It's fair to say many of us became spellbound by Everdell's aesthetics. "Oooh, look… A humongous 3D tree!" Photos alone don't paint the entire picture, though. From a distance - and even upon closer inspection - Andrew Bosley's art makes jaws drop in amazement. Yes: the game looks phenomenal. But do you know how to play Everdell? Do you know how the mechanisms work and link together? How it lets you fine-tune an environmental engine, down among the fallen leaves and roots?
At its core, Everdell is a worker placement game for 2-4 players, set in a lush, woodland valley. Elements of hand- and resource-management play their part, too. Over the course of four seasons, you'll compete to create a tableau of gorgeous cards. Which Constructions will you place in your greenwood city? Which cute Critters will work in the businesses you build? Which events will you race to host, first?
Tie up your walking boots, but tread with care over the twigs, toadstools and babbling brooks. This place is home to all manner of delightful forest fauna. We're going to talk a stroll through James A. Wilson's beloved game. Let's learn how to play Everdell!
Setting Up The Main Board (And The Ever Tree)
Before you learn how to play Everdell, you'll need to set up your board. Place the main board on your table. Slot the 3D Ever Tree together and sit it on the stump graphic. Consider rotating the board so the Ever Tree doesn't block anyone's view of the main board, itself. (Note: The tree adds oodles of table presence, but it's not essential for gameplay. While it'd be a shame to play without it, it's more important that players can see the board.)
Divide the four resources left-to-right in their corresponding spots along the riverbank. These are twigs, resin, pebbles and berries. On the other side of the river, place the four Basic Event tiles. Shuffle the 16 Special Event cards and pick four. Place them on the lower foliage of the Ever Tree. (They can sit off the board if you're playing without the structure). Place the yellow points tokens and the 'Occupied' doors within arm's reach.
Shuffle the 11 Forest cards and draw four (three in a two-player game). These sit face-up on the left- and right-hand side of the main board, in the forest 'clearings'. Then, shuffle the enormous main deck (128 cards!). Deal eight cards face-up into the Meadow.
Everybody Picks An Animeeple
Everyone picks a player colour. Or rather, what type of animeeple silhouette do you want? White mice, red squirrels, brown hedgehogs, or teal turtles? (I'm a squirrel man, myself!) You start with two of your workers, while your other four sit on the upper branches of the Ever Tree. (Turtles climbing trees? Whatever next…?)
Pick a Start Player. They receive five cards into their hand from the main deck. The second player gets six cards, third gets seven, and fourth gets eight. Slide the remaining deck between the 'roots' of the Ever Tree. Now you're ready to play Everdell!
Errr, Before We Start… How Do I Win?
Once setup is complete, it's time to start learning how to play Everdell! On your turn, you can perform one of three actions. These are: placing one of your workers; playing a card from your hand or the Meadow; or 'prepare for season'. You do one of these actions, then the next player takes their turn. Play continues clockwise around the table. Before I explain these though, we should first discuss: how do you win? What's your aim in Everdell?
Over the course of four 'seasons', you're all competing to build your own woodland city. This can comprise of up to 15 cards. (There's a couple of ways to break this rule, involving actions on certain cards. But in general, it's 15 cards, maximum). Cards provide their own action(s), but for end-game scores, they're worth varying points, too. If you can race to complete Events, they're worth precious points as well. Once everyone's run out of turns in the fourth season, the most points wins.
Worker Placement: Location, Location, Location
Let's break down those three actions you could take on your turn, then, starting with 'place a worker'. This is quintessential worker placement. Place your worker in a vacant location, and perform the action there. Locations are ovals with a paw print icon inside them. Basic Locations pay out stated quantities of resources: twigs, resin, pebbles and berries. Some spots get you a card(s) from the deck, too. Your hand limit is eight cards. You can draw more than eight, but you then have then discard back down.
You dealt out four Forest Location cards during set-up, remember? These are worker placement spots, too. They're all modular, and often pay out handy combos of resources. You'll get different worker placement options each time you play Everdell.
Many locations are first-come, first-served. Need pebbles? Better head to that spot now, while you still can. Some locations show an incomplete oval ring around the paw print. Any number of workers (even multiples from the same player) can visit these at once. One such example is the Haven. This lets you gain any one resource for every two cards you discard.
The 'Journey' location spots also allow you to discard cards. You earn end-game points equal to the number of cards you give away. Three, four and five (cards/points) are exclusive spots. Everyone, meanwhile, can visit the 'two cards' place. You can only send workers to the Journey in autumn, the final round.
Playing a Card: The Heart and Soul of Everdell
Throwing cards away? Are they a mere form of currency, then? Nothing could be further from the truth. Cards are the heart and soul of Everdell. Instead of performing a worker placement action, you can play a card into your tableau. This could either be one from your hand, or one from the public flop in the Meadow.
The anatomy of the cards might appear complex, but don't panic. I'm here to explain them to you! Straight away, the number in the yellow circle is how much this card's worth, in points. Half of the cards are Constructions, and the other half are Critters. Their layout remains structured, either way. For every Construction in the deck, there's a matching Critter. There's a Twig Barge, for example, and then a Barge Toad. There's a Clock Tower, and a Historian (who's a bat - in the belfry, of course), and so on.
In the top-left sit the required resources you need to pay to play this card into your tableau. (Hence why you dabble in worker placement shenanigans.) Constructions always cost a combination of twigs, resin and pebbles. Critters are a little different. You can pay for them in berries, but there's a far more efficient way to get them into your tableau. If you've already built a Critter's correlated Construction, you don't have to pay their berry cost. Instead, you can play them for free!
This is akin to how you can play upgraded cards gratis in 7 Wonders. Constructions have their matching Critter listed in the bottom-right. Critters have their matching Construction listed top-left, alongside/instead of the berry cost. You can only claim one free Critter per Construction. If you activate this, place an Occupied token on the Construction, to remind yourself.
What Do These Card Types Mean?
Underneath the name of the card, it states whether it's Common or Unique. You can build multiple Common cards of a specific type in your tableau, but only one if it's Unique. (So for example, you could build more than one Inn, but only one Palace.) Each card has text on it, describing its action or benefit. Constructions and Critters are also broken down into five types:
- Brown cards (Traveller) trigger once, as soon as you play them.
- Green cards (Production) trigger as you play them, but also when you prepare for spring and autumn seasons. (More on preparing later.)
- Red cards (Destinations) act as their own appealing worker placement spots. Some are Open, meaning you'll earn points if other players visit them. Closed ones mean you alone can visit them.
- Blue cards (Governance) feature passive, ongoing traits. These include discounts off certain card types, or rewards every time you perform certain actions.
- Purple cards (Prosperity) earn you extra end-game points in various set collection fashions.
As the game progresses, then, so does the effectiveness of your tableau. Build up wonderful businesses and animal employees, and they'll start to generate benefits and actions for you. With some smart planning and good timing, you'll discover you don't need to rely on the worker placement spots. You've built a woodland engine, of sorts.
You can play cards from your hand, or play one from the Meadow. But remember, the Meadow cards are public. Got your eye on one? Careful, because someone else could build it before you, if they have the right resources. (Or if it's a Critter that they can play for free, because they've already built the matching Construction!) The Meadow always gets filled back up to eight if a card gets claimed.
Meeting the Requirements to Throw an Ever-Event
Now you know about the cards, the Events will make more sense. Remember the four Basic Events you placed along the river bank during set-up? Those have worker placement spots on them too. You can visit these spots to complete an Event - worth points - if you meet their requirements. The City Monument requires you have three Governance cards in your city tableau. The Grand Tour requires you to have three Destination cards. The Harvest Festival requires four Production cards. The Cartographer's Expedition requires three Traveller cards. Complete an Event and receive the token. These are first-come, first-served.
In set-up you also picked four random Special Events. You can claim these too, by sending a worker to them if you meet the requirements. These demand a combination of specific Critters and Constructions in your city. Sometimes Special Events pay out extra points in the form of set collection or resources.
Preparing for the Next Season - What Freebies Do I Get?
The key to success in Everdell is squeezing out actions for as long as possible. Can you play a worker, to then afford a card, which then gains you resources? So that you can then play another card? And then play a Critter into a matching Construction for free? To begin the game, remember, you have a mere two workers, so you need to stretch their worth to the extreme…
At some point, it's inevitable that you'll run out of options. That's okay! You always have a third action you can take: prepare for the new season. This means, in a nutshell, passing. You retrieve all your workers back from their Locations. The first time you 'prepare', you also gain an extra worker. (Remember you placed them on top of the Ever Tree?) You also then trigger any of your green (Production) cards again. This means you might get a windfall of extra resources to help you on your way in the next season.
Everdell is different to other games with regards to passing and waiting for rounds to end. You might have prepared and gone into the next 'season', but you don't have to wait for your opponents. On your next turn, you keep going! Some time later, you'll pass into summer. Your Production cards don't activate here, but you do get a fourth worker to add to your ranks. You also get to take up to two cards from the public Meadow into your hand. When you prepare for autumn (going into your fourth and final season) you get your last two workers. Plus, your Production cards pay out once again.
End-Game Scoring: Add 'Em Up!
And that's how to play Everdell! All that remains now is the final scoring. You'll find that one or two players could finish before the others. Those players have to wait for the others to end their fourth season before final scoring occurs. You'll score points based on the cards' core values in your tableau. Add this to any yellow points tokens you might have amassed during the game. Then work out any end-game points from Prosperity (purple) cards, and Events. Don't forget to include points from the Journey worker placement spots! Most points wins. Then give the winner a pat on the back or a nod in approval. If that's you, then it's time to bust out your very own victory dance…
Now you know how to play Everdell, why not take a look at its awesome expansions? Bellfaire, Spirecrest, and Pearlbrook are all available here on Zatu Games.