Game Design: James A. Wilson
Publisher: Starling Games
Illustrator : Andrew Bosley
2 – 4 players, from 10 years
60 – 90 minutes
By inviting a second reviewer to scrutinize a game together with me, while additionally highlighting possible differences between our first impressions before playing the game and our opinions afterwards, my hope is that this review format will be both really enjoyable to read as well as a tad more enlightening. And what doesn’t get better with some friendly company. So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at Everdell, a game by James A. Wilson and Sterling games.
A.K.A. Sore loser who therefore prefer Co-ops
A.K.A. He who only plays ugly train games
Before playing it
When I first lay my eyes on the Everdell box, I fell instantly in love with the game. The evocative illustrations on the cover transports you promptly to this magical and remarkable world of imaginary wonders that beckons to be explored. The card art is exquisite, as well as the crazy cute resources, not to mention the stupendous 3D tree that looms over the entire game board. The amazing quality of the components will most likely heighten the potentially immersive experience of playing a game with this adorable theme. The mechanisms of the game are also piquing my interest. I have never played a tableau building game before, but I am excited to try it out and I imagine that the possibility to develop your own set of synergetic abilities will suit the theme well, at least I hope it will.
Before playing it
Everything with this game is visually striking, from the amazing illustrations to if not a full-sized tree, at least a mid-sized shrubbery. The work of Andrew Bosley, the artist behind the concept art and card illustrations, is contributing greatly into making this game a pure joy to behold. Other components, such as coinage, berries, twigs, rats, etc, are all very well made and assists further in making the interaction with this game a really immersive experience. I have always had my eyes on Everdell, and not just because it is pretty and has an impressive table presence, but also because I love to manage my own tableau of cards and to see how the asymmetry between players evolves exponentially during the game. Sometimes though, these types of game can get rather solitare and I am therefore stoked to explore how the Worker Placement mechanism counter this and forces the players to interact. All in all, I really think Everdell is right up my alley and I can’t wait to explore it further.
After playing it
I am pleased to announce that the gameplay really lived up to Everdell’s amazing aesthetics. You actually get to enter a magical world, with a mission to build a village (i.e. a card tableau) that, after four seasons, will garner you as many points as possible. In order to achieve this, you will have to send out your workers that will help you obtain the resources you need. These berries, twigs, resin, and pebbles will then enable you to play the cards that will constitute your village. There is nothing really new or innovative in the game design, but still everything seems different and novel, mainly because of how distinct and charmingly fleshed out the valley of Everdell is. You are recruiting both common and unique characters, critters, that in turn is further divided into five different, color coded categories. The buildings follow the same logic which allow for a kind of chaining system à la 7 Wonders. The combination of mechanisms is rather interesting and although they don’t support a very high level of interaction there still is competition for locations on the map and events under the tree. Some locations on the map are open to multiple players but the more popular ones are only accommodating a single worker. Everdell is thus definitely not a multiplayer solitaire, because the contention can be quite heated despite its cute veneer, and you will have to adapt and constantly rethink your strategies in order to get what you want. Another interesting aspect of Everdell is how timing works, because even if the game is divided into four seasons, the players are not forced to change season at the same time, even the game end is individually triggered. This create tension and further accentuate the importance of managing both actions and resources to the best of one’s abilities if you want to win and become the ultimate ruler of this enchanted forest.
After playing it
Even if I’ve now only played Everdell once, I still think I got a pretty clear picture of the game, what it delivers as well as what it doesn´t deliver. First, I want to mention a few positive things that stood out and that added greatly to my game experience. I was, for example, very impressed by the straightforwardness of the game design. The structure of the game is unambiguous and the actions you chose from are all borderline simplistic. But still they manage to create an interesting decision space, a design goal I heartedly appreciate. The rather unique privilege of being able to individually end a season and start another is also a feature I want to highlight as it really isn’t a common feature in board game design. It makes the game fluid while also adding a few new aspects to think about. The restriction of only allowing the players 15 cards in total in their tableau was an aspect of the game that I didn’t thought would matter that much. And for most of the game it didn’t, until it REALLY did. Because as you’re not allowed to discard cards willy-nilly, you can get stuck with a building or a critter that you really don’t want to need in the end-game, while at the same time not being able to place a card that would have scored you a buttload of points, and this due to lack of available space in your tableau. This restriction added greatly to the strategic depth of the game as it forces the players to plan ahead. What I was less enamored with, even if it isn’t a huge knock on the game, is the aspect of Everdell that I also had my qualms about already before playing the game, namely the level of interaction between players. Because even if there sure are interaction, mainly through competition of the board spaces and the card display, it still can be difficult to keep track of what your opponents are doing and what misdeeds they are planning, something I instead had to find out the hard way…
I love the look and feel of Everdell, it gives me a sense of magic as I delve into its immersive universe. I furthermore appreciate the gameplay greatly and enjoy how the rather classic mechanisms still generate a tense, exciting and fairly interactive game experience. I am therefore looking forward to trying out the expansions (Pearlbrook, Spirecrest, and Bellfaire) as soon as possible…
As you might have deduced from my earlier statement, I lost handedly against Ludigurl. But that didn’t detract too much from my overall enjoyment of the game. Everdell really is a very pleasant and fun board game, and the gorgeous production enhances this even further. So, even if it for me lack some interaction and angst, I still would gladly play Everdell some more.
While we both enjoy the game it is clearly I, Ludigurl, who prefer Everdell the most. I don’t agree with Pontus regarding the lack of interaction and I also find the theme and atmosphere quite irresistable. This Sterling Games title could actually very well be one of my absolute favorite games. Anways, thank you so much for your attention, stay tuned for our next Ludiac review.