Stats at a glance
Ages: 13 +
City life sometimes gets hard. The stress of traffic, work, and modern society can take a toll on anyone. If only we had a relative that would give us their run-down farm in a quaint little village.
Stardew Valley is the successor to the weirdly popular video game series Harvest Moon. In a time when video games showcased high-quality graphics and action-packed gameplay, Stardew Valley went a completely different direction and went back to the roots with its charming pixel art and relaxing gameplay focused on farming.
Stardew Valley expanded on its predecessor, Harvest Moon, by adding an adventure mode, a more complex growing and animal system, and a rich story centered around characters in town. It improved upon the original design in every single way and players likened the game to a relaxing mediation. I absolutely loved it, and I’m not the only one considering it’s sold over 15 million copies of the video game. Read the full Stardew Valley review below.
Now Stardew Valley is going even more retro (if that’s possible) with its own board game adaptation.
- Will it live up to its success as a video game?
- Will they be able to successfully duplicate the same meditative feel?
Let’s find out, with our Stardew Valley board game review.
Brief Overview of Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley is a cooperative game where players need to work together to restore their grandfather’s farm by completing objectives and saving the town by preventing corporation Jojo Mart from buying up the whole town.
Unboxing Stardew Valley
There are a lot of components in the box and depending on which version you get, they can vary.
There was a bit of a kerfluffle when the first edition came out. There was one organizer tray that held a few of the tiles, but the rest of the components were basically left to fend for themselves. The second printing has 2 trays that keep everything organized and fixed a few issues they had with printing alignment on some of the cards.
Overall, either edition will work just fine, but the added edition of organizers and player feedback in the 2nd edition make it worthwhile. If you find the first printing for cheap and you’re not bothered by an extra organizer, save the money and get the first one.
The 2nd edition also includes two different bags for fishing and artifacts so players can randomize rewards by pulling from the bags.
Another nice component is the custom dice. Instead of the usual pips, the Stardew dice have custom images using animals, hearts, star drops, or Junimos. They’re super cute and it’s another nice little touch that adds to the Stardew Valley theme.
Speaking of the theme, the artwork is beautiful and fits perfectly with the Stardew Valley Aesthetic. The board basically looks like the map in Stardew Valley and all of the cards, tiles, characters, and animals all look adorable.
How to Play Stardew Valley
The first thing you’ll want to know about Stardew Valley is how to win.
The main goal of the game is to complete 4 of your grandfather’s objectives before he comes back to check on the farm.
Complete 4 goals. Easy enough, right…? You know it’s never that easy.
On top of Gramp’s goals, there are also 6 different community center goals you’ll need to complete in addition. There’s no mixing and matching.
Oh, and by the way, you get 4 years in-game to do that with 4 seasons per year. If you’re following the math, that’s a total of 10 objectives that need to be completed in 16 turns.
Yikes. Already this is definitely not feeling like the calm farm management video game.
On each player’s turn, they’ll have the option to perform 2 actions. Either 2 actions in a row or action, move, and then action again.
The actions all depend on where the player’s character is on the board. They could farm, fish, befriend villagers, mine, or buy supplies.
Stardew Valley’s turns come in 3 different phases:
- Season: Draw a season card and follow the instructions.
- Planning: Players discuss and come up with a plan for the Action phase.
- Action: Players get to perform their two actions and move around the board.
In order to actually win the game, players have to complete 10 objectives.
- 4 Grandpa Objectives
- 6 Community Objectives
All 10 objectives need to be completed in order to win, so players really don’t have a lot of time and can’t waste a single turn.
To amp up the difficulty, the Community Objectives are hidden until players make friends with villagers. Players need to earn heart tokens to then flip over the community objectives.
There are a lot of moving parts and it can seem really overwhelming at first, but after a few turns, it runs pretty smoothly. You still might not win after your first or second game, though.
Pros & Cons
- Beautiful artwork
- Hard to actually categorize this game
Stardew Valley Review (TL;DR)
Stardew Valley as a standalone game does a great job of being a board game.
It falls short in capturing the feeling and theme of Stardew Valley to life, though. When it hits the table, it looks like Stardew Valley. The board and card artwork look like Stardew Valley, but the gameplay itself is hectic. In 16 turns throughout the game, players have to complete 10 different objectives, and there’s absolutely zero time players can waste on their turns.
That’s a complete 180 from the actual video game where players spend their time exploring, making friends, and farming. It’s completely understandable because you can’t really have a video game that lasts hours with players wandering around at their own pace. The two different playstyles aren’t really compatible.
On the plus side, the aesthetics, artwork, and components are incredibly well done. If you’re a fan of the art style of Stardew Valley, then you’ll feel right at home here. The artwork is an updated version of the pixelated source material, but it keeps the same cute feel of the original.
There are a few problems that come when adapting a video game into a board game, but there are 2 in particular that I’m going to focus on.
First, designers have to transform a typically more complex programmed game into an analog version. Translating the original game into cardboard is a pretty difficult task all by itself, but it also has to remind players of the original source material.
This brings us to our next point. A board game adaptation relies on source material and if it doesn’t accurately portray the source material, it’ll upset the original fan base.
So it comes down to this:
- The board game has to stand alone with mechanics and gameplay.
- The board game has to be true to the source material and pay homage to the original source.
Did Stardew Valley Achieve those goals?
Yes and no. It all depends upon what you think is the true Stardew Valley experience.
The board game is fantastic. Board gamers who have never played the game will pick up the rules and be able to play a highly cooperative and strategic board game. It’s a solid game and there’s no doubt about it.
Players of the video game who enjoyed the calm meditative gameplay where there really are no consequences for your actions will love the artwork and feel of the game, but the actual gameplay may stress them out.
On the other hand…
Those crazy Stardew Valley players that build farms with the highest level of optimization and try to squeeze every single gold piece out of their farm with an advanced algorithm of crop rotations will find it fits their version of Stardew Valley perfectly.
So overall, I think they did a great job with it. Any cooperative board game fan will enjoy the tabletop game, but not all Stardew Valley fans will enjoy the changeup in gaming style, and that’s okay. It would be weird to have a sandbox board game that never ends.
We hope you enjoyed our Stardew Valley review! Have you tried playing the tabletop version of this popular video game? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.