in the Collector's Edition.
Basic Event tiles - These never change, and they are nice punchboard tiles.
Advanced Event cards - These are events you can achieve that usually take 1-2 different cards in your town to pull off.
Forest Location cards - These cards go into the forest (on either side of the meadow on the board) and they add different ways you can gain resources.
Meadow cards - There are A TON of these, they are two different types of cards: Critters and Constructions, these are the cards are what you use to build your towns.
Point tokens - Again these are super nice metal coins in the Collector's Edition
Occupation tokens - You use these to show occupied spaces.
Meeples - a set of 6 in four different shapes and colors: Squirrels, Tortoises, Mice and Badgers!
There are also some special Meadow cards in the Collector's Edition, and a big d8, and some black meeples for the solo variant.
The game sets up quite simply once you look at the board: The artwork really helps with this!
You'll set the board on the table, and build the tree. Four of the six meeples for each player are placed on the tree top limbs, then four Advanced Event cards are placed on the lower limbs of the Evertree. Four Forest locations are placed in the spots around the meadow, where eight Meadow cards are placed face up. All of the resources are placed in piles on their spots along the river as well as the basic Events. Each player is dealt cards depending on their starting position (5 for the 1st, 6 for the 2nd, and so on). Each player starts with 2 of their meeples, and the game is ready to roll!
This game is super easy to learn, especially if you've played any type of worker placement before.
You have 3 possible actions to choose from on each turn, and you only get one action per turn:
Place a worker-- There are two types of spots you can place a worker: a closed circle (which is smaller and can only have one worker placed on it), and larger open ovals (these can have any number of meeples placed on them). Workers can be placed just about anywhere, resource locations, forest locations, and even on some construction cards, once they've been placed in a town.
Play A Card--Cards can be played from your hand, or from the Meadow, as long as you have the proper resources to pay for it. Unless it is a critter. Critters have constructions that they belong in, and if you have that construction in your town, you can play that critter for free! When you do that, though, you have to place an occupied token on the construction showing that you've already used it.
Prepare for the Next Season--The game starts in late winter, and then plays through to Autumn. When you prepare for the next season you gain more workers (from the top of the Evertree), and depending on the season: activate your green harvest cards. You also take all of your own meeples back off the board, opening up the spots you were on. It IS POSSIBLE that multiple players could be playing in different seasons, so you could be giving someone a chance at a great spot!
There are a few other spots to know about on the board that can help you score points. The Events, both basic and advanced, will help you score points, but have requirements. The basic Events will require 3 or 4 of a certain card type to have been built in your town before claiming them. The advanced ones will require two unique cards, and sometimes you'll have to discard a card, but the advanced Events are usually are worth a nice chunk of points.
The goal of the game is to score the most points. The easiest way to do that is to play cards into your town. You can only have 15 in your town, and each one has a point value on them.
Certain cards will also score you points for having certain types of other cards in your town as well.
That's a super basic look at the game--the mechanics and the places to play workers. There are over 100 meadow cards in the game so I won't take time to go through them all, but just know there's lots of synergy, and because of the different types of cards there are many different strategies to pursue towards victory.
I don't think I've yet mentioned this yet, but this game is GORGEOUS, and I mean with a capital G! The artwork and the world they've created for this game is second to none--absolutely breathtaking! Couple that with the simply uh-mazing components: the Evertree, the board, and those resources! If I have any small dispute with the components, it's the stick components. They're perfectly round, and roll VERY easily, so when you're setting up they tend to try and roll away. That is a small complaint and, seriously, my only one!
For some reason, when people see games like this, they think, "Sure. It LOOKS good. But the gameplay is probably bad." Which doesn't entirely make sense to me. When we see an ugly game, we're instantly turned off and assume it's a big turd of a game, but somehow no one assumes the opposite when seeing an amazing looking game...
Anyway, let me say this. Everdell's gameplay matches its aesthetic! It's smooth, it's streamlined, it's creative, it's balanced, and it doesn't overstay its welcome.
The feel of the gameplay hints at deck-building a touch. The Meadow has cards available to everyone, which really adds some nice tense moments as you try to not give away any cards you might be working toward so they don't get snatched up. It's great when you've got the Construction you need in your hand to grab up a Critter in the Meadow and you see the rest of the players trying to snatch up the critter before your turn comes back around. Simultaneously trying to derail you without throwing their whole strategy out the window as well!
You will feel a bit of the randomness that comes along with cards, but they feel balanced so the game provides ample paths to victory.
The game begins by lulling you into a sort of confidence that you'll just breeze through it. You only start off the game with 2 meeples so you think, "I'll just take a couple turns and before you know it the game will end..." One player even remarked at the beginning of a game we played "So, this is a really quick game?" Uhmm no. It is deceptively meaty! I say that in a VERY positive tone, meaning that the decisions on every turn carry a ton of weight. There's great synergy between the cards, and great tension between players as they vie for prime spots on the board as well as cards in the Meadow. All this while deciding between 3 very basic actions: place a worker, play a card, or prepare for the next season. Exquisite!
I taught this game to my boys very quickly and easily. There isn't much housekeeping or downtime. Then I taught it to gamers, and we had a very similar experience. Everdell works well as a family night game, and the theme is perfect for the wife or girlfriend who may not be into the thrills of moving cubes around an ancient civilization, or ya know...farming. Everdell can serve as a nice gateway to worker placement as the theme alone can draw in just about anyone!
The Final Verdict
Everdell is, simply put, GREAT. From top to bottom, the components, the artwork, the gameplay--everything about this game works. Get it. Play it. You'll love it. I know I do!
You can listen to episode 90 of That's How I Roll to hear more of Jeremiah's thoughts on Everdell right here!
Thanks so much for reading! Have you played Everdell? We'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Just comment below or email us by clicking the contact button up top!
We'd like to thank Starling Games for providing a review copy of Everdell; this in no way influenced our opinion.