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Stardew Valley: The Board Game

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Stardew Valley: The Board Game is a cooperative board game which includes the likes of farming and friendship. The board game is based off of the well known Stardew Valley video game by Eric Barone, and the gameplay follows a similar storyline to this. You must work together with all of your fellow farmers to save the Valley from the nefarious JojaMart Corporation… In order to…
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Stardew Valley: The Board Game is a cooperative board game which includes the likes of farming and friendship. The board game is based off of the well known Stardew Valley video game by Eric Barone, and the gameplay follows a similar storyline to this.

You must work together with all of your fellow farmers to save the Valley from the nefarious JojaMart Corporation… In order to do this, you are going to need to farm, fish, friend and find all kinds of different resources to fulfil your Grandpa’s Goals (which you will find out when you play the game) and restore the Community Centre. Collect all kinds of items, raise animals, and explore the Mine. Gain powerful upgrades and skills and as the seasons pass see if you’re able to protect the magic of Stardew Valley!

The main goal of the game is to complete Grandpa’s Goals and restore the entire of the Community Centre, which requires you to gather different types of resources represented by tiles. You have a fixed amount of turns to accomplish this. This is driven by the Season Deck of 20 cards, one of which is drawn each turn to trigger certain events. Cooperatively the players decide each turn where they will focus their individual actions and place their pawn in that part of the Valley. Using their actions, they visit specific locations, trying to gather resources to complete their collective goals. Actions include things like: watering crops, trying to catch fish rolling dice to explore the mines, and many more. When the Season Deck is exhausted, the game ends.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

This game is not to be played as a quick and easy game! It is a game made to challenge you, and though it may get easier as you learn the rules, it is still meant to be played as an experience of depth and replayability.

Players: 1-4

Playing Time: 45-200 minutes

Age: 13+

Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Returning to Stardew Valley.
  • All the nods and references to the original video game.
  • Colourful and vibrant art style.
  • A surprisingly challenging set of objectives.

Might Not Like

  • The randomness and luck element.
  • Tight game clock that leaves little room for leisurely exploration.
  • Hit and miss production quality–take care when punching out the tokens!
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Description

Stardew Valley: The Board Game is a cooperative board game which includes the likes of farming and friendship. The board game is based off of the well known Stardew Valley video game by Eric Barone, and the gameplay follows a similar storyline to this.

You must work together with all of your fellow farmers to save the Valley from the nefarious JojaMart Corporation... In order to do this, you are going to need to farm, fish, friend and find all kinds of different resources to fulfil your Grandpa's Goals (which you will find out when you play the game) and restore the Community Centre. Collect all kinds of items, raise animals, and explore the Mine. Gain powerful upgrades and skills and as the seasons pass see if you're able to protect the magic of Stardew Valley!

The main goal of the game is to complete Grandpa's Goals and restore the entire of the Community Centre, which requires you to gather different types of resources represented by tiles. You have a fixed amount of turns to accomplish this. This is driven by the Season Deck of 20 cards, one of which is drawn each turn to trigger certain events. Cooperatively the players decide each turn where they will focus their individual actions and place their pawn in that part of the Valley. Using their actions, they visit specific locations, trying to gather resources to complete their collective goals. Actions include things like: watering crops, trying to catch fish rolling dice to explore the mines, and many more. When the Season Deck is exhausted, the game ends.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

This game is not to be played as a quick and easy game! It is a game made to challenge you, and though it may get easier as you learn the rules, it is still meant to be played as an experience of depth and replayability.

Players: 1-4

Playing Time: 45-200 minutes

Age: 13+

 

STARDEW VALLEY cover

“If you’re reading this, you must be in dire need of a change…”

In 2016, Stardew Valley-the solo creation of indie designer ConcernedApe became one of the most successful games of its kind ever to hit consoles and introduced a generation of gamers to the joys of small-town communities and living off the land.

Five years later, without any real warning, ConcernedApe teams up with Cole Madeiros to make Stardew Valley: The Board Game. It sells out in less than 24 hours, leaving board gamers everywhere demanding a second edition. That edition is finally here, and while there’s no denying the original’s runaway success, is the board game as magical as its predecessor, and does it bring anything new to the franchise?

Livin’ Off The Land

Stardew Valley: The Board Game is a beautiful, brightly coloured game of farming and friendship. Players take on the roles of up to four farmers starting out in Stardew Valley-a small town of friendly residents and an abundance of natural resources.

Throughout the course of a year, represented by the season’s deck, the players must farm, mine, fish and forage in order to accomplish four randomly determined Grandpa Goals, and restore the local community centre. If the players can do this in sixteen game rounds, they win.

There are plenty of ways to spend actions on a turn in Stardew Valley, and Grandpa’s Goals direct the focus of a game. If you have a goal of raising animals, you’ll need to build a barn. This means you’ll be chopping wood and focusing on making money. If your goal is to restore the museum, you’ll want to visit the mine or forage for buried artifacts.

There’s a goal that encourages fishing, another that pushes you to make friends, and since only half of Grandpa’s Goals are used in each game, every playthrough is different.

STARDEW VALLEY board

Making Friends And Completing Bundles

While Grandpa’s Goals will direct much of your focus, the rest of your time will be spent restoring the community centre. This is done by completing bundles. Each bundle requires specific resources from the various mini games on the board. The pantry pushes you to farm certain crops, the fish tank requires you to catch the right type of fish, the vault needs money, the boiler room will want something from the mine, and so on.

And the bundles all start facedown. To reveal them requires heart tokens which are gained from befriending villagers. A trip to Gus’ tavern lets you befriend a local by gifting them one of your resources. Each villager has certain items they love and others they hate.

If you have a favoured item, you get a bonus heart token, and if it’s the villager’s birthday, you get a third. But if you only have resources they hate, you fail to make a friend. The people of Stardew Valley are charming, but very picky!

Friends also have gift abilities that will aid you as the year continues. There are also items to be found and used, upgrades to tools and special profession powers earned at the end of each season. It’s not all rewards and gifts, though. The evil Joja Corporation will block your actions, fish and forageables will fall out of season, monsters in the mine will disrupt your adventuring, and pesky crows will consume your crops.

Welcome Home

It’s impossible to review Stardew Valley: The Board Game without comparing it to the video game. Fans of the original will feel a spark of joy every time they open the game board and see the familiar map. The art has received a cartoony upgrade from the retro style of the video game, bringing new life to the characters and the world.

There are a ton of cards and tokens, each a reference to resources available in the video game. You can even marry your favourite villager if you can find the elusive mermaid pendant.

Other cute nods to the original include the seasonable foraging tiles scattered around the board. If you opt to move during your turn, you can collect a forgeable tile from the path you travelled. These random rewards are highly reminiscent of strolling through a video game and stumbling on a hidden treasure. There are also festival cards that can be randomly added to the season deck.

While the game can be played by someone completely new to the franchise, there’s no doubt that fans will get an extra kick out of the theme.

STARDEW VALLEY cards

The Spirits Are With You (Or Not)

So, what are the main mechanics of Stardew Valley? The answer is mainly dice-rolling and resource gathering. Stardew Valley: The Board Game involves a lot of random chance. Catching fish involves rolling matching symbols on custom dice. Mining uses the same dice in a grid system. Befriending villagers is a random draw from the villager deck while minerals and fish are drawn randomly from bags of tiles. So much luck can unfortunately lead to feel-bad moments when your turn is wasted on dud rolls.

The game timer is also very tight. Completing four goals and six bundles in 16 turns might not sound tough, but with multiple steps required to complete each goal, you’ll find a dead turn can be devastating. Not all goals are born equal, either.

The challenge to catch one legendary fish per player can be almost impossible at higher player counts because fish are drawn randomly. If one of those legendary fish is at the bottom of the fish bag, you might never see it! In contrast, getting to level twelve of the mine is easy with four players, but a real challenge in solo mode.

Also, some of Grandpa’s Goals work better together than others. If you get the ‘Raise Animals’ goal, then you’ll need to build a barn, which is great if you also have the ‘Build Buildings’ goal. That’s two for the price of one. But if you get the expensive ‘Raise Animals’ with the ‘Save Money’ goal, that’s going to be a lot of gold required to win the game! Experimenting with combinations of Grandpa’s Goals will have a big impact on the difficulty of any given game. Which brings us to…

Homebrew And House Rules

I’ve seen a lot of requests and suggestions online for house rules to mitigate the luck element. Some people suggest allowing for rerolls when fishing and mining or making certain crucial resources available for purchase rather than relying on a lucky forage. And while I will always support playing a game the way you think is the most fun, having played the game multiple times and at multiple player counts, I don’t think the game needs these changes.

Stardew Valley is a surprisingly complex and heady game, given its theme, and the balance has been finely tuned. Yes, it can be frustrating to fail multiple times to catch a fish, but the game has taken this into account with its myriad of different powers, upgrades, rewards and items.

Part of the challenge of Stardew Valley is looking for ways to use what you have. Instead of doggedly rolling dice to no avail each round, maybe a new friend could help you. Maybe next season you’ll get an upgrade to overcome the problem, or help you avoid the problem entirely.

And sometimes, you’ll lose, but that’s okay, too. Firstly, because if you always won, it wouldn’t be much of a game, but also because the act of playing Stardew Valley is a win in and of itself. You may miss out on a bundle or two, but you’ll have fun trying to get there, and isn’t that what Stardew Valley has always been about?

STARDEW VALLEY cows

Final Thoughts

Stardew Valley: The Board Game has one crucial difference from the original. The video game was all about taking time to explore the world. You could dedicate hours to fishing at the lake and never worry about the mines or the community centre. But the board game is a tight race to the finish line and wasting time at the lake isn’t an option when there are animals to rear and crops to be harvested.

But is this difference bad? I appreciate that this is a surprisingly heavy game under the fluffy theme. It would have been easy to slap the Stardew brand on a Monopoly board and call it a day, but the developers challenged themselves with something more and the result is a lot of fun.

I’m a fan of the original, but I’m more of a board gamer than a video gamer, and Stardew Valley: The Board Game scratches a very specific itch. It’s a game for when you need to get away from the stress of daily life and challenge yourself with something different, something new. It’s a game for when you’re in dire need of a change…

Editors note: This post was originally published on April 13th, 2022. Updated on January 11, 2023 to improve the information available.

Stardew Valley cover

I am a huge fan of Stardew Valley – the video game and was apprehensive about the concept of turning it into a board game. But, after playing, I can say that the board game is as good, if not better than the original video game.

That isn’t to say that you need to have played the video game before. You don’t have to have any idea what a Junimo or Joja cola is before you can enjoy this brilliant game. It is beautifully designed and can be appreciated with or without any prior knowledge of the Stardew Valley universe.

Set Up

The best part of getting a new board game for me is opening the box and pushing out all the brand new pieces. If you’re like me, don’t fear because Stardew Valley gives you plenty of them! On your first playthrough, you will need to sort the pieces into the various trays and bags provided. Now you can start to set up the game.

First, place the board in the middle of the table and beside it the Stardew dice, animal dice and spouse pawn. Make sure that you leave plenty of space around the board. Shuffle the villagers, items, epic items, events, and mine events cards.

Place these in separate decks facedown around the board. The rule book suggests placing these in a line down the left-hand side of the board and this works great. Also, shuffle the Joja tiles and place these face down in a deck.

The box comes with a tray to hold all the crop, animal product and geode tiles. Put all the tiles inside the tray, sorted into types, and place the full tray near the board. You will also have two bags, one grey and one black/blue, full of fish and artifacts/minerals. Place those near the board too. There are no hard and fast rules about where these should go, put them somewhere that makes sense to you.

Stardew Valley board

The Parsnip

Next, take a parsnip from the tile tray and place it on the field marked with the number “2” next to the cottage on the board. Congratulations – you have planted your first crop! Make sure that the crop tile down has the waterdrop on the bottom left facing upwards. This waterdrop tells players in which field the crop should first be planted. Crop tiles are double sided and start this way up.

Separate the animal tiles by whether they are animals which live in a coop or barn. Place these in two separate stacks, with the respective building tile on top. Randomly select two other building tiles to place beside these stacks. Return the other buildings to the box.

The game starts in spring, so place the 11 spring forgeable tiles and the 4 trees on the board in their corresponding spaces. Draw 5 fish tiles from the bag and place them in The Fish Track. Place the mine level deck on its space on the board, with level 1 faceup.

The rest of the levels are in ascending order underneath so that if the top one was removed the next level is level 2, then 3 etc. The mine map cards are shuffled and one is drawn and placed in the area of the map on the board. The others are placed face down in a deck next to the board.

Seasons

The game is played through the seasons, starting with spring. At the start of the game, you will build the season deck. In your first game, it is recommended that you use only the standard season cards. For variety in future games, you can select 4 season cards from the available 20 for each season. This deck should be placed face down on the calendar space at the bottom of the board.

At the top of the board is the Community Centre. For each room draw 1 random bundle from the deck of bundle cards. Place the card facedown in the matching room. On the other side of the board is a letter. Shuffle the Grandpa’s Goals deck and draw 4 goals to place faceup in this area. The Community Centre and the Grandpa’s Goals are the goals for this game.

Stardew Valley is a co-op game where players take on different specialised roles. Players choose their profession and take the corresponding player mat. Players then select which tool type they would like to claim and take all the tool cards relating to that tool.

These cards are placed in the space on the player mat with the level 0 faceup on top. Place the four decks of profession upgrade cards facedown near the board. The starting player takes the pet token and the players collectively take 3 gold. All gold and hearts are shared between the players as a collective. You’re ready to play!

Taking Turns

To complete the game, all 4 of Grandpa’s Goals must be completed and all 6 of the Community Centre rooms must be restored. The rooms are restored when donations of the items on the cards are made equal to the number of players. The room requirements start off hidden and are unveiled as you play.

Each round has three phases: season phase, planning phase and action phase.

Season Phase

In the season phase, players collectively draw a season card and carry out the instructions on the card. Each normal season card will have a collection of symbols which are carried out in descending order. A handy key is included at the bottom of the game board. The effects of each icon can positively or negatively affect crops, provide bonuses through gifts or events, allow the trading/selling of resources between players and replenish The Fish Track.

Alternatively, the icons can negatively affect the game by introducing Joja tiles. These are tiles which reduce the usefulness of a particular location on the board whilst they are active. They can be removed as an end of turn effect by discarding 1 heart or 5 gold. If you have drawn a festival card during the season phase, it will have one single effect which is written on the card.

At the end of the season, you will draw a Season End card. At this point, replace all forgeable tiles and trees from the board with the tiles for the next season. Seasons are shown by the colours on the back of the tiles. Players each draw 2 profession upgrades from the corresponding deck and choose which one to keep.

If it is double sided, choose which side is up or active. The next season’s card is drawn straightaway, its icons are followed and the game continues as normal.

Planning Phase

In the planning phase, players can trade resource tiles or item cards. Although players collectively share hearts and gold, a player’s inventory is theirs individually and can be filled. There is space for 6 resources, 2 items, and 2 upgrades. There is no limit to epic items, friends or kept event cards. A starting tool begins at level 0 and can be upgraded as an end of turn effect. As well as trading, the planning phase allows players to discuss their plans for their next turn.

Once decided, place your pawn on the location in which you want to start. During your action phase you will be able to move 1 space but no further. When all players have placed their pawn the action phase begins.

Action Phase

Starting with the player holding the pet token, players can either take 2 actions at their current location or a combination of 1 action – a move – and 1 action. After each player has completed their action, they move their pawn back to the farmhouse, trigger any end of turn effects, and play proceeds clockwise.

If a player has moved between their two actions, they can take a forgeable item from an area sharing a border with the path that they have walked.

The actions available at each location are marked on the board. At the farm, a player can water crops or collect from animals. At the mountain, a player can explore the mine, buy buildings or go fishing at the lake. And so on. The actions you choose to take are likely to be targeted at completing either the 4 Grandpa’s Goals or the rooms within the Community Centre and will thus differ depending on which items are required.

To reveal a room in the Community Centre, players can spend an action at the Community Centre in Town and spend heart tokens equal to the number of players. They can then reveal the leftmost bundle card, starting with the Crafts Room. Donating to the Community Centre requires players to spend an action at the Community Centre and donate as many of the required resources as they are able. If bundles become impossible during the game, they can be replaced by spending more hearts.

The Bundles

Within the Community Centre are room specific. For example, to restore the fish tank players need to obtain certain types of fish which will require them to spend actions in one of three fishing areas. Some bundle cards require types of fish which can only be found at a specific location and players would then spend more actions in that location. Rolling the Stardew dice determines what combination of fish, trash or treasure chests can be caught.

To obtain hearts, players must make friends with the other villagers in Town. Spend 1 action in Town to turn over a Villager card. Each Villager will tell you what types of gifts they love and hate by the left and right hand sides of their card.

If a resource is not listed, it is a liked gift. If the player is able to do so, they can gift them a resource to make a friend and earn heart tokens. A loved gift will earn 2 hearts whereas a liked gift will earn 1. If the current season matches the villager’s birthday, players can earn an extra bonus heart. If the mermaid’s pendant epic item is obtained players can marry a villager to give a bonus action during the action phase.

Hearts can also be obtained by donating Artifacts or Minerals to the Museum run by Gunther. Filling the slots in the Museum can also earn up to 2 Epic Items.

To obtain gold, players can grow crops or collect from animals. Both of these methods of obtaining gold require preparation. Players would need to water crops to enable them to grow and be sold. Watch out for crows! The game starts with 1 parsnip in the field which can be watered until it grows and can then be sold.

Further seeds can be purchased from Pierre’s store in Town and players start with 3 gold to enable more crops to be planted early in the game. Crops are seasonal and there are four crop types for each season. At the end of the season, crops from the previous season can continue to grow but players can no longer buy more crops of that type.

To collect from animals, players need to create buildings and buy animals. These actions can be taken at locations on the board and are likely to require players to work together to obtain what they need to be able to achieve their goal.

The Boiler Room

The Community Centre requires Mine resources like Minerals, Bug Meat and Ore. Exploring the Mine can be done at the Mountain. Players spend 1 action to roll the Stardew dice and use the Map Card to determine what the outcome of the exploration is.

Rewards include stone, Bug Meat, Ore, Geodes, Items or Mine events. If the outcome is a monster the monster ability on the Mine level card is triggered. Mine levels are changed when staircases are used and a new Map Card is revealed. Ore can be opened by visiting Clint and a roll of the Stardew dice will determine what is inside.

At the end of your turn, place your pawn back on the Farmhouse. You can then choose 1 end-of-turn effect. The effect can be performed as many times as the player is able to. Building a staircase allows players to descend further into the Mine. Petting animals increases the value of their produce. Removing a Joja tile allows actions which may have been blocked to be used again and meeting the requirements to upgrade a starting tool advances it to its next level.

Stardew Valley tiles

End Of The Game

The game ends with victory when the players complete all 10 of their objectives (4 Grandpa’s Goals and 6 Community Centre rooms) or with defeat when the final season card is drawn.

The rulebook includes various adjustments which can be made to change the difficulty, mode or length of the game. There is also a handy reference guide and a symbol reference sheet included on the back of the book which is very useful. A separate sheet includes strategies and tips for increasing your chances of completing the game.

Finally, there are rules included for a solo game, which is not altogether different from the co-op experience. The only difference is that the player can select from any of the four profession decks when they gain a profession upgrade at the end of the season, rather than being limited to their own profession.

Final Thoughts

I have to admit that when I was setting Stardew Valley up for the first time I felt slightly intimidated by the number of pieces. I started to get confused when I was reading the instructions and I found myself feeling almost overwhelmed by the openness of the gameplay. Also, I could choose to approach this game however I wanted and take whatever actions I wanted to in whatever order I chose. Where to start then?

However, as I started to play I realised that this is the beauty of the game. In that sense, it is so similar to the video game from which it originated. The goals are set at the beginning of the game but the method in which you approach them is entirely up to you. And I love that!

The seasonal element makes the game feel progressive; it is ever changing and unpredictable – like real-life farming. It makes the victory, when it eventually happens, even more sweet.

Stardew Valley But More!

Stardew Valley: the board game is based off the massively popular video game Stardew Valley in which you play as a farmer trying to grow crops, make friends, and mine away till your hearts content. The board game is exactly the same, but all mashed together and then given an end goal to give it that board game magic!

If you’re a fan of the original video game then you’ll be sure to love the board game too as it has all the charm and fun carried over and makes it all new again, so you get to experience all of it again like the first time playing.

If you’ve never played the original video game then I would still say that this is perfect for you (and so would many others based on it constantly being sold out) and is a really fun game. The board game is co-op and is quite challenging too so don’t let the cutesy stylised art throw you off, this game will make you think and strategize to get to win.

I’ll try and keep this review short and simple as there’s a lot to talk about and if I don’t contain myself then I’ll end up going forever!

Farming On Steroids

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t Stardew a slow, chill farming social game?”. Yes, you’re right but the board game takes that and throws it on its head and makes it a race against time where you have to finish a certain amount of difficult tasks that take time and concentration to get done. I know that might put some people off, but this is no small game. The game takes up to 2 hours to complete and is constant planning and resource management but with a theme like this how can you hate that!

The theme itself helps make the game become less of a management game where you just all go pick up resources and roll some dice here and there, into an immersive experience where you’re increasing your crop output, gaining skills, gathering items, making friends, improving the land, and more. You don’t feel put down by the responsibilities of the work you’re doing within the game, and you feel more like it’s a delight to be playing and these tasks are just ways of having new experiences and living out the Stardew Valley experience.

Speaking of skills, the game categorises players by giving each player an expertise which could be farming, mining, foraging, or fishing. These allow players to focus on certain tasks as they get bonuses for their respective roles, and they will get specific role-based skills and items throughout their time playing. This in my opinion is a great addition to the game as it stops new players from being totally overwhelmed by all the possibilities and options given to them when starting the game and instead gives them a crutch to stand on where they can focus on their one skill and build up their knowledge as they play. This aspect of the game also gives a lot of replay-ability to the game as players will want to experience playing as another certain roles to see the differences in gameplay and strategy.

Another aspect of the game that helps with replay-ability is the tasks/end goals which you can scale the amount of them that get played in each gameplay session depending on how much you want to take on and how difficult you want the game to be. There are quite a lot of choices for these end

goals and what they could be so there is no way of telling which ones you’ll draw, and it makes the game different on each playthrough.

Farmin’ Solo

I couldn’t help but mention the solo mode of Stardew Valley. It plays the exact same as the normal way to play but still makes it fun and at a good level of difficulty too. Who doesn’t just LOVE a good ol’ solo mode on a game too!?

 

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Returning to Stardew Valley.
  • All the nods and references to the original video game.
  • Colourful and vibrant art style.
  • A surprisingly challenging set of objectives.

Might not like

  • The randomness and luck element.
  • Tight game clock that leaves little room for leisurely exploration.
  • Hit and miss production qualitytake care when punching out the tokens!