Many people craft or sew as a hobby. Since sewing and designing (and teaching about sewing and designing) is my job, I have a couple of other hobbies that I love. One of those is board games. I play with friends as a regularly scheduled event once a month and my husband and I play once a week or so in the evening. We aren’t big tv junkies. I often post a “game night” photo on my Instagram feed when we are playing and I noticed that those posts always get lots of questions and comments, more than my art posts. So I decided that in addition to my regular art content, I am going to start a new series of posts here on my blog talking about board games. These won’t be critical reviews or tutorials, but posts about how you play, what kind of players the game would appeal to, and some of my favorite clever elements so you can see a little what it’s like to play before you jump in. I think board games are a fun way to unplug and do something with friends that uses your brain in a different way.
I won’t talk about games like Monopoly or Scrabble, but instead more “euro-style” games you might not have heard of. You can find them at your local board games store. (My favorite in the Minneapolis area is The Source.) Just do a google search to find one near you or one that can ship to you. I will also include an Amazon link.
I’m going to launch the series with a game called Everdell by Starling Games.
Everdell is a game for up to 4 players. I’ve played with 2 and 4 and it works well with both. The theme of the game is that you are a critter (mouse, squirrel, hedgehog, turtle) and you are gathering resources and building a woodland village. The buildings and critters in your village are represented by cards, which you play by buying them with resources (wood, berries, resin, pebbles). Some critters can be played for free if you have already build their accompanying building, ie the Postal Pigeon is free if you have built the Post Office. You can only build 15 cards over the course of the game, so you have to pick and choose a balance of things that score points and things that give you more resources.
Everdell is not a complicated game to learn. You start with two critters and a handful of cards. On your turn, you can either place one of your critters to gather some resources, like berries, or you can play a card by paying its cost. Some cards give you a bonus when you play them. The Mine, for example, gives you a pebble when you play it. After a few turns, you will run out of critters or resources and it’s time to move on to the next season where you get an extra critter for the next round. Each player will have a slightly different number of turns depending on the cards and resources they have to play, but you still take turns going around the table.
Everdell is not highly interactive between players. Only a few cards have an action that directly does something to another player to make them lose points or resources. There are also a few cards that let you use or copy a card played by another player. Most of the time the way players interact is by being in each other’s way. Most of the resource gathering areas can only be occupied by one critter token, so if someone takes the resin before you get there, you will have to choose another action. Depending on the group you play the game with, this style might be a really great feature; it’s hard to gang up on someone or pick on another player and you don’t score points by attacking or destroying someone else. The focus is much more about making the most of the cards you are playing to try to score the most points.
The most striking thing for me about Everdell is how beautiful it is. The artwork on the cards is incredibly detailed and thematic. The player tokens are wooden animals and the resources are all tiny 3D objects. The part of the board that holds bonus cards and extra player tokens is a giant tree. (If you’ve ever read any of the Brian Jacques Redwall books, this game reminds me strongly of those.) We have an expansion for the game, which I have only played once so far. It adds a river and frog ambassadors you can send to trade with the water creatures.
Even though the theme may sound kid-friendly, it isn’t a kid game. You can certainly play with kids. The game recommends ages 13 and up, but I think if you have a strong reader that was a little younger, they would do just fine. You do need to read something on every card and remember to use the bonuses on cards that you have previously played.
The basic game is easy to learn and the rules are not complex, which is great if you have a game group that is impatient learning rules. Once you are set up, you should be able to just jump in and start playing in a few minutes. The complexity comes in how the cards interact and build on one another. In the game we played last night, I had a whole string of cards that built one on the other. I gathered a few resources with my critters first. Then, I played a Farm, which gave me some berries. That let me play the Wife for free. With the berries, I played the Peddler, who let me trade to get resources to play the Twig Barge and that let me play the Barge Toad for free and he gave me 2 logs since I had already played a Farm in an earlier turn.
The game does take up a little space, so you will want to set up on a largish table so every player has room for their 15 cards and to set up the board at one end of the table. The small plastic cups that the tokens are stored in don’t come with the game but they are called Bits Bins and I get them to organize nearly every game we have.
We haven’t yet brought this one to game night because we wanted to play a few more times so we could learn it well enough to teach it. We have a mixed group of people who have played a lot of games and don’t mind learning rules and those who like to just jump in and play, so we are pretty sure this one will be popular. It won a couple of awards last year and I can see there is an expansion coming soon that will allow you to play with 5 or 6 players. It has quickly become one of my favorites and seemed like the perfect choice to kick off my new board games series.
Here’s a link to find it on Amazon: Everdell
All the games in this blog post series will be featured on my Game Night “Idea List” on Amazon.
If you want to dig in to more in-depth reviews, video tutorials and more, you can check it out on Board Game Geek.