Dire Wolf Digital, in addition to being the publisher for some great tabletop games (like Clank in Space), is also one of the premiere publishers of digital boardgame adaptations.
From Raiders of the North Sea (which I haven’t reviewed yet but probably should!) to the wonderful Root adaptation (which I also should review!), they are one of the best digital boardgame publishers out there.
So when they announced Everdell, you know I had to have it.
Everdell was designed by James A Wilson with artwork by Andrew Bosley and Dann May. It was published in 2018 by a lot of different companies, though I believe the original publisher was Starling Games.
This is going to be a review of both the app as well as the game, as I doubt I will ever play the tabletop game enough to actually review it.
Thus, I won’t mention the 3-dimensional tree that’s used in the tabletop game and I can’t imagine trying to put it together each time, and I don’t have space to just put it on the shelf so I don’t have to take it down, and it wouldn’t transport to game day anyway and what was I saying????
The game is really intriguing because it’s another tableau-builder where you are chaining cards to play and gaining resources to play cards from your hand.
It’s actually really neat!
But how neat is it?
Let’s take a look.
In Everdell, players are placing workers to gain resources that will enable them to play cards either from their hand or directly from the Meadow (which is a nice wrinkle).
Everdell progresses by seasons. You start in the Winter with two workers. Once you can’t take any more actions or play any more cards (or choose not to), you advance to Spring and all of your production cards produce as well as you getting one more worker.
Advancing to Summer, you get one new worker and then you can choose up to two Meadow cards to put into your hand.
In Autumn, you get production and get two more workers.
Thus, your ability to do things increases every time the season advances.
But what does all this mean?
There are a number of places where you can place workers to get resources. Some of them are available every game, but some of them are randomly available (four for 3+ players and three for 2 players).
You will be getting Resin, Wood, and Pebbles to help you build Constructions. You could also be getting Berries to help play critters to your tableau.
What are the cards like?
Constructions require resources while Critters require Berries. However, if you build a Construction, it will often give a “link” which allows you to play a Critter associated with it for free.
For example, constructing the Post Office not only gives you (or your opponents, though they have to give you a VP for it) a space to place a worker, but it also allows you to play the Postal Pigeon for free.
You can have a maximum of 15 cards in your tableau, so you do have to watch out for that as well.
Like most of these tableau-building games, your first season doesn’t allow you to do much, but as the seasons progress, you will be doing more and more and hopefully increasing your victory points exponentially.
What I find really intriguing is that you can play not only from your hand but from the Meadow as well. Sure, you have to chance that an opponent can’t play the card you want before you do, but it does make it so you don’t necessarily have to have the card in hand to still play it.
In addition to the tableau, there are goals that will give you points.
There are standard ones (if you have played 4 Green Production cards, for example), but there also unique ones for each game that are dealt out.
For example, the Remembering the Fallen goal requires that you have a Cemetery and Shepherd in your tableau. If you do, you can place a worker here to fulfill the goal, giving you 3 points for each buried worker at the Cemetery at the end of the game (which can be quite lucrative! Though that means the worker’s not available to help you in later seasons).
Once a goal is finished, it’s not available to other players, so there is a race to do them.
Essentially that’s it.
You either move a worker to get resources or you build a card (or move a worker to fulfill a goal). As you progress during the game, you will get more workers.
During the Autumn season, you can place a worker to discard cards from your hand and get points based on how many cards you discard. That’s a way to get rid of a bunch of cards that you don’t need.
Each card you play is worth points (some of them zero points, admittedly, but they usually give you a cool ability to offset that), but they also may be worth more points (if the card says you get points based on how many Unique Constructions you have, for example).
Once you’re in the Autumn season and you have no more plays, you advance to the end of the game and let everybody else finish.
Whoever has the most points at the end of the game is the winner!
Is Everdell a beautiful walk through the forest? Or is it a place where you get nothing but Fools and you wish you had just stayed home?
There are a bunch of tableau-building card games out there, but none with the table presence that Everdell has (as much as I can’t imagine trying to use and store the tree, it will attract eyes when it’s on the table!)
I do like that there’s a Market (actually, it’s called the Meadow) row of cards, and that you can play a card directly from it. I’m not sure how many games have that option.
Another thing players better get used to is there is a hard 8-card limit to your hand. None of this “if you have more than 8 cards, discard down to 8.” No, if you have 8 cards, you don’t get to draw shit. Sucks to be you if you went to a place that lets you draw cards!
That’s a rather unique mechanism which I greatly appreciated (even though I have to remember that it’s actually a thing, since there is no “undo” mechanism…come on, Dire Wolf!)
Thus, it is a rather standard (with a couple of unique things) tableau-builder. If you have already burned out on tableau-builders, then you probably won’t enjoy this that much.
How’s the app?
With a couple of caveats (like the lack of undo! Come on, Dire Wolf!), this is another amazing app from Dire Wolf Digital.
Let’s get a couple of the minor niggles out of the way first so I can expound on how great this app is.
First, there’s no undo (C’mon, Dire Wolf! Maybe I’ve harped on this enough). Sure, if you draw cards, you shouldn’t be able to undo after you’ve seen the cards you drew. But if you’re just placing a worker to gain Resin? Why can’t you undo that if you place it in the wrong space?
Which leads me to my second issue.
It’s way too easy to place a worker in the wrong spot.
Sure, you can drag the worker and hold it until you see the effect of the spot you’re trying to place them at.
But it’s way too easy to end up placing the worker in the wrong spot.
Placement is very finicky, and you can’t just tap the location and have your worker go there (or at least I tried that and it didn’t work for me…if it is possible, then the sensitivity on the tapping needs to be adjusted).
My third issue is more of a mobile (iPad for me, but probably Android as well) issue.
You can easily click between the Tree (goals) and your tableau (the Meadow and what you’ve built), but sometimes you want to see whether or not you have the requirements for a goal. You can hold the Tree button and all of the requirements pop up, but you then get taken to the Tree.
On Steam it’s not an issue, as you can move your mouse pointer over the Tree symbol and it will pop up the requirements.
But on iOS, you have to hold the Tree button, it does the same thing but it disappears after a couple of seconds. I don’t know if that’s supposed to happen or if it’s just an inconsistency of the the pressure my finger is placing.
Either way, it’s kind of annoying.
Thankfully, both mobile and Steam have added a button where you can just press it and get all of the Meadow cards showing.
You can also hold your mouse over (or tap if you’re on mobile) a card to see what it does. But it’s nice that you can get a look at all of the Meadow cards. It makes things a lot easier!
If an opponent has an open space for you to place a worker, the player list actually tells you, which is really cool.
There is no easy way to actually go there, though. You have to manually scroll over to it, which isn’t the most efficient thing.
I do like that you can scroll anywhere, though, even up to the Tree if you want. You don’t have to hit the Tree button to move up there.
Another good thing is that the cards you can play are highlighted and if it can be done through a link, that part is highlighted too.
It’s nice to be able to see at a glance what you are able to do. The arrows in the picture above show the links that let you play the Shopkeeper for free.
That’s beautiful user interface design.
It’s just a very clean interface, other than the fact that the “go to home” or “go to tree” buttons sometimes don’t work and have to be pressed multiple times.
I do recommend you play with the tutorial first, as it does give you a good idea of how everything works. Even if you’ve played the game on the table, it helps you to get used to the interface.
It’s not a standout tutorial, but it’s pretty good.
How is multiplayer?
It has the usual solo challenge modes, solo with AI, Pass and Play, and online multiplayer using Dire Wolf’s friend code system (you have to give somebody your username plus the code to get on their friend’s list.
Once you’re on the friends list, though, it’s universal multiplayer, no matter what platform people are on and which Dire Wolf games you are playing.
Thankfully the game tells you what card each player played before your turn came up, though it’s sometimes hard to see if they moved a worker to a space instead. There is a game log that tracks everything, though.
One other major criticism that only affects asynchronous play, though, is the lack of ability (at least from what I can find) to go from game to game if you are in multiple games.
When you first open the app, if you have any turns waiting for you, it will pop up a notification that it’s your turn in one specific game.
If you have turns in multiple games?
You have to go back to the Main Menu. Sometimes it will then pop up another notification, but it’s inconsistent (or maybe I’m just impatient).
Other times, you have to actively go into the Online section of the game, click “Active” for your games, and see if it’s your turn anywhere.
In other words, if you are in more than one game, you have to click/tap 3-4 times to actually see if you have any more turns than just the one.
And if it’s your turn in three or more games, you will have to do the same thing when you go from the 2nd to the 3rd game and any others as well!
That’s really annoying.
All in all, this is another superlative boardgame app from Dire Wolf Digital. While there are small issues here and there (and a couple of really irritating ones), overall it’s a wonderful presentation of the game.
As for the game itself, it has some interesting quirks on the whole tableau-building, chain your cards together mechanisms and I do enjoy the game.
Would I want to play it on the table?
Sure, at least once or twice. Maybe without the huge tree.
I do like how it ramps up a bit, though, with more workers every season and production two out of four seasons, as well as production when you first play the production card.
The first season seems really basic, though. Probably gather a couple of resources, play a card, maybe two, and then it’s on to the next season.
There is also the issue of extreme downtime at the end of the game. First, it’s very possible for someone to take forever on their turn because they are trying to maximize their points in the last turn or two. Or maybe they’re trying to make sure they actually get a next turn.
Because once you are out of actions, you’re done. There is nothing else, even if the other players have been very efficient and they play a bunch of things while you sit there twiddling your thumbs.
Sure, Terraforming Mars does that too and it can be an issue with that game as well. It doesn’t bother me that much, though.
It’s just something to be aware of. Everdell will do that to you too.
I would like to play it on the table at least once, because doing that does feel a lot different than playing an app.
Thus, take the “game” part of this review with a little grain of salt.
If you’re a fan of boardgame apps, though, and especially if you like Everdell, or tableau-building card games, this is the app for you.