Everdell is a worker-placement, engine and tableau builder designed by James A. Wilson and released by Starling Games. In the game players build their own forrest city in a fable world, that really comes to life through the beautiful artwork by Andrew Bosley. The game has gained some notability through the use of a 3D tree that only serves as a card standard and is of hardly any utility in the game. But is a show stopper at your gaming table. Everdell was the Runner-Up at the 2018 Golden Geek awards in the artwork and presentation category. Is artwork and presentation everything Everdell brings to the table or is there more that meets the eye?
What is Everdell like?
The most striking thing about Everdell is the tree that is placed in the center of the table and serves as a holder for the players’ workers and the objective cards. Even though the tree is purely cosmetic and a gimmick, it is a nice attention-grabber and works very well. In a 4-player game though the tree, because of its height, can prevent you from seeing what cards your opponents have played. Personally I haven’t been bothered by this too much.
The gameplay in Everdell is all about a large deck of cards that consists of Construction and Critter cards. Players are dealt out a starting hand of these cards, but there are also eight cards laid out on the board which players can also always choose to play. This is called the meadow and serves as an extended hand for all players. The game takes place over four rounds that are named after the 4 seasons. Players take turns taking actions; either by placing a worker in a forest location or playing a construction or critter card in front of them. This way players build their little forest-city. This so-called city may consist of a maximum of 15 cards, so players must take into account what cards they want to play in their city, due to limited space. Alternatively workers can also be placed on event cards to achieve the event bonus or on a construction card in a players city with a worker placement spot on them. After running out of actions players will move to the next season and regain their used workers, but also get additional workers to use. This way the game ramps up the possible worker placement options for players throughout the course of the game.
Collecting resources with their workers to be able to play construction and critter cards from their hand or meadow in their city is largely what players are after. Similar to the game 7 Wonders, Everdell also has a chain option, were each construction card allows you to play the matching critter card for free. This can help tremendously in speeding up your gameplay and will certainly cost you less resources throughout the game. However players waiting for that free critter to show op might get disappointed when this eventually never happens. Players should instead take a tactical approach and make the most with what cards they do have. Building up your city with cheap cards or saving resources to build the more expensive cards are both valid options. I have seen players with very different approaches win the game.
Interaction between players is minimal. Competing for cards from the meadow is certainly possible and there are constructions in you opponents cities your workers can visit for an action. There are even a few critters that directly interact with your opponent, but players are mostly building their own engine and city.
There is also a solo mode, where a single players plays against Rugwort an automated player who will build cards from the meadow. There are a few different Rugwort characters to play against. I have done so once and actually lost to him.
Everdell is a highly tactical game. It is hard to pre-plan strategically because of the randomness of how the cards show up. Everdell does try to alleviate this with a shared ‘hand’ that is the meadow. Another great thing is that you won’t end up with useless cards in your city because every card you play in your city will be worth points at the end of the game. Everdell can create some analysis paralysis, especially in the beginning of the game because players have fewer workers and every action is so important. After the winter season the game becomes a bit more forgiving because players receive more workers. After every turn you have to re-evaluate your options because action spots or cards from the meadow you planned on taking might have been taken by your opponents.
Although Everdell doesn’t do much what other games haven’t done before Everdell does combines a number of game mechanisms in a fun way and gives you a sense of building something beautiful. Despite the slick appearance, it is a good game mechanically. Trying to combo a few cards to get that extra berrie to be able to play that Critter next turn. Snagging a card from the meadow right before your opponent can play it. Or building on top of a construction card with the Crane because it has had its use. Exploring the synergies between the cards is part of the fun. Are you very fond of the art style and does the theme of building a fable-city appeal to you immensely, then you will not be disappointed. Personally I let the slick appearance and great gameplay overshadow its shortcomings.
One of the most satisfying aspects of an engine builder game is to see your card synergies come alive. So to combat the randomness even more there is even a fan variant where the huge deck of cards is split into two separate decks. Players use 1 deck for the winter and spring seasons, and the other for the summer and spring. This way it is more likely construction cards and their ‘free’ critter card show up during the same half of the game, What this also does is create a focus on collecting resources and production first deck and then shifts to gaining points, events and end game scoring in the second deck.
- Good tactical decisions
- Lots of combos to be made
- Great artwork
- Great solo mode
- Small font on the cards
- Not a lot of interaction
- A bit of a learning curve
- A bit prone to analysis paralysis
Everdell shows some similarities with 7 Wonders, Wingspan and Imperial Settlers. But it also has elements of a light worker placement game. The complexity level is about on par with Imperial Settlers as there is quite some text to read on the cards. One slightly confusing concept of the game is that players could each be playing in different seasons. So one player could switch from spring to summer, while their opponent still has actions left in the spring and will switch to summer in a later turn. The essence of a tableau builder game like Everdell is that there is a slight learning curve to all the synergys and combos, and it might take more than one play to appreciate that. Everdell for me is more than the sum of its pieces. I love how simple the game is at its core, while it still lets players do creative things with the cards they are dealt.
- Players: 1 – 4
- Playing time: 40 – 80 minutes
- Suggested age: 13+