In the peaceful forests of Everdell, groups of critters are competing to create the greatest city for their kin. Placed in charge, you’re tasked with constructing buildings, hosting events, and bringing in new characters in this charming strategy game! Let’s dive into our Everdell review to find out more.
Brief Overview of Everdell
Everdell is a competitive strategy game for up to four players. Playing time is up to 90 minutes, and there is a dedicated solo mode. It is a moderately complex game and can be enjoyed both by newcomers and veterans alike.
The core mechanics are a combination of card drafting, worker placement, and engine building. During their turn, players can place a worker to gain cards or resources, play a card to build and populate the city, and lastly, prepare for next season.
Everdell separates itself from other games through its beautiful theme and designs as well as a limited number of rounds. The game starts in winter and plays out through the seasons until the next Winter starts, at which point points are tallied and the winner is declared.
Versions & Expansions
Bellfaire was released in 2019 and is one of the major updates for Everdell. It introduces player powers and resource boards, a new Bellfaire board, Garland awards, new special event cards, and most importantly, the ability to play the game with 5 or 6 players.
- Bellfaire is a modular expansion for Everdell packed with...
- Unique player powers for each type of critter in EverdellRules...
- Rules for 5-6 players
Another 2019 release, Pearlbook adds a new sideboard as well as river boards where frog ambassadors can gather pearls. New aquatic-themed critters and constructions create new possibilities for players to explore.
Beyond the reach of the Everdell Valley lies Spirecrest, an uncharted territory full of mysteries. Released in 2020, Spirecrest adds weather and discovery cards to expand game mechanics, as well as big critters to serve as more powerful workers.
Everdell: Ever Tree
Ever Tree is a wooden replacement for the cardboard tree received with the base game. It’s definitely a nicer version that you won’t have to worry about breaking, but otherwise adds nothing new to the gameplay.
Inside the box you’ll find the following components:
- 1 Game Board
- 4 Basic Event Tiles
- 30 Point Tokens
- 20 Occupied Tokens
- 1 8-Sided Die
- 128 Critter and Construction Cards
- 11 Forest Cards
- 16 Special Event Cards
- 1 Victory Card
- 105 Resource Tokens
- 24 Workers
- 1 Ever Tree
Despite not being as significant to me, I always mention the importance of good box art. So many great games fade into obscurity because not enough effort and thought were placed into creating box art that will intrigue a potential buyer. Everdell features a beautiful illustration that will draw you to pick it up and take a closer look.
Upon raising the lid, you’ll be greeted by a 22-page color rulebook, Starling Games brochure, and a tree assembly guide. The game board is a four-piece fold-out shaped like an irregular circle.
The tree, coins, and other tokens are made out of thick punch-out cardboard. The Ever Tree is surprisingly sturdy when assembled and doesn’t rattle or fall apart even when shook hard.
Twigs, berries, resin, and pebbles are used as resource tokens and fit very nicely in the theme. Cards are very colorful and feature very cute illustrations, but in combination with a poor choice of text font and size, it’s difficult to read card descriptions when they’re on the table.
Components leave a great first impression, but after some time you’ll notice that they favor theme over practicality. We’ll explore this issue in more detail in the pros & cons section, but as far as component quality goes, Everdell is a brilliantly built game!
How to Play Everdell
Everdell does not innovate much on the mechanics, so if you have experience with other games in the genre, such as Terraforming Mars, Viticulture, or Through the Ages, you’ll feel right at home. If you’re new to the genre, take your time and through a few sessions, you’ll be able to make game-winning strategies!
Place the game board on the table, and resource tokens on their appropriate spots. I suggest using small containers instead to prevent them from rolling and shuffling on the board. Assemble the Ever Tree and place it on the tree stump, at the top of the board.
If you’re playing a two-player game, randomly take three Forest cards, otherwise, take four and place them on the forest clearings. Place four basic Event tiles next to the river, and four random special Events on the lower branches of the Ever Tree. Place the remaining Forest and Event cards back in the box.
Take 8 cards from the main deck and place them face up in the Meadow, and give each player two workers. The first player draws five cards, while each subsequent player gets an additional card. The remaining workers are placed on the upper branches of Ever Tree, to be used later.
There are three actions players can perform during their turn: Place a worker, play a card, or prepare for the season. Actions can be performed in any order, but only one action can be taken per turn.
Place a Worker
Workers are your way of gaining resources and cards, as well as trading. They can be placed on two types of locations: exclusive and shared. Exclusive locations are represented by a full circle around a paw and can be occupied by only one worker. Shared locations are not fully encircled, and can be visited by any number of workers.
Aside from basic action spaces and forest tiles, your workers can visit destination cards your city, haven, event cards, and the journey. Destination cards in your city can be visited by other players, providing you with bonus resources, and you can do the same for theirs. The journey is an autumn-only location designed to give you end-game points at the expense of cards.
Play a Card
Instead of placing a worker, you can choose to play one card from your hand, as long as you can afford its requirements. Cards form your city and are separated into two categories: Critters and Constructions. Common cards can be built in any quantity, but only one copy of a unique card can be build per player.
There is a variety of card types, from ones that provide immediate benefits, to those that give permanent or stacking bonuses. Find the right balance between short and long-term benefits to maximize your productivity.
Cards can be played either out of hand or from the Meadow on the game board. If any of the Meadow cards is used, immediately replace them with a new one. Players may not have more than 8 cards in their hand at any point during the game. Cards that would result in the hand overflow are either not drawn, or discarded.
Prepare for Season
Once you’ve exhausted all of your workers, it’s time to prepare for the next season. Unlike in other games, you do not have to wait for other players and instead bring back only your workers. The game starts in late winter, and as it progresses through seasons, players get more workers as well as more possible actions.
Any player in the autumn season can choose to pass or play until they’ve exhausted their options. Once all of the players are done, the game is over and it’s time for the scoring phase. The player with the most points wins, with event cards and resources used as tie-breakers.
Your First Game of Everdell
The best way to learn how to play Everdell is by jumping into it and figuring out the mechanics as you go. Concepts are fairly intuitive and there’s not much that can go wrong. Still, I’ll provide you with a few tips that can be helpful at any level of play.
There are only 15 city slots, or rather, you can only play 15 cards before your city is full. Be patient and conservative, and try to keep enough space for the more powerful cards that can be played in summer or autumn.
At the same time, balance your hand so that you can always gain the maximum of any action. Use the Haven to discard cards for resources, an action especially useful in the winter.
During winter, try to get a resource-producing card to reap the benefits as early as possible. Spring is when you turn your focus towards cards that will benefit you with every subsequent Critter or Construction card. Summer is all about adjusting your strategy based on available resources and cards, while autumn is all about getting the most victory points.
Pebble is the most difficult resource you can get, and as such can create a lot of trouble and chokepoints in your development. Get as much as you can through cards that provide pebbles, or ones that reduce future costs.
Have fun with the game, and don’t stress out too much about what to do next. The most common way to burn out is to think too hard about your every action. It’s your first game and you’re not expected to win, so explore all of the mechanics and enjoy the lovely critter art!
Pros & Cons
- Charming Theme
- Intuitive Gameplay Loop
- Expansions are Great
The theme is both the strongest suit and the main selling point of Everdell. A lot of thought went into every single component, and it really shines. It is heavily incorporated into the gameplay, yet that is something I can decide if I like or not. On one hand, it works so well, but on the other, it can get in the way of gameplay.
The mechanics are simple to grasp, albeit not initially. The game can be described as multiplayer solitaire, with everyone mostly doing their own thing. As long as people don’t get into an ‘analysis-paralysis’ state, the game runs smoothly and ends before getting tiring.
Expansions add a lot to the game, and typically I wouldn’t encourage you to buy them, but this time I think it’ll be more than worth it. If anything, get the Bellfaire expansion so you can include more players in your sessions.
- Ambiguous Rules
- Seasons Make no Sense
- Game-Ending Conditions
Aside from the unfortunate choice of font and text, some cards have ambiguous descriptions. When the entire group is trying to decipher what the effect of a card really is, that’s not the best look for the game.
For a game that’s so focused on the theme, ‘seasons’ as a concept of rounds makes no sense, considering players can advance at their own pace. For example, one or more players can already be in autumn while others are still in summer. It would have worked better if these were considered ages, or progression stages of the city.
This isn’t too much of an issue, but some players will inevitably finish the game before others. They’ll have to wait for the rest to play out their turns before they can proceed to scoring. This will only bother you if you’re playing with very slow players, but otherwise, everyone should be done in a matter of minutes.
Everdell Review (TL;DR)
Everdell is a great strategy game that banks on its beautiful theme but has the mechanics to back them up. An ideal choice to break the monotony of sci-fi and medieval fantasy games, Everdell will appeal to veterans and casual players alike.
My experience with Everdell was surprisingly positive. I generally don’t care much about the theme, but Everdell is just too cute. You can tell that the design theme poured their hearts into every illustration, and form a real appreciation for them.
There’s nothing wrong with gameplay, so it’s really down to personal preference whether you’ll like the game or not. In my opinion, there are other games that tackle these mechanics better, but none incorporate the theme as well. This gives Everdell the role of a palette-cleaner, something to play every now and then when you’re tired of creating random projects in Terraforming Mars.
I hope this review helped you figure out whether you like Everdell. If you decide to buy it, let me know what your favorite card in the game is. For me, nothing beats Barge Toad’s quote “I’ll be workin’ till I croak.”
We hope you enjoyed our Everdell review! Let us know in the comments if you have tried this charming board game and what you think about it. Drop a comment below!