I had been waiting to play EVERDELL with a full compliment of players for so many 'Covid' weeks, particularly after playing it a few times as 2-player and not being as enamoured as I had expected, especially after hearing and reading all the advertising and online hype.
Then restrictions lifted and I was able to have the first, of now many, 4 player games, and my reservations (determined by playing 2-player) went right out of the window. The brilliance that is EVERDELL suddenly shone through the very window my reservations flew out of.
The Collector's Edition is mainly notable due to its sleeve around the box (be careful when sliding the box in and out) and of course the metal coins, extra cards, the Rugwort expansion pack and wooden markers. Do these extra pieces make it worth twice the price of the base game?
This is a question being asked all over the game forums on the internet. The answer is No if you aren't a collector. You don't need metal coins or wooden markers (the game provides them in card) and the extra cards are available in separate mini-expansions should you wish to add them at a later date.
The Collector's Edition gives special bonuses for players who bought direct from Starling Games or who supported the Kickstarter campaign. Some people are putting it on ebay for silly prices, so if you really want the Collector's Edition (and from my viewpoint it adds more beautiful components to the already beautiful game) do look around before buying; it's likely, due to the number sold, there will be copies available for some time.
So many games get hyped up and then don't deliver to the regular player. For example, 'Scythe' came out in a bluster of publicity but for so many players it wasn't as 'great' as expected - it was, as far as I could see on the internet, scythed in as many reviews as it was acclaimed. EVERDELL also came out onto Kickstarter in a blaze of publicity, the difference between the two aforementioned games for me being that Everdell is more regularly playable and a lot more fun for everyone.
EVERDELL is a worker placement, resource manipulating game, that does not include area claiming or expanding. It has beautiful artwork, super quality cards and pieces; including 24 worker creatures (30 in the Collectors Edition), these being Hedgehogs, Mice, Squirrels, Turtles and Rats, each in their own player colour (though the Black Rats are add-ins for the solo game as Rugwort (aka the Rotten, the Rapscallion or the Rascal) prefers them - regular players can use them with no advantage or disadvantage.
I see no point in just reiterating the rules, except to say they are well written, take a fair while to read, but eventually explain the play in good detail for first time players. They are the type of rules that take that little bit longer to read; reading them out aloud does cause players to shift and occasionally yawn, but once they sink in they explain a game with creatively easy playability.
There are areas on the board where resources can be gathered and these are displayed as either an open or closed pawprint. If the pawprint is totally enclosed then only one player piece can occupy the space, if it is open then multiple players can utilise its effect. Generally this means that players should not have a problem collecting at least one of their required resources, but it's all a matter of planning and doing rather than waiting.
The immediate eye-catching component of the game is the Ever Tree, a cardboard construction which although unnecessary for the play - the pieces and cards which reside in it could be placed on the board - adds elegance to the game's beauty. Unfortunately, depending on your over-table lighting and the placement of the tree, it also causes a shadow which makes reading, even seeing, the Event cards positioned under it.
The Ever-Tree supplies additional workers over three seasons and also houses the specific events that players have a chance of achieving; first one to achieve an event keeps the card as it may score for them in the end game. When a player has done all they can in each season they 'prepare' for the next season by collecting extra critters of their type from the Ever Tree plus whatever bonus the season they are leaving gives. This is their turn, from next turn they continue to play by starting the next season, generally leaving one or more opponents still playing in the previous season - this may seem a little less logical than waiting for all players to end a season before they all start again in the next (as we did erroneously in our first game - we totally misread the rule; our fault!), but it keeps the game flowing and works perfectly without question.
The resources are lovely; the Twigs are regular wooden pieces found in many resource collecting games, the Resin pieces have (probably) been used as Gems in another game, but it is the Pebbles and Berries that are really stand out pieces - be careful that the Berries don't roll onto the floor, especially if you have small children or dogs. The animal pieces are colour coded for players and look very descriptive when viewed from the perfect angle. Berries are used for buying Critter cards.
The concept of the game is City Building, using cards from your hand or from the Meadows display to create a maximum 15 card 'city' in front of each player. The suggested, and obvious, choice of lay-out is a 3x5 grid, though the rules (and table space) allow you to create whatever shape you want.
Although this is not a deck-builder, the cards usually have a cost, VPs, a specific name and often the type of effect/text found on cards in such games. The cards each have effects and/or VP values which are triggered on placement or held over until the game-end. There are only two specific categories of card, Critters or Constructions, most of which are common with sort of Unique - in as much as a player cannot have two or more similar unique cards in their City. These cards are split again into five extra types preceded by a colour then card type:
Tan = Traveler = Immediate
Green = Production = Immediate
Immediate effects, triggered effects etc. Immediate effects are activated at the time the card is played.
Red = Destination = Activates by worker placement
Triggered effects; the playing of certain cards will trigger the effects or add the effects of other already played cards.
Blue = Governance = Bonuses
Purple = Prosperity = Basically worth VPs at game end.
My overall opinion is that this is a very pretty game with a little over-cooking on the component production side to glamourise it. I also have to say that touches like the Tree construct, and using Berries to pay for cards, do bring a good-feel touch.
EVERDELL is a game that will attract regular boardgame players as well core-game players just because of the components. Then once that awe has settled the awesomeness of the game itself will shine through.
This is as high up my list of Family Fun games as it is my compilation of Strategy games. Finding a game that can be just a matter of doing one of the following each turn: Place A Worker, Play a card or Prepare for the next Season, or that also involves thoughtful actions and specific purchasing and clever management, is what so many gamers are looking for. Here they can find all that in one box.
Naughty of me:
I have yet to play it solo so can only say that there two pages of rules that tweak the basic rules to pit the solo player against one of the other critters - you can use any critter/colour as long as you stick to the solo-rules - the Black Rats being the suggested opposition.
The Winner of each game should hold up the special EVERDELL card to their face and take a selfie to send to the publishers.
Expansions Already Available: