Reviewed by Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
EVERDELL (Starling Games, 1 to 4 players, ages 13 and up, 40-80 minutes; $60)
I’m always impressed by how many good games can rise from a single mechanism. The games I like most are worker placement, especially when they are strongly themed, and Everdell is one of these.
Within the charming valley of Everdell, beneath the boughs of towering trees, among meandering streams and mossy hollows, a civilization of forest critters is thriving and expanding. From Everfrost to Bellsong, many a year has come and gone but the time has come for new territories to be settled and new cities established. You will be the leader of a group of critters intent on just such a task. There are buildings to construct, lively characters to meet, events to host—it will be a busy year! Will the sun shine brightest on your city before the winter moon rises? Prepare to be enchanted by the wondrous world of Everdell. Once you are here, you might never, ever, want to leave.
Everdell is James Wilson’s first design and it is a wonderful start. What I like in this game is how the theme and mechanisms fit along with some deck-building character.
Each player controls a set of workers used to build up a city populated by critters.
The game set-up is not so easy. First you have to build up the tree that is used to store cards, meeples and special Events. There is also a random selection of forest cards, actually action spaces, that changes from game to game. Finally 8 random cards are placed. (The game board has eight spaces for the standard action spaces, places for the basic Events, resources, the Haven’s space, the Journey’s space and the Meadow. )
The goal of the game is to score points and you can get points by playing construction and critters cards in your city, getting score tokens during the game, achieving Events (both basic and special) and finally, Journey.
The game goes on in clockwise order until all players pass at the end of the fourth season. During your turn you can
- Place a Worker or
- Play a Card or
- Prepare for Season
The number of available workers will change from season to season; 2 in the first, 3 in the second, 4 in the third and finally 6 in the fourth. This increasing number of possibilities, combined with the increasing size of your city, is the core of the game, giving an idea of a real progression and making all the seasons different. Another original aspect of Everdell is that every player can change the season in a different moment so, for example, you can be playing the fourth season with other players still in the second.
The main part of the game is just playing cards, from your hand or from the Meadow, the central part of the board. This is something I love: all players can access the 8 cards in the Meadow, increasing both interaction and competition. To play a card in your city, either from your hand or from the meadow, you have to spend the right amount of resources: twigs, resin and pebbles for construction and berries for critters. Resources can be taken by placing one of your workers on a location. There is a strict hand limit of eight cards. Luckily there is “Heaven”, a shared place where you may discard any number of cards from your hand and gain 1 of any resource for every 2 cards you discard. So actually, cards can be changed into resources during the game always giving you the possibility of getting something.
There are two types of locations: exclusive and shared. Only 1 worker may visit an exclusive location. Multiple workers, even of the same color, may visit a shared location.
Locations can give you access to the different resources and/or cards. Wisely managing your hand of cards is important since every construction can host a single critter and you can play a critter for free if you have the right construction in your city. Taking and playing cards in the right order can make the difference so there is a bit of hand building during the game.
Your city can have no more than 15 cards, constructions and critters, so what to build is also important since it is almost impossible to remove or replace cards once played.
Some cards offer you instant benefits, others will activate once played and once during the Prepare for Season actions in spring and autumn. Some cards, once played, become locations and are activated by placing a worker on it and there are cards giving points in the end.
You can also place one of your workers on an Event, reclaiming it. There are 4 basic Events, the same in all the games, and 4 special Events that can vary from game to game. To achieve the Event, you must meet all the listed requirements on the Event and must pay any resources at the time you place your worker there. Only one player may achieve a specific Event.
During the game, possible actions will increase thanks to the increasing number of critters in play and cards. In the last season. you can also send critters to “Journey”, getting from 2 to 5 points. Events and Journey can make the difference in the end so it is important to plan your strategy to be able to achieve events before you opponents. If you are not able to place any critter or play a card you have to “Prepare for the Next Season”, getting back all your workers from the map and cards, getting new ones (activating your production cards in spring and autumn or getting cards in summer).
In Everdell, your resources are the cards in your hands. The game has a nice amount of engine-building, thanks to the cards you are playing in your city and hand management. Everdell is a worker placement and resource management game that offers many different strategies and possibilities. – – – – – Andrea “Liga” Ligabue
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