The world is flooded, the last bastions of civilizations at risk of being swallowed by the never-ending storms that threaten the world as the drowned God emerges from the deep. Only a few stalwart captains and their ships stand in the way and can undertake the voyages to discover the origin and cure for the dying world as you fight, navigate, investigate and trade your way to victory. The Everrain is a cooperative game for up-to four players set in a grim apocalyptic world being consumed by rising tides and water based eldritch monstrosities. The game clocks in at roughly three hours with an additional hour for each player beyond the first and features strong narrative elements alongside an engine builder and some worker placement.
The goal of The Everrain is to collect clues. Five clues can be handed in at ports to progress the player discovery and if that reaches the end slot (usually 16) then the players win. Against them is the enemy discovery which if that reaches the end will summon an avatar of the drowned God and the players will then have a limited number of turns before the avatar destroys the world in a few different ways e.g. destroying all the remaining ports, sinking all players etc.
Clues are gained in a number of ways. You gain them via exploration, doing questlines, trading artifacts, via random loot and buying them in port. It is fairly open ended in how you achieve these things and there is a good amount of choice to pick from.
Obstacles come in the form of crew fatigue, enemy attacks via enemy ships and boarding foes, as well as order management. You replenish three orders a turn which are used to maneuver your crew and perform ship movement/attacks. However, you can spend as many orders as you like each turn, you are just limited in you will only gain three back no matter if you spent more so there is tactical choice in which orders you replenish or let stay expended.
Moving your crew via ‘crew orders’ is also a premium choice as you need crew in the right locations to maximize your movement and combat orders but this has the upkeep of causing fatigue to your crew if they are on-deck at the end of the round which then needs to be removed later in Port or via a stay in the cabin and you rarely have enough orders to fully save every crew member.
The final part of the core gameplay in The Everrain, is the engine builder. You can outfit your ship in a number of ways by finding or buying upgrades in port. You can build your galleon into a mighty monster hunter which gains clues by capturing and studying defeated enemies or you can go full exploration and build the fastest most maneuverable ship capable of turning on a dime and shipping passengers at ease. There are a lot of options and given how most actions result in clues it is easy to find or fall into a ship build that compliments that. There are also specialist crew members you can hire such as the ship’s doctor or the navigator which will have powerful beneficial abilities to aid you at a higher cost than regular deckhands.
Perhaps the strongest part of The Everrain is how complete the theme is. The drowning world with its grim Lovecraftian influence is fully realized through beautiful artwork and an aesthetic that is prevalent throughout the entire game. The alternative 1800’s theme has a nice grounded feel and there is flavour dripping out of every element. The upgrades, the names cannons, the passengers/port events and the events all come together to create the horrible world that you are playing in. It is an easy game to get lost in.
There are also some well-integrated story quests that will unfold throughout the game adding extra cards into the existing decks as you follow the story chains through. There are even tiny positive and negative trait cards that each crewman receives that give them their own little bit of flavour and affect gameplay.
The component quality is great with a few drawbacks. The miniatures for the crew/enemies are all good, the ship models are excellent and very dynamic. The artwork is great and thematically gripping. The quality is up there with the best of them but there are some areas where the theme took prevalence over playability. The dice are a bad offender here with the enemy die consisting or 3 eldritch symbols that are far too similar to tell apart easily and definitely fail on the contrasting colours (red symbols on a black and red marbled effect dice…). There are also some tokens which are very visually similar to the point where they are not clearly different.
The Everrain does have some drawbacks. As mentioned above there are some component issues that are not distinct enough. It is also a long game that clocks in at three hours for one player. Even longer for the first playthrough as the rulebook is full of tiny rules that you will forget as they are not defined in a logical way. (E.g. enemies roll one attack, die when they appear outside of their first action.) The rulebook does leave something to be desired and although all the information is there, it is not easily accessible partly due to how big the game itself is.
There is also the issue that the game is too easy. After several playthroughs, I have yet to see the Avatar appear even once because by the time the final chapter begins you will have a ship capable to churn out so many clues that you will barely have to do anything in the final two or three turns but hand them in and then the game ends. No final boss, or story reveal, or anything.
It would have been nice to see some endgame encounter or something but that would also bloat out a game that is already probably taking up an entire day. Especially if you plan on playing with more than two players. That is another issue. Despite being a cooperative game, there is almost no interaction between players. It is also a game that snowballs at the midway point. The first act will take about half the game time with the remaining three taking the remainder.
The Everrain is a great game. But it is a big game and will eat most of a day to play as well as take a good amount of time to learn and teach others. But it is also a very rewarding, thematic experience that is great fun as you buy a battering ram and new cannons to upgrade your boat. It is certainly a worthwhile experience and worth the time if you get the opportunity as it is a grand spectacle of a game as you grow your own drowned world and recruit veteran crew members to go treasure hunting.
It is an ambitious beast of a game that does accomplish what it sets out to do and I have enjoyed the many hours I have spent island hopping while fighting sea wyrms and monsters and as a solo game is works very well and clocks in at a lower game time that if you involve other people.
I would love to see them release an expansion that ramps up he difficulty for the mid and late game. Giant sea monsters and more enemy ships would be high up on my wish-list as the ship to ship combat is sadly a bit of a rarity. So, to conclude if you want a big box chunky cooperative engine builder set in a rich thematic eldritch world to eat up a weekend afternoon then The Everrain may be the game for you.