Review – Everdell (Second Edition)

Cute critters and woodland building!

everdell-cover-1602-28082020

 

Designer James A. Wilson

Artist Andrew Bosley, Dann May

Publisher Starling Games

Category Tableau-Building and Worker-Placement

Length 45-120min

Release Date 2021

Player Count 1-4

Everdell is an award-winning game in which players are woodland critters playing cards to build their tableau and city. It’s similar to all-timers like Race for the Galaxy and Terraforming Mars. Can it hold its own amongst the greats? 

Review 

Everdell is played over a series of 4 seasons. During the seasons, players will place workers via action-selection and play cards to expand their cities. Each city can hold up to 15 cards, and cards often grant immediate bonuses or end-game points. The player with the best city (most points) wins the game! 

To begin, players will choose which critters they want to play as and draw a handful of cards, depending on turn order. On a player’s turn, they can place a critter on an action and gain the corresponding resources or they can play a card from their hand or the meadow. It’s simple, and I like it. 

The nuance and strategy comes in because not all actions are created equal, and most of the actions can only hold 1 worker on them. So if you want a good action, you better put your worker on it before your opponents do! Furthermore, players can choose to prepare for the next season as a turn, which means they will remove all their workers currently on the board, making those previously occupied actions available again. There’s a lot of jostling for worker placement positions, and the added strategy of trying to stay in a season longer than opponents so you can claim those prime actions is a portion of the strategy not to be neglected. 

There’s even more nuance and strategy with the cardplay. Most cards have a cost, which can be paid with resources. However, some construction cards allow you to play a specific critter for free via linking (like in 7 Wonders). Besides the cards in your hand, you can also play cards from the meadow, which acts as a communal, 8-card hand. The meadow provides another area for players to jostle in because maybe you weren’t planning on building that card in the meadow this turn, but you know your opponent wants it as well, so you need to build it now. On the other hand, your building a card from the meadow means a new one gets revealed for your opponents. Great stuff. 

Everdell’s cards work a lot like the cards in Race for the Galaxy and Terraforming Mars. There are 5 broad categories of cards: some give you resources when you play them and at the beginning of spring and fall, some provide a new action location for you and/or other players, some provide special abilities, some give you a powerful 1-time use action, and some give you end-game scoring bonuses. Figuring out how to make the cards work together to ultimately score the most points is an exhilarating challenge. Even writing this review now makes me want to bust Everdell out and see what sort of combos and scoring sets I can come up with.

Aside from the cards, you can also get end-game scoring bonuses from events you can claim with your workers. Events can be claimed when you have the required number of constructions or critters matching the event’s symbol, while special events often provide a special power, but also have a specific requirement, such as having the shopkeeper and the post office in your city. The events are not necessary to win a game, but they certainly help.

Designer James Wilson did an excellent job of marrying replayability with teachability in Everdell. The abundance of cards, randomized special actions and special events help the game feel wildly replayable, while the simple consistency of placing a worker, playing a card, or preparing for the next season on your turn make the game accessible. I wouldn’t say Everdell is a gateway tabletop game like Catan or Ticket to Ride, but it’s definitely one I would recommend to someone who has already played (and enjoyed) those games. 

I love games like this. Race for the Galaxy is a favorite of mine, and I really enjoy Terraforming Mars. Everdell is different and better, respectively. It’s different than Race for the Galaxy in that it combines worker-placement with tableau-building; however, it simply can’t be played in 30 minutes like Race for the Galaxy can, even with 2 experienced players. It’s better than Terraforming Mars because the worker-placement works better with the tableau-building than Terraforming Mars’s terraforming does. Moreover, Terraforming Mars, which I still really enjoy, is incredibly long and occasionally overstays its welcome. Not so with Everdell. Experienced players can play in around 45-75 minutes, depending on the player count. That time frame feels great for this game. 

Then there’s the components. Everdell blows those 2 games out of the water, so we’ll stop the comparison here. Everdell has wonderful, tactile resource tokens, and you’ll be tempted to try and skip those smooth stones and eat the squishy berries like I did. The wooden workers are cute, and Andrew Bosley and Dann May knocked the artwork out of the park (adorable woodland fantasy and steampunk vibes). There’s also a great big tree that serves as worker holder, special event holder, and draw deck. 

Don’t those berries look edible? It’s because they are. You’ll likely need to substitute pennies or something.*

For a game with this much nuanced cardplay, Everdell provides few clarifications in the rules. This is a huge miss, especially because this is the second edition of the game. A game like this doesn’t need 20 pages of glossary and what-ifs, but a few more card clarifications would be helpful. There’s also some basic gameplay mechanics that are not clearly defined, which is rather upsetting to me because Everdell is such an excellent game. Also, score pads would have been nice. 

Something to know about Everdell is that there are a lot of cards. Combos are essential to managing resources wisely, but because there are so many cards, combos can be occasionally difficult to come by. I don’t think Everdell suffers from deck bloat, where it’s rare to get the combos you want, but there are certain games where it feels that way because of the lack of certain actions that allow you to draw cards, etc. 

Everdell feels both familiar and fresh. The theme is absolutely fantastic, the cards provide many inventive combos waiting to be discovered, the components are excellent, and the worker-placement and tableau-building are just plain fun. Despite its subpar rulebook, Everdell is an excellent game that I will enjoy playing for many years. While it doesn’t replace Race for the Galaxy, it does subvert Terraforming Mars, and has quickly become a favorite of mine. 

If you wish these woodland creatures were a bit more aggressive, check out our reviews of the equally-great but intentionally warlike world of Root

Starling Games (Asmodee North America) kindly provided a review copy. 

*This is not true. Pennies make a bad substitute for squishy plastic berries that have been eaten.

The Bottom Line

Everdell is fresh and familiar with lights-out components and engaging tableau-building. One of my favorites.

 

9

Spencer Patterson

I'm a teacher, writer, and board game reviewer. I especially love board games that pull me in like a good book. My wife is my favorite gaming partner. Twitter: @spencerspen_sir