Author’s Note: I’m breaking with our traditional review format today, so this will be a review that integrates the gameplay description with my thoughts on the expansion. Also, for the uninitiated, today is the third day of Everdell Week, a project I’m doing to commemorate the changing seasons. This review is based on a review copy from the publisher.
Spirecrest is the second expansion for Everdell. It was on Kickstarter along with the third expansion, Bellfaire, and together they earned 11,900 backers and more than $989,000. Today, Spirecrest is the highest rated of the three expansions on BGG (earning an average rating of 8.46 out of 10.00), likely because it adds the most to the base game. Of the three expansions, Spirecrest is probably the most thematic, and adds the most mechanically to the base game.
Spirecrest is about a journey, and every player begins with the rabbit meeple of their color on the Mountain Board, which is placed below the main board of Everdell. The Mountain Board controls the main actions of the expansion, and it is activated — with players travelling along it — at each new season.
Whenever you prepare for the next season, you (1) chart, (2) discover, and (3) travel.
Charting means you take a faceup map tile — there is one more than the number of players — which can earn end of game bonuses. For example, one one map tile, at the end of the game, you can trade 2 wood and 2 resin for 5 points on one of them. The catch is that, at the end of the game, you must move from map tile to map tile, so if you don’t complete one, you can’t complete the next ones in line. This rewards planning, and is a good way to use resources at the end of the game, since they tend to accumulate in Everdell.
The other action that gets taken is a “discover” action. Players flip up three cards from the deck corresponding to the area they are in, and then either take the first one for free, or pay resources/cards to take one of the other two. There are various kinds of discovery cards — they largely mirror the types of cards in the base game — but the most notable type are the “Big Critters.”
If you take a Big Critter, you put a saddle on them, put a worker on that, and then the Big Critter replaces your worker. They earn advantages when you play them. For example, when preparing for the next season, you can leave the one named Stubblehoof where he or she is, and instead activate the location again, plus draw a card and any resource. The one named Honeypaw gives you 1 berry for each resource you gained on a placement (up to 3) that did not give you berries.
I like the big critters, and I like these cards generally, but I suspect they won’t be loved by many in the crowd of games that prefers to minimize randomness. My biggest beef with this mechanic, though, is that one card is free, and the other two cost. But they are all randomly placed, so I don’t see a reason for not just letting a player pick one of the three and move on.
The last thing you do when changing seasons is “travel,” meaning you move along the mountain board. As you do this, if the next weather card is not revealed, you do it now. Weather affects general rules of the game — for example, a blizzard means you take a resource fewer at forest spaces, or a drought means production cards do not activate when played — so this can alter the strategy. This is probably my favorite of the new mechanics, since it works thematically and, with 12 different weather cards, adds variation to the game.
A note in the rulebook says, “Spirecrest adds substantial complexity to Everdell. When playing Spirecrest, it is recommended that you do not include other expansion material.” I agree with the second half of this statement — I wouldn’t recommend adding in other expansions with this one — but not the first. While I think Spirecrest is the most complex of the expansions, I don’t think it is that much more burdensome than Pearlbrook, and I wouldn’t say the additional complexity is substantial. I think new players can learn Spirecrest in conjunction with the base game, and I think its mechanics integrate fluidly with the base game.
I can see why this is the most popular of the expansions. Thematically and mechanically, this beefs up the changing of the seasons, and makes those turns in the game more interesting.
But ultimately, with the exception of the weather cards, this felt a bit like more of the same. I think I’m in the minority on this — my family loves the big creatures, for instance — but this expansion didn’t capture my attention quite like Pearlbrook (where I love the wonders and the pearls as resources) and also doesn’t have the functionality of Bellfaire (which provides new components and 5th and 6th player pieces and rules).
Nonetheless, I greatly enjoy the expansion, and fans of Everdell will enjoy it too. This hits all of the high marks of the series, and like all good expansions, it highlights the best parts of its base game.
- I love it! Chris Wray
- I like it. Lorna
- Not for me…