Everdell – Review
Everdell had the potential to be one of the biggest board gaming disappointments. Everything about it – the box, the art, the components, the character, the Evertree – is just so beautiful and so carefully considered that had the gameplay been boring or not lived up to the lofty standards set by the rest of the game, it would have been an absolute bummer.
Thankfully, this isn’t just a pretty package hiding the flaws inside. Rather, this is a fantastic game that I am constantly drawn back to at any player count, even solo. It’s a joy to set up, it’s a joy to look at, and it’s a joy to play. It can have a bit of a slow build that will be an adjustment for some people, but there’s a lot to discover here and the more you play, the better you’ll grasp Everdell and understand its nuances.
Like any good childhood fairy tale, you’ll be looking for every opportunity to return and journey headlong back into this whimsical, magical world.
ARTWORK AND COMPONENTS
Everdell might just be the standard for artwork and component quality in board games. Every piece of art is exclusive to this world and I consistently found myself forgetting to strategize on other players’ turns to instead just admire and gawk at the artwork on the cards. Each critter has character and you can imagine them having their own story and their own place in this world. If this were a cartoon series rather than a board game, each of these characters could have their own background and story arc and each one would be captivating. Likewise, the locations on the construction cards are equally gorgeous and varied.
The gameboard is equally impressive, eschewing the usual rectangular board for a completely unique shape filled with its own special artwork and designs. Most games have rectangular or square spots on the board to indicate where to place cards or tiles. In Everdell, players place resources along the river in spots that aren’t clearly marked but make sense from a thematic standpoint, such as berries being placed on trees or resin being placed on the quarry. Aside from the emptiness of the central meadow, you could almost mistake the Everdell gameboard for being complete and not needing anything placed on it, but once you start placing the forest cards, the resources and the Evertree, it all makes sense. I appreciate the effort put into making it feel like you’re fleshing out the gameboard as you play, rather than repairing a vacant one.
Speaking of the Evertree, it is arguably the most recognizable and memorable part about seeing Everdell set up on the table. Honestly, nothing about it is necessary to play. While it does provide a spot for the deck of cards, as well as the future workers you’ll acquire during the game and the end-game special event cards, all of these items could have just as easily been placed on the table next to the board, like most games. As I’ve established, however, Everdell is not your run-of-the-mill game when it comes to theme and presentation and so, we have the Evertree. It’s easy to set up, but hard not to smile when you see it on the board. Despite not being entirely necessary to the mechanics, it’s definitely the cherry on top of this already beautifully impressive game.
The component quality is also spectacular. Each resource has its own unique look, shape, and even feel. The squishy berries feel like actual berries, the small pebbles are smooth and made of material to match, the jagged resin is shiny and looks valuable, and finally, the twigs are probably the most basic, but they still resemble twigs and have their own build and feel. These resources could quite easily have all been cubes of different colours with slightly different shapes.
Everdell strives for immersion. Every component, every piece of artwork, everything in this game has its own unique identity, which makes Everdell actually feel like you’re taking a walk through this world. Thematically, Everdell sits on the upper echelon of board games. Every aspect of this game plays to its theme. A great example is how you can play critters for free if you control certain constructions. Every critter has a main building to call their own. For instance, the Teacher calls the school their home. If you control the School, you can play the Teacher for free and, when doing so, you’ll place a little closed door token on the construction card to show the construction is now occupied. It’s a small detail, but another fantastic example of the mechanics being presented in a way that always ties back to the theme and makes sense in the world around it.
Everdell might just be the standard for artwork and component quality in board games.
I could write another 10 paragraphs on the artwork, components, theme and overall beauty of this visual masterpiece, but I’ll just leave it at this: Everdell is one of the most beautiful board games I’ve played and there has been so much care taken to ensure every aspect feels immersive and properly integrated into the world around it. If you’re drawn into the themes or art of games you play, you will not find many better options than Everdell to feast your eyes on.
It took me a couple plays of Everdell to get accustomed to its slow build. The game is played over four seasons and often times, the first two seasons feel as though they’ve flown by and you’re so far from accomplishing everything you set out to do. You can feel like you’re falling behind, not playing properly, missing a rule, and not considering the right things. However, the final two seasons usually completely spin this feeling on its head and you’ll suddenly have too much to do. This wasn’t always the case and some games featured more interesting early seasons, but it all depended which critters and constructions were available and which forest cards were in play. After getting used to this style of design, it became a real challenge to see how much I could get done in early seasons to maximize my options and my effectiveness in the later ones. So while this aspect of the design started out a bit frustrating, it ultimately became something I really loved about the experience.
As I mentioned with the forest cards, many elements of Everdell change each time you play. The forest cards, the special event cards and the meadow cards will be different each session and the former two can have a major impact on the game. In my experience, the forest cards have the most significant impact. For instance, I found it much easier when forest cards were available that featured spaces to collect 3 berries or 2 resources of any type. In other games, pebbles and berries were sometimes in short supply and it made for fewer interesting decisions in the early seasons as much of your time was spent finding ways to collect these valuable resources. I don’t necessarily think one made for a worse experience overall, but they were drastically different and some people may be annoyed by one and have much more fun with the other.
I really like the simplicity of turns in Everdell. You have limited options, making the barrier to entry quite easy. However, turns can also snowball into several other actions to make them much more involved and interesting. But at the end of the day, boiling it all down to either place a worker, play a card or pass makes this game a lot easier to teach and introduce to people. Eventually, you’ll be placing a worker that allows you to play a card for free, at which point you’ll be triggering an ability on that card, while also triggering an ability on an already played card for when this type of card is played. Even though that all might seem complicated, the game slowly builds to these moments and you’ll have a firm grasp of the rules and mechanics before you endure such turns.
As I alluded to earlier, Everdell also features a unique solo mode. It still completely feels like playing Everdell in a 2-player setting, but you get to spend more time being thoughtful and strategic. The way the AI opponent carries out their actions is also unique and has just enough randomness to be mean, while not feeling like your win or loss is dictated entirely by this random element. I’ve played a few different games with solo modes lately, but I can honestly say this is one I could see myself coming back to multiple times when I feel like playing Everdell and don’t have the people around to play with.
Everdell is an immensely fun experience. At times, I wasn’t sure if I was having fun because of the engaging mechanics and gameplay or because of all the time I was spending admiring and getting lost in the artwork. That isn’t a knock on the mechanics, but rather a testament to the entire package. Inevitably with games that have modular aspects to their setup, Everdell does stumble sometimes depending on the forest cards and special events available, as there can just simply be some less interesting combinations. However, this usually wasn’t much of an issue and it’s also completely in your control to flip out ones that you don’t think gel well together.
Also, since the game is so beautiful and there are so many options on your turn, the downtime in Everdell always seems minimal, even at higher player counts. While other players carried out actions or strategized, I was completely content planning out my next turn or just looking at the art on the cards in my hand.
The player interaction also strikes a really good balance of being present but not being mean. All players use the same spaces for their workers so there can be some jostling for position and holding of valuable spots to prevent others from going there, but in general, especially in the later seasons, you can always take another route to get what you want. There’s also a single critter, the Fool, which can be played in an opponent’s playing area for negative points, but even this can be circumvented by utilizing other cards to remove it. Overall, there’s just enough player interaction to be interesting and cause some laughs around the table, but not enough to ruin the experience for anyone so it never impacted the fun anyone was having.
Lastly, there are multiple avenues for point collection in Everdell and I feel like I still haven’t seen every strategy or method for victory. It has been great trying to figure out the strategy that will work best for me and score me the most points, but it’s also just as fun watching everyone else at the table and which paths they decide to take.
Everdell is worth every cent. The artwork and component quality is through the roof and had the game been priced ten or twenty dollars higher, I honestly wouldn’t have blinked an eye because the value is there. They haven’t skimped anywhere; consideration has been placed in every area to ensure full preservation of the theme.
Everdell is as close to a complete package as you can get.
Also, you’ll get a lot of replay value out of Everdell. The modular aspects of setup make each game different, sometimes drastically, and the offering of critters and constructions in the meadow and your hand will also vary each game. Usually we didn’t even get through the entire deck so some critters and constructions never presented themselves.
Finally, the fact that Everdell has a solo mode is just extra incentive, because it means that even when you can’t get a group together, you can still sit down and enjoy this wonderful game.
Everdell is as close to a complete package as you can get. It’s easy to teach, because even though there are complexities in its design, the overall experience and feel make this one of the most inviting board games you could have in your collection. It’s a treat for the eyes and mind; you’ll be completely immersed in the theme and lost in its beauty, while also being captivated by the gameplay options and strategies at your disposal.
Some rounds will have a few minor stumbles depending on the availability of certain resources or cards, but nothing that should ever hamper the overall game. Really, the flaws in this one are few and they’re overshadowed by how much good there is here. Everdell is not only a place worth visiting, it’s one you’ll want to nestle into and never leave.
- Gorgeous artwork and components.
- Great variety in games, due to forest and special event cards.
- Incredibly immersive experience.
- Some forest card combinations lead to less interesting experiences.
- The Evertree, while pretty, doesn't serve a real mechanical purpose.
- Early rounds of the game can sometimes feel slow.