A board game has to possess certain qualities if i’m going to consider playing it above all the other games in my collection. Does Everdell have those qualities? Here’s my review!
Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table. Everdell is a strategy tableau-building worker placement board game from 2018 by designer James a Wilson. It plays one to four players. Let’s find the fun!
Fun: the gigantic cardboard tree. And then you ask me “Well, Ryan, what’s fun about the gigantic cardboard tree? It does nothing. It has no gameplay ramifications. It just sits on the table, and it’s not tied into anything. What’s fun about that?” …It’s a gigantic cardboard tree! It looks absolutely incredible. In fact, this entire game looks absolutely incredible. It makes Everdell beautiful to photograph, it shows up really nicely on Instagram. And again, you might say “Well, where’s the fun in that?” I don’t know about you. I don’t know what kind of party games you’re into. Maybe you like eight hour long war strategy games that are printed on burlap sacks that use, like, metal L-brackets as play pieces or something. Me, i’m very shallow. i’m very swayed by pretty graphics, and man, is the artwork in this game pretty! And the crowning jewel to all of that is this giant cardboard tree that goes on the table. You’re right: it has nothing to do with gameplay. It has no function, but man, for some reason it just makes me feel better playing the game. It just gives me a better experience. It’s like when you take the cardboard coins in another game that you own and upgrade them all with metal coins. Metal coins have nothing to do with the rules of the game, but they have everything to do with how the game feels. Giant cardboard tree.
Not fun: the seating arrangement. One of the problems that the gigantic cardboard tree causes is that it knocks out one of the seats at a round or rectangular or ovoid table so that somebody can’t sit at the head or the foot, however you have it arranged. They have to sit around the tree, or else somebody is blocked by the tree and really can’t see what’s going on. It’s not a massive deal, but i’ll be honest: i do fight for space on the table when i play this in a four player game and you start building your tableau and you think everything’s gonna be fine, and then your third row of five cards is kind of, like, slipping off the table and you try to shift the board. i mean, it’s big, it’s bold, it’s beautiful… they made some great design choices. It causes a tiny bit of space stress at the table.
Fun: Everdell has a great mechanics combination. So this is a game that combines worker placement with tableau-building. Worker placement is where you have little pawns and you put them on spaces on the board. Usually there’s a bit of jockeying for position with the other players. And then tableau-building is where you have a bunch of cards and you’re trying to build – maybe it’s a city, or maybe it’s – you’re building an apartment building with different rooms in it, or you’re trying to compose a thing where all the little components work really nicely together. So in Everdell, you’re composing a tableau of 15 different cards filled with a little forest creatures and the buildings that they operate in order to build a little city, and it’s adorable. And the combination works really well. i’ve heard people say that the word replacement bit is tacked on. i fully disagree. i think this is a good combination of mechanics, and it’s nice because i have tableau-building games in my collection. i love race for the galaxy. That’s a great tablea-building game. And i have worker placement games in my collection. You know, Viticulture is one that comes to mind, Agricola is another, but i think this is the only one i have that combines those two mechanics that i really enjoy.
Not fun: player elimination. This is one of my least favourite things that happens in a game. i remember one of the first board games i ever bought – a card game, really – was Bang!, and i quickly found out that the big bummer of that game was it’s fun to shoot people, but it’s no fun when the person you’ve shot enough is now dead and can’t play any more. You know, i get together with my friends to play board games. i don’t get to get it with my friends to beat them at board games and kick them into the living room for the next half hour because they didn’t play well enough. So i don’t like the fact that this game has player elimination. i’m not too sure design-wise what they could have done to mitigate that. But i will say this: i find the player elimination is more of a problem in a game where i’m playing with less experienced players. So when i play this game with people who sort of know how tableau-builders and how worker placement games go, we all generally finish the game at around the same time. Maybe one person has one or two more workers. When i play this game with people who are less experienced, there always seems to be someone – usually me – who, once everyone is out of the game, has six workers left and five slots left in their village, and is just – you know – wheeling and dealing and wrangling on their own, and in the worst scenario, one person goes out super early because they didn’t play very optimally, and then they’re just bored and twiddling their thumbs, and that’s no fun fun. There are a lot of different strategies in Everdell, because this is, at its heart, a strategy game. i’ve heard people dismiss it because they look at it and they think
oh, the artwork reminds them of maybe Beatrix Potter or something that’s a little bit childish, and they mistake the game. They think maybe there’s not a lot to it. You know, they judge a book by its cover. We all do that. Make no mistake: you’re going to spend a few hours playing this game, and you’re going to get deep into it. It’s amazing. There are a bunch of different cards that combo with each other, and one of the most fun things about the game is discovering which cards connect and which cards don’t, and, you know, developing a strategy to figure out which are the best little buildings and critters to invite into your city for optimal strategy. It’s the kind of game where you build a bunch of things and at the end, you’ll look and say “Well, i did really well.” And then you actually take a closer look at your city and everything’s worth one point or zero points and you know your neighbours have – maybe have fewer cards in their city, but those are all 4-pointers and 3- and 5-pointers. You think “Maybe i didn’t do as well as i – as i thought i did.” i’ve played this game a bunch of times, and i am still discovering little ways to make cards bounce off of each other and complement each other and stop somebody from getting a runaway strategy with one thing, while i help myself out. It’s not an inconsequential game by any means, so if you ever thought that looking at the artwork, put that far from your mind.
Not fun: the luck of the draw. Now this is a game where your hand is Cards drawn from a big deck of them, so you are going to get some randomness in there, but i think the game has done a really good job, especially on the random deal of certain forest tiles giving you mechanics where you can place workers to dig through the deck, or ditch cards to pick up more cards, or make players lose their cards so that you can get more cards. There are a bunch of different options so that you can by taking actions kind of tone down the luck a bit – fish through the deck a little bit. So it’s good that they added that. i know that certain board gamers don’t like a whole lot of luck in their games. i don’t feel this one has a whole lot of luck, but if you’re luck sensitive, you might not enjoy that aspect of the game.
Fun: the artwork. Once again, you say “Oh, Ryan, what does the artwork have to do with the gameplay?” It just makes me happy to sit down at the table and play Everdell. All the artwork is so… it… it evokes passion in me. It’s so lovingly drawn, and it’s so pleasant to look at. Even the bad guys – the bad rat guy – he’s somehow pleasant to look at. You’ve got little chipmunks and squirrels and you’ve got – you’ve got skunks and beavers and porcupines. It is just delightful. And it doesn’t stop being delightful. Every single time i play the game, the big cardboard tree on the table, i’ve got little forest creatures that i’m playing and they have their little lives and they’re running around doing things and they have their ambitions and i just… it’s… mmm! It’s heartwarming in the truest sense of the word. If you’re a big fan of, say, things like Redwall, or even Bambi, or… or Duncton Wood, or anything like that where there’s anthropomorphic creatures – maybe Watership Down? i like all that stuff, and maybe that’s why i really dig the aesthetic in Everdell. It’s to the point where i know i harp on certain board game artists because i don’t think they’re very good. So of course, i have to give props to the guys who drew this game. They are Andrew Bosley and Dann May, and i’m gonna say right now – i’ve had a few exchanges with him on Twitter – Andrew Bosley is my boyfriend. i mean, we’re we’re both married, but i’m sure that he knows it and feels it, and i’m sure that he drew those adorable forest creatures just for me.
Not fun: rolly components. There are a couple of goods in this game – twigs and berries…
and no, you’re not the first person to make THAT joke – that are cylindrical and spherical respectively, and they don’t stay on the table all that well. The berries are a little bit rubbery and a little bit grippy, so they’re better than the twigs, but the twigs…? It’s hard to play this game on a boat. They just… roll right off the table. If you’ve got a cat, like… forget about it. They have fixed this with later versions of the game. i heard they planed off the bottom of the twig components so that they’re less likely to roll. But if you have an original version of the game like i do and you failed to upgrade your components in the Kickstarter – i’m shooting this as they’re fulfilling the second Kickstarter for the game – then you’re stuck with these these components that you’re gonna be tempted to glue to the table.
So let’s find the fun in Everdell, where fun is represented by a Rubik’s Cube, and not fun is represented by a Rubik’s Square.
Everdell is fun! (cheering)
And when i say Everdell is fun, let me clarify: i’m talking FUN. Like, i’m talking when i look at my board game collection and i think “What should i play? What will i have a good time playing that’s also a good game?” i’m gonna reach for Everdell time and time again. So we’re looking at two different things here. We’re looking at games that are fun, which is what this series is about, and games that are good games, and Everdell has that Venn Diagram down. It’s got a big spot in the centre where those two circles connect. But i have games that are fun like, King of Tokyo comes to mind – that’s a fun game, but i’m not too sure that it’s a GOOD game. It’s mechanically, design-wise, not the best game i own by any means, but it’s fun. And then i look at a game like Concordia. Concordia is a solidly-designed game, strategically beautiful, it’s deep, it’s rewarding…. Is it fun? i don’t reach for Concordia a whole lot. i kind of get a kind of a dry, boring read off it. Now, Everdell sits at the intersection of those two. Everdell is both a great game, and it’s fun. i love looking at the animals. i love the big tree. i love the connectivity between the cards, and what i especially love about Everdell is that Everdell is a game about procrastination. i think that’s the real strength of this game. What you’re trying to do in Everdell is build out your tableau, place your workers, and there’s a daisy chain mechanic where if you have a building in your city and you have the animal that wants to work or live in that building, you’re allowed to put the animal into your city on the next turn without wasting your turn spending an animal – like a worker – and you can keep that going with the kinds of cards that you build. You can keep this daisy chain effect reaction going, and what you’re trying to do is, i believe, stave off a rest turn for as long as possible. You do have to take a rest eventually – collect your workers back and move on to the next season, where you get more workers and a few more perks. But the smart player – the savvy player – is going to prolong that for as long as possible. And that’s really what you’re trying to do in Everdell. If you want to succeed, there are some advantages to skipping ahead in the season faster than the other players, especially when you get into summer, because then you get first choice of cards in the meadow. But really, what you’re trying to do is stave off the inevitable winter as long as you possibly can. It’s a game about procrastination, about biding your time, and that’s a mechanic that i don’t know i’ve seen in any of the games in my collection. i don’t know if it’s too common in board games, because there’s so many you can’t play them all, but man, is that hooky! So when i am faced with a Friday night and i’m thinking “Man, i’d really like to play a board game. What am i going to play?” Time and time again, like i say, Everdell is the one that I’m gravitating towards.
That’s it. Do you love Everdell as much as i do? Let me know in the comments. If you hate it, let’s fight! I’ll be excited to hear what you think. Did you just watch that whole thing? Hey! To 100 percent this video, click the badge to subscribe, then click the bell to get notifications when i’ve got new stuff.
Get Your Own Copy of Everdell
i hope you’re not reading this before you finish watching thet video, but mark my words: no modern board game collection is complete without Everdell. It has nearly everything i want in a game, and whenever i’m in the mood to play something, it looms large in my mind as a guaranteed good time. Use the Amazon link below to add Everdell to your own board game collection, and i’ll receive a small commission.